31 July 2011

Heart of glass

Today I read a quote, attributed to Aristotle, "Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil." Evil? Really? After pondering this, I realized that sometimes when I think I'm afraid, I am merely unknowing. Of course, there is the classic fear of the unknown, but for me that's not real fear. That's more of a control thing. Most things cannot be controlled, especially when other human beings are involved. I am gratefully aware of this.

Some of us have become conditioned to anticipate hurt or rejection and this can create fear in our relationships with others. In this case, not knowing can be as scary as coming face to face with a monster - one that has been born and nurtured by past unpleasant or even terrifying experiences. We might automatically cut ourselves off from exactly what we seek - acceptance, warmth, love, friendship, serenity. We run for the nearest exit without ever realizing that it's also possible to take a deep breath, step in and not die. When we don't run, the rewards are mostly greater than we could have anticipated. This course of action is best taken with awareness, communication and good a support network. Time is needed to develop boundaries, to choose healthy friends, to feel safe, to break old habits. It isn't easy, but I believe it is better than the alternative - isolation, depression, addiction, self-loathing. Swami Kripalu said that each time we judge ourselves, we break our own hearts. Realizing when we do this is often a first step toward healing.

Practicing ahimsa, the first of the yamas, must start with loving ourselves. A while back I posted the lyrics from a song written by a musician friend who asks, "if you hate yourself, how could you love me?" If we expect someone else to provide us with what we cannot give ourselves, it doesn't work. My friend, Mimi, recently wrote about how we use defenses, A rose by any other name. . . has thorns. We often push away the people we most want near us. It takes guts to be trusting. I once had a teacher who referred to the armor we become accustomed to wearing and how we can learn when it's ok to remove it. Hopefully, we get to keep it hanging in a closet most of the time.

Yoga is an effective tool for working with these feelings. There are specific postures, referred to as heart openers, and Julie Gudmestad wrote an excellent article about that. Using yoga or exercise as a means to release trauma or anything that has become somatized (held in the body) is amazingly effective. Sometimes a combination of psychotherapy and physical practice is the best way to start. I would not recommend rushing into a yoga class anticipating that it will erase years of hurt and pain. An experienced instructor should be willing to discuss this with you and suggest the best practice or combination of practices to get you started. There are also some wonderful books written on this subject.

The changes that occur are not always recognized immediately or astoundingly. We just change. And almost always that change is for the better. You just have to take a deep breath and begin. That's where it all starts, with your breath.

18 July 2011


To explain, even to myself, why I haven't been posting on this blog would be making excuses. I simply haven't done it. But I have done some other cool things! What have I been doing?

Cultivating relationship by spending quality time with people I want to know better - I am extremely lucky to have several close friendships that span multiple decades; unfortunately, all of these people live over 100 miles away. I love them and miss them. I'm an introvert (yes, I am), so when I meet people for the first time it's telling when a conversation flows easily and I feel refreshed rather than drained at the end of it. When this happens, I get pretty excited. And I look at it as a gift not to be ignored because it doesn't happen often. So this spring and summer I've been relishing the fact that the possibility of new and rewarding relationship exists for me. I landed in Richmond nearly five years ago and have only recently begun to feel that I may be getting my footing. There are several people who are responsible for that (you know who you are). I've landed softly and am giving myself permission to relax and enjoy it and to share that enjoyment with a few others. It's been awesome.

Reinvigorating my yoga practice - Moving is disruptive no matter how wonderful the new home is, no matter how superb the company. Even if the place is so magical it has bananas and bamboo in the yard, it takes time for me to feel rooted. Fortunately, the importance of practice is never far from my mind (because it keeps me sane). I've finally found a routine that fits my new space and schedule. Over the past 25 years, my practice has changed over and over again. That's the beauty of yoga. Lately I've been doing yoga nidra when I wake up. This is a switch for me, but it sets the tone for my day and puts me in a good place for the work that I do. My asana practice varies, sometimes done in the a.m. but more often in the latter part of the day. Using water (I'm blessed with access to a saltwater pool) adds another element to the physical piece plus the experience of floating meditation is new and indescribable. Again, I'm feeling quite grateful. I also still teach two classes each week and do several individual sessions and that is a wonderful thing.

Flying off to visit family and friends - I like being still more than I like moving, but my tribe is scattered along the coast from the Eastern Shore of VA to New England. Since May, I've been to NJ twice and had great visits both times - once for Mother's Day and again for July 4th. Because this is where my little family lives (there are only 3 of us), it's a trip I take pretty regularly. This year, I made it a point to act like a tourist and spent some wonderful time at the Asbury Park boardwalk, Atlantic Highlands Harbor and the municipal parks in Red Bank. I'll post some photos from that another time. I got to see Macy's fireworks display from the plane on the night I left along with probably 15 other towns down below. That was crazy. I ate a ton of really good food including bagels from the infamous Bagel Oven. I also got to reconnect with an old friend and tie up some loose ends. Something I always do when I visit home is visit Christopher Pluck, who has been cutting my hair since 1997. He is not only a master stylist who worked with Vidal Sassoon but he's a yogi, gardener, walking musical library, pretty good therapist, a super dad and a great friend. Love you Christopher!

In June, I drove across the Chesapeake to Locustville, VA on the Eastern Shore (my other former home). When India was younger, she used to come to my classes with her mom so when she invited me to lead a class on her wedding day I was flattered and excited. This was so much fun - we practiced on the dance floor, under a huge tent at the edge of a marsh on the afternoon of the wedding. What a great idea! Plus the wedding was beautiful and the food was delicious thanks in part to India's dad, John, who operates an incredible organic garden. Thanks for thinking of me, India!
(BRIDE across her white tee shirt)

Also in June, I took a trip to MA to attend a high school graduation at Milton Academy. My dear friend's son, Cameron, is going to college - I've known him since before he was born! She and I took a couple of days to go to Chatham on Cape Cod where we did some shopping and I had my obligatory lobster roll. Then we headed back into town and had a weekend full of fun, family and more good food! I am so proud of Cam and excited to keep up with this new phase of his life. I don't have any pictures of this trip but the memories are indelible. There was a speaker at the commencement named Reif Larsen. He is a Milton grad, an author, and he gave a great address that inspired me to go out and buy his book, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. I may have to write a separate post about this when I finish it. We also went to see the new Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. It is now on my list of all time favorites.

Other stuff - Somewhere in the middle of all this I made a one day business trip to Atlanta; that was rewarding. I now have a full time job, which is another gift. I've started on a pile of books, read through a few of them, learned to use my iPad (sort of), been introduced to the wonders of Pony Pasture (thank you, Jay & Co.), been occasionally distracted by Facebook, rediscovered the Mediterranean Bakery, and eaten quite a bit of basil ice cream made by Bev (who has been mentioned before in this blog)!

Maybe, just maybe, I'm ready to let Richmond start to feel like home.

this is home in NJ