Climbing as we fall…

“Climbing as we fall, we dare to hold on to our fate…” The Stairs, from the album X by INXS. 

In high school, INXS was my all-time favorite band. Their cassettes are still in my room, and their CDs still in the car. Although their music is also somewhere in the Cloud, nothing will replace popping that little rectangular piece of hard plastic and brown tape into the boombox, that satisfying thunk of the door closing, and those wheels turning as the scratchy opening chords pour through the speakers until the singer starts crooning, and I am whisked away to anyplace else. Music truly is the universal language. But, I digress…

Ishvara Pranidhana, or Surrender to the Divine, is what came to mind with this snippet of the song, “The Stairs.” A big part of yoga (or Yoga, more accurately,) is putting in the work, but then letting go of the outcome. Sorta like what I imagine teaching a little kid to ride a bike is like. You hold the back of the seat, and maybe a handle bar, run alongside, but eventually, let go and allow the kid to fly. And you’re there if/when knees scrape. 

In layman’s terms, put in the time, blood, sweat and tears, but then. Let. It. Go. It’s not to say give up or resign yourself to the Fates being in control. We  still have to take right action. We still need to learn, listen, and grow. But, the outcome is not ours to govern. We need to be in this moment, right here, right now. The results are as-yet undetermined. Que será, será – Whatever will be, will be. 

The verse that follows the above-mentioned quote goes on to say this: “Climbing as we fall/We dare to hold on to our fate/And steal away our destiny/To catch ourselves with quiet grace.” Reread that. I’ll wait. 

It takes tenacity to dust one’s self off after the umpteenth setback. It takes gumption to try new things. But it takes grace, quiet or otherwise, to cut ourselves some slack when it all goes sideways. How can we come more fully into our Dharma? 

Grace is fluidity of movement, ease of movement, but is effortless. (Or at least it looks that way from the outside. Unless I’m off the mat, then I am a total klutz. This speaks to paying attention. I do not agree with “how you do one thing is how you do everything. That’ll be revisited in a future blog post.) 

We catch ourselves because we are the heroes and heroines of our own stories. We steal away our destiny by carving our own path: grab a scythe and slice your way through the muck and mire. We move forward, because the past is past. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. 

If this resonated with you, please feel free to comment below or drop me an email. Until our mats unfurl again, be well.

-M

“Don’t waste away ’til you’re gone…”

“Don’t waste away until you’re gone” – Kocaine Karolina by Elle King

Elle King is a country singer who dabbles in country, rock and blues. But that’s not what this is about. Let’s go back to the quote, shall we? To me, this smacks of Dharma. Loosely translated as purpose, it can be said to be one’s raison d’être, or reason for being. 

What gets you up and out of bed in the morning? (Not the alarm clock, your fur baby, your human baby, your partner, or your a.m. cuppa.) What motivates you to do “just one more thing” to be better, to be stronger, to read that one chapter more before going home to family. Or maybe it is the family that motivates you? Who are you doing it all for? 

How can you serve? What is your purpose? How can you drink from the cup of life and savor and use up every drop? After all, this human form is a sort of way station until we get to next, right? 

Another quote that struck me is from INXS: “don’t burn the library ’til you’ve read all the books.” To me, this is telling us to soak up as much knowledge as possible, before striking out on our own. Didn’t the Founding Fathers scrap the Articles of Confederation by razing it, to beget the Declaration of Independence? 

It goes back to this sense of you can’t take it with you so use it all up while you’re here. Along these same lines, an Eagles quote: “we may lose, and we may win…but we will never be here again.” This moment is all we have. The past is gone, the future’s not here yet. We have a gift: that’s why it’s called the present. 

Please comment below if any of this resonates with you. Until our mats unfurl again, be well.

-M

Alright tonight

“You came down a twisted up road…you’ve been traveling for light years…wait to begin again, lifted above by a love that does not end,” so penned John Hiatt. 

What does it mean to ‘practice with a beginner’s mind’? We are shaped by our experiences, this much is true. We are not, however, those experiences themselves. No matter what you do (your 127th Adho Mukha Svanasana aka downward-facing dog, your 1st one, your road test, racing a loved one to the hospital before the baby comes, or choose-your-own-adventure,) there will be an opportunity to begin again. Each moment comes once, then is gone, lost to the annals of time. There is no yesterday, and no tomorrow. (Metaphorically, ‘natch. Bills still have to be paid, bunnies brushed, kitties fed, papers graded, and dishwashers emptied. #adulting #adultingisoverrated) 

In the Bhagavad Gita, our hero goes through journeys real and imagined. He is a young man, a (perhaps reluctant) warrior, and a deep thinker with a deep-seeded (-seated?*) insecurity, always needing to get counsel or confirmation from his faithful companion. Eventually, he becomes a man, coming into his own. 

But, he was sure put through his paces first! He dusted himself off, and kept going, through that twisted up road. Can I get a do-over? Wait, lemme do it again! I do it, all by myself 😉 

Is the insecurity he feels seeded, as in planted within, only to sprout if it’s incorrectly or unecessarily watered? Or is that insecurity seated in the Muladhara chakra, (the root one,) where security and safety reside if uncovered and allowed to? 

Where does the “love that does not end” originate? We can learn to tap into that within ourselves (but maybe top off with friends, family and partners.)

What happens when life (Life?) knocks you down? How do you turn your pain into purpose? Everyone has gone through something. What have you done with that?

Incidentally, this post went in a different direction than initially intended, but then again, don’t most characters take over & write the (their?) story? This is a song off Paula Abdul’s 1991 album, Spellbound. It’s called “alright tonight.” It’s a catchy little ditty with a Caribbean feel. Who knew what gems lay within? The writer, it seems, was *quite* prolific, although none of the titles rang any bells of mine. 

If this resonated with you, feel free to comment below. Until our mats unfurl again, be well.

-M

Bandanas

Aparigraha, or non-grasping in Sanskrit, is a tough one for yours truly. One of my orange bandanas is almost as old as my Yoga practice. (Ahem, 2k!) It is discolored, and paint-splattered, but it’s mine. It has a logo of sorts (a tourist trap from a cruise to Mexico taken 100yrs ago) so it can only be worn folded two ways. Another one is no longer a fun shade of green, but a sad, washed-out paler shade of pale. The text, a band whom I’ve never listened to, is no longer readable. I still have the tee-shirt from my senior play in high school. It’s no longer fit for human consumption, so to speak, but it’s good for gardening. 

(Aside – do your tee-shirts go through a cycle? “Good” ones for work, “cute” ones for socializing, “eh” ones for sleeping, and “ew” ones for yard work? Final step is rags for nasty garage and basement jobs.) 

One of the poses recommended in the Yoga Toolbox, written by Joseph & Lilian LePage, recommends Tadasana, or mountain pose, as something that might help with a reticence to LET. IT. GO. If you think about it, mountains don’t hold onto much. The snow may land there, but eventually it melts and runs off. The rocks may crumble and roll on down to the valley below. The birds may nest there, but you’ve got to leave said nest sometime.*

This harkens back to the Meat Loaf post from last (this?) week. (The weeks all kinda blend together at this point, no?) Do what you can while you’re here. Use it all up! Ya can’t take it with you :). As my all-time favorite band in high school sang, “Love: don’t abuse it, and you’ll never be sad again. I’m on my way!” INXS. This means do all things with love. I imagine it’s like teaching your kid to ride a bike: you run alongside, helping them balance, eventually letting go (literally) and letting the knees scrape as they may. Put the effort in, but don’t get hung up on the results. 

What can you let go of? What are you holding onto? What’s holding you back? (Let’s not go to town and empty all the drawers. There are some sentimental items worth holding onto, after all. And scanned photographs for the rest.) Perhaps it’s not literal, but figurative? Grudges? Resentments? Silly spats? Digest it before it digests you. 

*Just to play devil’s advocate, though, some things do take root on ye ole Mount Mossy. We have a sad pinetree nicknamed the Charlie Brown Christmas tree in a small flat area with 1/64th” of soil most likely, and it’s hanging on, and has even sprouted some new cones. They’re red! 

In short, as Alie Ward from the Ologies podcast says to paraphrase, Text your crush. Cut bangs. We’re all gonna die. 

Incidentally, new bandanas came today. They’re in the hamper so they can soften up before taming my abundance of hair. (Thanks, Dad!) 

Feel free to comment below if this resonated with you, or if you have questions. Until our mats unfurl again, be well. -M

Quit Loafin’ Around!

“Everything louder than everything else!”, sung by Meat Loaf, written by Jim Steinman

“Who’m I, why’m I here? Forget the questions someone get me another beer!” This weekend began the 2nd of two foundational modules in the Yoga Therapy program I’m currently enrolled in, for which I will earn an advanced certificate. One of the presenters gave a talk about Abhinivesha, or the fear of death and loss. As Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” 

What does all this mean? To me, we need to cultivate Anantya, or the Endless, Eternal, Infinite. Once we, ahem, shirk this mortal coil, (thanks, Dad, for such colorful phrasing,) what are we left with? Many say our soul/Soul goes on, and will eventually find another physical form to inhabit. 

Back to The Loaf. The song goes on to say, “What’s the meaning of life? What’s the meaning of it all? Ya gotta learn to dance before you learn to crawl!” Let’s enjoy what we have while we’re here. Let’s live irreverently, fully, messily, while still practicing Ahimsa, or non-harming.  Let’s leave a legacy – whether you choose to have children, or leave all your worldly possessions to charity, or your cat, or even that you told off-color jokes at the office holiday shindig, to your boss’ boss. 

Everyone and everything will eventually die, this much we know. (At least in *this* lifetime!) What will you do with your time here? Not to say don’t plan, but if you’re miserable, what are you going to do about it? How will you be remembered? “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me”, Erma Bombeck. 

After all, “there’s a party raging somewhere in the world!” Feel free to comment below if this resonated with you. Until our mats unfurl again, be well. -M

Salt water, for whatever ails ya!

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea,” Isak Dinesen

Ain’t that the truth! (Also known as Satya – Truthfulness) Who doesn’t feel better after working up a good sweat? Truth be told, I hate sweating when I’m not supposed to be, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post. When you’re sweating, moving, in the zone, you feel great. Your muscles are firing, you’re flowing, maybe even graceful, everything works in concert. When your workout is finished, you’ve used it all up – anger, frustration, lethargy, electrolytes, extra sugar, aimless energy. A weight has been lifted, whether it’s cuz you put down those DUMBbells, or because you put your focus, or Dharana (Concentration in Sanskrit) on something outside the incessant chatter of your monkey mind. 

Tears can be so cathartic. Did you know that there are three kinds? Basal, reflex, and emotional. Let’s get the first two out of the way, to get to the good stuff. Basal tears are for house-keeping: they lubricate the cornea, and fight against infection as part of the immune system. Reflex tears are what they sound like – these wash away foreign bodies such as what’s released when you chop those onions you insist on frying up for dinner. They are produced in copious amounts! 

Emotional tears are the ones we’re focusing on here. Who’s laughed ‘til they cried? Who’s angry-cried? Who’s watched a sappy movie on the greeting-card channel to cry on purpose? These tiny but mighty droplets have hormones in them, which wash away your intense feelings. This helps to “use it all up” in a different way.

Ah, the sea! As kids, my Dad took us fishing off the coast of City Island, in the Bronx, NY. (Probably not too far from where he grew up.) It was a tough sell, getting up before the sun, putting on ratty clothes, eating white bread sandwiches made with goodness-knows-what, the smell of diesel, getting sunburnt, oftentimes getting skunked (i.e. not catching anything). The selling point for me? (Besides bringing home food I caught myself, of course). Sitting on the water. The gentle sway of the boat, the shimmering caps on the small waves, the smell of the salty air, being surrounded by nothing. This didn’t really use it all up: it filled me. 

How do you incorporate salt water into your life? Comment below to share how you work up a sweat, the last time you cried for whatever reason, or you were in, on, or near the water. Until our mats unfurl again, be well. 

-M

“Alright: stop, collaborate & listen!”

While the 90s rapper born Robert Matthew Van Winkle (whom many of us all know better as Vanilla Ice) isn’t necessarily the first name that pops into one’s head when thinking yogically, this quote really spoke to me. (Try not to “sing” the next lyric, and come along for the ride.)

Alright. Is it a bastardization of “all + right”? Hope not, since we’re not! “Al” could also be a contraction like in Spanish – a is the preposition to/at, and el (the, masculine)  combine because the vowels don’t play well together. Thus, a + el = al. Is it, in other words, “to the right”? Hm…Alright, let’s get on with it! Pun intended? You decide. 

How do we stop doing whatever we’ve been doing that just isn’t serving us? To borrow a phrase, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Change is hard, but it’s unlikely to stop anytime soon, if ever. (See the “we need the storm” blog from last week.) 

A support system is paramount. It can come through ritual – a hug & kiss when seeing a friend or loved one, it can come through routine – tongue-scraping first thing in the morning, or habit – always putting your keys in the same spot to facilitate finding them. 

New grooves take time to settle in and become the norm. Give yourself that gift – patience, in small sips or baby steps. And forgive slip-ups. If they don’t happen, you’re not trying hard enough.

(Side note: who remembers Susan Powter – “stop the insanity!”)  

The import of the concept of Sangha, or community in Sanskrit, cannot be overstated at this present moment. How can we get out of our own heads, out of our own bubbles, and begin to work together to affect change? How can we begin to abandon or at least put to the side the concept of mine vs. yours, and begin to talk about ours? Humans are hard-wired to crave connection, and social interaction. How can we tread new paths towards a brighter, more egalitarian future for everyone under the sun?

What does collaboration mean? Collaborating necessitates bringing our own experiences to discussions, looking to neither dominate discourse, nor subjugate others’ ideas, but to work together. It can mean putting pen to paper, joining a book club, marching, calling the powers that be, or none of the above. Perhaps it’s as simple as a favorite beverage sipped and savored in the company of a like-minded individual. 

What about non-like-minded individuals? Can we reach across the aisle to hold hands literally or figuratively? (Not during COVID, of course, unfortunately, but you get the idea.) 

Practicing Yoga (asana, or what’s thought of in the West as “doing Yoga”) together, IRL, in real time, is a whole different experience. It’s funny – OMing at the beginning of class is centering and grounding. OMing at the end of class is a whole different animal! Somehow everyone has gotten on the same page by the end of class, and we’re all in tune (even those who, ahem, make a joyful noise). 

There’s an old axiom that’s paraphrased thusly: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. 

Listening is the reason some say we have two ears and one mouth. What or who are you listening to? What are you digesting? Is it too much fast food, is it too much mindless TV, is it a past experience that was none-to-pleasant? Anything any of your senses absorb and experience is digestion – not just food. Try not to ruminate: it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t wanna live there. Take what you can from each experience, then move forward. 

Is anyone else working towards Samadhi, or spiritual union? Please feel free to chime in below if this post resonated with you. Until our mats unfurl again, be well.

“We need the storm…”

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but the thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, & the earthquake,” Frederick Douglass 

Tapas is one of the branches of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It means “Spiritual Discipline,” or burning zeal in practice. Some say how you do one thing, is how you do everything.

What lights your fire? How do you practice (Yoga, piano, the latest Tik Tok shenanigans, your grandma’s recipe)? Do you read a how-to book? Take a class? Discuss with friends? Watch pros or amateurs? Mindlessly scroll through Pinterest or go down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos? Run scales? Mamma made me mash my M n’ Ms… is how I got to Soprano territory in high school – burning desire to hit the high notes. (Ahem, apparently there’s such a thing as vocal puberty, and those glass-breakers are long gone. Alas, firmly planted in Alto land, I am happy to grab the mic at any and all opportunity!) 

I digress…What’s coming up for me lately is that it’s time for change. It’s been time, but here we are. Change is hard, and the path isn’t always clear. (Bonus quote from Melissa Etheridge: “the only thing that stays the same is change.”) Overwhelm happens by and makes itself comfortable. Right. Beside. Me. 

What works for me is setting a timer. I will read, or clean, or clear my inbox for a certain amount of time. (Full disclosure: sometimes it’s for my Yoga practice, too. Lots of adulting that just won’t wait means squeeze it in when you can, and make the most of it. Note: making the most of it may mean Viparita Karani – legs up the wall, and other restorative postures. Not every practice has to leave one dripping with sweat and spent.) 

Most of those instances spill over into a lot longer work period once momentum gains traction and whee! On the way to productivity. 

Just the other day, I was speaking with someone in real estate. The share was that people don’t want to replace a furnace, because you can’t see its effects. They want big, splashy kitchens & other obvious redos. But, what you don’t “see” is peace of mind, and hopefully a lower bill. But all those things take desire, and vision. 

How do you motivate yourself? How do you channel your desire to get better at something? What do you wish to increase or augment in your life? If you want it, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. How can we cultivate Tapas on and off the mat? 

Please feel free to comment below. Until our mats unfurl again, be well. -M

“Rest is not idleness”

“Rest is not idleness & to lie sometimes on the grass, under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” So wrote John Lubbock. 

What can we do to better allocate our precious energies? This quote reminds me of Brahmacharya, the Sanskrit word for Conservation of Energy. This is one of the Yamas, or avoidances, in the Yoga Sutras. These are the essential principles outlined as techniques and experiences along our journeys.

How lovely is it to grab a book and a big glass of your favorite beverage, sink into a cozy chair, and get lost in a book? If reading isn’t your thing, a meandering walk through the woods, or neighborhood, solo or with a friend. What do you do to veg?

Why on *earth* would anyone skip out on Savasana, or the final relaxation pose that happens in most Yoga classes? This is, by some estimations, THE most important Yoga asana, or pose, of them all. This is where your body, mind, and spirit rejuvenate, and you can integrate the benefits of your practice. Skipping is like having a nice dinner, and not having dessert. Or skipping sprinkles on a sundae. 

While it’s understandable that so many of us are overbooked, overworked, and overwhelmed, this is a vital part of one’s practice. Why not reevaluate, and look at what you can forgo, to free up those precious few moments to literally DO NOTHING? Not to weasel out of requirements or be that friend/partner, but to refill your own cup, and be your best self. If your schedule is that tight, perhaps it’s time to revisit things. 

Note: no judgement, but if you do have to leave, make sure you’re by the door, and you leave quickly and quietly, hopefully having advised the teacher first. 

How do you spend your energy? Is it scrolling aimlessly through your various social media platforms? Is it on housework? Is it on self-improvement? Parenting? Adulting? Hitting the gym, hard? All of these have their place, but the axiom says everything in moderation. We’re hard-wired to be social beings, just figure out what works best for you. 

To make laziness work for you, put some effort into it | Aeon Ideas
Just a cat, catting. Laziness isn’t bad!

Please feel free to comment below. Until our mats unfurl again, be well!

How to kill a cactus

I’ve always had a pretty green thumb. Pretty sure it’s partially inherited, since my Dad kept & keeps lots of plants and had a beautiful fish tank when we grew up, whereas my poor Mom could kill a plastic plant. My partner built me two great big garden beds, which are overflowing with produce and pretty flowers. 

In my Yoga & meditation room, I have a few varieties of plants: pothos, a money tree, and some succulents. Side note: all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. But, I digress…

The other day, while watering the plants, I noticed my poor cactus’ stem (trunk?) was brown. Upon touching it, it kinda exploded. As brownish goo oozed out, I cried out, “Nooooooo!” It was upsetting, to be sure, but it begat some thoughts. The yellow tops looked okay, so into the dirt they went. (Here’s hoping!) 

How does this pertain to Yoga? For me, this is me not observing Santosha, the Sanskrit word for Contentment. The cactus was in a pot with another succulent, which seemed to like more water. I was not happy to let it be, but it tried to force it into a different watering schedule. The plant felt discontentment; I wasn’t paying attention. 

How can this be incorporated or integrated into our everyday lives, on and off the mat? How can we be “okay” with what is? The cactus notwithstanding, it doesn’t mean to give up and resign ourselves to “it is what it is.” How can we recognize situations as they are, and not try to fit them into our narrative? How can we respect the cactus for not being thirsty, or for a friend for not wanting to chat? 

For me, it means treating people how *they* wish to be treated, which contradicts the Golden Rule. The cactus wanted less water. The owner, yours truly, wanted to give it a good drink, as would a parent who knows when you’re thirsty. How can the cactus be met where it’s at? 

Note: this is before I came along 😦

How does this show up in your life? How can we practice contentment? Feel free to comment below!