Thursday, June 26, 2014

And I will call her...

Walk as though you’re kissing the earth with your feet - Thich Nhat Hanh

For the past few months I've been developing a Yoga Retreat to Vietnam that I'll offer with Julie Kirkpatrick Jan 17-29, 2016. I know, way far in advance. However, it takes that long to lock this type of thing down! We're getting close so now the work moves towards marketing. What do I call her?

I'm looking for a sexy band name to title this retreat. It's offerings are so vast... Julie & I have both been stuck! I'd love your suggestions. Let me whet your whistle. This experience will include:

-days in Hoi An, known for beautiful Vietnamese architecture, incredible (vegan) cuisine, cobble stone streets, and bright ships bobbing in the river.
-full moon nights lit by silk lanterns & candles floating down the river.
-cycling through verdant, green rice paddies.
-spending the final days of the retreat on the beach at the South China Sea.

That's the highlight reel. Obviously, it will mean hot sun when most of the US Northeast is cold & grey. I keep thinking of the spices, the sensory delights of Hoi An. There's also a still depth that we'll explore while on a yoga retreat. What name encompasses all of that?

Do tell.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

At 33, I went camping for the first time

Kevin is a solstice baby. His birthday is June 21, which usually falls on the longest day of the year, and the tail end of a frantic spring landscaping season. We're big fans of experiences over tangible gifts, so I began prodding a few months ago to determine how to fete. Two friends & participants in the Salute the Sun Retreat recently moved to Portland, Maine. They'd given an open invitation to visit (dangerous with us!) & neither Kevin nor I had been to Maine.

They graciously accepted our request to crash at their spot over Kevin's Birthday weekend. They even upped the ante by suggesting a camping trip to Acadia!

My stars.

I have never camped. 

Kevin has been asking me to join him camping. He likes experiences that test his endurance. He goes zen when landscaping in heat over 100 degrees. He prefers working outside in torrential downpours. He dreams of backpacking. 

Thankfully, his friend, Mike, usually helps him get this out of his system. Mike doesn't "car camp" as he calls it. No, he hikes in, often 8 miles. Each winter, he breaks out the snow shoes. There is always a camp stove, tent, & sleeping bag in his Prius trunk.

I promised both of them that I would try camping. Given that I'm a novice, they've been trying to determine the most inviting camping trip to sell me on the experience. And I get it in theory. I prefer budget travel, I find it usually more satisfying! I have no issue with staying in a loud hostal in some remote corner of the globe. I'm not prissy per se-- I don't shave, I struggle with dressing myself, think manicures are torture. But, I do have some serious objections to camping. Namely: I like good food. It is a serious challenge to hike many miles with ingredients for good eating. I also do not like to cook. I like to support other people who make good food by purchasing it from them. Like, in restaurants. Lastly, I don't like to live in filth, so I do clean, but reluctantly. Cleaning is not fun to me. My understanding of camping is that it involves many chores. You create your own shelter. Gather fire wood. Collapse your own shelter. Ensure you haven't left behind items that will attract bears or disturb the environment. Why work so hard?

But. It's Kevin's BDay. An invitation to Acadia, a site that has been long vetted & approved as a solid first camping experience. We'll travel with a friend who lived on Mount Desert Island (Acadia's home) for years, assuring insider knowledge. 

We drove up to Portland, Maine to stay a night at our friends' apartment. Mimi and Chalese baked Kevin a Birthday cake and anointed him in black pepper and frankincense oil. It felt auspicious. In the morning, we traveled three hours north to Bar Harbor, enjoying pit stops in Camden, and the prolific salvia and lupines.

I'm generally travel logistics lady, but this was dicey as I was the only camping novice. With some guidance, I'd reserved a campsite at Seawall, procured a camp stove, & a few other essential loans from friends. Most of my choices were suspect & questioned. I don't know why the camping novice was assigned such tasks. However, we made it to beautiful Bar Harbor and then onward to Acadia.

This weekend, I was at week 6 of healing from a fractured foot. I was wearing the boot as my foot was still a bit swollen and achy. However, at the base of The Beehive climb, I shed the boot and put on the keens. Initially, things were fine. As much as I wanted to observe my surroundings, I attended to the roots and stones in my path. Soon, the trail turned to iron ladders on cliff faces & a bit of rock climbing. The biggest issue was not knowing my foot's capacity. I erred on the side of caution (as much as I can claim being cautious when rock climbing on a healing fractured foot) by relying on arm strength or other parts of my body. There was a lot of butt sliding.

We reached the top of beautiful Beehive and began descending the other side, arriving at The Bowl.

Thank you, Mike, for the image!

We stripped down to underwear (thankfully I was wearing some!) and took a swim. We weren't entirely sure that was approved behavior but we figured we could always claim ignorance. Little fish performed spa exfoliation on all our bits. There was a good bit of sunning on rocks like lizards to let the skivvies dry out. The foot felt fine.

Later in the day we set up camp. Well. They set up camp. I found potable water. Discovered that communal bathrooms felt like a hostal. Watched while they expertly made fire. And then remembered that I HAD camped. Once. I was 13 or 14. My family took a trip to the Southwest, which included two days rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The intervening night was spent sleeping under the open stars on a beach by the river. We woke up and realized we'd slept on a bed of scorpions.

Maybe that's why I forgot. And haven't camped since.

There were pre-dinner walks and post-dinner sexy poetry & song shares. (I didn't know about campsite confessionals. That shit is real.) Of course, I was first to crawl in the tent. 

Before dawn, we drove up to the Cascade to watch sunrise over the islands surrounding Mount Desert. We wandered through early light on the College of the Atlantic's campus, Chalese's alma mater. We determined more sleep was in order and wearily crawled back into our tents. A second rising, yummy breakfasts, and I was deposited on Jordan Pond for reading while my buds summited a few nearby peaks. We didn't want to push the foot.

There's talk of next level ish: summiting Ketahdin. Ketahdin is a two day trek, involving camping somewhere remote. I think I better buy some hiking boots.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Making the Mythic REAL

Caits & I dreamed up a retreat for women delving deeper into their bodies, movement, and creativity. We began thinking of the myths that shape our reality, that live under our skin and in the subconscious. From this fodder, we created Mythic Beings, a yoga and creative writing retreat for women. To ensure that this was a viable undertaking, we set early registration deadlines to gain the critical mass we needed to run this retreat. We now have 8 women committed to this event. As I correspond with them, I keep thinking, I can't wait to get to know these amazing women! They're coming from around the country and a multitude of experiences. And we get to share precious time together deep in the country, finding ease.

To break even, Caits & I really need 12 women. We're re-opening registration until the retreat fills. It really helps us meet our budget to have participants enroll early and pay in full. We are gratefully making space for you all.

We are so, so, so grateful to the early registrants who made this thing happen! It is exhilarating to know that our early vision is shared. We are so glad to make this offering. Enroll today!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Write to Read Yourself

My favorite Aunt is constantly encouraging me to be more spontaneous. "Go out after dark, will you? You have a young husband! What?! You take your bra off as soon as you get in the house?! Where are you headed-- a muu muu? What will you be like when you're 80?" I love her and she's one of the wisest women I know, so I try to heed her word.

But I didn't really get it.

Then I translated to my vernacular: she's identifying that I'm a control freak. Right! Totally. Yup.

And she's urging me to relinquish.

Seems like everyone is. I've written here about working with writer, Shira Ehrlichman, on a one-on-one 6 week series. We're coming to the conclusion (sob!) & Shira is urging me to reflect on my growth. The biggest piece is this dawning self-awareness that I am even a control freak in my writing. I sit down to Say Something. I'm so accustomed to writing a yoga class plan to communicate an aspect of the practice to students. Or writing a statement about mass incarceration to convince the reader that it's an unjust practice. I am thinking of my thesis statement and offering evidence in support.

It's fine. But if it's the only way I know how to write, I'll be a bit lopsided. It's like I only ever lift heavy objects with my right arm. The left side of my body is just hanging there.

Some interesting pieces have emerged when I stepped inside an era of my life and simply described it. I didn't walk into these memories with an agenda of what I had to Say. I poked around a bit, looked at the flaking paint on concrete blocks, and wrote about it. I thought these pieces were throw-aways. Shira held them tenderly.

I thought that I control what my writing conveys. I have an idea in my head and I cleverly arrange language to deliver it. Boom. Done. Slowly, I'm seeing that my writing might translate something internal and unformed to ME. The thought is kind of freaking me out. I'm a control freak, remember?

Shira and I read the piece I'd written about middle school. She examined some of the verbs, like "haunt." "It sounds kind of dangerous," she said.

It was.

I never consciously thought that, but I was in peril during those years. I was vulnerable, as any child is, and I was in an unhealthy environment. I hadn't thought of the myriad of threats. For example, I remembered that in 7th grade a teacher was suspended for sexually harassing a student. 7th grade. We were what, 12? That same year I recall the gym teacher, who must have been 23 at the time, telling me to run "towards the mall." I have never been a shopper. It was simply sexism. He didn't get me and he didn't care to see his students. The scenes ranged from mild to severe, but there were lurking threats that I didn't quite know how to process at the time & haven't seriously considered since. When I walked into that time without an agenda, I was able to access intuitively.

And there it is again: intuition. That realm of information that might not always readily translate itself. It may operate in feeling or sense but outside of language. Loosening the reigns on my "purpose" in writing has ceded towards intuition. I read other people's writing to understand their experience. How odd. I'm reading my own writing, offered in this way, & realizing insight into my own.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Yoga for a fractured foot

A month ago, I got a text from a friend saying his guitarist was sick. He asked if I could fill in on the fly. I raced out the door and to the club and picked up a guitar. Something clicked and we were in the zone! The audience formed a mosh pit and the lead singer crowd surfed! It was 1995 all over again. I decided to go for the big finish by jumping off the drum kit. I landed on the outer edge of my foot and fractured the metatarsil.

Well, I did fracture the metatarsil but the rest of that stuff hasn't happened (yet). I actually injured myself walking. *Hangs head* I wish it had been jumping off a drum kit.

Like all injuries, this has been a great teacher. I've been icing and elevating while I work. Folks ask me what I'm up to and I respond, "elevating." I mean that literally, physically, but it always tickles me. I have started to offer it multiple intents. I'm elevating, my spirit is lifting higher! One day, off the top of a drum kit!

I've been taking arnica montana and tumeric internally to alleviate swelling. I've been getting regular acupuncture treatments, meditating, and practicing yogic breathwork, or pranayama. I've also figured this was a wise time to eat very clean, so I've focused on the healthiest diet available to me.

The doctor who x-rayed me advised that I wear a boot to stabilize my foot. It has certainly enabled me to get around more comfortably. I was developing secondary bruises and soreness based on how I favored the fracture. My injury is on my left foot and I've noted severe tightness in my right hip.

I decided to explore yoga asana, or physical yoga poses, that wouldn't aggravate my foot. Thankfully, it's spring, so I've dragged my mat outside and explored. Most table poses have been fine, like cat/cow, thread the needle, and wag the dog. I've spent a lot of time focusing on core strength in poses like navasana. Belly backbends have also been hugely beneficial. I've had a hard time finding ways to sit, elevate my foot, and not cause stress in the upper back or elsewhere in the body. It's challenging to maintain good posture with your foot higher than your heart. The backbends have eased the tension dramatically.

I also did a lot of supine poses, or poses while laying on my back. Twists like jathara parivartanasana were a godsend to that tight right hip. To address circulation and the swelling, I did some mild inversions like legs up the wall and shoulder stand.

The other day a friend sent the following link to a Astanga primary series modified to be safe for a student with a broken ankle. I followed her practice modifications today and LOVED them. The practice felt safe and so helpful in my body.

When I was first injured, I subbed out several classes. I wasn't supposed to be on my feet and the pain was severe. After the first few days, I began teaching again. While I teach, I've been seated on a radiator where I can view all the students. I instruct, observe, and offer verbal adjustments, but I have not demonstrated nor adjusted students. I can't demonstrate many poses. I haven't adjusted nor assisted because I'm not steady right now. I always assist students grounded.

I've really appreciated this time and the new vantage point! I feel like my observation has been stretched and strengthened. This approach has radically shifted how I work with private students. I'm really enjoying teaching one-on-one and feel like I have even more to offer.

I'm looking forward to being fully healed but also feeling increasingly patient and content. Maybe that was the main lesson (and not to jump off a drum kit).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Our Near Misses Are Epic

My boot has become a beacon for people's injury stories. I share my metatarsal fracture earned... walking. They share their fractures, tendon ruptures, breaks, and surgeries. My dawning realization is that it is a MIRACLE we all function as well as we do. We are so much more fragile than I often suspect! And the multitude of misses! The many times we DID attempt the ill-advised dance move and weren't hospitalized. Astounding.

I have been hearing stories of injuries lying dormant for 40 years. When the effects surface, it's absolutely a challenge. But what a gift to have those 40 years! With my own injury, there is sometimes the impulse to complain. It's an annoyance, a limitation. However, I'm not always equally motivated to acknowledge the movement and ability I enjoy the vast majority of the time. Maybe reminders like this cultivate needed gratitude. I am largely protected.

I found a way to plant potatoes booted. There's always a way.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Intuition is Un-Processed Information

In my bright, shiny, anticipated, glowy one-on-one writing course with Shira Ehrlichman, I'm being encouraged to trust the words. Shira continually steers me towards writing visually. A big breakthrough from reading Aracelis Girmay's poem, "Here." She writes:

"Here is your brother
in the backseat, sounding like he is drowning.
Here is his face pressed to the window.
Here is his wet face. Here is the near-quiet of the car.
Here is your stomach filled up with ocean.
Here is your Jurassic sadness. That’s all."


OK. Girmay didn't write, "I was sad & overwhelmed," did she? Right. Show, don't tell.

I'm repeatedly finding my control freak tendencies leaking into my writing. It's.My.Story! I will tell you how I feel! I will tell you what to feel!

Well. That's simply uninteresting writing. That shows a profound lack of faith in the reader.

I've been writing visually; that is, using words to paint portraits and scenes. That's a poem, right? A microcosm. Your face pressed against the glass. The immediacy is sort of poetry's seduction. Shira invited me to return to an era, present being an option, and describe it like a still life. I found it so challenging because I didn't know the why. (Pretty much the point, control freak. Let it go!) I let the images tumble one after the other. I felt like the result was a throwaway, but other readers strenuously disagreed.

I'm flexing this muscle. Today, Shira and I had our weekly session. While checking in I shared coming up against that same resistance to let go and trust the words. Shira urged me to trust the words a bit, to loosen the reins, and free up the expression. It was one of those, "Yeah, and!" conversations where we continued to spark one another, took notes while the other talked. As she gave me her prescription, I realized she was asking me to be more intuitive. I told her about a book I read years ago called "The Gift of Fear." The book's premise is that intuition, our gut, is unprocessed information. The author is sharing this so that we'll all trust our intuition more and maybe protect ourselves from dangerous situations. It also recasts intuition as the knowledge we haven't intellectually processed. For example, we may feel suspicious of the guy offering to carry our bags. We don't know why so our intellect might downplay the feeling and say, "don't be rude, accept help." However, the feeling might be a response to the quickly gained awareness that the guy has no grocery bags of his own and we didn't see him leave the store.

Poetry is often a playground for feelings. It stands to reason that feelings, unprocessed knowledge, wants an outlet that isn't linear. Have faith. Let it out. 

I had a conversation with a friend recently about some challenges in my work. She said, "always trust your gut." 

Last month, Jivamukti Yoga made the koshas, or layers of Self, the Focus of the Month. Apart from being a physical being, energetic, and intellectual, we are said to have an intuitive layer: vijnamaya kosha. I taught several classes about vijnamaya kosha specifically. As I read source texts, translations, and analysis, I'm continually taught that we need to live in every aspect of our being but not get stuck there. The idea is that our essential Self is beyond these layers. I am a body but I am also eternal. I am my intellect but I am also eternal. If I am not my intuition, then this layer gains a power over me, rather than being an equal aspect of my experience.

Let it go. Let it out. Let.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sinning Saints

This morning I looked for a condolence card for a friend who's Mom recently passed. All of the cards wrote of losing such a great love. There were endless sympathies and exultations about the deceased. I spent a long time in the aisle looking for something that recognized the complexity of loss. I didn't know my friend's Mom, but I know my friend. One of her most admirable qualities is telling it like it is. Recently, she described the privilege of finding some resolution with her mother. Towards the end of her Mom's life, her Mom knew some peace and ease. Her Mom spent most of her years strenuously working at being a wife and mother without time or inclination to explore her chosen pursuits. My friend was grateful to see her Mom have some joy. She was also plain about how challenging her Mom was as a parent, a woman, and that their relationship was strained.

Where is the condolence card that says, I'm sorry you lost a real person? Someone who hurt you and also loved you? I'm sure for many these nuances are of less comfort. For me, the absence feels like a further erasure of the person I've lost.

In the past week, Maya Angelou and Yuri Kochiyama also moved on. I think many of us were surprised at the relationship we've developed with Maya Angelou's work. I know that I never personally met her, so I obviously have no real connection to her as a person. However, her work taught me art, poetry, and womanhood. "I know why the caged bird sings" ran on loop in my mind when I heard of her transition. That image of the incarcerated singing taught me about human spirit and resiliency. Maya reached me and I'm grateful to her.

As we publicly mourned her passing articles began surfacing about the erasure of so much of Maya's life: her time as a sex worker, the complications of her early life abuse, her silence. To many, it felt like a disservice to only mourn the lauded poet and academic and not these other aspects of Maya Angelou-- these other Maya's.

When I heard of Yuri Kochiyama's passing I pulled up an old photo from a dinner I shared with her and other friends in Oakland, CA years ago. This woman who spent her early years in a Japanese internment camp, who held Malcolm X's head on her lap as he died, who spent a lifetime committed to social justice was so sweet, lively, and humble. I was so grateful to be in her presence. Her stature as the woman behind these various events is looming. Physically, she was small and didn't demand attention. Her presence taught me so much-- that we can act with assurance and impact and still integrate into the larger folds of our community.

I'm interested in these stories we tell about ourselves and our loved ones-- those closest to us and more abstract, like Maya Angelou. How we morph these stories at times of transition and which edits we make. I'm most interested in transparency, honesty, and a collective permission to be whole. Towards that end, I'd love a condolence card that acknowledges the weight of death and the complexity of who we lost.