One of the most important things I’ve ever done is become a pet owner. I rescued Dakota when she was six. That was eight years ago.
You know intellectually that dogs get older and will eventually die. In practice it fucking sucks. Dakota has been struggling and while it seems that she’s not going to die tomorrow, I’ve got to start thinking about those hard decisions pet owners must think about.
When is the right time to put her to sleep? Will I be able to tell? What if it’s too soon? Or worse what if I prolong her suffering.
Surprisingly (or not), my yoga practice has been a great comfort and useful. I’ve been more open than I usually am about my feelings of sadness and grief. I’ve talked about how I feel so bad for my dog losing control of her bladder and frustrated at cleaning up what seems to be an endless amount of pee. But by sharing I’ve had an outpouring of support, love and practical suggestions that have helped make both our lives more comfortable.
My asana practice has been a place that I allow myself to both let it all hang out and nurture my spirit (Special shout out to Angela Rauscher and Kaity Shanks for being my rocks the other day).
Daily sits have been challenging and relaxing depending upon how I slept. Mostly though, I’m in the moment. Dakota may not be able to understand how much her companionship means to me but she will be given so much love (endless treats and cheeseburgers) until it’s time for her to transition. It’s the best I can do and in my heart I know it’s enough.
This post is for the pet owners out there.
I made myself a snowball
As perfect as can be.
I thought I’d keep it as a pet,
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for it’s head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first – It wet the bed.
– Shel Silverstein
I’ve been thinking about my class yesterday at Rikers. After class a woman who had been watching asked me what yoga was all about. I told her that yoga is a way for me to unite my body and breathing so I can be in the moment. I told her that in many ways it saved my life, which is why I wanted to serve by teaching yoga to isolated communities.
‘Really? It saved your life?’ Her tone wasn’t suspicious but curious.
In that moment it really hit me. Yoga had saved and changed my life. Four years ago I was spiritually at rock bottom.
I had been shoving down feelings of loss over someone who had died.
I was avoiding feelings of confusion over my career.
I was scared to admit that as a full fledged adult I did’t have a fracking clue who I was outside of said career. I was disconnected from myself.
But yoga helped me connect. Now I get to teacher yoga teachers about teaching yoga inside prisons. I’m teaching yoga teachers about teaching therapeutics, mindfulness and trauma. Yoga led me to opening a massage therapy business. Yoga has given me the ability to speak to groups of people about getting and staying healthy through mindfulness and meditation.
Last week my friend Kathleen and I were catching up about yoga and life (which is thankfully these days the same thing). She said something like once you decide what you want to you just have to reach out and grab it.
I’m not saying that all I did was roll out my yoga mat and magically things rearranged. However, by being mindful and in the moment I had a better sense of who I was therefore making better decisions about following a path that honored me.
I’m grateful that I felt so miserable four years ago. Had I felt even a little bit better I would have taken another job and worked hard everyday without purpose. I know now that everything we do is on our own path to enlightenment if we are seeking a better way.
Had a small but mighty class on the fourth floor. Inspired by a class I took the previous evening, I invited everyone to explore moving in slow motion as a way to examine the body and breath. We gently lifted a knee and placed in back down to the floor flowing side to side with Thai Chi like movements. It was playful, challenging and fun. By the end of class everyone was ready for a deep relaxation. Bolsters were placed under knees and blocks were strategically placed for maximum comfort. And then…
A CO called for medical and they had to leave for treatment. ‘Michelle’ (not her real name) said, ‘This is the best part! Ugh.’ Her friend new to class asked if they could do it quickly before lining up. But people were already making their way to the door.
‘You can’t do it fast, that’s the point. It takes time to get inside. You’ll see next week.’
I knew they had to dash but as they were rolling up their mats Michelle said, ‘When I get back I’ll do some relaxation on my bed. It’s kinda quiet there.’
Michelle empowered herself. She was going to make time to breathe whether class was happening or not.
That’s yoga. We don’t always get the class we want, but if we’re open we can find what we need.
I love my neighborhood and the people in it. After a long day of school I get to go to local yoga studios and teach. More often than not class is filled with a sense of togetherness. Sometimes class is tough and I hear collective groans or giggles if I make a joke to ease tension in a challenging moment. Lately, as a massage therapist community has a more intimate meaning. Community is healing. This is new for me. Not gonna lie- I have hermit tendencies. Being alone comes easily to me. But I know I’m not in this thing called life by myself. I find a big smile sliding across my face riding down the street and saying hello to students, clients and friendly faces I know from the yoga classes I take. It takes a village to raise children and to sustain a neighborhood. This is good. This is life. This is love.
Be a good neighbor.
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
― Albert Ellis
I woke up this morning at 6 instead of 5:30. I rushed to do a morning sit. I know- rushing to meditate? Doesn’t bode well. I sat on my block and silently began to chastise myself as soon as the bell rang.
During my Therapeutic Yoga Workshop I spoke about the concept of being with whatever is happening in the moment. I think that our society gets caught up in the idea of having to be happy all. of. the. time.
I think that’s ridiculous. Sure, I try to live life peacefully and that can be joyful. However on some days I feel meh. Or tired. Or even depressed. Trying to be one thing consistently isn’t how we work. The one that is constant is our fluid life.
And that’s okay because it’s living authentically. If I relentlessly pursued the notion I should be happy all of the time I’d be setting myself up for a crushing blow. It ain’t happenin’. Life has seasons. Our bodies have rythyms that work to keep us in a state of harmony. I like this. Congruity. Things fit together in a way that is balanced. Can you imagine if your body lived in the pleasure center. All ‘dopamined’ up with no place to go.
So let be. No need to chase a happy dragon. Thich Nhat Hahn says that by following our breathing we invite ours to be in the present where we have an appointment with life. That moment may be full of joy, completely fucked up or blissfully dull. But life is in that moment. Not in the future or behind us in the past.
Happy? Sure, sometimes. But I think I’ll opt for what’s happening all of the time. That’s where my life is.
A few weeks ago I was pretty sure I had hurt my hamstrings. As I get older I find that I’m not as flexible as I use to be, yet I let my ego get the best of me and go deep when perhaps I shouldn’t. It’s tough because it’s not like I have serious pain or there’s an ‘oh shit’ moment that I can blame.
You know the OS moment. You’re in class feelin’ groovy, loosey goosey and juicy. Instead of recognizing these moments as a time to hold back because you are too open, I take it as a sign to go HAM. Bad idea. This is my modus operandi. The next day I’m a lil’ sore but never left feeling ‘injured. But a few weeks ago something happened.
I should back up.
The past three months have been intense and exciting. I’ve been in massage school full-time and planning how to combine massage and yoga. School and teaching at night has been a bear. On the love front I’ve made some choices about the things I really want and deserve. All of this has required processing old hurts that I have both caused and received. Unrelated (or so I thought) I began to notice a tightening in my hamstrings after class. Not gonna lie- on many days my ischial tuberosities (you may know them as butt knuckles) hurt like a mf, but never the hammies.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Before a 4pm class I let my teacher know that my I may have injured my hamstrings. But even as the words came out of my mouth I wasn’t so sure that was accurate. I was at Jivamukti taking Julie Kirkpatrick’s class (I think she’s a compassionate and brilliant teacher). The focus of the month is karma and reincarnation. Whether you believe or not isn’t as important as understanding that unless we heal the old wounds we can’t move forward and receive all that life has in store.
So here I am saying I may have a hamstring injury, but honestly, I’m not in pain per se. No shooting pain, no tearing, no searing, no ripping. Just a sense that things are tight and uncomfortable. Julie gave me a couple of really thoughtful suggestions and I decided to dive into class with an open heart. The more I moved, the more I started to think about my past. Fleeting memories and a flurry of feelings seemed to creep up the backside of my body. But my range of motion was unaffected. I had the same depth that I normally do.
Thant’s when it occurred to me. I’m not physically injured. I’m working through some psychic shit. Old wounds that need to be healed. Feelings of insecurity that I thought had been long processed (thanks therapy!!) were trying to get out. From a body wisdom perspective it’s said that we process old hurts through the back of the body. In class the more I moved and was present with what I was feeling I didn’t feel tight. It was amazing a little unnerving. While there are times when an injury is an injury a sense of self-awareness and ability to listen to the body is critical.
Yoga has taught me not to run. Yoga has taught me to trust myself even when I’m not sure what is real. What things am I grasping? What could happen if I let go? If I take a moment to pause and look deeper, I have the answers. And if I don’t have the answer I know what questions to ask.
Change is always happening. Staying the same is really, really hard.
I used to snicker at the Self-Improvement section when I first worked in the book world. Snobby, I know. But over the years I would find myself sneaking over there, browsing shelves and buying things pretending they were for ‘a friend’. When I had to do a lot of driving between stores I could listen to audiobooks fearlessly. Wayne Dyer’s the Power of Intention had a profound impact. I hadn’t yet made the decision to make some radical life changes- but a seed was planted. I also loved watching his special on PBS when fundraising was in full effect.
It took a few years after the seed was planted but I changed the way that I looked at things. Things changed.
Thank you Wayne Dyer. Enjoy the adventure.