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 interesting...read 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.

Okay...no 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.

Yeah...so 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.