Sunday, June 27, 2010

People who do Yoga and Blog…


I just want to say, if you ever get a chance to meet people you’ve gotten to know Online (and you want to), do it!


It was so fun to meet Bob Weisenberg and Linda-Sama at Linda’s Yin/Yang Yoga workshop!


Here is Bob reclining during a break from the workshop. We didn’t get to spend much time talking, but it was such a pleasure to meet! Bob is just as friendly in person as he is in his comments and blogging. The sound of his voice is also just as kind, friendly and curious (interested in others) as his writing voice is. His wife, Jane is also beautiful, friendly and fun. When I asked her if Bob spends a lot of time on the Internet (with a laugh), she smiled and shared that she thought it was good for him because he likes it so much, and she can always get him when she needs him.


Linda was squarely in her power as she presented the Yin yoga concepts and practice. Her teaching, like her blog, has an edge and I don’t think that she’d have it any other way. Her voice is really nice and warm. (I always think I can tell a lot from hearing someone speak, by listening to how they speak.) In the Yin practice we stayed in poses for like five minutes, sometimes to the point of pain, and Linda made no bones about the fact that this is a part of the practice. She said something about there being a possibility of seeing the pain and also seeing the “pain of the pain” and that these are two separate things. Pain is something that arises naturally, and the “pain of the pain” is how we react to it. In learning about how we deal with our pain we can be more present to pains as they show up outside of yoga, too.

Both Bob (and Jane) and Linda are real people, and how they show up in their blogs is very much in synch with the people I met this weekend. This has been something that I’ve wondered about: whether people are presenting themselves authentically in their blogs, but everyone I’ve met (so far) has really jived with what I perceived even before I met them in person. But of course it adds so much to see the person, and look at them directly and talk together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not My Yoga!


Yoga is way too big to ever be called, "mine".


I love yoga. I practice yoga. I read about it. Dream about it. And I teach yoga.

Yet, if someone were to ask me about what is my yoga, my inclination is to answer that it's not "my yoga". It is way too big for that.

Yoga is not "mine". I cannot give myself or another person yoga. What I have learned from teachers is technique. I can apply this technique to myself, and I can teach it to others, but the yoga itself is not mine to have or mine to give. I can only participate in the experience.

Whenever I have asked Gabriel Halpern (a yoga teacher who has had a profound impact on my understanding of yoga and on how I see myself as a human being) about something amazing and insightful he said during class, he always says that it came from Mr. Iyengar. I recognize something truthful in this strategy of teaching beyond what might be immediately apparent. It could be true that every time I have commented on what Gabriel said in class that it came from something he learned from Mr. Iyengar, the man. However, what this kind of deferral has taught me is that the teachings of yoga come from a source that is beyond us. This brings a sense of diligence and service to the teaching of yoga. It is beneficial to individual people, but it is not about us as individuals. We are working to maintain an ideal of service and care for humans through yoga.

One time, years ago, while assisting Gabriel in a Gentle yoga class, a student I'd been assisting spoke extremely glowingly about an experience she had had in a pose. When Gabriel came over she shared with him the wonder and revelation of her experience and my part in it. I was smiling and feeling very pleased; she felt that I had done very well was what I was telling myself. (Yes, I had done very well...) Gabriel, who can be quite theatrical, then turned to me and made a funny face (like maybe he had crapped his pants—it was hilarious, but I was too stunned to laugh...), turned his eyes upward, waved his hands in the air, and stepped from one foot to the other. His stature seemed to be shrinking during this strange and playful dance of adoration. Then he got down onto his knees, paused and then kissed my feet. I was embarrassed and felt myself shrink inside a little. I got it. This wasn't about me. It was about her experience of herself, which she happened to be projecting onto me in that moment. I had lapped it up like a kitty drinking milk, but that wasn't the whole story.

You see, it's easy to become confused when it comes to yoga. I was offering some points on technique that I had learned from Gabriel, that he had learned from Mr. Iyengar in India, that he had learned from... (and so on...) So when my head was expanding with delight, and Gabriel knelt down and kissed my foot it immediately dawned on me that this was not a situation to buy into. Sobered, I turned to the student and continued our work.

And the lesson has stuck with me to this day, approximately seven years later... I honor the experience of students, and at the same time I know for myself that the blessings of students are reflections of their gratefulness about their experience with yoga—it's not about me. I only strive to serve the process of life and yoga in a helpful way.

* Simul-posted at Elephant Journal *

Friday, June 18, 2010

Honoring the Dead for the Things We Hold Together


When someone that you have known a bit, resonated with, and loved dies there is an opportunity, no, an imperative to carry on the goodness you have seen in this person. When my dear Grandmother died, it showed up in my awareness as a natural way I could move through a feeling of loss to a feeling of doing and empowerment. I knew I had to make the space to allow Nana’s goodness to shine through me in whatever way it could. It was her excellent listening, undivided attention, complete acceptance, and enthusiasm for whatever was coming next that I recognized as a divine gift of helpful goodness existing in this world. So I have endeavored to take on those enthusiastic listening skills and offer them to the people in my life.

There can also be disappointment and anger showing up around somebody’s death. Like we might want to pick apart something about something they had done in their life, or we might not approve of how they ended it, if it is perceived as careless or intentional. But, I think that we need to discern this aspect of death, and to consciously put it in the right place. Because what is really important, as seen through my eyes right now, is taking steps to ensure that the goodness in this person does not die.

People bring gifts to the world. I’m seeing this more clearly today than ever before. And the circumstances that allow for the correct birth of these divinely good gifts are (or can be) extraordinarily difficult. Life is not easy. So as we can acknowledge this inherent difficulty in the process of life, might we also acknowledge the necessity of forgiveness in favor of offering our thoughts and actions towards preserving and energizing the goodness in the world? Because it is here, and requires our acknowledgement and energy in order to flourish.

The goodness I’m talking about is born through the individuals we know in our lives. Real people. And while this goodness is born through us and through the people we are blessed to know, it is something that we all hold together. And when we honor, acknowledge and take on these aspects of goodness as our own, we make the world a better place. This goodness exists across people and across time, so when someone dies their goodness might still live on through the people who knew that person.

I’d like to acknowledge the goodness that I witnessed in Katy Maguire, who’s life here ended on Friday, June 11, 2010.

My first strong and personal memory of Katy happened on the balcony at the old yogaview on Clybourn Ave. I was just hanging out after yoga and she came out, too. I told her about how much I was enjoying the flowers. And she told me that she had planted them. I shared about how much I was enjoying all the purple flowers with vibrant green foliage. What was amazing about the planting out there, to me, was that there were different varieties of flowers out there in many pots and planters, but they were all purple with vibrantly green foliage. I had hit the jackpot of beauty! I love purple and green! Then she showed me the herbs she had also planted, and pinched off a few leaves for me to smell. There was one I particularly responded to. “This smells so good,” I said. Suddenly she handed me a big hunk of this herb to take home with me. It seemed almost too generous. I enjoyed enjoying it, but I didn’t know that I needed to take it with me. But I did enjoy it later, as I smelled it and enjoyed the memory of that pleasant interchange. It’s kind of like this moment now, as if I’m enjoying the lingering scent of this memory…

Katy brought joy wherever she was with her laughter. It always made me feel good when I heard her laughter in yoga class. And like my grandmother, she was a beautiful listener. She also had an incredible gift of stopping what she was doing to help and support other people.

This week, in honor of Katy Maguire, I’ve been reading this poem to classes:

Laughing Song

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it;

When the meadows laugh with lively green,
And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene,
When *Katy and Lisa and (insert your name here)*
With their sweet round mouths sing 'Ha, ha he!'

When the painted birds laugh in the shade,
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread:
Come live, and be merry, and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha, ha, he!'

~ William Blake

* I found the poem at PoemHunter.com, and I changed the names in the poem to honor one of the many blessings of divine and magical goodness I saw in Katy and her friendships *

* Katy's last profile pic on Facebook. *

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Perfect Daddy is Joy.


Yoga is my Dad.


I'm laughing at myself over a sad moment I had this morning. On my way into the Perfect Cup coffee house, I saw a neighbor, someone who lives down the street. There was eye contact, and I moved on (thinking that there was something unfinished about that moment). When I was ordering my coffee I realized that I was waking up. There seemed to be a scrim between me and the gals behind the counter. How am I? I am waking up! Sorry... I had slept hard on Bill Schwartz's article at Elephant Journal.

On my way out, I was moved to talk to this man, an African-American man with these cool little round glasses. He was alone. I wanted to ask him about his daughter. He hangs out with the coolest little girl.

So, I said, "Hi! Good morning, do you have a daughter? I think I've seen you with an adorable little girl. I've just been thinking about fathers today and wanted to say 'Hi'".

"It might have been me, but there's another guy who lives up the street, too. And my daughter just moved to Texas."

His eyes did light up when I mentioned a daughter! But this wasn't what I expected. I wanted to talk to a father, the fantasy father I had made this guy out to be in my mind. The guy I had seen holding his daughter's hand in the sunshine, and in the rain as they joyfully walk down the sidewalk. I hadn't seen them in a while, actually...

I said something like, "Well, Good Morning!" And I turned for the door, reached for it, and tears started pouring from my eyes.

And when I got onto the train, I realized that what this man had given me was the truth. What I was unknowingly asking for was an affirmation of perfect fatherhood. He had appeared like an ideal Dad (and he very well might be a wonderful father for his daughter). But I was looking for the one who would always be there for the little girl that I am no longer. I just imagined that he might tell me that he was someone's ideal Daddy (and I still might have left the coffee house crying).

My Dad wanted me to be strong. Maybe he knew that I would need to be. Of course there is a complicated back-story, but at this time I think it's enough to say that we are not in relationship.

But I love Daddys! I love pretending that some other little girl or woman has a perfect Daddy. So it is fun for me to talk to men about their daughters. I love to hear about what they did together, the fun that they had, and what they made for snacks.

A dad's attention can give a daughter a shot of joy juice. It is this juice that I now associate with yoga.

Yoga is my father. Every day, no matter what is going on in my life (Recently a friend ended her life with pills.), I can still touch joy in the cells of my body when I do yoga. It might sound sick that I can touch joy in the face of suffering, but it is such a blessing. It allows me to share smiles. Grieving is certainly important, and I've cried a lot over the last couple days. And it's important to live! To live life while we can.

Thanks, Dad! (And if you are someone's father, just know that you are the most special person ever...)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Female Pelvic Floor Workshop with Leslie Howard at Yogaview





This was an incredible workshop experience! It's amazing how a little concentrated attention and some *seemingly simple* (but not necessarily that easy) exercises can radically change ones perception. I have a glimmer of insight where there was once a black hole of misunderstanding. I mean, who really "gets" their pelvic floor? Leslie Howard certainly facilitates an experience that can open up a potential of greater health for women. Ms. Howard is doing a great service for womankind!

The female pelvic floor is one of the great mysteries for many of us. I see it kind of like space exploration or mapping the deep sea. Well, this region is certainly a lot more accessible than the other places I mentioned, but it has remained largely a mystery due to an invisible cultural warning sign that says, "Do not disturb." or "This territory is for your doctor or husband."

But, hey! Wait a minute. The female pelvic floor is important for women's overall strength and health. A woman's pelvic floor is so much more than her vagina! It is important for back and groin health, urinary health, and the health of her abdominal organs.

Women have a very unique situation "down there." The female pelvis is much wider than a man's to accomodate the birth of children. Women have a uterus! The pelvic floor of a woman has three holes: the anus, vagina and urethra. The width of the space inside the bony pelvis, plus the three holes, as well as the way the organs are stacked inside make the strength and suppleness of the pelvic floor of extreme importance!

Did you know that 50% of all women experience incontinence (meaning anything from a few drops of pee from a sneeze to total loss of bladder control)?

Women would benefit from learning to use the pelvic floor as the base of their core work. If we just work to get strong abs or a tight belly without proper pelvic floor engagement, it can actually be dangerous for our health, because our internal organs can push downward into a potentially weak pelvic floor. And our abdominal work can be much stronger with a properly engaged pelvic floor!

"Kegels" are not enough. Here's a quote from the handout from the workshop:
"Kegels" have morphed into what I call "indiscriminate gripping" of any muscle you can get a hold of "down there". The most common definition of a Kegel is to practice cutting your urine flow. This is not very accurate and is not a good idea.

Leslie Howard is also a delight to listen to and really funny. Somehow, she created a safe space for 40(?) women to explore specific ways of activating and stretching our pelvic floors. We even did partner work! It was stunning. I would not have imagined that to be possible, but it is!

To learn more about Leslie Howard and the female pelvic floor, check out her Web site www.lesliehowardyoga.com


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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Feeling Worthy of Love.




I participated in a ritual process recently as a facilitator. There were several facilitators and a group leader. The experience was provided to college students. Everybody involved had met through yoga or had done yoga in one way or another. The students had been in a yoga course offered in the Theater Department.

To enter the experience the students had to pass through a path that was activated by the people I am calling the "facilitators", of which I was one. We were all wearing freaky and adorable getups, and were positioned along the path with the job of either asking a question or reminding them of something. And when we had done our part we send them along to the next person.

It was so much fun!

By the time they got to me they had already gone through several people, so they seemed ready and available to be surprised. "What's next?" their curious eyes seemed to say.

"Tell me," I said, "How are you worthy of being loved? And don't let this little one..." (pointing to the devil puppet I was holding) "...ever make you think, talk or act small. Tell me true."

And so they did. Each young man or woman named a way in which they are worthy of love.

The experience was so powerful for me because I have judged myself many times to be unworthy of love. It has held me back. That "little devil" has certainly messed with me, making me feel small... It taught me (yet again) that I have the capacity to lie to myself and make myself feel small. And I actually think that this bit about the stories I tell myself, being lies... This seems to be an important part of my growth.

Because what is true is that everybody is worthy of love. I think that is why we're here: To love and be loved. And sometimes this shows up in convoluted ways, but that doesn't change the fact that love is the glue that binds us.


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Friday, June 11, 2010

Fear juice





I was riding my bike uphill in the humid heat and a yellow school bus engaged the engines. In my spooked state I felt my abdomen lift in a perfect illustration of natures fear mechanism, healthy and well inside my body. I was happy to realize that I had been relaxed prior to the intrusion of the roaring bus engines. It wasn't always the case with my body. I had to learn to relax. I came into adulthood feeling afraid, and my body was hard with fear. But today when I felt the classical fear response flexing my muscles and lifting my belly, I realized that I had actually been relaxed--how cool. I took it to mean that I am traveling with an increased sense of well-being which I also know to be true. I got a shot of fear juice when I heard the loud noise coming from the giant bus that was right next to me.

Then I remembered how, just moments earlier, I had been having some difficulty passing this bus that had been stopped at a red light or something. The bus was taking up half of the bike lane, so it was hard. I had to really slow down because I just fit. And right about when I was in line with the door my frustration erupted into me yelling out, "Fuck!" It wasn't intended as a provocation. In fact, it wasn't something I had intended at all--I was on my way to teach a yoga class, after all... This bus wasn't the only vehicle ignoring the lines that designate the bike lane, so there would be no reason to single this vehicle out, anyway. But, I wondered if that bus gunning the engines the way it had was some kind of communication from that driver, that translated would say something like, "I heard that."

The way I understand it, when the body is in fear the belly lifts, preparing the body to run. The same is true for other furry creatures, too. When the belly lifts, the spine is supported and the body can move fast without harm. Also any blood that was digesting food gets rerouted towards the arms and legs to aid the fight-or-flight moment.

Conversely, when a healthy body is relaxed, the belly can rest supporting deep breathing and healthy belly blood flow for digestion. For correct digestion and a calm nervous system the belly needs to relax, but many of us are chronically, as well as unconsciously tightening our bellies. And we need to teach our bellies to relax. Thus, one of the important reasons to do yoga. I felt by belly relax as an adult for the first time in a yoga class, I was about 30. It was a wonderful feeling. I think I had been holding my belly in since I was 8 or 9 years old (or earlier). This is not healthy.

It's great to have strong abs, and it's important to be able to soften the belly. Both are true. If I were to walk around all the time, tightening my belly, I wouldn't be relaxed and my digestive health would be stressed. And if my abdomen is weak, it might contribute to back pain or weakness. So the healthy choice is to try to have it all: both a strong belly, and the ability to relax. May it be so.


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Thursday, June 10, 2010

For the Love of Water.


About cows, and starfish, and roses, there is no
argument. They die, after all.

But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it, itself, living or not? Oh gleaming

generosity, how can they write you out?

~ Mary Oliver, an excerpt from the poem called 'Some Things, Say the Wise Ones'


I've found myself wondering if water holds love. I feel it in my mouth and on the inner edges of my eyelids. There is a general sense of humidity about my skin. My palms and feet experience a sense of dampness. In the proximity of others I get the sense of a humidity that we create together. Does this humidity hold love?

When a drink of water meets my thirst it is a satisfaction and a silence beyond description. Water. It represents both a need and an ultimate fulfillment.

Water comes to me from the natural world, and through avenues of human transportation to slake my thirst, bathe my body, and transport my shit. Then this water rejoins nature by evaporation from my skin and the moisture in my breath, as well as back through structures of human-made technology to rejoin the world's waterways: the lakes, rivers, streams and oceans.

And the water that leaves my toilet or goes down my drain goes on its own journey to meet the water that has left your toilet and has gone down your drain. This water finds its way toward the lakes, rivers, streams and oceans, wrapping the world in a global hug of water and humidity, our biosphere.

When I am in a room with other people we are all exchanging the moistness of our exhalations, knowing one another intimately, if impersonally. Moisture from my body comes out through my nose or mouth, and becomes dispersed in the air where it may find itself traveling very deeply into your body on your inhalation, or it might just play around in your nose or mouth for a while and then come out again, perhaps eager to explore more. But yes, we are close: much closer than we sometimes realize.

The beautiful scent of a flower is a love note from the water contained in the cells of the flower to the water in the receptive cells in my nose. And the scent of my lover is also a love letter from the water in his cells to the water in mine. These smells can also speak of illness. A rank smell coming from someone might be a message from the water in the cells speaking of disease, even calling for help. It could be a gesture of love desiring help for the afflicted body. And the smells of death might be a warning.

This generous water (as Mary Oliver called it) supports the playground of our lives. Water supports incredible abundance and diversity in life, and our actions whether helpful or harmful are aided by this same water. Can we learn to respect and honor the miraculous gift of water for our lives? It is us and it empowers us.

The water in the Gulf of Mexico is crying. I get the sense that water loves to play with our life forms. We are so intimate with it! Every birth is reveled in by water, and every death is an opportunity for renewal for water. And water also contains the current disaster in the Gulf. I feel ashamed because I am a part of humanity that busted that hole in the floor of the ocean where too much uncontrolled oil is leaking. The water is now holding giant clouds of oil and dispersant where marine life used to frolic, mate and live. The water is supporting the great globs of oil that birds are unknowingly diving into. The water-filled bodies of birds want to feed their families, and instead of a beakful of fresh Gulf seafood, many are getting a mouthful of oil. Water holds the bodies of these suffering birds. As I offer my tears to this water, it is water that forms my tears.

* With gratitude to Rev. Hogetsu Laurie Belzer for her inspiring Dharma talk on "Swimming in the Samadhi of Water” at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate. *

** This article is fulfills part of the 21.5.800 Writing and Yoga Challenge. **

*** Simul-posted at Elephant Journal ***

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's okay to write crap, just don't share it with me.





Not too long ago the venerable Dr. Jay wrote a post called, "Better to Stay Silent than to Write Crap" and when I read it I thought that I disagreed, so I commented:

I know that you are the authority when it comes to the Yoga Cynic Sutra... But I think this latest one is just crap! I think it's better to just write, and sort out the crap later.

Those with low self esteem would never write if they believed that crap! And writers are sometimes not the best judges of their own crap. Stephen King's wife pulled 'Carrie' out of the trash! So there.

And since I've decided to break my blog silence, I apparently feel obligated to joyfully spew a bunch of crap right here!

From the crapper,
Brooks


So I thought that I disagreed because I had taken the 'Yoga Cynic Sutra' literally... *My bad...* ...because I totally agree when it comes to publishing on my blog!

It's become a "thing" because of the writing challenge I'm doing. I wrote in a different way today. I dug into a personal shame, and honestly I know some people might find it interesting, but it's just kind of an outpouring of my mind, and I don't want to bother anybody with this right now. I wrote over 800 words without consideration of an audience. I just wrote to hear my thoughts on the subject at hand.

So I do think it's cool to write whether its crap or not, but I just think that we should think before we post. I don't want to bore you (or worse)... And I hope that you might consider my eyes and mind if you're blogging, too. If I get the sense that it's just words, I'll stop reading. But I guess nobody can read everything, anyway. So I won't feel bad.

Yeah, and I practiced yoga--another part of the challenge... And I breathed air, drank, ate, went to the bathroom, and took a shower, too. He.





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Monday, June 7, 2010

21.5.800 Community Project




Bindu Wiles has started a community project challenge, and is asking people to join her in writing 800 words a day for 21 days as well as practicing yoga 5 times per week, starting tomorrow--June 8. The yoga part I have down as a part of my regular routine, but it's appealing to take on the writing challenge, and see what happens... I'm not planning to share all of the writing here, but I imagine that some portions of it will land here on the blog. Wish me luck!



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Thursday, June 3, 2010

This seems helpful...




Sometimes people seem to think that they don't want to share something for fear of bringing others down. And I guess that there is a time and a place for everything... For me, this includes a place for difficulty. It's a part of truth, right? A happy veneer on a repressed reality isn't fun for anybody, it only streamlines business interactions, but it stifles the heart.

In a quest for being honest with my reality, I have taken the risk of sharing my struggle a few times... Mostly what I've gotten back is blankness. Sometimes I have received downright rejection. And there is the hurtful quick-change to a cheery subject--nice day, isn't it? Then there has also been a cherished caring listener here and there. Thank you friends!

Just to get back to it... There is nothing more isolating than being ignored. What's weird is that someone can look into your eyes and ignore you. Sometimes people are just too busy or self-absorbed to listen to another person, especially when that person is carrying difficulty. We want things to be nice and easy. But things aren't always nice or easy. And it hurts me when someone spits back the story of my words with a cheerful spin, when what is happening is hard for me. I have my truth, and I'm trying to share it with you. I'm taking a chance, and trying to trust. Of course there is a bright side and a learning piece for every difficulty, and I pray to see that. But there are times when experience is difficult.

This list was passed along by a friend (that I will leave unnamed). It is called 10 Things to Say (and 10 Not to Say) to Someone With Depression. And I think that these might be helpful tips for supporting anyone experiencing difficulty, whether it's a bad day or worse...

Say this:

1. You're not alone in this.
2. You are important to me.
3. Do you want a hug?
4. You are not going mad.
5. We are not on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.
6. When all this is over, I'll still be here and so will you.
7. I can't really understand what you are feeling, but I can offer my compassion.
8. I'm not going to leave you or abandon you.
9. I love you. (Say this only if you mean it.)
10. I'm sorry that you're in so much pain. I am not going to leave you. I am going to take care of myself, so you don't need to worry that your pain might hurt me.

Don't say this:

1. There's always someone worse off than you are.
2. No one ever said that life was fair.
3. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
4. So you're depressed. Aren't you always?
5. Try not to be so depressed.
6. It's your own fault.
7. I think your depression is a way of punishing us.
8. Haven't you grown tired of all this "me, me, me" stuff yet?
9. Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.
10. Have you tried chamomile tea?

* These lists are found on health.com


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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Today I Forgive




Today I forgive
the world. It doesn't notice.
Only my heart does.


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