Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quietly, Heart to Heart

There is a lovely practice in the Buddhist tradition called Metta. It is a meditation practice of a lifetime. Whole retreats are built around it. Basically, one offers best wishes in the form of a few phrases to oneself, to someone you love, to someone you feel neutral towards, to a difficult person, and to everyone everywhere. The phrases vary but could be something like...

May you be filled with compassion

May you be well

Maybe you be peaceful and at ease

Maybe you be happy in this life just as it is.

I'd like to offer a "take anywhere" version of this practice. I sometimes this use this practice after I turn out the light and get ready for sleep, or at the end of my meditation practice, before I move into the rest of my day.

I take an in-breath and who ever appears in my mind's eye (no editing) gets a wish for well being on the exhale. I usually shorten the phrase to "May you be at peace" but you can choose whatever you like. Next inhale, next person that arises. The same person may come up multiple times, you may come up yourself. Inhale, let the person arise, exhale, offer your wishes.
Try it for a minute, for 5 minutes, whatever time you have. The practice is ultimately an offering to your own true heart. As the old year rolls over into the new...may we cultivate compassion together, may we be well, may we be peaceful and at ease, and may we recognize the seeds of happiness in this life just as it is.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm just looking

Years ago I used to work for the National Audubon Society. I was out one day near Lake Erie birdwatching with some experienced "birders". This very patient gentleman was trying to point out a warbler (of some sort...they sort of all looked the same to me) in the bushes. I'm not that great with binoculars and the bird seemed to be the same color as all the leaves around it but I was really trying to see this bird . It seemed pretty hopeless and I felt like maybe it was time to just move I lied. I told him I saw it. I didn't see that bird that day...but I did see many others and it beat being in the office. By the end of the long day I just wanted to go home and I thought I'd jump out of my skin if we had to stop one more time on the way home to search out yet another bird species.

I love birds. I've learned to look for them in my own way. I don't travel far and wide to search them out. I can only name a couple of birds by their call. But they add to my life immensely. I can't tell you how lovely it is to hear the call of the first Red-winged Blackbird...the herald of spring for me. Or to see the bright red feathers of a male Cardinal against the intense white of the snow in winter.
As a teacher and lover of yoga, I think it must be like this for the people who come to my class sometimes. Me...trying to point out some seemingly obscure but, I think, beautiful thing about the practice. You...trying valiently to see, hear, feel, what I'm saying...but wishing I'd move on. I know that everyone finds something in their practice each time they come to the mat. It might not be what I'm pointing to...and really...that's okay. I'm just hoping to infuse you with some of the love I have for the practice. Learning to see, hear, and feel, you find that the practice meets you where you are. You may find something lovely about a favorite yoga posture or the coziness of a few minutes of meditation...and you may also have those fleeting views of something rare and beautiful.

When it comes right down to it...We're all here trying to see through the leaves. It's all worth seeing...the birds, the leaves, the frustration, the joy, the people you are with, the feel of the day...all of it. Heading off to my yoga mat now to see what I can see.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An affirmation...

"I have a healthy appetite for the small and large adventures of life. I digest the challenges with great pleasure and joy."

I came across this affirmation this morning. I'm usually not an "affirmation" kind of person. Maybe it's because of a misunderstanding on my part. Affirmations have seemed to me to be sort of wishful thinking. If I just say this enough, it will be true. But a dictionary definition of "affirmation" I looked up said "something that is affirmed: a statement or propostion that is declared to be true".

"I have a healthy appetite for the small and large adventures of life. I digest the challenges with great pleasure and joy".

Today, in this moment, I declare this to be true. And in this moment, that is be filled with great pleasure and this moment...and to taste it fully...just this all its "enoughness".


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Resting, Working

(This) story is about when Suzuki Roshi was moving lots of large rocks and boulders around Tassajara, Zen Mountain Center, to build walls and to create a rock garden. Suzuki Roshi was in his 50’s and is just over five-feet tall. He was working with a group of healthy, young, men mostly in their 20’s. Someone approached them and noticed that the young men were panting and sweaty, while Suzuki Roshi, who apparently had done as much or more work than the others, was breathing normally, and barely sweating at all. When asked about this contrast, Suzuki Roshi replied, “Even while I’m working, I’m always resting.”

From Accomplishing More by Doing Less blog by Marc Lesser

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Charter for Compassion

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
Click here for more information on the Charter for Compassion.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My own eyes...

I took this photograph while I was in Santa Barbara last week. I wasn't sure it would come out...the shimmer of the sun on the sea. I thought it might be too bright....but look it's there!
I'm using this as my desktop photo. There's something wonderful about seeing this photo each morning when I log on....not a photo of a place I wish I'd seen or remember being, taken by someone else...but a moment I saw with my own eyes in a particular moment in time. I don't take a lot of photos usually. I used to. But sometimes I feel like it takes me out of the moment and puts me at a distance from the current event. For this photo though, I was there, inhaling this scene with all of my senses...morning by the sea, the smell of the ocean, the cool breeze, the gentleness of the sun at this time of day, sand under my feet, water swirling around my ankles, the hiss of the thinning end of a wave on the shore, the crash of the breaking waves further out, shore birds calling....memories of a long life calling...and home calling....home where there is no ocean but my heart rests.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I'm reading a mystery novel called "Still Life" by Louise Penny. Yesterday I came across this dialogue between a senior police officer and a new recruit.
"I watch. I'm very good at observing. Noticing things. And listening. Actively listening to what people are saying, their choice of words, their tone. What they aren't saying. And this, Agent Nichols, is the key. It's choice"


"We choose our thoughts. We choose our perceptions. We choose our attitudes. We may not think so. We may not believe it, but we do. I absolutely know that we do. I've seen enough evidence, time after time, tragedy after tragedy. Triumph after triumph. It's about choice."

... Life is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It's as simple and complex as that. And as powerful."

My teacher Erich Schiffmann often says when opening a workshop..."remember, you have options and choices". Do you think he only means what you do with your body? How are you defining your yoga practice? I'm contemplating that myself.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Perfect Room

I've been thinking about the space or spaces where we practice our yoga. I have a nice little room at home. When we bought our house years ago, the first thing we did was have a hardwood floor put in one of the small bedrooms. We never finished the floor...its unsealed. At first we meant to get around to finishing it but I've grown to like it just this way. I've painted the space several different colors over the years. Only one of them turned out to be a mistake...a too cold-feeling lilac. Right now its kind of a warm asparagus green. We've got our yoga props and books. Our mats are always out ready for practice on a moments notice. Cats are allowed to wander in and out. Meditation pillows, candles...its a comfortable space for us and we love it.

But in our previous house, we practiced in a loft open to the sounds of the rest of the house, it was a bit dusty too. We once decided we needed to practice in the kitchen because it was the only place without carpeting! That didn't last long.

Over the years I've taught yoga in a wide variety of spaces. One church gymnasium my students were particularly fond of even though it got reeeaaallly hot in there in the summer. But there were great accoustics for "ommming" and lots of room to spread out. There were spaces that were quiet and spaces with street noise. There were spaces in buildings with no other activities but our yoga class and spaces with lots of other classes....including a pottery studio downstairs, private music lessons across the hall. We could sometimes hear the thump of the clay being thrown. We could always hear the music. Have you meditated to ragtime piano? It's an interesting challenge. Then there was the time a year ago where the walls of the classroom were painted a deep red. People were upset. How are we going to do yoga in a RED room?! (We've managed nicely thank you). There was a space on the top floor of an old building with floors so dusty and dirty that you needed to stay on your mat or your feet got filthy.

Recently one of the studios where I teach has relocated with a new owner. It's only been a short time but change is hard and people are struggling to make it feel like home. I've struggled a bit too. But I've come to realize that as we sit in meditation, as we do our yoga practice, bit by bit we will discover the space where we practice is within. Much as we would prefer not to have external challenges to that practice, they can be part of the deepening of our practice. The deepening of our attention can grow in just such challenging places.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn matter where you go, there you are.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I've just finished "Listening Below the Noise - A meditation on the practice of silence" by Anne D. LeClaire. This isn't a book about how to meditate. It's an exploration of silence in daily life. The author began, on a whim, to spend one day a month in silence. She later made it the first and third Monday of each month. In her book she explores her many and varied experiences with this practice, both her own, and the responses of others to her practice. At the end of her book she offers up some small ways to find more silence in your life.

The only time I almost put the book down was when she mentioned Masaru Emoto, the guy who says that speaking nicely to water changes its structure. Sorry, but I think that's pseudoscience. It added a momentary cringe factor for me. There are enough amazing things in nature without making stuff up. But I kept reading and that turned out to be the only place where I felt uncomfortable with her writing.
From the book...
"I once read that the Inuit and Igloolik have more than two hundred words for snow, and I envy them a language that can encompass the many subtleties of a single idea. I've read, too, that in the Buddhist tradition of Southeast Asia there are twenty-one different words for silence. In my dictionary, few synonyms are listed. Muteness. Stillness. A thesaurus doesn't offer many more. Quiescence, Peace. Wordless-ness. Quietude. Quiet.
But just as there are countless varieties of lilies, there are different kinds of silence, as many as there are intentions and reasons behind it. It can be gentle and peaceful. Risky and brave. Angry and punishing. Thoughtful and wise. Intimate. Loving. Restorative. Reflective. Sacred or profane. It can be used to honor or to shame. To diminish or empower.
How many words would it require to reveal all its multitudinous nuances and intents?
Two hundred?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


"But if one says: I cannot come because it is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egosticial or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it -- like a secret vice". - Anne Morrow Lindberg - quoted in "Listening Below the Noise - A Meditation on the Practice of Silence" by Anne D. LeClaire

I loved coming across this quote. Being alone is my secret vice, although I'd never quite thought of it that way until now. I think that makes it feel even more delicious!

I think I won't put a photo with this piece. When I looked up images for "alone" most of the pictures were of people alone and sad or alone and frightened or with other people holding their hands saying "you are not alone".

Even now I find myself tempted to make explain myself. But I think I won't.


Its hard to avoid reading or hearing about the craziness that passes for debate over healthcare reform of late. I was reminded of this prayer for teacher and student from the Upanishads. Its very old. I don't know for sure how it was used. But legend has it that it was chanted prior to teaching by both student and teacher. I would so love if this attitude could be cultivated today as we work through difficult and complicated topics that affect us all.

May we be protected together.

May we be nourished together.

May we work together, uniting our strength for the good of humanity.

May our learning be enlightening and purposeful.

May we never hate each other.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti...Peace.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cooking,carrots, and our own true heart

"One concept in cooking is 'How do I make it taste the way its supposed to?' "

"This doesn’t have to do with tasting anything. Its making something be the way its supposed to. And its also possible you know to ask the carrot how it likes to be or what its like to be a carrot. And what would help the carrot express its carrot-ness more fully today. This is different than making the carrot taste the way its supposed to. Do you understand? A friend of mine went to the Culinary Institute of America, the other CIA, in Hyde Park, New York, And he said he had a teacher who would walk around and say, 'Chef, what are you doing?' And you might say, 'I’m making carrot soup'. And then the teacher would say, ' And what should carrot soup taste like?' And then you were supposed to answer 'Carrots'. I don’t know about you but I’ve definitely had carrot soup that I can’t tell... is it carrot, is it yam, is it winter squash? Because it has carrots and it has orange juice and it has chilies and it has green chilies and it has ginger and it has apples and it has basil, maybe some coriander. Tastes magnificent but you don’t know what it is.

So most of us are busy projecting our selves in this way. Aren’t I magnificent? You don’t know who I am do you? (laughs) And then we wonder 'why do I have so much trouble connecting?' (laughs)......

Is it all right for you to be you? Can you study how to bring out the best in who you are? Can you help yourself realize who you are, just as you could help a carrot express itself? This is to say, you know, how do you help your heart express your heart? It takes a certain amount of courage and, initially, a certain amount of awkwardness. We’re not used to expressing our heart and we’re busy presenting ourselves as a perfected being.

So this basic activity of tasting a carrot, to actually taste a carrot, and then you can taste a carrot when you cook it in a little water, in oil, in butter, if you roast it in the oven and you can taste what happens to carrot just in the different ways its cooked. And carrot with oil and without oil, and with you know there's only just five flavors, there's salt and there's soy sauce, there's vinegar and lemon juice, there's sugar and honey, there's pungent elements, there's garlic and ginger and you could study what helps carrot be carrot and manifest the carrot-ness of carrots.

And you can study what helps you manifest the heart of you. What encourages you to do that? How will you manage that? This is a different practice than studying how to be successful or good or grown up or calm and quiet and still."

-- transcribed from a recorded talk at a day long sitting with Edward Espe Brown on August 9, 2008 at Green Gulch

any errors in transcription are mine.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Mother-of-us-all prays to free us
from our image of perfection
to which so much suffering clings.

When in the shadowy mind
we imagine ourselves imperfectly,
praying to be freed from gravity
by enlightenment, she refines our prayers.

Putting her arms around us
she bids us rest our head on her shoulder
whispering, Don’t you know
with all your fear and anger
all you are fit for is love.

- Stephen Levine from Breaking the Drought - Visions of Grace

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I came across this on another blog.
If you Google it, it comes in many variations...
here's one.

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave
with the intention of arriving safely
in an attractive and well preserved body
but rather to skid in sideways,
chocolate in one hand,
body thoroughly used up
totally worn out
and screaming
WOO HOO what a ride!"

The variations seem to be in what one is holding in one's hand or hands as one skids in. Chocolate works for me. The poet Mary Oliver says poems are meant to be read aloud. So read this one to yourself or someone else and when you get to "WOO HOO"...give it all you've got!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I've been re-visiting B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga sequences lately. It's got me working a couple of standing poses differently. Love when this happens. You just start looking at a familiar pattern of energy in a different way and all of a sudden a new door to the pose opens.

I've been using his sequence of standing poses, in the order he suggests...just to feel why he did them in that order. I have to say my hips are feeling really good (the sequence I've been playing with was for relieving sciatica which I don't suffer from but figured it would provide some nice hip work).

Even though these are Iyengar sequences, I find my way into the poses using Erich Schiffmann's work on finding lines of energy.

I am having so much fun on the mat!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


When I get home from teaching a yoga class, my husband often asks me how it went. "Did it flow?", he asks. Sometimes it really an excellent meal...all the flavors blend just right.
Other days my plans go awry. The real people in front of me need something different than what I'd wanted to offer. Then it's sort of like looking in the frig and picking out a little of this, a little of that, making a meal of seemingly un-related items. Classes like that can turn out to be just right too...pulling together the fragments into a delicious meal for the body, mind and soul.

Smoothly flowing or a little rough around the edges, there seems to be plenty of opportunity for us to be nourished by whatever arises on our yoga mat.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A little secret

Any Morning

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People wont even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

~ William Stafford ~


As a bee seeks nectar
from all kinds of flowers,
seek teachings everywhere.
Like a deer that finds a quiet place to graze,
seek seclusion to digest all you have gathered.
Like a mad one, beyond all limits,
go wherever you please and live like a lion
completely free of all fear.
-- Dzogchen tantra

Monday, May 18, 2009

Two books

I'll post more later on these books, but I mentioned them in class this morning and said I'd post the titles...

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness
by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn

In Praise of Slowness: How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed
by Carl Honore

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


From a fascinating article in the NY Times this morning "... although bone may seem like stone, it is tirelessly, ambitiously alive. In many ways, bone is more animate than the muscles and fat draped over it or the quivering visceral organs it protectively encages. It certainly can be more attuned to its surroundings. "

"Bone is built of two basic components: flexible fibers of collagen and brittle chains of the calcium-rich mineral hydroxyapatite. But those relatively simple ingredients, the springy and the salty, are woven together into such a complex cat’s cradle of interdigitating layers that the result is an engineering masterpiece of tensile, compressive and elastic strength."

If this sounds the whole article here.

Paul Grilley, who first turned me on to the amazing diversity of bone structures in the human body, has a photo gallery on his website that illustrates one of the reasons why we each do our yoga postures (and everything else) in ways that are unique to our bodies.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I picked up Mary Oliver's new book of poems, Red Bird, yesterday.
I found this.

"Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Talk about it."

I was sharing this with my friend Daron and as I wrote it down in my email, I realized that he does this. My friend Jeanne does this. My teacher, Erich Schiffmann does this. Writers I like do this, poets, painters, friends, my husband...this is what makes them so interesting and challenging and keeps me doing the same.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The future we expect

According to neuroscience, even before events happen the brain has already made a prediction about what is most likely to happen, and sets in motion the perception, behaviors, emotions, physiologic responses and interpersonal ways of relating that best fit with what is predicted. In a sense, we learn from the past what to predict for the future and then live the future we expect.

--Regina Pally, The Predicting Brain

This is a chapter heading quote from the book "Less - Accomplishing More by Doing Less" by Marc Lesser (and yes, that is his real name). He goes on in this chapter to illustrate how assumptions get in our way with this amusing story.
"...many years ago, when I was a young Zen student at Green Gulch Farm in California, a problem arose among the residents: a sliding wooden door at the entrance of the student living area was regularly being left open. As a result, cold Pacific Ocean winds would sweep in and chill our shared living space. Announcements were made at least a half dozen times at community work meetings reminding people to keep this door shut. But it was continually found open, and over time this became a surprisingly divisive issue. People grew emotional, blaming and pointing fingers. How could Zen students not remember to close a door? How could they exhibit such thoughtlessness for their fellow students? In the midst of one of these tense meetings, Sierra, the farm's pet golden retriever, opened the door from the outside, enterered the living space, and joined the group. Of course, Sierra had the dexteriety to open a sliding wooden door. The group's false assumptions had nearly led to an all-out battle."

When you read this, does it bring up moments for you, like it did for me, when you either put your foot in it, or, by some grace, managed to not act on your false assumptions?

In his blog, Mr. Lesser says "These predictions and assumptions reside within our bodies; often it seems as though literally within the cells of our bodies. When I hear people say “people don’t change”; I understand why this seems to be the case – changing both the what and the way we predict is difficult. I think of this as one of the great strengths of mindfulness and meditation practice – by slowing down our worlds, we can begin to get a glimpse of our predictions and assumptions."

I feel relaxed when I am able to notice the arrival of assumption and set it aside to arrive in the next moment with some clarity and peace. No perfection expected here, I am simply continuing to be interested in the play of a life lived. Sometimes it's Art.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just start to do it...

I'm procrastinating...again. My big plan for the day is to work on my Ayurvedic course homework. And I really enjoy it...once I've started it. But I've already decided that first I need to do my yoga practice (gold star for that one), make the bed, start some laundry, vacuum and wash the kitchen floor (What? this is better than studying?!!)

I went to day one of my friend Daron's meditation workshop on Sunday afternoon. We were asked to write down some mildly unpleasant activities, mildly pleasant, and activities we felt a mixture of both pleasant and unpleasant sensations when doing (or contemplating doing).

It's funny the things that come up. I like washing my hair, but I don't like drying it. I like folding laundry, but resist putting it away. (Just ask my husband who's always wondering where all his clean clothes are...well they are sitting in a nice neat pile on the floor in the family room...that's where).

I enjoy making and drinking tea. I was making a pot of darjeeling this morning. I put two teaspoons of tea in the pot and then I put an extra pinch in...somewhere in my distant past I remember the phrase "and one for the pot". You put in a teaspoon for each cup and a little extra. All alone in the kitchen I say outloud "and one for the pot". So satisfying.

And then there's my homework. When I get to it...and I will...I will become thoroughly engrossed. But it's that starting moment. But here's what I know. In that moment...that precise moment that I actually open the file on the computer that holds my work and pick up my workbook, there will be, I can feel it even now, a tingle of pleasure in the belly, that comes with having begun. more blogging young lady until you've finished your homework!

Monday, April 6, 2009

No matter where you go, there you are....

Awhile ago I fessed up to having joined a gym. I said that it allowed me to compartmentalize "exercise" and "yoga". Turns out...I had no idea what I was talking about. Yoga is so much a part of my life...inner and outer...that I can't compartmentalize it. It's everywhere.

When I'm lifting weights or doing other sorts of strength building work, I'm listening to my body (yoga-speak for feeling what's really happening rather than what I wish was happening, or simply ignoring what's happening), I'm following my breath, I'm noticing my mind and how it participates. So why is this not yoga?

I like having an indoor space to do cardio work. I will confess, I'm delicate. I don't like walking outside when it's too hot or too humid. (I spent the first 35 years of my life in temperate Southern California...what can I say.) So now I can be nice to my heart and lungs without collapsing in an irritable puddle of sweat afterwards. In fact I prefer to leave sweaty workouts to those flowers that thrive in the hot house climate. Dewy is about as far as I want to go.

After my workout, I put some peaceful music on my iPod and take a leisurely stroll around the indoor track. There's this one song that has the lyric..."breath connects us all". I meditate on that while I walk and breathe with everyone else in the gym. I just added a different sort of yoga practice to my life. It's all good.


People come to my yoga classes. Along the way you find out things here and there about their lives. I recently discovered I've had a Columbus Dispatch writer in one of my classes. Jane Hawes asked me if I and my fellow yoga instructors had noticed an increase in attendence that might be due to the stress of the current economy. Her article was published in the Dispatch recently. I don't know how long the link to the article will be available so check it out soon if you want to read it.

It appears that people are seeking out ways to deal with stress in larger numbers of late. And that's a good thing. But it's not like our current melt-down arose out of a lifetime of stress-free living. Anytime is a good time to begin develop strategies for cultivating equanimity.

Like now.

The poet Kabir said...
...enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A traveling message

On the highway today, I was behind a guy in a pick up truck.
On his bumper were these words...

Love wins.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Falling in love

I was listening to an NPR interview with Sarah Powers the other day. There was a lot to love in the discussion. There was one bit that really struck me. She described how we approach yoga in three stages. First we hear about it…we read a book, someone tells us about it. Then we contemplate it. I think that is when we begin to practice. We are “doing” yoga. The last step, she says, is when we pick it up as a tool and use it. What a brilliant description! I was “doing” yoga for years before I realized it was a tool for me to use. No one I ran into ever described it that way (or maybe I just couldn't hear it yet.) You practiced yoga in whatever way the person at the front of the room said was the way to practice. You contemplated their take on things. One teacher I said that he’d healed his back with yoga after an injury. Still there was no explanation. I wondered, “How did he do that?” I ran into teachers who said the most amazing things about the practice. I wondered, “How do they know that?”

Eventually, I had the good fortune to run into teachers who let me in on what seemed to be a secret until then. You pick up the tool of yoga by stepping on to your yoga mat and listening deeply, by letting yourself be guided your own innate wisdom in addition to the wisdom of your teachers and the sages of the past. You learn to trust yourself.

That’s when I really learned to love yoga deeply. That’s when I knew this was a relationship that would last forever.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't go back to sleep

Sudden awakening,

Gradual cultivation.
-- Chinul

I heard this on a podcast I was listening to on the way home from class today. It's a description of a particular school of Buddhist thought I believe. I didn't really research it anymore than it took to attribute it to the correct teacher. But as soon as I heard the words, I just kept repeating them over and over in my mind. I was driving on the freeway with no way to make a note. I wanted to remember them.

This is how it has always been for me. There are moments where you feel like you really "get" something. It's so easy to feel like that's all it takes...a sudden jolt of the intellect...and that's enough. But it never is, is it? We find ourselves slogging through the poppy fields like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, getting drowsy. It would be so easy to just go back to sleep.

Friday, February 6, 2009


"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds." - Bob Marley

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A meditation on hope

When I was listening to this in my car yesterday, I didn't realize that it was a TED Talk from 2003. It seemed to be speaking to our current state of affairs. I find myself listening to the news of members of the House and Senate still bickering away as usual and wish that they could each give a little talk about what it is that they are doing to bring hope to a struggling nation.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Unleashing Creativity

It seems that everyone is feeling an urge toward creativity that is not only about "Art". This is from another wonderful teacher, Edward Espe Brown. He is describing an upcoming retreat. It's another one of those bits that I didn't want to get lost. I'm not going to the retreat so I'd normally just delete the email but there was something about the language that made me want to bring it here.


From Beyond Creation A Guest Appears

A moment arises—not previously

revealed! never before happened!—

Still we aim to get it right,

so we look good.


could something appear

from beyond creation?

(Wind high in the pines)

Creativity weaves through the fabric

of consciousness—the gateway opens

and closes—we'll look at some of the

pivotal elements which inhabit or invite

the guest to appear.

Doing the same old same old,

Doing what we already know,


choosing to welcome the

inconceivable, to move past

the familiar to finding out how.

(whose hands are these)

Can we make things behave

the way they should? Come

out the way we want?


is there picking up what

comes to hand? And

using it? imaginatively...

(soft light through the curtain)

We'll study what awakens our

creative vitality.

(with sitting, talk, walking...)

The weekend retreat is at Green Gulch Farm in California. If you want to be spontaneous, drop everything and's a link.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The next step

Sometimes I put things here so I won't lose them in the clutter of information that flows through everyday. This is from an email newsletter from Saul David Raye. Saul teaches yoga, meditation and thai massage (probably among other things). I wanted to remember this and sit with it awhile. I thought maybe others would like to as well.

Saul said, "I recently read somehwere a wonderful quote that really touched me. I have tried to relocate the source but have not been able to as of yet. It was something like this "sometimes the only next possible step is a leap of faith !" In my own life this seems to be all that is happening; whatever I know, whatever I have believed to be true is no longer working. When I make choices from my heart, from the inner wisdom and creativity that is in each of us at every moment, the results are amazing. The energy we set in motion when we are resonating at the frequency of our hearts is truly miraculous. Blessings along the path you walk...and to the leap of faith that you are being asked to make in your life right now !"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yoga for the dictionary addict

As you know, if you've been in my class, I often ask you to "stretch like you just got out of bed in the morning". Well...who knew? There's a word for that. A friend just sent me this "word for the day" definition.

pandiculation \pan-dik-yuh-LEY-shuhn\, noun:
an instinctive stretching, as on awakening or while yawning

I love it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Greater Tradition of Yoga

"Yoga encourages you to 'take the path that most directly leads you to experience the inner truth of your own nature'. Yoga is a universal teaching, conveying that the entire universe dwells within us. The entire universe -- all time, space and existence -- dwells in the small space within our hearts. Becoming that is Yoga."

How to practice Yoga

KURT ANDERSON: When you wake up in the morning and you sit down to practice, as I assume you do, what do you first play?
YO-YO MA: I do something like [plays long, random notes that sound like tuning]. I become friends with the instrument. I try not to tax it too much. It's really like warming up a car or warming up your body. You stretch it. You don't go into a fast run. You don't take it to sixty in three seconds. Because what's funny about an instrument made out of wood, every day the humidity is different. Every day the temperature is different. And wood, as well as our bodies, are slightly different. I think it's actually making that relationship happen.
KURT: And once you do get it warmed up, what are you inclined to play?
YO-YO: I might play some Bach, which is something I started learning as soon as I started playing. And it's also something that's written for cello alone. This is music that is somewhat meditative...I think of the flow of water. The afternoon light playing on leaves. If you see something that is familiar and yet it's different every day. What's amazing is that with a great friend, you could see them thousands of times and you don't look at them and say, Well today I'm really bored with you. ...Bach was a pictorial composer. One of the things that he coded was infinite variety. Instead of materiality, of saying, this is the same thing, I need a new product, it's something new every time.

From Studio 360 (Oct. 19, 2007)
I snagged this from my friend Daron's blog. He always has his feelers out for the most amazing things to share. This made me say YES! This is how I like to practice yoga! So I wanted to share it here too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why chant Om?

My idea for this post at first was to get the "official" take on why one might chant Om in a yoga class. Fairly quickly I realized that it wasn't so important to explore "why" from that perspective. Instead I wanted to explore why I do it.

Over the years a ritual of sorts developed to surround my classes. The opening and the ending stay fairly steady, supporting the possibility of creativity and surprise to arise during the asana practice. I like to sit for 5 minutes in the beginning. My intention is to allow time for settling into a deeper awareness of what we've come to class with. What does the body feel like today? What is the flavor of the mind? We pause before stepping into movement.

At the end of class, after Savasana, we sit again for a few minutes.

And then the sound of Om.

Most of the time we chant Om three times. I tell people that "Om" is the sound that resonates in all things. I sometimes ask people to pause and listen for that sound in all that surrounds us in the particular moment...natural sounds, mechanical sounds, inner sounds, outer sounds, nearby sounds, distant sounds. And then we allow the sound to arise, we join in.

Why chant "Om"? It feels to me like an offering of whatever benefits we've accrued from our practice out into the world at large. It brings a recognition that we're all in this together. It re-energizes us before we get up and leave...returning home, or to work, or whatever comes next. Sometimes in the evening, if the energy of the class seems particularly peaceful and it seems like it would be nice not to disturb the quiet too much, we'll whisper our Oms.

Over the years I've noticed who is in the room and what we've been doing during the posture portion of the practice has an effect on the sound in the room. Sometimes the sound is hesitant, sometimes full-throated. Sometimes each Om seems to go on forever, sometimes there is less space for that expansion, we are unsure about our voice.

The sound also feels like a last opportunity to offer up some energy to the body and mind. If we can really relax into the sound, it seems to resonate into every nook and cranny of the body. The image that comes to mind is the sound of the strings being played on a cello being colored by the shape and depth of the body of the instrument.

Last but not least, it feels like an honoring of the event that has just occured. What can I say? Yoga is an amazing practice. People are transformed in large and small ways. Isn't it wonderful to honor a body that feels a little more at ease and a mind that sees even a little more clearly? Even if it's your very first yoga class, isn't it worth recognizing that you've been at home in your body, just as it is, for the first time in what may have been a long time? And who knows what will come of that!

Maybe yoga scholars can give you other reasons for chanting Om that are steeped in ancient tradition. This is why I do it.

Namaste Yogis!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Close the language door

There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of
spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.
And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling! At
night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its
face against mine. Breathe into
me. Close the language-door and
open the love window. The moon
won't use the door, only the window.

--Rumi translated by Coleman Barks

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Have you been working out?

My husband and I joined a gym recently. I don't know why that feels like a guilty secret. I guess it isn't now, is it? I'm really enjoying it. I like doing a little cardio with some fun music on my iPod. I'm playing around a bit with some resistance stuff too, mostly machines. I don't know enough about free weights to use them although my husband has shown me a few things.

So here's what I'm kind of happy about...from now on, when I decide to go for a walk in the woods or (when the weather gets better) ride my bike it doesn't have to have anything to do with exercise. If I ride or walk for 5 minutes or an hour, it will be driven only by the joy of being outside. My yoga practice is about mindfulness and energy flow and finding balance and harmony within the whole of my life. The gym allows me to compartmentalize "exercise" in my life. And I like that.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Your story

"Your story, it's not boring and ordinary, by the way. We just get the one life you know. Just one. You can't live someone else's or think it's more important just because it's more dramatic. What happens matters, maybe only to us, but it matters."
- a bit of dialogue from the film "Ghost Town".

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In memorium

A few years ago, we were going for a walk one day at the nature center near our house. This small black and white cat with no tail popped out of the woods and before my husband could get the words "Don't pick her up" out of his mouth, she was in my arms. At some point in time and for reasons we'll never know, she had ended up out in the woods all on her own. This is not good for any cat but for a cat without her front claws, it can be even worse. We brought her home, named her Suki (which evolved over time into "Lu"). We've been best of friends ever since. Lu was a delicate girl. She was always smallish. And she was a bit grumpy. She never liked any of the other cats. I think she thought of them as riff-raff. She might have prefered being an only cat but its hard feeling superior all by yourself. After her time in the woods, she always prefered being inside or at most an adventure out on the front porch to soak up the summer sun. Lu wasn't one for being picked up or for sitting on laps. But she developed a great fondness for what we called "squeezles" which involved just being enveloped by your arms and getting her ears rubbed, while remaining in contact with the floor or the table or wherever she was currently ensconced. She learned the word "squeezle" and would get ready or let you know she wasn't interested, whatever the case might be.

Lu eventually developed heart trouble and lately had not been doing well. Today we had to make the difficult decision to ease her suffering. We are heartbroken.