Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the Surface

It's been what seems like forever since I last wrote many great topics have fluttered through my mind.  My monkey much so, that I haven't been able to latch onto one theme long enough to feel fuly inspired.  Today, however, I some thoughts finally seemed to congeal somewhat.  So here I am.

In the current political climate, which seems increasingly intertwined with religious and core values, science, and basic personality differences, I find myself often vacillating somewhere between a pure yogic state of serenity and non judgment to downright frustration and even anger.  I strive to be of service to others and have more than tolerance....compassion and acceptance.

I'm successful at these intentions most of the time.  And I am human and my ego shows up at times too.  Yes, I'm very much human.  I admit it...sometimes my opinions shift all the way over to judgment...not a very enlightened state of being, to say the least.

I recently engaged in a discussion with someone who proclaimed authoritatively that buying organic food was a luxury and someone who received government assistance should not be able to enjoy such a luxury.  As someone pursuing my holistic nutritional consultant certification as well as a liberal minded individual with much more left than right leaning tendencies, I view an organic diet not only as an individual's right, but as a way to be healthier, thus reducing potential medical expenses in the long run.  Furthermore, I don't think it is anyone's right make that decision for someone else whether or not that person is on welfare or food assistance.  Whatever it may appear like on the surface is not the whole story.  Other recent debates included judgments of a woman buying electric curlers who was also on welfare and a medicaid patient with gold teeth.  My feeling?  I'm not them...I don't know their story nor is it my business. If people are allowed to decide what is a luxury or a maximum limit to a particular item, then who sets the limits and at what amounts?  Do I get to vote on what kind of car or home someone gets to own if they are also receiving some sort of financial aid from the government?

Not only do I feel it is wrong to be judgmental and view others on the surface appearances, I also am willing to be a compassionate and open minded citizen who would hopefully be compassionate and understanding.  My father instilled a sense of the Golden Rule in me from a very young age and it always stayed with me.  I certainly am not above needing help myself one day, and I hope others can give me a chance if so.

I have strong convictions with these thoughts...these opinions.  They are core values of mine and while i want them to be respected, I also have to extend that same respect and work towards non-judgment towards those who don't agree.  It's simple really...though darn, for is not always easy!

I view much (maybe most; maybe all?) of life as a test.  And all experiences, situations, and people with whom I come into contact are generally all there for some sort of reason or learning experience.  Friends, old and new, housemates, fellow yoga practitioners and teachers, acquaintances...all little life lessons in the making.  Being vulnerable despite the potential pain...going out of my comfort zone only to reset that zone.  One lesson I've learned is that it is generally not about me;  in fact, I think I'll be so bold as to say it is definitely not about me.  I think often many of us, myself included, often only look at the surface of a person or situation.  It's natural.  Checking out the book cover to see if you want to read the book. Judging.  It applies to so much and most people are guilty of it.  Recent discussions on a political nature have made it even clearer to me how people judge.  And rather than point my finger at them to somehow elevate my own ego, which, by the way, is damn tempting, I have to pause and realize that this is simply a mirror for my own judgmental nature.

A recent housemate and I, who sometimes clashed due to, in my opinion, our similarities rather than our differences, taught me much about respecting others' paths to their own growth and enlightenment.  It showed me that I don't have to defend or fight so much to get my viewpoint across (no matter how right I may think I am)...they deserve their own path, as do I.  We each have our own story, our own history and experiences which shape us, so how dare I be so arrogant as to assume my mindset is superior.  If we could only look at people and somehow see a bit beneath the surface...their pain, their story...then maybe the judgments or simple "tolerance" would cease...and compassion and acceptance would prevail.

Years ago when I had an antiques store, a group of people walked in.  When I happily greeted them, they seemed to ignore me.  My immediate reaction was to judge them as rude and inconsiderate people.  Then they turned around and I could see that they were deaf and were signing at each other rather than talking.  I remember thinking then how wrong I was to be so quick to assume the worse...making this about me and how it affected my feelings, without even knowing the whole situation.  So, when the guy who pulled out in front of me in traffic the other day started honking at me, even though clearly I was already in the road and certainly not in the wrong...rather than get upset, I instantly looked a little beneath the surface of the situation and figured that maybe he had a rough day, a fight with his wife or coworker, a sick kid...something.  But it definitely was not about me.

I recently contacted two old and dear friends who I'd had partings with.  I stuck out an olive branch and neither responded.  I can't say I know what's beneath the surface...and I cannot say a different outcome would have been desirable to me.  I can, however, say that I did my part and have to leave the rest to the universe.  And it's not about me.

I think we all judge at times.  For me, the answer to stopping with the judging of others is to first stop with the judging and comparing of ourselves.  Then the compassion comes in.  And acceptance.  And the willingness to acknowledge that below the surface, things often tell a very different story than the initial view.  Will you take a moment to pause to allow that process?  Will you find compassion within for yourself?  If not, how can you find it for others?  We each have our own paths to follow.....


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Pink Elephant in The Room

Greetings.  I debated writing about this in light of the current Breast Cancer Awareness month, but I just could not remain silent any longer.  I get it.  Breast cancer.  The big "C".  I know that according to statistics, about one in every eight woman in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. I'm 45...I have been out with girlfriends and thought that in our group, it would be a rare thing if at least one of us didn't have to personally address this diagnosis.

So, for years, we have walked, run, purchased products with pink ribbons, worn pink ribbons, donated time and money and energy in efforts to "Race for the Cure" or at least, increase awareness.  While i respect and agree with the idea of increasing awareness and perhaps even eliminating breast cancer entirely, I cannot simply sit idly at the sidelines anymore.  I've raced and raised money.  I have the T shirt to prove it.  But no longer. 

It's October, the traditional month for breast cancer awareness, and this year I want to increase awareness of the "pink scam" that has been going on for years.  Not only do the many companies who place a cute little pink ribbon on their products in efforts to "increase awareness", while simply pocketing the revenue, nothing going towards actual research; but the actual companies who are behind the breast cancer industry is run by pharmaceutical companies and corporations who PROFIT by breast cancer treatments.   And don't even get me started on the crazy campaign regarding Kentucky Fried Chicken and their "Pink Bucket" , who, with Susan B Komen are teaming up..ironic how it is overlooked that the toxic, inhumanely raised chemical laden chickens, deep fried, pesticide laden non-food like substances sold by KFC are very likely some of the contributing factors to the ever growing epidemic of breast cancer in our society.  Yes, I admit it: this pisses me off.

I was recently in the waiting room at my mom's geriatric doctor's office and noticed a magazine, sponsored by a mainstream medical association, which focused on breast health and cancer.  While mentions of self examinations, mammograms and drugs where made, not  one  mention of contributing factors such as phtalates, excitotoxins, pesticides, diet or holistic treatments (alternative or integratitive) were to be found. 

I think it is terrific to be aware, concerned, and proactive; I just think we have been duped as a society into donating a lot of time and money to hypocritical companies which are not only adding to the contributing factors of breast cancer, but also who have a conflict of interest and make their money by selling drugs to treat breast cancer.  The focus and money needs to go to breast cancer..or make that just plain cancer prevention and corporations like Ford, major drug companies, and KFC should be seen for what they really are: profit driven giants whose intentions are simply misguided and possibly even harmful.

OK....I'll shut up.  For now. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Always the Student (or...Countdown to the Big 5-0..only 3 wks/5 Years to Go!)

The more I know the less I know.  Profound, eh?  In a few short weeks, I will have finished my 45th circle around the sun. other words, I'll be hitting that ambiguous man made secular calendar year of 45 years old.  This is not what I thought 45 would be like...then again, since my memory serves, I cannot say I ever had an accurate perception...or preconception...of a particular way to be based on my belly button birth. In case you're wondering who the sexy broad in the picture is, it is Pearl, my mom, who will turn 85 4 days after my birthday.  Oh...she's the one on the left.

One function of birthdays is to allow an individual to reflect on his or her life...decisions, directions, milestones, mistakes, progress, lessons, ups and downs, fond and not so fond memories.  While I don't place a tremendous amount of focus on my birthday and haven't for quite some years, still, every September, I find myself taking a bit of an inventory on life, relationships and family.  This year, as I approach the middle of this fourth decade of being in this body, I cannot help but feel a rush of energy, excitement even, at the possibilities and flow I've been experiencing.

So, rather than waxing endlessly, searching for profound slogans and groundbreaking revelations, I'll cut right to what's on my mind, citing a few of the lessons and insights that have made or are making an impact on my life today.  I write this for myself...your results may vary. 

1: Every person or situation can be a great opportunity for me to learn and grow, even when it doesn't seem so at first.

2: It really is a journey and not a destination.

3: I love being at a point in my life where I get to become more aware.  All changes and growth must first be preceded by awareness.

4: Friends and family are important and I am so grateful for the loving people I have in my life who provide me with a safety net.

5: Having compassion for those less fortunate...those without a safety net of friends and family, a gift.

6: I love my body, not for being perfect, but for being perfectly imperfect...and strong and healthy and powerful...and for giving my spirit and soul a place to live for all these years.  Bodies change and I am not my body.

7:  I am not my thoughts either.

8:  I am learning to be a better listener.  This is a good thing. 

9:  Debating or judging those who do not subscribe to the same values as I is like banging my head against the ground in hopes of curing my's futile and counterproductive.  (yes, I made that up...In love)

10: I'd rather be remembered for my acts of compassion and kindness than anything else...washboard abs, tons of moolah in the bank, or performing some amazing "perfect" yoga pose is awesome...but all pales compared to just being a nice person who treats others with respect and dignity and service.  

11: Sometimes I act with the maturity of a 12 year old.  I can live with that.

12: Being human and sometimes forgetting all the things above is okay.  It means I am human.  It means I am still learning.  Even when I think I am not learning, I usually find out I am anyway.

13: Beating myself up for falling into behaviors that don't serve me doesn't serve me.  And beating myself for beating myself is not necessary either.

My monkey mind is still wandering, so I will stop for now...besides, 13 is a lucky number!  There's so much more, but sometimes, less is more (oooh, that could be #14) .  But my school studies and yoga mat calls.  It's a lovely overcast Sunday in Decatur, a hint of autumn in the air...complete with a sleeping cat, a couple of lazy mutts, a new friend/housemate who inspires me, and tons of possibilities for the moment. 

                              ૐ                   ☮ 
PS:  Mark your calendars for September 2015 for my big 5-0...there will be a yoga class as a gift to all my friends plus food, fun, and love donations to be accepted for the charity or organization of your choice.  Reminders will be sent as the date approaches. Namaste

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Family Ties: Uncle Sol

So I am sitting here thinking it is time to write something on my blog, trying to think of something incredibly poignant or clever or funny...something.  Oh sure, when I'm running errands or in a yoga class or walking down the street, all sorts of witty and insightful thoughts pass by, and by the time I get to a computer or to an archaic pencil and paper, the thoughts have passed into oblivion.

It's July.  Hot as hell in Atlanta.  Possibly quite literally...not that I subscribe to the belief of the existence of hell anyway, at least not in the biblical or religious dad always told me we create our own heaven and hell right here on this Earth during our lives.  I tend to agree.  I've been to this hell...the one of my own creation...gratefully, I survived and am back to tell the story.  I've actually been meaning to write for a while, but the words have evaded me.  Maybe I have too many things going on in my life, or not enough, or I'm truly the unofficially-diagnosed ADD child I've joked of being for so long.  No matter...I'm here.  Now.  And really, that's all that matters.

A couple of weeks ago, my 90 year old uncle, a true patriarch of my family and someone I truly thought would live forever, or at least a few more years, went to the hospital to have tests run, and he never left...Sunday he was joking and playing poker with his family from his hospital bed; Wednesday he took a turn for the worse after contracting a staph infection and never came back.  He died late Wednesday night.  Uncle Sol was one of three of my mother's brothers, and the last one still alive until this past June.  The oldest of 3 boys, Sol outlived George (nicknamed Gorgeous George due to his movie star good looks) by only about 2 months and Max (Uncle Maxie to those who knew and loved him, my mother's twin), who died a week shy of his 80th birthday September 2005.  Sol and George were only about 14 months or so apart in age; George would have been 89 years old had he lived one more week. 

Mom's brothers were all pretty cool and amazing guys...a dying breed of man from the greatest generation.  Mom was the youngest of 5 kids: Aunt Ann was the oldest, then Sol and George, then came Uncle Max and mom, the babies of the family.  Ann and Sol were both born in Warsaw, Poland and moved to the United States right around the end of WW1...George and the twins were born on US soil.  Ann and mom are the only surviving siblings now, both in Atlanta.  Ann is 95; mom's 84. 

There was no "old money" in my fact, I am guessing that until the 1950s or so there was little money to speak of.  Being the baby child of a baby child, I have never been privy to all the details and history of our family; however, as I am getting older, information continues to unravel little by little.  I do know that their mother, my grandmother, had a very severe form of asthma and at age 39, she died, leaving behind the 5 year old twins and the 3 adolescents.  The older kids were pretty independent by the time my grandfather remarried, adding a step sister to the picture.  Aunt Anita was only 3 years old when she joined the family; mom and Max were 11...aunt Ann was already in her early 20s and had begun her own family here in the south. 

From all accounts, my step grandmother, Anita's mom, was not a very nice woman to her step kids.  My mother, a very impressionable 11 year old girl who probably needed a loving mother the most at this stage of her life, suffered the brunt of her step mom's cold treatment.  From what I hear, one reason of my step-grandmother's "evil step mom" ways could have been that she was unaware of the existence of the twin children...that fact had been hidden from her...until right before she married my grandfather...quite a rude awakening, if you ask me, and while I don't excuse her for being so mean to my mom, I can understand the resentment she may have had to feel tricked into raising not just her own child, but two more.  Family life was far from calm and after a painful adolescence, in 1942, at the age of 17,  mom quit high school, moved to Atlanta to live with Aunt Ann and work as a secretary.  It was a different era, and while mom never finished school, she entered the workplace and developed skills that would later enable her to be the vice president and bookkeeper of her and my dad's business.  Mom was an expert at shorthand and typing, and until I was well into my thirties, I had no idea that she was self taught; if I could, I would award her an honorary high school diploma and maybe even a college degree!

Raised in New York during the depression, children of Polish and Russian immigrants, all the boys went on to serve in the U.S. military during WW2, as well as to be hard working and dedicated family men.   After the war, Uncle George and Uncle Maxie stayed in New York and became electricians, while Uncle Sol headed south and created a life in Atlanta.    According to his own autobiography, Sol was tired of working for others, and in 1955, he and his wife began their own business, a mattress and juvenile products factory, in Atlanta.  Colgate is still a family owned business and a true American success story. 

All men were true examples of self made hard working guys, exemplifying what it meant to practice a strong work ethic, and while they may not have seemed so warm and fuzzy at times on the outside, being their niece, I saw their soft sides on many occasions throughout their lives. Any gruffness was immediately balanced out by their senses of humor and loving hearts...always.

I loved (and still love) all my uncles, however, it is Uncle Sol with whom I was closest.  Uncle Sol and his family lived in the same neighborhood as us, so I grew up going to his house and seeing him pretty regularly.  Unlike my mom, who was pretty anchored to her home and Atlanta, my uncle and his wife (also an Aunt Ann...she passed several years ago), were avid travelers.  So I would frequently go to their house and help them arrange the latest travel pictures in their photo albums, living vicariously through them as I viewed images of foreign lands.  I remember once going to a birthday party at about age 8 or 9 or was one of those pottery places where you get a little ceramic figurine and paint it...and I brought home a little dog figure that I painted brown with blue spots.  I immediately thought of Uncle Sol and his wife to be the recipients of my masterpiece.  For many years, they proudly displayed this ugly little dog on their shelf, along with prized souvenirs and family photos.  Sol and his wife, Ann, had a way of always making me feel special, heard, and loved...and often at times when I needed that kind of affirmation the most.

When I was 16 and somewhat of a "wild child"...and that is putting it mildly...after nearly killing myself and breaking all kinds of bones in my body, my Uncle Sol was more than upset and verbalized this to me.  At the time, I was a bit pissed, to be honest...I thought he was out of line and should mind his own business.  In later years, I grew to be grateful that he cared enough to be concerned and was bold enough to speak up.  When I was 23, I was unmarried and pregnant, and instead of voicing any judgments or disappointments to me, Uncle Sol took on a fatherly role (my dad had passed away when I was 20) and in his generosity, provided me with all sorts of baby necessities for his great-nephew to be.  Crib mattress, pads, etc... When Alex was born, Uncle Sol handed me a plain envelope with a few crisp $100 bills at the bris.  He said very little other than "Here...this may come in handy" or something like that..I don't really remember.  What I do remember is feeling so loved and grateful, overwhelmed with this generosity to the point of tears. Happy tears.  It was years later before I really made the connection of my uncles actions and his patriarchal role, which he took on lovingly and willingly. 

When I received the call a couple of weeks ago from one of my brothers to get mom to the hospital quickly since things looked very grim for Uncle Sol, I was a bit put off.  After all, Uncle Sol, in the past several years, had many medical issues crop up, and to be honest, he was such a trooper, I didn't believe that this was "it".  In fact, to be completely truthful, I'd taken it for granted that my uncle would just be there whenever I wanted.  I'd actually missed out seeing him on many occasions, to my regret, simply by adopting that mentality and not fully realizing the concept that one day I wouldn't have the luxury of just popping over to his place or to a family function to see him.  So, that fateful Wednesday, mom and I canceled our plans and raced to the hospital.  It was to be the last time mom and I saw Uncle Sol. 

When we arrived at my Uncle's room, it was quite a teary and sad scene.  Surrounded by his children, he was barely lucid, yet physically agitated by the CPAP machine he was hooked to, and probably a good deal of pain as well.  My cousins quickly welcomed my brothers and I into his room, and one cousin even stepped aside and allowed me to take my uncle's hand for a few moments.  I've rarely felt so honored to share such an intimate time, albeit sad, with a family member, and the importance of family became even clearer to me in that moment.  During that hour or so that I spent with my family, there were many tears, yet there was also smiles and laughter, as we spoke to uncle Sol and to one another and reminisced about various incidents.  We shared stories ranging from my telling my cousin just how important and special her parents were to me, and how I am still blown away by their love and generosity to Uncle Sol's avid love for poker and his dismal driving skills.  We laughed as we looked around...all of us cousins from our mid 40s to early 60s...and joked about how despite Uncle Sol's crazy driving, somehow we all survived to be able to tell the story that day. 

I left to teach an outdoor yoga class that evening.  Somehow it seemed symbolically perfect when, about two thirds of the way through class, the skies opened up and rain poured down over myself and my 6 students.  No one was like tears of simultaneous joy and sadness washing us all...and for me...cleansing me a bit of any thoughts that were not serving me in that moment.  Sol died later on that night. 

That Friday morning, in the sweltering Atlanta heat, more than a 100 (I am estimating) friends and family members gathered to share in what was a truly beautiful funeral service.  I thought I knew everything about my Sol, until I heard my cousins share with all of us some true gems about my uncle.  I learned that when he had his factory, there was no aspect of the work that he didn't do, and he commonly was on the factory floor working alongside with the lowest wage earners, never viewing himself as being "above" a job needing done.  I also learned that despite segregation laws in the 1950s south, he refused to have special "whites only" bathrooms at the factory.  He treated everyone equally simply because that was the way it should be.  As I allowed tears to flow and offered a comforting hand on my mother's shoulder, watching her as she watched her last surviving brother be put to rest, I also looked around and saw not just relatives and family friends, but factory workers and their children, some as young as 3 or 4 yrs old, all rallying around to say good bye.  It was evident, that the employees felt a connection to my uncle which went beyond obligation or respect...they were also considered to be extensions of the family. 

I know that it is very common to not really appreciate what we have until it is gone...  Today that is very evident to me. While I didn't see my uncle too much the past few years since he moved to a senior community, I always knew he was fairly close by. That window of opportunity to see him has passed, yet instead of regret, I truly am grateful for the times I did get to see him, as well as for the legacy he left in this world.  Sol's kids, grandkids and great grandkids continue to carry on the tradition of hard work, generosity and love that my uncle instilled on them...not to mention his nephews and nieces and our children who were all lucky enough to be impacted by him.  When Uncle Sol's wife, my Aunt Ann, was quite sick and suffering from advanced alzheimers, Sol, already in his 80s and having his own medical issues, was patient and selfless in his undying love and care for Ann.  His main concern was that he die first and her be scared and alone.  This is the kind of man my uncle was...he put the well being of his family first, before himself, and always worked to make things better for those around him. 

If I had just known Solomon Wolkin without being related to him, I would still be grateful; however, being so lucky as to be his niece and to have the memories and influence of my Uncle Sol in my life makes me truly wealthy indeed.  Rest in peace Uncle.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bodies Change and I am Not My Body (rinse/repeat) and other Musings...

So as I was driving down the road yesterday I allowed a woman in a Buick LeSabre to turn in front of me, waving her along with a friendly smile and a "go ahead" hand gesture.  I immediately noticed her personalized license plate indicating its owner evidently had some basic core beliefs that were the polar opposite of mine. It triggered some little gears and wheels inside of my head...flashes of concepts of letting go, being open minded, compassionate, accepting, tolerant even.  The little message on the tag wasn't one of anger or was a simple little flower with a two word statement, that actually, was I to dissect these two words, there was nothing controversial or seemingly negative about it.  Together, though, this two-word-yet-complete-sentence cut right through a basic core belief of mine.  And being the socially liberal "live and let live" kinda girl I am, there's a part of me that just wants to shake someone who doesn't agree with my stance on this issue and explain to him or her why their belief is just not right. 

But really, is it liberal to have such an open mind that I would be angry or intolerant of those who didn't agree with me?  And is it even liberal to simply be "tolerant"...why would I need to tolerate?  How about just to accept and absorb the fact that each person has their own way of thinking, of believing, or being guided and shaped by their life and experience? 

So I smiled inside, a big inner grin..and I let go.  Sure, I physically allowed this woman in her Buick pass by me..and so you know, I am not rendering judgement on the Le Sabre...just mentioning it to add details to my posting...I actually own a '96 Buick Le Sabre and LOVE it.  I also began to let go to some old beliefs that I somehow needed others to agree with me.  It dawned on me that it's taken me a while to get to this point and that really, that need was not based in a genuine desire to help others in their journeys of enlightenment along with mine, nor was it to make the world a better place.  It was rooted in my own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. 

I'm not saying I no longer have those issues.  I believe most people wrestle with a lack of self esteem or self worth at times..some more than others.  I was one of the "more than others" types myself.  For a long time.  And it led to some pretty poor decisions and crooked paths towards where I really wanted to be.  But somehow, I ended up here.  And here is good. 

I'm currently 3 1/2 years into my holistic nutrition studies in what was supposed to be a 2 year program.  Granted, last year after I completed an intensive 200 hour yoga teacher training in Pranakriya Yoga (a lineage started by Yoganand (Michael) Carroll based on Swami Kripalu's teachings), I pretty much took a year off to hone my skills as a teacher and focus more on building up my Pranalisa Yoga studio and business.  I'm a firm believer that in general, there is no such thing as wasted time.  I do believe, however, that part of my procrastination, besides the usual fears of change or of going outside of my comfort zone, is an underlying issue of a feeling of inadequacy...of wondering..."what can I possibly have to contribute that is different or as good as what is already out there?" 

So today, my focus, and I do have one...kinda sorta.  Is to cultivate a sense of self worth...with that comes so much more.  The "good enough" feeling goes hand in hand with self worth, as does self esteem, confidence, and even a sense of knowing that it's truly an inside job.  It's about time...I'm about 3 months away from turning 45, and I am ready now to accept things about life and growing older AND growing up emotionally and spiritually.  For so long I worked from the outside in...and really it never worked.  I was kicking and screaming and stomping my feet in efforts to control and sway....other people's opinions or actions, outcomes and results, my body and mind, hell...maybe even the weather or other such things that truly cannot be least not by me. 

Today, I remind myself...bodies change and I am not my body.  Nor am I my thoughts.  And it has to start within me in order to evolve and mature.  It's an act of surrender and of self love and the knowledge that things are unfolding in the exact manner in which they are supposed to unfold.  Today I remind myself, especially as I teach yoga students, practice my own yoga asanas, meet with a practice client for school, and go about my day, that I indeed have something to contribute and am not being measured or compared to anyone...even myself.

Breathing in the possibilities...releasing that which does not serve me or the universe.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Sometimes I find when I'm walking or dreaming or engaged in yoga postures or some other sort of potentially (and hopefully) meditative state, my brain will go a mile a minute with all sorts of ideas, revelations, conclusions, and other ground breaking (at least they seem ground breaking at the time) thoughts.  And then, due to my own amnesiac mind, as quickly as they'd floated through my consciousness, my incredibly insightful, wise original mantra or amazingly funny joke or cutting edge invention or the answer to one of life's little riddles vaporizes back into the ether of my mind.  It's happened so often I am neither surprised nor disappointed anymore.

So I started this blog, in part, as a means to capture some of these little pearls before they slip back into oblivion, gleaming whatever it is I am meant to gleam and sharing it with anyone who happens to come across my writings.  I'm very humble regarding whatever wisdom I may have to impart upon myself and/or others.  I mean's not like I have extensive education or some sort of intuitive gift or healing powers or insight. I'm not from a long lineage of natural healers or yogis or especially sensitive or proactive least not that I know fact, I often step back in amazement at how paths take certain directions, mine included.

I am the product of Russian and Polish Jewish immigrant grandparents who produced my parents: a depression era WW2 veteran dad, and a mom who never even finished high school due to family issues that she has never really completely divulged with me.  My parents were in their 40s when I was traveled, mom didn't drive, and my 3 older brothers were nearly all adults.  I was a 1965 baby raised like a baby boomer in some ways, though really, I always felt "in between" generations.  Too old to be Generation X...whatever that is...and too young to be a real boomer kid.

My parents didn't know what to do with brothers were raised in a different era...the 50s and 60s...and here I was, the little "princess" my mom had hoped for one day...who became a wild hippie-disco-punker-grown-up-wannabe by about the age of 12.  Definitely not what they'd bargained for.  By the age of 13 or 14, most my friends were in their late teens, even early twenties, and I was enjoying the club scene of Atlanta in the 1970s.  Age 15, my beau was 24...graduated a year and a half early in 1982 at the impressionable age of 16, moved in with the beau, and began college a month before my 17th birthday.   I was a little chubby, frizzy haired Jewish girl who dropped out of Hebrew school by age 8 or so, battled with body image and food issues from as early as I remember, and always felt displaced somehow.  If I had to pinpoint an overlying feeling from around age 7 to my mid teens, it would be that I just wanted to hurry up and be a grown up.  So that's what I least to some degree.

To spare the reader (are you out there...anyone?) all the (sometimes/often sordid) details...somewhere along the way, I went from this kid acting out and hanging out with all the "old" 20 something year olds to being a middle age woman with an adult kid in college living a pretty simple and, for the most part, a calm and quiet, non-drama-filled life.  Just as my parents probably thought, as I was going through my wild years, "where did this kid come from?"....I often wonder, after my own tumultuous (at times) past and my many less than optimal decisions, how I ended up with the amazingly intelligent, level headed son who has graced me with his existance.  I do have a feeling my wonderment has a bit more of a positive slant than that of my parents.  If my father was still alive, I'm sure I'd feel compelled to express my gratitude for his patience and support as well as seek ways to make amends for all those gray hairs I am certain I helped produce. 

So here I am...officially a "grown up"...nearly 45 years old.  Being a grown up, and actually acting like one, of course, are two entirely separate matters.  I admit it...while I may not throw tantrums or whine or cry or obsess over things as I may have done as a child...often my first thought IS to do those things.  Luckily the "grown up" status hits me, and all the events, thoughts, decisions, and experiences that happened to this point, help me to actually act more prudently or at least come from a place of awareness and miindfulness.  I may be compassionate and patient today, at least more often than not; however, it's not always my first thought.'s not even always my second or third thought either.

In the past several weeks, I have witnessed the birth and growth and departure of baby robins, spent time with my son for what felt like a nanosecond before I said goodbye to him as he left for Europe for the summer, enjoyed all the lovely blooms of hydrangeas, rhododendrons, mums, gardenias, lilies, peonies, bee balm, asters,  the shared organic produce from my friends next door, had a very negative and somewhat scary altercation in traffic with a very large male county worker, taught a lot of yoga classes, enjoyed my friends' wedding, made progress towards finishing my studies towards my holistic nutrition consultant certification, said good bye and, to be honest, with all due respect, good riddance to a housemate, and adopted a beautiful orange tabby cat whom I named Leonidas (also the name of some amazing Belgian chocolates).

My story is far from unique or unusual..other than the fact that it's mine and no one else's.  And during the flow (hence the title for this blog post...flow is both a noun and a verb in this context), a few themes have cropped into my mind....not necessarily original or new and definitely not especially wise or ground breaking...just helpful to me in the moment. my current facebook status recently stated: things just always seem to work out...even when it doesn't seem that way at the moment.  Another, when a situation comes up that is unnerving or upsetting, rarely is it a lasting feeling or really more than a "blip" once it can be simply observed...this is what I experienced after the traffic situation.  Still another...if I actually practice the act of compassion and patience, I can view someone in an entirely different light. Again, in regards to the road-rage incident...I discovered this employee was retiring about an hour after we had our heated interaction.  Evidently, he was a live wire and had many years of frustration and energy to dump...I happened to be there at the time and really, it had little to do with me.  I wish him the best...I really do.

A couple more pearls before my amnesia sets back in...worrying is a worthless medium, anger is not productive (though acknowledging it, processing and releasing is imperative in order to move on), and a smile can change the world.

Oh yeah...for today...I AM enough. see if any of the blueberries have ripened in the aftermath of a rainy and sunny weekend. be continued.....
Alex (in the booth) and a friend in London 
Leonidas: here a week and thinks he owns the place.
he does
 a few days after being born and before flying away...happens so fast!
I think one of these babies is residing in the backyard.
loveliest hydrangea I've seen in recent memory

Friday, May 28, 2010


For quite some time now, I've been thinking about writing about litter...aka...trash.  For the past 15 years or so, I've been walking or jogging through my little city.  From the beginning, I couldn't help but notice the trash that littered the streets.  While I am sure Decatur is not the worse example of the negative impact of humans' disrespect..yes, I said disrespect...of our environment; however, it can be disturbing to see the speckling of wrappers, bottles, cans, and containers starkly in contrast to the seasonal delights of nature.  Amidst the cherry blossom and dogwood trees, a beef jerky wrapper or crushed McDonald's cup..or, as I also personally observed this morning, lovely hydrangeas, gardenias, honeysuckle bushes, punctuated with Skittle and Snicker wrappers, a Capri Sun pouch, and a few nondescript plastic and styrofoam remnants.  I can't help but feel a bit saddened at their sight.

Without delving to deeply into the anthropological or sociological implications of the types of litter I witness, I cannot help but notice that, in my own personal observation from over a decade and a half of traveling through my city, 90% or more of the waste I see is less-than-favorable food food.  It appears to me that those willing to trash the outside environment may also be less mindful when it comes how they treat their insides.  Let's just say I have never found a organic chips or raw fruit/nut bar wrappers lining my path in all the years I've been mindful enough to notice. 

Also, I am not claiming to be without fault or responsibility myself...I know I've added to this problem in my past at some point or another.  However, once I became mindful of how I treated my body on the inside, I also become mindful of how I treat the world outside of my body.  When we know better, we DO better.  What I began, many years ago...when not running late for work or an appointment, was to make picking up litter a sort of exercise and game.  I am not claiming to have had the sole intention of cleaning up the universe...I must admit that my initial motivation stemmed from my own obsessive compulsive nature and a desire for a few more squats as part of my exercise routine.  I don't think that really matters, though...after all, the only reason I began doing yoga was for the yoga butt, not peace nor stillness. 

Intentions aside, while walking home this morning after teaching my regular Friday 6am hot yoga class, I began to think about the issue of litter and steps we can all take to be part of the solution.  Here are a few steps that we can make in order to turn what appears to be mindLESSness into mind-FULL-ness:

  • Awareness...notice your surroundings in your neighborhood, even if it is just the street in front of your own home.
  • Move...if you've not already implemented a walking or jogging regimen, begin one, even if just for 5-10 minutes a day, 2-3 days a week.  Start where you are and build from there.  Do squats or lunges each time you lean down to pick up trash.
  • Action...when you set out upon your walk or jog, make a goal of picking up at least one piece of trash.
  • Share ...tell friends and neighbors or make a game or contest out of numbers of items picked up or perhaps on who can find the weirdest or funniest or most interesting discarded object(s).
  • Be safe...careful of what you pick up...wear gloves if needed or just leave any item in question.
  • Expand...allow this mindfulness and PRO-activity to grow into other areas of your life...begin composting or recycling if you've not already done so.  Use less, need less, walk more..know that less IS more.  One thing I began doing is using less napkins or reusing a napkin if it wasn't soiled.
Change begins with awareness and from there, the possibilities are endless.  If every person picked up just one piece of litter a day, the world would be less polluted.  I know there are still landfills and waste and a pile of plastic and trash in the ocean the size of Texas.  There is no such thing as perfection.  It's a start, however, so why not?  Sometimes I make it part of my squats or lunges for that day and call it a work out.  Other days I decide that for my half mile or so jaunt, I'll focus on even a modicum of tidiness on my side of the street and recycle what I can from that day's "loot."  Maybe I am just a nut, but you know...even if it is only a small area or if it gets trashed again the next day...just feels good.  Maybe, just maybe, a little proactivity can be a fine example for others too....who knows, this could be the next trendy thing!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Midlife Musings

I realize as a yoga teacher and student, part of my journey to to seek, or at least gravitate towards self awareness and maybe, just day...enlightenment.  Well, I have never felt as if I am an old soul, so over time, I have let go of the illusion of being able to control where I one day "end up" while enlightenment may happen one day, I truly work towards just doing the best I can.

So far so good.  Not that I have such a good track record of decision making...but who's counting?  I made a comment a little while ago in response to a longtime friend regarding her musings about our paths that we've taken and expectations that I had never really expected to "...survive all the crap I created".    Key words...I created...

I created a life for myself and son that I had never imagined nor expected.  Not that I take a bunch of credit, mind you.  Through a series of some pretty screwy decisions along with some really superb ones, I am here.  It's not been pretty at fact, it's been quite ugly many times. 

But so far...I have survived the crap.  Even more importantly, I have friends and family whom I love and live me back, and I get to spend a majority of my time doing things which bring me and others joy.  Still though, there's crap here and there....I am currently in the longest 2 yr holistic nutrition program known to mankind (about 3.5 yrs now) and have lots of issues focusing and studying; I have some health issues as a result of some pretty poor decisions from 25 yrs ago; I lose patience with my mom; I get angry and judgmental at times too.  Oh...and I have "issues"...with food, thoughts, and addictive tendencies in general. 

Cool thing is that I am open to the possibilities of life without all the defects.  Not that it will ever be defect-free...just that there is a silver lining.  Over the years, between discovering yoga and getting older and maturing, humility guides me more than my ego.  Which brings me to my impetus for writing this morning: my perception of the self righteousness of a few with whom I have recently come into contact.  More specifically, I had an interaction with a few who are vegetarians who appear to be quite judgmental of anyone who is not. 

Don't get me wrong...I think it is awesome for people to abstain from eating animals for reasons of social consciousness and their own morals and values.  I don't especially like the idea of living creatures dying for any reason....even when watching a National Geographic special when a hyena or a lion captures its prey and a feeding frenzy ensues.  I feel for the animal who was captured.  For years, in my early to mid 30s, in fact, I adopted a raw vegan diet.  No animal products at all...and taking it to the next level, nothing cooked or heated over about 110°....not to mention the fact that I also refrained from gluten, flour, fermented foods (like tofu and soy), sugar, and certain vegetables and fruits.  I loved the food that I did allow myself...perhaps too much.  Despite the fact that most people get very slim eating a raw vegan diet, I binged on raw "uncookies" and other raw desserts, raw sprouted pizzas slathered with cashew "cheese", soaked nuts, mock tuna wrapped in nori rolls, and so on.  On top of that, I didn't thrive energetically and I was about 30 pounds overweight.

Today I am a big fan of mindful eating and listening to my body.  I believe in the theory of biochemical individuality and support the slow food movement.  I adore Michael Pollan and Alice Waters.  I support my local growers, frequenting my local organic weekly farmer's market regularly.

I estimate that 90% of the time, I eat local, seasonal and organic fresh eggs from chickens that are truly free-range (as opposed to the industrialized "free-range" chickens who do not necessarily have the freedom one would think they should have), okra and tomatoes that were grown within about 5-25 miles away and picked that morning, and occasionally (about 1-2 times a month) I even eat some red meat from a local farm. 

I get matter what, if one eats red meat, chicken, pork, even fish, then a life ends in order for another life to eat.  However, I DO believe that it IS possible to raise animals with respect and in a humane way.  There is a HUGE difference in animals raised by corporate farms and those raised in a traditional environment...meaning  that the cows are NOT herded into small areas, force fed genetically modified corn, given hormones and antibiotics, and slaughtered once they have quickly become obese and diseased while other cows watch their fellow cows meet this horrible fate. 

So, today, I am working towards growing in self awareness, not just with my personal food choices, but also in not judging those who seem so quick to judge others who do not subscribe to their standards.  Perhaps true enlightenment means being a breatharian...after all, produce is alive too...maybe I too can live strictly off of prana.  Or not.  While I cannot know exactly what the future holds, I can't imagine this happening in this lifetime for me.

Today, I'll do my's all I can do...and that includes having compassion and openness to accept the rights of others, and that means I release my own judgments amidst theirs....or at least lean towards that direction.  Ultimately, no one can "make me feel" a certain way without MY permission.

Things we can all do.....
Be aware of our thoughts and actions and how they impact ourselves, others, and the environment.
Move and breathe.
Be kind to ourselves and others.
Know the source of your food, your clothes, and any items you use or consume.
Walk when you can walk; only drive when you must.

Perhaps this post was inspired by the fact that the baby birds grew up so fast and flew away about 10 days after they were born.   Or maybe because my son is leaving to study abroad in Europe in about 24 hours.  Or hormones.  Perhaps it just doesn't matter.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

nests: beginnings and endings

Yesterday was the end of my son's second year of college.  It seems like a few minutes ago he was born, a few seconds later, he was a little social creature with thoughts and opinions of his own, another moment or so, and he was off to school, and now, he's a man well on the way to carving out a self sufficient life of his own.  It's mind boggling. 

The journey for the past 21 years or so has been peppered with bittersweet memories of exciting new phases, inevitably ending at some point, only to make way for another phase.  Each moment sets the tone and prepares us for the next one.  I remember the first time I really examined my son's feet...he was about 2 days old...and I mean I really checked them out.  They were so perfect: soft, squishy, round, sweet new-baby smelling, virginal feet.  They'd never stepped on dirt or gotten a cut or a splinter or had socks or shoes on them.  They were just little perfect feet.  Before long, these feet were wearing cleats and they were running and kicking balls and getting bruised and dirty and occasionally getting a stubbed toe here and there.  They were fast feet...winning races and soccer games.  Now these feet are attached to a man...a 6' 2" tall, handsome, academic, athletic, focused, driven, intelligent man.  We are connected and always will be...though he often disagrees with me and sometimes acts as if he doesn't like me too much....I'm accepting of all of it.  Our children are supposed to separate from their parents eventually, and I see this more and more with the passing of each school semester, each season, each moment.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a little nest outside my front door in the rhododendron bush.  A week later, I saw four beautiful bright blue eggs.  Another week later and the eggs had hatched, leaving in their place four little baby robins.  The eggs were so amazing and perfect, I didn't want them to ever change; though of course I knew this phase would not last forever.  And sure enough, while the eggs are now gone, the growing baby birds are a phase that leaves me with excitement each day as I carefully examine them with amazement and awe.  At first they barely seemed alive, and now, only a few days later, they are active and hungry.  I know in the next few days, their eyes will begin to open and they'll start chirping and being more birdlike.  Before I know it, they'll be flying on their own and making nests for themselves.  Bittersweet.

Most of have heard the proverb, "All good things must come to an end," based on Chaucer's 1374 proverb: "There is an end to everything, to good things as well."  Perhaps this is true; however, I prefer to subscribe to the belief that with each ending, a new beginning is possible.

While I loved being the mom of a newborn (and a grandmom to my little grandbirdies!), I know that these moments will eventually phase out to make space for new son will one day be completely on his own, possibly in another city or state or even another country.  And the baby birds will be flying away to unknown destinations to make a life for themselves.  Their mother and I will both be left with empty nests and lives that will be forever changed. 

Yes, perhaps all good things come to an end.  But it doesn't mean it's no longer a good only means there are other things in the horizon.  Perhaps this is one reason I am so grateful for yoga.  Each breath, each asana, each moment, prepares me for the next one...and the next...and the next...and so on.  It provides me with a way to be less attached to the outcome and more in the moment.  It shows me the joy of the process and the work and helps me to surrender the results.  It gives me some peace around the fact that all things...good, bad, or indifferent...eventually end.  It's a circle.  A cycle.  

Only a short time ago, the yard was popping with bright yellow forsythia, pink and white dogwoods, purple redbud these blooms have died off, only to make way for the roses, peonies, and hydrangeas.  Soon, the turtle heads, daylilies and gardenias will be popping.  One ending only means a new beginning is in the making. 

In a couple of weeks, as the baby birds are more than likely beginning to fly, my son will be flying to study abroad in Spain, and then on a trip around Europe before fall semester marks the start of his junior year in college.  Today I take great comfort that my son is, content and in the next room...and that the birds' nest is full and alive with a healthy and active mama and babies.  I also take comfort in the fact that I can enjoy these moments with a sense of bliss and embrace the changes as each moment prepares me for the next one..and the next one...and so on....all I have to do is breathe, release...repeat.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


When I first heard about this "hot yoga" Bikram stuff, I totally resisted.  I mean, hey, I was different...I needed a "real" workout, and didn't want al the 'woo woo' crap of a yoga class.   Despite a friend's persistent calls and emails about how good she was feeling after a few months of regular Bikram yoga classes, I continued to run...and run...and then run some more.  Don't get me wrong, I think running can be a fine thing...but for me, it became about intention.  My intention was fear I overate at night and overran in the day...1, 2 hrs, or more.  I ran in fear of getting fat and towards some elusive goal that I could never actually pinpoint.   It ceased being fun.  Or healthy.  I lived with aches, chafing, and blisters, and I even ran for weeks on what turned out to be a stress fracture in my foot.  Good times..not. 

So I finally agreed to go to Bikram with my friend one day after she promised me that I would see "my sweat sweat..."  Of course, I had to jog the 20 minutes or so to class, so I would get my "work out" just in case this wimpy class was too easy.  I vaguely remember the specifics of that very first class, though I do recall that I did NOT like all the mirrors...ok, the mirrors were fine, actually...I didn't like what I saw in the  And for 90 minutes, I had to gaze into my own eyes most of the time.  And I sweated.  A lot.  It was not technically hard, really, though I was initially pretty frustrated when the yogini near me (who was probably half my size and half my age) could get her foot over her head in Dandayamana Dhanurasana  (standing bow pose) and my foot was nowhere to be seen.  OK, I kinda obsessed on this pose...I even dreamed about it.  It bugged me dammit...there is a story about surrender around this pose but I'll save it for another day. 

At the end of that first class, I do remember lying down in Savasana (corpse or final resting pose) in the 105° (Farenheight, not Celcius, thank God!) and thinking, "I hate this I hate this I hate this."  Not one to waste money, though, I went back since I had purchased an unlimited week to try it out.  And I gave it another chance.  I kept running...though the runs more 2 hours of running anymore...20-30 minutes to class and another 20-30 minutes back home.  It wasn't instantaneous; however, after a week of 3 or 4 Bikram classes, I felt a shift beginning.  Fear began to leave me and my intentions began to have a healthier foundation.  I slowed down a bit...first on a mental "toxic thought" level....then on a more physical level.  What had I been running for?  A better question: what had I been running from? 

That was nearly 7 years ago...I kept up my classes, and besides the physical aspect of the asanas (postures), I began to my that little voice I had ignored...not the ego voice that was often filled with toxic inner truth.  I began to actually like what I saw in the mirror when I gazed into my own eyes.  And when I did go for a jog or walk, it wasn't based in fear.  Instead I began to notice the flowers, the landscaping, my neighbors....the universe.  And it didn't revolve around me....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I was teaching a yoga class yesterday, and the name for this blog came to me as I admired a student's toenails...florescent green.  Simple, yet they made a statement.  These were not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill, these were toenails that were appreciated and loved and adorned with polish that would allow them to stand out in the crowd, so to speak.  I continued to teach the class, and for a moment, thought about how lucky I am to be able to spend so much time teaching yoga and to observe such interesting and diverse yogis and yoginis. 

Ok, well, it's not all about toenails...afterall, I entitled this blog "Tattoos and Toenails" on with the tattoos, right?  It seems that tattoos have become so commonplace and mainstream these days; nearly everyone in my classes seem to have at least one tattoo...maybe not a large and obvious one, but at least one, nevertheless.  From men and women in their 70s, maybe even 80s,  to the young conservative mothers, permanent body art has become the norm.  Some students are so covered that it is hard to take my eyes, and even my mind off of the artwork, wondering if there is a story or some sort of history that led up to this person choosing a particular design or subject.  And yes, I must admit, I find myself getting closer and closer to taking the tattoo plunge myself as the idea and design continue to swirl around in my head.

So, this is my first entry in this blog.  It's not my first blog, and I cannot even promise myself or readers (if there are any readers out there) to continue with any consistency.  At this point, it is just an initial attempt to relay some thoughts, stories, and maybe even a bit of wisdom here and there as it relates to my life and experience as a yoga teacher...and a mother (and daughter and sister and auntie and niece), a business woman, a student, and a regular ol' flawed human. 

Until later~Namaste