How to Make Change Happen- step off the hamster wheel

Why do many practice yoga in the US today? I took a survey recently and here are some of the responses I received:
*Improved function of the body
*In touch with the nature of the true self
*Be aware of the present moment
*Lifestyle and connection to community
*Better observation of feelings and emotions
*Stillness and steadiness with thoughts
*Improved health

We already know that yoga will reduce stress, allow you to sleep better, have clearer thought processes or improve the physical body. Even if we don’t know exactly why – we know of the healing possibilities. That is exactly why this article isn’t going to repeat all this. Nope, not going to discuss how it helps with injuries, tight muscles, strength or energy. Why? Because we already know all this. Yet knowing isn’t enough.

We can know plenty of things but making change is much harder. Excuses and habits keep us right where we are; set on a ‘cruise control’  or going around on the hamster wheel over and over.  Don’t give up though, the process of changing habits and identifying the excuses is just one part of our mind’s communication. As we start to practice awareness more in yoga we learn to tap into other parts of the mind, pause, take notice of our thought process, we can start to venture into making new and better choices. Possibly change the path or course we were on. But first you must be aware that you are doing this. This practice is hard; often just like holding up a mirror to look at ourselves and therefore we may not like the reality of what we are seeing. So it takes a lot of strength and courage to witness this. When are ready though it is quite powerful; the art of letting go of our past and future to just be right here where we are. Acceptance happens and allows us to suspend judgement, criticism, anger and sadness – often our first responses.

Along with surveying those who practice yoga, those that don’t were also asked “why not?” Here are some of the responses:

*“I don’t have the time” Many of us have legitimate reasons for this of course; from being busy with our work, family and school. Therefore time may be limited but it is not lost. We often don’t want to put ourselves first. It can seem very selfish but logically we know it only helps us in dealing with our life, family, work. Another consideration is that you feel you need to block out hours of time for yoga. Instead you could practice steadily all day long; a few minutes a day.

*“I can’t afford it” Just as not having time we also have important financial responsibilities. However there is a point where having more money does not increase happiness or health; most times it starts to decline. Finding balance often in our life means that we have to make conscious decisions not to overdo or under-do; neither indulge nor deny. Whenever we do this, another area has to be sacrificed. Additionally there are ways to explore different options of affordable yoga classes. Many studios look for volunteers to help in exchange for classes. Taking group or community classes is much less expensive than private lessons. Most important, only you can decide when yoga is important enough as it is an investment. When we set our intension too do something we often make it happen.

*“Yoga is for women” Men often feel strange coming into group classes that often have a majority of women in the room. However yoga wasn’t always this way. For a long time men were the only one’s allowed to practice yoga. Still there are stereotypes and definitions are out there on what yoga is today. There are many styles of yoga though to explore. What one person, age or gender is doing may not be for you. Just keep exploring. The best yoga for you is what you can do each day.

*“I am not flexible” This response is very common and may be quite true however isn’t going to help the problem with avoidance. If I want to learn to speak a language, I know that I don’t have to learn the language before I start taking a class. If I want to take a cooking class, I certainly don’t tell myself that I must learn how to cook before I go. Therefore yoga isn’t any different. The point of a yoga “practice” is to learn from a qualified teacher, experiment, improve and change.

*“I’m way too old” Not true of course. Often when we are stuck in our habits we may be at a crossroads and ready for change. Yet it is easy to just give up and use excuses because we are scared or afraid. Fact is we are never too old and the yoga practice can remind us of this as our view and attitude starts to change from within. Yoga can allow us to see our possibilities instead of our weakness and see past our fears.

*“I’m too tired” This is an interesting excuse because many also go to yoga classes even though tired, exhausted, run-down, depleted. Either way many are choosing the wrong style of yoga to help them feel nourished, restored or balanced. The practice should be balancing and complementing your life even if it is challenging. Learning to listen to the body, mind and energy more we can see past our ego and make better choices in our life that will leave us with steady energy.

Fact is many of us come to crossroads in our life where we know change has to be made. Knowing isn’t enough and many times we return to old and familiar solutions that may have provided some solutions and therefore we believe they will do so again. When it doesn’t work or we fail we often repeat again. This is why awareness is key to finding a new or different path.

As we start down this path we can allow for our imperfections and permission to fall off balance. Balancing is hard and the postures are there to let us observe our patterns. For example tree posture; part of the process of the posture is going into it, being there, possibly falling out and stepping back and mindfully coming out again. Feeling the entire experience. Each moment of the tree is going to be different and once we can let go of controlling it we can learn to allow the moment to happen. We learn to be just as we are, surrender to right here and see where it takes you.

“All of me, loves all of you”

So I’ve been busy the past couple months as many know. I was asked to write an article for a studio that is in the process of being published so that took up any time I had for writing on my blog. As many know I had to figure out directions to take in my life recently and have been busy interviewing and finding out in the process that I’m ready to teach full time. I left my full time job in recruiting and did go to work for a yoga studio to build out a new role within the operations of the business.

I knew going to work for a small business has it’s risk; new role and as in anything in your life when you work for one employer and they decide to change directions, the risk is that it cuts your entire income. It leaves you scared and afraid of course. I look back on that time though knowing that I was so out of balance. I was very overworked, stressed and the employer just kept adding to the role; which I gladly did because I tend to handle doing more, eager to help and make things better. That is just my tendency. What was supposed to be a better worklife decision wasn’t though. Without warning I was told that the role was cut and without severance I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life. Over 25 years of knowing exactly the directions and steps to take here I was with a blank page for my future.

I say this as a useful example because I think it is important to realize that each person is human and has faults; yes even in the yoga world.  I know of a young woman who just started teaching yoga and a friend of ours told me that she finds it hard to think of her friend as a yoga teacher because she knows the person isn’t very calm or patient. She admitted thinking this is crazy but she thinks of her yoga teachers in this way; they should be patient, kind, loving and never angry. We all tend to do this.   We have certain conditions and expectations of those in our life. All we can do is focus on what the person isn’t – rather than what they have to offer.  Others know of this very well and play right into it as well to build their business operations; knowing they can sell an image even if that isn’t realistic or healthy. Most advertisements are this way.  Yes – even in yoga. The point of yoga is to approve of yourself but don’t be fouled. Many know that they can sell more classes if the promote their image, style, look and advertisement in hopes you will want to be just like them. Kind of goes against the point though of a yoga practice though.

So the question is – am I better off or motivated more by the lie or fantasy that ‘I too can be like you if I work hard enough at it”? Or that I want to believe you are perfect? Or am I better off knowing you aren’t this way, that you too truthfully struggle with various conditions in your life? That you too have faults? Could I learn from the ‘perfect imperfections’ just as much? I personally feel that I’m motivated more by the later. It makes me feel that the person is more trustworthy because none of us are without fault.

Yoga, no matter the style, is a philosophical path where we work with human nature and conditions. Therefore it is always exploring both our strengths and weaknesses. This is why Yoga is more than a physical exercise. On this path we can observe and redirect our mind , thoughts and therefore make better decisions. Sometimes though we don’t make good decisions. We eat incorrectly, we get mad, we don’t sleep well, overdo or under-do. So we make mistakes, hope it doesn’t cause harm and observe our intension in the choice we made. Hopefully with the practice we build more awareness to really observe when this happens.

In know that whenever something is wrong in my life I tend to check in on my intensions. If my intension was pure, to do good, be truthful, not harm or steal, then I can start to let go of what happened and move forward. Stop worrying so much about “Why”.  Sometimes bad things happen – too all people.   Especially when  I’m faced with uncertainty of which direction to go or how to get there I have to learn to just trust.

This is why I love mediation. It has helped me to trust that my feelings were never wrong or something to be embarrassed about. It helped me to tap into an inner knowledge and intuition. Sometimes we try and struggle so hard when faced with change. We can find ourselves in a flight or fight response. Thinking that was the only choice – one or the other. Anxiety will set in with fear to make a quick rash decision or we will be so scared that we freeze still. Avoidance of either though won’t prevent it. Pause, breathe and listen. That is another choice we often don’t think about. It takes practice.

Now I could logically tell you this over and over – but it still doesn’t mean much. Fact is we have to be aware that this is what is happening.  We have to do the work. The big items are easier to identify but in our everyday we can let it slip by.  It is in the little things – how we do, say or go about our actions. Sometimes we have hard choices to make or we have to deliver difficult news but it is how we do it that can make the difference.

So how do we start to practice this? I’ve found it helpful to just call out, or Popcorn Out as we said at Kripalu, the words, feelings, emotions. Not worrying so much about being “PC”. Of course I can’t just do this out in the open. I have to have a person I trust that I can communicate this openly with. Trust that they aren’t there to judge me but to let me be myself. I’m also making sure I”m not directing my action in a harmful way.

I have a friend going through some very tough times right now. Faced with some of our darkest fears; no job, debt, where to live, an ex-husband who has been using the court system to be controlling and verbally abusive, and really questioning her career path. On-top of that are things she wants right now that she is learning she has to either let go of or be patient for. I could tell she was resisting from really letting go so we just did this exercise I mention above on calling out the feelings and emotions. Just give it a name. No worry about what is right or wrong.  Just say what comes to mind.  Often it is layers of emotions that we are blocking.

When I was Kripalu last year I learned a valuable practice and excercise on the art of listening. It sounds easy but trust me it is quite challenging. You sit with one partner; side to side, shoulder to opposite shoulder, so you can hear each other but can’t make eye contact. Our communication is 90% non-verbally. So more important in this exercise is to just hold the space to listen to the other person. Without redirecting it with our response and this includes even our eye contact. So in this practice no nods, moans, smiles or touches; you just listen. At first it feels strange to talk and not have feedback. Once the time is done the other person is not there to respond, approve, disapprove,fix or solve. You sit in silence. Nothing more needs to be done. The person communicating starts off each sentence with “I feel” or “I am aware of”. If there are moments of silence that is ok too. After complete, you sit, feel the quiet and then you switch roles.

I recently did this exercise with a couples prenatal workshop I teach and it was quite powerful. I’ve been teaching this workshop for years and found that many come hopeful that I will transform their partners into better listeners for their childbirth experience. I’ve found this technique to be a better tool that helps them learn how to communicate and listen not just now but for the rest of their life. Nobody suggested I do it, but when I experienced it last year I just felt it would be wonderful for a workshop like this. I’m proud to report that out of everything we do in the workshop this exercise is the one more of them feel they would keep up more often.

So what has been happening to me lately? I just kept going and found myself teaching yoga and meditation in groups, privates and corporate offices. Most days I’m busying teaching 2 or 3 times a day. Most are still subbing and I continue to look for permeant roles but keeping myself working in many areas right now. I feel that somehow I’ve found myself working for some amazing people in my life. Without a set plan I can now see how I found them and ended up teaching with them. A force larger than myself was at work.

In the meantime I have found more of the balance I needed in my life. I have time to be with my family, go to the store, walk, garden, read and rest. Really rest, which I have found even 32 month post stroke, that it is required more in my life right now.  Gone are the days I could work 10 hours without a break.

One other area I noticed that was out of balance in my life was the phone. Text, email, social media – I was so used to the panic in my life – each ring possibly meant something was wrong. Not just with work but my Mother who is dealing with multiple health issues. I could feel my chest get tight and I was able to be aware of the feelings, how my breath was short and that this reaction was not healthy. So I made a change. I no longer have my cell phone by my bed. I was tired of waking up to see if there was a message and starting my day off handling the emergencies. Stimulation like this is not healthy to wake up too. So now I get up, shower, get ready, take the dogs out and then check the phone, email and life. I also realized as much as I love to crank up the tunes in the car, that the sounds I listened too really set the tone for how I feel. Digestion is more than food. It comes from what I take in with my five senses. Once I made this change I found myself even more aware of overstimulated areas; how mad, angry and upset others may be. Much of the world has just accepted this but try noticing it the next time you go out.  The good news is you have choices in how much you take in and digest. Balance is what I’m describing and it is hard. We can go both ways. We can go to far the other way and be so isolated from the world that we can become depressed.

People tell me that I look better which I appreciate but more importantly I feel better and my mind feels clearer. I am seeing this too in my teaching. It isn’t unusual for any teacher to layout plans for a class and sometimes we can fall victim to our habits. Lately I find myself easing into my teaching and somehow for the first time ever I find a word or words that just fit in a way to describe the practice that I never prepared for that rise up. I think moments like this often go unnoticed as the students think you had that ready all along.  However it can happen to those who teach anything as well as anyone who does public speaking. I am noticing it more though and appreciating the chances I have to do exactly what I’m doing.

Finally, for those of you who are reading this article who are now trying to figure out who I’m referring too, piece it together in the various stories above I merely suggest you need to do something for me. Go back up to the part about the “art of listening”. Be the listener for me. You don’t have to solve, respond, figure out, deflect or protect. As I said earlier it is tough and challenging.  If that doesn’t work, consider practicing Metta; this is the Buddhist word for empathy or an act of service/willingness to see another point of view. To walk a mile in another persons shoes. Loving kindness.  Shanti! (Peace).


“It’s times like these you learn to live again” Foo Fighters

I was away at Kripalu in Massachusetts recently finishing my 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training and the focus with this class was integrating Ayurveda into Yoga. I know many don’t know what Ayurveda is here in the West – but it is a very old science that discusses alternative medicine. It dates back to the Vedic traditions -thousands of years ago. In some very basic terms it is a natural human study that discusses way to use techniques to remain healthy that depend on individuals qualities, life, time of day, age and environment.

It was just the place for me to go, as it turned out. I was dealing with directions to take in my life right now with my career. Without a job I wasn’t sure if going was the right thing to do but my husband told me that getting away was the right thing and what a better place to go to than this environment? Going on retreat of course is always an amazing experience and reminded me of summer camp as a kid. I grew up going away to places where even for a week you could be around nature, people who had similar views/outlooks, support, singing songs together, eating healthy food and walks out in nature. So it is no surprise that as an adult Kripalu is to me, as well as so many others, a home away from home.

Yet we don’t have to be kids or someone going through a major life change to enjoy experiences like this; there are many reasons to take retreats or vacations; to really get away from our routine and be able to clear our minds, bodies and souls. Yet, sad to say, I know so many who go on vacations only to come back more tired, exhausted and talk about needing a vacation from the vacation.

What is the difference then? The intension. Almost any place could offer us a good or bad experience but all we have control over is our awareness before, during and after it.

I say this because I live in Washington, DC and we tend to approach our lifestyles by pushing, going and exhausting. We supplement this lifestyle by doing more; pushing harder. Our intension is built around a fear that if we slow down, stop, pause – that somehow we have lost or failed. Only to find injury or pain at the end of this journey as a result. Now I’m not saying working out, exercising or even having plans on vacations is bad. I think we need balance though and if you have a life built on working long stressful days, eating fast, barely having time to listen to others, sleep deprived…etc, then maybe the solution, especially in your down time, is to do the opposite. The Guna’s or natural qualities became something I learned more about on this teacher training; more important than simply understanding the Dosha qualities (see my Health Tab in my blog for more on this). To help ourselves we need to identify the problem and the solution is the opposite. Still don’t believe me – don’t take my word for it – watch what nature does. Of course this sounds simple but it is complex. The solutions don’t have to be found just on retreats though – it may be supplementing things like this in your daily life. When we start to do this we can learn to pause and listen to ourselves more; the body has probably been communicating this desire all along – but we chose to ignore it. Our ego can be good or bad but it is our intension that we can be more aware of. For example is it my goal to show off my pose to others or to have a mindful experience with my breath, mind, body along the way.

This experience at Kripalu was different for me than the other times. Not only was I unemployed and unsure of where to go next, but on the flip side I didn’t have tasks, emails or voicemails to check while I was there. This would be a time purposely to slow down, stop and just be. Something I haven’t done in 30 years. When I arrived at Kripalu I got to my room and laid down. After a long day of traveling, I usually need to take a nap. I couldn’t nap though this time and instead laid there, looking out my open window, examining the mountains and taking in the air. In a short time I found myself getting up and going outside. I found a spot on the grass near a tree on the little hill and just sat there taking in the sun, view of the mountains, the lake in the distance, the feel of cool grass on my feet. I then tried a few different mediations but they weren’t working and to be honest felt more like a task. Then I just stopped and sat. I took a few deep breathes and started to cry. It wasn’t a sad cry though. I looked out and reminded myself that I didn’t have to be any more than be right here. The words “I am enough” came to me. With that the tears stopped and I started to explore what was here . The view, smells, sounds, feel, taste. Nothing more. With that simple focus I was feeling “Grounded”. Instead of getting caught up in the semantics or meaning of things – just be.

The training started that evening and I met many I had met a year before; we stayed in touch but still seeing them in person was far better than social media. We hugged, laughed, cried and we sat for our introduction. I looked to each side of me and around me and saw that I had people around me that I knew were loving, kind and supportive.

With that lovely evening, I got ready and went to bed around 10pm as I knew getting up at 5am would be tough. I”m not a morning person and knew there would be some adaption to this for the next 8 days. I slept almost all night without interruption. Morning Yoga practice known as Sadhana is a two hour practice, done twice a day, that is yoga movement with mindfulness, meditation, pranyama and writing. Done before and after a full day of teacher training. By 9am I had breakfast which is silent. I have learned not to jump in line for the food but to walk around, look and explore the different options. Then ask myself “what will nourish me right now”? I don’t need someone else rules – just trust and listen. I filled a bowl and ate a food called Kitchari which is am amazing rice, herb and vegetable dish, tea and water. I added some warm greens and had an egg. No fruit, coffee or milk. I waited to drink some tea after I finished my food. As I ate I thought about those who harvested the food, cleaned it, prepared it. All the effort, love and work that went into this breakfast for me. I looked around at the views of the trees, sun and those walking around the cafeteria.

Teacher training is hard though and I knew this after years of doing continued teacher training. There is a lot of sitting, listening and finding ways to be comfortable for long hours and days. Often times with long classes I find myself so drained that I take advantage our our breaks for naps where I can get them. As I learned more about the Integration of Ayurvedic Science into yoga I learned so much about food – not as a diet – but just as a human being and what is happening internally to our bodies. The cycle of when and what we should be eating our 3 meals a day. I the night before I learned that lunch should be our larger meal followed by walking and/or taking a nap but it is helpful to lie on your left side after a meal and for only 10 to 15 min to help with digestion. So I decided to give this a try. It was so different from my lifestyle back home.

Even later that evening after dinner I found myself being encouraged by friends to go walking with them, even though what I wanted to do was go back to my room, go to my computer and look for new jobs. An entire day of not knowing what was going on in the outside world – what would I do? However I took the walk to a patch of tall grass with beautiful colors of wild flowers. We all stayed silent and just walked in the twilight; a meditation in motion. Listening to the evening bugs fly around, the sun setting and the moon was visible. Great conversation as we left there and headed back to our rooms, showers and evening. I decided to get some tea and settle into bed. Then something amazing happened. I slept all night. Didn’t get up to use the restroom even once. This continued each day while I was there and I felt a sense of consistent regular energy each day, even though I was up early and long hours. I also felt clear in my thoughts and a great silence came over me. I was then learning that what I was experiencing is a sense of balancing again; listening to what my nature, body, soul and mind needs. Days of this, eating with awareness, getting good sleep, being around supportive people, even Kirtan (singing in a group) and applying oils to my skin were starting to help me.

By late week we would watch the energy change, especially as we watched those just arriving for their retreats; the hectic minds, uneasiness, confusion and longing for their computers/phones/coffee. I remember trying to eat lunch and there were a lot of new people who had just arrived.   There was just so much of this crazy energy and a friend came in, took just a small bit of food that wasn’t around the craziness and even though he wanted more food he waked passed me saying “unha -hell no.” I laughed and picked up my tray agreeing that I had to be aware of what was going on and then make a choice. So I found a better place for me to eat and digest.

Just like having any great experience though it isn’t enough to have it. The memory doesn’t work that way. I see many who come to yoga classes and have an amazing experience but don’t return. It is a lot of work to keep at it and not find ourselves caught in our habits and excuses. With each new day I have to start over, remind myself of my intension and also permission to fall off of it, listen and find my center of truth again. Coming in and out of my intension is part of the practice. Once you have a taste for the nourishment that food and social environment provides, it really can surprise you. Slowly I’ve found that my skin, that is often so dry, felt better, as I explored Ayurvedic oils that had herbs in them that I applied with loving kindness to myself. Appreciating the time to do this for myself.

Many who saw me through this change during the 9 days there at Kripalu made comments that I was suddenly “glowing”. I attribute the change to many things, not just one thing and I’m not saying that it means everyone should follow my route. Again from my experience, when we are depleted, hurting or exhausted – we are dried out and we need hydration which comes from more than just drinking enough water. I was juicy! (Ojas).

This is why in returning I feel even stronger in offering ways to help those in their daily life to find healthier ways in their over-stimulated, depleted and exhausting paths of living already. I’m exploring teaching yoga full time now; Hatha Yoga, Yin, Nidra and mediation classes to help those in the Washington, DC area that need this more so they can have clearer thoughts, sleep better, be calmer and enjoy their life without the aid of outside stimulants. What I discovered along the way of my training was that it isn’t about the style of yoga, posture, or asana. It is how it is taught; to whom, time of day, season, environment etc. I can teach anyone the positions; most good exercise instructors can teach what to do.  However it is HOW it is taught to that person that can be the difference.  The same pose can leave the student depleted, hurt, injured or nourished, calm, restored. Which is why I’ve spent the last year, and now after this training, combining the Philosophy of Yoga with the Science of Ayurveda into my classes. I am doing so with simple, everyday terms so that even someone unaware of these two sister practices will feel them and have an experience with them.

I’m back home now and just like returning from summer camp as a kid, I realize that there is a part that doesn’t want to loose it. I want to hold onto it and not let go. But that isn’t real. There is a time for retreat and time for our regular daily life. Both have a purpose. What I can do is have my home practice; a way I live daily and let myself do things that keep my head above water till the next retreat. For me I’ve examined so many things the past few weeks; from who are my friends, how I chose to use my time, what I watch, read and listen too, how I eat, not just what I eat, and of course where I want to work. I’ve been looking at many yoga and meditation options from studios, corporate and private lessons. Taking the time to find places that I feel are right for me and have the same view, passion and outlook. They can’t just sell Yoga classes – I’m looking to work with those that live it in their life; their work and private lives.   Reminds me of when I used to skydive and you have all this time to reach altitude and you finally reach 14,000 feet and the door is suddenly open. There are butterflies in the stomach and I just have to trust that once out, that there is an amazing experience ahead. Sure you have to trust but sometimes you just have to just take a deep breath and go – unsure of why you have too do this but something is calling you in that direction. For sure it won’t always be amazing but from those mistakes, disappointments and errors life ties all those moments together so when you are in the grace of a great moment – you know it beyond a doubt.

So I’m listening, trusting and it is a hard journey for sure. Easier said than done. It is so easy to fall back into habits and patterns. Doubt is always a friend by my side for sure; doubt will always be there but I no longer see the need to remove the bad from good – just become more aware of it. I know I’m not alone in my feelings but this is why I write this blog. Not to point the finger, cause harm, brag or blame – but to speak the truth about my journey and hope that if it reaches you in some way that it may help. If it bothers you or you don’t agree – ok. Simply just move on -everything passes. No need to fix, try to repress or reply to it. It is just one persons view. In the end is has helped me to write and be aware of my feelings and experiences. No matter how it helps, how many or how far away, my intension is not from my ego but from a place of truth, love and compassion.  Therefore I have no regrets or doubts on what I have or will write here.

May you be happy, free and find your truth.

Flying through the air with the greatest of ease

I don’t know why or where it exists from but ever since I was a child I love to go to the local playground, monkey bars, climb, hang upside down and swing from one bar to the next. So needless to say many years later watching a friends pictures and experience on the flying trapeze, it just seemed like a normal ‘yep I have to do that’ moment. I looked for those to join me but nobody would or could go with me. Still I waited years before I called a place and found out when I could go and moved forward with this desire; going even if that meant alone. My husband came with me and was prepared to support and take pictures but wasn’t interested in trying this himself. As we drove to downtown DC together and my stomach was upset and my nerves took over. As I approached the office I could feel my body go numb and my breath faster in non-existent. Fear and doubt. A bit of judgement, expectation and completely scared out of my mind.

Being quite familiar with identifying my feelings I just kept moving forward. “This will be ok – just keep breathing. You have been through worse.” True, said the left side of my brain but the right side kept taking over. This is obviously one of those times when logic just won’t help. As I approached the office I could hear them explaining to others that a heavy thunderstorm was approaching and that we may have to reschedule. But first, lets wait. “Oh great!” I thought to myself. What a relief. I kept processing all the things I could be doing instead as I walked out to tell my husband who was so sorry for me. “Yeah it sucks” I said. He felt bad for me and I acted as if I was so disappointed.

As we sat in lawn chairs waiting to see which direction the weather would take us, I sat watching some advanced trapeze students and teachers float from bar to bar, catching each other and flipping around in the air. Wow – could that be me? Is that me? Wait, do I even want that? Doubt started to set in. Some were wearing tiny , little sports bras and shorts; so skinny that I was afraid if a rib popped you would actually see it pop out. I didn’t look at that with envy at all. A male instructor came over and said “lets at least get you guys started on the first part of the training.” So we walked over to a location with a single monkey bar and large pad on the ground. We practiced hanging, lifting ourselves up to hang ourselves upside down, grabbing the bar, undoing and letting go. Of course I’m making this sound easier than it really is. Pulling ones weight up is quite hard not to mention making yourself small enough to cross your legs into your chest, up and around the bar so you can rest the back of your knees on the bar. Coming out is way easier. Also it was so different from when I was 8 years old for sure.

The reality started to hit me – this was happening and then all of a sudden the thunderstorm came in. Oh what a relief. “Can I go now?” I’m not sure just what I was thinking, but I rescheduled for a week later and would return to start the training over. We left and I started to relax and then ever so excited to return. “I hope I remember everything they just taught me.”

The week went by and I had to take off work to come on a weekday that had an opening. Once again my husband came. We sat outside and watched the traffic of people on the other side of the fence walk by; often times just watching with amazement, but sometimes you get those who think it is fun to yell and heckle those up on the trapeze. I was introduced to a new teacher and a group of others who looked just as scared as I was. Many had friends with them but they were so nice to let me join them as we practiced and trained. We started to support and cheered others on -“Yes you can” “You can do it”.

After training we were told what to expect, the process and that we would get started. OMG. It is happening on this beautiful day. So we were each told of the line-up. I wasn’t first but at least I wasn’t last – I don’t think I can take the waiting any longer. I just know once I do it once I’ll be ok. I watch one young lady go up. She yells back and tells us it is higher than she expected. “Oh great!”. She grabs the bar and with the help of teachers up there she manages to go, swing, hang upside down and then let go to fall into the net. Ok I think – I can do this. I mean she makes it look so easy. We clap and support her ready to hear about her experience. The next woman goes and has a similar experience. But then it is my turn. There is some chalk on the ground and I grab that to help with my very wet hands. It is meant to keep you dry; so do you think I can dunk my body in it? Just kidding I think to myself. Even my mouth is so dry that I can’t even feel myself swallow. I start to hook my rope to the ladder and start to climb. “Just take one step at a time. Don’t look down.” I tell myself. I climb slowly and carefully and when I reach the top there is just a tiny board to stand on. Very tiny in fact. The woman there is helping me move the rope and set up. She grabs the bar for me and goes over what I will be doing. This is just me swinging by myself, I tell myself; just be a kid again. Suddenly the training lesson escapes me. Wait – was I supposed to count 1, 2, 3 or was it 1,2 and 3. “OMG Do I go on the 3 or the AND – I can’t remember just when to sway, squat and go.” My timing was off which meant she stopped me and started it over. She starts counting again and I don’t move. Mainly because I can’t find my rhythm. “I’m overthinking this” I say. I kind of wish she would just stop counting, repeating the same thing over and over. It isn’t helping. I can feel her getting annoyed from her tone and attitude. Does it really matter if I go on the 3 or the AND or 4, 5 anyway. Who cares! It isn’t as if I’m coordinating with another for a catch. I just want to have this first experience.

So by the third or fourth attempt I either got it or she just gave up, but either way I was off on my own swinging on the bar. So relieved to be going; I knew I could do it! The teacher on the ground starts yelling out to lift which I do, hang upside down, swing and hang. Loving this. As I undo and drop to the net I’m so happy.  I was so proud because I really did let my body and mind take over and could remember being a kid again. He helps me off the net and talks to me about the count and how to go about it next time. Really repeating what I obviously didn’t understand. I hear him but still I’m not sure of exactly what to do but he has to move on so I just agree and move on. But not worried – I’ll figure it out. So I’m back in line talking about my experience.

When it is my turn again I go up much calmer this time. I don’t need any chalk. I tell myself to stop overthinking this ‘take-off thing’- just feel it you know you do better that way. The teacher again starts with the verbal count but I pause and it starts again. When do I sway, squat and go? Is it on the 3? “Oh no! Not again.” This time though I pull myself together at least on the 2nd attempt. Lift and hang upside down. Wow – I’m starting to get the feeling of this. I come off though I’m told that only some of us can go again, based on time and progress to try a catch. That would be those of us that they felt could move on to the next step. Of course that wasn’t me. So I got a “Thanks – keep coming back.” Can’t they see how far I had just come in just two experiences? So why do I feel like I failed then?

I stayed though to support and watch the few that moved on from the first lesson to try a catch. Ok so that isn’t me up there trying this, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t succeed. I should be so happy with myself. This is not a competition, I have to remind myself. I notice on the ground nearby a couple of the teachers are busy playing around with “acro-yoga” (parnter poses) with each other and I look at them completely understanding that what looks one way is an different experience internally or to another. What looks impossible or hard isn’t so – especially when you partner with or have the help or support of others. It becomes – FUN.

Here is what I forgot in the midst of that experience. I had so many people there, with good intensions for sure, telling me what to, how to do it, correcting me – yes even myself. I forgot to just have FUN! Not to care if I was disappointing someone or if they would be upset, mad or judging my performance. Who cares – in the end all we have is our own joy in the moment, even the small every day moments. I was wrong to let myself be drawn away from that.

Sad to say I’ve never gone back to try it again though. Either way though I carry the experience with me as a reminder that “Yes you can” even if you don’t do it perfectly or to others expectations remember that as long as your intension was right that the only real failure is by not moving forward or trying. This is true today for me as I venture out into the unknown in my career.  I was reminded though that much like the flying trapeze that I’m floating in the air. I’m floating between the bars; leaving one well known and convenient bar for the next one – not knowing when,where and what that will be. So a very scary place.  The amazing support I have received has shown me that I don’t have to go at this alone for sure. Exploring today, this moment and to have FUN.

Now I’m sure many will have different feelings about my story – some will judge it, compare it or even admire it. Not important though – if you can see past that for a moment there is a place to realize something within all of us – intension is more important than your failure or success. Go past being the critic and pause in that place.

Which makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt that I have on my desk:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of the high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – 1910 “The Man in the Arena”



Slightly Imperfect – Just sayin’



Funny enough I was looking at my calendar this week and saw that we have a Friday the 13th lined up with the 14th this Saturday for Valentines day. This made me smile. For many one day is a curse and the other is quite lucky. But wait … which one am I referring too? Sometimes we jump and naturally make assumptions; thinking our way is right and others views are stupid or wrong.

Although life has so many ups and downs I used to spend so much of my time getting ready, planning, imagining the day ahead and what would happen. Always going about my work, chores and family events as if there was tons of time later to do other things. Never feeling quite satisfied and focused on the next thing. Yet when the present day came I was already busy and off to the future thoughts again. Or even worse I had done so much expecting that when it happened sometimes my reaction could be so overblown and dramatic; more from the build up of the expected disappointment than the real moment.

Then something even stranger happened when I turned 40. Going about my day and I found myself doing things and really taking the time to listen, make eye contact, observe, be right there in the moment – even when I was taking care of my chores. I had read a book called “Hand Wash Cold” by Karen Maezen Miller that really got me thinking – why not do the dishes with the intension of being right there. The title refers to the fact that we don’t treat ourselves like our clothes i.e. delicate cycle with care. Instead we often toss ourselves into the big load, on hot and hard spin cycles. Lets get that dirt out! Always pulling, pushing and squeezing.

I started to enjoy and appreciate the tiny moments around me I noticed something. Someone asked me how I was doing and I stopped and thought about it. “I’m fine” I said. Wait what? It wasn’t great and it wasn’t bad. My first reaction was there must be something wrong with this feeling. There wasn’t some funny story or something to fix or solve. I was really just “ok”. Shouldn’t I be more than that? Aren’t we all looking in some way to find peace, less stress and happiness? Is that always just the light at the end of the tunnel – off in the distance? But what would this feel like if it were right here? Would I know it if I saw it?

For years I imagined what it would be to be a stress-free, peaceful and happy person. I lived with an image of those I admired and thought that will be me… someday.  When people are asked to think about someone they admire who is peaceful and loving the person most often thought about is the Dalai Lama. Calm, always happy and blissful. Nothing bothers him… right?  So “Tomorrow” I thought. I spent my present days trying to eliminate sadness, fear and anger and would sit still to meditate but nope. Instead I would judge myself, blame, or give up. Might as well stop… there is always tomorrow. My sister would call me out on it and say “See you are angry – what kind of yogi are you? Yogis aren’t angry” I struggled with the answer for a long time. Fact is the more I tried to be someone else the more I failed. Then with the help of a wonderful yoga and meditation teacher he taught me to stop trying. I had to stop resisting and learn to be ok with who I am right now – faults and all. I wasn’t going to stop being angry; just like the Dalai Lama who has talked about his anger, regret and fear.  We are all imperfect human beings.  Instead my practice helped me identify the feelings there, recognize them and pause more. It was this action that helped me reduce the stress and pain of regret.

So here we come at the end of this week to a back to back day of what could be completely up, down, both or maybe neither. No doubt though that both days will spark feelings and emotions. Some will avoid and others will embrace it. On Valentines Day there will be pictures of flowers, chocolate and hearts shared on all social media for sure. Some will push it away, waiting for it to just pass. Others will rebel with comments about how this is just a marketing day and try to push away the feelings. There are also those who won’t have a special someone to share the moment with at all and they may be down or depressed. I’m not judging or saying one is better than the other though. The avoidance of the real moment or experience is what I’m writing about – whether happy or sad it is bound to be there; even as we reach for the phone to share our moments, try to capture it, save it, instead of being in it while it is happening.

No matter our own personal and unique feelings to either days though, what if we each treated ourselves like we needed the gentle cycle in life? Is that not the luckiest act of love?  Sure there are times for the bulk cycle but wouldn’t we last longer and be just as clean if we went about it in a slower, softer way? It took me a long time to realize this and maybe that just comes with the experiences we each face. Things I used to do in the past I could bounce back from so fast – even if it was bad for me. That changed. Now I see that my actions take longer to recover from – especially if I hurt myself. More importantly I stopped putting off to tomorrow…

…Love and Live for today.

“I never expect a perfect work from an imperfect man” Alexander Hamilton

“Without Present there is no basis of past and future” Dalai Lama


Oh so glad it happened

Two years ago I had a major life change. Those that know me or read past articles know I had a stroke.  There are many kinds of strokes but mine was from a vertebral artery dissection that happened spontaneously and is quite rare.  It happens to young people and there is no warning and science knows very little about why it happens.

Yes young, healthy and active and yet it happened. Many, including myself, tried to understand it, push past it and I found myself trying to put others at ease. Life doesn’t provide guarantees or answers though – why becomes because that is life. I know many who are young, healthy and die way too early. I also know of many who are unhealthy and yet live to an old age.

Looking back on the past two years though I can really embrace that this major event happened. Strange huh? I have told many that I was grateful for my yoga practice at that time but I think many thought I was talking about the exercise when in fact I was referring to so much more. My awareness really made me mindful when I was grasping or pushing away. When I would want to cry but instead would resist and deny the feelings. The Pushing Away -we simply refuse to admit what is going on. Instead we’ll fight it all the way.

Aversion. Also known as anger, fear, dislike, resistance or hatred. We may not think to call or identify it as Aversion but that is just what that is. For me yoga isn’t just an exercise but should allow us to tap into our emotions and improve awareness. Instead of what I WANTED we can work towards what COULD happen. That is why Yoga doesn’t have to be contained or just held on the mat – it is all inclusive in our daily life. It is the way we move, stay still, sit, eat, sleep, work, interact with others and ourself. This is why I prefer yoga with an experienced teacher rather than a video. It is way too easy to hide away and maybe miss what someone else can see; good or bad. Helps us to expand past our habits and maybe break free of our aversion. A good teacher should allow you to have a safe place to experiment, try things and be yourself. Right now I am reading Stephen Copes latest book and love a saying he wrote: “Pain will happen but suffering is a choice”. Thats it! The choice is how I wish to hold that experience.

Aversion doesn’t have to be in major activities though. Often we experience it many times each day. Ever gone shopping for Clothes? Of course you have. So many us hate it and are scared of what the clothes will tell us about ourselves. We resist or resort to blaming ourselves. We hate that our body doesn’t match up to our expectations or even worse to societies expectations. If we can pause there though we may be able to just accept that some clothes will fit and others won’t. It isn’t personal! Stop it! We can start to see the difference between “this outfit isn’t right for me right now” vs “I’m ugly and therefore not good enough for this outfit”. For me it has been a struggle learning this body over the past couple years. I have changed and needed larger sizes. Once I started to let go of this I simply stopped blaming myself, I dressed myself with what looked and felt right. I cut the tags out so I don’t have to have a reminder of what someone else calls a large, medium or small. Instead I was dealing with my body as it is now. We even set up this resistance in the styles or kind of yoga we practice. We associate our self or status with it. Sad to say I find that some clothing lines for Yoga as well as some Yoga studios have a long way to go in accepting different bodies, types and styles. Models in the name of yoga are typically there selling the idea that you too could be something other than yourself.

Of course it is easier to see Aversion with major events. We declare war on it instead of just seeing the moment as it is. Even when I was in the hospital two years ago I remember they ran so many tests and were there telling me that in addition to what was happening my tests showed signs that I am a candidate for Arthritis someday. Really? My choice right then was to thank them but laugh about this. I told them I can’t live my life worried about what may or may not happen. Including if I could have a stroke again. The manner I was told about the results didn’t offer me more than just fear. No suggestions to living a happier life.

What we see visually is tough because for many of us we put so much value on what we see. We see signs with tests and determine someone’e future with it. We look into the mirror and judge what we see. We see pictures of a model and long to be them – unsure if they are happy –  but heck if I could be them I sure would be. Right? It never works that way though. There is more to each of us than the image. That is why I’m not a big fan of pictures of yoga poses especially on social media. To me it seems the complete opposite of what Yoga is really about. It isn’t about “Nailing it” or look at me in my practice. I believe in letting myself experience the entire process of the pose; beginning, middle and end. More than simply using our sight we feel, smell, touch and taste the experience and that can’t be seen in an image.

It is hard not to compare though – that is just human nature. It is normal to lock down and sometimes resist the moment. Human nature fights really hard and whether politics, religion, race, groups or classes – each one is busy averting from anything unlike them. They rationalize that one is better than the other. It snowballs until it resorts to being harmful, painful or killing in the name of it. Even last week in Paris those who were threatened by differences decided to kill and try to use fear to suppress. Unfortunately it never works the way many intend. I’m glad too see that it unites and reminds us to embrace our human right to our thoughts & opinions. Even North Korea tried this recently and for me it really made me appreciate what I could easily take for granted.

For now and today all I can do is be the best person I can be – faults and all. My actions can help or hurt another. So it starts with what I choose. That is why when I had the stroke I found myself returning to teaching yoga and helping others. I examined that I had even more to offer after this experience and I’m glad that it happened. Sure I did experience a lot of pain but I didn’t have to suffer. The choice was mine.


The Best Love Story…

I’ve had some good, ok and really bad new years eve nights. I wish I had known then what was wrong was my expectation. I had someone else’s idea of what it was supposed to be. Never quite turns out ok when I try to do that though.

It is the time of year where we reflect on the past year and make plans for the year to come. Recently I heard someone say “the best love story is the one we have with ourselves”. I love this and the meaning of loving our true self. Not the one I want – but person I truly am – faults and all. You know that unconditional love we receive but rarely believe about ourself? What would happen if I started to be less judgmental and critical? We all do this of course. In fact each year we make promises to change and find it doesn’t last very long. Then we feel guilty and return back too our old habits.

Often I write and speak about Fear but there is also another emotion that is also holding us back….Hope. Not that there is anything wrong with a little hope but we often identify too much hope.  We get easily caught up with hope while sitting in meditation or yoga too.  We want enlightenment, peace or even too master a position.  We grasp for it and this creates a resistance.  Then when it doesn’t come out we allow it to dictate our happiness or performance. Marketing knows that we hold onto hope as well as fear. Each ad or news article reminds us of what could happen or what we could be. We buy into it all the time.

I once heard someone say “My happiness doesn’t rely on the success or failure of this posture”. In the context of yoga postures this means that what lies past the physical body movement is a decision to let things happen and remove myself from the blame, judgement or criticism. I am not the success or failure of what happens in other words. When we practice yoga this hope can be just as dangerous as fear. We see video and pictures of someone else and want to be that or do that.  What we don’t see visually is the mind’s process of doubt, examination of measuring up; am I winning or loosing.

What I’m talking about is easier said than done of course. We like to avoid the truth facing us. In yoga what we call our inner truth is called Dharma. It is our code that each of us was born with and that we can’t be anything other than who we are. When we are young we may resist this – we do things all the time and see things happen of course. If you do something long enough something of course will happen. Long term though it doesn’t last and can have a harmful effect if unhealthy or wrong. Somehow the body or mind responds and we often call it a breakdown or burnout. We didn’t want to listen to the truth often out of fear or hope.

One example of our conditioning is to examine the way plays and stories are written & designed to tap into these emotions; the format used today exists as far back as the Ancient Greek times. There are often 3 acts. The first act is where things seem to be going along fine but not great. Something is missing. The second act something happens to really shake things up or change and often there is a struggle – just want to get back to the way things were in first act. By the third act the resistance to the change settles and although different it is better than it was. Now hearing this you may agree or not but try examining TV, Movies and even real life to see if you can ID the Act. Why we often find ourselves moved because we know this is human nature.

So beyond knowing it happens now what do we do?  Detachment.  Not from trying, playing or involvement but from the outcome.  Recognizing helps but then you can move into the allowance and investigation of the experience. Sometimes it is enough just to allow for it. Try to pause and witness it. Instead of rushing past it, surprising it – can you ID the feelings right then and there?

So why do this act of detachment?  The mind is playing a tug of war with itself – split in two.  We may even think we are being mindful because the mind isn’t full of our usual worry.  However when we are practicing yoga or meditation and focused on the outcome we are still separated from the here and now.  When we learn to be more focused on the actual experience the mind is no longer grasping and is free.

I know for me I have happened upon my Dharma and sat there thinking “of course”. I came across mine not even trying. I found myself investing a lot of my time going to college for my accounting degree, getting my CPA and 15 years in CPA firms. I came from an insecure environment growing up. I remember professors asking me about other routes but no – I was going to be an accountant and earn lots of money. Accounting is quite logical thought process to me of course. I love to solve things and organize. However I was pushing away so much, was unhappy and all along in my life I had great feelings in helping others and writing. So I took a big risk to leave it and haven’t regretted it at all.

Often though it doesn’t have to be something as big as a job or relationship change. Sometimes it is just the little day to day stresses of worry and concern that we can become more aware of. I have had times where I was between jobs and worried what will come next. I don’t know what to do or direction to take. My husband is great at reminding me that things are always ok. As I let go of being the driver and just be a passenger in life I find myself sitting back and enjoying the ride. Now I’m not saying I’m a great passenger. I’m not. But I’m able to pause and observe what is happening right then. When I’m afraid or scared I can feel a tightening in my chest that goes up to my throat and jaw. My breath is shallow and I feel sad, angry and hurt. It isn’t just one feeling. Right there though I can allow for it and with nonjudgemental awareness and ID what it is. Often that is enough to settle into the experience.

The greatest love story is the one we have with ourselves. Letting ourselves be ok just as we are right now and as we start to ID our own path, Dharma and routes, the rest starts to unfold for us.

Yoga is this for me. However the word Yoga, just like ones Dharma, is different for everyone. Instead of worrying about what it is, try letting go of the expectation and go see what feels right to you. What works for one may not for another. It will change over time as well. It may not be right for you at all as well. Just don’t avoid it from a place of fear (I can’t touch my toes) or from Hope (I want to touch my toes). I know it seems crazy but that place in the 3rd Act exists when we let go. It really can happen.

“The love you take…is equal to the love you make”

Life is full of annoyances and problems and I’m sure we know this but sometimes we get caught on the “hamster wheel” of life – simply repeating over and over. When the wheel changes or stops we panic and although we hated just running in a circle we often just want it to stay the same. “Bring back the familiar!”

I say this not with judgement but with compassion as I too do this myself. I find by improving my awareness that I can identify when I’m off track faster and let go with greater ease. The art of Compassion is one I find helpful to further my own awareness more. It is the art of seeing another persons point of view or side to things with love and grace. Scientifically speaking compassion is a part of the brain that has to be used though. So we can talk about it all we want but have to “use it or loose it”.

This holiday has been great for me to meet up with so many I haven’t seen in a while; practicing the art of compassion to be a better listener myself. I try to make good eye contact and take in what the person is saying vs already thinking about my response back or what I wanted to hear. It makes it even harder when you are in a crowded room to stay focused, but I like the challenge. I tell myself “Stay right here” as I focus on their eyes, voice and hear them.

I had a great conversation the other day with a good friend about her need for a new couch. She just had a baby this year so she started describing a conversation she had with her husband about their need for a new couch. He really wants to get something nice. Her reaction to this was full of worry and concern. “The couch is going to get stains, have spit-up from the baby and get dirty – I don’t think he understands.” Her solution was to stick with the old dirty couch they had. I found myself listening, having compassion and views to each side. Then out of my mind came this thought “But life is full of stains – does that mean I shouldn’t move on or forward because it will be messy?” She and I laughed at this simple idea and I witnessed where she was physically holding within herself body as well. Once she let go of the stress her shoulders relaxed. She realized that maybe a compromise was reachable and not quite as hard as she had imagined.

Compassion is something that has to be cultivated and will change over time as well. Anything born out of causes or conditions is bound to change, yet our first response is often to resist it. To build compassion doesn’t mean that you toss aside yourself -which we often do. This is where finding a middle ground is tough. Yet I have to be upfront – although there are tons of articles, stories and books on “being balanced” – I don’t believe we were meant to be in the middle all the time. What yoga and meditation has taught me is that just like a physical balancing posture – I will wiggle, fall or struggle. Being more mindful of the experience though I can listen for the signs and try to come back to my center again. But more than making balance a focus or goal – we can start to relax into the experience just as it is. Even if that just happens to be sad or painful.  (Those I teach Prenatal Yoga already know that I talk  about this in class already)

What I’m talking about we may agree but it is the practice that is quite a challenge. I think we rationalize for the big events but it also happens in the small areas too. I live and work in a DC which has tons of traffic congestion. Sometimes I find myself yelling or getting upset at yet another person driving up the shoulder to squeeze in. The art of driving with compassion becomes an every day area that I can take advantage to practice it more. If I explore the moment, I find that my chest gets tight, that my breath is shallow and my jaw hurts from clenching. When I make the choice to let go I’m able to find myself first being kind to myself and then to others. Telling myself to give more space to my breath, relaxing my grip on the wheel and just let them go. Maybe they too had a hard day and often they wave back in such a way that they really appreciated the help.

Besides teaching yoga, I am also a recruiter. One reason I like helping those look for new jobs is that I often come across those who just need guidance or help. Some come to me very upset that they just got laid off. They disliked their boss, tons of hours, travel and even who they were themselves, but then they are quick to panic and just want it all back. I often suggest to them that this could be a great chance to make yourself happy. Start by letting go of the material things and ask yourself what that is? Sure I get paying bills, eating and providing. But our fear often keeps us from doing what is best for our happiness.

I’ve been there though – shocked and stunned, crying because I didn’t know which way to go. I’ve had management point the finger, blame and say some hurtful things. In the end I found myself drawing inward to meditate. Sometimes by waiting I see that the anger was the cause of something deeper from the source; I was just an innocent bi-stander.

For years of working in accounting, recruiting and teaching yoga I have seen many “burn-out”. The word is so common but do we admit to ourselves when it has happened? We talk about how out of balance we are but balance can be different things to different people so it isn’t as simple as – “they work too much”. I think it comes down to “Why” you are doing what you are doing – not What it is. Your Dharma or purpose is your own unique code. If your purpose is to give, you do so each day without alarm to the time spent. Yet if it is for something like things, money, ego – it doesn’t last very long.

We each have our own stains – some are more obvious than others. But finding time to be still and quiet I find helps me come back to my own code of what is right for me. Sometimes that means saying “no I can’t do that”. My upbringing used to make me feel bad for saying “no” but I have long learned that just like the instructions you get on the airplane about the drop-down oxygen masks – I have to put the mask on myself first if I’m going to be of any help to anyone else.

So this holiday I suggest we each take many moments to put the mask on yourself first. From this you will find yourself serving and giving too others more. I myself will be giving myself my holiday treat of stepping away from my social media, phone and email for the week with my family. I know it will be hard at first but I started doing this years ago and found it amazing how much time there is to do other things when my computer & phone is put away. Especially on the holiday it is a time to listen, be with others and appreciate all we have today.

May you be peaceful and happy this holiday. Shanti.

—Paige Lichens


Fav Beatles lyric but makes sense to remind ourselves that we are what we give.

Being Truly Thankful


The cold weather has come in and with seasons things change. It is quite normal to hang on to what was and when faced with challenging times think it is permanent; when in fact it isn’t.

I’m being gently reminded of this as we go into Thanksgiving Holidays. Besides the marketing and sales, that seems to start earlier each year, we end up being sold a bag of goods to compete, keep up and of course – be prepared. Just like the changing moments of the seasons if we can pause more, we can experience them more fully.

For me I like to remind myself “this too will pass”. I use these words to myself in every day moments as it helps me to observe when I’m tensing up, holding my breath and letting my thoughts take me on stressful journeys.

Thoughts are quite powerful. We all have them and can have thousands of thoughts and conversations within ourselves each day. The Buddha said that ‘with your thoughts you create your world’.  We end up rehearsing stories over and over that start to shape our belief of the experience with those thoughts.

Easy way to understand what I’m referring too here is practicing yoga postures. I have been postures and found myself thinking about where I wanted my heals to be in down-dog, working over and over to get into a headstand to see ‘progress’ and getting very upset when it wasn’t happening. Suddenly one day I realized that even though my thoughts weren’t on outside influences, that I was still quite distracted. My mind was still floating to the past and future of the postures. Then I started to stop and just bear witness to the pose just as it was; it allowed me to cultivate further awareness.

All this is of course is easier said than done and I have to remind myself to come to this each moment – each day. I do incorporate this thought process in yoga classes I teach. Yesterday as I taught yoga there were a few who were groaning and making statements how impossible something was. It was a flow that was moving and challenging especially for the first 45 minutes. Then we cooled that down and restored, meditated and after class so many said how refreshing and calm that was. I guess they forgot their struggles and groans. We all do this though – we have stories and start believing them vs the true experience. We sit in yoga and think about what we will tell others over dinner and at dinner we are off thinking of yoga.

More than just concentration or awareness though is taking that thought process to the next step. What I’m talking about is one of the limbs of yoga called Pratyahara or sense withdrawal. The eight limbs, that I’ve written about earlier, which are a classic form of yoga and lists steps or actions to achieve bliss. (The steps don’t have to be followed in order though.) This crucial step transitions us from the purely physical aspect of yoga and moves into mediation and then finally bliss. It is something that can’t be seen in videos or pictures. It ends up being felt and experienced from the inside.

Have you ever played the game “telephone”? You pass a message to one and they pass the message to another and it goes around till it arrives back to you. Yet the message is never the one you started with. We each have different ways of processing what we hear, sense, experience and feel.

With Thanksgiving coming soon it is easy to reflect on the past and get stressed way in advance of the upcoming event. If you grew up as I did watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving I know the message has changed for me each time I watch it. What I see now from the story is the expectations we have or put on ourselves. Yet are the material items or food really the part that is memorable? Of course not. But our thoughts can take us on this route. But don’t give up! Start by noticing it, become aware and then Pratyahara becomes easier.

Practicing Yoga Postures or not, each of us can do this and benefit from this kind of mindfulness. We could consider shifting our thought process and relationship to our views especially this holiday, and de-stress, be peaceful and slow down. For example, don’t just eat but chew, taste and experience the food. Think about all those that made the food possible, from the farmers, shippers and stores. How does the food smell? Can we take in all the senses of the moment? Become a better listener to those around us who have stories to share? Grow even more compassion to those who are hurting, hungry or alone?

If you consider trying this even for a moment you take words into action and become “Thankful”.

The Noise We Make

A long time ago I was a summertime day camp counselor for little 3 & 4 year olds. It was there that I was taught that if I communicated and said “no” or emphasized what NOT to do, chances are they would just do it. Instead they encouraged me to consider using positive suggestions of what to do instead. At the time I didn’t understand but gave it a try. It has been many years since then but I do see the value in this and how we as humans think, process and learn. Let me just disclose though right here and now that there is a time for “No” or expressing “nots” but what I’m talking about is how we can impact change with a kinder and gentler form of communication.

Today I work with others to suggest ways to change or consider something new and see that it is often better to suggest what to do than not to do. Say you are starting a diet and you are told all you can’t have. It is right there that our focus turns to what we are missing or deprived of. Yet if our focus turns to what you can have, it allows change to happen.

I was thinking of this when another “Bullying” story came out the other day. Seems to be quite popular to talk about how one was bullied and then we turn our attention towards telling the general population to stop. I know I’m not alone in the fact that all of us have experienced bullying but how many of us want to admit that we have ourselves been a bully? It doesn’t make it right but I wonder what change we expect by just pointing fingers and saying “stop”. What I believe needs to happen to create change is to grow compassion and notice positive ways to communicate instead. But first you have to be aware of your actions. Only by growing more awareness can we see the bully within each of us and change how we communicate.

The other day I had a work situation where someone did something that didn’t follow company procedures. In pointing out the wrong the management was quick to reply that our office seems to make complaints often. It made me think why that should matter and why they wanted to resort to shaming us in such a way. The injustice was still wrong and that is the fact. Sometimes though it is tough to stand up for what is right even in the face of being made to feel bad for speaking up about it.

Long before video and youtube, my Father used to work for the VA Administration and made movies, called motion pictures, that helped to train those with various training topics to those within the government. In the 70’s I was in one movie called “Feelings”. This training movie reflected two men who were responding to letters. One man just typed out his responses fast and without care to the person he was writing. Take the same situation though and the other man found that he could write disappointing news but with care for the person he was writing; ie compassion. In the short part I was in, I take the letter to my “movie Mom” and she reads it. She tells me that we aren’t approved for the benefits we had applied for. I stop and say “Isn’t that bad?” But she reads it and looks at me and says “But I feel that he is truly sorry we didn’t receive it”.

So have times really changed so much? Seems easy to point to today and say there is more bullying. Yet are there really more bullies or are we just able to express it faster and easier than before? In older times would you have thought or said something that was hurtful but it didn’t matter because it never went far? Still the same number of bullies though. Today Twitter or Facebook call the bullies “Trolls” or “Haters” and many I talk too shut down their accounts as they grow tired of the replies and hateful comments. That is their choice and I do understand the action as it is often easier sometimes to walk away. I fear though that leaving allows all the social media bullies to show that hate is normal and ok. Allowing them to continue to use ways to verbally abuse someone, threaten,  hurt or embarrass other person. The speed to reply may have become faster but I believe the method of communicating with kindness is still something that each of us can work on and improve at any age.

When we respond from our first reactions it is from fear, anger, envy, jealousy and hate. Sometimes we are overworked, tired, stressed and words just slip out. Family members, friends and even strangers fall victim to our harmful communications. I offer this message to each of us to consider ways you can communicate with compassion, even if you disagree, are tired or upset; show loving kindness to each unique person you encounter.

Just consider taking moments to pause before you hit a reply button, yell out, text or call; think of how you would feel if you received the comment. Is there another way for you to communicate your feelings without harm, name calling or stereotyping? In Yoga we refer to this action as Ahimsa or non-harming; the first limb of yoga. The next limb is “truthful” but without loosing focus on Ahimsa (non-harming). Believing that in speaking the truth in a kind compassionate way that happiness can be found.

Sure composing or communicating with thoughtfulness it is hard, tough, and takes effort but nothing worth while is easy. Be creative! Don’t wait to receive it yourself – start by offering it to others Give it a try and see what blossoms from it. Pay it forward. Jai!

Without fear, we are able to see more clearly our connections to others. Without fear, we have more room for understanding and compassion. Without fear, we are truly free. - Thich Nhat Hanh
Without fear, we are able to see more clearly our connections to others. Without fear, we have more room for understanding and compassion. Without fear, we are truly free.
– Thich Nhat Hanh


Why me?

Teacher Tony Robbins says we ask ourselves questions all the time and the common question is usually, “Why does this crap always happen to me?”

When I heard this over the summer I thought – exactly. We all do this. We listen to those thoughts and somehow feel we are alone or unique in them.  Yet that isn’t true. When I heard this statement I was at Kripalu and found myself surrounded by many who have similar views on health, yoga and nutrition. For this reason I find it quite helpful to find times in my life and days where I can step away from feeling so singular.

This way of thought processing happens in our every day life. Have you ever received an email and then started getting upset, composing your response but then waited before sending. Only to find yourself so glad you waited. Stopping has allowed us to take an important pause and we find that our response changes. I once read an email, prejudged, saw who it came from and read into it what I wanted to see or hear. I waited though and re-read it later and was so glad. As I put away my initial feelings, wants or desires I was able to examine the message and process it differently. I was so glad I hadn’t responded and waited.

That is how our thought process works though. Science is still figuring it out but scans of brain function under MRI’s and CAT scans shows that as we pause, meditate, process etc there is a part of the brain that grows and expands. This growth is just like a muscle and if we don’t use it we loose it. I’m simplifying the way the brain cells work but it only goes to show that we do need continued brain development. Nutrition, exercise, sleep and meditation is just starting to show how important all of it is. I only wish more people were interested in developing their brain as much as their physical body.

When I teach or even practice yoga on the mat I often instruct that Yoga is beyond the physical practice; that this is going to help brain cell development. Here in the West we are used to using our visualization more than our other senses; so we don’t develop areas such as listening, touching, smelling or tasting; only by using them in the yoga practice can we be more aware of it.

Of course I’ve seen some yoga students upset and want to blame They start to get upset because they aren’t used to to using the other senses and instead find that it is easier to get mad- at the teacher, the mat, the person next to them or the posture. The physical posture is confused often when discussing yoga. The point wasn’t to achieve something physically. The point of the physical was to show that by understanding the thought process we could go past the limits we set for ourselves. Therefore to someone who is new to yoga they see visually what is “unbelievable” but it all started with how we process our thoughts.

Yoga off the Mat goes outside the classroom and into our world as we apply this concept to life. I woke up this morning to read how a second person has been found with the Ebola virus in the US and some of the comments I read are full of anger, blame and hate. Some even go so far as to blame the government and wishing them harm. “I hope the White House gets Ebola”. (No I’m not kidding- I read it.) Going back to my earlier point though on brain function – people are reacting this way as a method of protection – avoiding air travel, taking supplements and even arguments. It seems easier to get mad. But there is a lack of mindfulness when we respond from this part of the mind.

First off I’m all for improving, changing and evolving but this again taps into a deeper part of our brain function to find solutions. We have to put aside the egotistic reaction which isn’t helpful at times like these. Part of finding solutions is to observe this and go beyond hate, anger, and fear.

Buddha’s teachings talks about Dukkha – that suffering happens. It is the founding lesson from Buddha that mankind will be held back by resisting Dukkha. Now the concept is logical and we gladly accept that we will change, grow older, die of course. Yet we spend our lives contradicting it all the time. You don’t have to agree with Buddhist ideals to understand this principal – it stems from nature – the way things happen in the universe.

Now what do we do with this idea? We don’t need to give up or assume the worst. It is from our “pain that we can appreciate our pleasure”. We don’t have to place our hopes on one person, guru, idea, political party, religion or leader.

If you know the story of The Wizard of Oz you know that Dorothy travels far in hopes that the Great Wizard will help her; he will have the solution! Only in the end she finds out the power was within her all along. Dorothy asks the Good-Witch why she didn’t just tell her in the beginning and she is told she wouldn’t have believed her. So sometimes we need to go on that journey to figure it out when we are ready to hear it.

We’ve all had those moments, sometimes repeated, where we trusted, adored, idealized and even worshiped someone or something. Only to find the illusion crushed at some later point. It feels awful and like a punishment but it is natural for us to experience this as it balances us from one area to the next phase of our life. It will go up and down. With time and mindfulness we may be able to go from one extreme to the other to find the middle – that place that see’s those as they truly are – full of wisdom and fault; good and bad; beauty and ugliness… just as we ALL are… naturally.

Compassion is understanding this message
Compassion is understanding this message

“So the pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges… never panic.” Martha Stewart

Recently I was talking to a young woman who had just started teaching yoga and has been meeting at different places to audition at different yoga places. She was telling me about her experience and I remember one of mine being exactly the same way almost 6 years ago. She explained that after her audition the manager spent over an hour breaking down and judging her in such detail; stated that in the end that if she wanted to work there she would have too mirror the manager in style, voice and method. This young lady left that audition questioning herself and I asked her to stop, listen and trust herself. There isn’t anything wrong with learning and taking in new things but there comes a time you have to take that , understand the root of the message, maybe motive and decide if it is right for you. I could see her face relax and she knew the answer from within. That is what happens when I pause and trust a deeper place from within that lets my authentic voice and expression come out. It is from a good and honest place for me and I’m so glad I know how too tap into it.

This reminded me of a Jivamukti Yoga workshop I attended years ago in DC. Tons of Yogi’s busy Flowing with Sun Salutations as each position was called out. One of the founders stopped us, Sharon, and suggested we move with our breath instead. Suggesting that if we did this instead of all moving together, as it was called out, we would look less like soldiers. Making each of us listen to our uniqueness from within. Finish the breath and then move. The breath can’t be faked – it is nature at work. No need to be the same because we aren’t. This way of thinking helped me refine and trust myself from then on – way beyond just yoga.

Of course I know that my personality is drawn to order and discipline. I’ve had many people in my life really disturbed by my desire to be organized and I know I’m a handful; I don’t deny it. I like to make the bed before I go on vacation. I like to keep my desk and email organized each day. I like knowing the kitchen is clean before I go to bed. I’m not suggesting I’m perfect – I let things slip of course – I’m human. Keeping things in balance though – I also can quickly identify when that need to be that way is harmful, stop and let it be. Those I work with know that I’m this way and sometimes like to be messy just to watch me twitch.

Even today I continue to see those in management positions think that if they make strict detailed standards they can feel in control. They sit in endless meetings talking about what to do, say or not do over and over. They often ask “How” a lot. “How did you do that” “How were you successful” – tell us so we can be just that way as well. All so afraid. Life is up and down – the “How” isn’t the right question – some could do the same and not have the same result. Instead the best managers have known just when to trust; first in themselves and then in those they have delegated. It is a fine balance between being the leader or a dictator.

At a very early age I wanted to be an accountant. I liked it for its logic and it has a way of pleasing the part of me that likes order. I did well with employers that didn’t come back with answers like “that is just the way we do it” or “the way it has always been done”. I admit I like to rock the boat and ask “Why” a lot. Sometimes I’m asking questions as my way to solve or think things out and I see now that it bothers people. They feel as if I’m challenging them when that is my way of processing or thinking – (so now I just tell them that straight out.)

One time I remember as a CPA, with over 10 years of experience, I was interviewing for a job. The interviewer had me there for over 3 hours and then proceeded to give me written tests – accounting, spelling, basic math. I did a few but then they started to hand me more math tests that had fractions and it seemed like it wouldn’t come to a close. I declined to go further as the interview was already longer than I was told to expect. As it turned out they were smart enough not to put all their choices into the test – and I got the job. Today as a recruiter for employment I still don’t understand the choices made by managers; especially on who receives tests and why. Do we really think personality can be completely measured in a personality test? Why hand a CPA a math test, for example. CPA license means the person passed the hardest math test ever! I think employers feel they are being fair by applying one set of rules for everyone. However a great quote I read a long time ago said “There is nothing so un-equal as the equal treatment of others” I can’t help but agree.

History teaches us this too. Anytime we have used the word “equal” to mean fair, nature comes back and slaps us in the face. I know this isn’t profound thinking but I like to remember that it isn’t just the big moments in history that we can experience this. We can grow so attached to roles or titles; in society, religion, politics and even yoga. We somehow feel it has defined us but we find ourselves stuck. In Sanskrit it is called Kleshas; states of mind such as anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression that will keep us right there. These will hold us back unless we can be mindful of that moment of being overwhelmed. Only then can we find truth. The truth is we are more than we often give ourselves credit for but instead respond to protect change from ever happening.

The other day Jason Werth of the Nationals was interviewed and asked what it was about their manager that he liked. He said, without hesitation, that his manager stays out of their way and lets them get their jobs done. I smiled so hard and thought exactly! Steve Jobs was known for saying things like hire great people even before the work is there for them. He knew it would come if he didn’t try to control it. So great managers in history have understood that there is a balance to things and you don’t need to micro-manage good people to mirror what you want them to be.

Of course I’ve learned so much from both the good and bad managers; learning so much of what doesn’t work sometimes is the best teacher. This has made me appreciate my amazing mentors, managers and teachers even more. I admire their love, patience, compassion and ability to let me be who I am- imperfections and all.

Walk this Way

I heard someone recently say that dogs live shorter lives because they don’t need as much time to figure things out. I like this cute saying as a way to remind us that as humans we just go about life letting ourself believe that we are the better species and sometimes justify that we are better than other groups of humans too. We tell ourselves we are so evolved and yet we aren’t as aware as we could be. Taken to other levels I find most children are so aware, less filtered and so present, that we could take from dogs, children or other parts of life, listen and learn.

I teach Yoga in an area known as Old Town Alexandria. This is a historical area that George Washington and others during the American Revolutionary time would visit, live and work; large area for boats to ship and doc at. Many old homes that have been turned into retail and restaurants. The sidewalks are made with brick, mostly uneven paths now, and small spaces, so tourists often come, wander and stand around. For a native trying to get somewhere it is challenging of course. I find some nights I’m walking fast, dodging the people and wanting to get to my destination.

But there are many moments I’m reminded as I watch the tourists that they are on vacation and really taking in the moment. We do that on vacations and yet I wonder why we can’t be like this more often. Then I am able to catch my anger, look around, take my time to smell the boxwood bushes and take in the sounds of music that is often played by local artists on the street corners. I pass tour groups and take a moment to listen to the history I live in and the stories being shared.

Same can be said for the entire Washington, DC area that is my home and yet I don’t get to view or experience it as many tourists do. I have to stop myself and allow myself to be a witness to this area and how wonderful it is that I get to live near some amazing parks and monuments. Just like the dog I can take in all the smells, sounds, sights, touch and even tastes in my everyday moments. Once I start doing this I find that my field of awareness expands and I start to see the distance, clouds, moon and storms that are pending long before they are here. I may start to notice just every day things and people more this way.

I use this growing awareness to my driving in DC as well. Anyone that knows this area knows that commuting here is a challenge. Last year we beat out LA as the worst place to drive. Yeah! Ok wait – that isn’t something to celebrate. Nevertheless we have to deal with the high stress in commuting and beat the stoplights or people around you so you can get to the next point even faster. Believing that only once you get to your destination can you really relax. Even if you don’t drive, those on foot, pedestrians, are also busy texting while walking out into streets totally unaware of the on-coming traffic. I always feel reminded to stop and slow down when I see an emergency vehicle behind me and I move over and stop. Yet there are those I witness as they dart ahead to get further and don’t want to pull to the side. Times like these I feel bad for that person. Always trying to get ahead in life and yet is always in a state of anger or stress. Additionally what about compassion towards those in the emergency vehicles? I’m not sure why some play this game of being more important or better than others. Why can’t we just accept differences and that being different is normal and healthy? Social, religion, political and even yoga.

Even if you don’t know yoga well, most know the Downdog pose. Many of the poses in yoga are from nature, but as humans we get caught up in what we see visually and try to force our bodies into it. We may even see a result from all the pushing and practice a specific pose till we take a selfie or video showing the world how we ‘mastered it’. Makes me laugh when I see this. What are we mastering exactly? No matter the outcome of the posture -what makes it yoga is the living breathing here and now observation; you have to see that moment as success. For tomorrow will soon be today and who knows what that will be. Just like the dog – we have to notice when we are chasing our tail round and round.

Sometimes we go about postures so unaware that there is something else happening. We lock our chest, try to push our heals to the floor and our wrists are hurting but we stay right there locked in our elbows and knees. We let our mind wander all around, discussing the pose, judging the body and getting angry at those around us. To the outside it may appear like yoga. Yet it isn’t. Life is always changing and yet we resist it. What else could be there be in the down-dog that the dog knows and understands yet we are so unaware of?

When I watch my dog Sadie do her morning movements she bends, stretches and proceeds to lick my face. Then she sits up and wags her tail. Jumps around telling me that it is another day and she is ready to go outside. Also as she ages her movement changes and she takes more breaks to rest. She will run and then as she starts walking again she gets a kind of smile on her face. Ready to get water and lay in her favorite chair. She eats when she is hungry and stops when she has had enough. She loves to meet others and can sense energy including knowing when behind a closed door there is a stranger there.

Lately I have been teaching Yin Yoga which many here in DC are still learning about. What is Yin? There are fewer postures and instead you stay in them longer – 3 to 6 minutes; a specific restorative style that helps the joint areas physically. In the practice Yin one of the item to be aware of is that although it may be a similar pose in other styles of yoga, in this style you don’t find your edge; You find a gentler place to be. That being said there are those who come, push and have to move quickly. That is fine of course but they often miss the message being offered. They punish themselves by judging, criticizing and when faced with the next posture go into it with the same ‘push it’ attitude. I had one expecting mother in prenatal yoga last night that went into a posture, butterfly, and used the bolster on her lap. She hurt her foot recently, so I was offering a bit more restorative prenatal last night for her. As I talked with her to setup this posture and reflected on the mind, she looked up, laughed and said “see right here I think I can do more; I could go further and harder.” I said “Yes, you could but that is not the point of this moment”. It is from this place of not doing, that so much can be done. Kind of the like the life lesson of childbirth. Yet we often don’t pay attention to it. I find this is one reason I like working with those who are pregnant or dealing with an injury. They are at the place in their life to consider listening more to their mind, body and spirit.

Building awareness can start on places like our yoga mat but can reach out in our daily life as well. You won’t be easily detected as doing yoga by others. You can start by observing far away and bringing it into yourself or the other way around. Can you recognize the here and now? Allow for it and investigate it just as it really is. Pause.

Sometimes though I am discovered by others as I’m practicing yoga in my daily life. I will have a smile on my face and find that my mind is right here with nothing else to do, solve or be. Sometimes strangers will ask ‘what are you so happy about?’ Be prepared for this – happiness, although it is sought out by mankind, makes many uneasy. If they aren’t ready to be happy I just tell them not to get too close – it is contagious.

Nonjudgmental awareness on mental illness (Robin Williams RIP 2014)

We lost a great actor, comedian and person this week, Robin Williams. He was always upfront and honest about his struggle with depression and in the end he chose to end his own life. News and social comments were quick to fill the air with sadness, anger and judgment; making it clear that we still have so far to go at understanding mental illness.

First off depression isn’t something you get over or heal from. You learn to live with it for the rest of your life. Here in the US there are many people on depression medications, millions, and yet I’m not writing this to go over the stats. (I don’t feel the survey’s taken are reaching the entire population so probably not accurate). Yet I feel that in today’s society we brush over it quickly with judgement. The commercials for medication are just one example; show those suffering with depression on black in white screen, looking sad and down. Then they take a pill and colors appear, they are tossing a ball, running in a field or planting in their yard with loved ones. Problem solved!

Unfortunately I do understand this all too well. I grew up in a home where both my parents were depressed and later my Mother would be diagnosed as Bi-Polar. She has and still continues to spend her life on prescriptions. I find that the word depression is a secret that we like to keep hidden from the world to see and yet each of us knows someone who is suffering from it. Of course we all suffer from bits of depression but it takes a lot just to admit that. Often the average person may manage to come out of it naturally and had a very good reason for experiencing it; major life changes and losses can take us down that path. Therefore we associate our personal experiences to that sense of reasoning to an entire population. We try to rationalize why someone would kill themselves over depression and therefore make comments like ‘selfish’ individual. Assuming that all depression is the same.

You have to stop and pause for a moment and get outside of your train of thought to understand that someone else is going through a tough journey – one you may not agree or understand. Removing yourself from the judges box, can you allow for differences and admit that maybe you don’t have all the answers?

As I grow older I admit that all I thought, believed or knew has changed. Things I was sure about I see differently; there used to be black and white but along the way there are many more grey areas. I’m not saying I surrender or give up but I don’t feel it necessary to reach conclusions. Especially as I found most of that was just trying to elevate myself by comparing myself to others beliefs, feelings, choices or thoughts; I am not better than others just because they are different.

Another common step to dealing with grief or change is that we try to rationalize and even believe that there is something “I” could have done or said that could have changed the outcome. We may even judge or punish ourselves for a long time in this way; making our blame a part of our story. Thinking that if we change something it won’t happen ever again. That feeling is very real but not true. Fact is it may have helped and then again it may not have. Can we let go of that and allow the experience to just be?

For example, can we accept that Robin Williams suicide happened, feel the sadness and accept that we will never know the depths of his choices? Can we see that he suffered from depression but he himself, as a man, was so much more than ‘mentally ill’. Would we be willing to admit that although we grew up seeing him act and perform for us, that we did not know his true self – the deeper sense and workings of his mind?

As I mentioned earlier I know about depression all too well. As a child I
was raised in an abusive alcoholic household. Later I would learn that being an alcoholic and depressed often goes hand in hand. Yet even today, I find myself talking to my Mothers doctors as her POA and finding out they are giving her daily pain medication which counters the depression medication. I’ve grown used to the blank stares and no solutions offered by both doctors and nurses. It is a constant struggle to get the medical field to understand this. When doctors prescribe medication they often just keep doing that. It is a job for them so I do understand that they too are human. Yet there is no talk of long-term plans of transition or using other tools such as therapists, talk groups, meditation, nutrition, exercise etc.

I was fortunate myself to discover at a young age tools that helped me; that is why I believe in teaching kids meditation as well as learning to describe their feelings more. I remember growing up with the fights my parents would have from a young age. There was one time when I was about 12 years old where my Mom kicked me out of the house at night and I was outside without a jacket or shoes. I was often trying to split up my parents fights, hearing horrible things and found myself in the middle. I stood in the cold wishing this would end. I had little care for how it ended and if that meant dying that was ok. I stood there holding myself in the cold – unsure of what to do. I remember I didn’t feel like crying. I just felt nothing. Then I reminded myself that this time, place and moment would pass. I stayed still, paused and started to feel everything around me. I managed to stay out for about an hour. I waited and found that the door was now unlocked and things had changed/quieted down. I snuck back into my room and tried to go to sleep. The fights continued for many more years. I recall this moment specifically and have never shared with anyone till now. I have looked back on it and wondered how I chose life vs suicide, drugs or other harmful actions as I grew up. All I can point too is that early on in life I attended talk groups and discovered meditation while learning to talk about my experiences. Being around others who could share similar situations was helpful but they also just listened.

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning more about nonjudgmental awareness; with all that was happening to me, in my home then, it didn’t mean that was all of me. The true self is so much more. Yet it is quite normal for us to rehash the same stories, hold onto that identity and keep repeating it. It took time, but I was learning that I was more than just the teen of an alcoholic. Letting go of the roles and conditioning that each of us play. It is a scary place to be because we often feel that our identity is like a warm blanket – what else could I be if I let that go? Would others accept or like me? Quite risky.

My Father also suffered from depression, as I mentioned earlier. It took me many years to see that although he had died from a heart attack, he went years with high blood pressure and we begged him to seek help. He denied it though and we watched him slowly give up on life. He just didn’t care any longer. I would tell him I loved him and he would push me away saying “no you don’t”. My actions and words didn’t save him no matter what I did. It took me years to come to the realization that blame, anger or judgement didn’t help. The day he died he looked up at me with tears in his eyes and simply said “I’m sorry”.

Sorry – such a small word with so many meanings. Areas where we are asking for unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, to be loved just as we truly are – faults and all. Allowing the person to be themselves. Therefore having deep mental depression doesn’t equate to being rich or poor; happy or sad. One could have all the riches in the world and yet be deeply depressed.

Since then many phases have happened in life. I have always felt we each experience phases or acts which have only helped me see the impertinence in life. However the mentally ill don’t observe it this way. Therefore the best solution they can find, that is helpful to themselves and others, is to just stop right there; end their life. Therefore from their way of thinking, this choice of action isn’t coming from a selfish place. I certainly don’t agree with it, but I can understand and be compassionate.

I want to finish here by saying at first I wasn’t sure about sharing my words and exposing myself to the critics out there. After careful thought, I feel it is only right to share some of my personal story and trust that my honest intension is coming from a good place. It is just my opinion and the question becomes can you allow for it? Can you look beyond it and see that within each of us is a very complex person? We may want to summarize someone as stupid, silly, selfish etc but that is often to make ourselves feel better about who we are. It exposes the hurt one must be feeling about themselves if they have to resort to name-calling.

John Lennon once said “Being honest might not get you a lot of friends, but it will always get you the right ones”. So I will trust in my intension as well as gut and hope that if my story helped anyone, then I’m happy that I shared this story.


RIP Robin Williams 2014
RIP Robin Williams 2014

Important Message for You

Found myself lately hearing from so many dealing with their physical pain and issues this week.  Some come up after yoga and they want postures to stop the discomfort which I do understand.  I ask them to consider why they think it is happening and they don’t have an answer.  I heard a meditation message a while back and found myself thinking of my own message.  As I meditate more I’m able to witness the messages my body is telling me.  Therefore I found myself up early this morning to write this letter:


Dear Self,

I have been trying to send you signals that have gone unanswered so I thought I would write you this message instead.

Let me introduce myself to you. I am your symptoms. I am your pain, agitation, fatigue and exhaustion. I am your herniated disc; headache; cramps; elevated blood pressure; upset stomach; pulled muscle; bloated stomach; swollen ankles; discomfort in your forearm; heartburn or chest pain.

You may be aware of your symptoms and I know I have been your causes for concern and worry.  Still you tend to suppress, ignore or disown me; complain or dislike me. Yet I am simply here to remind you to seek out your health, wellness and best interest for a long and happy life.

You usually want me to go away fast, disappear or you end up irritated or shocked that I showed up to begin with. Because of this, you tend to suppress or medicate me, instead of recognizing or exploring me. My request is that you to see me as a messenger. I want to help guide you back to the places that you can be more loving, caring and compassionate with yourself. A place of honesty and balance.

For this reason, I may ask you to consider exploring your life; health, diet, sleep, exercise, relationships, and work. I may remind you to stop and be more generous and giving with yourself. Spend more time “un-doing” the knots, laugh more, have fun and be still more.

I hope someday you’ll come to see me as a friend. I am not the reason for your pain, discomfort or suffering. I am only pulling at your hand like a child asking you to listen to them. You are so amazing and I just wanted to remind you of the beauty that is naturally within you.


Your Body

“Curving back within myself I create again and again.” ―The Bhagavad Gita

“If you do something long enough, something will happen” – as the wise words of one of my yoga/meditation teachers at Kripalu said recently. It doesn’t mean the something you wanted to happen will happen, but of course “something” will happen. By building awareness more of each moment you can be a witness to what that something is.

Case in point, I was at Kripalu again for the summer and my second training towards my 500 hour license. This time the focus was on meditation and pranayama. I knew both can have such a profound impact on emotions and change but I didn’t quite expect it to do what it did. I found myself putting my “teacher mind” aside and diving into the experience myself.

A few days into the class we were practicing a form of walking meditation. We walked for a long time around the room, down the hall and moving fast or slow. Each time we circled I kept passing a table. To many it is just a table. However it looked just like the kind of table I had in the hospital last year; legs on one side, long and open to be pushed under a bed or chair. Therefore I found myself reflecting on the past each time I passed it. Not to mention I was trying different kinds of walks and found myself remembering when I couldn’t even do this much back with my mini-stroke and therapy lessons where I was learning to walk again.

Now I know it sounds crazy to personalize the table; believe me I kept telling myself “this is silly”. However it kept coming up for days. I was completely aware that I wasn’t present each time I passed it. I found myself ready to break out and cry ,and one moment I recall I was ready to run out of the room screaming. This day though I stopped and instead of pushing it away I took a deep breath. I found with the meditation practice I was learning, that it wasn’t necessary to quickly let it go, go blank or move on. Actually I found it better to be aware of that moment even if it was a bad feeling. I would tell myself “I’m feeling sad, or angry or scared”. It was better to notice the feeling and pause in it. Then I could gently let the breath be an anchor back to the present moment.

As I was pausing to notice the feelings, it did include being aware that I was too much in the mind of the past. How can we not float from past, present to future? The scars of the past are there in the present and even here was a reminder each time I came around to this table that it was there in my face. Yet I would just gently bring it back to the walking meditation focus of counting the steps. Once we stopped though we took a seated or laying down meditation. I was in stillness but I found myself crying and allowing myself to just be sad. My breath was faster and then suddenly I found myself slowing it down. Observing this place. Using the words “I’m aware of”. I’m aware that I’m sad, I’m aware of the floor, the sounds of the birds…” This place I was at right now. It was a good place; the room was peaceful, the people are amazing and I’m so blessed that I could afford to be in this class. So was the present moment wasn’t so bad? This reminded me that I could have those feelings but being so far removed from the present moment that I wasn’t aware that the feelings may be quite real but not true.

The truth came to me and suddenly I started thinking I wonder how this table came here? A smile came upon me as I started to wonder how I got here. Would I have chosen Kripalu if I hadn’t gone thru what I did?  I don’t think I would have been on this path. Maybe the table and I met each other at this point and have our past that was in a different place, doing different things, but here we are now. The Gitta says that nothing on the path is a waste – even our failures or set-backs. Therefore maybe this was meant to be.

So many elements I hadn’t thought of all came from my meditation on this table. I started to move my thoughts away from all the table reminded me negatively and started to think about all the table did for me. I’ve felt punished by my medical situation and was taking it out on this table. Yet this table took care of feeding me, teaching me and even resting upon it while I was in the hospital. Maybe it was my guide on a new path. In this moment I was trying not to resist any longer and as strange as it sounds, I felt an urge to go up to the table and touch it. I waited till everyone had left the room and slowly walked over. Putting both my hands on it I started to cry. I know the table isn’t a living being but it was quite an amazing moment of forgiveness – to myself that I hadn’t experienced in my healing process. The table was just a symbol of this.

I am quite scared to share this story because of the judgement those may have, but I feel that it is right to just put it out there. If you find it silly just move on of course. However to those that may relate or understand I hope you find some healing in knowing that there are others who have had trauma or pain that have pushed it away but there is still so much to be released deep down inside. Meditation and growing awareness only helped.

All I can tell you is that after this moment my throat which has had a tightness on the right side for the past year unlocked. I felt it unlock and I heard the sound it made. I’ll never forget it. It was as if my body was holding physically not just mentally. I am so glad for increasing my awareness in my yoga practice with meditation and pranayama. Growth of trusting my own judgement comes from this and discovering that the answers were there all along within. We just have to take a step forward and trust it is right  for us even if others find it strange.


**To my teachers and my teachers teachers  – I thank all of you for your lessons. Many times you don’t hear the positive or follow-up. Just know that you are in my heart along with your wise lessons.   I thank you for each moment.

The people we meet…lasting impressions

It is the summer of 2008 and I’m on a train ride to my new company headquarters for job training and orientation. It is so hot and humid here in June.  I wish didn’t have to wear a suit.  I’m already sweating at it is only 9am.   I haven’t taken the train since I was a girl and I’m not sure of the procedure so I am here early.   To early as it turns out.   I didn’t realize you can practically walk onto the train from the station which is so small and seems to be a throwback to an earlier time.  I step on and grab a seat next to the window that I want so I can watch the views go by.  I carefully remove my jacket, put my bag away, and grab my book, headphones and music.  I’m all ready to sit back for a couple hours, cool down and relax. After sitting for a bit we take off and a few minutes later arrive at the DC station stop Union Station; this is a much larger station and many start to board the train.  The seat is empty next to me but I have a feeling it is about to be taken.

With my headphones on and reading I’m hoping to avoid any distraction from anyone who may want to sit and talk the entire time.   Suddenly someone takes the seat next to me.  It is an older black gentleman. I’m awful with age but I know he is older; possibly 80’s.   We smile and I turn back to my book.  I can see out of the corner of my eye that he is wearing some kind of brown uniform.   Looks kind of like a military uniform.  He removes his hat and puts it under the seat.   At first I just stay still, hoping to avoid further eye contact.  I had plans and excited to see what happens in the next chapter of this book.

As we start to pull away from the station he starts talking to me.  I have to remove one headphone but hoping the way I did it shows him that I wasn’t listening and desire to keep it that way.  “How are you? Where are you going?”He says.  I tell him I’m off for work.  Keep it simple.  “I’m Joe and my wife back there and I have been married for almost 50 years.”   I think maybe he would want to be with her but obviously two seats weren’t available.  “Would you like me to move so you can sit together?” I say thinking that was his point of talking to me.   He responds “No it is quite alright.   She is fine – see.”  I look back and see that she is quite fine – reading her book.

“We are heading to a few schools. I often travel and visit schools to see the young kids.” He says.  “I was in World War II and I go to tell them my story”.  Ok now I’m interested.  What is this ‘story’.   “Back then in the war we were segregated as part of the US army; so I wasn’t allowed to fight, live around or eat with other races than my own.”  He said it so calmly and matter of fact; really no emotion to it.  He went on.  “I traveled and saw much of the world though.  I learned so much from it. Also I watched many of my closest friends die.”  I really stop and listen now as I can only imagine what that feels like.  I say “How do you come back from that and move-on with life?”  He smiles and responds, “That is what I’m doing at the schools.  I’m there to tell the students that you have choices and each of us can make a difference.  Sure life can be hard but they can learn from it and be anything they want to be. Our country may not be perfect but we have so many great choices available  Life is too short to walk around with all that hate and anger.”  He says with a big tooth grin.

We passed the time as I sat listening to his stories about the war, coming home, meeting his wife, having kids and growing up in DC.  He told me about raising his kids and the kind of lessons he provided them as a Father.   He has seen so much change in his lifetime and now goes to schools at his own cost to share his story.  “So many of the young kids haven’t seen or been through a war.  I don’t want the memory of what my friends died for to be lost.  I feel my destiny is to speak, pass it on and help others.”    He reaches out and pats the top of my hand as if I understand this.

I like the word ‘destiny’ as I find so many don’t listen to what is right for them.  Yes even I have had many times where I didn’t trust myself but when I return it feels right – like home.   “I too feel my destiny is to help others”  I tell him. I go on to tell him how I help others both by helping others find new jobs and by teaching yoga.  He smiles at me in such an understanding way.  “I think we were destined to meet.  Do you believe in angels?” He says.   This puts a smile on my face.  No further words are required as we understand each other.

Before I know it the hours have gone by.  His stop arrives and mine isn’t far ahead. We say good-bye and instead of feeling as if I wasted the time or missed reading my book I’m left feeling a sad loss that I won’t know him again.  He has left the train with his wife and the seat is once again empty next to me.  Yet I feel great in knowing that we shared this brief moment.  All the worries or concerns I had about my life, the new job, future, expectations all slowly melt away.  Maybe my angel needed to remind me and sent this stranger to me.   `


“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow…. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision…. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone… I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn… I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  – Maya Angelou  RIP May 2014

One size fits all – Right?

Here is a story for you. A person goes to see their doctor as they have a bad cold. The doctor prescribes a skin ointment to help them and they leave not sure how this will help the cold, but do as told. Another person comes in with a sprained wrist and the same doctor prescribes a skin ointment. Once more the patient leaves and does what they are told. The doctor must know what they are doing. A third patient comes in and is expecting a baby and the doctor prescribes a skin ointment.

Easy to see that this story is an exaggeration but we all go thru examples of this each day; Yes even me. Obviously we can see from this story that something is wrong with the doctor; no dismissing that. What if I told you that the patients were seeing a child’s doctor they grew up with and just continued to go to them right or wrong? We see quite clearly that going to someone that what was right in the past doesn’t mean it right today.


Still many of us return to things we did when we were younger and then wonder why the result is different. There may even be cases where we saw great results so it must have worked. Right? However just like the patient with the cold, they could apply the skin ointment but the cold simply ran its course and went away; had nothing to do with the skin ointment.

To all those ready to respond to me and make their arguments – I’m not saying don’t trust experts.  There is a time to consider what the doctor, lawyer, home-repair person etc… is saying. You hired them for their expertise as they were educated in that area, they may have a license or years of experience in the area. Does that mean you throw-out your own judgement? Times have changed in the past 100 years alone. Gone are the days where you farmed, grew your food, built your home and went to the doctor that has seen you since birth. We move away from childhood homes and specialize in work areas. So we are left being the only ones that really know ourselves the longest. Even with medical databases I find that your history will be overlooked due to human error.

What to do then? I suggest to ask more “Why’s” Why am I doing this? Kids are great at asking why? Can drive you crazy because you respond and here comes a why again. You start to laugh because the kid has a point. By asking you can pause and see if the answer or response is right for you. I’ve had ladies in labor tell me that their doctor wanted to perform a C-Section. They learned to ask more “Why’s” to find out it was a scheduling issue –not that that the procedure was a medical emergency.

To build more awareness meditation helps. I often say that prayer is describing your wish list and meditation is listening (to what you need). I see so many go to yoga with expectations they have; things they have seen, want to be and end up hurting themselves. They may be doing the same yoga that they did in earlier years and wonder why it isn’t working for them now. The blame is placed and instead of listening to what is real, they would rather hear what they wanted. Smash Mouth has a song called “All-Star” that has a line “Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb”. We may grow up, learn a lot but still be so clueless about ourselves.

I like guiding yoga students with observations while they are sustaining postures. Telling them “there is nothing wrong with this place; nothing wrong with who you are right now.” The negative responses start to go drift away, take us on a meditative journey. Often the students laugh because we all do it. We are upside down in downdog and start thinking about the posture; “I wish my heals were to the floor like the person next to me.” Constantly letting the monkey mind jump around with our judgment and thoughts that often many rush out of yoga class, turn the phones on and start driving down the street screaming at traffic. Therefore the posture didn’t help beyond the ego of that moment. “Look I put my foot behind my head!“ Great but a moment later you are still a mean person. So Yoga must be more than what can be seen physically.

I love teaching prenatal and beginners in yoga. Often the student hasn’t developed bad habits in yoga and their changing bodies are forcing them to consider something new or different. Sometimes I have more experienced yogi’s consider something new. I had one who came to my Flow 1 the other day. We moved into Bridge Pose and she quickly decided to do Wheel. I have spent a lot of time training to understand the various physical and non-physical reasons that one posture is different than the other. I don’t expect the student to know this but they can feel it. I asked her to consider joining us in the next set of Bridge; because I ask them to repeat it a few times. She did and was shocked to see that what may appear to the eye as easy, was actually quite different and for her challenging. For her it was more of what she needed as she was flexible in her hips and shoulders but needed more strength back building.

I’m also so glad that I teach smaller groups now. I haven’t taught large groups for a while now and if you have ever taught one on one you know it is different. As a teacher your communication changes as I believe it should; about offering that person what they need. Instead I feel that yoga teachers, especially the well-known stars of yoga, become circus performers. There to entertain, demonstrate their yoga practice and ramble on about sequences or postures that they too were told to do without any other possibilities or considerations. They video and post themselves doing very advanced postures. What can’t be seen though is the deeper element of the mind. Examining the mind and choices, we can use the tool of movement to examine “Why” more. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love arm-balances. Yet there is a difference when I go into a pose to show off to others or do it with a calm moving breath and end up feeling the effects that balance has on the mental body. When we choose the latter, a place that allows us to sustain, be there, without pain or injury, it takes us to a place that often can’t be easily described but can be felt. Yes even in the well- known advanced positions. My focus as a guide to yoga is to help each person examine their choices; to do more or less. They practice it on a yoga mat and then it goes out into the world from there.

Last night in my prenatal class I was focusing on empowering the ladies with the right of asking “why”. I feel this way they can do this for the rest of their life; not just for labor. They of course shake their heads and agree that it makes sense. Then I had them put their blankets down and said “we will now move into headstand.” They stopped and looked at me like I was crazy. “Oh you mean you are questioning why you are about to do this?” Great! It was a joke of course but one that allowed them to question. That is human nature and history has shown us why conformity fails. We are each unique and different. Let’s celebrate it instead of punishing ourselves.

There are times I wish more of us could be like an expecting Mom’s body. The ladies bodies are already responding to nature; dropping, opening and letting go. They often don’t have a choice in the matter and I’m there trying to get them to stop fighting with the mind. Often too their babies kick and respond and they are forced to think beyond themselves. I only wish everyone walked around with that same focus and intention. If you can’t think about doing what is best for you, think of your body as a temple, then do it for another person. You find that you start making your choices from this place; from eating, work, sleep and exercise. This place is real and true.

Let your Yoga be what fits you right now, this moment. There is nothing wrong with it.

Quiet Time, Self Examination & Introspection

Last week I was teaching a Flow 1 class and a woman who is new to yoga came up to talk to me after class. She saw a workshop on the board called “Hoops and Meditation”. She liked the idea of trying hula hoop movement but wasn’t sure if she could meditate. I smiled and asked her what she thought she was doing lately? Unaware she was practicing meditation the past few weeks, she was able to laugh and surprise herself.

The word meditation is a broad term, much like yoga, that has different techniques designed to promote relaxation, develop awareness, compassion, patience, generosity and forgiveness. While we may understand that there are many health benefits from meditating, it is doing it that we often stop short. We will try a new sport over observing our thoughts. If I call it “quiet time; self examination or introspection” many are inclined to give it a try.

Last year I had a mini-stroke and found myself using many different meditation tools to help me in the hospital and rehab. From MRI’s, blood-work, headaches, and even physical therapy where I was learning to walk again – I used different meditation tools. They aided me in the restoration, pain management and observing moments that will pass.

The practice of meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. There are many different styles, traditions and beliefs. Often many of us know it as the internal effort to self-regulate the mind. We may have had an expectation of how we would look, feel and then we quickly get disturbed and give up. But don’t. It is right there that I suggest it is normal; tell yourself there is nothing wrong with it. Stop trying so hard, finding excuses and start over. As you keep doing it over and over you’ll see change. Notice I didn’t say improvement though. We think of improvement as an upward scale. Instead of forcing the focus on improvement start to let that go. See it right now as it is.

Additionally I have seen those who have practiced one style of meditation for years come up after class and tell me that they just can’t do anything else. I smile as they too had an expectation that they allowed to stop them. They thought that their ‘true self’ stopped right there and couldn’t see any other way. This isn’t real though. Just as in nature, we are all changing. What works today will change tomorrow. There will be days where meditation can be easy or hard. Point is to notice it, smile and stop beating yourself up. One minute of meditation is better than tossing it aside and giving up.

There are many kinds of tools that can also be used in meditation. Prayer beads, sounds (mantra), mudras, concentration, sitting, standing, laying down, walking etc; these are various styles used with meditation. These tools are there to keep track, remind or draw the person back to the focus. So much more than sleep – you are witnessing the moment and thoughts. Sometimes before settling into a meditation you are talked thru a visualization; either of the physical body or a place/scene.

In the Yoga Sutras, meditation is one of the eight steps. I’m sensitive to various prejudices against the word though so I don’t call it meditation while teaching it. Instead I like to have the person do various styles and start to witness the moment; sometimes this is done with movement and sometimes being still. Not always knowing the trauma someone may have had I like to offer various tools that may make them feel more comfortable; Eyes open or shut for example. Eyes open may seem unusual but for many just starting, it allows them to focus less on the physical body which they may need to concentrate. For those who have had a trauma shutting the eyes may be a scary place. I find open eyed meditation is a great tool that allows that person to heal themselves. Not touching or adjusting them during this process.

The perception for someone who wants to start a meditation practice is that they will wait to start – waiting till they have ‘learned it’; read up on it, get a video and learn it completely. Really the hardest part to meditation is doing it. You can’t give up on it. With practice you’ll start to witness each moment more, stop and pause. Nothing wrong with sitting in the car, bus or waiting room at doctors office and doing meditation. We all find excuses that stop us. “I’ll meditate when I have a quiet place.” Then we get there and find another excuse.

In June I head to Kripalu for my 500 hour teacher training (part 2 of 4) which is 9 days of Pranayama and Meditation. I can’t wait to spend time in this area as I find there are so many teacher trainings on asana and anatomy of the physical body. I’ll continue to share my yoga journey and what I learn as I go along. There have been some amazing responses from those that are following my blog from different parts of the world. Many who aren’t yogi’s yet they have a desire to improve their health.

I hope this helps and that you find a moment today to stop, find a point and sit still for a minute. Count your inhale and exhale. Start there, not worrying if you are doing it right. Instead ask yourself after – how do I feel? There is no right or wrong answer. It just is. Enjoy!




Let it Be – but how?

I recently taught a Yin Yoga Workshop for 2 hours. It sounds like a long time for a yoga class but the time flew by! In designing this workshop I found that unlike other styles of yoga, this one allows the practitioner time to reach different phases of the pose that goes way beyond the body. (The physical postures are held longer; anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes.)

Many run all week long with errands, rushing around and trying to fit just one more thing into our agenda. By stopping, observing we can let go for sure. You may have heard a yoga teacher say “let go” but weren’t sure exactly how to do it. So instead you went to sleep, laid there making lists of things you’ll get at the grocery store or just got up and left.

How do we learn to let go? Lets talk about the phases I mentioned earlier. The first phase is one where we are quick to respond to the physical body; often this is a negative response. We get upset, irritated and angry as the mind yells at the physical body for doing this. Even blaming others. The mind likes to say “I would rather be anyplace else but here.” Kind of like a child having a temper tantrum. It is there we stop and focus on the breathe instead. This allows the muscles time to relax and allow the mind to calm down. (The mind isn’t just located in the brain – it is in the entire body.)

From there we may find that the panic we were experiencing wasn’t real and see ourselves loosen up, become less tense and maybe go further physically; only this time without trying so hard…less effort. This is where many styles of yoga may move on – off onto another physical position.

In the moderate flow I teach each week we hold postures longer than vinyasa styles. For those that feel a resistance to Gentle Yoga, this moderate flow finds a nice middle ground. It is here in this third phase that I suggest to let the Physical body go (Anamaya Kosha) and as they have been observing the mind body already (Manomaya Kosha) I offer that they Witness this moment. Witnessing is another step in the Koshas called Vijnanamaya. Here though I am not asking them to change or mold it to what they wanted. Instead take it for what it is. Suggesting to them that there isn’t anything wrong with right there. Enjoy this moment as you won’t have it again.  I’ll say “even if that moment is WTF”.  Laughter happen because of the truth in this moment.

Often we try to be so many things to the world. We have an image of what we want to be and work so hard at it. We fight being where we truly are and it is that struggle that may be hurting us; our afflictions become the source of our suffering. Funny though when we move on in life or in postures we look back at that time and have a different view of it. We can spend so much of that time looking back or wanting that moment to return that we can’t just be right here.

This is the truth or reality though – you can’t make it be something else. For example in yoga I like to have the practitioner do tree pose with a block – either standing on the block or placing the it on the head. Fact is there is fear that rises and the ego knows that they may embarrass themselves if they use the block- others will see that their tree isn’t perfect. The block won’t lie and “I can’t pretend to be something I want to be”. Phases of the posture can take place by witnessing it. Seeing that the fear wasn’t real. Falling – doesn’t mean you failed. Often you just get back up again and try. You learned more from that anyway.

Additionally in our busy lives we start looking for problems or keep busy to avoid being still. If someone does something, says or writes something, someone is there quickly to respond to find a problem with it. I see this even in teaching yoga. Being around other teachers where they want to study the postures, bodies and how to assist – I think many are missing the bigger question. It isn’t about that person’s body looking a certain way; even the way I intended. Instead – I ask “is that person doing something harmful?” Are they hurting themselves? If not – why modify or adjust it? Even as a yoga teacher it is possible to look and find problems in those we see.  I have to witness that and let-it go.

This is why I believe many come to yoga for a short time only to move onto another sport or activity. They become unhealthy, hurt themselves and become tired when they don’t see the results they wanted. They wanted something in themselves that may not be real and as a teacher I feel we are there to help them experience some peace with that.

Instead of resisting we can go to another phase – just being. It is that place I like to think of as “I’m ok”. You don’t feel amazing or bad. You are seeing yourself as it truly is. You just find that middle place where you are ok and don’t have to seek problems. Most importantly when faced with someone else’s comments, anger or hurtful actions, you pause and are ‘ok’. The reality of the moment reminds you of the true self; not the ego that wants to protect itself and hit back in response. This is that final phase of the Kosha’s called Anadamya or Bliss.

Bliss is an interesting word. I used to think of it as this amazing carefree happy place. I think there are clouds with harps playing in the background there (LOL). Suddenly I found myself responding to friends asking me how I was and when I thought about it, I was ‘ok’. Then I sat and thought that isn’t good enough. I would become easily obsessed again. “I should have another goal to achieve.” But I asked myself why? Can’t I just enjoy right now? Then I did. I just stopped and my mind calmed down again. Then later I started to think about bills, house improvements and retirement. I tell myself ‘stop it’. I’ve always been ok and all the worrying didn’t help at all. There are always piles of clothes, dishes, deadlines and bosses at your heals. It takes work each day and even being a yogi doesn’t mean I’m free from the struggles. It means I see it faster, identify it and let go. Now knowing the tools of how to ‘let-go’.

I believe many confuse my message – even in yoga. I’m not saying do nothing at all or never try to go further than you thought. It has to do with the effort to get there. It can happen when I let go. That letting go is mind over matter. I had to realize that I’m never crossing that finish line or celebrating that the “To-Do” list is fully checked off. Life never gets to that place – until we die! Thank God for that! We aren’t dead and very much living. That is why with life changing events many start to see that the things they thought were important weren’t. Instead we start to live each moment just as it is right here and now. The beautiful place that is very much alive and real.

Hope you find these tools helpful to letting go.