Saturday, December 14, 2013

off the mat

for the past week i've been waiting for the magic pocket of time to post this flier and write a bit about the yoga benefit i'm leading tomorrow, december 15th to bring attention to saving historic mcmillan park.  as always, the pocket of time has not come because life can often get in the way of good intentions.  or rather, i find that life causes me to simplify again and again again and i find that lists can really help that process. so here goes:

1.  i'm holding this benefit because i would enjoy life more if there were a large, non-fenced-in green space around my house.  also, i don't enjoy traffic and the proposed development plans would bring A LOT extra into my world. in addition, i think the open green space would make everyone happier and more relaxed and promote a better life for families around me and help DC grow in ways that are aligned with my values.

2.  a group of my friends have been working tirelessly for years to bring attention to this and i only recently started listening.  once i did, i wanted more people to listen and talk to each other about it.  i think the best way to help a situation is to practice what you are already good at.  i teach yoga for a living and i thought yoga might be a good way to get more people educated and interested.  if more people get interested, then maybe dc would have to listen to other proposals that would be kinder to our community.

3.  to me, it feels really good exercise leadership. as i heal and heal and heal through theses amazing yogic practices that i've been lucky enough to find in my life, i feel a certain responsibility to translate that out into action in our world, especially when it's action that feels aligned with what feels important to me (beautiful spaces, healthy lifestyle, community building).

i'll be talking about these ideas of conscious activism in the community in class tomorrow and we'll have a couple of great speakers and time for Q&A.  it's also my birthday and i can't think of a better way to celebrate...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

rampage of appreciation before mexico

i'm so grateful to be leaving so early for oaxaca tomorrow morning to celebrate dia de los muertos and photograph the wedding of alex and jan, dear friends/neighbors/students.  i'm so grateful to wagtime (the most amazing pet store owned by such lovers of animals) for having me back for the fourth year to take really fun photographs of people with their pets.  i'm so grateful that i get to bring in poncho this year and photograph my own dog as well.  i'm so grateful for warm socks and spicy green curry soup and calming ayurvedic oil massage (abhyanga) and all the things that help me feel cozy as our weather in dc grows colder.  i'm so grateful for my awesome little garden plot that could and for my cold-resistant the kale, chard and spinach plants that are fueling my diet.  i'm grateful a beautifully sunlight walk with poncho this afternoon in rock creek park.  i'm so so so grateful for the support of friends and family as i go through a really big transition right now (more on this later) and for life, aways there, offering something new around each corner. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

sweetness within the pause

 at the dc aquatic gardens, which are lush and uncrowded and remind me of the life that goes on no matter how we think we are shutting things down. 


By Stephen Dunn

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear   
   one more friend   
waking with a tumor, one more maniac   

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness   
   has come   
and changed nothing in the world   

except the way I stumbled through it,   
   for a while lost   
in the ignorance of loving   

someone or something, the world shrunk   
   to mouth-size,   
hand-size, and never seeming small.   

I acknowledge there is no sweetness   
   that doesn’t leave a stain,   
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....   

Tonight a friend called to say his lover   
   was killed in a car   
he was driving. His voice was low   

and guttural, he repeated what he needed   
   to repeat, and I repeated   
the one or two words we have for such grief   

until we were speaking only in tones.   
   Often a sweetness comes   
as if on loan, stays just long enough   

to make sense of what it means to be alive,   
   then returns to its dark   
source. As for me, I don’t care   

where it’s been, or what bitter road   
   it’s traveled   
to come so far, to taste so good.

Friday, September 27, 2013

hi everyone!  i'm about to embark on my last weekend of four consecutive weekend trips in september. the first weekend i spent with a great spiritual teacher in charlottesville, va.  the second weekend took me to the outer banks with my dearest friends from growing up. last weekend, adam and i went to the most magical mountaintop wedding in aspen, colorado.  now today i head to charles town, wv to lead a yoga retreat with the amazing yael flusberg.  we have a full retreat and beautiful weather forecasted and i am so excited!  each of these trips has satisfied an important part of me and once again, all i can say is a deep thank you for the velocity of dreams coming true.

i'd love to write more about humility and lessons learned (and there has been a lot of that too of late) but i need to pack and take poncho for a long walk and do my own yoga practice before getting on the road.  so instead i'll leave you with this wisdom about why we are obsessed with our phones from the very honest louis c.k. to help us remember that truth can be found in the funniest of places. 
(in case the video doesn't load, here is the link:

Friday, September 6, 2013

photographs from the amazing elephant sanctuary in chiang mai, thailand

 we found that elephants way prefer their fruits over their vegetables.

we were told this elephant is wearing a chain because he is "naughty."  he still seemed pretty happy.

after having the nicest, most relaxed week--and realizing that next week will probably be the opposite of relaxing--i buckled down and edited the rest of the photographs from my trip!  i'll post them in sections and today it's all about elephants.  visiting the elephant nature park outside of chiang mai was a huge highlight of my trip. it seems like everyone who goes to thailand wants to see elephants, but what most people don't know is that a lot of these elephants are mistreated.  elephants are strong and sensitive creatures and the training process their owners put them through to break their spirits is really awful.  many elephants are brought to big cities like bangkok so their owners can earn money from tourists but they are not built for the busy life (they pick up sensations from miles away through their feet and are totally overwhelmed by traffic).  also, they eat a lot--like over 1,000 lbs of food a day and people rarely feed them enough.

seeing these problems, a little but brave lady named lek decided to start rescuing elephants.  it started with one and today it's almost 30.  mostly these elephants have been bought out of bad situations after they've been trained but she has been able to train one completely wild elephant just through love and positive reinforcement. also, they have rescued over 200 dogs who all lounge around the center like they own the place.  it's an expensive visit and definitely very touristy but so worth it.  plus, i really like to see places like this find a strong income stream (although i think they could always use more if you want to donate).  this bustling business keeps the elephants eating plenty of bananas and cucumbers and tourists happy to have seen such peaceful elephants. 

 also, i've been loving the five kundalini yoga sutras from yogi bhajan.  the second and third ones have been particularly helpful to me in the past couple of weeks.

1. Recognize that the other person is you.
2. There is a way through every block.
3. When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.
4. Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.
5. Vibrate the Cosmos. The Cosmos shall clear the path.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

a moment of pure glee

from our hike in white oak canyon yesterday...

Friday, August 23, 2013

julian's first photo shoot and self-care 101

i feel so honored to have taken these first photographs of baby julian! he's only seven days old in the photograph and already lighting up everything around him.

when i was in sixth grade, my extended family rented a lake house in maine for a week.  when i needed a break from the group, i turned to the house's little beach-reading lending library.  obviously, my first choice was a danielle steele novel about scandalous movie stars trying to make their way in the industry.  after reading that in about a day, i returned to the shelf and picked up a book called A Year of Beauty and Health by Beverly and Vidal Sasson (1976).   it contained the detailed daily, monthly and yearly routine of this 70's power couple.  dated as it was, i was fascinated by how they planned their lives.  each morning began with hot lemon water and yogic stretching in bed, they fasted for one weekend a month and changed their diets with the season.  they were exuberant about the results and urged everyone to try these practices for better health.  as an overweight, somewhat reclusive 12-year-old,  this was definitely not the way i envisioned my life.  i enjoyed frozen french fries during most afternoons of the year and specifically did not enjoy any form of exercise.  still, the book spoke to something in me and i brought it back home.  it was on my bookshelf for years and i would read through it from time to time just to get a little shiver of inspiration up my spine.
fast-forwarding 20 years, my interest in the book makes perfect sense.  the sassons were essentially describing a yogic lifestyle.  today, i drink lemon water as many mornings as i remember to buy lemons, do yogic stretching on the daily and love the ayurvedic practice of changing my food with each season.   i am still not a huge fan of fasting but i do it from time to time.  (i just decided today that i'll be doing a kitchari cleanse during the first week of september. it will be hard to eat the same thing for three days but i know i will be happy for it afterward.)  these are ancient practices for good health and i do them because they make me feel grounded, clear-headed, and full of energy.  of course, i forget to do them of the time and then start to feel like crap and drink extra coffee to compensate and suffer until i break the cycle and do something kind for myself.  always, there is such power in remembering how to do right for myself.

i'm still fascinated by self-care as a practice.  i've essentially made my career around it and bring it up often in conversation.  i love reading books and articles where people will fess up to their specific practices. in that spirit,  here are a few of the things that have been most wonderful for me of late.

1.  i get eight hours of sleep.  there is no substitute for what this does for my overall well-being.  i've learned that i can't sleep in like i used to so this means going to bed before 11pm most nights.

2.  first things out of bed:  i pee, scrape my tongue (swear by this), splash my face six times with cold water and put some nice-smelling, soothing rose water on my face.  of late, i've taking advatage of the time adam is walking poncho to light some incense on my alter and chat my mantra 108 times.  the timing usually works out perfectly that i finish my mantra just as they come back.

3.  five days or so a week, i spend 45 minutes in the later morning doing my morning pages, reading a course in miracles and meditating.  this is a powerful combination for me that diffuses negativity and reminds me how i really want to live my life. 

4.  most days i do some amount of yoga (vinyasa flow, acroyoga, or kundalini) but i must do at least one session of restorative or yin yoga a week (i love the ones on yogaglo) for the health of my nervous system.  i do this mostly on wednesday afternoons--right in a middle of a busy few days of teaching and after i feel so rebooted.

5.  this is kind of new but it seems to be working well:  unless it's a special occasion, i limit my intake to one cup of coffee and one alcoholic drink a day.  i never enjoy the second one as much as i think i will and especially with alcohol, i am starting to feel the second one the next day.

6.  caring for my dog poncho also feels like self-care.  we go for a walks around the cathedral near my house almost every day and once a week we head somewhere beautiful like rock creek park to feel the tall trees around us and breath a big sigh of relief.

of course there are other little things but those seem like the most important ones.  now i'm so curious about yours. what are they? write down your top five, follow them for a week and see how you feel.  bonus, post one in the comments section to help us all keep the inspiration going. 

(if you live in dc and are interested in learning more about self-care, come to my Self-care 101 workshop next weekend.  it's on sunday, september 1st from 2:30-4:30pm at the bloomingdale yoga district.  click here for more information. )

Friday, August 9, 2013

first batch

 this thai beauty lives at the elephant nature park, an elephant sanctuary and animal rescue 
outside of chiang mai.  it's an amazing place.
 the view from our morning yoga deck.
 sarita and i playing after our last class of the retreat.
little balinese dancer 
 this is one of the original thai massage diagrams at wat pho in bangkok.
judith and jody after a temple ceremony in bali.
balinese blessing

editing photographs after a big trip, like the one i just took to thailand and bali, always intimidates me.  in addition to the jet lag and the laundry and the emails, getting my personal photographs in order in a way that i can show the world what i experienced sits a little heavy on my to-do list.  that is, until i actually just sit down and make myself do it.  once i do, i am absorbed in the memories and really happy to see what actually surfaced through the images.  to be really honest, it took me years of studying photojournalism in college and my first year of doing this professionally to believe that i hadn't royally screwed up the photographs with each shoot.  editing always began tense and ended with a pleasant surprise and the thought "i guess i got lucky this time."  (in my defense, i saw an awesome magnum photographer speak once and he said he feels the same way after every shoot).  now i do trust myself and have some great self-talk to ease my nerves before a shoot.  more than almost everything, photography teaches me to trust the process and to trust myself.  if i show up on time and do my very best, then the results are usually pretty good.

now that i write that, "self-trust" feels like a good way to describe my trip.  i really did plan my journey in risky ways.  i bought no "lonely planets."  i didn't have a thai massage teacher when i showed up in chiang mai. although i have led yoga retreats abroad before, i have never done one so far or known how many travel issues can crop up with 11 people traveling around the world.  sarita and i had only seen photographs of our retreat center on their webpage and i had little voice in my head that would mention now and then that perhaps we were getting scammed. 

yet i went anyways.  after 35 hours of traveling,  i got giddy upon landing in chiang mai.  the surrounding hills were green and the people were kind and within three days of asking around, i found my thai massage teacher.  nha ja was experienced and jolly and taught me many things about thai massage.  but mostly she just told me that i knew what i was doing and that it was ok for me to spread thai massage around the world.  she gave me permission to trust myself.  that, along with the excellent food and a surprisingly great yoga studio, made my trip to thailand so, so worth it.

and of course that trend continued as i headed south to bali.  it was stunningly beautiful, the people were kind, and things fell began falling into place. of course there were travel issues but my students amazed me in how calmly they handled each one.  we settled into our daily schedule, waking up when it was still dark to practice ancient kundalini breathwork, followed by sweaty vinyasa flow and then finished the afternoon with meditation and journaling which brought so much to the surface.  in between we had delicious meals and took walks to the sea and got massaged.  of course, the yoga retreat center was way more beautiful than the website could express and this physical beauty paled in comparison to the lovely staff at gaia oasis.  we were taken care of so incredibly well, with a spirit that felt more like close family than business. when it came time to say goodbye to them, i only had tears and gratitude for such big things they had given us.

this spirit of giving is what i most want to take with me from this experience.   it's given me something to ponder and aspire to and what keeps surfacing for me is that in order to give with my whole heart, i really need to trust myself.  what i mean by that is that i need to trust that i am connected to the people around me, nutured by their brillance and that i have the capacity to say thank you by giving my own beauty back to them.  these are big concepts that i have understood for a long time on a mental level, but taking this trip has brought in down into my heart and shown me that the time is really here.  endevoring to trust myself this fully brings up everything--fear and shame and hope and inspiration--and it also shows me that i truly am strong enough to hold myself this way, that all my practice has led me here.

as always, it wasn't until i edited the photographs and wrote all this down that i have been able to really see what is had been for me.  i am grateful to have the strength to take the first few steps to get here, even if i must walk alongside my old friend fear, so that i get to see the results roll out in front of me.  getting to this place that feels open and clear is why i continue to show up and i'm grateful to be on this journey alongside you all.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

fuel for my journey

i haven't finished editing my travel photographs yet (ok, i haven't even started), so i thought i would share these three songs which became my travel anthems during my month in thailand/bali.  i listened to them when i was pulling away from my house in the super shuttle, equal parts excited to be going and sad to be leaving.  i listened to them during my 13 hour layover in frankfurt, when after an unexciting peak at the city i got stuck on waiting on an outdoor train platform during a heat wave because i fell asleep and missed the airport station.  i listened to them when i first put my bags down in my little chiang mai hotel room with the bad carpet and realized it was up to me to get the most out of my time alone in an exotic country.  they took me over the indian ocean when i saw bali's radiant coast for the first time from above.  they shook me out of a mid-week funk during the yoga retreat so much so that i played them for the group and made them dance with me so we feel free together.  finally they brought me back the long way home and now urge me on as i think about how to write about my trip.  in my long list of travel gratitude, i wish to thank music.  i may travel but she is really what carries me.

so listen up and stay tuned for photographs and further reflections on a dream trip.  i'll get to them in between cuddling my housemates (adam and poncho), figuring out what to do with our awesome tomato crop and just soaking up the beauty of home.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

grace and goodbye (for a month)

aren't these guys just the sweetest-looking family?  after knowing them all for a couple of years now, i can say that they are just as wonderful as they look, and grace is just as full of life as any five year old should be.  we had a really fun shoot last weekend at the franciscan monestary, which is incredibly lovely if you've never checked it out.  it was actually our second shoot--the first was lost when my house was broken into last spring.  erin and rob, were so understanding about it and after missing two shoots due to rain, we all agreed that the fourth time is the charm.

this was my last shoot before i leave town.  tonight i'll take a plane to frankfurt, tomorrow another to bangkok, and finally another to chiang mai in the north where i will probably collapse on my hotel bed and only rouse myself to eat some of this delicious food i've been hearing so much about.  i've been saving up my magazines for the lat month and even bought a special neck pillow in the hopes that i can sleep on some of epic journey. when i finally land, i'll finally be the world's center of thai massage and hope to soak up as much as i can in the ten days that i am there before traveling on to another adventure of leading a yoga retreat in bali. 

so obviously, this trip is a dream come true.  sarita and i talked about it for years. it felt exotic and far away and like it was something that someone else did.  yet we're making it happen.  like all big dreams, we just had the take the first step--finding our mountain retreat center in the middle of a green jungle and writing them an email to see when they were free--and the rest just happened from there.  it was a lot of work and promotion and faith, but the actual steps were pretty logical.  when i see it as just doing the next right thing, it makes me feel like the world is open to us, beckoning us even, and that all we have to do is stay focused on what we really want.

there will be 12 of us total, stepping into this retreat and other asian travels. who knows what will come of it?  one of my students decided last-minute to come to my yoga retreat in costa rica this last march.  he had a wonderful time and ended up falling in love with a beautiful swedish lady on the retreat.  since returning, she's already been to dc twice, and he has plans to go to sweden.  it's really exciting to me to hear about it and a healthy reminder that when i invite people to go along on my dream, it will give them the opportunity to go for some of their own.

so what's your dream that feels a little bigger and bolder? what's the one the makes your a little bit nervous?  say it out loud.  take a deep breath. what is the first step you could take? let it be something really small like writing an email or doing a search.  take another deep breath. now take the step. see what happens next and know you are brave in even just thinking about this stuff.

i know myself and know that i probably won't blog until i come home, but if you use instagram (and you should because it's so fun) then my username is gracedplace and i'd love for you to follow me and see some photographs. 

also, save the date for this next dream retreat with yael the last weekend in september:

Friday, May 24, 2013

spring is here! life is growing all around us.  i mean, i suppose it's always growing--the rest of dormancy being so necessary for the cycle--but right now i can really see it happen over the course of the days.  we have four pots of tomatoes shooting up on our front porch, salad greens thriving in the  back balcony window box, and our ledroit park plot is filling in with spicy radishes and mustard greens, among other things.  i love it because  it was my dream for years to garden.  i wanted to dig in the dirt and wear rubber shoes and eat from my own efforts.  that dream seemed complicated and far away for so long, but like all dreams, now that it's here nothing seems simpler.  i just put good seeds in fertile soil and stand back.

it's important to remember that, right? when the time is right for something to happen, it feels incredibly simple.  the next step is always the easiest one and the secret is always faith.  one of my favorite yoga sutras is 1.14. "practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness."  i do believe that we can create what we want through shifting our perspective from lack to fullness and seeing the world through a filter of gratitude.  i also believe this can be a really long, arduous journey that will bring up a lot of muck in the process.

last night i finished reading brene brown's new book, daring greatly.  as a social researcher who studied vulnerability and shame over the past decades, she began to notice that a small group of people set themselves apart as "wholehearted" (her word to describe them).  she found that although we all deal with the muckiness--shame, low self-esteem, compulsion, etc--the people who seem to grow from it are the one who "dare greatly" and reach out during their most difficult moments.  the courageous act of reaching out in those moments and laying it all out helped those wholehearted people to see that 1) we all deal with this stuff so we can be compassionate with ourselves  2) even if we do bad things or if bad things happen to us, it doesn't mean we aren't also worth of love, joy and connection.

i love this idea and try to practice it as much as i can in my life.  it asks me to do on a daily basis what feels counter intuitive to the happiness i hope to receive.  instead of impressing the world around me with how perfectly beyond fault i am, all i have to be is honest and truthful about what i feel.  this is difficult for me.  it makes me think about my time as a sensitive fourth grader who just wanted to read during recess in the shady spot, leaning up against the cool brick wall.  after a few days of doing this, my teacher told me she was worried for me and i had to start playing games like four square and HORSE with the other kids.  squinting in the sun, i slowly walked out to the blacktop and started following other peoples rules.  this went on for a good long while in my life.

over a long practice of self-inquiry, i have come to remember that i am introvert who loves connecting at my own pace with people i trust.  when i get overtired and overstimulated by the world, i start to doubt myself and try to compensate by trying to give others what they want.  brene brown calls this our worthiness "hustle." that word feels really right to me because of how mechanic and exhausting it can be.  in those moments, it can be really hard to figure out what i am actually feeling.  yet when i do interrupt that process with the honest space of a yoga class or a cathartic journaling session or by talking to my short-list of confidants, i have no choice but to just be with my messy self.  once i am there, i am surprised by how accurately i know my feelings and how cleansing it can be just to tell the truth.  what's more, i find when i am willing to be in this honest space, i am so much better at being there for the people that i love during their difficult moments.  looking back at my life, i see how crucial these moments have been for my own growth and how much sharing them with my confidants has bonded us together.

yay truth! yay connection! yay brene brown for having the courage to give it all a name! although i think it will take me the rest of my days to fully learn this lesson, i am content for the long practice ahead.  the deep sweetness that lurks amidst all the the sweaty ardor makes walking this path well worth it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

from colossal (thanks erik): 

To help thwart rampant insurance fraud in Russia many cars are now equipped with dash cams to capture what unfolds in front of vehicles in an attempt to aid innocent persons, law enforcement, and insurance firms. This has lead to almost unlimited hours of footage found online of unbelievable accidents, close calls, and some of the worst of human behavior. Luckily somebody took it upon themselves to edit together some of the most amazingly thoughtful actions and tender moments caught with these same dash cams and edited into this short clip. And can I just say what on Earth is up with that kid running around on the highway!? (via kottke)

Friday, May 3, 2013

i really don't know who these ladies are, but seeing their moment at a bat mitzvah i photographed in january makes me feel like i do.

happy friday! i'm packing up to leave to teach my yoga retreat with steve in west virginia.  we have a full group, great people running our kitchen and the weather forecast is lovely.  i am filled with gratitude about all of this. there are also a lot of big transitions and losses going on with people that i love and i am really feeling for them.  it feels like such a honor to be there for them yet when i'm not quite sure how to help or what to say when life is big and hard. social researcher brene brown says that one of the most vulnerable times is figuring out to say to someone who is grieving. what helps me is to come back to the immediate moment, as pema chodron so beautifully expresses in the quote below, and remember that our whole big, messy lives can be exactly the fuel we need to soften and grow and become who we really know we are.  remembering this makes me feel like wherever i am standing is the best place i could possible be.

"Now. That's the key. Now, now, now. Mindfulness trains you to be awake
and alive, fully curious, about what? Well, about now, right? You sit
in meditation and the out-breath is now and waking up from your
fantasies is now and even the fantasies are now although they seem to
take you into the past and into the future. The more you can be
completely now, the more you realize that you're in the center of the
world, standing in the middle of a sacred circle. It's no small affair,
whether you're brushing your teeth or cooking your food or wiping your
bottom. Whatever you're doing, you're doing it now.

Our life's work is to use what we have been given to wake up. If there
were two people who were exactly the same--same body, same speech, same
mind, same mother, same father, same house, same food, everything the
same--one of them could use what he has to wake up and the other could
use it to become more resentful, bitter and sour. It doesn't matter
what you are given, whether it's physical deformity or enormous wealth
or poverty, beauty or ugliness, mental stability or mental instability,
life in the middle of a madhouse or life in the middle of a peaceful,
silent desert. Whatever you're given can wake you up or put you to
sleep. That's the challenge of now: What are you going to do with what
you have already--your body, your speech, your mind?"

--Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness

Monday, April 22, 2013

a photo backlog/embracing "maybe"

fall throwback photo of arielle and talal expecting at the arboretum (their sweet baby rafi is now rounding out his fourth month)

this month has taken me to costa rica and back (our third time, just as beautiful and transcendent as ever), through a passionate love affair with the cherry blossoms here in dc, and has further solidified my identity as a dog owner.  poncho is keeping his ever-vigilant watch on our back balcony as i write this and i am having a hard time imagining life before him.  my favorite moment of the day is when lift my head from my pillow to seeing him staring at me and wagging his tail to say he's happy the day is beginning.

the ponchster

of course there is so much lifeyness within it all.  people i love are struggling with their health, there's been some hard transition in a few of the places where i teach, and i may have cut my bangs way too short.  as always, i had a lot of fun and did a lot personal growth under a sunny sky while i was on retreat and coming back home for three more weeks of winter felt harder than i would have expected.  as i change, i have to let my life change around me.  one of those really interesting places is in the arena of commitments and self-care.

 twin baby girls that i've already had the privilege of photographing twice in these past six months

for a long time, i've realized that our best qualities as human beings can always be our worst. i love people and i love serving people (positive) and sometimes i so desperately want to please people that  i say "yes" to everything people ask me and then i make myself miserable trying to keep up with my unrealistic schedule.  whew, it feels so good just to type that all out.  it's not secret to those who are close to me.  they are used to be running around and juggling all the irons in my fire and have seen me break down from tiredness and frustration as a result.  they have all probably had to wait for me while i was late or been disappointed when i didn't show up at all.

last weekend, i saw this great documentary about krishna das's life.   he's a really powerful yoga kirtan singer who does not not sound like the guy from the crash test dummies.   so it turns out that he grew up depressed and didn't even start to break free from it until he met his indian guru when he was in his 20's and realized what true love felt like.  what i like most about his story was that it wasn't a straight line to spiritual enlightment.  his guru sends him home to hang out with ram dass and lead yoga movement in the states.  he finds some happiness.  then his guru dies and he thinks his happiness is gone forever so he sinks into another deep depression which involves a lot of cocaine.  he's really struggling with addiction until he gets a strong message from another teacher to get off the cocaine. sober, he starts singing again and starts gaining some popularity in the yoga movement doing what he loves.  then he feels those self-destructive impulses again and realizes he will just repeat the cycle over again unless he gets himself to india again.  he stays at his guru's ashram until during a sacred festival he finally gets a big hit of enlightenment and in his words "finally got out of my own way."

aviva and her brother at her bat mitzvah in february

that struck me as important.  i've always talked about how important it is to look within, but hearing this gave a name to what i was doing to block my own happiness.  being over-committed makes me feel like i am never quite present with what i am doing.  if i agree to something mostly to make someone else happy, i get resentful. when i am running late, i get anxious and don't show up as my best self.  also, i suspect that it makes people in my life feel like they can't quite trust me to do what i say. that's definitely not what i want.

i am willing to be truthful about this because i know that it will improve my life without harming anyone else.  my goal is to be someone who says "no" to most things so i can say "yes" to what i really care about.  but i know that forming new habits take time.  to carry me through i am embracing the power of the word "maybe."  i'm saying it to things and asking for more time to make decisions and being more specific about what i do want.  a major thing i do want is rest.  naps and restorative yoga and watching "parks and rec" and writing down little things in my journal.  this makes me remember that my life is good and that i deserve to enjoy it, even if that process needs some continual fine-tuning.

last year's watercolor of the view from the yoga deck at anamaya yoga resort in costa rica--the view continues to be incredible

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

the best of it

isn't sherrie such a beautiful lady?  we took these photographs on a gray winter morning down by the water in georgetown the other day.  sherrie writes a great blog about being an indian-american in washington, dc, loves all things french, and has a gorgeous dog named nikki.  she also looks so alive and glowy in red!

i'm about to head to costa rica with sarita for our third annual yoga retreat in montezuma.  this time we are adding surf into the mix and i am going to be falling and getting up a lot.  i'm really looking forward to a week of going deeper into teaching, deeper into the practice and to soak in the immense beauty of that country.  i'm also going to take photographs for fun and read a bunch and eat anamaya's delicious food!

this is amazing and of course, it's also hard to leave.  as i've gotten more grounded over these past years with my weekly yoga classes, dear adam, and now, poncho, it makes me feel how much i am leaving behind when i go away.  i continue to see how deep love also brings attachment and my mantra has been a lot about letting go and trusting.  but mostly, it feels like love all around me, sometimes a hard love albeit, and i keep saying 'thank you, this is good" as i ride my bike through these late winter mornings.

speaking of, i've never felt so acutely aware of needing spring so badly.  each day i look for signs of the first buds, dream about spring gardens, and rejoice at the feel of the warm sun on my back.  as the days get longer and warmer, it feels like i am emerging out of a transformative, internal winter and ready to open my arms a little wider to life--trust a little more, love harder, tell my story louder. 

my great aunt betty's letter also reminded me of this and she is such a good writer that i wanted to share with you all as well.

Dear Family,

Some days are memorable for some unexpected happening, and today was such a day here in Palm
Coast, Florida. Vic called to me to come outside quickly where he stood holding the binoculars. Down our street on the opposite side stood a very large white bird with some highly distinguishing character-istics – a long black bill, a grayish, much pleated neck, black legs, red feet. It was a North American wood stork, length 35”, wing span 66”. I saw a pair of them while we were living in our first house here in Palm Coast. As you can see, these sightings are rare events.

There is an old saying, “We never know what is just around the corner”. On that Friday afternoon
in March of last year, I was just about to learn that one’s life can be transformed in a split second. I
opened the passenger door of our car, leaned outward and fell heavily to the pavement, my feet
thoroughly entangled in the “rope” handles of my purse sitting on the floor of the car. In a “split
second”, I was in excruciating pain and something was very wrong with my right leg which felt para-
lyzed. Surgery could not be avoided; drugs and antibiotics could not be avoided; an extended period in a rehab could not be avoided.

The wonderful day finally arrived when Vic came to take me home from the rehab, and I began to make a very important discovery. After being confined for almost a month, I noticed the incredibly beautiful blue of the sky. It was like I had never really noticed much less appreciated this most natural “thing of beauty”. My attention moved to something else so beautiful – the clean whiteness of puffy clouds and then to the deep green of the jungle-like vegetation. It was a meaningful discovery because to this day seeing that special blue of the sky remains such a very special treat. Those puffy clouds may or may not be there, the deep green always a part of the beautiful picture.

And then as we drove along, I noticed people walking , and at first I felt so jealous – would I ever be able to walk without pain? If so, I determined right then and there that I would be so grateful every time I moved about on my own two feet.

And so, dear Family, I write to encourage you to enjoy and cherish what life has given you. The lesson is that it can be transformed or lost in a split second.

Love always,