Saturday, December 28, 2013

Minnesota Nice Meets Manhattan

When in doubt, practice yoga in the subway station.
It took me a couple of days to adjust to the vibe here in New York City. Coming from Minnesota, I have been schooled in a passive-aggressive communication style, which not every region understands, or appreciates. Tips passed down through the generations include being overly polite, apologizing for no reason, and trying to keep irritation in tidy internal compartments. Garrison Keillor has made a career in lovingly pointing out these idiosyncrasies. I'm hoping this two weeks in New York might be just enough time to reset my "Minnesota nice" into a larger array of responses and experiences.

In addition to marveling at New York's get-to-the-point directness, I'm looking for some yoga classes to attend. Meanwhile, the anything goes atmosphere at the subway station, often accompanied by live music, will do just fine.

When personal space includes a full body press from strangers on every side (subway commute), you can be sure tolerance and compassion already play a big role in the lives of New Yorkers. Yoga in action is alive and well here. These observations and experiences are stretching my heart, and shining an appreciative light on all of us humans.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holidays with a Twist

Reflecting on your own divinity
     When it comes to the holidays, I have become one who craves a silent and holy night. A sacred time to both reflect and celebrate the divine within. The end of the year feels like a natural and mandatory reflection time. If it wasn't for the discovery of yoga communities, I would probably still be wondering where one could find a sacred space for such reverent reflection. Yoga communities everywhere roll out the "welcome to yourself" mats, celebrating the the season within.

Many will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I too, will honor him, who's spirit lives within my own heart. For me, this divine compassionate presence has many names. If limited to one name, it could be easily distilled to "love." In honor of Christ, who also suggested we look within, I celebrate his wisdom, and how he lived his life in love. His spirit simply keeps pointing to the breath, the spirit of love, and the connecting energy within me. Showing us the way, the truth and the light, within our own miraculous selves.

For many, the holidays are a time of tradition. I'm a traditionalist too. It's just that my tradition is to do things a little differently every year. Last year, my holidays consisted of having the Christmas flu. I felt like it was my body and spirit's way of saying, "you're not going anywhere until you sit in awareness of all that IS." Oddly enough, the flu was what I needed to take that time. This year, the holidays will be spent in a sea of mostly strangers. New York City will be the backdrop. A wonderful place to acknowledge the divine presence that illuminates everyone, no matter their lifestyle or perspective. It also happens to be a great place to find extra special holiday yoga classes!

"Vast inner solitude"
Wishing everyone real peace as the seasons get ready to turn again.
Rainer Rilke's words remind us not to underestimate the importance of finding time to sit with your own divinity:

              "What is necessary, after all,                                                               Is only this: solitude.
                Vast inner solitude.
                To walk inside yourself
                and meet no one for hours --
                that is what you must be able to attain."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Neutral Expressions

Natural Expression
     The last couple of months have been an experiment in living life at a slower pace. No longer having the desire to be everywhere at the same time. Every moment feels blessedly important, regardless of what is happening or not happening.

The mid-western autumn is as beautiful as I can ever remember it being. The trees are full and bursting with color, sometimes showing even more impressively when the backdrop of the sky is gray. The temperature fluctuates from day to day, along with my emotional reactions to the upcoming change of season.

On the colder days, you can almost see people moving into more contemplative states of being. Expressions on people's faces are becoming more neutral. Mannerly greetings on the street are being replaced with respectful silence. On the slightly warmer days, effortless grins return with the sun.

This time of year asks for our flexibility and acceptance of others, as we all adjust to change. The social expectation of smiling all the time seems to close for the season, giving our facial muscles a deserved break. I noticed this for myself on halloween, while wearing a mask for a few hours. I was struck by how relaxed my face felt behind the mask. Maybe the quieter seasons show us how to take a break from our own show.

Living in a challenging climate, there are no expectations of perfect weather, or perpetual sunshine. The phrase "it's all good," is understood as myth, probably invented by those afraid of the dark. Truth reveals that life is dynamic, changing, bright, empty, thunderous, bitter, colorful, foggy, clear, and so much more. Letting go of limiting concepts, ideas, and expectations of how things should look, we become as graceful as the twirling leaves.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jai Ma! A Tribute to Dixie

Flowers for Dixie
     Someone special has made a grand transition this week. She checked out of this particular world on the eve of Canadian Thanksgiving, which could not have been more appropriate. Dixie was the maker of delectable meals and the giver of constant thanks. She also happened to be Canadian. Her adult children and my dear friends, know how fortunate they are to have a mother that lives on in love.

We will continue to include Dixie in all things beautiful. I will miss her insight and opinions (always given with a grain of gourmet salt.) I admired the way she made an ordinary day feel like a special occasion. She brought an effortless elegance wherever she went. In her presence, I felt cherished. Her time here was too short for our understanding. I find comfort knowing the quality she brought to every moment, and to her relationships. I imagine her energy is now helping to heal the whole world.

Hindus also gathered this week to celebrate the Divine Mother. Since learning of Dixie's transition, the words Jai Ma (Victory to the Mother) continue to roll from my heart, out of my mouth. Victory to the Mother in all of her forms.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nature Deprivation Disorder

Eloise Butler Bird Sanctuary
     Cityscapes create a romanticism for my senses. I feel energized by the sight of people everywhere. Erratic urban noise has been known to put me into a deep sleep. There always seems to be a new and creative concept being unrolled, making city life even better. I notice the positive aspects of city living more than the drawbacks, and have long felt at home in this environment.

Then, last summer, I started to feel more like a robot then a human. A strong case of "Nature Deprivation Disorder" had kicked in. Whether or not this term was backed by medical research wasn't important to me. The term understood my physical and psychological need for Mother Nature. I knew I needed quality time with life, outside of a city routine. I could feel this need for nature in my bones. Michael Todd shares more about our deep need for nature here.

Standing in Nature
Dedicating several seasons to re-sync with nature has already been inspiriting. Carving out a chunk of time in a congested schedule did not seem possible or likely, which was exactly why I had to do it. Taking time to revel in being alive is not just for the young, retired, train jumping hobos, or super wealthy. 

When I stand in silence with nature, the teachings are beautifully obvious: 

-There is no need to rush.
-All things happen as they are suppose to  happen. 
-Conditions will not always be pleasant, nor will they always be unpleasant. 
-We are all part of nature, reflections of nature, and reflecting back to nature. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thank You S.N. Goenka

Sculpture by Kimber Fiebiger
     A great contributer and teacher of Vipassana meditation, S.N. Goenka, died a couple of days ago. He was 90 years old. I feel fortunate to have attended a 10 day meditation just last month, using his technique and guidance. His talks (via video) were incredibly inspiring, always leaving me with a beaming smile. One night he mentioned, "Buddhists are not afraid of death." They considered death to be a promotion. How wonderful it is to think about him moving onto his promotion now. May all beings be happy, peaceful, liberated. This was his greatest hope, and the purpose of vipassana meditation.

Goenka spent his early life preoccupied with money and business, which he remembered as the years of greatest discontent. In a search for migrane headache relief, he was led to vipassana meditation. The practice changed him profoundly. He dedicated the rest of his life sharing the teachings and practice of meditation. He wasn't interested in plaques, statues, or applause of any kind. He wasn't interested in living a life fulfilling his egoic needs. Some might imagine him to be dry or dull? Although he was serious about his practice and dedication to mediation, he had an instinctive sense of humor (of the side-splitting variety). He lived peacefully and undoubtedly departed in peace. 

The shortness of our life span can be mind boggling. When we live mindfully in the moment, there is nothing else we need to do. Life is being met and lived. When we sit in silence with our ever changing selves, we learn to be present for all aspects of our precious lives (death included).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Finding the Texture

"What is the texture"
Have you ever had a yoga teacher advise you to notice the texture of your exhale? If so, were you able to understand and feel for yourself what this meant? Wiktionary defines texture as "the feel or shape of a surface or substance; the smoothness, roughness, softness, etc. of something." Yoga jargon often expands on these descriptions. When noticing the feeling tone of a particular sensation, you may observe something which feels coarse, solid, or crumbly. A particular area may feel silky, spongy, or dull. You might notice a layered sense of changing sensation. At times, you will be asked to notice the quality of your breath, or feel the 
Describe how this feels
essence of a particular sensation. It may be tempting to just skip this part of the yoga instruction and concentrate on perfecting your outer form. Like so many things, yoga too can become a display, rather than an experience. 

Create an in-depth yoga practice by developing an attentiveness to any and all sensation, as it arises, changes, and disappears. This practice of presence can be used anytime, and is an effective way to alleviate unpleasant mind states. Observe life energy as it is, on a sensation level, without getting attached to any of it. Practice finding the texture, and letting it go. The natural world (which includes ourselves) is always shifting. Observing our shifting sensations without clinging or reacting, generates inner peace and contentment, which is not dependent on any particular sensation being present or absent. May we all have unconditional peace and contentment.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Celestial Moves

Crescent Moon Pose with Moon
Can you imagine leaning into the curve of the crescent moon with the side of your body? Picture this celestial move with your creative mind. Allow your weight and the downward flowing energy of your legs and feet sense the root for this pose. Once your awareness finds this root, feel where you lift up and out of it. 
Visualize the crescent moon taking shape within your mirroring body. Energies sychronize. Your side body releases into the inner arc of the moon, while established roots hold your ground.
Keep your shoulders dropping down,
while arms lengthen in opposite directions. Hands stay relaxed and enlightened. Sense the center of your being, as it is gently stretched and strengthened. The lower body continues to ground while the upper body ascends from stability. 

Salute both the waxing & waning cresent moon by switching sides; Re-establish the root of the pose each time. Practice twice on each side, feeling the subtle sensations and changes. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Silence for 10 Days

Meditation retreat grounds: Menomonie, Wisconsin.
A 10 day silent vipassana meditation begins today. No reading, writing, talking, smart phoning, etc. I will be picking up another participant who needs a ride, and we will begin the course this evening.  If you would like to join in at anytime, just close your eyes and look/feel within yourself. Spend as much time as you can with a felt sense of being present in your body, watching the coming and goings of the mind with loving kindness. Feel the coming and going of breath and sensation.

What I love best about this practice is the inarguable confirmation that I am not my thoughts. I am consciousness. I just am. There is never any turmoil in the present moment, something I can easily forget when running around in my mind much of the time. During meditation, thoughts come and go, yet my experience is not tied up in the content of the thinking/plotting/planning/controlling mind. Again, not controlling or trying to prevent thoughts from passing through, just noticing that thoughts are not reality. Stay tuned into everything present; bodily sensations, environmental noises, more thoughts. There is a gradually a loss of interest in the content of thoughts. It gets easier to see how the thinking mind tries every angle to distract from the Now. Imagined stories of past and future parade through like urgent matters needing immediate focus and fixing. In the now, the thinking mind loses it's job, so I can understand it's desperation and drama. Once the thinking mind loses it's authority, the breath becomes unbelievably interesting, always present, just waiting to be noticed. Tuning into the breath, you can be released from the controlling nature of the mind, and released into the the reality of now.
You may find "Finding the Feeling" a valuable practice in getting started or reacquainted with meditation. It is a brief practice found in Pema Chödrön's new book, How To Meditate. A Practical Guide to Making Friends with your Mind. For some on-line meditation tips, check out Yoga International here.

"You are the Saviour
but only of yourself.
To save yourself
simply means to awaken
out of the past and future
into the present moment."

-Leonard Jacobson

Monday, August 5, 2013

May All Beings Have Clean Water!

Filtered water at the airport!
What "thing" do you most need while traveling? I imagined missing my pillow, comfortable bed, access to clothing packed away, or maybe a favorite cast iron pan. In actuality, the thing I most need and want is clean, clear, safe, water. Ever since watching the documentary Tapped, I've not been comfortable consuming water from plastic bottles. Not even the disastrous effects of fracking, which was in progress just a few miles from my Los Angeles location, brought me to purchase plastic jugged water.  One afternoon, my host in L.A. suggested that we watch Gasland, an insightful documentary about fracking, which had me wondering what was in that southern California drinking water? The smell of chlorine stood out and the taste was confusing. I decided to stop drinking the city water, coupled with refusal to buy plastic bottled water, which led to the dragging effects of dehydration. Water, I needed good water!

A few days later, I had the urge to book a ticket to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a home visit. Spotting a filtered water machine at the Chicago Midway airport, I wondered if it was a mirage! It invited me to "Refill your water bottle here." The machine calculates how many plastic bottles are saved by using a water filling station. I drank one down and then another. I felt like a dehydrated apple coming back to life. The taste of this water was divine and it had a brightening effect on the way I felt. A delayed connecting flight ended up being a blessing for my body. It kept me near that machine for the next few hours, rehydrating and thinking about the preciousness of water.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Definitely a Stretch

It was definitely a stretch (of my interests) to attend a Power yoga class in Santa Monica. I knew the class would not be paced or styled to my preferences, but it was the studio my friend had enthusiastically chosen for us. Keeping an open mind came in handy while the studio filled up with the latest yoga fashions and serious looking faces. A woman in the bathroom was using large handfuls of paper towels just to open the door and avoid contamination. I thought about waste and wondered if I was doing that with my time. I made a silent vow that I would not do anything injurious for the sake of keeping up.
The studio described in "Oasis" blog post
To my delight, the class began with a lengthy child's pose. Ahhh. Worries about what may or may not happen in class washed away. Only the feeling of my forehead touching the floor seemed to matter. We moved into Sunbird, and after that, it was all vigorous flow for another 85 transformational minutes. No, this was not my usual way of practicing. Yet, I found the entire class to be beneficial and exactly what I needed that day. I had to redirect my focus a few times to include only my experience, not the woman on my left who might be throwing her knee out trying to keep up. One man rolled up his mat and left shortly after class began. I felt relieved by his brave act. Sometimes getting out of what feels like a dangerous or unhelpful situation is the best possible answer. That man was practicing yoga by choosing to leave. I hoped that everyone there had the wisdom needed to make it through safely and honorably. Then, I let go of my distracted concern for others in order to stay present for myself. If we can not mind our own selves, what makes us think we can skillfully mind other people anyway?

The yamas and niyamas emphasize being truthful not only to others, but to ourselves. Truthful about what feels right and what doesn't. They also emphasize non-possessiveness. There were a few moments when I wanted to execute a complicated pose just to have it and "prove" myself. Fortunately, inner wisdom directed me towards surrendering ego and excess. Life, like a power yoga class, sometimes hands us things we couldn't have thought of for ourselves! We have a chance to creatively stretch in every situation that rolls our way.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Circle Yoga

Circles in yoga
Before the start of any yoga practice, I like to survey the premises for possible yoga props. Walls, tables, belts, sand bags, and chairs are among some of the usual yoga prop choices. I rarely miss the chance to use steps, boulders, trees, shelves and anything else that can help expand or support a yoga posture. When I spotted a hula hoop from across my friend's living room, I knew it would be the guest prop for my practice that day. It was the perfect size for holding above my head, which made for nicely energized arm raises. Then, it became a noticable stablizer for First Warrior pose, as I lightly touched the hoop at my side for greater balance and strength. The hoop helped me to avoid over efforting. I felt encouraged to find a deep place in the pose. This deep place wasn't overly concerned with outside appearance or striving for perfection. This deep place was where sensations were noticable. At the sensation level, there is nothing more to "do". I finished the hoop practice with some twists. As I held the circle at shoulder height, parallel to the floor, my sitting twist was encouraged to spiral honestly and evenly. Nothing to prove, nowhere to go, the hoop seemed to say.
I wondered why it felt so natural to make use of the hula hoop in yoga. Maybe the symbolism of a circle brings a needed balance to all of the lines, rows, rectangular mats, and angles that typically stand out in yoga poses and class settings. I'm inspired to bring more circles and spirals onto my mat and into my visions. Circles represent infinity, unity, and wholeness. At the end of my practice, I sat inside the hoop, feeling a welcomed reminder that we are all in the circle of life.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"No Longer a Stranger"

Sunset at Big Sur
I'll be on the road today for 4 hours with people I have not yet met. Zimride matched me with a driver going to where I'm heading, in exchange for a reasonable fee agreed on in advance. In addition to my slightly lighter luggage (I had fun giving things away the last few weeks), I will be bringing along trust, patience, and gratitude for this rideshare. I'll let you know how the internet hitch-hiking pans out.

A very long drive later, and I'm happy to report that Zimride brought me to my desired location! I suggested to the driver (a mother with her 10 year old son) that we take the scenic route. She agreed without hesitation and off we went. To our unplanned surprise, it turned out to be a much longer trip then calculated. We marveled at the sunset in Big Sur, and then tried to comprehend the many hours of driving still ahead. I heard her son muttering from the back seat, "I don't think this was worth it."  I was in silent agreement, as I remembered quite suddenly about my tendency for car sickness. The motherly instincts of the driver, noticed my discomfort, and graciously offered me the driver's seat. This helped only somewhat. Luckily, conversation flowed easily. It felt amazing to meet people that I may otherwise never have know, and share an experience together. I noticed all of my preferences and aversions arise (radio stations, perfumed hanging trees, air-conditioning temps), and then found comfort in a remembered Lao Tzu quote, which I repeated in my mind; "The road is not difficult for those who have no preferences."
The boy later confessed that he had been nervous about hosting a stranger in the car, adding that I was "no longer a stranger." We had bonded over the discomfort of car sickness, counting artichoke stands, lengthy alphabet games, and more. Summer vacation with strangers had shown me, we really are all related.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Third Eye Clarity

This past weekend brought work as a zen rock gardener, bamboo trimmer, astro turf raker, and debris removal assistant, all in the splendor of a sunshine filled day. It also brought awareness of the organic matter I was continually stirring up and inhaling. This, quite naturally led me into a mid-afternoon fantasy about irrigating my sinuses!

Neti Pot Demonstration
Whether you are a gardener, painter, have summer allergies or just finished sweeping the patio of pet hair, you will probably notice that your breathing becomes less than optimal after these activities. Air conditioning is another summer breathing irritant. It can create an overly dry and cooled environment which noticeably reduces the proper balance of your own nasal filtration system. The practice of rinsing your nasal passages with salted water will restore a proper breathing environment and a bring a sense of overall clarity to your mind & body! I'm convinced that the wisdom center known as the 3rd eye chakra is stimulated and refreshed by this soothing action as well. 

For those of you who already know how to use a neti pot, this is just a reminder to get it out and put it to use this summer. I love being a self-appointed spokesperson & coach for this effective yogic technique. I’d love to hear about how this practice has made a difference in your life.

Neti Instructions:

You could use a handmade ceramic neti pot, or just find a bendable cup for the task. Use a measured ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt and add it to your chosen vessel. Stir is a small amount of hot water to dissolve the slat. Then add cold water until the temperature is luke warm or slightly cool. Stir the solution again. To begin, tilt your head to one side, pour the water into the higher nostril while breathing only through your mouth. As you pour the water into one nostril, it will flow out the other side. If not, adjust the tilt of your head and try again until it pours easily.

Need more encouragement? Click the link below to find a handout describing the history, practice, and even more reasons to practice jal neti:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pretzel Yoga

Slinging pretzels in San Francisco
     Traditional health care benefits do not usually accompany untraditional lifestyles, but there is hope that occupational happiness is good preventative care. At times, my "happy to be teaching yoga" habit asks to be supported by other odd jobs. This is not a problem, since I enjoy a varied work life. For some of us, occupational happiness means putting our skills, interests, and open minds into a hat for fate to choose. This past week I was offered something new in the gig department. I spent July 4th at Fisherman's Wharf behind a pretzel/churro cart. It was hard to stop smiling that day. Every person I encountered at the stand was kind, polite, and surprisingly grateful for their $3 snack. I felt like a summertime Santa Claus.

Have you ever had a chance to be playful at work?
The gig reminded me of one I had enjoyed as a kid. Twice per year, my uncle arranged for my brother and I to sell roses on the streets of small Minnesota towns. It was also reminiscent of years spent in the restaurant world. It's the kind of work where 10 hours pass quickly, due to the constant action. I spent the 5th of July on a couch recovering from all of the interaction, but was ready to go again yesterday for one more pretzel gig at the Alameda Antique Fair. It was amusing to watch people walk by with parasols, dressed in vintage dresses and suits, etc. Folks wheeled carts around containing giant plastic reindeer and many other oddities. I felt right at home. We are all so unique!

There is no doubt that yoga helped me through the slinging pretzel days. Mountain pose helped me avoid slouching, and the straining effects of leaning to one side. Breath awareness kept my energy level high and nerves calm, even when surrounded by mini-mobs of customers. Anytime I had a few moments to recover, I found a yoga pose, usually something addressing quads and low back. Just for fun (and upper back relief) I took full eagle pose a few times too, the one most associated with looking and feeling like a pretzel.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cooling Wave Breath

Fisherman at Pacifica Pier
Try this breathing visualization with a chilled eye pillow to cool down in the summer heat:

First, Picture how all of the oceans are connected. There is no telling where one ocean stops and another begins. Now, become aware of your own divine body of mostly water, and imagine that there is no separation between yourself and any other body of water. As these fisherman stand on the shore, they are connecting to nature because they tooare nature. Replenish yourself and your surroundings with the awareness of your breath as connecting energy. Feel how the ebb & flow of your natural breathing pattern mimics the rhythm of the waves; extending to shore, then returning back to a limitless source. As you exhale, imagine your breath as a wave washing to shore, extending to touch your surroundings. The cool inhale returns us to our expansiveness, an ocean within ourselves. All of life energy circulates, as waves, as breath, as divine consciousness. The ocean and the wave are clearly inseparable, just as we are to the breath, and breath is to all. Watching the breath like this, we may start to feel contentment in "going with the flow."

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yoga Lessons from Trees

Tree Teacher
Some of the advantages of taking yoga lessons from trees are that the classes are on-going and open 24 hours a day!
A great way to begin is by observing any tree that catches your attention. When you feel ready, follow the silent instructions of the tree and move into the shape demonstrated by the tree. Move with inner guidance and intuition into your own felt interpretation of the shape. Extra Bonus:You might notice that you have more energy for sustaining dynamic yoga poses out in an oxygen rich forest setting!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Stay on the Path!

Rock art/inspiration.
     Traveling without an exact plan brings up some uneasy feelings from time to time. My basic need for security is challenged, which ignites some questions from the 'what if...' part of my brain. What if I am wasting precious time? What if I don't have enough of this, that, and the other? What if I loose this, that, and the other?

I'm taking a sojourn with trust that I will be guided along the way. I know that if I stay present and awake, it will be clear what to do (or not do) in any given moment.

Just keep breathing.

On the outside, the road I'm traveling doesn't look much different than the road I've always been on. It's my understanding that feels different. Life feels more interesting now that I'm not spending energy as 'Director of Every Detail and Outcome'. I have given that job back to The Universe. I appreciate the subtle, as well as the loud blaring signs that are guiding me along. Keep Going, read the rock. My instincts interpret this message as a reminder to keep tending to the inhale/exhale, as my path.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Oasis in the Concrete

The yoga studio in the mission district of San Francisco stopped me in my tracks. An entire day of walking around and feeling the street life had me drooling outside the door for a yoga class. I needed to land more fully in my body without trying to comprehend the state of the streets for an hour or so.
Once up the extra tall flight of stairs, I was not surprised by the beauty of the studio. I've never been to an uninviting yoga studio and this one was no exception. Sure, the outside looks like a prison, but inside was a stunning oasis of light, natural coloring, and space. The volunteer checking me in at the desk received unlimited classes as a barter exchange, which I imagined to explain the glow she had going on. Like many yoga studios, they provided the mats, and because it was a donation based happy-hour class, I felt extra grateful for the savings. I basked in this mind/body saving retreat for under $10.00, a real yoga deal.
I ended up being the only participant in the 4:30pm Friday class. I tried to let the teacher off the hook, but thankfully she didn't go for it. She said she'd be happy to teach for just me. I decided to believe her, and we had the private class. What a heart warming, body repairing session! I left the sanctuary ready to roam the streets for another several hours, this time with restored nerves and a centered mind.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sound Medicine
     Even though my stomach was upset from the curvy road driving and lack of proper nutrition, having my close friend up from central California was still a favorite treat. After entertaining her children with trinket shops and talk of going to the wax museum, we wandered down to the wave organ to do some ocean listening. I recognized that the kids had lost some enthusiasm as we approached what looked like not much of anything, the wave organ.

The wave organ makes the best sounds during a full or new moon, but one of the pipes was still producing some ambient sounds from the sea during this particular half moon. To my grateful amazement, the deep and primal sound of the gurgling water had an immediate healing effect on my upset stomach! I was both surprised and not surprised by this. I know we are connected to nature and made mostly of water ourselves, but never had I experienced this kind of direct sound medicine from the sea! We all walked away feeling more attuned and balanced.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Harbor Seal Flow


     Today I had just the lesson I needed from the harbor seals in Half Moon Bay. The seals were basking, playing, and sometimes passionately arguing on the warm sand. Some would find their way back out to sea on purpose, while others just waited to be drawn back in by the certainty of the ebb. In either case, they did so not only with grace, but seemingly with glee. They inspired me to move my own body in a relaxed and playful way, and communicate as needed. Even more importantly, they seemed to say, 'it's totally okay to chill out.' I could not agree more. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Arriving and Exhaling on the West Coast

West coast welcome
     A one-way ticket brought me here yesterday morning, but not as smoothly as my mind/body would have wanted. The baggage, even after many weeks of what I thought was precision packing, was still way too heavy for comfort. The Osprey Porter backpack was loaded down so much that one of the straps is already tearing apart at the seams. My carry-on roller case felt like it was full of boulders. At least I was able to sling it around and make it look easier than it felt. I did not fall down any escalators and I boarded public transportation in the quick time demanded. Today, my back, hips and neck feel strained.

Inquiring into the tension, I discover that although my mind was ready to travel, my body was still holding on for dear life as I knew it. The next few days will be dedicated to breathing, with a special emphasis on the exhale, and releasing tension in my body. Many weeks will unfold here in the presence of another inspiring body of water. The breathing tide is already showing me the way.

Yoga lesson: Focus on the letting go nature of the exhale throughout the day. Every out-going breath is an opportunity to let go of past and future concerns. Every in-coming breath is an invitation to be present. Do you have a wandering, planning, reviewing mind? Yes? Ok, notice those tendencies as they arise, then return to the exhale as mainstay of the present moment.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nature as Guru

Banks of the Mississippi river
     It was a long and magical winter, living in close proximity to the Mississippi river. I've always loved the Mighty Miss, but had never felt her true power until living just a few blocks away. Sleeping close to the river, waking up close to the river, I got her message and it was clear. Go with the flow. "Yes, I do that already," I answered. "No, I mean really go with the flow," the river seemed to be insisting. "Trust yourself, trust the world, trust the flow."

I thought about the river valley and the strong tree roots connected to the river banks. "Stay rooted and go with the flow." It was an overnight realization, that I could live like the freedom of a river.

In a few days I will be heading out for some extended adventures in yoga (life).  Perhaps making all sorts of plans was necessary in order to explain this urge to depart from routine. My logical brain and the rational world wanted to know exactly what I was planning to do. Plans were an important part of the process and helped me to make sure I got on my way. Now that I am on my way, I have thrown my plans out the window and am back to trusting the river energy. Bold, fluid, trusting. The teachings of the rivers & trees have been inspiring yoga teachers for thousands of years.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Too much stuff?
    As I prepare to live simply without an external home base for awhile, it seems obvious that having a bunch of stuff to tote around would be burdensome. Still, my first attempts at packing for this journey included 20 pounds of yoga books, way too many shoes, and hair products that I haven't used in many years. Am I hanging onto some image of myself from the 8th grade and trying to bring it with me? Who knows. Feelings of attachment were coming out of the woodwork and into my luggage. Dragging the past around is incredibly heavy. I would much prefer to take this open-ended adventure with 2 carry-on pieces of luggage, so I'm hoping most of these things will not make the final cut. Packing is a very insightful part of a journey. 

Minimalism is very appealing.  It has me wondering, what keeps me from such a lifestyle? A hoarding mentality? Looking at Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga, aparigraha reminds us to take only what is necessary. To collect or hoard things implies a lack of trust in the Universe to provide for the future. Aparigraha also speaks of letting go of attachments in order to understand that impermanence and change are the only constants in life. This ancient philosophy may inspire me to get a little lighter. If not, I will practice accepting my choice to have more "comforts" then I can comfortably carry.