Adventures in Meditation – “Life Just Isn’t That Obvious”

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‘Live just isn’t that obvious.’

 

This text came from my friend Kathleen. When you’re friends with poets they drop one line bombs with a quickness and on the reg. She’s more subtle than me.

I would have to follow up the text with:

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Fortunately, subtlety isn’t lost on this bull in a china shop. You may think astrology is hooey, but I’m a Taurus through and freaking through.

Anyway…subtle…point…

 

She sent this in response my waxing philosophical about my love life.

I’m the worst when it comes to dating.

The. Worst. Say it with me, the worst.

Work life seemed easier. Get ‘er done. Even when the terrain is difficult like say, navigating a whole new career I can manage to strategize, plan and execute. But a date? Relationship? Smooth.

 

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I made bad decisions and compounded those stupid decisions withworse ones. Antics ensued. It was easier to make work my relationship rather working on my relationships. Yeah, I knew what I was doing. I just didn’t fix it.

Until meditation.

Being still allows for thoughts to come and go. Something happens when we look inward. The sense of vastness at times overwhelms me. On some days it’s all I can do not to run away from the infinite potential discoveries. The is so much inside. On others, I find the answers without knowing it. In the abyss is a whisper of hope or encouragement disguised as an inhale or exhale. The is powerhttp://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/yogaxl.jpg in my mantra as I sit- I realize more and more that I know so little.

It allows me to be present even when I’m not meditating. This is great. And shitty. No more pushing things down and not dealing with them.

Recently, I had a great date with someone who didn’t fit what I’d imagined. I began my usual routine of trying to blow them off and a strange thing occurred.

I made a different choice. In fact, I made a choice wrapped in honesty despite my fear.

I called ___ and said, “I owe you an apology. I was being an idiot. I like you and instead of saying that I’m a little concerned that we’re different but I’d like to see I was just trying to push you away. If it’s not too late, I’d really like to start again and have you see that I’m not totally crazy, though clearly I have some issues.”

I was expecting rejection. Second chances are a gift.

And you know what? I got one.

While it did turn out that our lives were in different places- if I hadn’t been paying attention in the moment, I wouldn’t have decided to take a leap.

This is what meditation has done for me. I’m more awake than I’ve ever been. Like I said earlier, this is both fantastic and crappy. But, it is life.

Playing sliding doors for a moment…If I had played out old stories nothing would have changed.

Things don’t have to work out the way you want, but if you are brave enough to be here, now- it seems that things work out the way they should.

And embracing that is what yoga is all about.

It’s a good day.

Namaste y’all.

 

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Adventures in Teaching Yoga – Rikers (Liberation Prison Yoga)

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BACKSTORY

I used to live my life selfishly. The intent behind the selfishness wasn’t malicious, but selfish nonetheless.

My yoga practice has been a gift. It’s my responsibility to give it away. The past several months have been a journey of discovery and brought the realization that in addition to teaching I need to pursue yoga therapy. I believe that learning how to breathe better can help even in the most the most challenging of circumstances.

A few months ago I got in touch with the Prison Yoga Project. After a meeting and getting cleared by the department of health and hygiene- I got my volunteer ID.

 

I’m on the Q100 Rikers island bus. I wonder if kids who grow up in the area look at the bus with an air of mystery. Do they think that if you get on it your headed to jail? As teenagers would they joke about it? And as adults would the illuminated Q100 sign of a bus conjure memories? That’s the kind of thing I would think. My imagination was a bit on the over active side. It’s still early and though I’ve had caffeine, I’m feeling pretty chill. As the bus rolls down the street I have a moment.

I can’t believe this is my life. I get to teach yoga for a living.

I’m headed to meet Anneke Lucas, founder of Liberation Prison Yoga. I’ll be teaching students here at the Rose M. Singer dorm twice monthly.
Here’s a bit more about Anneke and LPY:
Liberation Prison Yoga grew out of the need for an organized way to support yoga instructors interested in serving in prisons and jails in New York. Anneke Lucas started creating programs in different facilities in 2011, bringing along many teachers, social workers and psychologists, training them to use a trauma-sensitive approach while sharing their preferred yoga style. Anneke developed yoga programs according to the different needs in different settings, including discussion and free-flow writing in certain classes, and runs groups with sex-trafficked women at Riker’s Island.
On the bus, people get on and get off. After 21 St. we drive on a road that takes you to Shuttle Island. Somewhere in this still active imagination I think I expected to hear yelling or see a dark cloud hanging over the complex. I know it sounds dramatic. But it’s comes to mind when you say Rikers Island. The drive over the long bridge feels almost tranquil but I’ll be leaving on my own so clearly it’s not the same feeling a woman must have when she is on a bus there for the first time. I wonder how scary it must seem. It’s one thing to be going to jail- it must be another thing entirely to know that jail is surrounded by water on all sides.
After the crossing the bridge the reality is clear. This is prison. It’s not scary, but a heaviness looms in the air. I’m overcome with the urge to go the bathroom. There’s a fairly scary looking bathroom to the left of the entrance. After, I make my way to the guard station and I’m waved through. And I pause for a second like I’m sure most fools like me do- my eyes say, ‘Wait. That’s it? I just get waved in. Don’t you want to know anything else?’ The guard looks at me with a bored face and after our 2 second non-verbal exchange I walk to catch a bus to the dorms.
Today I met the students. Some were excited to show me their warriors. Others were thrilled that they would be coming to class. The women were friendly, kind and chatty. A lot of these women are awaiting trial and couldn’t make bail and that’s why they are there. Without too much to do- many seize the opportunity to participate in the programs that are offered. Liberation Prison Yoga incorporates writing, yoga and mediation.
I’m the one who is grateful.
I can’t imagine being confined awaiting trial and being told when to eat, when to shower and when to sleep. It would seem that in circumstances like that one thing that must be so important is the ability to breathe and to feel okay in your body because let’s face it- a system pretty much is telling you what to do with most other parts of your life.
I’m not there to judge. I’m there to teach, guide and hopefully create a space of self-healing. Anneke told me that faces will change a lot and that’s okay. I guess the more people I can talk to and teach, the better.
We are human beings, whether we are walking down the street or in the 800 bed dorm of the Rose M Singer branch of the Department of Corrections. And as Ram Dass says we are all just walking each other home.
I’ll definitely be posting more about my experiences with Liberation Prison Yoga.
If you are a teacher and are interested in volunteering your time- reach out by clicking here.
Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga – Forgive Yourself

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When I was in the third or fourth grade I discovered flavored lip gloss. Fantastic! It came in different colors, flavors and tasted faintly sweet. What’s not to love?

One day, in CVS I saw some root beer lip gloss that I had to have. We learn desire and suffering so early. I had to have it. My mother said no. So my grubby paws and racing heart palmed the lip gloss. I know, I know, I know…..

 

 

In the parking lot walking next to my mother, I pulled out the lip gloss. (I said I was desperate for root beer lips, not necessarily  the sharpest tool in the shed). Needless to say my mother went f@cking apeshit  because it became clear too her that she had given birth to a budding criminal. I was marched back inside the store and required to report my crime to the manager. She was none too pleased and if memory serves (which is tricky) I got in pretty big trouble. But like all good moms- she forgave me. I went on to do even bigger and more stupid things and she forgave me these trespasses as well.

 

It always seemed harder to forgive myself. I would let the shame or guilt coat my skin. Rather than let things go and start fresh I became a series of bad things I’d done.

 

I guess we’ve all done things that make us less than proud of ourselves. Yoga has helped me let go of my past while staying accountable so I live my best life in the now. In some cases I’ve been lucky enough to be forgiven for some of my past transgressions. I’m forever grateful for the people in my life who have loved me unconditionally.

 

In other cases I haven’t been so lucky and I’ve had to lose people because I burned a bridge. Living a life through the breath helps me feel okay with the idea of things being what they are even when they are good and bad. Because even feelings or things that are bad can end up being good. I’ve also realized that a big part of this whole process of becoming enlightened is learning to forgive yourself.

 

I am more that the bad shit I’ve done.

I am more than what I do for a living.

I am not the stuff I have.

I am not the stuff I don’t have.

 

Last week in class I lost myself. I became too connected with my breathing and missed a cue from the teacher- in a effort to catch up I rushed through my flow- completely reacting to the idea of catching up rather that truly remembering why we do the asanas- to connect to the now.

 

Eddie my teacher, gently said- ‘if you ever miss a cue, don’t worry- come back to downward dog. It’s okay no need to rush- forgive yourself.’

 

There’s no perfection.

 

I felt a flash of shame. Not because of what he said, but because I still struggle with the idea of saying to myself, ‘you’re forgiven. Let it go.’

 

And then something happened- I let it go. I actually let the shame of it all go on an exhale into a forward fold.

 

Not surprisingly, the rest of class was like opening of a flower- I wasn’t stressed- I didn’t hyper focus on technique- I went with my flow. I gave myself the ultimate gift.

 

I’m forgiven.

 

Namaste y’all.

 

Adventures in Yoga – Back on the Mat

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live yoga. Yesterday was my first Jivamukti practice in six weeks. My abdominal myomectomy was becoming a memory and though I had been practicing a smattering here and there, I hadn’t yet returned to my regular asana practice. Truth be told, my body was telling me to take a class last week, but I was feeling a little chicken.

Thoughts loomed…whatifmybodyisn’tthesamewhatifigettiredwhatifwhatifwhatif

My ego was ruling me. Whether or not I could do a handstand doesn’t determine my worth.

Wait- I want to be say that differently- while I can measure some progress and identify certain things about what’s going on in my life based on my handstand but shouldn’t judge myself if it doesn’t go as I planned. Unfortunately, judging is what I’ve been doing. The fear wasn’t really about the handstand I was subconsciously deciding whether I was still a good person. I needed to crush that negative ego talk and get back to my practice pronto. The asana practice is the beginning- not the end.

So…I put on my big girl yoga pants and headed to the 12pm Open with Cassandra. In hindsight, this was a crazy girl move. It was like going from swimming in the baby pool to walking off a 20 ft platform to do a 4 and 1/2 somersaults in a tuck position.

But you know, that’s how I roll. Not really, but that rolled off the tongue so I went with it.

Cassandra’s classes are challenging. The first time I took her class we were kicking up to handstand 15 minutes in.

I said in my head, ‘Oh, that’s how we get down in this class? Ok, cool.’. I was hooked. And it’s not just the sequencing. Cassandra’s no-nonsense approach applies to her metaphysical teachings too. I love her realistic approach to how we live. She talks about her own struggles but then loops it back to you- how can I apply what she said to my asana practice? To my life? And so Saturdays at noon became a chance for me to push myself a little further both physically and emotionally.

So while it was jumping into the deep end after not practicing for almost six weeks- was a bit of an overreach…it was now or never.

jiva sign

I arrived to class early and chatted with Bobby and Austin the owners trying to quell jitters (silly, I know). But it was nice to be back at the studio. Certain studios instantly feel like home. I think it’s a combination of the feeling of community, the warmth of owners and the spacious yet cozy vibe of the space. I exhale whenever I’m inside. Even when I couldn’t practice my spirit was drawn there.

I digress- back to the matter at hand…

My fears were unfounded. Class was sweaty and wonderful. My body felt solid and engaged. Tears poured from my eyes a few times in child’s pose so I knew that I was okay.

Crying no longer makes me self-conscious, but it did make me wonder about living my yoga off of the mat. I know that the asana practice opens up chakras and energy lines and had thought that my daily meditation was keeping me grounded. While I’m sure it was (and is), it’s clear that moving my body is also a critical part of living my yoga. But I can’t help and wonder how I can get to a place where I feel post-practice without practicing? Is it even possible? Things to ponder.

In any event, knowing that I know so little is a step in the right direction.

I am so grateful.

Namasta y’all.