Practice Makes…More Practice

I’ve done a lot of yoga lately, both as a student and a teacher. We’re all crowing about bakasana, or kakasana, or whatever you want to call it. I actually rolled out of a pose Friday in class. It was a spectacular collapse. I laughed so hard I could barely get it back together. Actually, I wasn’t the only one laughing. It was awesome.

And every time I find my way to my mat, I remember why I love yoga, why I can’t wait to teach, why it’s my honor to get to introduce it to others. It’s called a practice. The definition is as follows(from Google & Webster): repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it, or to actively pursue or be engaged in, or…or…they keep going this way.

There’s no mention of perfection. There’s no mention of ever not needing to do it. It’s an active pursuit…yes. That’s it…ACTIVE PURSUIT.

Do you actively pursue anything? I mean really pursue it, not because you have to, but because you can’t not pursue it? Maybe you should.

See you on the mat? I hope so.

Namaste.

It’s (a) Murder…

I love a challenge. And I’ve been talking about arm balances (and my trepidation where they’re concerned) this spring. So there you have it: my announcement to the universe that I wanted to be better at them.

Well, as the Universe would have it, a friend/teacher/studio owner/boss/etc. is one of several people doing 30 crows in 30 days. #30crows. A murder (yes, I said murder…a “group” of crows is called a murder). I bought it. I’m in. And I’m posting my interesting little crows along the way….one down. 29 to go.

This isn’t only about the arm balances. This is about vulnerability. I, like everyone else I know, don’t like to fail. Don’t like to feel threatened. Don’t like to feel like I’m not good at something. So I’ll do all these crows. And experience all those feelings I don’t like. I’ll make friends with the challenge. I’ll get cozy resting in the discomfort zone.

I’m adding this challenge to the others. 2014 has been a year of challenges so far. Some have been dreadful. Some miraculous. Some both. I’m grateful for them all. Because with these challenges has come love, support and friendship I feel so blessed to have received.

So here’s to a murder…of crows,
that is.

Join us if you want. Feel free to post your own murder of crows in the comments.

Namaste….

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Reduced to Ashes

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Under a full moon, I was reduced to ashes. Not all of me…but more than I realized.

I built the fire outside. Chose the perfect pieces of wood~the knotty ones, ones with splinters and scars. They looked like I felt…beaten up a bit.

And as the flames grew, I tossed in bits and pieces of the last 43 years. I threw in pictures, letters, journal pages, ticket stubs. Even a small article of clothing. Things that were no longer necessary on my journey. Sad things and glad things.

Don’t mistake me. This was a good burn. I felt it down in my bones. I felt those who shared the photo frames with me nearby, urging me closer to the flames and saying let go… The words of the letters floated up in smoke right before my eyes, sweet memories of ancient history. I tossed the journals in whole, mixing the emotions in the cauldron of flame and ash. Their covers, each different in size and material, disappeared into a plume of smoke at different speeds. I could almost see each page as it burst into flame. I could see events and people and places drift up and away, leaving me warm, leaving me spent and tear-stained.

It some ways it was like a thousand little deaths. But as the flames themselves died and the smoke started to clear, I saw the embers~ the radiant leftovers of all that needed to be released.

I stood, tears drying on my face as a huge smile made my jaws ache, watching the embers rest in their bed of ashes. As those parts of history~my history~ were reduced to ashes, I made space for all that is to come. I made room for the present. I allowed the past to really be just that…past.

I’m grateful for what needed to be burnt, and I’m grateful for what new history is yet to be made. And more than that, I’m so very thankful for the ability to be right here in this moment, aware and awake to what is.

Peace Treaty

This week, it seems I’ve been at war.  With myself.  So I decided this morning when my feet hit the floor that the war is over.  It’s time for a peace treaty.

It seems that lately we’ve been bombarded with images and words about what is real (or not), what is beautiful (or not), what is right (or wrong). And I have to confess, I let it sink in a bit.  I hopped on the scale.  I compared myself to others.  I judged myself against some standards I can’t meet (and if I’m being really honest,  I don’t want to).  Have you let yourself go there?  I understand…I was there, too.   It’s a war zone.

It hit me early Thursday morning..literally hit me:  I broke my toe.  And as I was assessing the damage, I started studying my foot.  I saw all the little rough spots from being barefoot and in the yoga studio so much.  That was my A-HA moment…I stopped long enough to be grateful for all that mat time.  I was grateful for my little scraggly foot and how it got there.  I will not get hired to be a foot model.  But I share a lovely yoga practice with you any time I get the chance.

I was overwhelmed by this feeling of relief.  I got it.  I had choose to celebrate that moment and that discovery.  I had to be at peace with what is, and grateful for it.  And, I had to make a decision to choose to do that every time the opportunity appeared.  Believe me, there were lots this week.  I didn’t make this choice early enough to escape without harm.  But, as I say often, I am a work in progress.  Progress was made.

Now, please don’t be fooled.  This is not the first time for this particular bolt of lightning to strike.  This lesson is one that I’ve learned again and again.  I may have to learn it all over tomorrow.  But what I can do is practice…I can shut down that voice that says “you’re too_____, you’re not ________.”  I can stop it by yelling at the top of my lungs, “OH, HELL YES, I AM.”  Even if I only yell in the mirror…

I have a plan.  Every time the voice starts up with something negative, I am reframing it.  With gratitude.  The only perfect I can ever be is me.  When I lose sight of that, the war rages.  So the treaty shall stand.  NO MORE WAR.  I AM WILDLY, FABULOUSLY, IMPERFECTLY ME.

YOU ARE WILDLY, FABULOUSLY IMPERFECTLY YOU.

See how that works…  I am giving myself this gift.  A Peace Treaty.  I’m sure I’ll have to give it over and over.  And over and over. But it will be worth the effort and practice.  Because I am worth the practice and effort.

So are you…Namaste.

Safe travels…

I am fortunate to get to do what I love every day.  I have clients who are a joy.  I work with dear friends.  I get to share yoga with a huge variety of folks.  I learn and grow every day.

The past several weeks I’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time traveling, both in and out of the country.  On a recent plane trip, I had the brilliant luck to sit next to an amazing woman.  Upon my return, I was asked to write a column for Shakti in the Mountains.  I  work for Shakti founder Kim Bushore-Maki and we are growing a community of strong, creatively charged, authentically living women in our area.   (If you haven’t been there or heard of it, check it out.  Now.  Please.)

The following is the column I wrote, and I wanted to share it even further:

I hope you are safe and warm, where ever you may be.  I’m happy to be back here in chilly Tennessee.  There really is no place like home.

Lately I’ve had the privilege to travel quite a bit, mostly to warm places.  There’s all the planning and packing, the anticipation, and then the journey begins.  It doesn’t stop once we arrive at our destination of choice.  The journey is constant;  it’s every meal, every cab ride, every hike…and every step in between.

I love to talk to people all along the way.  (If I could offer some travel advice, it would be pack light and TALK.  Talk to everyone you can.  It’s amazing what can be learned when you are willing to be open.) Last night on our journey back, I had the privilege to sit next to a remarkable woman.  You know the drill:  sit down, buckle up, grab reading material.  I went through my routine and settled in for the next few hours.

The woman next to me had a search-a-word book and an LSAT study book.  I lasted till after take-off, but I couldn’t stop myself.  I asked her when she was taking the exam.  And I am so glad I did.

Her eyes lit up.  She answered that she was finally sitting for the test in June, and that she’d be starting law school somewhere in 2015.  Here’s what really got me:  when I asked how long she’d been studying, she turned from the page she’d book-marked to a page near the front of the book.  In the upper right corner, there was a series of dates and math.  She pointed to that corner and said, “I’ve been working on this for 27 years.  You can’t forget your dreams.  And you can’t stop learning.”  Let that sink in.

The flight was too short, which is almost never problematic for me.  I could write more than you’d ever want to read about our conversation.  Her children were grown.  One daughter was starting medical school.  She’d overcome mis-diagnosed diabetes, struggles with weight, and she’d shut up the voices in her head (her words, not mine) to get to this place.  She was not stopping.

After our flight ended, I was waiting for the next one when I found a Taoist Proverb in my stash of quotes that brought it home:  The journey is the destination.

She really made me think…what are the things that I want to learn?  What are the “obstacles” I allow to stop me?  What is the direction of my journey?  I spent a few minutes listing not only what I wanted to learn, but also what I use as the excuse for not.  Give that a try sometime.  It’s illuminating.  Hopefully, after that exercise, you’ll remind yourself (as I did) that there is no excuse big enough to keep you from your dreams.  You can’t stop learning.  There’s no stopping you, either.

Safe travels on your journey.

Broken open…

I had the good fortune to spend part of last weekend with some of my dearest friends.  The bonus was that we were able to share space together practicing yoga.  It had been some time since we’d all been together, so we were giddy in the first place.  But to share that space, well…that was icing on the cake.  

The instructor led us for an hour and one half, which actually felt like about ten minutes.  As he directed us about moving our bodies, he also led us to move our minds.  To shift.  To dig down into the dark spaces.  To breathe down into those places and lift up into light.  He commented that we work so hard on the exterior, that we sometimes neglect the interior (if any of you who attend with me read this, forgive the paraphrase).  Let that sink in…

I felt amazing during and after that practice.  Lifted.  Broken open.  I felt like I’d been able to crack those deeply formed shells.  And where those cracks were, deep down, stayed open.  They needed to stay that way.   

When I woke up before the moon fell Sunday in the wee hours, I still had that feeling.  That feeling of almost floating.  I felt light.  And I realized the cracks were still there.  I was reminded of the Japanese tradition of Kintsukroi.  This art is the repair of broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer, and the understanding that the piece is all the more beautiful for being broken.  I like to believe that lightness I felt was the sliver and gold filling those cracks.  

It’s only been a few days since, but I am still feeling the effects of that practice.  I’ve set the intention to remain broken open. To allow those broken places to be filled with light.  To be grateful for the experiences of breaking and healing.  To recognize that each break was necessary.  To bask in gratitude for the blessing that have received form those lessons.  

Over time, have you been broken?   Have you allowed yourself to be broken open?  Be willing to go there.  And fill the cracks with gold and silver.  You’re all the more beautiful for it.

Namaste.

 

Sharpening my Pencil

I grew up going to Catholic School (explains a lot, doesn’t it?) and when I got into trouble, one of the myriad ways I could be punished was the dreaded write-off. This didn’t happen often, but just enough that the memory is quite clear. I’d sharpen my pencil and sit quietly at the desk closest to the corner. And I’d write. Over and over, whatever phrase Sister Mary Mother of Perpetual Homework could invent to drill home the infraction. After a while, it would become peaceful and lose it’s feel of punishment. Over the years, I’ve almost always carried pencils and little notebooks so I can write and go back to that space of peace. Poems, grocery lists, notes on projects…just the simple act of writing a little bit takes me there.

This morning I woke up with a full schedule. I went through my normal rituals and packed my goodies for the day ahead. And I reached for my keys…which were no where to be found. After my very peaceful morning blew to smithereens, I remembered where they were. I found the remnant of the spare and regrouped. But, as “luck” would have it, the spare didn’t work. After another tiny meltdown, I got on the phone. I took some appropriate action and now everything is being taken care of.

Yet again, I had to be reminded that control is not something I have. Nor do I need it. Everything will be fine. It always is. The universe has a way of reminding me each and every time I forget. I know there’s an opportunity here if I’ll open my eyes.

I have a meeting this afternoon about something close to my heart. Instead of going through my day all a-flutter, thanks to my car, I have a few additional moments to sit and reflect on what an opportunity I have. In these extra moments, I’ve been able to really get centered. I’ve been able to relax enough to brainstorm.

As the thoughts began to flow, I find myself yet again reaching for my pencil. I grab my notebook. And so the ritual goes…

I’m grateful I recognize how much this ritual means. And I’m grateful I had the time today to go through it once again. If we are open to seeing everything as an opportunity instead of a trial, the whole world can open right up before us.

Are your eyes open today? Try it…see what happens. It’ll amaze you…promise!

Happy Monday, y’all.

Brave…

I heard a song a little while ago. I’d filed it away as something to go back to and then promptly forgot until I heard a it again the other day…while I was getting ready to go to campus.

Before I go any farther down this road, I have a little “splaining” to do, as Ricky Ricardo would say. I’m always telling people to step away from their comfort zone so I recently decided to follow my own advice. Now I’m teaching a couple of business courses at a local college. My comfort zone has been mocking me on a regular basis from its destination far, far away.

I digress. I was getting ready for class when I heard the song BRAVE by Sara Bareilles. You should give it a listen…the lyrics hit me square between my sleepy eyes. I’ll save you all the quotes and just tell you that it’s about stepping up. And it was perfect timing that it played for me that day.

I was waffling about doing something about an article I read in Yoga Journal. And after that aural motivation, I picked up the phone. I decided to be brave.

Just like that, I put something in motion. I still don’t have all the answers to my original question. But, I did ask. And I’m confident I’ll get them in due time. In the mean time, I’ve made the choice to be brave in some other ways. I registered for the 500 hour yoga teacher training. I added a few stand-up paddle board yoga classes to my teaching schedule. I said no when I meant it, instead of yes. And I said yes as often as I wanted without going off the deep end.

Edmund Morris said, “History admires the wise, but elevates the brave.” Even if the answers are not what I want, I asked the question. If I spend more time in the pool than on the paddle board, I made the leap from participant to instructor. I have been brave. And now that I know how it makes me feel, I will continue to be.

My request is simple. Get out your dictionary. Look up the definition of brave. Then listen to the song. And decide what you want to do that is BRAVE.

(And, if you feel like it tell me. I’d love to know!)

Happy Fall Equinox!

Tick Tock

So I suppose I should apologize for not writing. But I can’t. I firmly believe that you only say you’re sorry when you are. And I’m not.

It’s not that I haven’t missed posting. I have. I found myself wanting desperately to share so many adventures. But this summer has had a unique quality about it. I’ve spent a lot of time away. I don’t just mean out of town, but away as in with no means to post. Most of the time I write, what I’m discussing is happening or has just happened. Hard to do with no power. And that was good. I was forced to sit and just be. Sometimes I do that. Sometimes I write instead. (This is where the work in progress reminder goes.)

So I’ll move on to what has pushed me today. I’m sitting in a classroom. The school building has that smell. You know, like libraries have a smell. Or like your Grandmother’s house has a smell. You know…

My purpose is to get several things accomplished. I’m sitting in on a meeting for a friend. I’m preparing to teach a class unlike anything I’ve ever done. I have some time so I’m examining my calendar. I’m suddenly keenly aware that this magical Summer is vanishing, bringing with it a Fall full of new adventures and challenges. Emphasis on NEW.

And it’s hit me…I am going back to school. In a capacity totally unknown to me. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m a little scared. I’m up to the challenge.

I remember with great clarity those feelings. They’re the same ones I had the first day of every school year I participated in, from kindergarten through graduate school.

So I’ll exhale now. And remind myself what a gift school is for the student and the teacher. I’ll also remember that those roles are interchangeable. It seems every time I seek to teach, I become the student all over. What a gift that is!

As the first day draws near for me, and countless students and teachers everywhere, let me simply say thank you for what we are about to have the privilege of doing. And witnessing.

And may I also say that it is my hope that we may all see the light in others as we want them to see it in us.

Namaste….