This is Your Brain on Skinny (or Maybe This is MY Brain on Skinny)

We’ve all seen the ads: “This is your brain on drugs.” “This is your brain on music.” Well, here’s a new one: “This is your brain on skinny.”

I had lunch with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. We had a lovely time catching up. We’ve both moved our bodies over the years, sometimes more and sometimes less. We’ve watched the scales go up and down. We’ve starved and binged. We have done it all.

We were ending our lunch and saying our goodbyes when she stopped me and said, “I can tell you’ve lost some weight.” In an instant, everything went blurry. I managed to say thank you, but I was already somewhere else.   I felt something in my brain shift.

This was MY brain on skinny. Had someone been able to see an image of my brain in a functional MRI, they would’ve seen the same centers light up that do when an addict gets a hit. The addict in this scenario is me. Here’s why. You see, I never forgot what it was like to be heavy, not that I am skinny now (or ever have been, or even want to). I never forgot what my nickname was in grade school because I was rounder than the other kids (it was a mashup of a farm animal and my actual nickname). I never forgot how low I felt when I perceived myself to be less than because I was more (more hips, more thighs, more ass than the people I compared myself to).

I’m grateful that I am aware enough of myself to have noticed this reaction. It took a lot of yoga, a lot of inner work, and a lot of mindfulness to become aware. I can say with gratitude that yoga settled me into my body in a way that nothing else could. (Believe me, I know.) I would love to tell you I shut it down immediately, but I am a human…not a saint or a robot. What I did do was get on my mat. Then I wrote. And I got back on my mat and I wrote some more. Lather, rinse repeat.

When I start to feel things that I want to handle in a way that is healthy and safe, I grab (in no particular order) my mat, some art supplies, a music source and I head for a quiet space. I let the music lift me as I move and shift. I move my body and remind myself that my body is the perfect yoga body because it is MINE. What I cannot move out, I write out, draw out, or color out until I am back in that space of love, acceptance, and gratitude.

The past is just that: past. I know in my heart that I am divine. I am good enough. I am perfect just as I am. You are, too. Did you know that? We forget so easily when we see someone who has a different body or more resources, but at the end of the day, we are perfect. We are all perfect. Let that sink in…You. Are. Perfect.

The next time you catch yourself in comparison, remember you are perfect. Just as you are. Right this minute. You are perfect. How do I know? Because I am perfect, too. We can see that in each other, you know. Namaste.

What’s Your Next Move?

I’ve been reading a bit, studying, so I could find a way to practice while I have been away from the mat and from teaching. I discovered a book by Nicolai Bachman, The Path of the Yoga Sutras, that’s become one of my new favorites. Bachman discusses several points from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and does so in a way that is easily understood, providing examples and applications that are within the reach of anyone, whether or not they practice yoga at all.

Santosa, the second niyama (self-care, according to Bachman), has been my greatest struggle this summer. Contentment and gratitude. To truly practice this niyama, we have to be content and grateful for what we have right now, this minute. Some days that means I have to be content and grateful with the fact that my body doesn’t move like it did only a few weeks ago. I have to be content and grateful for what it does right this minute. I can’t compare myself to others, or expect my body to be different than it is, because those acts invite duhka…suffering.

I’ve had to read and re-read that chapter several times. I have become aware of when those feelings creep up so I don’t hold onto them; let them come to a slow boil. Instead, I’ve learned to meet them with gratitude. Gratitude for time off to heal and regain my strength and stamina. Gratitude for great care from friends and family. Gratitude for books, crayons, pencils, and paper. And gratitude for what my body is capable of right this minute.

Bachman says,”…accepting the pace at which your body can change and practicing accordingly can help you avoid … suffering.” He also says, “What is important is that we are moving in a positive direction.” Powerful words for anyone. Especially powerful to me.

So, I am grateful for comfortable shoes to walk in. I’m grateful for a nice breeze to cool me. And I’m grateful to recognize how far I’ve come over the last few weeks, even though I know there is still more healing ahead. And I’m content in the knowledge that I am moving in a positive direction.

What’s your next move?

  

7 Limbs

I have an opportunity.  I have no choice but to see it this way, so I am.  You see, I can’t teach yoga for the next several weeks.  I have to limit my activity and my practice.

I had a little surgery that keeps me grounded for a bit.  No driving for a couple of weeks.  No lifting.  No vigorous activities.

Notice I didn’t include yoga in the list of no-no’s.  That’s because it isn’t there.  (But wait, you ask, you just said you can’t teach or practice…so it must be on the list!)

Yoga is an 8-limbed path, many times depicted like a tree.  So, you see, I have 7 other limbs to practice.  Asana, postures and poses used in classes or home practice, are but one.  The other 7, not as popular in the mainstream as asana, but equally valuable are: Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

I’m going to use this time to dig a little deeper, seek out the dark corners and shine the light.  And you’re welcome to join me.  I hope you will.  What questions do you have?  If the yoga experience seems appealing, but the asana practice doesn’t, what would you like to know about deepening your own practice?

The beauty of yoga is that there are no rights or wrongs.  It is a practice as individual as each of us.

Love and light.

  
 

 

Starting with Intention

It’s that time of year again: that time when we start to evaluate. One year is ending, another beginning. We dig out the list from last year…you know the one. It says things like “learn a new language, lose 10 pounds, read more books, drink less soda.” That list. It’s exhaustive. Once I re-read it, I usually wish I’d never found it. Actually, I wish I’d never written it.

But last year, I made a change. I kept my silly list of resolutions..the one with the boxes I could check off as I completed the tasks. Admittedly, it got very little attention. I also had another list. I sat down in earnest as 2014 arrived, and set forth my intentions for new year. Believe me when I say that this is the only list I’ll ever make at the New Year from now on. Intentions are life changers.

First, what is intention? You can consult Merriam-Webster, but I choose to understand intention as an aim or plan of action. AIM…as in direction.   When I set an intention, I choose my direction. Let that sink in for a minute. If I set my intention as joy, then I CHOOSE joy.

The hard part starts when we encounter something or someone that attempts to steal that intention, and we have to choose that intention over and over again.   We have to get out of our own way on this one. It’s so easy to choose: simplicity, happiness, gratitude, etc. But it’s definitely not easy to stay there.

Let me walk you through it. I’ll use simplicity as an example; it was an intention of mine for 2014, and may be again. Last year, when I went through my year-end review, as I’ve done for decades, I made some decisions. I wanted to do more. I wanted to have a shift in my life and my practices, personally and professionally. I knew changes were coming. It was time to honor them and learn what I could. As I winnowed down what needed to shift and how I wanted to feel, simplicity was the one word that worked to describe what I sought.

That intention of simplicity led me down several paths. Environmental simplicity was the most obvious. I’ve cleaned out closets, recycled, given away, sold. I actually let go of some books. I’ve reconsidered purchases. Do I need another book? Do I need more shoes? Another t-shirt? Could someone else be better served by this ___________ (fill in the blank with random household items that are not serving me any longer)? These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s where the real work starts: how can I bring simplicity to my day-to-day existence on this planet? Am I clear about what I want? Is there simplicity in my living? I can’t be everything to everyone, nor should I try. So simplicity in my day-to-day existence means coming back to my authentic self. Choosing me. Choosing what makes my heart sing. For me, that meant saying no and setting boundaries. (Remember, I told you this was the hard part.) It meant saying no to work that doesn’t fulfill me, even when the price tag made me think twice. It meant choosing who gets my time. It meant choosing to practice yoga and meditate more consistently at home, to read and study, to write, to color, to knit, to rest. And it still means all of these things. That’s the beauty, to me. Once the intention is set, even when you’ve achieved what you desire, you’re still living that intention. It’s a spiral that, when you honor yourself, lifts you up higher and higher.

As the days get shorter and the year draws to a close, take a few moments here and there. Start to write. Write for you. Write what’s on your heart, not what you think someone else wants/expects/needs. As you find the words for your intention, breathe them in. Gather them. Fill yourself with them. Soon, you’ll find there’s no room for anything but your highest good.

(If you want to learn more about setting intentions, join me at Mountain Yoga January 10, 2015, or  Serenity Now January 11, 2015 for a Mini-Retreat to explore Starting with Intention.  January is also the start of Living with Intention, a monthly group that will meet at Shakti in the Mountains to celebrate, encourage and explore an entire year of intentional living.)

I Finally Went to Camp!

I always wanted to go to camp. When my brother and I were kids, we heard about camp, but we never went. It wasn’t that we couldn’t have. I’m not sure I ever said out loud that I wanted to go. But I did. I’m sure my Mother will be pleased to know that I recognize that she isn’t now, nor has she ever been, a mind-reader.

I’ve been teaching yoga for a few years now, and I truly enjoy teaching all ages for different reasons. Not to generalize too much, but each group brings different experience, desires and mind-sets to the mat. Over the last year I’ve been intrigued with teaching young people. I often wonder how my life could have been impacted if I’d learned to practice yoga earlier than my 30’s. And with all the technology, competition, and general busy-ness of today, I can’t help but think that teaching kids yoga will give them tools to better handle the stress of just growing up. Meditation, breath work, and a strong mind-body connection can combat the pre-test jitters, build self-confidence and start kids on the road to moving their bodies, which can lead to a lifetime habit.  I started an after-school program this year to reach out to 12-15 year old girls. That was the first step. Then I went to camp.

The inaugural Camp Namaste was last week at Mountain Yoga!  A couple of months ago, I attended a workshop about taking risks.  A few days after that I told my partner that I wanted to have a kid’s yoga camp.  He asked a million questions, and was surprised that I wanted to break this ground.  Mountain Yoga was my next stop.  (It wasn’t hard…I teach there several times a week.)  I was grateful for the reception.  And I was inspired!

Lots of reading, research and practice went into planning our week.  It’s hard~no, make that impossible~to cover everything.  I really had to dig into my practice to distill the curriculum for these youngsters!  But after preparing for a few months,  I had it nailed down.  We had a mix of asana (poses), meditation, chakras (energy centers in the body), mandalas, and even some faux-tie dye!20140619-180714-65234514.jpg

The week was full of learning and surprises, both for me and for the kids.  And I can’t wait to go back!  Who’d have thought that I’d finally get to camp at age 43?  There are more dates in July, and I’m excited about sharing yoga with these young people.   I can’t wait to learn what they have to teach me.

If you’re curious about the benefits, click here to read an article from PARENTS magazine. And feel free to reach out to me…I’m excited to share what ever I can.

Now, go grab your kids and get on your mat!

Namaste, y’all!

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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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.

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.

 

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….