Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ahimsa (non-violence)

Recently failure has been on my mind quite a bit. I have began meditating on the word failure and how I connect with that word. I realized I have viewed myself as a failure for most of my life. I have seen myself as weak, undisciplined and irresponsible. If it wasn't enough that I personally thought this about myself I unconsciously was trying to prove it to the rest of the world. I aligned myself with people who also believed I was a failure, looking back on my life I see all of these people, teachers, coaches, and mentors. They not only believed I was undisciplined and weak, but made it their mission to either prove I was or to "beat the laziness" out of me.  At first I was only able to see these people, all the people who wanted to be my personal soul crushers. I became angry realizing how many people tried to beat me down, especially when I already did such a good job of it without them.  However, as I continued meditating on this I began to see that I was standing there agreeing with them.
As this dawned on me I also began to see other people, people who had stood along side me, cheering me on. People who saw me for who I am and made it a point to build me up and encourage me in whatever I was doing at the time. I wasn't given a bad deck of cards, I wasn't the unlucky person who happened to only know negative people, no, I chose to be around those people. I chose to agree with the people that saw me as inherently flawed and needing to be fixed. Even though for every person in my life who wanted to see me fail, to prove that I was who they thought I was, there was someone else standing along me, walking with me, cheering me on and telling me with complete confidence that I was greater than I could imagine. 
It seems a little crazy, to be sitting around listening to a bunch of people who don't believe in you, but it makes me wonder how many of us do that.  We only listen to the negative people in our lives, we chose to align ourselves with our negative inner voice.  
Ahimsa, meaning non-violence, is one of the five Yamas outlined in the Yoga Sutras.  In January we were celebrating my sons second birthday with our family, My son and his cousins were playing in his room when all of a sudden a wail let out from one of the cousins, someone had been hit. I will never forget my mother-in-law walking into the room and saying "no violence!" I started laughing because most people would have said "no hitting", but she used the word violence and I think appropriately.  This is a more appropriate use of Ahimsa than how most of us think of being violent.  A broader definition of Ahimsa is given to us by  Nischala Joy Devi in the secret power of yoga she translated Ahimsa as "Embracing reverence and love for all (Ahimsa), we experience oneness." See we can be violent or harming in our thoughts, our words and our actions.  Often times in yoga we talk about Ahimsa in reference to a our physical practice, honoring our body's by not doing a posture that might be harmful. Often times, however, I think we push our body's because of negative personal beliefs about ourselves. What if we first and foremost practiced non-harming thoughts? What if we spoke to ourselves the same way we would speak to a loved one or a child? Personally not only am I happier when I am being kind to myself, but I am more kind to other people. In what ways are you unkind to yourself? How could you realign your thoughts or action to more loving?  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

exercise is not punishment

My friend wrote this amazing blog,  on exercise,  my response to it on Facebook was just going to be too long, so of course I had to write a blog in response!

I have been practicing yoga for about 10 years now and teaching for about 5. Although yoga is very good for you that's not really why I practice it. I practice yoga because doing yoga feels like going to the playground, except all you need is your body.  I am very athletic and always have been, but I was never flexible and I could not do anything that even resembled gymnastics.  The first time I did natarajasana I felt free in a way I had never felt.  Among the many sports I did soccer and track were my favorite. I stopped playing group sports after my freshman year of high school, but I continued to run for exercise so I was super tight, especially in the hips.  After getting in a good workout it felt so good to open up my body the way natarajasana does. As I continued to practice yoga I became completely enthralled by some of the more acrobatic postures. The balance, strength and freedom that is required to succeed in these postures makes you feel like you are 10 again. I have seen it in the faces of so many students, the first time they try headstand  or full wheel in 20 years.  Usually their first response is to start laughing.

Often times I have students ask me how long it took me to do certain yoga postures, usually meaning how many years it took, which is most often how we define our time.  However, in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers he points out it is not years, but hours. "The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert-in anything."   My response to my students when they ask me this is not how many years it took, but how many minutes. I have a yoga practice where I actually set aside an hour or so to do a more complete practice, however, I am always doing yoga. (note: the physical practice of yoga is only one small part of a very deep ocean, but because the discussion is on exercise , that's the part I am discussing.) You could ask anyone who knows me or spends time with me.  I will start stretching anywhere, doesn't matter where I am if my body is calling for it I am going to move.  My whole wardrobe is based on whether I can do the splits in what I am wearing and often if I could go upside down in it.  This is how I think we need to start exercising. By minutes because minutes add up to hours and those hours eventually become years.

There are times in my life when I forget about all of this, when exercise almost becomes a form of punishment where I basically try to beat my body and mind into submission.  It never works though, everything in me revolts from this sort of exercise. What ends up happening instead is I beat myself onto the couch where I can hide from my own unrelenting ego. I think this is what ends up happening to most of us. We don't think we can run a marathon or eat "that disgusting health food,"  we see images of unobtainable bodies that remind us how lacking our own is. It has become a shame based system, one that everyone is trying to cash in on, but this is not how exercising should make us feel.  We were born to move, how that movement is expressed through each individual doesn't matter.  My son cannot even watch TV sitting still. He has to get up and jump around and be apart of the show. This is how we are born, we want to be apart of the show. We want to engage in life.  We do not want to watch it go by on a screen.  As adults we have to get so serious about everything we do and honestly it is a bit ridiculous. People are starting to catch onto this, with things like the tough mudderwarrior dashelectric run and many others that are popping up all over the place.  I hope that these things are not a trend, but a movement where we start to appreciate our bodies and their amazing capabilities, no matter the level of that capability.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

the death grip

I almost died giving birth to my baby. I was probably the least likeliest candidate to have a complication and everything seemed to have gone extremely well. I had my son in about 4 hours and 3 pushes, pretty great for a first timer. After everything seemed to be over the doctor seemed to be taking a while "finishing up," I wont go into the details of what that means, for those of you who haven't had a baby yet, but things had apparently, not gone as well as it had looked from the outside. My cervix had torn and that organ, much like the tongue, has a lot of blood vessels so when it gets torn you start losing a lot of blood very quickly and it is very dangerous.  At first my Doctor didn't say anything, but then she started asking for towels and she calmly explained to me what had happened.  I didn't understand what a big deal this was until she started yelling at the nurses who weren't moving fast enough and then there was a huge rush of people and the atmosphere in the room began to change.  I hadn't had any medication yet and defiantly hadn't had an epidural, so they were going to have to put me completely under, I remember my son was on that table with the heated lights over him and he was still crying as they were moving me to another room to do surgery. I wanted to hold him and tell him he was ok, but I could not, I asked Byron if he was staying with Asher because I didn't want him left without his parents. I was shaking and still losing blood. In the surgery room they kept asking me if I understood what was happening, I must have not been as coherent as I thought because they all seemed to think I didn't know what was happening. They wanted to me to sign a consent form for the surgery, after they had literally strapped me to a table, finally a very sweet nurse grabbed the form and said she was taking it my husband to sign. I remember the anesthesiologist leaning over very close to my face to tell me what he was going to to, he talked to me as you would to a small child who wasn't feeling well, I remember thinking how nice he was. I asked my Doctor if it was ok that I felt very light headed and she said it was just from all the blood I was losing. I don't remember very well, I think I may have passed out before they even put me under, but I do remember my last thought was that I may never wake up again.  
No one else knew what was happening, but when my mom. my mother and father-in-law came into the room they knew something was not right, I was not there, but there was also lots of blood. This really freaked my mom out and I don't think my mother-in-law was doing much better. Byron, of course, sure and steady, knew I would be fine.  I was fine and am fine, as I am writing this right now, however I still have not been able to fully process through this experience. The thing is that I faced death in that moment. I am not saying like oh anyone could die at any moment sort of thing or that anyone doing surgery is put at a risk. I literally knew in that moment right before I was put under that I may never see the world again, my eyes were closed and there was only darkness, I could not hear what was happening around me anymore, there was nothing and I thought this might be the end. Blackness.  I had no emotion to go along with that thought it was just what I thought, something that seemed logical. Everything had happened so quickly that I really didn't have time for it to be scary. I didn't think it was that traumatic. I thought my parents were over reacting when they told everyone I almost died. The thing is though that I was just too scared to hear people say that to me. I could not bare to think that I almost lost my son before I even had a chance to know him and this feeling only gets worse as time goes on because I only love my son more and more and the fear of losing him and not being there for him gets worse.  I had a hard pregnancy and I am defiantly not ready to have another baby yet, but when I think about getting pregnant again, there is always a small little whisper in the back of my head. This little shadow that tells me I might die. I am scared to go through childbirth again, I am scared that I might die. That is what I think about, leaving this world behind and being engulfed by darkness.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How to eat organic when your poor

I was talking to my brother-in-law the other night about how to eat organic food on a budget and I was telling him there are foods that are safer to eat than others, but didn't have the list with me. So at his request here is the list of safer foods as well as the ones that have the most pesticides. I am not going to tell you why you should start eating organic because I don't really care if you want to put pesticides into your body, however, if you are interested in eating healthier without spending as much money this will help.
These are referred to in many places as the "dirty dozen" These fruits and veggies you want to always buy organic (note: This list is from Kashi , I don't know where I got it from, but you can go to Kashi.com/recipes for some organic recipe ideas. )

Apples (these also taste so good organic! Apples are priced by what kind they are so I just buy the cheapest  variety)
Bell Peppers (green bell peppers are usually cheaper so those are the ones I usually buy)
Celery (super cheap so I buy these a lot. I make soups and stock in the winter and ants on a log in the summer)
Cherries (expensive! I rarely buy these)
Grapes (organic grapes mold quickly, so I wash them and put them in clear containers right away, which seems to preserve them longer and it makes it easy to see a bad one)
Nectarines (I don't really like those so I don't really buy them)
Peaches (these also mold quickly, so wash them, let them ripen, peel, slice and them put in containers in the fridge)
Pears (cheap and taste so much better organic, I buy these a lot)
Potatoes (these also mold quickly so I only buy what I need, I never buy those huge bags)
Raspberries (these are also expensive, however my local health food store puts them on sale a lot so I just buy them whenever they are on sale)
Spinach ( I buy frozen spinach because you get a little more bang for your buck, plus its easy to cook with so if we don't have a lot of food this is my go to item)
Strawberries (these are also expensive, however once you have tasted an organic strawberry you will never want to buy non-organic again! Also I will sacrifice many an item on my list so I can afford these when they are in season)

We pretty much eat vegetarian because it is cheaper and healthier. If we do purchase any animal products (i.e. dairy, meat, eggs) I always buy free range and/or organic, not only is it better for the animals, but it is also better for us and the environment.  It is really easy to get enough protein without meat. All you need to do is educate yourself on how to get protein without meat. On top of not buying entirely organic and eating less meat, making things at home is a great way to save money. The more prepared the food is the more it is going to cost. I know that most people would say they don't have time to make more meals at home, but really it is a matter of priorities. Cooking can involve the whole family and it can be very fun! My husband and I trade off cooking depending on if I am working that night or not, so it is not all on my shoulders or his. I have also hunted down and memorized quick and easy recipes for those nights that are rushed or when we are simply too worn out from the day, to make something fancy.  My two favorite vegetarian cookbooks are by the same author, Heidi Swanson. She takes time to educate you on all sorts of new foods, their benefits, and how to use them as substitutes in your regular cooking.  
This is the list of food that is very low in pesticides. I have no idea where this is from, I have it written on a piece of paper hanging on my fridge. So you are going to have to trust me that it is legit! I don't have many comments on these, except that it is better to buy local of anything when you can.

Sweet corn
Sweet peas 
Sweet potato

Thursday, June 28, 2012

burning the ego

I think we would all like to be a little more humble. I don't think anyone would dislike it if they were described as being humble, but I don't think that most of us desire to BE humbled.  I have had some experiences recently where light was shown on those dark place inside of me and I was horrified by what I saw.  It was one of those moments where your like "I am an awful person."  I am not talking about when we are dragging ourselves through the mud, but where something has happened and we have the realization that we suck.  These haven't been realizations you can brush aside and forget about.  My true self has been shown and there is no going back.
 I have spent almost my whole life on a quest to better myself, well more like perfect myself. I have done everything that I felt was necessary and  it has been hard, it has been painful, and I have been unhappy for most of it.  So to do all this work and find out that I am still a complete and total asshole is a bit disheartening. When our eyes are opened to who we truly and wholly are, humility should be our first, or at the very least, second emotion.  I fully believe that each and everyone of us is unique, beautiful, and sacred. I also believe we are all imperfect, selfish and capable of doing horrible things. To become humble, to be humbled, is not a happy experience. In yoga we talk about Tapas, or fire, as a means to burn away toxins, blocked energy or whatever garbage we are holding onto. All that sounds good and nice, except that when we are talking about Tapas we are usually talking about the burning sensation that has started to develop in your muscles from holding the posture so long, or having done abs to the point where you are sure your body can do no more.  In those moments I think most of us want to tell Tapas to "F Off" and we would like to keep our garbage, thank you very much. It is not easy to continue to do something once it has become uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just plain hard.  So many times in life I have been at the doorstep to some new path or new truth, but it just seems too hard to obtain, I want to turn back, or go around, or perhaps just stay right where I am because what's in front of me seems too hard or too scary. How many times have we been willing to sacrifice growth and wisdom for the sake of comfort and safety? How many of us have seen all that we could be, but at the last second backed out for fear of failure? I was reading one of my old journals a couple nights ago and I had written this quote on the inside of the cover:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach for another is to risk involvement
To expose your feeling is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crown is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To believe is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves; they have forfeited their freedom
Only a person who risks is free
-Anonymous Chicago teacher

To grow, to create, to be become new involves risk, it involves stepping out of your comfort zone, and it often involves getting hurt. As I have mentioned before and am sure to mention again and again, I have dealt with depression on and off through a lot of my life and it has truly sucked. I honestly thought at times that I would simply fall over and die. What I have come to realize is that through all that pain and suffering, beauty and life have sprung forth. If I had not suffered for so long I would not be who I am right now.  In those dark times and dark places of my life I did not thank God for my suffering, I was in no way happy, I did not see any future blessing, and often, I simply hoped there would be no future.  I use that word suffer because that's what I did. I was in pain, I felt as though all of my insides were dying and I know that I am not the only one who has felt that way, so many of us walk around carrying these burdens with us.  However, because I felt the way I did, I  was driven forward in life; I was driven to stop hurting, to fight the agony that was overwhelming me.  Most of the things I have done in life were in search of peace and happiness. I have been trying to find a balance in my life. I have had so many blessings on this journey and none of that would have happened had I not spent so many years in pain.  Even now when I am going through a hard time I am not happy. I complain the whole time and drag my feet whining like a small child. I cannot wait for it to be over, then when it is over, and I have received the fruits of my half-assed labor I look back and see what God was doing and realize how silly I was being. Right now I think God is humbling me. I  feel my ego being burned and I don't like it. Although I very much like the idea of being humble, of letting my ego go, it really doesn't feel good during the process. To have my shadow self brought fully into the light is a disappointing and an uncomfortable experience. However I can think of no faster way of destroying my ego, then looking at myself completely and honestly. I will close with this quote from Erwin McManus' book Uprising:

Humility's closest attribute is honesty. Humility doesn't require us to be self-deprecating. Humility is not about having a low self-image or poor self-esteem. Humility is about self-awareness. It is important to be self-aware in relationship to our gifts, talents, skills and intellect, but in regard to our spiritual health, it is far more essential that we are self-aware in the arena of personal character. If you see yourself for who you are and embrace it honestly, humility is the natural result.  God isn't asking you to say something about yourself that isn't true. God is asking that we take a good, long look in the mirror and see ourselves for who we truly are, and then after that, to have the courage to ask for help. 
Our humility allows God's intervention. The word humble comes from humus, which is simply translated "earth" or "dirt." Humility is about coming to grips with our humanity. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Lately I have been wanting to find more freedom in my life. I want to be free of certain things in myself, but also be free to be myself.  I see different pictures or quotes and I think "I want that!"  I imagine myself running wild through a field with the wind in my hair and not a care in the world. The problem is freedom doesn't just appear on your doorstep, take over all your responsibility's and say "the world is yours." Freedom is not free. There are somethings I believe are freely given, but most things are obtained not given.  I love this story Erwin McManus tells in his book Uprising.

Although the student had the opportunity, he really didn't have the freedom. Opportunity and freedom are not the same thing. Chris's freedom to play the full spectrum of music, to passionately express the music within his soul, was only available to him as a result of years and years of discipline. Discipline can be confused with conformity. Many times we run from discipline or at least resist it because we feel we are being forced to conform in the most negative sense of the word. No one wants to be a clone. No one's life ambition is to be a carbon copy of someone else (except, of course, all those Elvis impersonators). Yet the irony is that when we forsake discipline in our attempt to avoid conformity, we lose our potential to be truly free. 

I was thinking about all this as I was running the other day, sometimes when I run it feels like freedom, it loosens something within me and I will end up sprinting with no effort at all. Most days are not like that though and this was not one of those days. I was tired and longed to feel the freedom of running, but instead I felt like I was dragging myself through the routine and no matter how hard I tried it was not going to get easier.  The thought occurred to me, more than once, that perhaps I was pushing myself too hard and should just walk or head back home, but if I only ran when it felt like I was floating on the earth I would probably never run.  I was thinking about the feeling of floating over the earth as I ran, but the thing is, this is a rather new feeling. I have almost always found joy in running, but the sensation of floating over the earth with ease has only started happening in the last month or so.  I have been working on my form and my energy as I run, I have been observing myself as I run, not just my form, but my thoughts as well. This is taken extra work and energy as well as me setting my ego aside to take a slower pace for the sake of keeping my form.  The fruit of this, of course, is that I have found when everything lines up just so, I can run without any effort at all. It literally feels as though my feet are floating over the earth. All this made me think about freedom and what McManus had said about it.  I thought about it most of the run, about how I view freedom as me running wild in a field, but really freedom looks much more like William Wallace at the end of Braveheart. Freedom takes work, discipline, and effort. Working towards freedom may mean creating boundaries and  disciplines that feel a lot like losing our freedom, but it is through these that we are able to find the freedom to express what lays within our hearts. 

Monday, May 28, 2012


I have been thinking a lot about what we put our energy toward and how attached we are to the outcome.  In yoga there is this idea of acting for the sake of acting, for the longest time I thought it was so stupid because I thought it meant we should have no passion or goals or desires, but as I began studying more of the yogic texts I finally realized what it really meant. We are to let go of the outcome of our actions, but not let go of the desire to act.  T.K.V. Desikachar puts this beautifully in The Heart of Yoga he writes "paying more attention to the spirit in which we act and looking less to the results our actions may bring us--this is the meaning of Isvarapranidhana in kriya yoga."  Desikachar gives the definition of Isvarapranidhana as "the yielding of all action to God, the renunciation of the desire for the fruits for all action." It wasn't until I was talking to my husband today that this idea came back to me.
This past month my husband and I have been fasting from TV and video games, at first it was just fine, but about 2 weeks in I started to get really irritated and frustrated by it, mostly because I had more time to think about my life and what I am doing with it.  I had the realization that I have been putting a lot of energy into things that were pointless. I would sometimes surf on the internet for hours looking at things I couldn't afford all the while neglecting what I already had. I also noticed how much effort I would spend thinking about the outcome of different situations or actions, even though I had no control over what would actually happen. I have basically been driving myself nuts for the past few years. Only after cutting out these distractions was I able to see that I needed to let go of the results and not only look at how I was trying to get those results, but also learn to appreciate the path I was taking to get what I wanted.
The other day my husband pointed out to me how I seemed to be jumping from one thing to the next without even completing what I had started, I didn't really want to hear that, but it's true.  As a result of that conversation, and a few books I have been reading, I have began leaning heavily into God. Asking Him  for help and guidance while also trying to let go of what I am asking for.  Doing this has given me the opportunity to really experience what is at hand rather than worrying about what might happen in the future.  It is amazing how relaxed I have been the over the last week. I hadn't  realized how much I worried about everything in my life until I was able to let go.  There have been some pretty tough situations in which I have noticed myself getting all revved up and I can honestly say that it is such a relief to take a deep breath and let go.
I think I should also let you know that the more I have leaned on God the more my life seems to fall into place, I am not talking about big things here, just my day to day life. Everything seems to work out just the way it is supposed to.  Since I have been focusing on this a lot lately I have noticed how much myself and others put so much energy into the results our actions will bring, all the while missing out on this whole beautiful flow of life happening around us.  How often do we get so focused on one small little thing we are trying to accomplish that  we are unable to appreciate the process we are going through. How many nuggets of wisdom do we miss in life because we have all our energy focused on completing the task? There is so much more to learn in our actions, so much more to gain on the path than there is at the destination. As Americans we can get very caught up in the idea of deserving something, we think we are "owed" things. Why though? Can we really know why everything that happens happens? Are we able to see the future or understand how every decision we make affects the people around us or even ourselves? I know for myself how angry and frustrated I get when things don't go the way I thought they would, but in this process of relying on God I have found how silly my anger often is. So many times what I have perceived as a problem has actually been a blessing.  It is SO HARD  to let go of the results of our actions, but it is SO MUCH HARDER to hold onto  them.