Saturday, December 27, 2008

Am I too comfortable?

"People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. "
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sooth your tummy

Try this digestive tea recipe. I take a powdered blend of these herbs with water after meals. But this sounds like a lovely way to ingest them as well. I received this recipe in a newsletter I get from Banyan Botanicals. When taking ayurvedic herbs for the digestion, the taste of the herbs is important. It's part of the healing action.

"A digestive tea following a meal can mprove digestion and help to soothe the entire gastrointestinal tract. The ritual of making and drinking tea can provide a relaxing time, giving yourself a chance to show some devotion to agni, digestive fire. Here is a simple recipe from Amadea Morningstar's The Ayurvedic Cookbook."

Digestive Tea
2 cups water, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds.
Bring water to a boil. Put all the seeds in a blender. Pour in boiling water. Grind the seeds with the water. Strain. Drink after any meal.

Friday, December 19, 2008


It's been hard to get on my yoga mat the past few days. Seems like it's been one thing after the furnace repair guy...take the cat to the vet....hang around while furnace get's replaced...take the cat to the vet (again). So this evening, much later than I usually practice, I was finally able to do a little yoga. The house was warm again and quiet. I just stepped onto my mat and let it happen.

Leaning my hips against the wall for an easy forward fold.

Playing with the wall in half moon pose (ardhachandrasana).

Draping into the wall for bowing warrior (parsvotonasana)

Then on the floor for pigeon to half forward fold to a twist to a side bend on each side.

Then I settled into a mindfulness meditation.

I watched my mind reach back into the busyness of the week and then come back into the stillness and the quiet. Mind moving back and forth, watching.

Trying to hard?

I'm contemplating this quote...

"Meaning is something that's given to us. Although we make a great effort to find meaning, we always receive it as a gift."

— David Steindl-Rast quoted in Tying Rocks to Clouds by William Elliott

If you have any thoughts on this, let me know.


The New York Times has a fashion blog called The Moment.
A recent piece featured a high-end men's fashion store that offered, among other things, a cape. The blogger posted " Ever a fan of a good cape, I’d opt for Yohji Yamamoto’s inky wool version ($3,840)".

I loved this reader's comment....

“$3,840 for a cape? Why? Does it make you fly?”

Saturday, December 13, 2008


"Drawing on my fine command of the language,

I said nothing."

--Robert Benchley

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


There were so many bits of wisdom in Sharon Salzberg's book The Kindness Handbook - a practical companion. My previous post on "neutral" was inspired in part by this book. Before I take it back to the library I wanted to post one more quote.

"When we send a neutral person lovingkindness, we are consciously changing a pattern of overlooking them, or talking around them, to one of paying attention to them. The experiment in attention we are making through these benevolent wishes asks of us whether we can practice 'loving thy neighbor as thyself' when we don't know the facts about someone's dependent, elderly parent, or at risk teenager, and so our heartstrings have not been tugged.

When we think of our neutral person, we haven't learned the story of their suspicious mole or empty evenings. We have no knowledge of their inspiring triumphs or their admirable philanthropy, and so we are not in awe of them. We aren't seeing their tension after a disappointing job interview, or their sadness after their lover leaves. We practice wishing them well anyway, not knowing any of this, but simply because they exist, and because we do know the beauty, the sorrow, the poignancy, and the sheer unalterable insecurity of existence that we all share.

Paying attention this way, we learn that even when we don't especially know or like someone, we are nonetheless in relationship to them. We come to realize that the relatedness is in itself like a vibrant, changing, living entity. We discover the gift of caring, of tending to this force of life that exists between us, and we are immeasurably enriched by that."

Friday, December 5, 2008


A woman awake — a woman with a fierce and awesome commitment — is a fearsome confrontation to our mediocrity and casualness. Most of us, myself included, would rather defend ourselves against our own potential greatness, because we know the sacrifices that living such greatness would require.
— Regina Sara Ryan in The Woman Awake

To Practice This Thought: Identify the sacrifices you would have to make if you stepped into your own greatness.

I came across this quote the other day. It really struck me deeply. I don't think it has to be just about women, of course. I think the word that stands out most for me is "casualness". It says to me that we can be offhand about our gifts. We might even recognize them as gifts but can't quite bother to expend the energy to cultivate them or offer them up to a world in need of gifting.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I grew up with the threat of fire blossoming in the night, rather than tornadoes or hurricanes.

I never lived up close enough to the dry chapparal of the foothills to be threatened but fire still filled my childhood dreams from time to time.

Recently the Tea Fire destroyed the homes of many in Santa Barbara including the home of my teacher Erich Schiffmann's brother Karl. Karl has written movingly about his experience.

Wildfires have always felt alive to me, like an animal stalking the hills. They are given names. Not the human names that hurricanes are given but names that tell of their birthplace. The fires slither and climb through the canyons and mountain tops in stark contrast to the dark night sky and the blackness of the mountains. You are at once amazed by the beauty of the flames and fearful of the danger and destructiveness. There is always wind, that blows hot and dry from the high desert to push the fires down toward the sea.

Here's something I wrote years ago when another fire, the Sycamore Canyon fire of 1977, scorched the hills that surrounded my home town.

through an ashen haze
the moon has risen
full and flushed
and cannot cool the scene.

a crimson corona traces the ridge
etching the canyons
with ribbons of orange
flaring and sighing
in this wind.

my back against the seawall
i seek relief
from this fevered heat.

salt smelling shore breezes
have fled
in the face of this
fire-baiting wind
that sucks the air dry
and curls the waves
back on themselves
before they can cool me.

i watch the flames
consume the blackness.

daylight will expose
the fired foothills,
resin-boiled and seed burst.

but now

in the darkness
i face the night beast
of my child dreams
come to visit once again
and steal my sleep
with fear of being devoured
by its subtle rage.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More on neutral...

From my friend Daron's blog...

From Mary Gordon’s prayers for the un-prayed for: "For those whose work is invisible; for those who paint the undersides of boats; makers of ornamental drains on roofs too high to be seen; for cobblers who labor over inner soles; for seamstresses who stitch the wrong sides of lining; for scholars whose research leads to no obvious discovery. Grant them perseverance for the sake of your love, which is humble, invisible, and heedless of reward."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I’ve been attracted to neutral lately…not so much neutral colors….I just painted a wall in my kitchen a warm spicy pumpkin color and my yoga room a rich green called “asparagus”….but neutral impressions. I’ve tried to…what is it…slow down? Pay closer attention?

What first got me thinking about neutral was a discussion on Erich Schiffmann’s online community board about introversion. The discussion tried to take a turn toward value judgment on introversion vs. extroversion but that was never the point. The pondering was really about do we introverts need to work against type to be offering up something to society? I’ll leave you to ponder that on your own.

Next I came across Sharon Salzburg’s book “The Kindness Handbook…A Practical Companion”. In it she deconstructs the Metta (LovingKindness) Meditation practice. The gist of it is that you develop your capacity for good will by offering it to yourself, to a loved one, to someone neutral, to a difficult person, to the world at large. This is an over-simplification, but it allows me to get to the point. She had some interesting things to say about the “neutral” people in our lives. These are people we come across daily. We may know nothing or very little about them. Sharon points out that they haven’t had the opportunity to tug at our heartstrings. Yet, they deserve our good will.

I began to ponder our attraction to the pleasing and aversion to the not so pleasing or uncomfortable. “Good” or “bad” they both attract our attention. I wondered if neutral is really neutral or is it just that some people, places, things, sensations just speak so quietly that its easy to miss them in the cacophony created by YES! and NO!

For me, the laboratory where I begin to focus my experiments is my yoga mat. I need to pay attention to the big physical sensations at first to make sure my body is safe from injury, to refine alignment…but once that’s taken care of…can I reside in the quiet places of the yoga posture? Just like the person with the big voice at a party draws our attention, the big sensations draw me in, but I choose to look around, to be in the midst of the “party” but to draw near to what is quiet. I’m not sure what I’ll find here in this place. It's human nature, perhaps, to turn toward the flashy stuff…the loud, the bright, the horrible, the exciting. I’m wondering if there really is neutral. Maybe it will come down to the difference between ATTRACTION and AVERSION and attraction and aversion.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Erich's talk

If you had trouble viewing the video of Erich's Ojai talk, he's posted a transcript of the talk here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Erich's Big Picture Talk

Couldn't make it to the Ojai Yoga Crib this year?

Not to worry. Here's an opportunity to see and hear Erich Schiffmann's Friday evening talk.
This photo is of the room before people began to arrive.
Imagine yourself entering the room.
Then watch the video...poof! You're there!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Power of Yoga

A member of Erich Schiffmann's discussion board "Moving Into Stillness" says in her bio info...

"I am not a power yoga person, but I do feel that my yoga practice is powerful."

-- Robyn Gibson

Back from "The Crib"

For the past four years I've been making an annual pilgrimage to the Ojai Yoga Crib. I've just returned from this year's "Crib" and it was excellent. If you follow the link you can check out the teachers who were participating this year. You get to pick 5 teachers to work with. This year my classes were with Jason Crandell, Diego del Sol, Kira Ryder, Cheri Clamplett and Arturo Peal, and, of course, Erich Schiffman.

The Crib began for me with Jason Crandell's class. If you read Yoga Journal you may have come across Jason's writing. iTunes also has a series of podcast classes which are really nice. Most of them are about half an hour long so nice to use for a home practice. Jason's main teacher was Rodney Yee. He's a great at getting into the mechanics of the poses. We really did a full range of postures in his class (each class is 2 1/2 hours long so there's lots of time to get to a lot of different things...or to talk a bit). It was such a nice class, so well paced, that I was surprised at the end when Jason said that he would not be hanging around to talk to people after class because he was fighting a flu bug and needed to leave to take a nap before his next class. What a hero! He did this great sequence near the end that culminated in an arm balance called Ashtavakrasana. I've never been able to quit get there and it's a challenging posture for sure. But he put it together step by step so that everyone in the room could do at least a piece of it. And he gave some nice instructions toward the very end that allowed me to actually taste the full pose for the first time. It was really fun. And I don't use the word "fun" in the neighborhood of arm balances very often!
Diego del Sol was next. All I will say here is it was a hot day, a hot room, a hot practice, and I was having hot flashes...and for those of you who know Ayurveda...I have a Pitta constitution. It wasn't pretty. The fire danger in the area was high...I'm surprised I didn't spontaneously combust and set the whole town on fire!

Saturday morning began with Kira Ryder. Kira owns Lulubandha's in Ojai and is the organizer of this event. All that and she teaches at the Crib too. Her classes are full of experiment and innovation. She uses movement, breath, sound, personal stories...whatever is in her toolbox to get you to explore. She is such a loving presence. You can check out the sequence she did on one of the blogs she uses to post class sequences. She doesn't use the 'traditional' names of postures so you may not always know quite what is being done but you'll get an idea. And if you decide to try one of her sequences, email me and I can usually explain what she's talking about...for instance...would you know what to do with "wise guy" pose?...or swamp monster? It's one of the many things that make her classes so much fun.

Saturday afternoon was spent in the compassionate embrace of Cheri Clampett and Arturo Peal in Restorative Yoga. Cheri is a yoga therapist and Arturo is a doctor of Chinese Medicine as well as a gifted yogi. Not only were we treated to the healing practice itself but they both moved through the room offering some hands on healing as well. I've work with Cheri whenever the opportunity arises. My first experience with her was in a regular hatha yoga class. Her voice and presence were so soothing that you wanted to melt simply because she asked you to!

The last class on Sunday morning was with my main teacher Erich Schiffman. Kira was there taking class too. She said about this class in her blog...."I cried. I always cry in Erich's class on the last day of the Crib. It's total medicine. I consider him my teacher but sometimes I wonder if I have heard a word he says." I know what she means. Erich has been my teacher for about 10 years. And everytime I'm with him I understand something I haven't gotten before...even if I've heard it many times. He talked a little, we meditated awhile and then did a posture practice. He said "Now, the practice we're going to do is not going to be difficult. Be on the lookout for why it's advanced. You're trusting your deepest impulses....First follow other people's's advanced when it starts feeling like *yours.*A real fundamental shift happens where it feels like you're doing YOUR yoga....You'll find yourself inventing new poses, like the original yogis did. The poses didn't just arrive in some book." The last 10 minutes or so was freeform. Erich put on a live recording of Donna de Lory's He Ma Durga and we just did whatever yoga we felt like doing. The music was haunting and I know a few people got weepy at this point. The music, the place, the people, the yoga...whew...good medicine for sure.

And it wasn't all yoga all the time. There was shopping and eating and visiting. I'm still working on re-creating a salad that I loved so much I had it two days in a row at Azu. It was an arugula salad with dried figs, toasted almonds feta and crispy serrano ham. I couldn't find serrano ham so I used proscuitto, toasted until slightly crispy instead. Its always the dressing that's a challenge. I tried grapeseed oil, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper. But its not quite right. I'm almost wondering if a tiny bit of apple juice might do the trick. I guess I could email the restaurant and see if they'd give up the recipe.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On the road again...

I arrived in Santa Barbara yesterday afternoon. Beautiful...flying in over the blue, blue ocean just feeds my soul. It was a lovely sunny day. You can see the scared hillsides where the Gap Fire raged this past July.

They've laid down hydromulch to help mitigate the potential mudslides that usually follow a fire like that. The Chaparral landscape is prone to fires though. So just like midwesterners have tornado season, Californians have fire season.

I used my Mindfulness practice to sail through the flight out. Breathing deeply. Sending loving kindness out when those around me were getting caught up in the challenges of airline travel (screaming babies, crowded flights, you know the drill) enabling my own ease in the moment at the very least. All flights were that's a good thing!

Yoga starts on Friday...for now...visiting friends and family and having a wonderful time.

(Missing my husband and cats though).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Today is Jimmy Carter's Birthday

From the Writer's Almanac today, a quote from Jimmy Carter

"A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It is a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It all counts

Kira Ryder, a really exciting yoga teacher I know from California, had her recent group of yoga teacher trainees start a blog as one of their assignments. It was meant to both help them learn to communicate more clearly about yoga and to develop community.

So that leads me to the topic of this post. Kira is doing an Ayurvedic cleansing diet. So she has a blog where she posts her food intake each day...not so much for us to read, as for her to actually see what it is she is ingesting each day. It helps her stay on track.

One of Kira's yoga teacher trainees decided that she would do the same for any moment during the day that she did some yoga. So instead of spending her time beating herself up for not having this big 90 minute yoga practice every day...she decided that everything would count. I thought that was a lovely and supportive way to view things. Check out what she has to say...and whether or not you decide to write it all down on a piece of paper or in a all counts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Meditations for Happiness

I recently received the WiseBrain email newsletter from Rick Hanson, PhD. He has put together an offering through Sounds True called

He says about the audio project...

"It's a downloadable audio program with over three hours of fascinating and practical information about how your brain makes you happy or unhappy, and how to use that understanding to promote the happiness of yourself and others. (There are) 14 guided meditations that directly train your brain into happier states of mind! It's solid, straightforward, accessible to anyone - and really inexpensive. It's an excellent introduction to the emerging science of happiness for someone new to the field, while also being deeply grounded in the profound wisdom of the contemplative traditions. Both for yourself, and for anyone whose happiness you want to support, I can honestly say that this program is full of interesting, fun, and tremendously useful material. It makes you happy just listening to it! "

I haven't heard these guided meditations yet But Dr. Hanson and his partner at Wise Brain, Dr. Rick Mendius, M.D. are doing some really interesting work exploring the "fertile common ground of psychology, neurology, and contemplative practice". So check it out.

Yoga on Public Radio

Public radio program "Speaking of Faith" has an interview with Yoga teacher Sean Corne called Yoga: Meditation in Action.
Host Krista Tippet has started her own yoga journey at the urging of a staff member.
Here's what Krista had to say about yoga...

"I believe that the spiritual aspect and essence of yoga — the relationship of the spiritual to the physical experience, the vocabulary by which we understand and process that relationship — will vary substantially from person to person. Like meditation, this ancient spiritual technology lends itself to interpretation and incorporation with many spiritual sensibilities and religious traditions — just as its range of practices are adaptable to any type of body at any stage of vitality or disability. I also see this yoga phenomenon as part of a larger move that we've variously explored towards rooting — or rather, reintegrating — the body into spiritual and religious traditions, from Judaism to Pentecostal Christianity. There is some wonderful, fundamental insight here that many of us are reclaiming from wildly different directions. And as Matthew Sanford still so memorably put it to me, the more completely we inhabit our own bodies with both their strengths and their flaws, the more compassionate we become towards all of life. That's the kind of earthy, reality-based mystery I love."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Namaste Yogis!

I've just returned from a weekend workshop with one of my favorite yogis, Erich Schiffmann. I think this is his 7th workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I've been to all of them except one. For several reasons, it felt like the best one ever. I think it was Sunday morning when, after speaking for awhile, he said that he hoped this stuff was interesting and that we'd do some yoga in a minute or two. Someone in the room said told him that we could open a book and do a yoga practice anytime, but that we were here to hear him speak. The whole room burst into applause. So thanks to that yogini who said outloud what, dare I say, most of us were thinking.
Here's a photo of the room mostly without yogis...

Here's a photo of the room WITH yogis...doing some freeform yoga on Sunday just before the end of the workshop. Imagine some cool music happening and everyone just doing what they are drawn to do.

And here's a place where love is coming through!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Meditation on and off the cushion...

I was doing my seated meditation practice yesterday morning and heard a sound like a hammer on wood. Normally, I'd just notice and continue to sit. But there was something about this sound that drew me off the cushion. As soon as I left the room I could tell the sound was outside and not in the house. I moved toward the window in the bedroom that looks into the woods behind our house. And I saw FOUR Pileated Woodpeckers. (Think... Woody, the Woodpecker!) I hear them from time to time but rarely see them, let alone 4 of them. I watched the two males nearest to the house work hard on the two tree limbs they were perched on. They were there for a long time. It was so exciting to watch them since usually any sightings are fleeting. This opportunity became a part of my meditation practice as I felt joy and wonder as physical sensation. Noticed joy as breath. Noticed the difference in the energy of my seated posture as I later returned to my meditation cushion. What a great morning!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

This moment is like this

Dancing with Life
by Phillip Moffitt

I've got such a HUGE pile of books next to my bed just now. This one I may take awhile to read because I came across this phrase that just resonated with me so much, I've stopped to play with it awhile. The author quotes buddhist monk Ajahn Sumedho as saying (frequently) "This moment is like this". It really helps me to "understand the difference between skillfully observing a difficult experience from within and unskillfully getting lost in the content of that experience". It actually works really well for any kind of experience. We're not always that great at really diving into the joyful experiences either. We can get caught up in wanting them to last instead of experiencing them "like this".

Freestylin' it...

Check out "Your Very Own Yoga", an article by yoga teacher Anne Jablonski in the August 2008 Fit Yoga Magazine. She eloquently describes the ways in which my teacher, Erich Schiffmann encourages exploration of yoga from within in order to establish a yoga and meditation practice that is truly yours. For those of you who haven't met Erich (yet), perhaps you'll understand why I have so much love and respect for him.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


There are so many ways to meditate. Sitting, walking, breathing, chanting, contemplating, noting, abiding. Lately it feels to me like simply making space. I have a meditation timer on my iPod that goes for 30 minutes. There are three tones from a Tibetan bell to start and two to end. In between is just space. No guidance, no reminders that you're half way through (which some timers have and, personally, I just don't want to know).

The mind isn't just space for all that time. It's helpfully trying to fill the time with planning, with creative projects, with lists, with complaining, with memories. I don't mind. I play with how quickly I notice. Sometimes I'll be well down an inner conversational path before I come back to just space. Sometimes I don't even get a whole word out before...ahhh space.

This space allows me to make space in my whole life. Its not just about clearing out the clutter for 30 minutes (or 5 minutes or 15 or whatever) but about remembering to make the space to love my husband, to recognize that there's a person checking my groceries not just some faceless piece of a process, to be creative with the things I have and not always feel the need to buy something new. Where could you use some space?

I was just talking about this idea of meditation as spaciousness this morning and came across this article about making space this afternoon. I notice these things. When something seems to pop up for me from several sources (inner and outer)...I think, hmmm, this must be important.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Bother?

From Michael Pollen's piece "Why Bother?" in the NY Times...

"For us to wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we’re living our lives suggests we’re not really serious about changing — something our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do. Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking — passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists — that helped get us into this mess in the first place. It’s hard to believe that the same sort of thinking could now get us out of it. "

"Thirty years ago, Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer and writer, put forward a blunt analysis of precisely this mentality. He argued that the environmental crisis of the 1970s — an era innocent of climate change; what we would give to have back that environmental crisis! — was at its heart a crisis of character and would have to be addressed first at that level: at home, as it were. He was impatient with people who wrote checks to environmental organizations while thoughtlessly squandering fossil fuel in their everyday lives — the 1970s equivalent of people buying carbon offsets to atone for their Tahoes and Durangos. Nothing was likely to change until we healed the 'split between what we think and what we do.' For Berry, the 'why bother' question came down to a moral imperative: 'Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.'"
There is this idea that many of us have in our heads that everything is connected. We nod too. I've been trying to get it out of my head as an idea and into my life as something that's actually true. I've been trying to do some stuff...changing out light bulbs for energy efficiency, putting together errands so I don't have to drive as much (living in a rural area is not very "green", ironically), carrying my own shopping bags (not just to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's...but everywhere, etc.
But here's another way to think about doing your part for the environment...all of it...everything is connected...
"Stillness within one individual can effect society beyond measure" - Bede Griffiths
My meditation practice feels more and more like it is part of this overall effort to "bother" about the world we live in together. It's not about creating this fake smiling, everything is wonderful, persona...but about delving deeply into these connections...everything, everywhere...and letting that inform what I choose to do in this world we all share.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Photo shoot

I was asked a few weeks ago if I wanted to provide some photos of some of the people in my yoga classes as part of an art exhibit...maybe some of the people who have been around for awhile and have shown the most progress, they said.

I never know quite how to respond to things like that. For me, "progress" in yoga is, for the most part, invisible. There truly are some yoga postures that could be considered "advanced" on some level of measurement. But I bet there are some really bendy people who could walk right into their first yoga class and get right into the most pretzel like posture with a little instruction. And then there will be those of us who could come to the mat every day for years and never approach that kind of physical pliability or strength.

So how do I capture equanimity in a photo?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Instant Enlightenment

"Change that looks too good to be true most likely is. Just as there is no free lunch, there is no free transformation. I favor incremental change. My model for this is Dr. Suzuki, who developed a method for teaching children to play classical music. He discovered that if steps are small enough anyone could move forward into mastery. People rarely try to take giant steps, and if they do they often fall down. The trick is finding the step size that propels people forward but allows them to succeed with each move."

I received an email recently with the title "Experience instant enlightenment". I've come across this offer many times over the years. I have to say, it never appeals to me. I prefer to take a leisurely stroll toward enlightenment...or wherever it is I'm heading. It's been an amazing journey so far.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nothing in the universe is hidden

I came across this phrase will watching the excellent documentary featuring Zen priest Edward Espe Brown, "How to Cook Your Life".
I've been letting it roll around in my mind for weeks now. I'm also immersed in the study of Ayurveda. According to the Ayurvedic view of things, there is no "sixth sense" but simply a deeper understanding, a more subtle awareness, that can be developed in the five senses that might seem to be extra senory if the capacity for attention is not cultivated.

I've always been a curious person. This suggestion that nothing in the universe is hidden feels so exciting to me. By mentioning a sixth sense, I don't mean to suggest that I'm trying to develop some special powers of observation. It's exactly the opposite, really. Nothing special, just enjoying the daily practice of being more present with my life, just as it is.

Here's an expansion of the idea behind the phrase from Tenryu Paul Rosenblum Roshi. I came across it by googling "Nothing in the Universe is Hidden". (Gotta love the internet.)

"When Dogen was a young monk, he traveled to China and, upon his arrival, met the head cook from Mount Ayuwang Monastery. At that time, Dogen thought that to practice meant to concentrate on zazen and to study the words of the ancients. He was stunned when this old monk told him, “You who have traveled from a far land do not know the meaning of Buddhist practice.” When Dogen met the same cook later at Tiantong Monastery, he asked, “What is
wholehearted practice.” The cook replied, “Nothing in the entire universe is hidden.”

What we are searching for, who we truly are, can be found in connectedness everywhere. No one thing can be depended upon, yet everything is available. With graceful, willing, and open mind, we may begin to notice that each thing, the chair we sit on, our home and garden, our village, the surrounding countryside and the
vast night sky may support us knowing ourselves, others and things in this way. Each arising, each meeting can provide precisely what is needed. We may become aware, as Dogen did, that “… everything excluding nothing is the confirmation of our practice and all space without exception is the field of our awakening.”

If you're interested you can read his entire article here.

The Ed Brown documentary puts the phrase in play this way...a zen master says to his students...

See with your eyes, smell with your nose, taste with your tongue.  Nothing in the universe is hidden.  What more do you want me to say?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are your feet happy?

You Walk Wrong -
It took 4 million years of evolution to perfect the human foot. But we’re wrecking it with every step we take. -- by Adam Sternbergh

I came across this article from the New Yorker serendipitously and I love it! The premise of the article is that shoes are really bad for your feet. As the author admits, most people are not going to give up shoes but suggests we go barefoot whenever we can. As a long time yoga practitioner, I know my feet have grown much more responsive with all the work that feet are asked to do, especially in the standing poses. I've definitely maintained my ability to balance which is so important as we age. So take your shoes off, wriggle those toes, and read!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Peace of Mind

In class I've been mentioning talks from the Mind & Life Institute XVI meeting at the Mayo Clinic - Rochester. On April 16th the full day of talks was available live as a webcast.

The Mind Life Institute has made some of those talks available on their website until May 16th. The Dalai Lama was one of the participants.

One thing I've been mentioning in class was that His Holiness said that while he had much worry and anxiety these days, he had a deep inner calm that allowed him to sleep. In trying to find a link to these talks, I came across several newspaper articles on the meeting. In the articles I read, this statement was mentioned. But they left out the part where he said that his ability to rest in the face of many worries came from this abiding inner peace. In doing so, I think the authors of the articles missed the point of his statement.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Pico Iyer is one of my favorite writers. He has a new book out on the Dalai Lama whom he has known for 30 years. It was a fascinating read, covering the public, private, political and monastic sides of a this man who is revered by some of his followers as a god but who refers to himself as a simple monk. This excerpt is at the very end of the book...

'He (the Dalai Lama) told me that sometimes he felt that he could never do enough, and that nothing he did could ever really affect things....He told me that it was "up to us poor humans to make the effort," one step at a time, and again, as if invoking the final words of the Buddha, he spoke of "constant effort, tireless effort, purusing clear goals with sincere effort.".

Then as we were walking out of the room, he went back and turned off the light. It's such a small thing, he said, it hardly makes a difference at all. And yet nothing is lost in the doing of it, and maybe a little good can come of it, if more and more people remember this small gesture in more and more rooms.

Six thousand days or so after that morning, when he came back to Japan, I though about that simple gesture of turning off the light. Every one of those six thousand days, it seemed to me, I had had some revelation, encountered some wisdom, scribbled down sentences I'd read or come up with myself about the meaning of the universe, the way to lead a better life, the essence of the soul, the unreality of the soul. I had had more lightning flashes and moments of illumination than I could count in the next six thousand years. And yet now, on this bright autumn morning, I could remember not a one of them, except the simple, practical task of turning off the light. Not enlightenment, not universal charity, not the Golden Rule or the wisdom of the ages: just something I could do several times a day.

I went home after hearing the Dalai Lama on the sunlit island, and then went out for a walk. I closed the door behind me and was about to turn the key in the lock when I remembered the long-ago day. I opened the door again, and turned off the light.'

Monday, April 7, 2008


"Yoga is so easily practiced and is a natural healing activity that is available to anyone who has breath. It is for everyOne everyWhere including individuals who do not have normal physical movement.
My friend Ram Das was showing me with great joy how he had adapted his Yoga to his needs. One side of his body is paralyzed. He holds one arm with his good arm and moves the whole body as breath. It makes him feel well and joyful. It brings health into his system. He wanted to know why he had not been taught this earlier in his Life when it is clearly devotion. It is Bhakti yoga to which his Life has been devoted. It is the direct intimacy with our Nurturing Source. In a poignant moment he tearfully apologized for Hatha Yoga being so poorly represented in the West. He said he never had a chance to do it because all his Hatha yoga teachers were show offs. They would teach him extreme exaggerated, heroic things to do in the dualistic psychology of trying to get somewhere idealistic, imaginary enlightenment. Not the direct intimacy where each person participates in the wonder of Life already Given, in us as us. So he was crying.. so sweet. "I have it now" he said. I love this man. "

From an email newsletter from yoga teacher Mark Whitwell


"Waking up this morning, I smile.  Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.  I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Morning Sun by Edward Hopper (1952)
© Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

 A Morning Offering

I bless the night that nourished my heart

To set the ghosts of longing free

Into the flow and figure of dream

That went to harvest from the dark

Bread for the hunger no one sees.


All that is eternal in me

Welcomes the wonder of this day,

The field of brightness it creates

Offering time for each thing

To arise and illuminate.


I place on the altar of dawn: 

The quiet loyalty of breath,

The tent of thought where I shelter,

Waves of desire I am shore to

And all beauty drawn to the eye.


May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invites me to new frontiers,

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.


May I have the courage today

To live the life that I would love,

To postpone my dream no longer

But do at least what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.

-- John O'Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Emile Zola said...

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud."

Freeform Yoga

Once a month, Erich Schiffmann hosts Freeform Yoga at a studio in Los Angeles. Here's a video, shot by one of his long time students, that includes his description of freeform yoga and some footage of what takes place.

Listen to the description. He's really telling you how to develop your own practice.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Supple as a newborn child

Last fall, at the Ojai Yoga Crib, I had the great good fortune to listen to the author, Stephen Mitchell speak and read from several of his books. Afterwards, while browsing a table set up by a local bookseller, I realized I owned most of them already except the Tao te Ching which is one of my favorites. I came across this lovely piece in the notes on the text.

"Can you let your body become

supple as a newborn child's?"

Stephen say it literally means "can you concentrate your chi (prana, vital energy) until..."

He adds this from Emilie Conrad-Da'oud...

"There is no self-consciousness in the newborn child. Later on, the mind wanders into self-images, starts to think Should I do this? Is the movement right? and loses the immediacy of the moment. As self-consciousness develops, the muscles become less supple, less like the world. But the young child is pure fluidity. It isn't aware of any separation, so all its movements are spontaneous and alive and whole and perfect.

If an adult body becomes truly supple, though, there's a quality to its movement that the child's doesn't have, a texture of experience, a fourth dimension of time. When we watch a seventy-year-old hand move, we feel, 'Yes, that hand has lived.' All the bodies it has touched, all the weights it has lifted, all the heads it has cradled are present in the movement. It is resonant with experience, the fingers curve with a sense of having been there. Whereas in a child's hand there's a sense of just arriving. The child's movement is pristine and innocent and delightful, but a truly supple adult movement is awesome because all life is included in it."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Baking and Cleaning

Well this has never happened to me before. I was making bread this morning. I'm trying out the New York Times No-Knead updated by America's Test Kitchen (Almost No Knead Bread). Anyway, I was putting a tablespoon of plain white vinegar into the mix when I had to smile. You see, I've been trying to reduce the toxic load around the house these days. So for cleaning I've been using mostly baking soda and white vinegar. So when was the last time you used the same ingredient in your baking that you use to clean the shower? Like never?


Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.

" 'Breathing in, I calm my body.' This line is like drinking a glass of ice water-you feel the cold, the freshness, permeate your body. When I breathe in and recite this line, I actually feel the breathing calming my body, calming my mind.

" 'Breathing out, I smile.' You know the effect of a smile. A smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face, and relax your nervous system. A smile makes you master of yourself. That is why the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas are always smiling. When you smile, you realize the wonder of the smile.

" 'Dwelling in the present moment.' While I sit here, I don't think of somewhere else, of the future or the past. I sit here, and I know where I am. This is very important. We tend be alive in the future, not now. We say, 'Wait until I finish school and get my Ph.D. degree, and then I will be really alive.' When we have it, and it's not easy to get, we say to ourselves, 'I have to wait until I have a job in order to be really alive.' And then after the job, a car. After the car, a house. We are not capable of being alive in the present moment. We tend to postpone being alive to the future, the distant future, we don't know when. Now is not the moment to be alive. We may never be alive at all in our entire life. Therefore the technique, if we have to speak of a technique, is to be in the present moment, to be aware that we are here and now, and the only moment to be alive is the present moment.

" 'I know this is a wonderful moment.' This is the only moment that is real. To be here and now, and enjoy the present moment is our most wonderful task. 'Calming, Smiling, Present moment, Wonderful moment.' I hope you will try it."

Thich Nhat Hanh from "Being Peace"

This morning as I sat in meditation, I realized that my facial posture was one of such seriousness. It wasn't scrunched up or tense, in fact it was pretty relaxed. But I felt this "attitude" of "this is serious stuff". And then I smiled. Not a grin...just a little smile. And everything got softer and more peaceful.

Friday, March 7, 2008


"...when is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn't just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture. But when had you last a great conversation, in which you over heard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew. That you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you on to a different plane. And then fourthly, a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards, you know? And I've — I've had some of them recently, and it's just absolutely amazing, like, as we would say at home, they are food and drink for the soul, you know? "

From an interview with the late John O'Donohue on Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett
I feel so fortunate in the fact that conversations immediately came to mind...with my husband, my friend Daron (check out his blog) and others. Food and drink for the soul indeed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Waking up in the morning




Waking up in the morning
I vow with all beings
to listen to those whom I love,
especially to things they don't say.

Lighting a candle for Buddha
I vow with all beings
to honor your clear affirmation:
'Forget yourself and you're free.

When I stroll around in the city
I vow with all beings
to notice how lichen and grasses
never give up in despair .

Watching a spider at work
I vow with all beings
to cherish the web of the universe:
touch one point and everything moves.

When the racket can't be avoided
I vow with all beings
to close my eyes for a moment
and find my treasure right here.

With tropical forests in danger
I vow with all beings
to raise hell with the people responsible
and slash my consumption of trees.

Watching gardeners label their plants
I vow with all beings
to practice the old horticulture
and let plants identify me.

On reading the words of Thoreau
I vow with all beings
to cherish our home-grown sages
who discern the perennial Way.

Falling asleep at last
I vow with all beings
to enjoy the dark and the silence
and rest in the vast unknown.”

The Morning Star: New and Selected Zen Writings by Robert Aitken

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Erich Schiffmann on "The Big Picture"

"Far too many people get distracted by the complexities of their various techniques and lose sight of what the overall "big picture" is. Don't lose sight of the big picture. Don't lose sight of what the practices are all about. The big picture, the reason for doing yoga is...(dramatic pause)...The big reason for doing yoga is to have the experience of yoga. The reason to do yoga is to have the experience. Keep that in the forefront of your mind. Now the word "Yoga" is a really interesting word. It comes from the Sanskrit root word "Yug" which means "yoke". And what they're talking about is the small mind, personal mind, personal self...merging with, yoking with, joining with Infinity. In easy words...small mind joining with Big Mind. Once you even have a taste of that for even a split nanosecond, it wipes out your previous convictions about the way you thought things were. There's no such thing as small mind, is what you discover. There's Big Mind only, infinitely expressed."

Sunday, March 2, 2008


The way of experience begins with a breath
such as the breath you are breathing now.
Awakening into the luminous reality
may dawn in the momentary throb
between any two breaths.
The breath flows in and just before it turns
to flow out,
there is a flash of pure joy -
life is renewed.
Awaken into that.

-- The Radiance Sutras

translated by Lorin Roche