Friday, July 15, 2011

Transforming and transforming...

If there is a list of the top ten words most overused by the yoga community, "transformation" would have to be on it. The transformational power of yoga is touted repeatedly by publications and yoga teachers as a reason to unroll your mat and get yourself into Downward-facing Dog. There is an endless stream of testimonials by those whose lives changed as a result of their yoga practices. There are records of physical, mental and spiritual transformations.

Which makes what I have to say redundant. Sort of.

I can't deny that yoga has changed my life. It was a big change, too. I won't bore you with the details, because they're all here in older blog posts, but let me highlight the quitting my job, moving to the mountains and opening a yoga studio thing. That's the sort of stuff that happens when yoga gets under your skin.

But there's a catch. The transformational power of yoga does not come with brakes. Once it gets rolling, it doesn't stop. Unlike most vehicles, obstacles like bridge abutments and large trees may slow it down, but as long as you keep breathing that power will work it's way through whatever gets in the way. Which means you might be in for a very long ride.

It's nice to roll down the road of change with the wind in your hair, but eventually the big question has to come up. "What am I transforming into?"

My asana practice makes me feel strong, so I seek opportunities to challenge my body (with compassion and awareness, of course), especially in ways that get me outdoors experiencing nature at the same time -because my meditation practice makes me feel more interconnected with the natural world - which makes me look for ways to advocate for the environment. Since I can't push environmental awareness without setting an example, I seek ways to make my home and the yoga studio greener.

While I'm outside pushing my body, experiencing nature, practicing asana and trying to be green, I meet other people who introduce me to new activities and many of them end up on my list of things to try. To be honest, I can't even get through an Athleta catalog without seeing something I'd love to be doing. So I start thinking of ways to try them.

Then there's the Bhakti yoga, the devotional singing and chanting which made it okay for my slightly tone-deaf voice to sing out. Which restored a love of music that I'd abandoned to those with more talent. With the music came the desire to dance, especially in a skirt that jingles when I move.

"That's great!" you may be thinking. "She is trying all kinds of new things." If I was applying to college (again) my application would be in the "well-rounded" pile.

The truth is, change is starting to feel less like I'm following a path with a few twists and turns and more like I'm caught in a transformational whirlwind. It's as if I'm in a constant state of flux, never settling down to just "being" anything.

The ultimate goal of yoga is to settle the mind into silence. How can my mind be silent if it's constantly trying to figure out how to make a hula hoop, where I can set up a slackline, when I'm going to have time to run, practice belly dancing and learn to play the bongos, and remember all the stuff I've studied for the personal trainer exam?

Perhaps my life's journey wasn't meant to meander on a foot path, but rather rip through this existence like a tornado, sucking up everything I encounter. Perhaps I am paying for lifetimes of stagnation, needing to do everything I'd missed during previous incarnations so I can finally get to the really deep stuff. Perhaps this life's lesson is supposed to be non-attachment to the cravings for new adventures and I'm failing miserably.

Maybe one day I'll find stillness in the center of the storm and discover what it is that I have become. Right after I try ice climbing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brave enough to try

Witherbee's Carriage House, a local restaurant with a bar upstairs, hosts a number of local bands on weekend nights. On Thursdays they have open mic night. A Schroon Lake singer/songwriter runs it, making sure everyone gets a turn at the mic.

This evening, my niece, who just finished her freshman year in high school, brought her electric guitar to open mic night, got herself plugged in, and played and sang three songs. She did really well. No, it was not perfect, but there are some things we need to take into account. First, she has never had a guitar lesson. She is completely self-taught. Second, before tonight, she never sang into a microphone. Third, she is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD, and she was brave enough to get up in front of a room full of much older and very experienced musicians, many of whom have been paid to sing into a microphone.

One thing I can say for our local musicians is that they are very supportive. They love to have new people join the Schroon Lake music scene. My niece was welcomed and encouraged. Perhaps they remember their first times.

I cannot count the times in my life when I missed out on chances to try things for the first time because I wasn't brave enough to risk not being perfect the first time. I've missed opportunities to talk to someone famous because I didn't think I would have anything to say. I have three lifetimes worth of bucket list items because I didn't just do things when I had the chance.

Yes, I have taken a few risks in my time. Every now and then I try something new. But more often I don't, and I wonder sometimes who I might have been as an adult if I had been braver when I was younger. Or who I would be today if I had been braver last month.

My niece and I were talking about a song I like. It has a drum intro, played on the bongos. I said I'd like to learn to drum so I could play that intro. She said she'd learn the guitar part so we could play together. I said we could work on it over the winter. She gave me three weeks.

I don't know if I can learn to play the bongos in three weeks. I don't even own bongos, yet. But maybe I can be brave enough to try.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday Adventures

Wednesday is my day off. The yoga studio is closed, so I have the whole day free. For months, I have been treating Wednesday as the day to do housework and run errands, but during a meltdown a couple of months ago I realized that I was desperately in need of some time to play.

So I sat down with my day planner, spread my chores throughout the rest of the week and, erasing everything else, wrote "fly and be free" on each Wednesday. Then I started thinking about the things I've been meaning to do, and the things my kids have been asking to do, and started to plan some Wednesday adventures.

My 7-year-old son got excited about hiking after reaching the summit of Mount Jo, a fun little mountain which rises above Heart Lake in the midst of the High Peaks. His second grade teacher took the class to the top for their year-end trip. When school finished we went through the guide books for another easy hike and, the following Wednesday, headed up Owls Head, just north of Keene.

The next week, we explored Mount Gilligan, in New Russia. While still a short hike, Mount Gilligan has lots of rock scrambles that were fun for an active 7-year-old. We've been calling it our "secret mountain" because we were the only ones there.

Inspired to try something bigger, today we tried the Crow Mountains in Keene. The guidebook promised a short but steep hike. It certainly was steep and much more challenging than our previous hikes, but, thanks to unclear directions to the trailhead, it was not short. The mountain trail itself took precisely the amount of time predicted by the guide, but the walks down the road to find the trailhead and to find the car again when we came back by a different trail added time and miles.

It was worth the extra effort. The view of the High Peaks from the summit of Big Crow is spectacular. Had we not lost so much time looking for the trailhead I would have lingered much longer.

For my next Wednesday Adventure I will be chaperoning at Cub Scout Day Camp. While it's not my first choice of adventures, my son won't be little much longer, so any time with him is good. Who knows what a pack of Cub Scouts might teach me?


I've put off posting about my experience at the Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival in Stratton, Vermont, because there is too much to say. I want to write about every yoga class, every musician, everything I did and saw and ate.

Because it was all amazing.

But I can't. There is too much.

What I can say is that three days of camping in the rain, walking barefoot in the rain, doing yoga under a tent in the rain and listening to music in a crowded room in the rain left me feeling more full of life and excited about yoga and music than I've felt in a long time. During the brief times the sun came out I could feel the energy, which was already intense, rise even higher.

So, if you want to know what happened at Wanderlust, use Google. Find the pictures and videos and blog posts from people who wrapped their heads around the experience and who actually knew how to use the video function on their cameras.  I'll share some of my pictures, too. Maybe in a few more weeks I'll be able to say something.

Stratton Mountain Resort

Nimble Arts

You never knew what you'd see

Slackline Yoga


Yogaslacker workout


Slacklining and hooping

Yoga in a birdcage

Bryan Kest and Seane Corn saying hello
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