I like to teach with a nod to current events and happenings. Last week we lost a poet named Mary Oliver. And while I do not confess to knowing the breadth and depth of her work, the few poems of hers that I have read are so beautiful, comforting. Like being read to by a dear friend, but one who really asks you the hard questions and reminds you what living is truly supposed to be like. One of her poems in particular, though, is a bit of a wake up call, called The Summer Day. It draws you in with the scene of a grasshopper in a field, and then startles you with this question at the end, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one, wild and precious life?” And then, just like that, the world stops, sort of in the way when you experience a loss or a tragedy. Suddenly there is time for introspection and reflection. Am I living my life in alignment with my passions? And if not, what can I do to correct course? Thank you, Mary Oliver, for giving us the gift of your prose and for holding the mirror up to our lives, to allow us to see them more clearly and to dive inward to reflect.
It is January. You did it. You got through December and the holidays with their endless demands and now it is time to focus on yourself. You may have started the year with bold resolutions or meekly tip-toed into the new year without wanting to commit to anything dramatic. No matter the way you welcomed 2019, it is important to approach this new year filled with self compassion so that you can support yourself as you would a friend. Allowing yourself to shine, grow, evolve and perhaps even transform. The question is, can you offer the compassion that you so freely offer outwardly, inwards? Can you push aside the internal critic, laugh and embrace your imperfections, and create some ease within? Like yoga, this is a practice. Like rolling out your mat to dive deeper into body, mind, spirit, can you incorporate self compassion this year?
Life is funny. We get mired in the details of things. We get swept into drama. We have to work hard to keep things in perspective at times. And then there are other times when you are forced into perspective–a little variation of Clarence showing you what a wonderful life you really do have. So whatever it is that you might be experiencing, I hope you’ll take a little time to step back and appreciate the blessings, the abundance, the goodness that exists right now. I had the dramatic variation of this yesterday, when a loved one had a successful surgery that we’d been dreading for months. And when I arrived at the hospital room, don’t you know the room number was my birthday. What a gift, indeed. I hope you’ll look for the gifts the universe is serving you up this season (and I truly hope they won’t be hospital rooms!). With a lot of recovery time ahead in this house, we just might have to snuggle up to the classic movie with Jimmy Stewart and wait for that line…..”you see, George, you really DO have a wonderful life.”
Many happy blessings to you this holiday season.
Maybe it’s why I like high tide so much. Walking through Boston or any other harbor, seeing the water level super high just makes me smile. It’s a fullness close to bursting, there is no room for any more–the abundance of it never ceases to astound me. If only we could feel that high tide on the inside. Often we feel the opposite, like something is missing, not quite right, that we are lacking, or not enough. With Thanksgiving just a stone’s throw away, it’s certainly time to give thanks. And incorporating a gratitude practice in your life on a regular basis can have profound effects on your outlook & mood; coming into that mental position of “I am enough, I have enough” can float you up like a good high tide, creating a sense that there is nothing missing. This week in my classes we focused on holding gratitude, not only because it is a mental game changer, but also because it feels right to acknowledge the abundance, that high tide, in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
It started with some crazy ideas and one flip. And mercury being in retrograde was also in play (still is!).
We invited some folks to stay with us for the summer. Yep, the whole summer, and the family felt the squeeze. Suddenly finding ourselves together and alone in the house was a luxury, and we started to cherish the surprise family time like we had found a hidden jewel.
In July another reminder of how precious our family unit was came when a flip off a dock nearly ended in a variety of nasty ways, but magically somehow didn’t. It was Christmas in July. And again, we found ourselves holding onto what was most dear.
With so much in the air (flips, and mercury, remember?) I also flipped–my business that is–into a new space, just a mile down the road to a fantastic studio. It is a beautiful, airy place and I know it is going to be an exciting new chapter.
Change is really the only thing we can truly count on.
It feels pretty outrageous to have a space of time ahead of me this summer to craft my offerings for the fall. I am so grateful to the Tribe–those dedicated and loving individuals who showed up on their mat, week after week, to dive deeper into their practice and the teachings and meaning of yoga.
Today was the last week of my classes and I was desperately seeking parting words. It felt akin to seeking the right words when parting from my kids who are now young adults…desperately seeking for some brilliant wisdom…and something like “make good choices” is all that I can blurt out. After all, they have probably learned all they are going to from me–at least the big stuff.
So in searching about for something more profound than “make good choices,” I landed on Ahimsa, the first of the Yamas in the ancient yoga text by Pantanjali, called the Yoga Sutras. It’s a text that offers a path of right living, and is over 2,500 years old. The Sanskrit word Ahimsa translates into “nonviolence,” which I admit sounds pretty assumptive–so to clear the air here, I am not presuming that anyone is outwardly violent. Ahimsa suggests just the opposite: a loving compassion for all beings, all people, including oneself (self compassion).
Focusing at the heart, the center of compassion and love, we paused or a Loving Kindness Meditation to really sink into it a bit deeper. So rather than “make good choices,” I’ll leave you with this: lead and choose from this place of compassion. If we all did that, imagine what a beautiful world it would be.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Every year I am faced with the task of teaching to a diverse group of people for whom the word “mother” means something entirely different. For some their mothers are not with them now, for others they may simply not want to think of their mother, and others may never have had a mother…..so the word is loaded….so I avoid it altogether and instead, I ask people when they come to their mats to consider the word “mother” as a verb, as in “to mother.”
Most people mother, or support, others. The majority of people who walk through the door into my classes are in the “sandwich generation” so they are mothering up AND down, caring for their ageing parents, relatives, or friends and also for their children. But what we ALL have in common is the support structure: the rich network that is built through friendship and family–even if it is adopted family–to lift us through the challenging times.
Perhaps it is a phone call to check in, a little gift that magically shows up when you are down, or even just a smile. There is compassion, empathy and a consistency that is there. And you play your part in creating that support for others. It’s our “sanga” or community that we are a part of, that connects us to others in a meaningful way.
Take some time this week– a week that crescendos on Mothers Day–to appreciate all the caring and mothering that has been shown to you. Wrap yourself in a blanket of that love and compassion; recharge with it so you can send it out to others.
And in a nod to mothering everywhere, here is a photo of my most recent creation this week, a vegan and gluten free banana bread! Thanks to Minimalist Baker’s recipe, found here. I just added giant volumes of walnuts because my husband loves them!
In a yoga practice we often find ourselves in downward facing dog during a sun salutation. The instructor might say “walk, step, or hop to the top of the mat.” So what is all that hopping all about? Well, it is the jumping, or springing forward, of yoga. It takes a lot of core strength (I refer to it as the engine or the “gas”) and it takes something else: you must shift your gaze to see where you are going.
In my life at the moment I’m kind of treading water. I haven’t committed or made progress in a few areas because I am waiting for puzzle pieces to fall into place, or I might not have exactly scoped out what I want the next step to look like. It’s pretty common, I’m sure you can relate. But the elements of a jump forward on the mat also applies to our lives. Most importantly, the internal gaze forward. We are so very busy and otherwise consumed that we often don’t give ourselves permission to look up, look forward, and see what it is that we’d like to pounce upon. It’s a very important step because we want to be poised for the jump and need to ask ourselves some hard questions.
Once you fully engage the core and commit, the jump isn’t hard to do….also not unlike the moving forward and onward in your everyday life. They say luck is at the intersection of preparedness and opportunity. Finding the internal gaze, your next step, sets you up for the opportunity when it arises.
Last weekend we got our first snow of the season, and it fell on the outdoor holiday lights in our neighborhood, turning the crisp little white lights into glowing orbs. The days have been becoming shorter and now we have arrived at the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. The lights outside hold our attention, draw us in with their beauty, and help us forget about the darkness–and maybe even celebrate that darkness. It is truly the season of light.
During this season of light it is important to go inward to connect with your own inner light. The yoga teachings (sutras, chapter one) talk of “the light within that is free of all suffering and sorrow.” We often block our own light without even knowing it. So as we sit now at the solstice, here in the dark, dust off whatever is blocking your bright light. Prepare to leave behind whatever is hindering it from shining its brightest, so you can bring your truest, most brilliant self into the new year.
Sharing some light with you! To help you celebrate the solstice, here is a fantastic recipe for vegan/gluten free cupcakes. Be prepared to be amazed! Even my extraordinarily fussy people in my house love these!!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and spray a 12-cup muffin pan with oil.
Create two bowls, one for dry ingredients and one for wet.
Dry ingredients (whisk together):
1 1/4 cup Pamela’s Artisan Gluten Free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Wet Ingredients (whisk together):
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon lemon oil (could probably substitute lemon zest)
Whisk everything together and then spoon into the muffin pans. Bake for ~20 minutes. Take out and let cool before you frost them.
This will take another 5-10 minutes but it is totally worth it. It hardens up and is a great complement to the moist cupcakes.
Whisk together in a bowl and then spoon/smear onto the cupcakes :
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Enjoy!! Recipe adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
GREAT JOB, EVERYBODY!!
The Yoga Tribe well exceeded its goal and raised over $1,300 for the Milton Residents Fund Holiday Gift Program. Helping our own right here in Milton and making the holidays just a little more merry and bright!!
I feel a little like Buddy the Elf…..YOU DID IT!!!!
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!
Many of our yoga poses stem from Hindu deities. The Hindu goddess Shiva avenged someone by creating the warrior Virabhadra. And so we practice warrior poses (named after the warrior, Virabhadrasana), not to honor acts of violence but to find a way inward, or introspection in our practice.
A yoga practice will normally have many warrior poses sprinkled in. They can be intense longer holds in the range of warrior poses (think lunges, moving and holding your body in opposite directions) or they can be sped through at a pace that requires precision and determination. In any case these warriors requires steadiness, strength, determination, and getting comfortable in your discomfort. They also require a response to that discomfort–they ask you to meet yourself with some grit, but also with some softness.
True warriors on the battlefield are keenly aware of the uncertainty of war. As yoga practitioners holding warrior poses we, too, understand the uncertainty of not just our practice, but also our life. “Life as you know it” can turn on a dime and we are all intimately familiar with the experience of loosing the footing of security and peace. So our mindfulness practice of appreciating the moment, maybe even luxuriating in the goodness or lightness of the moment, is critical not only on the yoga mat but out in the world.
Most of all, the practice of warriors gives us another way inward to understanding ourselves on “mind, body, and spirit” levels. As we move through the practice your mind may be racing and asking if you are doing something just right, your body is reminded of its strengths and limitations, and with any hope, on a spiritual level you are meeting yourself with kindness, acceptance, compassion and the friendliness you would offer any dear friend. It is as much a practice of getting to know yourself both on and off the mat.
Coming back to stillness. That is what it all about.
We unrolled our mats. For many of the people in the room it was the first time they had done so all summer, others had kept their practice up; different for everyone. Tall seat, eyes closed, tuning in to the inner self, the breath, being still. The summer with its beauty keeps us on the run, as we try to leverage the bounty of the season. And getting kids settled into school can feel like it’s as much a new start for us as it is them. So sitting quietly is a welcome respite from all the movement, planning, details of our lives. As we come out of doing and into being. Welcoming ourselves back home to ourselves, and to our mats.
Hurricane season is in full force. So many storms are creating fear, fleeing, devastation. So much chaos and energy. As I look at the radar images of the swirl of the storms I am reminded of the swirls of our minds. All the details and engagement in our lives can create our own mental swirl. Sprinkle in a little stress or anxiety and who knows what category storm you have!
So you sit, you breathe, and you quiet the winds of the mind. It’s the foundational element of your practice, both on and off the mat.