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.


I've been so grateful to work with some awesome folks to make my services visible! Lauren Lopez crafted my first logo and website a few years ago. She's amazing. She and I have worked together in many capacities and I highly recommend her!

The logo she created and that I've used is:
As a lot of time has passed and my work vision is shifting and clarifying, it was time for an update! I really didn't know what I was after... I had a feeling but not a concept. A friend suggested I try 99designs so I could get an array of ideas to chose from. I started a contest on the website. At first, I got a LOT of lotus flowers and gentle women sitting cross-legged.


As I responded, the designs changed. I logged in one evening and caught my breath. A designer had submitted a venn diagram, the right sphere lifting slightly like it was launching out to space. In the overlap space there was a silhouette.


That concept. I teach venn diagrams ALL THE TIME. What does this yogic myth teach us about our own lives? What does Fado music teach us about bhakti? What is the space between? How do we see ourselves when we're thrown into shadow, against light?

The design felt like it actually communicated my work.

And it didn't feel like anything else-- meaning, it didn't feel trendy, or like a fad, or predictable. It actually felt connected to what I do.

I started working with the designer on refining. I began googling cameos and getting excited about their history, about the subjects sitting against light for their profile to emerge. Seeing oneself in the contrast. I offered suggestions and the profile shifted slightly. We added gradiant color. The type was edited.

Slowly, it came to life.

I eagerly awarded this design and the designer the contest award. And here it is. My new logo!

Once the logo was in place my new website came together effortlessly. I've tried to take on more of this upkeep myself so I did my website design on wix! It's been really fun to figure out how to effectively organize the information. I'll be able to maintain this myself easily.

As I've pulled all of this together I feel fresh life being breathed into my work. I have a lot of ideas about what's to come: more writing, more online classes, a podcast, more teaching, and collaboration. I'm glad to have a home to share what I'm up to!

In the spirit of breathing life into life, I'm offering my first online course at a discount. I built this course over the span of many months, tested it with trusted sources, commissioned fantastic art work from Katie Chappell and am so glad to share it with you! This is a $60 class that I'm offering at a discount until Christmas! Please purchase NOW at the $40 rate and tell me where the inspiration takes you!

To creating!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Two nights in Porto

After exchanging big happy hugs with the attendees of the Longing Retreat in the Algarve, Kevin and I loaded in our dusty rental car. (Everything in the Algarve is dusty. Beautiful and dusty. Thankfully the rental car warned us and said as long as the inside of the car was clean we're good!) Kevin and I had been thinking through what to do after the retreat. We loved the Algarve and somehow had managed to see most of it in the week! We could certainly spend endless time in southern Portugal but we found ourselves curious to see more of the country.

We decided to basically drive the whole thing.

We set north for one of the northern-most coastal cities, Porto. It took about 7 hours to drive up there from Carrapateira. As we told people our destination they were aghast! What a journey! We're like... we're from the US. We drive these kind of distances all the time.

The Portuguese generally do not.

Having spent about four (magnificent!) days in Lisbon prior to the retreat, we decided to skip a stop in Lisbon on our way back north. Instead, we opted for Coimbra for a lunch break.

The hilly, sober city of Coimbra is only about an hour and a half north of Lisbon but it's totally the anal, high achieving older sibling. Coimbra is the intellectual capital of Portugal and home of its oldest university. In Lisbon, Fado is working class music sung mournfully by both men and women, and exuberant applause is expected from the enraptured audience. In Coimbra, only men sing Fado. Traditionally, celibate male students sang doleful Fado beneath women's balconies. As such, to this day applause is uncommon. Instead, polite coughing acknowledges the music.

Coimbra is intellectual, repressed, and super weird.

Students still wear robes, which inspired JK Rowling who wrote Harry Potter in this city. Coimbra is Hogwarts.

Kevin was obviously ready to enroll in a course in medieval studies, given he could basically live quasi-medieval. I urged us back onto the road.

We arrived in Porto around rush hour. Kevin navigated the traffic and a European stick with aplomb to get us to our little airbnb flat in tact.

After settling in and making out with a big fluffy cat, we headed down to the river.

Porto is fun! From the banks of the river the city sweeps up two steep cliffs. Porto felt more British than other parts of the country. This could have been in part due to the noticeably cooler climate 7 hours north of the hot and dry Algarve. I think it's also simple British influence as Brits have long come down to Porto to enjoy Port.

Along the river banks, tables were set up by big heaters, musicians played music, and magicians entertained. Big, whole fish were served up after appetizers of olives and crusty bread. Barrels of port and olives were hidden in the stone caves along the river banks.

We wandered through the cool night before returning back to the amorous cat at our flat. We slept long and well before venturing out again. We went back to the fun river banks and climbed higher into the sleepy city. Portugal does not do mornings. In the mornings, most Portuguese seem to want only coffee and quiet. It took some searching but we found a little cafe that would prepare eggs. Everyone else in the cafe was British. Go figure.

We climbed the steep cobblestone streets finding tons of art, cafes, bookstores, and of course, churches. The city definitely has a distinct personality from its southern neighbor, Lisbon. Maybe something like Lisbon is San Francisco to Porto being Seattle. The more northern city being less obvious but very cool in an underground way.


We loved it. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Travel Tips

I've had this post on my webpage for a few years now. I'm sliding it over to the blog.

This is my recipe for comfortable travel. Am I missing anything? What are your go-to's to happily travel?

Flight Purchasing

Travel Sites 
In an incognito window, go to Input your point of departure and destination. Then open up the calendar. Look at price trends around when you'd like to go. This will let you know what your flight is averaging and also if there are more advantageous days to travel. I do this mainly to get a sense of the general price of my flight. It's hard to shop well until you know realistic amounts to budget!
Some savvy travelers do the same with the This will also give flight trends and prices.
I personally don't book through these sites. I find it a little confusing. I find the dates, prices, and travel times that look best and then book directly through the airline.
Pay attention to travel time! If you have a 24 hour lay-over calculate how much you might spend on a hotel room, food, or trying to pop off in the lay-over city. If it's worth it to you go for it! For me, the price has to be REALLY good for a lay-over beyond 4 hours. I like less travel time and more time in my destination. 
When to Buy 
Search for flights Tuesdays at 3 pm. Airlines sell the most flights on weekends. It's kind of a lottery-- they're charging what they can. Every Monday they assess what seats are left.The most discounts are available Tuesday afternoons. I like to watch my flight on a few successive Tuesdays (maybe on from an incognito window. This let's my know if rates are dropping or potentially elevating so I can hopefully purchase at the most opportune moment.
Alternate Airports 
Price compare various airports for departure. I live nearest Philadelphia International Airport but often depart from Newark International Airport. I’ve found that flights to Central America are often direct and far less expensive from Newark. However, when I’ve flown to Asia and have to transfer domestically regardless, flights from Philadelphia were more convenient and comparably priced.
Discount Airlines
What everyone says about Spirit is absolutely true. There are a lot of discount airlines these days like WOW and Frontier. Some are better than others. Pretty much everything is reviewed these days so google what people are saying and believe them. Remember to factor in the additional costs that reviewers warn you about. Sometimes all those baggage and amenity fees actually bring your real cost closer to flying with a more reputable airline. I've done it. I've flown with Spirit. I won't be doing that again.

While traveling

Jetlag prevention
I am NOT a doctor so please understand this is simply what has worked for me! Consult your medical professional to best plan ahead.
That said, when traveling to a different time zone I take the following as directed while flying:
-Homeopathic Jetzone
-Chinese herb Yin Chiao
-Grapefruit seed extract
The grapefruit seed extract and Yin Chiao boost vitamin C to help prevent getting sick and worn down. The Jetzone works some homeopathic magic.
Upon landing, if possible, lie down on the earth. Get grounded. If you can, get body work done. Let your body feel really earthy again.
Sleep when it’s time to sleep. If you’re not tired, try eating dried cherries and taking melatonin. In the morning, drink coffee or something to give you a boost. Get on the schedule of your location as soon as you can.
I often find that I don’t experience severe jetlag on my trip but it will get me when I come home. I think it may be the timezone shifts in quick succession compounded with grief over the end of a trip!

What to pack

A good backpack 
Remember that most airlines now charge for checked luggage. I purchased the Rincon 65L Travel backpack a few years ago (I’m not getting a sales commission from them!).
The front backpack unzips to slide under the seat in front of you. The main backpack fits in most overhead bins. Double check with your airline to see if this pack, or one similar, will save you baggage costs. Otherwise, budget for additional airline charges. Also factor in convenience. If you have a connecting flight or a tight schedule, it may be worthwhile to travel with this type of luggage that precludes you from having to check in and go through baggage claim.
You may want to pack a second, easily folded duffle bag. I usually travel with an additional pack to bring home gifts. Remember that you may be charged a baggage fee for checking this luggage on your return flight.
Packing Cubes
Especially if you are #teamcarryon, use PACKING CUBES! Look for sales at places like the Container Store. These travel gems help you effectively pack more than you would think possible. And it's neat. Amazing and so worth it!
Good traction shoes 
This is mainly for those who like being outside and hiking. I suggest Keen Waterproof SandalsThey are not at all sexy, but will protect your feet. These waterproof sandals transition easily from city sight-seeing to lounging on a beach. Your feet will be supported, with traction, for activities ranging from hiking to cycling.
A light rain jacket 
Not only are rain jackets useful while traveling, but they also ease the transition when flying between hot and cold climates. Layer sweatshirts under the rain jacket, socks under your Keen sandals, and wear comfortable yoga pants while flying. In hot climates you can shed the socks and outer layers; in cold climates add these items.
A flashlight 
I have always found a flashlight essential. Always. Headlamps are ridiculous, but even more useful.

Before you depart

Converting Currency 
I usually convert about $200 into the currency of my destination in advance of traveling. Generally, your local bank will give you a more preferable rate of exchange than an airport. Allow them at least two weeks to secure the foreign currency. Keep some USD on you for snacks and magazines while in US airports. Having the foreign currency will give you a window to get your bearings in your destination.
Some folks prefer using an ATM upon arrival at their destination to get foreign currency. Know your tendencies. Years ago, I arrived late at night at Siem Reap airport without any Cambodian currency. The ATMS were all out. Thankfully, I had booked a ride from the airport through the hostel where we were staying that night. The driver kindly took me to another ATM but it was a little sketchy (he was nice, Siem Reap can just get sketchy at times) and it was late and I didn't yet have my bearings. This is less likely in a larger city but it's possible. I know how I am and what makes me comfortable. Having some currency until I get my bearings feels really helpful.
Using a Cellphone 
Travel with your cellphone, but consider turning it off for the duration of international travel. Always check with your cellphone provider before departure about the costs of roaming abroad. If you’re offered a fair rate, by all means, use your cellphone abroad. I’ve always found that the charges would be exorbitant. I bring my cellphone and leave it on while in the US in case I need to communicate with a ride. As soon as I’m airborne, the phone goes off and stays off. I provide my family with the phone numbers for my hotels in the case of an emergency. I check in with them via Facetime when I have wifi. When I land in the US I turn the cellphone back on to let my ride know I’ve arrived.
I know some people who purchase SIM cards once abroad. This way you can communicate easily within your destination country.
And Finally 
In advance of travel, call your bank and credit card providers to tell them of your destination. Banks and credit card companies appreciate the head’s up. This should save you the hassle of finding your accounts frozen when it’s assumed your cards were stolen!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Aparigraha and presence

I thoroughly enjoy nerding on yoga philosophy— which is some of why I’ve prioritized my own practice of physical yoga asana to balance out my own tendencies to only live in my thoughts and never in my own body.

In training other yoga teachers, I get to indulge much of my nerdery. This year’s class of Yogawood 200 hour vinyasa teacher trainees are approaching yogic ethics in the yamas and niyamas. These are codes of behaviors with others and oneself written down in the earliest yogic text, The Sutras. The distinction between behaviors with others and oneself is often emphasized— for example, the first Yama is ahimsa or non-harming. It’s pretty common to hear modern day yogis write or say, “I’m practicing ahimsa by not pushing myself too hard and doing every chaturanga. I’m not harming myself.”

The yamas aren’t really about you with you. Being nice to yourself is important, but it’s not ahimsa. Ahimsa is very clearly not harming others. From there, the yamas instruct us to be honest (satya), not to steal (asteya), to be respectful and careful with our sexual energy and behavior (brahmacarya), and to not grasp (aparigraha).

The last one, aparigraha, non-grasping fascinates me. I think it’s so illuminating in this current age. I read about it lots. I write about it too. It’s so comforting that for thousands of years millions of people have struggled with grasping after too many experiences, too many things, too many titles, jobs, relationships, trainings, accreditations, achievements, and more. I remember reading a Buddhist article on aparigraha (the idea shows up there too) reminding the reader that we grasp when we feel insufficient. The author’s antidote was to focus on feeling enough, to see where we have enough, and are enough. Then the grasping tendency abates.

As I revisited aparigraha recently I was struck that this is a yama, not a niyama, meaning aparigraha is very explicitly an instruction of our behavior in the context of others. I feel pretty clear on ahimsa, or brahmacarya for that matter (the sexual responsibility one!), but this felt different... grasping feels so detrimental to ourselves. If, like the Buddhist article suggested, it stems from a feeling of lacking the behavior is a bandaid or a distraction. How does it impact others?

I started looking out for it. My husband and I have amazing conversations and very different conversational styles. Conversations are combat sports for me. I want to parry the words and defeat my opponent. Kevin wants to learn something. Novel. We’re learned a lot from one another both in the content of our discussions as well as from our styles. I’ve urged Kevin to be more passionate and assertive. He’s shown me that listening is, perhaps, worthwhile.

My trained habit in conversations is grasping— I like to grasp after my response (“I will dazzle you!”) or find the perfect anecdote (“you will be charmed!”) so I’m usually hunting in my own brain rather than actually hearing the other person. Aparigraha. Grasping.

I realized that this causes me to not be present to the person I’m with. By practicing ahimsa, I no longer harm another. By practicing aparigraha, I’m actually present to them.

Aparigraha is absolutely a yama. It has everything to do with how we engage with those we perceive as other to us. It is inviting us to actually be with one another.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Feel your feet.

My feet are often purple. Poor circulation runs in my family. One particularly bad winter I got chilblains! I didn’t even know what they were. Kevin googled “swollen, itchy toes” and we discovered that I had more in common with those living at the turn of the century than originally suspected.

Recently, Kevin listened to a Gurdjieff lecture. An audience member posed a particularly combative question to Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff roared back, “where are your feet?” The audience member continued contesting. Gurdjieff asked again, “where are your feet?” The audience member heard, slowed, felt. The tenor of their exchange shifted radically to one of more mutual understanding.

Kevin relayed the exchange to me. I tried to feel my feet. I’ve taught yoga for more than 7 years and I’m not sure that I’ve felt them even in that time. Even teaching body awareness most days of the week.

And I am comparatively in my body. And my practice has landed me more deeply in my body than I lived prior.

And I rarely feel my feet.

So I now continuously ask myself, “where are your feet?” And the funny thing is that I start to feel sensation almost like pins and needles after the limb having fallen asleep. My attention is acting shifting circulation.

In yoga there’s a saying that “prana flows where citta goes” meaning energy flows in the direction of your attention. I’ve seen this again and again. When Kevin and I pay attention to each other, there is a flourishing in our marriage. When we first adopted our rescue cats they were a bit haggard— they’d been through a lot! As we attended to their safety, comfort, and fun they blossomed. Their eyes grew brighter, their fur shiny, and their sweet, authentic selves emerged. When I attend to my aloe plants the stems plump up and the green skin shines. I neglected my house for awhile and it showed. Now that I’m putting more care in painting a wall here, or replacing this appliance, or adding or removing a decoration there’s a different buzz in the walls and feeling in the air. Energy flows.

Feet are an interesting place to numb. It means that it’s also hard to feel where you are on the earth. I’m paying attention to all of my shoes— which shoes more contain me and which shoes offer a bit more breath.

Not feeling feet means less balance. Less ability to spread toes and nuance ones stance.

This energy flow is an overall inhabitation. Where I am that I am not? How often am I at home but mentally at work? How often am I in a conversation but actually talking to my high school teacher? How often for any of us?

We know presence is a practice. That understanding unfolds.

I wonder, too, at the fictions that convince us that presence is taxing. What feels simpler about checking out than staying in? What fear underpins numbness?

My body is proving a very trustworthy gauge. It’s a compass. It’s a locator. It’s a vessel. It’s a world unto itself.

I heard an interview recently where a young writer shared her frustration at working in a cubicle. She wanted to be “free” to write and her pragmatic 9-5 was other than her passion. In the course of the conversation her mantra emerged: “this is where the action is.”

I remembered all the times my life seemed other than where it was. The bored hours waiting tables, itching to get on the road. High school droning endlessly on until my life could begin. All the moments when I felt on the outside of my own life.

When I didn’t feel my feet.

Prana flows where citta goes.

I’m very invested in my life.

It’s amazing.

I am feeding it. I am paying attention to it. I am feeling it. I am grateful for it. It is where the action is.

I am in my feet.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Patron Saints of Lisbon

Upon landing in Lisbon, I wrote this and posted it on social media:

"All Hail the Lisbon Grannies! They are converting me to the Church of the Granny-Who-Gives-No-Fs. Their heads hang out open windows. They stare. They walk reeaaal slow on the cobblestones and you need to just match their pace. The old men try to please them. The babies climb on their laps. The Lisbon Grannies MESS with those in their midst. Ask Granny for directions at the bus stop and she waves you off-- she does not wish to be bothered.

They sell you shot glasses of moonshine on the street corner assuring, 'the alcohol is not too much!' 

The keepers of secrets. The secret fun.

These Grannies are everywhere reminding me how invisible elder women are in some parts of the world. The Lisbon Grannies are alive and do not care. A reminder that the play and the mischief can keep you in your power. That the Grannies create the magic."

The visibility of old women in Lisbon reminded me of how invisible older women are in most of the world. Also, how isolated they often are. The Lisbon grannies ran in packs. They met one another on the street and blocked the corner while they gabbed. They spread table cloths for one another's side hustles in the tourist district. They gave SEVERE side eye that caused you to clutch your pearls. They smoked cigarettes and used canes on tiled sidewalks that were basically vertical on Lisbon's steep hills. The grannies ran the streets.

The grannies also didn't seem overly preoccupied with the tropes of old womanhood that I know at home. They weren't particularly affectionate to babies. They didn't seem all that interested in knitting. In other words, they seemed like actual people. Not charicatures.

When did we make old women ideas instead of people?

They gave me such hope that I, as a woman, can keep living. That I, as a woman, can stay deep in my magic and my mischief at every stage of my life. That I get to be a little girl, a young woman, a full woman, and an old crone and that each stage doesn't have to be predetermined. I can decide what it means. Maybe I'll decide to be an old burlesque dancer. Why not?

Maybe it's the old world charm of Lisbon that preserved these women's humanity. Maybe they made some type of pact. I don't know what it is. At one point Kevin asked, "where are all the old men?" We went into a little cafe selling pastries, coffee, and liquor while a soccer game played on a TV. They were all there.

They gathered around the table, talking shit, and gratefully accepting round after round of espresso from the young waitresses. They keep living too.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Allow Play

On the Portugal retreat, we woke up to horses neighing (or one allergic horse coughing) and the breeze whispering the pines. We got coffee or tea and wandered up to the studio for breath practice and meditation sits. Returning to the common area, we found breakfast displays full of home made seed breads, fresh juices and smoothies, more coffee and teas, herbal infused waters, fruits, local European cheeses, and protein and fiber rich bowls like the one below.

Our retreat site was a 45 minute hike, or shorter run, down to Praia Amado and Praia da Bodera. These are two of the best surf beaches in Europe. They're also on something like a Portuguese Appalachian trail, a beautiful coastal hike through Portugal's south.

If you didn't want to hike, the drive took about 10 minutes.

Surf schools had lessons on the sand. Rented campers parked in the lots while road trippers read novels in the open backs. Snack stands sold cappuccinos in addition to beer.

The cliffs created coves of natural shade. Additionally, one of our retreat participants had been gifted an umbrella. Portugal's west coast hit a COLD current of Atlantic. The little river tributary provided a warmer swim and shallow waters for kids.

After mornings spent in practice we spent afternoons hiking, swimming, sunning, watching.

From our retreat vantage in the hills, the beaches looked inches away. From our height we could watch the sun drop into the water each night. The ocean stayed with us.

As we hiked near, all the hills and valleys clarified perspective. Praia Amado and Praia da Bodeira, so near as the crow flies, were not so near!

Long hikes called for cold beers. And taxis back so we could make it to the retreat in time for evening Yin and meditation practice!

Our group was pretty adventurous, so we had a few days of piling into cars together and trekking to major points throughout the Algarve. South of our home in Carrapateira, we visited the famous beaches of Lagos. Praia Dona Ana is the stuff of post cards.

Little beach side restaurants sold grilled sardines and Portuguese baguettes in the shade.

Some of the beautiful women of our retreat.

Among many many topless women. Some of us joined them. 

Still in Lagos, the Benagil caves are accessible by boat or swimming from some beaches. We decided to get on a little boat tour to visit some of the beautiful grottoes.

We had SUPER fun captains who did wheelies in the water and took us to private coves to swim.

The hidden treasures of the Algarve, the southwestern-most cape of Sao Vicente, the grottoes and smiles...

Lauren was the CAPTAIN'S FAVORITE! This chick knows how to play along and have fun!

My favorite part of a yoga retreat is remembering that yoga is not so serious. Meditation and practice don't have to be austere. Let your well-being swell with joy.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Allow Yourself: Longing Retreat to Portugal

I have a database of thousands of retreat centers all over the world. I consult it when a client asks me to scout a retreat for them. I filter through their perimeters to find an ideal fit.

I also have a short list of my own ideal fits.

Monte Velho Retreat on the Western Algarve, Portugal was a short list. People always want to go to to Europe. I'm down but people often don't want to pay European prices. Portugal and Greece are currently two of the most affordable destinations (for unfortunate reasons to do with the Euro and economic destabilization).

Portugal is safe and an easy connect for US travelers.

It was also the last retreat I have planned for myself for the foreseeable future.

When Yogawood transitioned ownership this past year there was a lot of work to do. I usually plan retreats well over a year out to secure best dates, negotiate rates, budget tuitions, and set a marketing strategy. I couldn't do it all. There was enough change in the air so I decided to let it happen. Let this be my last retreat for the foreseeable future and see where there was flow, movement, and growth.

I don't ever feel like you should do something because you do it.

Do it because it's aligned. Do it because it serves. Do it because it works.

When I do plan a retreat I look at what I know of that particular place or what that place tells of itself. Costa Rica has an environmental tourism campaign around reanimating the world-- reminding visitors that the land needs to rest, that animals need a break from human interference. Cuba tells the story of the joy of rebellion. Alaska reminds humans that we are small in the perspective of nature's grandeur.

Places have an identity.

I look at the place and where it might illuminate a facet of yoga. We practice yoga all over the world. What is the intersection of place and practice? What do we learn? How does yoga help us land where we are? How does yoga help us see a place as it is and not be blinded by our own expectations? How does yoga help us see ourselves and not be blinded by our own delusions?

As I started learning about this windswept coast of Portugal I read about the cliffs sailors saw before they sailed away and the songs of lament and longing both they and their loved ones sang. I listened to Fado, birthed in fishing villages and working class neighborhoods of Lisbon, and sung in very ritualized ways to lean into our own longing.

Saudade. Longing. Yoga works with longing. Bhaktis use yearning to reach for God, worshipping God, singing to God. The stories of Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan are filled with reaching.

After having such a wonderful time working with Colleen Seng for the Belize retreat, I worked with her again to develop material for this retreat. We filled it with poems from Leonard Cohen, Sanskrit yogic chants, traditional Portuguese Fado lyrics, meditations from Tara Brach and Thich Nhat Hanh, and notes from Rumi, Hafez and more. I created meditations and consciousness practices to use the retreat to work with place, practice, and feeling.

And we went in.

You can plan retreats until you're blue in the face but like any yoga class, it is co-creative. Any retreat worth it's salt will shift to meet the participants where they are.

In yoga we work with our bodies and our thoughts. Longing, bhakti, reminds us to work with the material of our feelings. Follow the feeling. What is the information?

The beautiful experience was a group of people who were willing. Who didn't feel ashamed of taking a break to step into their own experience. They didn't apologize for going on retreat-- instead, they excitedly talked about other ways to build in breaks, experiences, and celebrations. While we tuned in to events at home and with our loved ones, there was equal space to turn in to the breadth of our own experience.

Allowing joy, allowing longing-- where we reach towards integration-- allows ourselves. It means we're not banishing a part of ourselves as unacceptable, thereby giving it the power to control and influence us in unforeseen ways. Allowing our desires, our feelings, the scope of who we are allows us. Allows us to be. To exist.

So we lived. Together. In a very beautiful place.