Thursday, July 16, 2015

July 2015 Newsletter


Hi friends.

Here's my latest newsletter with details on the move to Portland, final classes, and more. If you are not yet a subscriber and would like to be, just click on the "Subscribe" button in the upper left corner.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

August 8th Yoga Retreat & Beach Hike

August 8th Yoga & Beach Hike

August 8th Agenda

We had such a great time the first time around that we've gotta do it again. And I'd love one last vinyasa with y'all before my family and I move to Portland the following week.

This time we'll start with a yoga & meditation practice again at YogaToes Studio in Point Reyes Station, and from there we'll head out to Limantour Beach to hike the Coast Trail.

(Have no fear: the Coast Trail runs a good 17 miles, but we won't be doing the whole thing. We'll hike for a solid hour or two and then head back to Point Reyes in time to stuff our faces and soak up some wine.)

The day's agenda is above. It'll be an ideal little summertime escape.


UPDATE (7/24):

Due to an unexpected conflict, this retreat has been postponed until later this autumn. Thanks for your interest. Stay tuned for new dates to come!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

So Long, Bay Area. We're Moving To Portland.

The rumors are true. Along with the rest of the Bay Area, we are moving to Portland.

After over a decade in California, we're joining the mass exodus northward.

(Can you believe it?)

It's rare these days not to run into someone who knows someone who just moved to Portland or Seattle, or who is thinking about moving to Portland or Seattle, or who just put an offer on a house in Portland or Seattle.

We are some of those someones.

It's been coming for awhile now, really. About three days after Duke was born, overwhelmed and exhausted and feeling quite alone, I turned to my husband and said, "Maybe we need to move to Nebraska." And buddy, trust me: those are words I never, EVER expected to say.

Yoga philosopher Michael Stone posits that the idea that the nuclear family is sufficient for raising small children is actually a social fallacy. I so agree. There is such great truth in the cliché that it takes a village to raise a child. We learned that quickly, living there in stunningly-beautiful but oh-so-isolated Inverness. It was a hard and lonely first few months. Right away we turned our attention to landing somewhere long-term where the public schools were excellent and we could buy a nice house (not for $900k) and where we'd have family nearby.

That thought kind of simmered on the back burner until we heard from my Madison, Wisconsin-based sister Mariah that she and her husband Paul were considering a job offer in Portland. Robb works in Portland regularly, so we've always imagined that it might be a clever spot to land. And the prospect of living just minutes from my sis and bro-in-law and their two adorable daughters was exciting. So exciting.

So when Paul got the job, we got serious.

We'd looked at buying a few homes here in the North Bay, all of which were, well, let's be honest: shitholes. $400k shitholes, to be exact. 130-year-old houses needing to be gutted or torn down. Hoarders' paradises. Located in school districts that wouldn't even muster an "average" rating.

It was disheartening, to say the least.

As this and so many other articles point out, the 1000-square-foot house that goes for $1 million here in the Bay Area goes for $375k in Portland. Now we're talking. Now that feels a little more reasonable. (Even though the real estate market there is now a feeding frenzy almost on par with San Francisco's, and most homes in inner Portland are already going for $50-60k over asking.)

The great news is we've bought a beautiful home in a hot Southeast Portland neighborhood full of hip cafes and cute coffee shops and libraries and parks and yoga studios (yep, yoga studios) and a sweet-ass Whole Foods-style market where I'm sure we'll spend all our money on raw brownies and organic vegetables. It feels like urbanity sans pretension, totally fast-paced and walkable, but also utterly idyllic and safe: a win-win in every regard. It's not far from Reed College, with its campus of lush green avenues, and within walking distance of a top-notch public elementary school that's not unlike something out of a Harry Potter book.

I do so deeply believe in public schools. As a proud product of South Dakota and Nebraska public schools, I have great gratitude for the populist Great Plains institutions that taught me how to value diversity and work hard and not take my economic privilege for granted. My mother was a long-time music teacher for Lincoln Public Schools, too, so it's really in our bones, you see?

But you can't send your kids to the public schools around here. They're horribly underfunded. (Don't even think about arts or music programs.) And the private schools here are outrageously expensive and competitive. (Paying the equivalent of a semester in college for kindergarten, just to be surrounded by a bunch of rich white kids and their helicopter parents? No thanks.)

Enter Portland.

Enter smart cousins who'll be like older sisters.

Enter green. Not brown, not dry, not on the precipice of drought-addled disaster. But green.

The move will happen sooner than we expected. Mid-August. (Yep, I know.) We're already halfway packed, thanks to my uber-motivated, uber-organized husband, who's filled the garage with carefully-labeled boxes and run through countless rolls of packing tape. I'll teach my regular classes through August 11th, and then we'll close things up here, the movers will pack the truck, and we'll head northward to settle into our new home before the autumn grey sets in.

So we are looking at a little over a month left here in the Bay.

It is oh-so-emotional, of course. I moved here in August 2003 (on the 11th, actually, funnily enough), chugging up California Street in my 5-speed Ford Festiva packed with all my worldly belongings. Right away I sensed that if I ever ended up having kids, this'd be the place where I'd want them to grow up. Ethnic and religious diversity, progressive politics, stellar weather, fantastic arts and music opportunities, breathtaking natural beauty; you name it.

And I will be incredibly sad to leave all those things behind. Not to mention the wonderful family and friends we've found here over the years. So bittersweet.

At the same time, the Bay Area is a very different place from the post-Dot-Com-bust San Francisco I encountered in 2003. The moneyed elitism that has come with the recent influx of tech wealth has changed it so much. The gritty Polk Street I lived next to for almost 10 years has become a tech bro's paradise of sleek bars and boxing gyms and health food stores. I don't know that I recognize the foggy, romantic, pretty little city I loved so much and for so long.

And the truth is, it's a different season of life. I'm leaving closer to age 40 than age 20, with a really beautiful husband and a really beautiful son, two unexpected gifts that San Francisco has bequeathed to me. We'll start a new chapter, and, perhaps most importantly, be near family as we age.

Last week, Paul lost his father to a heartbreakingly sudden bout with brain cancer. It has been a sobering and shattering reminder that we never know how long we have with one another. Death is this strange and unwelcome guest with no regard for our own schedules and expectations.

In April 2005, I flew back to Nebraska to say goodbye to my own father. We knew the cancer would take him soon. My siblings and my mother and I gathered around his hospice bed in the family room one last time. In that shimmering instant — I can still picture it so clearly — I realized: family is the only thing that matters. At the end of the day, when your body gives out, when your mind is too tired to go on, your house, your car, your job, your awards; none of them matter.

Family is it. Nothing else.

 And you only get one shot to do it right.

So you take a leap. You leave your established life behind and begin anew, knowing there's nothing you can really count on in terms of time.

Mariah and I have a long-term vision for opening our own yoga/dance/wellness center. She's a fantastic dance therapist and modern dancer, and with my yoga and mindfulness work, we have the potential and the passion to create something really special. We're excited. That will birth itself in time.

In the meantime, please make your way to a class or two before I head out. I'd love to see you and sing with you and sweat with you. I'll be teaching my full schedule at Flying Studios until August 11th (away a couple of dates traveling — just keep an eye on the calendar for that info). I'll also be subbing a couple of Monday nights (the 13th and 20th, to be exact). And I'm planning to lead one final yoga/hiking retreat in Point Reyes, too, on August 8th. Stay tuned for details to come.

Lots of love to you all. We've built relationships here that will be dear to me for the rest of my days. (You know who you are.)

I am so grateful you're in my life. Onward.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A New Piece Dear To My Heart.


I've long been a fan of the NPR podcast series On Being.

Krista Tippett facilitates regular interviews with a diverse array of fascinating folks who are at once spiritual and grounded, artistic and wise, and always with a nod toward meaning. Those podcasts accompanied me lovingly through many long commutes and meandering hikes when we were living in West Marin. I still often listen to them on my way to and from teaching in Oakland.

So I am thrilled to have a new essay published in the On Being with Krista Tippett blog. "What Masculinity Looks Like" is a love letter of sorts to my husband, to my son, and to the great butt-kicking, heart-cracking yoga teacher that is parenthood.

Here's a quick screengrab. The link to the full piece is here.

I hope you'll enjoy it.



Read the entirety of the piece here.

In other yoga news, I've been really quietly impressed by the quality of the work coming out of Yoga International of late, both in regard to philosophy and asana. They don't dumb things down, and they're willing to have risky conversations. Check out this smart piece exploring the concept of God according to yoga. No splashy product placement going on here.

Give them a follow on Twitter or FB and keep up with some of the intelligent stuff they're putting out. They've upped the ante in graphic design, too. This piece on Pigeon pose and this one on making the most of your Plank pose are both particularly good.

I know I've talked shit about Yoga Journal in the past, but I still skim their newsletters now and then for interesting material. They're being proactive about bringing some new content into the mix and asking some harder questions; I'll give them that. And I've been on a big core kick as of the last six months or so.

(Can you say Navasana?!? Love.)

Anyway: this little article on the best yoga poses for a strong core is pretty great. I taught several of these poses in class yesterday and did them in my own practice Saturday night — and they are FUN. Check out this fab variation on a Twisted Navasana above right.

Finally, as a bonus prize for making it this far, here are a few early-morning partner yoga photos from the long holiday weekend.

My heart.

They are so dear.






Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pick The Plums. Wipe The Nose. Mow The Lawn.



The other day, lovestruck, I dashed off a quick FB post before running out the door:

The plum tree in our backyard is Going. Off.

Yesterday we gave brimming bowlfuls to our fairy godmother nanny and our friend Chris. I ate 3 for breakfast. This morning around 7 my kid and I went out to collect more (so many had ripened overnight!) and he was in plum heaven, looking up at the leaves shouting "Balls! Balls! Balls!" with wild disbelief. We'll take another bowlful to a birthday gathering this afternoon.
They're tart and lush, and I can't get over how abundant I feel standing out there picking them under the sun. That I didn't do anything to earn this bounty. How time seems to freeze, and I could easily be my grandmother, or hers, in that moment. And how thrilled my kid is to just run around the house with a plum in each sticky hand. All morning. Til the juice leaks out into his hair and his eyebrows.

I can't remember the last time something so mundane gave me so much joy.

Nearly two weeks later, the tree's still going bazooka. We've got plums up to our ears. And they're better than ever. In spite of the drought. In spite of the fact that I'd long ignored that tree until the day it decided to overwhelm us with ripe fruit.

The whole thing feels very much like grace. The kind of grace we talked about in 7th grade Lutheran confirmation class, in the dingy basement of an old church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Grace being the unearned love, the unexpected bounty. The kind of blessing that comes whether we work for it, or deserve it, or asked for it, or not.

Grace. The grace of those ripe plums falling off the tree and landing heavily, gushingly, on the ground. More quickly than I can pluck them.

Grace. The fact that some anonymous someone, once, one unremarkable day, planted a tree that he or she would never see produce fruit.

Grace. The ability to see the little blessings in our lives that are so often so easy to overlook.

Duke has been sick now for a good two weeks. What started as a runny nose caught at the children's museum a few Saturdays ago turned steadily into an oozing green monster clogging up his nose and glomming up his little eyes with crusty monster gloms.

He's been up, feverish, restless, every night, hardly sleeping. Chattering through the fever dreams with words and sentences I'd never known he was capable of speaking.

Then it moved into his chest and now our sweet little 16-month-old wonder has been hacking up mucus for days like a 19th-century tuberculosis patient.

It breaks my heart.

He is chirpy as ever. Happy-go-lucky. A little more cuddly, certainly, with zero appetite, but essentially himself.

It breaks my heart.

I mean, your kid suffering? It's pretty much the worst goddamn thing you could ever witness. I don't know how any parent bears suffering of a greater depth than the common sinus infection. I can't even think about the fact that he's due to suffer down the line because he's been born into a human body that will age and break and love and hurt and lose and grieve. It's too much. I want to take it all on right now, so he doesn't have to, ever.

And yet, of course, that's not life-giving, nor is it at all edifying for him, in the long run.

Fifteen years ago, I discovered Joanna Macy's work in a dusty corner of the University of Delaware Morris Library, and her words have followed me ever since. She's an ecofeminist Buddhist scholar who draws the most beautiful threads between ostensibly unrelated bits of our lives. She writes:

The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. Your heart is that large.
Trust it. Keep breathing.

This sentence has been the living-and-breathing, thumping, rushing heart of my practice and my teaching and my writing ever since. It speaks so much truth. Reminds me of the universality of suffering, big and small. And having a child certainly makes me realize that the way my heart breaks when he suffers offers me the vastness of the entire universe in one breath.

In one plum.

The cherries are ripening, too. I didn't even realize we HAD a cherry tree until I took Duke out one morning to harvest the ever-zooming plums and turned around to see cherries on the tree across the yard. We went out this morning and tasted them. They're soft and fruity and not tart at all. I've got a recipe buried somewhere for an old cherry bundt cake. I think it called for scary cherry-flavored gelatin or something else gross. We will adapt it. But there will definitely be plum and cherry crisps coming out of this oven as soon as I can get a few minutes alone with my paring knife in the kitchen.

It's been a nerdy pleasure to wash and dry and pack and share the plums over the past two weeks. Seeing the delight on students' faces when they bite into one out of the bowl after class. We took a bowlful into the pediatrician's office last Friday and the nurses lit up.

It's such a selfish thing. I'm embarrassed to admit how good it makes me feel to give them away. So much better than it makes me feel to eat them.

And yes, it's a cheesy-ass yoga cliche to talk about how one tiny action can ripple out to affect others. The whole butterfly effect idea, you know? That whole "as within, as without" idea. That we start small by creating peace and joy and tranquility on the micro level, on our mats, in our own minds, and then, sure enough, that stillness ripples out until it creates peace and joy and tranquility on the macro level.

Sounds dreamy and totally unrealistic, eh.

But. Hot damn.

It might just be right.

(Of course it's right.)

I can't stop thinking about how some anonymous person planted those trees decades ago; what, 20 or 30 years, maybe? I don't know fruit trees very well. But they planted them, and maybe watered them a few times, and then left, with no expectation of return on their investment. And look at the joy, the magnified joy, that has come of that simple little action!! Incredible.

The little things matter.

And maybe they aren't so little.

The other day while Duke slept, I read this article from the NYT.  In "Mow The Lawn," Roger Cohen writes:
I’ve grown suspicious of the inspirational. It’s overrated. I suspect duty — that half-forgotten word — may be more related to happiness than we think. Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done.  
I love this. And not just because it's labor-friendly. Or embodied. Or populist. But because it's so very Zen.

I remember the excitement of being about 10 years old and learning how to mow the lawn. We lived on a good quarter-acre lot and it required a fair amount of mowing. My dad always had a fleet of half-working John Deere riding lawn mowers, and one day he taught me how to drive. 

It was thrilling.

I was driving! A moving vehicle! By myself! Under the sun!

I remember telling my preteen self: "Don't ever forget how exciting this is. Don't ever take this freedom for granted. This ability to drive a lawn mower all by yourself. Don't ever forget."

Well, of course I did.

And after a few years of mowing the lawn singing Rodgers & Hammerstein showtunes at the top of my lungs under that prairie sky, I graduated to a shitty little Dodge Omni. And I experienced that same moment of incredible liberation, of revelation, the joy of getting behind a wheel and going wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, by myself.

And again I told myself: "Don't you ever take this for granted. Don't you ever forget the rush of being alone in a car going wherever you want like a grown-up. Don't ever forget how in this moment there's nothing else in the world you could imagine would ever make you so happy again."

And, of course I did. 

And the wild joy passed.

And what was once thrilling (mowing the lawn! driving a shitty hatchback!) became mundane, run-of-the-mill, not enough.

I grew sick of getting bruises on my knees when the riding mower's front wheel lurched into unseen gopher holes, barreling my body forward.

I grew jealous of my high school friends who drove fancy new 1996 Honda Accords. 

The world kept turning. Buddhism calls this the universal experience of lack, of dukkha (suffering, or restlessness) that comes of desire; the kind that leaves you craving and wanting more. The kind that makes you think there's always something bigger, better, more fulfilling, more exciting,

just 

over

there.

I've been thinking about this of late. I think about it in the mornings when I wake up and wish I were gazing at the Mediterranean in some sparkling Greek resort instead of stumbling into the kitchen to make coffee. I think of it when I'm wiping sunflower butter and brown rice off the floor and feeling like a janitor. I think of it when I wake for the 10th time that night to a crying restless feverish little man who wants only to be nursed and held and loved, and I'm so very tired, and my reserves are empty, and I wonder if we will ever feel rested again.

But there are always moments — moments like the ones under the plum tree — wherein I pull back and really see it all with clear eyes and it's all Vishnu, it's all God, it's simplicity, it's the quiet daily holiness that reminds me how sacred this ordinary existence really is. Vishnu the Preserver, he in Hindu mythology who governs our unsexy day-to-day grinds, the God of small things, the Zen-like quality of mundane sacrality that comes in the peeling of the potatoes and the picking of the plums and the mowing of the lawn.

Our plum tree has a few days left, max. The ground beneath is covered now with rotting fruit. Maybe we'll see a few through til the weekend, if we're lucky. The cherries will be done soon, too, and then, other than a middling fig tree, that'll be it til next June. 

So you love it while you've got it, knowing it will always, all, pass. 

And you remind yourself: Don't you ever take this for granted. Don't you ever forget how in this moment there's nothing else in the world you could imagine would ever make you so happy again.

And you know you'll forget.

But you do it anyway. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Point Reyes Yoga & Hiking Retreat


Mark your calendars for a day-long yoga & hiking retreat in Point Reyes Station on Saturday, July 11th.

Click on the image above for the day’s agenda and all the deets. We’re gonna have a fab time. This retreat will definitely fill up (people are stoked!), so register here now to save your spot.
 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Urban Flow Babes

Sweet morning reconnecting with my old colleagues Jennifer and Andrea (and our babes).

So grateful to Urban Flow for bringing these women into my life some five years ago. Even though the studio is no longer, the community it created continues to bless and brighten my life.




Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bhakti In Bloom 2015

Just home from a great weekend with Yogascapes at Sierra Hot Springs. Our annual retreat is always a highlight of my year. Love having the time to dive more deeply into metta meditations and long savasanas. My voice is tired, my mind feels content, and my heart is full.

Really a wonderful group of folks. You can tell just by looking, eh? I wish we would've had a week longer to get to know one another over vegan blackberry waffles and slabs of chocolate cake.

Here are a few quick pics. Big love.







Monday, April 6, 2015

7 Things I Didn't Know About Life Until I Had A Baby

I'm happy to have a new article up on MindBodyGreen. Check it out:

Ten weeks after my son was born, I returned to teaching yoga. Between diaper changes and feedings, I hadn't had much (OK, any) time to do asana. I'd barely done a full 90-minute practice. But I'd had a helluva lot of time to do yoga: the kind of practice that looked like chanting lullabies at 3 am whilst bouncing on a blue exercise ball for hours on end, crying babe in arms, trying to stay calm.
It was the hardest yoga I'd ever done. Way harder than Kapotasana. And it was also the most rewarding.
Having a baby has been tremendously educational, for my body, mind and spirit. With that, here are seven things having a baby has taught me about yoga....

7 Things I Didn't Know About Life Until I Had A Baby (MBG)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In Which She Gets Her Opinions On


I'm sitting at this uber-spare, self-consciously hip, wooden-and-metal cafe listening to the 20-something dudes across from me talking about how they should eat more greens and fewer tacos and why you should run outside instead of going to the gym.

They're totally charming and I never would've expected to hear these plaid-shirt-wearing, man-bunned kids talking about why fruit has a lot of sugar in it and where on your foot you should land when you run.

It makes me happy.

(Sometimes the world pleasantly surprises us.)

Two afternoons a week, for two hours at a time, I escape to this little cafe and pretend that all I have to do in the world is drink coffee and read and write. It reminds me of 2004, on then-seedy Polk St., with cloches and ecofeminist theology books.

It's kind of nostalgic. Medicinal, really.

Always at this moment, just after walking in and opening my laptop, I get a little anxious. Jittery. Not because the coffee has set in yet. And not because I'm particularly afraid of anything.

But because I'm so damn excited. Because there are so many potential new articles to write. And because being anonymous in a cafe is one of my favorite experiences of being a grown-up. It hasn't happened much in the last year, mostly because I've had a little boy attached to my boobs for much of the day. But this fairy godmother nanny named Charise (for real, that's her name) came into our lives in early February, and it's because of her that I can get away like this while my husband is at work and I can trust that my kid is playing his happy little guts out under the sun at the bright playground up the street, chasing woodchips and bugs and generally loving life.

As a new parent, and as a writer, I appreciate the solo time more than ever before. I've heard other introverted parents admit the same thing, but wow, does solitude feel sacred when your days have gone from largely quiet and solitary to perpetually social. (First World problems! Poor me, with my healthy child and my indoor plumbing and organic vegetables and basic human rights.) I know this phase will pass; little man will start preschool in the fall, and that means three big chunks of writing time a week. So for now it's about appreciating what is right here, the fact that I can actually be with him most days instead of hustling my ass to a job I dread, and trusting that life will just keep on changing.

I keep reading more and more about shitty American parental leave policies and feeling grateful for my own situation. My husband and I have been so lucky to not have to hire permanent full-time childcare; between his regular corporate hours and my weekend/evening teaching hours, we can manage to mutually cover childcare and both remain committed to our careers. I know that's rare. And I'm realizing, more and more, that most people (women?) either would rather quit their jobs and stay home, or are staying at home and would rather be working. (The grass is always greener, we always want what we don't have, yada yada.) It's hard to find a happy medium.

Speaking of...

I've had lots of Strong Opinions of late. About yoga and parenting and politics and, you know. The usual.

So can we talk about this bullshit article that was in the NYT a few days ago? Featured as a legitimate parenting option, this "sleep training your 8-week-old" crock of shit that's got all of us people with brains and hearts up in arms? It's appalling, neglectful, inhumane; straight-up child abuse. Long story short, this famous (and very popular) NYC pediatrician advocates locking your 2-month-old infant in his room at 7pm and not coming in again til 7am, no matter whether he screams the whole time, rolls around in his own vomit and/or feces, or worse. I read it and turned bright red. My heart beat fast. Smoke came out of my ears. The only thing that comforted me at all was coming back to stalk the comments and reading the outraged, compassionate, reasonable words of folks who were appalled, like me, to find such abominable content in the NYT.

Now, I have friends who've sleep-trained their babies. I know, I know; you were exhausted and dying from sleep deprivation and had to be able to function. Totally get that. Been there myself. I don't mean to judge you. I know you love your kids. I know you just wanna be good parents, like we all do. I hesitated to even write about this because I didn't want to offend you.

And I write as the parent of a toddler who's never slept more than 7 hours at a time (and that was a rare freak accident that happened back when he was about 3 months old and has never happened again). He still wakes multiple times a night and needs to be nursed or comforted back to sleep. And honestly, it's totally fine. I get it. I know he'll eventually sleep like a rock. (I hear all these stories from parents who have kids who magically slept 10-12 hours a night on their own, and simply cannot comprehend how different that kind of experience would have made my life. I've heard, too, that formula-fed babies sleep longer, because the formula is harder for them to digest than breast milk. I'm willing to get less sleep in order to accrue the benefits of continued breastfeeding.) The bottom line is: my husband and I haven't really slept in a year, and my radiant, brilliant kid is and always has been a restless light sleeper, so we co-sleep, because it's the only way we all rest, and it's actually pretty cozy and sweet and wonderful, even though we pretty much can't go out after dark because he needs someone near him cuddling or he'll wake up, but I still, still, love him so very much, and trust that soon, one day, he'll sleep, and would not, nor could not, ever EVER do the shit they propose in this article. Because it's fucking inhumane.

The thing is: babies aren't convenient. They don't fit our adult schedules. They shit and throw food all over. They need a great deal of time and attention and sacrifice and love. But they're not supposed to be convenient. They're babies. They're growing like crazy and their bellies are tiny and they may need to eat more often than every 12 hours. They need to be cuddled and touched and loved. They need to be responded to, cared for, met with tenderness. And I feel certain that one day we will look back at "sleep training" (even that phrase makes me crazy, like you're training a cat to pee in a litter box or something) as a terrible, psychologically-damaging socio-cultural error.

Until then? I was so happy to find this excellent rebuttal. Please read it. The author makes such a great case for the insanity of this whole 8-week sleep training idea, comparing it to what would happen if we advocated a similar protocol for the "care" of the elderly:

To follow through with Cohen’s “advice” doesn’t require “guts.” Sleep training an 8-week-old doesn't require "guts." The instinct to respond to a baby's cries is empathetic, wise, and vitally important to the healthy development of future generations.  
What requires "guts" is seeking out a new pediatrician when one's current doctor advocates medically sanctioned abuse and neglect. It takes "guts" to change our federal maternity leave system and finally catch up with the ethical and family-friendly legislation that characterizes the modern world. It takes "guts" to be present and respond to a baby who isn't physiologically wired to "sleep through the night." It's healthy for babies (and toddlers) to wake and breastfeed and connect. It's normal.  
It takes courage to respond to our most vulnerable with compassion, connection, and evidenced-based clarity in America today. We stand together in opposing the neglectful abuse of our elderly. Authorities would shut down any nursing home that practiced the neglect described [here]. It’s time we stand firm in opposing the purposeful nighttime neglect of our children.

Read the comments in the NYT piece. Be comforted by the fact that so many smart, mindful people are aware that it's actually not biologically normal for babies to sleep through the night. That wakefulness is evolutionarily standard for babies and toddlers. That even most adults don't sleep through the night without waking to pee or have a drink of water or adjust their pillow. That breastfeeding is supported by co-sleeping and night feeds. Blah blah blah; I could go on. I won't. Just please. Don't leave your kid to cry his eyes out. There's a reason it breaks your heart. It goes against every parenting instinct we have. The end.

(And on that note: if you're interested in intelligent, biologically-inspired parenting, check out Evolutionary Parenting. It's a godsend.)

Next, let's talk about this piece from On Being: "Listen, Learn, Practice: Yoga Spirituality For Atheists." I appreciated it. Now, I'm not so much an Iyengar lady (ok, it makes me want to poke my eyeballs out), and I'm not an atheist, but I get what the writer's saying. Really, I do.

The author writes:

I don’t want to be part of a yoga world of happy talk about unending potential and perfect happiness. I don’t have much time for the kind of self-impressed platitudes that give yoga a bad name. Like so many of the secular, health-oriented, somewhat prideful members of my clan, I do yoga to quiet my brain, not to fill it with nonsense.
And yet nonsense abounds. Several years ago, I dropped in on a class at another studio. As class began, the teacher offered her thoughts about the goodness of the world and its benevolence toward us. “If you just reach out with your intention,” she said sagely, “the universe will rise to meet you half-way.” I almost walked out. The earthquake in Japan had happened the day before.

Nonsense. Oh yes. I am familiar with this such nonsense. It abounds. My Facebook feed is full of this shit.

Anyway, she goes on. Cites a few great teachers. And then says

The point is that the practice of attentiveness — the fundamental practice that yoga cultivates — should lead us to contemplate the full reality of our life, which includes its inevitable end. As the yogi Richard Freeman puts it:
“Yoga is a rehearsal for death.”
That is the universe rising up to meet you.
For me, this discussion was a rare moment when I had some inclination of what “yoga spirituality” might mean, particularly for someone who doesn’t actually believe in spirituality. In this version, there is no promise of health or happiness. There is only our embrace of reality, in both its quiet joys and its suffering. We recognize ourselves as part of the universe, and we accept that universe’s fundamental indifference to us. Then we see what flows from that.
I suspect that this embrace of death, and life, doesn’t arise from an act of will or from reading the right books. Maybe, though, it comes from the act of the placing one’s feet in exactly the right alignment, and paying attention.

Yes on suffering. Yes on practice for death. Yes on embracing reality, both in light and shadow. Read the whole thing. Really worth it.

Now, finally, if we wanna get really capital-S Strongly Opinionated: let's be real about eating meat, 'cause that shit's making the California drought 10x worse.

I try to be patient about this stuff and not be that annoying militant vegan. I try to respect people's choices and keep my mouth shut. But this drought is no joke. And it's time to drop the charming/exhausted "I love bacon-wrapped-everything" act and take some responsibility. The personal is political, yo.

Meat (well, both the meat itself and the resources necessary for producing it) is killing our water supply. It's unsustainable and environmentally damaging. It's implicated in the epidemic of sexual violence in this country. It's responsible for the devastation of the rainforests. It's not good for your heart or your cholesterol. It's steeped in drugs and suffering. There are a million and one reasons to stop eating it, even beyond the drought. So why not consider cutting it out? What's the worst that can happen — you lose weight, you improve your cholesterol, you live more lightly on the planet, you save a few bucks and whole lotta water?

Ok, whew. If you've lasted this long: great. Thanks for putting up with me.

I just don't have a lot of patience for woo-woo these days. There's a fine line between making an effort  to respect everyone's opinions and moving through your life like a boring vanilla milkshake, too afraid of ruffling feathers to ever take a stand. I see a lot of the latter in the yoga world, and it feels disappointingly neutered and toothless. I'd rather opt for the non-milkshake route, myself, even at the risk of alienating.

I wrote this little FB post quickly yesterday while my kid slept in my lap. This is where my heart and mind are of late. This is the yoga that's calling to me right now:

Some of the most advanced yogis I've met in my life have never taken a yoga class. They don't speak self-empowerment mantras and they don't have websites proclaiming them healers and masters. 
They're the old church ladies who bring tuna casseroles when someone dies. They're the quiet farmers who shovel the neighbor's driveway at 4am after a blizzard. They're the kind elderly women who knit teeny hats for premature babies in the NICU. They're the ones who show up, humbly offering, asking nothing in return. No glory necessary. 
That's yoga. That's what I wanna be someday.

The tuna casserole ladies have been heavy on my heart. Their book will get written once preschool begins.

In the meantime, happy Tuesday, y'all. It's great to see you here.

Go cuddle your kid and eat some broccoli.


Sleep Training At 8 Weeks: "Do You Have The Guts?" (NYT)
It Doesn't Take "Guts" To "Sleep Train" An 8-Week-Old (Phillyvoice.com)
Listen, Learn, Practice: Yoga Spirituality For Atheists (On Being)
Meat Makes The Planet Thirsty (NYT)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Yep. Even The Oatmeal.


My yoga practice feels like training for motherhood.

How to bend, not break. How to be gentle. How to not throw things. How to laugh instead of freak out. How to not mind oatmeal in my hair. How to take a deep breath and start over. Again. And again.

Atha yoga anusasanam.

The yoga begins. Here. As we are.

Unshowered. Tired. Loving. Loved.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why A Good Book Is A Secret Door

It's no secret around these parts that I love me a good book. So when somebody recommended this TED talk, I was intrigued.

Listened to it last night as I drove to Oakland to teach. It made me laugh out loud — and weep.

Give it a listen, especially if you've got little ones in your life.



Mac Barnett: Why A Good Book Is A Secret Door

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Upcoming Yoga Retreat: Bhakti In Bloom


Our 4th-annual yoga & hot springs retreat, Bhakti In Bloom, is coming up this April. Join me at Sierra Hot Springs for 3 days of rejuvenating yoga, great company, delicious food, and healing hot springs.

Deets here.












Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yoga On The Sky Deck





Taught yoga on the Sky Deck at the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco this morning.

So great to see my OMpower Cycling & Yoga sisters Jennifer and Devine there.

SF, you'll always have my heart.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Duke



Over Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of officiating the wedding of two dear yogis at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur.

(So beautiful. Epic setting.)

Turns out my kid had a pizza named after him at the cocktail hour.

Coincidence? Or just badass?

You decide.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Evening Classes Start Sept. 2nd



 YES, it's TRUE!! 

I'm returning to teach regular Mon/Thurs evening classes at Flying Studios starting next week!! Thanks for your patience while I've been easing back from maternity leave. 

My permanent schedule as of Sept:

      Sundays 10:45am-12:15pm 

                     (in the Annex)
      Mondays 7:15-8:45pm (Annex)
      Thursdays 7:30-8:45pm


Can't wait to see you in the twinkly twilight.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Six Months Old.


















Six months old today. We have kept him alive for six whole months.

Someone deserves a cocktail.

 Bless.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why My Butt-Dimples Just Unsubscribed From Yoga Journal


Yesterday I sat with my kid in my lap and leafed through the latest Yoga Journal. There was a fashion supplement, a celebrity profile of a pretty teacher who married a famous actor, and a whole feature on how to dress to hide your figure flaws to look thinner on the mat ("How can I conceal my butt dimples?").

I cancelled my subscription.

I felt sad. And dejected. And not good enough, especially since I'm a butt-dimpled new mom with a muffin top and it's been awhile since I've done Natarajasana in high heels on a rooftop like Hilaria Baldwin. But mostly, I felt disappointed, because I've written a few pieces for YJ in the past and have always felt proud of finding a market for intelligent mindful writing amidst the glossy mainstream rags.

Today I'm sitting on the floor with my kid in my lap and he's chewing on a soft fabric car with wheels that spin across the 3 sheet-covered yoga mats that we've laid out across the living room floor as a playmat. We're making frozen toaster waffles (nope, not organic) with maple syrup and reading Where The Wild Things Are, which, incidentally, includes no fashion supplements. He's learning how to sit by himself, and falling forward into Paschimottanasana every time. I'm wearing old black tutu-leggings with a hole in the crotch, my peeling, calloused feet haven't had a pedicure since January, I ate 27 dark-chocolate-covered almonds from Trader Joe's for breakfast (after finishing the peanut butter cups first), and my bare face is blotchy with postpartum rosacea.

It doesn't look anything like a Yoga Journal spread. There are no high heels or probiotics to be found. And yet, it feels very much like yoga.

My son is the child of two long-time yogis. He'll grow up learning a lot about yoga. We'll teach him the Primary Series when he's ready. He already does Navasana in the bath, and says goodnight to Buddha and Ganesha and Shiva and Vishnu every evening before bed. But I want him to know the kind of yoga that's about being wild and loving and unpretentious and free. The yoga that means learning how to be real, and fearless, and gentle, and compassionate, and kind. Not the type that wastes precious life energy worrying about covering up the "flaws" in your "apple- or pear-shaped" temple of All That Is Good And Holy.

So we'll keep eating waffles. I'll bandage my blistered toes. And we'll leave the Yoga Journal on the magazine rack for someone else to buy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Current Teaching Schedule

 

I'm currently teaching a limited regular schedule in the wake of my son's birth.

Please join me on Sunday mornings and Tues/Thurs evenings at Flying Studios.

Stay tuned to my Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates about ongoing subbing at Yoga Toes Studio in Point Reyes, OMpower Cycling & Yoga, and elsewhere.

Flying Studios
          4202 & 4308 Telegraph Ave
          Sun 1045am-1215pm (in the Annex)
          Tues 730-845pm
          Thurs 730-845pm
        

Friday, July 11, 2014

We Are All Wrecks Together

We are all wrecks together.
This is great news, right?
Because it means that we are so close to each other, we really know each other well; we are deeply, poignantly connected. It's almost heartbreaking how connected we all are as human beings. More than we can ever imagine....

All the suffering in the world is not a mistake. It's not your fault, and it's not my fault, and it's not anybody's fault. It's not our parents' fault, it's not our ancestors' fault. It's what connects us to each other. It's what binds us to one another. If only we could have the courage to allow ourselves to feel the suffering and the loss fully, we would appreciate it for what it is: the nature of the world. Not a mistake.

The nature of how things actually are, that they're here at all, means that later they won't be.

And that's the pain, and that's the love.
That's the love. And that's the miracle.

                                      — Zen priest and teacher Norman Fischer


He's fallen asleep, finally, finally.

His teething mouth is clamped onto the Ergo strap.

(Is he breathing?

I check.  

Yes, phew, breathing.)

I am so tired. He is so tired.

He's been up every hour the last two nights.

Out of the blue, after settling into a nice pattern of sleeping for 6-7 hour chunks, followed by a quick 3am feeding, then cuddling in the big bed til 7am. It had become a lovely routine.

We took it for granted.

He hates to nap. He needs to nap.

I need for him to nap. Desperately.

Those naps save me.

Just an hour of feeling like an intelligent adult human again, those naptimes afford. Not playing with stuffed monkeys or narrating my day ("Ok, now we're going to take the spoons out of the dishwasher and put them in the drawer") to ensure his verbal capacity a few years from now. Just being quiet with myself. Craving solitude, independence, asana, wondering if I'll ever read a book or write an article again. Wondering how I ever took all that solo pre-motherhood free time for granted. Resentful that my younger self wasn't more aware of what a precious commodity those unbounded still moments were. Dismayed at the nothingness I'm getting accomplished of late.

("Nothingness," other than raising a human and singing to him and reading to him and making sure he doesn't suffocate or get his foot stuck in the crib slats and keeping him fed and clothed and being single-handedly exclusively mammarily responsible for putting rich fat rolls on his wrists and his ankles and his hamhock thighs.)

I want to take my husband out to soak in hot springs to celebrate his birthday. He's been working nonstop for months with zero time for asana or even a walk or even lunch. There are no spas that accept children. We can't really get a babysitter; doesn't make sense, too expensive; my boobs would need to be pumped if we did that, and Robb wants to be with him, anyway.

So we'll soak in our own dirty bathtub with the little squirty toys and the two half-empty bottles of baby shampoo and the crusty washcloths and save it for another year.

Snoring now. 

Here on my chest. 

Squishy lips open, no longer clamping the Ergo, head precariously tipped to one side.

His eyebrows glint blonde in the sun.

In every instant, his hair changes color. It's a game-show of guessing what it'll end up. In some lights, mouse-brown like mine as a kid. In others, towhead blonde, like Robb's was. In others, undeniably red.

Only time will tell.

I get stuck in the monotonous moments and miss my old life in the City, desperately. Autonomy and urbanity and intellect and speed and hard liquor and stylish hats and no dirty diapers.

But then there he is snorting as you look down at his floppy sleepy head and you think to yourself that you'll probably need to get the snot-sucker out when he wakes up and there are World Cup soccer matches to look forward to tomorrow and Sunday and the fog is finally burning off over Tomales Bay and he looks so damn cute in that striped blue-and-coral-and-white shirt (gorgeous in blue, just like his daddy) that you almost forget about the sleeplessness and the stuckness and the pink ghetto housewife's life you've been living of late (even though Robb does all the laundry and the cleaning and the yardwork and the cooking, which leaves you doing what again, exactly?) and how it is totally opposite of the busy active masculine hustling working writing traveling life you've always lived and how all those articles still haven't gotten written because by the time he actually drifts off to sleep and you precariously settle him down and you hurriedly check your email and remind yourself to respond to those 37 high-priority ones from two months ago and pee quickly and brush your teeth and unload the dishwasher and sit down to finish that half-written blog

he is up again

and Christ-almighty, he was asleep!

and now he's up

and how did that go so quickly?

and when will the thank-you notes get written if he's always in your arms?

but he won't always want to be in your arms, not much longer, really, he's already so wiggly and curious, you know, and this is the most precious time of his life and you get to witness it, right here, in the VIP club seats, staring down at this most-perfect little bodhisattva, this short guru who's already kicked your butt into knowingness and egolessness and detachment from all that was and will be,

and some day he won't want anything to do with you, he'll ask you ashamedly to drop him off two blocks down the street so his classmates don't see him getting out the car with his nerdy mom, and he'll ignore your calls and be too busy out there to 

sleep on your chest with his little legs straddling either side of your soft loose mama belly

and his eyelashes-for-days fluttering innocently against his cheeks

and his teeny ears listening to the whirr of the white noise fan

and he won't look at you with that radiant lit-up grin every time he opens his eyes 

and rolling over will no longer be a feat worthy of celebration

and he won't proudly push up into Cobra afterward like a boss

owning the world in that post-roll moment of triumph

So you chill the fuck out and take a deep breath and look out the window at your beautiful hard-working husband weed-whacking on his day off which was supposed to be a birthday celebration spent soaking in decadent lush rich-people spas in Sonoma and which instead he will spend making you tea in the morning and getting you a gluten-free muffin downtown and whacking those damn weeds and hiking up Perth and giving the bubs a bath together at 6:30 and falling into bed after shoveling in a quick lukewarm dinner standing over the countertop and wondering if he'll wake up in an hour or maybe be kind and give you two before the bouncing-to-sleep on the blue exercise ball commences for the night

and you think of the friends whose babies were "fabulous sleepers" who slept 12 hours a night and took 3 long naps a day and you wonder what the fuck!?? and look down again at little blondie below (yes, I really do think he'll be blonde) and you sigh

with such great love

because you know

it'll all pass

too quickly.

He looks so much like my dad around the mouth. We found this pic of my father as a baby, taken in 1946 or maybe early 1947, and put it side-by-side with Duke's, and they have the same smile.

Larry's smile. My smile. And now, Duke's.

Dad, who's been dead 9 years now, who never got to meet his first grandson.

Duke, whose Larry-smile will, god-willing, live on long after his father and I are gone.

If that ain't a helluva gorgeous reminder of all that is fucking sacred in the world, I don't know what is.


The nature of how things actually are, that they're here at all, means that later they won't be.

And that's the pain, and that's the love.

That's the love. And that's the miracle.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bhakti In Bloom: June 13-15th


Less than a month til we escape to the mountains. Join me for a weekend of wildflowers, hot springs and hiking. (Oh, and lots of yoga.) Spaces are filling up quickly — so sign up soon.

Meet June.



Wanna do something really good for someone really good?

Hop on over to June's Tibetan Studies Fund and share a little love.

The mindful Ms. McCrory (pictured at left) is on her way to UVA's Tibetan Language Institute, and she could use your support.




A few words from June:
I began practicing Tibetan Buddhism just over three years ago. I am so thankful for this practice, and for the benefits of greater patience, peace, and inspired study which have come from working with these ancient, compassionate teachings.

Last fall my studies expanded to include the Tibetan language. I find the language so joyful, and learning it stretches my mind in a way that my mind loves to be stretched! Now 8 months into my literary (written) Tibetan class, I have learned the 30 character alphabet, am writing and pronouncing words, and slowly getting the hang of grammar and form.

This summer I hope to travel from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Charlottesville, VA, to attend the University of Virginia's Summer Language InstituteI have already been accepted to this excellent and select program. Now I need to raise the funds for tuition, travel, and housing BY JUNE 1st, 2014.

The UVa Summer Language Institute creates an intensive language-learning environment on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, VA. 40-hour class weeks, Tibetan-language dorm housing, native-speaking teachers, and a resident tutor provide an almost immersive language learning experience. The result is 2 years of language study achieved in one summer session. This is the most comprehensive program I have found in the country. I consider it a blessing to be able to build this strong of a foundation here in the United States.

Why Tibetan? And why is this important to me?

You may or may not know, but there is a pressing need for translations of Tibetan Buddhist texts. In today's global world, practices like meditation and mindfulness are widely recognized for their benefits to personal health and well-being, and the integration of these methods is currently producing positive results in our classrooms, business environments, prisons, and healthcare facilities. Why has Tibet been such a great container for this wisdom? Because translators hundreds of years ago Translated the Buddhadharma into Tibetan. We are in a new renaissance as this wisdom lands here in the West. It is going to take countless conversations between translators, scholars and teachers to further share Tibetan practices, cultural information, and texts relevant to our culture's needs.

I am studying to become a translator to help fulfill this need and to transition into a new and fulfilling career path. Learning colloquial (spoken) Tibetan at UVa this summer is a way for me to literally bring the language to life, providing an experiential understanding of the language and Tibetan culture, and increasing my nimbleness as a future translator by giving me the ability to connect and dialog personally with Tibetan people. 

This path of study is important to me because I have finally found a deep and multi-faceted path of study that I adore. I believe my work in this field can and will actually help people, in ways that I cannot yet begin to imagine.

I would be honored if you would contribute to my Tibetan Study Fund today.

Much love,
June