It's been awhile since I sat down with my thoughts...
On June 30, I landed in a new place. Never afraid, I have changed my life once again. And in this new place, I plan to practice this yoga lifestyle. The one I started 5 years ago. The lifestyle that had me in the best physical and mental shape of my life in July of 2017. The lifestyle that I wanted others to embrace because it is just that good for you!
Without elaborating on the past three years, suffice it to say that the yoga lifestyle took a back seat. I immersed myself into a mission to improve the education and environment for 60+ children with emotional disabilities. This took tremendous amount of time and energy. I slowly let my practices slip away as I worked very long days. It has surprised me how much physical health one can lose in 3 years - strength, flexibility, mindfulness. (I don't regret it - the work very worthy, I just wish I'd realized that I needed to put more energy and focus into maintaining my "lifestyle".)
I retired from Ohio's Education System and turned my mission over to someone who I am certain has the heart and will to continue the change process. I am now located 2,000 miles closer to my daughter - and her husband, and my precious granddaughter - just ten minutes away. This is a welcome lifestyle change. This region of the country has a spectacular number of sunny days! Another welcome change. I have time to refocus on my lifestyle. One in which work will be important, but not all-encompassing . I do believe whole-heartedly that all that has been lost is only temporary and with hard work, I can regain it.
Renewed focus on breath-work, daily walking (with my grateful companion, Sergeant), bike rides to strengthen my knee, zoom yoga classes with dedicated students, learning new yoga techniques as well as reviewing practice, and integrating free weights is helping me get back on track. In just a few weeks, I feel a difference. And I am optimistic. Pushing through pain, developing routines.
More time to focus on family - which had been lost due to geography.
If you read this, I am hopeful that it will inspire you. For family, for health, for peace of mind.
How time passes...it has been 9 months since my last posting. Time is boundless...it can't be stopped and I no longer try to fight it. It just is.
The flowers at the top of this page are a part of a memory - a space in time. They were a surprise at a junction that wasn't anticipated or planned. It was during their blooming that I became a yoga teacher. At their "home" was the beginning of my teaching....my Elyria home. For three years, I watched them creep slowly from their roots, climbing the trellises. Expanding their leafiness and finally showing their pure and abundant blossoms. Parallel to my journey. As I taught one class, then another, in my home, in Avon Lake, In Lorain....moving one step at time to hundreds of classes, dozens of students - relationships born of time spent together. Beautiful people brought together, seeking spiritual and physical healing. Woven together like beautiful blossoms. Life fulfilled like an September vine.
Tonight, I sit at another space in time. Trusting the steps I've taken. Blossoms left behind. New experiences molding my heart and mind. Life merging....new me emerging.
And time marches on. It can't be stopped. It is beautiful.
I was teaching a small class last night and as we began, one of the students asked, "Why do we dim the lights and use candles?" And so began a short exchange of ideas...as we practice yoga, one key goal is to move away from the outside world and focus on our inner self - body, mind, spirit. By removing the stimulation of light, particularly artificial light, it allows the yoga practitioner to concentrate on his own body movements, thoughts, and feelings. The other people in the class bring energy - and I love the feeling of community, but we no longer notice them as we move through the asanas, or poses. We become more observant of how our own body feels and moves, tight or relaxed, strong or challenged.
Allowing my body to move in a twilight setting creates a feeling of peace and confidence. I notice that I can control my body and mind easily as my outward focus is redirected. Sometimes, I close my eyes as I am moving through the sequences. Next time you are in a class, become observant about how your body is responding to the light. You may be surprised!
It is "retreat eve"! I am sitting on my couch, 10 year old "puppy" Presley snuggled up against my leg. A thunderstorm is surrounding us with lovely percussion sounds and a beautiful light show. I am excited for the coming weekend ~ 19 women will be coming together with my retreat partner, Claudia and I as their "tour guides". My precious Auntie Joan (AKA Auntie NUDGE) will be on hand to motivate, cheer, and create delicious breakfasts....if it weren't for her, this entire weekend would not be happening. With her intuitive nudging...Claudia and I have been put together to bring our creative energies to light.
Prior to this yoga journey, I would not have imagined that I would be doing this....now, I am not even anxious...only happy and excited to bring new friends together to explore a healthy lifestyle - one of emotional, physical, and spiritual dimensions. This weekend is an opportunity to relax, renew, and try on new experiences.
Looking forward to the blessings that are in store for everyone!
Losing innocence…and where did healthy fear go?
I woke up today and thought, wouldn’t this be a great “date” for a wedding? 1/7/17 - random occurrences, sequences…I’ve always loved numbers and the number seven has held some special place for me, perhaps from my German classes in high school, where we learned how to make a special European 7…such innocent thoughts...romantic love, weddings, futures…
We come into the world so innocent. Full of hope, expectation, joy, laughter…babies have the best laughs. As human beings, we slowly lose some of that innocence, a few of us faster than others. Could the early loss of innocence be influenced from parenting that doesn’t protect? That sounds preposterous – what parent doesn’t want to protect…Is our culture producing naïve, unprepared parents…people who didn’t learn from their own families. Parents who want to be friends or are afraid or unsure of setting boundaries…or do we come in contact with people who do not know how to respect that which harms and we lose our radar. Somewhere along the way, I wonder if some of us don’t learn about healthy fear. Intuition that is built into us, healthy fear that can protect us from danger.
In this last year, I have come in contact too many times with a malicious source of death. Death caused by HEROIN – the “Opiod Epidemic”. Death as a consequence of NO FEAR. When I was a kid, heroin was considered DEADLY. For the most part, in my young cloistered Fairview Park mind, unsavory people in scary dark places like ghettos – hidden away from the masses – those are the people who did heroin - died with ugly tourniquets still on their precious arms. Or outside of the poorest areas, the outrageous celebrity rock star, overwhelmed by new privilege, living on the edge, riding life hard.
Today, you can find this evil everywhere – affluent suburbs, middle class homes, rural communities, and low income neighborhoods… And for me, in surprising places, like the lives of my friends, acquaintances, the lives of my students past and present. Masquerading as some escape....flirting with death...The evil drug that seemed so out of reach, completely untouchable, is now easily accessed and without healthy fear. And it has killed beautiful souls whom I have known or who have been loved by my loved ones.
In the last two months, perhaps God, the universe, whatever we call the force that brings purpose to our door has thrust me into this crisis. I did not go looking, frankly I enjoy peace, harmony, and looking for the light...but the cause found me. Through a “fitness industry” acquaintance, I was asked to join the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization working to counter this scourge on our youth and families. And a darling former student contacted me, troubled and forever changed by two deaths – that of her sister back in 2012, and followed a few days ago by the death of a friend. So today, I just sit with my thoughts…wondering how on earth I can help. And wondering what healthy fear has to do with addiction. I can see the need for me to learn more about why people are turning to this risk, why fear isn’t stopping them, why seeing others die isn’t a red flag? Why do human beings think the red flag isn’t for them? Why are some of us at funerals on 1/7/17 instead of engaging in life and love?
I can only trust that my path, with experience in education and with yoga, will guide me to be used to influence at least one…can mindfulness and self awareness tune us into our intuition - our inner voice that tells us the truth, often uncomfortable truths?
"As we begin to re-experience a visceral reconnection with the needs of our bodies, there is a brand new capacity to warmly love the self. We experience a new quality of authenticity in our caring, which redirects our attention to our health, our diets, our energy, our time management. This enhanced care of the self arises spontaneously and naturally, not as a response to a "should". We are able to experience an immediate and intrinsic pleasure in self-care" Stephen Cope, Yoga and the Quest for Self
Over the last five years, my yoga journey has slowly deepened and awakened within me a more expansive understanding of what self-care means. My aunt, Joan Barris, introduced me to the concept of self-care a few years ago with an ARTISTS WAY study...for most of my life, I just got dragged along by the busyness and demands, and could hardly see how to carve time out for myself as I sought to care for family and maintain career. It began to make sense, however, that if I didn't replenish my body and spirit, that I would "run out of gas" so to speak.
As I slowly added yoga classes to my life's schedule, erratically in the beginning, the process started to take root in my body. Each teacher had a different way to get me to essentially the same place - a place of stopping, noticing, being in the moment with just my body, breath, and mind....to show compassion for pain, to challenge the stubborn, to be open to possibility. With gentle or commanding voices, each teacher would take me to a new place that was just for me in that moment; showing me how to let go of distractions and turn inward - to face myself and my reality. To embrace my body just as it is and love it, cherish it, nourish it with simple breath...
Take advantage of simple opportunities to honor yourself - whether it be a warm bath with scented oils or a special dinner that you make with your preferences and needs in mind. Stretch and move in the workplace instead of just being captive to a seat. Read, listen to your favorite music, write in a journal...and of course, take in a yoga class and integrate a short routine into your morning or evening rituals.
I can honestly say that a continued yoga practice combined with teaching others has increased my awareness of self and my desire to help others to honor their bodies and lives. Getting in touch with your body through the physical poses in tandem with breath and meditation practice helps you slow down the "merry-go-round"...to think more about who you are and what you are becoming by each choice and action. My hope for you is that the practice of yoga will awaken within you a deep commitment to care of the precious gift that has been given to you - your life - and that your life will be a unique light that shines on others. Prioritizing YOU will provide the strength and energy to let that light shine.
I encountered the concept of letting go early on in my personal yoga practice....it often occurred at the beginning of a class, coincidentally at a studio that was run by the woman who later took the helm at the Cleveland Clinic School of Yoga; at the time, I would never have imagined I would earn my yoga certification there. As we prepared to begin our asanas (or postures), the teacher would ask us to go inside our minds and begin letting go of limiting beliefs. Beliefs about what we could or could not do on the mat. But more than that, letting go of negative thoughts that don't serve our greater good, limiting self-concepts, people who drag us down. Letting go physically, intellectually, emotionally.
In some of the early classes I taught, I asked my students to close their eyes, imagine holding two suitcases as they pass through a gate. One suitcase is negative thoughts, the other negative people. Just before walking through the gate, I would instruct them to drop each suitcase and free themselves from both of these...pass cleanly through the gate and into the practice without these burdens. Later, we would leave the practice and pick up two beautiful new suitcases, hope and love - and walk back into our lives.
You don't have to be in a yoga class to let go. When you are feeling pressured, overwhelmed, or just contemplative, stop and still yourself for a few minutes. Sit a little taller, take a few deep breaths. Give yourself the gift of affirming that you are letting go of whatever is holding you back in the moment. Affirm what you do want. And most of all, be gentle with yourself.
** If you want a wonderful reading companion to this concept of Letting Go, pick up The Language of Letting Go, by Melodie Beattie. It contains one year of daily meditations on self-care and owning your own power.
What exactly is meditation? For some of us, it may sound kind of "out there", but in actuality, it is simply providing an opportunity for the mind to become quiet. Research is quantifying the benefits of meditation. Mental clarity is increased, stress reduced, calmness induced....wouldn't you like this in your life?
There are MANY types of meditation and there is a plethora of information you can find with a simple search. It becomes quite fascinating and I really enjoy guided meditations which take me on a mental journey, releasing me from my own stories for the moment. For today, we will focus on an extremely simple introduction to a very silent meditation.
Developing a habit of daily meditation is actually easier than you might think. Beginning any habit does require discipline, but as the old saying goes, you can eat an elephant a bite at a time. Start with five minutes - you and your mind are worth it.
Find a quiet place and a chair, pillow, or just the floor. Clear away any clutter in this space and place something of beauty (like flowers, plant) or a candle in front of where you will sit. Set a timer for 5 minutes (or longer) if possible so that you don't keep looking at the clock. When you are ready, take a seat (on floor with feet crossed, on chair with feet uncrossed flat on the floor), straighten your posture so that your spine is long from your tailbone to the top of your head. Place your hands gently on your lap. As you draw slow breaths in and exhale, repeat the simple words "in" and "out" continuously (in your mind) or choose "Om" and "Ah" - symbolic of the universe and God. If thoughts creep in, just notice them and replace them again with "in" and "out". You can focus your gaze on the special item you have in front of you or close your eyes. When the timer goes off, notice how your body and mind feel....try to do this several days in a row to establish a habit, extending the time to ten minutes....
....and comment below.
Peace to you today as you move about the world!
Mindfulness is one of the trendiest "buzzwords" today. I recently bought this shirt that relays the spirit of mindfulness. In it's simplest form, mindfulness truly is just becoming attuned to your surroundings as you experience them, letting go of other thoughts that interfere with the enjoyment of the "now". Noting sounds, temperatures, lighting, things, breezes, aromas, textures, and of course, living creatures in their regalia and personality.
One of the easiest places for me to experience being totally in the moment is with music. For me, it is absolutely delicious to all of my senses and it allows me to totally get out of my head and into the moment. The pure vibration alone creates a desire to move and experience the rhythm; the beauty of the mixture of instruments, melody, harmony bring immense pleasure to my soul; the message within the lyrics connects me to emotion. When I listen to music, I am so entranced that I am moved to sway, dance, and even sing with abandon.
A challenge for you today - take a color walk. It could be in your workplace, outdoors, in a mall -anywhere you choose. Set a timer, perhaps on your phone, for 15 minutes. Pick a color, start walking, and stay silent as you observe your surroundings and discover things you may have not noticed before. After your walk, think about how you feel. If you are inclined (which would make this more fun) leave a comment in the space below . We can share our discoveries. I will be posting later after my walk today!
Update 2:30 pm - I ended up making it a color drive and looked for orange (also affiliated with the root chakra) while driving. Interesting observations - many signs have orange in them, there is orange on reflectors and some automobile lights, the line down Columbia Road was startlingly bold and orange, of course, orange cones abound...orange in some books and binders I noted as I left my vehicle and went to appointments. Orange has a tremendous number of hues, from subtle to bold. I felt enlivened and focused as I observed...it made me realize how out of touch I am as I go about the day. Something to work on as I "live in the moment"....
Here's a concept for you to contemplate: Your body is your vehicle. As a part of some of my first "practice" yoga classes during my training, I began talking about proper alignment in relation to the body and compared to a car. When a car is out of alignment, many parts of the vehicle can experience unnecessary or improper wear and tear. The same goes for our body. A lot of what goes into the alignment of the body starts with posture, but then shifts to walking and carrying out activities with our arms and legs. And when we slip into "habits" and lose awareness of our posture, we can experience pain and progressive debilitation.
A recent video on the internet demonstrates just how powerfully life changing postural awareness and focused yoga therapy can be. An older woman had experienced a pronounced hump in her back due to scoliosis and accompanying loss of strength and posture. The severity of the before picture would have led me (even with my love of yoga) to believe that significant improvement would not be attainable at her age and at this stage. The ensuing video (linked below with article) and after picture show just how the improbable can become possible. The results of a slow and deliberate progression of yoga therapy created dramatic changes.
Back to alignment - as part of an effective yoga class, I stress the importance of developing an awareness of proper alignment so that your body can take you anywhere you want it to take you in life. Proper alignment alleviates pains in many joints and additionally neck/back pain. Learning to employ appropriate alignment during the yoga practice transfers to life, as your body develops muscle memory and your brain starts to remind you of these best practices.
On a personal note, my mother suffered from osteoporosis and eventually developed a "dowager's hump". This left a strong impression on me and was one of the reasons I have been dedicated to keeping my vehicle in good condition. Besides attention to posture and alignment, developing a strong muscular structure to hold the skeleton together has been a priority for me. Prevention is the best strategy. Incorporating healthy practices like yoga have been instrumental for me to keep my vehicle in excellent working order.
So here's a simple description of this protocol: Stand up straight, stack your body in this manner - knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, spine long from tailbone to top of head - pull your head back toward your shoulders as you lift it and push the crown toward the sky. And of course, breathe. It's easy when you simplify. Take care of your vehicle so that it can take care of you!