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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wild Lotus Band

Wild
seems to stem from uninhibited, unconscious excitement over something spectacular expressed in a way that manifests joy. 
Lotus 
a flower that roots in the deep waters of a pond, growing up from the mud, flowering on top, revealing it's beauty; closing at night returning to the water, and again rising the next day to bloom.  
 Band
group of folks who harmoniously sing, jam on instruments of one kind or another, and make noise in a melodic way. 

My definitions. I have yet to look up Webster's. But, they are fitting to the concert of Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band that began at dusk as folks trickled onto the beautiful spacious property of the Houston Yoga and Ayurvedic Wellness Center in Cyprus, Texas. 


Gwendolyn and Sean performed mantras, including a beautiful new one with a nod to Rumi and read a very animated story about hanuman from what felt like the Mahabharata. (Just kidding, it was actually another book, but it did feel epic!) 
More photos, click here
Highlights of the night: the announcement that of the TYA bill passed, meeting so many amazing individuals and teachers from our growing yoga Houston kula (community), enjoyed some flight time, felt so welcome in such a gorgeous space and was absolutely refreshed by the energy of the music. A lovely night. 





Friday, April 29, 2011

140 Goats & A Guitar

A month back during the wildly amazing SXSW music festival, on the lawn of the Texas capitol, flipping open my yoga mat, chatting with a friend, looking over at the stage that was being set up for a peaceful yoga protest, I saw a book laying there by David Berkeley.


Alright, let's briefly address the peaceful protest part. First, off I can't believe I'm just about 40 years old and this is my first protest at the capitol! Well, I suppose if you're going to stand up for something close to your heart and part of your livelyhood, might as well be Yoga while doing Yoga, right? If you practice or even read this blog, you should know about this. It's affecting every state, not only Texas. Learn more now, join the TYA (Texas Yoga Association) and sign a petition that will help keep yoga studios in business, avoid huge fees, and keep them from being "regulated".

Back to the afternoon on the lawn... when I glimpsed David Berkeley's new book which he wrote about songs in his current album, Some Kind of Cure, I went on and on about how I love David's music and first saw him when he played an intimate performance for a gathering of less than 20 folks at Curayoga (formerly Jennyoga) about 2 years ago. While I'm gushing about him, claiming Loves the Only Thing that Shuts Me Up is on the top of my all time favorite songs along with High Heals and All, up pops David, he was bent over untangling chords. I didn't realize he was doing a benefit concert for the TYA. I felt like I was 14, blushing about how I had confessed my not so secret crush out loud. The only thing I have to compare it with is a little crush I had on another David: David Cassidy back in the butterfly bellbottoms and Partridge Family days, only I never got to meet my "idol".

His book, 140 Goats & A Guitar is the backstory behind the songs of his latest album. He's got a lovely wife (felt I had to say that for those of you wondering where this crush thing was going) who's career took them to the island of Corsica (which explains the goats). I'm such a sucker for the background story of how a creative person is influenced... it draws me in. Makes it personal, real. I'm curious about how musicians can create and collaborate to make something that makes you stop whatever it is you're doing and listen. Really listen. These people of passion move me.

Digging deeper into his book, he describes how frustrating the oddities of living in Corsica were: the language barrier, slow pace of life, and disheartened feelings of loneliness and isolation. And yet, he writes, "still when we left the island, I found myself missing it powerfully, like I had woken from a long and mysterious dream and wanted to get back to sleep so I could explore it more."

I feel this way about Asia and India and many of my travels... and even about my youth in Oklahoma and most assuredly about my newly wed days in New Orleans. I used to joke that it was so hard that after living in New Orleans as a transplant, I can live anywhere. There are periods when I uprooted and moved to "foreign lands" (Arkansas counts in this category. Trust me.) and felt so empty until I chose to just surrender, be a friend, and open up to service to God and others. Then, and only then did the strange place become wonderful and in some cases magical.


"There is a theme that runs through a lot of my music," David writes. "It has to do with the relationship between the very personal and the universal. There are times when the two are totally disjointed. Bad things happen to you on a perfectly beautiful day. At times like these we can feel very small, very alone. Other times, things feel in synch. The universe seems to amplify or echo your thoughts and moods."


The tone and lyrics of his music, in my opinion, tends to have a melancholy, almost forlorn feeling them to them. And most center on relationships. Some are about a kind of love. Right now I'm reading about this song... and it feels hopeful. Wistful. Like a rebirth.

"The Blood and Wine"


Tell me that you still remember
When we caught lightning in a jar.


Now you have put the sway back in the grass. 
You have put the fire back in me. 


There were times when you were hiding. 
And, I know I've been hard to hold. 


But you have put the wine back in the glass. 
You have put the blood back in me.


And oh, oh my word. 


Theres' a blue house in the distance. 
There's a stream beside it, too. 


Well you have put the sails back on the mast.
You have put the breeze back in me.


Oh, oh my word.
Oh, oh my word. 
Oh, oh my word. 


Now you have put the wine back in the glass. 
You have put the blood back in me. 







Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mudita

Mudita which means especially sympathetic or vicarious joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in others. Someone else's success or journey does not take away from your own. There's MORE than enough to go around!

Spread the joy today!



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Awareness brings change

by Melissa Smith, LCY Mentor

“You can either hold yourself up to the unrealistic standards of others, or ignore them and concentrate on being happy with yourself as you are.” ―Jeph Jacques

"A few years ago, I finally came to terms with my own eating disorder..." (click to read more.) 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Let's End It

$320.00 buys:


Roundtrip plane ticket to LA from Houston and back
A Nice, nice watch
160 or so junior scoops at Baskin Robins
5 pairs of Tom's shoes
XBox 360 or something like that (so son #2 tells me)
320- .99 cent songs on itunes (I know all too well...)
THE latest pocket digital camera
snowboard (so I hear, anyway... maybe really groovy ones are more?)
weekend of Yoga... in the US (Partner Yoga is just about that price)


That's what $320 buys. It also buys a possible cure.


Dozens of yogis have donated a $1 here and $5 there... to contribute to the Alzheimer's Association. I am honored to lead 2 yoga classes a week to raise awareness for Alzheimer's. It's a disease that affects 15 million caregivers. My dad is one of them. He single-handedly takes care of my Nana, his wife of 25 years. Feeding her smoothies with veggies & fruit for breakfast, when she cannot remember to eat. He gently reminds her that yes, she has already fed the cat today when she asks for the um-teenth time in one morning. He gives her little tasks to keep her mind active and then has to stand next to her and remind her where the silverware is located.
More than 60% of caregivers report high levels of stress and 33% are thought to be depressed. My father fights this statistic by staying active in his passions, horses.
Through the years I've watched how my Nana transitioned from running a household, decorating with a designer's eye for details, and cooking gourmet meals, to simply following instructions like a 4 or 5 year old. Asking child-like questions and then asking them again, because her brain cannot recall the answer just given. 
It is a disease that is incomprehensible until you are face to face with it and even then, it's horrifying at first and sobering at the least. I pray that you or your loved ones never know this disease. 
My dream is for a cure. My hope is for relief of care givers. And, the reality is ... all I can do is what I'm doing... education and awareness. Find out how you can reduce your own risk of the disease, this forgetting disease. You can donate to my local chapter and help son # 1 reach his goal of $5000 by September. And, at the least, help me spread the word, so we can find a cure. Now. Tomorrow. Some day, so our kids can talk about how we beat this thing, this monster. Let's do it. Let's end it.


Nana and Drew, on a walk
Thank you to to my amazing yoga students from January to now, we raised $320. It's not a lot, but then again, it IS a lot. One step, one day at at time.


Houston, join us: 
Tuesdays in the park
Wednesdays at Luke's Locker 


In Service, 


Mel

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Namaste BI*%^E$

Cussing or using colorful language... feels yucky coming off my tongue. Suppose it's that Southern Bible-belt upbringing or most likely, as a kid, hearing my brother use his fair share of choice words towards my mother which still makes me cringe when I think about it. 


I even feel bad when I say the word "crap" under my breath which has been a little too often lately as I'm driving more and more the mommy taxi. Traffic, I-10, and being late, it gets to me, even when I loosen my grip on the wheel and use pranayama (breathing)... doesn't always work. Music helps sometimes, and sometimes it doesn't.  


Foul language, I feel is used for shock value. And, then after a while, it becomes habitual. Over time, folks don't even realize they are saying it and then, it's suddenly a part of them, no longer feel impacted by it. Compare it to watching TV, at first the graphic scenes are, well, GRAPHIC! And, then, over time, it takes a whole lot to even make a 9 year old or a 5 year old for that matter, blink. They're so used to it that it doesn't bother them. Desensitized. I don't want to sound like I'm preaching against the use of any kind of language... I'm not. You certainly can say whatever your heart desires. "Out of the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks", right? If we're not filtering what we say, how mindful is it?


I occasionally read this blog, Namaste Bitches by Holly Westergren. Gasp! I know, but I'm a fan. Having said that, I certainly don't align with all her posts (especially a resent one on Lulu Lemon... because for gosh sakes (yes, I don't believe in saying God's name in vain either), why do we always have to get on the: I don't like big business band wagon?) There are just better things to worry over or write about. 


The post on taking it to the streets, did, however, resonate with me. Here's an excerpt:


"I do feel there is a serious disconnect between the people who are teaching yoga and the people who could benefit from it most. There are corners of our own cities where yoga has not dared to travel. I encourage you, if you're a teacher, to take yoga out of the box, get out of your own yoga teacher comfort zone. Yoga is meant to be shared. That's kinda the whole point, isn't it? Unfortunately, in many parts of the world it has become an elitist endeavor alongside a path of spiritual materialism."



I may very well be as guilty as the rest... who am I to judge? And, talking about cussing, do I sound like a hypocritical spiritual elitist? I hope not. Why not just be a tad more cleaver in our words, posts, writings, or whatever... do we have to say "naked" or the F-word it to get people's attention (just check out how popular Elephant Journal's posts are when they use the word porn or naked in the headlines... it's crazy. They're "liked" twice as much as an article without it in the title.) 

I'm weaving together my own experience, and try to share what I'm learning and loving about yoga with anyone who's willing. It's pretty simple really, and I don't feel like I have to use eye-poping, ugly language to do it or even come up with anything super inventive. I just want to be open and available to those around me. Am I living purposefully if I'm too busy to talk to a friend or to smile at someone or even be kind to the guy that just cut me off with his big 'ol Ford pick up truck that says "Danger: I drive like you do"? It's not about trying to live righteously because, frankly, I've tried that, and that's a tough and ridiculously difficult facade to keep up. Just being me is enough. 


According to Holly, "It's about reclaiming your sense of purpose and recognizing that there is only one you." 


*Note: the title of this blog is what has kept it in my draft folder for a while... what would you have called it? Is it too Elephant Journal tabloid-like or right on? 

Friday, April 1, 2011

KSR

KSR, Katy Students Run, is a group of kids from a local Katy High School nominated to be a part of this non-profit that teaches them about nutrition and healthy lifestyles while training kids to run a 1/2 marathon. Incredibly resilient, more than half of the 20 kids completed the half marathon all the way to the finish line. 


I was privileged to work with them once a week throughout the fall, leading them in core work, stretches and a bit of yoga partner work. The kids by the end were transformed, showing amazing resilience and energy. Several returning students were even more eager the second year of the program, and their excitement spilled over to the new kids. 




 The look on their faces as they came around the corner to the finish line still gives me goose bumps. 








Now in the off season, I'm leading them in yoga twice a week for the month of April on campus. We're off to a great start. In exchange for sponsoring a KSR student (donation), we're offering for donors to join in the foundations yoga class. Just send me an email




A very special thank you to all the coaches, sponsors, including Jenny Demarest (founder) and Luke's Locker. 
Another shout out to Manduka for providing all the kids great mats to use. They love 'em! 






My Sri Lankan Gem

“If you judge people you have no time to love them.”― Mother Teresa 

thinking about that pastor who was so vocal in his sermon about his views against and disdain for yoga...
thinking about a friend who suffers from depression and how I wish I could "fix" it for her...
thinking about my own reaction to a music teacher I met yesterday with a just a few yellowish-brown teeth and smoker's breath...
thinking about how son #2 excitedly and innocently exclaimed, "I like those Chinese kids next door, they're fun"...

Sri Lankan Photographer
thinking about a gregarious man I met in Sri Lanka. I just wanted to sit and enjoy my surroundings in a quaint beach town on the coast. A few stolen moments without anyone else asking me if I wanted to buy something or have their photo taken with me. When this man approached me in his traditional Sri Lankan skirt and toothless grin, I thought, oh please, not right now. Within moments, though, he shared his flask filled with savory ginger tea and told me of how he not only survived the tsunami but showed me his staggering photos of the devastation in his city. He wasn't a "photographer" when he took the images but because he captured the aftermath so poignantly he is now. His photos were like precious gems telling more stories than words possibly could. He simply wanted to share his experience with me. His life forever changed.
Tsunami photos
thinking about how we're all swimming in the same ocean and when we wade together for a bit, we can see what we have in common. A love and acceptance, wouldn't it make this big 'ol world a little smaller?