Giving Thanks

I’m grateful for Alexa. She brings all of the world’s music into my house!

I say, ‘Alexa, make a radio station.’ And she replies sweetly, ‘For what artist?’ And then I pick any artist, and she makes a playlist of similar music. Just for me.

Today I said ‘The Flaming Lips.’ And she obliged with them, and other artists, like Beck, Radiohead, The Stone Roses…

After a while I became mesmerized by one of the songs. It was electronic. I had never heard it before. The same lyrics repeated over and over and over.

Don’t think about all those things you fear. Just be glad you’re here.’

And I thought to myself, I am so very glad I’m here.

This has certainly been an eventful year for me. But through it all, the stresses, the surgeries and the ongoing healing process, I manage to remain extremely glad to be here.

I’ve been doing a daily gratitude meditation for a few years now, so it was already a habit of mine. It was already an established practice that I could easily tap into when I really needed it. If it weren’t, things might’ve been much tougher.

Thanks to my meditation practice, sitting in silence and redirecting my thoughts to the present moment, to the simple and awesome power of my breath, my brain was already wired for gratitude.

Of course there were/are moments/hours, when I felt/feel miserable. Of course there were/are moments/hours when I felt/feel defeated. Of course there were/are moments/hours when I felt/feel completely scared shitless. Almost daily, in fact. But I turn my focus to gratitude. I’m alive. And I am so glad to be.

So I asked Alexa to repeat the song. And I took the opportunity to sit. And breathe. And meditate on the words.

Don’t think about all those things you fear. Just be glad you’re here.’

I am so glad to be here. I hope you’re glad to be here too. I hope you can tap into that feeling of gratitude. And I hope your thanks giving is wonderful.

—-

Ask your Alexa to play Hayling by FC/Kahuna.

Or listen to it here:

https://youtu.be/BUIzq-HcNPA

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Gratitude meditation

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#AnotherBlackBoy

Say his name
And try to sit for moment with his parents’ pain
Let those feelings swirl around your body and your brain
Until it’s almost too much to bear

Say his age
And sit for just a moment with his family’s rage
Let these feelings rattle around inside your cage
Until it’s almost too painful to care

Say his race
And sit for a moment and stare at his face
Let yourself question why this is the case
Until you almost find the answer

Say his town
And then sit your privileged ass right down
And take a really good look around
The system is riddled with cancer

Say his name
And sit for a moment with his family’s pain
And realize if your kid were treated the same
It would be too much for you to bear.

Sadly, there are many names that can be said. But this particular boy’s name was Jordan Edwards. This photo has been haunting me since I first heard the terrible, tragic story. This child could be any one of the children that I move and breathe with in yoga classes in Newark. He could be any one of those children. And his story breaks my heart over and over.

And so, I say his name.

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Autumn, Wellspring 

I spent this past long weekend guiding yogis on a retreat in the mountains. It was an amazing experience for me, and the mood of the entire weekend was relaxation, gratitude, curiosity, vulnerability, and JOY!

I just looked back to find this old post about Joy. It turns out that I set an intention to BE joy, on November 6, 2013. Four years ago, I made a conscious decision to tap into joy.

Since then I have spent a lot of my time meditating and cultivating joy. Enough time, in fact, that now, I am always joyful. Deep down, underneath whatever else is happening, there is always, joy; calm abiding joy.

Even as I moved through the breast cancer chapter of my life, it was always there. Sometimes it was waaaayyyy down at the bottom of the well, but it was always there.  I can remember lying uncomfortably in recovery, breathing deeply, as I dropped the bucket down and brought up a sip.

On this retreat weekend, the joy was much closer to the surface. Four days of yoga in a big beautiful house full of yogis, with no obligations, no to-do lists, no clock to watch. No obligations… just joy!

I woke up much earlier than everyone to meditate and write and drink large amounts of coffee. As the others awoke we spent time moving through our shared spaces in (almost) complete silence until after our morning excursion outdoors for silent walking meditation.

As we silently walked together on Sunday (our last) morning, I kept smiling and chuckling, Recalling the night before. Eleven of us practicing Joy & Laughter yoga, cackling hysterically in a Great Room with vaulted ceilings. We were all bound together in joy. Pure unadulterated joy.

I let the feeling wash over me as we walked, and began to skip, as I often do. (More so since I made a promise to a departed friend.)

As my co-teacher/friend and I had discussed the night before, she led us to the beach. We stood in a row on the sand at the water’s edge facing the lake. She signaled for us to bring our hands to our hearts. Gratitude. A deep sense of gratitude.  The air was crisp. The wind was calm. The water was a sheet of glass reflecting blue sky, white clouds, burnt umber leaves, gray brown trees. It was a pure Pennsylvania autumn moment. It was pure joy.

She leaned over and smiled a giant smile at us all and took a deep breath in. Time for us to OM.

Halfway through the first OMmmmm I felt the stir. The vibration washed over me, the joy overtook me. The well overflowed.  And it came out in sobs. Deep, heaving sobs. I couldn’t OM. I could only listen. And cry.

When I first began meditating on joy, I would often find myself crying. As with all things in meditation I acknowledged the tears, resisted the urge to step away from the cushion, and simply allowed myself to feel the feelings.  In this moment, standing sobbing on the shore, I allowed myself to simply feel the feelings.

When we make a conscious decision to tap into joy, we have to tear down the walls that protect our hearts.  Walls that were built, brick by brick, by our experiences, and the experiences of every person in our tribe, our society, our culture.

As the wall comes down and the heart begins to open it doesn’t only open to joy. It’s like Pandora’s box. There are 1000 emotions in there. Or more. And each emotion has more than 1 way of manifesting.

Joy can manifest in hysterical laughter.  Or sobbing tears. Or calm abiding.

It’s our job to observe the feelings without judgment. No feeling is either good or bad. Let them rise up to the surface. Let them flow. Feel all of the feelings. We must allow ourselves to be overcome with joy, overtaken by sorrow, or sometimes, both.  At the very same time.

I came away from this weekend with a much deeper sense of calm abiding. I also came home with a profound sense of sorrow, and a few extra buckets of joy.

.

And some yummy chutney!

.

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Every Nine Minutes 

It is a musical moment of pure magic,
as I stir from my sleep 
roused from my dreams
by the sounding of the alarm,
still snuggled up in a ball
of warmth and hopeful contentment.
The promise of a new and glorious day.

That flickering, fleeting moment,
before movement makes its way in,
before I roll over,
before i stretch and reach for the phone,
that moment before I remember 

that you
are no longer
here.
And once again, 
I find myself waking 
to a world
without you in it.

Since you’ve been gone I’ve hit the snooze button at least a thousand times. 

I move through the 5 stages of grief daily. 

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Meditation on Mass Shooters 

Time and time again we find ourselves asking the same questions. How could this happen? Why did this happen? How could he do that? Time and time again, I reflect on both the inhumanity, and the pure humanity of it all. 

The same world that raised him up, raised me up. The same system that planted seeds of thought inside his head and heart, planted seeds in mine. The same society that fueled his beliefs, his aversions, and his desires, fuels mine.

Everything one human being is capable of lies within each and every one of us. Everything that he was capable of, I am also capable of.

Genius. Ignorance. Apathy. Empathy. Kindness. Compassion. Hatred. Idealism. Egoism. Righteousness. Condemnation. Love. Anger. Fearlessness. Paranoia. Strength. Fragility. Peacefulness. Imbalance. We are all, each of us, capable of all things. 

We are all in this together, threads of the same cultural cloth, reared by the same world, systemized by the same system. We are all fundamentally, more similar than we are different. 

And when we realize that we are all connected by the common threads of humanity, that we are each a part of the same human tapestry, when we fully realize that we are all the same, then no human behavior can surprise us.

No human behavior can take us off guard.

No heroic human behavior can impress us, and no horrific human behavior can destroy us.

It can only inspire us. To do the same. Or to go out and do the opposite.  

———————————
Work for change. 

———————-

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Beautiful Things Everywhere 

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak in front of a roomful of breast cancer survivors and their guests. This particular group has decided to call themselves Thriving Survivors. For them, simply surviving is not nearly enough. They are committed to thriving. Thriving suggests adapting, growing and flourishing. Thriving suggests positivity and hope. 

A part of my presentation was laughter yoga (which is one my new favorite things.) Basically, we start by inhaling deeply, and then exhaling with a loud ‘HA!’. Big breath in and then ‘HA!’ Then we get faster and faster, and the sound of Ha! Ha! Ha! fills the room. Soon the entire room room is actually laughing. The fake laughter turns into real laughter. 

The people in this room already had the seeds of joy and positivity and hope planted in their hearts, so it was only a matter of seconds before the room was completely hysterical. There were loud roars of laughter, and cackling at the back of the room. People were pausing to catch their breath with long audible sighs, then laughing again. The room was a giant release of endorphins. Stress hormones melted away while the immunity boosting powers of laughter filled our hearts with oxygen, and joy. 

They all know struggles, but they all continue to look for joy. And so, they easily find joy.

This morning a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook. A fallen leaf lying on top of fallen pine needles. Last week, she had been participating in a  ‘7 Days of black and white’ photo challenge. She has a brilliant eye for lines and light and textures. Her photos made it obvious that she enjoyed taking them, and I looked forward to her artsy posts over the past week. But the challenge had ended.  

So, when I saw her color version of lines and texture I commented on the photo… ‘The 7 day challenge relit the flame?’  

And her reply was ‘Yep. Now I’m seeing beautiful things everywhere.’

 To which I immediately replied ❤️. 

A couple of weeks ago, when I did this silly little Facebook challenge, I found myself looking around all day for beautiful things, odd things, meaningful things, noteworthy, photo-worthy things.

And I found them. Everywhere I looked. 

We find what we look for. When we look for beauty, we will easily find more beauty. When we look for joy, we will find joy more easily.  When we look to the sky and laugh, we will easily laugh more and more and more… 

What have you been finding lately? 

.

…………………………….

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In 1492 Columbus Sailed…

…We were lied to. 
Systematically, purposefully lied to.
The Niña the Pinta the Santa Maria.
The friendly natives offering gold and spices. 
The kind benevolent explorer expanding the new world.
All talk of god and glory. Glossing over the gold, greed and genocide.

We were lied to.
Systematically, purposefully lied to. 
Our state funded educators taught us state funded lies. 
Once again whitewashing our history to make us the heroes. 
They brushed over indiscretions and ignored the atrocities.

We were lied to.
Systematically, purposefully lied to. 
Our pastors pretended the crusade was peaceful.
They painted a pretty picture of the pious pilgrimage. 
They skipped all the stories of enslavement and oppression.

We were lied to.
Systematically, purposefully lied to. 
Our parents perpetuated the tales of their teachers. 
They passed on the fables they themselves were force-fed.
They didn’t dare lead us to their own denial and doubts.

We were lied to.
Systematically and purposefully lied to.  
But the truth has been uncovered.
The evidence has been exhumed.
It stares us in the face. 

We know we were lied to.
So, why can’t we let go of all the lies?
It is daunting to dig deeply into the deception. 
It is tough to admit that we’ve been betrayed by our own brothers.
But they only knew what they were taught by the elders. 

The way to the truth is away from the tribe.
Step outside and question the systematic lies. 

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