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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spare Some Change?

  • This morning I received $4.30 change for pastry I purchased at the bakery, with a $20 bill.
  • A little while ago, I changed a poopy diaper and left my toddler clean & dry.
  • At bedtime, I watched my kids change from their day clothes into pajamas.
  • Throughout the day, I observed my mood change several times from exhausted & frustrated to silly & elated, leaving it to settle in contentment.
  • Occasionally, I change my mind.

We all know that change is a life constant, yet when it takes on a task more complicated than coins or wardrobe choice, we often meet it with resistance.  Time takes the edge off the initial shock of change, until the next shift occurs.   
Recently, I observed someone I love discover new facets of herself.  Witnessing this vulnerable meeting was a beautiful example of the depth & possibility of this life journey.  I cannot help but wonder how her self image changed as she met this new part of herself.
For every person who meets life’s changes tentatively, there is a change junky, unable to stay in one place for too long (not limited to geography).  Leaping from experience to experience, job to job, thought to thought, as if fast-paced change will somehow keep the inevitable at bay.
Somewhere between fear and recklessness lives reason...and change.  
Yoga is a perfect laboratory for experimenting on how to cope with change.  Every time I meet myself where I am, on or off the mat, I practice easing myself into change & acceptance.  On the Mat, I have a designated time & place to pay attention and notice the changes that have landed in my body & mind.  Off the Mat, I try to remember that as each breath has a distinct quality, I must honor that each day is also unique and will hold possibilities the previous one did not.  

It is my daily challenge to meet those changes with gentle grace and humor.  And when I fail to live up to the challenge, I know there will be change to spare.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Magical Minds

Tuesday night the tooth fairy flew in for a visit.  

We have a clump of trees in our back yard that we call the Enchanted Forest; this is where our fairies live, asleep all day and alive all night.   She’d been circling our house for days, waiting for my six year old’s tooth, dangling by mere threads, to fall out. 

When the time came she swooned in, leaving a wide-eyed child full of wonder and a great story, evidenced by four crystals (and a dollar) in a shiny sac!  A little bag of magic! *** 

I remember when the Tooth Fairy would visit me, silent & without solid form, leaving a shiny quarter under my pillow to be discovered in the morning.  The magic would happen unseen & unheard in any conventional sense, but was experienced & felt in such a deep place that it remains active today.  

It is this portal of the possible that follows me onto the mat and then back into my life.  I may have a different relationship to the magic in my life today, but I still believe.  When I’ve worked through Crow pose preparation over & over, never to find the right balance, and then one day it just happens, that’s a magical moment.  Briefly, my shins allow my feet to find flight, while balancing on my arms.  Nothing visible has changed in my approach, but my body takes me there with just enough effort to break a sweat.  

The Asana Fairy occasionally tucks the charms of our practice under our mats to support us so we can fly.

Being able to surrender, whether it’s to the fantasy of fairy tales or the notion of one day falling into a challenging pose to its full expression, takes a shot of imagination and a dose of faith.  In the end, though, it’s the practice, the doing, on and off the mat, that makes the magic.  

My mother loves the saying, The harder I work, the luckier I get.  I would modify it to say, The more I show up and open my heart & mind, the easier I can see the magic that swirls around me.

*  *  *
*** This little bag of magic came from Angelical Whispers (click on name to visit website).   I received a beautiful hand-written note with my order, and when I suggested creating "Tooth Fairy Bags,"  was met with imagination & love.  It is a magical place! 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Bubble Game

A very dear old friend of mine posted these photos on Facebook the other day, immediately transporting me to another place and time.

This time and place predates my formal Yoga practice, but embodies some of the same allure.  Imagine an intentional community of peaceful-loving people all dancing together to their own tunes; this is a Rainbow Gathering.  If each one of these individuals had a mat instead of a tent, it would be a most colorful & inspiring Yoga class!  (In this story, each one is a bubble.)

When the light hits it just right, a bubble can reveal the entire spectrum of the rainbow.  It is poetic that these photos, and the piece below “From the Filing Cabinet,” were both born at a Rainbow Gathering; the event, itself, took place in a clearing in the woods, surrounded by participants and spectators, alike, everyone active in their roles.

The inspiration came from a spontaneous game that gathered momentum and meaning with every moment.  Enter Todd, with a very large “bubble wand” and a lot of  bubble juice, contentedly making huge bubbles with care and obvious joy.  Someone else joined him and began waving her hands beneath an enormous bubble, keeping it from hitting the ground.  Before long there were several bubbles in the air being cared for by passersby who wordlessly joined in.  

The picture was quite beautiful.  The collective intention was to keep the bubbles aflight.  This became increasingly challenging, as the bubbles began to outnumber their human counterparts and occasional breezes began blow.  Still, as bubbles broke and others took form and flight, people were alternately laughing and silent in their concentrated efforts. This went on for some time without losing any of its original freshness. When it was over, everyone sensed it and the game ended as organically as it had begun.

When I look back at the various experiences that make up my personal history, it doesn’t surprise me that Yoga has formed my current path.  Tadasana may not change the world, but if I breathe with intention while rooting down and floating up, I may infuse that moment with something special.  Keeping that bubble from crashing to the ground won’t cure disease or magically promote world peace, but it may bring attention to, and elevate, that moment.  Strung together, these moments can make a difference.

*   *   *

From the Filing Cabinet:  Periodically, I will be posting relics found in the filing cabinet I referenced in the post, Something Old, Something New 11/11/09.  This one is from a Rainbow Gathering, circa early 1990s.

The Bubble Game -- Or, The Meaninglessness of Soap

It is my opinion that there is no game as inherently existential as the Bubble Game.  The ground rules are as follows:  Huge bubbles are created--out of dish soap and glycerin--for the purpose of saving.  The rules need never be disclosed verbally.  The information is contained within the universe and silently passed to each participant.  Anyone can join the game and there are no time restrictions.  The only requirement is the facilitator of the bubbles.  Once the bubbles are born, it is the unspoken responsibility of those on the game board to keep the bubbles alive for as long as possible.  It is known from the start that the bubbles cannot ultimately survive.  The bubbles provide insight through colors, shapes and directions of flight.  Each moment in the survival techniques of the players is filled with meaning and conviction.  Every time a bubble breathes, it is that life that counts; when it ceases to breathe, another one is born.  Sometimes manipulating their direction, other times following their lead, necessitates total consciousness.  Being completely immersed in the menial task of bubble preservation forces even a fleeting congnizance of the temporal nature of things.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yoga Love

  • I love Yoga!
  • I love entering a space designed for non-competitive contemplation, curiosity and discovery.  
  • I love leaving my ego at the door and sometimes forgetting to collect it on the way out.
  • I love being part of a collective energy focused on the journey.
I haven’t taken a class in six weeks due to some body healing requiring rest.  I’ve been finding other ways to practice to keep the body/mind connection fresh, including writing this blog, dusting off my meditation cushion and paying attention.  There have been some beautiful, unexpected moments of clarity as I’ve been forced to slow down.  

While I can find mini mindful ways to fill the space left on my mat, nothing can really take the place of sweat earned from a vigorous flow or lighter step that follows Sivasana.  It will be some time before I feel that familiar glow & easy glide; fortunately, I don’t have to wait to be mindful in the literal & figurative bending, twisting & stretching that goes with living.  

Last Sunday, a friend coordinated a moms’ night out starting at a local Yoga studio (YogaLove)  and ending with cocktails and a nourishing meal.  It was a beautifully balanced evening.  I decided to go, with the intention of under-doing it rather than snuggling up to my edge (which is where I tend to perch myself).  I went, knowing that I could not do any of the Warrior poses or other asanas that would compromise my healing.  I thought, at the very least, I would unroll my mat (the one from two posts ago) and just breathe the Yoga air.  

I had never taken this teacher’s class and had never before practiced with anyone in this group.  But, walking into this space armed with my old frayed mat, fresh perspective, beginners mind and all-encompassing desire to be there, it was like coming home.  

I briefly filled the teacher in on my limitations and was immediately welcomed with what I call, YogAcceptance, the favorable meeting of each person where she is.  The invitation to practice is not limited solely to the able bodies that bend and twist with ease, but to anyone who shows up.  

So, I couldn’t do Pigeon Pose, but I could open my hips with Ankle-to-Knee; I couldn’t do Triangle, but I could sit in Hero Pose, hands in Yoga Mudra behind my back, and open my heart with the same intention.  I found a comfort zone around finding modifications that, whether or not were addressing the counter part exactly, kept me present and practicing.  It was a virtual inversion, turning my practice upside down.
  • I love the real-life-ness of Yoga, that it complements any situation and offers an on-going opportunity to open up or go deeper.
  • I love that Yoga unites, not only body & mind, but life & all of its beautiful diversity.
  • I love the unconditional nature of Yoga.

What do you love about Yoga?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Practice. Practice. Practice.

I took my first Yoga class 11 years ago, but have been practicing all my life.  

It started with that first breath and continued, often unnamed & without guideposts, until awareness entered the picture offering a welcome setting to continue the exploration. The breath comes naturally, the mindfulness requires effort.  Yoga and meditation have created a structure within which I may play, learn, practice and grow; learning a basic technique has given me the tools to create a sacred space around myself at any time.

We cry following that first breath of life.  I recall the relief I felt after hearing each one of my newborns release their first sound along with their first breaths.  My response found itself in a sigh, another expression of sound attached to breath.  Joni Mitchell sings, “laughing & crying you know it’s the same release.”   Both are conditions that express emotion while requiring a little extra breath than casual moments.  This is just the beginning of the journey and is often found more in organic expression than mindful moments.

My first and most long-lasting models of warriorship are my parents.  I didn’t realize that’s what they were until I began studying and found the word that best described them.  Warriors.  My father’s unconditional love and non-judgmental perspectives & practices complement the depth of my mother’s unrelenting fearlessness and boundless curiosity.  Both of them are beautiful models of generosity and process-driven-grab-life-by-the-shoulders-and-shake-it-up-ness!  Their collective accomplishments are formidable, but have never derailed them from knowing that we have the capacity to learn as long as we have breath.

Yoga is not the only process we refer to as a Practice.  We Practice medicine.  We Practice Law.  And then there’s the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice. Practice. Practice.”  The implication is a simple and beautiful one, leaving us room to fall and pick ourselves back up; we are human and on an evolutionary path that is not set in cement.  Sometimes the cobbled stone causes us to trip, pause or slow down.  Enter mindfulness.

I had a voice teacher in Manhattan who embodied the essence of mindful practice and warriorship.  His students all seemed transcendent in the warm glow of his instruction.  He taught a very specific technique in a unique style that always left me feeling timeless and totally satisfied.  Again, it came back to sound and breath.  I was never a singer by trade, but he always made me feel like one. He is almost 83 years of age now.  His eight decades of making music and creating creative communities in New York City lays a loving & always relevant hand on all he touches.  No longer teaching voice, he remains timeless and inspires with each breath.  

Looking back at studying acting at NYU/Circle in the Square in the late 1980s reveals something of a Yoga practice.  In our voice class, for example, we regularly moved into Plow Pose and Cobra and focused our minds often on our breath and touching sound.  Being in the present moment was a big part of the acting techniques we were learning.  Many memories like these emerged as my formal Yoga practice began to take flight.  

It was then I realized that Yoga is truly a life-long practice that doesn’t necessarily start with your first steps on the mat or first salute to the sun.  It begins with a spark of awareness and intention followed by action.  All that’s required is to show up, breathe and pay attention.

And along the way ... Laugh.  Cry.  Sigh.

So, how do you get to [insert personal destination/goal here]?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Get a Grip ~ But Don't Get Stuck

There are plenty of times when slipping is a good thing, like skating or sledding, sliding or gliding; on a Yoga mat is not one of them.

It never occurred to me that a sticky mat could be anything other than just that.  When I first dipped my big toe in the Yoga waters I rented a mat each time, not knowing if this was a practice that would stick with me the way my hands stuck easily to the rental mat.  

When I began going more regularly, I considered getting my own mat.  Then, my friend who introduced me to Yoga gave me her mat since she had just gotten a new one.  It was a whole new experience.  (I’m the youngest of four, so not only am I used to hand-me-downs, but almost prefer them.)  It was a little worn with the beautiful practice of its former owner, purple, sticky and mine.  I now had my own magic carpet that was going to take me to wondrous places.

Time and practice did its number on this mat that had served me so well; I was ready for a new one.  I ended up sampling a few different brands, hoping one would help me keep my hands from slipping in downward dog.  I did the soap in the shower, small amount of detergent in the washing machine and various mat wash sprays.  Nothing seemed to work.  Was it me?  Was I secreting some mysterious mat-resistant sweat that was neutralizing any sticky mat-tributes?  I was even sold on a type of mat that was sure to grip me back.  It seemed to work for everyone else, but I was consistent in my slippage.  I found myself missing that old, worn, fraying mat so I dug it out.  I haven’t taken it to a class yet, feeling strangely uneasy about its state of disrepair.  

Looking at this mat so full of history, I was struck by a memory that made me laugh.  

My childhood dream of being an actress led me to some really fun experiences including a pre-college theatre program at Carnegie-Mellon.  The program had a dance part that required the proper shoes and other various dance-related clothing & items.  My mom had taken me to the Capezio store to prepare for this program.  The dance audition room was packed with a most diverse group of people.  The line I will draw here is very broad and does not in any way describe the nature of the individuals, capture the sights, sounds or smells of that room, but it does tell a story.

The kids like me, for whom dance was not our primary reason for being there, were all adorned with shiny new shoes and perfectly woven leg warmers (it was the 80s).  We were chatting and getting to know each other, while those wrapped in dance-worn clothing, with no new-car smell left, were stretching and smiling with quiet confidence.  I imagine you can guess which group was relegated to the introductory class and which to the advanced.

Perhaps it’s not the state of disrepair that embarasses me about my mat, but the implication that perhaps I’ve moved groups.  I’ve always been more comfortable in my beginner’s mind, keeping daily goals within reach and my mind humble.  Unlike my many mats, I can easily get stuck in novice mind.  Considering the fact that more than a decade has passed since I got my Yoga feet wet knocks me happily off balance.  There are still so many poses I cannot yet express fully, but my worn out mat tells my story in a way I also cannot yet fully express.

On my quest for a mat to stick with me on my Yoga journey, I must also get a grip; to stick enough not to slide and to grip enough not to hold on too tight.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sound Byte View ~ Looking Back & Charging Forward!

2+0+1+0=3 and we all know that " a magic number." 
Wishing you all a magical 2010!!  

When I first joined Facebook, I realized that I began thinking in sound bytes.  In some cases, almost observing the moments to label them “status-ready,” before fully participating.  While I still enjoy a good “status,” since the novelty of being on Facebook has waned so has my desire to caption each moment.  

There’s an application which lists all retrievable statuses and gives you your own Status Stats.  One of the stats shows your five most used words, in order.   Bits and pieces of my life map, dating back to the summer of 2008, were assembled & labeled according to the statement du jour.  

The meaning of some moments were more memorable than others, leaving some lines drifting without a context from which to view them.  Without a context, these lines may range from the relatable or poetic to the silly & utterly absurd and back to the banal.  Sifting through the many fragments, I found a few gems which have become mantras for meditation, and others from the rubble that hint at challenges yet to be met.

Moving into the new year, before I look ahead I take a mindful glance back.  On a family bike trip through the Czech Republic, I was riding along leisurely with my mom taking in the interesting topography and vibrant colors.  She pulled over and stopped.  I rode up to her and asked her why she stopped.  She turned to me and said, “Sometimes the view is behind you.”  Sure enough, we turned around and arm in arm we beheld, with awe, the beautiful landscape with fresh eyes.

Here’s a sound byte sampling of a life journey, a "status" scrapbook.  I’ve edited down the list to the ones that might most resonate here, with a splash of daily reality checks every now and then for perspective. (I recommend this as a personal exercise, whether it's status lines from Facebook, a journal or simple stillness. Take a look back, then charge forward.)

Most Used Words#1: love used 21 times ~ #2: feeling used 17 times ~ #3: day used 15 times ~ #4: loves used 15 times ~ #5: facebook used 14 times

Status Bytes:
  • loved basking in the kindled glow of our menora illuminating our colorfully lit christmas tree next to our beautifully hand-carved wooden buddah. happy holidays to all!
  • is sending out healing love and vibrations to those beautiful people in the concentric & intersecting circles of my life who are suffering and coping right now. The love is strong!
  • Good morning star shine. The earth says hello.
  • Goodnight Moon
  • is stretching my creative wings and circling my thoughts with wonder
  • voted
  • just had a venting session with the poor woman who answered my call at the pediatrician's office. now say, ahhhhh!
  • wonders if, as a rule, one must lower or let go of expectations completely in order not to be disappointed.
  • is laughing at the silliness of it all!
  • head back, squinting into the sun
  • has a crush on Cornel West
  • Fri October 2, 2009, 5:39 am: Happy Birthday, Ghandi! Namaste, all!!
  • is grateful to fb for revealing the beautiful depth of formerly "forgotten" or "lost" friends. I find myself marveling at the gifts you all bring to this world!
  • is trying to think of something clever to say about having strep. i got bubkus!
  • played the part of soccer coach for a team of 4 year olds, today. is there nothing i won't do for my kids?!!
  • is looking back at 108 sun salutations and ahead to an amazing autumn!
  • A new year, like a new day, new hour, new minute, new moment, is filled with opportunity & possibility. 
  • will bring in the new year with little ceremony & much mindfulness
  • put the kids down to sleep and am now putting politics to bed for the night.
  • is sometimes torn between always being the peacemaker/cheerleader and speaking my mind, but is grateful for amazing friends who are there to engage equally in thoughtful debate and potty jokes! :-)
  • Fri September 11, 2009, 4:42 am: witnessed. remembers. has you all in my heart today.
  • is in the stillness between the happiness of celebrating our anniversary on 9/9 and the sadness of mourning the tragedy of 9/11.
  • loves the practical uses of Yoga, like twisting around in the car to accomodate the needs of tots or forward bending over the laundry basket to open the door that the 2 year old decided needed to be shut. Yoga, it's good for the soul and helps you get things done! :-)
  • is grateful for hot showers
  • wonders if "entitled" people realize they're not truly entitled
  • loves my neighborhood and all the amazing people who make it the special place it is. You are wonderful gifts wrapped in enchanted centuries-old trees.
  • officially, and sadly, announces the end of ARTisZEN ARTS...something special.
  • loves that something a simple as a hammock can improve the quality of life and an already beautiful day
  • sometimes the easiest things to do are the most difficult to get done
  • unwraps a little bit of the gift of life every day.
  • is balancing on the edge of here and there. I guess that puts me right here right now
  • Goji berries
  • is curious how the senses can be heightened at the same time the mind dulls.
  • celebrated freedom, today, with Free Space! (You guys rocked!!).  May all beings be happy & free. Have a great 4th!
  • actually heard circus music in my head while getting the kids ready for camp this morning.
  • is back to one.
  • has been dancing under the pines with amazing family and friends in Maine and is now home dancing to a more familiar beat.
  • is iron fist in velvet glove wrapped in spinach and covered with frosting
  • is feeling the power of words and empowered by their force, when used artfully.
  • is somewhere between here and there, but keeps on losing footing and falling into now. Ah...
  • is sad and awed, watching the neighbor's neglect result in the tearing down of an old and beautiful tree.
  • is taking stock of the meaning & expressions of warriorship at home & abroad, for great causes & everyday challenges and in hearts, minds & bodies. For those who have bravely charged forward in the past and for those who are battling today, thank you!
  • laughs maniacally in the face of chaos! moohaahahaha!!
  • is connecting the dots.
  • is feeling the love
  • is feeling all sorts of silly!
  • is coming back to the breath. aahh...
  • is feeling connected to all the mothers out there and wishes each and every one a beautiful day!
  • bows to the light in you
  • is on the road again...sort of...loving the now of it all!
  • can't stop tapping my toes! Grateful Dead!!!! Can you feel it in the air?
  • has become a detail in an item on the list
  • still gets the chills when Barbra sings!
  • thinks therefore gets stuck
  • is free and grateful to be
  • is great at starting things but not always as good at finishi
  • sees glimpses of clarity through the mist
  • "om-ed" in unision with my 3 year old and 19 month old. It was pretty cool.
  • is contemplating a Sisyphean journey and wondering if the boulder will be made of rock or expectation
  • is in the motherhood spin cycle
  • honors each of you for your place past & present
  • is so proud of Brian for creating something truly special in ARTisZEN ARTS!
  • is pushing pause
  • wonders how many clowns can fit into a small mind
  • has just been nipped by instant karma. It only stung for a moment.
  • is investigating peaceful warriorship. Will let you know.
  • trusts the unseen powers
  • thinks integrity is sexy
  • got the baby down by chanting "OM" that!
  • is grilling in winter. Oh yeah, that's right
  • is abundantly human
  • is still tuned in but may need to drop out soon due to bedtime for the tots
  • is ready to do what needs to be done
  • is feeling the urgency and awe of now.
  • is in awe. When else can you feel history while it's being made?
  • is comforted that we are all part of great cosmic joke punchline.
  • is straddling the river between mythical fiction and misty reality
  • loves the magic of simple joys, like hot chocolate on a cold day
  • is turning into a Disney character. Hero or Villain, it's anyone's guess.
  • wishes you all great moments of laughter, reflection, pause, peace and love this holiday season and always!!
  • is reminded daily of the wide gap between theory and reality
  • is thinking facebook is the biggest party with a most excellent guest list
  • is one step closer
  • is happily being held together with scotch tape & string
  • is unraveling little mysteries one clue at a time
  • is bits & pieces
  • is falling apart, but not falling down...yet
  • is remembering what it feels like to be five ~ its ups, downs and inbetweens
  • is contemplating contemplating
  • is admiring the flow from a distance and will rejoin it later
  • is going with the flow
  • is documenting unlikely beauty, with help from Tanya
  • is leisurely floating down the rabbit hole
  • thinks facebook is a bit like looking in a funhouse mirror
  • is practicing
  • is feeling life's magic and its poetry
  • senses enchantment in the air
  • is going to practice yielding today
  • wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for being part of the love-fest that is gratitude.
  • loves bic pens
  • is feeling the love
  • thinks that heart-on-sleeve is a beautiful fashion statement; chip-on-shoulder-pad...not so much.
  • believes that magic & reality are not mutually exclusive.
  • is grateful for our president-elect, Obama, for raising the national mood.
  • can't believe Jerry Garcia has been gone for 13+ years. :-(
  • is giggling at life's challenges...everyday!
  • is fascinated by the facebook experiment
  • is baffled by talking points.
  • is not proud. It's Mac'n Cheese for dinner tonight!
  • got misty watching the girls experience the magic that is Broadway.
  • made yummy dinner with the ever mysterious sweet dumpling squash.
  • is open to the idea of hope
  • is tickled by the absurd realities of parenthood.
  • is feeling very critical of the dangerously low levels of critical thinking.
  • loves when new friends become old friends, and old friends become family
  • has not had Internet service for several days, finished a novel and is the middle of another book. Hmmm, wonder if there's a link