Friday, August 26, 2011


I am
i AM
just now.

Touched by An Angel 
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
---Maya Angelou

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

gratitude from victims of the tornados in Alabama

A handwritten, heartfelt thank you note from the families who survived the April 2011 Alabama tornados and received the moneys collected from some beautiful people, YOU. Thank you to my students for your generous donations this past May... here's the impact you made:

"It's been tough but things are getting better.  We distributed the money out to 4 families. All were in the direct path of the tornado. Jimmy and Paul and their 2 children. Jimmy got to the shelter 20 minutes before the tornado hit. We are blessed he is alive.
Jeff was in his bathtub  praying. After it was over the only thing left of his house was his bathtub which had a 2x4 piece of wood through the tub just above his head.
Ronald and Jerry lost everything. Ronald was just about to enter the shelter under his house when the tornado hit. He survived but spent several days in the hospital.
We (Randy & I) lost everything. We saved only the clothes we had on. When we came out of the shelter and looked around, there was nothing there. The house was no where to be seen. All the autos were totalled. We were retired and had bought a trailer and had planned to travel. The only thing left of it was the frame and wheels turned upside down. But we are both alive. What a blessing. Again, please thank everyone for thinking of us. The money was given to good people who will use it wisely. Thanks, Phyllis & Randy"

If you would like to continue to give to these families in need, please email me or pass a donation at any of my classes, and I will make sure they receive it.

"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do."-- Edward Everett Hale 

She Walks In Beauty through words of poetry & to the soundtrack of my life

Reintroduced recently to the power of poetry by the lovely Rose, who often posts something that will encourage others along their journey. Poems of life by Mary Oliver; of vastness, oneness by Pablo Neruda; or of sensuality by Octavio Paz.
"There can be no society without poetry, but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot." Octavio Paz, nobel prize winner
In the book, she walks in beauty, which contains poetry collected by Caroline Kennedy, she talks about how a college professor challenged her with the question, "how to live a life"? How do you live a life? Turning to poems, Leap Before You Look and To Be Of Use helped her find clarity and fierceness. For me, the poem by Lord Byron that inspired the title of her book, leapt out from the page into my heart.

She walks in beauty, like the night
   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
   Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
   Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
   How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
   So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
   But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
   A heart whose love is innocent!

While poetry ignites my creativity and reveals beauty I often deny resides within me. Music for me goes beyond the depth of words read or spoken. I am a keeper of songs, having one for every occasion in my life. Every city or trip I take initiates a new playlist. My Chiang Mai (Thailand) list which blared into my firmly implanted Ipod headphones everywhere I went, had everything from Willie Nelson's Uncloudy Days, Manu Chao's Me Gustas Tu, Aloe Blacc's You Make Smile, One EskimO's Amazing, Girish's Diamond's In The Sun and The Belle Brigade's Where Not to Look for Freedom. The theme centered around songs that made me happy.* All them inspired by the incredible people I encountered and played with. Now, when I hear these songs, flashes of the smiles, laughs, classes and pure joy I felt beam from my memories.
Life, like movies, should have a soundtrack. Right now, living a life means listening and moving in the direction of my heart without fear and with eyes, ears and mind wide open to the eloquent words of poetry and to the soundtrack of my life.

"you cannot find your wisdom in someone else's story.... tell me where to look for freedom?" Where Not to Look For Freedom

*I just listened to a NPR pod-cast on "songs that make you feel good", love this one:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

why can't we just slow down?

I am breathing. I know that I am breathing in.
My first Acroyoga jam in Houston since my return from Thailand and found myself stumbling a bit for words and a tad clumsy (jet lag, amongst other things are keeping my sleep at a minimum). I'm sure no one noticed, except that I said, "divide up in pairs of 3" a few times. (That was a fun one to figure out.) Keeping it basic for those who were new and adding a few challenges for those who were repeaters, we also did a bit of Thai massage at the the end which seemed to be well "received".  A few folks probably found even the simplest poses hard due to tight hamstrings or lack of strength.  However, I think some were hungry for more. In my heart, I kept thinking that what they really needed was to just slow down. The beauty in Acroyoga is the preciseness of the postures in order to maintain safety and build trust with your partner. Then, with time, the skills grow and build upon each other like layers of the earth making even the hardest postures smooth because they begin with perfecting the foundation. Why not slow down and just lovingly hold your partner in therapeutic folded leaf for several minutes and gently massage their shoulders? Sometimes, that's all someone needs to feel a release. We don't have to do more, better, faster, and cooler tricks. It's a blast but really, what's the rush?
"These days even instant gratification takes too long." Time is feels "circular in Southeast Asia, as if we have all the time in the world, while time feels linear in the US as we cram more and more into less and less time."
When I teach Thai massage to partners, I have them repeat "I am breathing, I know that I am breathing in" in order to keep their mind focused on giving to the person right in front of them rather than letting their thoughts to jump around and move back or forward in time. The person you're with can feel if you are present with them, giving them a nurturing touch or if you're just going through the motions and allowing thoughts to boomerang from what's for dinner to negative self talk. When I can pursue a clear and open heart, focusing on slowing down, and enjoying giving to someone else, the experience is well, it's joyful. And, comes from a place that feels real and whole.
Carl Honore gives a talk on TED that explores the paradox of how we desire to slow down and because we want to consume more, we end up living in fast forward rather than slow motion. Ironically, he speaks way too fast. Perhaps he's nervous. Or, maybe he should use the breath to just slow it down.

"It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don't have to run into the future in order to get more."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

"Beauty abounds in broken spaces. For this is where you dwell." Kylie Johnson

When I returned from my first trip living abroad in Hong Kong in 1991, I literally wanted to kiss the ground, overwhelmed with the feeling of pride for the United States (in the midst of the Gulf War) and tired of the pollution, noise, and lack of personal space mixed with intense home-sickness that only a young 19 year old would feel. 
Years later, a different, more grown up feeling overwhelmed me on a return trip from expat life in Kuala Lumpur. I was traveling alone with 2 small boys in tow and felt that twinge of familiarity upon arrival to the US, the sensation that perhaps it was my last trip for some time. The feeling of gratitude was palpable as the the immigration officer simply said, welcome home, Ms. Smith. Tears spilled onto my cheeks and the boys, oblivious, immediately commanded my attention and snapped me back to the present moment. 
Returning to Southeast Asia this summer, I recognize as a unique privilege. Barraged with encouraging messages from friends via email and Facebook, in support of my solo journey to Thailand, I also had more than a fair share of "how could you possibly be away from your children so long" and other comments tainted with I imagine some jealousy and not worth repeating. It was enough though, that half way into my trip, I had proper tear-filled pity party which included a large dose of mommy guilt, some wine, my ipod filled with tunes and a whole lot of yin yoga (not necessarily in that order). 
Someone asked me what I was doing in Chiang Mai... Thai massage immersion, of course. However, truthfully, it was so much more. Aching for distance, I knew I came to heal. When I really took stock of myself, the hardness that was building in my relationships, the short tempered nature of my parenting, and the need for making my life so busy in order to numb the feelings of loneliness... I was there to put right much of what had fallen out of place in my life. 
It came in the form of community. Embraced by people from all over the world, no encounter was accidental. I felt the Invisible Hand of the Divine moving in and through me to orchestrate this magical adventure. 

Along the way I met...
a samurai warrior and angel who could call the wind & rain 
a blind man who taught me the therapeutic art of Thai massage and healed my shoulder
a tiger who through the guise of teaching Thai massage, showed me how to laugh again
a sister healer who within in moments showed me how to pull energy from a sustaining source 
a kindred sprit full of indecision and yet who's innate beauty set her apart
a yin yoga guru who's charm infected us all
a capoeira master who could always make me smile
a joyous yogi in pigtails who's light shined for all to see
the prince of mince who exposed a sliver of the courageous me
a spiritual gangster, young and in love with life
a gregarious, loving yogi who teased me endlessly and who I could never make a class hard enough for
a woman so full of radiance whose singing voice during savasana melted the hearts of all
a gifted soul finally owning his talent whose lengthy Thai massage helped heal my heart and body
a mesmerizing dancer who showed me how to move freely with eyes closed and heart revealed
a conscious speaker with the gift of generosity 
a connector who allowed us all to be uniquely our own, provided us a safe space for that freedom and taught me that gracious words spoken are merely a reflection of my true nature, a mirror to my own soul
And many, many fellow seekers of wanderlust and who found this magic hidden in plain view in a walled city in northern Thailand.
This time, upon returning, the tears came well before the plane landed, before the train ride to Bangkok, before the sung tao taxi ride to the station, before... tears fell like the healing rain did each day, until finally, I had no more. I have no more. Upon arrival, my head and heart are clear. I am home within myself. I am home.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

- The Summer Day, Mary Oliver

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


giving and receiving 

Sha-sha, (slowly slowly), Haai jai, haai jai (breathe, breathe) my Thai massage teacher kept repeating to me throughout my last course. Haai jai literally translates to "heart" and can also be said to mean "to open your heart". I think that's probably the most powerful interpretation I can think of for this stay Thailand. I've waffled between overconfidence (my American attitude and Texas-sized openness seems to cause me to stand out a bit) and vulnerability (new exposure and experiences that have either made me squirm, reflect, cry or heal in some way).  
wild rose 
I've melted into a community of yogis and foreigners who are also intoxicated with the culture, food and lifestyle of Chiang Mai. Some just passing through, others who thought they were just visiting and kept extending their visas by 2 weeks or a few months at a time for years.... there's something griping about this city. The mai-pen-rai-ness of it. Meaning, "it doesn't matter" or "that's no problem". It certainly is reflected in the attitude of the Thai's and locals alike. Time seems bendy and comprisable. If something doesn't happen today, then, perhaps tomorrow, or not at all. A friend left his money at another friend's house and a few days later perhaps, he'll go to fetch it, not really needing it just now. I lost my cell phone and well, it doesn't matter. I seem to bump into the people I need to see and find my way back to familiar faces and places over and over. 
The old city itself has a magic, healing quality to it. It is surrounded by a moat and water on all sides, which evokes the feeling that the city itself is in a womb providing security and rebirth within.  The walls around the moat which were meant to protect against the Burmese sometime in the 1700's are in decay like most things here which tend to erode shortly after building it. I just get the feeling that I shouldn't hold on too tightly to anything. Beyond the city, the mountains, often hidden by misty clouds covering the summit, feel as if they are watching the city below with wise half closed eyes. 
view from floating cottages
Every corner or major intersection has a temple (wat) and where there is no temple, there are spirit houses or miniature Thai temples meant to provide shelter for the spirits that would otherwise cause problems for those who reside there. Those spirits feel contained, and I feel freedom.
Thai spirit house
This laid back culture prevails. A friend coined the term, "mincing" about. Which is a completely silly and made-up word meaning: to do nothing or simply do what you like... enjoy the day, so to speak. No where to go, no where to be, just here and now. I think mincing a bit longer would be lovely. But, certainly just as sure as I get tuned into the present moment, I'm reminded that this is borrowed time. Children, responsibilities, and life at home are actually not just waiting... they're zooming by with activity, purpose, and some un-necessary busy-ness. I'm curious how I'll assimilate this new attitude I've cultivated of holding lightly to time and things into my jet-speed American life. I hope that I'll be able to draw from the wisdom of this experience and allow my heart to speak haai jai when it matters most. 

"Pick the day. Enjoy it - to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come... The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present - and I don't want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future." Audrey Hepburn 

"mincing" about