Yoga

E S S E N T I A L

Last night I was honored to teach an amazing group of students at Yoga on the Pier in Philly. It is located at the end of Race street and right below the massively beautiful Ben Franklin Bridge. This is a spectacular location and one of the coolest places I have ever taught yoga. The packed pier was vibrating with urban sounds and the union of breath and movement. This, along with the sunset, gave me the courage to read aloud a poem that I wrote this winter. 

During a silent meditation retreat this past winter I wrote a collection of poems. While writing is a solitary venture, writing poetry feels like a partnership with the rhythm and sounds deep in my soul. It requires courage to sit in the stillness, silence, spaciousness and listen to what is working through me and wants to emerge. 

Here it is:

E S S E N T I A L

Clear out all of your stuff

inside and out.

Keep only that which is essential to your spirit.

Be ruthless and shed.

Come to what is essential and steep there.

It is here at this place you will see clearly.

This place you will let go.

This place where you will finally be fully alive and free. 

Yoga on the Pier. September 1, 2015

Yoga on the Pier. September 1, 2015

My Spring Garden

As I prepare to plant my spring garden, I am reflecting on what worked in last years garden and what did not.  The eggplants were beautiful and prolific. The tomatoes were just ok. The cucumbers were a bust, and the jalapeño peppers were really pretty, but not a lot of kick. And honestly, what is the point of a jalapeño that doesn’t knock your socks off?  Last year was my first year attempting to grow vegetables in a small plot next to our home. With the encouragement of my step-mom and the joie de vivre of my youngest son, we planted our first garden on Father’s Day 2014. Three months after my sweet Dad had passed. It was part tribute to my Dad and part caving into my son Jack’s request for a garden. He likes to get his hands dirty and build stuff; Sally and I just needed something to do to make it through our first Father’s Day without my Dad.

pink socks help with planting!

pink socks help with planting!

Planting a garden in June meant we were about a month behind, or so I am told. But this seemed appropriate given the previous months and general way in which life was unfolding. Time and circumstances were not mine to arrange and dictate. Life was happening as it was supposed to happen and when it was supposed to happen. Perhaps even in a way that was divine.  All of this life and loss, coupled with joy and grief, was teaching me how to, once again, let go and allow.

Not a lot happened in the first several weeks, but Jack and I continued to water and watch, and watch and water. As we tended to our garden the stubby little plants began to bud flowers. Really amazingly beautiful flowers; especially the eggplants! Have you seen an eggplant flower? They change so quickly so it is easy to miss the wonder of it all. Ours were green buds, then yellow flowers, then miraculously they sprouted a purple burst of a baby eggplant. Perhaps this is just the course of eggplant growth, but it felt like it was just for us.; a beautiful marvel in our back yard. Just for us.

Eggplants!

Eggplants!

Those beautiful and delicious eggplants gave me the budding spark of confidence that I can do this again! I know that nothing lasts forever and it doesn’t always work out as planned, but that is ok because given time, patience and love, it seems to work out exactly as it should.  

So, onward!

It takes some work, patience and trust to cultivate a garden. Which, by the way, is EXACTLY like yoga. I have to clean out the winter that hardened the ground. I have to clear away the sticks and rebuild the soil with compost that I have been gathering all year. I need to plan, gather and plant. And then, I need to water the seeds and let them grow. Trusting that what is meant to root down, given the right amount of sunshine and love, will grow. Rooting down to expand, even if only for a moment. Trusting the process and in the experience of all of that, opening my heart to the beauty all around.

some harvest from last year, including very blah jalapeño's !

some harvest from last year, including very blah jalapeño's !

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing Gold can stay.
— robert frost



Gratitude

GRATTITUDE

Eagle Arms

That’s right, being grateful is an attitude and a blessing. I say this as a reminder to myself as sometimes I get in a funk about all of the blessings that happen in life. You know, the blessings that show up as anxiety, grief, annoyances, relationship issues, time constraints, traffic, etc….

I am speaking from experience here when I say that an attitude of gratitude for all of it is the only answer. If we are only grateful for the good stuff that brings us joy, laughter, peace and love, we end up missing an entire realm of life, and ultimately, an entire aspect of ourselves. What if we were grateful for grief, loss, pain, and the annoyance of being stuck in traffic, not to mention all of the issues that come from having relationships with other humans? What if we said a wholehearted thank you very much for ALL of these experiences instead of just picking the sweet, joyous pretty ones for which to be grateful?

The good stuff is such a delight, but it’s the messy, dark, difficult, experiences that can not be easily fixed that are the pot of gold. It is always darkest before the dawn and I am always, usually in retrospect, deeply grateful for these lessons, I mean blessings. Sure, the shiny pretty stuff is nice, but the dark, messy, “sit in the muck of it’, “how the hell did I get here” kind of stuff breaks me open in a way that other stuff cannot. And, for those blessings, I am grateful!

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”

-Mary Oliver

Good morning Sunrise

Practicing yoga outside can be delightful, especially when this sun is rising and the weather is agreeable! Waking up early to breath deeply and move slowly admits friends, morning dew and birds chirping just adds to the delight. Thank you to all of the morning yogi’s!

A beautiful morning poem to start your day:

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Stargazing

One of the Yoga Deck at Jakes Hotel

One of the Yoga Deck at Jakes Hotel

Last week I was on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Jamaica. I don’t know if I have ever seen a star filled sky like I saw last week.  As I attempted to capture the Caribbean night sky with my phone, my friend Margot said to me, “A camera can’t capture God.” So I put down my camera and looked up. The longer I looked, the more I saw. The deeper the stars went and the brighter they became. It was magically and miraculously endless.  In a way, that night of stargazing was a perfect metaphor for my experience at Jakes Hotel.

I was on a yoga retreat with Verge at Jakes Hotel in the delightfully un-touristy Treasure Beach, Jamaica. I was there to teach yoga and meditation. My intention going into the week was simple:

Allow

Be of Service

Love

To some extent I have always known that what you put out, you get back. Call it Karma, Divinity or The Universal Law of How Things Just Are (I just made that one up). You see, I know this, but this week I REALLY learned it and felt it and now “know” it in a whole different capacity than before. It’s like knowing something intellectually or knowing it in your heart with your whole being. The latter being a deeper and more stable place to inhabit.

In setting my intention to just allow (and repeating this intention), I was able to be more open, less controlling and way more in the flow. It is so simple, really (I say this as a reminder to myself now that I am back in the fullness of my life). It just takes some letting go and allowing for whatever is to be exactly as it is.  Being in the flow is a cool place to be. It is where I wish to reside!

In setting my intention to Be Of Service, what actually happened was that I got to hear, see and be witness to so much wisdom from all of those around me. This was especially poignant when I visited a local Jamaican Elementary School.  The wisdom, love and joy that I felt from these children is still resonating with me now. Surely they served me more than I could ever imagine serving them.

In setting my intention to Love I was able to follow through with the other two intentions. And in return, I was the one that felt so much love. Isn’t that just so awesome how it all works? You get exactly what you put out and it all counts; each breath, each thought and each precious moment!

This week reminded me that intentions really do count, that what we put out into the world we get back. It also reminded me to slow down and look around. There is so much to see out there and within ourselves if we are willing to put down our phones and look.

Sunset from our front porch at Jakes Hotel

Sunset from our front porch at Jakes Hotel

The Yin and Yang of Life…..

Tomorrow morning I will wake up with a heart full and empty all at once; a pulling here and there. Tomorrow morning I take off for Jakes Hotel in the dreamiest of places; Treasure Beach, Jamaica. I will be  “getting out of Dodge.” This has been a long hard winter (saying this makes me feel like Laura Ingles from Little House on the Prairie). This winter has been cold and snowy, there have been health dramas and a dozen snow days, plus all of that other stuff that happens in life regardless of weather patterns. To be honest, at times I have felt totally overwhelmed. But it has also been a great winter with many unexpected and heartwarming gifts. For starters, I loosened the house rules and my three boys are now expert indoor rip-stickers. Have you ever tried rip-sticking? It is NOT easy. Another gift: My middle son taught his younger (and much louder)  brother how to play chess. I also watched my one son fall in love with our dog. He has always “loved” him, but not like he does now- all in with his whole heart kind of love. I got to have more snuggly sofa time and more family games. The family games were not all “fun and games”. I learned that my kids are ruthless when it comes to monopoly. They cheat, steal and have no qualms about going after each other physically. We now have a non-negotiable rule that monopoly MAY not be played without an adult present.  So while this cold and snowy winter has lasted longer than I would have liked, and has caused some snafu’s, it has mostly been pretty great.

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do” –Rumi

Loving what you do can cause a tug at your heart. I have come to learn that this is just how it is. So, rather than push it away and squash it, I will feel the love of what I do along with the missing in my heart. Tomorrow I leave for a warmer and more bohemian place than I normally inhabit. I will be teaching yoga and meditation, I will be visiting a school to teach adorable children yoga, I might even zip line through the tree tops at YS Falls. This is a dream come true. My heart is filled with gratitude for this opportunity to go deep into a place of stillness and strength with yoga and meditation practice, along with lots of wonderful people in a beautiful setting. When I was at Jakes last year I was so moved by the people of Jamaica. Their tender soft hearts and mindful way of moving through life touched me deeply. So while I am going to miss my family a LOT, with my whole-being kind of missing, I am also filled with gratitude. I guess this is life……the yin and yang of existence.

Namaste. Xo

For the love of trees (and yoga)

Have you looked outside lately? I mean really looked at the trees and the sky? I was reading something recently about all of the benefits of yoga. I have to say it all sounded great and most of it rings true. But, really the biggest benefit of my yoga practice is that I notice things, like the trees and the grass and the way my kids spirits are shining brightly (or not).  Most days, after I practice yoga I notice the grass is greener, the sky brighter and my spirit is lighter. My yoga practice has eased my body into become more healthy, it has helped me approach life more open heartedly, it has settled my busy mind, it has helped me to forgive, to love and to see more clearly. This “seeing more clearly” thing is so cool, especially this time of year!  In honor of Fall and the beautiful changing colors of the leaves on the trees, here is a poem by Joyce Kilmer:

Trees

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Namaste

“I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honor the place within you, where when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”

-Namaste, as defined by Mahatma Gandhi
Yoga with lululemon athletica Wayne!

Yoga with lululemon athletica Wayne!

Tonight I practiced yoga outside under a wide open sky with birds chirping and my three boys all around me. lululemon athletica in Wayne organizes an awesome community yoga Wednesday nights throughout the summer.  I was hesitant to bring my boys with me as I thought maybe they wouldn’t be able to “hang”. I ignored that nagging anxiety and brought them.  I am SO glad I listened to my heart and brought them!  They didn’t follow all of the directions, they giggled, jumped around in balance poses and went to refill their  water a few times.  BUT….they held my hand in savasana and that made my heart feel so full of love, of light, of truth and peace.

Namaste :)

Balance

Balance can be tricky on and off our yoga mats. It requires presence, a solid base, an open heart, a willingness to be strong but flexible and the courage to fall. The things that help me balance on my yoga mat are the same things that helps me balance in life. Sometimes I am strong and light and can balance like a flamingo. Other times I am clumsy, heavy and can barely stand on two feet. This practice is exactly the same on or off my yoga mat. The key element that connects the two is the willingness to be present for all of it.

As I glide through the sweet spot of summer. That in-between time where there is no unpacking the book bags or preparing for a new school year, where the days are hot, the nights are long and there is a lot of  together-ness, I am keenly aware that time is precious and each moment matters.  While I may falter in my balance many (millions) of times throughout the day, what yoga has taught me is the ability to remain present through it all.

Yoga in Jamaica

This is a beautiful sunset off of Treasure Beach at Jake’s Resort in Jamaica. Jamaica is a beautiful island, made even more beautiful by its people. As I settle into my third day of a yoga retreat, I am reminded of the importance of being gentle and kind. I believe we are all born knowing this, regardless of our circumstances. This seed is either watered and cultivated or left dry. I have come to find that it only takes a simple setting of a positive intention to have those feelings arise. Then with regular practice- watering the seeds, if you will- they grow. Often, they grow in ways we never expected.  Sure, it is much easier t do this as I sit and look at a sunset in delightful Jamaica, but those seeds are there regardless of where we are in this world.

Namaste

Light in life - Yoga with kids


February is Career month in my son’s kindergarten class. The teachers  have invited various parents to share their vocation with the kids. The visitors have ranged from a Veterinarian to a coach to a radio personality. Yesterday it was my turn to go in and share yoga with these divine little beings. I must admit I was a little intimidated. Give me a full house of adults and I will have no problem, but a classroom full of kindergartener’s, I was sweating (literally). There was lots of talk at my house prior to my visit. My little guy wanted to know what my plan was, would I bring a yoga mat, could he be my assistant, would we be doing tree pose, and on, and on. He even reviewed with me what I was supposed to say as I entered the room. They would all be sitting quietly in a circle and I was supposed to say, “wow, you are already doing easy pose.” Since I have lots of experience working with, um I mean coaching, my youngest son in sports, I knew he meant business, so I did as I was told.


The experience was so delightful for me and I hope for them too. There is something magical about this age. They are inquisitive and sweet (mostly), and they are still so full of life and love. One of my son’s kindergarten teachers said she loved teaching Kindergarten because the children are still so close to God. I definitely felt that as I sat and breathed with them. Children at this age know how to let go so easily, their hearts are still so open and full. They haven’t begun to build those walls we all build that close us off to life and love. Instead of me teaching them yoga, they taught me how to be more light in life.


Like anything we do that pushes us to our edge, whether it is physically, mentally or emotionally, we come out the other side changed. Even if only for a moment. I went into that classroom feeling nervous and intimidated and left feeling inspired and light.