Practice is perfect

IMG_3115Inspiration from friends/Introduction to last week's yoga class I spent the weekend with dear friends from college, we ate good food, swam and unwound. This was fun and very relaxing, but the part that delighted me most was how we helped each other—we all made dinner, we all did the dishes, we all washed the sheets and closed up when it was time to go. No one did everything, and no one did nothing. So what does this have to do with yoga? As you start your practice today focus for a moment on all the different circles in which you are an essential cog: your family near or far, this community in Bend, your office. Think of all the things you do to keep one or all of those circles running smoothly, as well as the numerous moments every day that you are tired, frustrated, annoyed, empty, but you keep going. This fire, this dedication in yoga philosophy is called tapas.

You cultivate your endurance to that which you are dedicated, your tapas every time you come to your mat and take an hour to take care of yourself.

I practice so I can have more availability, patience, equanimity, levity in the face of the day to day and week to week demands of life. Take a moment, a few breaths and focus on what you would like to cultivate in your practice today so that you can be available to all the circles that need you.

 

"The victory is in beginning" ~ Judith Lasater

A Recipe for Self-Care

ImageA few weeks ago in Thailand I received a 2.5 hour massage session—body scrub, full body oil massage and facial for $30. It was indulgent and wonderful.  When I arrived back in the States I was jetlagged and a little dehydrated. I had to get creative with my resources to give myself a relaxing treatment at home.  The first step in this kind of self-massage/self-care is to determine how much time you have and make it as indulgent as possible. Indulgence is "characterized by doing or tending to do exactly what one wants, esp. when this involves pleasure or idleness." This is the perfect, and possibly only rule of thumb for this exploration in self-care. Getting Ready:

-find organic sesame or almond (winter/cold regions) or coconut oil (summer/warm regions)

-favorite essential oil (I recommend lavender or rose)

-skin brush & wash cloth

-humidifier & shower or bathtub

-epsom salt

-double boiler or small glass dish

-optional: candles, chillax music, extra soft towel, cup of tea, cooshy bathrobe

During cold seasons or cool evening: gather your preferred materials and prepare the oil by lightly heating in a double boiler, or microwave. It should simply be warm to the touch. Mix in a few drops of your preferred essential oil.

recipe #1 mini facialIMG_3146

home-made facial scrub: mash up one part avocado, one part coffee grounds, one part oil. gently wash face as normal. place a    washcloth saturated with warm to hot water for 1-2 minutes. apply home-made facial mask in small circular motions moving outward to inward. sip your tea and enjoy doing nothing for as long as you like. rinse and spray with toner or rose water and moisturize with preferred oil or facial lotion (my favorite is Pangea Orgranics Argan Oil).

recipe #2 quickie self-massage/dry shower

lock yourself in the bathroom & turn the humidifier on and use the skin brush over the body starting at the feet and moving towards the heart. this gets your circulation going and sloughs off dead skin. follow by massaging the oil of your choice + essential oil in a circular motion over the whole body. wrap your body in the towel or extra comfy robe. sit still for one minute. rock out into your day.

recipe #3 extra-nurturing shower

as you start the shower begin with recipe #2 skin brushing + oil massage. when you and the shower are ready step in and give yourself a good salt scrub. you can actually avoid soap and simply enjoy the hot water + oil, my skin has never felt more nourished, soft and supple.

Favorite candles

recipe #4 full indulgence bath

light some candles, put on some chill music and make a cup of relaxing tea. as the bath fills begin with the skin brush (circular motions towards your heart starting out at the feet, working up and in). add oil + epsom salts to the bath. use the washcloth + salt scrub over the feet and legs to give a little extra exfoliation.

 

******

blooming peonies

 

I also enjoy getting myself flowers or a pedicure, if not both.

How can you indulge yourself this week?

Sweet Potato Pancakes

2 sweet potatos

Image1/4 cup gluten free flour + 1 teaspoon each baking soda & baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon xantham gum
OR

1/4 cup Pamela's Gluten Free Baking Mix

2 eggs

milk or milk alternative

coconut oil

optional: hemp protein, coconut flakes, nutmeg or cinnamon

Grate the entire sweet potato into a mixing bowl. Turn the skillet on high heat and oil with the coconut oil. Mix flour, eggs, milk (splash enough to gently moisten) and any optional ingredients. When the skillet begins to smoke, turn it down to low-medium and drop batter to cook. Flipping 2-3 times until the sweet potato turns from orange to yellow and is soft through the pancake (more similar to a zucchini or potato pancake). Enjoy with candied pecans, or a little bacon!

Spring Cleaning - Natural Recipes

Among the many jobs I took to support myself as a fledging actor/yoga teacher was "natural house cleaner". Needless to say the job was short-lived, but the skills I learned were priceless. Avoiding super processed home cleaning products is easy, definitely cheaper, as long as you are willing to put elbow grease into your weekly regime. NATURAL HOUSE CLEANER- good for kitchen & bathroomRosemary

Mix in a spray bottle: one part white vinegar + one part distilled water + 5-15 drops eucalyptus, citrus, lemongrass, rosemary or tea tree oil.

I prefer lemon + eucalyptus for the kitchen, and tea tree + sweet orange for bathroom. Lavender & Tea Tree have potent antibacterial qualities. The white vinegar (5% acetic acid) will denatures the cell walls of bacteria and viruses (as well as most types of salmonella, but not all).

BATHROOM CLEANING:

Sprinkle baking soda in sink, tub/shower and in toilet. Spray with pre-mixed cleaner & let stand for 5-10 minutes. Scrub vigorously and rinse.

Baking soda has naturally antibacterial properties and kills many germs/bacteria.

DRAIN CLEANER:

Pour baking soda + apple cider vinegar down the offending pipe, let sizzle for 10-15 minutes and repeat if necessary. Much less toxic then other options.

WINDOW/MIRROR CLEANER:

Spray or sprinkle seltzer water + newspaper + elbow grease for a streak free, clean reflective surface.

These are just a few that are tried and true for me. Here is another resource if you want to go deeper into the realm of natural household cleaners.

Letters to A Young Poet By Rainer Maria Rilke

A decade ago, my first voice teacher, Beth McGuire told me to read this book, "Letters to a Young Poet". If I were to embark on being an actor, then these were the questions to ask. I look to the next phase of my life as if I was looking over a cliff into an black abyss, but the cliff is too comfortable and so it is to find only solace in Rilke and get ready to jump.

"You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sound - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of , this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

     But after this descent into yourself and into your solitude, perhaps you will have to renounce becoming a poet (if, as I have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn't write at all). Nevertheless, even then, this self searching that I ask of you will not have been for nothing. Your life will still find its own paths from there, and that they may be good, rich, and wide is what I wish for you, more than I can say.

     What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn't disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer."

Searching for yoga and coffee in Chiang Mai

And thai massages. And mango sticky rice. On a daily basis.

At the end of the first week my exploration have been successful.

Day # 1: After studying Thai Massage seriously in the States for three-four years, I received my first massage in Thailand in the common area of a temple (1.5 hours 200 bhat/$7 USD). It was quite an experience, and different from what I expected, not as relaxing, not for the tender or feint of heart. The practitioner really worked me and I was sore for a few days afterward.

Wandered until I found a cafe down a side street. The owner made me a yellow curry and sat down with her dog to talk to me while I ate. Spicy (nose-watering) and flavorful in all sorts of ways. Out of courtesy I sipped the water with ice that she gave me. Then I remembered maybe I shouldn't. I finished both the curry and the water in the end and hoped for the best. (60 bhat/$2 USD)

Day #2. After a day of working in my poolside "office" at The Eco Resort I found my way to Wild Rose Yoga. The atmosphere is exquisite, sacred, magical. I have heard about this place for years from nomadic friends. It is a can't miss for the traveling yogi. Helen was the teacher for this first class, I have learned she specializes in yoga for bodyworkers which is apparent in her focus on the subtle energetics and importance of breath, coupled with creative vinyasa and some strong core work. She was attentive, so present and inspiring.

Dada Cafe: I met a friend for a late night dinner, this place is owned by a German man. I was a little hesitant to try my friends' salad, but it was full of sprouts and avocado and delicious. The frothed coconut was amazing.

Day #3. Mosaic Cafe: excellent coffee down the road from Eco Resort.

Blue Diamond: Another fantastic salad with amazing dressing. I didn't think I would be eating a salad for months and have been surprised and delighted a second time! I can only hope to replicate the gluten free cookies in the deli one day (a mix of seeds, coconut and yum), for now I keep a stash on me at all times for snacking. Down the street from a tourist friendly market.

Namo Yoga: the website was confusing and a little off-setting, couldn't quite tell what the address was, or if there is a physical space. There is! And it is a refreshing blend of yoga and massage, great setting. I am looking forward to taking a class.

Day # 4 Nice Kitchen (I am tickled by some of the names here): the best panang green curry (lunch) and most delightful yogurt fruit (breakfast) I have experienced. Amazing coffee.

Found Pranam on a friend's recommendation and received a 1 hour full foot massage (150 bhat). I will return for a full body massage today.

Day #5. Yoga Tree: an absolutely gorgeous space, so open and surrounded by greenery. I attended a kirtan and experienced the ex-pat/international hippie community in full force and the sweet tunes of the yoga version of a jolly James Taylor- Steve Gold. The event was facilitated by Wild Rose, but held at Yoga Tree-- which reveals a really lovely synchronistic, non-competitive relationship that is inspiring.

Day #6. Weekend Night Market. I was intimidated at the thought of such masses of people, but it was amazing. I only purchased food-- but tasted and tried many things (all gluten and vegetarian, my stomach can confirm today!). Taro, potato crisp stick, grilled sticky rice, mango sticky rice, rice ginger curry (will return for this dish next week), juices and so many things to look at! Hope to enjoy a grilled banana one day...

Now for week #2!

RDM to CNX = Chasing the Sun

I woke amidst the black, cold starry night in Central Oregon and spent a day chasing the sun halfway around the world. My body is still not sure if it is today or tomorrow, neither really does my mind. It has become apparent I am in the land of ganesha, venerated for the elephants known to the area in more ways than one.Image

I arrived to a monk-like room at a jungle resort in the middle of the city and realized I could spend the next month drinking pineapple smoothies, writing and hardly speaking to anyone, if I so choose. Such are my simple joys of complete independence. Image

Yesterday, I woke up, my body so grateful for however long I slept in a real bed, rather than the seat of a plane. Two temple visits, a self-guided walking tour, one superb home-made curry and a Thai Massage later my day was complete.

Delicious.

I forgot about bugs in Oregon, or that I can use insect repellent. Besides this minor issue, I wonder if I will ever want to leave?

.Image

The Year in Review

I kayaked with a manatee (so massively inspiring). Snorkel Heaven

I didn't live in the same place for more than five weeks, maybe six...

I snorkeled with a shark (I was frightened, he didn't care. at all).

I celebrated my dad's 60th birthday with our family.

I tried to take a bus in Key West (recommended if you are up for adventure, but not actually getting anywhere).

I endured two east coast blackouts.

I took a tour of east coast beaches with friends!

I participated in my first fun run (paddle-run-paddle-run-paddle-run).

I tried to paddle in a surf-ski (and only got thrown once).

I fell in love with one little girl & three new little boys: Ruby, William, Finn & Hudson.

Waiting for a bus in paradiseWaiting for a bus in paradise

I climbed a mountain above 10,000 feet.

I kayaked with sea otters, birds & jellyfish in Monterey Bay.

I visited Canada & Mexico, each for the first lovely time.

I went on my first road cycle for the sake of cycling.

I laid in a pool in a hot spring water park as the sun rose and the birds migrated.

I taught yoga and AcroYoga at my first retreat.

I stopped eating gluten & got experimental baking.

I went snowshoeing for the first and second time.

I visited so many homes of friends, it was ridiculous.

Just awesome.

I got settled in Oregon.

My Traveling Hat is On...

St.Louis MO November 20th, 2012 Restorative/post travel practice this morning to recalibrate my body after a long day of travel. I worked diligently on the endless droves of workey-work assigments I currently have. Told the world I am taking off tomorrow (which means I will still work, but not necessarily answer emails or phone calls-- shhh don't tell). Made chicken stock from scratch in preparation for full fledged cooking tomorrow/Thursday. I also got a great massage at Morgan Ford Massage Therapy (highly recommended)! Now to find a couple of plane tickets (some people have utility bills, I buy tickets to travel).

Portland to St.Louis MO November 19th, 2012

Planes & airports. Woke at 4:15am, as arduous as that might sound, I decided since I was traveling east, I would experience this early hour as if I had already arrived and thus will not have to deal with jet lag. I think I tricked myself rather well. Would have posted yesterday’s post yesterday, but couldn’t figure out how to log into my blog… I would love to roll out my mat for an hour or two—but I have to check in on work. Ill listen to some inspiring vibes…

Yoga Inspired Playlisti got my hat! I am ready!

Pretty Lights | An Empty Station

Bonobo | Eyesdown

Pretty Lights | Understand Me Now, Stay

Ratatat | Grape Juice City, Sunblocks

Emancipator | Safe in the Steep Cliffs

Bon Iver | Blood Bank

Subterranean Sanctuary | Desert Dwellers

Day #2 I enjoyed yoga in bed (I am getting flexible in a multitude of ways)

 

Bend to Portland, OR Nov. 18th, 2012

I am on the road for the next twenty-two days.I happily woke up to shower and blow dry my hair (zero degrees means my hair must be dried) at 5:45am.  Watched a deer family cross the highway under windblown pines trees. I took a shuttle bus from the high winter desert through the snow covered mountains of Mt.Hood and felt like I traveled in time into the late wet fall of Portland. I spent the day with the dearest of friends catching up and delighting in our shared company as we ran errands together. I love the sensitivity of the foodies in Portland—gluten free pub menu to die for whilst I felt like the country mouse visiting the “big city”—shopping, walking, enjoying coffee. I plan to practice and write everyday. Let’s see what kind of yoga I find along the way.

Day #1: Opted out of a basketball game in favor of spending time solo. Yoga practice on the road: “Reconnect to your back body & open your heart” with Elena Brower via YogaGlo.com

 

Monster Cookies

[slideshow]Just like the squirrels are storing away their food for the winter, I wanted a portable yummy chock-full-nutrition snack. I think this is it and it has been a hit with everyone I shared it with-- easily modified to be gluten free, gluten full or vegan at your desire. I modified the recipe from the Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour Bag.

Gluten Free Monster Cookies 1 1/2 cups gluten free oats 1 cup GF All Purpose baking Flour (Bob's Red Mill) 1/2 cup organic sugar 1/4 cup Flaxseed Meal 1 1/2 tsp Xantham Gum 1 tsp Baking Soda 3/4 cup Coconut Oil or Canola Oil 6 tablespoons butter or applesause 2 Tablespoons Vanilla extract 1 cup chocolate chips 1 cup pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans & walnut mix

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prep your cookie sheets. Mix the dry ingredients, add in the wet, saving the chips, nuts and seeds for last. Cookie 12-15 minutes rotating the tray half way through.

Eyes are the window to the soul

—windows are two way.
I have been thinking a lot about sight or vision lately. Where do I see myself in the future? How do I feel about my day to day life? How can I make more time to practice? And how might these questions be related? I was regularly taking yoga classes for a year, or maybe three before I understood the connection between vision/sight and, the word drishti; a beautiful slightly awkward Sanskrit word that I feel means “sight” or “vision”. It sounds so simple, and this simplicity holds a profound, potent capacity for a conscious lifestyle. A drishti can be the literal place that you look during your sun salutations (on the tip of your nose, according to Mr.Iyengar), that un-moving spot on the wall when you try to hold a balancing pose like eagle and the perspective that you experience when you remember the past or think about the future.
If I ask, why do you practice (and it can be whatever you practice: yoga, writing, running)? What comes up? What are you looking to your practice for?
Do you arrive at your yoga mat to get a kick-butt workout, to foster calm in your mental state, both, or something in between? Identifying the drishti behind the why you practice can reveal a lot. I kept coming back to my mat and taking my practice as a yoga teacher, even though my left wrist was increasingly bothering me.  I was telling my students to listen to their bodies as I was ignoring mine.  I fought the injury and I struggled past the diagnosis—and when I looked closely at what I was doing to myself I realized my yoga practice was making me miserable.  I felt weak, disempowered and injured. A one degree shift in my drishti has meant the difference between exacerbating my issue and re-cultivating a nourishing practice.  This translates as practicing deep listening rather than flowing through someone else’s sun salutations—and often leaving down dog out. 
I practice to explore my edges of possibility, to throw my perspective upside down, crack open preconceived notions and leave them at the door—at the end I breathe more deeply and step off more fully grounded in myself. What keeps bringing you back to your practice? When I begin to look at why I practice I realize that it is an ever-changing, ever moving target.
Sometimes my drishti of life is very, very focused “eye on the prize”style.  When I was making a living as an actor in New York my personal life would drown in the dishes in the kitchen sink every time I was working on a show. I can accomplish a lot, achieving goals quickly—but this has also made it hard to see what is missing when I feel stuck, as if I couldn't see amazing things that were right in front of my face.
I have spent the last couple years of my life trying to soften my “life goal drishti” so I can savor the journey while I am on it.  I sit longer with questions, quietly observing what serves me and what does not. What is apparent as you look back on the day or the past year? Sitting here right now in this moment what do you see in front of you? And as you look forward into the future what do you envision?

Picking up poop is not an option.

Rather, not picking up poop is not an option.

My dad and the dogs

I recently spent some time on vacation with my parents and their two dogs, Tallie & Henry.  I often take the dogs running. It is a not-so quirky delight that they get so excited when they realize I am putting on my shorts and running shoes.  I put on their leashes and collars and before we leave a grab 2-3 plastic baggies to clean up any poops. It's just what I do, I don't think about picking it up or not picking it up-- if they poop, I clean it up-- no discussion.  Occasionally, I pick up theirs as well as stray poops left behind by not-so-considerate dog owners.

I have an uncle who loves the joke,"if aliens came down from space and saw a man and dog walking-- the alien would see the man picking up the dog poop and ask the dog to "take them to their leader."' This joke illuminates the odd power dynamic between a dog and their owner, which I found demoralizing when I was younger. Back in the days of middle school, one of my few chores was to take the family dogs on their daily walks.  I enjoyed the time and the freedom exploring my neighborhood with my very faithful companions. I despised being seen with a pooper-scooper. It was gross, uncool, embarrassing in my pre and tween perspective.

I went through phases-- sometimes taking the 3 foot long pooper scooper (you don't have to get too close, but jeez is it gaudy and totally noticeable to theoretical high school boys who might drive by), sometimes reverting to plastic bags (inconspicuous, but the proximity to the smell and heat of the freshly pooped poop is pretty gnarly) and sometimes I decided I was too cool to pick it up-- it would compost anyway right?

Once or twice I was caught not picking up the poop-- with a tail hung between my legs I would run home and grab a poop-picking up device and return to the scene of the crime. I grew out of the too-cool phase of life  and into the phase of taking responsibility for my own sh*#t-- and that of my dogs. I bet I could get away with a less poop picking up in my life, but I enjoy holding myself accountable better than anyone else can.

Bridges, Magic and a Cranky Wrist Oh My!

A few months ago I started noticing there was a little discomfort in my wrist even in a mild pose like hands & knees (also known as table pose).  I would slightly change the poses at the beginning of my yoga practice to alleviate the discomfort.  Then, one day about a month I couldn't put weight on my left wrist with my palm on the floor at all.  In the past, when I have experienced a mild to medium dis-ease or borderline injury I have taken the opportunity to take a full-fledge break-- switching to running, swimming or pilates.  Injuries are always frustrating, confusing and sometimes something so small seems to take over my life, especially because I am professional yoga teacher.  This one was no different, although this time I was downright indignant.  I teach four to five classes a week and need to practice before I teach.  Many of my yoga teachers have often spoken about learning from your injury, teaching from the wisdom that it can offer.  This was always a hypothetical for me, and I figured that was after you returned to full health.  I was feeling gimpy, inadequate and frustrated as I wondered "How can you practice from that? How can you teach from that?!"  Life and my classes were continuing with or without me.

Focus on what you can do, Not what you can't
I finally decided, after a visit to my acupuncturist, that I would stay away from putting weight on my wrist in extension for a month.  This removed plank, chaturanga (the yoga push-up), arm balances and handstands from my daily practice; which was a big part of my day to day routine.  After a week, I suddenly noticed I was occasionally demonstrating these poses in class (this would become the most difficult hurdle in my recovery).  The commitment to myself was going to be harder than I expected, until I shifted my focus to other poses: balancing and extension poses like utthita padagustansana (hand to big toe pose); forearm stand; frog; headstands; the list goes on and on.  I was focusing on flexibility and opening up my shoulder girdle, which brought a new softness to my personal yoga practice and teaching.  My change in perspective was opening up new possibilities and altered my emotional state as well by focusing on the positive, rather than the one perceived negative.

And then don't blame the bridge...
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Our attitude toward a place of injury is usually quite negative and often places blame.  It is common to hear the phrase, "oh this is my problem shoulder" or "I have a bad knee".  This phrase-ology would fundamentally imply that the knee itself did something wrong of its own volition.  My Tai Chi says a chronic knee injury is due to a argument between your hips and ankles. We would never accuse a bridge blown up as a casualty of a war, a "bad bridge"-- so the same perspective can be applied to the knee, shoulder, back, whichever part of the body ails you, especially if it is a joint. For the knee problems strengthening the ankle and opening up the flexibility of the hip to discover the proper alignment of the knee in athletic pursuits and daily habits many ails can be fixed from within.  It may take years and many of us don't want to listen that carefully, thoroughly and mindfully to the whispering creaks until they incapacitates the whole body.  I can't blame my wrist it is a small relatively weak joint that must overcompensate for my tight shoulder girdle, and that I often push myself through a strong practice.
  
Magic?
We can switch from a position of blame to one of curiosity and compassion.  Many of my AcroYoga colleagues refer to a place of injury, or or dis-ease as "magical" because that place holds so much potential: an opportunity to listen deeply to the whispering discomforts of the body; to repattern that which is not working; to learn from within how to be more compassionate, nurturing and kind to our bodies first and foremost.  It can be easier, for me, to be nicer to others than it is to be nicer to myself, so if I am really truly kind to myself in every way that I need, I wonder how much easier it will become to be more friendly, generous and considerate to others?

Redefining Guilty Pleasure

I have been picking one yama or niyama (two of the eight limbs of yoga philosophy) a week to focus on in my reading, meditation and yoga classes. This week is astheya-- which usually translates as non-stealing or non-covetess. I find this translation not very exciting and difficult to connect with. I can't help thinking about stealing, things I want that I don't have and what is lacking in my life-- really the opposite of how I would like to spend my time. Luckily, one of my favorite authors (Nishala Joy Devi) offers a different translation that of astheya as generosity. I imagine myself filling with gratitude every time I breathe in and giving back every time I breathe out. Contented and serene as a part of the whole web of life with every breath.

I got to wondering how I could be more generous with myself-- compassionate with my expectations, present in the moment and relaxed about self-judgement. The whole process took me from feeling lacking to feeling a lot more abundant. As I put my concentration on what I have and what I enjoy, the "guilt" in guilty pleasures fell away. Regret and guilt don't serve me in my joyful breath cycle, thought cycle, practice cycle of generosity. Once I took the guilt away decisions came a little easier and pleasures became a little more enjoyable.

Estes Park, Colorado

I feel so blessed and grateful to be supporting my teachers and the AcroYoga practice at the Estes Park Yoga Journal Conference; surrounded by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and so many amazing talented yoga peeps. The yoga, scenery, and hiking are simply amazing.

My friend and colleague, Amy and I, decided to depart for a hiking adventure late this afternoon with the lofty goal that we might go bouldering. We arrived as most other visitors were leaving. Geared up with some hot green tea in my Klean Kanteen and my five finger shoes we started walking up and up and up. The higher we went, the harder it was to walk and talk at the same time; and the more tempting each subsequent vista became, beckoning us to stop and soak in the scenery, the changing aspens in the late day light.

We found our destination, and it felt as if we had deliberately stumbled on a land before time. The rocky landscape felt exquisitely ancient and the trees felt more wise than others I had met. Maybe it had not been so wise to venture out so late in the day, but we delighted in the solitude as the lakes, mountains, trees and boulders seemed to exist for our appreciation alone.

Hours upon hours of asana practice and theory, at the Conference, had left me feeling open; but now I felt satiated, nourished, grounded. I had needed a hike like this for months, as well as the camaraderie and discussion of my hiking companion.

So healing, nourishing, relaxing and inspiring.

It was a reminder about what I need to take care of myself.

Yogi Bhajan Everyday says:

"If you do not understand that life exists to challenge you with every breath, you do not understand living. If you do not challenge your life yourself, somebody will challenge it. "

In this I find relief, comfort and gratitude.

Comfort in Discomfort

I am traveling.
I am in a period of transition.
I am extremely uncomfortable.

I have been traveling for a couple of months. When people ask me where I am from, I don't exactly know right now. Some questions are usually so simple for most people.

I moved out of New York City (I know that). I thought I was moving back home to New Jersey. Plans changed, so I am one my way to move back to Santa Barbara, the hard part is I don't know where exactly I am going to be living in two weeks. There are always things nattering. That is human existence. As of lately I have coupled the nattering, exacerbated it and added a component of constant leaving-arriving-getting settled-having-amazing-experiences-and-then-leaving (and repeat); while also trying to get the next phase of my life virtually set up. It is hard to not let the beauty of today be destroyed by the imminent unknown, and my anxiety/fear/discomfort wrapped up in this constant state of flux.

I am excited about the big things, like the job which is the reason I am relocating. But the little things are what I am most looking forward to: biking to work (so long parking drama and hours on the subway); eating food handed to me by the person who grew it at the farmers market; and a little more time for myself on a day to day basis (I hope) to look inward or explore the gorgeous outdoors. The conundrum right now, is as it always seems to be for me, is finding a balance of accomplishing as many little details as I can and letting go of my expectation that more can get done, letting go of the fear/anxiety (I could make up things that I might need to worry about because my imagination is so creative), letting go letting go letting go. I am having mental-emotional-life-size growing pains.

And of course, meditation practice has been alluding me, like a tricky butterfly that won't land. It has been on my to do list , although as I write I realize it should be on a "to be" list. I have been floating in a distressing sea of this dis-ease for weeks. The prescription for any relief has been (in addition to letting go) more yoga than regular, and more running. I find if I can exhaust my body, my mind gives up. Then I can sit and breathe. And I feel a little better for a brief and fleeting moment.

I am realizing this time, this place of disquiet is no different than how my life always is, the level of ache is simply magnified at this time during this period of change. And I have no patience for it to take over. As I travel to visit friends and family each moment is absolutely too precious because I don't know exactly when I will be in the same place or see these faces I love again. So I am inviting in the possibility that I can be comfortable in this period of transition, in this discomfort that happens to be my life right now at this very moment (and maybe even enjoy things while I am at it)... and bring this awareness with me when I get settled again.