Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Posts are Moving

Hey Y'all,

Just wanted to write a quick note here to let you know that my blog is moving locations. You may already know, but just in case you don't, I am going to stop posting here.

Check out my new site: This is where all the new posts will appear, and some from here that I am re-writing...

Thanks for your support and love

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Scrubbed Clean

Blowing, howling, screaming wind
It came like night and stirred,
Stirred up, churned up
All of me, all of him

Hair whipped, eyes scrunched, skin stung
Gravel, pounding earth and sky
Agitation, frustration—can’t breathe
Slow down, go around, bend like trees

Shouting now, over din
Pummeled, forced; look in!
Inside where you hurt
Inside where you heal

Fierce love and wild fear 
Pushing, scraping, ripping 
Comfort gone, tethers free
Let go, he says, it’s just me

Hold me, love me, all we need
Exhale, calm water dream
Whales and wisdom, nothing to fear
Dawning light, wild eye turned clear

Our feet reach down, new earth below
No prints to see, all scrubbed clean
Old paths, now pristine
Hand in hand, you and me

Friday, March 22, 2013

Turning to the Light: A Yogini’s Look at Consciousness

With the first days of spring upon us, I cannot help but welcome the light. The topic of light has been on my mind not just because the magnificent sun is shining upon us in lengthening days, but also in remembrance of the light which shines within.

Have you ever had the most amazing, enlightening experience, then noticed your eyes in a mirror? Cried until there were no more tears, then saw a new brightness to the color of your eyes? Had an orgasm then noticed your eyes (or your partner’s eyes) were practically glowing? Finished a yoga practice and looked at the way your eyes sparkled with fresh clarity? This is one of the ways that we can see the light that shines within.

The yogic sages and philosophers call this light Chit. Chit translates as —to observe, to know, to understand. In general, it means the Light of Consciousness.  

In yoga we practice turning our awareness inwards. We sit in meditation, or rest in corpse pose and observe our experience. But have you ever stopped to ask who is observing it? And, if your mind becomes quiet and still, yet you are aware of (i.e. separate from) its stillness, who was it that was aware (and separate)?

The answer is Chit. It is the Consciousness in you that has always been there and has never changed. Consciousness is our inner nature and is a perfect starting point for the practice of spiritual development; all you need to know is your Self!

When we jump down the rabbit hole of knowing ourselves, the topic of Light gets more interesting. Consciousness, according to Swami Shantananda, is “that which is endowed with the power to know and to perceive.” This is not so much the light you can see with your eyes but the light by which you see. The Light of Consciousness dawns in an Aha! moment — often before we even know what happened — before the mind begins to describe, label and categorize the experience.

Many of us never even know there is a difference between the dawning of Consciousness and our understanding of and relationship to it. It takes practice being present in order to witness the moment when the proverbial lightbulb goes on. Our experience and our labeling of it occurs almost simultaneously. In that moment, however, there is an opportunity to know the Chit and to know ourselves more deeply.

The Light shines forth (for you yoga philosophers at heart, you will also know this as prakasha) and is reflected back to us by what we see (vimarsha). Chit is the Light that emanates from each of us and shines out into the world, it is also our capacity or ability to know what we are seeing, and additionally, our understanding of what we see. Let me explain in more detail.

Consciousness emanates from us and shines on what we see, illuminating it and bringing it into our awareness. Then, in simple terms, we describe what we see; we label it, categorize it, know what it is. For example: That is a flower, that is a man, she has red hair, etc. On a deeper level, we then give personal meaning to what we see. Perhaps we have associations linked with red hair and memories that go along with it. For example: He’s got red hair, my first love had red hair, those were such special times, it makes me feel good to remember who I was then and what that love felt like. This is our understanding of what we see. 

And who is seeing all this in the first place? That is the unchanging One who has the ability to see it all. Chit emerges so that it can reflect back and shine inwards. Consciousness wants to know itself. Consciousness is conspiring for you to see your true nature, the part of yourself which is unchanging and inherently blissful. 

You have a unique face. Without a mirror to reflect your face back to you, you don’t actually know what you look like. You have a unique history, no one else has been through what you’ve been through. Those experiences are your mirror, each one of them reflects not only the experience and your associations with it, but also who you are beyond them.

Your vision and understanding is maleable; how you see yourself, others and your experiences changes day to day. So, the next time you sit down to meditate, or practice yoga, take a moment to breathe it all in. Sit back and open up to the Light. Do a little spring cleaning by taking a fresh look at your reflection. What stories and associations do you have that are no longer fitting? What associations are true? Can you pause the mental labeling long enough to glimpse that flash of Light dawning within? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Communicate Like a (Mindful) Pro

At some point in time, each of us will need to dialogue with someone who is disrespectful or who rubs us the wrong way. There are some people we simply can’t avoid because we work with them or they are in our family, or for some reason, we cannot simply ignore them, no matter how badly we want to or how hard we try.

Here are some suggestions for healthy communication for the next time you find yourself needing to speak up.

1.) Say It As Soon As Possible
If you have something to say but you hold it in, it will fester. Then, you will likely be angry and everything you say will be loaded with that emotion. Its difficult to communicate or see anything clearly when all you see is red. Sooner is always better.

2.) Don’t Assume
Never assume that you know what the other person is thinking or experiencing. We never know what kind of drama may be in their lives that may cause them to act the way they do. As an example, I once taught a restorative yoga workshop. After class an unassuming, gentle student—one I’d never met before that day—approached me. She said, “I just want to thank you for the class. When I served in Iraq I was captured and held hostage and this class really helped me process the emotion and fear from that experience.” I had no idea, and we usually don’t. So ask questions, or at least be open to hearing what the other person has to say.

3.) Take Responsibility
If you did something hurtful (even if you didn’t mean it), apologize. Be willing to make change yourself, don’t just expect the other person to change. The reality is, the other person may not change at all. Communicating isn’t about trying to get someone to change, but about speaking up for yourself, maintaining healthy boundaries and evolving to meet the situation at hand. 

4.) Apply the Four Gates of Speech. These questions help further streamline your communication.

• Is it truthful?
Get your facts straight. Make sure you are talking to the correct person about something they have control over. If not, you might look like a real jackass or say something you truly regret.

• Is it necessary to say?
Take the time to examine your thoughts and feelings. Are you reacting to something that has nothing to do with the situation that’s bugging you? Will you be able to let it go if you don’t say anything? Can the situation even be changed? (i.e. the other person’s hands might be tied by some circumstance, even if they want to change it)

• Is this the right time to say it?
Be aware of the other person’s mood and what they are doing. If they are already in a bad mood, what you say could make it worse. Also, if they are occupied, say they are on the phone, working on the computer or otherwise distracted, they won’t be able to engage in conversation or hear you with any clarity. Start out by asking if they have a moment to chat. If they say yes, then you know you’ve got their attention.

• Can it be said in a kind way?
We all know how it feels to be spoken to in a derogatory way and none of us like it. Excerpted from the book Blink, “…in fact, the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband or wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is is so stressful that it begins to effect the functioning of your immune system.” So, think about what you are going to say before you say it. Think of the other person as your equal and frame the conversation in a way that is respectful. Besides when you talk down to someone, they never, ever take you seriously!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude
It is November; the month we take time to give thanks and remember all the good in our lives. But, giving thanks is something we can do everyday. Some of the most successful people I know always seem to live in an attitude-of-gratitude, and its this mindset that makes them happy and successful. They don’t find success and then get grateful, they were grateful for what they had, however little, and through their gratitude opened up to receive more.

According to the yogins of yore, we have come into this world with everything we need and nothing at all that we don’t. There is no need to go out and find some missing piece of ourselves (No, Jerry Maguire, you do not complete me!)  Nor do we need to cut off any part of ourselves or fix anything, because nothing is wrong and we are not broken. The yogins called this purna, which translates to fullness, completeness or perfection.

However, it is our human nature to forget this. Though tragic life circumstances, family and culture that inundate us with messages of being “wrong” and the deep emotion that comes from being in a body and world that is constantly changing, we forget. In forgetting our completeness, our natural luminescence is cloaked. This cloak is called a mala, specifically, anava mala. The skill that our attitude-of-gratitude friends have to throw off the cloak, is to remember they are not missing anything fundamental and nothing is inherently wrong with them. All of them also have tools to practice. They keep gratitude journals. They say thank you regularly and mean it. They let go of feelings and actions of being a victim, regardless of what they’ve been through. They commune with nature, go to church, and find the Divine in everything. They give charitably and without need for acknowledgment or recompense.

Moving Forward
The interesting thing about the malas is they are an inherent part of the system that keeps us moving forward on our yogic and human path. When we feel cloaked, it is impetus to make change. We get uncomfortable, the cloak gets too heavy and it inspires growth. Anava mala creates a desire for more; to learn more, study more, have broader experiences, open up to different people and circumstances. But taken to an extreme it becomes grasping, trying too hard and a general sense of lack and unworthiness.

You’re Normal
Know that when you feel lacking, empty, unworthy or you begin to force things, it is anava mala at work in you. And know that you are normal. Recognize the signs of what is happening and re-align; that’s doing yoga. Turn those feelings to motivation to evolve and then put on an attitude-of-gratitude. Look around and see what is good in your life. Be grateful you don’t have to think about breathing or beating your heart for them to happen. You have the free time and a computer on which to read this. You have friends who love you. And, you’re normal. Nothing is wrong with you and you have all the tools you need to live a fulfilling life.

And if you need a little inspiration, here is some from my beloved climbing world.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Off the Mat; Learning to Change

Change has continued to dominate my life lately. I am so glad. I needed this growth spurt, but in some ways it has not been easy for me. On the outside, the change is obvious: I live in a different city, I live with my significant other (and two other adults who have a baby!) when before I lived on my own. My teaching schedule is almost non-existent when I used to teach 15 classes a week.

On the inside, though, it's less obvious. I’ll catch myself living from some old paradigm, you know acting like a “me” not a “we” or something, and I wonder, how long have I been doing that? Shit!, I think, totally didn’t realize I was doing that. No wonder I feel all agitated and uncomfortable. When I bump up against that old part of myself that no longer fits, that part of me that needs to change, my body actually feels it. First I’m agitated or busy or distracted. Then I’m physically uncomfortable, my muscles feel tight and I can’t relax or get settled. Finally I feel pain, frustration, and anger.

Despite being painful, it is so familiar that I fear letting go of what I know. That’s the part I never  seem to get any more comfortable with. Sure it has gotten more familiar, I understand it better and recognize what is happening, but its not much easier. Through sheer will power and mental effort, I push the fear away, let go of what is tying me to the past and realign to the current situation. Then, I think, wow, I feel a million times better now!

The crazy part, of course, is that this evolution is constant. We can’t stop change, we can’t stay stuck and expect to be happy and healthy. So it takes courage to even notice when that ragged edge is present and go into the discomfort long enough to make an internal shift. The outside world reflects the inner landscape, and vice versa, I believe. Outside changes, the inside may have to catch up. The inside changes and the outside begins to look different.

Its really important to make space for myself, to be quiet and to be (at least, mentally) still so I can make those changes. In that space I welcome my feelings even if they are painful and I hate having to feel them. Its that space that allows me to purge old hurts, heal old wounds, and overcome fear (the things that usually tie me to the past). I stop judging myself, stop putting myself down, and stop hiding behind the comfort of who I used to be, the familiar. This doesn’t mean I have to go sit on my meditation cushion, though that helps and I do. I do this while I’m washing the dishes, or while walking on a trail or anytime I have the wherewithal to do so.

I get really honest with myself, like, hey I was being really bitchy to Aaron just then and he isn’t doing anything to deserve that, so what am I really upset about and why am I projecting it on him? So, this has taught me to be a better partner in relationships. I know how important that space is for me, so I’ve learned to better hold it for my students, my family members, and of course, my beloved. I practice being less judgmental and more compassionate. I practice saying nothing and just listening while the other person does his or her own work. I practice not taking it personally and remembering that the other person may be projecting and reacting just like I do.

I practice. And I practice yoga. 

Of course I practice asana. Bending and twisting and arching feel amazing, but its really just a tool to notice my ragged edge and to continue to evolve where I might be a little—or a lot—stuck. Yoga is really just one more of those times where I create space to be present with myself and learn to be a better person, to learn to change.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

10 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill

1. Use The A.C. Less

Seems like common sense, right? But we get hot and uncomfortable and we drop the temp another couple degrees on the thermostat and the electric bill climbs. During the day, to regulate the temperature—making it more efficient to cool later—and to protect your pets, keep the AC on but turn the thermostat up. We usually keep our daytime temp around 80ºF and close vents in rooms, we aren’t using, like guest rooms. During night and evening hours most power companies charge a significantly lower rate for electricity because the demand is lower. So go ahead and cool your house at night when the rates are cheap. 

2. Dress The Part

If you are at home during the day, wear fewer clothes. Get your hair up off your neck and wear lightweight, comfortable things and as little as possible. Take off the T-shirt and get into a sports bra, ladies. Guys, we don’t mind at all if you parade around in your boxers. Who knows, it might even lead to a little hanky panky! 

3. Let Mother Nature Do The Work

When you do the laundry, wash on cold water whenever possible, then skip the dryer. Instead, install a clothes line. Here in the desert in August its regularly over 100ºF. I’ve put up two clotheslines in the garage (because it’s too hot outside!) Yes, it does take a little more effort to hang and then pull down each individual article of clothing, but its worth it because you’re not heating your house unnecessarily.

4. Eat Smart

There are two ways to do this. My favorite is to eat cooling foods like cucumbers on cold salad. A cold deli sandwich or some yogurt topped with granola and ripe, refrigerated fruit. Or how bout a home-made popsicle? I made the most recent batch by blending a watermelon into juice and freezing it with a few leaves of mint in each popsicle. Iced and cold foods will keep you from heating up from the inside out. The second way—the one favored by many nations that suffer constant high heat conditions—is to eat spicy food. The food makes you sweat and then your body’s natural cooling system is kicked into effect.

5. Cook Smart

Oven less, grill more. Try not to use the oven, wait for cold winter days for that. Instead, invest in a grill and take the heat outside. Grilling isn’t just for hamburgers and hot dogs, you can also grill up a pizza, or peach halves for dessert. When you do cook inside, make an effort to minimize using the stovetop. For example, if you just have to have noodles, buy rice noodles (available in the ethnic foods section of most grocery stores). To cook them you need only boil water, which you can do in a kettle, then pour the water over them and let them sit for a minute or two.

6. Reduce Unnecessary Usage

When you aren’t using an electronic device, unplug it. Even if your phone isn’t connected to the charger, the charger is still drawing power from the outlet. Keep what you have plugged in to a minimum. Things like televisions pull tons of power. Plug the whole TV/movie setup into a power strip and unplug the strip when you aren’t watching. Lights are another big power drain. Make it a habit to turn them off when you leave the room. My dad who used to follow us around and do this when we were kids would be so proud. We have track lighting in our bedroom and we recently took out half the lights on the track. Its not enough light to read by, but its plenty to light the way. I don’t read standing in the middle of the bedroom anyway! There’s a light next to the bed for that. 

7. Adjust Your Water Heater Setting

When its hot outside, its likely you won’t be taking a really steamy shower. I want mine almost cold to keep from overheating. You can easily adjust your water heater’s setting to a cooler temperature. Most have some form of knob or dial you can turn by hand, no screwdrivers or handyman prowess necessary. And if you’re going out of town for any length of time, simply turn it off. Why heat it when you aren’t there?

8. Escape To Cooler Climates

Speaking of going out of town, give yourself a break from the heat by going somewhere colder. You don’t have to fly to another country to do this, but you do have to leave the house. Take a trip to the beach, sit under a big shady tree in a breezy park or travel to a mountain stream for a refreshing dip.
Of course, it will cost you a little money to get there (in fuel, if nothing else) but you’ll be happy you got out. If you really can’t afford a trip, you can always go to the mall or the movies or even the public library. Let them pay for the AC, just remember to turn your thermostat up before you go.

9. Go Low-Tech

Haven’t you noticed how hot your computer gets when it runs for an extended period of time? Lighting up that monitor creates heat. Same for the television. Go low-tech and read a book instead, or draw a picture or practice cooling yoga poses or listen to music on your ipod, that little screen won’t be nearly as hot as the big ones.

10. Open Up

Windows and doors that is. If you live where it cools off at night, take advantage of it. Open your house to the chill air, get a fan or two and circulate it. Fresh air also decreases the chance of catching a cold. Instances are higher in summer and winter when we are boxed into buildings with no fresh air. At home, when it starts to heat up during the day, close up the house again and consider closing the blinds and curtains to deflect the heat from hot sunny windows, too.