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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Notebook Love.

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I love notebooks/journals.

I keep so many going at once:

  • one for morning pages
  • one for each WIP which is currently 3
  • one for writing practice
  • one for writing books I am working with like “The Writer’s Portable Mentor”
  • one for the Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class that I teach since I also write along with my students
  • one for yoga workshops
  • one for capturing themes & ideas for yoga classes I teach
  • a mini-notebook that fits in my purse

I figure the more opportunities I offer myself to write, the greater the possibility that I will actually write.

And it appears to be working.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” ~ Jack London

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.

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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.

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.

 

Holding Space for all of Me.

allow space

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When we gather in sacred circles, we hold space for each other.

We allow others to have their feelings without intruding on them with offers of tissues, or our own reactions to their feelings—even supportive responses.

This got me thinking about how I do or don’t hold space for myself.

I don’t hold space for myself when I keep myself so busy or so distracted or numb that I can’t feel what needs to be felt.

I don’t hold space for myself when I berate myself for falling short of my own high expectations.

I don’t hold space for myself when drink or eat my way out of loneliness or anxiety or anger.

I do hold space for myself when I have compassion when I have chosen to drink or eat my way out of an uncomfortable emotion.

I do hold space for myself when I ask for what I need rather than feeling resentful when my (unspoken) needs aren’t met.

I do hold space for myself when I make time for self-care through yoga, walking, meditation, writing, reading.

I hold space for myself when I allow myself to see and feel all that needs to be seen and felt rather than banishing it to the shadows.

It reminds me of one of my favorite Rumi poems:

the guest house

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I hold space for myself by inviting each guest in, welcoming each and every one.

Tracking Fear.

Be Brave

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When I was little, my fears were tangible things: tornados, house fire, being kidnapped, snakes. These things never happened but I was aware of them and knew that they frightened me.

As an adult, fear is a much more nebulous thing. Sure, I still have concrete fears but it’s the subconscious fears that trip me up. If you’ve ever taken any kind of therapy, read any self-help or spiritual book, you’ve probably heard that most of our challenges come from fear. Most negative emotions can be traced back to fear. Angry? Dig deeper to find what you’re afraid of and using anger to mask. Procrastinating? Pause and try to unearth what fear lies beneath the procrastination.

Our human brains are wired for fear. Our survival depends on it. Fear alerts us to the danger around us, triggering our fight or flight response. These days our fight or flight can be triggered due to the content state of stress we are under.

This is where yoga and writing come in for me. They allow me to track fear. They keep me grounded in the present where everything is okay. Yoga allows me to stay present to exactly what is happening in my body and in my mind. Writing allows me to stay present to what I’m really thinking and feeling beneath the surface.

Both yoga and writing do not permit me to hide. They require me to dive deep and that is where I discover the fear that is holding me back. Once I am aware of it, I can release it.

Once that happens my life expands. And I expand to fill it.

Fear Compass.

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“Fear compass.” I heard this term on NPR this morning and it reverberated through my whole being like a tuning fork.

It got me thinking not only about fear as a compass, but any strong emotion. They all reveal something.

Envy reveals what I desire for myself.

Anger reveals where a boundary has been breached.

Fear reveals what is important to me.

Liz Gilbert’s suggestion to live life with curiosity rather than fear also resonates with me. Wonder becomes a door into and through fear.

I wonder if this agent is a good fit for my novel, instead of only focusing on if they will like it.

I wonder what happens in this next scene, instead of being paralyzed into writing nothing because I have no idea.

I wonder if I could be a yoga teacher, instead of letting anxiety about my looming empty nest crush me.

Wondering if I could combine writing with yoga led me to find my authentic voice and create a sacred space for students to find theirs.

So, it seems that fear points me in the direction of curiosity, leading me to live a creative life in awe of the wonder around and within me.

Where does fear point you?