#Yogathon2017 #practicewithpurpose

LY_back_bw_2013Being in the world is hard. This statement may sound oversimplified or woe-is-me, but when I look around at the various layers of struggle that exist on our planet, it emerges as a fundamental truth. With this being the case, we should all have access to tools for self care — but so many people don’t.

This is one of the reasons I teach yoga at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon’s sole Women’s-only prison in Wilsonville, OR and one of Living Yoga’s 23 partner sites. The populations my fellow teachers and I work with all face their own challenges — some might say greater than people living on the outside. And perhaps that’s true in a sense…. but also, maybe not.

Without getting into the value judgement of “my problem’s bigger than your problem” we have a choice to pause and recognize our shared humanity. Part of being a Living Yoga teacher is skillfully holding space for people, which gives rise to that common connection. When we suspend judgement and begin to notice our shared experience, we give each other permission to be as we are, creating an opening through which healing and change can enter. And each one of us can do this in our lives, in our own way, every day.

At their core, the women at Coffee Creek are no different than you or I. The unaddressed trauma, mental health challenges, and/or an overall lack of support they might be facing are circumstances that are just as likely to exist on the outside. We all face challenge at some time, to some degree — but the specifics of it aren’t what’s important.

We are living in a challenging time. Being in the world is hard. I think we can all agree with that. Please consider giving what you can to this organization that helps improve the lives of so many.

Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts. Many thanks for your support — no amount is too small — and don’t forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too!

P.S. – If you’ve donated in past years especially, give Living Yoga’s 2016 Impact Statement a read to learn what kind of results your donation helped make possible.

heartsigsm

Riding the River

rocky-62127_1280A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I went out and bought inner tubes and took a nice long float down the Clackamas River. I’m unsure as to how this was my first time doing such a thing after living in Portland for most of a decade, but you know… there’s so much to do in this life that it’s hard to do it all!

As cliche as it might be, I’ve since had the metaphor of the river running through my head: rivers and their surrounding ecosystems in many ways mirror the trajectory of a human life. We are nature, after all.

Driven by prana, the life force that moves all things, the current flowing through it carves out its own path. In some areas, it’s smooth sailing. Anything under or on top of the water will drift along peacefully. But sometimes there are rapids and rocks… of varying sizes. The ride gets bumpy, but eventually smooths out again. The roller coaster always ends. There are stagnant places, too. Sometimes you drift out of the current and have to paddle and flail a bit to reconnect with the stream.

Much like a life. It doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s bumpy. Sometimes we get stuck for no apparent reason.

So, what?

So, it’s these rocks and rapids and stagnant places I’m interested in right now. The less than perfect, peaceful, smooth-sailing places. The obstacles, or perceived obstacles. So much human behavior centers around trying to make things easier for ourselves or circumvent issues before they arise. Taking precautions. Safeguarding. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try to maintain the smooth-sailing state, or at least the illusion of it, obstacles arise. We’ll never be able to prevent everything that is less than ideal from happening — perfection doesn’t exist! — but we can always shift our thinking about the things that happen.

I am reminded of one of my most favorite poems on this topic. “Because Even the Word Obstacle is an Obstacle” by the poet Alison Luterman

Practice:
Could you “try to love everything that gets in your way”?

Maybe the obstacle is in the end a sorely-needed teacher.

heartsig

Cosmic Clearing

solar-system-566537_1920I don’t know about you, but I’ve been sensing this very heightened, somewhat bizarre energy sweeping through the universe of late. By this I mean I’ve noticed that an unusually high number of people in my circle (myself included) have been experiencing significant life changes lately including births, deaths… loss of people, jobs, things. Generally, not things that signal the end of the world. But very noteworthy things. Of course, certain periods of life will always be more charged with such energy than others and, to be sure, there is death and loss (and greater horror, even) occurring all across our planet all the time. But the past 2-3 weeks, I can’t resist the urge to shine a light here, take it in, and try to come up with some way to interpret it all. Shall we attribute it to the latest Mercury Retrograde? [For the record, I dislike blaming a tiny, red planet for moments where life may go awry, but right now…. who can tell?!]

As a result, I’ve been reflecting (and doing my fair share of freaking out and behaving irrationally!) But in large part, I’ve been reflecting on what it is that keeps me in yoga. What has kept me showing up on my mat and in the classroom for the past 12 years, anyway? I can think of few things I’ve stuck with for that long. I value the community and the consistent growth available and the connections I get to make between life and poetry and human behavior. In the end, it’s about resilience. “…the process of adapting well in the face of diversity…”. Being able to bounce back when life brings you those, “are you kidding me right now!!?!” moments. It’s about being able to move through and overcome challenge, perhaps much more skillfully than you once could. The progress I notice in myself when adversity arises is exactly what keeps me committed, and I want to learn how to be even better at it.

I came back to this timeless poem by Rumi and have been sharing it in my classes this week.

The Guesthouse
by Rumi

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.


Just when life seems unmanageable, think: could your “guest” just be clearing the way  for something new to be born? … perhaps even in a realm of life you’ve resisted doing some necessary “house cleaning”?

I’m curious. What keeps you on your mat? Or, if you don’t identify as a yogi, what is it that keeps you moving forward in this life? Leave me a comment and let me know.

heartsig

April = Yogathon

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received and am still receiving.”

~Albert Einstein

It’s remarkable to note that we are more than halfway through April — in my world, a month that ushers in greater awareness and a celebration of the healing power of yoga.

I am participating in Living Yoga‘s 7th Annual Yogathon and would be honored to have your support as I raise money for this organization that’s taught me so much through granting me the privilege of bringing yoga into places the average person is never allowed to see. Places we generally don’t like to look as a society, but it is necessary to do so — because what are we here for, if not for “the sake of others”.

Here’s the link to my donation page where you can learn more about what I’m up to and give if you can – no amount is too small. I met my initial goal in record time this year and thus have boldly decided to double it, just to see what happens!

If you’re interested in viewing media that helps to contextualize, I recommend the following:

–  Noah’s Story
–  A sweet thank you from a former student at one of my teaching sites
–  The LY blog — illuminating stories from fellow teachers and a recent one from yours truly

Thank you all so much!

heartsig