Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bluesy











Mood indigo.

Bebe in blue.

Also known as Ellington a la Ella Fitzgerald, here.







Saturday, March 1, 2014

One Week Old







Tired mama. Sleepy baby.

One week old today.

Getting to know the wee hours of the morning veeeery well.

Grainy photo snapped in the pre-dawn darkness of 5am, so as not to wake the (finally) sleeping prince.

Full hearts all around.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We Have A New Baby!

Robb and I are thrilled to introduce our beautiful son.

Duke Lawrence entered the world with a swagger on his mama's birthday, Saturday, February 22nd at 5:58pm. He's perfect and gorgeous (and the spitting image of his daddy — even down to his big man hands!).
Duke (as in Ellington, the jazz great), because it is strong, clear, and unpretentious, and has a musical lineage dear to both of us. And because it sounds so damn good.
Lawrence (in honor of my late father Larry, and Robb's late friend and teacher, Larry Schultz), that our little Larry might be blessed and inspired by their bright spirits, their wide smiles, and the unparalleled love for life that both embodied. 
Duke's been hitting the yoga mat every morning since he showed up. He hates the swaddle. Totally gets in the way of his Surya Namaskaras. Piano lessons start next week, along with tackling the Transcendentalists. The usual newborn fare.

We adore him.

Like, dopey-adore him.

(Here's a shot of Aunties Claudia and Heidi when they came to squeeze him.)

Yesterday after breakfast we did our first Ellington tutorial. Listened to a little Ella Fitzgerald covering "Mood Indigo," some "Satin Doll," and, of course, some Louis Armstrong trumpeting with Duke himself on the keys, just for good measure.

Next on the agenda: that legendary "Sentimental Mood" Coltrane duet, "Take The 'A' Train" with a little more Ella, and, of course, "It Don't Mean A Thing."

(Extra credit points for the sweet versions of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" that have been sent our way.)

After a gorgeous sunny weekend (all of which was spent indoors laboring and recovering and learning the ins and outs of diapering and burping and swaddling and whatnot), we're tucked in cozily at home in the midst of a churning early-spring rainstorm. The rain is supposed to linger through the weekend. It's perfect weather for staying in, noodling around in sweats, and getting to know one another.

Oh, and trying to sleep, and attempting to shower, and catching up on the 631 emails and 26 texts and 18 as-yet-unlistened-to birthday voicemails, too. I've had nary a moment to keep up with the flood of wonderfully kind and thoughtful messages coming in, so if you've sent an amazingly sweet text or email or note, know how deeply you are loved and appreciated, even if I haven't had the chance to get back to you. This is the first time I've been on a computer for more than 10 seconds since last Friday. And I've slept about 6 hours total since then (all to be expected, of course). The bags under my eyes right now are epic. But there's just too much goodness going down out there in the real world right now. So trust that our silence is indicative of snuggling and lullaby-ing and swaddling-in-vain and searching furtively for a few winks of shut-eye in between the smiles and snoozes and the baby sighs.

We won't get these rare few weeks back, ever. Computers, iPhones; they can wait.

Love from the three of us.




The Big Kahuna. He has some sweeeeet biceps.


Friday, February 21, 2014

A Yoga Practice For The 10-Months Prego Lady


Here's what an asana practice looks like at 39+ weeks pregnant.

(Speaking as one who is such.)

We're talking about 10-15 minutes, max — a far cry from the old days of 2 hrs every morning — and mostly seated poses, as standing balancing poses with a big ol' gut have been pretty much a joke since about 5 months along, and even simple inversions like Down Dog and Prasarita C, which were my go-to poses til about 7 months along, aren't necessarily so wise to do anymore, because of the risk of turning the baby breech.

This is less an intentional or well-rounded sequence and more, uh, like "This is all I can still actually kind of fake my way through." I usually move through these few poses after building some heat/moving the blood with a simple hike.

As for maternity yoga fashion: I always wear that silver dress at left to practice at home. It's good for inspiration. Though you've gotta hike it up a bit to get into a few of these.

*
Supported Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose, very helpful for preventing swollen feet) 

Malasana (Garland Pose, or Deep Yogi Squat, wonderful for keeping your hips open and relieving low back pain) 
Virasana with Gomukhasana Arms (Hero Pose with Cowface Arms, both sides, again, great to prevent swollen hands and carpal tunnel)  
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose, with only the slightest forward fold allowing for belly) 
Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby, for just a few breaths, as lying on your back is not recommended and doesn't feel great)  

Cat/Cow Variations (Keep 'em very, very simple) 
Vasisthasana Variations (Drop the bottom knee, extend the top arm at a diagonal)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)  
Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose, if you can manage to heave yourself down there and back up again)  
Hamstring Stretches a la Ballet Class (Hoist leg up on kitchen counter and fold to side to allow room for belly to drop through)  
Hanumanasana, both sides, if you're feeling REALLY motivated (Keeping hips super-open by necessity, to allow for belly) 
Nachos 

Ice cream in bed whilst watching Jon Stewart 
Sleep  
Books

More sleep  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

This.





The church says: The body is a sin.

Science says: The body is a machine.

Advertising says: The body is a business.

The Body says: I am a fiesta.


 — Writer Eduardo Galeano

Monday, February 10, 2014

Waiting Game


It's been a week now since I taught my last class.

Just around the corner from 38 weeks and fully aware that Bebe could arrive any day. Doc seems to think he'll wait til his due date, though, so only time will tell.

In the meantime: holy stillness.

And I mean that in a lot of different ways.

After a winter of abject drought, on Friday, things shifted. In a big way. We trudged into Greenbrae for an OB check-up that morning, and the rain had started. It kept flowing as we stopped off in Sausalito for whooping cough shots and then powered south through SF to San Mateo to meet with our tax lady. Got home just in time to avert the mess of the wet evening commute, and hardly left the house all weekend.

The rain and wind intensified late Friday afternoon, and still haven't stopped. A few different unofficial local accounts estimate that we got anywhere from 12-14 inches around here.

Whoa mama. Just what (Mother Nature's) doctor ordered.

I've never been so glad to be trapped in my house, unable to go for a walk or get outside. I've never sat on my butt so much and not gotten irritable or antsy. (Surely some of that is the major-prego factor, I know). But the rain kept coming and the wind kept howling and the lights kept flickering and we just stayed, and stoked the fireplace, and listened to old-school jazz, and crossed things off baby to-do lists.

And it felt really good.

Yesterday I made pancakes for breakfast. Then brownies, mid-afternoon. I guess some people might call that "nesting," but it felt more like "what the hell else do you do on a wet Sunday afternoon when you can't do the Primary Series in front of the fire because you're hauling around a small living person and you don't have cable and the car seat's finally installed and football season is over and there's no good reason to venture out in the rain?"

The gratuitous baked goods were delicious, all. (Gluten-free and vegan, too, no less.) And my body is officially maple-syrup-shocked.

I've been watching the mist all morning here out the windows from our little treehouse cottage, and it's been slowing, gradually, until just now, finally, the sun's making a wan attempt to come out. This bodes well for the potential of actually moving my body for the first time since Thursday. A soggy, slow, waddling hike might be in order.

This last week marks the first time since I was, oh, 18 or so, that I haven't been working like a dog. It's weird. I'm kind of a hustler, you see. I like to work. A lot. It feeds me. Fuels me. Inspires me. Even when we were away last year on our honeymoon, I was fully aware that once we got home I'd have to jump back in and catch up on 2 weeks'  of emails and admin and, you know, planning ahead and whatnot. Here, now, well, there's only One Big Thing we're planning for, and everything else is reasonably on hold.

And it feels, um, amazing.

To not have anxiety watching the urgent "must-reply-ASAP" emails piling up.

To actually read a book and not feel guilty about that other thing I "should" be doing. Usually for someone else.

To sleep enough, and eat enough, and rest enough, and stop hustling.

It's the literal and figurative lack of hustling that feels most strange, and new. No more hustling from Point Reyes to San Francisco to Oakland and back in the course of 12 hours. No more hustling to crank out those imperative email replies before hitting the road til midnight. No more hustling to throw up a quick blog post before rolling out the door.

Just staying, being slow and still and present. Sitting for 3 hours to write thank-you notes and feeling amazingly rewarded at finally getting them done. Making pancakes yesterday and not feeling like I should be practicing instead. Watching Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl" and loving the learning and the sense of connection to my prairie-bred, German-immigrant, Nebraska farmer great-grandparents who somehow managed to struggle through those years without feeling like I had another, "more important" project to be completing.

Whoa. Feels kind of wonderful to exhale.

I realize this will all change in a matter of days, or weeks. Oh yes. People have been quick to remind me that the quiet solo hours I've always savored reading and writing at coffee shops will soon be a romantic thing of the past. And while the indubitable truth of that reality makes me want to drink heavily and cry, I also know that there'll be a lot of sweet hours to come full of "doing nothing" whilst rocking my milk-drunk baby to sleep.

I know I'm lucky to get this little window of time. I know not everyone is so privileged, that a lot of full-term pregnant women are stuck flipping burgers and shuffling around on painfully swollen feet in front of the grills at McDonalds until the moment they go into labor. I feel grateful to have these few still hours to prepare, to anticipate, to settle, to ground, before we launch into a wholly unknown realm. And I've gotta say: mothers-to-be, if you're able to sneak in a week or two of leave before the whole world changes, it's a dream. A relief. A necessary pause. A sacred moment of time in which no one expects you to do or perform or show up or wear a bra. In which you can tuck in and disappear and breathe deeply and just be.

And it is really lovely.

*

If you have any down-time to read today, check out these couple of pieces:

Nathan Schneider on 12 Ways Catholicism Is More Radical Than Pope Francis. Yes! Progressives are loving on Pope Frank a lot lately, which makes me happy, but most of them don't realize that he's actually just living by Christian doctrines, as opposed to most of the right-wing fundamentalist "Christians" who've distorted the actual teachings to serve their own reactionary socio-political and economic ideologies. Back in the day, I used to tell people I was a "radical Christian, but that's redundant." I don't know how "Christian" you can officially consider me anymore, but I still hold fast to the understanding that Christianity is at its heart wild-and-crazy-revolutionary. Check it.
The SF Chronicle wrote an article about Zeke and family in the wake of Ron Powell's tragic death last week. I was so heartened to see such a widespread outpouring of compassion and support. You can read more and see Paige Green's poignant, bittersweet family photos here.
Susan Piver on Buddhism and heartbreak. She is so good. There's a lot of trite, crappy writing about love going around this week. This isn't that. Read it.

Kate Geiselman on the challenges of teaching community college. I so appreciate this perspective. In the vein of Matthew B. Crawford's fantastic look at shop work as soul craft, here's yet another scholar who says: hey people, maybe there's a problem with this cultural myth that a 4-year college degree is a ticket to financial success and personal (and career) fulfillment. Especially when private (and, sadly, even public) universities are charging increasingly obscene prices to crank out what are often useless college degrees.
(On that note: read this book.)
Joe Fassler on Ingmar Bergman, his muse, his art, and what all great artists (writers, musicians) need: solitude. On whether pain is necessary for real creativity, and what it means to live in service to one's art, to sit with the overwhelming humanity that (said Bergman), "oozes out of me like a broken tube of toothpaste; it doesn’t want to stay within the confines of my body." And then there's this, sounding suspiciously more and more like meditation: "You can't run away from your emotions and your memory and the material you're working on. Artistic solitude is a decision to turn and face these feelings, to sit with them for long periods of time. It takes the courage to be there. You run into your own pettiness. Your own cowardice. You run into all kinds of ugly sides of yourself. But the things that you've experienced in your life become the writing that you do. And there's no easy way to get to it. And that's what Bergman and other Swedish writers have taught me—to stay in that painful zone, discipline myself through it to get where I want."
Michael Sam on coming out as gay just as he approaches the NFL draft. Love this story. Love his bravery. Love the overall celebratory and supportive reactions emerging from all corners. Hope, hope, hope he gets drafted and goes big.
Oh, and if you really, really have time, like prego-lady-waiting-to-birth-a-baby time, or are riding out a snowstorm somewhere on the colder coast, watch the aforementioned Dust Bowl mini-series. And then check out the new Netflix documentary about Mitt Romney, simply titled "Mitt." It's a fascinating inside look at Romney's two failed Presidential runs, heavy on family home videos and hotel room prayer sessions, although short on actual policy and strategy insights.
*

Be fierce in paying attention to what's already working. What's already fine. 
Because in every single moment, many things are already fine. 

Valentine's Day, Buddhist-Style




Susan Piver always gets it right.

This is some of the best writing on love/heartbreak that you'll find, in a week often saturated with (dare I say mediocre?) tawk of love.

Read it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Reality Check

And then sometimes life smacks you upside the head with a no-joke reality check.

Crept home yesterday in the rain after a sweltering, sweet final class at Flying Yoga. I'd been a little worried that my almost-37-weeks-prego self wasn't going to be able to hack it through the humid 90-minute sweatfest, but it was fine, and everyone was so damn lovely, so after stopping at the bank, grabbing some Super Bowl snacks at Trader Joe's, and loading up on gas, I headed home to savor the rest of a rainy day with my Mister watching the big game next to a roaring fire.

Relief. Exhalation.

My belly has gotten to the point where it can no longer squeeze between the tight rows of 60-some bodies packed into that hot studio. I'm always whacking people with it right and left, inadvertently, awkwardly.

Feels like it's finally time to be still and rest.

Saw the news about Philip Seymour Hoffman yesterday on leaving class. Shocked and dismayed, along with everyone else, to hear of his unexpected passing.

("To be loved, I think, is the thing that gets you up in the morning," said PSH himself on NPR's Morning Edition, back in April 2012. Have to agree.)

So there was a strange and somber tone injected into an otherwise-celebratory day, matched somewhat by the cool grey rain, as welcome as that much-needed relief was to all of us feeling the drought here in California.

I listened to Tara Brach on my wet, careful drive into class Sunday morning, doing my best to navigate the slippery roads. She talked about how everything we experience — thoughts, feelings, pleasant and painful sensations — is like a weather pattern, coming and going, appearing, staying for a few breaths (or a few days), and then passing along. And how our job as meditators, as yogis, as, well, people just trying to get through the day, is to relate deeply enough to the fundamental understanding of our own Buddha nature, our own pure awareness as that of untouched clear blue sky — so bright and still, naturally placid, radiant, rich with innate equanimity and balance — that when the inevitable severe thunderstorms of our lives roll in, we are decently equipped to step back, take a deep breath, layer on a few raincoats, pull on our galoshes, and sit quietly with the blowing clouds and the gale-force winds until they eventually, in an hour or in a week or a year, pass.

I found this metaphor particularly apropos as I drove through the wet and the cold and realized how deeply we needed it.

I thought it particularly insightful as I witnessed the collective joy from everyone in the Bay Area on waking (finally!) to rain. Facebook and Twitter were blowing up with commentary from folks overjoyed at the long-awaited graceful inconvenience of having to stay home and snuggle up and listen to the rain pelting down.

I was reminded of its truth especially in driving past the near-evaporated Nicasio reservoir and witnessing the dead brown hills lapping up rain along Lucas Valley Road.

I felt the thirsty earth's gratitude for this little tease of nourishment from the sky.

I left my umbrella in the car and savored the little wet drops on my way into the studio for the last time til after the baby comes.

I spoke a few words in class about how we should all lend some healthy skepticism to any yoga teacher or system that says you should always be happy, that every day should be sunny, that enlightenment looks like perpetual bliss. We in California these days know too well that a life of perpetual sunshine is not a good thing. It's unbalanced. It doesn't lend to equanimity. It leaves us wanting for nourishment and wholeness and a certain necessary complementarity. We have witnessed this truth with dire consequences in the last few drought-ridden months.

So I said a little something more about how the metaphorical rain of our days is welcome, how we need to usher in the more chaotic, messy, sloppy shit-storms of our lives, remembering that they, too, are simply weather systems, coming and going, and they're just as nourishing and as essential and as healthy (and as yogic) as the brilliantly sunny days. That we can't have one without the other.

And this all felt very wise and true and balanced, very yin/yang, very Taoist, this reminder to welcome the rainstorms along with the sun.

And I felt so grateful, again, for the slop and the sludge on the slow, drippy drive home, remembering how comforting the sound of rain hammering the top of the big blue van had been as a kid, driving home along I-29 in South Dakota.

But then last night after the game (can we really call that pathetic whomping a game?), fire still roaring, bellies full, convinced by the Broncos' listless showing that the 49ers still deserved to reign in the upper-echelon of American football, we heard this news, unbelievable, really, heart-breaking in the most inconceivable of ways.

The kind of news that hits a whole community like a punch to the gut, that leaves a whole expanse of folks reeling.

The kind of news you think just should not possibly ever be.

The kind of news you're sure is just too unfair to be true.

Alex and Ron's 4-year-old son, Ezequiel, was diagnosed with a very rare Stage 4 cancer just a few weeks ago. (That's Ron and EZ in the picture, up above.) He's been in the hospital undergoing chemo, and just finally came home on Friday.

Word has traveled quickly amongst West Marin folks in the last few weeks, and it's been heartrending to witness the power of so many people coming together with love and support for their family. Inspiring. Gives you hope amongst the sadness.

(Your heart just hurts, even hearing the news. I don't even know them that well, not the way my husband does, or like some of the local people who've all grown up together over the years, and it still makes me quiver.)

Sunday morning, Ron, EZ's father, had a massive heart attack and died in his sleep.

Just like that.

One day after coming home from the hospital with his chemo-treated son.

Holy shit.

Holy impossible.

Holy what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-the-world.

Holy this is why we owe it to one another to learn to sit with, to honor, to witness, every range of feelings and experiences that comes up.

Because life is NOT all fairies and unicorns, in spite of what many yoga magazines and Instagram accounts and lots of perpetually blissed-out green-juice-drinking yoga-lebrities want you to think.

Because life is often unfair, and incomprehensible, and painful, and oh-so-full of suffering.

Because we know that's true, because we've all experienced it in one way or another, though most of us, through sheer random luck, perhaps, not to the degree that the Powell/Porrata family is right now.

Because we, all of us, need every tool we can possibly get to be ok in moments like these, the moments that seem far too unbearable to even be true.

Because sometimes the weather systems of our lives are soft little April showers, and sometimes they're snowpocalypses that wreak havoc and dump shitloads of snow everywhere and close all the roads and trap us at home and leave us wondering how and if and when we'll ever dig out.

We practice for those moments in our lives. Those moments wherein we think there's no way to ever get through, or out, or around. Those moments wherein suffering seems too Capital-S to bear. Those moments wherein the polar vortex pummels the hell out of everything we know and love.

And in the meantime, we try desperately to remind ourselves (failing, usually, caught up as we are in the miniscule daily dramas of our lives) not to ever take the stillness, the ease, the clear-blue-sky kind of days for granted.

Because those pass, too.

I mutter this little unofficial made-up prayer as a kind of blessing at the end of every class I teach, a fleeting wish that we might never take this breath, this body, this moment, this life for granted, not only as a final brief reminder to students as to why we do any of this yoga stuff, but also as a reminder for myself.

That the most challenging breaths, the most challenging moments might be just as sacred as any other; that we might never get so bogged down in the Frankenstorms of our lives that we forget how lucky we are to even have this life to begin with; and the fact that at any moment — any moment! — it all might change.

And then, there, we might suddenly find ourselves alone, or burying a partner, or a child, or a parent, and wishing we'd been more aware (present, light, loving, grateful, patient, fill-in-the-blank) while we still could.

Don't take a single breath for granted.

Even the breaths that are hard to catch, the struggling ones that come through a stuffy-sick-with-the-flu nose, or the desperate shallow ones that come at the top of the longest literal or figurative mountain-climb you've ever tackled, or the thin unsatisfying ones we struggle to really get because there's a big ol' baby sitting in the space where your lungs usually expand.

Each one is sacred.

Especially, especially, the most ostensibly mundane.

Because how we will wish for those breaths when they're gone.

So I'm going to settle into these next few quiet weeks of waiting for the wee one to arrive, and enjoy the staying in my pajamas with my beloved working quietly in the next room, and savor the to-do lists and the packing-the-birth-center bag and the gathering-tax-materials and the paying-off-credit-cards and the doing-the-laundry and all of those other unsexy ways we spend our hours.

Because they are real. And they won't last forever.

*
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern....
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life.
— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

If you'd like to donate to the Powell/Porrata family,
you can do so at www.ezpowell.org

Thursday, January 30, 2014

And It's All Because Of This One Sweet Place...




Three years ago, I met my husband at Urban Flow while assisting for MC Yogi. This afternoon I taught my last class there before our baby is born.

This little bhakti baby boy is coming into our lives all because of this one sacred place!

Thanks and endless love to Rusty Wells and the whole UF family. I'll be calling y'all for babysitters when he needs someone to chant him to sleep.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Maternity Leave, Schedule Changes and More

Here's my latest newsletter (and probably the last one to go out for a few months).

Do check it out for details on my maternity leave (starting February 4th), schedule changes, book club updates, workshop offerings, and more.

Love.

Monday, January 6, 2014

January Airport Blues


Hey there. Happy new year.

2014. Wild.

This time of year, a decade or so ago, I'd be flying back to SFO after spending New Year's in a fair amount of drunken revelry with my old college crew at the beach in Delaware. We had a wee annual tradition (which some of the more-local folks have kept alive yet today): spend a couple of days together at a beach house, catching up, singing bad karaoke, walking the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, you know. I usually spent that return flight home wrung-out, dehydrated, yoga-pants-clad and nostalgic, but always glad to be coming home to California.

Ten years later, things look a little different. I still ended up spending a long chunk of my post-New-Year's weekend in the airport, but this time I came home sober, wearing stretchy prego pants, and reading about 1970s midwives in Tennessee, whilst chugging water.

Kinda missed the hangover.

* * *

On Friday we flew down to LA for a quick weekend, after spending the holidays here at home. We were pretty proud of ourselves for not having to deal with the usual holiday blizzard-flight-delay drama, you know? I'm just rounding the corner on 33 weeks now, which means my window for being able to fly safely is quickly closing, and my bandwidth for that sort of travel commotion is shrinking rapidly. So when we found out that Robb's friend Britta was teaching a Birthing From Within workshop in Topanga Canyon on Saturday and Sunday, we figured it was a perfect opportunity to squeeze in a quick little trip away and knock out some important training with someone we liked and trusted at the same time. Best of all, no frozen airports involved. We'd zip down to LAX from OAK and effectively circumvent all of the weather-driven airport headaches going down in the middle of the country.

Wishful thinking.

Sunday evening we closed out a powerful weekend of natural-birthing-talk and made it to the airport in plenty of time to grab a little dinner before our 8:50 flight. Thanks to the weekend's delays everywhere else, after printing our boarding passes we found out our plane hadn't yet arrived and we'd be stuck at LAX til 11:15. Which meant arriving in Oakland at 12:30am and getting home finally, finally, somewhere around 2 o'clock this morning.

Good times.

We sat in the airport for a bleak 4 hours. As you might imagine, there were a lot of crabby, tired, family-exasperated folks hanging around. I consoled myself by thinking we could enjoy a nice lingering dinner and some quiet down-time. You'd think LAX would be all up on the healthy organic gluten-free vegan train the same way SFO is. You'd be wrong. After marching up and down the concourse in a failed search for anything healthy, inhaling some shitty nachos and ogling Robb's beer with mad pregnant-lady jealousy, we planted our butts in plastic chairs and watched the clock until sleepily boarding around 11. Around 2:30 this morning we rolled in. The whole thing was all kind of a fog.

Thanks, Chicago.

It was a good reminder that we're all interconnected, eh? Your suffering is mine, and mine is yours.

Ditto your cold weather delays. My late plane is your late plane. And your late plane is most definitely mine.

This morning I've been reading all of your windchill updates from Minnesota and Wisconsin and chuckling with self-congratulatory delight at the fact that that level of cold is just an old childhood memory for me anymore. I always feel extra proud of having chosen to move to California in moments like these, when everyone else is moaning and groaning about snowplows and school cancellations.

The schadenfreude almost makes up for the fact that living in California means it's impossible to buy a home unless you've got family money, or that private schools here cost obscene elitist amounts that make me want to curse techie capitalists and move to Montana.

Almost, but not quite.

Bottom line: it's good to be home. We've got a fire churning in the fireplace, even though the high today is 63 and it's warm enough to head out for a hike in a few minutes.

I'm teaching 2 yoga philosophy lectures at the Flying Yoga Teacher Training immersion this weekend, and am really looking forward to it. That means that any downtime this week will be turned to nerdy forays into Sanskrit and samkhya. The yin energy of this time of year feels nicely suited to that kind of quiet intellectual work. I'm happy to be doing it.

* * *

We are just under two months away from due date now (though the little man could reasonably arrive anytime in February, given my family's history of month-early babies), and that feels real. Robb has been amazing about making the nursery come alive. I've never been one for that whole painting-cartoons-on-the-wall-in-primary-colors sort of thing. The room is simple and spacious and light and clean, and we've got a crib (sans mattress), a dresser, and a fab glider going on (again, all thanks to The Mister, whose willingness to dive into acquiring the necessary infant paraphernalia is a tonic to my ideological aversion to shopping).

Folks have been amazing about donating adorable hand-me-down teeny-tiny clothes, which have all been washed and folded and tucked away. So we're doing fine. After a weekend of birthing talk and breath meditations, dare I say we might be feeling a little bit ready.

Though the notion of "readiness" is, of course, an absolute laugh.

[Lesson #47 from this weekend: Chuck the carefully-constructed birth plan and just go with the flow, sister. This whole popping-out-a-living-being thing is all about dropping any illusions of control.]

Speaking of jokes (and letting go): my yoga practice. I miss it so much. I miss backbends SO much. I miss inversions and Down Dog and Chaturanga and all of it. Achingly so.

Friends ask how I'm doing and really it's all quite fine, quite gravy. I can't complain about a single bodily ache or pain, other than maybe having a hard time sleeping at night. But it's the palpable ache for the practice that is so difficult. To spend 15, 20 years of your life honing, developing, daily perfecting a tool for finding ease in body, mind, and spirit and then to just have it not be available at all, well, sucks.

Flat-out sucks.

People say, their eyes twinkling, "Oh, you're just doing another kind of yoga right now," and I get it, I really get it, and that's a very nice thought. But the bottom line, if I'm going to be honest here, folks, is that I really fucking miss my asana. I feel jealous of my male friends and colleagues who never have to experience this vast loss of mobility. I am beyond attached to my practice, yes. Attached because it has served me and my life so well over the years. Attached because it has lent my days light and grace and equanimity and release. Attached because it makes my body and my mind feel so damn good, makes me a better friend and sibling and listener and wife. Attached because it allows me to give more than I am able to without it.

So it doesn't make it any easier to let it go when people point out that we "shouldn't be attached." Because I am a yoga teacher, I "get" all the ways in which this loss of mobility is in fact a great teacher, a "blessing" if you want to get super-Pollyanna-ish about it; I get it, I do, just the same way we always say that injuries and aging are our best teachers. But that doesn't mean I like it. That doesn't mean I don't miss the hell out of feeling light and strong and athletic and spry. That doesn't mean I don't grieve the loss of the strong core and the light body that could move and spring and flow and stretch in ways this swollen heavy body does not. And I wish for a greater space in which I could speak that truth without feeling like a failed yogi because I am not always able to meet this vast bodily change with ease and grace and peace.

Strap a bowling ball onto your gut and walk around that way for a few months, add in a little insomnia and low energy and then tell me patronizingly how much I'm glowing.

I guess I'm just saying: let's be real. Let's not get so lost in the airy-fairy language of earthy mama fertility goddesses that we lose sight of the reality of our actual embodied experiences. There are beautiful aspects of pregnancy — my god, yes, there are: the depth of intuition, the feeling your baby move, the seeing him kick from the outside (trippy!), the sense of connection, you know, all that pretty stuff that prenatal yoga teachers love to go on about. But there are complicated aspects, too, shadow sides, that I think a lot of us in Positivity Land don't fairly acknowledge: the sorrow of losing many aspects of one's old self, the bodily discomforts, the fears and anxieties, the physical and emotional heaviness.

The inability to have a cocktail at the airport bar when your flight is delayed 4 hours.

I'm all about seeing the light and the beauty and the silver linings. I just wanna make sure we've got fair space for all of the other aspects of experience that come with being alive in a body, too; that we don't get so wrapped up in spiritual bypassing, thinking ourselves holy and enlightened, that we forget to be real.

What don't they tell you about pregnancy? They don't tell you that while you're "glowing" and "radiant," the hormones in your body that are starting to open your pelvis and relax your joints are also slowing down and relaxing your digestive system. So you're constipated for days on end, no matter how much broccoli and hummus and sauerkraut you eat.

Sexy.

It's hard to feel full of rainbows in that state.

* * *

Glad to see the 49ers pull off a victory yesterday. Glad to see the sun coming out here in West Marin. Glad, really glad, to be teaching twice a week at Yoga Toes this month before heading out for maternity leave in February.

Not so glad to see Yoga Journal launching all kinds of diet-y "Fit and Fabulous" New Year's programs. Not so glad to see that the new Editor-In-Chief comes from Self magazine, and that she is a self-proclaimed "fitness junkie" with a background in fashion and nary a mention of philosophy in her opening press release. Not so glad to see all the well-intentioned-but-often-naive resolutions being made out there that no doubt will spiral into self-flagellation and harsh self-judgment when their impossible-to-keep pressures get to be too much.

As in every January, I'll be glad when all of the media emphasis on "New Year, New You" fades away and we can go back to billboards and newspaper articles and internet ads about car insurance and Fritos again. I get so tired of the annual January detox talk and the redemptive-bodily-transformation salvation language that gets mythologized around this time of year. If we are to be happy, if we are to really find contentment (santosha, in yoga-speak), we have to start where we are, as we are (Atha), and really let that be enough, trusting that fulfillment and completion are not always "over there," but can, in fact, be found in the here and now, the discomforts, the uncertainties, and, dare I even say it: the constipation.

So, seriously, please, for me, and for your own sakes, in the midst of all that culturally-ubiquitous New Year's self-improvement talk, just remind yourselves:
There was nothing wrong with the "old" you. You are innately good. 
You are innately wise. You are innately lovable, here, now, just as you are.
You know that, right? That the fantasy 30-pounds-lighter, detoxed, Crest-White-Stripped, green-juicing version of yourself would be just as good and as happy and as complete as the right-now, squishier, softer, nacho-eating, TV-watching you?

Don't forget. It's true.

* * *

Stay warm out there in the hinterlands today. I don't wish to live in the square states again one iota right now. Though I send you all much solidarity and several strong pours of whiskey to power you through.

Tired love from the new nursing glider in our living room, next to the not-quite-yet-past-its-prime Christmas tree, while the fire crackles and I pretend that my mug is full of a steaming black brew instead of the disappointing runner-up that is my cup of raspberry tea.

To new beginnings. And old, unshakeable goodness.

Mondays and Wednesdays in January




I'm stoked to be teaching at Yoga Toes Studio every Monday and Wednesday evening for the rest of January. Join me for 6pm vinyasa, starting tonight.

Glad for a few more chances to practice together before I head out for maternity leave in February.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Anne Lamott On Why You Shouldn't Start a New Year's Diet

Anne Lamott just posted this totally reasonable anti-New Year's diet rant on FB. It's blowing up, for reasons which will become obvious as soon as you read it.

Love this woman and her so-real voice. Love that she lives right down the street from us here in Marin. And love her commitment to wearing forgiving pants.

We need to talk. 
I know you are planning to start a diet next Wednesday. I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, "Oh, that's great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?" 
I got rid of her sorry ass. No one talks to ME that way.  
Well, okay, maybe it was ten years later, after she had helped lead me back home, to myself, to radical self-care, gentle Self-Talk, to a jungly glade that had always existed deep inside me, but that I'd avoided by achieving, dieting, people-pleasing, multi-talking, and so on.

Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: "Great, honey. How much are you hoping to gain?"

I was able to successfully put on weight on book tour by eating room service meals in a gobbly trance in 13 different hotels. So that was exhilarating, to make myself feel like Jabba the Hut.

And then I accidentally forgot to starve myself in December, or to go back to the gym, which I've been meaning to do since I had a child, 24 years ago.

So I am at least five pounds up — but praise be to God, I do not currently have a scale, because as I've said before, getting on a scale is like asking Dick Cheney to give you a sense of your own self-worth.

I can still get my jeans on, for one reason: I wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough self-esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act.

By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor's care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won't work. Some of you need to get outside and walk for half an hour a day. I do love walking, so that is not a problem for me, but I have a serious sickness with sugar: if I start eating it, I can't stop. It turns out I don't have an off switch, any more than I do with alcohol. Given a choice, I will eat candy corn and Raisinets until the cows come home--and then those cows will be tense, and bitter, because I will have gotten lipstick on the straps of their feed bags.

But you crave what you eat, so if I go for 3 or 4 days with no sugar, the craving is gone. That is not dieting. If you are allergic to peanuts, don't eat peanuts.

So please join me in not starting a diet January 1st.

It's really okay, though, to have (or pray for) an awakening around your body. It's okay to stop hitting the snooze button, and pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. It's an inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185, you will not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and serenity you long for is not out there. It's within. I hate that. I resent that more than I can say. But it's true.

Maybe some of us will eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to almost all problems.

I'll leave you with this: I've helped some of the sturdier women at my church get healthy, by suggesting they prepare each meal as if they had asked our beloved pastor to lunch or dinner. They wouldn't say, "Here Pastor — let's eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of Pringles is ALL for you." And then stand there gobbling from their own tubular container.

No, they'd get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before Veronica at the table, filled with happiness, love, pride and connection. That's what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now, or on the 1st. Wow!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Noon Classes Are Back!

After six weeks away due to flooding and teacher training, Urban Flow's noon classes are BACK!!

Starting today, join me on Tuesdays/Thursdays (and my most-awesome colleague Andrea Maltzer on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays), 12pm sharp. We've really missed you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November Newsletter



Here's all the latest November news, including Urban Flow's post-flood re-opening, next month's book club, and more.

You can sign up to receive all the regular monthly newsletters at the link.

Love.

Kirtan This Saturday, Nov. 23rd


We're having a kirtan this Saturday! And you should come.

Join me, Becca Sullivan, Pradeep Teotia, drummers and the Flying Yoga Community in a lively chant session (Kirtan!) on Saturday, November 23rd at 6:30. Pradeep's class will transition into Kirtan and there will be tea and light refreshments served to hold you over until dinner.

As Becca reminds us: "Chant is an ancient practice that connects us to ourselves, each other and to the universe. Chanting raises our emotional vibration and makes it easier to feel alive, peaceful, centered and happy. Especially following a demanding physical asana practice that balances the physical body (like Pradeep's Bhakti Vinyasa), chanting gives us an opportunity to go deep within ourselves to cultivate balance and happiness on the emotional and spiritual level. This will be a great opportunity to connect a bit more with the Flying Yoga community."

Students are encouraged to sign up early for Pradeep's class (from 4:30-6pm), as it is likely to be full to capacity. Family friendly. Suggested donation: $10

Further details and FB invitation here.

December Book Club: Fierce Medicine




Our December book club selection will be Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit, by Ana Forrest.

We'll meet on Monday, December 16th at 7pm at OMpower Cycling and Yoga.

Grab your copy now!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

All-black.







Bebe at 25 weeks.

He's reading a lot of Kafka and Sartre these days.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Whoosh. This nails it.

"Loving whatever God has handed you."

This is the teaching of the Buddha, cloaked in the language of my Presbyterian childhood. I've discovered the Christian term kenosis, meaning "to let go" or "to empty one's self." Kenosis is the emptying of one's own will ... It is active. It moves from the inside out — milk poured from the pitcher, honey from the pot.

I'm reminded of Buddhism's shunyata, or emptiness, that place of no-place from which all things arise and to which they return. Kenosis and shunyata. Both are empty of self, both embody that bathwater maxim: loving is about turning over, about letting go and giving away. And both connect me to the ceaseless flow between form and void, between everything and nothing. In this flow all things are possible.

— Martha Kay Nelson, "Everyday Deliverance" 


Reference also: The Heart Sutra. ("Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.")

Reference also: the prairie.

Yes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On Spinning Out


There's a one-hour hike a few minutes' drive from our home.

It's sun-dappled and abundant and lush and alternately warm and cold, in pockets. Locals know it, and, judging by the number of faces you see at the same time every morning, many make it part of their daily routine. You'll reliably run across a few over-eager dogs bounding ahead of their sweatshirt-clad owners as you haul your heavy pregnant ass up and down the hill.

It's optimally engineered (as if human engineering had anything to do with it): a strong up-slope on the approach, with a good 3 hills or so, all peaches-and-cream downhill for the second half of the hike. Just right.

We've been hiking it regularly all year. It's been a godsend since day one, but especially now, at 6+ months pregnant, when my yoga practice is a shadow of what it used to be. I managed to keep at my usual fake-Ashtanga home practice clip right up to about 15 weeks or so, but since then, there's too much belly in the way to make even Chaturanga or Up Dog feel safe, so it's more stretching than anything else.

My upper arms are getting soft and weak. Like an 18th-century Austen heroine's.

My heart and legs are stronger than ever, thankyouverymuch, Cardio Hike.

(You are not your body. Ain't that the truth. Talk about lessons in impermanence. All things coming and going. Including your backbends. Male yoga teachers: you have no idea. I mean, what it's like to do Utthita Parsvakonasana with a baby belly in the way. What it's like to waddle to the top of the mat like an elephant in attempted Sun Salutations. What it's like to develop your practice for 13 years and then just let. it. go.)

We walked this trail daily in the weeks before the wedding. Spent much of it planning, up and down, up and down, seating charts and ceremony details and housing arrangements and the like. It lent sanity, a blessed escape from our phones for even an hour.

The Mister hikes it early in the morning before work.  These days I'm tired more often, not sleeping so well at night, so by the time I finally roll out at 7:30, he's long gone.

So I hike it more often on my own during the weekdays. I've had more time of late, what with last month's unexpected flooding at Urban Flow and the resulting temporary cancellations of my usual Tuesday and Thursday noon classes there while we rebuild.

Strange unfamiliar space. I'm not used to this much unscheduled time, at least not since my years bartending, that is, which echoed with long luxurious days spent reading the NYT and drinking coffee. More recent years have been top-heavy with commitments, exhausting 17-class weeks, the exceedingly rare day off.

Every day, I lace up my hiking shoes and zip up my ever-tightening grey fleece vest, the thrift store one that says "Space Camp" on the left lapel, and haul my body up and down that hill. Usually to the accompaniment of an intelligent podcast, the kind of podcast that makes me feel smart and connected and curious and not awash in the increasingly-dummified tides of New Age yogaspeak taking over the yoga scene these days.

I listen to theologians and scientists and philosophers. Folks like Nadia Bolz-Weber and Matthieu Ricard and Alain de Botton. They remind me not to get dragged down by the disappointingly anti-critical-thinking bent in the ever-more-commodified yoga world. They remind me to stay hopeful and clever and, by and by, to keep questioning.

I need this.

They remind me, too, that just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I have to get lost in mommy-slop. That there's room for brains in creating a child. That I am not alone in wanting autonomy and connection and intellectual stimulation and emotional complexity and no further unprovoked comments from random baggage clerks at Whole Foods about how it "looks like I'm baking a bun in the oven."

(Since when do pregnant women's bodies become automatic public property?)

The baby is going to know this beloved hike by heart, before he even takes a single step on his own.

When I walk it and think of him, which is most often what I'm thinking of, I am so grateful to be creating life in a place that offers fresh air and stillness and quiet. Environment is everything. That plainsong hush, that freedom to roam, that friendly backdrop of nature is what I had as a kid, and more than anything else what I wish for him, too.

But one day, mid-hike, I realized that I had been walking enveloped by a destination-worthy nature preserve and not been there at all. I hadn't seen one goddamned tree, I hadn't smelled one lone pine, I hadn't heard one sparrow sing, so wrapped up had I been in the thinking and analyzing and wondering and planning. I was so absent in the remembered past and the imagined future that I couldn't even process one iota of the beauty that was surrounding me.

It's so easy for us (yes, I'm talking about you, too, and you know it applies) to get lost in THINKING: capital-T Thinking, the kind that feels urgent and imperative and definitively world-shaping. We grow up assuming that if we can just get all our mental ducks lined up, everything in life will always be under our control. There are so many Very Important Things to always be sorting out, you know? Work and insurance and maternity leave and child carseats and finances and cribs and cloth diapers and all of the assorted paraphernalia of birth and infancy. A girl could spend all day up in her head about this action, not to mention comparing her current life to the one a year ago, which featured considerably more cocktails, or the one that will surely appear a year from now, featuring considerably more bodily fluids.

Enough already. It had to stop. I'd make myself crazy spinning out on plans and analyses and mental murmurings. And barely have the space or presence to enjoy the marvelous real-time circus that is carrying a small beating heart just below my own.

So I picked up Eckhart Tolle's The Power Of Now. I sat down a week ago Monday morning, and left my phone in the other room, and ploughed through all 230 pages before noon. And boy, did it shift things. Boy, did it remind me that this moment is all there is. That there's such sadness in wishing away the present moment for the day I'll be able to do my regular strong athletic practice again or wistfully remembering the moment I could slam 2 vodka martinis before dinner or worrying how the heck I'll be ready to travel cross-country with a 6-week old infant in time for my sister's wedding next April. That in living perpetually in the past or the future we absolutely forgo what is present, what is true, what is real.

Life feels slower since then. More content. I drop thoughts like a hot coal in my hands, just dropping them, coming back over and over to this very moment.

Aspects of Tolle's book irritated me, for sure. All his claptrap philosophy about women being closer to enlightenment because they are part of Mother Earth's creative birthing energy, blah blah blah? Dude, take a gender studies class already and realize that that attitude is why we're raping the Earth and plundering the seas and why women's bodies have been shoved under steel-toe boots for centuries. Get rid of that shit. And all the gratuitous flowery talk of the "Unmanifested" and other randomly-capitalized words? Enough already. Be real. Cut the faux-spiritual crap.

But there were other parts that served. The wisdom and liberation of learning to watch the mind. The freedom that comes with realizing you are not your thoughts. The power of stepping away from addictive mental masturbation (I think always of Michael Stone's reminder that "Your life doesn't need you to think about it all the time") and trusting that all will be fine and the bills will get paid and the baby will get swaddled and the career will be salvaged.

There are a lot of things I'd like to say these days which feel too edgy, too sharp, too critical. I am tired of feeling vaguely muzzled by the yoga scene. I am tired of endemic spiritual bypassing. I am tired of the assumption that yoga teachers shouldn't have prickly opinions, should be always and ever generally lobotomized by bliss. I am tired of perky brand-new 21-year-old teachers sharing exhausted Rumi quotes and naively urging the unwashed, over-worked masses to "BE HAPPY!!!" I'm tired of selfies and Instagram and recipes for turmeric kale juice. I'm tired of all the Top 10 "How To Be Perfectly Enlightened" lists. I'm tired of the pressure to be a perfect yogini. I don't want to be a super-ninja yogini mama doing backflips days before birth and subsisting on celery juice and chia seeds. I want to eat cake and rest well and stop hustling. (I'm serious about that cake part.  Check out Flour Craft Bakery in San Anselmo for 100% gluten-free god-blessed baked-goods heaven.) I want to be home, be still, read thoughtful books, play piano, spend less time sending out newsletters or planning workshops.

I know this is for the large part very normal, seasonal, hormonal, physiological, to be expected.

Just don't take it personally when I put off making plans. It's not about you. (Unless you're Chip Wilson.)

It's just, well; I'd much rather be hiking. Not thinking. Not talking. Just being. Listening. Breathing.

Here.

See you on the trail. I'l be the one huffing and swearing under her breath.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.


There are gaping holes in everything. Life is a nice fresh batch of Swiss cheese. (Note to self: Savor the holes, too, like the spaces between musical notes.) 
                                 — Anne Lamott

Spent this cool foggy almost-Daylight-Savings-Time autumn morning finishing up Lamott's Some Assembly Required. Grateful for writers like her who dare to be at once spiritual and — gasp! — human. As I read her writing, I thought of my friend Andrea's reminder: "Don't get so spiritual that you lose your personality."

Preach.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Last Night's Tunes

I had a few questions about last night's playlist. You can find all the details below. Class began with Garth Stevenson's "Flying," which isn't listed here.

Happy listening.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On Embracing Your Ghosts


Headless horsemen and haunting and All Hallow's Eve everywhere you look this week, accentuated by the City's own seasonal cool and gloom.

Haunted by a few ghosts of your own these days?

Don't worry; we all are.

Maybe those apparitions look like remnants of the past that linger in your wakefulness; maybe they're the looming fear of what is to come; maybe they're the whimpering wisps of craving for that which will never be. However you want to look at them, these creeping, craving, lurking, never-satiated spirits love to wrap their long winding fingers around our hearts, breathing eerie, raspy voices into our thoughts, urging us on to dissatisfaction, destruction, turmoil, tumult, despair.

Amy Weintraub, she of the fantastic Kripalu teaching, has written a gorgeous piece on that classic Buddhist concept of the Hungry Ghost.  Here's a blurb:

For many years, when feelings of grief or humiliation or self-hatred overwhelmed me, I reached for the anesthetic at hand — sometimes food, sometimes alcohol, sometimes an addictive kind of love and sometimes, in the beginning, even yoga practice. Maybe you’ve identified your own numbing-out strategy, or maybe you haven’t, but most of us have struggled with these cravings. In fact, they’re so common that there is an ancient archetype associated with them — and it’s called the Hungry Ghost.

Who is this Hungry Ghost? Though I call her “she,” my own Hungry Ghost is androgynous and so ugly she’s lovable. She has an enormous and wrinkled head, and, unlike traditional representations, she has a great cavernous mouth into which I have poured various unhealthy substances in order not to feel. Yours, if you have one, may look different.

You may have seen a picture of the Buddhist Wheel of Life, a mandala that depicts the Six Realms of Existence, realms we cycle through endlessly, birth after birth. Beneath the Human, Animal and Hell Realms is the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. These creatures are withered, E.T.-like, with bloated bellies and necks too thin to eat or drink without feeling unbearable pain. Hungry Ghosts wander, insatiable, unable to nourish themselves. “The very attempts to satisfy themselves,” writes Buddhist psychiatrist Mark Epstein in Thoughts Without a Thinker, “cause more pain….Attempts at gratification only yield a more intense hunger and craving. The Hungry Ghosts must come in contact with the ghostlike nature of their own longings.” They must understand their own emptiness. Remarkably, the Boddhisattva of Compassion appears in the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, “carrying a bowl filled with objects symbolic of spiritual nourishment,” says Epstein. It is only when we embrace the Hungry Ghost with compassion that we feed its starving spirit....

I've long loved this notion, inherent as it was in my old academic work on desire, culture and consumerism; that image of the ever-craving empty-bellied ghost dances over and under so many of our most complicated religious and cultural concepts. Take a few minutes between Halloween parties to sit with Weintraub's beautiful writing, and in so doing, to come home with great compassion to your own Hungry Ghosts, to be gentle with them, to find peace and perhaps a glimpse of santosha in the midst of your all-too-human hauntings.

What is it that you crave? What is it that you grasp for? What is that one thing that you think to yourself: "Oh, man, if I could just get [rich] or [skinny] or [the perfect job] or [the perfect partner] or [that new gadget] or [fill-in-the-blank], then everything'd be absolutely friggin' PERFECT, and I could finally be happy and complete and my parents would actually be proud of me and those high school bullies who were so mean to me would finally, totally feel like the jackasses they were?"

Ahem.

As Weintraub points out, the archetype of the Hungry Ghost comes to us in many forms, across many cultures: as the Fallen Angel, as La Llorona, as the Sanskrit Preta. This universal naming of the pain and pleasure of Desire strikes me as somehow so heartening, reminding us that we're all in this together, craving and dissatisfaction and all, and that the practice of saying "It is enough" is in fact a shared challenge, a major victory, a super-sweet daily aim. Can you be brave enough to glimpse your own Hungry Ghost in the mirror, and, rather than running away from her, or numbing her out, or shutting her down, give her a loving nod, maybe a wink, maybe a curious tilt of the head, seeing her for what she is, and thanking her for the inadvertent teaching she's wrought in your life? It's a worthy practice, this sitting with ghosts, on an otherwise deep dark dank Halloween week.

So get your ghost on already. Give her a fond squeeze. And then let her go.

Compassionate Practice: Embracing the Hungry Ghost (Yoga Chicago)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup


Always hated cooking. Unbearably tedious and domestic. Unless I had a cocktail in hand, and even then, meh.

Then I spent the afternoon chopping sweet potatoes and singing Ella & Louis duets to my unborn son. (He needs to learn.)

Might've changed my mind.

Thanks to my little sis for the original recipe. It's cooking now. Perfect for autumn (to be devoured with an agave-drizzled hunk of that leftover cornbread from the other night). And for lazy rookie chefs who like to have lots of leftovers so as to avoid further cooking.

Smells delish.



Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup
from Peas and Thank You

  • 1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 3/4 tsp. garam masala (I couldn't find any, so left it out this time around)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • Sweetener to taste (sugar or stevia)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 14-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 14-ounce ounce can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, drained and rinsed
Combine all ingredients in a crock-pot and set on high for about an hour, then switch to low for an additional 4-5 hours. If desired, garnish with chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts or sour cream.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Over It.


Ok, gotta say it: I'm so OVER all the yoga selfies.

As a teacher, I purposely don't post many pics of myself doing tricky yoga poses because I want to remind students that this yoga stuff is not about the physical form. The only selfies you'll see anytime soon will be me eating nachos and chocolate cake with my girl Andrea Maltzer.

Rogue yogis for the win.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Oh, hey! I'm pregnant.


If you've been to one of my classes in the last week, you've noticed that something's a little different.

Yes, that.

Oh, hey! I'm pregnant.

Surprise!

Today's National Coming Out Day, and I'll admit that in coming back to the studio this week, I've felt a definite sense of coming out of the closet. We've known about this Big! New! Project! for months, of course, but very deliberately kept the news to ourselves as long as possible. It felt sacred and sweet that way, you know? Like a little private treasure box of sorts.

We'd planned all along to keep Bebe quiet until after returning from our honeymoon, at which point I'd likely be sporting an excellent bump, and sure enough, by the time last Monday rolled around, there would be no more hiding things.

I'm a little over 5 months along. The little mister will arrive sometime late February/early March.

Did you catch that? It's a BOY.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we've already glimpsed a few most-rad 3-D ultrasound images, and not only does he appear to have his dad's cute nose, but he's even smiling. By all accounts, he's a contented, strong, healthy little monkey, swimming around in there, forward-folds and lotus-legs all over the place, all fingers and toes and elbows and knees.

Little man is already a yoga ninja, wiggling up a storm first thing in the morning and late at night. I'm loving the fact that he's been able to hear us chanting for the past few weeks, now that his ears have developed.

(You realize you're all singing to him now, yes? That Guru Brahma chant has taken on a whole new meaning for me in these last several months. Talk about a teacher. Little man's kicking my butt with new lessons and humbling revelations. Like, for instance, oh hey, after 12 years of intense daily practices, no more twists or core or handstands or backbends. Say goodbye to mega-heated rooms, which don't feel so cozy when you've already got a hot-cross-bun in the oven. Even Warrior 1 feels strange and not-necessarily-healthy anymore. And I've been skipping Utkasana — with unbridled joy — since about June. And, feeling woozy? Sit down and listen, sister. Be still, rest, sleep, slow down, says Teach. I've never ceded my power — or my asana attachment — so willingly, or with such great love.)

We spent the summer months so full with work and wedding planning that we've been reserving our bebe reading for these slower, wet, dark, autumnal days, other than some big fatty tomes from the Point Reyes bookstore and a couple of week-by-week pregnancy podcasts that have alternately inspired me, comforted me, informed me, and made me want to chew my hand off in "mommy-culture" irritation. (More on that below. There are moments when I am convinced I am a dude in a woman's body. Except for, well, all the stuff.)

The Mister has been amazing about picking out some smart books for us, so I packed a few along for beach reading in Kauai. I dove headfirst into Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions (she the patron saint of keepin' it real), a stellar, hilarious, heart-rending memoir of her son's first year, while we were lounging around on the lanai. It made me laugh out loud. Touched me deeply. And inspired me to get with it on keeping a journal, even if no one ever sees it.

Needless to say, there are a zillion and one blog posts that could be written about this whole experience. Most of them have been written, and written very well, by other people. I've had a surprising inclination toward silence these last several months. People have said, "Wow, you'll have so much to write about!" and I've thought to myself: "Yes, sure, but not right now."

Right now wants listening and reading and paying attention, noticing, being in it, in the day-to-day. Without dropping into clich├ęs, there are a shit-ton of miraculous and mind-blowing things going down on the regular. Most of them are hard to capture without feeling like just one more Gushing Mommy Blogger.

I've never been a fan of "mommy culture."  In fact, I rather hope the little man decides to call me "Ma" like some Jersey Shore prolonged-adolescent ("Hey MA, didja do my laundry yet er what?! I need that leather shirt to wear tonight at the casino") rather than "Mommy," which still sounds toothless and suburban and waaaaaay too domesticated for my tastes.

So it's been with some cultural and intellectual reticence and a great sense of clarity that I've been steadfastly making my way into this new terrain. It helps wonderfully to have several badass, sexy, brilliant friends who also happen to be fantastic mothers, and who remind me in countless ways that mothering doesn't have to mean getting lost in pastels and diaper talk. After 20 weeks spent squeezing my gonzo prego-boobs into yoga tops that have finally just gotten too tight, yesterday I finally broke down and hit up the maternity motherlode. Bebe's growing wonderfully well, and I trust that he'll continue to thrive until I'm nice and round come late February. Which means I should have a few clothes that fit, eh, even though I'm still avoiding the scary stretch-waist mommy-jeans in favor of cute dresses and forgiving leggings.

We're wrapping up the Festival of the Goddess right now in the Hindu calendar, which feels particularly appropriate given all this. The women in my family are fertile as farm stock and we tend to have an easy time of this popping-babies-out thing, and I am ever-grateful for health and good food and strong genes. Nothing has made me appreciate that more than discovering the wonders and terrors of genetic counselors, blood tests, prenatal diagnostics and the like.

Little Man doesn't know what he's in for. He's got the absolute best, most thoughtful, most kind, most gentle, most beefy, most wise, most patient Dad out there, ready to coach him in baseball and teach him sweet-ass dance moves and patiently classify the entire Grateful Dead oeuvre with him.

And I myself am stoked for a little boy. I realized at some point that I studied gender and feminist theory all those years not necessarily because I really dug being a chick; it was, in actuality, because there were so many aspects of being female that I really hated, that felt messed-up and boring and creativity-stunting and life-denying. And that, under all of that, I was more of a dude than anything else. My best friends were men, and they laughed, and cracked dirty jokes, and lived well in their bodies, and didn't apologize for being human.

I wanted more of that in my own life, balanced out with the sweetness and spice and lacy socks and fluffy skirts and love poems and sappy music and all that other stuff that came easily with growing up as a girl in this culture for umpteen years.

I am looking forward to teaching this little mister what it means to be at once curious and strong and fierce and gentle and compassionate and intelligent and embodied and light and earnest and adventurous and faithful and laughing and spirited and loving.

There is a terrific amount of work ahead, and a mind-blowing array of gifts before us.

In the meantime: lots of cozy autumn evenings meant for sitting in front of the fire, wrapping my belly in a dusty blue cotton throw, eating more cookies than I've consumed in the last decade, and reading everything I possibly can about this business of birthing a living being.

Wish us luck.