We Live in a Beautiful World

 
   There are many times in my day to day experience that despite having my yoga practice and a life of abundance I feel heavy and the world feels bleak. I try not to watch too much news, but what I see consistently weighs me down and makes me question, well, everything. Then, suddenly, there will blossom before me something that lifts the cloud, and the brilliant light of joy is reawakened, my journey is affirmed. It is like the world opens it’s hand to present a jewel that reflects all that is magnificent back to me. In those moments I remember who I am and the beauty of it all, even the beauty of what I have called heavy, the wondrous storm.
 This morning I awoke to gorgeous sun and the anticipation of celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday with a bike ride through the picturesque area where I live. As we rode I felt great happiness and gratitude for all I have. I relished each breath, felt the sun on my face, I even tried to whine a little less on the hills, with little success, but I tried. The world opened it’s hand and what it offered made my heart sing and my spirit soar.
   At one point on this ride we noticed something in the road, and almost simultaneously we slowed, along with a couple cars. My friend and I saw it was a turtle in the road, and we stopped to save it, but realized that some people in a car behind us were already on the job. I said to my friend, ” Wow, there is still hope for this world. If in one instant a whole group of people, on their respective ways in life, all stopped to save a turtle, then there is promise for all things.” We set off again, smiling, and I felt swept up in bliss for all of it. I felt contentment to see my friend, now 50 years old, and kicking my butt on that ride, inspired by seeing people still care about the earth and it’s life, awestruck by the beauty of the land and the brilliant sun.
   Someday soon, when the storm clouds roll in, and I feel like curling up in a ball or running off to hide, I will try to remember this morning. I will try to remember that the storm will pass, having given me it’s own unique gifts which allow me to grow in the brilliant sun. We live in a beautiful world, yeah we do.

           

Coming Home from Kripalu, or Watch that First Step It’s a Doozy

  I have not posted in awhile because I have been away at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, known to it’s regulars as k-world or the mother ship. Being at Kripalu, even when I am assisting or working in a program, is like landing on a different planet. The place is steeped in spiritual energy and prayer, it’s surroundings are breathtaking, the people are yoga people, enough said, and I get a change of pace from my usual life. While I am at Kripalu I only have me to take care of, I eat delicious and healthy meals that I had no part in preparing, no cleaning, no driving, no television or phone ringing, no loud anxious society, none of that. I have time and space to move mindfully, to focus on one thing at a time, and to luxuriate in my own experience. Now, being in yoga programs and assisting them, like anything in life, can bring up “stuff” and present challenges. This week brought many pieces of myself to the surface, some wonderful and some difficult, it was a week of work and play, dancing and yoga, and of course ups and downs ready for examination. ( Look for details of those experiences and awakenings in posts soon to come)
     Then comes the day when I pack up, say “see ya later”, and come home. Most anyone I have ever talked to who has gone to Kripalu and gone home has agreed that this is usually a rough landing. The transition back to “real world” feels abrupt and shocking. The world’s normal hum of business,  noise and hyperactivity are unsettling, and being thrown back into the realm of multiple responsibilities and many “to does” makes me almost crumble. My inner voice screams,”Give me back the peace and serenity, give me back the community of support, give me back a life of yoga and dance, give me back the BUFFET!!!”  In fact right now I sit here writing this to avoid for a moment longer, beds to make, laundry to fold , bathrooms to clean, kids to attend to, and the list goes on. I feel overwhelmed and irritated, flustered and resistant. I love my life, but these transitions ruffle my feathers.
     But here is where everything comes together, what the practice is all about. Even now, in these moments of tension and agitation I can come back to the breath. Here is where all that practice and experience of the last week comes to fruition. How might I enter this dance and find the grace and flow? How can I hold and experience this posture and all the wealth it has to offer?  I can make that mountain of laundry an experience of misery or it could be a meditation of breath and presence. I can attend to my family with impatience or find my tenderness and compassion, my metta. These yoga practices are quite easy in the arms of Kripalu Center but the real test is here in the home with the family. One step at a time now, one thing at a time, it all unfolds with purpose, but watch that first step it’s a doozy.            
   

Gaining Ground

   I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday and the topic turned, as it often does, to how busy and rushed our lives are. We both have three kids at home and often feel like we are pulled in many directions and in constant movement. Personally, I think whether you have kids or not, have a demanding career or don’t work in the traditional sense at all, most of us have this experience of rushing and being under pressure to do more, fit more in. We live in a culture that is high speed and getting faster all the time. Our technology perhaps has exceeded what our brains can handle, our evolutionary process fails to match the speed. We multitask and place fierce demands on ourselves, leaving us feeling flustered and agitated in both our minds and our bodies. Our energy loses it’s ground, it’s integrative force. My friend told me that she feels it takes her a long time to settle and decompress when the opportunity comes,when there is nothing to get done, nowhere to go. The feeling of agitation, of needing to stay in motion persists.
  I suggested she try a simple grounding technique to facilitate a faster decompression and reintegration of the scattered energy. This technique can help in any moment one might experience agitation, loss of control or overwhelm. This is best done seated in a chair or on the ground, standing works too and in some situations it is not possible to sit (for example, feeling impatient waiting in line). Start by simply feeling your feet on the earth and your sits bones grounded on the earth or the chair. Sense the rootedness and stability provided by that connection and allow the body to soften into it. Let go of face and shoulders in particular, allow the gluteal muscles to soften ( they hold a lot of tension ).  Next tune into breath, follow it’s natural tendency for a few rounds and then begin to initiate deeper breath where the belly expands on the inhale and releases on the exhale.  No forcing of breath, follow it’s natural opening into the body. Finally, take a deep inhale and pull the shoulders up to the ears imagining all of your held tension accumulating there, on the exhale release the shoulders down and sigh the breath out through the mouth. Repeat two more times and finish with three more centering breaths in and out through the nose.
   I am a yoga teacher, and although this blog is not about yoga or anything specific really, (wanted to allow this blog to be messy just like me, just like life) it will inevitably gravitate toward yoga. Yoga is my way of being and living, it is there always, on or off the mat or cushion. So until we meet again NAMASTE EVERYBODY!! Love and light to all.      

Caught Between a Hill and a Hot Place

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  Heading out for my first attempt at a run in almost a week, I was confronted with a choice. Should I pick the shady, tree covered route that has a two mile climb or the flat route in direct sun?  It was a hot day yesterday, and either one would be a challenge given that my endurance is all but nonexistent right now. Sometimes on a run, and in life, you have to pick your poison. You take on the challenge for the gift of experience it will bring. I am moved by nature, and hills are great to build muscular strength and endurance, so I picked the hill.
   The way was slow and fatigue came quickly as I began the climb. I resolved to be slow and steady, and not just in my body, but in my breath, and most importantly my mind. As sensation built I tried to let go of labels or valuations, to focus on the action of each step and it’s relationship to breath. I followed the energetic knowing of my body, and I did walk briefly a few times when I knew it was needed. I felt the presence of the trees and heard the rustling of leaves and sound of birds, anchors for my awareness, meditation in motion. I made that two mile climb and then enjoyed the freeing shift of descent. I know it was made even more liberating and joyful because of the trial that came before it. The blood, sweat and tears (almost), of the climb made the way down an experience of bliss and release. Without the hill and the strength it took that would not have happened. At the end of that 5 1/2 mile run I felt cleansed and made new. I felt deeply alive and connected to nature and myself, revitalized and strong.
    The gift I take away from this run (and consistently find in my running) is that facing the challenge is worth the discomfort, and when confronting it, to know I will pick the path that I need in that moment. The reward of tackling either the hill or the hot place is experience, and from experience comes wisdom. Even when I fail to make it to the top, or to go the distance, which has happened, there is great learning. Learning to let go, to surrender. All of it is powerful, all of it is full of grace.  

Confessions of a Mess

“The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.”
~Oscar Wilde

   In the spirit of making friends with the mess I will type this as it comes to me and publish it without proofreading or spellchecking. Watch out it could get real messy, or maybe not. They say confession is good for the soul and that subject (the soul) takes the front seat more and more in my life and it has been a LONG time since I did a formal confession, as I have gone the way of the yogi. I will give it my best shot and just might make this a serial post.
   I confess that I often find myself hooked into the pressure cooker that is epedemic, in my humble opinion, amongst us women today and for who knows how long to be PERFECT!!  The supermom/superwoman cape is made out of lead and I am sick and tired of it dragging me down. Why am I hooked in? I am hooked in by shame, by a life story of “I am not good enough.”, which I think I share with a vast majority of humanity. I am hooked in by my fear of being judged, past,prsent and future. This is allabout wanting to be seen and accepted, about validation and love. The thing is that perfection is a LIE!! It does not exist. It always a facade, a put on, a hoax. And yet we buy into it and perpetuate it and perpetrate it on one other again and again. We live in a world where Real Lives of the so and so Housewives is the buzz and what many women are filling their heads with unfortunately. I watched about 10 minutes of it one day, just to see if it is bad as I imagined, and it was.
     But back to me. Somehow even though it causes me inner turmoil, triggers my I am not good enough story line and brings up feelings of guilt, I do choose again and again to do for myself. Instead of making the external facad the priority I consistently put the focus on my health and development. I would rather dance than dust, I will choose to run first and fold laundry later, I would rather spend that hour kide free doing yoga than cleaning out my closet. Don’t get me wrong my house is really pretty tidy and it is completely functional but it is never everything in it’s place ready for the white glove test condition. The suffering comes in with this flawed ideal, that somehow I should be able to do it all and I can’t. I am not a “superwoman”.
    I also do not try to do it all for my kids. I don’t volunteer to go here or there just for the sake of doing. I limit the activities I let them sign on for and I don’t set up an environment of entitlement for them. Just because I could give it to them does not mean I should and if I did I would be seeting them up for a whole lot of suffering and disappointment later on. I am not a “supermom”. I did not stop having my own identity when I gave birth. In my core I know that is what is best for me and them but still the guilt comes, still the self doubt shows up. Parenting is messy business but I find that sometimes the mess has the most joy. When I let go of expectation and stop judging my worth based on their behavior or acheivement and let them be playful and rowdy, loud and boisterous, those are the best times.
   I confess that more often than not there are dustbunnies happily roaming the house, a few dirty dishes in the sink, stuff shoved in drawers, closets, and under beds, a mountain of laundry waiting patiently to be attended to……..and it CAN WAIT!! My mentor gave me two mantras which have changed my relationship with the mess and have made it so much more magnificent. They are “I am allowed.” and ” Do one thing at a time, and do it fully.”  When I fall into the pit of  “I am not good enough.”, and I remember my mantras I can get back to my yogini self, at peace with the what is. I still have alot of work to do and I often don’t remeber the mantras right away, but the tools are in place and practice will make imperfect, perfect. Hmmmm I guess this a confession turned manifesto, but so be it, it is good for the soul!!

 

Magic Bones

This is really just an addendum to my last post. I wrote this poem during the last module of my 500 hour yoga teacher training at Kripalu. I wrote it before I did Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training but it is an expression of that magical practice. So read it and then why not put on a piece of music that fills you with joy and makes you want to MOVE! Everyone is a dancer, the key is to feel it, not think it. Close your eyes, breathe, and move from the intelligent inner impulse. If you try it you just might LOVE it! Remember, perfection is boring, the magic is in the letting go and letting it be messy if that’s what it wants to be.

                                                                    Magic Bones

                                                     There is magic in these bones
                                                      they shake
                                                      they rattle
                                                      they roll
                                                      A mystical rhythm
                                                      a primal flow
                                                      Each movement an opening
                                                      to the soul
                                                      Descending from the moon
                                                      and arising from the earth
                                                       No need to over think it
                                                       we’ve had it since birth
                                                      Draw the power to the center
                                                      and let it swell
                                                      Until the hips
                                                      invoke the magic spell
                                                      The sacred dance will soon unfold
                                                      take a breath and lose control
                                                      The limbs take flight and then you find
                                                      a gateway through the thinking mind
                                                      Trust the rhythm and you will see
                                                      the magic bones will set you free

Dedicated to the AMAZING Megha Nancy Buttenheim creator and director of Let Your Yoga Dance, Irena Blethen Executive Manager of Let Your Yoga Dance and most inspiring dancer and friend, The Dancing Angels my tribe, my students and all the dancers known and unknown. Dance on my friends!!

If you want to know more about the Let Your Yoga Dance program visit
                 www. letyouryogadance.com  

Dance, Dance, REVOLUTION!!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

   Dance has been not just a part of my life but a way of being for as long as I can remember. When people ask me “Are you a dancer?” it is difficult to answer. What they mean generally is, “Are you a trained dancer?” and the answer to that is no, but I answer yes, always, to that question because I am even more than that. I am a BORN dancer. Dance is natural to us all, but for myself that was never a question. Dancing, from my earliest memories has been my expression of heart and soul, my meditation in motion, my offering and prayer. Dance is my direct connection to source, to divinity. When I dance I feel whole and perfect, the fullest expression of me, raw and pure.
   In fact, anyone who knows me well knows that when music is on I am compelled to move. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. No matter the setting or situation, if a song comes on that I love all sense of propriety or social nicety is out the window. I am overtaken by a primal impulse of prana ( life force), if I try to resist I will almost always lose. If, for some reason, it flashes through my mind to hold back or stay small there is an immediate internal revolution, a coup d’ etat. The dancer in me demands to be fed, to be awake and alive, and that is a great thing. When the dancer wins my spirit wins, my joy wins, my path to liberation opens. 
   This past Saturday evening at a local community soiree I was feeling mellow, almost bored, until the DJ started and once my feet hit the dance floor it was all over. I let loose like a whirling dervish of endless energy. I noticed people taking notice, and internally felt that inclination to hold back and stay small, but the dance dance revolution was on.I love to dance and do it big, no holds barred, and that is what I did.   
   The downside to all this is that I have a deep fear of being judged and rejected. There is a part of me that wishes to stay small, to blend in, to conform. I have rarely had experiences of feeling like someone who fit in. I have always been a bit of a square peg. As a kid I remember feeling a great kinship to the residents of  The Island Of Misfit Toys on the Rudolph television special. This misfit hood followed me into adulthood and caused me much misery. Then I found yoga, which eventually landed me at Kripalu center, where I discovered Yoga Dance. I have never felt more at home. That feeling of having found MY PEOPLE was miraculous and truly magnificent. Yoga Dance allows me to fully express myself and to heal, it moves energy in a way that awakens and strengthens every layer of being, it reminds me who I am. Out here in the world though,  I sometimes forget and fall back into old storylines, but my Kripalu kindreds are there waiting to boost me up and bring me back. Thank GOD for all of you!!
    The gift is that more and more I am able to go with my inner flow and let my spirit soar, big and bold as it wants to be. VIVA LA REVOLUCION!! DANCE ON!!!! This Blind Melon song and video illustrate my feelings about self expression, dance and finding my Yoga Dance family perfectly.

Beauty and the Beast, and the Birds

     Of all the messy moments I have had in my life my children have consistently presented me with the most magnificent and memorable of them all. When things get a little too placid, rest assured one of these delightful beings will inject the tranquility with a good dose of quality chaos. Such was the case on Tuesday. We all know the classic threat handed down through the generations of ” I hope you have a kid just like you someday.” Well, Harper, my six year old daughter, is that child for me. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part that is really awesome. Harper is bold and free spirited with a brilliant smile and great imagination and most of all a deep love for nature and animals, just like I was growing up.
  So Tuesday everything was floating along with ease and I was of high energy and spirits having accomplished more than usual, including writing my first post for this blog. Harper had made her way outside to do her usual trek about the yard to see what creatures and curiosities she could discover, aka trouble to get into, when I realized she had disappeared from my field of vision, a tell tale sign of mischief.
  We live on a beautiful, heavily wooded lot with a brook flowing through our backyard, and so nature is around us all the time and right now is a bounty of birds and their babies. One nest, belonging to mama Robin and her two, cute as buttons hatchlings, rested on a beam in our carport. When I called Harper she scurried over from that side of the house, holding a pool noodle and looking quite suspect. I know her all to well, and her obsession with making wildlife into her pets. I said, “Harper, you leave that nest alone! You want the babies to grow up and be happy and have fun playing like you, right?” She agreed and seemed to move on.
   I went inside to attend to this or that when I heard Harper crying out, clearly in distress. I ran outside to find Harper wailing and yelling at Evan, our dog, who was frolicking about tail wagging joyfully. Harper sobbed that she had knocked the nest down and that Evan had killed one of the babies. I found the fallen nest with one trembling chick remaining inside and scooped it up to safety.
  My initial visceral response was a mix of anguish and anger. Anguish, at the presence of death at my backdoor. The poor chick had been thrown into the playful but deadly jaws of Evan. I also think all mothers whether they be human or animal experience the loss of  a child intensely on an energetic level, at the very minimum. I was angry that Harper, not meaning to do harm, nonetheless had, because she chose to ignore my clear dictate, the ruling of me, Mom, high justice of this land called 112 Brookhaven Dr.  I was also angry that Evan could be so unwittingly cruel and stand there now smiling with great satisfaction.
   So, scolding both child and dog I ushered them into the house. Once inside, I bent down to   Harper and said in exasperation, “Why didn’t you LISTEN TO ME!!” Her eyes were deep pools of welling sadness. Tears came rising up to stream down her face. Her lips trembled and her gaze dropped to the earth. She said, ” I didn’t mean to kill the baby bird.” At that my mothers heart melted and anger turned instantly into compassion. I took Harper in my arms and held her tight and whispered in her ear that it was ok and that I love her, over and over until she stopped crying.
   The more I have thought about this event the more profound it becomes to me. Life is fragile and unpredictable. In yoga philosophy there are five main sources of suffering and one of them is fear of death. As I clung to my little girl and she to me I know that both of us in our own way were fending off that fear, willing the specter of death away. We wished to be returned to the state of ease that existed just minutes earlier, where death was something you read about or happens in another land, but certainly never would show it’s face at 112 Brookhaven Dr. Well, anyone who has studied or spoken to me at length about yoga and my life perspective knows how much I think death is a part of everything, and here it was in my personal space and invading my home.
   Harper found acceptance quite quickly once she knew I was not angry, she was not in trouble, and at least we had heroically saved the remaining babe. Mama Robin came back to care for the chick and all is well. Evan’s endless enthusiasm and joie de vivre didn’t even skip one wag of the tail. And yet here I am days later now still processing and pondering this event. Which brings up another point of significance which is “the story”. What is real and unreal in this life, what is good or bad, just or unjust, is a matter of perspective and experience.  There is a quote from Shakespeare “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”  Just like when something chaotic like this happens and we say “Someday you will look back at this and laugh.” There is a skill we can cultivate now around inspecting our “story” in the moment it is happening. What if we could, in the moment, know that our reactivity to events is more about the story we tell ourselves and less about reality? Maybe we could all turn more and more moments of anger, fear, or resentment, into beautiful experiences of compassion, where we hold each other and say it will be ok and I love you. I hope so.    
                     

Welcome to the Magnificent Mess

  Wow, I can’t believe I am actually sitting here manifesting something that I have thought so much about but have procrastinated in ways both intentional and circumstantial. In truth though, I have delayed this mostly because it scares me to the core of my being, but well, that is the point. So if you choose to continue reading don’t expect anything of consistency in quality or content. What you can expect is my truth of the moment in my life, a life that I call the magnificent mess. I might not express that truth with great skill, but it will be as authentic as possible. Honestly, I have no clue exactly where this will go or what I might feel compelled to throw out there, but will allow this to be another of my experiments in walking through fear to be more myself. My experiments in life so far have taught me that perfection is boring and can only ever be built of smoke and mirrors. The real rich stuff that brings wisdom and evolution is almost always at least a little down and dirty, but from the muddy mess grows the magnificent tree of life.
   In fact, in my almost 40 years of living I have had many and diverse experiences. I have known the depths of despair, absolute joy, and all of the other varied and colorful guests of human beingness. From all of this journeying and forging through both the beautiful and the brutal, I have had as many unfoldings and realizations. One thing rings true in every stage and every season, life is messy and life is magnificent. Indeed, I am a magnificent mess, and I believe we all are just that, a big messy family.
    When I reflect on the darkest, ugliest, messiest events of my life I am deeply grateful. Out of those episodes of chaos and crisis have been born my courage and sensitivity, my insight and wisdom. From that fertile soil of suffering has blossomed great abundance. Without all that mess I would not be who I am today. I am a wife and mother, which includes a plethora of subcategories, such as, cook, chauffeur, housekeeper, so on and so forth. I am a yoga teacher and devoted yogini, a dancer, an artist, a writer, an athlete, a friend and confidant, but above all I am a deeply feeling spiritual being seeking clarity and consciousness. The path of awakening consciousness is not clean and clutter free. Awakening, as I see it, is not about cleaning up the mess or sweeping it under the rug, it requires digging into the dirt and diving headfirst into the dark. Awakening is saying “Yes my life is messy and damn is it magnificent!!”
     There is a saying in yoga, “What we resist persists.” and that is a most useful idea in relation to being in the mess. Befriending the messiness of life, in whatever form it arrives, is not surrendering to it and being consumed by it. To the contrary, when we can sit amidst the mess and smile, we can then return to the wellspring of our own deep knowing and proceed with clarity and confidence. The only tool we need to find that smile amidst the mess is our breath. So, take a breath with me now and know that right there is the only tool we need now, or ever, to navigate and relish all the ups and downs, twists and turns, of this magnificent mess. (oh, and you just did yoga)

Much more to come, what I don’t know. Namaste.