Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kripalu's Gifts

I'd promised to share more about my trip to Kripalu, and I didn't forget. During my weekend there, Kripalu gave me numerous gifts.

  1. Henna. I was lucky to have my trip correspond to one of the weekends that the talented henna artist Kelly Flaherty was at Kripalu. She blessed me with beautiful floral henna art on my hand.
  2. Awareness. During some juicy pranayama, I became aware that I am only able to breathe through the left side of my nose. I had a cold and an ear infection in the right ear, but I never noticed that I'm not drawing any air in through the right side. I came home with a daily Nadi Shodhana practice.
  3. Silence. One of my favorite things about Kripalu is the silent breakfast. It's wonderful to start the day with good food and my journal, with no pressure to make small talk. I've tried to recreate it at home, journaling while I drink my Isagenix shake. My son has been writing or drawing in his at the same time, so it's somewhat successful, with only occasional discussion about mismatched socks or too hot oatmeal.
  4. Kale. And chard. And tempeh with lemon butter and capers. Kripalu's food is amazing. It's clean, local and incredibly well prepared. I left feeling very healthy and nourished.
  5. Music. Kripalu hosts musical performers most Saturday nights. Our workshop had a Saturday evening component, but I was able to catch the last few songs by Gaia Roots, a high-energy world music ensemble. After having live drumming during the noon Yoga Dance class, more percussion by these talented ladies was icing on the cake. I brought home a signed CD and I can't stop listening. 
  6. Cohorts. Workshops at Kripalu, especially with titles like "Creating Transformational Workshops," tend to bring like-minded people together. That was definitely the case and I'm happy to have new people to reach out to for feedback or support.
  7. Ideas. Ken Nelson's workshop left my mind full of ideas and a framework in which to organize them.
  8. Yoga. Yes, I know yoga has been in my life for many years, but even yoga teachers need a yoga practice recharge every now and then. Daily yoga classes reminded me how good I feel when I practice regularly.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The Thanksgiving holiday reminds me to be grateful for the opportunity to attend last weekend's workshop at Kripalu. I am particularly grateful to my yoga students, who graciously gave up their weekend yoga classes so I could close the studio and take the trip to Massachusetts.

A big take-away from the weekend workshop was insight into my own mental, spiritual and emotional needs. Not surprisingly, considering my latest career choice, I discovered that I am more confident and better at integrating information when I'm moving. It's no wonder that in my corporate job I fell asleep in business meetings and seminars and never remembered a thing that was discussed.

This got me thinking about Thanksgiving dinner, when my minister brother, whom I love very much, starts the meal by saying grace. It's nice to express gratitude for food and family, but when he speaks with his well-trained preacher voice I tend to zone out. (Nothing personal, bro. It's just hard to sit still and listen without my mind drifting away.)

What if we pushed our chairs back from the table and did a moving prayer of gratitude? Moving prayers are nothing new. Dancing has been a form of worship for millennia. The Sufi Whirling Dervishes certainly pray that way. Yoga teacher Seane Corn teaches how to bring prayer into yoga practice in her "Body Prayer" classes.

Monday's chair yoga class helped me work out a prayer of thanksgiving. It's based on a chair adaptation of a half Sun Salutation.

Reach into the sun's energy. Sitting near the front of the chair, inhale and reach both arms overhead.

And offer it to the earth. On the exhale, fold forward and lay your belly on your thighs, reaching your hands to the floor.

Open your heart to receive the universe's grace. Bring your hands onto your knees, inhale and lift your heart, peeling your chest and abdomen off of your legs. Look ahead and press your heart forward through your arms as your spine extends. Lift your chin slightly.

Bow in humble gratitude for abundance shared. Holding your knees, exhale, drop your chin and round your back.

This works very nicely with a standing half Sun Salutation as well. You can speak the prayer or simply hold the words in your mind as you move. Flow through the sequence as many times as you need to feel it becoming part of you.

Another benefit? All that forward folding will massage your abdominal organs and stimulate digestion, so your body will be ready for that big plate of sweet potatoes, tofu and corn bread stuffing. Or turkey, I suppose.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Party like it's 12-21-12

Thanks to Happy Box 365 for posting just the right thing this morning.
A weekend at Kripalu was just what this yoga teacher needed. I came home yesterday a different person, not just renewed but having tapped into something deeper, something I didn't know was there. I'm still processing and I'll continue to share as things settle.

The weekend was a business trip. A Bona Fide Butterflies cohort and I participated in a workshop called "Creating Transformational Workshops" presented by Ken Nelson and Lesli Lang. While we each had our individual reasons for going, our joint intention was to get ideas for the upcoming women's retreat.

Last evening, while it was all fresh and bursting out of our heads anyway, the group of facilitators met to revisit our retreat plans. Changes were made, and more changes will be made, but we are very happy with what's coming together.

In an interesting juxtaposition, I found out that a friend is planning an "end of the world" party for December 21st, because if the world should happen to end she wants to go out having fun with the people she loves.

Which got me thinking. Are we planning a post-apocalyptic retreat? How can we make plans for a future that may never happen or may be so radically changed that the plans are irrelevant?

I don't think we'll be gone on December 22nd and the expansion of consciousness which I believe has already begun is more likely to be a slow process than a flick-of-a-switch change. But it does make me think about how I'd like to spend the next thirty days.

If this was my last month on earth, I'd try to be more present to the moments, to listen to my children when they speak, to hug more often, to spend time with people who make me happy, to let go and to forgive. I would keep my house neat, just in case I get a visit from some divine being. I would meditate and do my yoga practice every day, and smile at strangers. I would try to notice and appreciate the trees and the animals and eat the bountiful gifts of the earth and share the energy of the web of life.

What if we all lived every day as if we only had thirty more? Would we create the very change that would mark the "end of the world" and the beginning of something new?

If I knew the world was going to end, would I spend time planning the retreat? Absolutely. And I'd enjoy every minute that I spent with the ladies that are the Bona Fide Butterflies, who laugh, share, support and challenge each other and who, each in their unique way, would enrich my last thirty days in countless ways.

* * *

There was so much at Kripalu that inspired me during my stay. Here's a snippet of a song by a group that I really enjoyed, recorded during another performance at Kripalu earlier this year.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Knitting Chaos

While Tristan was climbing the walls at Rocksport last evening, I did some knitting. I had a project that my mom had asked me to knit because she couldn't figure out the pattern instructions. I'd had the yarn for awhile, but it was buried on my desk until yesterday's clean up. I'm glad I found it. It felt good to have needles and fiber in my hands again.

The yarn, Red Heart's Boutique Sashay, is one of those new ruffle yarns. The pattern for a frilly knit scarf was, I have to admit, a bit vague.

Two rows into it I realized why my mother struggled. My mother doesn't do messy. She doesn't fool around with things to see what they look like. She tried to follow the pattern as it was written, and ended up not with ruffles but with a boring stack of cone-shaped circles. Lucky for her she has a daughter who can do chaos.

The trick with this yarn is to be inconsistent. There are "holes" to work with when you are putting the needle into the weave to pick up strands. If you knit in every hole you get cones. If you skip one, two or sometimes three, in no particular order or pattern, you get fun ruffles.

For someone who is used to knitting lace and cables, where strict adherence to the pattern is crucial, this is very freeing. The more "mistakes" there were, the more chaotic it was, the more interesting the scarf got. I'm kind of bummed I have to give the finished product back to my mom.

But mom needs some chaos in her life. I'm just sorry her yarn was lost for six weeks in mine.

This is the scarf, sitting on my clean desk.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Head Space

enbiggen v. to grow a small job in your head until it's too overwhelming to deal with; a technique used by master procrastinators to avoid starting tasks

I am highly skilled in enbiggening. One day I left a few pieces of paper on my desk and when I looked the next day I saw this:

The problem with enbiggening is that after avoiding what would have taken minutes for a few weeks, my desk actually looked like that. That picture was taken this morning, along with this one:

My home office is where much of the non-teaching part of running the yoga studio happens. It's where I do my bookkeeping, create flyers and plan workshops. It's also where I write my blog posts, answer emails, schedule my son's homeschooling assignments, write letters and, occasionally, play on Facebook.

When my office gets messy, I don't want to use it. My brain doesn't focus well when surrounded by clutter. I need open space for my head to function at its best. Besides, my laptop wobbles when it's perched on piles of paper.

I've been putting off cleaning it up, because I'd enbiggened the large job into something monumental and I just didn't have three straight days I could block out on my calendar for office cleaning. But my dear friend and life coach, Annie, stopped by the other night and happened to see the office. She immediately put on her life coach hat and said something very profound like "no wonder you aren't getting anything done!" only much more eloquently and life-coachy.

Then she offered to bring me a big basket to hold all the stuff on the top of my desk. I knew I had to tackle the job, even if I didn't have three straight days, to get my head into a better space, and to avoid dying of embarrassment the next time a friend drops in.

This morning I got out of bed (an accomplishment in itself lately) and started in right after breakfast. Thirty minutes later it looked like this:

An hour later it looked like this:

All I had left to deal with was this:

Those papers were filed or put in an organized "to-do" pile in less than thirty minutes. The job I had enbiggened into a three-day fiasco actually took ninety minutes.

That's the way it is with procrastination. There are so many things I put off because I assume the time I have to give them is more than I have. And some of them are fun things I'd really like to do. Like writing blog posts.

This is where I'm writing now:

Better, right?

And here's a picture of my dog in my office, because she was there and looking cute:

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Being Inadequate

Suffrage Parade (LOC)
Suffrage Parade (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
It's Election Day in the United States of America and I voted. I hope you did too, especially if you are a woman. Women worked really hard to get the right to vote after our Founding Fathers forgot to include us in that document they drafted. I'm sure they just weren't thinking clearly, what with the shot heard 'round the world still ringing in their ears. Good thing some women had the guts to point out the omission and get it corrected.

Election Day, with all its uncertainty and annoying phone calls trying to get me to vote for the candidate I already voted for or, worse, the guy I wouldn't vote for if you held a gun to my head, was exacerbating an already dark mood. See, I got sick, needed some down time to rest, and lost all my momentum. Or, at least, that's the excuse I've been using for the past week for not accomplishing anything except getting the Netflix award for watching the most consecutive episodes of a mediocre TV show without stopping. (We won't tell them I slept through most of them, only waking up when my earbuds got quiet to start the next installment.)

While I was sick and hiding under the covers I wasn't doing my bookkeeping, creating flyers for upcoming studio events, helping my son with math, cleaning my house or the other usual things.

I also wasn't campaigning for the candidates I support, attending anti-fracking rallies or writing letters in support of clean energy subsidies. It's not that I would be doing those things if I was well - there simply is a limit to how much I can do in a day, even if I feel strongly about the issues - but if I'm going to be a slacker I might as well be a BIG slacker, right?

Then the storm called Sandy wiped out places I used to call home and places I used to visit to get away from home. What could I do about that? Nothing. I didn't even have to pull out my Red Cross volunteer ID because the storm left the Adirondacks alone. Which was good, considering I couldn't talk and a box of tissues was my constant companion. But my slacker-ness grew in my mind.

By last night I was again hiding under the covers, convinced that Superstorm Sandy was my fault because sometimes I forget my reusable grocery bags and I'm still driving a 10-year-old SUV, my yoga studio is doomed to failure because I'm not posting enough on its Facebook page and I'm a terrible mother because my homeschooled 4th grader hasn't mastered long division. I was sure I couldn't call myself a runner because I took a break from running in the cold rain when I got an ear infection. Let's not forget that I forgot to water my plants!

I have big goals and even bigger dreams. There are causes which I passionately support. When I'm feeling good I'm sure I can do great things. Last night, however, I had hog-tied myself with all my failures and inadequacies until I couldn't make dinner, much less change the world.

It was only obligations - little things like giving my kid breakfast and showing up on time to teach this morning's yoga class - that got me out of bed this morning. I was vertical, but in my head there was a running list of things I suck at. My Medicine Card deck was sitting on the kitchen table and, out of habit, I picked it up, shuffled, and did a Moon Lodge spread. It's just five cards with animals on them, but it kicked me in the ass.

I won't go into all the details. Basically it told me to sit with my fears and feel my pain until I can see the many blessings in my life. It also said that I have a message to share, but it's not about telling other people what to think or how to behave. It's about spreading joy by being joyful.

Funny thing, it didn't say anything about having an immaculate house, raising a genius or packing my yoga classes. Not a mention of standing in front of the Statehouse waving a sign or sending money to Planned Parenthood. Nothing about manning a shelter in a storm or even paying my bills on time. Just be with my pain until I find joy, then be joyful. I can be inadequate and, in some big or small way, make the world a better place.

I know it's just a deck of cards with animal pictures on them. But today pictures of a rabbit, a raccoon, a hummingbird, a hawk and a dolphin got me through the day without retreating under the covers. Tomorrow I may even make the bed. And I'll be inadequate. Joyfully inadequate.

Unless the wrong guy wins tonight.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Help Hurricane Sandy victims by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief.

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