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Showing posts from 2012

Like Riding a Bike.

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He rested his head on my chest, ear positioned over my heartbeat slowing. I closed my eyes, wrapping my arms around his shoulders for a long, quiet embrace, drawing in a deep breath.

"I remember this. I think I remember this. Do I remember this? What do I remember about this? How does this work, again? What happens now?"

People talk with great flippancy about how picking some skills back up is "just like riding a bike." This simile doesn't work for me. When I was growing up, I had roller skates. At some point someone taught me how to ride a bike, but I only remember my skates. As a result of this, I reached adulthood being a less-than-adept bicyclist. It took an exhilarating, very late night, vodka-dampened ride through Vienna a few years ago to help me understand why anyone would want to ride a bike at all: it's incredibly fun. You also get places faster than walking and it's great cardio. Win win win!

Even after more practice, I'm still a bit of …

Sticking the Landing.

"At which point, at long last, there was the actual doing it, quickly followed by the grim realization of what it meant to do it, followed by the decision to quit doing it because doing it was absurd and pointless and ridiculously difficult and far more than I expected doing it would be and I was profoundly unprepared to do it.
And then there was the real live truly doing it.
The staying and doing it, in spite of everything." -Cheryl Strayed from Wild

She coached me patiently, explaining many different ways to approach the pose. When I gave up, she responded by telling me that I would struggle and practice and struggle and maybe fall over but keep practicing. She promised that one day, seemingly out of no where, I would arrive in the pose as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Later I would see that the moment could only be reached after a journey of an undetermined length that would involve a lot of work, learning though failure, celebration of small successes a…

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

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There are moments when something truly divine reaches down and gracefully intercedes in our lives. Like earlier this week when my front passenger side tire exploded going over a wild stretch of California highway. That car shook like the big one, like the whole damn thing was about to come apart. Graceful, divine intercession got me safely off the road, into a McDonald's parking lot and then another kind of magic took over.

I was sitting on the curb in shock, all rattled up, and no less than four people stopped to see if I was okay and offer their help. One kind man stepped in and threw the spare tire on for me, going so far as to take me over to the nearby gas station to put air in it. He even gave me a hug.

God makes miracles in all kinds of ways. Sometimes they are extraordinary, awe inspiring occurrences that ignite or reinforce faith. But far more often, they are subtle, quiet and quite ordinary, the result of the kindness and generosity of the people we encounter.

What make…

Signs and Symptoms

When the going gets tough, how do you know? Is it time to fight or time to let go?

This was the question of the week, as I sloughed through my days as thick as post-deluge mud. It's a fierce storm with no eye and no end in sight. These in between places are the moment right before morning, when night is at its deepest darkest and the matches have run out.

Faith tells us to leave the house without a light. Maybe you'll try to bring along a map but you can't see it in the dark and even if you could it would be leading you someplace you aren't even going. You thought you were going there, that was your carefully laid plan, but you know what they say about wanting to make God laugh...tickle Her behind the knees.

In this place of struggle, where nearly every task requires far more strength than normal, one begins to wonder: Is this really what I ought to be doing? Am I being taught perseverance? Am I meant to be shown how hungry I really am to achieve this goal? Or! Are the…

Forgiveness and Gratitude

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In the Hindu tradition, Ganesha is the Remover (or Supplier) of Obstacles and has many genesis stories. The predominant story is that his father, Shiva, beheaded him when he came between Shiva and his wife, Parvati, and replaced his human head with one of an elephant variety. In the midst of a conversation about our parents, my wise friend Rebecca pointed out, "Ganesha's dad cut his head off and replaced it with an elephant's head, but no where in the scriptures do you hear Ganesha complaining about his dad. This is what separates humans from gods."

The arrogance and staunch idealism of youth demand that our parents be perfect. On a practical level, this makes sense. When we're small, soft and vulnerable, we need our parents to be perfect. We rely on them for absolutely everything for many years of critical development. If they are unable to perform their duties for us, we may not survive. It's life and death.

The tricky thing is, when we are small every nee…

With So Much Worry In The Way

A person can go a long long time thinking about themselves in a particular way and be mistaken. Sometimes the thoughts we think about ourselves are mean ones having to do with intelligence, body image, ability or worthiness. Other times the self-deception is harder to overcome because the thoughts are nice ones having to do with virtues possessed. For instance, I've spent the last 28 years thinking that I am a very open minded, judgement-free individual, and in many cases I am. When it comes to strangers in the world at large I'm extremely supportive. Everyone should be able to live their life in the best way they can, in the way that will inspire the greatest joy and the least amount of harm. The path of life is winding and I have all kinds of patience for people finding their own way in their own time.

This rule does not apply to my loved ones. I am invested in the way they feel to the point of holding great fear and judgement around the choices they make. I have a pattern o…

The Ordinariness of Suffering

Your pain is a very ordinary thing. The details that make it up are unique to you, but the pain itself is so very common. Everyone has experienced some variety of trauma or loss and many people carry it around clutched tightly to their chests like a badge of honor. It is as if what we feel will be invalidated by acknowledging how typical it is to feel that way, so we wrap ourselves up in the feeling, in the old story, and guard our experience.

It's only when we pick our stories apart that we begin to see the connections between wounded hearts. My story and pain our mine, but they look an awful lot like so many stories I've heard and so much pain I've witnessed. I won't ever be able to fully understand what it was like for you to experience what you have, but know that I have suffered too, that I am also the walking wounded trying to heal.

Many hearts never get to heal. I have met countless supposed adults who still act like small, sad, hurt children. Some people are so…

The Lies They Unwittingly Told Us

"He was, for once, trying to give me everything I wanted and I was trying to get everything I needed and it was way too late for either one. There would never be enough butter for me in my father’s house. I had to find it elsewhere in the world. Just like you." -Cheryl Strayed
How do we learn to be? How do we learn what is true?

From the moment our tiny eyes open (and maybe even before that), we are watching and listening. Whoever our primary caretakers were taught us about the world. They taught us how to use a can opener and how to love (or not...), how to tie our shoe laces and whether or not to trust money. Parents and grandparents, aunties and nannies, have so many important lessons and skills that they transmit to the children in their care. I submit, though, that the most important thing that caretakers teach children is who they are and what they're worth.

What were you told about yourself as a child? Were you a "good girl" or a "bad boy"?…

The Practice of Becoming

"Bring the man you aspire to be, the one who already has the love he longs for. Play every piece of yourself and play it with all you’ve got until you’re not playing anymore. That’s what Cary Grant did. The lonely boy who lost his mom in the fog of his father’s deceit found himself in the magic of wanting to be.  His name was Archibald Leach." -Cheryl Strayed
Working in the same city as your company's world headquarters has some unique perks. For instance, the president of my company spoke at our all-staff meeting this week, espousing some simple wisdom that rocked my world. He told the story of becoming who he is, which started with a clear goal followed by a series of conscious choices. He asserted that in order to achieve a dream, one must act as if they have already arrived to the place they hope to reach. Once you decide what your goal is, you begin to ask yourself over and over, "What would someone who has achieved this mastery do in this situation?"…

Shake It Out

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"Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here." -Cheryl Strayed
The body is a garden bed, rich and earthy, seemingly simple yet actually a whole universe unto itself. Our human experience burdens our bodies with all manner of trauma and garbage, leaving debris tucked in between muscle fibers and in deeply carved neural pathways. For better or worse, what happens without changes what happens within.

As adults, we are in charge of tending our own gardens and of asking for help when we undertake a project which is beyond the scope of our expertise. We all have different ways of taking care of ourselves, each offering varying degrees of healthfulness. Regardless of when and how and with whom, there is work to be done if we want to be able to grow and nurture anything in our bodies. We have to till the soil, reaching deep into the darkness to root out the unconscious hurts that still sting, even though we've forgotten why we wince.

All our stories and secrets are the…

Delusions, Hormones and Untrue Stories

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"Do you want to know your body fat percentage?"
I've been walking past the sign at my work for weeks. On Friday one of the trainers and I had some coinciding downtime and I asked him if he would evaluate mine. He moved around my body, pinching areas of skin with an instrument that felt so reminiscent of a piercing gun that I couldn't help but flinch. After inputting his findings into an online form, he printed out the results, dramatically circling a series of numbers. "This is how much your vital organs, bones and blood weigh. You need all those things. This is how much fat you have. You need all but 2-4% of that. Right now you're athletic. You could lose maaaayyyybe a few pounds but any more than that and you'll cease to be healthy."

Woooah.

Sheepishly, I told him how I was recently considering purchasing diet pills from LifeBooker. He shook his head violently, "No no, that would be terrible. Terrible! Don't do that." I hadn't. …

Body of Wisdom

"Trust your gut. Listen to your core. Know that lives within you and interpret it. That's your job here." -Cheryl Strayed

Yoga has given me so much, and changed me inside and out. This yoga drug does indeed work. A common experience in the practice is that yogis gain a stronger sense of the subtle sensations of their bodies. We get tuned in to the place where the mental/emotional/spiritual selves meet the physical; our bodies begin talking to us and the further you dig in to the practice, the harder it becomes to ignore. I like to say that Kundalini yoga made me quit my job because within two months of beginning the practice I woke up to how horrible it felt to go there everyday, sit in a cubicle with no sunlight and have so much contact with paperwork. I had a sense of this before, but the feeling suddenly became so acutely uncomfortable that I had to get out.

Since then, yoga has "made me" quit relationships, habits, living in San Francisco and many other j…

Powerplay

Let's do a little word association. When I say "power" or "powerful," what comes to mind?

When I was in yoga school, we did a meditation during which Yogi Bhajan appeared to me and told me, "It's time to own up to your power. Stop bullshitting." This was well over two years ago and I'm just now getting around to this point on the agenda. See, when you say "power" or "powerful" none of my immediate associations are good ones. When I did this exercise, the following came up: oppressive, controlling, dominance, taking advantage, lording over, manipulating, sleazy, misuse of, irresponsible use of, politicians, warlords, kings, dictators.

Of course there are all kinds of expressions of power and people who yield that power gracefully with benevolence. But none of this springs to the forefront of my mind. It's no wonder that I shy away from power- and I don't think I'm the only one.

For me, Power feels like a dirty ta…

The Gift of Confirmation

"He saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles." from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Two years ago I went to Washington DC for the first time on a trip I ended up calling "The Tale of Two Psychics." The first was a lawyer, Anthony, on the plane between Detroit and DC. The second was a professional psychic, Miss Tina, who did $5 palm readings for my friend Cathleen and I in her living room above Mr. Yogato (p.s. we participated in Rule #3). Anthony and Miss Tina both gave me shockingly accurate once overs that left me reeling, mostly because I gave them very little information about myself. They sensed the transition I was entering in to and the accompanying major changes, and that I was tentative and non-committal- as Miss Tina put it, "You haven't put both feet in." This struck me in particular because the week before my friend's mom gave me a piece of advice that ended with, "I learned that closing…

The Value of Discomfort.

Over the past few years my life's work has slowly come to center and settle around helping people have a conscious, joyful experience of their bodies in their lives. I want everyone to feel really good as much of the time as possible, and I'm an expert facilitator. Aside from my lifetime of practice being the Soother in my family unit, I have a deep, abiding appreciation for everything beautiful and pleasurable, whether it be delicious food or a stunning sunset. I'm good at feeling good and even better at helping other people get there.

The caveat to this is the Consciousness component of my mission. Anyone who's ever been spanked by reality knows that being aware is (at least occasionally) deeply uncomfortable. There are myriad distractions of various levels of healthfulness that we chase to keep feeling good or to get good and numb. While I do want everyone to feel really good, I don't want it to be at the expense of their authenticity or health.

Above all else, …

That Which Becomes Undeniable

Every few months I used to get an absolutely undeniable craving for a donut. I called it my "quarterly donut" and would always allow myself this indulgence, taking the following months to forget how awful my body always felt afterwards. As my yoga practice picked up, I began to change in ways obvious and subtle. Yoga does indeed work, that much is clear, but I still don't grasp exactly how. Somehow a flow of asanas translates into shifts in the internal environment that are separate and yet intimately linked to what happens to the physical body.

The first big change centered around food. Aside from a feeble attempt at a kitcheree cleanse one fall, I've never kept a special diet. I always allow myself to eat whatever I want, which used to entail a huge volume of empty calories. I stopped eating meat years before meaningfully engaging with my yoga practice, but would still crave it from time to time. As I linked breath to movement on the mat, I didn't consciously c…

If you waver, that just means you're really bad at life...and other falsities.

Today in yoga Austin asked us not to make it so hard. What we were doing felt hard (holding poses for so many breaths in 90 degree heat), but he asked us to stop telling ourselves it was hard and just let it be. Just be in it without making it any harder. Stop gripping your toes, clenching your jaw, holding your breath. Drop your shoulders. Smile. Breathe!

Like all yogic lessons, it's not really about yoga but about life (which is yoga for some of us). How many situations in life do we complicate significantly by making them harder than they actually are? How often do we hold our breath and grip fiercely when relaxing and letting go would serve us far better? Could we avoid frenzied emotional drama and instead stay neutral and calm?

This is what Austin teaches while we hang out for awhile and sweat in Warrior II- you don't have to be so dramatic about it. It's just yoga. He often jokes that if you waver or fall over in the pose, that just means you're really bad at yog…

An Open Letter to Angelina Jolie

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Angelina Dearheart,
You first made an impression on me in Tomb Raider. I was 17 years old and awkwardly, painfully fumbling through existence in the womanly body that I was not yet mature enough to inhabit. You had this totally bangin', healthfully athletic figure, and even if they were rubber suit sculpted and not entirely real, girl! You had some boobies. Then you factor in the strong female lead part and you became the kind of role model that every 17 year old girl needs: ass kicking, fiercely independent, powerful, and above all else, healthy. I was so ill at ease in my skin but watching you filled me with a hope that I, too, would someday be just as strong and confidently embodied.

As the years have gone by, I've followed your work and have been particularly moved and inspired by your involvement with the UN. Even if I kind of hated the deeply disturbing Changeling, you have always held a special place in my heart for what you represented to me as an adolescent.

This week…

A Heartbreaking Act of Staggering Difficulty

He asked me for money and I said no.

I'm from a place where I'm asked for money sometimes a dozen times in a day by all manner of people raising money for all manner of causes, including but not limited to: drugs, booze, a room for the night, a Greyhound ticket back to [__________], and The Environment ("Do you have moment to talk about The Environment?" "No, no I do not."). Sometimes I'm asked if I have four quarters for a dollar. Sometimes it's just a mumble mumble shuffle shuffle incoherent. Sometimes it's the guy in the suit who got mugged and just needs $25 to get his car out of the St. Mary's parking garage before it closes for the night. This happens to him at least once a week, poor guy.

After years and years of this sort of dialogue my policy became to never give anyone money unless they were playing an instrument or otherwise performing in some way that enriches the urban environment. I acknowledge people minimally with eye contact…