Thursday, December 18, 2014

Silent Night

Winter Solstice; Returning of Light.
     More days of tradition are approaching. Just as we finish a day of shared gratitude, it's time for the jingle jangle part.

My tradition includes discovering new traditions every year. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it may also be a legitimate tradition. Either way, planned gatherings are sometimes the focus on the 24th, 25th, 31st, and then some. This year, we're taking a break from driving and being overly social. Some possible activities may include washing windows (this is more fun than it sounds), building a fire, and a whole lot of aromatherapy (including fresh nutmeg, essential oils of pine, peppermint, and orange). 

Winter solstice feels like a real highlight among the holidays. I love that it can be celebrated anywhere, includes nature, and always has a present moment aliveness to it. Shortly after contemplating the returning of light, my mind starts to welcome in the tune of "Silent Night", (mostly for the silent part). The anticipation of a silent, healing night has long replaced the anticipation of present unwrapping. 

When we finally cease to scramble, there is a felt sense of our collective holy presence. I hope you will experience this too. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Time to Learn; Yoga as Therapy

Color Therapy in the City.
     I've been back in Minneapolis for just over a month now. The pace of a less frantic lifestyle is still with me. The idea of packing too many engagements into the week feels like a thing of the past. I can only hope this is true. The backdrop of autumn has also encouraged me to move more slowly. I know I wasn't the only one taking long walks this past month, while my eyes (and chakras) bathed in the brilliance of color.

A couple of weeks ago, while taking a break from autumn's color therapy, I spotted a flier for a fascia & asana workshop. Looking closer, I noticed the workshop had already happened, but kept the flier. Maybe the hosting yoga studio would have other interesting workshops in the near future. Checking their website later that day, I noticed a 500 hour therapeutic yoga teacher training program had just begun. It fit my interests in every way. In my research of yoga education options, I only knew of one program that was in line with what I most wanted to learn, but it seemed inaccessible (due to location and program fees). This new option was coming from Yoga North in Duluth! The only studio in a reasonable radius that is focused on therapeutic yoga education. For the first time, they were bringing this training to the Twin Cities. My eyes felt like they were popping right out their sockets with readiness.

Wisdom & Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh.
I spent two days contemplating whether I would really be willing/able to shell out the money/time for this training. I also sent a message to Yoga North to see if it was even possible to join the group and make up the weekend I had already missed. I was feeling a strong "yes", but also a huge doubting "no" lurking in the corners of my mind, and gut. We've all heard the saying, "listen to your gut." My gut was in very noticeable pain, which could have been taken as a sign to forget about the training. Becoming more familiar with the tension patterns in my body, I finally translated the pain. It was just fear trying to run the show.
Recognizing the fear pattern, I decided to trust my decision to ignore it. I joined the training, and just finished the first fulfilling days of it. 

My own body is already feeling the effects of a somatics focused practice. How wonderful not to feel rushed in yoga, or in daily movements. Still very conditioned to hurry through things, I'm making a point to notice this conditioning and frequently ask, how could I slow down right now in order to be more present? How can I enjoy a cup of tea without needing anything else? Practice.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seasons Change: Letting Go of Alaska

Me and my very wise teacher.
     Experiencing the changes of the Alaskan seasons has totally refreshed my being. Instead of a clock, I have watched the Fireweed bud, grow taller than myself, bloom in glorious stages and now turn to white fluff blowing everywhere. Snow on the mountains was abundant when I arrived, disappeared, and very soon will return.

While here, I've learned to drive a boat, clean and can salmon and identify new plants. Digging up potatoes and winterizing the retreat center will be next, in addition to making jams from our wild berry picking expeditions. My taste buds still cheer thinking about the many buckets of blueberries, black (and red) currants, raspberries, watermelon berries, and salmon berries consumed these last few months. On a soul level, I've learned some things that are still hard to express with words.

It does seem curious that I ever questioned spending this time in Alaska. I had wondered if it would be "too long." Too long for what?! It has been the necessary amount of time to witness the natural world, with all of it's leisurely changes. It has been the right amount of time to really be here.

Fireweed in September
Together with the external changes in nature, I've noticed change within myself. An abundance of fresh air may be the reason for an increase in my strength and energy. This environment has promoted a true sense of balance, and reduction in overall stress. I feel closer to nature and much more, a part of it.

The closure part of this experience has begun. The inspiring child I've spent the summer with has started school. This has made it necessary to take longer trips to town. Slowly, I expect these town trips will help me welcome the return of cars and roads back into my life, along with commerce of all kinds.

Glacier kayaking
During this time, I am reminded of the wisdom pointed out in a dharma talk by a Vipassana meditation teacher. She mentioned that it can be a great challenge for some, to let go of formal meditation. At the time, I could not relate to such a dilemma. Letting go of  meditation was the easy part. Getting into it, the challenging part, right? Soon after that talk, I noticed a participant who was clearly immersed in the 10 day retreat. Sometimes, during retreat transitions, out of the corner of my eye, I imagined this person as a very advanced practitioner. At the end of the retreat, the man chose to continue his silence, while the other participants shared their insights and experiences. Suddenly, I wondered if he was someone who had difficulty letting go of retreat. Of course I didn't know his actual story, but the lesson from the dharma talk suddenly made more sense.

Mountains in early May
It is important to let go of our experiences (wonderful or otherwise), in order to continue to be present in life. May yoga & meditation practices help us be resilient, open to life, and willing to let go when necessary.

I may not kayak with a glacier again, but my mind/body/spirit will never forget the many gifts that being in Alaska has brought to my life. May adaptability be one of those many gifts as I get ready to switch gears.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Reasons I Enjoy Being a Nanny

Kid lead exploration
     Although I am not a parent, I'm grateful for those who have chosen to be. If it weren't for them, I would not have the privilege of experiencing the everyday pleasures brought by the company of children. Sure, there are times when I've been able to relate to movies like "The Nanny Diaries," but the joys have far outweighed any undesirable elements.

Nanny positions have had a perfectly timed way of dropping into my life. I have come to recognize this work as part of my right livelihood. My current position (for the set period time of five months) is an ideal mix of teaching yoga, massage therapy, and spending time with children. There is also the added entertainment of living in community. Although this nanny situation may be unique, there are 5 things I have noticed about being a nanny which have been consistently wonderful:

1: Lightheartedness Required

There is no time for being grumpy. Going with the flow and not taking things personally are important job skills, which also happen to promote happiness!

2: Laughter & Learning

We all know laughter is good medicine and kids are inherently hilarious. Even though caring for children has plenty of challenges, frequent laughter keeps my overall stress level low. Along with the laughing, I learn (and relearn), many things forgotten. Kid's are constantly teaching me how to see life with fresh and original eyes.

3: Lack of Agenda

Children generally do not live for some other future moment in time. I find this lack of agenda refreshing. They prefer to linger in the moment (true quality time), with very few references to past or future. Since children prefer the present moment, it encourages me to stay in it too.

4: Supports My Yoga Practice

There are times throughout the day when children are engaged in something (alone or with siblings/friends). I take some of those moments to fit in a yoga or short meditation practice. Sometimes this catches their interest and they will join me. It must be an approachable, flexible practice, in case it needs to be abandoned it in a hurry. Practicing random yoga adds to a positive atmosphere for everyone.

5:  Unconditional Love & Honesty

Emotional ups and downs happen to everyone. I love how children tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves. I respect their directness, honesty, and most of all the generous sharing of unconditional love. One moment I may get an earful of opinions and frustrations, in the next moment there is a hand reaching out to hold mine. Grudges are very short lived, and forgiveness happens fast.

Sea star with hula hoop

I imagine that my life will continue to include the company of children. Finding a young friend to spend the day is always just a phone call away. Child energy puts more sparkle in my step. I may not otherwise think of photographing a sea star with a hula-hoop, wearing a bathing suit over my clothing, jumping on a trampoline dressed as a ninja, or having a luncheon in a cardboard box. Suggestions like these have become very important to me.