Tools of Illumination.

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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.

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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.

Finding Alignment On and Off my Mat.

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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.

 

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.

Sticking with a Morning Routine.

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I’ve always struggled sticking with things.

I never played an instrument so didn’t have that structure of practice to fall back on.

I’ve been great at starting things, then letting them fall away out of boredom or frustration or because I didn’t know what came next.

Writing used to be that way for me.

I’d write for days and days at a stretch then I’d just stop. Picking up the pen after each day had passed got progressively harder and harder.

But now I’ve written something every single day since January 1, 2016. That discipline of showing up has carried over into other parts of my life.

I now have a morning routine that stays pretty consistent:

~ splash cold water on my face

~ scrape my tongue

~ drink a glass of water

~ meditate

~ my own yoga practice which consists of a variety of poses and exercises gleaned from classes, physical therapy and videos designed to realign the hips

That is how I start most mornings. Then I weave in healthy meals, writing Morning Pages, working on my WIP, posting here, taking long walks with my dog, taking a yoga class, reading, prepping to teach 8 classes a week.

The structure of showing up each day to write no matter what my mood has had a huge impact on my life. Sticking with this morning routine stems from that but it also comes from the fact that I just feel better when I treat myself well. When I take care of me. (It’s not just a hashtag.)

I’ve played with this routine, adding new things in (pelvic reset), letting other things go (pranayama). After all, there are only so many hours in a day. But what allows me to keep showing up to myself is the fact that it feels good. I feel better. I have more energy, I am more focused, I handle stress better and I sleep better so it is easier to get up the next morning and make choices that nourish me.

What about you? Do you have a morning routine that you follow? What does it include? I’d love to hear.

 

Room to Grow.

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As a wife and mom, I’m grateful that I’ve always had a room of my own.

When my husband and I moved into our first apartment, I got the spare room where I set up my drafting table and art supplies. After we moved to Arizona, he needed a home office so he took the spare room and I created my own space in the great room—a large open room off the kitchen and dining room. By this time, I was writing regularly so we set up my desk, bookshelves and our very first computer.

Our next move took us all the way across the street. That house had converted the third bay of the garage into an office, so he took that and I got the spare room downstairs. Our kids were little and I remember sitting in there, closing the door and trying to write, my ears and mom radar always on, waiting for them to need something. I alternated between getting up early to write and writing late at night. I preferred nighttime because I knew they were asleep and (probably) wouldn’t wake up until morning. But when I wrote in the morning, I was always waiting for them to let me know it was time to put my mom cap back on.

But it wasn’t just physical rooms I had. My husband has always given me room to grow, to change, to explore. When our daughters were five and three, he made it possible for me to attend my first writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos , New Mexico. I remember sitting on the van driving up to Taos and feeling so…unencumbered. And then feeling guilty for feeling that.

But that week was turning point in my writing and not only because I filled three entire notebooks. It was more about the fact that I had given/taken/claimed that time for my writing, For myself.

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In our current house, I have two rooms of my own. One is my yoga room, the other is my writing room. Both are spaces where I can be alone and practice writing, yoga, meditation. But, again, it is more than just the physical space. Its about me claiming space and time for myself.

More than that, it is about the space my husband and I give each other to grow into the people we are meant to be. I don’t know a lot about plants. (Ask anyone who knows me.) But I do know that a plan cannot continue to grow in a pot that is too small. It needs to be repotted into a pot that has space to thrive.

We will be married thirty years this summer. People often ask how we’ve managed it. I never quite know what to say. Marriage is incredibly complicated. I think one of the keys to ours is the fact that we support each other’s passions and give each other the time to pursue them.

In our marriage, we each have a room of our own.

Resetting How my Days Begin.

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Image found via Pinterest.

Lately, I’ve become all too aware that I am starting my days in an energy deficit.  Like many people, the first thing I reach for is my phone. And not just the phone, but I gravitate toward Facebook and Twitter to see what fresh new hell has popped up over night. The problem is is that I don’t just read and move on. No, I get immersed in the news, tangled up in the web of comments and find myself immobilized by anxiety, anger, sometimes despair.

And that is how my day begins.

Back when our daughters were little, we noticed that how the morning started set the tone for the rest of the day.

If the day started off with us impatient, wanting them to move faster than they were inlined to move, well, let’s just say the day didn’t improve from there.

We started having do-overs. We’d all climb back in our beds then”wake-up” again. It worked because A) it was a game that took everyone out of their mood and B) it gave us all a chance to reset.

I am in desperate need of a reset.

For now that reset looks like taking Twitter and Facebook off my phone. Not deleting the accounts completely (yet anyway). But making the access a little more difficult.

It looks like allowing my mind to wake up without dumping the garbage of the world into it first thing. Instead, I read in bed for a bit, then go to my yoga rom and meditate and do some yoga.

It looks like building an abundance of mental, emotional and spiritual energy to carry me through each day and all the days to come.

It looks like creating space for hope.