Monday, March 28, 2011

my dear student,

I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved grandmother and for the fact that, when you told me, I offered you little comfort.  As a student, and not as a teacher, I always get a deer-in-the-headlights feeling when things like this arise.  My first instinct is always to draw from the say that our lives are in divine hands, that many of things that happen to us require more faith than understanding, that the sadness that we feel after loss or heartbreak of any kind is bittersweet because it is evidence that we have been fortunate enough to have loved and been touched by another.  But when I see the sadness in your eyes, all of that sounds trite...simple, and so I say nothing and then later regret it.  If I could go back, I would give you a huge hug and I would draw from the teachings because, even when things feel darkest, I believe in them with my whole heart. 

And so, the question for us all is: Will you let loss split you wide open, soften you, increase your capacity for compassion, and gratitude, and love or will you allow it to harden you, cause you to retreat into yourself?  For me, my commitment remains to transparency, authenticity, and, above all else, loving fearlessly.

When sadness visits me, I read Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ask and you shall receive

I think that it is rather unfortunate that my best thinking happens at the most inopportune times...i.e. the shower.  And when I'm in the shower, the thoughts seem really brilliant and I feel this intense clarity, but by the time I can jot them down, they seem fragmented and I wonder if they would even make sense to anyone but me...

Anyway, here is the fragmented shower-thought that I will be discussing in this week's classes...

This quiet whisper of a voice came to me, without context or commentary, and it said, "It isn't about finding the answers, it's about learning to ask the right questions..."  And then the voice was gone, leaving me to decipher this on my own.  We fervently and futilely search for the answers, the solutions, the things that will lead us into the light...I am starting to think they don't exist.  Because to have an answer, to know something, implies permanence, and this finite understanding cannot exist in a dynamic world through which the winds of change are always blowing.  And I realized that the progress of my own practice can be measured by the fact that being able to ask the important questions has become so much more important than actually answering them.  It takes courage to be open and honest enough to ask these questions that require us to continuously reflect upon and refine our life practice; this courage is what I wish for you...

Rilke also has something to say on this matter:

be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

on my mat : scratching the itch (or not)

Do you have the patience to wait 
until you mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving 
till the right action arises by itself?
                     LAO-TZU, Tao-te-Ching

This week in class, we are playing with the idea of being non-doers, or at least non-off-the-cuff reactors.  It seems that whenever anything "undesirable" comes our way, be it anger or sorrow or garden-variety discomfort, our natural reaction is to meet it with "What am I going to DO?"  What we mean is, "What am I going to do to make it go away?"  So here is an interesting idea...what would happen if we didn't do anything?  What if we just sat still and invited in the discomfort and observed it with patience and compassion?  What often happens is that it passes and we see that these feelings are temporary and, like all else, drift by like clouds in an otherwise clear sky.  Pema Chodron refers to these feelings as being "itchy" and to our habitual patterns of relieving them as "scratching."  Ironically, scratching the itch, though it offers temporary relief, only makes you itchier; remember the chicken pox?  It's like that.  Of course, sometimes, when the initial bout of itchiness subsides, we realize that some sort of action is required. However, the action plan born out of clarity looks much different than the plan that is hatched from blind emotion;  I think we can agree that our first inclination does not always yield the best results. Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles to make the distinction?  I am working on it.

And, so, perhaps your intention this week is to cultivate a willingness to be itchy...


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

this is kind of embarrassing, but...

I cry a lot.  I mean, A LOT.  The simplest of beauties or joys moves me to a place where, if I didn't cry, then awe would surely split me wide open at the seams.  This tendency of mine has only exacerbated by the acquisition of this small piece of heaven that I now call home.  My husband and I bought an old farm, a sanctuary smack dab in the center of suburbia, and have spent the last few months renovating it.  We are the first to own it outside of the original farm family and, as I putter around, I find evidence of other lives spent here; old newspapers, trinkets, tools, horse halters and bridles carefully hung on hooks along the barn walls.  As I turn these treasures over in my hands, I imagine their daily lives, who they were, and what inspired them.  My love of this place, connects me to these would-be-friends of mine in a way I never considered possible.

When I turn into my driveway, I turn the music off and roll down the windows, no matter how cold it is, so that I can listen to the creek that runs the length of the drive as it rushes along beside me.  On some days, the hawk that shares this property with us flies just ahead of the car, guiding me home.  Soon, when the leaves of the trees return, the branches will reach out for one another and form a canopy over the drive, and sunshine will spill through, illuminating places here and there.

I usually make it halfway down the driveway before I begin to cry.  People have said that once I get used to it here, I won't be so affected.  I hope they are wrong.  I hope I never get so used to the beauty of this life that I cease to be moved to tears.


on my mat: tuesday vinyasa at shambhala poughkeepsie

I realized this morning that by getting up at 5:00a.m, two and a half hours before anyone else,  I acquire almost an entire extra day of me time by the end of the week!  After my ritualistic checking of my favorite blogs and my 1.5 cups of coffee, I hit the mat with Kathryn Budig's Energizing Flow.  Her "Sun A on crack" has me so ready for the day; I can't wait to share it at my 9:30 Vinyasa Flow at Shambhala Poughkeepsie; come prepared to move!!!


Monday, March 21, 2011

on my bookshelf: april's read

I have always, always wanted to be in a book group and now it, like so many other things, has finally come to fruition.  We are in the process of choosing April's book...Any Suggestions?!

in my kitchen: soup's on

This is one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook.  My son LOVES broccoli soup and this one sneaks some extra protein into it.  Tonight, I left out the peas and added some shredded cheddar and a splash of ale into the mix. Crusty bread is a must.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium/large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 broccoli crowns
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • One 16-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 cup low-fat milk (substitute rice or soy for vegan option)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Putting it Together:
  • Heat oil in soup pot and add onion.  Saute until golden (aprox. 5-7 minutes)
  • Add broccoli, bouillon, and 4 cups of water.  Bring to a simmer, cover and continue gently simmering for about 8 minutes
  • Transfer to a food processor, puree until smooth, and return mixture to pot.  Puree the beans and 1 cup of peas and add them to the pot.
  • Add enough milk to give the soup a medium thick consistency.  Stir in the remaining peas and cheese (if using).  Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.

I love listening to music while I cook!  Tonight was Madeline Peyroux: 

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on my mat: saluting the sun

One of my favorite things about planning a class is Sun Salutations; here is what I am loving right now:

- Beginning standing in Mountain at the front of your mat
- Inhale, sweeping the arms overhead, gazing at the thumbs
- Exhale, diving over the legs
- Inhale, Lengthening the spine
- Exhale, planting the hands and jumping to Down Dog
- Dropping both knees & inhaling to Cow
- Exhale, Lowering chest & chin
- Inhale, Baby Cobra
- Exhale, Child's Pose to Downward Facing Dog
- Inhale to Plank
- Exhale Chaturanga or Knees-Chest-Chin
- Inhale to Upward Facing Dog or Cobra
- Exhale to Downward Facing Dog; Stay for 5 Breaths
- Exhale, deeply bending the knees & hopping or stepping forward
- Inhale, Lengthen the Spine
- Exhale, Fold
- Inhale, Reversing your swan dive and returning to Mountain
- Repeat x3

Sunday, March 13, 2011

a penny for your thoughts...

My blog, that has been standing empty for weeks, finally has words!  I am thrilled about the idea of writing, connecting with you, whoever you are, and sharing this glorious journey with you.  I am struck by the beauty of simple things.  I stand completely in awe of this life.  I am committed to fully living every single second.  I am seduced by:
  • the way the sunlight dances on the creek
  • old barns
  • clothes lines and the smell of fresh laundry
  • the woods...everything about the woods
  • the velvety nose of a horse
  • creaky floors
  • the smell of wood
  • front porches
  • poetry and prose
  • the sticky hands of children
  • Golden Retrievers
  • berries
  • sunrises
What takes your breath away?!