Responsibility

Why does God let bad things happen?

How many times have we heard, even uttered this question?

There are so many teachings about God not being somewhere remote and far away but right in our hearts. There are teachings that each person we meet is God.

If we acknowledge that there is Divine Love in our hearts, then the question is not why does God let things happen, the question is why do WE let things happen.

I think this is relevant if you believe in a big guy sitting on a throne in the sky, three billion Gods and Goddesses each with many limbs influencing daily life, no God at all, or whatever.

Gun violence. Any violence. Unsafe food. Warzones. Environmental collapse. Weak education systems. You know the rest of the list….

Why do WE let it happen?

Then, most importantly:

What can WE do together to keep it from happening again?

Taken at Yoga Shala Sacramento, edited with Mirrorgram
Taken at Yoga Shala Sacramento, edited with Mirrorgram

The Efficient Practice

It is a challenge to get good mat time these days. I pine for the days when I would have back-to-back teaching/practices or when I could look at studio schedules and think, “Well, if I miss the 4:30 I can always just hit up the 6:15. No big deal..”

Time is a precious commodity, managed and coordinated in ways I never thought I would have to manage and coordinate. When my baby is awake, I am chasing after her. When she is asleep, I have a long list of things that I need to do for my home, work and family. I also have to balance time for my husband – time for us to be together and give him space.

When I do throw my mat down in the house, I am often interrupted by either the baby waking up, the dog wanting my attention or the cat knocking something off the kitchen counter. Somewhere on these lists of priorities, there can be the briefest moments that are truly to myself that don’t include working on teaching/festival/writing or cleaning/cooking. (Cooking, ha! that’s funny!) Those moments are like gold.

I have become incredibly efficient with my home practice.

One of the best things I learned as a classical musician was how to practice. I was taught how to practice efficiently with consistency – that it was not about how many hours I spent in the practice room but how I used the hours spent in the practice room. Sometimes, the most effective practice technique was to simply sit in front of the piece of music, internalize/visualize, sing it and then pick up the horn to play.

I have brought this practice into yoga. I think about sequencing and poses all the time. For example, whenever my baby gets a bottle, I am usually thinking through a sequence (how could I open the body up to get to this pose? What happens on the way to the pose?) while kissing her sweet little head. Sometimes, while she is crawling around, I take a moment to explore a pose with a long hold to target a specific area.

When I have my asana practice, I am usually figuring out how a series I envision is going to really feel on the body and working out the kinks I feel from carrying around a little 15 pound wiggle worm. A lot of times I am practicing with YogaGlo. (Thank god for YogaGlo!)

Right now, the magic number is 45 minutes. More often than not, when I plan it just right and allow myself to really explore the possibility of movement and opening in asana, my efficient practice brings more opening than I used to get in longer, open-ended practices.

Seal Pose - Nicholas Wray Photography

“Planning it just right” doesn’t mean that each moment is clearly planned. It is the opposite of restrictive. With a destination in mind, I explore different ways to arrive. If something comes up on the way to the pose that seems interesting, I follow it. I prepare my body for what comes next and stay open to the question: what comes next? Knowing I don’t have time for a lot of repetition that defines some vinyasa styles, I play with the balance of long holds and movement.

I play. I create. I feel great.

Then I show up four times a week and share, knowing full well that time is a precious commodity to the people who have come to class. They have likely had to manage and coordinate time in ways they never thought they would have to manage and coordinate.  Time to themselves that does not involved cleaning, cooking, working or putting someone else first is like gold. I understand this and am constantly humbled and inspired by people who are able to come to a studio class.

Yes, I wish I could go to class every day and have unlimited time to play. For now, that is not my reality. From this, I have found a gift. I am grateful for all I am learning from the efficient practice.

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……….

Writing Heals

True story: The first thing I remember buying myself with my money (birthday & allowance saved up) was a Hello Kitty diary. It had a lock. I still remember going to the mall and picking it out. My first entries were pictures and moved on to reporting on current events.

I continued keeping a journal throughout my teenage years. I wrote everything down. Everything. I was always writing in journals, pouring out all that I felt. The writing dwindled when I got to college. It would come back every now and then, but mostly faded away.

The notebooks lived in my parents’ house for many years. When my parents moved, they sent the boxes to me. I promptly stored them away without even opening them up. “Oh God,” I thought when I saw them, “here is over ten pounds of teenage angst.” Cringe. I did not want to look. I did not want to see that image of me as an unhappy, selfish teenager and young adult. When I got those boxes, I decided that I liked who I had become and had no need to revisit all that.

Then my friend died. (This death touched me deeply and was, unfortunately, the first of three I would experience in 2011.)

A common friend who happens to live in the Bay Area came over after we heard the news. We got out the old yearbooks and shared our memories. We cried a little, laughed a lot. I took a deep breath and, for the first time in over 15 years, opened the boxes of the old journals.

What I found surprised me. I loved that sassy little teenager. I found so much compassion and love for that girl who was me. I discovered things about myself I had forgotten. (What? I used to draw?) The times when I was angsty and cursing the world, I just laughed out loud instead of cringing when I read the words. I wrote down quotes from what I was listening to and reading. I clipped images from magazines and made great collages.  I smiled over captured moments I had completely forgotten, like a night spent on a beach under a blanket looking at stars in Michigan…when I heard Rite of Spring for the first time at Tanglewood while it rained and then how the person I was walking with after the show kept hitting the trees to make them rain on me and I loved the light from the streetlights catching the rain drops. I saw friends who are all grown up now as kids and friends who I have lost along the way who may always be kids in my mind.

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On those pages, I saw myself struggle to be compassionate and often fail, but get up and try again anyway. I saw a painfully shy girl who did not want to be shy, clumsily faking it until making it (or not…) looking for a place to call home. I saw a girl walking a spiritual path built on complete trust in God/Universe/Love, even when it scared her.

I was also pretty damned funny at times.

Those journals were a healing, safe place for me to go write down and say whatever I wanted to say without judgment from anyone but me. Years later, I was not expecting them to heal the relationship I have with my younger self. When I finally opened them, I opened to me. I accepted me – all of me.

I am a believer. Writing heals.

This is why I am teaching the writing + yoga workshop series in October at Asha Yoga. I hope that others will find the healing (and laughs) possible through conscious writing. Check out Asha’s website and the Living Yoga tab at the top of this page for more information. I hope to see you there.

Happy International Day of Peace or Why I Got Tears When I Saw the Space Shuttle

I was making the daily route around the park with my daughter this morning. She was sleeping and I was listening to Arvo Part. A woman came running out of her house laughing, clapping, and shouting, “Look up! Look up! It’s here!”

I looked up at the treeline and saw a low-flying plane holding space shuttle Endeavour.  It was so close! There was no time to get the camera or the phone. I will just have to hold the image in my mind. Everyone in the park started to clap and smile.

As I continued my walk, thinking about the amazing thing I had just witnessed, I realized I was getting emotional. Tears were coming to my eyes.

Before space exploration, a majority of the world’s scientists were focused on the science of warfare (or so Carl Sagan said in the first episode of Cosmos…been watching that lately.) Think about that – our amazing human minds focused and driven to come up with different ways for us to annihilate one another. Space exploration opened a door. We, as a species, were able to shift our imagination and efforts to the Universe. It allowed us to not only acknowledge but witness that we are part of something bigger – we are part of something so much bigger than our wars and daily conflicts.

I can only imagine what a relief it must have been for those first scientists who were able to really work on going into space. What a relief and inspiration to work on something that was not designed for killing or separating us on the planet. How liberating to be given the opportunity to make a dream like that come true.

So that shuttle, to me, on International Peace Day ended up being a symbol of our potential as human beings. Our potential to humbly, joyfully ask questions and appreciate the voyage on the way to the answers. The amazing potential we hold to both destroy and create. The amazing potential we have to inspire each other.

I mean, really think about it: We can send people into outer space. There is a machine on Mars right now taking photographs.

Human beings, we are amazing creatures. Let’s keep our feet on the ground as we keep our eyes to the sky. Let’s put down our arms and keep making magical things together.

Elevate

Our alarm clock seemed to have a mind of its own last week. For some reason, it woke us up two days in a row to a local commercial a.m. radio station. It was not the most pleasant wake-up and, honestly, put the alarm in alarm clock.

That alarm clock incident was the first time I had really heard political ads outside of a news report about political ads. (Also, I live in California – we don’t have the ad saturation like the battleground states.)  Oh my goodness. I knew that this political cycle was going to get nasty. I knew that it was going to be heated. When I take a step back and really think about it, I am stunned at how we allow our public airwaves to be filled with such negativity and dishonesty.

It was a great reminder to me of how this is EVERYWHERE right now. It’s on our radio, internet news, Facebook feeds (de-friended/hid anyone recently?), website comment sections, print media, television, etc. It has become way too acceptable to call other people idiots.

The most important thing we need this political season, just like all political seasons, is an informed voting population that actually gets out to vote. Let’s just keep our snarky comments to ourselves and turn the volume down during commercials. Let’s commit to getting educated, getting registered and making  informed decisions at the ballot box. Let’s commit to take back our public voice and get special interest money out of the process.

There is a Buddhist teaching about Right Speech. I like this simple explanation from The Big View

Positively phrased, this [Right Speech] means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

In my life, during this election cycle, I am trying to find compassion and understanding for those who see the world differently from me. I am trying so hard, and often failing, to be respectful when I talk. Here’s the key: I am acknowledging when I fail and promising to try to do better next time.

Here is my campaign season promise:

  • I promise to do my best to elevate every conversation I have.
  • I promise to notice and acknowledge when I am wrong and/or uneducated on an issue.
  • I promise not to participate in discussions or advance any speech/platform that includes hate, discrimination, willing ignorance, or name-calling. I promise to identify this activity and respectfully communicate that I find it unproductive and harmful.  In my personal life, I will de-friend, un-follow or whatever else is necessary to keep this promise.
  • I promise to respectfully offer and receive educated contributions during political/social discourse.
  • I promise to respect the rights of others to hold opinions different from mine.

And remember, dear friends:

someecards.com -

Say yes to knowledge.

Say yes to respectful discourse.

RISE THE KNOWLEDGE RISE!


(I know I’ve posted this song a billion times – it is just so right-on and relevant, had to post again.)

Cracks

Hundreds of years ago, there was a booming civilization. Elaborate temples were constructed, almost every inch of them engraved with all manner of things – people, gods, flowers, designs.

Every now and then, a bird would fly over and – ahem – make a deposit on these carefully constructed stone buildings.

The civilization changed. The people left the temples. In the cracks of these carefully constructed buildings, the seeds left behind by the birds germinated and grew into trees.

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Now these stone temples are in a symbiotic relationship with the trees. The trees hold the temples together, the temples support the trees’ root systems. As the temples have been pushed apart, chance allows for bits of carvings that were once part of elaborate canvases in stone to become tiny found objects. A pair of hands or smile in the rubble. The trees glow – they are regarded as holy as the temples.

All of this happened because a seed, planted in a crack, was able to grow and create something. Did the people who carefully constructed the stone walls think, “Someday, we’ll let trees grow in the cracks of this wall.” ? Doubtful.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as it feels that the seeds planted (both on purpose and in what felt like the emotional equivalent of a bird s#*&ing on my head) in between the things I so carefully constructed are germinating. Yes, there is pain (both physical and emotional) where the metaphorical cracks seem to be growing bigger, but that pain is also excitement when I stand back and realize that the germination is growth. One day, I will look back and see that, like those temples, this life has grown into something I would never have imagined.

It’s those in-between places that life happens. The examples are all around. The trees in the temple. Something as simply obvious as when a drive to a destination can be more important than the destination. How you get in and out of a pose more important than “landing it.”

Allow yourself to come apart at the seams. Plant positive seeds of intention. Trust that, even when it feels like you’re getting s#$% on, each moment and interaction is an opportunity for growth. Pay attention to the cracks, those in-between places. Marvel at the beauty of what can grow.

Be patient.

Be grateful.

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?