Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mah Jongg Memories

Some of my earliest memories include eavesdropping on my mom and her friends, listening to the hypnotic clicking sounds of mah jongg tiles floating from the living room as I drifted off to sleep. Mom will be 88 this September, marking about 70 years since she took up the game. While her memory is fading, her mah jongg skills are still sharp, and she still plays 2-3 times a week. Whenever she tells me she's "ready to go" I remind her of her mah jongg game (and all the grandkids and great grandbabies too, of course), and her eyes light up and she smiles...and looks forward to her week.

Below is a photo taken of me for an article on antiques in the Atlanta Journal. This bakelite mah jongg set caught my eye, so much in fact, that my siblings and I went back the following month and purchased it for our mom.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reaching Out for Help


My first personal experience in giving was at around age 11 when I participated in the “Walk for Mankind."  I remember how exciting it was for me to raise money for those in need--then to participate in the walk with other kids.  Though a storm brought the event to an end a bit early, I went home exhausted and happy, and I felt that I'd done something to make a difference...to help others.  

I still enjoy being able to give to others, most recently donating my time as a yoga teacher to raise money for those in need and to offer services for those who could otherwise not afford them..raising $200 for hurricane victims and teaching at a homeless shelter truly gave me more joy than any paycheck ever did.   So this is difficult for me...now I’m the one in need of assistance, and I’m really a fish out of water! It’s hard to ask for help and I’m not experienced (unless you count the past when my mom and brothers would help me with my son or home).

An independent, self employed yoga instructor and holistic nutritionist, I have been unable to obtain substantial medical insurance and now find myself in need of complicated but necessary dental work of totaling over $15,000 in additional surgeries and prosthetics (I already spent $10,000 last year alone).  The procedure of removing nearly all my front teeth, along with extensive gum and bone grafting has begun.  Ironically I've never even had a cavity; however, my gum issues have been an uphill battle which has resulted in failed attempts to save the teeth.  This has been an eye-opening experience as I’ve learned just how important teeth are in maintaining overall health. It is truly painful for me to ask for this assistance--but I will offer my talents with yoga classes and/or nutritional counseling in exchange for your kind assistance should you wish...perhaps you know someone who has been wanting to begin yoga or to eat healthier? This could be a mutually beneficial proposition! Thank you so much for considering a donation, and please let me know if there is something I can do for you.

Below is a link to my ChipIn page.

Monday, January 30, 2012

inside out...

Yoga practitioners each come to yoga for some reason.  I just wanted to lose some weight..that's all.  Before yoga, I'd been running 2 hours nearly every day, in efforts to stay slim, hiding the damage I was doing from my weekly or daily binges.  I was ravaging my body from the inside out...and from the outside in.  It was a violence to myself and actions ground in fear.  Enter Bikram Yoga a few weeks before my 38th birthday (I'm 46 now).  After many months of a friends persistent suggestions that I try it ("uh..I need a real workout, okay?", I told her.  I'd dabbled in some yoga videos and classes about 15 years ago, but never really connected with it), I tried an intro-week of classes and a bridge from fear to joy was under construction.

Yoga is physical indeed...and it certainly is a major factor in the way I look...and yes the physical benefits are still one of the reasons I practice yoga.  But asanas, or postures/poses, are only a small tip of the vastness that is yoga.  Yes, yoga classes can help us reduce stress, and become stronger and more flexible and lose and/or maintain a healthy weight.   After 8 years of a dedicated practice, plus this past weekend's intensive classes with John Friend and several hundred other yogis and yoginis, it is becoming clearer to me that one of the most beautiful effects of my yoga practice is the power it has to infuse into my life, illuminating patterns of thoughts and behaviors.  The power of potential.  Of awareness.  Of perception (not perfection).  Of change.

This has been a challenging path to say the least; however, this nonlinear, bumpy ride has had a beauty around it since breathing in that first possibility in my first yoga class.  I never dreamed I'd be teaching or pursuing my holistic nutrition certification one day.  I just wanted to lose some weight... to sweat.  I wanted to shrink..physically, not grow emotionally or spiritually.  It's scary to change.  We get caught up in patterns (samskaras) and uncomfortable as they may be, they create deep grooves of familiarity inside and are hard to give up.  For me, the familiarity of the misery was less scary than the unknown..even if that unknown could mean living in joy and abundance.

The focus of this past weekend's event was Igniting the Center, focusing on the global shift that is taking place in our world and how that shift first must begin within us individually.  The asana practices were artistically woven around this theme, with the challenges of physically aligning the body in ways to strengthen and heal, while never losing focus on the intention of the weekend.  John began each class discussing some pretty intense concepts in terms that were understandable for the average person while honoring their complexity and importance.  Flowing through the asanas, I embraced these themes inside, on a cellular level, mentally, emotionally, and energetically, as I worked to engage my muscles, honor my alignment and intentions.  To find the stillness and joy in each pose while acknowledging what could be conceived as chaos all around is a challenge, indeed.  To welcome the light and the dark, without attaching judgment to either is a feat as well.  Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I received this weekend was the simplicity and beauty of simply enjoying savasana, or corpse pose after each practice, something I often skip in the busyness of my days and my home practice.

It's been a while since I wrote.  Life has been happening...receiving my holistic nutrition certification, dental woes (and bills), housemate transitions, a nondescript birthday, family challenges of an elderly mom,  leaving a a yoga studio where I'd worked for over 8 years, an incredible teacher training, Grounded Kids, and, if I am honest, the roller coaster ride of emotions that I now accept has been flavored with mild situational depression.  The intensive weekend of yoga workshops, practicing alongside hundreds of practitioners, clarified this process even more clearly: the dark and light doesn't necessarily equate to "good" and "bad".  While I've found myself faced with situations that bring up an old thought pattern or behavior, I've not always been successful in approaching them from an emotionally evolved lens.  In other words, old patterns can and sometimes do come back.  For me, it shows in my body and in my thoughts and actions.

This past weekend was enlightening, joyous, educational, and emotionally and physically challenging.  It allowed me to see and heal some old wounds without judgment.  It was a way to clarify and honor the shifts that have occurred and to breathe in the possibilities of the change yet to come.  Listening, learning, embracing a beginner's mind, gave me hope that it is possible to eventually clear past memories, creating new ones.  Practicing alongside hundreds of other yoga practitioners, some who had been friends for years, others who I'd never met, felt like being wrapped in unconditional love.

Yoga means I am open to changing the way I see the world.  Yoga helps to release the attachment to the "story" I've created and be open to change my perception.  I am once again reminded me that surrender is not about giving up or losing.  Surrender is about ending the war.  It all begins within.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yoga and Politics Make for Strange Bedfellows

With a presidential election looming in the near future, I've been reflecting back to the last election and the divisive climate it procured.  Probably not since the early 60s had political opinions created such polarizing views in the United States, according to some of my friends who were old enough to remember the multitude of issues ranging from Kennedy's Catholic faith to civil rights and Vietnam.

Disclaimer:  I was born in 1965.  I wasn't around when Kennedy got shot so I have no memory of it(though I do remember what I was doing when Elvis was found dead), and I am actually not so well versed on the subject of politics in general.  In fact, my son, an accounting major at UGA has been able to debate and discuss circles around me when it comes to political and economic issues ever since about his sophomore year in high school.  However, in many ways, since I was raised by elderly parents who were depression era babies with three much older baby boomer brothers, some of the values instilled in me were a bit unconventional compared to my peers.  Many of my friends' parents were about my eldest brother's age..more like hippie era and not the WWII veteran dad who raised me.  

Still, in 2008, the first presidential election that I personally experienced as both a yoga practitioner AND a yoga teacher, I discovered that many of the core values and ideas that, to me, seemed tethered to yogic ethics and values (yamas and niyamas), weren't quite as clear cut as I had previously assumed.  My illusion that all yogis were somewhat liberal...and pardon the sterotype but I am putting it out here anyway:  tree hugging, peace demonstrating, granola crunching, hippies...was shattered that year.  I never made it a secret that I was not a George W. Bush fan, and like so many, I was ready for some sort of change to the system in the U.S. that was evidently not working for the majority of its citizens.  And yes, as the presidential race gained steam and passion, I found myself often surprised at some of the different views and opinions of family, friends and fellow yoga practitioners. 

And then I found myself entertaining feelings that were far less than yogic as well (see my last blog entry for more on my less-than-perfect, unenlightened declaration..or check me out on ELEPHANT JOURNAL feel free to comment/"like"/recommend!), and when I heard or saw views that seemed so polar opposite to my views..which of course were the "correct" ones, I often felt angry and cynical and, well, perhaps even a bit superior.  There, I said it.  I felt as if I "got it" and of course, these others...you know, people with views which differed from my views...they were clueless at best and mean-spirited, even evil, at worst.   


On more than one occasion, I witnessed bumper stickers (because we all know bumper stickers expose our beliefs like truth serum; yes I am being sarcastic, kinda) that expressed very hateful and/or racist messages riding alongside more loving, yogic messages (like namaste, for example).  As my non-yogic thoughts of crashing my car into their non-loving-bumper-sticker message floated through my monkey mind, I wondered if the driver even knew the meaning of Namaste??  And before my self-righteous indignation could get the best of me, I would attempt to shift from that mindset to wondering if my peace, love, and good vibes-professing self actually understood the meaning either.  Well...do I??
 
I don't understand a LOT: war/peace, economics, religions, climate change, politics in general, and pretty much everything that can possibly be brought up for debate.  While I know a little about most things...possibly just enough to be annoying to those who know more...I am not an expert nor would I consider myself an activist about a particular cause or issue.  I've jokingly coined my beliefs as my own religion known as "Don't Be An Asshole".  It's actually a very simple concept, though perhaps not always easy to follow as a practitioner.  What I have realized is that in order for me to truly be a member of my own congregation of fellow DBAAs, I have to actually not be an asshole.  Easier said that done. 

So, my mission, should I choose to accept, is to walk the walk that I talk.  A major part of that is to stop ASSuming.  We all have our own histories and reasons to hold certain values and beliefs.  And while it is okay to hold different beliefs and feel someone is wrong in a particular motive or belief, to hold a space in my mind and in my heart for the rights of others to have their own opinions is only right.  It's also okay to debate my position at times that are appropriate (which most likely excludes yoga classes and most family functions) and to choose to surround myself with people who share some of my core values. 

I am so grateful for yoga.  I love finding it first on a physical level and then to find that the physical benefits were just the tip of the iceberg.  I also love that yoga is so vast and deep a subject that no one really knows everything there is to know about yoga and I definitely will never know it all.  I do know, though, that it is my own side of the street that I am responsible.  Civil debates and concise presentations of one's opinions and beliefs is fine.  Judging and condemning is not. 

2012 will be here very soon.  I'm both excited and a bit nervous with the unknown future.  Not to dwell on the past or obsess on the future, I choose today to take what I have learned in the past and apply it to my actions by being less reactive and more proactive, less judgmental and more open-minded, and overall, more compassionate and respectful of each of our right to our own paths.  Regardless of who we vote for and the reasons behind these votes, can we find our commonalities and act for the greater-good?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...though please, this is NOT a political debate forum...so please, no campaigning or vilifying of one's beliefs on this page!  My friends and family know what I believe and I will be glad to discuss those beliefs in a private and civil manner if you'd like...just not here. 

Namaste Y'all!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Unenlightened Yogini

An unenlightened yogini.  That's what I am.  I can judge, gossip, procrastinate, cuss like a sailor, act crass, be a bitch, attempt to control others, obsess on my body and food, overeat "healthy" food, overeat junk food, harbor resentment, skip my yoga practice, stay angry, act cynical, fight with my brother(s), feel insecure, and have dark thoughts.  There...I said it.  A few months shy of turning 46.  I don't know what I thought it would look like at this point of my life.

mom, circa 1942ish, around 17 yrs old
I recall a particular picture of my mother holding me as a small child..she was probably around 43 or 44; I was 3 or 4.  She seemed so grown up..so matronly.  I'm nothing like that.  She had her hair all big and hair-sprayed and coifed and wore a conservative polyester outfit.  Mom had porcelain skin which became a trademark in my family...gracing most of the women in my family from my cousins and aunts to myself...and despite the lack of wrinkles and the youthfulness she still possessed, she had a grown up, matronly appearance.  Maybe it was the shock of having another child..me..the first girl and the youngest of four children...I can only imagine being 40 years old with a newborn and 3 boys aged 10-16.  And I thank God(dess) that today, I am the proud single-parent of one incredibly bright and wonderful adult son.
a favorite pic of my son at around age 11 or so, he threw the hammerhead back, by the way!


Fast forward over 45 years to today.  I definitely am not what mom bargained for.  I'm not what I bargained for either.  And this is not a whiny, complaining entry on my blog.  It's actually one written after a few days of tossing around some thoughts in my head and realizing I better liberate them for my own good.  

As a yoga teacher and budding holistic nutritionist, I've put myself out into the world, often feeling pretty vulnerable..naked if you will.  I hadn't planned on this.  At age 20 I thought I had uncovered my passion...and I had.  My days were filled with yard sales, flea marketing, and running my antique store..eventually stores...and for many years I was very comfortable doing so.  Not that there wasn't the drama of family, relationships, and other challenges of single motherhood, health issues and life in general.  There was.  But it was comfortable discomfort  that I figured was the way it would stay.

But since growth generally involves pushing out of one's comfort zone into a discomfort zone, and nothing is permanent, life evolved.  The twists and turns of business, relationships, motherhood, and general life challenges led me to this day.  Okay, I am not going to get all maudlin here.  In fact, I have felt stronger and more positive about the present than ever and increasingly grateful as time passes.  A lovely conversation yesterday with my friendly mail carrier, whom I've known for at least 15 years or so, brought out that gratitude even more as we discussed the beauty of the day, and caught each other up on one another's lives.  We both agreed that the adage of the glass being half full or half empty was certainly applicable in life..we create our reality despite circumstances..and then I thought, no, I said: "I just love that I truly can look at things and see my glass as being about 95% full."  And then I thought to myself how truly wonderful that is.

Hence my topic today.  Perhaps one of the things I am feeling is a sense of relief.  For years I had thought that by a certain age...let's just say 45 or so...I would have figured it out.  I would have fine tuned my life to the point of some sort of state of enlightenment.  Or at least have stopped all the habits, the thoughts, the actions, of my earlier pre-yoga-practicing-and-teaching life.  And just when I think an old habit really is an "old habit"...meaning it no longer is practiced..the toxic thought or behavior rears its ugly head and brings me back in check with that damn ego which evidently is still hanging out.  My relief lies in the realization that this is okay.  It is.

Yoga is a practice of self awareness.  It's not a practice of perfection..of "nailing" a particular asana or releasing all negative emotions.  Practicing yoga is so much deeper than a physical exercise for the body.  It's about going inside.  It's not about not having a dark or shadow side..it's about acknowledging it.  Watching the breath.  Feeling the feelings.  Processing.  Accepting.  Letting go.  

Being a yoga teacher does not make me perfect or evolved or enlightened.  It may mean I have more formal training in the principles of yoga than the average yoga practitioner who does not teach yoga.  But it doesn't mean I am no longer a student.  In fact, for me, it means I am more of a student today than I was the first time I stuck my Total Yoga VHS video in the player nearly 16 years ago to take a break from my exhausting running and workout routine that left me achy and chafed. (I still recommend this video to students who cannot make a "live" class..though I am a strong believer in classes and know that a video is no substitute for a "real" class.)  And being a student means I can learn from anyone or anything...a child, a new or seasoned yoga teacher, a stranger, a situation.  Endless possiblities.

For years, I have heard that whole "life's a journey, not a destination" thing.  It's certainly not a new concept nor my original idea.  And while I have heard it, spoken it, shared it with friends and students, and even sometimes believed it, still, my ego often edged its way inside my thoughts in attempts to tell me "sure, but one day, Lisa, you will arrive, and X will cease to be an issue for you."  I guess I hoped that somehow by wanting and wishing and doing more classes and jumping through whatever hoops life threw me, that I would be some sort of exception and reach some sort of enlightened state.

In this moment, I feel liberated.  I hereby declare I am unenlightened.  I like it here.  Before I began a dedicated yoga practice, I felt like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere...I had so much drama and negativity in my life in many ways and didn't know how to dig out of the hole I'd crawled into.  My world felt so small.  I felt stuck.  Today, I get to spend most of my time doing things I love...teaching yoga (www.pranalisa.com), researching for my thesis as I finish my holistic nutrition degree from Hawthorn University, running my online vintage jewelry business, Family Jewels (www.familyjewels.us), and, when I am really lucky, getting a few moments to connect with my son, who has grown into an amazing and bright adult.

Today, I feel very unstuck.  Yes, I still sometimes am catty, jerky, pissed off, and say or do things that probably should have been left unsaid or undone.  The cool thing is that I am not waiting anymore.  I'm here...not arrived...but I am here and I feel the pause in between my breaths....sometimes.  The world seems very big.  Scary, uncertain, unstable at times.  Yet, still, I feel in a state of surrender.  At least today.  

The world didn't end last month as Harold Camping had predicted...don't worry, he claims it's happening in October in case you're disappointed.  Regardless, even if the world does end in my lifetime, I still will trudge along, willingly, with awareness and even a bit of excitement.  With surrender, I also feel a sense of willingness and encouragement to continue on a never ending path of growth and evolution and hope I can continue to embrace the whole experience, warts and all.

Being unenlightened means no more chasing some ideal of perfection.  It means I can savor the moments, embrace the changes, find the pause, be the student, release guilt and shame and disappointment, screw up sometimes, enjoy a comfort zone then go past it a bit, and be human.  And most of all...get to just be.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

When I Know Better I Do Better



A few days ago, I came across a free online movie and after watching as much as I was emotionally capable of watching, I posted the link on my facebook page.

Earthlings Website to watch Movie for Free

From their site: 

"EARTHLINGS is a powerful and informative documentary about society’s treatment of animals, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack by Moby. This multi-award winning film by Nation Earth is a must-see for anyone who cares about animals or wishes to make the world a better place."

This is not a fun movie.  It's doubtful that many can watch this and leave feeling especially good or upbeatAlso, in the spirit of full disclosure and honesty, I want to clearly state that I am not a vegetarian nor a vegan nor does adhering to a vegan diet appear to be the healthiest choice for my own body type/biochemical individuality.  I am working on my thesis towards my certification as a holistic nutrition consultant and educator and am not suggesting that everyone on the planet adopt one particular way of eating or living.  My studies, along with my own personal journey around health, food, diet, and nutrition, have helped me to increase my awareness and form more educated opinions; however, I realize that we each have our own journeys to follow. 

For me, my mantra is simply:
When I know better, I do better.

 After posting the Earthlings movie link, comments followed ranging from making light of the movie and possibly suggesting the makers had an agenda to only "bash" the "bad" animal owners (or eaters or wearers) to simply being so sickened by the entire subject matter that they couldn't even make it through the movie trailer.  Regarding the one commenter who seemed to make light of the posting, suggesting, tongue-in-cheek I'm sure, a sequel to the movie showing graphic kindness to animals, my reply was that I felt he was missing the point and needed to acknowledge that these evils do exist here on planet Earth and rather than get defensive or flippant about the subject, perhaps gleaming some awareness and knowledge about the ugly truths that exist can lead to some positive changes. 

My response was as follows (names omitted to protect anonymity):
"Perhaps you need to ask yourself..what are YOU doing to support treating animals with respect? Do you eat out much? What criteria do you use before choosing where to eat...price, quality, sourcing of food? (Cakes and Ale, Miller Union, Sprig Restaurant..ALL places who serve as much local organic food as possible..their prices are pretty much in line with most steakhouses and the meats are generally grass fed. Farm Burger serves only grass fed animal products..a burger is $7 and up, approx...would you spend $10-$15 on a burger or would you sooner buy a cheaper burger regardless of the source to save $$??)

You ask about the "sequel" yet your comment fails to even acknowledge the problem. What is the percentage of meat that you eat that IS humanely raised? 0%? 5%? 50%? I would think that the cruelty is so prevalent that there is much more out there showing that aspect than of your "graphic kindness to animals" reference.

Yes, there IS kindness to animals too...unfortunately many people would rather remain ignorant to the truth and make jokes or stick their heads in the sand.

Again, I am not preaching veganism nor vegetarianism. I have been and am sure I still am part of the problem at times. I am simply urging people to BE AWARE and then act with knowledge and a conscious.

And by the way...many vegans are eating crap, processed, sugary, junk foods which ALSO add to the problem...Staying and getting sick is also a problem...creates the need for more drugs which in turn leads to animal testing and cruelty as well. All the soy that many vegans and vegetarians consume is horrible for our health too..genetically modified crops are doing unknown damage to our planet and its "earthlings"...

Knowledge is power. When we know better we (should) do better."


A good friend of mine made an excellent point:
"this film exists because people do not want to pay attention,the trailor is so profoundly heartbreaking that if everybody actually watched it, and allowed themselves to feel the horror, these practices could no longer continue...it is our c...omplacency that has created this shameful nightmare...I agree with you Lisa, and do my very best to buy humanely raised meat, but it is also very hard to know for sure. We stopped eating red-meat-mammals a few years ago because I couldn't be sure..."


The movie covered many more subjects than simply what we are eating.  It approached animals in general, including the human ones...all of us inhabitants of the Earth:  Earthlings...and how we treat one another..from the homeless animal situation to how we get leather...factory farming was just one of many parts the movie touched upon.

On my facebook page, I also included a link to an article about a "good slaughter":



I actually severed a friendship as a result of that posting from a friend who failed to see my point, which was to punctuate the difference in how a factory farm animal is so inhumanely raised and slaughtered, versus a more humane, in my opinion, way to end an animal's life...a way that minimizes the pain and suffering.  He not only vilified slaughtering any animal for consumption...which, to be honest, I certainly understand that point of view and do not personally embrace the idea that I eat, though minimally, some animal sources of food...but he also vilified people who were not vegetarians as well. However, he had no problem with consuming factory farmed dairy products, citing religious reasons, and he refused to acknowledge that most dairy cows live short, miserable, cramped lives hooked up to machines while the males end up becoming veal since they are not needed. 

One of my favorite comments was this one:
"Kudos for a "change in consciousness!" We all gotta start somewhere! And that localharvest.org link rocks. You can find a CSA, there, too. ☼"

Basically, we all have effects to others around us, humans and non-humans. And it's a fact that cruelty exists in the world and it probably is not going to cease to exist in this moment.  However, being open to possibilities, becoming educated, aware, and proactive, can all lead to positive change.  It may be tiny baby steps...just pick something..anything...that you are willing to do that can be an act of kindness, fairness, compassion.  I have one friend who volunteers at animal shelters.  I have many friends who are strictly vegetarian and/or vegan, some who only allow themselves to eat fish, and still others who not only hock family heirlooms to pay for surgeries for rescue dogs, but also avoid eating or wearing any animal products.

Me? I have three rescue animals and avoid factory farmed animal products.  I eat a predominantly plant based diet and I work at knowing where my food comes from...I do not eat fast food and eat out rarely.  I do what I am willing to do for now and as I learn more and become more mindful and aware, I'm sure what I am willing to do to make a difference, ever so small, will change.

What can you do NOW to be part of the SOULution?


Saturday, May 7, 2011