Tools of Illumination.

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Image found via Pinterest.

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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Restaurants: Please Offer more than Salad and Fries for Vegans.

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Dear Restaurants,

How hard is it to put at least one vegan option on your menu?

But it can’t be the sad, vegan, last option of a salad and fries.

Or a salmon salad without the salmon and you still charge me the same price.

I mean, you all jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon when only one percent of our population has legit celiac disease.

The are 3.2 percent of Americans who are vegan. There’s a need there.

There’s a market share to be had.

There are restaurants I no longer frequent because there are no options for me.

You don’t have to go as far as Ale Mary’s and provide an entire vegan option menu but, wow, that’d be great! I’m happy that the martini bar I love to go to in the summer to sit on their patio now offers a Beyond Burger.

All I’m asking is that you be a tad more inclusive.

It’s good for our health.

It’s good for the environment.

It’ll be good for your business.

 

Things I’m Done Apologizing For.

no apologies

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I’m done apologizing:

  1. For my house that may never pass a white glove test. I have better things to do with my time.
  2. Before I speak up. My opinions don’t need to be prefaced by an apology.
  3. For saying no when I want to say no.
  4. For saying yes when I want to say yes.
  5. When I need help.
  6. For my political passion. If it bothers you, unfollow me.
  7. For sending food or drinks back at a restaurant.
  8. For claiming space in public whether it’s on an airplane and I actually use the armrest or just walking down the street and not contorting my body to stay out of everybody’s way.
  9. For setting boundaries.
  10. My feelings.
  11. For being my messy, beautifully imperfect self.

 

The Mindful Practice of Morning Pages.

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Image found here.

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.”

“Tully” is the Perfect Movie for Mother’s Day.

Warning: If you haven’g seen “Tully yet, A) Go see it. B) Spoilers ahead so read this after you’ve seen it.

Tully

Image found via Pinterest.

I took myself to the movies yesterday morning. I slipped into the theater for the 10:10 showing of “Tully” reminding me of how I used to go to the movies as stress relief when my daughter were little.

The movie swept me further back to that time of my life. The lack of sleep, the isolation, the monotony, the joy, the boredom. That feeling of every nerve being on edge from being pulled in ninety different directions throughout the day.

Marlo (played by Charlize Theron) is about to give birth to their third child. She is already stretched thin and her son Jonah, labeled “atypical” by doctors and “quirky” by teachers, is both a blessing and a challenge. After Mia’s birth, Marlo finally breaks down and gets the night nanny that her brother offered. Tully, the nanny, says she is there to care for her and helps her not only with the new baby, but also bakes Minion cupcakes for her son to take into class, gets the spark back into her sex life with her husband Ron and just generally brings the spark back into Marlo.

As Marlo comes back to life, I found myself crying. I remember those times so well. When I watch videos of myself back then, there is always this empty look in my eyes. I call it my Stepford-wife look. Part of it is being self-conscious and uncomfortable being filmed.

But it was more than that. The occasional movie couldn’t offset all the energy I gave to motherhood. My own spark was so faint back then. So when I saw Marlo reviving hers, I cried. I wished I had my own Tully back then. Then I thought that we should all be our own Tully. Be that inner voice guiding us back to ourselves.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what Tully was. There was no nanny, just a piece of herself that Marlo conjured up to remind her of who she was. Tully was her maiden name. Tully was her.

At first, I thought I didn’t even see it coming just like in “Sixth Sense.” But obviously I did. I sensed it without quite understanding the turn the movie was about to take.

I didn’t feel tricked or manipulated. It was exactly how it needed to be.

It’s the perfect message for woman and girls everywhere, whether they are moms or not, to take care of ourselves.

To put our needs first sometimes.

To listen to what we need.

To let that inner voice guide us back to our spark, to fan that spark, no matter how dim and faint it may be, so that we have a light to shine onto our families and out into the world.

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.

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

Image found via Pinterest.

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.

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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.