Tools of Illumination.

illuminatd path

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I heard Dani Shapiro on a podcast this morning and she said that writing is a tool for illumination.

Yes.

Exactly.

And so is yoga which is why they work so well together. One illuminates the other.

Yoga shines a light into the dark, heavy corners of my body where I’ve stored rage and shame and grief. I move and breathe and unlock those old emotions, those old stories, releasing them.

Writing shines a light into my heart, into my psyche. I write my way into what matters, into what I am thinking or feeling on any given day at any given moment.

Through yoga and writing my path forward is illuminated.

I am illuminated and able to shine my light out into the world.

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The Mindful Practice of Morning Pages.

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There are many reasons to write Morning Pages.

Lately, I find that they are a great tool for practicing mindfulness. My focus is not as laser sharp as I want it to be these days, to say the least. Pretty sure I’ve rewired my brain to look for the next shiny thing on Twitter or Facebook which is not the best result for a writer.

In meditation, my mind wanders over and over again. The practice is noticing when that happens and coming back to my breath or body or mantra or sounds. Writing morning pages I feel the impulse to lift my pen over and over again before I get to the end of my three, handwritten pages. When I lift my pen, my mind drifts. When my mind drifts it is oh so easy and tempting to reach for my phone or click on a tab on my laptop.

When I feel that impulse I just keep the pen moving In fact, I actually write, “just keep writing.” I feel the ink flowing across the surface. I hear the sound of the pen scratching against the paper. I see the trail of pink left behind. At this point, the words don’t even matter.

What matters is staying present.

What matters is not letting my hand lift, not letting my mind wander. Not checking my phone.

What matters is rewiring my brain to stay on the page, to stay in the moment.

As with meditation, keeping my hand moving, connecting to all the senses as I write leads me gently into that “serene encounter with reality.”

Settling my Mind.

mind is like water

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I admit it…I’ve been phoning in my meditation lately.

I’ve been combining it with Constructive Rest Pose, laying on my back with a strap tied around my legs to keep them from splaying open. But when I lay on my back, my mind drifts. I plan my yoga classes for the day, going through sequences in my head. Then because my mind is like that meme where all the browser tabs are open, it’s off and running.

Why did I say that?

What’s for dinner?

That was a weird dream last night.

Why hasn’t she texted me back? She must be mad at me.

What’s the weather?

Can I go for a walk?

I should cancel my gym membership. I hate the gym.

But it comes in handy when we lose power and I can shower there.

Yeah, the ONE time that happened.

My mind is exhausting.

Lately, I’ve gone back to meditating at the end of my yoga practice, sitting up on my cushion, spine tall, body supported. And, I have to admit, it is different.

Of course my mind wanders. That’s what it does. But I am able to notice it quicker and come back to my breath. Back to the moment.

This traditional sitting posture connects me to the power of meditation, the power of the present moment.

I try to fit in a meditation at some point in my yoga classes and I tell my students that my mind often feels like a snow globe when it is all shook up. Meditation allows it to settle until there is some clarity. And I can finally glimpse the quiet and stillness that is always there.

 

 

Dancing with the Blahs.

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I woke up feeling meh this morning.

Nothing tragic. Nothing terrible. Just meh. Blah.

Now, much of the time I give in to that feeling. Give in to the physical, mental, emotional and energetic inertia by hunkering down on the couch with Netflix and my phone and hours later, (surprise surprise!) I feel ten times worse.

I want to be clear. This is not depression. This is just a normal ebb and flow of energy, of emotions. Today, instead of giving in to it I chose to dance with it.

I got on my mat and did a gentle practice just moving in a way that felt good, not to achieve anything other than being present in my body.

Then I meditated for 15 minutes.

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Then I took my dog over to the park where we walked around the lake for an hour, more moving of the body and connecting with this beautiful world that often doesn’t feel beautiful when I view it from the incredibly myopic view from my phone.

Then I brought myself here to the bookstore, one of my happy places where I can browse and write and dream and be out in the world without really having to talk to anyone.

After all that I am feeling much less meh. Much less blah.

I am feeling content.

The Practice of Practice.

practice

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Practice. It’s a word I used to hate. I didn’t want to have to practice an instrument or a sport. I just wanted to do things when I wanted to do them. And do them well.

Then I came across “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg where she introduced me to the concept of writing practice. Practice? I never considered needing to practice writing. You either wrote or you didn’t. It wasn’t like needing to practice the piano by doing scales everyday.

Except that it is exactly like that. Writers need to practice their craft just like a musician or athlete does. It keeps our fingers, heart and mind limber. Practice keeps the words flowing because there is no pressure to produce the perfect sentence or paragraph or scene. Writer’s block occurs when we think the writing needs to come out perfect. But practice implies, even relies on the concept of imperfection. Because we are practicing we are already admitting that we don’t know how to do something as well as we’d like to. Thus, we practice.

Once I committed to a yoga and meditation practice, the word took on another layer of meaning. In this context, practice implies a certain sacred intention. There is still the freedom to show up without needing to be perfect, but there is also this sense of a ritual that nourishes my soul. It carries an intention to stay present.

These days, my writing practice combines both. I show up to the page each day, free to write the worst crap in the world because it’s just practice, but I also come to the page with a deep reverence for this practice that connects me to my light and dark, my body and mind, my heart and soul. It connects me to this moment.

These days, my art is my practice and my practice is my art.

Finding Alignment On and Off my Mat.

I am aligned

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Alignment is an important aspect of our yoga practice. It keeps us physically safe and supported in a pose. Proper alignment keeps us from exerting unnecessary effort.

Practicing physical alignment on my mat reminds me to find spiritual and energetic alignment off my mat.

I am having one of those off days. I can’t find things I need and am getting very easily irritated. I feel off balance and need to ask myself where exactly I am out of alignment just as when I check in with my own body in a pose or that of my students.

I haven’t stepped into my yoga room in about three days. This is so unlike me. I usually get onto my mat at least once a day, if not more. I’ve been busy and wanting to hang out with my daughter who is home from college so I’ve been staying up later which means I am sleeping in later which means I haven’t made time to practice.

Just as a tiny imbalance in the hips or spine can create misalignment throughout the body, not attending to my personal yoga practice sends ripples throughout the rest of my life.

Alignment happens when I can hear my inner voice. If it’s cluttered with crap because I haven’t been taking the time to meditate or have been merely phoning it in (which I have been doing) then I feel out of flow with myself, with my life, with the Universe.

I am in alignment when I make time to care for myself.

I am in alignment when I notice that I am out of alignment and pinpoint where I strayed, with compassion, not judgment.

I am in alignment when I really show up to my yoga practice, when I fully show up to my meditation practice.

Basically, I am in alignment when I show up fully to each moment just as it is, just as I am.

The Beauty of the Space in Between.

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On our hike today, we could see the trees beginning to bloom and blossom. Last week there were no signs.

This is why I love spring and fall. The transition spaces.

Liminal spaces.

Spaces in between.

The beauty, the potential, the something from nothing.

So much effort happens behind the scenes, then, as if overnight, the world is in bloom.

So much happens inside of us, if we do the work, if we allow changes to happen, awareness to awaken. Then suddenly, we too are blooming.

Only to hibernate again.

I used to call those hibernation times lazy. I believed that I was just being lazy.

Now I know that I was resting, regrouping, going inward to do the deep work that can’t be seen from the outside so that when it is time, I too, am able to blossom.

Listening to my Body.

just be

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My low back hurts.

It’s not completely out but it is definitely talking to me.

I’ve felt it coming for a few days. There was that twinge going up into forearm plank Sunday morning. There was the moment when I almost fell off  a bike during a 14-mile ride later that same day and twisted kind of funny. There was the day my dog almost yanked me off my feet chasing a squirrel on our walk. Then there was moving our daughter out of her apartment yesterday. First I felt a little tweak lifting something  heavy onto the trailer and I was at an odd angle. When I really felt it was when I leaned down in the car to pick up a piece of paper.

That’s all it finally took, a stupid, small move but like I said, it had been building up.

So, no I’m not flat on my back. I can move, walk, (hopefully) drive, do some gentle yoga. I know how to care for my back.

When I ask my body what this is telling me this is what I hear: Less doing, more being.

That makes total sense. I feel like each time I get to this point it is because of exactly this. I get so caught up in doing: doing the laundry the minute it begins to pile up in the hamper, cleaning the house every day, logging more miles walking and biking, teaching and subbing and more teaching and subbing as I save money for our trip to Europe, writing and blogging every day.

So much doing, doing, doing.

So little just being.

So for now, if you need me I’ll be here, just being.

Being present.

Being still.

Being here.

Lessons on a Bike.

bike

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On Sunday, I joined a great group of women for a 14-mile bike ride.

They’ve ridden together for years. My best friend came and she’s done three of those bike and barge trips overseas where you bike 20-30 miles a day. I ride my bike but don’t consider myself a “cyclist.”

We started off and within three minutes I was bringing up the rear. They’d wait for for me and I’d catch up, out of breath, legs wobbly like a new born fawn. We’d start off again and within minutes, they’d leave me in the dust.

Many thoughts churned through my head.

I’m so out of shape. (Actually, I am not.)

I’m holding them up. (They didn’t care.)

I should be faster. (“Should” is always a red flag.)

It reminded me of being in yoga class and wanting to do more than I am able to on any given day. Trying to prove something to myself, my teacher, other yogis in the room. But I know that is coming from me ego and definitely not in my best interests.

Luckily, I quickly realized the dynamic for what it was while on the bike ride and let it go. I stopped as often as I needed to, stretched, enjoyed the scenery, the sunshine, the sky and caught up when I could.

About three quarters of the way through a friend suggested that maybe I needed a different bike. I thought she was just being nice, trying to provide an excuse as to why I was lagging so far behind. But then my BFF traded me her state-of-art bike with the one I got fifteen years ago.

Reader, I soared through the last leg of that ride. I was out in front, exerting half the effort and going twice as far. Going up hills was a breeze.

I had no idea that the right bike could make such a huge difference.

It made me wonder where else in my life do I make things way harder than they need to be because I don’t have the proper tools or equipment—or even the right mindset. Where else am I holding myself back?

It also made me see how quick I am to blame myself,  to belittle myself. How often do I do that?

I’ll have a new bike before our next biking adventure, one that works with me and not against me. And I cannot wait to see what new lessons are revealed.

 

Leaning in to Joy.

Things are going good right now. Great even.

My almost 30-year marriage is strong.

Our daughters will both be done with college by this time next year and are making their way out into the world.

I love creating and holding space for my yoga students.

I am connected to my writing on a daily basis.

I’ve lost over 30 pounds and feel amazing and strong and my back keeps getting stronger every single day.

My best friend of over 30 years moved less than a half an hour away so we get to play whenever we want.

I have a beautiful community of women to lift me up toward my best self.

I love our home.

So, it’s all good.

So, why is this there this sense of unease lurking at the corners of my life? This sense of don’t get too happy, too content because that’s when the rug will get pulled out from under you.

It happens. I know it happens. Loved ones die, marriages end, diagnoses are made.

It happens all the time so it’s only matter of time before it happens to me, so I better be prepared. Better be vigilant and not get too complacent or too smug in my life, in my joy.

The first time I heard Brené brown describe “foreboding joy” I felt chills. That’s me. I do that. all the time. Of course, I never connected it to vulnerability. I didn’t know that the antidote to it is gratitude.

Now, when I feel the shadow of foreboding joy hovering over me, I take a breath and practice gratitude.

I lean into the joy.

I make a conscious decision to choose joy in that moment.

choose joy

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