No Complaints

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What happens when you stop complaining?

Sometimes, a complaint dissolves, stopping in your throat or behind your teeth.

Sometimes, it escapes and you start the practice all over again….and that is why it is called a practice.

With each complaint that bubbles up, you get the opportunity to consider its source. You notice these sources of malcontent.

Perhaps your complaint is a manifestation of anger. There is an anger that can spark a positive movement. You can see something in your life and say, “I don’t like this, will not stand for this!” You have decided to stop complaining, so you will act.

Other complaints may feel like anger. Look closer and see how deeply entwined anger is with grief. Grief over life’s shoulds, coulds and woulds. Grief over the things you think you have lost. Grief over things and circumstances, real or imagined, that you think you want. You have decided to stop complaining, so you will begin to make peace with your grief.

You will notice how often you try to control things that cannot be controlled. You will see elaborate arguments with reality distracting you from a life of gratitude and purpose.

You will soften. You will let go.

Conversations will become simple, more fulfilling. You will feel cleaner, more grounded and present. Unrepentant, you will feel more connected to living as your best self.

Why am I trying to stop complaining?

I decided a long time ago that I do not want to live a life seeing the world as lacking or made up of dumbasses, dirtbags and stupid people. I do not want to look at the world as a construction of circumstances contributing to my discomfort or failure. I want to live in a beautiful world, full of possibility. Even in the dark times – even in situations of unspeakable violence and destruction – I want to see an opportunity for change and healing rather than blame and name-calling.

The stakes are now even higher. I am raising two girls, two humans, two little adults in training. Do I want to be a family that meets up at the dinner table to complain about the day? No. Do I have an opportunity to pass on positive values and useful tools to bring good people into this world? Absolutely.

I have the opportunity to do my best every day.

No more complaining. It’s a practice I am willing to take on. I am willing to stumble, fall and get back up, bigger and brighter each time.

This is my action.
(And, seriously – how fortunate to live in a stable home, not in a war zone or a garbage dump? How fortunate to have running water and the opportunity to wonder “Oh, I don’t know, should I buy the organic ones?” at the grocery store. What the EFF do I really have to complain about?)

Writing

Recently, some unpublished JD Salinger stories were leaked. I love Salinger’s writing. His characters are old friends. When I was in the eleventh grade, I had a very vivid dream that Virginia Woolf and I were shopping for apples in the grocery store. We ran into Franny Glass, who was holding a glass jar of olives. My 21-year-old copy of Catcher in the Rye is duct-taped together.

Knowing that Salinger was very clear about these stories not being ready for publication, I decided against an eager google search. It was hard. I decided to continue the wait for the posthumous release of the rest of his work.

I believe that not all writing has to be shared.

Now that we all have blogs (and even podcasts), it seems everyone is writing. This is great. I love that so many people are writing. I am a believer in sitting down, listening, and letting it all pour out.

I am a believer that everyone has a story and that the process of writing heals.

I believe in questioning the readiness and intention of a piece before hitting “publish.”

In terms of writing something to share, I am a strong believer that there is a step that follows the pouring it all out on the page. I recently taught a writing and yoga workshop with my friend and amazing writer, Elaine Gale. In our workshop, she urged us all to sit down, write a big mess, and then go through the process of cleaning it up.

Make a beautiful mess, clean it up.

I haven’t been posting, but I have been writing a lot. Who have I been writing for? I don’t know. Maybe just for me. Maybe there does not need to be an audience. Sentences have been spilling out of pens and erupting from my tapping fingertips on the keyboard. I have been writing because I can’t help myself. I have been letting out the big, beautiful messes.

I have revitalized my love affair with the craft of writing. I am enjoying the process of writing and then spending a few hours, days or weeks away before going back in to see what happened and what I can learn. I even enjoy looking something over and dragging it into the little trash can on my desktop. I love remembering a piece I wrote as being amazingly witty, discovering it really wasn’t all that great, and then working on it so it lives up to my memory.

I love looking at something I’ve written and wondering how I can support the appropriate words with the best possible grammar.

I am reading to learn from other people’s writing – fascinated not just by the experience being shared in the story, but by how they write the story to life on the page. I listen to interviews with writers, comedians, musicians and other creatives to hear them talk about their life and process. I listen. I learn. I fall in love over and over again with being human and our amazing capacity to create.

I am not a professional writer. I write because it happens. I write because I can’t help myself. I have always written – and I am not, by any means, perfect. Typos and misspellings happen. I actively seek them out in my writing and ask: Where did that happen? Why did that happen? What was I feeling or trying to express at the moment? What can I learn from this? What does a semicolon do, really? And do I really know how to use italics?

Bringing it back to everyone is writing, I admit it: I am one of those people who winces when I see something published (and stay published) with glaring typos – be it a blog, a news story or even a Facebook post. When I see a potentially great story full of incorrect plurals and misspellings, I feel cheated. I feel sad for the story – like the story wasn’t loved enough to be cleaned up before being sent out into the world. As if the person holding the story didn’t love it enough to run spell check or go back after posting to edit.

I equate it to taking my daughter to the park without cleaning her up after breakfast. I could take this beautiful, joyful child out into the world without combing the dried oatmeal out of her hair, wiping the blueberry stains off her face or changing her out of the sticky, crusty clothes…but I won’t. Cleaned up, the sticky mess of breakfast will not be a distraction from her joyful self as she runs to the sandbox with other kids to fill endless Tupperware containers with sand and sticks. Yes, she had to get messy first – but I was able to clean her up. Nourished, happy and healthy, she will be at her best. Her smile is always beautiful, but it is most beautiful when it isn’t surrounded by a crust of old oatmeal she didn’t eat.

That is where I am with writing and why this little blog has been lightly posted upon this year. Let’s run with that metaphor a little further and just say there are some blueberry stains on the pages and I haven’t decided what park to take the kid to today. Out of respect for what is pouring out, I am not hitting publish as often. When a post emerges, it will be posted. I am focusing now on process rather than the product.

We all have stories. (No one, it should be noted, has storie’s or story’s. No one.) We can all write – we all should write, in my opinion. Writing strips us down and shows us who we are. All our bullshit and beauty stare back at us from the page when we sit back and read our work. There we are. How marvelous.

Out of respect for all that is sacred, write! Get it out. Make your mess. Don’t feel compelled to always publish or share.

If you choose to share, clean it up. Out of respect for your voice and your story, share it in its best possible light.

I vow to do the same. Whenever I am ready, I will post again.

(In the meantime, take a yoga class with me, keep an eye out for upcoming workshops at Asha and check me out on Instagram.)

Turn Up the Frequency

Turn up the frequency of love

This line from the song “Flavor” has been resonating for a long time in me. Resonating like a gong – Strong and exciting on the first strike, feeling it all the way to my bones as the vibrations change, subtly and strongly, into a deeper resonance.

The day after the last awful shooting, which happened in a movie theatre, I was in a class in South Carolina. The teacher spoke about connection – that all the people who perpetrate these horrific acts of violence have something in common: they are completely separated from their community and, thus, humanity.

I can barely think about the possibility of someone taking away my child or any loved one in an act of violence. I also cannot imagine how someone can start out as a little baby and grow up so damaged, so disconnected from their own humanity, to do something so horrible. That makes me just as sad.

We all have a choice: we can choose fear or we can choose love. When we choose love, it is up to us to turn up that frequency – and it’s not always easy. It’s hard to try to find compassion in moments when it would be easier to just be angry and bitter.

We have to keep lifting each other up. That weird kid in the class? Lift him up. That beautiful child? lift them up. The person you pass on the sidewalk? Lift them up.

Lifting up can be a smile, a call for gun control, getting someone mental health or even looking someone in the eye and saying hello.

So what’s is going to be, America? Fear or love? Are we going to pray to the jealous god who spreads fear or the benevolent god who spreads love?

I’m choosing love and finding that in cases like this, it’s the harder choice.

My prayers have been constant. They go something like this:

Beloved, please help me keep walking a path of love – it is so hard and I need your help. Help us all through this dark period as we struggle to move as a global community towards the light on the other side of this grief and confusion. That light seems so dim sometimes, just a teeny spark so far away, and we need help to stay focused. Dear Friend, please comfort all who are experiencing unspeakable loss and shock. Beloved, please help us all see those who are disconnected from the love that is at the core of our humanity and help us lift them up. Help us all shine our light and comfort those who are hurting and heal those who are so damaged. Let me be an instrument of peace, a transmitter of love. Help me see that peace and love reflected in every single person I meet.

here is another version of kids singing the song – Oh. My. Goodness. Sweetness overload……….

Sanctuary

This past week, I posted this on my Facebook page:

One of my favorite words is Sanctus. It is the Latin word for holy. From that word we get Sanctuary: sacred, holy space.

More and more these days, I fall deeper into gratitude for the times I can unroll my mat and just practice – asana, breath, watching thoughts & emotions. My practice is a sanctuary where I can acknowledge then set aside worries and concerns for others and check inside to the holiest of places: my heart center. From that sanctuary, I remember that I am part of a larger community – how lucky I am to have the worries and lists that I have.

I can go inside to this sanctuary to remind myself that I am not alone. Far from it. We are all in this – make that we ARE all this – together. I can cast aside the childish things separating me from everyone else and remember…we are all holy spirits.

I can’t tell you how true this is for me. I am feeling the challenge of having to carefully orchestrate and plan any moment I want to spend away from my house. In that orchestration is a need to balance time so my husband also has time for himself out of the house. Oh yeah, we also need to spend time together.

So I don’t get to practice or teach as often as I would like. (hello, first world problem)

 

These days, it is downright special when I walk through a studio door, throw down my mat and practice with other people.  Not every practice is profoundly life changing. (How exhausting would that be?) Getting on my mat outside the home simply reminds me that I’m not alone. It gives me time to focus on what’s going on with me – not having to stop and feed, clothe, or clean up after anyone else.

I am reminded that being able to even consider taking time to simply put a piece of rubber on a wood floor and move around is a luxury. What makes that piece of rubber so sacred to me is something reflecting back from inside that I tend to bury while meeting the needs of others and chasing all those distractions from the monkey mind.

That sanctuary is not limited to a mat, a studio, or even a church – that sanctuary is always inside. I just need reminding every now and then – don’t we all?

Hustle, Bustle, Flow….

It was the last day of a five-day retreat at a beautiful Buddhist retreat center. All of us were coordinating where on the beach we would meet for lunch, taking goofy photos, and just being happy.

A woman walked out of the building and said, “Please. Please be quiet. We have teachings and meditations going on.”

We apologized and decided to leave, but I admit that I rolled my eyes. I know, Ahimsa fail. Here’s why….

Our first day in Bangkok, we decided to walk to a temple that sits on top of a big hill. We could see it from the guesthouse where we were staying.

To get there, we first walked along a canal on a walkway that was about five feet wide. Lining the walkway were homes. Some homes doubled as shops for motorcycle repairs, food, souvenirs….name it. There were also tents and carts selling produce, fish, and various noodle concoctions. Chickens ran around, fish were pulled out of the canal, we constantly dodged the oncoming motorcycles.

When we got to street level, we found ourselves in the middle of a huge political demonstration. Not an orderly one, like the one we went to in San Francisco before the Iraq War. There were trucks and cars parked seemingly at will in the street, all with loud speaker systems blasting music and speeches. Motorcycles and cars still wove through to get through the street, so we had to be very careful about crossing. We were also dodging food vendors and crowds of people who were very ready to voice their opinion about politics. To them, it was organized. To us, it felt like chaos.

All along, I was thinking, “It’s going to be quiet at the temple. It will be peaceful there.”

We got to the temple grounds and bought bottles of water. (I should also mention that it was really, really hot in a polluted city and I was wearing an adorable black sundress that was now sticking to me like a second skin.)

There is a long, long stairwell that winds around the hill to the top of the temple. It was quiet for about five minutes and then the loudspeaker system kicked on as a monk began teaching. Sounds cool, right? Well, it was really loud, in Thai, and did not stop the entire time we were there. The temple was crowded. The constant clanking of bells, fellow travelers, and the sounds from the political demonstration built heavy layers of sound over the droning voice of the monk.

“Maybe at the top, next to the Buddhas, it will be quiet.”

Upon entering the temple, we were bombarded with offerings for sale. Bells, candles, lotus, incense, marigolds, birds…you name it. And it’s not like there was a counter where someone just asks if you would like to buy something or politely asks, “May I help you?” We were practically being told: “You buy good luck – bells? Incense? You buy! Lucky Buddha!” The cramped space was full of people praying, taking photos, or just hanging out. Our senses were overloaded.

Who knew a Buddhist temple would be one of the most chaotic places I had ever been?

We took a different route back to the guesthouse, just wandering through the streets of Bangkok in the general direction (“The canal is this way, we’ll figure it out from there….”) and found a small neighborhood wat. I went inside and sat on the scratchy carpet and just took in the silence. I was hot and my head was buzzing from all the sensations. My hair was sticking to my forehead and the back of my neck. I looked at the Buddha statue and had a realization.

He was smirking.

In the middle of all the noise, smells, and sounds – all the Buddhas were just hanging out with a smile (or smirk) on their faces. They were in the quiet all along. I realized I had just had one of the best hours of my life. I loved it. I absolutely loved every minute, smell, and sound of it.

This happened over and over again. The temples were the loudest, craziest places we encountered. I even had a man literally put incense in my hand in front of a statue in Cambodia and then tell me, “Miss, you must give money for offering to lucky Buddha.” (That Buddha was definitely smirking.)

I decided to surrender and just ride the hustle and bustle throughout the journey. At the famous reclining Buddha, I tossed coins into the brass pots and enjoyed every loud clank. My ears were ringing after I got through the line, but I loved it.


I am not a Buddhist. There are some teachings in Buddhism that have helped me in my life. It really wasn’t until I encountered the hustle and bustle of Southeast Asian temples that I realized how little I know about what we talk about on a daily basis in yoga classes.

I learned more from those chaotic times of letting go of how I thought a Buddhist experience “should” be and laughed at myself for even having expectations. Seriously, what is a middle class white girl from the Bible Belt who teaches yoga in California doing with expectations of how one should experience a Southeast Asian temple?

(Now I have a bad case of wanderlust – where are we going next? Can I really take my infant to Cambodia?)

She’s Here!

“Prana is God’s breath. Prana is the energy permeating the universe at all levels…All vibrating energies are prana…it is the hidden and potential energy in all beings, released to the fullest extent as a response to any threat to one’s survival. It is the prime mover of all activity. It is the energy that creates, protects, and destroys.” ~ BKS Iyengar

I had a post in progress about how climbing the walls sounded like fun – if only I could climb them without hurting myself! I was getting restless and uncomfortable, feeling every moment of the past 9 months. I trashed it today. Instead, I’m happy to post this:


She came a week early and, goodness, was she excited to get here! It took 4 hours from the first  wave of mild contractions to delivery. She was literally almost born in the car. Literally meaning actually – ten minutes after the nurse midwives got me out of the car into the delivery room, she was here.

There was no time for drugs, tubs, or anything. I don’t say that out of pride, but out of bewilderment – the last thing I said before we left home went something like this, “I’m not interested in being some @#$%ing hero. Tell them to give me the drugs when we get there. This @#$%ing hurts.”

Going back to we teach what we truly need to hear:

Send the breath to wherever you feel tension, stress, unease. Wrap it up in an inhale and let it go in an exhale.

It all seems to come back to the breath for me through this whole experience. Pranayama – focusing on the breath, sending it to wherever there was pain/sensation got me through that experience. The breath anchored me to each moment. It was a 20-minute car ride to the hospital. My husband calmly put his hand on my back (I was adamant about lying on the floor of the car) and repeated, “Remember your breath.”

The body awareness cultivated through regular yoga practice – specifically bandhas, pelvic floor  – helped tremendously. However, it was breath that delivered her and gave her life.


Uncomfortable, Confusing God Stuff

In my last teacher training, our teacher often asked the group, “Are you uncomfortable with the word God?”

Had I been in a group facing this question a couple of years ago, I would have taken that as an opportunity to step into the retail area of the studio for the very important task of getting some tea or hiding in the bathroom.

I’m okay with this question now and it has been quite a long road to get here, which I have written a bit about before (see my article on elephant journal, which is an edited version of this earlier post).

Speaking of God, I really enjoyed watching this talk by Eric Weiner this morning. (If you haven’t read his first book, Geography of Bliss, go get it now!)

The ultimate goal of religion is not God, it’s Life. Love it.

At my FT job, I’ve had the opportunity to work with several writers and speakers – he was one of my faves. He was in between his trip to Nepal and Turkey working on this book and I just really appreciated his no-b.s. approach to all the “bliss” and “God” stuff. 

His new book, Man Seeks God, is next on my list – I have a paper to write on a book I need to finish this week for my last teacher training and I’m using his book as the carrot to get the work done. 

Related post: It Works

Dissolve the Resolve: Setting Intentions

Since 2008, I’ve been setting one-word intentions for the new year instead of resolutions. It’s so interesting to end of each year and reflect on how those intentions unfold over the year. My word for 2011 was grace. I had some vague ideas of what grace meant and I knew I wanted more of it.

It’s been an intense year of learning to accept and live with grace.

I took two Anusara workshops in the fall and was introduced to the “Open To Grace” philosophy. As one of the teachers said: When life gives you something you don’t want, you can take it anyway (like you really have a choice) and choose to make something beautiful out of it.

I’ve gotten so much that I have happily accepted this year. I’ve also experienced being handed so many difficult things that I didn’t necessarily want.

For most of 2011, we have held equal amounts of joy and sorrow. Joy for the baby girl who will join us in March and equal sorrow as my second dad (a.k.a. father-in-law) drifted out of this life due to esophageal cancer.

As we sat with our grief and tried to wrap our head around it all, I remember one conversation in particular with my family as we talked about losing him and welcoming Baby Girl. We realized that all our joy and sorrow, equally expansive, come from the same deep well of love. It’s okay to be sad (such a simple word for such a painful emotion) just as it is okay to be happy.

So as I sat in the memorial service for my second dad, I thought about how my in-laws took the short-lived battle with cancer one day at a time realizing there were things they could control and things they could not – not resigning, allowing themselves to feel, and practicing a radical acceptance. I thought about the last time I saw him, in the hospice with his dogs in bed with him and family surrounding him. Losing count of how many times we said I love you as he shifted in and out of lucidity. It was like watching someone dissolve.

How fortunate Baby Girl is to inherit a legacy of kind, loving men in her life and for how much love is going to surround and support her.

My word for 2012?

Gratitude