Thursday, January 31, 2013

Let Go and Feel It #365yoga

Scenes from Albany (New York) International Ai...
Scenes from Albany (New York) International Airport (Photo credit: cseeman)
It's 5:00 a.m. and I'm sitting on an uncomfortable bench in Albany International Airport. My teenage daughter is on the other side of the security checkpoint, waiting at a gate to board a plane headed to Costa Rica. Her trip started with a somewhat hairy 3:00 a.m. ride to the airport on ice-covered roads, but we made it. Now she's leaving for a week of surf camp, traveling by herself to a foreign country.

Five months ago, after another early morning departure, we moved her into her college dorm room. If things had gone according to plan, she would be back there now instead of boarding a plane. But life rarely goes according to plan, no matter how carefully I work out the details. I've found that the unexpected happens more often then not.

Maybe that's why my to-do list never gets finished.

My life coach, Annie Gregson, keeps asking me how I want to feel. Whenever I tell her I want to do something, she gets me to pick at it until I uncover the feeling that I'm seeking. Then we look for ways to have those feelings every day, or I realize that my latest goal is more about what I want other people to think than about how I want to feel, and it gets taken off the list.

Yoga teaches us that attachment leads to suffering. The great gurus of old must have been standing next to a mother watching the most beautiful thing she ever created pass through airline security when they came up with that piece of wisdom. Letting go is hard. When I stop clinging desperately to the plan and let things go, what am I left with?


I agree with Annie that uncovering the feelings is important. That is, after all, what we do on our yoga mats when we stop trying and let go into an asana. With the physical letting go there is an emotional letting go that brings us deeper into ourselves. When the emotions are freed, we have no choice but to feel them.

It is nice to choose a feeling to seek, but to open up to how I want to feel means opening up to all the other feelings along the way. Unlike goals, plans and to-do lists, feelings are raw and tend to do their own thing, despite what the to-do list says. When fear, sadness and anger come knocking, I have to let them in to stand alongside joy, pride and awe. Willingness to feel everything that comes up is part of having the courage to live the life I chose.

Honestly, I have to dig deep for that courage.

And in order to live according to how I want to feel, I also have to be willing to let go and allow others to live according to how they want to feel. Maybe that means I'll be sitting on an uncomfortable bench in Albany International Airport at 5:00 a.m. with tears streaming down my cheeks while I watch the departure board bump my daughter's flight closer to the top.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sign-waiving-asana: Karma Yoga and Activism #365 Yoga

I wasn't on my yoga mat today. I was in Albany, New York, the state capital, with a piece of Sharpie-lettered cardboard and my voice. Today Governor Cuomo was giving the State of the State address and almost two thousand New Yorkers thought it would be a good time to tell him what we thought of the hydraulic fracking proposal by the oil and gas industry. Loudly.

Fracking isn't a direct threat to the Adirondacks, not like it is to the rural communities in Western New York, but contamination of the drinking water in one part of the state is bad for the whole state. One hundred years ago the property owners in Schroon Lake, the town I live in, had to band together and fight to keep the Schroon River valley from being flooded to create a giant reservoir to supply the downstate area with water. If the Adirondacks is the only place in New York with drinkable water, are we going to have to have that same fight again?

Today, my yoga practice was standing for four hours, waiving  my cardboard sign and chanting "Ban fracking now!" until I was hoarse. Doesn't sound like yoga? Activism has a basis in yoga philosophy. The Bhagavad Gita is about Karma Yoga, or the yoga of selfless action. In the Gita's story, Krishna convinces Arjuna, a warrior prince, to stand up for what's right and defend his people, even though he will be battling some of his own family and friends.

Today's anti-fracking protest was conveniently scheduled for my day off and was fairly close to home. I don't often get the chance to practice sign-waiving-asana. Most days my Karma Yoga practice is quieter, simply living my life in a way that supports the causes I care about. Small actions, like stopping to pick up a discarded bottle for recycling because I value the environment, are as much a part of activism as a day of protesting. Twenty minutes sending loving-kindness to all beings turns my meditation into selfless action.

If environmental activism is your thing, check out the Green Yoga Association for ideas about how to live, and practice yoga, greener. For some information about fracking and why so many of us are trying to keep it out of New York, look at New Yorkers Against Fracking, the Sierra Club,  and Food & Water Watch.
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Word Three: Spirit #365 Yoga

I just spent a weekend with a group of wise, powerful and spiritual women at the Bona Fide Butterflies' Adirondack Women's Retreat. I was blessed to be able to co-facilitate the annual retreat with my fellow BFBs.

The third word I chose this year was spirit. The universe must have wanted me to get started on that right away when it brought together the women who came to the retreat. We had planned the weekend to help the women reconnect to their inner selves and rekindle their own spirits, but I failed to plan for the profound effect these women would have on my own inner spirit. As I rested in Balasana during our yoga and meditation time this morning, I felt humbled and honored to be in the presence of women who embody the divine feminine. Each was truly a Goddess.

My spirit has been neglected for a few years while I focused on more mundane matters, but during the second half of 2012 it demanded attention. Opportunities to reconnect to my spiritual practices appeared one after another. I found like-minded folks in unexpected places.

During 2013 I plan to continue what has already begun and stay open to new opportunities to explore and connect to spirit in all of its aspects. Besides some seventh Chakra work on and off my yoga mat and the monthly new moon and drumming circles at the yoga studio, I'll look for connections to spirit when I'm out in nature. Earth, air, fire and water are all abundant in the Adirondacks, manifesting in various forms.

And the Goddess is here, shining in her many aspects in my expanding tribe of sisters, mothers and friends.

Ishtar, Ceredwin, Hecate, Inanna, Isis, Artemis, Sophia, Athena, Coatilicue, Aphrodite, Mielikki, Astarte, Gaia, Saraswati, Kali, Pele, Paso Wee, Demeter, Parvati, Hera, Akewa, Diana, Nidaba, Chicomecoatl, Lilith, Shekhina, Morgana, Maya, Izanami, Shakti

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Word Two: Adventure #365Yoga

On your own you dashed upon the Sun, which is at a fabulous distance of thousands of miles, thinking it to be a sweet luscious fruit. (From the Hanuman Chalisa, as translated here.)

Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, is revered as a symbol of strength, perseverance and devotion. He embodies my second word for 2013: adventure. For what is adventure but seeking the luscious fruit of life, whatever it takes?

I am an adventurer. Maybe not in a "climb Mt. Everest" kind of way, but I find adventures all the time. I seek the juicy bits of life. Sometimes the day's adventure is on my yoga mat, sometimes on an Adirondack mountain, sometimes on the road in my running shoes, and sometimes it's in the pages of a good book.

Adventure is one of the reasons I'm so passionate about maintaining my physical health. My need for adventure, and places to find adventure, drives me to defend the environment and protect the sacred, natural places. Strength, perseverance and devotion are the keys to an adventurous life.

If you'd like to incorporate some adventure in your life this winter, check out 31 Winter Adventures by Expand Outdoors and WanderLydia. And unroll your yoga mat to explore what your body can do. I'll be doing both.

Original image here

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Word One: Abundance #365Yoga

In addition to writing affirmations, I like to start off each year with a word. It's sort of a theme for the year. Last year's word was manifesting, and I did quite a bit of that in 2012.

This year I couldn't narrow my theme to one word, so I ended up with three. It's okay, since I'm thinking a little bit bigger this year anyway.

Word one is abundance. I've been struggling with feeling abundant lately. Although I am grateful for all that we have, which is more than many people in this world have, at times money is very tight. We have never gone without food or heat and we have a roof over our heads, but I nevertheless I feel fearful and lacking sometimes.

Like I'm standing on the edge of a fiscal cliff and it's a long way down. Except I can't raise my own credit limit.

Will this be the year I finally figure out how to make a budget and stick to it? Or will this be the year more revenue comes in? I'm not sure how abundance will play out in my life in 2013, but it will probably be a bit of both. And I'm sure I'll be standing at the edge of a few cliffs this year. But, wait, that's the next post...

Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

Salutations to Lakshmi, the great goddess of abundance.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An old year, a new year and a little presence #365yoga

My husband made me this
groovy incense burner from
a wine bottle. Who wants one?
The Winter Solstice/Christmas/New Year's frenzy is finally over and life can return to it's usual chaos. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster, but I took my own advice and, thanks to time on my yoga mat, made it through. I may not be the same person I was on the first of December, but I'm still here.

And so are you. That's awesome! Now we get to move on.

I recycled my 2012 calendar yesterday. That was somewhat satisfying, especially after the way the year came to a close. The Mayans may not have made a calendar for 2013, but the National Audubon Society did. It's pretty, and has a picture of an eagle on January's page. (Garudasana, anyone?)

Speaking of groovy, when he's
not in the woodshop, my husband
takes some funky pictures, like
this one of our town's New
Year's Eve fireworks.
During a few quiet moments last week, I sat down and gave thought to what I want to do with this new year. I'm not fond of resolutions so, as in years past, I wrote affirmations based on my goals. Affirmations are written in the present tense, as if they are already happening, so instead of something to strive for, I give myself a way of being. It's about the present moment because it's really the only one that matters.

So, with a little presence, here are my 2013 affirmations:
  1. My daily asana and meditation practice sustains me. It really does. It gets me through tough times and allows me to find peace even when it seems like the rest of the world is losing it. And maybe this will be the year that I finally balance a handstand off the wall.
  2. My whole family benefits from healthy food prepared with love. I have been making changes already, but this year I am committing to preparing as much healthy, clean food as I can. By planning ahead, I won't be running into the store for a box of frozen preservatives and fillers every day. The food I prepare will support our wellness goals, as well as my training goals. And I'll definitely be incorporating Isagenix into my meal planning, because I can't start the morning without a shake.
  3. I am fit, strong and fast. Well, faster than I was in 2012, anyway. My plan for 2013 is to run two half-marathons, then tackle my first full marathon in September. Since swim training can't happen without a pool, I'm stepping away from triathlons this year but hope to participate in my first duathlon in the fall.
  4. I am an excellent yoga teacher. Yes, I set the bar high. I've got two big continuing education programs on the calendar this year. And I plan to get a recharge at Wanderlust VT in June, no matter what it takes to get there.
  5. Hiking weekly grounds me. And lifts me up. And keeps me sane. And gives me lots of time with my boy. We're strapping on our snowshoes this winter so we don't have to stop.
  6. My passion benefits people in my community and the environment. I'm spending some time in Albany this year and I'm taking my "Don't frack up New York's farms" sign with me. Yes, I can change the world.
  7. I pursue the activities that make me happy. Climbing, hooping, banging on my bongos, bellydancing, skiing, slacklining...
  8. My home is calm and inviting. And my basement is free of clutter. By the thirtieth of June. Really.
  9. I read voraciously. Because I have a pile of good books sitting next to my bed.
  10. By knitting and crafting all year long, I give meaningful, hand-crafted gifts. This is the affirmation that will help me finish the list of gifts I was supposed to make in 2012. If you were supposed to get one and didn't because it wasn't finished, I promise it will be worth the wait.
  11. I create abundance in my life. It doesn't look like Congress is going to do anything useful, so I'm taking matters into my own hands.
  12. My yoga studio is self-sustaining and growing. Thanks to a whole bunch of wonderful people who contribute in so many ways.
Okay, I'm ready for you, 2013!

I started off the new year with a dip
in Lake George.
New Year's Polar Bear Plunge 2013

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