Friday, November 27, 2009

Random Act of Yoga

I visited my Mother today. She seemed to enjoy our time together. We haven't had as much time together as some mothers and daughters because of her schizophrenia. For well over thirty years she has lived in places where she has special activities and is supervised. We were separated when I was only a few years old, and have lived in different states since then.

Today we went around to some different places, and then stopped at Whole Foods for some soup. I had a deliciously spiced pumpkin-cashew hot soup, and she chose a cold vegan bean soup. We ate in the well-populated seating area of the store. After we had finished our soup she asked me, after wondering aloud if it was appropriate right after eating (...), if I would do headstand for her. At first I thought about her request, and then I responded that right after eating isn't the best time for headstand. And then I considered her request further. There were a lot of people sitting all around us at Whole Foods, but--so what! My Mother almost never asks me for anything. So I put my wind-breaker jacket down on the cement floor between our table and the next, and I got a small stack of napkins from the dispenser. I looked my Mom in the eye. I got down on my knees at the Whole Foods. I put my forearms down on the jacket with the napkin stack on the floor in the arc created by my interlaced hands, and put my head there. I went up into headstand. I stayed there a little while. I came down.

After a pause I lifted my head up, and picked up the jacket and napkins which had been a coushion for my head against the hard floor. When I sat down again we shared a conspiratorial look and smile that was priceless. It was fun.

When it was over my Mother said that when I was doing headstand everybody relaxed and got quieter. She also heard a man say that he would definitely come back to this store again. And according to my Mom, people were talking to one another from the heart. Isn't that a nice thought!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Georgia Gratitude

I enjoy Georgia. The view into the backyard of my Aunt and Uncle's house is so nice on a sunny holiday day like today.

I talked on the phone with my Mother, and we made plans to get together tomorrow. I am grateful for this. I am glad to be in Georgia.

I did yoga before eating anything today, and that's just the best! It helped me to clear the holding in my body that I was interpreting as resistance to change.

It's best to just go with the flow, appreciating the things I encounter along the way, looking for and appreciating the blessings that this experience of life offers. Amazing.

When I feel the resistance/tightness in my body, I know that I have the tools that can free me from this discomfort, yogic tools!

My Uncle is in bed with a difficult recovery from surgery; it is a post-surgical infection. He feels cold. I feel for him. He is a warm and wonderful man. I pray for his body to heal from this difficulty soon. Be well, Uncle Allan! You have been a blessing in my life ever since I can remember. I appreciate your curiosity, cheerfulness, and your presence in my life. My life would not have been as great if you had not been in it. Thank you for you. Please get better soon.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Theater in the Rump

Since the workshop at the Yoga Circle last weekend with Manouso Manos, my upper thighs--and even up into the lower pelvic region including the lower butt and pelvic floor--are like a theater in the round where the upper thigh bone is the stage and all of the muscles surrounding the bone are the audience. (So yes, there are really two small theaters--one on the right side and one on the left.) This is a highly interactive theatrical experience where the audience--the muscles, skin and other tissue all around the stage--affects the performance happening at the upper thigh bone. Even the position of the genitalia makes a difference!

I don't think I can accurately describe how I was aware of the hips before, I can only seem to speak about how it feels right now. Today it feels like there is so much to work with to affect the position of the upper portion of the thigh bones. My memory of the old perception is that it was thin and somewhat intellectual. But now the thighs feel thick with power, substance and potential. I can do a lot to affect the position of my hips.

On Saturday Manouso said that we were going to do Parsvottanasana about eighteen times--on both sides! (A rough version of the pose is shown in the picture above, except we did it in the workshop with our fingers touching the ground.) And on about the sixteenth time, my experience opened into a radically wider perception of my hips, starting on the left side. The left foot was back and the right was forward. The action was led by the top of the left thigh bone going back. And at a certain point my perception widened from working with a smaller distinct area in the center of the thigh, to an awareness that spread all the way into my pelvis.

After that class I felt like I was all butt and thighs. And even today I feel like I'm walking around with a lot more understanding of the region around my thighs and up into my pelvis. It's kind of fun to walk around like this.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009


The word came to me in a dream. Yoga teacher friends--a couple--were getting into a car with me. The woman of the pair was already in the back seat of the car on the far side, behind the driver. The man was walking towards the car and said something that I couldn't hear at first, but tried to. Then he got into the passenger side of the back seat with her, and I was in the passenger seat in the front. I don't know who was driving (God?). Somehow it was the man of the couple who told me that the gal (I don't want to name names, but they are significant to me) had written down a word that was in my blog that she didn't understand. The word was "abeyance" (I saw it in my mind's eye in the dream hand written in pencil on a yellowish torn-off paper scrap resting on a brown wood table or dresser.). I enthusiastically replied like I thought I was the smartest kid in class that I thought it had something to do with letting go of shame. This is of course not the actual definition, but it might be significant to the interpretation of this dream...

The meaning of "abeyance" from the dictionary on my iPhone:
1.temporary inactivity, cessation, or suspension: Let\'s hold that problem in abeyance for a while.

There's a spiritual notion that a person's life can change in an instant. Like a person can have an awareness that SUDDENLY changes everything. It might be represented by a beam of light through the clouds, or the parting of the Red Sea (or more crassly by taking a sip of your favorite big name soft drink, if the commercials are to be believed...).

The day before I had this dream I had just written a post on this blog about resistance. I have been praying in every way I have encountered over the last several years for help with this block of my resistance to life. I have prayed with yoga, meditation, tears, desperation, service, this blog, in ritual processes, in the sweat lodge, with a psychic healer a while back, in nature, and with my breath and all the cells of my being in all the ways that came along. Oh yeah, there was also the 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat... I'm sure there's more like all the different retreats I've taken, and group work processes where I had opportunities to relive and heal traumatic memories, repressed or conscious. And all these things have helped in one way or another: I know myself a HELL of a lot better than I used to... But I wonder if I also fell in love with my problem. I got to know it so well I may have inadvertently made a secure bed for JUST the two of us: me and My Problem.

But, I like the sound of that definition: Let's hold that problem in abeyance for a while.

Yes, let's.

Is it kind of goofy to trust an interpretation of a dream? Maybe. But I'm willing to see if I can live without the resistance. The word "abeyance" is a bit ominous because it is a "temporary cessation" which in dream speak could mean that I have a window of opportunity to take action. Obviously, my lifespan describes some parameters... And maybe if I can trust life enough I can find a lasting freedom from the strictures of my wounded heart.

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Friday, November 20, 2009


Guest Muse by Andyogini:

"I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes."
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I love yoga for all the usual worthy reasons, and I love yoga for some frivolous ones, too.
I am entitled to shop at Lululemon and carry their cool bags.
Toting my pink yoga mat seems to disperse what I call my Senior Cloak of Invisibility.
I find I can reach my right hand all the way around to the left side of my head and thus trim my hair more evenly.
I can get a lot closer to my feet to tend to my toenails.


I never thought Yoga could be for me. Stretching was just that—a stretch. I thought it was for ancient Indian gentleman and supple young women with Gumby-like ligaments. I was lured into a class once by an acquaintance. It was full of ladies who all seemed to be showing off and showing me up! (And, turning me off.)

Years later, I had the great good luck to encounter Brooks’ class. There I realized it didn’t matter how far I could bend or how long I could balance. I embraced my yoga and did what I could and it was enough. My yoga was my yoga and my classmates’ yoga was their yoga. We’re individuals on our own journeys, yet we’re traveling together. I wish the best for my yoga mates and for me, and that is part of my practice, too.

Thanks Brooks!


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Knowing My Resistance

I have been in silent protest of life for most of mine, and now I see the dim outlines toward another way of being. It has to do with knowing my resistance, which has become such an intrinsic part of my experience that I confuse it for “me” most of the time. My resistance, when I identify with it, keeps me stuck in a silent “no”. “I won’t do it,” “I don’t want to,” or “I don’t have to,” my resistance says. When I’m in this kind of space I am a slouching “no”-monster.

And, I have been in conflict with the world for a long time. "No" is a part of the truth of my experience. I don’t like a lot of what I see. How can anyone look around and be at peace when people are so mean to one another. Crime rates, murders, suicides, abuse, pollution, species-extinctions are at all-time highs. Pretending that I am happy with everything in the world around me is just that—pretending (or even lying).

I am looking for intermediary steps between "no" as a general attitude, and "yes" as a fierce agenda. The ruthless yes-sayers can really hurt those of us who experience conflict with a world that seems unjust. It’s just not tasty medicine. Plastering a happy face on a devastating moment is absolutely brutal.

What if I could navigate this harsh territory by simply living the best life I can live? So instead of the slouching “no” monster, I can be the compassionate yogi. The one who listens, understands, and takes action. So instead of my silence being a quiet expression, I allow my voice to speak my truth and my hands to start to pick up the mess. Instead of feeling paralyzed by the “NO” alarm that is going off inside of me, I’ll start to take the steps that I can. So instead of being a stuck “no”-saying wounded android, I can instead be an alive creative person doing something that moves the world in a direction that I can start to agree with. Instead of silently disagreeing, I am stepping forward to speak with my actions. I am doing things in synch with who I know myself to be instead of what the others told me to do.

In knowing my resistance I just might be able to separate from my identification with it just enough to do something good instead of merely shrinking back into a reactive "no".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Cold. Rain is falling.
Alone in my loneliness.
I am full of lies.

(So if I believe that I'm alone in my loneliness when others are also alone, I am out of synch with the truth.)

Alone and lonely,
I have lots of company.
Let's break through our shells.

I like illusion.
Solitude is my drama.
Just leave me alone.

I want to reach out.
Comfortable in solitude.
I think I'll stay here.

Large crowd of loners,
Each one thinking she's alone.
Paralyzed and sad.

Programmed to believe
Others have things figured out
We are in a trance.

Inspired by Dr. Jay's post.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Handstand is so Cool

This post is dedicated to RB and others (like me) who have been stymied at one time or another when trying to kick up into this intriguing pose.

Handstand is so cool.

A while ago I wrote about how it made me really pissed.

For myself, I don't think I can own handstand. These days I can do it more often than not. It seems to be easier, but I wonder if it's just because I'm not taking it as seriously as I used to. I really love the handstand and find it incredibly empowering, and mysterious, too. Like a rare bird that you know where it usually lives, but it might not be there on some days. I suspect that my relationship with this pose will also continue to change.

There was a time when a yoga teacher friend was watching my handstand struggle. She shared that it looked like I just had a long way to go with my tall body--I had a lot to kick up. But while this assessment is technically true in that I am tall, I don't totally buy into it. Sometimes my handstand is very easy. When it is easy I still am kicking up the same amount of me so there is something different about the times I can easily do it and times I can't; I don't change my height, body mass or weight. So even though I have a lot to kick up, it's not my height that makes the pose easy or hard for me.

The obvious answer is practice. When I am practicing my handstand every day--sometimes several times a day in between classes--I am much more likely to nail it when I am asked to do it in a class I am taking. But, even within the last few months there have been times where I have had performance anxiety when asked to do it in a class. Even if I pop into one right before class, I sometimes have failed to do it with ease when asked to do it later during the class.

And like RB, once I'm up I tend to be solid.

When I have had difficulty with the pose, I usually think that it has to do with something psychological--like I am afraid to be strong and selfsufficient. True. I can fake it pretty good but I have fear. I actually think that I've nailed it right here.

But there is also something about my abdominal connection. When I swing my leg up where my "leg" includes my low belly--that helps. Or sometimes, when I kick I think of bringing my navel back towards the wall behind me--that really helps. It's almost like I can get disjointed around my mid-section. My back can feel weak when I try to kick up with just my legs below the buttocks, but when I include my low belly to navel in my kick it works much better.

After years of practice, my body continues to stabilize, strengthen, and open in new ways so I'm just excited to continue. It's cool to see where yoga practice takes my body and mind over time.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hey, wow.

I wish for everyone to have moments, or even a moment of seeing a difficulty in life and witnessing it as having a healing effect. It's a moment where you feel a bit softened and sweet, in awe of how a situation--that just happened--really changed you into who you are today. Wow...

Yesterday, I joked about seeing a cosmic prank in some events and symbols I saw repeated and set against one another in my life: being a tall woman v/s wanting to be small, and from dust bunnies to real bunnies! Wow.

I believe that our stories of how we have suffered do offer opportunities to heal and grow--yielding a better result in the end. What is the lesson learned? How can lives be made better based on what you have learned through your having directly experienced suffering up close and personal? How do you understand others better because you have been there, too? How is life just a friggin' creative miracle in how in unfolds? Wow.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Me with the Dust Bunnies

It is this height of mine that has revealed what is quite possibly a cosmic joke. I always wanted to win or disappear when I was a kid. When I won a game I would dance a flamboyant happy dance. And when I lost I wanted to get lost with the dust bunnies in the darkest, most unseen places. I felt so ashamed. (And I wasn't very good at games like board games or cards.)

I think it had to do with proving my worthiness in the household. When my mom became too ill to care for me, my family didn't know where I should live. Even though I was small and couldn't understand it the way they did, I had my own way of understanding it.

By any means necessary, I had to prove to whoever I was with that I was loveable. I would identify who I needed to please in any given situation and do absolutely anything to win them so they would keep me or love me. So when I saw evidence to the contrary: like loosing a game, I wanted to hide that evidence as soon as I could. This just wouldn't do!

Pretty soon, it seemed like my own physical body was evidence of my own unworthiness of love--so needy I was. So I learned, as best as I could, to disappear, to hide.

But this kind of hiding is like when a small child thinks that they have disappeared when they cover their own eyes with their hands--it is only the child's vision that is blocked, nobody else's. People were always dressing me in cute outfits, and teaching me that my appearance was important. I just learned to be quiet.

So if I appeared to not be noticed by others I thought I was safe--it was all about how the world appeared to me. And then I step into a room, super-tall and needy... Hard to miss me! Thank God! I'm so glad I'm here (Now I am!)!

So that's the cosmic joke! And now I have bunnies which is quite possibly another cosmic zinger. (Thanks, Fawn for your cute face! She's in the above photo.) And now I am also called to be louder as I tell my story, and teach yoga--kinda' funny. My creator has a sense of humor.

Thank you for one.
Thank you for all.
Thank you for my interpretations of experiences that made me feel small.
And thank you for my height: 5 feet 10 inches that made me not small at all.

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Thank you

Thank you for all I have.
Thank you for the blessing of sight.
Thank you for the power of cognition.
Thank you for the fortification of breath.
Thank you for my knees to fall on.
Thank you for loving eyes to look into.
Thank you for sunshine.
Thank you for rain.
Thank you for healing.
Thank you for pain.
Thank you for wellness.
Thank you for disease.
Thank you for the hand that covers my sneeze.
Thank you for birth.
Thank you for death.
Thank you for revelation.
Thank you for things I don't understand.
Thank you for work.
Thank you for play.
Thank you for the people who say, "Have a nice day."
Thank you for the ordinary moments.
Thank you for specialness.
Thank you for those who say, "Fuck you!"
Thank you for the people who have held me when I cried.
Thank you for the vast range of experiences.
Thank you for aging.
Thank you for youth.
Thank you for lying.
Thank you for truth.
Thank you for purity.
Thank you for profanity.
Thank you for children.
Thank you for lovers.
Thank you for fathers.
Thank you for brothers.
Thank you for sisters.
Thank you for mothers.
Thank you for sex.
Thank you for chastity.
Thank you for lips.
Thank you for words.
Thank you for yoga.
Thank you for sound.
Thank you for art.
Thank you for cigarettes.
Thank you for quitting smoking.
Thank you for dancing.
Thank you for quiet.
Thank you for anger.
Thank you for peace.
Thank you for nature.
Thank you for trees.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Glowing Floating Being of Pure Love

I humbly accept the gracious and karmically significant award from Dr. Jay of Yoga for Cynics. It seems to represent what we can be for one another through the internet connection: Floating Glowing Beings of Pure Love. We are not bound by the ordinary rules of gravity or social convention here! And since Dr. Jay has described himself a bit, I imagine that he is a Floating Glowing Big Bear of Infinite Compassion and Pure Love. Thanks, Dr. Jay!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pink Powder

City skyline caressed in a pink powdery haze reminds me to be gentle with myself.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

But, talks!

In yoga there is a lot of languaging about the butt. In seated forward folds the buttock flesh can be kind of stuck towards the midline, so often students are instructed to use their hands to move the flesh wide and/or back to clear the way for the position to move without obstruction and go deep. (In the picture above, wall ropes are showing my top thighs what to do in dog pose.)

Here is some of the language I've encountered:

Place a hand on the inner thigh, and a hand on the outer thigh. Lift up that sitting bone and push the inner thigh down and lift the outer thigh up to roll the flesh around the bone, widening the back thigh. Put the sitting bone down to hold the flesh out, and repeat on the other side.

Move the butt flaps back.

Create the action of the "blooming" or "blossoming" buttocks.

Make the gaping maw.

And just this past weekend I heard the following instruction:
Grab your assets to open up backstage.

So remember to widen the butt to fold forward.

What the Buttocks Think

Don't tell me that nothing can be done.
The tongue says, "I know I can change things."
The toe says, "I have my ways."
The heart is weeping and remembering Eden.

Legs think that a good run will do it.
Tongue has free tickets; he'll fly to heaven.
But the buttocks see everything upside down:
They want you to put your head down there,

Remind the heart it was upside down
In the womb, so that when your mother,
Knowing exactly where she was going,
Walked upstairs, you weren't going anywhere.

-by Robert Bly, Morning Poems

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Personal Revelation in Yoga

I experienced a personal revelation during the Saturday morning session of the Rusty Wells workshop at Moksha Yoga last weekend. Rusty suggested that we dedicate our yoga practice to an individual person that we love. I chose my Dad.

My soul story came out of my parent's, just like my body was built based on their DNA. By the words "soul story" I just mean all the things that make me me. Things like my personality, my emotions, and the stories that create the background for what I am able to express today. I realized on Saturday that I honor their souls or spirits with my life path, even though I can't please their egos or minds. They both have seemed to want things from me that are fantasies.

Just looking at their life-stories and their challenges in the broadest sense gave me some insight. My dad is physically disabled with cerebral palsy and my mom has schizophrenia and depression. Seeing this in the way I did helped me make sense of things for the first time in my life somewhere around savasana at the end of the yoga session on Saturday morning. I seemed to see things from a vantage point that was a bit further than my own suffering. I was seeing my life from a distance that allowed me to see how different forces guided me gently to be who I am today. With my life I have devoted myself to understanding the processes of my mind, honoring my mother's path. And my dedication to the physical aspects of yoga honors my father by pursuing my physical potential. So I am truly related and connected to them even though we are far apart in many ways. I am grateful for this sense of connectedness. It's what I have been wanting. I can live my life dedicated to what they sacrificed for me in a way that is healing for me, and helps me to have something to offer other people who suffer with their minds and bodies.

And just seeing that really seemed to take a burden off of me. I deduce that some of my "not good enough" feelings have been based in a desire to be embraced by my family, and for some complicated reasons that I don't think I fully understand this just hasn't been possible on this earth so far. But now I have the sense that spiritually I am doing the right thing, and fulfilling my mission as the daughter of these people by doing what I am doing with my life.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Pliable Edges

This week I seek to push against my own edges.

I heard from Rusty Wells that it's worth it: "Most people don't even know where their edge is." This was part of the answer to a question I asked:

What is the relationship between Ahimsa (non-harming) and pushing beyond the limitations of mind in poses?

This question was born out of my experience in his workshop at Moksha Yoga this past weekend: Rusty really encourages people to do more than they think they can, and sometimes it hurts to go beyond what you think you can do. But you don’t know until you try it. And when you do go beyond what you thought you could there is an incredible sense of accomplishment. So the experience was empowering for me, and I was just a bit sore afterwards.

And in life I do tend to enter into experiences that I am familiar with, which is fine. However, I do feel the call to go beyond that, but how?

Rusty also said that he practices before he teaches, and that he pushes himself hard. Otherwise he wouldn’t be okay with telling other people to do this hard work.

Pushing beyond what I know to be limits IS painful and scary. It proves that I don’t really know what I thought I did. But this is the kind of pain and fear that is good. This kind of pain might not be himsa (harmful). In fact it might help me grow beyond my complacency.

How can you even approach going beyond what you think you already know? The easiest way is when someone else takes you there. Like, a yoga teacher might help you to see that you can do a pose that you didn’t think you could.

But in a personal yoga practice, I guess I do it when I listen to the sensations in my body. I tend to get more sore in my personal practice than I do in most classes, and I think it’s because I’m better at being at my real edge in the poses when I’m practicing on my own. I’m also a lot more flexible in my own space and timing.

In meditation, I also seem to get opportunities to see a new angle on things, or when I wake up from a dream I might also have a revelation.

In my daily life I’d like to be better at recognizing the opportunities to see new things in people and places I already know. And I’d like to allow these fresh insights guide me out of my cloying comfort zone. Or more appropriately, I’d like to expand my zone of comfort to include trying more new things. And maybe I can get started by looking for the pliable edges. At the edge I can experience what I know and shift to experience something new, and adapt to that using the language I already am familiar with to start to describe and embrace something new.

Jai! This is how the classes with Rusty Wells ended. It means victory, or right on! Something like that…

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Initial Judgments Aside

On the first night of a yoga workshop with Rusty Wells, he reminded me a little bit of Robert Duvall in The Apostle. He was stamping and singing with a fervor that startled me. That night reminded me of some kind of Christian revival in Sanskrit. The experience challenged my sensibilities, to put it mildly...

When we were in dog pose we were instructed to lift one leg and place it right above the butt of the person next to us (I thought). Then his colleague came over and adjusted my foot so it touched my neighbor’s butt. I thought that was rather strange, and felt I should have the choice of not touching this other person’s butt if I didn’t want to… Anyway, maybe I was missing something here or I simply didn’t get it.

The next morning I considered whether I should go back, and spent some time complaining about it internally. I found myself wondering if it was “real yoga.” Then I asked myself the question: What is real yoga? What came to me was the following: Real yoga is opening your heart to another viewpoint. So I went back and I’m very glad and grateful I did.

The Saturday sessions may have been the most physically intense yoga experiences I have ever had. That in itself is kind of cool. His vinyasa yoga instruction has an accuracy and speed that made the class at times seem like vinyasa on steroids. The music had a relentless beat that helped energize the poses when energy was waning. It’s also weird to me that when I looked around people would be in yoga poses moving to the beat of the music, and I sometimes caught myself doing the same thing.

In the end I did find myself just kind of enjoying the wild ride.

Friday, November 6, 2009

same pose, (different side) different day

This is a Guest Muse by Kay Burnett:

In my yoga practice, the balance poses are a particular challenge, the left and right sides being very different. Some days a simple tree pose is effortless, other days the same pose is impossible! What is going on? That is a big question for me and one I try to experience when I am practicing but now and here I'm willing to put words around, thus analyze it.

The focus of the balance for me, besides the basic challenge of standing on one foot, is to allow my tailbone to drop, to allow my hips to level, to allow my shoulders to drop and to extend up and out of the core pelvis, waist and hips. I find that on my "good" side, I can often get to the point where I am feeling the bits lining up. On my "bad" side, the balance alone is a huge challenge and often in a class, the pose is over before I've gotten to my goal of feeling aligned. In my classes with Brooks, I am encouraged to take the time I need to complete the pose and when I feel that I am close, I will take her encouragement to heart.

My problem (as I perceive it) is a knee that does not always respond as my brain asks. It is lacking cartilage and is often stiff and painful. And then the opposing hip comes into the situation. And so the story goes!

I can most often balance equally on both sides if I choose to modify the pose to a foot to the opposite calf. It feels more stable on the "good" side and I can hold it for some time on both sides. Since I can often balance in a fuller pose, with foot to thigh, on the "good" side, I feel the challenge to even the sides. This is where the wobblies get extreme. I have learned not to be agitated or angry with myself for not getting it but I continue to try to complete the fuller pose on both sides.

We want to balance the balance -- same on both sides. I always hear, do the same thing on this side that you did on the other. And when that is accomplished, it does feel like success!

Does it make a difference if we start on our easy side or our hard side? I have a tendency to start on my hard side, go to the easy side and sometimes come back to the hard side one more time.

And what I would like to do at some point, is carry the balance story into life events in addition to yoga. How do we balance in our lives, on both sides, our own desires and realities of what is good for us with the demands and expectations of those others in our lives?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Uncommon Reach

Okay, so I guess the word "atonement" is burdened with a notion of "paying back" for having done something really bad. And in this process you are going to suffer terribly according to Hollywood drama, and other fear-rending storytelling.

However "atonement" in a more wholistic sense is definitely something I want to infuse my life with. And words like "discipline", "effort", and "investment" pale in comparison for me. They miss what I am aiming for in the previous post. They are all very good words for describing the acts around harnessing one's will consistantly towards a goal.

What I am reaching for in my exploration of the uncommon, possibly dusty, and slightly off-putting word (for many of us) is a comprehension of spiritual integration in the physical aspects of my life.

In a spiritual sense there is often a recognition of the idea that someone can "wake up" to a larger truth in life. Like, hey (!) maybe life is about more than making money, buying the right products, and looking young forever. A person can get an awareness of connectedness and overwhelming love when contemplating the universe, doing the dishes, looking at a flower, taking out the trash, practicing yoga, etc. A flame of spiritual awareness can get lit inside someone, maybe inside everyone.

So I have found myself waking up to the idea (over time) that, "Life doesn't suck." This is the opposite of what I told myself and my friends from my teens (possibly younger) through some of my twenties which was, "Life sucks." ...not very clever or original, but true nonetheless. I really believed it when I said it and thought it, and for me the cliche caried the weight of great sadness and disappointment. But it wasn't true. It's just how I chose to view my experience at that time. And it was through the practice of yoga that I started to see my life through the filter of a different viewpoint. (I also think that I can send some credit to a dear relationship that started in my mid-twenties that made hanging out at the bar not-so-appealing anymore.) Things started getting better.

Actions that were taken or not taken from someone with the viewpoint that contains "Life Sucks" can cause serious problems. And it has taken me years of dedicated yoga practice and looking at myself through different techniques including meditation and my women's group to get to a point where I feel like an inferno of enthusiasm, and want to make a difference in my life. So from my more recent viewpoint, some actions not taken in the past are viewed as mistakes even though I did the best I could with what I understood at the time. Today, if I were to continue to ignore undone things I would be living in the past, and ignoring a real situation based in past mistakes. So in a spiritual sense I am atoning when I am putting work into correcting past errors. And from an earthly perspective it really would be accurate to say that I am honing my discipline, or making an investment in myself and my future by contributing to my life situation.

But, I also see imprinted in these mistakes spiritual lessons I must have needed to learn, because that's what happened. So it becomes atonement when I reach for a spiritual healing through actively correcting a real life daily situation that is not right.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Seeing it Differently

Acknowledge, Forgive, Atone.

I see things differently, today. What was once shameful can now be let go. It all has to do with balance.

I have been onto the subject of atonement for about a week. It's one of those words (like shame once was for me) that I could give an intellectual definition for, but without really understanding what it meant.

I see actions of atonement as sacred offerings.

Things can get out of balance in life due to many reasons, some of them we can understand, and others are completely beyond ones comprehension.

My mission in life is to take on what I can and do something about it, even if it's not my fault. This will help put things into balance.

When I eat at a public place, and someone has left a bit of trash on the table, this mission is easy to follow. First I acknowledge the trash. Then I forgive the apparent oversight of whoever was there, or maybe a tired staff that didn't make it to my table. Then I atone by taking action--either cleaning it myself or asking for help. And I offer it up. I am grateful for my experience. Maybe I have left the place a little nicer for the next person.

But for some reason it hasn't been as easy to take the same kind of responsibility for my own mental space. When I have found emotional debris inside, sometimes I exacerbate it by feeding anger or hurt toward myself or someone else. So if I am in line with my mission I am going to acknowledge, forgive, and atone rather than fuel bad feelings.

Bad habits can accumulate problems: debt, clutter, physical toxicity or even illness. What if I were to uncover an awareness about emotional eating: eating fatty high carb, sugar snacks to cover up sadness or frustration? Well what if I also remember that this is how emotions were dealt with by people I grew up with. Like, what if eating seemed like the only pleasurable thing that happened around the house? Clearly, there is an opportunity to place blame on upbringing. But continuing unhealthy behaviors like this doesn't do any good.

So in order to make a positive contribution to my life, it is up to me to take responsibility for what I find in myself, whether it is my fault or not because ultimately it affects me. First I acknowledge the behavior--I recognize that it is a regular fixture in my life. Then I forgive myself for having given energy to this behavior that is harmful in that it keeps me emotionally stunted--I have been eating and stuffing my feelings down my own throat rather than truely acknowledging my reality. And I forgive myself for behaviors that have also been a drag on my physical health.

The next step is atonement: what am I going to do about it. I might want to plan to process my emotions through writing or communicating to trusted support. I am also going to make a better choice in the moment. When I am running towards that brownie and coffee, can I stop that action and atone instead? I could atone by sitting down to write, or taking some deep breaths, or if there is available space I can go meditate, or do a yoga practice. Or maybe I can choose a healthy snack if I am hungry. These might just be first steps, I realize: I might discover other actions I can do to continue to atone and further balance myself. And as difficult, or not-so-difficult things come up I can do something and offer these things up, because in processing these things I am accomplishing my divine work, and clearing myself to be of greater service to this world and my community. The less caught up in myself I am the more I can help.

So atoning for me means doing something to balance a situation. Acknowledging and forgiving might be primarily mental activities, but atoning, the way I am seeing the word, is taking a physical action like going through the paperwork that is past due, or actively doing something helpful instead of doing the unhealthy activity, or cleaning up the clutter. And then offering these actions to a higher power or greater good, and trusting that there is something good on the other side of what was once the overwhelming problem.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Froggie Inspirations

I really liked Kermit the frog as a child, and I still think he's cute. In The Muppet Movie he represented hopefulness, awkwardness, innocence, courage, and morality--I remember him doing the right thing. Kermit had a dream, and he was a leader!

When I was seven or eight I received a similar doll to the one in the picture. Mine had velcro on his hands, and his skin was felty-soft. Froggie! I liked to hug my Kermit. I used to enjoy playing with alive frogs and toads too, even before I knew Kermit. For some reason I was really attracted to them (sorry guys). They probably didn't like the way I would force feed them dead flies... "Frog should eat," I probably thought. I remember one time when the fly went in the jelly-filled mouth, the frog flipped it right back out. At that point I understood that the frog didn't like that.

Later in life I enjoyed finding out that frogs are symbolically rich: since frogs are amphibians, they can live in two realms: water and land. This is similar to humans: our two realms are the physical world and the spiritual one. And just like the frogs are wonderful swimmers (I love watching them), we have skill in the realm of spirit if we put attention there. Frogs are also beautiful jumpers on land, and we have shown great facility in the earthly realm also.

Frogs also go through a fabulous transformation from tadpoles (so cool) into frogs. And we, too, have the potential to transform our lives and experience the world in new ways once we fulfill our potential for spiritual fluency, so our spiritual parlance can be as powerful as our earth speak.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Great Divide

I think that there is a great divide between me and you, and those are just thoughts. I think I can help you be happy when I am suffering, and those are just thoughts. I think I can hate you and still like me, and those are just thoughts.

"Many people used to ask Ramana Maharishi what they could do for the world. He always asked them, "Who is doing for whom?" Thus their focus was turned to their own selves. If I want to make you happy, I myself should be a happy person. If I am sad, how can I make you happy? To make you smile, I should first of all know how to smile. I should know what peace is to bring peace to you. We have to discover the peace within ourselves, the joy within ourselves."
-Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati, 'That Alone: The Core of Wisdom'

What is with the illusion of difference? I mostly see connection.

When I am running at an emotional deficit I am going to try to take what I need from you. Or I might shut myself down in an attempt not to feel my own neediness. I also might self-regulate through overeating, drinking, coffee, or other distraction.

There is another option that I believe in, even though it might not be immediate or foolproof. We are still human after all and our relationships with one another are important--it's part of our important work here to communicate and work together. This option I'm talking about is filling up spiritually every day to help put ones best foot forward in our relations with one another.

Including atheists! No "God" required--if the word trips you up. But this "filling up" can also include the God of your own personal understanding.

What is necessary is allowing quality time for yourself to fill up. How can you offer to someone else what you don't already have:

Love. Peace. Contentment. Wellness. Happiness.

Looking for others to provide these experiences for us is a desperate quest. We need to take responsibility for having love in our lives, and happiness, peace, etc. Can we do it overnight? Maybe not. But can we do things to make attainment more likely? Yes! And is it worth it to give it a shot, rather than living a life of inner impoverishment? Don't you think so? I do.

This is a spiritual pursuit. And people can choose to fill up in different ways: meditation, yoga, gardening, prayer, chanting, nature walking, breath awareness, and so on. Any activity that is personally refreshing, inspiring and centering for you. When you do it there is a sense of being at home in yourself. You might be so absorbed in what you are doing that you loose track of time. You leave the activity feeling relaxed and inspired--ready for anything and able to meet the challenges of life creatively. You feel good about yourself and your life afterward.

Yoga is particularly good for me because it offers technique for relaxing the tension in my body. When I regularly release my tension in this way I can think more clearly, and I am less reactive to situations in my life that can set me off. I am more likely to do things in line with my best self. I am more open, energetic, creative, and joyful. So with yoga I have the opportunity to release my anxiety and fill up spiritually so that I am in a more loving place in my daily life.

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