We are the Lucky Ones

I was really crushed when I heard about the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.

For a moment. Then I was really angry.

I was angry about a lot of things, but mostly because I could feel the loss in my own heart. It was almost as if I was holding those broken hearts in my hands, and I couldn’t do anything about it.

So I wrote about it. I wrote about it for them and for me and for anyone who’s ever lost someone and for everyone who ever will. I wrote about it for the victims and for the survivors and for those of us who sit comfortably in our homes with our spouses and children and pets. We who get to turn off the TV when we’ve heard enough. We who get to forget about it tomorrow when we go to our jobs and return to worrying about the little things.

We are the lucky ones. We are alive.

May we be reminded of the fragility of life. May we eat differently and converse differently and live differently from here on out. May we live our lives fully while they’re ours to live.

*****

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. – Gandhi

Those words are easy to say when it’s not your son that’s been senselessly beaten, when it’s not your daughter that’s been raped, when it’s not your parent that was in the World Trade towers, when it’s not your fiancé that was on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Injustice rubs up offensively against our inherent sense of fairness. We want revenge, we want justice, and we want payback, but mostly we want the hole in our heart to stop bleeding. We want our suffering to end. We want the hurt to stop hurting. We want reality to stop staring us in the face even when our eyes are closed.

We want them back.

And they’re not coming back.

You who have lost, we have lost with you.
You who are howling, we howl with you.
You who are in shock, we are in shock with you.
You who are enraged, we are enraged with you.
You who are crumbling inside, we crumble with you.
You whose scream inside has not yet made it to your lips, we hear you.
You whose world just came to an end, we are here for you.

We are the only ones who are here for each other. I for you and you for me. Wherever you live, whatever you do, however you speak, we must hold each other in loss, in laughter, in life and in death.

Gandhi’s words don’t ask us to stop hurting inside. They ask us to stop hurting each other in response to our hurting inside, because if we don’t we will all end up blind and hurting and unable to help each other when we need it the most.

 

Originally published on elephantjournal.

3 Poses Using 3 Blankets

Restorative yoga often gets overlooked in our day and age.

Perhaps it’s because this type of yoga does its work much more subtly and requires little help from our muscles. It asks us to let go in a different way than yoga poses like Warrior 2 ask us to let go.

In resting poses gravity is doing most of the work for us and our job is to stop fighting it by noticing where we are gripping in our body and in our mind.

Slowing down is essential to our health, both mentally and physically, but can be very challenging since we’re used to moving fast and being overstimulated.

I do one or two restorative poses at the end of every day. It helps me sleep better and guarantees me I will have a moment or two to reconnect with myself sometime during the day.

In the 3-minute video below I demo 3 ways to use 3 blankets. I show two restorative postures and one meditation posture. I often like to do the two restoratives before doing sitting meditation because it gives my mind and body a chance to slow down.

I will be uploading a guided meditation in the near future, and the meditation setup I demo is a great way to practice it if you don’t have a zafu (meditation cushion) or some other preferred way to sit.

Yoga As An Undoing

I recently attended an evening yoga class at a small studio near me that holds classes outside on a large wooden deck.

I practiced next to a large tree trunk that emerged through the deck and the ocean air reminded me to inhale fully.

At the end of the class as I set up for savasana and stared at the open sky, I remembered these lines from Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind.

The ancient Greeks had a structure they called the temenos: a four walled enclosure with no roof. The warriors would come in off the battlefield and remove their armor to lie down on their backs and open their hearts again to the sky.

Laying there I felt like that warrior. I’d spent the previous hour removing the armor I wear all day long. The safe space I was in encouraged my body and mind to soften their constant gripping.

Without the weight of my defenses and the stiffness of my judgements weighing me down I found I could easily slip into the sacred space of my own heart.

Here in my heart it’s dark and I am alone, but somehow I’m able to see so clearly and I don’t feel lonely.

I say I do yoga, but really yoga is undoing all my doing. It unravels my tension, releases my breath, and softens my mental and physical gripping. It reveals to me who I am under my armor and my judgement. It polishes my heart and reflects back to me a capacity for love that I often forget I’m capable of.

In a world where doing is praised more than being, yoga as undoing is exactly what I need to become more present, more conscious, and a more authentic human being.

#SetYourAngelFree

davidIf you’ve followed the blog for a while you might recall I wrote about this a while back.

I so love this quote, this concept that every time I revisit it, it takes on another layer of meaning. Or perhaps it is another layer removed that allows me to see more clearly.

I’m referring to a quote by Michelangelo, where he comments on his creative process and how he was able to carve statues such as the David and breathtaking art like the Sistene Chapel.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

This just speaks to me. It doesn’t just speak to me, though… it melts me, it invites me, it begs me to step into my own creative process, to unveil my own unique beauty, to commit to the process of digging deep to reveal my inner magnificence.

On first glance it seems a little presumptuous, a little conceited, a little egotistical to use the word magnificent. I want to back off from it and use a smaller, more diminutive, more hide-in-the-shadows word.

But I don’t. As Marianne Williamson reminds us, Your playing small does not serve the world.

And at the end of my life I’d like to say I served the world. Not that I hid from it.

That’s what #SetYourAngelFree is all about. Serving the world by freeing yourself. Digging deep and revealing your angel to the world, in whatever form she or he may take.

I hope you’ll contribute your words, your pictures, your dreams, and your visions on your social media of choice.

When I see other angels flying it reminds me to keep working on my wings.

photo credit: fincher69

4 Ways to Be More Authentic

“At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being.”-Albert Camus

I feel porous lately. Life is sinking in, not just rolling off of me as I rush through it.

I don’t want to lose that porousness. I want to soak up more of life, even though it means I’m opening myself up to great pain as well as great joy. I made this list for myself to remind me to be accountable, vulnerable, authentic, open, and honest. I hope it serves you as well.

1. Stop pretending you have your shit together.

This one always makes me think of a friend of mine who can do anything. She could probably fly if she wanted to. Every time I see her I feel this need to prove I can do anything too. It’s subtle but it’s there. We have a regrettably superficial exchange and I leave wondering why I always fall into the trap of pretending I’m something I’m not.

The backstage of our lives is never as refined and beautiful as the act we put on for the world. When I compare my insides to other people’s outsides I feel inadequate. When I put on pretenses I feel inauthentic.

I’m trying to notice when I feel the urge to prove myself or protect myself and soften a little instead. Soften right where I feel the urge to harden.

2. Become accountable for your life.

When things are going along great, I like to take all the credit. Then things start getting uncomfortable or what I label as “bad” and I want to put the blame anywhere except on me.

I’m trying to become accountable with the small things. When I’m accountable I take back my power to respond instead of react, to participate in my process, and to choose what my next step is. The more accountable I become with the small things, the easier it is to own up to the big things.

3. Speak your truth.

And listen to other people’s truth.

In order to speak my truth I have to know it. Which means I have to listen to that small voice inside of me that too often gets ignored.

You know the voice. The one you tune out because you’re afraid it will ask you why you’re living your Plan B life instead of your Plan A.

These days I’m trying to have the tough conversations I’ve avoided my whole life, with others and with myself.

4. Show up for the people in your life.

Starting with yourself.

The other day one of my parents was talking and I literally felt myself shutting down. I didn’t want to listen to it, let alone deal with it. (This is where No. 3 comes in handy.)

Those moments I want to tune out what’s happening, I’m trying to tune in instead. I use the mantra “Honor the present moment” to help me stay focused on whatever or whoever’s in front of me, no matter how small or unimportant it seems.

This isn’t a recipe for a easy life. It’s a recipe for an authentic life. Season it will love and compassion and feast on your life.

 

Post originally published on elephantjournal.

 

Navigating the Landscape of Limitation

blacksMy 6-month-old recently figured out how to roll. He can’t get enough of it and rolls everywhere.

It didn’t take him too long to start rolling into things, like the side of our blue couches.

I would see him run into the couch and I’d think. Okay, now roll the other way! You’re not going to get anywhere rolling into the couch.

But he wouldn’t roll the other way. He’d back off and roll into the couch again.

Over and over again. He didn’t appear to be frustrated or angry about it, just kind of exploring his new territory.

I’ve been trying to bring some of his childlike curiosity to my yoga lately because it occurred to me there’s a lot of similarities between his practice and my practice.

I visit the same territory of my body and mind over and over in yoga, and there are a lot of limitations and barriers I roll up against in my practice.

It can be a physical limitation like my tight hamstrings lately or a mental block like judging how I’m doing on any given day.

I like to practice these concepts in yoga because it makes it easier to practice them in life. It’s a starting place for me.

Here in the home of my body, working with my own skin and bones, can I soften a little right where I want to harden.
Can I open a little more right where I feel myself closing.
Can I create a little more space in the most contracted, uncomfortable poses.

Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. Either way is okay if I remember to bring my curiosity and consciousness to the process.

If he keeps at it my little one is going to realize he can’t go through the couch, but he can crawl around it and he can climb over it.

If I approach my limitations respectfully and curiously, I’ll probably find a treasure buried in this terrain I think I know so well and a new way to navigate the landscape of my life.

 

This Too Shall Pass

rose shadowThis is the phrase we all hear when we’re going through a difficult time.

It’s supposed to remind us of the big picture of life.
It’s supposed to remind us our current situation is temporary, no matter how dire it seems at the time.
It’s supposed to remind us to hang in there.

But I’ve been thinking.

It also applies to our great times. Those precious moments, those successes, those accomplishments, those unforgettable memories.

This too shall pass.

Since the good moments are just as fleeting and temporary as what we like to call the bad ones, doesn’t that also remind us of the fragility, the fleetingness, and the brevity of life?

It does for me.

I came to this sobering analysis while nursing my six-month-old. This indescribable mother-baby bond just blows me away. It humbles me, it honors me, and I just want to capture it somehow.

I don’t want to remember it. I want to hold on to it.

In response to my desire to hold on, I remind myself I need to let go. Not just of this, but of every other amazing moment in my life.

This too shall pass.

I know there is no holding on. There is just showing up.

All I can do is show up. All I can do is dig deeper than I’ve ever dug and become radically present for these precious moments, because when they’re gone they’re gone.

And I will rest more peacefully at the end of my life knowing I showed up for my life than if I have a mind full of memories that I was never fully present for.

There’s a poem by Mary Oliver that I love called In Blackwater Woods.

The portion that speaks to me is this:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

That is my work in this lifetime.

Hold it close.
And let it go.

Our Practice Reveals What’s Already Perfect

anjali mudra 1I stand at the top of my yoga mat and take a moment to notice what’s already happening in my body.

My upper back and shoulders are rounding forward and my head follows their lead.

Tired, I think. I feel tired.

The heels of my feet carry most of my weight and my arms hang at my sides feeling tight and dehydrated.

I look down and notice the fingers on my right hand curl in considerably more than the fingers on my left hand.

My breath is uneven and shallow.

I bring my hands to my heart and try to honor the body I stand in, with all its imperfections.

Lifting my head I begin to breathe deeper.

I root down evenly through the soles of my feet and let the inhale lift my shoulders from the inside. My head finds its rightful place on top of my spine and with my next breath I lift my arms high.

Space. I want to create some space.

I move slowly, reminding my body to follow my breath.

Mountain pose, I root down into my center.
Arms lift, I rise up into my present.
Forward fold, I bow in gratitude for all I have.
Rising halfway, I lift my heart bravely.
Bending at the hips, I fold in to replenish.
Arms reach for the sky, I rise up to receive.
Hands in prayer, I offer my head to my heart.

A sweet soul-sustaining breath echoes in my ears.
Pause. Listen. Repeat.

A few sun salutations later I stand at the top of my mat and wonder if anything has changed.

My hands are the most noticeable. My fingers hang long and relaxed at the end of my wrists. My feet are weighted evenly on the floor and my breath is even and full.

I press the edges of my thumbs into my sternum and pause.

Thump thump thump. Thank you, Heart.

Practice doesn’t make perfect.

Practice reminds me that under my imperfect skin and bones my heart beats perfectly.

Thank you, Yoga.

*This post was originally published on elephantjournal.

A Different Approach to Postpartum Yoga

down dogThe first few weeks and months after having my baby were not what I expected.

Initially my body felt like it had been hit by a truck. I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery, but the impact of childbirth and the physical toll taking care of a newborn took on my body blew me away.

When I attempted to resume my yoga practice I found I had very little energy and even less time to practice. 

I knew I needed yoga, but I wasn’t able to do the yoga I did before getting pregnant or even while being pregnant. Postpartum yoga was its own category. When I would search for postpartum yoga I’d see lots of articles about “getting your body back.”

I wasn’t interested in “getting my body back.” I was interested in figuring out how to function and practice yoga in this new body.

This is where my yoga teacher training really paid off. I decided I had to scrap my old yoga practice and mindset and start from scratch. This wasn’t easy, but I knew it was the safest and most nurturing thing for my body.

I’m six months into motherhood and I still don’t have my old yoga practice back, but I’ve learned how to make my yoga count.

Gone are the days of 5-minute warm-ups and 10-minute savasanas.

I’m happy to get in a 15-minute practice on any given day and have found that life after baby requires a different kind of flexibility, strength, and patience than the kind I practice on my mat.

The 5 poses I share below are what I practiced for the first couple months post-baby. Coupled with awareness and breath I found them to be healing, energizing, and supportive for my body and mind.

*****

In all poses bring awareness to your breath and your back body, two areas that tend to get neglected in new moms. Step into your new body slowly and with awareness, letting it open up when ready and heal at its own pace.

Cat/Cow: This was the first pose I did after having baby and it never felt so good. It’s a wonderful way to gently begin to reconnect to your new body and massage your spine at the beginning or end of your day.

Learn how to do cat/cow here.

Supported Twist: Back pain is a common complaint among new moms. Twists are rejuvinating Supported Twistfor the spine and can provide a much-needed release to the back after a day of carrying baby. This restorative version is gentle enough for your recovering body and the support allows you to deeply relax.

Use blankets or a pillow wrapped in a towel. Line up your hip with the middle of your prop. Twist to face the prop and lengthen your torso as you place yourself on it. Rest on each side 5 to 15 minutes.

Supported BackbendBack Bend Over a Bolster: The hunched shoulders that come from carrying and picking up baby all day compromise our posture and can leave us feeling exhausted energetically as well as physically. This gentle heart-opener expands your lungs and frees up your breath.

Roll up a blanket and place your upper back over it until it rests under your nipple line. For extra support use a blanket under the knees and neck. Rest here 5 to 15 minutes.

Shoulder Clock: Carrying and rocking baby contracts the biceps as well as the forearm muscles, creating tension in the upper chest and neck over time. Gently opening the shoulders when possible helps to relieve some of the tightness we develop in the arms.

Learn how to do shoulder clock here.

Constructive Rest Pose: Hours spent sitting while nursing, rocking, and playing with baby Constructive Rest Posefatigues the psoas, a core muscle connected to our central nervous system and a major player in keeping the hips happy and balanced. The psoas connects the spine to the leg, and this pose helped me learn to relax it without pushing my body into deeper poses too early.

Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor in line with your hips. Keep your spine in its natural position with a curve under the low back and neck. Rest here for 10 to 15 minutes and let gravity do the work.

(Check with your doctor before beginning or resuming any yoga practice postpartum.)

What Song Are You Singing?

I’ve been struggling for some time with trying to find my voice.

You know the voice. Not the one that tells you to give up or that you need to be better. The one that is clear as a bell and won’t take no for an answer. The one you believe, not because of what it says but because you know deep down it’s your voice.

And it’s speaking your truth.

Sometimes I hear what sounds like this voice coming from other people’s writing, words, or life. It’s misleading because it makes me think, Hey, there’s my voice! I just need to say what she’s saying or do what he’s doing or live like they’re living and I’ll have it.

“The hardest journey is from your head to your heart, but once you get there, you’ll know who you are.”- The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers

“The hardest journey is from your head to your heart, but once you get there, you’ll know who you are.”- The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers

So I try that. I try subscribing to other people’s ideas, copying other people’s practices, living other people’s lives.

It always dumps me back in the same unsatisfied spot, feeling disconnected and wondering why.

One of the reasons it’s so hard to hear my voice is because there’s so many other voices out there trying to tell me who I should be. They’re so loud and authoritative. They come with bells and whistles. They shout at me from magazine covers and websites and billboards.

It’s hard to block them out without also blocking out my own voice. I try to lower their volume by lowering mine.

If I don’t speak so loud they won’t tell me to be quiet, simmer down, and live like everybody else. If I don’t speak so loud they won’t ask me to back up my words with some action.

I think that’s how we end up living lives of quiet desperation.

Lately though I’ve been hearing my own voice. It’s strong and clear and getting louder. It asks me tough questions and it doesn’t take cop-outs for answers.

It asks me what I’m made of and what I would do today if I was going to die tomorrow.
It asks me what really matters to me and what value I put on every moment.
It asks me to show up and when I don’t it asks me what was more important than being Here right Now.
Then it asks me to show up again.

This is the voice I’ve been trying to hear. This is the voice I’ve been terrified of hearing.

I’m beginning to hear it even through the cacophony of voices media and society throw at me. I’m beginning to listen to it even when it says what I don’t want to hear.

And I’m beginning to use it. To use my own voice that speaks my own truth that was always there that I’m just beginning to hear that has something to say.

It tells me to get ready for the journey from my head to my heart. It tells me it won’t be easy and I’ll want to turn back. It tells me I’ll have to get naked and vulnerable and leave all my shields and defenses behind. It asks me to get up close and personal with my unfiltered, unedited, unbreakable truth.

It asks me to speak that truth, even if no one will listen.

It reminds me that I say I don’t want to go to my grave with my song still in me, so I better get singing.

What is your voice saying to you?

 

photo credit: dullhunk