Saturday, October 21, 2017

Time out.

Why is the day so cold when the sun is so bright?
Breathing in, breathing out twice.

My heart is 1687 miles from here under warmer skin.
The space between us holds reverence for patience.
Patience puts its wet nose on my knee and wags it's tail, asking me for another walk, a pet, a treat.

Then, the sunshine calls me like a lover.
Let me wrap you with my warm embrace.
Kissing your eyes and adding freckles to your face.

As music streams, it floods memories.
The Black Keys bellow, Now She's Gone, Long gone. 
I turn to my hardbound friend once again, page after page, her words on bravery and true belonging
Reminds me to stand in my power, even if that means temporarily standing alone.

Oh Karma, you're rich with secrets of my past.
Was I so determined that I was mistaken for bossy in my past life?
This life has proven to be one bold, determined decision after another.
Costly choices, no regrets.

Time flies forward to deadlines.
Time crawls forward to love.

All in.

Today and always.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My journey: Yoga and Depression

Health and wellness is about the whole person- physical, mental and emotional. It's mind body and soul. When one piece is affected the entire body like a contagion in a choregraphed dance - it can ripple through with grace, or it can simply fall apart because one fragment isn't doing it's job. 

When I think of my own health and well-being, I think more in terms of mental health. In the past, I've struggled with adult stress eating, anorexia in high school and unhealthy body image which played into a feeling of unworthiness for so many years. I have abstained from hard alcohol or drugs due to a history of addiction in my family. Cancer within my family made for many nights up til my 30's on my knees in prayer. A case of idiopathic frozen shoulders where both shoulders were literally frozen and prevented me from being able to lift my arms was ultimately caused by stress. Bouts with deep depression gripped me- once during my divorce and another time this past Christmas as I wrestled with grief and loss. Overall throughout my life, though, I have not had any major illnesses, surgeries or other health issues.

What strikes me most in my journey to healing, is my relationship with depression.  For me, depression felt like being enveloped in a darkened cave over an extended period of time, where I'm unable to see the exit. I know the exit is there but any amount of searching in the dark was fruitless and found me bumping into walls and doors causing invisible scars in my mind.  

There is still a lot of shame associated with depression because we are often told that we should just deal with it or just change at will. Speaking as someone who has been affected by it myself, it's simply not possible to will myself to change. It required very deliberate decisions to heal and become whole again and support from others when I couldn't ask for it and didn't even know how to ask. 

If we can take away the stigma of health issues like depression, that would be a huge step forward for those who suffer to hopefully realize they're not alone. Similar to this #metoo campaign for sexual assault and power inequality, I imagine there is a #hashtagfordepression, but I'm not aware of it. 

It's amazing to me how many people turn to yoga because their doctor recommended it, or as self - treatment for various health issues or simply because it's something they feel like they should do. They're looking for something to fill an empty space within them.

"It’s not news that depression has become a kind of invisible epidemic, afflicting millions of people. We live at a time when depression is approached as a disease. That has a good side. Depressed people are not judged against as weak or self-indulgent, as if they only need to try harder to lift themselves out of their sadness. Yet depression, for all the publicity surrounding it, remains mysterious, and those who suffer from it tend to hide their condition – the medical model hasn’t removed a sense of shame. When you’re in the throes of depression, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you are a failure and that the future is hopeless." ~ Deepak Chopra

This past year that was a lot of hullabaloo surrounding international yoga teacher Hemalayaa​'s (now removed) admittedly insensitive blog post about depression and her strong feelings against anti-depressants. It's been a subtle platform for me as a yoga teacher to create awareness and dive deeper into what depression is, the treatment options for it, and how to show empathy for those who have it. 
"Depression isn’t one disorder, and even though an array of antidepressants have been thrown at the problem, the basic cause for depression remains unknown. For a diagnosis of major depression, which is more serious than mild to moderate depression, at least five of the following symptoms must be present during the same 2-week period. 
  • Depressed mood (feeling sad or empty; being tearful)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much)
  • Slowing of thoughts and physical movements
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide" *

While for some it's a pure chemical imbalance that only drugs can help with, others have found relief through tools like yoga, counseling, changes in lifestyle or work to reduce stress, cutting out destructive relationships, nutrition, a passion (some kind of exercise or art or whatever makes you come alive), mindfulness, etc. 

Personally, in my own struggle with depression over the years, it's been a combination of yoga, sunshine, counseling, journaling, moving my body with breath awareness in some way every day, spirituality/meditation and connection that have helped me overcome the worst of it. I am someone who needs to be with and enjoys people, specifically teaching and sharing my love for yoga. 

As independent as I am, I have come to realize I am not a Lone Ranger or Super Woman. It took years to let go of that. I cannot do it all on my own. In addition, I am just re-learning how to date myself and truly love who I am. It's a life-long process to let go of old habits and internal dialog of inadequacy, co-dependence, and unworthiness. 

I think the most beautiful thing we can offer those who suffer from it is consistent, compassionate presence, not our strong opinions. To be told how to live or what to do to "fix it" is usually not helpful. To know that I am cared for and have support is huge. Offering a listening ear and compassion, now that's powerful. Having a network of friends who will check in can also been a lifeline. 

There was a time during the early stages of my divorce, that I felt abandoned by a certain group of friends and loved ones. I think people didn't know what to say or how to behave and frankly, I think everyone's just so busy with their own problems to remember to check on someone who seemingly disappeared from social life. When someone is depressed, they just don't have the ability to reach out or call you or go to dinner, let alone eat. As a friend, knowing this can be so helpful. Even something as simple as a call or an email letting them know you care with no expectation of a reply means a lot. 
"May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within." ~ John O'Donohue
I believe yoga heals. However, I feel it takes a holistic approach to wellness and healing through mind, body and spirit whether you suffer from depression, addiction, PTSD or any kind of injury or illness. 

May we all learn from this at the very least to become more active nonjudgmental listeners, consistent friends and loving to all. Let's regard one another with beauty and reverence and begin to learn to gaze upon ourselves with a sacred awe. 

*article on depression by Deepak Chopra

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A daughter shares a letter to her mother: living with alcoholism in the family.

What can you ever really know of other people’s souls – of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.~ C.S. Lewis

Walking into the kitchen, you used to pause before you poured. Now you worry you won't have enough to numb the pain tomorrow as you toss the last bottle into the trash.

Sitting up in the recliner, your eyes trying to adjust to the TV, you realize you forgot to put your glasses on. You try to will your eyes to stay open but they glide shut as you hear the last few words of the sermon before passing out. "Thou shall not..."

I am curious if you recall all the prayers you've spoken for other's souls, and if you repeat them for yourself now? 

Since you don't answer the phone when I call, I stopped calling. You don't reply to messages or emails, but I still send them. 

What has darkened your heart so much that you cannot see your way into the light? 

We do not know how to help you, and you deny you need it. 

I miss you. 

I miss the delight in your smile and the praise you poured over me. Your words encouraging me to dare to become anything I wanted. I have a crack in my esteem that I patch from time to time your positivity from my memory. 

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. ~Pericles

What will your grandchildren know of your legacy? 

I have admired you all of my life. Strong, outspoken, and courageous are the words I've used to describe you. 

There was a time when you shook the world you walked in. You overcame and persevered as a single mother. You told me day after day after day: Missy, you can be whatever you set your heart to become. Miss. America? Yes, you can. Doctor? Yes, you can. Winning salesperson? Yes, you can. I will tell them what you told me often and everyday "yes, you can."

I will tell them of your gift of mercy and how you helped everyone and anyone within reach. 

I will show them photos of you in your red and purple suits and flawless skin. 

But, I will also tell them that it's not good to be alone. That one day, they may find themselves within the walls they've built around them and while it feels very quiet, the longings and fears may whisper lies. Please, I'll say, don't believe stories of doubt or bitterness. Be courageous enough to know that each of us are more than we think we are.

I will urge them to surround themselves with people who love them and allow them to be uniquely themselves. 

I will tell them to give generously, just like you did. And then give some more. Offer not only money but time to others in service. Giving put everything perspective for you.

I will admonish that giving is not the answer when they are drained. The deepest most fulfilling thing they will ever do is to love themselves as if they were their own child. Offer grace and gratitude a thousand times a day and then offer it again before they close their eyes to sleep. To wake up again and tell themselves that today is the best day of their life. Then simply encourage them to do what makes them feel alive. 

I stand a world away and know you are fighting your demons the best way you can or the only way you know how, I suppose.

Find your courage once more. Only you can examine your soul, choose a new path and find a new way to fight. Yes, Mom, you can. 

I believe in you. And, I love you. 

I've written this letter in a hundred different ways and trashed it every time. Fear of what others might think or anger from the one it's addressed to has kept me from sharing it. But, now it's time. I've lost count of the number of broken bones, blood transfusions and whispers of excuses. Unfortunately, in the United States you cannot force someone to get help with alcohol addiction unless they are endangering the public. No matter that they endanger themselves, that's the freedom we face. I hope that my family's journey in dealing with alcoholism will be a catalyst for just one person to seek help.

In grace and love,

October 8, 2017

Dear Mom,

You always sign your emails and brief letters: Love, Mother. I've never called you Mother. I don't know why you prefer this to Mom. You're just my mom. I think I remember you calling Grandma, Mother. It's so formal.
Our relationship has been anything but formal. Distant, maybe but not formal. A thick forest of questions. Dark and wandering, I find so much of our past a maze in my mind. Difficulty navigating the stories Craig and I share of you. We have perceived so much of our growing up differently.
I have so much I would like to ask Grandma about you. I would give anything for one more day with her. And, I wonder if I should be asking God for one more day with you?
You're in the hospital again. This time, Ron called Craig to help when he found you on laying in the narrow hallway.  They argued over whether or not to take you to the ER. Finally, the decided to call an ambulance, and hysterical, you didn't want to go.
This time was different than all the other times, for some reason, my brother told them the truth. You were drinking.
8 hours since your last drink, your blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. That you are alive is a miracle. Your pelvis broken and a break somewhere in your lower spine, they determine that you don't need surgery but physical rehab again.
You know them well there. And, seem to know all the nurses' stories and intimate details of their lives. Inquire. That's what you do. You're great at asking questions and then making someone out to be a queen or the best of... whatever they do. You can take an ordinary person and by the time you're done talking to them, you've got their life story, all of their accolades and awards on the shelf of your brain and ready to tell anyone who will listen how remarkable the person is. You can make a yard man into a owner of his own arboretum that is the best and most renowned in the country where, in your opinion, the most wealthy should seek their services!
Mom, I miss you. I don't even know which you I miss. The mom who used to scratch my back when I was tired and sitting at the table doing homework. The mom who used to say, Missy, you can be anything you want to be, Miss America or the President of the United States. Just follow your heart, Missy. I miss the way you answer the phone, and the way your voice lights up when you talk about how well your Mary Kay unit is doing.
I called you at the hospital yesterday and you didn't answer the phone. I was expecting your voice mail to say, "Hello, thank you for calling, please leave your name, number and any brief message and I will return your call shortly."
With no recording of your voice, I left a message anyway, like I usually do with no expectation of a return call. Just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you, as usual.
I love you, Mom.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hope is the place where joy meets struggle.

"Hope is the place where joy meets struggle." ~Parker J. Palmer

I'm curious today if there is an area of your life that you're struggling with? 

Yeah, me, too. Who of us isn't having trouble in one area or another if not every day, but most days? What I'm finding in my life is that when I'm confronted by this struggle or obstacle - that my ability or resilience is greater every time (or most times depending on the depth of struggle!). When my ability to be less reactionary is increased and the time it takes for me to discern a better choice for myself and others... wow, that's winning! So in other words, a melt down I had just last week lasted only 30 minutes- where in the past, I might have carried the weight of that for days! Progress? I hope so.

I love what Nicolai Bachman writes: 
"How we choose to view anything, including something unpleasant, affects our relationship to it. Duhkha, literally, bad space, in yoga primarily means discomfort or suffering within our heart-mind or citta. By exercising keen discernment or viveka, before making a decision or engaging in action, we can minimize or avoid altogether any neagatitvy that may have resulted from choosing differently. When we do experience duhkha, we can try and understand what caused it and how to prevent it from happening again."

He also says: "Suffering offers insight into my deeply held patterns and conditioning."

My meditation for today is focused on not pushing away these challenges but in resting with them. Gleaming insight and hope.

In need of restoration and relaxation? Join me for 14 days of Savasana... Start any day.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Resistance is built on hope.

"Love casts out fear the way light casts out darkness. In the presence of one the other is gone." ~ Marianne Williamson

The hashtag #lovetrumpshate, while I agree with the sentiment, it does not sit well with me. I am war-weary and fatigued of the mud slinging on both sides of our politically and racially divided country. 
"Protecting ourselves and others does not violate ahimsa. Practicing ahimsa means we take responsibility for our own harmful behavior and attempt to stop the harm caused by others. Being neutral is not the point. Practicing true ahimsa springs from the clear intention to act with clarity and love." ~ Judith Lasater 
The answer to violence (in words or deed) is non-violence. It is love. "Love liberates." (Maya Angelou) Being a bully to a bully doesn't present a peaceful solution or the desired results. In my own experience the cycle of blame, shame and slinging back heated comments and remarks just fuels the flame. 
Ahimsa Pratisthayam Tat Samnidhau Vaira Tyagah."When nonviolence is established, all beings lose their violent capacity." Yoga Sutra 2.35

Ahimsa is not causing pain in thought, word, or deed to yourself or others. Avoiding comparison or competition with others. Avoiding gossip and negative self-talk. It is not "no pain, no gain" in regards to asana practice or in worldly efforts. By cultivating respect for yourself, ahimsa honors you and others. Perhaps it is why many of us practice physical asana in yoga. We are looking for a deeper awareness within ourselves. 

With that awareness, we have the ability to create healthy boundaries that allow for healing within and with each other. What good is that awareness if we do not take it into our own home or into the world? 

Could it be as simple as this: heart open, mind open to listening with the intent of being changed by what we hear? The catch is both parties have to be willing. Even with differing beliefs, we are all still the same. Have you seen this viral video? Take 3 minutes now. 
Kayedria Siddhir Asuddhi Ksayah Tapasah."When you practice yoga, sensory perception awakens more."Yoga Sutra 2.43
Tapas is accepting but not causing suffering (ahimsa) in order to purify the body and mind. Tapas is the ultimate self-discipline, which is the power to control the body and it's senses. If we accept everything (finding the benefit even in painful situations or circumstances) or even happiness (which is temporary also), what can affect us?

A non-violent revolution is exactly the essence of what John Lewis, famed civil rights leader, shared with OnBeing in a recent podcast featuring civil liberties. He shared that the only true integration existed within the movement itself. It did not matter black or white, north or south,  for those that were in the struggle for equality, they were one. He shared how they resisted: studying, preparing their minds, practicing peaceful actions such as maintaining eye contact, no slouching, no talking, being friendly and courteous. They practiced role playing of inter-racial groups using mock harassment, name calling, and what to do when someone kicked or spit on you. They wanted people to feel like they were in the actual situation, that it could happen. When beaten, they were taught to protect the most sensitive parts of their body, to look out for one another, and to look those attacking you in the eye because it was disarming to them. 

Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change. Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once. In the movement, we didn't know how history would play itself out. When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen. 
Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world.” ~ John Lewis

The civil rights leaders at that time had a belief and hope that somehow things are going to get better. A sense of faith that what they were moving toward was already done and already won. Living as if they were already there in that unified, de-segregated community as a part of One family. "If you can even have faith that it is there. For you, it is there."

Let's keep walking and moving forward on this non-violent path together. Starting with ourselves, our own children and communities and on a broader scale act and respond as if the peace were already present. Propelled by hope, we are already one. 

We can resist. But as we continue to learn from history, there are specific, strategic and powerful non-non-violent ways of doing so. I'd love to hear what you're doing. Here's some things I'm doing (see this link). 
“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don't be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.” ~ John Lewis

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A new day, A new beginning

Each morning the sun rises.
Allow your gaze to meet the East with those tired, sleepless eyes.
As the sun’s rays spread their warmth on your skin, feel. 
Dare to feel again, just for this present moment.

You are like that sun. 
Still brilliant in the dark, the only thing hiding your rays is the fear you perceive. 
Come home. 

There is a place within you, that no one can take, tarnish or diminish.
It is the You that is radiant, at the core. Pure Love.

Not sinful, wrong, irreverent, dirty or broken. There is a place that is without pain.
You are so much more than the vessel of skin and bones that carry you. 

You are Alive.
You matter. 
You’re a part of something greater. 

As the rising sun kisses and warms your skin, it warms mine.
We are the same, you and I. Different experiences have formed and shaped us, but when we strip it all down to our essence: 

We all fear, cry, laugh and rejoice. 

We are family. 
We are. 
You and I. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

There you can be sure you are not beyond love.

A poem by David Whyte, "Sweet Darkness"

When your eyes are tired
 the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,
 no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
 where the night has eyes
 to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
 you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home

The night will give you a horizon
 further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
 The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
 except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
 confinement of your aloneness
 to learn

anything or anyone
 that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Womans March 2017

"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, 
penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." 
~ Maya Angelou


I marched for my children and to show solidarity of women worldwide for not only equality but integrity for everyone-- all. My hope and prayer is that my sons will grow up to be men of honor in words and actions toward all people. 

My oldest son goes to school in the "inner city" with kids from every walk of life and color. It's also known as the school that is "kind" to LGBT. He's already had to deal with a situation at school when kids got into "locker room talk" and bullying with a bi-sexual student.  My son learned first hand how destructive this kind of behavior is. And, that silence when a group is bullying is actually consent. When we don't speak up, others will assume you condone the behavior. When he just learned this lesson, how can I NOT walk? 
When we show up, we empower ourselves and others to boldly do the same. Now the real action is to keep at it. Keep showing up for my kids, calling my senators, contribute to causes that matter to me, and at the heart of it all being KIND. You don't have to like someone to be kind, loving or gracious. The very thing we criticize the POTUS of doing (the blaming, name calling, bullying and whining), we are also guilty of. There's no reason to shame, blame or not be kind-- even to those we totally disagree with or have different views from. I will not be cruel when I speak my opinions of him or his actions. Just the facts-- and they speak for themselves. If you need fuel to motivate you to post-march action, I think this article lays it out nicely.

Here's what I am doing to affect change: 
1. Taking care of myself and my family by getting my own affairs in order: 
  • health: Health insurance (health shares are exempt from Affordable Health Care). Eating clean and moving my body as a priority 
  • future planning: made a will, sorted finances, etc.
  • my children: talk, read with, share hard conversations and teach integrity. Teach mindfulness tools to my son's teachers

2. Political action:
  • website sends daily activism such as calling and writing to senators about issues important to me and affecting our country. 
  • Using an app called #boycott to make my voice heard about products that hurt the environment
  • INSPIRING what is NEXT video by the Obamas: new presidential center where they are asking people to submit ideas on what they should focus on for their foundation. 
  • also sends out action items and suggestions.

3. Love and
service in things that matter close to my heart:
  • Stay educated and give back: Alzheimer's Society in Calgary showed the movie Still Alice last night and had a neurologist to answer questions. Son #2 and I went to learn and talk about what we can do to keep our brain healthy, how this disease needs more funding for research for a cure, the stigma of the disease compared with cancer.
  • Caregivers of Alzheimer's Retreat in Houston, November 2017, apply today. It is free for all caregivers. 

What are you doing? I'd love to know more. Please keep comments positive, action reoriented.

And if you made it this far and need to laugh, here you go. You're welcome. 

For more and to sign up for free yoga nidra and newsletter .... 

All photos by Melissa Smith.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"When somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time." 
~Maya Angelou
When we really observe someone and stop seeing them as we want them to be, and view them as they truly are, we become discerning. Not so that we can retaliate or shut them out of our lives, but so that we can decide to be empathic, kind or love them from a distance. 
When there's no sign or acknowledgment of a wrong doing then boundaries are helpful. There are peaceful solutions to loving them from afar. However, we can also choose grace because I do believe in the potential and hope for something new to grow within us and collectively through healthy communication and sincere effort. 
Hope can be a life raft in a sea of unknown.
Pema Chodron surprisingly, speaks against hope, saying it's akin to fear. "Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives."

When there is fear, we react but we don't have to. We can choose to observe it and see if it's really something to be concerned about. Most of the time, if we take the time to look at what we are afraid of, we realize it's not as powerful as we give it credit for. 

Hope as an expectation or savior from any suffering the fear has caused is not hope in it's purest form. Hope can be the antidote to fear. 

But to me, holding hope isn't like having an expectation. It is much more like: not fighting the world. Allowing things as they are. It's also holding lightly the possibility of peace within turbulence. And that to me is brave. "If we want there to be peace int he world, we have to be brave enough of soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it." 

Hope, peace, empathy and forgiveness are all the roots of a courageous and observant life. 

May you hold lightly to things today, including those who prick at your peace by showing you their humanity and imperfection. Isn't it all a practice?  

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