Friday, December 26, 2014

A New Year's Ritual: Exhale to Let Go, Inhale to Receive

Many of us engage in some sort of annual secular ritual after the December religious holidays to mark the end of another year: one example is watching the ball drop in Times Square! Another one is kissing your lover when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve!

Rituals mark the passage of time in our lives, helping us create meaning from events which could otherwise get lost or forgotten in catalog of ongoing yearly occurrences: birthdays, children losing first teeth, all kinds of anniversaries...we perform a special action to celebrate these moments.

New Year's celebrations mark the close of another year come and gone. We look back, remembering the good times and blessings as well as the struggles and hardships. This is a jubilant time, and also a time to let go of what is now behind us.

There is a concept in Yoga philosophy about letting go and surrendering: Isvara pranidhana, from Yoga Sutra 1.23. Read up on this concept on your own and see how you think it could apply to your life (certainly Patanjali was not writing to us with our modern, Western New Year's parties in mind, but I think we can take his wisdom and apply it to our willingness to let go).

Surrender requires courage, faith and trust: to let go of our efforts, our desires, our memories, our wounds, our former glory or achievements--we must believe that something else is on its way or already here to be welcomed!

Time will not stop when 2014 is over (we hope!) 2015 will rush in to fill the space created as 2014
departs. We don't know what kind of year it will turn out to be, but we trust and allow it to arrive anyway. We must, if we want to go on living. Time always marches forward, with our without us. Our Yoga practice teaches us to surrender and ride this wave of forward movement with ease.

In Yoga we place great emphasis on the breath; indeed, the breath is at the foundation
of our practice. Our breath teaches us how to surrender: with each exhale, we
let go. As we go deeper into the practice of mindful exhalation, we can let go with greater skill and awareness. In certain pranayama (yogic breathing) exercises, we pause at the end of the exhale, on purpose. We learn to rest in that temporary space of stillness because we trust that our inhalation will be there, that it is there, at the door. We allow the inhalation to come in and we are filled once
more, with the breath of life. The inhalation nourishes and renews us, and we exhale again. In each and every breath cycle, we let go and renew. We surrender our breath so we can in turn receive what we need from it.

Our breath is our own natural ritual of letting go to receive.

As you find some time to practice during this final week of 2014, tune into your breath to help you let go. Set an intention for your practice to release and surrender events from 2014 and anything else that's weighing you down or filling up space in your mind. We surrender everything, the good and the bad, to make space for a New Year. Then, we open up to receive new blessings. Let's welcome 2015 with hope and confidence! Exhale...and smile!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ahimsa: Force vs. Violence

Today I experienced something new with my husband and sons, on the invitation of our neighbor, a hunter. We received a call around lunchtime on a Sunday to walk over and watch a man dress a deer he had killed that morning. Since none of us are vegetarians, I thought this would be a great learning experience for all of us, and it was. We enjoyed hearing about how our neighbor took down the deer, seeing exactly the places where the arrows pierced and envisioning how the second arrow was shot to hasten the deer's death and more skillfully avoid paining the animal. We heard the sounds and smelled the scents as we watched the hunter cut through the flesh and bone of the carcas. We saw him handle each of the organs and got an up-close look at muscle and fascia. We discussed how the deer would be cooked and eaten.

As someone practicing and instructing Yoga as it is taught in the West (though I retain a deep respect and fascination for this Indian tradition and read as much scripture as I can, and adapt yogic teachings to my personal, spiritual life) I am nonetheless an omnivore.

The first of the five yamas (Yoga's moral restraints) is Ahimsa, essentially meaning "Do no harm," a universal ethical principle with widely varying applications and interpretations. Many people around the world follow Ahimsa by adopting a vegetarian diet, and some avoid harming even the tiniest insects in their day-to-day activities. Some people understand that even our thoughts can result in actual harm, choosing to cultivate only peaceful thoughts. Most people understand, at least intellectually, that non-harming extends to speech, so cursing, taunting and verbally attacking others are considered vices across most cultures. Ahimsa is categorically understood to prohibit physical violence done to others or oneself.

Because I have lived a sheltered life in terms of physical violence, I have mainly tried to apply the principle of Ahimsa to my thoughts, speech, and writing, admittedly half-heartedly at times. I can be given to destructive thoughts that sometimes spill over into speech or writing. My legal background and past experience did not help me cultivate non-violence in thought, word and speech; in fact, I was a tough negotiator, thrived on conflict, and occasionally enjoyed vitriol in writing or speech, getting a cheap thrill out of it from an early age.

My sons are learning karate and when I watch them at their dojo, I often think that I would have benefited greatly from martial arts as a child. I notice that in martial arts, people learn the difference between force and violence, training to use the former to allay or deflect the latter. They learn to achieve a calm mind and balanced energy, directing their focus to cultivate constructive, directed force. This is an invaluable skill.

I believe that Ahimsa is the restraint of violence, but not force. Force is the directed use of strength towards an end. Violence is force used wantonly or recklessly, or with an intent to harm. The use of force is often necessary and beneficial for our well-being, be it in thought, word or deed. We use force to erect and maintain protective boundaries, to build and procure the things we need for survival, and to create and maintain forward momentum in our lives on all levels.

To me, force is directed strength. Through practicing yoga, we build strength in mind and body and we learn to direct it in positive ways, not so different from the way that martial artists do so. We learn that we ourselves are our greatest opponents and through self-study, we get to know the opponent better so we can more easily end conflicts before they start and forge a direct path through obstacles. It is not a practice for the weak, and notably, neither is veganism or vegetarianism, or a vow of silence. The way that our practice plays out in our lives is going to differ based on the individual in many respects, yet we must all acquaint ourselves with and master force, not shying away from the battles we must fight as part of our progression; realistically, some of those battles have to do with survival. Yoga is not an escape from the animalistic parts of ourselves, but instead a closer look at them, a healthy relationship with even our basest, most predatory instincts so we can hone them to the benefit of all beings, in a balanced relationship with all of nature and life.

As a teacher, I offer that you should embrace your strength, embrace your desire, embrace your power, and never be afraid to use force when you need it. Balance this respect for strength with an avoidance of violence of any sort, towards yourself or towards your neighbor. Do no harm, yet respect force and use it wisely to forge ahead on your path.






Sunday, November 30, 2014

Simply Savor

We just hosted Thanksgiving with my sisters, their partners, my niece and three family dogs. There were nine people at our table and we were all grateful to be together and share an outstanding meal. Our menu: Baturducken (a chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey, wrapped in a bacon lattice), stuffing, roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower (olive oil, garlic and rosemary), chai mashed sweet potatoes (mascarpone, butter, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon), celery root and butternut squash gratin, homemade cranberry relish, pumpkin and pecan pies. The leftovers were as good if not better than the main meal.

Our family guests stayed for two nights. I am always grateful when I see my extended family members, as well as any guests we have in our home or people we share meals with in other venues. I am becoming increasingly aware that my siblings and I keep changing as we get older, our kids are all growing so fast that it's hard to keep up with their developments, and a year can pass without me even realizing I haven't talked with certain friends in far too long.

My father-in-law once mentioned to me that we are all "slipping away" from each other day by day. This is a true statement. This life we live is not permanent. Nonetheless, we cherish it. The fleeting nature of all relationships, all experiences, all emotions--this impermanence reminds me to savor every pleasure to the fullest, which is something that's easy to forget. I can be very forgetful. I forget to really look at my children when they are talking to me. I forget that this face they have today will be not be the same even in a few months. I want to look at their faces now. I want to hear my husband's voice now, really hear it...he is pretty loud in general, but I still want to hear him with my full capacity for hearing. I want to hear him now before we slip away from each other.

I want to taste and smell and see and hear and feel my life while I still have it. I want to savor it. There is an art to that. It's not just automatic. To truly savor anything, we must be present to it, and to ourselves. Presence is also an art, and it must be practiced. How do we practice presence? How do we teach ourselves to be fully present just where we are? I try to teach myself through yoga, through savoring my breath and my movement, savoring rest, savoring direct sensations. When I meditate, I practice savoring stillness. I know that if I train myself in these ways, the ability to be present and savor the other parts of my life will come easier.

In this month of gift preparing and gift giving and generous gathering with friends and loved ones, our spiritual practice, our physical practice, all of our practices can be aimed toward the goal of savoring all of our gifts. Our very life is a gift. In the grand scheme of the Universe, if we blink, we can miss it. I don't want to miss mine. I need my yoga practice to help me be present to my life.

This life and this body are gifts I wish to simply savor; therein lies the gratitude.

When we savor each moment, fully present in our experience, there is no past to cling to or future to anticipate; so much of our stress can dissolve that way.

Do something each day to train yourself in this art.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Let Go to Grow

Over the past two weeks, my life and yoga practice have revolved around letting go, loosening my grip and releasing certain ideas, beliefs, places, people, physical and mental habits I have been holding onto assiduously.

Because I couldn't let go of certain ideas, people, and even the need to frequently work and practice in a particular studio, that studio owner who is also my teacher terminated my employment there. At first very shocked by this turn of events in spite of how hard I had worked there (too hard, teaching three regular classes without fail, subbing at every opportunity, devoting extra unpaid time) and how much I loved the idea of teaching there (too much), I now understand that my attachment was imbalanced. It was for me as if my life depended on how well I was doing in those classes and whether I not I "belonged" with that group of teachers and practitioners. Seeing this, and not arriving at any kind of easy solution for it, my mentor simply decided to fire me. In the grand scheme of my path as a yoga practitioner and teacher, it was the best gift I could have received at the time.

In Yoga philosophy, the concept of vairagya is given in the Yoga Sutras and the direct translation of that word is usually "non-attachment," which implies something a little different from letting go. Non-attachment implies the equanimity and wisdom inherent in not grabbing on tightly to things in the first place. Detachment is letting go of something you've already grasped or held onto. Since I am still learning a lot about vairagya, I have to start with detaching before I can learn non-attachment.

Fortunately, since beginning earnestly on the path of yoga I have had some honest and humble teachers I've been able to watch as they modeled both detachment and non-attachment. Just as it is helpful to see a yoga teacher model a posture for the class, it is also helpful to witness a teacher model the application of yoga philosophy.

The teacher who fired me has been instructing his staff and students in the ways of letting go of cherished beliefs about what Yoga is and how it should be practiced and taught. A lot of this instruction is based on a solid knowledge of anatomy, sports biomechanics, functional movement and a studied approach to the history of Yoga and how it has been adapted and taught in the West. In keeping with this instruction, I signed up for an anatomy workshop for yoga teachers that I attended this past weekend, with some of my current and former yoga teachers. Everyone who participated in the workshop had to let go of some formerly held beliefs and habits to make room for valuable, new information on how to more skillfully cue and give hands-on assists to yoga students. There was a lot of cringing, jaw-dropping, head shaking, and even some face palms!

Yoga teaching is rapidly evolving as an occupation and the number of teachers graduating from training programs is growing exponentially. The anatomy teacher who conducted our workshop spoke positively about trends toward peer review for articles written about yoga. He spoke of himself and those of us present as teachers as trailblazers who are taking responsibility for evolving the yoga teaching profession to make it safer, more skillful and more credible.

Several years ago I regularly attended the classes of two of the teachers taking the training; I trusted them completely and their classes were a true refuge for me. One of them inspired me to learn to teach so I could attempt to share the gifts she imparted to me. This past weekend, my teachers' example of openness, humility and willingness to let go of what they have taught over the course of their career, (things I heard them say many times, cues I followed, assists I received) set the perfect example I need in my life and practice right now. I was touched very deeply by their example of non-attachment. I need to learn to humbly and graciously let go of ideas, attitudes, things, people and places I held onto tightly.

Not being able to let go is a serious mental and physical handicap. When we let go we open ourselves up to receive continual blessings, knowledge, information and nourishment. Gripping, grasping, hanging on for dear life, these behaviors prevent us from relaxing, receiving and renewing. They halt our progress. They keep us stuck. A concrete example from the weekend workshop is that isometric contraction of a muscle prevents blood flow into the muscle, so that circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle are temporarily cut off. When we grip with our muscles, we are contracting them. When we grip with our attitudes and behaviors, we are also contracting our selves rather than expanding them; hanging on for dear life prevents the flow of life and energy.

When we hold on, we're held back. When we let go, we grow.

What can you let go of to allow yourself to grow? Sometimes we can let go on our own and other times we're forced to let go. Either way, try to see it as a good thing.





Sunday, October 26, 2014

Practicing Selective Attention


"Can I help you find anything today?" goes the refrain of the Shoppers' Welcome. "Did you find everything you were looking for?" Sometimes you shop for goods or food looking for a particular item, and other times you're just browsing. Sometimes you see what you want and other times you pass everything by, simply observing without taking something away. Shopping can be a metaphor that extends to your life. So what are you looking for today? Each day, in each experience, what are you hoping to see? 

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." This popular quote from John Lubbock aptly describes the power of our expectations to shape our reality, for better or worse. There's a name for it, actually: the "Observer/Expectancy Effect." So much happens within and around us all of the time, most of which we cannot control, but the question remains, "what are you looking for?" What do you notice as you're browsing through life? 

This question leads me to a West African folktale about the experience of two travelers: 

There was once an elderly and wise gentleman who lived in a village. He would often spend his days sitting in the shade of a big tree in the center of the village, reading books and talking to passersby. One day, a traveler came upon his village and stopped and said, “Old man, I have been traveling across the countryside, and I have seen many things and met many people. Can you tell me what kind of people I will find in your village?”

The elderly gentleman looked up at him and replied, “Certainly I can, but first tell me what kind of people you have found on your travels.”

The traveler scowled and said, “Old man, I have met people who cheat, steal, and aren’t kind to strangers, and people who don’t look out for one another.”

The elderly gentleman looked up and, with a faint look of sadness in his eyes, said, “Oh my friend, those are the people you will find in my village.” The traveler kicked the dirt under his feet, scoffed, and marched off towards the village.

By and by, as the elderly gentleman continued to enjoy his day, another traveler came walking through the village. Once again, the traveler stopped and asked, “Please kind sir, I have been traveling across the countryside, and I have seen many things and met many people. Can you tell me what kind of people I will find in your village?”

The elderly gentleman said, “Certainly I can, but first tell me what kind of people you have found in your travels.”

The traveler replied, “I have found people who are kind and welcoming of strangers, people who care for one another, and people who love. These are the people I have met in my travels.”

The elderly gentleman looked up and, with the faintest smile in his eyes, said, “My friend, those are the people you will find in my village.” 

Where we place our attention determines a lot about what we experience, in our travels, in our relationships, even in a yoga class. A psychological process termed "selective attention" makes us notice certain things, words or ideas more often when they are new and interesting to us. Another process called "confirmation bias" reaffirms the prevalence and importance of what we keep seeing. We've probably all heard of the blue car syndrome; when we're contemplating buying a certain color or make of car, suddenly we see that car everywhere. 

With what we know about our biases and tendencies in observing phenomena, is it possible to find more of what we're seeking? Can we effectively train ourselves to maintain our attention on what we want more of in life? There is limitless variety in the world happening around us, yet we have a choice on where to place our attention. While remaining open and truthful in each moment, we can consciously direct our focus, so we're being honest with ourselves about what's happening, but only buying into the things we really want. We can see what is, what's possible and what's desirable, all at the same time. Maintaining this vision, we can transform ourselves and the world. 

Yoga is an excellent training ground for focusing our attention where we want it. In your practice today, consciously set an intention before you begin. Ask yourself what you want more of in your life, and actively look for that quality as you practice. Maintain an open awareness of each breath, each thought and each movement. Use selective attention to keep building on what you want more of: strength, joy, peace, ease, comfort. When you experience unappealing sensations or thoughts, see them for what they are but keep browsing, and return to your intention. 

Happy shopping! 




Friday, October 17, 2014

Embracing Idiosyncrasy

This week I read a story from NPR about a female attorney who hired a voice coach and worked for nine months to change her voice. In evaluations with male law firm partners, her high voice had been identified as an obstacle. The article is entitled, "Can Changing How You Sound Help You Find Your Voice?" It made me think about my own voice and the voices of some people I have known, both men and women. I used to work in a law firm with a male lawyer who also felt that his high voice was an impediment to success.

Our society likes to define and perpetuate standards and norms. Nothing wrong with that, right? We rarely question the need to adapt to widely accepted norms in our behaviors. Nonetheless, there are certain individual qualities we each have that make us stand out in some way. Voice can certainly be one of those. Part of what determines our voice quality is genetic. Another part is based on conditioning, environment and personality. The same can be said for our posture, our gait and our facial expressions. 

When is it worth the effort to change some of our instinctual physical and emotional traits? Can we recognize the value in some or all of our idiosyncrasies? 

One way we can develop awareness of our individual qualities and work on them is through the practice of Yoga. As we acquaint ourselves deeply with our breath, our bodies and our minds, through pranayama (breath work), asana (moving through poses) and dhyana (meditation), we begin to see more deeply into ourselves. We learn to bring neutral observation to the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. We learn to accept each part of ourselves, and as we do that, we begin to transform. The transformation is both conscious and unconscious. We practice, we wait, we grow, and we transform. Some parts of us we identify as needing work, but we learn that we must accept those parts before we can change them. 

The article about changing our individual voice to become more successful made me think about self-critical tendencies. Criticism serves a valuable purpose in all areas of life. It helps us identify what we can improve. The caveat to criticism is that it needs to be balanced with appreciation, or it can become destructive. This process of balancing criticism with appreciation made me think of Sutra 2.33 in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam, "When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana." 

We can use pratipaksha bhavana as a method to work with our idiosyncrasies, like our voice, our posture, our breath, and the way we move. We are each unique and all of that uniqueness has value. Yet, there are certain traits we may wish to change or adapt from time to time. How can we identify these and approach them constructively? Each time we find something to criticize, we can balance the criticism with appreciation. So in the example of the lawyers with the high voices, we can find something to appreciate: I thought my lawyer friend's high voice made him approachable, playful and distinctive. We can apply this same perspective to our yoga postures. Two of my teachers speak often about how tight they were when they first practiced yoga and how this physical quality of being tight helps prevent injury. We don't have to be bendy Barbie Dolls to practice yoga. We can notice that we are tight and appreciate what the tightness brings us. If we decide we want to become more limber, we can work towards that quality with an accompanying appreciation of the tightness. 

Today in your practice, pay particular attention to your own idiosyncrasies, the way YOU do yoga: What do you think about in yoga class? How does your breathing sound? What does your down dog feel like? Where do you like to put your feet, in spite of what the teacher says? Notice your individual practice, and each time you feel critical, find something to appreciate. 

We are transitory beings and in time all things about us will change and fade away, so there is no need to be impatient about what won't change right now. As we see more deeply into ourselves through practicing yoga, let's bring awareness to every aspect, balancing any criticisms with appreciation. In this way, we can own our practice and our voice with awareness and compassion. 

Namaste.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Yoga to Bless Your Heart

My grandmother always said "bless your heart(s)" to everyone. I never thought about what she meant by it. I often hear people refer to following our heart instead of our head, or knowing something in the heart, as opposed to the intellect. In yoga classes I have often heard "bow your head to your heart." In church I have heard that God knows our hearts, even that our heart is the place where God resides. A favorite verse of mine is "People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart," (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is our heart, other than our most vital organ? Do we have an emotional heart, or a spiritual heart? Is it possible to be heartless? When we say that a person is heartless, do we really mean that they have lost the connection to their spiritual heart?

We are taught in yoga philosophy that the spiritual heart is where our deepest wisdom resides and our deepest longings are fulfilled.

In the city of Brahman is a secret dwelling, the lotus of the heart. Within this dwelling is a space, and within that space is the fulfillment of our desires. What is within that space should be longed for and realized. 

As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in that inner space, both fire and air, sun and moon, lightning and stars. Whether we know it in this world or know it not, everything is contained in that inner space. 

The Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter VIII

In the third book of the Yoga Sutras we read about perfect concentration on the heart. In studying the chakra system, we learn about anahata, the heart chakra. When we open our heart chakra we activate the core of our compassion and our ability to live from our higher self, the part of us that is pure love. 

Practicing yoga gives us a chance, should we choose to take it, to experience our spiritual heart. The focus on our breath and the linking of the breath to physical movement pacifies our busy minds; when mental activity slows, we can access parts of ourselves we may otherwise neglect. We train ourselves to turn compassionate awareness towards our experience, feeling instead of analyzing, staying present instead of chasing external distractions. 

In your practice today, and everyday, invite yourself to experience your heart, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Tune into your heart beat. Notice and allow emotions that arise as you practice. Explore the idea of a spiritual heart if it has meaning for you. When you do this, may you find an inexhaustible source of love that heals you from within and pours itself out to touch everyone you meet. 

Amen. Om. Peace. xo


Monday, September 29, 2014

Perfect Yoga in an Imperfect Body



Would you like to be a better person in every way, physically, mentally and spiritually? Would you like to overcome obstacles and surmount hardships? Were there a guaranteed method to achieve consistent health and happiness and get closer to perfection each day, wouldn't you sign up?

Many people are looking to yoga as a means of overall self-improvement. No one wants to suffer. As a yoga teacher, I am aware that certain people may see me as offering a way out of suffering or an on-ramp to a better way of life. If I can somehow help even one person suffer less or find more joy and vitality in life, then the money I spent on teacher training will not have been wasted. But guess what? I don't have a perfect body or a perfect existence, and I can't show myself or anyone else a permanent way out of the pain inherent in this life. What I can do is help myself and others to generate compassion and see a way through the pain of despair, loss, illness and death when they happen.

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras there are references to bodily perfection and supernatural powers to be achieved through practicing yoga: eg. Rupa lavanya bala vajrasam-hananatvani kayasampat, translated as "Beauty, grace, strength, and adamantine hardness constitute bodily perfection," (Yoga Sutra 3.47). Are you familiar with the word, adamantine? I wasn't. It means unbreakable. Personally I believe in an unbreakable spirit, but not an unbreakable body. My beliefs are based on concrete evidence of the world around me.

I can't ignore how fragile this human life is, or the breakable nature of the body. In recent months, I've received daily correspondence from a friend who lives in Liberia, where the sickness of Ebola is ravaging the country. His neighbor and his cousin just died of Ebola and he is afraid for his life. Another friend of mine is losing her mom to a grueling battle with cancer. These are current reminders of life's fragility, and like all of us, I have previous reminders as well, even in my own body. If you see me smile, you will notice that one side of my face is different from the other due to nerve damage. I also have pain sometimes on that side of my body. I don't believe that I personally caused the damage to my body or that I can supernaturally recover from it and achieve bodily perfection. I also don't believe that anyone else is ever going to achieve bodily perfection, yet I believe us all to be perfect beings with an unlimited capacity for joy and achievement.

Through my practice of yoga and my involvement in various yoga communities and spiritual communities, I have found ever new ways to connect to my bliss and open my heart to my own suffering and the suffering of others. I have found on-ramps to compassion and a doorway into a state of grace. Something I read last week from a Buddhist teacher I like reminded me of confronting our imperfect state with compassion and grace. Ethan Nicthern shared the advice of his teacher Eric Spiegel at a memorial service for a mutual friend: "Stay open...and if fear arises, generate compassion." This is advice for confronting death, our own, or the death of a loved one. It is also advice for confronting pain in all circumstances.

Does yoga teach us how to be perfect and live gracefully in a perfect world? Does it teach us to perceive and experience only goodness? Or does it teach us to live gracefully as a human, with others who are human, in a perfectly flawed world?

Is love seeing only the good in yourself and others? Or is it having the courage to see the flaws, maintain awareness of discomfort, of friction, of missing the mark, and staying open anyway? In the Yoga Sutras, 2.36 contains a teaching on establishing oneself in truthfulness and honesty. The Sutras are kind of like the Bible in that everyone takes out the teachings they want to make their point, perhaps ignoring certain others that seem inconvenient at the time. Nonetheless, all teachings on bodily perfection aside, I believe that yoga helps us to be both fully honest and fully compassionate about our human condition.

I can't model perfect yoga postures or a perfect attitude. Even assuming that I could, if as a teacher I model only perfection, if all I can show you is how to stay open to calm, stay open to beauty, stay open to perfectly executed postures...how will that help you to embrace real life? How will that prepare you for illness, death, loss, inevitable times when you miss the mark, upsets and frustrations?

"Strength is perfected in weakness," is one of my favorite quotes from the Bible. Showing up in yoga class in perfect outfits with a perfectly chiseled body and a pretty face and a lovely calm demeanor, modeling swan-like yoga postures...this is all useful as entertainment and diversion, but is it useful in your imperfect life? Meeting your experiences head-on with awareness and compassion is useful in real life. Ultimately I'd like my yoga practice to prepare me for that, instead of a Yoga Journal photo shoot. Although the last one with Kathryn Budig was refreshing, as she gleefully modeled embracing her lovely yet imperfect body! Check it out. And come as you are to yoga, irrespective of adamantine hardness.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Hatha Dance

Yesterday in the Northern Hemisphere we marked the occurrence of the Autumnal Equinox, the day when summer turns to fall and there are equal parts of daylight and darkness as the sun sits at the zenith over the Equator. This is a beautiful time to be in nature and witness the unique quality of light making everything glimmer a little more than usual. We can literally feel the summer turning into fall with warmth at the peak of the day followed by cooler nights descending over us, like a blanket.

We can take cues from nature to inform our yoga practice. This is something the ancient yogis did as well as tribal cultures spanning history and the globe. The Equinox signals us that a time for going inward is approaching. The summer is a time when energy is focused outwardly, heat is generated and released and the balance tips toward external expression. Winter is the counterbalance to summer, where we maintain a softer internal fire and our practice can be more reflective. At the Equinox, we sense and embody a graceful equipoise and we participate in the Hatha dance, moving in and around that point of equilibrium. 

I was able to observe a perfect example of this dance as I sat next to the river yesterday. I watched a heron perched on top of a large rock in the middle of the water. He sat still for what seemed like a long time. Then, with purpose, grace and ease, he opened his wings and took flight over the river. I thought of heron pose (krounchasana) in yoga, and then I thought of the many poses of Hatha yoga giving expression to what we see in the natural world. In Sanskrit, Ha means sun and tha means moon; through the practice we balance both solar and lunar energies, internal and external, passive and active. We go inward to connect deeply, then we turn outward, giving expression to our inner light and bliss. 

Now, and at all times of the year, we can purposefully embrace the ongoing dance in our yoga practice, and in all of life. Our gaze moves inward to our center, and out again into the world. We connect deeply with our self, our surroundings, and the people around us, and we notice that we are all dancing. Yoga fosters an awareness of the universal choreography at play in our minds, bodies, and in the world at large. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

What I Learned from 40 Days of Poetry

Spiritual practice is personal. We choose what and why and where and how we practice. Having tried chanting, meditation, prayer and structured breathing in the past, I ventured into a writing sadhana this time,
and boy am I glad I did! 

Poetry as a spiritual discipline took me deep into my yoga practice and my spiritual core. I feel like I emerged with a better knowledge of myself and greater compassion for myself and others. 

When I sit down to journal or write prose or an essay, it is not necessarily a spiritual pursuit. Poetry, on the other hand, asks that we suspend normal language and thought patterns and channel a part of ourselves that is freer, less rational, less linear, more musical and mysterious. Poetry is creative play. Sometimes we forget how to play as adults, but play is something that poetry demands. We don't order in restaurants or complete transactions at the bank or close sales with clients using poetry. Poetry is associated with arts and leisure, like so many of the pursuits we leave behind us in childhood when we enter the real world of the Bourgeousie! Poetry demands that we momentarily step out of that world long enough to connect to a different energy. 

The most powerful aspect of a daily poetry practice is the demand it puts on you to carefully observe your thoughts, feelings and impressions, accepting them and allowing them to flow through the filter of your higher consciousness. When we write a poem, we go to a different place within the mind and heart, a place that is closer to the inner self. When we write a poem every day, we necessarily bring a lot of different raw material into the chamber of the inner self: routine sensations, daily activities, varying moods, memories, dreams, longings, restlessness, fatigue, unanswered questions--it all comes in to be held up to the light, examined, received, transmuted and transmitted. The poet within is much like the God within; it accepts us as we are and loves us anyway, giving us something we can use to know and love ourselves and others. 

Like any spiritual discipline, poetry isn't about making ourselves feel the same way all of the time, forcing calm or happiness or beauty. Instead, much like meditation, poetry makes us stop whatever we are doing and open up to our experience, seeing it for what it is and bringing consciousness to it. It's not about trying to be good, or better--it's about seeing and being yourself. 

Here is what I discovered: there is so much more to me than I thought there was, and all of it is worthy and useful. My five senses are useful, my sleep and dreaming are useful, my challenges and setbacks are useful, my deepest longings are useful, my doubt is useful. The God I believe in, transcendent yet immanent, sees all of these aspects of me all of the time, receives them all, and uses them all. When I wrote a poem each day, in the time it took to write, I received and used every part of myself and turned it into a gift. 

I believe that we all have a God self and a poet self. The more we observe, know, accept, love and then offer up every part of ourselves, the closer we will come to manifesting Paradise. 






Friday, July 18, 2014

Wild Raspberries

When the news of the world is dismal and frightening,
and you're powerless
to change it. 

When it seems that whatever you are and all that you do,
are so very inferior to your peers,
or so the world would have you believe. 

When childhood memories of speeches from parents
on what to avoid, what to study, who not to be like
and what was expected of you for your gender
resurface,
in spite of your belief that you have healed.

When all you can seem to do is consume reading material,
books, articles, essays,
facts, references and photographs, 
trying to come nearer to some sort of knowledge
or understanding 
of precisely why and how you,
and the world,
are failing. 

When in spite of your peaceful and contented moments,
guilt creeps in,
for the happiness you have, 
because it's not hard earned enough,
because others are not as fortunate,
because so many people are telling you 
all of the other things you need to have already done
or should do now
to escape the pit of dismal mediocrity,
which is, in truth, the only place you want to be
today, or any day, and with gratitude. 

When you look around you and all that you see is delightful,
and you feel the need to chastise yourself for your luck,
over and over again, all day long. 

Then, on that day, in that moment,
is a perfect time to walk the River Trail,
with sand and pine needles underfoot,
and your imperfectly behaved dog and six year old
at your side, gleefully experiencing a perfect summer day,
with gentle breezes and paintbrush clouds,
and miles of ripe wild raspberries on either side of you. 

Losing track of time and winding along,
skipping here and running there and finding
the brightest and deepest red berries 
for a contrast of tart and sweet,
gently removing bugs and noticing the different plants,
vines, and stems,
colors and textures. 

Cotton tailed bunnies cross your path,
and you turn and climb the hill 
to watch the water fall over the dam,
and sit on a stone bench to look up and see
ducks flying overhead,
and at the very least you know,
the child and the dog are happy,
and so are you, in that moment.

You realize now,
this is not a poem,
and you are not a writer, or a teacher, 
or a lawyer, or a professional of any kind,
or a really great spouse, or a really great community member,
or a successful business person, or a selfless servant,
or a good Democrat, or a good Republican,
or a good environmentalist, or a model citizen, or a pillar of the church,
or a soldier, or a veteran, or a nurse, or a fireman, or a policeman,
or anyone other than a human being who consumes oxygen and resources,
and, but,
you are a mother,
and your child wants you to cuddle and sleep with him,
and you will do it right now, 
because for you,
that is your poetry, and your success story,
and today, the wild raspberries were enough. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sky Walking

Above my head,
the Earth,
fields and grass,
out of reach and the stuff of daydreams,
luminous shades of green and soft browns,
varying shapes of mountains in hues of gray,
some dotted with white caps.

In other places,
when I look up I see
the Seas,
the Oceans,
vast expanses of deep blue.

Beneath my feet,
the Sky,
winds and clouds,
tickling my bare feet and sweeping them along
to another coordinate, 
where I can gaze down at a new constellation. 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Reckoning

Do people change?
Past a certain age,
do they change their long held beliefs,
almost like altering a genome,
and erasing part of a family tree
from an heirloom Bible? 

What causes a person
to hang on for dear life
to a religious belief,
or a philosophical one? 

Does it hurt to let go?

In the places we are most vulnerable,
we hang on for dear life.
Don't chop off my gangrenous limb.
God, please don't take my sick and suffering child
from this Earth.
God, I know you're there. 
She died, but I know she's with You. 

Is He? Is She?
Do you know in your heart, 
in your head,
or both? 
You can't know this in your logical mind.
Apologetics are a millennial waste
of everyone's time.  

A little girl, alone,
misses her father,
sees her mother cry,
and plays by herself. 
God must be there,
and Jesus is a reason to be happy,
after all. 
Nighttime prayers are above all
comforting,
and creative. 
When everyone else is gone,
even Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny,
at least I'll still have you,
God. 

That's a deep, deep imprint
in the mind.

Someone says,
humans only invent Gods and religion
to handle the universal fear of death,
to underpin societal structure
and authority.
God was never real. 
The fear of death is so great,
it motivates most everything we do,
whether we know it or not,
until we face it.
Divine revelation,
to fill a primal need,
is easily invented
and portrayed. 
The little girl listens with great attentiveness. 
She knows this is the truth. 
The imprint is still so deep. 

So much of life is beautiful, mystical, glorious.
Amidst the pain and agony,
there is so much joy and sweetness,
it can't be missed. 
Why not try to capture and define it all,
fit it into a box, a replicable system?

Once the structure is there,
many upstanding, educated and powerful people,
along with the oppressed,
give their lives to support it. 
Many talented, delicate and sensitive souls,
find a home within the edifice erected
with so much care, so much precision,
and dedication,
over so many years. 

Where would they otherwise go?

And yet, for others,
no matter how deep the imprint,
or the scars,
or the glorious, mystical beauty and sweetness,
there is 
a Reckoning. 

It takes incalculable energy 
to delay the moment,
when a new kind of light springs forth,
revealing to the naked eye
a true lack of any real edifice.

Nothing is there, after all. 
Yet, everything is still there,
just not the background imprint
of the edifice
we thought held us up. 

What of all those spine chilling synchronicities,
serendipity, grace, gifts we received,
and the many, many times we didn't die,
our loved ones didn't die, or if they did,
somehow we made it through,
and we ate, 
and there was still the joy, the beauty,
the glory and the mystical sweetness?
Who can we praise and thank?

And what do we do, now?
What of those imprints,
those habits,
still so useful,
so precious?

If this one life, in this one body,
is all there is, 
how much more will we want to 
give a drink to anyone who thirsts,
to save even the smallest insect
from suffering or early death?
How much more alive will we be,
knowing how very much this day matters,
because once it's gone,
it's really gone.

No former lifetime or lifetime to come,
no reunion in Heaven, no eternal suffering in Hell,
no future hope for the spider, rat or beetle
to achieve a better incarnation,
no ascension,
no life
after life.

This life.

So

no more vitriol,
no more bloody wars,
or open carrying of guns as a show,
no more useless sarcasm
and wasted speech
and blind eyes turned to the suffering
because,
their lot
is our lot
and it won't make sense to justify it all
within the imprinted structure.

Who will feel the pain 
of the crumbling walls,
the burning beams,
glass and marble scattered,
blown apart,
melting symbols and statues
in the realm of ideas,
in the minds of grown children?  


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Shrink

If you want to talk about
the fifth dimension,
the planetary shift,
ascension symptoms,
past life regression,
planets stationing, retrograding or aligning,
numerology, Chinese astrology, or spiritology,
don't call my husband.
Call a shrink.
Or, call me, but I may tell you
to call a shrink.

If you want to talk about
current events,
history,
economics,
good books to read,
politics,
international affairs,
spectator sports,
family,
or recipes,
my husband is a great person to call.

If one day we flip a switch,
and he starts talking to me about
the former things,
instead of the latter,
and we become a couple
focused on the new diet
to revolutionize our lives,
the harmful chemicals lurking
all over our house,
plans to get us off the grid
or cryogenic sleep,
I will die a little inside,
and tell him
to call a shrink,
and hope for the best.

My hope is this,
that the person we marry
is a good indicator of what we truly value,
and that a good marriage outlasts any need
to call a shrink.


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Trail

Breathing in the scent of damp earth,
sheltered by gray clouds and tall trees,
warm,
tense in distinct places,
then relaxed.

The sound of a rhythmic soft thud,
and the breath, interspersed with bird song.

Glimmers of sun through the tree tops,
and the soupy feeling of the air,
enveloping my body,
flushing my skin.

Gentle upward slopes, 
and muddy depressions,
leading to a downhill gravel trail.

Thirty minutes of this precious human life,
speeding ever forward,
always gaining momentum,
and then a plateau,
a decline,
the final sprint of a barn sour horse,
and it's over.

A life within a life. 



Sunday, July 13, 2014

You Love

A certain kind of love
creates the feeling
that all you have desired
is within you
and around you.
When that love is summoned,
you can touch it
with your hands tied.

A certain person
who enchants you
and unlocks you
may point you in the direction
of this love,
but the experience of it
is not with that person.

This love requires no object.

When you find it,
you may feel at times
like you have lost it,
then you find your way back.

When it happens to you,
it feels monumental,
it feels like upheaval,
it feels raw,
until it settles in.

In time you discover,
different people
and different experiences
become wood for the fire
of this love.

After the first talisman
inducts you to this magic,
there will be others
to progress you.
Loss and change won't harm you,
and all of life is this great adventure
in which,
you are the subject.

You love.

 Artist: Zindy Nielsen

Friday, July 11, 2014

Celebration

A coming together of people,
a temporary group formation
of individuals,
from different homes and different cultures,
of varying ages, sizes and proclivities,
joining in one accord.

This can be serious.
This can be powerful,
a statement,
a game changer.

This can also be lighthearted,
playfully aimless,
intentionally frivolous,
a kind of undoing of the usual doing. 

A celebration,
in honor of nothing, 
or everything.

An exchange
of food, drink, words, ideas, energy,
personal space,
and collective space.
A giving forth and a taking in,
of what is already shared 
among a group. 

When a space is only personal,
only familial,
only private,
there is one kind of energy,
like a thin line,
like a slow and steady stream of water,
like a hummed tune.

When a personal, familial space
is thrown open,
doors and windows and gates
are opened,
and its elements are shared and consumed
by many,
the energy is enriched and amplified,
like a wide rainbow swath of color and light,
like a rushing river,
like an orchestral symphony. 

What was stale before
becomes raw again.
What was old before
turns over to the new. 

Banquet, by Alexandre Franc

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Consolation

It is in the moments
of guilt,
doubt,
shame,
fear,
and sorrow,
that turning to a personal God
could perhaps
feel most natural.

When we would tell someone close to us
all that weighs on our hearts,
if only that person were near,
or could listen, really hear us,
and see us, and embrace us.

But how many times is someone
that close to you,
really close to you?

Have you ever thought of God as personal?
Imagining at night before sleep,
what you hope will be sleep,
that you can lie down at the feet of someone
so much greater than you,
in size, in weight, in strength, in presence, in intelligence,
in power,
that you can only approach a tiny corner of that being?
You are allowed to approach,
and you are known,
you know not how.

Never mind God.

Simply knowing that all is connected,
that we are all a part of each other,
and this planet,
in moments of doubt, shame, fear and sorrow,
dive deeply into yourself and find someone there,
someone who is really that close to you,
nearer than your thoughts,
and who sees you,
and hears you,
and knows you,
can feel into what you feel,
and wherever you are,
just be there,
in that closeness.
Receive that love that erases
doubt, and shame, and fear.

The alchemy of that Love,
turns your sorrow into bliss.

This is God,
for the skeptic, the doubter,
the worried and fearful,
pensive and sad.

Come into Me,
and receive your consolation.

Painting by Lora Shelley



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wish

At 10:10, or 11:11, or 12:12,
when I see the clock,
I make a wish. 
I know the wish is only good
before the minute changes,
and so the wish is simple.

Usually my wishes are for people,
plural,
for me, too, but not just for me. 

Sometimes my wish is just for you,
yes, You, singular, and plural. 
It's 9:37 right now, 
but for you, I wish deep inner peace,
a reliable sense that all is well,
to which you can always return. 

I wish for you a warm, welcoming place
in your own heart,
where you can bring each troubling thought
or circumstance, and wrap them up
in an impenetrable embrace. 

I wish for you an unshakable sense of belonging,
wherever you go in the wide world,
or in your neighborhood. 

I wish for you the granting of 
your heart's true desires,
and also freedom from your desires,
a feeling of always being satiated,
in the Now. 

I wish for you to know your own uniqueness,
and to wholly love it. 

I wish for you an invigorating embrace,
a forehead kiss,
from the Goddess,
as you awake each morning,
and,
the kind, strong hand of Father God,
to cradle your head as you place it upon your pillow,
each night,
and,
an angelic presence to bless you, guide you, 
watch and protect you as you sleep,
and always.

I wish for you to know and feel and be,
Love.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tasting Notes

Feelings can have actual flavors,
when we sit down to taste them.

Surprise tastes like lemonade,
limeade and sweet tarts.

Contentment tastes like beets.

Happiness tastes like velvety,
red chile chocolate cake.

Longing tastes like black olives.

Impatience tastes like sour milk.

Jealousy tastes like endives.

Affection tastes like vanilla pudding.

Relaxation tastes like pear and cucumber.

Desire tastes like kiwi.

You taste cool, fermented, dry and crisp,
with a touch of anise.





Monday, July 7, 2014

Colors

Deep reds, into chocolate forests
of hunter, chartreuse,
violet and magenta, 
extending to endless seas of
aquamarine, teal, xanadu, 
opalesque aubergine plants of
fuchsia, falu, burgundy noir,
translucent golden glimmers of
eburnean silver sheen,
indigo purplish denim hues
of blues you've never ever seen,
downy feathers of tawny taupe
drifting down to a fulvous 
billowy bed of sarcoline
and sleep,
deep, deep sleep, 
the darkest shade of white. 


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Certain Knowledge

Names of films and actors,
facts I learned for the bar exam,
the plots of my favorite novels,
words in French and Spanish,
both Japanese phonetic alphabets,
measurements for things I've baked
three hundred times,
I just can't remember. 

How many times per day
my heart beats,
how many miles I drive in a week,
how many calories are in a sandwich,
how many people can fit in my living room,
how many dreams I have in a night,
I just don't know.

What you said to me yesterday,
how you looked at me a year ago,
how your complexion shifts with the seasons,
or with your moods,
the cadence of your speech,
the way you cross your ankles,
and fold your hands,
I just can't forget. 

I could fill volumes with every detail of the time I spend with you. 

The mind forgets easily but the heart always remembers,
and I am confidently certain,
I love you. 




Saturday, July 5, 2014

Star

I am whole,
from head to toe,
from without and within,
from my breath to my skin,
from my bones to my soul.

Formed with the elements
of the very first stars,
I am empowered.

Connected to the mind of
the Universe,
I am informed.

Dancing in vibration with
a cosmic choreography,
I have my place
among everyone else,
and I shine.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Intervention

People matter more than plans,
feelings dominate circumstance,
no matter the number or the weather,
how can you keep your soul together?

Not what you do, 
or who's with you,
or what you desired,
but being inspired!

To be fulfilled,
you must be skilled,
to find the Divine,
in your own mind.

The people around you,
sometimes you choose them,
sometimes they astound you,
you'll always lose them.
You can't control most events,
you can't force things to make any sense.

You hear people say, "be like me!"
"Follow my path and you'll be free!"
You'll see them fall, you'll see them scatter,
their image and their acclaim won't matter.

No one escapes suffering and pain,
every one of us, sane or insane,
will follow this path to our death,
each of us have to breathe a last breath. 

How will you fly before you die?
What is the limit of your sky?
What are you hoarding inside your account?
Experience or money, and in what amount? 

Is it your body, your car or your house?
Is it your knowledge or is it your spouse?
What is it that makes you truly stand out?
When you go to your grave, can you boast of your clout?

Do you care about now, or just how it looks?
Is it what's in your heart, or what's on your books?
Why do you think that you need to sell me?
What is that secret you just can't tell me? 

You think you seem strong, but I see you, honey,
You bleed through your eyes and you fix it with money.
Your soul is in prison, your mind is the guard,
Life isn't like this, but you make it hard.

I see how you suffer, behind your mask,
Your blood's on the sidewalk but I don't dare ask,

Can I give you a hand? 

You know better.
You're a special kind of addict,
responsible for your own intervention. 
Look out for your own heart,
before it stops. 
Please beware of misguiding the less fortunate,
who look up to you. 



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dead Roots

In another dream,
I was
wandering down a country road,
paved,
but barely.
I stumbled upon a dead tree,
large, with two trunks.
One had fallen, and the other
was left standing.
Dead leaves still clung to 
several branches,
brown and withered,
crunchy and thin. 
I stopped, and squatted 
next to the roots,
and looked beyond 
the fallen trunk. 
Dark mud and a pond. 
A familiar car approached
and slowed. 
A man from my church 
stopped the car, rolling down the window.

"You look a little lost?"
"Just out for a walk and I stopped here,
but I will get going soon."
"I will be in church Sunday.
Maybe I'll see you."
"Yes, I think so."

Every tree that does not bear good fruit,
is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me, and I in you,
you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.

Set your mind on things above,
not on earthly things. 

As I awoke, these verses came to mind.
The body dies. 
Many trees live longer than people.
Trees that fail to bear fruit demonstrate
that they are sick. 
How do we know if a tree is dead or alive?
We study the leaves and the branches.
Tapping into the dead roots, and the trunk,
we find no sap. 
Nothing is green. 
The tree is ready for the fire. 

Where is the root that is everlasting? 
What can stay alive? Where is resurrection possible?

Close your eyes. Sit up tall. Send roots down into the earth. 

Will the roots take hold? 
What of this tree? 
Are these dead roots? 

Look and you will see!
Ask, and it will be given to you.
Seek, and you will find.
Knock, and it will be opened to you. 

If we look at the branches,
really look at them,
we know if the tree lives. 
If the tree is dead, keep going. 




Antipoem

Silence. 
Lacuna.
Only the body,
and the senses,
inwardly perceived,
incommunicado.
Mental activity ceases,
and the hands are inert. 




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Estival

Walking in the grass,
a few minutes after twilight,
a crescent moon glows in the sky
just above the top of the pines. 

A pint of beer, three quarters full,
in one hand,
pajama clad boy beside me,
bare feet. 
"I saw one. I think I heard a coyote!"

"We saw some on my way home. 
I mean I did. Me, myself and I."
"What about Wonder Woman?"
"I haven't talked to her since I was a kid.
They're back there. Let's go."
"Here they are! There are more of them."
"I am getting mosquito bites."
"The bat, oooh, little bat!"
"Batman, da na na na na na na na!"

At the top of the steps,
the moon's in a different spot.
"I can see it's mouth."

Something big is flying around
the flowers,
and it's not a bat. 
The dog is fearlessly chasing it.
All the creatures disappear 
from the water's approach. 
The sound of the water running
through the hose,
and then the squeak
of the spigot. 

Inside again,
reading two pages,
and off to bed with them.
And silence. 
Delicious silence,
as he reads,
and I write,
for him,
and for me,
and we can hear
air gently flowing through a vent,
and a canine sighing. 



DC Haikus

Russian Yeti are
interesting to my two
children in their bed.

Zoo animals have
a hobby that suits them well,
in people watching.

Even one person
being added to a group
can change everything.

Love letter to me
for as I get up today,
I need reminded.

I don't want to hear
your poems in the morning.
Later in the day.

Family dinner with friend
on a terrace. Violin
is played by a boy.

Swimming boys at dusk,
fireflies with milk and cookies,
having drinks with John.

Magnolia trees
and holly shrubs are plants we
don't see in our town.

Magnolia trees
and holly shrubs are plants I
saw in my home town.

Art museums are not
favorited by our young boys,
but they like sculptures.

Understanding war,
looking at the names and planes,
they feel fear and pain.

Contemplative their
gaze, as they sit on the edge
of a clear fountain.

Love letter to me
he put it into my hand
when I needed it.

Washington invites
memories of Parisian
architects and art.

One Pierre Charles L'Enfant
disliked John Jay so much that
there is no J Street.

Naked and Afraid.
Reality TV is
one choice before bed.

When we expect more
from one moment or one person,
there is no present.

Beyond our routines
and habitual actions
renewal awaits.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Empath

My nervous system hurts.
Everything is painful, but the pain isn't sharp or precise.
Every thought feels like an emotion.

There was no quiet time today,
or meditative movement,
or time to sit for a moment with my coffee or my dog.
Many events are transpiring at once, in the lives of so many who physically
touched me today, or I touched them, or sat near them.
If I sit next to someone and I am not centered in myself,
I can't decipher the trail of what I feel and I can get lost.
In those moments I need to go somewhere by myself for a little bit,
but I usually can't.

It can feel overwhelming.
My heart will sometimes hurt or race or all of a
sudden I feel like banging my head against a wall
or sobbing
and I don't know why.
Anything I try to think about is clouded by intense emotion,
like my mind is being washed away by an immense tidal wave.
By this time it is too late.

I know it is a storm and will pass
and it is better after sleep,
but whatever needs accomplished before bedtime
is excruciatingly difficult.
I sometimes have to say to my spouse,
"I am sorry. I am not functional right now."
Yoga, running, walking in nature, meditation...
these are not hobbies for me.
I need these things to function.
My life depends on these outlets.
How grateful I am when these days end,
and the aching confusion with them.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Faux pearls

Like Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar,
What if we had to tell the truth,
every time we wrote,
instead of every time we spoke? 

Too many boasts 
in our Facebook posts,
flipped on their head,
just might make us turn red.

Trying some honesty on for size,
rather than flattering little white lies,

would look a little like this,
for me.

What happened:
Made myself run three miles without walking,
dried my sweat with a kitchen towel,
then ate a plate of seven-layer dip.

What I wrote:
Feeling awesome after my five mile run! 

What happened:
Woke up at 4:00 a.m. and tossed and turned for three hours,
mulling over inanities.

What I wrote:
Woke up to meditate during the amrit vela. Set a beautiful tone for the day! 

What happened:
Sat in church and tried to ignore the crayons my kids kept dropping under the pews,
holding my breath as they punched each other,
looking at the floor or bowing my head in false piety when congregants stared.
Studied everyone's slumped shoulders during the sermon, picking up about half of the message.

What I wrote:
So inspired after service today! Feeling bolstered by spiritual community! 

We need to embellish and rework our experience,
pulling the pearls from the oyster shells of the mundane,
holding our stories up to the light and clearing off the smudge.
It's up to us to create our own narratives, and tell them to ourselves.
How true they are isn't all that important,
unless it's a medical emergency. 
Then it should be factual. 
Brutal honesty with ourselves and others is often neither pleasant nor all that useful. 




Monday, June 23, 2014

Sitting



As the eyes close,
and the breath slows,
tick, tick, tick,
goes the sound of the watch
on the wrist,
as the hand
props up the head.

Shift. 
Sit up straight.
Rest the hands
in the lap.
Legs are crossed,
feet tucked under,
snug and safe.

Breathing in, 
the chest lifts,
breathing out,
the shoulders drop. 

Fidget.
Fingertips moving up,
touching the shoulders,
fingernails graze the skin. 

Breathing in,
drop the hands,
breathing out,
resettle. 

Across the eyelids,
flashes of green,
speckles of yellow,
a black cube 
with a white outline. 

Breathing in,
white light,
breathing out,
black smoke. 

Sounds from the house,
sounds from outside,
engines humming in the distance,
as the washer spins.

Noticing.

Sensations,
warmth in the chest,
itchy eyes,
slight tension in the lips.

Breathing in,
comfort,
breathing out,
malaise. 

Staying.
Abiding.

Breathing in,
time passes,
Breathing out,
someone else knows,
maybe the watch.

Breathing in,
stillness,
Breathing out,
stillness.

Remembering.

Heels and ankles,
hips and thighs. 

Breathing in,
adjust,
breathing out,
resettle.

Attachment. 
Please just stay here. 

A beeping sound.
The breath deepens.
Eyes open.
Feet lower,
touching the floor,
arms stretch overhead.
Stand up,
and walk.