Thursday, June 30, 2011

Friday Quote #6 (on Thursday)

Friday Quote: A regular offering of some words to ponder over the weekend. If you do the same in your space, leave a comment with a link so that we all may grow together.

"If you are grounded in the Absolute, any amount of change
and transformation becomes for you an expression of beauty."
--Hareesh speaking on Tantra at the Grand Circle (6/21/11)

Enjoy this quote a little early as I head out of town to visit with family for a few days. Happy weekend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Holding Sacred Space - a trip to Target

They turn all places into sacred places
Sutra 69 of the Narada Bhakti Sutra
as translated by Bill Mahoney

On day 2 of the Grand Circle Bill Mahony spoke on his new translation of the Narada Bhakti Sutra. One sound bite stuck with me: "When there is Love, and we are immersed in it, we see all places as places of pilgrimage, as sacred. And we treat them as so."

Really, all places as sacred? ALL of them?

Today I had to run an errand to Target. It was after my practice of backbends and asking once again for blessings of Grace, which may be the only reason it even crossed my mind to ask the question: Can Target possibly be a sacred space? Seriously, I had my doubts but decided to create the space in my heart and see what happened.

My connection to sacred space brings me back to my upbringing in a beautiful Episcopalian church in Southwest Virginia. Since that time I've expanded my view to include many places of nature, and certainly my yoga mat. But the church or a temple is a place I think of when I think of a sacred place to make a pilgrimage towards. The place to go that is consistently held as sacred.

Target, with the florescent lighting and over filled aisles, doesn't exactly line up to my recollections of the churches and temples I've prayed in before. But, didn't Bill say All places? Best to give it the benefit of the doubt. And thank Shiva/Shakti I did because this was an experiment that quickly shifted my view.

Upon entering with a heart set for sacredness I quickly released some of my ego-driven self when I realized it doesn't matter one bit how cool I look. Sacred space doesn't care one lick if I have on a cute outfit or the latest fashions. What a relief, because as I mentioned, I'd just finished practice and was in throw on clothes. That realization immediately took me out of worrying about how I presented myself on the outside and brought me back to how I presented my heart on the inside.

Next, I noticed that just by holding the aisles as sacred, by viewing the girls' sundresses like beautiful stained-glass windows, my breath deepened and slowed. I slipped into a soft ujjayi. It was a sensation of calm and wonder that again opened me past my ego sense of self.

Then I just started to get nutty. I mean, well, yes, it is Target, but I started to see the connection of all of us. Aren't all of us there on a quest? We're there on a search for something. Some of us know what we want and go directly there, others may not even know what we're looking for, but we are looking for something. Something to connect to and hopefully make life a little easier. I personally found the waterproof mattress cover that was needed for my daughter's new big girl bed -- assuring me of less pain and suffering when the nighttime potty training kicks in. (yes, it's low on the pain and suffering scale, I know) But everyone there was on a pilgrimage of some sort. Was it a pilgrimage to reach the Highest Bliss imaginable? Probably not. Was everyone hoping to improve their lives in some way? Quite possibly. I realize I could launch into a huge discussion on finding our way out of pain and suffering by buying happiness, but let's save that for another time, shall we? Just knowing everyone there was hoping to gain a little more happiness gave me greater compassion for the shoppers around me, opened my eyes a little wider to the wonder of the world, and let it slide off my back when someone pretty much cut me off on the way to the check out counter.

So, I'm still not sure if Bill Mahony would say that Target is inherently sacred as a stand alone entity. But, I will say that when I set my mind and my heart on relating to the experience as if it was, I was quickly and remarkably shifted. Most sweetly, a simple realization of universality. Universality that doesn't need cool clothes, but recognizes that it's the inside that counts. Universality that we all share the same breath. Universality that we all want to be happy. Universality that we are all connected -- not just we the yogis, but we are ALL connected, even the shoppers at Target.

(and I made sure to smile at the clerk on the way out, and she smiled back. Sweetness)
What do you think, can Target be sacred? Can anywhere be sacred space?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Make Love Monday #1

Make Love Monday -- a mission to create a more loving world by being aware of how we interact with each other and choosing connection. Try this practice sometime during the week.

Today's first Make Love Monday is pretty simple. It comes out of a personal attempt to brighten up myself and my world. So here's your first tip:

Smile at people - Do it OFTEN

Yogis are beautiful radiant beings and I often find myself grinning from ear to ear after a sweet heart opening practice. I smile because I'm feeling good inside and out. But don't you feel better when someone near you is smiling? It brightens up the room. I'm not suggesting you become the Kool-aid guy, but a nice natural smile for your server at dinner, for the person at the grocery store, for the person who cuts you off in traffic could help the day move more smoothly. And of course -- smile at your child, your sweetie, your parent or boss. See what happens if in the course of a simple conversation you add a hint of a smile to your face. We might just brighten everyone's day.

Leave a comment and let me know how it goes! Even put a picture of your beautiful smile on my facebook page.

Have a Make Love Monday tip? Hook me up! Send me an email at with MLM in the subject line. I'd love to share it (and if you get up on the blog you'll get a free class with me if you're in town, and something else awesome if you're not)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Quote #5

Friday Quote: A regular offering of some words to ponder over the weekend. If you do the same in your space, leave a comment with a link so that we all may grow together.

Love is an important topic.

The world needs more love.

We can bring it to the world.
It can infuse ourselves and we, the yogis, will bring it forward.

-Bill Mahony (At Anusara Grand Circle 6/21/2011)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Saturated in Greatness

Before I left for the Grand Circle I was literally instructed to "Hang out with Greatness" while I was there. (As if it were possible not to hang out with greatness at an Anusara event.) I feel exceptionally lucky to have been able to attend and I extend gratitude to my mother for keeping my daughter so I could come. But soon after arrival on Sunday night, I realized just how auspicious it was to be there. This first Grand Circle was surprisingly intimate. Maybe 250 or 300 total people were in attendance. With such a small number of participants I literally bumped into greatness at every turn.

First, of course, there was the accessibility of John himself. Aside from the mind-blowing and wildly inspirational 3 hour morning sessions, there were times when he was just hanging out. You know,"like a normal person" one of my friends said. That, in and of itself was incredible because whenever I've practiced with him at workshops I've always only seen him whooshed in and out of the practice space, never simply hanging out among friends.

But also, the schedule provided opportunities to practice and learn from great teachers in the tradition. Each day, philosophy talks were offered by Hareesh, John, or Bill Mahoney. Then there were the break out classes with Certified teachers (I practiced with Elena Brower, Desiree Rumbaugh, and The Carolina girls Stacy Milner-Collins and Sara Faircloth with Bill). In the evening, fireside Satsang with John, Hareesh, and Bill again. And I didn't even have time to take part in class with Kenny Graham, Sianna Sherman, Naime Jezzeny, Deb Neubauer, or Zhenja LaRosa. Everyone I knew commented on how it was a problem of abundance, the perfect problem to have.

And those were just the scheduled events. On the lawn of Village Anusara was an air of a relaxed family reunion -- no drama attached. With the help of the ever so fabulous Certified Teacher Lila Pierce Brown of Raleigh, NC, I was introduced to great beings, in the form of Anusara yogis, and tons of Certified teachers including Bernadette Birney and Desiree Rumbaugh. One afternoon I looked around and found myself in the writers' group in the company of Elena, Bernadette, Sue Elkin (author of the Anusara prenatal manual), Ellen Saltonstall, Susanna Harwood Rubin, Elizabeth Goodman, and many others just like myself. Another moment I looked around and found myself sharing a picnic blanket with all Certified teachers: Sue Elkin and Naime Jezzeny, Sarah Faircloth, Lila, and Susanna Harwood Rubin. I stopped to chat with Christopher, the installation artist as he created his art on the lawn of the village. More than once I found myself in the company of the incredibly talented musician Todd Boston. I even spoke a few times to the Grammy Winning percussionist Jeff Haynes (who appeared totally stoked to be participating in an Anusara event with John for the first time).

Each one was as gracious as the next. Welcoming, genuinely interested in myself and the others around. Normal. But at a higher level of normal - normal without all the anxiety and self-limitation. Normal in the way that people who are seated in their hearts are normal. Sweet, kind, loving even. I found this across the board. All the greats were great. And I say this not to name drop, but to illustrate just how welcoming everyone was, and how available to us (the normal peeps).

But also, the Anusara practitioners in attendance were so beautiful and sweet. Many of those I met were new to Anusara or new to events with John. To see them transform over the three days and get super shiny was incredibly inspiring. Some students who attend my own class ROCKED Urdhva D for the first time at this event. And, I can tell you, they walked through the Village like a new people. It was total auspicious magic.

On Wednesday afternoon I stood in the middle of Village Anusara as the Solstice sun was setting and looked around. Folks around me were hooping, slack lining, dancing, chatting, eating, and listening to awesome music by dj leif... and I thought "These are my people". As in, THIS is my tribe. I belong here.

On Thursday morning as the rains came and mats and bodies were drenched through during John's practice I couldn't help but realize we, the lucky ones to be present at such an auspicious moment as this first Anusara Grand Circle, were truly Saturated in Greatness.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Quote

Friday Quote: A regular offering of some words to ponder over the weekend. If you do the same in your space, leave a comment with a link so that we all may grow together.

Todd Norian Rocks!

Anusara is flowing with Grace by saying yes to the whole
magical spectrum of life. It is a willingness to be aware of
all parts of ourselves - the light and the dark, the full rainbow
of sensation, perception, emotion and thought. To be in the flow
is to look at whatever arises with freshness and freedom.
It is simply to open our hearts with love to the present moment
without clinging or pushing. Anusara is accepting the world
and ourselves as we are,and then responding with love.

-John Friend (Anusara Teacher Training Manual 9th ed.)

A longer thought as I'll be taking off for the Grand Circle next week. If I have the internet I may try to check in... but I may also just enjoy being unplugged from the world and DEEPLY plugged in to the Anusara Community. Have a lovely weekend and a great Solstice Week!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

H 2 Oh Yeah... Get cher drink on!

By way of a reminder... it's summertime, up your water intake.

On Monday I got up from sitting on our lounge chair on the back deck and was walking into the house when I got what I generally think of as a sonic boom to my head. It made me lose my balance and fall down and sort-of black out. I fainted, or almost fainted, or something.
This sometimes happens when I practice. Not so much that I fall down usually (though I have fallen at least once) Usually it is that I'm coming up from a forward bend and I lose my bearings for a moment. My head gets cloudy and I get a big pulsation.
I think of it as Shakti .. she's moving fiercely through me awakening my every cell and cooking out impurities.
My doctor seems to think it may have something to do with dehydration. OH, yeah, that too. I think it's so crazy. I'm a yogini I'm like super in touch with my body... but apparently not. I personally don't particularly like to drink and I don't like the feeling of a full belly of water. But I also don't like skinning my knee and elbow, or feeling unsteady on my legs, OR being told not to roll out my mat the week before I go to the Grand Circle. The thing is, we need that water and especially when practicing a yoga that is intense and active such as Anusara. Even without sweat pouring out, I'm doing a massive amount of cleansing and water is the only thing that will help the toxicity move OUT instead of taking up residence elsewhere in my cells.
I'm not sure what the recommendations really are. They change every day it seems, but what makes the most sense to me is to drink until your pee runs clear, and keep it that way. All day. Every day. (and yes, I realize I just wrote pee in my blog! gasp!)
So, that is my reminder to myself and everyone else. Drink more Water! Make yourself float in it, especially as the temperatures climb.
(and just to put aside any wonderings, I'm most definitely NOT expecting, I promise)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Going to the Circle

I'm getting geared up to go to the Anusara Grand Circle in Vermont next week. I'm excited. Well, I'm very excited and as always a little daunted. This is my first really big Anusara event. So, it really will rock and I need to get over myself. What I'm doing in preparation (instead of tons and tons of crazy asana) is lots of heart-opening practice... meditation, yoga nidra, even some restoratives... so that I'm SO open when I get there that I can absorb and soak in all that is offered. I want to be a big love sponge, because, I know it will be awesome.
Following the Grand Circle will be Wanderlust, VT. I wish I could stay but won't be able to this time.. child at home, you know... but one day I will attend. This video is made by one of my teacher training buddies, Matthew Caton, who also happens to be a cinematographer (like my husband). He released it about a year and a half ago, after the first Wanderlust out west. So check it out and see what this Music/Yoga lovefest is all about... Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Love Love Love

This morning I sat on my cushion and opened my heart. I did it from the inside, rather than trying to knock my way in which has been my (unsuccessful) practice of late. Instead I created a vacuum in my heart and invited Shakti-Ma, the Divine mother to fill it. And she did. She literally rushed in with the biggest inhale I've felt in a while and that was followed by another and another. And I just sat there filled with love, as Love.

And that's it. Really. That's IT. The point, to me, is Love. All the time.

I think we always say 'you have to learn to love yourself'
but really it should be ' you have to learn you are Love, yourself'

and I think I've finally figured out what I'm meant to be teaching people.

You are Love

(and psst... Love = God = Love, same same)

I Love Ya'll. (if anyone's reading this)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Quote

Friday Quote: A regular offering of some words to ponder over the weekend. If you do the same in your space, leave a comment with a link so that we all may grow together.

"Because of deep love, one is courageous" Lao-tzu

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bee my Honey

You know, I just need to know that I need to be careful what I put out there into the Universe.
Tuesday night I taught a class on working with Fear. On starting to take small steps towards the goals that you're afraid of reaching. Of taking Action when you feel fear.
Wednesday I got just that opportunity, except that small steps weren't really called for... Huge ACTIONS were required for this one. When I went downstairs Wednesday evening to start the oven to make dinner there was a suspicious buzzing sound in my kitchen. 10 bees were buzzing around the inside of the window, more were coming out of the oven fan vent, and from the inside was an ominous continuation of the Buzz! BEES! I swore, and then ran out of the room shaking with fear! O. M. G! BEES! And I am home alone with a two year old. With BEES!
Thing is, with fearful situations I really just want to run away. Avoid avoid avoid. But when I'm the mom and my husband is 15 hours away by plane and more bees are coming in, avoidance really isn't going to work. Action is 100% totally REQUIRED.
So, because I love myself, I love my daughter, I love our home and I wanted to have dinner, I dressed in my heavy clothes and shoes, put on leather gloves and went in.
I can tell you Ahimsa (non-violence) quickly went out the window when I couldn't figure out how to herd those little creatures outside. At least I did try that first, I think one little bee made it out. Then my big shoe landed heavily. I'm not proud of it. I'm apparently not a Buddhist monk just yet. It was a terrifying, stress producing, heart pounding moment of sheer will to conquer the bees and keep us safe. And my pounding heart reminded me that I'm alive and I can still feel emotions to this day.
Then I turned on the oven fan and blew the rest of the bees out into the daytime. The oven fan has been on ever since except for one hour this morning ... and 3 bees made their way back into the house in that time... so they got the shoe treatment too and I'm NOT turning off the fan again until the exterminators show up to help.
In these moments, when I am facing real fear, fear that arises out of a situation in which I or my child could feel pain (I know bee stings aren't awful, but I don't really want to just go get one) I am SO glad I practice yoga. And, I am SO glad I practice a yoga that challenges me, and pushes my edges. That I practice poses that scare me from time to time. Because when the real fear arises (after swearing once or twice and running away) I get super clear. I don't fall into a heap of tears and stress. I get super super decisive, clear, focused and motivated to do what needs to be done. I feel the fear and take the action that is required... even when I don't want to... and my breath and my blood pressure stay under control so I don't have a heart attack in the midst of it all. Whew. So, this coping with fear through yoga, it's a real thing. With real applications in my life. And on days like yesterday and today I am SO SO SO glad that I practice and so grateful for all of the many gifts this practice brings to me.
And, I'm really grateful that I can pick up the phone and have someone arrive at my door to help me.
Contemplation: Fear, taking action, yoga... real life? Discuss.

Monday, June 6, 2011

OMG! I am SOooo Important!

(AKA how I convince myself it's Ok not to make real connections)

OMG! do you know how important I am? let me just tell you all the things I've done which make me SO important....

First Graduate school, then Graduate school with a kick-butt internship
working with psychiatric patients and a big long commute to do every week
Then a bad break-up
Then a new relationship
Then getting married
Then a new job with psychiatric patients and a really
long commute, "I work long hours to do what I love"
Then Yoga Teacher Training
Then I just quit my job and went to Bali .. and then to Italy to boot
Then I teach a little yoga and I'm doing Immersions
Then I'm pregnant
Then I have a young baby (and my baby needs a cast, and I have a shoulder injury)
Then ANUSARA teacher training
And now I have a young child AND I teach yoga.
I mean, I TEACH YOGA.... Anusara-Inspired Yoga,
That must make me really important, you know?

Holy Shiva/Shakti! somebody stop me from importancing myself right out of my own life! Or, well, maybe I'll just take the responsibility myself to clean up the mess that all of this has made.
So, to rewind. A few months ago I was walking in to teach class one evening and had a realization. Part of why I like teaching is because it makes me feel important. People are counting on me to be there. People are interested in what I have to say. I make an impact, or so I am told. It's hard not to get a bit of an ego around those things. And in the next moment I realized how much I then used those lovely excuses as reasons NOT to make connections with the people who matter most in my real life. (I can't connect, I have to go teach, I have to plan my classes, I have to practice now, I have to go to this workshop... etc.) The realization went something like this: If I suddenly vanished off the face of the planet, disappeared into cosmic dust struck down by a lightning bolt from Shiva's third eye let's say, who would be most affected? I certainly hope the yoga students would still do yoga. They would find a new teacher and carry on. The people who would be most affected for the rest of their lives would be my mother and my daughter. Then my husband and father and siblings and friends, co-workers, students etc.
And who do you think I tended to take the most advantage of in my life? and spend the least amount of time connecting to? [my mom, my daughter, my husband] And who do you think I saved myself for? and gave my all, my best to? [yoga students] I realize my priorities were a bit skewed. From that day on I've made much more of an effort to be sure to call my mother, and to connect with my daughter in a real one-to-one way.

Thing is, what I'm realizing is that I'm seriously afraid of real intimate connections. And so to avoid the fear, I make my life super important. So important, in fact, that I can't possibly connect in a real and deep way with anyone. All of these reasons listed above become the excuses for not being in physical proximity with friends/family, for not picking up the phone and having meaningful conversations. And really, they're all just crummy excuses. In the long run they leave me lonely, disconnected, and blaming others for the misfortune I've upheld.
Welcome yoga and meditation into my life. Thank Shiva/Shakti. Awareness is a beautiful thing, and now that I'm deeply and painfully aware of this situation, I'm working to change it. Starting at the closest most intimate relationships and slowly working my way out I am connecting more in many sweet and powerful ways. I mean, if I want to really change the world into a truly loving place, it can't just be with the people on their mats, it should really be with the people who live in my house and in my heart, right?
So if you're my friend, or family member or yoga student even, and you catch me making myself sound "important" especially so important that I can't listen to you, be available in your time of need, or just hang out, please call me out on it. You can seriously say "Wow, I never realized just how important you are." We'll have a good laugh and get on with making the real connection, the one that is truly important and will maintain our lives in a way we deeply deeply want and deserve.
I think when I truly get down to the depth of connection that I want to have with everyone in my life the world might be blown open with the force of love that comes wildly bounding out of my heart. Fear, is no reason to stop the flow of love and it's time for me to take a step forward on this path. I'll let you know how it goes.
(Even on the blog, if I sound blown up, knock me down a bit would you?)

Contemplation: What's so "important" in your life, and what is really IMPORTANT to you? How do your actions reflect what you value most?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Quote

Friday Quote: A regular offering of some words to ponder over the weekend. If you do the same in your space, leave a comment with a link so that we all may grow together.

"It is not too late at all. You just don't yet know what you are capable of."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Magic Moments

The return to my world after the trip has been filled with these little moments of magic. And as we all know, little moments of magic are what make the world so much more fun and our lives anything but ordinary.

  • Yesterday, in the midst of everything (returning from my trip, getting ready for my husband to leave for 10 days, a grouchy 2 year old) I was gifted with time with a girlfriend and her dog to walk through the woods by the river. Richmond is made a very lovely place by having the James River running right by the downtown. And we're lucky to have wild park space on many of the banks. So C and I had time to walk with the doggie into the woods and chat. At one one moment we had this brief second of imaginary play that was so incredibly fun. Just speaking about the possibility of dragons or fairies hiding in the branches sparked such a lightness of heart. Why is it not ok for grown adults to go out into the woods and pretend to be fairy princesses? This must change. I told her next time I'm bringing a fairy wand... maybe wings and a tutu too. It was a taste of magic... and rejuvenation to sit by the water too. but more on that another day.
  • And then in my practice, I realized I never inhale. I mean, obviously I do inhale because if I didn't I wouldn't be able to type, but I never do it with much awareness. I'll be in a pose and say I'm holding this for 10 breaths or something but the breaths are all exhales. So yesterday when I started to inhale. It was -- not to be too cheezy-- a breath of fresh air! My practice of inversions felt magically transformed. From something that is hard work that I have to grunt and groan through to something that was a fun sweet little adventure. How wonderful was that? This will be an ongoing exploration to be sure.
  • And some how I just knew this morning that my day would be up and down and all around and instead of dreading it or running away -- I made sure to meditate AND do a little asana (usually reserved for later) and even with the twisty turns I've stayed much less reactive and have been so centered. THAT really is magic somedays.
Contemplation: What feels like magic for you?