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 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. 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 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 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 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'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 (, researching for my thesis as I finish my holistic nutrition degree from Hawthorn University, running my online vintage jewelry business, Family Jewels (, 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 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 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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Speculations, Conspiracies, Doubts, and Judgments

Wow.  What a week...or month..or two!  From the earthquakes and radiation, the tornadoes that ravished through the southeast, killing so many in their path to the shocking turn in world events regarding Osama Bin Laden...add that to the myriad of issues that seem to me to be increasingly polarizing...the environment, the economy, human rights, workers' rights, politics, health, what we eat, products we buy, and yes, even the most recent royal wedding..the list goes on.  Even subjects like yoga, a practice that has evolved from a casual interest in my life to a passion and vocation, have become controversial, evoking conflicting opinions from what is the "best" or "correct" styles to religious and dogmatic implications

I find myself, in my mid-forties-quickly-sliding-closer-to-fifty, realizing that so little is a "given" in this matter what I may have thought for the past forty-plus years.  Once again I am reminded:  "the older I get, the more I know the less I know"...and you can correctly quote ME on that. 

Living in the metro Atlanta area and mercifully spared from the destruction of the storms last week, I personally felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and perspective mixed with sympathy and sorrow.  Only an hour or so north of my home, tornadoes ripped through towns and flattening all it their path.  Such a close felt as if we dodged a huge bullet..and we did.  Many of my close friends and I rode an emotional roller coaster ride that evening, preparing for the worse, hoping for the best, and watching the weather reports until we felt it was safe to finally go to sleep without fear of a twister ripping through our homes.  After several hours glued to the computer and TV, a little after midnight, an explosive thunder and lightening bolt touched down around what felt like a foot away from my bedroom window, followed by about 15 minutes or so of pounding rain, and then it was over.  I went to sleep feeling safe and warm and at the time, unaware of the fact that hundreds of people frighteningly close to Atlanta had lost their lives...and MANY more had lost homes and belongings. 

In the dark cool hours before the sun rises, I often find myself sitting at my laptop, sipping tea and contemplating about the day ahead.  My sweet mutts and big orange tabby generally rally around me waiting for their breakfast or a walk while I catch up on emails, study for school, and check the news and facebook.  It feels very peaceful and quiet, and all the turmoil swirling around the world seems so detached from my life.  But it really isn't.  Whether I feel it or not in the moment, we are all connected.  My initial feeling of peacefulness and connection, though, of late, has been compromised with an overwhelming feeling of information overload and confusion..and frustration even.  More than ever, polarizing views, often inflammatory and judgmental opinions, dogma of all sorts seem to prevail.  Topics that were once a given, now are up for debate and criticism.  Is this just a natural universal shift of increasing awareness and mindfulness?  Or is it a sign of disillusionment or even of a sinister nature?

I don't know the answers.  I do know that in my own journey of growth a common mantra has been: "When I know better, I do better."  Growing up on Big Macs and frozen dinners and canned food, along with witnessing my father's lung cancer diagnosis and subsequent death when I was 20, led me to learn about health and nutrition, and now I am nearly certified as a nutritional consultant from Hawthorn University.  I learned a long time ago not to automatically trust information just because it was fed to me via the news or government.  My belief is that the USDA and FDA and many large corporations such as Monsanto and many (most) pharmaceutical companies have only their best$$$$ mind and certainly not the best interests of the general public.  The current debate over vaccinations and autism continues with conflicting studies and opinions, as well as the dangers (or not) of genetically modified foods and pesticides, plastics, and so on.  The list is seemingly endless. 

Today we have access to more information than ever before, and we are bombarded with it.  The internet has exposed me to information about the horrors behind how we get bananas, wool, chocolate, and even computer parts and flowers.  It's great to be aware and learn, though it can certainly be daunting.  No action is without some sort of consequence somewhere.  Just being alive is going to leave a footprint that is invariably going to be stomping on top of someone or some thing.  It's unavoidable.

And on top of all this knowledge, some believe that nothing we hear is true.  Just in the past 2 or 3 days, I have heard conflicting theories about 911, Obama's birth certificate, Osama Bin Laden, HAARP, chemtrails, and more.  It makes my head spin...and hurt.  And right when I have formed an opinion, another view comes to light and I wonder if I should entertain it at all or simply choose to avoid spending any time or energy on it. 

What I do find is this...ultimately, giving too much headspace to all these issues is counterproductive and immobilizing for me.  I'm guessing it is for some others too.  I repeat, I don't know the answers.  I don't know if there is a plot, as one of my friends believes with all her heart, that there are secret societies that control our government and news with sinister plans against humanity.  I don't know if Osama was actually killed 10 years ago, the other day, or if he is still alive somewhere.  I don't know the definitively best way of living or eating for all of the planet.  I do know that the scope of what I don't know is way larger than what I do know.

I've come to a few conclusions:
1: There is no ONE way that works for every living being on the planet and it is not my place to judge others' decisions.
2: Most issues have many shades of gray and are not simply black/white, right/wrong, or healthy/unhealthy.
3: Most of us (I include myself) have mindsets that are often already set and will hear what they want to hear.
4: Living in a state of fear of the unknown is not productive for anyone.
5: Having a healthy concern and curiosity for knowledge is not the same as being fearful or being a consipracy theorist.
6: Being a skeptic and being a cynic are not the same thing...though some can be both.
7: Keeping an open mind and working toward making positive choices daily and surrendering that for which I have no control is a huge key to my happiness.
8: I can either go crazy and live in a scary world, only focusing on negative, destructive thoughts, or I can make it a priority to live in the moment, at least for today.
9: I will never know all the answers.
10: If I ever do know all the answers...whatever that means..most likely it won't happen during this lifetime.

For today, reflect for a moment.  Are you living in fear or do you have a sense of peace?  Are you willing to take at least one step today towards achieving some peace, or contentment with you and your connection to the universe? 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tear Infused Beauty

 So I'm driving down the road and a feeling of overwhelming heaviness overcame me...tears started welling up in my eyes.  By the time I careened into my driveway and parked, the dam broke and the waterfall washed over me.  Cathartic and cleansing, yet surprising to was more than crying; bawling really.  Rare.  I sat in my reliable 98 Camry, comfortable on my well worn (well, torn) leather seats, the sunroof open to let the sun coat me in her rays while I bawled.  The contrast of my life in that moment and the suffering happening in Japan so blatantly unfair and was nearly too much to bear.  I'm not one to embrace guilt or worry as viable means of coping as I find both generally nonproductive, if not harmful.  However, guilt came to mind..or at least the hint of a wave of emotions infused my very being.  Sad, helpless, pissed, hopeless, scared, worried, fearful even...all understatements describing my feelings.  And it wasn't just the tsunami..or the earthquakes..or the erupting volcano..or the explosion and possible impending meltdown at the nuclear power plant.  Perhaps all those events added to what has already been a challenging time of economic uncertainty and political unfairness for the world....unrest.

I'm actually a very positive and upbeat person who loves being a yoga teacher, studying nutrition, selling vintage jewelry and being a mom to an awesome healthy 21 yr old college boy.  I seek and see the good in nearly all situations.  Even during the 7 weeks or so that my elderly (and very depressed and difficult) mother lived with me up until a few weeks ago, I was able to smile and be of service most of the time.  I'm not even close to being perfect, and I share many thoughts and articles and information with my friends and acquaintances that I have found to be helpful to me..subjects near and dear to my heart: nutrition, holistic health, yoga, food and body issues, and more.  I share these things because I figure if it helps me, maybe it can help someone else as well.  I'm not ashamed to be the flawed and imperfect human that I am.  I'm grateful. 

Spring is here.  Nearly every room in my home, including my yoga studio has an amazing view of a huge white flowering tree that, for eighteen seasons now has symbolized not just the change or seasons, but also the joy of the moment and hope for the future.  Today that tree is truly in its glory, faithful to me as I sit here enjoying it as I write.  My son is home for spring break, the dogs and cat are all happy and lounging in rays of sunlight..outside for a while, now inside, and I have been able to do what I love...teaching yoga classes.  It's a brilliant pre-spring day in Atlanta...daffodils, hyacinths, tulip poplars...bursting open all over.  Kids playing in the yards, people jogging and riding their bikes, hanging out at imagine the contrast of the experience of people in Japan at this moment.  Or Libya.  Or of anyone who is suffering anywhere on the planet.  The homeless person.  The family losing their home or job.  Not comparing one event with the other....just reflecting and finding the challenge to settle into gratitude without the infusion of guilt or sorrow or worry.

Life is good. 

Yet, it's just been especially challenging to embrace the uncertainty of life and of the world lately.  And I find myself with a tinge of guilt wondering if I'm being untrue to my yoga..not the asanas..physically I practice nearly every day.  Yoga, however, is so much more.  It's what I do when I am not on my mat.  It's my thoughts, my intentions, my actions.  To dwell on negative or allow situations to affect me so deeply and take it on and feel fear..all rare for me.  But I am human.  Being true to myself and to my feelings is my true nature.  And sometimes those feelings ebb and flow in ways that are not my control.  To ignore them would be a lie. 

I came across this helpful article earlier: A Buddhist Response to the Japan Tsunami

Crying felt good the other day.  Today I am embracing the beauty and imperfections, allowing tears to flow if they appear, and connecting with my inner peace and serenity. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

That Damn "Not a Destination" Crap..and RIP Jack LaLanne

2011 has barely begun and already my southern neighbors and I have survived the most intense ice storm Atlanta has seen on over a decade.  Many of us set resolutions and have high expectations each year around this time, only to set the bar so high that we quickly either lose momentum or become disappointed, falling short of achieving these lofty goals.

With yoga, however, we learn to let go of the goals and instead, set intentions to focus on the moment and to find contentment and grace in the process.  Sure, it may be a cliché, yet it is IS a journey...not a destination.  In my twenties, I had all sorts of expectations on what my life should look like.  I made many less than ideal decisions based on these expectations.  Shortly before my 30th birthday, I was faced with some health a single mom with a small child, I was in fear and made drastic changes as a result.  While my health improved, the fear based motivation eventually backfired, and in my late 30s, I found myself again at a crossroads.  This is when I accidentally found yoga...I say accidentally because I had no idea that showing up at a Bikram class in hopes of dropping a few pounds would result in yoga being my new path and vocation. 

Now, in my mid 40s, I realize more than ever that there is no final place when the work's ALL a process.  The moment lies in the space in between each breath....that's where the magic happens.  Yoga is a vehicle to find this space.  It's not the way...however, it is the way that resonated for me..and for so many others.  I'm not "there" yet.  Yoga helps me find my voice...the one that my students hear and the inner voice of truth that, when I truly am still and can listen, tells me exactly what I need to hear (even when it is not what I want to hear!).

Today I'm faced with a few elderly mother who can be very stubborn (so that's who I got it from!), a sore mouth from gum surgery last week (delving within to find gratitude for being able to take care of my medical needs, painful as it may be), and other growing pains around various choices and situations that I have created. 

Right before I went to sleep last night, I read about the passing of Jack LaLanne, the 96 year old fitness icon and guru who I had, prior to the news, thought would outlive most of us.   Ahead of his time, Jack discussed topics such as sugar addiction and the mind-body connection over half a century ago in the early 1960s, way before doctors or the mainstream would broach such subjects.  He was and continues to be an inspiriation to me, and serves to punctuate the idea that we are not here to simply reach some sort of lofty goal and then rest.  Instead we are these spirits who grow and learn and serve and enjoy, constantly changing and moving.  When we cease to learn, we cease living...regardless of whether or not our heartbeats continue.  Jack surely lived a full life until the very end.  I'm grateful to have such a fine example of a humble and strong individual.  Rest in peace Jack...though I have a feeling Jack's still of service somewhere to someone....just not on a dimension that most can see.

One of my favorite videos of Jack:

And here is one I just saw for the first time:

Namaste...Jack and all.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day is just a Day....

For the record, I am quite likely one of the closest things to the polar opposite of a "Debby Downer" you may meet.  Not unrealistic or naïve, mind you...more like the kind of person who works at being positive as much as possible.  I'm not always succesful.  Being human does that...all that imperfectionism and all. 

Which brings me to the whole, often anticlimactic, expectation oriented "New Year's Resolution" mind set that seems to be such an overlying theme every year around this time.  For many years, I was a victim to this type of thinking, and, in fact, I can easily fall back into it if I'm not mindful of the moment and my own reality. 

I am not judging nor criticizing those who use the arbitrary date of January 1st as a time of beginning anew.  If it works for someone, then I think that is awesome and it should be implemented wholeheartedly.  For me, though, well, history shows that it has rarely worked and often has led me to failure.  Additionally, my observations of others around this time shows that my experience is fairly common.  All those January months over the years at the gym or yoga studio where classes were overfilled and exercise equipment had waiting lists of people who were, once and for all, going to get fit....the same people who, for the months prior, had been indulging in lifestyle  habits that were far less than optimal while proclaiming "after the new year, I am going to get in shape and make some changes!"  Hey, I know...I've been this person.  Of course, these are often the same people who by February, if not earlier, had sunk back into the old habits...a misnomer since "old" would imply they are no longer practiced.  Evidently they once again are "current habits". 

Again, I speak from my own experience both as the "old habits" practicing New-Year's-Resolutioner and the observers of friends and acquaintances who seem to have similar patterns. 

Twenty five years ago today, my father passed away, and for many years after, I would get depressed and indulge in behaviors that were self destructive and unhealthy.  Every year I set myself up for this type of failure, until one year, after the Jewish calendar Yahrzeit anniversary, which was never on the same day two years in a row, I realized that my mindset was a decision based on a man-made and quite random day each year.

So, today, and each, make that each a new one...a chance, an opportunity to decide to create the life and reality I want.  Sure, it's great to have goals and intentions, and if January 1st works for you, then I am certainly not going to condemn that decision.  However, for me, it has shown to add to self judgment, even resentment, and as 2011 begins, much in the manner that 2010 began 365 days ago, I will once again begin my day with the same intention as I do pretty much have the intentions and willingness to take actions towards that will lead to a place of optimal health on all levels.

One more thing..if you DO set resolutions, please are human.  Each moment is precious and unique and everything generally will eventually work out.   Beating ourselves up for being imperfect or judging our actions or even worse, our SELVES as failures is never a good practice and will not lead us to the results we deserve.  A new moment, day, or year can be at ANY moment day or time you choose. 

Now...just praying that there are NO more half price sales on Ben and Jerry's...and praying for the willingness to set positive intentions to align myself with all things that serve me best!
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Much Love and Light