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.