Seasons Change

After the 12:15 expanding class I walked outside and felt the all-of-a-suddenly cold air grip ahold of me— the sudden remembrance of the seasonal dance… doing its thing, doing what it does, cycling around, summer to fall to winter to spring… and here we are… cycling around, as all things seemingly do…

In Tucson we all yearn so eagerly for the cool air that winter brings, and then when the time comes everyone complains that it’s cold… hahaha… so it goes…

Change is what’s always already happening, and yet here we are… experiencing it…

Do you resist the change?  or do you roll with it?

Great teachers declare, “If you resist what is, you suffer.”

Mr. Lee Lozowick said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

In other words, as Christina Sell once said, “Don’t freak out about your freak out.”

Pema Chodran advises us to “Lean into it.”

And yet… here i am… suffering a bit.. feeling resistance to what is.  The current is carrying me to other adventures…not better or worse, just different.  Different is unknown and therefore Ms. Mind labels it as uncomfortable, something to be avoided at all costs.

But I know myself better than that.

All great things in my life have arisen out of facing such discomfort, and as one of my first great teachers, Ms. Ulla Lundgren said, “feel(ing) the fear and do(ing) it anyway.”

Off to Never Never Land…

Or Phoenix, as it were… Starting January 2nd I begin acupuncture school, and play with turning things a little upside down and seeing who I am in that circumstance… just like yoga.  And so we see it’s all practice.  And it’s all a metaphor.  We practice and practice, for what?  For more practice.  For what?  So we can practice some more in a different situation.  Ms. Manorama D’Alvia said, “Your life is for figuring out your life… No one is going to do it for you.”

At this stage of the game I find myself looking for any reason not to go, I found myself just last night on the UofA website exploring different options I could pursue here in Tucson and therefore justify my staying.  Breathe…Breathing… Each class has become such a magical, meaningful, rich experience.  Each student I touch, each gaze I meet, I feel its significance because I see the end.  … And each end is the beginning of something new… Mr. Douglas Brooks taught to focus on what you are moving towards, rather than to focus on what you’re moving away from.  It’s a beautiful life teaching.  I learned that in skiing so long ago!  Haha.  Look in the direction you want to go, rather than the tree you’re aiming to avoid!  Sigh… This isn’t the end.  I’ve set up with YogaOasis to teach TUESDAYS: 11am Yogahour, 1215 Expanding, and 415 Yogahour, as well as a workshop every month.  I’ll be available on social media, checking in and sharing upcoming classes, workshops and retreats elsewhere as well.

My heart hurts, but I practice having faith that it’s for the best.  I love you. Thank you for being a part of my path, for sharing this journey with me.  Please stay with me as we continue on down the road.  Love and Gratitude.

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forbearance and the “me” factor

“some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” sings good ol’ Garth Brooks.

i face inner struggle… resistance to what is… urges to fall back into familiarity in the face of the big bad scary (insert suspenseful horror movie background music) UNKNOWN. (scream)

dramatic i know… it keeps me entertained though, and man, if we can’t be entertained by the endless happenings on the stage of life, it’s going to be a bad movie! and i want my money back!

i felt like that this morning at my Bikram class. despite all my years of asana practice, and my experience as a teacher, i was that student who hated everything in class today — myself, my appearance, the teacher, the smell of the carpet, any excess talking from the teacher, any corrections received from the teacher, and especially the bee keeper lady who kept me up late waiting for her call and then also woke me up at 2 am and proceeded to talk way too enthusiastically for the time of night and act as if it was completely normal to do such things at 2am and behave in ways so that i judgmentally dub her as a drug addict…hmm that’s a whole other thing… the point is, Bikram is a set sequence of 26 postures in a really hot room that’s always that hot! the variables are dramatically limited; we’re down to the teacher, the time of class you attend, and you. you (or me rather) (er uh i…) can contain numerous variables — what we eat, quantity and quality of our rest, regularity of practice, knowledge of alignment, attitude, will power, inner resiliency, the quality of our patience and forbearance.

forbearance really hits the nail on the head: “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.” ooooh! tomorrow’s word of the day!

first, variables…. so when the variables are minimized it’s very easy to see that when you have a “bad” class, it’s not the sequence (again, in Bikram it’s the same every time), its not what the teacher says (most of Bikram is scripted— yet the teachers still ad lib, and that can be aggravating), it’s probably not the time of day, (unless you know you’re a morning person and you go at night or vise versa, but that still falls under the “me” factor), it’s you! my friend used to say, “what’s the common denominator in this equation?” (it’s me… er you)… sigh… so there’s that… it was me. it was me the whole time, and i knew it. i got through the class. savasana was so restful. i literally melted into my mat/towel. i was very grateful for un-talkative ladies in the restroom. and yet it seems that may be some of what i needed– some interaction. for on my car ride from the studio i made a couple of phone calls, one to my paw paw who i don’t get to talk to much. i adore him. he lives up in minnesota with his lady and they often make crafty things, like right now they call it “lawn art,” pretty flowers made of various metal scraps that they paint. i’m always impressed with his interest in life, his continual creativity and quest to be involved. just getting to talk to him briefly started to shift my mood.  then i called two girl friends and my twinny and left them nice messages. much better… i dorked out at Wholefoods… mission: drink green juice first after Bikram, cuz otherwise i might dive into an all out binge… (“know thyself”) (“forwarned is forarmed” – Lee Lozowick)

also, one of my girls facebook messaged me and shared some of her honest suffering. initially i see the surface of it as different than me. as i sit with it though, i see her suffering is the same as mine, despite varying physical circumstances. this realization helps me to settle, feel a sense of connection, and thus have compassion. instead of wallowing in my ick, i can reach out and write her a message to offer her some connection, love, and hopefully share some wisdom, for so often in reaching out to others i share exactly what i need to hear.

(i’m going to do that now) (stay tuned… unanswered prayers… then forbearance….)

and we’re back!… (uproar of applause)

chuckle chuckle… so back to the song. i’m a not-so-in-the-closet country fan (i was raised with it in the background), and this lyric came to my head today after reading my friend’s facebook message, “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” gotta love garth brooks… or you don’t and you just judged me and decided to stop reading my blog and never look back, and probably defriend me on facebook and certainly talk poorly about me behind my back… blink blink… … … blink…

anywayz…

unanswered prayers– the gist of the song is that the singer’s life turned out beautifully and perfectly and he only realized this when he saw an “old flame,” the one he’d always wanted and prayed for, and yet when they saw each other at this stage of life they had little attraction and nothing in common. “just remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, that just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care.” the point: we face discomfort in the face of not getting what we want…

(reminds me of another song, by wah: “she gives you what you want and hopes that someday you’ll want to take what she has to give.”)

… subsequently we feel anxious urging toward that familiar place of comfort. yet, that place of familiarity is not where we grow, says DR Butler… he says, “We can no longer afford to allow ourselves to be hypnotized by familiarity. To allow the familiar to continue to be the fundamental reality is like functioning in this world asleep. When we do this we unknowingly create outer appearances of our fears and anxieties — all because we have no awareness or appreciation of the power of attention, the effectiveness of a conscious intent, and the final declaration of will.” (from Living in the Truth of the Present Moment.)  so, the consequence of choosing to be in the unfamiliar for the sake of “waking up,” as they say, is that you feel uncomfortable… “comfort” was a yogahour word of the day a few weeks ago. i discussed how it was an advanced concept that the yoga asana should be “steady and comfortable”, as stated in “the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” for only through dedicated practice over a long period of time does one accept, and thus get comfortable with the sensations that arise in the midst of transformation.

(((in the new super man movie superman’s father tells him (us): continue to push limits, test your limits, to see how strong you can get )))

so this too applies to our lives (for doesn’t it all?), in that in the discomfort of our life’s MG9952-Mcircumstances we have the opportunity to fall back into old ways, old habits, and tendencies for the sake of comfort, ease, familiarity, OR we have the opportunity to endure the discomfort with strength and sensitivity– not a teeth grinding sort of endurance, but rather an openhearted willingness to feel the gift of the moment. (manorama says in a decrescendo ending in a breathy whisper, “feel it. feel it. feel it.”) for that is what every moment is, a gift. and as we unwrap the gift fully in the moment, we receive as much as we are ready for, (or as much as our curtains’ openness allows for the light to poor in– Swami Gurumai Chidvilasananda). and this readiness expands as we practice being with whatever unfolds in the moment. thus it was all there the whole time, “always already there,” as Mr. Paul Muller Ortega says, and it is our perception that expands (HA! again! the “me variable!!!”)

(took udu doggy fer a walkee. nice night! big moon! it’s actually called a “supermoon!” yep, not making it up… two people confirmed it who don’t even know eachother. lol … it’s supposed to be the biggest moon of the year… and of course there’s symbolism there, right hippy?! the notion of dark becoming light. and how this moon at it’s brightest represents how we too have the capacity to achieve our fullest potential and shine at our brightest…. man this goes right along with what i’ve been writing about. so perfect, of course)

back to the point (Manorama moment…what’s the point?)

now on to forbearance…

such a fine definition my computer dictionary offers! “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.”

this is precisely what yoga offers us the opportunity to cultivate (and it is always an offering, an opportunity, “an invitation,” as Mr. John Friend used to say… it’s never an obligation… for we don’t have to do anything, life beckons to us and we always have the option to refuse. to decline… to say no… hmmmm… but why not say yes? … and see what happens… fyi, you’re probably going to get uncomfortable… hahahaha). patient self-control; restraint and tolerance. the Bikram practice in a relatively small room heated to or over 105 degrees Farenheight, in which students face a large mirror, are not supposed to talk, fidget, wipe sweat, or even drink unless at a specified break… needless to say, all your buttons are pushed… and then what…? Ha!… this is an instance in which peer pressure is of great service. (do i really want to be the only person scowling and making a fuss?) you can really tell the newer students, as they’ve not figured out these subtle rules that you learn as you go… no body really tells you overtly, you just learn as you go, and everybody begins to conform in this beautiful synchronized unity that perfectly exhibits the very definition of yoga. (so i’m on a Bikram kick right now… doesn’t mean that other styles don’t offer these attributes, it’s just that this is the style i’m focusing on right now. i’ve experienced the same phenomenon in the Ashtanga method, and in Yogahour with Darren Rhodes, and in certain teacher’s offerings of Anusara Yoga, and John Friend and Desi Springer’s “Roots” Practice…) i learn to not express my emotional outbursts through mindless fidgeting, dramatic facial expressions, or talking. i come back to tadasana (steady mountain pose –the steadiness offered from within my own self), and seamlessly onto the next pose. these styles of practice are a beautiful metaphor for life, in that it’s always on to the next thing.  (reminds me of a time Christina Sell was teaching about inversions and quoting one of her teachers said, “Don’t freak out about your freak out.”)  in Bikram they say, “Let it go.” In a recent Lesson from DR Butler, he commends the “many principles of Truth exemplified in the world of sports,” and he quotes head football coach at Cornell University, a former Rhodes scholar, and ‘very intelligent man,'”To me, the number one thing is to play the next play and forget the last one. The last play is not relevant to the next one. The most important play of the game is the next one, not the one already behind you. You have to learn to forget quickly. It does not matter what happened before — drop the baggage, drop the pressure, and just play.” on to the next moment. may we move into each moment untethered to the drama of the past…

…through the practice i face my thoughts, my emotions, my “ways of being”… and practice moving in the face of them…

i continually recognize my tendencies to think poorly of myself, to talk badly to myself, to want to quit, give up, to be tempted to wallow in self pity, to feel isolated and singled out, uncertain, overwhelmed…(this helps me to feel profound connection to my students, especially the beginners and to really appreciate the intensity yoga presents in a matter-of-fact sort of way, like, “here it is.  here’s the path.” the rest is up to us… walk it, or don’t– no judgement.)

and then there’s the next pose, and tadasana, and the next one, and tadasana, always coming back to center — physically and mentally.  through practice i can now recognize which postures the final postures, signaling that class is closer and closer to savasana (which ultimately means death — how much we long for this relative peace, ease, and comfort!). this familiarity with the set sequence brings a sense of calm to the mind, knowing the finish line is near… (i always hear my twinny’s voice — which funny, sounds like mine… “you can do it steffi, you’re almost there”) and the pranayama comes and then we die…

the end… you’re dead “did you do.. did you do all you could?” (sings Ani Difranco)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asana Junkies day 2:

5.17.13

Day 2 San Marcos, TX:  Asana Junkies with Christina Sell

i’m feeling much better today!

and i’m grateful for day two! day two always feels better. aside from the obvious benefit of a good night’s sleep, there is benefit in the merging of individual energies into a group energy. by the end of the workshop we’ll feel like good ol’ buddies.

our car ride to Christina’s School of Yoga was less hectic today: three yogis and a ramp. the ramp foreshadows the inevitable backbend play/work ahead. tea time is chatty time and our chit chat, although delightful, made us late for our morning puja. Christine handled it well with a smile and an anecdote about her days at Prescott College. she paraphrases one of her teachers, “You cannot not communicate. your behavior communicates.” a very important teaching that can serve to call us to attention. what is my behavior communicating? … …

light poured in through the studio’s high windows, so perfectly aligned with the mood of the room it was like a soundtrack. as we participated in our chanting, pranayama and meditation, the previously grey sky offered us bright rays of light in return.

the morning session was 10am until the end of the world… there’s no limit on backbends! the practice was sweaty and slippery! by the end of class Miss Tanya looked like she jumped into a pool! she was so excited because she got some air in one-armed Mayurasana. Miss Christine had some vocal breakthroughs in Viparita Chakrasana (hence the ramp) today as well! the general sequence: standing poses, belly down backbends, handbalancings, more backbends and more backbends. it was a hybrid of Iyengar meets Bikram minus the high heat. we made our own heat! the mood was ferociously playful!

Christina talked about the strategy of using the pose to prepare for the pose, not for beginners, but more intermediate/advanced. i remember in my earlier days of practice and teaching i’d prepare and prepare and prepare… and sometimes due to time constraints, never even make it to the pose! so now, i just accept that the first urdhva dhanurasana might feel crappy (for example), but I can use the alignment and actions I know to free myself in the pose. (Tanya smiles and says she always anticipates this moment in class…) just like in life! i can apply the cumulative lessons i’ve acquired to the current circumstances in order to shift my perception, and thus free myself in the moment.

Christina and Darren often quote a Lee Lozowick saying, “Forewarned is forearmed.” i thought about this as i anticipated upcoming poses in the sequence… we can’t choose the sequence offered by the teacher, but we choose how to engage within what is offered. … especially within a sequence that i’ve done before, i can anticipate what’s coming and prepare myself physically, and most importantly mentally… how do i look at/approach what’s coming? with dread or persistence? persistence is “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition, continuing steadfastly.” … … …

regarding sequencing: (of poses or circumstances of our life, cuz hell, isn’t all a metaphor… Miss Manorama says, “Look to the metaphor.”), how do poses relate to each other? christina sell likes to sequence from Mr. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga (so fantastic, because that’s how I love to practice! the book is an empowering guide!) and in her teaching of these sequences in recent workshops I’ve attended, she emphasizes how it’s not a “peak pose” strategy, but rather do what you can do in the pose your in and see what it offers you for the next pose. further, Miss Christina Sell invites us to just do it a couple of times and try it again tomorrow. rather than get too hung up on “getting” the pose no matter what, she stimulates a healthy level of detachment. in our day to day living may we expand our awareness to see how the struggles i endure on this day grant me virtues and thus serve me for future endeavors.

lunch showed up with no excuses or justification… ha ha… it was just late, and it accepted full responsibility… a welcome change of clothes, Christine Lee and I dove into preparation for our November Coata Rica retreat. she also received some acupuncture from Mr. Kelly Sell, Miss Christina’s very kind husband.  he’s so supportive and such a sweet presence.  in addition he also offers us acupuncture in our breaks!

afternoon session: restoratives, inversions, forward folds, hip openers, and great discussion.

Lululemon Outlet Store!!! uh oh! …

damn neon and fluorescent colors are super see through and you can see my tattoos right through them! and yet, i bought them anyway… so there’s that…

evening brought dinner, more flyer work with Christine Lee, and facebook entertainment.

we’re so looking forward to our first retreat together! side note: we’ve decided that between the two of us, we’d make the perfect yogi. we’re complementary. i’m grateful for our partnership. she’s quite a gift in my life.

what a fabulous day! Again, I’m so grateful to be here. I’m honored to be with such amazing, strong, inspiring women! Yeah, it’s all ladies! Oh, and Kelly. :-)

 

 

 

 

pade pade

Monday 4.29.13

 

I feel a new surge of creativity arising within me. An excruciating discomfort welling up from within me that can seemingly only be soothed by writing, reading, sleeping, and drinking copious amounts of tea … (although being of service during the workshop soothed this feeling immensely and talking nicely and encouragingly on my so-seemingly long bike ride home also helped.) (i think that eating is going to fix it and it never does… but gosh i’m a determined one. persistent, i’ll give me that.)

The rune i drew this morning affirmed this new inner state. i always feel excitement and awe at how right on the runes always are, ready or not. They direct my consciousness to what is going on beneath the surface that I may be neglecting to notice. For that i am deeply grateful.

Speaking of grateful, my workshop this weekend was such a supreme high point in my life. I am overwhelmed with deep, humble gratitude at those who supported its happening and those who attended with bright eyes, willing bodies, and open hearts. I am grateful I rode my bike both mornings too! I aspire to get back into riding to work every time. Mondays, eh, maybe… lol. I get out late, so that’s a tough one for sure. But definitely tuesday, a fun-and-free-day-off wednesday ride, thursday, friday, and sunday… sundays are super full and challenging too… so we’ll see…

ha! and that’s how it goes. high aims, and then there’s life. then there’s life as it is. it’s always happening… Mr. Lee Lozowick said, “Good enough is good enough.” This can challenge the mind, and tempt one towards complacency, and yet, we still aim high. like so many profound teachings, it’s a paradox. Manorama says, (paraphrased) if you aim too high, you thwart your practice. She supports slow, steady progress, and consistency in practice, as all great yogic teachers propose. In Mr. BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, he advocates abyasa: steady, constant, uninterrupted practice over a long period of time (paraphrased). and life happens, so we do what we can from where we are at. “pade pade,” Manorama says, which means “step by step.” by one step at a time we get to where we are going.

(HA! and then life happens! Like, I have to take my doggy, Udu, for a walk.)

to be continued…

……..

and so then what?

life keeps on happening. and the lessons we derive from these innumerable events, this endless cycling of opportunities is up to us. i am responsible for my life. nathaniel hawthorne, as quoted by DR Butler in the lesson I’m currently on,” Of all our responsibilities, the greatest is being responsible for our own happiness.” Manorama says that no one is going to do it for us. She says, “Your life is for figuring out your life.” Amen.

 

I took some time for myself tonight. that’s challenging for me, so it seems…

There’s something really powerful about time with yourself. about time to just feel, to get to know who you are and how you react, to feel that space of potency between thought and action and that powerful place when you can choose to fall back into what you’ve always done or choose something new… and then to stay diligent there… and there… and there…

 

This power of reflection is inherent in the silence, in the quiet time and yet so present in our interactions with other people, other things. For in all of these people, all of these things, we see ourselves. We get the opportunity to see our reactions and see what we like and dislike in others. It’s exactly what we like and dislike in ourselves. what we run from, hide from, and ignore in others is exactly what we’d like to discard from ourselves.

Ha! and that’s what makes it so easy to ignore red flags… or what i like to call, “painting the red flags green.” ha ha ha…

and as “they” say, “more will be revealed.”MG9952-M

 

 

fullness as perfection

Wednesday used to be my day off.  Now I teach Basics at central Yoga Oasis at 6pm.  So, like I do, I added more work, and massaged earlier in the day also.  My favorite part of my full days, of feeling busy and overwhelmed in general, though, is that point when I come to realize that it (meaning my actual experience of what’s happening in the moment) is not what I built it up to be in my head.  I’m the one who stresses me out.  Today I caught myself repeating in my head, “I’m so overwhelmed… I’m too busy…I’m so overwhelmed… I shouldn’t schedule so much… I’m so overwhelmed… I’m too busy…”  Until I stopped myself, sort of in awe and amazement, like “Whoa, look what I’m doing!”  I thought of the brilliant forward by Elizabeth Gilbert in Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton.  She contrasted meditation with the mindless mantras we repeat, such as “hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry...” or “tired, tired, tired, tired, tired…” or like the one I was saying to myself!  Man, this stuff works quickly!  (i play–Baba Muktananda said that the world is a play of consciousness.  And my understanding Tantric philosophy is that the world is as you are.  So as we deepen our understanding of the deeper workings of life, we are granted opportunities to apply the teachings.  This is also a teaching of Ganesh, the elephant-headedganesh diety in the Hindu tradition:  He is the remover of obstacles and simultaneously may be the obstacle itself, as taught by Douglas Brooks.  He stands at the threshold of opportunities, situations, and at a workshop, Noah Maze taught that he is the very thing that is in your way.  Yoga teaches us to be skillful at our endeavors, and to figure out away around the very large elephant in your way is precisely the point of him being in your way.  That is how Ganesh grants you his boon, by showing you the true wisdom within yourself to surmount the obstacle.  (Wow, that was a long side-track, and now a parenthesis with in a parenthesis))  With lightheartedness, Gilbert says, “And although such meditations are, of course, deeply uplifting, after a while you do start to wonder if perhaps you could be putting your mind to better use.”  That was a key moment for me today.  When I read things or receive teachings, my mind can be quite convincing that I get it, and totally already apply that teaching in my life, when “BAM!” I see, “Oh, I guess I don’t…”  mmmmmm-k.  The path is always humbling.  My victory lies in an enhanced awareness to catch my mental thought patterns and to choose a new focus.  I’m grateful.

The massage was intrinsically rewarding.  I felt pleased that I could help another feel good, and especially when he expressed so much gratitude at the end requested some yoga homework.  Earlier today, I spoke with Rachel Laing about her Healthy You Network.  It sounds helpful and aligned with how I choose to live.  She gives free consultations, so I’m delighted to get to meet with her next week.

Tonight in class I themed about cultivating a sense of wonder, curiosity, awe, astonishment for our yoga practice.  In Sanskrit the word is adbuta.  Anusara training teaches about the Rasas, or flavors of life, of which adbuta is one.  Adbuta can be a way one transforms fear and anxiety.  We worked on exploring thighs back action in various poses and lengthening side-body and moving heads of arm bones back in others.  I love yoga.  It offers opportunity to transform our perspective of this body we so often take for granted into one of awe, wonder, and ultimately gratitude.  I am continually amazed at how profoundly my physical body, mind, and heart can shift when I practice good yoga.  The alignment and actions realign me and help me to heal nagging pain in my shoulder, hip, low back, neck, knee and consequently help me to feel at greater ease in my own skin.  I’m able to do all I do and enjoy my life because of yoga.  I feel shifted in insights and understanding through practicing physical postures, with or without formal instruction.  Usually, though, it’s through a teacher’s skillful mastery of words poetically woven throughout class that my heart shifts.  This is my aim.  The infamous aspect of Anusara Yoga that tugs at my heart strings and simultaneously causes me to yank my own hair out–oh yes, the heart-oriented theming.  I really do love it!  When it works it’s awesome.  When it doesn’t, I just want the talking to stop–mine or who-ever’s teaching.  I hope my trials and tribulations with the Anusara certification process grants me the blessing of skillful and effective heart-oriented theming.  I believe that writing helps me a lot.  Hence, the blog.  Attending good classes and workshops also helps.  And lots and lots of practice helps… but perfect as impeccable is not so possible or likely.  The aim must be perfection as purna, or fullness.  Or as Lee Lozowick has said (or rather, Darren or Christina said that Lee said), “Good enough is good enough.” sigh… or is it?