Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thank You Prayer

"If the only prayer you ever say in your whole entire life is thank you, it will be enough."
 ~ Meister Eckhart

" There are really only two prayers, "help me, help me, help me" or "thank you, thank you, thank you".
 ~ Devarshi Steven Hartman

 Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day to pause and give thanks for all that we have. I think sometimes it is easy to see what I wish I had, or what I still need, what I want, the next thing. It is easy to get caught up in external achievements, possessions, and desires that seem to promise happiness, but as soon as they materialize the happiness quickly fades and some new desire takes its place.

This is the realm of "help me, help me, help me",  which is sometimes the prayer that is truly needed. Sometimes we need help, to see clearly, to get through, or to get by.

However, even when things seem bleak, or when things don't go my way, I can choose to see the abundance that is here and now. There are things I take for granted sometimes that deserve that second prayer every moment of every day.

Thank you, thank you, thank you...

 for my breath that has always been here guiding me, nourishing me.

 for my body and all its beautiful movement, expression, feeling.

 for my family; my parents and siblings, my husband and my healthy beautiful children and all of my ancestors, we are all one family after all.

for my friends who share laughter and sometimes tears, and whose support is priceless.

for music, song, dance, poetry, yoga and all the multitude of things that make my soul sing and lead me towards ultimate joy and liberation.

for nature, my church and my sanctuary. When I am lost inside, I go outside and find myself again.

for food on my table, clothes on my back, shelter over my head. So many don't have this.

for my teachers, ALL of them; those who hurt me, the experiences that shaped me, the good, the bad, the ugly. Most of all those who taught me about God and showed me miracles big and small, those who gave me my path of yoga and gave me back myself.

for Swami Kripalu, a yoga master, a pilgrim on the path of love, whom I truly believe watches over me and who I do my best to follow

for the miracle of this life; all the joy and heartache, the triumphs and defeats, for feeling, seeing, tasting, touching, EXPERIENCING this rich tapestry.

for all of these things and so many more I am truly grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!    


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Confessions of a Mess: Measure of Success

Well, I have neglected writing for a number of weeks now. There are many reasons I can point to for that falling away, busy teaching, busy being a mom, busy managing a home, busy, busy, busy. Honestly though, it is mostly because I have been in what I call a funk. Some things have happened, or more accurately, not happened, that have made me question whether the path I have chosen is really my path, or have I mistaken myself for something, someone, I am not?

I have been questioning my value, my gifts, my very identity. I have sunk into the old storyline of failure.

In a period of a week and a half I experienced three planned workshops that I had invested time, energy, excitement, and very dangerously, expectation in, have not enough, or even zero people sign up. Another class I offered had only one person participate. My yogic values came into my mind, non-attachment, surrender, compassionate self awareness, but I could not get them into my heart which felt like a dagger had been plunged into it.

I tried to reason with my heart, "don't take it personally, all experience has wisdom, trust the path". My heart needed to feel this though, feel the loss, the heartache, the questions.  The ultimate question came through, "Who am I?".  These measures of success, and these identities I try to fill, are stories I have been offered and that I have bought into. They are so powerful that they take me away from my true nature, they separate me from my soul identity. When I forget who I am it is like putting a neon sign on my heart that says, "SUFFERING, HERE PLEASE!".

Satisfaction or success that relies upon external measures is always a vulnerable success. True satisfaction comes from within, by aligning with the deeper self, the true self. You might call it inner source, inner light, spirit, or soul. When we nourish that space, connecting to it daily, it becomes easier to navigate the constantly shifting landscape of life, to ride the waves of coming and going with ease.

The only sure thing about life in the external world is change, this inner realm though, is constant,  secure, and peaceful. It is easy to lose sight of it, to forget, and get caught up once again in the stories, the evaluations, the criticisms.

Once I processed this and came home to my heart, I was able to shift my perspective. I was able to appreciate the courage it took to put myself out there, the benefits to my own evolution in creating the curriculum of these offerings, to trust my gifts and that a future opportunity to share will come. The universe has perfect timing, and so as I wait, I continue to create. Instead of withdrawing I will look for the next open door or window.

In fact, just this past weekend, I trusted and moved through this doubt and taught a class to a Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training class and the feedback I got was so amazing and uplifting. I walked away re- inspired in my teaching, reaffirmed in my value. Another wave, this time one of support and renewal. And so life goes, I will try to remember this and shine the light inward, and when I forget, I will feel again and forgive again. That is success.            

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fierce Feminine

 As a devotee and teacher of yoga I have studied the culture, philosophy and religion associated with the practice (important to remember that yoga itself subscribes to no religion but being from India has strong Hindu associations). Although I do not call myself a Hindu, I am actually a universalist yogini, I find the Hindu deities and the stories of those deities fascinating and powerful. I see them as archetypes or symbols of the divine qualities that permeate the universe, including each one of us.

 I love that Hinduism is so very inclusive, the divine is kind, fierce, loving, violent, creative, destructive, light and dark, masculine as well as feminine. In this paradigm nothing is outside of God, nothing is separate from God or Goddess. Oh yeah right, Goddess. Hinduism includes various goddesses in its rich banquet.

Right now in India the festival of Navratri is in full swing. Navratri means "nine nights" and it is a celebration of the divine feminine. It focuses on Durga in particular, who is fierce and mighty. She is known as "the vanquisher of evil" and she is invincible. Durga is depicted with up to eight or ten arms each wielding a weapon gifted to her by a god. She rides on the back of a lion. She is a courageous warrior who does not hesitate in battle. She destroys her enemy with determination. Durga is the champion of courage and compassion. She fights for peace and defeats fear.

The fierce feminine! I will joyfully get on board for this celebration! We need a Durga injection right about now, a Durga revolution as far as I am concerned.

So in this auspicious time of honoring Durga I pray.

I pray to Durga and all divine source that moves through this universe for my sisterhood.

I pray for a world free of rape, battery, and assault. I pray for a world where female castration is a long forgotten barbarian brutality. I pray for a world without human trafficking and sex slavery. I pray for an end to women being treated like property; misused, abused, unjustly punished, cast away or killed for her very victimization.

I pray to live in a country where my daughters will have equal opportunity and equal pay to my son. I pray to live in a country where equal pay for equal work is not something we even have to debate or discuss, it just is!

I pray to live in a country where my body is not a political punching bag, a novelty to be exploited or legislated. I pray to live in a country where my leaders don't consider vagina a dirty or offensive word, and instead remember that it is in fact the very sacred channel that brought them into this world.

I pray to be recognized as a being that knows what is best for my body, my health, and my life.

I am tired of a nation that supposedly stands for liberty and justice for all, but where the political powers insist on speaking about women like we aren't even in the room.

I am tired of women being shamed instead of honored.

We women must fight this battle though, we can't wait for someone to fight it for us. We have to channel our inner Durga and speak up with voices ,votes and continued action. We have to commit to our cause and with great courage and determination continue to act regardless of immediate or even long term outcome. That is to refuse defeat, to be steadfast and strong.

And that women, we are!!  We can change ourselves, our country and the world.    

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Here's Looking At You

Yoga is so much more than a physical fitness regimen, it is in fact a spiritual practice that includes a vast and beautiful tapestry of inquiries and expressions. What most people think of as yoga, on a mat, moving the body, is called asana, and asana is only one piece of an eight limbed system that is hatha yoga.

If you only do asana you are only doing 1/8 of the yoga, only diving in 1/8 of the way. You are missing the boat, swimming in the kiddie pool instead of embarking on the grand voyage.

In my yoga teaching I consistently incorporate themes and practices to educate and encourage my students to come on the journey, the grand expedition into the inner universe; grand, magical, beautiful.    

Since January, once a month I focus my class on a yama or niyama. These are the first two limbs of yoga, they are the ground to root into, the foundation of practice. They consist of ten moral and spiritual precepts, restraints and observances intended to be studied before any physical practice begins.

Yet most yoga students have never heard of them and set out to swim without support or direction.

Today in my class we explored swadhyaya, the niyama of self study and also the study of philosophy and scripture. I focused on self study, on the mat, to then be taken off the mat.

Swami Kripalu said, "The highest form of spiritual practice is self observation without judgment. "This is a great challenge in our western culture which is endlessly strict and endorses self deprecation as an ideal. We confuse self scrutiny for self study and self judgment for humility.

Many of us embarked on our yoga paths with lofty expectations of molding our bodies, sculpting them into a vision of strength and flexibility. The problem is that the body is limited and those expectations don't take into account bone structure, genetic composition, aging and endless physical variances that make us unique and beautiful. We often choose to see these variances as flaws and defects.

We are great at self observation with judgment, self observation with loving kindness is unfamiliar territory.

"Who am I?" is the question at the heart of yoga.

How do you choose to see yourself? You are more than the things you do, the role you play, the identities you fill. You are spirit embodied, you are light and grace, you are perfect and powerful. Infinite, eternal and whole. It always comes back to that.

Bapuji said, "Do not fight the dark, just turn on the light. Breathe and let go into the goodness that you are."

Study yourself, on the mat, off the mat. Look, listen, feel, awaken. Freedom awaits within.      

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sparkling Sunday

 Sparkling Sunday
 rising radiant I don my worship attire,
 lacing up these sacred earth stained shoes
 ready for the unknown and known
 the certainty of some breathtaking beauty to be found
 as I step into my once again brand new
 expression of devotion that is
 breath taking
 my worship is this simple offering
 a breath, a step on this sacred earth
 most fully in the direction of God
 the people driving to church might wonder
 why I do not pray, how did I get so lost?

 I do pray with every step
 I pray with all of me
 I pray with this precious God given
 body out here in the cathedral of the world
 trees, squirrels and all this creation
 bears witness to me, and I to it
 the very endless heavens above lit by the lantern
 of sun are my light and I know love in these steps

 I pray with every step not for speed or agility or even strength
 I pray for presence and clear seeing, to know this moment
 who I am, to feel God dancing in my movement
 my prayer is not one of words but feelings
 I feel my feet rise and fall kissing the earth
 I feel my breath and heart that are aligned to
 the rhythm of the universe itself
 I come and go dissolving and re-emerging
 filling and emptying until I feel the reality of both
 I am and I am not

 Sparkling Sunday
 I met you wide open and you
 met me with miracles
 on the blessed road I know
 all is one
 my sacred prayer
 is as I run            

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If I Should Die Before I Wake : Part 2 or Death Night in The Famous Mod 3

If Death is Kind

Perhaps if death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.

We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.

~Sara Teasdale 

I have had the privilege of participating in the famous Module Three, better known as mod 3 of the Kripalu 500 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, not once, but twice. Once I experienced it as a participant, and just recently as a program assistant. This ten day intensive is about transformational teaching. It is comprised of yoga practice and various provocative and compelling exercises that push the students to the outer limits of their comfort zones and into the stratosphere beyond. Guided by the master teachers Devarshi, Vidya, and most recently Jovinna, who each bring a unique form of charisma, brilliance, depth, intensity and even humor to material that can and does create conflict and triggers highly charged emotional responses, they artfully stir the cauldron. There is method to their madness.

Transformation in yoga is sacred work, it is the work. Shiva (the Hindu deity and archetype of transformation) dances in a ring of fire, fire that destroys what is no longer useful, burning away ignorance and illusion. This work takes ultimate courage, it is an invitation to upheaval, chaos, and destruction, that results in the reordering of the universe that lives within, in order to change the world without. Mod 3 is a call to leap into the fire, to trust these guides, to surrender, to burn, to awaken.

"The curriculum of this training is you. You are it, your life, your experiences." Devarshi informed the students in my most recent go around. Such a true statement, our lives are our curriculum, experience is showing up, moment to moment, to teach each of us just what we need to learn. It is clear then, that these teachers and students of yoga show up to this module aligned in unique ways to receive its offerings.

When the schedule is handed out on the second day of the program, some have heard and some haven't, of the shocking one word description filling the box for the activity on Sunday evening. When they look and see that word, the responses, though varied, are all intense. There it is, Sunday evening, one word; death. "We are going to do death?! What does that mean even?" I remember clearly, that being my response on my first go around several years ago as a participant.

"You are eternal, infinite, and whole, or not." Devarshi would continue to put this inquiry out through the whole ten days, but for me it resonated most strongly in the death experience. As a student in the process I felt an urgency in that statement, almost like I had been delivered an ultimatum. "Come on, decide! Are you or aren't you?", my inner voice questioned. Fear bubbled up, a fear that had been percolating in me for years. Fear of death had been haunting me, a specter, a monster. I could sense its shadowy fingers stalking me. I spent hours in therapy on this subject all the way up to module three. Yoga is transformational indeed.

In the death night experience I began to change, to heal. In terror, I stepped into the room, and into the fire. The room was set up with blankets, sheets and cushions, which we would find out were to serve as death beds. We began though, sitting close together at the front of the room, for a talk from Vidya and Devarshi on the matter at hand. Devarshi shared a story of witnessing the death of a friend as a little boy. His story shook me, his vulnerability touched me and his clear strength and faith affected me deeply, instantaneously. Moment to moment, life curriculum arriving, teaching, transforming me. I had brought my life curriculum to the training, but here was life too, in that very moment, like a lightening bolt, and never to be the same again.

The next part of the experience brought it home, to the body, the mind, heart and soul. Full on fire! We each took a spot at a blanket, and the meditation began. Devarshi lead us through a narrative in which we go to the doctor for tests, we are informed that a rare and aggressive disease has been discovered and we only have days to live. We were then instructed to begin some writing, first thinking of four things we love in life and writing them on index cards, and then to write our own epitaph. As we wrote the epitaph, staff would come and replace our "things we love in life" cards with cards that would say something like, "you can no longer walk" or "it is getting hard to breath". This might all seem hokey or ridiculous, but in the moment, in the atmosphere that had been created, I found it intense and profound.

Finally, we were told to end the journaling, that the time had come. We all laid down and Devarshi guided us through our last breaths, the moment of death, being covered with the sheet, moving into the light, being told it was not our time and returning us to life. Again, maybe this sounds silly in a way, or too contrived, but to meet death, to look at it, and shake off the denial of mortality and dive into the reality that this will be an experience we will all have someday is eye opening indeed.

Acknowledgment instead of denial of death is a call to wake the hell up and live!

Several years have passed between that first mod 3 as a student, and the second as staff,which was just a month ago. In those years I have had many more opportunities to learn and process around life and death and matters of faith and God. I have witnessed and received miracles. I have become more sensitive to, and aware of, divine guidance in my life. Miracles can be seen all the time in life, if you are looking in the right places, in the right light, with the right perspective.

Those experiences and revelations translated into an ability, in my second experience of death night as staff, to hold space and witness. I revisited my fear in the act of beholding it in others. I revisited that urgent question, "Infinite, eternal and whole, or not. Which is it?", as I held the energy of it for others. Most importantly, both times, we went in together, shed tears together, lived that moment of life curriculum together. That is a beautiful thing to be, to behold.

As I said, I am still afraid of death sometimes, but I choose to trust the miracles, the deep and unexplainable inner knowing, my soul intelligence.

 Infinite, eternal and whole.

Next stop on my dancing with death tour, I will do the practice in the book "A Year To Live" by Stephen Levine. I loved it so much for one night, why not a whole year?

Anyone want to join me? Awwww, come on, you know you do!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

If I Should Die Before I Wake: Part One

"Dream as if you'll live forever.  Live as if you'll die today."  ~James Dean

First off, my only qualification as an expert on death is that I am alive, which means someday I will die.
I hope it is not a shocking insight that this is true of you as well.

Death. We all have a very intimate relationship with that word, that force, that reality. This relationship, like any in our lives, is probably complex and messy, and this one is (almost always) riddled with fear, resistance, pain, and denial. Unlike many events, people or things we relate to in life, when it comes to death we don't get to choose. We can't break up with death, can't kick it to the curb.

I live a yogic life, and yoga has a lot to offer into this relationship with death. Fear of death, or clinging to life, is cited as one of the sources of suffering that yoga aims to liberate us from. As my teacher Devarshi says, "We are infinite, eternal and whole, or not." Here is where we can find some choice in this matter. We have choices in how we can relate to death and how we live our lives. We can choose to live in denial or sense the preciousness of this life and dive into this chance to explore, to seek, to inquire. The question at the core of the matter is "Who am I?" "Who am I really?". (I will come back around to that in part 2.)

Are you living? Are you REALLY living? Do you sense a soul connection and fulfillment in the activities, vocations, and relationships you invest in? Have you said, as of this moment, all you need to say to the people that matter? Is there peace in your heart or is there resentment, anger, fear? Healing and forgiveness should be a high calling, not an afterthought, especially for ourselves.

 If today was your last day, what would need to be done? Who would you say "I love you." to?

 If you only had a year to live what would you delay no longer? What dreams would you finally invest in or relationships would you mend?

If you should die before you wake, would you be at peace?

Living with an active inquiry into and relationship with death can bring more life to this life.

I completed an extreme trail marathon this summer. The race shirt said on the back, "I realize that my participation in this event may result in injury or even death." For whatever reason, that shirt really got me to thinking. Wow! What if I did not make it through this? This brought all the questions listed above to bear upon me over the next few weeks.

What I realized is that although I have fear of death, I am quite content with who I am and what I have done in my life. I have had a lot of deep struggle, to the point of despair in periods of my life, but luckily I have been gifted with the time to work through things, and I have had deep awakenings and amazing opportunities. I have said yes to what lights me up; my marriage, my children, yoga, dance, spiritual seeking and teaching.

I used to be unsure of my worthiness. I felt like I had to prove to myself, and the world, my right to be. That still comes up sometimes, but in the last few years I feel I have outgrown that pattern quite a bit. I look at where I am, who I am, and feel so grateful because I am a living miracle. I have achieved more than I ever imagined possible at my lowest of lows, at the age of twenty, when my life was on a crash course with complete devastation. I have come so very far, through years of healing my depression and anxiety, and engaging in intense soul searching.

After the race, I realized that I do have peace in my heart. I endeavor to live each day fully and also mindfully. I have big dreams, huge dreams, but I am also full right now, complete.

I choose infinite, eternal and whole.
More on that in part 2.                

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

So Hum

  I am
  that I am
  I am breath
  that dances just
  as the universe dances
  I am spirit encased in sacred
  body blossoming forth a perfect
  expression of the divine light of all
  beings known and unknown that echo
  endlessly the harmonious voice of our one
  miraculous moment that is infinite and unbroken
  waves in the cosmic ocean that rise and fall the rhythm
  of the universe that lives in the very chambers of the temple
  of my heart that lives in your heart and every beating blessing now

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Can I Have A Witness?

  I have been called to bear witness.
  So have you, check in and see if this rings true.

In yoga we learn about the multidimensional self. We have a body, breath and energy, a mind, and then this interesting presence called witness consciousness, finally we have a soul or a bliss body. The part most crucial, most powerful, in yoga study and practice is cultivating the witness.

What is the witness? If you consider your thinking mind as a space through which thoughts, stories, judgments and ideas pass, then the witness is like the bigger container that holds all of that. The witness is the one who notices, "oh, there is a thought about.....". The witness notices with compassion and holds no judgment. The witness, when present, helps us to love ourselves and others in any condition, it brings us to a full presence in the now.

Yeah, I know, it sounds a bit weird, a bit foreign, maybe bordering on multiple personality, but even if you have not purposefully attuned to witness it is there, even right now. Check it out.

I have witnessed so many amazing things lately, both in others and myself.

I just came off assisting a 500 hour yoga teacher training module on transformational teaching. There were many profound experiences delivered in the ten days we spent together. As a staff member my main job was to hold safe and sacred space, to bear witness. It was beautiful to see the unfoldings and awakenings of the group and to participate, on the edge of the group. The staff was both with the participants and experiencing the curriculum, but also holding them and maintaining a vigilance for their needs.

What kept coming up over and over again in this exploration of transformation was the importance of being present. Being fully present, to feel deeply and honestly, to become open to all range of emotion and experience. Fully present we become more of who we are, love and spirit embodied. We learned how to see the worlds of inner and outer experience with fresh vision and how to return to that nonjudgmental, compassionate witness consciousness again and again. We learned that our true nature is " eternal, infinite and whole", another phrase that figured heavily into the training. If we are eternal, infinite and whole beings whose nature is love than what have we to fear? Nothing. 

What is required to evolve, to transform, to become more of who we are meant to be? Loving presence.

I came home from the ten day training, had only a day to catch my breath and catch up with my family, and then I was off for a day trip to Bethlehem, Connecticut to bear witness once again.  This time I was going to The Abbey of Regina Laudis to see my friend and fellow Let Your Yoga Dance teacher take her first vows as a nun.

The church was stunning, rustic with a modern twist, simple and exquisite. Breathtaking. The ceremony was in Latin, English, and Spanish. It was full of beautiful chanting and ceremony. Divine energy was palpable in the room. The priest delivered an eloquent sermon that, as he spoke it, made me smile with the deep knowing that all things are indeed connected. There is no division or separation in this world, disunity is an illusion. In his sermon the priest spoke about presence. He talked at length about how we are always becoming more of who we are. He said, "We are always experiencing ourselves and journeying to becoming more of who we are called to be. From forever, to forever."

Infinite, eternal and whole.

You can believe this or not, don't take my word for it, or anyone else. Do some yoga, sit in meditation, do the things you love and notice if witness is there. Feel deeply and fully, observe yourself without judgment, become more of you, become love. You will forget this as well and that is perfect experience too. When you realize you have gone astray or aren't quite where you want to be just call out, "Can I have a witness?" The answer will always be YES.              


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Let's Stay Together

‎"Find the blessings in the people around you because they're the ones that support your life."
— Dr. Oz

My husband Stephen and I just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary, 18 years of magnificent, and yes, oftentimes messy marriage.

As I considered writing this post I realized that there is enough material here for a book, but this is a blog, so I will hit the highlights and if you want to know more just ask, and I will answer, within reason of course, not up to a tell all. Don't worry Stephen.

First of all, my husband is truly incredible. He supports my dreams and ideas even when they are not things that he enjoys or even understands. He is a great dad who genuinely attends to his family. He makes pancakes on Saturday mornings, waffles on Sundays. When he looks at our kids he beams with pride and adoration. He is not afraid to show emotion, a man who can cry, what a gift. He is devoted, loyal and loving. He is my greatest blessing.

Our relationship began when we were just entering our twenties, so young. We were in college, trying to figure it out, who we were, what we would be, what we wanted in life. We were both lost, on the wild side, rebellious, angry, wounded. We partied more than we studied, we were reckless thrill seekers rejecting social norms, intelligent but self destructive. We both had murky, thick pools of pain to slog through and found it better to do so holding onto a hand that understood. We came together in our falling apart.

Together we got through troubled times, addressed our addictions and started our emotional healing.  Our marriage has been a journey of mutual healing. It has been amazing and difficult, heart wrenching at times. I believe that our closest relationships are forged in soul connection, we come together because our souls are drawn to their teachers and sometimes the lessons are tough.

Stephen and I have struggled through some great challenges in these 18 years together. Our like experiences that brought us together also meant we shared some powerful shadow qualities. Anger, shame, guilt, trauma, anxiety and depression have all made appearances. In our relationship we have brought out the best in each other, and the worst, like holding up a mirror to show the other everything that needs to be seen, everything that needs to be explored, everything that needs to be healed and held, finally, in the arms of acceptance and love.

I think this is where many marriages go wrong, and we almost went this way as well. When the struggle gets deep and intense that is where the seeds of great growth and healing might be planted, that is when it is vital to stay together, at least long enough to dig in, to feel, to find out. Some relationships do run their course, or can't be healed and must end, but I think this is a culture of reactivity, looking for either quick fixes, or quick escapes. Instead of first pausing to breathe, feel, communicate, there is a fear based impulse to cut and run. I have had my share of moments of wanting to run away and not look back, growth has its pains. Love must sometimes be endured as well as cherished.

Forgiveness is the cornerstone of love.

We have come a long way together, we have weathered many storms and have enjoyed even more days of sun. We are blessed beyond measure to have each other, our beautiful children and a love that has been steadfast, patient and strong. We have learned about forgiveness many times over, in so many ways, and continue on that path. We have also learned that we can make all the room we each need to be different from each other. We don't have to agree on everything, or anything even, we can march to different drummers and still dance together. We are perfectly imperfect together and have blossomed into more than we ever dreamed possible, holding the hand of someone who understands, not with their head, but with their heart.

"Let's stay together, loving you whether, whether, times are good or bad happy or sad."
 ~Al  Green

 I dedicate this song to you Stephen. Let's keep staying together.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dancing With Dirt

  I recently went to my home state of Wisconsin to hang with my family (mom, dad, siblings, and nephews) and run in an extreme trail marathon called "Dances With Dirt".  Many of my friends would tell me this race had my name on it. I am an earth worshipper and I love to dance, my inspiration and expression respectively. I knew the course would be challenging and beautiful, a promise of steep bluff climbs and descents, rocks, roots and rugged terrain. Stunning and dangerous, the juxtaposition of nature.  I love this because it is so intense and intimate, all my senses buzzing and heightened, the pure state of being alive.

  Waiting for the race to begin my heart was beating quickly, I felt a potent surge of adrenaline and anticipation mingled with fear. The back of the race shirt quoted the first line of the waiver I had signed, " ...I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death...".  Alright, clearly this was done to make us participants feel sufficiently bad ass, and now we even have a shirt to prove it, but unlike any other event I have done this one put it's money where it's mouth is. Hot weather, rugged terrain, at one point running quite close to cliffs with no fence, not even a rope barrier. The element of danger was not overwhelming but not fictitious either. I was dancing with fear, dancing with my mind and emotions. Toward the end of the race I was so tired I resorted to singing a medley of LMFAO songs just to give my mind something to chew on, but quickly stopped as the momentary distraction resulted in a couple near falls. Mind over matter, focus on the what is, let go of the story, let go of resistance and embrace tired, embrace pain, find strength in spirit. Powerful. I am powerful.      

 Upon reflection I can say I discovered that trail running really is a dance with dirt. It has rhythm and pulse, every step crucial and expressive. It requires deep feeling and intuition in order to sense and respond in each moment to my dance partner, earth. At times we would be moving fluid and at other times staccato steps or small leaps and bounds, often having to surrender to earth's superiority and we would walk . A complex melody of movement, sometimes climbing, sometimes descending, perhaps falling. I had to be vigilant and focused to anticipate the next step while entrained simultaneously in this one, the feeling of speeding on the razors edge, but also each moment so vast in experience; endless, infinite. Dances of inner and outer worlds conjoined, harmonious, exhilarating. I felt dazzled and yet comfortably at home, content, just as I do on a dance floor.

 I find trail running to be a deep meditation as well. To run the trail requires ultimate focus and presence, each footfall and each breath are critical and precise. Distraction is dangerous on the trail.  Death no longer a distant and denied presence, but striding right there alongside the pumping thrill of life. There is nowhere else to be, nothing to do but take a next step, the next breath, no one to be. Here on the trail there is no identity, no responsibility, no status.  I find myself in awe, humbled, in a deep reconnection to earth and sky, animals and plants, water and wind. I feel deeply that I am not separate from these things, none of us are. To imagine that we stand apart from this sacred temple of the earth is a grand delusion. If meditation is a path to self realization that strips away illusion and shines the light of consciousness on truth then trail running serves that purpose for me (this is a personal statement and most certainly is not every one's experience).

 I finished that day empty and yet full, blistered and raw physically and energetically but also empowered and bursting with deep joy and gratitude for all that dance with dirt had gifted me. Courage and humility, endurance and presence, seeing beauty in all, in everything, and to feel connected to people and land, one with the trees and the very dirt, a harmony and wholeness only possible when one learns to relish all experience and to savor even the moments of struggle and exhaustion. I came away with a greater respect, appreciation and understanding of myself. Dancing with dirt I unearthed yet another layer of me, and the dance goes on.

I intend to dance with dirt many more times.            

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anticipation Is Interesting

  I am getting ready to leave on a weekend trip to see my family and run a crazy trail marathon with my brother. My brain is almost living in two dimensions. One is of the here and now making the necessary preparations, but another part is already living in tomorrow and especially Saturday, race day. My mind is already trying to experience camping, waking early, getting to the start, and blast off (ok just to pump me up we will call it blast off ). I can almost feel the run, the sweat, the waves of exhilaration and fatigue, my body pre-sensing, it is palpable. Anticipation. Funny how the anticipation of the event can be like an alternate reality of future leaking into present, intense and sensual. I don't understand quantum physics but maybe this is an experience of the fluidity or illusion of time.

 In exciting life experiences I really love this rush of anticipation and I am cognizant of wanting to savor it, to soak in it because I also know that in a mere instant it will have come and gone and I will be back here writing my post race blog. Time is an enigma to me. So much of what I do as a yoga teacher and meditator is about presence, to live in the now, and yet here I am living with only one foot in it, and clinging to that in a certain sense.

 I wonder if this is unique to humans. I know my dog is right on queue in the evening when it is treat time, but I wonder if he experiences this kind of full sensory anticipation. Just a curiosity moving through my presently humming mind, probably brought on by the adrenaline I can sense readying itself to do it's job.

My body and mind are on board ready to rock, but now I think, "Hey wait minute!" Slow down and savor because this moment is about writing, communicating and being interested in this experience that is happening in that "now".

Anticipation is interesting.          

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Honoring Independence

 The Fourth of July is this country's celebration of the rising up of the people against oppressive forces in order to claim a birthright of freedom. Freedom to have representation of the people in the government, freedom to make a life and a living, freedom to worship or not, freedom to be fully expressed as individuals. Sacrifices have been made by many through the years to protect freedom and to see it evolve and grow. We celebrate and honor all who have fought and debated, those who have marched and moved mountains of resistance in the name of justice and equality.

 I think the best way to honor the spirit of this holiday and this country is to make our own individual declarations of independence. We can all take stock of the areas in our life that are longing for expression which we hold back or suppress. It is time to widen our vision, to be creators and innovators, to collectively renew our individual spirit and drive so the whole can thrive. We all have gifts to offer and perspectives and insights to share. Say what you think, express what you feel but do it in the spirit of forward movement and mutual respect. This country is about allowing for differences of all kinds and the evolution and progress that happens when we challenge each other and inspire each other to be better people, to thrive in community as well as individuals. Don't try to fit in, break out, be bold, rock the boat and question the status quo both around you and in you.

That is the spirit of independence that has made this country great. Honor it and make your declaration loud and proud!!        

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Solar Power

 Today is the first day of summer. It is my favorite season, and I have to say it is no wonder to me that sun worship has had a place in the hearts of people since the dawn of time. I delight in the radiance, warmth and beauty of the sun, despite my fairer than fair freckled skin that is always on the brink of burn. A little sun changes everything, well, it does for me at least, brightens the mood, makes me smile. I love to dance all the time, but especially in the sun.

  My best memories of childhood are in this sumptuous season of peaches so juicy they dripped down my face and arms, bright jewel tone watermelon, diving into the cool of my backyard swimming pool. I would ride my bike on grand adventures through my small suburban neighborhood. At night I would play kick the can with the kids next door. Summer brought back my kindred spirits; toads, butterflies, and beetles. The long grass a wonderland and hideaway. Summer, a season of magic, dreams and dancing, and dance I did every chance I got.

  Now, in my house, in a little woods I feel that same anticipation and relish experiencing it with my own kids. Our little backyard pool guarded by towering elder trees, air full of bird songs and buzzing bees. Our brook that bubbles with delight, and frogs, salamanders and turtles to befriend. Dances and laughter with my girls, and my son looking for wild mushrooms and may apples. Life itself seems more spacious with the longer days, we linger in the light, with room to ease back into the repose of the evening. We tell stories and light fires, roast marshmallows and are warm in a deep togetherness that feels almost tribal.

  Summer is a season of sweet ripening, of stepping into that light. Ancient traditions observe this as a time of power and action, a calling to move forward boldly. We are of the earth, and become more enlightened and empowered by connecting to earth's rhythms and cycles. Summer solstice celebrations bring people together. Traditions include fasting and feasting, fire rituals and of course song and dance.
The fire element is transformational, it can burn away what is no longer useful so that new life might spring forth from within us. It is a call to be powerful and creative, but also to lean back and enjoy, to savor the sweet juice of life.

 Dream a dream and let it float on dandelion seeds or firefly wings. Dance in the light and roll in the grass. Bite in and let the sweet juice flow, dive into cool waters and gather by the fire.  Feel the magic of this living breathing earth. Sit in tall grass or under those elder trees and be awestruck by the beauty all around us. Feel the solar power and dare to grow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sometimes I Get Hooked

  In the last twenty four hours I have been obsessively embroiled in a heated discussion on an online blog collective. I usually read blog articles with an open mind and I might not always agree but there is no visceral or emotional reaction. I am able to hang back, observe, and process, but occasionally something grabs not only my attention but my guts and becomes a flashing neon target, and I take the bait, hook, line and sinker. This article was about all the false arguments and justifications meat eaters use for their immoral and planet destroying penchant for flesh. Honestly I mostly agreed with the premise of the article even though I can currently count myself amongst the cruel destroyers of the earth. I actually would quite like to go vegetarian, vegan is a bit too extreme for me, but I have kids, one of whom is a carnivore through and through, makes it tough.

  What really got me was the tone and delivery of the author's argument. I can boil it down to one line that really hit my sensitive spot. He said,"I am not talking down to you, or judging you. Now get your head out of your butt before it gets lodged in there permanently. See what I did there?" I saw what he did there, he pushed a major button in my pain body.  The whole article smacked of fundamentalism, which I don't think is ever good, no matter the cause. It was condescending, disparaging, and lacking in any invitation to a compassionate discourse, but the epicenter of its explosive effect on me was in that one line. It provoked me to post a comment, which received abrasive and biting comments from other readers and back and forth we went. I could not stop from continuing to defend because they just were not seeming to get my point. I could not disengage even when a wise friend suggested that would be the best course of action.  That hook had sunk in deep, I could struggle but I could not get away. Now I ask myself "Why?"

  This is actually of more interest and consequence to me than my position on the article. What got triggered? Clearly the intensity of my response had something more in it than feeling offended by this author's statement, right or wrong. This had something to do with me. Here it is, I don't like to be labeled as stupid. Stupid hits me deep in my psyche. I was bullied in elementary school (read relentlessly verbally attacked) and one of the most popular offenses was to attack my intelligence or cruelly try to say I did not have any. This is a shadow space, a core wound and the ego goes to great lengths to defend this vulnerable territory, the problem is that the defense causes its own suffering.  To end this cycle of suffering requires deep self love, patience, and a willingness to bring the shadow into consciousness. This does not mean to get rid of the shadow, it holds many gifts and a lot of energy, but to hold it and comfort it, heal it. 
  Whenever we find ourselves reacting to our environment with anger, behind it we will find fear, shame, hurt.  Knowing this might allow us to be more compassionate. The author of this article is clearly angry too and now I can remember that he too must be experiencing fear, sadness, suffering. I still do not agree with his methods but I honor his humanity that  is just like mine. 
   I think we all get hooked. What we don't always do is dig in and figure out why. What does our reactivity point to in ourselves? Going there is the only way to get off the hook.      

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Falling For Freedom

     "When I rise up let me rise up joyful like a bird,
       When I fall let me fall without regret like a leaf." Wendell Berry

     The words falling and fear seem to be inextricably tied to each other. Maybe it is because we also associate the experience of falling with another alliteration, failure. I have experienced debilitating, paralyzing fear in my life over failure. I have sunk into deep murky pools of self doubt and depression, waters that echoed with falling, fear, failure. There have been many moments where the struggle became so tiring I wanted to give up, give in, in every cell of my being wanting to sink down to the bottom and surrender to the dark. What I did not know then is that the pain I was experiencing had as much to do, or even more so, with my perceptions and judgmental notions as the facts of my situation. I had bought into the story that I was essentially, irrevocably flawed, that I did not have much to offer and felt the world at large was not on my side. I found it excruciatingly difficult to step into new situations, to move beyond old habits and behaviors or to accept that my successes in life were more than transient flukes. I was quite blind to my own goodness and potential, my gifts, and my fear of failure, of falling, kept me from growing or evolving. I was stifled and often depressed.

 On the other hand I have always had a warrior nature as well. Often in these situations of complete terror my warrior archetype has led me to say yes to things even when my insides were trying to run in the other direction. These situations of ominous opportunity have had various outcomes, some highly successful and some not so successful, but upon reflection every experience, even the ones which by some standards would be called failure or falling down, brought growth, insight, and informed my evolution. In fact I have realized that making friends with falling opens the door to amazing freedom and exponentially accelerated growth. The ability to take a step into fear and the unknown in order to explore the possibilities of life, and grow into our gifts is what we are called to in this life. In this one life to live (or this time around) we have a choice to risk and play, to experiment, expand, to fall and fly or to stay small and caged when the vast sky awaits.

  In my yoga classes I often do an inquiry which I call intentional falling. What we can befriend on a yoga mat we might just carry more and more into life. I begin this exploration by talking about falling. The fact of the matter is that we would have never learned to walk, to ride a bike, to climb or dance without the willingness and ability to fall. Next, we enter a balancing pose such as tree or uptavishta konasana (a seated balance where you hold your big toes and lift the legs up at a wide angle), hold for a breath or two and then playfully allow ourselves to fall, with a smile and a "weeee" or a "wooop". This falling becomes its own new form of warrior two or spinal rocking. This illustrates how when we allow, and flow with the course of life and energy, what might at first seem undesirable, a falling, a "failure", can surprise us and be a gateway to something beautiful, something brilliant.

Our power lies not in our holding on, but our letting go. Fall into freedom and learn how to fly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Live Your Bliss: Part Three, Live What You Love

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”   Howard Thurman

 Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”  Rumi

     I will never forget a conversation I once had with a woman about our children and their activities and interests. I told her that my two girls had inclinations toward creative pursuits like dance, art and theatre. She responded by saying that those things were nice hobbies but not good career options. She told me that kids should enjoy those things but better go to college and become doctors or lawyers. I was speechless, and later, upon reflection I felt sad for her and her kids, but not in a judgemental way because this is endemic in our current culture. We are indoctrinated into a value system based on credentials, status, and wealth and it is no easy task to go against that stream. The problem is that it is a sham, unless we value those things over health, happiness and true fulfillment, which often times and in many cases we do. In addition, even though we know it is a sham, because many of the people living at the pinnacle of these values (think famous and rich people) are deeply troubled and depressed or worse, we keep buying in.  This is not the path to bliss.

 The path of bliss lives within us. We are all born with unique gifts and talents, the things that light us up and make us come alive with joy. We are all creative beings with deep soul callings that long to be expressed. Some people are born artists, some born healers, some born lawyers or builders or chefs, and we all have multiple and evolving interests and passions. Bliss is found in the listening to and trusting the inner whisper of spirit, noticing what we find beautiful and inspiring and then creating it, birthing it in our lives. Once we start allowing space in our daily lives for an exploration of what moves us and let the creative process start to form, doors start to open, opportunities unfold. It might begin with reading an article, taking a class, starting that hobby, but who knows where it might go, how it might blossom. There are also plenty of stories out there about people who have left high power jobs and unhappy lives to do something completely different, and end up finding contentment and fulfillment off the beaten path.

If you have a desire in your heart, a dream, an inspiration it is there for you to discover and manifest. Deepak Chopra says, "Within every desire is the mechanics of its fulfillment."  Also make a commitment to try something new at least once a month or go somewhere you have not been, broaden your horizons and expand your life beyond your comfort zone."It is your job to discover your unique talents and then manifest them in your own unique way." says Debbie Ford  Indeed our happiness and impact on ourselves and those around us is our responsibility and our birthright. The currents around us might be strong but one by one we can awaken and live in a new way. Live by example and change the world!

 If you know someone who needs to hear this message then pass it on!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It's Never Too Late

"It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
George Elliot

  It was forty years in the making, but no less a spectacular rush, my first time dancing on stage. No it was not Broadway by any stretch of the imagination, but in a way it was even better. This was a family affair, my two daughters and I sharing in this performance experience, bonding in the dance. To finally take a place on stage, with lights, an audience and my girls right there with me was the sweetest validation and a stepping into my becoming what I might have been, a performing artist of dance.

  I have always been a dancer, I have always danced just as I breathe and eat, but it never occurred to me in my youth that dance could be a vocation, a life pursuit. Like many young adults I stumbled around looking for my life purpose, a major in college which would then get me what everyone is "supposed" to get, a job, a career, a livelihood. All of those endeavors were really great and I traveled, explored, experienced and did some valuable growing (some of it quite painful, all of it rich). I graduated and got a job. Yet my career path, as successful as it was becoming, did not fill me up at that soul level. I did not have passion or fire as a business manager. I felt stunted and stressed, suffocated, my spirit was crying for change.

  I became a mother and left my job to enter the vocation of caring for and nurturing my family. In that role I found myself. I found myself stronger and more loving than I thought I could possibly be. I discovered a wellspring of courage and vitality, and in mothering I found the need to express, the need for channels of self discovery. I felt deeply that to be the best mother I could be I had to dig into my own growth and creative potential. I went to art school for photography, I did not finish but became skilled enough to feel I had vision and artistry. I found yoga, a true love, a calling, finally a soul aligned path, because like dance, yoga is a body and breath centered creative form rooted in spirit. I became a yoga teacher, and through that encountered yoga dance, and another gateway opened to becoming more myself , coming home and feeling complete. I became a certified Let Your Yoga Dance teacher four years ago and now assist the teacher trainings.

  So this year I turned forty and decided to take my very first formal dance class at the dance school my daughters attend. Adult Hip Hop with Ms. Bambi, known for her effective and disciplined instruction and not one to fill you up with empty compliments. I went to my first class a tangle of terror, afraid that I would find out, after all this journeying, that I did not "have it" or it would be too challenging. After a couple classes Ms. Bambi came up to me and said, "Wow, you are really good. Do your girls know how you can move?"  Another affirmation of my inner knowing and the total blissful gift of following that inner voice.  And then came the show, being on that stage was  like a rite of passage sealed with lights, glitter and applause. I follow my mantra, "Dance On!", and so it is.

I feel so very blessed to be on this path of awakening and self discovery. I am excited to see what evolves, what journey or exciting twist of fate will show up next. Everything and anything becomes possible if you just believe, "It is never to late to become what you might have been."

What is your dream, your might have been, waiting to be dusted off and breathed back to life?
What are you waiting for?          


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Channeling To My Core

  I recently graduated from a year long yoga training called The Acharya Intensive. This program brought me into a year of study, relationship and deep growth with eleven other seekers on the path, two brilliant and wise teachers, and support staff. During this year we committed to various studies and practices, we dedicated ourselves to going deep and doing it in the safe arms of our community. We shared and opened up our very souls to each other, we laughed and cried. We bore witness to each others pain and struggles as well as our brilliance and joy.

  One of the experiences we explored last week was a guided meditation and channeling. We were partnered up and took turns, one being the partner diving in, and the other holding space and being a guiding angel. We were expertly led to first feel what was behind us, all the people events and experiences that had brought us to this point in our lives. We then attuned to the present and all that currently exists in our lives. Our partner grounded us and guided us to sit, at which time we were called to feel inside and speak, with the angel partner serving as witness and scribe. This speaking was to just come, with no worry or consideration of what to say. This speaking was to come through source or spirit, what can be called channeling.

   You might think that this is total bologna or totally crazy, new age hocus pocus. Whatever, doesn't matter. What I know is that, call it what you will, there is a deeper intelligence that lives in all of us. We experience it as intuition, calling, drive, natural talent, luck, wisdom. We might be stuck in our monkey mind most of the time but that deeper space of source and connectivity does exist, and we definitely tapped into that in this experience.

 Here is what I spoke as I channeled from source.  A message for me that might just speak to you.

    " It's ok to let go. See everything that you have been through, that you have done, and see clearly that you have always been guided and supported. It is time to surrender, to receive all of who you are, and to know that even the things that seem like a burden are gifts. To trust that the places of challenge and pain and worry are showing up with great wisdom. Know that you will be alright. You have always been supported and you always will be.

   Remember who you are, and just be that, just be that. All is unfolding perfectly.

   Feel your feet on the ground and the sun on your face. Follow the song and dance in your heart.

   You don't have to be good, you just have to be who you are.

    My dearest Jyotika you are surrounded by light and love and you are light and love."

When all was done, and I read these words, I was deeply touched. All of it rang so true, so right.  This was wise advice from the deep space of soul wisdom.

From this guidance of inner voice we each created a core identification, like a personal mission statement. We also received sanskrit names as is the practice in some yoga traditions. My name is Jyotika which means light. We made pronouncements of these statements at graduation.  

"I Jyotika am here to reclaim myself, my truth. I am a soul dancer of freedom, love, and light. May it be my prayer, my offering, and a force of healing."

Jai Bhagwan    


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Living Bliss: Part 2

      So the question at hand again is, "What is bliss?" and "How do I get there?" Just like anything in life we will only ever experience bliss in the moment, in the now. I also believe that real and lasting happiness comes from within and not from possessions or achievements in and of themselves. The fact is that all this reaching, grasping and getting to somewhere or something, makes life more and more complicated and hard to handle. Noticing all the things we take on out of never ending expectation and strict mindedness, because of feelings of emptiness or to prove our worth, we might discover a very heavy load we haul. We might realize we are chained to a heavy load of material possessions, activities, to do lists, a heavy load of "shoulds" and "musts" spring loaded with guilt and shame. That is not bliss.

    I think it is imperative that we lighten our loads, simplify our lives on many levels to make more room for the things that genuinely fill us up. This has serpent medicine in it, like a serpent we should take time every so often, maybe once a season, to see what needs to be shed away as we move forward. What was needed in life last season may have served its purpose and needs to be relinquished. This shedding might take the form of decluttering a space and giving away the things we don't need to make room for the new, or it might mean breaking a habit, or surrendering something in our emotional life or in relationships. Simplify for serenity.

  Simplify all the way down to breath itself. I say it so often, but it always bears repeating. Bliss is in the breath. When we fully attune to breath and let everything else go, even for just one cycle, it is like pushing a reset button. The breath is a luminous thread that when taken in with intention will always point us home, to the peace and light within, to our heart and spirit spaces. The more this is made a practice the more clear it becomes. Even better, get a yoga and meditation practice, but keep it simple too, or it can become just another place for criticism and stress.

The mess of life is what it is, it comes and it goes, it shifts beneath our feet, but when we are light on our feet and steady in our breath, we can more easily smile and breathe through it all. Life, messy as it may be, becomes more and more magnificent.           

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Living Bliss: Part 1

  I recently co-led a workshop for women called "Live Your Bliss".  As I worked on my plans for this day of inquiry a question presented itself, a very important question. What is bliss? I started my quest to explore this question by first looking up the word in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines bliss: 1. complete happiness  2. paradise, heaven. Wow, that is a tall order it would seem, for even five minutes and now looking to live it! What is the path that leads to bliss?  Is it possible?

 I think the first step is to examine how we define happiness and where we look for it. We live in a culture that has conditioned us to look for happiness outside ourselves. If you have this career, that house, the right car, designer clothes, the right look, and so on, you will be happy. In fact, these things do bring a kind of happiness and pleasure, but it is fleeting, it wears off and then we need more. This creates a never ending cycle of trying harder, doing more, grasping and clinging and always looking to the next thing we think will bring us that bliss.

 The result is that we end up living a life of chasing down happiness and lose our connection to the abundance of now. We get lost in a stream of  "when this or that happens, when I achieve or have........then I will be happy." Then when we get or achieve that very thing the happiness comes and we feel satisfied, but the feeling slips away and we set our sights on another future conquest of joy. I know all about this pattern of behavior I have lived it and continue to feel its pull, find myself in its grip.

  I have also had the great fortune of getting on the path of yoga. I have been blessed with wise teachers and opportunities for deep exploration and learning. On this path I have learned about a different way to be, and as I practice I continue to learn how to recognize and respond to this tendency to grasp, cling, and desire that one next thing, chasing the fix of temporary bliss.

 I have learned that real bliss is found by looking inward, living in the present moment, allowing for all experience and feeling , to be rooted in the body and the breath. When discontentment and feelings of emptiness arise or when we are driven by the illusion of attainment bringing fulfillment, it is useful to pause, take deep breaths, land in the body, and experience what is true and real right now. Usually in the moment, looking inward, all is well. To sense and feel the simple abundance of breath, heart, body and spirit is true contentment, the gateway to bliss.

When we learn to live in the foundation of presence and breath, and invest in our inner work, then we can even more fully enjoy the moments of achievement and the richness in our lives but not rely upon outer trappings to sustain a sense of fulfilled self.                

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring It On!

  Yesterday was the first day of spring or the spring equinox. Looking around, the beauty of this season of renewal and expansion is beginning to blossom, literally. Spring is full of potential and awakening, it is a harbinger of birth and transformation. This first day of spring however, is rooted in the energies of balance, a special day in which day and night are equal. It is a reminder that even as we make plans and prepare to burst forth that it is wise to pause, find some solid ground, check in with our energy levels, do some self care. A reminder that giant leaps forward need to be accompanied by generous rest and nourishment.

Spring is a great time to dream big, make plans, embrace changes that spur our growth and evolution. It is a season ripe for transformation calling us to blossom into the fullness of life.

Dance under the sun and stars. Listen to, see, smell, touch and taste the magic of natures graceful awakening. Align with your own deep calling and open to the universe of potential, the seed of possibility ready to burst forth and bring dreams into manifestation. Spring it on and also care for it, care for you, with tenderness and love.           

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Things I Learned From Drag Queens

  This past weekend I went to New York City with a dear dancing friend of mine. We were kid and fancy free. We wandered our way around with plans to take in a couple shows. We went to a matinee of Mama Mia which was alright but seemed a bit flat, off day for the cast I guess. Wicked was next on our most wanted to see list but the only tickets available were 300 dollars or more. So we decided that Priscilla Queen of the Desert might be interesting and a few random friends (read strangers we spontaneously engaged in conversation) said it was a riot.

  Well a riot it was indeed! The song and dance filled story of three drag queens traveling through Australia so that one of them can finally meet his son was wild and playful, visually stunning with 600 costume changes that were each more dazzling and outrageous than the last. I smiled and laughed, and sat awestruck with delicious joy for all but the few scenes that reminded the audience of the reality of intolerance and hate that many people in this world would have experienced in place of the sheer unadulterated blast of happiness that we in that theatre shared.

  The show reminded me of the year I spent studying in Spain during college. I lived with a French guy named Gilles who was very openly gay. We had so much fun that year and one of our favorite things to do on the weekend was to go to the drag shows. I was nervous the first time we went that I would be the one to experience exclusion, staring eyes telling me that I had no business being there, but when we walked in not a single eyelash was batted, I was just another party goer. As we watched the show I remember having that same feeling of exhilaration, adoration and delight.  Eventually we got to know some of the performers and I loved talking and laughing with them.  I was young and insecure and they would always talk about going for it in life, being who you are and making no apologies for that. These were some of the wisest women I have encountered and anatomy had nothing to do with it.

These past few days I have found myself thinking about what I felt while watching Priscilla Queen of the Desert and what I have learned from drag queens. Here is what came to me.

~ song and dance are powerful forces that bring people together
~ everyone could use more sparkle in their life
~ who you are on the inside always trumps what you look like on the outside
~ life is best experienced with a slathering of laughter and a dollop of irreverence
~ when confronted by fear or dark forces diva walk right through them
 ~ it is also OK to be afraid, to be vulnerable, to cry
~ know who your true and loyal friends are and love them big time
~ sensuality and sexuality are part of this human experience and should carry no shame, guilt, or judgment for anyone, gay, straight, bisexual or transgender
~ don't give in to hate and don't let other people's hate infect you (don't hate the haters)
~ be who you are and make no apologies

and last but most important:




Wednesday, March 7, 2012

That Is My Story: Life On The High Wire

      My life is a bit like a juggling act. I have many roles and responsibilities on my plate and no real structure to hold it together. So actually it is like a juggling act performed on a high wire. There are times when I have just a few balls in the air and it flows with ease, but then there are times when I have innumerable balls to handle and it feels like either they will fall and shatter on the ground, or I will, or both. Reality check, this is a story, an imagining, a construct of my mind. The to do list has a basis in the reality of my life but my reaction to it is of my own creation. So it is in life, there is reality and then there is the story we create about it. This is my story.

 Yesterday morning I got up, tired and cranky, primed for drama. I went to look at my calendar and what I saw was overwhelming, the month is just starting and the page already looked mangled and defaced with my various scribbles of appointments, classes to teach, activities for the kids and so on. The mere sight of it made me begin to waiver. I felt suffocated and unsteady. I began to panic about all the balls I could drop and how I might fall. If I should fall there would be no net, in fact what would be waiting for me is the razor sharp jaws of failure, hungry and eager to crush me. My fear erupted and my husband was in its path. I proceeded to share this story with him, and not in a kind way. I whined and wailed about the crushing pressure, the lack of support from him or anyone, my certain failure coming, just a matter of time. Drama, drama, drama. 

 Don't get me wrong, I do have a lot to deal with and so does the rest of the world. It does get crazy and chaotic, a circus if you will. The kind of circus it becomes though is entirely up to me. In my mind I can create a story of wonder and adventure where I am strong and fearless ready to walk that tightrope or fly on the trapeze, or I can cast myself in a nightmare circus of the Stephen King variety where I am the helpless victim of a dark evil force, those hungry jaws of failure.

   The question then is how to shift gears, how to change the story? The hardest part is to wake up. Waking up requires a pause and once I am on the tightrope of terror gripping and gasping for air it is hard to pull back. I am gasping and struggling for breath. Aha! Breath! My very wise teacher Megha always says that fear and breath can not exist in the same space. Breath reminds me that all of this really is just a story because it is not an experience of the present moment. It is a projection into an unknown future, it is a dream, an illusion that I have conjured. Breath brings me back to the now, to my body where there is no story beside the state of being in that moment. I can feel my feet on the earth, sink into that support, the illusion drops away and I am safe.  

  We can not exit our stories completely as long as we live in the world, which is full of stimuli, activity, perception and judgment. We can however, learn to have better control over our thoughts and to be vigilant over the reality we create for ourselves. We shape our world and our destiny in our intentions, our perceptions and thoughts, but we can always come home to the simple abundance of the breath and the present moment. The present moment reminds us that we need do nothing because we are always perfectly held and safe. That is my story.     

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Grand Excavation

   A couple weeks back my theme in my yoga classes was around the yogic principle that comes from the first limb of yoga, the yamas, satya, or truth. This principle has many layers and subtle nuances but most importantly, as a yoga practitioner, it is what yoga is really all about. All yoga should have as its ultimate goal the awakening of and connection to the true self. The process of doing that can have many expressions and techniques, variety is necessary because every individual has a unique body, a unique set of life experiences, and different blockages and obstacles to confront on this journey of self awakening.

   When I get on my yoga mat or my meditation cushion I enter a space of investigation and curiosity. Every moment of practice is an opportunity to dig into the what is of that moment of experience and breath. The underlying question in this inquiry is , Who am I? Who am I really? In the depths of my inner looking what truth is revealed? It is a grand excavation of an amazing internal landscape.

   Thinking of this process as digging and searching, looking for truth, brought to mind being a kid and playing in my sandbox, imagining I was on a grand adventure in search of buried treasure. It struck me that yoga is or should be just like that! So that week I offered this image to my classes, as how we might choose to enter this practice.

This yoga practice and the search for truth, mine and yours, is like a kid going out to play in a sandbox, searching for hidden treasure. It is fun and enticing, we have our play clothes on, our senses focused, but mind and imagination are open. We get in the sandbox and dig, we unearth many things, all with curiosity and great intrigue. Some things we find are wonderful, old toys we forgot were there, acorns and shiny pebbles. Other times we might hit rock, or a bug or spider might scramble out and fear becomes part of the experience. It is all part of the play, the grand adventure and search for the deeply buried treasure. If we stay the course, no matter from what angle or direction we have come, we will eventually get down to the center and there we will find the most amazing and brilliant jewel, priceless and indescribable in its beauty and splendor.

 Yoga is just like that. We all might have different methods and unique experiences, but eventually we will all arrive in the same place, the truth. The truth that we are shining jewels of love and light, that our deepest contentment and peace are within us and not outside of us. I am in this practice and continue my journey and adventure. I have moments in my digging where I glimpse and feel the purity of that jewel within me, and other moments it feels obscured. The journey is rich, it is fun and delightful, and yes, sometimes it is scary and difficult, but I can't wait to see what I will find next.              

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Terrific Terror

  I posted this quote from Georgia O'Keeffe on my facebook page today, “I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” 
Yes, this is almost exactly like one of my most favored life mottoes, " I am terrified all the time, but I just show up anyway." Honestly, this is not much of an exaggeration. Some of you who know me might be surprised at this as I generally come across as confident, secure, poised. The truth is that I have been nervous and afraid for as long as I can remember. Anxiety of varying degrees has been a constant companion. The traumas of my life, and there have been many, have rocked my world and sometimes ravaged it, but I have always just kept showing up. I step into the fear and through it. I know that it is only in walking into that fear, though it makes my knees weak, my body tremble, my mind quake, that I will make friends with it, learn the lesson of it. I also have refused to let fear keep me from doing things I want to do. So here is a list of things that I do or have done that I would not have if I let fear get the best of me. 

teach yoga and yoga dance - I love to do this and it fills me up so much but I am almost always afraid up to the moment that class begins and sometimes all the way through class. Taps into my most major fear, fear of rejection. 

run marathons- Afraid to fail, afraid to be weak or in pain.

do triathlons - Cycling and swimming bring me right into my fear of death, so completing these has been a major breakthrough.

try art school - Serious fear, as in order to do photography I had to do classes in other media, a major learning experience for me even though I did not finish.

travel- I lived in Spain for a year, have gone to Costa Rica, go to Australia quite often and travel in the U.S. and I am afraid of flying

snorkel The Great Barrier Reef, zip line in Costa Rica, wall climbing, - All great life adventures I did in varying degrees of terror. 

write a blog- Major fear of rejection involved, not being good, being wrong, being judged. 

take on higher levels of training, assisting programs, doing workshops, leading yoga teacher training -
Saying yes even though I am so unsure, so very afraid.

Do my practice, meditate, pray - These activities are about deep inward looking and not just at the nice stuff but also the dark corners and the exiled and hidden parts, but this is the only way home.  

have a family -This one is huge and I was so completely terrified going into this grand adventure I could barely see straight. I was so afraid I would be horrible at it, so afraid that I would get it wrong and cause a helpless being great suffering and harm. Thank God I stepped through the fear! My family, my husband and kids are the light of my life, they fill my heart and lift my soul.

I could go on and on. My point is that if you are afraid join the club. Fear can only win if you are not willing to step into it. Be terrified, tell someone about it, and then just show up anyway. Take it from me your life will be so much richer if you do. 


Monday, February 6, 2012

Expect Blessings

 Life is a stream of moments that contain experiences. This stream is constantly moving, shifting, changing. In one moment we might be experiencing joy and happiness and in another moment anger or sorrow. Life is not solid ground and this is a blessing because it keeps us learning and growing. It is easy to view the experiences that we call pleasurable as blessings, it is harder though, to move into experiences that bring discomfort or resistance and find the wisdom, the blessing. Sometimes what seemed like a horrible circumstance, when looked back upon later, becomes an obvious benefactor, an angel that has brought insight or evolution. Even more challenging is to surrender and allow that possibility in in the very moment of the resistance, in the very moment of fear.
A dear friend and fellow yoga teacher was talking to me about this very topic as related to our lives as teachers. It is hard to show up in the role of teacher if you had a bad day, or did not sleep well, or just don't feel "on". Sometimes circumstances show up in class beyond our control that bristle the ego and bring up our places of sensitivity and fear. He had one such story which I found touching and a testament to taking a pause and a breath, to summon faith. A reminder to look for and expect blessings to arrive no matter what the initial perception of a situation.   
I asked him to write a little about this and he agreed to allow me to share it with you.
One Angry Yogi

One student showed up at my class recently - the only student in that class, actually. In the past, I'd be upset and wonder why my classes were so poorly attended. Was it me? Do I have bad breath? Am I not sexy? After spending much time alone with myself, doing my meditation, breathing exercises and yoga postures - what us yogis refer to as "sadhana" (pronounced SAHD-NAH) - I began to let go of such worries. I realized that stressing about what others thought about me, and worrying about how many people were coming to my classes was simply a function of my ego itching for attention by distracting me from the beauty of the souls who actually did show up. Now, when even one person comes, I truly believe that is a gift. It is a unique opportunity for me to share my experience with that seeker, and to learn what makes him or her tick. And to be a good listener.
  As it turned out, this one student has been known around our town as a very angry person who, in a very nasty way, complains and moans about every little thing, including a perceived failure of our town's government to satisfy his special needs and rights as a taxpayer, etc. Lately, I have begun to notice an almost palpable shift in this student's energy and "vibe". Through the regular practice of yoga over a period of about six months, changes are occurring. Kindness and a real "slowing down" are emerging. A miracle is being born in this angry yogi. That little voice inside this student has said "go and enlighten yourself", and through the grace of the divine, I have been placed in front of my subject to witness transformation of the most profound type. So, when you see someone who gets under your skin, who just rubs you the wrong way, try stepping back for a moment. Pause long enough to withhold judgement. Realize that this individual may in fact have a very precious gift intended just for you.
~ Shivaraj Doug Greene
This is relevant on so many levels. What in your life today is your "one angry student"? Maybe it is your husband or wife, a colleague, a circumstance, an event or emotion. What are the things that bristle your ego or make you afraid? What if you tried letting your guard down even a little bit and considered the possibility of looking at it from a different angle? When we soften and see challenges as opportunities to play and explore, to become more of who we are......expect blessings, expect miracles.     

Monday, January 30, 2012

Different Roads We Travel Together

   So much can be learned right in our own homes with our families. One thing I am learning about in my home, from great teachers, is diversity and tolerance, especially in the area of spirituality and religion. My husband Stephen and I began our relationship with not much consideration, really, about our spirituality or religion. We really didn't pay much attention or give it a whole lot of thought. We were young, starting careers and having fun with friends. Sunday mornings were about sleeping in, lazy lounging, cups of coffee and being carefree. The closest we got to church was a momentary pause flicking through channels past various preachers, or church bells ringing off in the distance.

 Today we are in our forties, have three kids at home, our world has changed dramatically. We still don't go to church. This fact has caused me some internal turmoil. As I listen to other moms talk about Sunday school, first communion and other facets of their communities of faith and the instilling of religious values in their children, I have wondered if I am cheating my children. I have wondered if I am doing them wrong. In reality I know I am not doing any harm, I am being true to myself and that is a vital quality for my children to know and experience. I know that our approach has also opened the door for them to have a self discovery of faith (or not).

 As it goes, along the way I found yoga and it has become my life path, my spiritual path, my holy ground. Stephen has discovered Buddhism and its non theistic spiritual discipline.  We each found our practices when it was right and when we were ready. Our kids see us doing our practices and we talk to them about what we have chosen. They see my altar everyday, as well as meditation cushions, Buddha and Ganesha statues aplenty. Our bookshelves are full of diverse titles on yoga, spirituality and philosophy. We have created an environment that encourages awareness and inquiry. I do yoga sometimes with our daughters and our son is occasionally persuaded to meditate.

  This environment has created interesting results. Mason, our 13 year old son, is a self proclaimed "atheist who believes in the scientific method". He announced this to the family at dinner one night with real conviction and empowerment. Part of me felt a strong resistance coming up and a desire to react and argue, but instead I found myself smiling and saying how interesting that is. Avery, our 10 year old daughter asks me questions about god and life and we have discussions and sharings. I have told her that if she wants to go to church or explore anything in particular that I will be more than happy to take her. Her response is "No, I believe in god. I'm good." Harper, our six year old daughter, just before Christmas this year told me, " I think I want to be part Jewish and part Christmas." When I asked her if this decision was based on increased presents, she smirked and giggled.

 This shows me that at their different ages they have developing interest and organic understanding of where they stand and how they feel. It is so amazing and cool to behold their individuality and to see them each unfolding and blossoming so beautifully and perfectly. I am so interested in where each of their journeys of inquiry and experience will take them. When I was thirteen, I never would have,even in my wildest dreams, guessed that at forty I would be a mother, a dancer, a teacher, and surely not someone devoted to a spiritual life and path. And yet, here I am. Knowing that I evolved, expanded, and arrived at my true place gives me the courage to let them do the same. All the while I will be here to support them and love them through all the good and bad, the pleasant and unpleasant that that journey might bring.

  Even if you don't have kids there is a lesson here. Trust that everyone is here exploring and evolving in life. There are as many ways to do that as there are stars in the heavens each shining and brilliant in their own way. The Dalai Lama says, " People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”    How true this is and what a better world if we all had a basic respect for each other even when we feel different or don't agree. We all deserve respect and compassion.        

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude:Bless the Body

   Out on my eight mile, clear my head and body run, I found myself contemplating my relationship to my body and how society tends to teach people to treat and relate to their bodies. My body, like most, does not come close to fitting into the very teeny tiny (but tall) box of the media driven concept of beauty, even though my body is fit and relatively lean. I considered this, and then my attention was drawn to my movement and breath. This incredible symphony of sensation and energy, a dance of body and mind so amazing and miraculous, so full of wisdom and intelligence.

 The title of my blog is The Magnificent Mess, and so much of what we experience and encounter in this world is just that, but the body really is only magnificent. If we perceive anything in this body as messy it can only be because of our lack of understanding, our own misjudgment and ignorance. The way we treat and relate to our body might be messy but the body does not own any of that. The body operates with its own intelligence, following the pulse and dance of all creation, and each body is unfolding perfectly in each moment. The body is constantly shifting and changing, adapting and responding. Life and death a constant going on, things coming and going, emerging and then receding, a universe within so complex it is truly awe inspiring. The body communicates internally in a language of its own, beyond our ability to comprehend, and science is proving that the intelligent body does understand our minds language and responds to positive messages with healing and harmonizing energy, and to negative language with disease.

  When the body is sick or injured it knows so much more than the story or perception of the mind and moves to heal. We do have a choice in the way we talk to our bodies to help create healing or hinder healing. When the body is in pain or ill what if instead of judgement and internal impatience and negativity we treated the body like our own child that has fallen or is sick? We take the child in our arms and give her comfort, care and tenderness. The body will always seek harmony and balance and it will arrive there more easily when we attend to it in a nurturing and loving way.

 For the rest of that run I focused on giving attention to every part of my body and acknowledging with deep gratitude all that each part does. A million thank yous are owed to these feet for journeying and dancing, running, and keeping me connected to earth. These legs that hold warriors and down dogs, strong and sturdy, beautiful. These hips that swing and sway, that have held the miracle of my children, birth and creation, sensuous and powerful.  My spine, that from root to crown is a sacred river of energy and consciousness, that lets me rise up from the earth and connect to the heavens. Shoulders and arms that reach out from the jewel of the heart, to hold and hug, expressions of grace, wide and open to the world. My head that lets me see and hear, sense and feel, observe and respond. Heart and breath the keepers of the rhythm of life. Every cell a celestial body. Every part such a wonder to behold!

Take some time to bless your body and your body in turn will be the biggest blessing to you. No matter its shape or size, whether it is young or old, whether it is strong and healthy or on the brink of death, the body is a gift and a wise teacher, a temple of the divine.