On Writing … Muses … Bathrooms … Daffy Duck … Palms … and Order from Chaos

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My email box “ding!’ed” this morning with a message from WordPress telling me it was time to meet my blog’s weekly posting goal.

Would I like to write more often? Of course. Can I? Sure. Do I feel like I can do it whenever the moments strikes me? No. Oftentimes, I’m washing dishes or driving to a lesson or in the middle of sleep when inspiration strikes. I need to get better about writing things down.

I have a dear friend whose beloved gently mocks her for keeping a journal in their restroom because it’s often in the middle of the night when she gets an idea, which is so brilliant, that she also has to evacuate her bladder. This is the way it goes for some of us.

I am often roused from a brilliant dream or deep sleep with inventions or stories or insights and I SWEAR allegiance to the ideas, murmuring, “no, no, I’ve got it, the dusty suede shoes are a metaphor for Nnngngngnnzznznzngnggg growth along with the inner nnnnngngnngzzzng and then it’s all over, everyone thrives!” and it’s gone.

I may as well just bolt upright, point and laugh at my muses the thin air saying, “You’re wasting your time! Go tell Elizabeth Gilbert! Is Updike still alive? I won’t remember this at all!” and then flop back onto my down pillow, thrusting reluctant feathers into the air.

 

Feathers. Woo-woo people like me believe feathers are a sign that our angels are near. If they’re near when I have those nocturnal insights, they are legion, trust me. I found out two weeks ago that I have six angels or guides or whatever by my side, but is that a good thing? Maybe I’m totally lost and am a mess. Don’t go near Molly, she’s got SIX guides… she can’t find her way out of a paper bag much less an existential crisis…

What do I do with it all? All these ideas, these insights? I can change: I can allow myself to wake up, just for a moment, write down what’s going on and hope to the chocolate gods I can read it in the morning and go with it. I can do what others do: wake up completely in the middle of the night. Go with it, set my fanny on my yoga ball chair and put my laptop on dim and start tapping away. I’ve never tried it. It’s spring break, I could try. I don’t want to disturb my husband or kids though.

Thus, it’s occurred to me that famous writers must *have* to be total narcissists. I mean, how else can you decide to wake in the middle of the night, put on a robe, pour yourself a scotch, light a cigarette, shuffle off to where your perch is and start tapping or scribbling away without a care in the world about whether you wake someone. Just you, and your method, and your muses.

Children need to eat, to be seen and embraced. Dogs need to be let out, groomed, fed, talked to.

On the advice of my therapist last year, I read a New Yorker column, “Sins of the Father” by James Wood about a modest collection of memoirs written by the children of famous father writers, William Styron, Saul Bellow and someone else I can’t recall (sorry!) and how these now-adult children are faring in the long shadows of their dads. Being a child of a writerly father, I could identify with a good amount of the column. The need for quiet, the temperamental (I’m being nice) personalities and their “I CAN’T WORK LIKE THIS, PEOPLE!” tendencies. It’s not that my father is a famous writer; it’s that he is a serious writer and a serious personality. I don’t write about him much here because I do feel it’s necessary to keep the boundaries clear. I will say this however: being the child of a dedicated writer / artist / scholar / any interest the adult has of its own that doesn’t involve family time, can be very challenging.

Buuuuut …. we WANT people to have lives. We WANT people to continue their pursuits. It’s very important for people of all ages and stages to have SOMETHING of their own that is truly separate and nourishing to their spirit. Does it matter if it doesn’t earn an income? Eventually, yes, to the practitioner, it does.

At first, it’s something the avocationist pursues for mental growth, but after a while, the question of “purpose” comes walking into the room, gently standing over you while you type, paint, read, hum… nudging you, “say… what are you going to DO with all of this?” and then your sense of value / your ego comes into play, “yeah… what AM I going to do with all this?” and before too long, you’re Daffy Duck arguing with yourself after being outsmarted by Bugs Bunny.

Or …  you start to percolate and wonder clearly as yourself, “there should be something bigger, right?”

That’s human nature.

I’m in Good Hands.

About four years ago, I met a woman who is now a very good friend. She is a “non-predictive palm reader”; she’s not the gypsy with the magic glitter and finger cymbals. She’s a math-y, skeptic, scientific, hard data person. She runs successful businesses and she’s not at all a flake. She’s also one of the funniest people I know and that’s saying a lot because I know some really funny people.

She read my palms. I have the prints upstairs in my bedroom. I remember her saying, but I forgot it after several years, when she first met me, and looked at my hands, just for an instant, and searched in me asking, “What if it could be easier? What if it didn’t have to be so hard?” That moment haunted me then, and reading it again last night, it swept me away again. Indeed, ‘what if it could be easier.’ I sit here wondering just that. Still. I fight myself all the time.

I audio recorded our first and only full palm-reading session. I transcribed the recording and I went back last night, for the first time in several years, and read what she had to say. This time, I believe I am ready to really hear her and hear what my hands had to say about me then and look at how my prints have changed since then.

I am left handed. I have strong Mercury lines on each of my hands. Mercury is the communication / messenger god in palmistry. I also have on my left pinkie my purpose marker, a “whorl” which looks like a swirl. Quoting directly from our session, this is what Peggie had to say,

My purpose is on my left pinkie: the whorl – it stands out: my purpose is to help other people transform. I hold the safe spaces – I’m the healer and I have healer gift markings. Healer is life purpose and markings – I’m to clear out my own stuff and do my own thing and then help other people. Here’s where you are and here’s where I am, here’s my life story and I’m telling you this so that you can learn too. That’s my life purpose. To inspire to others that if I can do it, they can do it too. That’s where the healing comes from. Inspiring to others.

What have I done since that reading? I put it away. I thought about it and put it away. I thought I’d moved on, that I wasn’t doing anything with the information. But as we say, “you can’t un-ring a bell” and I heard the peal, even though I thought I hadn’t.

Well, it turns out I heard her, I just still need to keep hearing her.

I started this blog about four months later. I remember consciously thinking, “this is me stepping into my purpose a bit. This is me taking a chance, telling my story (somewhat) and trying it out.”

I find, when I let me out, I can hold that space for others. But I can’t let that be my only space. I need to step into my space too, which requires that I get out of my own way.

Order from the Chaos.

It’s been quite a month for me. I’ve taken over three yoga classes from people who were over-scheduled, started a new one from scratch, ended an eight-week session, got fingerprinted and background checked, filed for insurance, filed for yoga alliance registry, created lesson plans, taken in checks, accounted for students, shifted pick-up and drop-off of my kids for various lessons, school dismissals, practices and the like, attended my yoga classes where I get to be told what to do, gutted a freezer, folded laundry, made dinners (sometimes woefully), walked the dogs, volunteered at school for other stuff, blown out my hair, colored my roots, gone to angel healers, eaten and slept, attended a children’s book signing, put on make-up and have done my best to maintain a level head. I’ve done more downward facing dogs and triangle poses in the last month than I’ve done in one year, I’m sure of it.

My friend from high school is an airline pilot. He has a blog in which he shares amazing photos from the cockpit and writes a little bit (juuuust enough to keep the gears turning after you finish) about each photo and the impression it leaves on him. I have always thought highly of this friend. He would boldly wear bow ties in high school. He’s an old soul and he’s very bright and clever. When my freezer died about three weeks ago, I pretty much lost my mind for a few hours. The timing simply and ineloquetly “sucked.” It was totally in the throes of this new yoga teaching I was beginning and it was one of those moments when I was certain, I just didn’t have the time, or the mental bandwidth to deal with it. But deal with these things we must, yes?

The freezer died because one of my sons left it open ALL NIGHT. We had just stocked it with our hunt at Costco. I wrote about it and my ensuing thrust into reflection here.

This friend wrote to me about my chaos in that moment. He posted his comments on the blog post itself.

In retrospect (and two days later) I let soak in what he had to say and it made sense. I even paraphrased it as a quote to be read at the end of my yoga classes:

Chaos and disorder are the natural order of a mind seeking an enlightened path and reason. Chaos, and the sense of hope it can eventually yield, show us that there is a path for everything and it rarely begins with perfection.

Those who would have us believe the opposite, that everything is “wireable” don’t help us to understand and grow from the wisdom of chaos.

However at the time, I saw what he said and at the moment I was all defiant, “piffle” I thought; “so insightful of you from your 30,000 feet view to see the serendipity of this moment of total eff-upedness in my life.” I laugh about my reaction now. I wasn’t nasty internally about it, I just couldn’t deal at the time with his compassion. I was still caught up in the moment of it, so angry about it all: the loss of food, the tossing of food into the trash, and of course the re-spending of funds for both a new freezer and the restocking of the food. Ugh.

These are the things we do to ourselves: these first-world problems and I know it’s exactly what that is, and I caught a little bit of flack for bitching about the truth of that, but you know: stress is stress and I was literally in a fit to be tied at that moment. “That’s a nice problem to have” is a phrase that can OFTEN be heard streaming from my lips and people reluctantly nod; that’s how I see the world: there’s silver in every cloud, but sometimes it takes longer than others to see it.

While I don’t have “money issues” per sé, I grew up with parents who really did (it was nuts) and so naturally, there’s a tape that runs through my head whenever a big purchase occurs or something of monetary value is inherited, or lost. Here’s how I see money: it’s constantly in flow, but I feel there must be a purpose to it: I would rather give away $100 to someone in need than set $100 on fire. So at the time, I saw all of that: the whole shebang, as setting $100 on fire.

But there is order now, the lesson in that chaos that my friend so eloquently shared and taught me.

And I am not a little humbled by the events which have unfolded in my life in recent weeks that have brought me to this realization now: that looking back on my palm reading with my dear friend that I’ve got some work to do, some new lines have appeared along my Mercury lines, “stars” or “lessons” as they’re known.

Despite the fact that I’ve done a lot already, I haven’t done The Thing; I haven’t sat and written The Book. The Story. The Memoir. The Lessons. I already have a title. “Hang Nail.” Ha! No, that’s the name of an emo-rock band I would create. I’m not going to share the title here. It’s not yet written.

We have the new freezer. It was delivered Monday. I had to leave the room. I can’t be present when people install large things in my house. I have some issue with fingers being pinched or toes being crushed; or people being pinned against walls because it’s hard to negotiate the piece in my home. It’s quite entertaining, this issue of mine and my husband has asked me to write about it. I will. All in good time, my pretty.

I posted this on my Facebook page about the new freezer,

Our freezer never recovered. It was at least 15 years old. It had been left open too long one too many times. Today, we bid farewell to that freezer. 

And got a new one. With a light. With baskets. With control buttons in a panel on the outer door. With an alarm. With a tax rebate for its energy efficiency. It went from 76 degrees to 33 degrees in 30 minutes. 

I love this country.

Many people took the comment in the spirit in which it was intended. As a comical, ironic reference to my first-world hubris and sick sense of entitlement. One friend asked what it is about us Americans and our freezers and second refrigerators in the garages, etc., and what it’s all for.

I had to nod with her question. I mean, what is it? Half defensive because of my consumerism and half defensive because I’m a shitty planner, I blame my extra freezer on my growing children’s appetites and my utter disdain for grocery shopping. If you want to bore any living hell out of me, send me to a grocery store. Really. Some people love it. I want to stab myself with pencil erasers.

So I ask, can a freezer be glorious? Or is it going to be a constant reminder to me of overconsumption and self-indulgence?

At this point, I simply can’t be bothered to wonder or judge myself for it. I’m American. It’s here, in my house, plugged in and preserving my sanity much like Han Solo when he was captured by Jabba the Hut. In fact, I just put a little bag of water in there marked, “Mom’s sanity — keep frozen.” Maybe I will go to it when I wake in the middle of the night and it will inspire me. We will see what happens.

the freezer will preserve my sanity.

the freezer will preserve my sanity.

Thank you.

 

When Angels Hear Your Call

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I have to set this up before I get into it.

I paid to attend a “communicate with your angels” workshop last Saturday, 4/5. A like-minded friend came along (I drove, she bought Starbucks and lunch — I definitely got the best end of the deal).

I had high hopes; that was my first mistake. We are all mortal. Even Archangels (which these event organizers don’t recognize, and had I known that at first [I should've asked, my second mistake] I likely wouldn’t have gone) were mortal first.

First, the logistical screw-ups regarding the entire experience:

  • When we arrived at the sprawling suburban-D.C. church where the event was held, there were no signs indicating where the workshop was.
  • There was no “room 32″ as designated on the reminder flyer (that was emailed to me) as I desperately looked for on my smartphone after traversing the open and expansive main level. The online info in the link above doesn’t even mention a room. One of the main organizers of this event still wants to hang on to the notion that room 32 and 35 were the same room (details numerologists and kindergarteners would take serious issue with), despite the physical fact that I could not ever find the numeral 32 outside any door.
  • When we arrived at “room 35″ (we were the first to arrive) we weren’t sure it was where we were supposed to be because despite the fact that the people on the flyer and the website looked identical to the people in the room, they didn’t welcome us in, ever. They didn’t introduce themselves until the workshop began and that was a group welcome. In fact, our reception was quite frosty. My friend who is more sensitive than I am said she would’ve left the building if I weren’t with her. Let me clarify: I’m sensitive, I just wasn’t as easily intimidated in that situation. 
  • The organizers of the event never asked us our names, nor did they provide name tags (we were all openly referred to (and thus disregarded) as “her”, “not you, her” or “the woman in the pink sweater” or “you!” (this went on ALLLL six hours). Yecch.
  • Registration included a 35-page workbook but apparently not the availability of a pen. Those of us who didn’t bring one, weren’t offered one. Ever. Yet, we were encouraged to write lots of things on the blank lines in the workbook as well as content shared on a chalkboard. I guess, we were supposed to use  our finger styluses. My finger stylus works on my iPad but not actual paper. Luckily, I had a pen with me. And a notebook, into which I furiously wrote notes which were superfluous because the content I was scribbling was included in the workbook…. but no one told us that until about 90-minutes later. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t know, because had I not been taking notes, I’d have no proof of the reason why I am writing this post (later).
  • One of the “angel guidance coaches” was purportedly clairaudient. We had to move from room to room twice (so three different rooms total). The first time happened because he couldn’t hear his guidance. Admittedly, there was a symphonic concert underway right above our room and the tune-ups reminded me of “Rear Window” scenes, but once they got going, it was quite pleasurable, but I’m not a clairaudient, clairvoyant or clarinet. The second move happened because we weren’t granted permission to use that room were kicked out. The third room sucked. Just saying’… but I was out of gas by that point, really.
  • We broke for lunch, that wasn’t mentioned on the flyer, nor were any places to eat in the vicinity; so if you were totally new to Bethesda, MD, you were hosed unless you asked around or had some form of smartphone genie to help you out.
  • The event flyer states: 10-5pm. We folded at 4:15, but not before hearing about 20 minutes’ worth of content about other exciting ways to invest your money and irretrievable time in their … business and help to fund their recent trip to Puerto Rico. similar pursuits.

I think that’s it, from a logistical standpoint. I am certain that these issues can be overcome by the organizers for any events going forward and I am even more hopeful that people will be called by name and not be barked at.

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.
–Michelangelo

I was literally running on fumes at 4:00. I couldn’t take anymore. From the transitions from room to room to room, to the continual stream of content from the more aggressive and assertive (my read: desperate) of personalities and the fact that my head needed to be put back on my neck, I was out.

Oh? You want to know about my head falling off? Ok. If you must…

It fell off somewhere around the first hour, when the following phrase by, an angel coach, to my astonishment was bespoken thus,

“When you pray for other people, you are building a bridge to their troubles.”

I have wrested with this concept for several days. It has brought me much consternation, regardless of the completely amateurish logistical treatment of this event. (You get what you pay for, I guess.)

That sentence has furrowed my brow, upset my stomach, distracted my mind, and had me questioning my faith. It had me floored.

Look, I think a lot. I know this about myself.

The other night, when I was dealing with this, I consulted my Archangel Oracle Cards (some people use tarot, I consult my faith’s Big Guns — they are comforting and lovely to look at), I pulled three cards: All is Well, Life Review and Creative Writing. I didn’t understand the second one so much until just now. I realize that I had looked into all this angel workshop stuff because I was sad about my mom’s death and was feeling lost without her and was also wondering how to move forward on a project. I figured why not try it? Angels are nice… 

When my head fell off, I couldn’t speak or ask anything because my head didn’t bring my voice box with it; it was just my head. My ears couldn’t hear any further bullshit content from the coaches because my ears were severed from my spinal cord. My brain could still process, but not send any sensations to my body.

In short, I was a mess.

I spoke to my friend, whom I brought to the event about her impressions. She was bothered by it as well.

I brought it up to the organizer of the event; she didn’t touch it. She did however, go back and forth with me, like a volley, about how I was supposedly offended by the near-constant references to and treatment of  material I considered at times boastful, irrelevant and contradictory. To each her own. She understood and accepted my unsolicited litany of logistical concerns; I still can’t get over the names thing (more later). I didn’t bother mentioning the lack of writing utensils.

I don’t mean to poop on this event completely. There were some worthwhile and profound personal moments for me and I am grateful for them. That said, I won’t ever attend anything they do again. Its folksy tone and lack of warmth really got to me. After a while, it just felt like a string of buckshot appeals to “help [them] raise [their] income vibrational level.”

Names.

We all have them. In some esoteric and mystical religions, they are considered intimately tied to our essence, spirit or very existence on this planet. When we pray, we want to know the name, if possible, of the person we are praying for (bridge to their troubles or not).

About not bothering to ask names: the suburban mom in me says, “It was just an oversight. This event was planned months in advance; despite the fact they do this all the time, they just forgot the name tags…pass the salt, sweetie.”

The skeptical / conspiratorial writer in me says, “It was a clever way to create uniformity, to strip people down to a nameless / identity-less and hence, dilute-able existence to create need for attention and ‘face time’ in an effort to later control and influence them. Nothing starts a dominant / submissive relationship like ignoring people and diminishing them. It’s what all insecure leaders do who want to dominate their followers; just ask Bikram Choudoury.” That only the leaders went by their names and NOT ONCE was anyone publicly asked their name bugs the heck out of me. It reeeeeeally chaps my hide.

As a yoga teacher human being, the moment students anyone walks into my awareness, I greet them with a warm, sincere smile and say “Hello, ” followed by their name. If I don’t know their name, I introduce myself, that usually does the trick and starts what’s called a “conversation.”

Is all this cool and disconnection par for the course with these guys? Who knows. Do I care? Not at all. I’ll never go back.

Bridge to their troubles.

I … I am just utterly lost on this. Looking back on it, I laugh, out loud about it. I scoff it and I mock it. I pretend it’s a country song with my kids and I play my kazoo with it; I pretend it’s the title of a long-lost Clint Eastwood spy flick. As I said, I wrested with this for a few days.

The suburban mom in me says, “He didn’t mean it that way. He meant it as a way to be careful of confusing the energies, that certainly you can pray for someone, just be discerning about how much of your own energy you expend in it. Remember to include yourself in your efforts… wipe your face, dear.”

The skeptical / conspiratorial writer in me says, “Oh, screw that. He meant every syllable. It was meant as a way to be predatory. He’s looking to build a tribe. He was looking for, feeling out the group for the weak links. The ones who would wonder, or agree and ask later, ‘tell me more about that, how I should reserve my prayer and energy for myself, how I should mind my own business, get to know myself first and think of myself first, before I possibly waste my auric energy with the folly of benevolence, kindness, empathy and concern for others, you folksy, clever, wise, flip, charismatic and tall man…’” (bats eyelashes.)

After six days, I was still so vexed by this premise, the not praying / bridge thing, that I posted my concerns about it on my Facebook page. I asked about whether anyone had ever heard of the concept. I have atheist, agnostic, Jewish, Christian, devout, lapsed, faithful and still seeking, and faithful and rock solid friends.

Of those who replied, many joined me in my confusion. Many offered support for my challenge with it. Many likely recognized that I was caught in a not-so-little crisis. The overwhelming responses were that prayer for another is an act of the most pure detached love and encouragement one can offer another human being. We pray for people we don’t know. We pray for people we know well. We pray when there is nothing we can do about anything. When my mother died, I felt SUCH love and support, the power of the prayer was undeniable. What? When a public tragedy happens, do we just not pray for the people whose lives have been irreparably changed? Where is the love?! Where is the light?! Where is the “power of consciousness that made us all who we are as souls with bodies on this journey on earth” they endlessly spoke of? I sit befuddled.

So this angst sat with me almost all morning.

Sometimes the Best Cathedral is No Cathedral.

Often I feel most centered and in tune with Nature and God when I’m outside. It was on my walk up to my youngest (10) son’s school where I volunteer weekly as a Socratic Seminar co-leader when the weight from this issue began to lighten. Just thinking about our project, it being the last day before spring break and the game I had in store for them all after the end of the project brought my mind to happier thoughts.

I am seldom disappointed by the energy and wisdom of these bright little beings who are so eager to try a new way to think of things. I looked at their sunny faces as they sat on the hill outside our school garden and listened to me talk about the second half of our class project, “Be Like Monet,” wherein we are proposing that the children design and draw their own plants, a bit of a play on the back story of Monet’s waterlilies series in Giverny. (For a long time, white was the only waterlily color; then a scientist made a frost-resistant version that had red, pink and white in it… hence the singular white lily and the grouping of colorful lilies in some of the paintings.) My co-leader and I were so inspired by that story, that we encouraged the children to “Be Like Monet.” The first week, they wrote down their plants’ qualities using only words. The second week, today, they had to draw those plants without words.

One of the kids wanted to know the Latin word for “healing.” I Googled it. “Sanitas” I told her. “Then that will be the name of my plant…” she said as she skipped back to her work.

“There is no such thing as a mistake! You are Mini Monets! Do this! You are geniuses!” I shouted and they were off. Then we worked with the Hoberman sphere I’m obsessed with in teaching children yoga, and then we played “Simon Says.” I was with children, the smartest and clearest souls on earth.

I walked around and looked at their work, encouraged them to take their papers to the asphalt walk to play with its texture and see how it created “pebbles” when they ran their crayons over it. Then we moved to some wooden benches, and the grain appeared. Then suddenly, the fog lifted. It was if my prayers were heard, or the appeals by my friends who opened themselves to the conversation and the real angels, the ones who use horns, the ones with huge wings, the ones I “met” when I went to Holy Angels Elementary School, heard me.

I thought, “Holy canoli. What he said was totally creeeepy and controlling! It felt eerily close to white-washing. If one of these little kiddies out here had troubles, heck yeah I’d pray! Think of myself first? Where’s the connection to spirit, to benevolence, to love?! What’s the point of not sharing a tear or a laugh or lightening a fear in order to *maybe* be of service to someone in need? Where is the HUMANITY? What’s with all the fear in this guy? Is his inadequacy so desperate that he has to spread fear instead of love??” He reminded me of Dick Cheney. Totally defensive. Building walls instead of bridges… These are the thoughts that came flooding at me. I felt renewed, grounded and sane again.

Methinks the man doth protest too much.

I realized, also, that if I followed this non-praying proposal, that I am following that man; that he becomes my spiritual leader and by virtue of doing such a silly thing, I am giving away my personal power.  If I did what he said, I am letting him think for me. I am turning over all my basic knowledge, and the stuff I came into this world with (and according to him): divine light, love, energy and spirit, to HIM. I am basically surrendering my spiritual management to them. For this man, someone who openly rejected the concept of “religion” it all sounds a little too close to it.

A secure spiritualist will never tell what you Should or Shouldn’t do — in fact these people insist that your angels will never tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. But he’s going to go ahead and advocate against praying for other people lest you eventually sully yourself. I wish these people could hear themselves. It’s like an irony stew. (It all reminds me of that Brady Bunch when Bobby got sooty rescuing a cat from an abandoned house’s chimney and then he tried to wash his suit and the washing machine overloaded with suds… I digress.)

Clarity came to me like a sonic boom in my head. The (sonic) boomerang effect occurred. Not only did I stop feeling lost but I emerged stronger in my faith than ever. I was found.

I want to thank that man, his partner, and their twisted logic, cosmic buffoonery and doublespeak for returning me to myself, to my center, to my base and to my faith. I was hanging on one of Saturn’s icy rings until I decided to stop suffering internally and reach out for help. Thanks to them, my friend and I are closer than ever. We have to catch our breath now from the deep, gut-busting, tear-shedding laughter we share when talking about the event and the character-rich opportunities the workshop provided. As a writer, I am very grateful.

“You will get to know the real you…” they promised in their literature. I did, and I am unshaken.

Thank you.

 

 

Missives From the Mat #10 — Yoga with Children

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My mind is relaxing today; it’s trying to catch up with all the yoga I’ve practiced and taught recently.

I have been teaching children yoga and I have been teaching adults yoga.

The teaching of little kids, k-2, which I thought would be harder because kids are so wiggly and everything, is turning out to be not only easier but terrifically rewarding.

I enjoy teaching adults too, of course, because they have a reason to be there; they are choosing to be there. They are on a journey to something, and that’s private to them and I dig that.

The kids? Their parents signed them up. Their parents thought it would be good for them. The kids let it all hang out. They are just ON. They are open, nonjudgmental, true, totally in the moment, curious and delightfully spontaneous. They hug you because they feel like it. They squeal with enthusiasm because they feel like it. They giggle when you say “butt.” I can’t imagine what they’ll do if I say “fanny.”

What am I noticing? My journey thus in teaching both adults and children is teaching me.

With adults, it’s all about connecting the feeling of the breath with and within the movement. That is what we say is yoga; that when we notice the connection of the feeling of the breath within the movement, we are noticing something about ourselves… what we allow ourselves to notice and what we save for later because we’re just not there yet. And of that allowing? It is a conscious allowance, meaning we are aware of the choice to allow or is it more subtle? (Is your brain spinning yet? Shake it off. Come back to me….)

With kids, I don’t bother with the concepts and esoterica of “what are you feeling?” or “connect that movement with your breath.” They look at me as they should: like I’m nuts: What do you mean connect my breath with my movement? “If I couldn’t breathe, I wouldn’t move,” one of them wisely said to me.

Yeah.

Lesson plans. Teaching. Imparting. Leading. Following.

I am a creative person; I can create a lesson on the fly. Teaching the children reminds me that doing so is as natural to me as sipping water from a cup.

I will readily admit I have been/am petrified when I teach adults. In the beginning, I was all Adam Sandler, “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” about it. That was a confluence of ego, fear, ego, ego, ego annnnnnnd ego. I wanted to be NEW! I wanted to be EXCITING! I wanted to be SPECIAL! I focused on being Not The Previous Teacher! instead of just being me. It’s getting better. I’m finding my groove.

With the kids, I thought, “How can I make this interesting?” I devised a strategy of the most amazing concept ever: remember what it’s like to be a little kid. Everything is awesome (one way or another) when you’re a kid.

“What does exhale mean?” one of them asked on day one. NnnnNnnnnn. She was totally right. What the what does a little kid know from exhale? I went back to my early days as a mother with my first son when he had croup and how my cousin, a doctor, whom I’d called eight states away in almost the middle of the night with total fear and panic in my voice said to me, in possibly the calmest voice ever, “sssssstaaaaay caalllllllllmmm, Mollllll and heeeeee WILL callllllm with yooooooou. Get him to breathe in through his nose and out his mouth. Eventually, he will relax and his throat will calm too. …”

I visualized my instruction and “smell the flowers, blow the bubbles” instantly came to mind. That was our mantra, before I even knew it, I had a mantra for life.

My cousin continued, “Get him into the heated shower mist and then out in the cool night air or open your freezer for him to inhale after you both calm down.”

I did as my calm cousin instructed and Thing 1 did as I told him, and we all got through six or seven years and bouts of croup thanks to that mantra.

“When in doubt, breathe it out.” -Me

Subtly teaching kids the gorgeous gift of conscious breath

So I bought a Hoberman Sphere. Have you seen one of those? They’re fantastic and the kids and I use it to demonstrate breath and breathing. I haven’t asked them yet, “have you noticed how calm we all are when we concentrate on breathing along with the growth and the shrinkage of the sphere?” I want them to enjoy the sensation they create in themselves without preaching yet. It will come, but not yet. We have about six more weeks before we depart for summer.

So right now, these days, these lessons, we are sharing the sphere. First I show them. I demonstrate the expansion and the contraction. I ask them to do their best to follow the growth and diminishment of the sphere. They’re little kids. They have little lungs. They watch — Ooooo! How they watch! They are intense, and competitive and SO eager to learn. I expand the sphere, I see their eyes get big and their chests expand. I hold the sphere expanded and they wait. I slowly close the sphere and they mimic it. I pause, they pause. When I release the sphere, they take in a few breaths and smile or just stay neutral.

So we all take turns. Each child opens and closes the sphere at his or her pace and design. We all participate, we all follow along and each time, each breath, each experience we all get a little calmer. But I say nothing. I don’t need to. Not yet. Body memory is so much smarter than the brain. Don’t sully this somatic experience with intellect, I tell myself. Don’t “teach.” Don’t need to impart. Let your ego ride this out. Learn from them, from all of it, instead. I hear my parents growling impatiently (yet understandingly) at one another while listening to Wagner or Rachmaninoff or Brahms when the other one couldn’t help but impart some observation during a crescendo or other rapturous moment in the music.

Man plans; kids laugh

While I have organization and an overall plan, I do let the kids run the show a little bit. I remind myself and if I don’t, they will remind me that kids at this age, appropriately, are very self-absorbed. Yesterday, several of them were all about their upcoming spring break trips to see grandparents in Florida. So, as we did last week, we boarded a “flight” to see family. (Last week we went to NYC. Landing at LaGuardia was a real pain.)

It’s such a kick in the pants. I used to do this when my kids were very young when we would wait in the car for someone else.

I was the control tower; I cupped my hand over my mouth and announced the runway clear for take-off. Their eyes LIT UP. They COULDN’T believe what was going on. I was ACTUALLY sounding like I was coming out of a speaker. I watched and smiled deeply inside and outside. We all giggled a little. I continued, prompting “Captain Bipsy” (fake name) to fly us out.

Bipsy was a pilot. She cupped her mouth as I did, giggled a bit and then she flew that plane over the rest of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and then landed somewhere near Disneyland, of course. She beamed like a lighthouse. Full of shine and confidence.

The children who were visiting the Sunshine State asked us to close our eyes and they each shared three things they saw when they landed. Another kiddo flew us back home and we had a bumpy but very safe landing as we flew in to our respective airports. During all this the children were either in and out of locust pose or balancing on one leg with their arms outstretched or in child’s pose because they don’t like to fly. (Who can blame them, really?) We chartered our flights because we don’t want to mess with all that TSA nonsense. ;)

I do other things with them, we play “red-light / green-light” and I call a pose. Or sometimes an animal puppet I have calls a pose. They love the puppets I bring. They, as we all do, love to be heard and to be seen. Their positive behavior is affirmed with a little “peck” on the cheek or forehead by the puppet-me at the end of svasana; the special guest puppet can’t “wake” them if they’re not still and resting; so they naturally settle down, no matter how difficult and exciting because of the building, intense and absolutely comical anticipation waiting for that peck. When they do settle,they are rewarded by a loving and gentle contact with the puppet.

I still do this with my kids. My almost 16-year-old physically crinkles up with anticipation when I have a puppet or teddy bear who’s determined to say hello and crack his cool, teenage exterior. I recall my mother doing that with my 6’5″ brother when he was 40. It worked even then… My mom was like that: a child at heart. I think on the other hand, I was born at 42 sometimes because we were so often at odds. I regret that I was that way; I feel I’m recapturing it, my youth, as I work with these beautiful children who allow me to share an hour with them each week.

I don’t normally dedicate posts. But I want to dedicate this post to my beautiful Children’s Yoga teachers Shakta Khalsa, Kartar Khalsa, Lisa Brodrick, Jyoti Bajaj, Mary Beth Quick; and my grown-up yoga teachers Kelly J, Vicki C, Annette H, and Dianne F who passed the adult classes torch to me; those people out there who told me to keep going, keep at it and just do this thing: Shana E, Terri L M, Terri S-M, Laura L, my husband and my kids and to my dogs, who show me how to do the best Down Dogs ever. This whole thing happened to me because I attracted it; I wanted to be of service to people who were ready to receive it. I put it out there, that I was ready to give it… and I am humbled by the answer.

Thank you.

What to Love About Spring

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I saw my first bumblebee of 2014 this morning.

I will try to avoid writing at length about the atypically cold and severe weather we experienced this past winter because it’s not only pointless, I want it to be a distant memory. I won’t mention that only 10 days ago it snowed.

Did I say that?

Here’s what I love about spring:

sunsets. sure, you can see them in winter; but you can't stand and look at them for too long in the winter. it's COLD! and usually at sunset time, you're fixing to leave for home or you've just had lunch.

sunsets. sure, you can see them in winter; but you can’t stand and look at them for too long in the winter. it’s COLD! and usually at sunset time, you’re fixing to leave for home or you’ve just had lunch.

 

kids getting out! marauding youth. these kids hadn't been on a mob board run in months.

kids getting out! marauding youth. these kids hadn’t been on a mob board run in months.

 

 

daffodils, tulips, bulbs -- of all variety, forcing their way  through dead oak leaves: spearing a hole in the leave and pushing through anyway. if they can do this year after year after year ... after sleeping for months, what's to stop us from making our way too? channel your inner daffodil: LIVE!

daffodils, tulips, bulbs — of all variety, their leaves forcing their way through dead oak leaves: spearing a hole in the leaves and pushing through anyway. if they can do this year after year after year … after sleeping for months in the frozen ground, what’s to stop us from making our way too? channel your inner daffodil: LIVE!

 

I adore winter. It lets us rest and gear up for spring. I’m so glad winter is over and that spring is finally here.

 

Thank you.