Sunday, May 20, 2018

I am a person not an opinion

It's Sunday morning and I'm in love with the soft, green, humid air. I love this sky and this light! The clouds are thick, opaque grey and the sun is slowly spreading light over the green leaves. I'm watching it and thinking about being with. All of us. In the last few years, I feel like one of the measurable outcomes of social media is exposure. Of all of us. We know who is calling the cops on Black folks. We know who is rigging the nomination. A lot of previously disputed theories are proven. We can't deny as much. There's something good there-- when we can't deny our own bad behavior or at least where behavior strays from our spoken agreements we can be honest. And it's hard for many of us. In addition to public figures and offices getting exposed, individually, we're getting exposed. Privacy is different. Keeping our lives entirely offline sometimes means we feel disconnected. Offering our lives online means we lose control over who is receiving the sacred information of our days. We're all exposed.

I think this is one of the reasons this time feels so tight and intense to many of us. We can't deny ourselves to ourselves. We can tell ourselves we're one thing or way or quality, and yet here we have all this evidence that we're actually really complicated beings. Each of us acts on our own barometer and it's usually not so logical. We all stray from our own codes. It can be challenging to gain the full self-awareness to truly know what is guiding our actions, thoughts, and beliefs.

When we see ourselves and one another, then what?

I'm finding for myself that honesty feels really, really important. My own honesty. Honesty from those I engage with. I don't like being honest about myself. Kevin often calls me on my inconsistencies or when my reactions are harmful. I don't like it. I don't want to admit these things about myself. And yet. I am relentless in asking Kevin to be accountable for himself. And I believe in fairness. So I must have the same relentlessness with myself.

I'm finding that with honesty, I want the ability to disagree. And that feels hard. Agreeing to disagree, while a simple statement, seems really hard to actually act out. Where are the lines? What issues are too important to disagree over? Where do we need agreement? And why? What are the stakes?

I want to be able to disagree. Because in truth, I disagree with a lot of commonly held beliefs and ideals. And if I deny my disagreement, I'm dishonest. I'm denying a part of myself. And I can't do that anymore. It stymies too big a part of who I am. It also denies me the ability to grow my thinking with others.

I'm finding there are more and more conversations that feel somewhat out-of-bounds. The ideas and conversations, while many of us privately mull them over, are considered too controversial. While so much is exposed, there's also this quietly agreed upon mutual repression about some issues. I appreciate that we don't want to be insensitive and hurt one another but I also think we have to do a bit better. How do we talk? How can we be honest? How can we disagree? And still be respectful of one another?

I like this age of transparency and exposure. I think it has potential. One of the possibilities is that we all reconnect with our own truths and we allow the space for others to do the same. There's a strong potential that we no longer fall across simple party lines. There's a big chance that our own experiences and thinking will make our worldview bigger and bolder than pat ideologies. I want that. I want to be a person, not an opinion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Yoga at the workplace

I have a weekly yoga class at a work place that’s a ton of fun. Their HR department contacted me to offer a few classes during a wellness day. Today, I lead two chair yoga sessions, one meditation session, and a yoga class. I created a reminder sheet that I’m sharing with you in case it’s helpful!

Tips for feeling great throughout your day:

Set a timer for every half hour or so. Each time you are alerted take a big, slow, mindful breath. (There are reminder apps too!)
Move! However you want to! With frequency!
Low back pain? Squat whenever possible. If that’s a challenge, work towards it. Do wall sits when you can. Build strength. The strength will create safe mobility over time.
As much as possible, open the front of the throat and chest. Neck rolls as well as the subtle drags on the collarbone can help keep this often tight area open. 
Open the often tight pecs with the stretches at the wall or in door frames.
Try to keep your feet as active as possible. When appropriate, roll your feet with yoga tune up balls or tennis balls.
Meditation doesn’t have to be silence in a cave. Try a simple walking meditation of mindfully and silently repeating to yourself “I am breathing in, I am breathing out” with each step.

Do you have other tips that help you feel embodied and present even while seated in front of a screen? Share ‘em!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Having Faith in Our Own Creations

I'm doing a thing.

I've done a soft launch on Patreon.

If you're asking, "what the what?!" I know. Patreon is a network of creators. The idea is that in this new day of cutting out the middle man in all forms, Patreon is attempting to let those who benefit from art and creation directly support those who create it.

If you hunt around on Patreon you'll find amazing podcasters, musicians, graphic artists, writers, and more. So far, I have not seen yoga teachers.

I'm on there as a writer and as a developer of professional content for yoga teachers. It's a bit of an intimidating gulp to declare myself a writer and to commit to projects that I've quietly undertaken. It's also asking me to take ownership for the value of what I do meaning, I have to believe in my work if I ask you to support it.

My work revolves around voice. I've spent my adult life clarifying my own voice in the spoken word, as a teacher, and as a writer. It's my creation and contribution. As someone who does professional development with other teachers, I work to mirror others voice back to them, so they can hear their own, and teach authentically.

Yesterday, I saw a student's review of my yoga class. She wrote, "A lovely balance of anatomy and philosophy all tied together with a clear and concise voice."

It's beautiful when someone mirrors to you that you've actualized your intention.

If my work is valuable to you, please place value on it. Please support me on Patreon. $1/month is amazing and super helpful. If you know of others who would value this work, please share it with them. I'm looking to grow this network and reach.

I think living creatively is the only way to live. I'm going to keep creating. With your support, we create together. I love you. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Make sacred

This past weekend in Yogawood's teacher training, we created ceremony.

Every year as part of training, we investigate Bhakti, or the yoga of love. Usually, this day involves story telling about gods and goddesses and yogic mythology. My co-facilitator, Christie and I inherited a wonderful program to facilitate. We're also making sure that we feel clear on every element so the program gets to grow like all living, breathing entities. We thought through the part of the program on Bhakti and looked to make it more experiential. We created an altar, telling trainees to arrive later so we would have time to really consecrate the space. We instructed trainees to wear all white, so we would all be a bit more aware. We invited trainees to bring a sacred object that they could place on the altar, as they arrived silently and reverently. Lastly, we invited them to share stories and chants about their isvara.

For those of you not immersed in all things yogic, isvara is the aspect of God that you most relate to. For a Christian, it might be Jesus. For a Catholic, it could be Mary. For a Muslim, perhaps Muhammed. Many of various Hindu faiths relate to Krishna or Shiva. Some Buddhists relate to Buddha. Those in certain Caribbean or African faiths might relate to Yemaya or Oshun.

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, one of our first and most seminal yogic texts, we're told that the most direct path to the state of yoga, or integration and wholeness, is isvara-pranidhanadva, or surrendering to the Divine as you understand it.

Therefore, noticing the isvara you gravitate to and developing a clear relationship with that isvara is a powerful yogic practice.

Earlier in our teacher training we invite trainees to think through an aspect of the Divine that they relate to. As we'd never dictate another's beliefs, we leave this somewhat broad and for the purposes of familiarizing with the concept open up the possibility of identifying with a force like nature or love.

At this point in training, we asked trainees to circle back, and tell us more about their isvara.

We went around the circle chanting, telling stories, and explaining where we connected. As I listened to these beautiful people talking about what moves them, what connects to their inner life, I witnessed teachers. Yoga teachers know how to make big, amorphous, esoteric ideas connected and alive. They know that the universe lives in the details and let the specificity of their lives wisely be part of illuminating the all. It was beautiful and affecting for all involved. It was vulnerable and tender and fun.

I'm reading a beautiful book called Belonging by Toko-pa. She writes about dream work and how the subconscious can illuminate where we feel like we belong and are connected and where that disconnect shows itself. Yoga!

In one passage she writes that the etymology of the word "sacrifice" comes from the Latin word for "holy." In her understanding, sacrifice is giving something up to make it holy again. Giving our labor to a garden to appreciate the food. Giving our patience to a relationship to make it matter.

I thought about this understanding of sacrifice as related to the practice of isvara-pranidhanadva. We give some part of our trust, vulnerability, and inner life to make it sacred again. We create a mindful, meaningful relationship with something bigger than ourselves to make relationships sacred again. To make ourselves sacred again. When we perceive ourselves to be sacred, of course we feel connected to the all.

All photos in this post credited to the beautiful eye of Krista Sassani

Friday, March 16, 2018

I'll be your mirror

I co-facilitate a 200 hour hour yoga teacher training at Yogawood. We're at the point in the course where trainees are teaching segments of group classes. After the class, we sit down and dissect what worked really well, what can be improved, and how to implement growth. It is a beautiful practice, one where we see one another, honor the strength and courage it takes to put yourself out there, and celebrate the practice.

I love it.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I realized how to implement a mentorship that had been hovering around in my imagination. I realized it's a Mirrorship.

“We can’t find the truth only listening to our own voice’s echo. We can find ourselves only in someone’s mirror.” —Shams Tabrizi

You are your own best mentor. Let me be a mirror.

If you’re a 200 hour Yoga Alliance certified teacher, teaching public classes, let’s work together. We’ll establish a 3-month window in which we’ll complete our work. During that time, I’ll review* 5 of your public classes and give you specific feedback on what worked as well as what can be improved upon. We’ll get clear on your goals as a yoga teacher and how to reach them. We’ll circle in on your strengths and how they help you effectively share this ancient and wise practice. Your voice will get stronger and more clear. Your ability to communicate about what you do (also known as advertising) will become conscious and more authentic to who you are and how you operate. You’ll conclude the program with a greater awareness of yogic ethics as well as 15+ hours of on-going education to meet annual Yoga Alliance requirements.

We’ll work one-on-one to bring great awareness, care, and precision to your practice of teaching.

You can begin this program at any time. We’ll agree on a mutually convenient schedule.

To begin the program, complete this application. Purchase here

Within an agreed-upon 3 month period, the mentorship includes:

  • Review of 5 open classes (recorded and discussed over GoogleChat or possibly in person if in the Philadelphia-area and able to schedule)
  • Working together to goal set around teaching development
  • Creating a solid plan to meet goals, which may include reading, journaling, or other concrete ways to grow teaching skills
  • Strengthening teaching voice through specific feedback on word choice, effective direction, volume, and cadence to wisely guide students
  • Assessing your strengths as a teacher and amplifying them
  • Gaining clarity on how we communicate about teaching; including reviewing bio, social media outreach, website, and/or email lists
  • Think through teaching ethics such as how and when to adjust and assist, boundaries, authentic marketing, and more
  • Creating on-going experiences to learn
  • Aligning with the work that inspires
  • Gain 15+ hours of Yoga Alliance Continuing Education credits with a YACEP E-RYT Continuing Education provider

If you’re in the Philadelphia-area and we can smoothly coordinate schedules, we’ll meet primarily in person! If you’re outside of this area we’ll coordinate GoogleChat sessions to work together.

*If you live outside of the Philadelphia-area you’ll record your classes and email me audio or video files to review. Our meetings will occur over GoogleChat.

A little postscript! When this program came to me in a flash I also saw that the image was a tarot card with a mirror-- an ancient way of finding our own reflection and in it, clarity. It was such a pleasure to collaborate with Maggie Martin for the design! I commissioned the work, she gave me clear timelines, options, and edits to bring this idea into reality. I love giving the work visual clarity and am so grateful to work with artists towards those ends!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Live Slow

I read a recent article comparing a simple life to a “mediocre” life. The author’s definition of “mediocre” seemed to be a life without striving and with greater, softer, more attainable pleasures like being with one’s family and enjoying it.

I understand how simple living feels mediocre to many of us individually. We get a lot of messaging to strive and dream and do. We all feel the weight of that push. Some of us use that pressure and let it align us with what we’re meant to do and create. I think some of us are here to be. Messaging to strive and do can feel like ulcerous pressure that’s not aligned with our purpose. That always feels challenging.

We live seasonally. We may have seasons of action. Ideally, there would be some seasons where we move more slowly. Some of us might extend that pace from season to the expanse of our life. 

I think the undiscussed aspect of much striving is a path of destruction left behind. When we’re busy achieving goals it’s highly likely we can’t sufficiently tend relationships. We’ll devour resources, burn gas, buy quick food while out, and consume technology to spread our work. Often, striving involves reaching for higher rungs in institutions and structures that we don’t even find to be equitable or just. 

Slow, simple living is more often in balance with our environments. There’s time to grow your own food. There are enough hours to cook it. There’s patience to be present with the humans in our midst. 

Most of us can think of central figures in our life who shored up some internal world and these were often those who were living slowly— our grandparents, a teacher, or a neighbor. I think they’re often elders because they are the people in the season of living more slowly and therefore have the time and attention to give us when we greatly need what they offer.
Most people throughout time and geography have lived slower and more simply within the confines of their environment. There are limits and frustrations. The pace doesn’t always align with an inner drive. But sometimes it does. And not apologizing for that alignment but rather sinking in fully, can be a wise and important counterweight to the overwhelming pressure of this moment to do and be more. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

The cabin came in

I've chased cabins these past few years. One room spaces on the creek's edge, tiny homes on farms, converted barns by grazing sheep. I lit fires. Sat in a river-house-boat watching a muskrat swim. Screened in porches. Pecan pie. Ambling hours.

Every time I arrive, I see that I no longer have cell reception and grin. I unpack a stack of novels and books of poetry. I brew coffee. Light slides geometrically through pines. A veil is lifted in my imagination. There's a spark of a story and I grab a pen. Hours slide away, longer and leaner than I normally know them. I run through them but there's no rush, just open space.

I wonder, every time, could I live like this?

I come home and it stays for a bit. The cashier tells me I'm "friendly" because I still carry a whiff of a long evening watching fireflies. I'm unencumbered by the momentum of home. But, eventually, it gets me. And I get it. I like the pace and possibilities for anonymity. I like endless coffee shops to hide in and classes to take. I sign up for stuff, begin projects, and clutter my desk.

And then it gets to be too much and I run away to a cabin in the country.

Something odd happened this past week. The cabin came in.

Over these last two years I shed a lot. A sort of unimaginable lot. In the process, I fought plenty. I raged and grieved. Projects, ideas, relationships, identities all came undone.

It's done now. I feel that and know. It's done.

After the storm, I felt space. Open, undefined space.

And that's a bit terrifying.

My old habits have been chomping at the bit. I liken it to an empty living room. There's some impulse urging you to buy a sofa! Any sofa! Just put something in there, dammit!

But I knew that's habit. That's reflex. It's not intention.

So I've waited. In the empty room.

The space has felt deafening. It's felt a bit frightening. I'm so used to being set on my path, moving forward one step at a time. Where is a path in an empty room? Shouldn't I just do something? Anything?

But a smaller, wiser part said, "wait."

I've waited. I decided the answer is "no" until it is a clearly lit, brightly felt, undeniable "yes." And the undeniable yes hadn't yet arrived, so I've waited in the empty room. I've said "no" to many sofas.

Finally, last week, I got sick. And surrounding being sick for a few days were endless March nor'easters. Even when I would have rejoined the world around me, I couldn't. Roads were closed. Everything was canceled.

Initially, panic. I am home alone in a metaphoric empty room. What am I doing? Don't I have to decide it?

And I know that frenetic reaction is the devil. So I waited. I decided the job was to heal and rest because those were the opportunities in front of me. I got lots of sleep, read novels, and tended to my own health. And it returned fully.

Something else began to take shape in those open hours too-- that feeling. The phone didn't ring. I had stacks of novels. I watched the snow fall.

The cabin came into my house.

I looked at the ceiling and it looked like my ceiling but it looked softer and sweeter. It looked like my ceiling but not the one I have to make sure to sweep and repaint and tend, but like soft points of focus during day dream. It looked like the ceilings in the cabins. The ones I'm not responsible for.

I realized that the cabin could live in here. I can live in the cabin. Even in the midst of my life. My life has its own pace and momentum, but I have some say here too.

I always wondered what the ingredients would be to take that open, sunlit cabin feeling into my daily life. I'm starting to wrap my head around it-- it's time. It's open, unencumbered time. And not being afraid of that time. Being within the open space.

That's the cabin.

No wonder I couldn't do this on my own. I had no frame of reference for bringing the softer space into what I know. I'm good at making it hard and defined. There's a level of surrender in allowing something to grow.

I don't know if I'll be able to sustain this and I'll say that outright. But I intend to try. At the very least, when I find myself with a gaping calendar and the predictions for a couple of storms, I won't fight it. There's peace in there.