The Reality of Choosing

When the mind is spinning and the perspective is negative noise, my teacher Francois Raoult says, “You have to change the tape.” As a child of the 80’s who constantly changed tapes in the numerous cassette players around the house—The Beatles to New Kids to R.E.M to Madonna to the Ramones—so much so her parents gifted her a Walkman with comfy headphones—this imagistic advice adhered like music to magnetically coated film.

 

I am a fan of examples. With that spirit, let’s play out the tape with this image of me in the flashy yoga pose Fallen Angel (a revolved arm balance where only my hands are on the ground and the side of my cheek gently rests against it while one leg is perched on one upper arm and the other is reaching up towards the sky) in my home practice space.

 

Fallen Angel: A Flashy Yoga Pose

Fallen Angel: A Flashy Yoga Pose

The Tape: Negative Nilly and the Noisemakers. Girl, you ain’t shit compared to the other yogis on Insta. And look at the wallpaper, peeling away from lumpy plaster walls that need to be insulated and skim-coated, which costs a fortune we don’t have because of the debt I dug being stupid and studying to be a writer in undergraduate and graduate school when I should have been in business school like people I know who made their millions and got out and now just travel and stay in luxury lofts in NYC because they’re perfect, and I am here, living in a house that needs new floors and walls I will never get because I don’t have the time because I have to work and I will never make enough money teaching and I will never be a perfect yogi when I need more thoracic rotation, hip opening, arm strength and complete understanding of the Sutras.

 

[Press Stop. I lovingly eject the tape. Thank you for serving your purpose, I say to myself as I discard it, let it go. And gently insert the new one and crank it up! ]

 

New Tape: Magnificent Manders and Lightmakers. Love, my abdominals are still nodding Namastes for what they learned in this pose. I am a woman, with a strong, daily practice of close study and clear articulation. I believe in progress over perfection. Revision is, and always will be, one of my favorite parts of process. I choose climbing out of debt over new walls. I have paid off two credit cards and am tackling a student loan. I no longer feel shame about money; I feel gratitude for the abundance we do have. We are lucky to own a beautiful home with a rich history of writers who lived here in the past. We were destined for this house, and we are here. How awesome to have the time to explore how we want each room when we have CASH to pay for remodeling. I am open to the infinite possibilities of yoga and I am willing to receive the gifts of being, most importantly, a student and a well-educated teacher who whole-heartedly believes in the therapeutic power of yoga, its healing and restorative qualities, and who believes in accessible asanas with viable modifications for all. Woman, I am your way! My words and my actions align. I deserve a seat at this table of life. Over doubt and fear, I choose love and peace.

 

Want to know the secret? It’s a choice. I choose my thoughts and intentions. I choose how I want to life my life. In the shower when I have those Negative Nilly confrontations with past hurtful situations, I choose to immediately catch myself and change the tape to “I choose peace”. After a long day, around happy hour, when wine crosses the mind, “I chose clarity.” When I’m impatient in the long line at the bank, I choose to change the tape to “thank you for the moment to stop”. When I feel that tinge of jealousy and competition because he/she/they make better art than me, I choose to celebrate: “you go, love”—that fact that art exists in this climate is a miracle! I choose over and over again. It’s not easy. Hard choices aren’t. Choosing means speaking out, standing up, letting go, being present, having perspective. I fall down. I fuck up. I make a mess. I get back on track. That’s reality. My life does not look look like photo-session-photo-shopped perfection of escapism because it’s that’s not my reality. This photo is my life—my process and progress, my imperfectly perfect life with dog hair all over the floor, wallpaper curling at the seam, and abs that are shaking. AND I CHOOSE TO LOVE IT. I’m even GRATEFUL for it! My choices are life affirming, life changing. That shit, however hokey and woo-woo it sounds is better than the living hell of falsity, anger, and shame. For reals. If you are choosing and it’s totally-exhausting-challenging, you are working. You are not alone. We are with you. We are working just as hard to change the tape, change our lives, to be light in darkness. Keep choosing. It is working. This post is my testimony.

 

Here’s the Cliff Notes: We must recognize the tape, choose to change it—AND CHANGE IT, be resilient, and be thankful for what actually is.

 

Thank you, Francois, for helping me recognize the tape and seeing it needed changing. Essential Yoga Teacher Training with you is school for the soul; it’s given me more than a RYT certificate. It’s given me back my self-love and worth. A shout-out to those who have shown me who I want to be and those who make room for me at the table and welcome me with a legit hug. And, finally, to the 80’s for all the music that helped me change the tape—literally.

 

Today I choose love. Let’s choose it together. You know you want to…Just do it. C’mon.

 

 

Homeward Bound

Homeward bound

First, gather the props. And you need them, even if you think you don’t. Ideally, a bolster and three blankets. Don’t have bolster? Roll up the dog’s bed or use a couch cushion. Don’t have yoga blankets? Use beach towels.  You don’t need a yoga mat to sit. Just sit.

 

You want to sit cross-legged and high enough that the knees descend. If you place your hands on your hips, you should be able to slide your hands down your legs to your knees. If there is an up motion, sit higher. Higher. HIGHER. (Can you hear me?) Stack blankets on the bolster if you have to. If your knees feel unsupported now that you are higher, support them. Roll up blankets or towels and gently place them under the knees for support. Sukhasana is called easy pose because that’s the end game. In the beginning, maybe it’s not so easy. Maybe it’s not so comfortable. Lean into that. One of the purposes of the pose is to teach us to sit with discomfort. Your purpose, though, is to not create more discomfort; you use the props to help you get as comfortable as you can and welcome practice to create the ease. 

 

Now you should feel your sitting bones. Anchor the pose there and in your legs and outer edges of your feet. Knees are descending. The pose is anchored in the earth from the sitting bones down. Feel that grounding connection. Then the spine lengthens up. You will feel the abdominals and the paraspinal muscles engage. Rejoice in that lifting sensation as you continue to ground into the earth. Drop the chin slightly to feel the back of the neck stretch; this also gives the mind an opportunity to honor the heart. If you are in the pose, you will feel like you are a channel for the energy between the earth and the sky, like a lightning bolt or a radio tower.

 

Set a timer for five minutes. Use an app. Focus on the breath. Chant Om. Journal afterwards. Or not. Practice first thing in the morning or right before bed. Just practice the pose. That’s yoga—practice.

 

Arrive

Once you’re in Sukhasana (easy seat), you close your eyes and look inward. When I first started practicing meditation daily, it took everything just to sit. My mind would beg me to jump up for the dryer buzzer or grade papers or make soup. To stay, I had to shift my perspective. I would silently say to myself, “I am still. I am calm.” Whatever negative words popped in my head, immediately I would catch them and reorient them into a positive: I hate this became My breath feels free. I kept coming back to pose to anchor myself. Gradually I started remembering images my teachers had shared in classes, and my mind grasped those.

 

Imagery helps me remain in the moment. One of my favorites is from my teacher Carla Anselm: imagine a house. Go to the door and open it. Welcome yourself. Look around. What do you imagine? Sometimes the house is quiet; there’s a low fire crackling from the hearth and a comfy chair lulls me towards it. Other times the floors are caked in dog hair and the windows are grime coated. How my imagination constructs the house is information about me.

 

What matters is this: STAY—find your way to STAY. And CHANGE the words in your head, if you need to. If they don’t serve you, don’t serve them; revise them to create the house you want to live in.

 

Get Your House in Order

After years of regular sitting, my inner house became more consistent. We all know life is challenging, but sitting taught me I was okay when everything wasn’t. I also started learning what I am willing to do and what I’m not willing to do. What I’m good at and what I’m not good at, a friend would say. Sitting helped me get real with myself—the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful. The key is I had to do the work to get my house in order; I sit and expect nothing. I sit with the discomfort of being wrong, of not knowing, of feeling fear. On the flipside, I sit with peace, of pure clarity, of feeling love. I knew that before I could truly be of service to anyone I had to get my own house in order. It took me years to arrive home. Even now, there is remodeling. But I’m closer to my ultimate goal of maintenance.

 

Sit with Yourself

Once you can sit with yourself (and stay!), no matter what happens you are okay. “You do you” works best when you know you and you are your own power source. Sitting is the clearest path to your center, the heart. Sitting is where you observe real change—change that begins in you and empowers you to change what’s within your control and lovingly let go of what is not.

Results

If the practice plateaus, upgrade! Add more time. Sit twice a day. Yoga is about progressing. There will never be perfection. You will never be done. Sitting will show you that. Figure out what you need to continue to grow and change.

 

Every Day is a New Start

Shit happens. You might oversleep. You might have an early morning doctor appointment or need to help with your kid’s homework you just found out about a half hour before the bus arrives. The cat throws up on your mat. A business meeting runs late. You went out for dinner after work instead of heading to your mat. Every day is different. It’s really not a big deal. The practice will wax and wane, but it’s always there. Some days you might only have five minutes to yourself in the car. Other days you just don’t sit down and those days turn into a week or longer. Remember, your home is always within. You can come back to your practice any time—morning, night, lunchtime, during a traffic jam. And if it’s been awhile, be kind to yourself when you do return. Close your eyes and arrive. Open the door and feel that long hug that needs no words.

(Video of Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound)

A Love Letter to 2018

Dear 2018,

My love, I didn’t see you coming. And when we finally stood nose-to-nose, I forgot to exhale.

From marzipan pigs to that Summer day when the thunder ceased and we were the only ones at the pool, we had our lovely moments. Quiet moments like those at the end of a good book.

Together, we are keepers of the monarchs, growers of native plants, teachers and students of yoga, guardians from angels of discord, and seekers of peace.

But dear sweet angelface, I am ready to move on. I long for the present moment where you are part of the past’s knowledge that creates clarity for the future.

With a full heart and well-rested spirit, I say to you: Thank you.

Thank you for the courage to speak my truths, to align my words and actions, to lovingly release more of that does not nourish me and to welcome all that brings me closer to my best self and life mission.

Thank you for another year to experience change and be reminded that change is the only constant, and that it is my responsibility to be flexible, to adapt without blame and with grace.  May every year this lesson become my ritual, my first-chosen path.

Thank you for making space for my deepest shadows—my mistakes; my faults; my feelings of fear, doubt and shame; my hind-sights—so I could sit with them, observe them, know them, learn from them and honor them as part of my whole self and part of the whole of humanity. As yoga teacher Elena Brower says, if there is any fear, shame, doubt, I smile at them, embrace them, and let them go. During our challenges, thank you for returning me to the light that is everywhere, even in the darkest of places.

Thank you for showing me all the ways I am becoming stronger—in my voice, in my power, in my practice, in my life. Thank you for illuminating my courage, creativity, openness, humor, street smarts, book smarts, self worth, honesty, sobriety, kindness, gratitude, and love. Thank you giving me the opportunity to be vulnerable, to ask for help when I needed it, to choose my words more carefully, to listen more closely, to say no—and yes—with intention and compassion, and to be grateful for everyone who and all that brightens my life.

My love, my lovely 2018, I release you with the softest of exhales.

Thank u, next.

Good Grief

I’m writing this, dear one, for us—those who are on our knees in the bottom of a very dark well.

 

To love, to truly love, means we are vulnerable to feelings. Even worse, feeling many of them at one time. I am grieving something I thought always would be part of my life every week. My logic is saying I have no right to grieve because I made a choice to release several weekly yoga classes. Classes I truly love teaching with every ounce of love that is in my body because I love yoga that much and I love you that much. Luckily I realize my brain and my heart are two different entities with very different roles. This is a moment to suspend judgment and logic. This is a moment to dwell in curiosity and mystery.

 

This past Friday’s Savasana poem was Ada Limon’s “Downhearted”. It starts: “Six horses died in a tractor-trailer fire. / There. That’s the hard part. I wanted / to tell you straight away so we could / grieve together.” I have read this poem, one of my all-time favorites, to yoga AND writing classes what easily could be hundreds of times without ever cracking. But on Friday it broke my heart into pieces and my face into tears. Shame for being sensitive, for crying, was my go-to response, but I was inspired by Brene Brown’s Rising Strong to release the shame and invite curiosity. And I found a lifelong habit waiting there for me—being “together” in times of suffering, in times of grief. When people are hurting, “I get it together. I keep it together. I do whatever it takes so no one breaks.” For the first time in my life, I am giving myself permission to not have it together. Instead I give myself permission to be vulnerable, “to tell you straight away”, and to grieve with you, us together in this mysterious black hole. You are not alone. We are not alone. We are together.

 

And we are going to get through this.

 

I am here. I am writing. I am still studying yoga. I am still pursuing my 500 RYT. I am still practicing yoga daily. I am still teaching yoga. I am still part of our yoga community. I am no longer teaching at Movementality. That’s the only change. But that one thing in a list of very awesome things overcomes our hearts with sadness. Let’s have the courage to name it and feel it. Together. But also let’s look at what’s coming.

 

In April, National Poetry Month, I will be teaching a Yoga class while Dan reads our favorite poems. Summer Yoga at Schooner Farms is on deck. And more exciting classes and workshops are being planned. We have a future together. We will be okay.

 

Dear one, I get it. This is a big change in the weekly patterns that have been a stable part of our lives for the last five years together. We are allowed to grieve this loss, even in the face of hope and excitement. In fact, if we don’t grieve, we won’t heal, which means we might carry around some heavy baggage and its unwieldy cronies.

 

Our yoga practice gently reminds us to embrace the light and draw closer to our highest selves; to do that, we must feel it ALL. As spiritual writer Mark Nepo says, we must sit, stay, heal.

I am sitting on my mat. Surround sound silence except for the dog’s snore. I feel the impulses tantrum, banshee screaming with intermittences of tonsils-exposed piercing silences. Again and again, I choose love by being present and feeling what the present moment offers. I could get up, but I stay and feel it all. I feel the grief and the hope.

We are going to be okay. Together.

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This Is NOT a Good-bye...

comic I drew of myself answering a calling from the highest self.

comic I drew of myself answering a calling from the highest self.

As I write this, the dark winter night sky is dawning into a bluish grey. Outside my window, leaf piles are flecked with white from the remaining snow of this week’s weather. Inside my little room, the props from this morning’s practice are neatly stacked next to my green mat and old Bleu dog is loudly snoring from his sheet-covered chair. Nope, that’s a chorus of three boys snoring peacefully in their dreamlands while I sip tea and tap out these words to you, dearest.
 
I live for these moments—early morning practice, time for yoga and writing, a space where I feel completely balanced and completely me.
 
If memory serves me well, there are two things that have journeyed with me through this life: Legs-up Pose and Writing. When I was a kid I literally would watch TV with my legs resting up the TV stand. And when I tired of music videos or Dallas drama, I would retreat to my room where I wrote and illustrated books. Sometimes I would be so immersed in that magical moment of creation I had no clue my stepmom was screaming her head off for me to set the table until my brother would pound on the door nananana-ing that I was in biiiiigggggg trouble.
 
Yoga and writing have been two of my life callings. I earned my MFA in Creative Writing long ago. But I stopped seriously writing regularly years ago. Mostly because of fear, doubt, self-judgment, judgment from others, jealousy—all these reasons that trapped my six-year-old dreamer and maker in a well so deep there was no joy or light in the art any longer. At that point, yoga was around, like someone who shows up at all the same parties, and I turned it then and my life is forever changed.
 
My yoga mat became my safe space of expression, and when I answered the calling to be a yoga teacher, every single yoga lesson became a poem for you. Every sequence a line unfolding layers of poses, of words bringing us closer to each other, closer to our highest selves. The practice of asana, the teaching of asana, to me, is a metaphor for the spiritual work of yoga; my love, I offer the metaphors and it is my deepest hope you find whatever message you need tucked there way beyond your hamstrings in Supta Padangusthasana. My favorite gift of yoga is that it isn’t dyadic or direct; it’s a process of progress, of learning, of unlearning, of trusting to let go, and letting go. What yoga unveils to me is different from what it whispers to you. My only job as a teacher is to turn on the tube and open the channel.
 
As you know, I take my calling to teach yoga seriously. It is my responsibility to talk the talk AND walk the walk. My daily personal practice is Research and Development. In so many ways becoming a teacher has given me the opportunity to be my own best student—something I am deeply grateful for. You know Francois, my teacher, spends much of his year in France or New York, not exactly a mile down the road, so I've had to learn to be a dedicated student on my own and from that dedication is all I share with you. Being a teacher has given me the gift of YOU, love.  Seeing your practice blossom, change, move like Spinal Waves inspires me to be the best teacher and step on my mat every day where I see my own practice grow, change, move. It’s on my mat I hear my callings—what I have to do to live in harmony in this world, this body, this life.

I have been called back to writing, dear one. After a long, painful break from something I am meant to do in this world. After hours on my mat of tantrums, progress, regression, and healing. After ignoring call after call. After receiving countless voicemails through mentors and messy messages from learning experiences. I must answer this call.
 
Wildcard on December 15 will be my last class at Movementality. I am stepping away from teaching weekly at there to spend my mornings, the most creative time of my day, on my mat and with my words. I must start writing again. I have several writing projects—comic poems, a graphic novel, essays on yoga and more—that deserve my full attention and what a perfect time than the new year to begin!
 
My angel, may I please take a moment to remind you, you will be okay.
 
Remember, your practice is yours and yours alone. You have worked hard to develop your daily home practice in addition to classes with me. This time of change and challenge is where you will find your inner yoga teacher and where your practice will flourish. You know how to get on mat and get the job done; you've learned that from years of study in my classes. NOW JUST FUCKING DO IT. And if you need to print that and tape it to your mat so you can hear my voice, then do it.
 
I am going to continue emailing monthly yoga musings with sequence ideas, book recommendationsplaylists, doodles, and more. One of my goals as a writer is to write the yoga experience. We are going to do that together. Right here. That’s pretty awesome.
 
Also, I am available for private sessions. If you want one, please email me. A monthly one-hour session can give you something to chew on for weeks.
 
And there’s the studio. To experience other teachers’ classes is a powerful gift.
 
Sweetpea, I’m not retiring from teaching yoga. I’m not giving up you. I’m just taking time away from teaching weekly group classes at Movementality to honor a calling in my life. We are all going to survive, adapt to changes, and unlock new treasures in our practices and lives. It is my highest intention that we join together in joy, hope, and love, and that we practice our little hearts out the next two weeks together. Let's celebrate us and all the work we've done together! 
 
The morning light is electric now, even as a few snowflakes float down. And I hear the boys stirring. I am so grateful to have spent this morning with you, here on the page. I love you so much. THANK YOU for always supporting me and for putting so much faith and trust in me. It’s because of all I learned from you that I am finally able to find the courage to pick up the pen and write with the joy of my five-year-old self. Namaste.

Yoga is a Safe Space

Lately I find myself in contemplation--a lot. I feel confused and frustrated every time I read a news feed. How can I stay informed while maintaining some shred of hope in humanity? Teaching--yoga, writing, literature--has been my solstice. Every time I step in a classroom or studio space, I feel gratitude for the reciprocal exchange of learning. In this exchange, I discover hope again and again. 

Now more than ever, we need to allow ourselves to find hope and light, even in the darkest of places. We need to be active participants on our mats and in our lives. Remember, yoga truly begins when we step off of our mats. What happens on the mat is only practice. And the practice builds our courage, strength, and compassion. 

Though it may be challenging, it is our responsibility as active participants to uphold expectations and values that align with our highest selves and most compassionate hearts. If ever you feel unsafe or witness someone else feeling unsafe because of the behavior of someone in a yoga class, a small business, a classroom, anywhere, I beg you to unlock the fear to find the strength you foster in your yoga practice and speak up.

We have a human right to live our lives in peace and safety. As an educator, it is my responsibility to maintain a safe space for learning. Please know that I will uphold the codes of conduct in class and expect each person in class to do the same. If you ever feel unsafe, please let me and the studio owners/administrators know immediately so we can restore peace. As obvious as this may seem, it's not obvious. I want to be very clear: bad behavior and mistreatment of others is not tolerated in my classes. Period. My classes are a place of lightness, hope, humor, and inquiry for self and public good. Please review my yoga class policies for more information.

I love you all dearly. I take our safety and happiness very seriously. I have your back. I am on your team. Onward we go with forgiving hearts, kind words, and steady courage.