Staying Sane in a Turbulent World

Outside a gentle rain is falling on the tin roof of the cabin. Curled up in bed with my laptop, the slanted ceiling of the bedroom loft is alive with the sound of rain. My gaze lands on the sloped hillside outside the second story window where the colors of fall light up the landscape even through the rain. The leaves of the trees blow freely in the wind. I am present, tuned into the clicking of the keys as I type, the rhythm of the breath inside me, and the changing beat of the drops on the roof. In this moment, the world is safe and quiet, a simple heaven of sight, sound and touch.  

This week I am spending a few days in a cabin in the woods, hiking, writing, and watching the stars. For a time, the rhythm of the days are not determined by the ping of the phone, the arrival of emails and the busy preparation for yoga class, offering my energy and presence to others; for a time I am offering the gift of presence to myself. The reward of this attention is clarity, inner quiet, and the exquisite sweetness of moving slowly. The morning rain is an added bonus, a message from nature to take my time. Read More »

Patience and Letting Go

At the end of my recent nine day training at the Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, I was asked to reflect on what I wanted to remember about being there and the teachings I learned. If I reduced this to two words, they would be “patience” and “letting go.”

For me, patience most often happens when I have taken the time to center myself in the morning in preparation for the day ahead. Then, throughout the day, using my breath to relax and soften into life just as it is has been invaluable. Maybe it’s a “letting go” breath (deep breath in, big exhale with a sigh) or maybe it’s a longer meditation that’s required and it can mean the difference from being caught in striving or centering softly into the present. Read More »

The Story of No Story

Yoga teaches us that when we identify with our “story” (an identity or belief that is developed from our individual ego rather than identifying with our true nature) we are suffering, blinded by illusion. I was originally introduced to this idea by Sudakar Ken McRae and the concept allowed me to move beyond the limiting beliefs of my mind that held me hostage for many years. As a result of that I rarely talk about my experience with chronic illness because I do no longer define myself by that story. Yoga practices (Big Y Yoga) allowed me to use connection to the present moment to overcome the limitations I once experienced in body that therefore impacted my mind. However, I am making an exception to revisit my past experiences and share them with you.

II was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) when I was 16, unfortunately it was a very severe case. After years of suffering from anemia, pain, malnutrition and frequent hospitalizations I was sent to the Mayo Clinic to have the diseased gut removed at age 29. Unfortunately, the surgery resulted in a confounding number of other complications including obstruction, infection, and poor motility resulting in frequent hospitalizations for about 8 more years. My life at that time was one of severe pain and was limited by this severe illness.
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Resistance is Futile

There are three things I know about myself; I hate change, I resist change and my “story” is that change is not my friend. Simultaneously there are two things I know about the Universe; everything changes and resistance is futile.

Last week was a whopper, a butt kicker, a doosie (insert your favorite phrase here). In the midst of said week things were coming at me from all directions. My survival method kicked in, I put my head down and plowed through. Finally, on Thursday morning space opened up in my schedule and I had a moment to hit pause.  The feel of the sun on my skin and the sound of the wind chimes on the porch softened the gripping on my body and in my mind. Sitting in quiet reflection I was able to step back and become aware of why I felt so shut down mentally and emotionally. During this pause I became aware that my friend resistance was sitting next to me.
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Books on the Bedside Table

Reading has been a lifelong source of inspiration and growth for me since I was a child. Many a day of my childhood was spent in another world, reading the day away. Walter Farley’s book, The Runaway Stallion moved me so as a child that I decided to become a horse racing jockey (true story). I wrote my first book about horse racing when I was 6, cut it into small squares and bound it with yarn, proving my dedication to both horses and literature.

My time and interest for writing has come and gone through the years, but reading remains central to my growth personally and as a teacher of Yoga. One of the challenges to teaching yoga and running a studio is that my attention is divided into so many roles leaving little time for reading fiction, so yoga philosophy and spiritual texts are what fill my bedside table. When I find myself feeling stagnant and in need of inspiration in my practice or teaching, I reach for these books to distill down the central teachings of yoga or the spiritual traditions.

On My Reading Table:

Daily InspirationThe Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo is my daily companion. More often than not his writings apply deeply to some edge of exploration or growth that is taking place in my life. This is my current daily meditation and reflection read that I dive into each morning.
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