On the Road Again

Snapshots of a winter in South Florida:

pink hibiscus blossomGreen, lush growth.  Sun.  Neem trees.  Waving palm trees. Flowering Cacti!!  Pink hibiscus and red wild roses. White lilies, and night-blooming jasmine.  Cold, gray days.

Mr BluejayMr. Bluejay claims ownership of the yard. Blackbirds sing to the sun.  Incessantly cooing turtle doves do the love dance. Little green finches splash in the bird bath.  Lizards race across the ground. Black Skimmer in a flock of gulls

Beach, sand, and ocean juxtapose with a tourist strip of boardwalk and bikes, restaurants and runners.  International voices.  Green market on the beach: organic produce.  Seagulls and a lone Black Skimmer.  Flocks of parrots.

Noise. Traffic.  Horns. Persistent city-ness.  Mindfulness.

Daily Yoga.

Sun Salutations
I have been here for most of the winter, helping to care for my sister.  There has been much to be grateful for here – friends and food, sun and garden, sharing and caring.  I found a wonderful Iyengar yoga studio – if ever you are near Hallandale in South Florida, I highly recommend the teachers at Yogarosa.  I took classes with Rosa and Marilyn: both excellent with a deep yoga understanding and, just as important, the ability to share it.  I learned much, come away changed, and am very grateful for the opportunity to have practiced with them.

Soon, Tanza and I will be driving across the country – corner to corner.  With a loaded Volvo and a spirit of adventure, we are planning to head out early Monday morning – Valentine’s Day.

Destination:  Olympia, Washington with a short stop-over in Carson City, Nevada.   Are we crazy?  Maybe.  The trip is likely to be challenging.  We will travel early in the day, stop mid-afternoons, and take plenty of breaks along the way. The southern route, I am told, is experiencing a warming trend.  This is good.  We will take with us plenty of food, music, smiles and (hopefully!) a sense of fun.  We travel on faith, love, and attitude ~ your thoughts and prayers for a gentle journey are most welcome!

Attitude

Advertisements
Published in: on February 12, 2011 at 22:40  Comments (8)  
Tags: , ,

A Daily Challenge

A short post today, to direct you to another post on another blog…. (if you are interested)

I’ve been thinking about what happens when we make a commitment to something, anything.  In my New Year’s post, I said that it is never too late to begin something new, but the flip side of that is that it is never too soon.  We can begin any time, any day.  We don’t need to wait for New Year’s, or a birthday, or until our body feels better; until we have the perfect tool, the perfect place, or until the stars are lined up correctly and the situation is perfect.  We simply begin, now, whatever the circumstances.

So I am taking my own advice.  I have been wanting to deepen my yoga practice, to make it an integral part of my life.  Over the past few months, I’ve let my personal practice go, relying on the occasional class to keep me yoga-fied.  It’s not enough for me.  I crave a deeper relationship through yoga, and so I am re-committing myself to my practice.  I’ve decided to take this commitment public, and begin a blog specific to that journey.

You can read the introductory post in that blog here. I also invite you to join me…. if there is something you would like to step out and do, do it, and share your experience.  A journey traveled with friends is a journey well shared, and one to be treasured.

xmas_sunrise

Thanks for hanging out here with me.  Namaste.

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 09:42  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Welcoming Life

“Remember what it is that makes yoga different than exercise ~ for it to truly be yoga, there must be the mindfulness, the awareness, the willingness to feel and explore everything in your body, without judgment.  It takes courage to stay with what you feel….  ”

These words came from Angela, my yoga teacher, upon my return to her marvelous class.  As I listened, I wished for a moment that I were still teaching, so that I could pass the wisdom on….  and then I let that go, and came into the sensations in my body, discovering impatience and resistance, along with the joy of mindful presence.

I was recently introduced to a practice that comes from the contemplative Christian tradition, as taught by Father Thomas Keating and the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault.  This practice, while coming from a Christian perspective echoes what I have learned over the years in yoga – that the willingness to feel exactly what is going on in your body without resisting it, and as Rumi says to “be grateful for whoever comes” – can lead you into a kind of surrender that allows for a deeper appreciation of life.

In this practice, called the Welcoming Prayer, you scan the body, noticing whatever is there …. pain, or numbness, or resistance…  any sensation.   If you find nothing to focus on, you simply become aware of the body itself, where it is in space, on the chair, etc.  Focus on the sensation, feeling it completely, sinking in to it,  and then say this word:

Welcome.

Welcome.  Welcome.  Welcome.

Then let go.  Let go of the need to change it, let go of the desire for this moment and this sensation to be anything other than what is.

What??  Welcome the pain?  Welcome the anger?  Welcome that annoying irritability?  OH NOOO!
But Yes…. perhaps I can welcome even the resistance to the welcoming…

This is what we work with all the time in yoga.  Feeling that edge of the pose that says “no more ” – feeling the impatience that comes up, or the wanting to quit, or the resistance to the practice itself….. and if we are truly doing yoga, we notice this, and notice how it plays out in our lives.  In practice, we learn to stay present with that anger until it moves into laughter, or not.  We learn to stay present with the uncomfortable sensations, feeling the freedom that comes when we let go of  resistance, noticing how we can use these tools in our life: in traffic, at work, with family.  We learn, if we are willing, compassion as well as mindfulness.

How many of us really want to feel our pain?  I’m not thrilled about welcoming the discomfort of being unable to breathe in an asthma attack after a hike up a mountain.  I don’t really want to welcome the irritability that comes up when reckoning with impatience as I struggle with a pose, or more practically learn how to live in a small space.  And I certainly don’t want to welcome the helplessness I feel when I see the pain my loved ones are in, and can do nothing.

Learning to stay present, however, opens us.  To stay present with pain can break open our hearts, deepen our understanding, teach us to be more compassionate, and grateful.  We can’t see with the bigger picture of All That Is. We can only know our own small piece of current being-ness. If we can stay with that little piece, maybe we will find that Rumi’s words are real… that whatever this is “may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

It does take courage. But then, living takes courage.  Whether we choose yoga as our path, or a Buddhist meditation practice, or the welcoming  and centering prayers found in the Christian contemplative tradition … or some other tradition….or no tradition at all…  it doesn’t matter.

What matters is our willingness to open, to welcome What Is in this life that we are living.  Call it the indwelling Christ, or the God I AM, or the Universal Presence, or simply Life….   Here we all are.  Can we live this moment, this now, as it is?    THIS is our experience.  And simply the fact of having this experience means that we are Here.

We are here, we are alive, this is good.

Today… Be in love with Life in all of its craziness.  Know that this is your experience, and because it is yours it is sacred and beautiful.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 08:50  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Magic

sailboat at dawnToday is a new day,
a day that has never existed before,
and never will again.

The morning contains all potential, anything is possible.  Today may appear to be the same as yesterday, repetitive, as we move into our habits and routine ~

But is it?

Right now, in this moment,  Stop.  Listen.

Insert an awareness of New-ness.

Notice: your breath, the air on your skin, the wind, or sun, or rain.
Notice: sensations in your body, the color of the sky, the shape of the day.

This is presence.

In this breath, aware of presence, aware of the fleeting nature of this moment, in this stillness…. we open, and create a little space for something we don’t quite know yet to come out of  potential and into being.

Today…heron's breakfast

Allow for Possibility.

Open to a Miracle.

Be on the lookout for Magic.

Let Life fill you,
from your toes to your head,
with wonder
and with amazing gratitude
just know
on this day,

that you are very much alive.

~~~

“you are here? you are alive? so this is very GOOD!”
echo the brilliant words of a cherished doctor named Mohamed

blue heron and duck

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 05:02  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Miscellany

I can’t seem to write much, my words are missing….mixed up, or confused, or fuzzy, or something.  So, instead of a regular post, here’s a “random things i’ve learned in Denmark” list:

I am writing this in København, which in English is known as Copenhagen.

The Danish Monarchy is the oldest in the world.  The Queen’s husband is not a King, he’s a Prince.

A Danish breakfast consists of yogurt, muesli, bread, butter, and cheese.  Every morning.

Cheese is fresh, butter is fresh. Real.

Rugbrød is a dark rye bread, really heavy, that is served at breakfast. Often with cheese, or with loads of fresh, real butter. I think it is probably served at all meals, unless you happen to be in the hospital.

Hospital food pretty much sucks wherever you live.

There is a lovely park that surrounds Rigshospitalet (the state hospital), and is used by runners, bicyclists, walkers, soccer players, moms and dads pushing baby buggies.

No one uses strollers here…. babies are pushed around in baby buggies.  Dads are as likely to be pushing them as Moms.

Danes are having babies.  Baby buggies are everywhere.

Nine out of ten babies (age 3 and under) have red hair, although red is not quite the right word. (my unscientific observational statistics only)

Nine out of ten Danish adults have blond hair.  Today’s nurse has very dark hair…. her father is Italian, she explains, and she has relatives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

It is not uncommon to see baby buggies being pushed by people running.

Runners are common.  As are bicycles.  There may be as many bicycles on the road as cars.  There are bicycle parking garages at train stations, and long lines of bicycle racks at shopping areas and hospitals.

Bicycle lanes are built into the infrastructure, and at major intersections even have their own traffic lights.  Traffic lights are well coordinated, even from a pedestrian perspective.

Light rail train is a great mode of transportation.  Combine it with metro and bicycles and you’ve got a darn good system. There are no SUVs, the cars that are on the road are small.

We in the US need to get with the program, and improve our means of environmentally sustainable transportation.

Legos were invented in Denmark. They were originally made of wood, and the name comes from the phrase “leg godt,” or “play well.”

Playing well seems like a good way to live.

Danish (or Dansk) is a really difficult language to learn (for someone who is not a native speaker.)

“Tak” is the Danish word for Thank You.  There is no Danish word for please.

The Danes are informal – they do not use Mr or Mrs or Dr.  They just use first names.

If you smile at someone you pass by on the street in Denmark, you typically get a blank look in return.

In spite of all of the above, people here are very kind, and helpful.

and today’s great discovery:
There is an Astanga yoga studio on Blegdamsvej, near the hospital, for which I am very grateful.  🙂

Published in: on August 25, 2010 at 13:48  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,

Asana

Whatever I said in a previous post about bicycling yoginis may be true, but you know, there is still just nothing like a real asana practice. I love my hatha yoga, taking my body through movement and stillness, finding the focus in the breath, the ease and strength in each pose. Not only do I feel more alive and energized after a yoga practice, I also notice that i am more open to insights, both during and after the practice. Regular asana practice keeps me centered, and grounded, and I am remembering now how important that is…

Click here for an interesting site for anyone who might want to explore some new asanas, and maybe try putting together a simple home sequence or two.

I did not bring my yoga mat with me on this journey, and so I have been practicing on a variety of different surfaces… wood floor, grass, cement (ouch!) and carpets…  all these different surfaces make for interesting adjustments, which can lead to interesting insights…

During standing poses such as warrior II and triangle, we tend to really ground through our feet, and hook right into our sticky mats. That’s good, mostly.  But on slippery carpet, I am unable to rely on a “sticky” surface.  What I need to do to keep my feet from sliding out from under me is to draw the energy up through my legs and use the core of my body more.  The feet definitely stay grounded, but they cannot be my sole support.  Playing with this from a muscular perspective I find myself exploring the lift from an energetic perspective.

Try this next time you are in a warrior II pose:  Ground your feet. Find those points – base of the first toe, base of the baby toe, heel – and feel how they are connected to the ground.  Then, lift your toes. As you lift your toes, engage through your thighs. You want to engage in such a way that you feel the energy lifting upward, and carry that energetic engagement right up into the floor of the pelvis. One way to do this is to think about the legs drawing toward midline, without actually moving them. The pelvic floor draws up (think gentle mula bandha)  and allow the energy to rise all the way from the ground up through the pelvis.

I think this must be how dancers learn to fly.  What happened for me, as I played with this energy is that my legs were very active, and my feet felt solid – I could feel a lifting that would keep my feet from sliding out and away while still maintaining a sense of grounding.  Very interesting sensation.  Play with it, and try engaging and releasing different muscles of the legs and hips and see what changes.  You may even begin to feel the core drawing energy up into the spine.   Beware though, that you don’t allow the engagement to become “gripping.”  Notice the tendency to grip, then let it go.  Don’t forget to stay with the breath!

I tried this energetic lifting in downward dog as well…  with much the same effect.  With the shoulders wrapped, draw the inner arms together and use that drawing in to lift upward.  At the same time, draw the inner thighs toward each other, keeping them spinning in just slightly, and draw that energy up into the pelvic floor.  Once again, an amazing energetic lift!  Even with a slippery surface you can stay in downward dog… grounded and flying all at once!

Ahhhhh….. asana.  I love my hatha yoga practice.

When my body has been stretched and worked and opened, then my mind is better able to find the stillness, the meditation, and yes, even an energetic lift.

So next time you find yourself without a sticky mat and are afraid to do your asanas…. do it anyway, and let me know what happens!

🙂

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 13:10  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Bicycle Yoga

This morning the sea is dark gray and opaque, with rough white capping waves.  At the beach, the wind and the waves create a comforting white noise that those (theoretically relaxing) noise machines can never truly imitate.  The skies are gray, with random raindrops…. very unlike the bright blue skies and warm sun of yesterday.
bicycle
Last afternoon, I borrowed a bicycle, and rode into Helsingor, a ride of about 8 kilometers.  It was a beautiful ride, along the coast, through tiny beach towns.  Many bicyclists, people walking dogs, sunbathing on the beach, swimming, picnicking, the deep blue water speckled with white sail boats, and closer to Helsingor, the ferries.  bicycle round-a-boutThis is a great place for bicycles….  not only are there pedestrian paths, but there are bicycle paths everywhere (even in the round-a-bouts!)  It is a very accepted and common mode of transportation here.

And can I just say….. Granny bicycles rock!  Ok, you hard-core bicyclists out there may disagree, but I think the old “Granny style” bikes (which is what Sven, a patient here, called it, as I was picking out a bike that would fit me) are definitely the way to go.  You know the kind… picture the bicycle ridden by wicked old Miss Gulch from the Wizard of Oz, basket and all.

Ok, so it probably means I am a pleasure bicyclist and not a sport bicyclist, but I really like sitting upright: spine long, heart open, smile on my face. It’s gotta be better on the body than being all hunched over, intent on the destination, forgetting about the journey.

And that’s the joy of it – not only is the bicycle something to get me from point A to point B, but it is also something that allows me to enjoy the journey… To see the sea, to smell the air, to open to all sensations…  feeling the breath, completely in the moment, this too is yoga.

Yoga is not all about asanas, although I love asana practice. Asana practice, hatha yoga, is invaluable for learning how to be in the body, how to be in the moment, how to be present with breath, and to stay centered in the midst of stress and chaos.  When you learn the focus of hatha yoga, you begin to see yoga in all of your life….

like on a bicycle.  Of course any activity can be yoga, or not.  I can take that same ride, and be lost in thought… thinking about yesterday,  and wondering how to make things happen in the future, and not be present to the air, or the sea.  That would be good too, and it would be healthy for the body, and good exercise, but it’s not yoga.

My preference is to take that same ride, and feel the air on my skin, the breath in my body, smell the sea and ride right out of time…. letting it become a meditation, a grounding activity, connecting me back to source.   Life giving, life affirming yoga.

When I can do that, on a bicycle, in an asana, in a sitting meditation on the beach, with joy, then I can also remember to ground and center even in the chaos and stress and pain that life may bring.

A street in Helsingor

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 05:39  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Near the Baltic Sea

Sunday, August 8th, 1:30pm Denmark time ~

The rain came today.  Dark gray skies offer up a steady downpour, much like the rains in the Pacific Northwest. The past few days were beautiful, warm days, intermittently overcast with delicious breaks of sun.  The quality of light here is different…. perhaps because we are so far north? Or just different than what I am used to… I have been searching for a word to describe it, but have not been able to settle on one.  “Soft” is a word that comes to mind, and I realize that maybe the quality of light is more a feeling than a visual.  I did try to capture it in photos, to no avail.

The Baltic Sea is a 5 minute walk from the clinic here, and looking out The Baltic Seafrom the beach you can see Sweden, and the ferries and sailing boats that traverse the waters from here to there and in between.  The water is fairly warm; someone mentioned it was 18 or 19 degrees celsius (around 66 degrees F).  Many local people jump in for a swim early in the morning, and again in the evening. I haven’t been in yet, but it occurs to me a rainy day would be a good day to test it out.

Summer House with Thatched RoofThis morning, before the rain, we walked down a road that runs along the coast, lined with what must be summer cottages. They are so sweet, with windows that open wide to the sea air, and thatched roofs where birds peck around, presumably for morning insects.  Joggers and bicyclists passed by us, as we walked slowly and meditatively.

The days since we arrived here have been very full, and it is easy to lose track of the perspective of time. We’ve only been here 4 days, and already it feels much longer. There is a sense that time might pass too quickly here, and yet at the same time, the moments are so full that there can be no thought of the future, and what will happen next.  Those decisions will come when it is time…. my mantra since all of this began is ‘one day at a time’, and often I find myself shifting the focus to living even one moment, one breath at a time….

I want to write, to tell a story here.  Not Tanza’s story, for that is hers to tell, but a story of my experience here: what i am coming to know in the presence of this healing place, in the role of caregiver, in the connection to source and family and life…

The words, though, are not here yet. Perhaps I am still too close to the experience. I remember some writer somewhere, sometime, saying that you must have distance to write truly about a place, and maybe that is true for experience as well.

For now, I will keep it simple, share what there is to share in the moment.

I do know this – it is good to be in a nourishing and nurturing healing environment.  Imagine if hospitals routinely put more emphasis on treating the person rather than the disease: on helping a patient understand their treatments and meds, and giving them more personal responsibility for their own healing, on offering high quality food and conversation and connection, and allowing them to move and walk and participate in their own healing rather than confining them to a bed with wires and tubes and distracted personel who forget to take the time to listen.

Is it such a novel concept to care for the whole person?

It is a gift to be here, in so many ways, and I know without question that this is a healing space for Tanza, and for me, and for all who are connected to her, no matter what may come of it.  It is good to wake every morning, here, and alive.  It is good to feel the power and preciousness of life, and to take joy in the little things, and celebrate the beauty of each day…

Here is my wish for you, and for everyone: That you celebrate each moment, knowing that you yourself are a gift to this world. You (and that is every single “you”!) bring something to this world that no other person can bring…. celebrate that gift, whatever it is! Know your beauty, feel your connection to the earth, to this life, to our source, and remember, whatever you do….

Laugh, and feel the Joy!

That, my friends, is Real Yoga.

🙂

More Baltic Sea photos are here

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 12:54  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Thank You, La Pine Yoginis

Live Large. That’s what I would leave you with. Live Big. Live beyond limitation and expectation, and continue to feel the expanding breath within you.

Together we have played with this thing called yoga.  We may have come to it thinking it is all about physical posture and fitness, yet we found it to be so much more.  Together, we played with the deepening breath, found new ways to feel asanas, encountered limitations, moved beyond them. We have explored the edge, and discovered the surrender that takes us deeper. We have met ourselves in difficult poses, noted the impatience, the anger or frustration, the tendency to want to quit, the places we say I can’t, or I won’t.  We have courageously held those poses, felt those feelings, watched as we found ways to transmute, to release, to relax and strengthen simultaneously.  We have learned that a smile makes a pose feel easier, while struggle and tension makes it more difficult. We have learned how to use our breath to release the effort, and to move through uncomfortable places.  We have learned an amazing thing about yoga…. that all of this is useful when we encounter difficult and uncomfortable places “out there.”

We have discovered, maybe, that “out there” is really all about “in here.”La Pine Yoginis

Notice my use of We. (Whee! or maybe Oui!) I have been your teacher, yes, but I have also been your student, and your class mate.  You taught me how to teach, guided me when I veered off course, kept me to what it was you needed, and maybe not surprisingly, what I needed.  It’s no accident, no coincidence that we came together when we did. This was a journey that was meant to be, and while it changes now, it does not end.

Once, many years ago, I was on an airplane,  intent on my destination.  In the row behind me, there was a little boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old.  The airplane began to move, picking up speed. I heard a squeal of delight from behind me, and then as the airplane angled up, lifting off the ground, the boy sang out:  WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I laughed out loud, delighted with the boy’s delight. Yes, I had a destination, but there, in that moment, it was all about the journey.

Years later, in an unlikely yoga class in an obscure little town, during a spinal roll, a spontaneous WHEEEE! rose up out of the class.  HA! Yes! Here it is again! You, yoginis of La Pine, know a secret of yoga… one that it takes many people years to understand.

It’s all about the journey, it’s all about being here, right now, and loving this moment of life.  Yes, we have things to do, places to be, plans to make…. but if we focus too  much on the destination, we miss the entire journey.

So Live Large, Yoginis of La Pine! Feel everything, fear nothing, use your breath, let your yoga shine in your every day life!  Through ups and downs, hard times and joyful times, you know the power of laughter. You know the power of this community you have created here. You know the power of your breath, your movement, your Love.

As I leave you now, I carry you with me, always in my heart. I don’t yet know my eventual destination, but I guarantee you this: Forever on my journey, I will hear your voices in my head singing…

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With deep gratitude, Namaste, my friends.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
— A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

La Pine Yoginis

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 23:41  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,