Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Recently I attended a Kid’s Yoga Teacher Training at Asheville Yoga Center in Asheville, North Carolina.  A lot of topics were discussed over the course of the training, but one topic that continued to make an appearance in our conversations was about the pressure that children feel from being ever -connected to the world of social media, how they believe they must respond immediately when their phones buzz, and how as a whole, they spend most of their  daylight hours in front of a screen and less and less time outdoors.  JaneAnne Tager, led the discussions and emphasized the importance of using nature themes in our classes as a way for children to disconnect, leave the world of technology at the door, and become more grounded using tools found in mother nature.  

At the end of day one, we came back to our mats in their circular formation, set up perfectly for sharing thoughts, ideas, and memories.  JaneAnne closed out the day by asking the group to share what their favorite season is and why.  

Without hesitation, I knew the answer to this question, but this time I didn’t share out loud.  This time, we didn’t go around the circle one by one.  People voluntarily spoke at will and by the time the umpteenth person described the beauty of the changing leaves and the crispness of the air, I figured they’d pretty much covered it.

But just thinking about this season transported me back to 404 W. Exchange Street, my childhood home with it’s large picture windows and wrap around porch.  The sounds, the sights, and the smells still strong in my mind.  The crunch of leaves on the ground, the scraping of the metal rake as it crossed the sidewalk escorting the leaves on their journey from yard to driveway, the whoosh of the leaves as they flew through the air before safely joining their brothers and sisters on the mountain of foliage my dad had painstakingly raked all afternoon.  And then laughter, I can hear laughter as we ran and jumped into the big pile of leaves.  My dad would rake them up again, and again we would run and dive into the sea of leaves.  Thud.  They always looked so inviting, so much fluffier than they actually were and I still remember feeling shocked and surprised upon landing.  I expected to land on mattress soft, but instead landed on packed dirt hard.

This was the way it was every year.  He’d rake, we’d play and then he’d burn, standing guardian over the flames until there was nothing but a few ashes left.  For a few short weeks every fall, the smell of smoke would waft throughout the tiny town where I grew up, unceremoniously marking the end of fall.

In Michigan snow was inevitable.  The only question each year was whether or not we’d be wearing boots and coats over our Halloween costumes.

Crisp air, colorful leaves, hayrides, carving pumpkins, warm sweaters, and sap buckets hanging from tree to tree round out my childhood memories of my favorite season every year.  

FALL.  

The most wonderful time of the year! 

At the beginning of the training, JaneAnne stated that one of the goals of the weekend was to help us become reacquainted with our inner child.   With each exercise, I found myself being transported back to my childhood, a time in my life that was filled with happy memories, uncomplicated and innocent.  While this was not intentional, I also do not think it was a coincidence.  I finished the training feeling more grounded than I have in several months and freshly inspired to be the best mom, wife, and yoga teacher I can be, to make a difference in the lives of children who may not have as happy a childhood as me, and to write.  This is the second blog post of a three-part series.

Two bucks a day


Recently I attended Kid’s Yoga Teacher Training at Asheville Yoga Center in Asheville, North Carolina.  A lot of topics were discussed over the course of the training, but one topic that continued to make an appearance in our conversations was about the pressure that children feel from being ever connected to the world of social media, how they believe they must respond immediately when their phone buzzes, and how as a whole, they spend most of their daylight hours in front of a screen and less and less time outdoors.  JaneAnne Tager, led the discussions and emphasized the importance of using nature themes in our classes as a way for children to disconnect, leave technology at the door, and become more grounded using tools found in mother nature. 
We began the four day training in typical fashion with an ice breaker activity, going around the room making introductions.  But after stating our name and where we were from, the information we were asked to share was a bit more atypical.  We were asked to recount a “memorable time in nature” and then state one word to describe the event.

As a side note:  I struggle with any activity where I feel pressure to speak in front of a large group of people.  When I’ve never met the people, the stress is even greater.   I often spend the entire time trying to think of something clever to say for the inevitable moment when the baton will be passed to me, which leaves me unable to listen to what is being said by the other participants.  And while this activity was no different in terms of what it was trying to accomplish, this time I knew immediately and without hesitation what “memorable event in nature” I would be able to share with the group.

People described canoeing on lazy rivers, hiking in exotic places, the delicious reward of mushroom hunting, experiencing a herd of migrating caribou in the Alaskan wilderness and climbing Half-Dome.  They used words like:  calm, majestic, humble, and serene to illustrate their experiences.

When it was my turn, I recalled an event from my childhood.  I was eight years old when my grandparents took me with them on their annual fishing trip to Canada.

One afternoon, midway through the week, we were out on the river in our small, fiberglass boat. Without warning, the skies turned black as storm clouds rolled in.  Lightening began to crackle and flash and rain poured down on us filling the boat.  My grandfather worked furiously to start the engine, but received nothing but silence for his efforts.

This man, who I absolutely adored, had a really bad two buck a day habit. He believed that $2 worth of gas would still get him just as far in the 1970’s, as it did in the sixties, as it did in the fifties.  He ended up walking a lot.  But on this particular day he was not on dry land and my grandmother became hysterical under the circumstances.

On board, he had an oar…not a paddle, an oar—for a row boat.  But since we were not in a row boat, he used the oar to paddle the boat like a canoe.  Only we weren’t in a canoe.  We were in a boat much wider than a canoe. So he had to stand.  He paddled furiously on one side and then switched to the other side, making progress in inches.  
  
We were not close to shore.  His hysterical wife frantically bailed water from the boat using an old coffee can, that had once held the worms all while his grand-daughter sobbed.  And somehow, paddling, paddling, paddling he managed to get us safely to shore.  

We were back out on the river the next day, probably with another $2 worth of gas in the tank.

Nature and me—me and nature.  We have a tenuous relationship at best.

My name is FAWN and my word is FEAR.
At the beginning of the training, JaneAnne stated that one of the goals of the weekend was to help us become reacquainted with our inner child.   With each exercise, I found myself being transported back to my childhood, a time in my life that was filled with happy memories, uncomplicated and innocent.  While this was not intentional, I also do not think it was a coincidence.  I finished the training feeling more grounded than I have in several months and freshly inspired to be the best mom, wife, and yoga teacher I can be, to make a difference in the lives of children who may not have as happy a childhood as me, and to write.  This is the first blog post of a three-part series.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Kid's Yoga, M&M's and the politics of respect.



WARNING:  This post is a teensy bit political.  It contains my opinion on respecting each other and to quote Donald Trump, how to “Make America Great Again.”  P.S. It has nothing to do with building walls.

So how can a post about kid’s yoga and M&M’s be political?  In today’s world, anything can be twisted into something political, like the very word itself.  According to dictionary.com, “political” is an adjective with six different definitions.  Each definition has a unifying commonality of or pertaining to the word “government”.  Over the years, the meaning of the word “political” has shape shifted.  Rather than being by the people, for the people, and of the people, it has slithered into darkness, something to be reviled—lumping politicians into a stereotype of dishonesty and corruption.

Ask ten different kids what they believe the best M&M candy color is and you are certain to receive several different responses:  red, yellow, blue, brown—light or dark—it doesn’t matter.  (Keep in mind that regardless of color, they all taste the same.)  Then when they are feeling quite confident and happy with their answer, tell them they are all wrong.  Their color of choice is not the best color, because your favorite color is green and therefore, green is the best color.  Then take it a step further and tell them that because they don’t believe the same way as you, you can no longer be friends.  In fact, you are now enemies.  Watch their innocent faces contort into confusion and sadness.

See what I did there?  I used a sweet little anecdote about M&M’s, a classic American candy, to illustrate how silly it is to hate someone for simply having a different belief.  Yes…it is that simple.  Regardless if the topic is religion, political party affiliation, gun control, health care, or M&M’s, spewing hatred toward someone because they believe differently is SILLY—a term even a child understands.

I believe it is imperative people be allowed to voice their opinions, even when I don’t share their view, but I also believe it is imperative to conduct oneself in a respectful and civilized manner, and therefore I recently and for the first time, “unfriended” a FB friend for the following (unedited) post:  

“Ok I have been quiet long enough. I can no longer sit here and listen to this garbage about Syria and these refugees. Listen to the crap about ISIS. Here is the real deal. We no longer can trust any of them...not one. That sounds harsh but I don't care. If they come here again and pull an attack I promise you WE THE PEOPLE will hunt them down ourselves. Our worthless, peace of shit, coward, terrorist president is doing nothing but we will. To all you liberal pieces of shit I have an idea.... Go over there with all your huggy bullshit and live among these animals for awhile see if changes your views. It's so easy to sit on your couch and give love and crap to these animals you know nothing about. The days of these liberal views and this so called President are numbered. Than maybe we can get back to being the proud and powerful nation we once were. And before all you ass hat liberal democrats respond on here to this don't bother. Everyone is sick of your bullshit and no ones listening. I and millions of others fought on foreign dirt for this country and by God we will do it again on this dirt. So in closing.....STAND UP AMERICANS TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY AND PURGE THIS SICKNESS KNOWN AS LIBERAL DEMOCRATS!!!! GOD BLESS THE USA🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸”

I did not take “unfriending” this person lightly.  We were baptized in the same church, studied from the same Catechism, and took communion together throughout our young adulthood. 

Am I a hypocrite for clicking the “unfriend” button?  After all, I had just stated that I believe people are entitled to their opinions and that just because someone does not share my world view does not mean they should be my enemy.  In eighth grade Civics class we learned about Freedom of Speech and the other 9 amendments to the Constitution that make up the Bill of Rights.  We were also taught that those rights we as American citizens share, do not extend to infinity, but only to the point where they begin to impede on our neighbors rights.  I felt violated by this post.  It contained so much hate and venom that I believed if I had remained “friends” with the author, I would be submissively guilty of condoning the words within.  

So how do we make America great again?  Like Whitney Houston, sang, “The children are our future.  Teach them well and let them lead the way.”  Teach them to love and respect themselves and their peers, regardless of skin color, religious affiliation or M&M color preference.  And for goodness sakes, teach them to not refer to the person who holds the highest office in the land as a “worthless, piece of shit, coward, terrorist,”  because that’s not going to get it done.

I am not a person of power.  I do not have a large audience or celebrity status.  I am a wife and a mother, a sister and a daughter, a friend, a neighbor and a yoga instructor.  I am limited in my ability to defend against those that believe it is okay to spread hatred and bigotry, so I will continue to slowly spread my message of love and goodwill toward one another…one breath at a time.

And if you’d like to share some M&M’s, I’ll even let you have the best color…GREEN!


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Life in Pieces

June 2015.  That was the last time I published a blog post.  6 long months ago.  It was also the last time, I wrote anything more than my daily "To Do" list.  I have been completely constipated--creatively speaking.  

June 2015.  We closed on a new house.  Not a new, new house--relatively old in fact--1989, but new to us.  In the beginning, we were excited.  The "new to us" house sat on Lake Norman and  I imagined myself sitting on the deck for hours sipping wine and writing, writing, writing as the water soothed my central nervous system and sparked my creativity.  I fantasized about boating and kayaking and paddle boarding.  In my minds eye, I could see my newly defined abs from all that paddling!  And most of all, I felt certain that as a family our quality of life together would increase exponentially.  The kids would be so excited to live on a lake, they'd willingly leave behind the digital world they live in and spend time frolicking in the surf.

But almost immediately, as we put our house on the market to sell, anxiety took hold of my heart and began to squeeze the breath right out of me.  The children were not allowed to sit on the furniture for fear of crushing a perfectly puffed pillow.  They were not allowed to eat inside the house.  All snacks and meals were served outside on the deck.  I stopped cooking meals.  Everything was take-out so that counters stayed clean and dishes stayed done.  I've always thought I walked extremely close to the edge of insanity.  But during this time, I jumped right off the fricking cliff.

Panic set in when the old house, which was actually newer than the new house, didn't sell within the first month.  That's right.  We closed on the new house in mid-June with no offer on the old house.  We owned two houses (and two mortgages) and the real pisser was that the kids were not even excited about moving or living on the lake.  In fact, the day the moving truck arrived,  Numero Dos threw himself on the ground.  Flailing and sobbing, he exclaimed, "My whole life is a downgrade!"

A downgrade!

Can you imagine how spoiled my children must be that moving to a house on a lake is a downgrade? Of course the truth is, he wasn't exactly wrong.  From it's brass fixtures, to it's one-piece fiberglass shower inserts, to the popcorn ceilings in the basement--this house was a downgrade, relatively speaking.  But it was still on the freaking water.  That's got to count for something, right!?

Wrong.  We experienced one disappointing set back after another.  The flooring company, which we hired to refinish the hardwood floors, flooded the house before we even moved in resulting in the decimation of the main floor powder room and the basement bedroom.  6 months later, both rooms are still barren wastelands.  The toilets were not a standard 12" on center and now sit two inches away from the walls.  The washer and dryer I purchased were too big for the space resulting in the loss of the closet doors and there was no garbage disposal.  None.  So, take the stress of not selling the first house, add in a slew of installation mishaps, multiply it by the gut-wrenching sound of your child sobbing everyday after school because we left a neighborhood he loved and you've got a recipe for depression, anger, frustration and regret.

And thus I didn't write.  Writing about anything other than my true feelings seemed disingenuous and really who wants to listen to me whine about how much it sucks that we chose to buy a house on a lake?  Does anyone feel sorry for me?  Shit, I don't even feel sorry for me.  And besides, I had the perfect solution.

We needed a boat!  A boat would make everything better.  What good is it to live on a lake if you can't even get out on the water?  And so we bought a boat.  But, you know what?  The boat did not make us feel better.  Not even by a little bit, because not only did we discover that our lack of knowledge around a boat only led to more frustration, but we also discovered that our boat lift didn't work.  Chalk up one more disappointment to the tune of $8500 in favor of the house.

Fast forward to this week--the last week of 2015, I stumbled upon this blog post.  I am going to post it in it's entirety as it is the catalyst for me picking up pen and paper this week...and I just happen to think it's really, really, good!

by Grant Andrew
COO IE Dawson International

I’ve been thinking about breathing lately. 
How it just seems to happen.
We don’t think about it until it gets labored or we are short of a breath or two.
But under everything in our lives, is breathing.
It is a kind of ground for consciousness.
It is keeping the lights on.
The quality of your day is dependent on ~20,000 breaths a day.
Our world is built of pieces. Like breaths.
The quality of your internet connection reflects how well the packets are moving.
Your nutritional intake is dependent on bites of food.
Big ideas are made of little flashes moving through your brain up to 268 miles per hour. (Sparks move inside you.)(Baby, you’re a fireworkfly)
We are pieces of pieces.
Companies, communities, and causes are made of people.
We see things as monolithic – solid, whole, together, but when you really get inside something, there are always pieces.
Atoms, Lego blocks, letters, and slow-twitch muscle fibers. All pieces.
What we accomplish is made of pieces too. The life you make, the work you do, the relationships you’re a part of…made of pieces.
It is tempting this time of year to teeter between euphoria and despair.
In every life, in every year, there’s always a hope for more. We have almost infinite capacity for hope and longing, so we want more from everything. Standing at the end of such a clear block of time, it’s not difficult to look back and despair for all that wasn’t, didn’t, or won’t be.
Breathe.
Turning our gaze forward, it’s easy to imagine the next year differently. So much that will be. All our hopes/dreams/longings manifested. Big things birthed, big breaks healed, big holes filled. Such a glorious and euphoric view, the future is.
The truth is more pedestrian. The future and the past are all just pieces. The same pieces, actually, that you have right now.
Breathe.  Swallow.  Blink.  Think.
That’s what makes this life beautiful and difficult.

Everything is small, simple, easy. The next right move, the next deep breath, the next right word.
But everything worth doing is difficult because it is a million right moves, a thousand deep breathes, pages and pages and pages of the next right words.
Life is made of pieces. We traffic in pieces. We are made of pieces. We are pieces. All we get is PIECES.
So even now, good traveler, as you stand in this present, this piece, at the moment when the line of NOW and the end of a big block of time happen to align, don’t get lost.
Your task today is easy. Your task for this next year is simple:
Take control of the pieces.
That’s it.
Think of all the big dreams you have. The moments you long for. The ones that will take away all your breaths. Break them down. To pieces. Look at them, so cute and cuddly. The atomic layer of your deepest hopes. Just little pieces. The tiniest manifestation of your dreams.
Look at this next year. 
Don’t see it whole. Don’t see it in quarters or months.
See it in seconds. Minutes. Moments.
Set your intentions high – aim for your Everest – then come back to the present, set your compass true, and a take a step.
Take a breath. Swallow. Blink. Think.
2016 is coming. And 17. And 18. Don’t worry about those.
We are made of pieces, we make pieces, pieces make us.
Please make good pieces. The world is hungry for your hearts. 

Enjoy the journey.
Throughout all the stress, anger, disappointment and regret, rather than lean on my yoga practice for strength, I ran from it.  In fact, I practically hid.  Yoga is quiet and calm.  It requires stillness of the mind and body.  But it takes time to sit in stillness, and I didn't have any time.  I was too busy trying to sell one house and prepare to move into another house.  There was too much cleaning to do.  And then there was too much packing to do, and then unpacking, moving, worrying, and mostly feeling sorry for myself.  Do you know how much energy is required to feel sorry for oneself?  I had nothing left for my yoga practice.  I didn't even have time to sit and breathe.

And then I came across this lovely, poetic blog post and the first line caught my attention:  I've been thinking about breathing lately.  I used to tell any one that would listen, that for me, the magic of yoga was in the breath.  And yet for the past six months, I have been holding my breath, drowning in regret and self-loathing.

"The future and the past are all just pieces. The same pieces, actually, that you have RIGHT NOW.  Life is made of pieces. We traffic in pieces. We are made of pieces. We are pieces. All we get is PIECES.  Our world is built of pieces--Like breaths." 

There is an old zen saying:  "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour."

This year, I plan to breathe more, regret less and break everything down into small, delicious, bite-sized pieces.

There are so many morals to this story.  I know I don't need to type them in black and white.  As a post script, we received an offer on the old house mid-July and closed early August.  One week later, we made our first payment on the the new house, being spared the hardship of making two mortgage payments in the same month.

I am sending up prayers of thanksgiving right this second as I am once again reminded of how everything always works out in the end.

Happy 2016.  

May your year be filled with lots of happy pieces!





Thursday, June 11, 2015

Here comes the sun!


Pigeon Pose
A good friend and fellow yoga instructor once exclaimed, "A day without pigeon is like a day without sunshine!"  The enthusiasm she felt for eka pada rajakapotasana in that moment expresses concisely how I feel about Surya Namaskar, which coincidentally translates to "Salute to the Sun" or "Sun Salutation."  With the Summer Solstice on the horizon and many yoga studios and practitioners busy preparing events and workshops featuring 108 Sun Salutations, I wanted to pay homage to this sequence of poses that comforts me, grounds me, connects me to my breath, and keeps me coming back to my mat day after day.

Sun Salutation A
Surya Namaskar is a series of poses linked together with the breath.  Like a circle, Surya Namaskar starts and ends in the same pose, symbolic of the earth orbiting the Sun.

As with the institution of Yoga itself, there is more than one opinion on the origin and age of Surya Namaskar.  Some experts believe that the sequence dates back to Vedic times aging it more than 2500 years, while others believe that it was created during the early 20th century making it less than 100 years old.  Traditionally practiced at dawn facing the rising sun, Surya Namaskar originated as a series of prostrations illustrating reverence to the sun--the great sustainer of life.

There are many versions of Surya Namaskar like there are many styles of yoga, but I am partial to the one I learned when I was a new born yogi, much like I am partial to the same flavor of ice cream I've been enjoying for over 40 years.  And just as vanilla is the foundation for many other flavors, sun salutations are the foundation of many vinyasa practices. You can add cookies, you can add nuts, you can even add caramel, chocolate chips, and mint flavor, but at the heart of the ice cream is vanilla.

After a long, cold, lonely winter nothing feels as good as the warmth of the sun, except maybe practicing Surya Namaskar while basking in it's glow.  In 1969, George Harrison penned a song that said it best, "Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it comes!"  So on June 21st, join in on the celebration of the Summer Solstice with yogis around the world and help us all Salute the Sun!

INGREDIENTS IN MY FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SUN SALUTATION:

1.  Begin by coming into Tadasana (Mountain).  Ground down through your feet evenly distributing your weight throughout the corners of each foot.  Engage your quadriceps and core muscles, and bring your pelvis into a neutral position. Lengthen through the spine and out through the crown of your head.  Shoulders should be relaxed and down while your chin is in a neutral position, parallel to the floor.  Bring your palms to face forward into Samasthiti pose and take a few breaths to prepare.

2.   EXHALE: Bring the palms of your hands together at heart center in Anjali Mudra, prayer position.
3.   INHALE:  Bring the palms together overhead, look up in Upward Prayer pose.
4.   EXHALE: Fold forward with a flat back hinging from the hips for Uttanasana.
5.   INHALE:  Come half-way out for Ardha Uttanasana.
6.   EXHALE: Fold back down.
7.   INHALE:  Bend your knees and plant your hands.  Step or jump into Plank.
8.   EXHALE: Shift your weight forward onto the toes. Lower down, elbows brush the side of body, coming into a ninety-degree angle.  Release to the floor for Cobra or hover about 6"above the mat for Upward Dog.
9.   INHALE:  Press into the palms of your hands lifting the head and shoulders off the mat for Cobra (Bhujangasana).
10. EXHALE: Tuck the toes and push back into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
11. INHALE:  Step or jump to the front of your mat.
12. EXHALE: Fold Forward (Uttanasana)
13. INHALE:  Come half way out, Ardha Uttanasana.
14. EXHALE: Fold back down.  (Uttanasna)
15. INHALE:  Ground down through the feet, engage your core muscles, and rise up. Bring hands over head in Upward Prayer Position.  Add a backbend if you want.
16. EXHALE: Hands back to heart center in Anjali Mudra, prayer position.





Monday, April 13, 2015

Life is what you make it.

Life is what you make it.  

This is a hard concept to understand as a young person.  When you're 10, 12, 14, 16...time moves slow.  Your parents don't know anything, 30 is old, 40 is ancient, and appreciating what you have today because it may not be there tomorrow doesn't exist in the underdeveloped, teenage brain.  It's taken me nearly 45 years to discover this and at times I still regress.

I was recently reminded of this on a trip to Washington DC, when we--the parental units, opted to head North for Spring Break while the rest of the country headed South to the land of all things Mouseketeer.  We opted for historical and educational versus princess tea parties and character parades.  The children would have preferred hats with ears.


We rented a turn of the century row house in the NE quadrant of the city in a neighborhood currently undergoing gentrification.  It sat on a loud, busy corner where sirens screamed throughout the night.  And with the constant hustle and bustle that comes with being planted in the middle of a busy metropolitan area that never sleeps, it could have significantly benefited from blackout shades.  In describing the home, I'm reminded of a Mother Goose rhyme:

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a crooked little house.


Yes.  The house was crooked.  Very crooked.  It had crooked floors and crooked walls, but I didn't mind.  With every out of square corner or creak in the floor, I imagined the life this house had lived for the past hundred years, the things that it had witnessed, and I felt alive.  I was now part of it's history. I fed off the energy of the city and relished feeling like I was in the epicenter of something really significant, something newsworthy.   And for one night I was--as I witnessed a barrage of police cars scream through the narrow streets ending a high speed pursuit just blocks away.   It certainly wasn't a four star resort.  It was better.  And thankfully my children didn't complain about the sights or sounds or lack of room service once. The house was equipped with television and wi-fi and all was good in teenage-brain land.

We spent five, over-scheduled days in the city, and as anyone who is familiar with DC knows, that was not enough.  We filled our days with tours, museums, monuments and memorials covering more than thirty miles on foot and canvassing even more distance by train and yet we left with miles and miles still undiscovered. 


Arlington National Cemetery
The majority of children today and even my own Generation X cannot fully comprehend the sacrifices that the generations before us made for our freedoms.  It, however, becomes a little more comprehendible when you stand facing a wall with more than 58,000 names engraved in memoriam or stand before a field of gold stars representing lives lost with the words, "Here We Mark The Price Of Freedom."  A humbleness befalls you as you walk amongst a backdrop of simple white, marble headstones that date back to the Civil War, and stand silently in reverence as a funeral procession passes for service men still being buried today.  The 45 year old me understood how hallowed the ground beneath my feet was.  I'm not sure the 16 year old me would have.  


At times during the week, the teenage brains preferred to sleep as the landscape of America the Beautiful passed by.  At times they needed to be told to put away the electronic devices.  And, at times they needed to be reminded that life does not offer guarantees, take advantage while the opportunity presents itself.   Life is what you make it.  You can spend your hours brooding.  You can spend your hours mindlessly in front of a computer screen.  You can choose to be unhappy, ungrateful and selfish or you can choose the opposite.  It took me a long time to figure that out and without my yoga practice, I'm not sure I would have ever arrived.  Today I choose happiness. Today I choose to be grateful.  
Because life is what I make it.






Sunday, February 8, 2015

Love knows no religion

Some time between the year(s) 53-55 AD, the Apostle Paul was credited with writing the book of Corinthians.  One of the more well known passages from those writings is found in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.


But long before Paul wrote these beautiful words defining love, which are often recited at Christian wedding ceremonies, there was Metta Sutta, thought to be written as early as 400 BC.  Metta, in its simplest terms is defined as loving kindness.  It is a meditation focused on the development of unconditional love for all beings.  Because of its practice of loving all beings, it is also known as universal love.  The word Metta is of Pali descent which is an Indic language, closely related to Sanskrit, in which the sacred texts of Theravada Buddhism are written. Some of my favorite concepts of Metta from the website Wildmind.org are:
  • Metta is empathy. It’s the willingness to see the world from another person's point of view: to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.
  • Metta is wishing others well.
  • Metta is friendliness, consideration, kindness, and generosity.
  • Metta is the basis for compassion. When our Metta meets someone suffering, then our Metta transforms into compassion.
  • Metta is the basis for shared joy. When our Metta meets with another person's happiness or good fortune, then it transforms into an empathetic joyfulness.
  • Metta is boundless. We can feel Metta for any being, regardless of gender, race, or nationality.
  • Metta is the most fulfilling emotional state that we can know.
  • It’s our inherent potential. To wish another well is to wish that they be in a state of experiencing Metta.
  • Metta is the answer to almost every problem the world faces today. Money won’t do it. Technology won’t do it. Metta, loving-kindness toward all beings, will.  


While Apostle Paul's words, "Love is patient, love is kind...." are undeniably true, so is the idea that if you project love into the universe, you will get love back.

Recently the fans of hip-hop/rap mogul Kanye West, blew up the twitter-verse praising Kanye for giving an older, unknown artist a big break by recording the song, Only One with him.  That “unknown” artist, actually known to millions of people over the age of 25, was none other than Sir Paul McCartney, a bit of a music mogul himself.  In 1969, SPM penned a song titled, The End, which appeared on the album, Abbey Road.  True to it's title, The End was the last song the Beatles ever recorded together.  In the song, the line, "Love you, love you" is repeated 12 times, but it is the last line of that song that has garnered the most attention over the course of the past 45 years, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”  

Universal Love.

And while the Beatles never recorded as a complete group again, John, Paul, George, and Ringo each continued to make music, both in solo careers and with other groups including one or two Silly Love Songs.

Released in 1971, the lyrics to Imagine suggest to me that John Lennon had a philosophy for love and peace all his own.  In a January 1981 interview with Playboy magazine, John Lennon stated, "I am no more a Buddhist, than I am a Christian..." I wonder if the fans of Kanye West have ever heard of John Lennon?

"Imagine"

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one



So whether you subscribe to the Biblical belief of love, the teachings of Buddha and the philosophy of Metta, Imagine the world according to John Lennon, or all of the above, I wish you a very Happy Valentine's Day filled with much loving-kindness and peace to all!  Be sure to take lots of love this week...as it it equal to the love you make