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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yay Play!

I recently had the pure parental pleasure of watching my kids participate in the positive politics of the playground.  (I just love alliteration.)  The sun, having warmed the cold winter ground and dried out the early spring wetness, provided a perfect picture for play.
While we enjoy the rainy invitation to say indoors, when the sun calls us outside to play how can we refuse? 
Our journey took us to a local farm for ice cream (the playground was closed for an Easter egg hunt) and then to another playground.  It was enchanting to witness the best in children.  Kids reaching out to one another to play tag and hide and seek, including anyone with a desire to join in.
Watching the freedoms exercised and experimented on the monkey bars, in the sandbox and among the various slides and nooks was truly eye and heart opening.  Kids just playing.
The energy was palpable as a physical sensation, as well as a frame for thought and feeling.  Total feeling.  
My mat unrolls, creating an instant context for the experience about to unfold, one that inevitably leaves me feeling fully.  It is this freedom to explore my physical limitations (a line which changes daily) and the joy of discovery that keeps me coming back to the mat.  
A Yoga class can be like a bunch of kids playing.  
The playground may not always be peaceful and a Yoga class can take on numerous characteristics.  The good news is, no matter the circumstances or location, we can tap into that sense of play.  
Yay Play!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dude, Where's My Yoga?

Dude, Where’s My Yoga?
This is the question that pops into my head the moment after...
  • I overreact, or appropriately react, to one of my children’s infractions (or just plain kid moments) in a decidedly un-Yogic volume
  • I react badly to the drivers misbehaving on the road 
  • or my body tenses when I see a driver on the phone or texting behind the wheel (especially when my van is kid-full)
  • the conversation takes a gossipy turn and I find myself participating
  • I judge a situation unfairly
Dude, where’s my yoga?  
I’ve only become tolerant of the word, dude, in my early 40s.  

When talking about our experiences driving with our kids in the car, a very good friend of mine told me that she says “Dude” in lieu of dropping the “F” bomb.  
While I used to avoid dropping the “D” word, I now find it a satisfying substitute for flipping the bird.  I know a deep cleansing breath would probably have a similar effect, ending the need to drop any [insert letter of choice] word or extending of any middle digits.  It’s just that sometimes when I come to that particular clarity, the moment has already passed.  

That’s why I practice.
My practice, on the mat, bubbles when I meet the metaphoric Dude poses I used to want to avoid that I now look forward to exploring.   The Yoga reveals itself in familiar moments, off the mat, when I make fresh choices.
Several years ago (before I ever stepped foot on a Yoga mat), around my brother’s dining room table, we were reminiscing various childhood memories and laughing at our youthful antics.  There was a moment when the energy shifted slightly, though still light in nature it held the air of wisdom about to be imparted.  
He said, through pursed lips, that he remembered watching one of my sisters “bait” me often.  Under his breath he would chant, “Don’t take the bait.  Don’t take the bait.”  Nine times out of ten I would take the bait; I was predictable enough for her to know which buttons to push to successfully bait me every time.  
While it would have been extremely helpful to know that’s what was happening at the time it was happening, it was equally as valuable to learn it when I did.  I now had the language and context to deal directly and make better choices, without resorting to habitual behavior.
Since that dining room table chat, my whole relationship with that sister markedly improved.  We were always close, but from that moment forward I had a more active role in keeping our relationship equal and healthy.  All I needed was the awareness which led to the language which, in turn, became mindful (and compassionate) action. 
This lesson surfaces when I find myself in similar situations of feeling like I’m dangling from a hook.  Regular Yoga practice provides me with a portable context for almost any situation.  There are still those moments when I mindlessly revert to form before remembering to breathe; but more often than not I find myself unrolling my mental mat when presented with a challenging moment.
Yes.  I still get annoyed by ignorant behavior, small-minded moments and a lifetime of acquired pet peeves.  But, maybe I’m a little less annoyed and find humor more often and more quickly.  I am certainly more mindful and able to step back, reassess or let go when necessary.  
So when I ask, “Dude, where’s my Yoga?”  I already know the answer. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Story of our Lives

Two things that exemplify “home” to me are books and a piano.  
I love to read and look at the spines of varying sizes and colors which contain universes of stories.  I took piano lessons for five years as a young child, but only dabble on the keys today.  
The connection to these things started early, in my childhood home, where books lined the walls and our upright piano greeted us, daily, with the possibility of music.  My father was an avid collector of antique books and my mother often dazzled us when she’d sit at the piano and whip out one or both of the songs she remembered from her piano lesson days.
There is much more to be said about the people and events in our lives than the things that clutter our spaces.  But sometimes, the most ordinary object can tell volumes about a person and once the person is gone from our lives, for one reason or another, that ordinary object becomes magical.
The other day, FedEX dropped off a few boxes of what remained from my grandparents’ belongings.  Mostly, they were filled with Sherry glasses, salt & pepper shakers and other things of little monetary value.  The soup terrine that was always perched on their buffet is now part of our story.  I never saw the terrine in use, but I do make soup and will give it the meaning for which it was intended; to my children, it will always be Great Sally’s Soup Terrine.
In the world of ordinary objects, my mat has become a talisman.  This narrow strip, designated for my practice to take flight, is nothing more than a man-made cushion.  Yet, when I unroll this ordinary object, it becomes a sacred space for me to explore my story a bit deeper.  
When I tuck my mat under my arm, my children sigh and know that I am off to a Yoga class.  All three of my girls have their own mats and have had their own experiences with yoga.  As they grow and become who they are meant to be, their mats will take on meaning relating to their stories, but will always have roots from home.  
Home is where the story starts.
While the objects in my life are more like bread crumbs, now, than stones, each crumb creates a part of my story before it dissolves into the bigger story.  
What’s your story?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ahimsa ~ Do No Harm

The cardinal rule in my house is Ahimsa.  I borrow this beautiful tenet of Yoga as a tool to help teach my kids compassion.  My children all know that when mommy says, “Ahimsa” that I’m reminding them to do no harm to themselves, each other and the world around them.  I always make it a point to define the word every time I speak it.
Several months into introducing this wonderful word, we were sitting at the dinner table and it comes up.  “Ahimsa,” I proclaim trying to practice it myself even as I say it.  There is silence.  Then a tiny voice (that of my four year old) tentatively chimes in with, “What does harm mean?”
All this time I was distracted by thinking they needed to know the “big” word and neglected to meet them where they were.  “Harm” seemed like such a harmless word, one that in its abbreviated nature seemed universal.  
It was a simple moment filled with awareness and a drop of profundity.
Life can sometimes be assembled by these types of assumptions.  What trips me up, at times, is when one’s habitual patterns that typically inform a certain outcome, take me by surprise.  This usually happens when that person hits his or her internal “refresh button” and breaks the habit.  When that moment of “waking up” and acting in a present, mindful way is responded to in kind, a symbiotic exchange is created and life is being fully lived.
When I was a student of mediation at the Shambhala Center (I say was, because it’s been many years since I walked through their doors or have had a disciplined sitting meditation practice), I remember one of the primary lessons was that of breaking through our cocoon of habitual patterns.  I find the lessons I learned there pop up in every day scenarios on a regular basis.
Since I’ve found my way back to my mat following more than three months of absence (due to surgical healing), I am confronted with this notion of meeting myself where I am and practicing Ahimsa along the way.  
Always mindful of living in a beginner’s mind (without getting stuck there), I find myself now living in a beginner’s body.  This beginner’s body, however, is sort of the grown-up version of its former self.  
In my first days of practicing Yoga, every experience on the mat was filled with curiosity of the unknown.  The language, poses, philosophies and less than tangible energy that passed between & among the various participants (teachers & students alike) landed on me as I began to integrate them into my pool of understanding.  While my curiosity is still regularly peaked and my general understanding is still journeying toward clarity, I now have a foundation of experience that has created some land marks.
While my body is reacquainting itself with the motion of the practice, the physical memory is still vibrating underneath old habits.  It is my challenge to honor this new state of mind and being.  Now, my cardinal rule is Ahimsa.  I’m not distracted by lofty goals of perfect poses, but am hearing the smaller instruction of modifications and using them as the stepping stones.  I will do no harm to myself, others or the world around me.
Ahimsa:  Do no harm.
Harm:  Hurt

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Universal Heart of Sadness

These past few weeks have been colored by loss, touched by sadness and re-infused with life.  
For a while it seemed like the cycle of life was claiming friends’ parents at an accelerated rate.  While we were saddened by this loss of life, it was a reminder of our shared fate and preview of our age.  Then we lost three friends, all in their forties, and the view shifted.  
In my last post, I was trying to make sense of an old friend’s death.  What I didn’t include in that post was that it was on the heals of hearing about our friend Flavia, who died of cancer a couple weeks before Jon fell at the hand of some undisclosed illness.  
The air had become dense with loss but life continued its relentless march forward.  
Then the wildfire network that is Facebook, revealed the untimely death of another old friend and dear soul.  David Nolan.  David’s sharp mind and huge heart were his calling cards.  He could elevate any discourse with original thought and critical thinking stemming from his open heart.  It is both tragic and poetic that it was a major heart attack that took him too soon from this earth.
So much of Yoga is about opening the heart.  It sounds simple but is deeply profound.  As our time on the mat is limited, so is our time off the mat.  We work to realize our potential in each pose with every breath.  There’s a heightened sense of consciousness on the mat as we’re being guided and encouraged to stretch our limits to the edge.  As our shoulders and hips open we make space for our hearts to follow.  This physical openness reflects a deeper expansion.  
When loss or tragedy hits close to home, it is my heart that bears the burden; I’d rather it be open soft and wide to better balance the weight, than closed tight and resistant unable to feel what’s real.
I am so grateful for Yoga.  It is a real life practice that reflects the challenges of living and teaches how to remain open in hard times.
What I choose to take from this time of crazy loss is to limit regret by not putting things off and minimizing the pool of potential by realizing as much of it as I can.  
Flavia Roncelli.  Jon Crawford.  David Nolan.  
Namaste, my friends!  The light in me, bows to the light in you!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Live in Love. Rest in Peace.

On the mat, we learn to be present.  We focus on our breath & movement and all the spaces in between, while snuggling up to our edge.  This climate makes the ground fertile for opening up to possibility in a potent, mindful way.  We practice lessons on the mat that we hope will join us in our lives off the mat.  These lessons live out loud in the moments of our lives, to varying degrees, depending on how open we remain during our daily rhythm.

I found out yesterday that one of my best friends from high school died.

Jon called me eight years ago and left a cryptic message, one that put me off a bit.  I was nervous to call him after not talking with or seeing him since the late 80’s when we’d already begun to grow apart; a couple of days later I called and left him a message.  When I didn’t hear back from him, I didn’t pursue it and life went on.  Periodically, he would pop into my mind, but I was content to live with my happy memories of him.  If I’d been awake, would I have contented myself with letting it go without any effort?  
I wonder who is perched on the periphery of my life now, unnoticed, whose voice I’m not hearing.
When I’m on my mat, deepening my practice to truly meet my edge, do I honor the hours of effort and sweat that got me here or does all progress live in a bubble?  How do I honor Jon now, in hindsight & absentia?  His friendship was a pivotal one in the world of who I was and the paths I chose that brought me here.  His spirit lives in who I’ve become.  
While Jon’s significance in my life waned over the years since high school, his death has brought our friendship to the present moment & magnified lessons lost and lessons learned.
Love, like our spirit, does not disappear, it just changes form.  
Rest in Love & Peace, old friend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Falling in Love

It’s still February, which means it’s still all about love on this blog (though love will be featured in many forms well beyond this month).
Right now I’m feeling the tingle of new love.  It is the love of an unexpected dream, becoming clearer ever day and slowly becoming real.  
I felt this feeling when I was dating my now husband at the start, and as the romance began to weave its way into my daily life.  I felt this feeling when I unrolled my mat for the second time and still had no idea what to expect, only that I was meant to be there.  I am feeling this feeling now, as I am beginning to discover a part of myself all grown up, but with a youthful relish I’d thought long since dormant.
I miss my mat and am looking forward to resume my asana practice (next week), but have been well Yoga-nourished through writing, breathing and blossoming in unexpected ways.
It will be a long journey to get my body reacquainted with the physical practice, but the good news is that I get to fall in love all over again.  I get to practice patience with myself, leaving a lot of room to grow perhaps not into the self I was but the person I can be.
So, as I’m returning to more than just a beginner’s mind, but a beginner’s body as well, I am returning to the sensation of falling in love.  And, while I’m growing a new business and forging ahead in the direction of my dream, I am falling dizzily in love with possibility.
There’s poetry in falling, whether it’s with a person, a direction, an experience, yourself or something altogether different.  There’s beauty in knowing that you can be true to your love and at the same time, fall in love the rest of your life.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

romance |rōˈmans; ˈrōˌmans| (noun)

romance |rōˈmans; ˈrōˌmans|

1 a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love : in search of romance.

What I like about this definition is how easily it can be translated into one’s daily journey, transforming the ordinary into something special.  
It’s been a while since I’ve engaged in any formal practice (body still in healing mode), but the love, excitement & mystery surrounding my practice still ride my breath and inform my heart.  I’m approaching a place of great anticipation with regard to diving back onto the mat.  This excitement yields to the unknown and is cradled in love.  
I guess this means that there’s an aspect of romance associated with Yoga!  
I’ve always felt love on the mat, but never imagined it a romantic love.  I guess it goes to the idea that love is love; in its wholeness, it embodies endless components--all inclusive and indistinct from any definition.
The italics at the end of this dictionary definition, in search of romance, implies a journey.  As a single person, in search of romance in the form of a partner, I was single-minded in this pursuit.  Love was in abundance in my life and the more I felt it the more I wanted to share it with one person.
And then February would arrive loaded with love under a microscope.
Valentine’s Day became a day that belonged to couples and seemed to exclude the bigger notion of love.  Even though I’m now happily married with children, Valentine’s Day still pushes my buttons.  
Love is important enough to honor on more than just one day which is why I’m taking the whole month to highlight love.  The celebration, however, is ongoing and never-ending.
In my efforts to keep love all-inclusive, I would be doing a great injustice if I ignored the romantic love that nourishes me from the inside out.  So, in the spirit of romantic love (and not the Valentine’s Day definition), I will dig out a love poem I wrote a long time ago that captures a moment of romance & all-consuming love.
From the Filing Cabinet:
A glimmer from your eyes
Inspires spontaneous words of love
It sings of days gone by
And further ones above.
Your love is rich like chocolate cake
There is nothing to compare
For when your eyes reach my gaze
My soul yearns for its share.
It leaves my body for just a moment
To contact yours inside
It breathes you in and then back out
Within my heart to reside.
My heart is full with daily bliss
The ordinary details of each day
Among my blessings I count you high
When beside your body I lay.
So be a kid with me when moments call
And reach deep when needs arise
For when it’s all said and done
Together we are the prize.

This is an example of love manifesting in nature.  This heart-shaped branch greets me every morning as a reminder that love can be found in the most unexpected places if your eyes & heart are open.

Happy Valentine's Day, One & All!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Secret of Love

There is a secret to love.  It’s unique in its nature.  
That is, the more you love the more you can love.
I whispered this truth over and over in my eldest daughter’s ear when our second daughter was born, and again to both of them when our third arrived.  This simple profundity is clearer every day. 

I am baffled by this expansive force.  There are times I can’t imagine loving my children more than I do in that moment and then tomorrow comes and I do.  When I think I have enough friends, that love is stretched to the limit, I meet someone I feel I’ve known my whole life and realize there are no limits to loving.  I think of the love my husband and I felt for each other on our wedding day and now see it as the bud it was, watching it flourish every day.
Yoga weaves a similar sense of boundlessness which is no less baffling.  How is it that these physical poses and stretches can be so magical?  Is the partnership of breath and mindfulness that powerful?  What is it about this practice and its philosophies that inspire such strong feelings and experiences on and off the mat?
Whether it’s a family member, friend or experience, there are similarities which encourage this mystery of love to unfold.  Each is a landscape of discovery, opening up to possibility with every new moment.  
Love is life's permission to explore and rejoice, be still and recognize a universal sadness.  It is whole and ever-growing.
Remember, the secret of love is that the more you love, the more room you have to love.  Don’t keep it to yourself; spread the word.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ambient Love

Love can arrive in unexpected ways.  
On the mat I find love in every drop of sweat that rides my breath.  Every movement holds a physical or emotional memory that releases love in one way or another.  The scent of Nag Champa incense makes me smile & adds to the feelings of love while it transports me to places where love reigns.
Today, I am in a converted warehouse coffee shop waiting to meet an artist to discuss a logo design.  Sitting here, amid the daytime activities of those around me, I am “on my mat” being transported and feeling the love.
love this place.
It has a small town vibe and isn’t very crowded, but it also feels charged with creativity and possibility.  Pockets of people discussing projects and fleshing out details, while individuals occupy corners, reading the NY Times, rocking babies in strollers or typing away at their laptops.  There’s a writer talking to her editor about wanting her chapters to flow into one another without the reader getting attached to any character or action (love how she explained it) and a group of men, who look like web designers from the dot com years but are really discussing green building construction projects.  I love the energy generated by brains storming with ideas on the road to fruition.
Conversations cross over tables and aisles when locals recognize each other or strangers feel inspired to start chatting.  The door opens and in comes in a hooded man bringing in the cold breeze he’s shielding himself from, followed by a professional looking lady who gets her coffee to go.  A woman in a wheelchair navigates the space with ease and her smile invites others to join in the exchange of words and ideas.  
The neighborhood feeling is inescapable. 
Then there’s me, drinking my coffee and eating my pastry, waiting to meet an artist to discuss my logo.  But I’m early by a good twenty minutes.  Before he arrives it’s just me, notebook still tucked in my bag, listening and observing the surrounding activities.  This is one of the things I miss from living in Manhattan.  Not just everyday, pedestrian eavesdropping, but ears perking to words worthy of attention.
While I’m waiting for my interesting creative meeting to begin, the space has thinned out, leaving the funkiness of the place and beat of the music to fill the air.  That, and the anticipation of what’s to come.
This is much the same as the feeling of falling in love.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Love Is...

I love the idea of celebrating love.  
When I think of Valentine’s Day, though, it’s not that celebration that comes to mind.  I think of Hallmark doing great business, flower shops selling out of roses, couples out for romantic dinners, people attaching the essence of their love to that day & feeling sad when significant others forget and people whose love is no less potent but who may not have one special person with whom to share it on that day.  
It’s February.  Rather than focusing the celebration of love on Valentine’s Day, and exclusively on romantic love, I will use this month to dabble in various expressions of love.  
When I was in college, some friends were talking about their love lives and one of them had mentioned that she said, “I love you” to the guy she was dating, after just days being together.  I offered my opinion that it seemed too soon for that sort of declaration.  My friend, Dana, then blurted out (in a sort of snarky way), “That, from YOU!  Miss love Everyone.”  
I froze, searching for my truth.  How could I be someone who approaches most people with love and still think it was too early for her to say it out loud to a new boyfriend?  (Now, the answer seems fairly obvious.)
I was (and still am) unapologetically a hippie at heart.  I like to frame things through the lens of love (though sometimes it can be challenging & I miss the mark).  Dana’s comment, though, caught me off guard and I didn’t have the sense to answer it as I would today.  And that is, in my daily expressions I love my parents in a different way than I love my husband who I love differently than I love my kids, friends and pets who I love in a different way than I love the ocean, trees, mountains & forests.  That’s when I break it down and recognize love's various shades, grades & levels of intensity.  
When the silence before sleep descends, however, all of those variants blend into one picture of love, where there are no distinguishing lines.  I am reminded that love is love.
As I rediscover my Yoga practice, with the temporary physical limitations I must honor, I will extend love's reach & set my intention to love where I am now.  I am grateful for a body & mind that are open to being flexible & surprised.  
Rather than catagorizing love any further, I will take this month as an opportunity to use this space to express, share, explore & celebrate the ever-giving gift of love.