Sunday, July 17, 2011

Moving Through Doorways

Sometimes during the course of our journey, we find that it is time to let go (again!), that something that has served us deeply has ultimately achieved it's purpose. In that uncertain space between a beginning and an ending, when doorways are opened and closed--there is limitless possibility.

I wanted to take a year off to rest in the bliss of country life, and I did. As the months passed and I settled into a quiet, introspective life I was achieving my purpose, almost without realizing it. As with most things, I couldn't envision it ending, couldn't imagine leaving Knife River, the garden, the woods, the community.

Even as I began to feel an inner pull to send my energy in new directions, I resisted, unable to fathom a different life until that resistance began to fall away on it's own. It was hard for me to see that I had arrived in a more settled and healed place within myself but as I became aware, something changed within me, spiriting me ever onward.

I felt like a dragonfly on the verge of bursting out of the larval stage, water to air to flight, the whole world before me. It was then that I realized that Knife River, like many other places before it, had been a great incubator for me and that door was slowly closing.

How to leave it? How to move on? How to trust that all was unfolding as it should? These were questions that I pondered as I began to turn my energy in the new directions that beckoned me and as I did so, the floodgates of the Universe opened, rushing to fill the vacuum I was to leave behind.

This seems to be a re-occurring theme, this idea that if we can remain flexible in times of uncertainty, trusting in grace, if we can stay with out breath, grounded in our bodies, we are certain to move through doorways of change, unfolding like the petals of wildflowers in the Spring--pleasantly surprised by our own fortitude and beauty.

It is here back on Park Point, that I sit pleasantly surprised by the turn of events, grateful for the gifts I received in Knife River, peering through new doorways of limitless possibility.

Twin Ports Bridge Festival

Friday, June 10, 2011

Franti Fever

This blog was orignanlly posted in September of 2010. Michael Franti will be playing at Bayfront in Duluth at the Twin Ports Bridge Festival on July 9th, 2011. Don't miss this opportunity! To get tickets visit:

I have been following musician and activist Michael Franti for a few years now and remain in awe of his journey, his talent and his committment to grassroots peace activism.

I recently saw him perform with his band "Spearhead" at the State Theater in Minneapolis and am still reverberating from the experience. Once outspoken about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Michael has found a new route down that path...singing about love and humanity.

His journey parallels my own in that I used to get so much satisfaction from sticking it to "The Man." I used to attend rallies and protests, write angry, verbose editorials and loved to argue about politics, international affairs and the tyranny of the US government.

At that time Michael went to Iraq and Palestine while I traveled to Afghanistan, desperate to see the war unfolding with my own eyes. I returned heart broken, aloof and despondent and began to let go of politics all together. I was in search of something deeper and more meaningful, something that would help me make sense out of the world in which I found myself.

That something ended up being yoga. Michael ironically also found yoga and began to practice with his teachers David Life and Sharon Gannon in San Francisco. I watched his music and his message change as the music in my own life was forever altered. The cracks and fissures once blown open by witnessing 9-11 and attending George Bush's second inauguration were filled in with quietude, calm and a settledness that flowed through the cracks down into my bones. My angry voice became a sweet, chanting voice. My writing became more curious rather than authoritative.

A year or two later I found myself standing in front of a set of massive speakers watching Michael sing about the common threads that bind us all together. I watched the room sway in unison as if we are at some kind of fundamentalist revival. No one sat down for the entire show and I was beaming, elated, on fire with the power of the undercurrent that ripples beneath all of our lives. He has turned madness into joy and he feeds it back to his fans spoonful by loving spoonful in uplifting lyrics and reggae beats.

He has stumbled upon something more powerful than hate, more powerful than bombs, more powerful than raging against something be it a system, mindframe or political party...he has tapped into that which makes us all human and it is undeniable. He leads by example and proves that all of us are capable of making that leap to love.

For more information on Michael Franti, his music and his connections to the yoga community visit:

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Yoga Means to Me

This is an excerpt of something I wrote as a part of my 500hr. teacher training program.

Yoga for me has become a life style. Yoga is a state of being. Yoga is union; of breath, body, mind, heart and subsequently, intention, thought, words and action.

Yoga is a sign post that points curiously in the direction of that which can only be explained through rudamentary words--our connection to the Universe, our higher Self. Yoga is awareness of this Self. Yoga is knowing that you are never alone. Yoga is mystery, trust and cosmic belly laughs. Yoga re-frames existence on Earth. Yoga untangles the ego, invites space, and facilitates understanding. Yoga is letting go. Yoga is the acceptance of what is. Yoga unfolds. Yoga changes. Beyond the words, the fear, the grasping, the intellect-yoga is all there is.

On my journey this time around I have peered narrowly, poked at, ran and hidden from yoga. Once I even wrapped my legs and arms around the sign post and held on for dear life, convinced that I had found the Answer to all of life's conundrums. I held on so tightly I was not able to see what the sign was pointing to. Until I did.

My practice, life, inquiry and teaching have all changed and evolved as my relationship with that sign post has changed and evolved; becoming something fluid and expansive rather than something based on false certainty, intellectual and physical prowess and a fundamentalist approach to food, sex and clothing (even though those first yoga experiences all served me perfectly in their own way.)

I experience yoga as a practice but I now see that it is not the practice, it is what the practice allows for. I teach yoga as a practice to others, allowing them to be curious about their own journey, their own body-if that should be the place they start. I feel that the best thing that I can do for myself and for students is to continue to arouse a sense of curiosity, to facilitate creating ease and stability in the body, and to lead by example using my experiences (good and bad) via stories and blogging.

In that sense, living this life has become both an inquiry and a practice. What I grip in my body is what I grip in my life. Where there is ease in my body, there is ease in my existence. As within, so without, as above, so below. The living, the inquiry, the practice and the teaching are not separate but connected and organic; on this journey I have also surrendered, wept, and stilled myself in that very union.

At this place on my path I feel propelled forward by something that I cannot explain and as I let go more and more into that flow, amazing things happen and I am able to see more clearly the entanglements that cloud, condemn, judge and suffer. One leads to another, leads to the next, ad infinitum. I remain curious about this as well, and can only imagine where it will go.

There is a definitive line drawn down the last few years of my life; the time before I knew yoga, and now-the place where yoga is everything and nothing all at once. Living and practicing the inquiry has changed my life, my relationships, my family, the way I interact with and experience my world. I remain committed to sharing this with others and I remain committed to looking beyond the sign post with an open heart.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Aparigraha: What We Possess, Possesses Us

The nature of all things is change. One could even say that the only constant in this life is change. And yet there always seems to be the impetus towards attachment and clinging.

I have had many exhilarating experiences-such as listening to the Dalai Lama speak in person, long hikes into the wilderness, dancing around drum circles, heartfelt conversations with friends and sitting next to a campfire on a starry night. I have savored glasses of deep red wine, floated in the surf on tropical beaches, collected a variety of oddities at thrift stores and experienced a variety of different relationships.

What makes all of these experiences similar is that they ended, shifted, or morphed in some way. The oddities began to take up too much space. Friends moved away. The drums stopped. I moved far away from my favorite hiking trail. The campfire went out. The starry night became covered by clouds. The wine bottle emptied. Relationships ended.

At times I was able to let go and move on to the next moment, the next new experience. Other times I became fixated, hoping, wishing, and longing to repeat the same experience again. And in this holding pattern, I became trapped, holding on to something that had passed, unwittingly closing myself off to the flow of life. I would wager that this is relatively normal for many of us.

Aparigraha, which means non-possessiveness, is a call to come alive in the moment, to move on, to change, to become present to the natural unfolding of our lives by not clinging.

In the "Yamas and Niyamas," Deborah describes Aparigraha this way, "Just like the breath gives us nourishment, so does life in the form of homes, work, relationships, routines that bring us ease, beliefs, stances, and images of ourselves. There is nourishment until we get attached to these things, often unconsciously, and then disturb ourselves with expectations, opinions, criticisms, disappointments, all because we forget to trust life, exhale and let go. Like the breath when it is held too long, the things that nourish us can become toxic." (p.92)

This lovely May morning, I sit trusting the uncertainty of life, experiencing the difference between enjoyment and attachment, exhaling and letting go. Aparigraha is the emobodiment of a beautiful practice in living life fully, free from disappointment and boredom.

"A bird cannot grasp it's perch and fly. Neither can we grasp anything and be free." -Deborah Adele

Monday, May 2, 2011

Another Opportunity For Forgiveness Lost?

This blog was adapted for MPR and published on May 4, 2011.

The killing of Osama bin Laden marks a turning point in a foreign-policy nightmare that has lasted more than a decade. This nightmare has included massive civilian casualties, the deaths of thousands of soldiers, an illegal invasion of one country and the occupation of another. But what gets to me more than anything, as a former New Yorker who witnessed the 9/11 attacks and has traveled to Afghanistan, is the continued display of bravado and hate by my countrymen and women.

Have we learned nothing from 9/11 and its aftermath?

I certainly remember what it was like to wake up in a war zone, to watch helplessly from my roof in Brooklyn as the second plane flew into the World Trade Center, to see the pain and anguish on the faces of the people of New York City, to feel the pain of attending memorial services for firefighters from my neighborhood. I also remember the anguish on the faces of people I met in Afghanistan who had lost family members in U.S. airstrikes. I remember the legless children orphaned by war, pulling themselves around the streets of Kabul with flip-flops taped to their knees. I remember the bombed out buildings of Afghanistan just as I remember watching the first tower of the World Trade Center crumble. The smell of both places burning is seared into my psyche with the dust.

As I watch U.S. citizens celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden with fist pumps and flag waving, I wonder how these same citizens felt when images of some Middle Eastern people celebrating 9/11 flashed across our television screens days after the attacks. I wonder why we are unable to make the correlation that when we celebrate killing, we are no different from those we abhor for doing the same.

It stupefies me when God is dragged into the process as a justifying afterthought. Both sides of the conflict have done this. Both are guilty of fundamentalism without thought or compassion. The true teachings of Islam and of Christ are peaceful. When Christ hung dying on the cross he did not call for retaliation. He did not call for revenge. He did not become hateful. He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," and that statement still rings true today. How many deaths will it take? It has already taken hundreds of thousands on the way to finding and killing one man — an act that his supporters say martyred him, thereby infusing his ideology with more strength. Bin Laden may be dead, but his way of viewing the Western world lives on in others who grow more and more disillusioned with the way we handle ourselves.

As long as we remain blind to our common humanity and hate one another, the cycle of violence will continue. As long as we deny our responsibility as a global superpower and continue to perpetuate violence, violence is what will come back to us.

When will it stop? What will it take for us to find forgiveness in our hearts and say to each other that enough is enough?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bramacharya: Knowing What's Enough or Non-Excess

I always think of food first when I think of Bramacharya, or non-excess. In the Yama's and Niyamas, Deborah states, "I know firsthand the misery of a too full stomach..As I sit in the heaviness of excess, I find myself once again in disbelief that I have done this to myself...All I can do is suffer and watch how overindulgance has imposed itself on the joy of the moment." (p.76)

We've all been there. I know I have. In fact, I often struggle with eating too much and it is a brilliant metaphor for not knowing when enough is enough in life. I love to eat. I love food. I consider myself to be a "Foodie," whatever that means-perhaps that I am a bit of a food snob or maybe that I like to enjoy well prepared, whole foods. I consider myself a healthy eater, even though I am not currently practicing vegetarianism, canabalism (threw that it for fun to see if you were paying attention!) or any other "ism" for that matter.

So, I am here to admit that there is shadow side to this "Foodie" business for me and it's wrapped in the bloated packaging of excess: cookie dough. Well actually, cookie dough, cookies, cake, and candy (particularly toffee). Distilled a bit more and it really boils down to one thing: SUGAR.

I significantly over eat when it comes to sugar. And cheese. Really sharp cheese. And crusty bread. Alright, I digress, mostly anything that tastes good I have a tendency to over eat!

But hey, we live in a "super-size me" country with super-sized portions and super-sized cars and super-sized closets and super-sized houses. We shop in super-sized warehouses and we, the people, are even becoming super-sized. So what's the BIG deal, you might ask?

Well, Bramacharya has a few things to say about all that. Namely that the mind is capable of turning a simple desire into an emotional attachment which can lead to addiction. When we associate food or drink or shopping with an emotional feeling, our mind can trick us into thinking we "need" to do something or eat something. I experience this everytime I watch a movie on Netflix. I associate the experience with eating popcorn and not just any popcorn, but popcorm smothered in real butter. Yummy!

And that is exactly what I have been watching out for these last few weeks, where I feel like I "need" to do something or eat something in excess. I have found that I am more disposed to slip into a place of excess when I am tired, disconnected, emotional or just plain unconscious, i.e. not awake in the present moment.

Bramacharya asks us to experiment with the principle of "when is enough, enough?" It asks us to look at our lives and how we deaden ourselves through excess. It asks us to experiment with temperance and to ask ourselves how it feels to stop at enough.

This is a beautiful pratice for me, someone who, like a lot of women, turns to food for comfort. I certainly do feel more alive, energized and connected when I allow Bramacharya to flow into my life. Only thing is, the Knife River Candy Store opened today after being closed for a really, really, long, cold, dark winter.

Damn the gods!

"When we get the real nourishment that divine mystery gives, the pretend nourishment of excess becomes less and less interesting to us." -Deborah Adele

Monday, April 4, 2011

Asteya or Non-Stealing: Living with Integrity and Reciprocity

Asteya or non-stealing is the third Yama in yoga's ethical code. Each of us steal in many ways, every day-from each other, the earth, ourselves and from the future. This can show up looking like arrogance, one upmanship, by not being present when listening to others, jealousy, and excessive consumption of resources from the earth, to name a few.

My assignment over the last couple of weeks has been to notice when I am stealing from the earth and the future. The question for exploration was, "Where are you taking without returning something of equal value?"

Deborah makes a good point on page 62 of The Yamas and Niyamas when she says, "You wouldn't go to a friend's house for dinner, complain about the food, leave your trash lying around and walk off with the candlesticks because you wanted them. And yet, this is so often how we treat our world."

I began pondering this question on the heels of the Tsunami and earthquake in Japan when our fragility as human beings dependent on the earth was violently and tragically showcased. I have been sitting with the idea that what may really be taking place is a magnanimous imbalance within the earth's ecosystems and within ourselves. Calling it a "natural disaster" is a limiting concept that fails to include a holistic approach to engaging with and understanding our world.

The earth is a living organism that each of us are intrinsically connected to. We depend on her resources and we depend on her to be the very foundation we survive upon. Many cultures, both past and present, have known this and honored it. As within, so without, as it were.

Using only what is needed and giving back to the earth are anathema to many people raised to believe that they can have whatever they want, as much as they want, whenever they want, without regard for consequence. I too, was raised an American on consumer culture-super size portions, plastic bags, cheap clothes made in China and all of the petrol one's car could guzzle.

I still struggle with feeling entitled to consume with wild abandon even though my life has been scaled down to a simple country existence with minimal possessions and a garden.

And as I really began to look at where I was taking something without giving something back- whoa Nelly! I was a little bit shocked by how much my engagement with the earth still lacks reciprocity.

Even looking at one simple example like food leads to a conundrum of epic proportions for someone, like me, who is used to having every single type of fruit and vegetable available year round. To even begin to ponder the ridiculousness of buying a tomato from Chile, not to mention the enormous load of resources required to get that tomato from one continent to another-makes me a little bit crazy.

But there is hope.

There is hope in the seedlings that are coming up in my front windows. There is hope in the compost pile in the back yard. There is hope in the renewing season of spring. There is hope in all of the sustainable energy and agriculture movements that are popping up all over the US. There is hope in local food. There is hope in re-using old materials creatively. There is hope in local trade and bartering. There is hope in the possibility that each one of us may begin to wake up to our connection to that which we are dependent on for survival.

Asteya asks each of us to begin with ourselves and I am itching here in KR at the beginning of April to get outside and get my hands in the dirt, to re-affirm my relationship with the life giving soil, to plant and watch more hope grow throughout the summer, to tend to becoming more reciprocal.

"The earth is what we all have in common." -Wendell Barry

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Week 2: Satya- Truthfullness

My practice in truthfullness actually ended up lasting a couple of weeks, rather than one; questions, experiements and events all piggy backing on each other.

The question I chose for reflection was: "This week observe the difference between nice and real. Notice situations where you were nice. What did this experience invoke in you. What were the results? Notice situations where you were real. What were the results? What did this experience invoke in you? From what or whom do you seek approval? Does this affect whether you act from niceness or realness?" (The Yamas and Niyamas, p.57)

I got really wound up in this practice. I observed myself in several situations being "nice" rather than "real." Why is it so challenging at times to be real? It invoked almost a guilt response in me, like there was an authority figure telling me that I was doing something that I shouldn't. Which made me wonder, what are the benefits I receive from being "nice" rather than authentic, and who am I trying to impress?!

I did notice that at times I seek approval from those that I do not know well (please accept me), from authority figures (so that I don't get into "trouble"), and sometimes even from my peers (seeking validation). In one particular instance I was meeting with a fellow yogi and found myself changing my language to fit our commentary on truthfullness! I looked at her and said, "I'm noticing myself changing my language as I talk to you, how's that for Satya!" I suppose in that instance you could say I chose to be "real" and call myself out.

I also noticed that I sometimes choose niceness when conflict becomes a possibility, in order to avoid it, I pander to the needs of the other. I also noticed that this only serves me for so long, inevitably the Truth has to come out as I buckle under the weight of the facade of "niceness."

In the book, Deb begs the question, "What are we so afraid of? What might my life look like if I were willing to contact truthfullness in each moment (i.e. do it right the first time)?"

I am sitting with that question and my experiences over the last couple of weeks. I am left with a stronger desire to practice "Doing it right the first time," and a refreshing sense of fortitude that sometimes being real, no matter the risk, is of greater benefit than using "niceness" as a crutch.

Next week: Asteya-Non Stealing

Monday, February 21, 2011

Week 1: Ahimsa, Non-violence and Balance

I thought my first week of experimentation would be easy. I picked the question at the end of the first chapter that I hadn't yet done or really even considered in previous journeys through this book (The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele). I picked the question for exploration that said, "Guard your balance as if it were a precious resource..find guidance from the messages of your you need more sleep? Exercise? Act on of the messages of your body and explore what balance looks like for you...notice the effect on you and on others."

Like I said, I thought it would be easy.

I live a quiet life, a simple life. I'm usually in bed by 9p and like to spend the mornings walking with my dog and drinking tea. Perhaps that I picked this one because I thought it would be easy says more about me than the experiment itself..hmm.

I tried to do what I usually do, only the social floodgates burst open upon me and I was swept up into staying up late, drinking more wine than usual, sleeping in, not walking Che as much, not reading by the fire and taking more naps. Not to mention that I was already working out some "kinks in my spiritual muscles" simply from living this complicated life (I have to give a shout out to Jennifer Imsande for that lovely metaphor).

Which leaves me wondering if somehow my habits and ego went into revolt as soon as I tried to make balance a "doing" rather than a "being" thing. Or it could have been that I needed some socialization and needed to stay up past my bedtime (That's the fun thing about yoga experiements, there aren't even any real clear answers, only more questions!).

The effects of my actions and the difficulties I faced not only in finding balance but recognizing that I already had some and had to make my way back to it, led me to believe that it was more the former than the latter. I am still tired. I am still catching up on homework and voicemails.

I do have a more concrete idea of what balance means to me and I certainly know how to knock my life completely out of that loop. All in all, it served as a lovely reminder for me.

Coming up: Satya or Truthfullness. This one is a favorite.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Yamas and Niyamas: A Ten Week Experiment

I'm always up for a good experiment, especially one that brings more awareness into my day to day life. I have worked with the Yamas and Niyamas (system of yogic ethical practice) in trainings and workshops and have dabbled on my own, going so far as to tattoo "Ahimsa" or non-violence, the first Yama, on to my forearm so that I wouldn't forget.

Well, I still do. We all do, don't we?

So I thought I would committ to a ten week practice of experimenting on myself and then blogging about it. I will be using Deborah Adele's book "The Yamas and Niyamas" which is available here if you are interested:

Week 1 will cover an experiment in non-violence. I often find this one to be a lot of fun because most of us think of non-violence as being an external issue. We think we have to stop harming others or the planet. But Ahimsa also begs a different question, what if you started with non-violence to the self? What would that look like? And how would it ripple outwards to the rest of your family, friends, community and the world?

As within, so without!

Alright, I'm donning my lab coat.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ligaments, Muscles and Joint Capsules. Oh, My.

Kiki and I were discussing yoga and anatomy today and Kiki, in her style, deposited yet another jewel of wisdom in my lap. I had been pontificating about body awareness and my journey from "severe lack of" to "semi-consciousness" regarding the various body systems and yoga when Kiki said, "If our skin were invisible, that would make yoga different wouldn't it?"

And I thought, "Sheesh, it sure would." I imagined seeing not only the occasional strained face as I looked out from my perch at the front of the room, but also flaming joints and burning, torqued bones and muscles. Eeek.

I was once myself a yoga practioner with flaming joints and a myriad of aches and pains as a consequence. I liked to push and strive and really was not aware that I had a skeletal system or a muscular system and I had stopped listening to the messages from my nervous system years before; I may have smelled something burning but I just kept on mindlessly pushing.

My journey to semi-consciousness has been aided and abetted by chiropractors, massage therapists, yogis, teachers, friends, books, trainings, posters and mirrors. I have only recently come to realize just how much is going on in an asana or yoga pose when it is being expressed by myself or another practioner.

I mean, think about it for a second. All of the neurons sending information through the nervous system, muscles lengthening and shortening, ligaments stretching, it's amazing to ponder!

To uncover and discover the mysteries of our individual bodies is a wonderful gift and exciting exploratory journey. Listening to the messages the body sends is a beautiful opportunity to cultivate deeper body awareness and a more sustainable yoga practice. Moving in the range of motion that is available to us, while being conscious of pain, clicks or clunks is a great way to begin to understand the multi-faceted functioning of our anatomy which in turn brings more consciousness to our yoga practice. It's like "Choose Your Own Adventure" meets "Nancy Drew" meets "Patanjali" (compiler of the yoga sutras).

What fun!

What would it look like if you listened to your body as it moved into and out of the poses? Have you ever isolated a particular muscle, ligament or joint into your sphere of awareness?

Happy exploring!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Enlighten Up and Stay Young at Heart

If you haven't played Hide and Go Seek lately, you are missing out. If you haven't played Hide and Go Seek lately with a group of young adults, in the dark, with only a head lamp on the strobe light setting for the seeker, well, then you are really missing out.

You will laugh like you haven't laughed in years. You will laugh so hard you might cry. You will stumble and grope and laugh and try to squeeze yourself into a small space. Adrenaline will flood your body as you see the strobe light coming down the hallway. You will run and flee the Seeker, laughing and sweating with your fellow Hiders. You will have memories that make you smile and then laugh some more.

In our externally focused culture not only do we obsess over aging, we put all of these rules on it, trapping something fluid into a little box covered in duct tape and razor wire. We cement beliefs about ourselves. We become more rigid, less playful. We forget how to let go. We forget how to lighten up. We forget how to stay up past our bedtime. Sometimes, we can even forget how to laugh or enjoy the company of others.

As I ride the high from a wicked game of Hide and Seek, I remember and laugh at what it is to be alive, to have fun, to be child like and curious, to break the rules and the contraints that we set for ourselves...and I invite you to do the same. How long has it been since you played a game? Took a midnight trek through the woods? Laughed out loud and almost peed your pants?

Grab some kids, grab some friends and play!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Che as Teacher

We can learn a lot about ourselves from those we live with, including the animals in our care. Che has been a constant companion of mine for almost four years. Our journey has been wrought with peril and adventure and through it all I have again and again been shown, my-self.

A simple example of this would be that Che used to love getting into the garbage. If I would leave him home alone and there was any type of teeny tiny savory tid bit in the garbage, I was guaranteed to find a gale force mess in the house when I returned. I used to get angry, until Che taught me that a good dog owner actually puts the garbage can in a place where a pup can't reach it.

Che, as a living breathing experiencing being, has also taught me the importance of daily walks in nature. If Che does not get his daily walk, well then, I can expect to be followed around by him, staring and pouting. When we walk together, we are both invigorated and nourished by the fresh air (even when it is 20 below) and we return home ready for a period of rest, which is another very important lesson.

Che has modeled for me the perfect life; eat, sleep, walk, sleep, play, sleep, eat, sleep. Periods of activity puncutated by periods of rest, genius! There are many of us who could benefit from this simple lesson.

Recently Che taught me an invaluable lesson when he allowed his life to be a mirror for my expectations. Expectations are really quite sticky anyway, those hopes, fears, wants, desires all tangled up in another. And even worse than that is what happens when expectations fizzle and die and disappointment ensues.

Well, last week I was left holding that bag of disappointment and I was left sitting with my own choices in a big fat cosmic giggle kind of way.

You see, I suddenly had the brilliant idea that Che must be lonely and in need of a companion. I thought, perhaps he wouldn't pout so much, perhaps we could walk less often, perhaps he would have someone to stay home with while I was away. So, we drove for 6 hours to Wisconsin to pick up a puppy.

To make a long story short, we ended up driving 6 hours back to Wisconsin a couple of days later after consultations with a dog trainer, the adoption agency and the foster parents of the pup as to why Che just didn't seem to care to have a sister.

I admit, I was perplexed, how could Che not want a sister? How could he ignore her, nip at her and be just down right mean to her? It was then that Che taught me another lesson, that dogs don't speak English and their needs may not exactly be in line with our own.

I was beginning to feel like a big dummy at this point, especially when looking at the larger ramifications of my behavior. There was a lovely kernel of truth in what had happened, that I had pushed my expectations on to another and had been sorely disappointed. Eeek.

So there it is in all of its shiny wisdom, other's needs may not be in line with our own and our expectations can fog up our own ability to see. And even though Che's inability to speak English, or more aptly my inability to speak fluent Dog influenced this event, I am certain that it is also true that this type of thing happens often between humans, who often do speak the same language.

Its funny, when Che came into my life I never expected that I would learn so much about myself or that it would be MY behaviors that would need to be modified rather than his. Oh, the irony.

If you've got a furry friend, perhaps this story will make you curious about what little kernels of truth might be embedded in your relationship with them.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Celebrating the Sacred Feminine

I attended a workshop at Yoga North recently called, "Down There." It was a wonderful educational experience and revolved around the pelvic floor, the net of muscles at the bottom of the pelvis that support our internal musco-skeletal structures and hold the contents of the pelvis securely in place. I'm speaking of the muscles that surround the urethra, vagina, anus and run from the pubic bone to the tail bone.

This group of muscles a long with others in the inner and outer thigh, spine and diaphragm work together to create mobility, stability and strength in the body-very important in any yoga pose or day to day activity. If we fail to bring awareness to these muscles, as women specifically, we risk possible incontinence or weakness that becomes so endemic that our vaginas can lose elasticity and fall out like a tube sock. Shocking, yes, but more common than you think. But I don't want to talk about that today.

I want to talk about why women in our culture lack awareness of or are afraid of their pelvic floor.

For starters, it isn't easy to talk about vaginas in a patriarchal culture that has a religious tradition that shames the female form, calling it unclean or dirty. The blood we shed each month (the only blood that comes out of a human body that isn't from a wound) has been deemed shameful as well, and so we suffer (I mean seriously, how many times have I hid a tampon up my shirt sleeve as I have skulked away to the bathroom?).

Hiding what is rightfully ours to covet as a sacred time is common practice and in so doing we suffer from a lack of celebratory awareness of the very things that make us female. We suffer in the pain of childbirth, menstruation, menopause and in the cultural norm of being crazy PMSing lunatics that shop in the "sanitary" aisle.

No wonder our vaginas fall out.

Coming into sacred contact with my pelvic floor has led me to question these common practices of shame and avoidance and crazy making. What if instead of believing that I am crazy during the time of my cycle, I were to ask myself what truth is embedded when I am more connected to my emotions and my body? What would happen if I were to begin to believe that through my cycle I am more whole, sacred, connected and that led to more awareness, balance, and strength in my body?

And no, this isn't the time of "The Red Tent," that wonderful book where women all cycled together and spent their time in a tent rubbing each other's feet and drinking wine. We are expected to continue as normal, as if we aren't more in tune or uncomfortable or sleepy or crampy or irritated because we might be confusing truth with bloating.

So how then can we honor what is rightfully ours to uphold when society does not allow for it? How can we expand our lives as women to include ourselves in the sacredness of the feminine?

I have heard and practiced several things over the years:

*Lighting a candle at the beginning of your cycle and allowing it to burn for the full 5-7 days. (This can also become a household norm so that family and friends are aware that it is your sacred time)

*Doing a personal ritual-hot bath, walk in the moonlight


*And of course, taking a pelvic floor class at Yoga North!

I find in my own body that when I lack awareness of my pelvic floor, I default back to the patriarchy and I start to believe that perhaps it is all just a shameful, annoying mess. I give up, collapse and weakness in my body ensues.

But the more I practice and the more I integrate pelvic floor work and sacred femininity into my life, the more I remember my intuition, my truth and my connection to my body. In turn, the more I experience my practice, the more I gain the benefits of pelvic floor stability in my body's musco-skeletal systems. As within so without...ya know?

I invite you to get curious about your own relationship to the feminine and what that means for where you are in your life and in your yoga practice.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stillness is Boring?

I seek stillness, peace and calm in my day to life. I do yoga, I meditate, I walk in the woods, I sit by the wood stove.

Why then, for god's sake, am I bored? I pondered this with my teacher recently. It went something like this...

My teacher was looking at me in that way she does when she knows I am on the verge of grasping something but am not quite there: with compassion and the fortitude to let me come around to it in my own timing.

I had been complaining again about the boredom in my life, so much quiet time, so much stillness, so much silence. I was feeling uneasy, could feel myself grasping for something, fantasizing about how to reach the heights of thrill through speed, rushing, pushing and doing.

My teacher, she was just smiling. She said, "Just sit with what you call boredom."

"What?" I thought.

"Sit with it, there is something there for you in the word," she went on, still smiling.

I looked at her smiling and a light bulb of epic proportions blinked on in my head, alive and buzzing with the knowing of direct experience. I replied, "Are you saying that I am looking at boredom in the wrong way?"

She said, "Hilary, everything you seek (peace, calm, quiet- a slower life) you have found." And I said, wide eyed, "You mean I've been labeling those things boredom and haven't been aware that I'm already there?!"

She laughed. I laughed in abject surprise. I'm not really bored. I'm peaceful. Only thing is, I've also been addicted to thrill. Which is why peace got confused with boredom.

What a freaking revelation!

And it's no wonder, in a society like ours, so externally focused on the next big thing, material possessions, Hollywood, speed, technology, doing, doing doing, that I got confused when I finally found what I had been looking for.

The valuable lesson that I learned is that BEING does not feel like DOING. BEING just is, it isn't good or bad or boring or thrilling, it just is.

I humorously value the "boredom" in my life much more now and when I feel the pull to seek the thrill, I settle back into my breath, sink a little bit further into being and smile.

I invite you to ask yourself about your own "boredom." You may make some surprising discoveries.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy New Year from Riverview Street

I hope this posting finds all of you well and happy at the beginning of this new year. The dawning of a new year is often a time for hopes, dreams and reflections and sometimes resolutions to do something differently, make a new choice or to set off on a grand adventure.

Kiki and I are in the midst of such a grand adventure, this time on the North Shore, much, much closer to home than India. Kiki is in the middle of training to be an Ayurvedic Practioner and recently completed her Indian Head Massage certification and while I finished the second level of teacher training for Hatha Yoga last year, I just recently completed that certification as well.

All of the work, training and traveling have led us here, to Riverview Street, where yoga classes, Ayurvedic services and massage will be available beginning on Tuesday, January 18.

Tuesday Yoga will be from 6-7P

Wednesday Yoga will be from 5:30-6:30P

*Classes are by donation ($5 suggested)

Kiki will be offering Indian Head Massage and Hot Oil Face and Body massage on Tue, Wed and Fri by appointment.

Please check out our website for an up to date calendar, directions and contact information.

We are looking forward to having you join us on our new adventure!

Happy New Year and Namaste.