Friday, February 9, 2018

Feeling for no good reason

The Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Philadelphia is happy.

Like, so happy. It's infectious.

I don't know football. I don't know the rules. I don't know the people. I know Philly likes the Eagles. That's about it.

On Super Bowl Sunday, I painted my bathroom.

I woke up at 5 am the day after to go teach yoga. I looked online to see who won, mainly so I would know the mood I'd walk into when I taught class. My eyebrows raised. The Eagles won! OK. People will be happy.

The morning was very, very quiet. Very still. People slept the sleep of drunken champions.

As the sun slowly rose, a quiet jubilation blew through the streets. Even people who cut me off did so cheerfully. People are happy.

I felt happy too. I returned to the yoga studio to teach a 9:30 am class. After one student at 6 am (the hangover slumber) there was now a full studio of 20 some people. Everyone was chattering and connecting with their neighbors. I decided there was only one way to call to order under these circumstances. I blasted Queen's "We are the Champions."

Some students jumped up and danced, people waved their hands, we sang along. We had a moment. And then we did yoga.

Throughout the day I thought of how long people had waited for this. I saw so much Philly pride. Everyone was so happy to be from Philly. We were all happy to have wanted something together. We were so happy to share the good thing.

It felt like a wave of joy.

Given that I know nothing about football, I felt somewhat guilty sharing in the celebration. But I thought that plenty of times I get stressed or miserable for no good reason. Why not get happy for no good reason? We all want to feel joy. Sometimes, we only allow ourselves to go there with an excuse.

A football game is as good a reason as any.

And I'm starting to get team sports a bit. People want to root and cry and lament and celebrate together. They want the thing that makes them feel a thing. It's a projection. It's something to agree upon.

I'm so happy to be in Philly when we all decided, together, to be happy that we're here. To be proud of ourselves. To be excited about what we do and who we are. To hug each other in the streets. To be happy. For no good reason. For all the reasons.

Cause no one likes us and we don't care!

Related image

Actually Communicating

In my winter hibernation, I am listening. To many podcasts. Of a weird assortment.

Top contenders right now are Krista Tippett, Joe Rogan, and Duncan Trussell.

Their voices are very different from one another.

I love their curiosity, broad interests, and desire to truly communicate. Rogan and Tippett, in particular, talk frequently about the need to truly communicate with one another. I've been listening to the language they use to describe this need. Tippett has a series called "Civil Conversations" meant to offer a real conversation about a hot button issue that often is debated in sound-bites. She's had people on opposing sides of abortion or gay marriage speak together. "Civil" is a word that shows up often for her in searching for meaningful conversation.

Rogan uses words like "reasonable people having a logical conversation." "Reason" and "logic" show up often.

I appreciate both of them because they're introducing me to thinkers who I don't come across otherwise and they're offering them a platform where they can actually be heard as opposed to being reduced into a bullet point.

I also love the idea about how we communicate and the potential around our communication.

I've been thinking about whether or not I'm after "civil," "reasonable," "logical" conversations.

I'm not.

All of these words bother me. I want to understand why.

"Civil" is a word posed in opposition to "wild." The implied idea is that the "wild" or nature, is chaotic and unruly. Civilization is the order imposed on this disordered natural state.

Well, that's a problem. Given that human bodies are natural, there's again an implication to impose order on our natural state, our nakedness, our frailty, our vulnerability. The natural world, in my estimation, is not disordered. There's a beautiful, soft order that often escapes human comprehension, but exists nonetheless. Even storms provide the clarity of a cleansed environment. The wild might lie outside of human comprehension, but it's not chaos. Our understanding of it might be chaotic but that only speaks to our comprehension, not what we seek to comprehend.

Similarly, words like "reason" and "logic" feel really masculine to me. They feel like words my Dad uses. "Reason" especially feels rooted in Enlightenment thinking of moving away from the fearful idolatry of gods to the clear-eyed measurements of science. (Please read the ample sarcasm.) "Reason" implies that thinking can be divorced from intuiting and feeling.

I don't believe that we can be so divided.

We are always feeling and intuiting-- my understanding of intuiting being processing information through senses more quickly than we're able to categorize that same information through analytical cognition. I think Rogan uses the word "reason" to distinguish our tendency to "react."

Logic is a useful philosophical process to work through ideas. It completely has a place in conversation. There's also an assumption of objectivity here-- that we can get sufficient distance from a subject to look at it without investment.

I disagree. We are subjective beings. We are interwoven. We are in context. Claiming logic or objectivity is simply dishonest. Honestly, we can own our subjectivity and admit how it influences our thinking. That's being an accountable human.

These words have helped me clarify what I appreciate about the conversations Rogan and Tippett conduct as well as the interactions I seek.

I think I'm trying to be in and create environments for the following:
  • Context. Owning where we are situated in a topic. Claiming our own biases and acknowledging how they might influence our thinking.
  • Emotional awareness. Acknowledging when a topic feels close to home and allowing it to affect us. Not trying to claim that our insight is more credible because we don't feel but owning that feeling is being human. We're allowed to feel. And admitting that doesn't invalidate our thoughts on a subject.
  • Accountability. Being willing to evolve. Being willing to be wrong. Being more interested in growth than "winning" a conversation. Being more interested in ideas than the stakes we've claimed.
  • Curiosity. Allowing human curiosity to drive us towards creativity and connection. To allow us beyond the bounds of the group think many of us have affiliated with.
I'm sure there is way more, but this is my working list. These are the conversations that I cherish because they take place between humans. Humans are wild, they are not logical, nor are they reasonable. They have feelings about things, passions, excitement, and fears. And we can talk about that.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Knights Templar of Tomar

From our quiet sojourn in the Portuguese country-side, we began to gather ourselves. I had booked two nights in Fatima in honor of the Centennial sighting. More on that to come.

As we consulted the map, we saw that as we were in the northwest mountains of Portugal heading southwest towards Fatima, we would pass through Tomar. Kevin petitioned for a stop. This, after all, is home of the Knights Templar. 

A castle wall surrounds the Convent of Christ, the Knights Templar home built in the early 12th century. 

Every inch of the Convent of Christ has mystical symbolism. Esoteric symbols intermix with Christianity. Rooms were circular, well protected, and basically every guy's wet dream.

Kevin kept looking in the forests outside of the castle walls. Apparently that's where really super secret weird rites went down.

The Templar Knights were ultimately banned but their burial site remains in view of the Convent of Christ. Kevin and I drove down away from the church fortress on the hill through the beautiful town of Tomar to Igreja do Maria do Olivais. Kevin got super excited finding the circular rose window above the entry. Standing with your back to the church, you have a clear view of the Convent of Christ high on the hill ahead.

This church was perhaps the most fascinating in all of Portugal. Entering, above the altar a window with a pentagram surrounded by interlocking circles. So much esoteric symbolism! No cross! As I walked down the steps I saw flyers advertising normal church events for the community. This church, more than any other we visited, seemed most in use and loved by its community. The Virgin Mary was centered below as a point of worship with Jesus off to her left. To the right of the church and all along the side were small tombs containing the remains of the 12th century Knights Templar. This church felt like the quiet, breathing home of the strange, esoteric protectors of medieval treasure.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Guarda: Portugal's staring contest with Spain

We woke in a sagging bed facing a stone framed window over the Portuguese hills. The sheep bells clanged as the animals marched around the property. A few cats climbed the window ledges.

I thought about home and how easy it is to get a cup of coffee. How many cafes I can drive to. And saw the cost of that convenience.

It was quiet and still.

We ultimately did decide to venture out. We got back on the highway continuing towards the Spanish border to the medieval outpost of Guarda. 

This imposing cathedral faces the Spanish border, an architectural "come at me!" 

There's a theater in town, shops, and restaurants, but it's small. This is a bit of the last frontier in cooler, mountainous Portugal.

This beautiful old church, like so many in Portugal, had spaces for anchorites, or Catholic renunciates. These spiritual seekers were built into solitary cells in the church. Sometimes they could view the regular church services and sometimes not. Food was delivered to them like they were a death row inmate in modern day prisons. 

The larger communities recognized that these people might be more able to hear spirit and would sometimes come to their windows and ask for counsel.

The church was filled with spaces that whispered secrets-- passageways for clandestine purposes, ways to renounce the world, guarded treasures hidden from sight.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Story Telling for Yoga Teachers!


I lulled myself to sleep as a child by telling myself chapter after chapter of self-created epic tales. As a teenager, I went with my high school to a story telling festival in Johnson City, TN. We sat on hay bales and heard tall tales. I found out my grandmother had gone to college in the same town where I was currently flirting with a boy who had recently left stints with both Shakers and Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.

I love stories.

Yoga classes become alive for me when I feel mythology, archetype, and story in my body. I've loved yoga classes where teachers taught me through movement as well inspiration. This is one of my favorite aspects of teaching. A yoga class can be exercise-- there's nothing wrong with that. It can also be an event, a happening, an atmosphere co-created.

Last year, I took a workshop on story telling to test run some of my own ideas on the art form. Feeling solid in my approach, I offered a workshop at Yogawood on the topic. It was really fun! The topic lends itself well to an online approach so I have now adapted this to an online course! It's on sale until Christmas Day. I've created supplemental material available on my podcast!

You can take this course whenever. The content will meet you independently! You can find the support material clearly linked. Buy here!

Artist Katie Chappell had begun creating some images for me for another project. They became perfect fodder and accompaniment for this online course! Enjoy the whimsy and imaginative illustrations while you clear your creative voice.

This course is specifically designed for yoga teachers but accessible for anyone who wants to limber up their own imagination, access their own inspiration, and get more comfortable creating. 

This course is a great gift for the yoga teacher in your life! Please spread the word, get out there and inspire!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Want to take class with me? Download my podcast!

I'm a big believer in trusting your own inspiration. It often takes you down unexpected paths.

When I developed my online course I tested it with some trusted friends. One piece of feedback I received was to create supplementary material like examples of myself doing what I'm teaching in the course. I tried to figure out how I could do that best. Would I film myself and upload it on YouTube? There's definitely a lot of yoga teaching on YouTube, which can be great. Filming, getting a good, quiet location, appropriate lighting, and quality is an undertaking. I knew that I wanted to create and refine as I go. Filming seemed like a bigger task than I was up to for now.

I love podcasts and love learning through audio. I already had the equipment needed to create audio content. I began researching how to create a podcast... and it's an undertaking. But one that felt more accessible than creating content that's both audio and visual. Podcasts also seemed to open up more interesting pathways.

After massive research, I have now created a podcast on iTunes! Podcasts need a web home to create an RSS so after more research and friend feedback, I've created my podcast home on SquareSpace. I am feeling SO tech-savvy for once! I'm SEO-optimizing, creating RSS feeds, and all sorts of other stuff that I only vaguely understand!

The plan is to post a podcast of a class monthly. I may also post little teaching samples mainly geared towards other yoga teachers who are taking my online courses and looking for supplemental material. I'm toying with broadening this-- interviews and conversation may come.

I think the classes will really serve those of you who don't live near a yoga studio or when you're traveling and busy. I hope they help you keep your practice near and dear. These podcast classes are not designed for new students learning yoga. Those of you: please come to class! I'll teach you! The podcasts are for people with yoga experience who want to practice. I hope it serves.

Do you have other ideas of other ways you'd like me to use the podcast? Requests for the classes? People you want me to talk with? Email me! I'm about the collaborative life!

In the meantime, please subscribe to my podcast on iTunes and if you're so inclined, please give it a good rating and review on iTunes so it becomes more easily searchable to other listeners! Thank you and Jai!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Quinta on the Roman Road

As much as I love humans, I really love solitude.

I am an introvert. Meaning, I get my energy from time by myself, when I can hear myself think, know what I feel, feel it all fully, and let myself slow into presence.

I'm working on keeping that integration in good company but it's something I have to really pay attention to. It's a retraining of sorts and kinda wears me out.

So. I run away sometimes.

Take a breath.

I had heard about a lot of various country hovels in Portugal. My introvert ears perked. I love hiding in mountains.

With the momentum of the retreat, I had sort of dropped the ball on travel planning a rural stint while in Portugal. The wifi was a bit unpredictable and I had a hard time connecting with a couple of leads I had found prior to travel. Ultimately, I found a Quinta, or a little medieval villa, somewhere in the countryside. It looked to be maybe 3 hours east from Porto, near the Spanish border.

We went for it.

As we got deeper into the Portuguese mountains-- more accurately steppes?-- wifi got less predictable. Ultimately, our GPS threw in the towel, which was great. We were winding our way on highway switchbacks and had no idea where we were going. The further you move from Portuguese cities the less English you hear spoken too. And DO NOT try to speak Spanish. They totally speak Spanish. But not with you. English. Thanks.

We pulled off. I readied myself for some solid charades at a gas station. I wrote stuff down. I drew maps. The amused country folks around me drank their beers, midday, at a gas station. Because, Portugal. When you pull off to get gas why not drink a beer or glass of wine?

Finally, I wrote down the name of the Quinta. Um. Everyone totally knew it. There were no labelled ROADS around there but they knew the names of estates.

They tried to give me directions, which was also awesome. They wanted to give me landmarks, like, over the hill, follow the river, when we didn't share a common language and I'm a very street sign oriented person. But you know. For my way that would mean there would have to be labelled roads and street signs.

Somehow, it worked! Further up the highway there was even a sign for our sweet little Quinta!

Dogs barked and chased our Algarve-dusted car. As we emerged from the car we smelled rosemary and the heavy sweetness of conchords overhead. A sweet older Portuguese woman emerged who happily spoke Spanish with me! I think she may have originally been from over the border!

She escorted us into our suite near her own living quarters. As we settled into the stone nooks and crannies of the Quinta, she rolled in a cart with cookies and port wine.

She told us there is nothing around here. You could see the valley through the window. A sprinkling of houses and a river. Farm estates between. I asked her where to go to breakfast. She shrugged and suggested we buy some rolls to tide us over. Or drive the half hour into Guarda. We asked her if anywhere served vegetarian meals for dinner. She looked nervous but said an estate down by the river might. 

It's a good adventure.

We went back in time.

It got very still.

Something about sitting on a stone sill and watching the sheep go by. Nothing feels quite so important.

We read awhile. We shifted to slower, softer paced books.

Expectations lowered. A walk would be good.

Our host urged us to follow the old Roman road. Kevin was PSYCHED. As we set out, one of the dogs named Honey, accompanied us. Every now and then she would dart away and we thought she'd find her way home. Nope. She was a kind host and stayed with us every step of the journey.

Kevin tried to recall the purpose behind these old Roman roads. His understanding was that they guided merchants and troops so that navigation was unnecessary. Also, wheels could move faster over the cobblestones. 

For us, it helped us not get lost. Down the hill to the river. Up the hill back to the Quinta. 

The river felt like a sanctuary. We dipped in and said thanks for allowing us to be here. The trees arched over quietly.