Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Here. Officially.

How can you not sing Gershwin
on a day like today??

Monday, June 20, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Excellent simple illustration of your basic sun salutation -- Surya Namaskar A -- at left.

You'll likely find variations of this series from class to class and teacher to teacher, and sometimes you might even encounter a freestyle class that begins sans salutations, but as far as I'm concerned, there's no better way to get the blood moving and to really get into the rhythm of your breath (and out of your head) than a few simple rounds of Surya A. And it doesn't matter where you are; whether on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or in a hotel room in suburban Philadelphia, your sun salutations will go wherever you do.

And that's the real beauty of this ancient series, as far as I'm concerned. So drop and give me ten.

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

Summer's right on schedule. Even SF -- wintry in her warmest months -- is playing along.

We had perfect (hot) sunshine all day yesterday at Stern Grove, along with the thousands of others who spent the day picnicking with us to the badass vocal stylings of one Sharon Jones. (Didn't even get sunburned this year. Score.) And today broke clear and warm. Should last. I'll take it.

Happy solstice. Happy summer. Happy sun.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

My heart's beating in the park these days. I stole ten sun-infused minutes sitting cross-legged at Huntington Park atop Nob Hill after teaching this afternoon, and those ten minutes changed my day.

You've gotta build that time into your life. No matter how inopportune they might seem, those stolen flashes of stillness, silence, a quick scrambling into Padmasana with eyes closed, just listening while the Vitamin D soaks in, can change everything.

I had forgotten. (Thank you, sol.)

In honor of that summer sun, I'm re-posting another of my favorite, favorite pieces of writing here below (dated a year ago, June '10). Read it, know why I consistently harass you to join me on a sunny picnic blanket from June through October, and then show up Sunday for our annual wine-soaked soirée at Stern Grove, courtesy of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. We'll be there. Look for the sunbonnet, the old-school picnic basket, and the empty bottles of pinot.

Yesssss. Summer is in the house.


Summer's here, and with it the onset of the live music season, also known as Reason #349 that I love living in San Francisco.

There's nothing like the eucalyptus-scented escape squeezed in those few short hours after the morning fog burns off and the evening mist blows in over the Golden Gate, when you can chuck aside your wrap and soak up the sun and listen to the sound of one badass band or another rocking it out in the middle of Sharon Meadow or Stern Grove or Yerba Buena Gardens. I busted out the old-school picnic basket a few weeks ago; it's officially stocked and ready for the season, and I'm so excited to park my ass under the redwoods and lose the upcoming months to percussion and Pinot Blanc.

So all this music-in-the-park action's had me thinking about the arts, and stillness, and meditation already, but lately then, too, I've been living and breathing the end of the symphony and ballet seasons and the beginning of the summer opera season (Girl of the Golden West with Deborah Voigt this month! Holy god!) and wrapping up Shaun and Noemi's run with one last (particularly rockin') performance last night. And in the process, I've found myself sitting. A lot. Sitting, and practicing listening, and trying not to wiggle, and turning off my phone, and turning off the mind, and just being there and soaking it up. And I'm realizing that this practice - of being present with the arts, of taking in what's offered there onstage, of cracking open with a certain receptivity that we otherwise don't necessarily practice in our daily routines - is not so different at all from what we do on the yoga mat each day.

There's a certain sanctuary, an implicit surrender, involved in walking into a theater or the opera house or even friggin' Stern Grove; there's an inherent mindset, an intention, that naturally spreads through your body, an offering up of time and space and a letting-go of the expectation that you're going to run your experience for 2.5 hours plus intermission, and a just sitting back and softening and being there.

Tuesday night I had tickets to the opera, and all day the anticipation fueled me: the prospect of that solace, that quiet, that fantastic repose of slipping into a lush seat and sharing a quiet smile and then the obligatory ceasing of conversation and thought and phone-ringing and list-making crept in and took over and the hush of the overture started and my mind had to follow it into seclusion and it was a tidal wave of silence and stillness and release. And I sat there for 3 and a half hours and loved the institutionalized cultural silence, the willed receptivity, the imposed meditation that is the having to turn everything else off and just be there in your body soaking up the music and the costumes and the voices and the language and the nuance and the laughter and the sorrow and the tragedy. I felt my jaw soften, my shoulders lighten, everything shifting as I released the day's tension into that active listening meditation.

You can't be somewhere else. You can't be living in your mind, planning the next day, thinking about yesterday, wondering about this or that or any of it. You've gotta just sit there, be there, be seriously fabulously present, taking it all in, really truly using your senses in a whole-bodied kind of way that we otherwise just tend to avoid.

The man on my left that night was on his iPhone the whole first act. It was all I could do not to smack him across the face and throw the damn thing on the floor. I mean, jesus christ. You're four rows back from one of the premiere opera companies in the world, you probably paid $300 to be right here, right now, breathing next to someone whose company you ostensibly enjoy, and Mephistopheles is singing about passion and youth and damnation, and the skies of that lush garden set are twinkling with faux celestial wonder, and up above there's one of the more amazing gilt chandeliers you've ever seen, and down below there's a charismatic Italian rockstar conducting the orchestra, and you're fucking checking your FACEBOOK?!?!? Really?!?

The whole thing was such a lesson in non-judgment, in breathing through the irritation, in not being distracted by his distraction. Not easy to do. And, unsurprisingly, when we came back for the second act, my Facebook-checking seatmate never returned.

Sigh. Is it really so difficult to suspend thought/motion/action long enough to sit still for a few hours and soak up one of the arts' many attempts to paint/sing/celebrate what it feels like to be alive? Are we so plugged into these outside stimuli, so frightened of having to sit and be present right where we are, that we've ceased to see the phenomenal expressions of life playing themselves out in front of us?

It's not easy finding that kind of spaciousness in our lives, to be sure, or even giving ourselves permission to rest in it. To trust that when we come back from this particular meditation everything will still be waiting right there. It can be scary to set that all aside.

So you actively build it into your life. You make it a practice. For me, I know that even if I'm running around all day doing this or that or whatever, or tied up in the kinds of conversations that can make me feel far from my reading-writing-contemplative-self, which is so fundamental to my sense of balance, if I've got tickets for a concert Monday night and the opera Tuesday night and the theater Wednesday night, then I know there's a structured spaciousness into which I can retreat, promising a few hours' of silence and stillness and receptivity, even if they're bookended by cocktails before or a late-dinner after. And that becomes a fueling, a grounding, a rebooting, in and of itself.

Building an arts-as-meditation practice into our lives can be an excellent way to learn how to be silent with people, too. Constant conversation can be draining. And so much of it is often, well, empty, preoccupied with silly superficial chatter, a whole lotta gossip, a whole lotta saying nothing. So choose instead to share a few meaningful hours of not-talking, accompanied by the thrum of guitars or the rattle of maracas or the steady beat of drums. You can share being alive with the people on your blanket or in your row or on the beach next to you, breathing the same air, letting the same sensual experiences wash over you. That's when the real repose, the real union, the real balance can come into play.

And on that note: you should read Cyndi Lee's article from a few years back over at Shambhala Sun. Lee emphasizes that we're mostly made of water - we're naturally meant to flow, of course, in spite of all blocked energy and tamasic heaviness and attempts at control and linearity - and so, why not go with that flow and let it fuel our ways of being in the world? She reminds us that "if you’re alive, there is no way you’re not feeling something. It takes being quiet, paying attention and opening to movement to find out what we’re feeling."

Sitting quietly at Outside Lands, or jamming out with your best mates at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, or splashing out on a blanket under the trees at Stern Grove all offer ways to "be quiet, pay attention, and open to movement" to find out what you're feeling. It's really just an externally-directed way of coming back into your senses, of finding that elusive balance, that union between mind, body, and spirit. As Lee writes,
Yoga means “union,” so it is truly not about any one thing, but always about relationship. Relating to waves of movement is what allows us to stay steady and sustain balance. The word “balance” comes from the Latin balare, meaning “to dance.” In yoga, we call this little balancing dance “pose” and “repose.” We yogis do this with every breath during our yoga practice so that eventually yoga is a practice of resting within movement and transition. It is a way to tap into the river of all life as it flows right now through our own body. Water is the reminder, but when we work this way our practice is also about movement of headaches, crabbiness, worry, sadness, stiff shoulders, joy and lunch.

You know what happens to water if it stays still—it either turns into ice or becomes brackish and unhealthy. The same thing happens when we try to latch on to a prescribed feeling or experience in yoga practice—or in any other situation. If we can only relax a bit we will see that our feelings, both emotional and physical, are flowing all the time. It never ceases to amaze me how I can begin my yoga practice with a heavy heart or a cluttered mind, and by the end feel refreshed in every way. The practice washes me from the inside out and I feel back in balance.
Let that balance wash over you in the course of a street fair or a night at the opera. Find in that yet another outlet to quiet the mind, to be still and let emotion pass through you. Then, there, you're doing your yoga. It's all so very impermanent, anyway. You don't get those moments back. You'll never get that crescendo back, or that guitar riff, or that spine-tingling chord at the end of the first act, or that rustle of redwood-scented breeze blowing through your hair as the late-afternoon sunshine cools into a fog-induced chill.

So just dig in, listen, and be there. And turn off your goddamned phone, already.

Go With the Flow (Shambhala Sun)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Raw, idiom, 14a: in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

All kinds of good things happening around these parts.

New classes starting at Glow (join me Sunday nights and Monday noons from here on out), wrapping up a great weekend of master classes and street fairs, summertime live music up the wazoo, with Stern Grove kicking off again this coming Sunday, and hot new writing projects burning a hole in my laptop. The challenge in the midst of all this is sitting still long enough to figure out which heart-fueling project to tackle first.

So. Let's start with this, eh? Michael Stone's newest book just came out last week, and I'm in the midst of re-reading his fantastic 2008 guide to yoga philosophy, The Inner Tradition of Yoga (so good!). And he's just been featured in a two-part interview on the clever site, Buddhist Geeks. Go there for both parts; you can either read or listen, but whichever you choose, they're so worth your time. I feel really hungry right now for this kind of writing, this kind of philosophy, and realize more and more how lonely I've been over the years for folks who genuinely dig talking and writing about this sometimes-esoteric stuff. So, what a gift it is now to find a life full of those kinds of creatures. I give thanks.

Throw in a little sunshine, a little live music, and a little yoga philosophy conversation, and for this chica, at least, that's the definition of santosha. Happy June.

Buddhist Geeks

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
That is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
What you will do with your evenings,
How you spend your weekends,
What you read,
Who you know,
What breaks your heart,
And what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

~ Pedro Arrupe

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

All this media hubbub about NY Rep. Weiner and his unfortunate, um, weiner, and his lovely but unfortunate (knocked-up) wife has me thinking about monogamy, and sexuality, and marriage, and the quite unrealistic cultural expectations we hold people to once they've slapped a ring on it and hunkered down for life with one sexual partner. Well, ostensibly with one partner. Right, Weiner? A year into your marriage, sweet thang, do you concur?

And then you mix that with the ongoing unfolding Ahhh-nuld lovechild drama and an embarrassed but proud Maria Shriver, and the recent grand jury indictment of John Edwards on felony charges for his allegedly using 2008 presidential campaign donations to keep mistress Rielle Hunter out of sight,

and all I can wonder is

when the hell are we gonna give people a break and realize that maybe, just maybe, the widespread cultural expectations that a marriage must equal lifelong sexual monogamy coupled with child-rearing coupled with being someone else's perpetual soulmate coupled with maintaining a functional economic unit that upholds the socioeconomic infrastructure

are maybe, just maybe, not fair? Or realistic? To anyone, really?

You can't get angry. You can't begrudge folks for being human. For having biological urges that transcend a little contemporary American social and religious construct called "heteronormative marriage." And so, while I can join so many others in turning to poor Weiner and Arnold and John to shake my head and wag my finger at them for being, well, stupid; honestly, I can't blame them. I can't. As much as they should've been smarter, or savvier, or more disciplined, or simply more proactive in getting out of their stagnant relationships, at the same time, I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for them for being men possessing the undeniable kind of aphrodisiacal power that comes with vast wealth and fame, having to play by American heteronormative sexual rules, in a very public arena, and for suffering such vastly career-shattering consequences as the result of flouting those rules.

And their wives? The Humas and the Marias and the [rest sweetly in peace] Elizabeths? Well, I don't really know what to make of them, either. You feel terribly sorry for them first, of course, and embarrassed, too, and tragic. But you acknowledge, too, the possibility that maybe they were well aware of the cheating, and cool with it, or maybe they turned a blind eye, or who really knows, or cares, what kind of arrangement they might've found to make their unions relatively functional?

The point of all this, all of it, is that, once again, in taking it in, I find my fiery insides turning to exasperation, as I witness again our widespread cultural inability to apply the Buddhist truths of impermanence and non-clinging and non-attachment and clear-seeing as evidenced in relationships; in the way they change, in the way they rise and fall, in the way we can't cling to them for security any more than we can cling to a plank house in Joplin, Missouri in the middle of a tornado.

How many more sex scandals will it take until we finally begin to re-examine our unrealistic expectations for lifelong sexual monogamy? What will it take for us to finally approach, to seriously, kindly, lovingly, fearlessly approach alternate relationship models, non-heteronormative models that allow for more trust, more flexibility, more fluidity, less clinging, less fear?

I've been reading, and re-reading, a piece I wrote a year ago, similarly themed, after a parallel trio of sex scandals broke out in March of '10. And I'm reposting it here, now, in its entirety, because in spite of the swearing, in spite of the impatience, I find it still so relevant, so important, and maybe some part of me thinks, hopes, that if we say these things enough, out loud, over and over, those of us who appear by all accounts to be heteronormative and mindful and relatively mainstream, well, then maybe the rest of the folks in the mainstream who share such doubts about the functionality of the mainstream heteronormative monogamous marriage model might feel more brave in speaking out, less alone, more capable of living outside this one standard set-up that, as I imagine Weiner and Abedin and Schwarzenegger and and Shriver and Edwards might concur,

just. doesn't. work.

(March 19, 2010)

PET PEEVE: The American cultural blindness to and/or denial of the fact that relationships arise and die, and that this kind of change is normal, and natural, and not to be feared.

Also known as:

Irritable. It could be because this morning was my first practice back with Rusty and the yoga hurt like hell in ways it hasn't hurt in months. A week away, plus lots of wine lunches and vodka evenings and sugary late-nights, will do that to a girl. Add in several long plane flights and a helluva lot of time spent sitting on trains and in cars and this body's a big crunchy ball of pain. It's a humbling reminder that we are always beginners in this practice, no matter how long we've been doing it or how gracefully we've finally come to pronounce the Sanskrit; every day it is new; every day it begins.

Anyway - irritable, yes, for that reason. But even moreso, irritable because once again the newspapers and the tabloids and the evening entertainment programs are splashed with SHOCK! and DISBELIEF! and SENSATION! at the oh-so-visible recent implosions of several ostensibly rock-solid celebrity unions, all featuring bona fide artistes and romantic acceptance speeches and nicely-timed photo ops. Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes, the lovely Brit thespian couple: dunzo. Sandra Bullock and Jesse James, she of the recent Oscar win and he of the badass tats countering her America's Sweetheart image: dunzo. And of course this morning offered more of the latest dish on Tiger Woods's broken marriage, too, what with the release of even more salacious text messages from Tiger's porn-star ladyfriend Joslyn James.

People. Seriously. WHY ARE WE SURPRISED. Sorry to scream, but this bugs the shit outta me. What I would give to douse this culture in a nice big bucket of Buddhist wisdom on relationships and impermanence and transience and flux and change, that rich cross-religious teaching that all things arise and fade away - bodies, homes, relationships, all - and that all beginnings end in separation, be it of the less permanent "break-up" variety or of the more definitive "death" variety. It's normal. It's natural. Lives begin and end and we build them in the process, planting seeds, and they take root and flower and bloom in the radiant sunshine of May or June, maybe, and then the leaves brown and wither and fall off and the branches are bleak and barren come November or so, and whaddya know, they burst forth in new buds the next spring again, like Mother Nature's very own clockwork. It's how shit works. We know this. We are lucky to be reminded of this every freaking year.

And not just Buddhism teaches us this; we see the same theme, in much the same words, in Christian process theologies, too, with their emphasis on quantum physics and the perpetual state of change that is a Reality always in process, always becoming, and we see it in earth religions, in Wicca and pagan traditions rooted in the seasons and nature and that overarching blooming process that is being alive ("we come from dust and to dust we shall return"), and we see it in Native American religions, and in feminist incarnations of this, too, with their emphases on circularity and cycles and seasons and perpetuity and the natural process of death and decay.

So why the fuck do we fail so consistently to apply this knowledge to our own relationships?? Are we so naive, so blind, so hopelessly idealistic and ungrounded in reality, are we so desperate for a pseudo-solid ground to stand on, some illusion of security, that to engage the reality of impermanence engenders too much fear to possibly bear?? Why are we shocked when our loving decays, when it morphs, when it moves, when it shifts, when it's given us the luscious gifts it was meant to give and then it passes on, fades softly away, having fulfilled its duty? Don't we know how much beauty comes from the breaking, the shift, the opening up, the crevices cracking forth to make space for new seeds to fall?

Maybe Kate and Sam got what they needed to out of their union. A kid or two, some rich artistic collaboration, "Revolutionary Road." Maybe desire got the better of them. It's perpetual, this craving, we know this, yeah? Tiger knows it, that's fer damn sure. Why do we resist that? Why don't we just chill out and breathe into it and know that perpetual changing desire is normal and ok and safe, something we can sit with, something we don't need to fear? Right, Jesse? That maybe you and Sandra got what you needed to out of what you had; maybe it was time for you and the tattoo'd chick to get it on; who knows, who can say, but the one thing we can say, with such great surety - well, maybe the two things - are:

"You only lose what you cling to." ~ Buddha


“You must not for one instant give up the effort to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. This is not an easy struggle. Indeed, it may be the most difficult task in the world, for opening.”

~ Daisaku Ikeda, Japanese peace activist and Buddhist leader of Soka Gakkai International

That first one, well, it's obvious. (Insert pithy line here about how relationships are like sand and the more tightly you grip them, the more you lose.) This is why we study clinging and non-grasping and aparigraha in the immaterial sense; this is why we study impermanence and change; it's rich across traditions and implicit in Buddhism and yogic theory especially. It takes practice, reminding; intense, perpetual, mindful, humbling practice, every day, every breath, a letting go, a loosening of the ties.

The second one, the Ikeda, well, I love it for its insistence on our own agency in building our own lives, our own Edens, a claiming of our own responsibility for pushing open that "heavy, groaning doorway to life." (Insert here pithy reference to the overused-but-deserving Anais Nin quote about how "the day came when the risk to remain in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.") I love it for its understanding that opening, blooming, creating is not effortless; and I love it for its reminder that creativity in particular comes from change and implosion and breaking and cracking.

On that note, I'd bet money that Kate and Sam and Sandra and their ilk will get a helluva lot of great art out of these current breaking-downs. That this present shattering will lend a greater wisdom, a new birth, to their artistic creations to come. I'm less certain about the effect of this latest implosion on Tiger's golf game, the destruction therein of his brand and his affiliations and his endorsements and certainly of his marriage itself; but maybe the lesson for all of us, here, so saturated in this Western insistence upon the lifelong marital bond that is somehow supposed to withstand the ancient universal law of flux and change and death and rebirth, is that relationships come and go, they bloom and wither, and it's ok, it's normal, that even the best of us, the most Botoxed and most beautiful, the most wealthy and the most worshiped, must take solace, find a home in, rest in, that inevitable transience, as well.

/End rant

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

I'm so pleased to be heading back across the Bay this Saturday to teach another master class at Oakwood Athletic Club. It's a beautiful facility full of warm and welcoming yogis, and this time around, we'll be digging into some fierce heart openers and deep hamstring stretches.

"Heart openers" is, of course, really an evasive way of saying "backbends," but since many people tend to clench up and run away when it comes to backbends, we've discovered that it's a bit gentler to call them heart openers. Semantics, of course. But not ironically, learning how to sit lovingly with that kind of fear and clenching, though, is of course a central part -- if not the most important part -- of the whole process of surrendering into deep backbends like Kapotasana or Urdhva Dhanurasana. Coming into the full expression of those poses, which embody such a complicated blend of vulnerability and strength, is really as psychological a process of opening and softening as it is a physical one.

Desiree Rumbaugh wrote a thorough piece on heart openers for YJ awhile back, enriched by her background as an Anusara teacher. Check out what she's got to say:
Why is opening the heart so important? Because all of us have, at one time or another, been hurt by deep loss or betrayal that caused us to armor or protect our hearts. Whether you've been brokenhearted by a relationship or a huge loss, it's natural to put up a protective shield that prevents you from getting close to people. But your deepest wounds can also be opportunities for growth and transformation. By learning to open your heart, you'll gradually be able to forgive, let go of resentment, and release fear. You'll also be able to let people in again. Ultimately, when you live with an open heart, you'll experience more love and joy. You'll be better able to listen to people, to accept them for who they are, and to respond to them from your deepest essence, which you access through the heart.
True that. Read the whole piece here. Then give some of Rumbaugh's softening, surrendering, heart-opening backbends a whirl. And I'll see you Saturday afternoon in Lafayette for a few more.

Bare Your Heart (YJ)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.

Wanna fly?

Come hang from the ceiling with me. Starting next week, my sweet friend Marina kicks off another series of her Firefly Yoga classes at Urban Flow. I'm thrilled to be joining her -- rookie-style -- as a student in the Thursday series this summer. Suspend yourself, give your joints a break, and get your yoga on in a whole new way.

It'll be an adventure, for sure. I can't wait to learn.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Summer 2011 Teaching Schedule

Music and dance-infused Vinyasa, Flying Yoga Shala:
4308 Telegraph Ave, Temescal, Oakland
Tues 745-915p Bhakti Flow, All-levels
Sat 430-6p Bhakti Flow, Level 1/2

Music and dance-infused Vinyasa, Glow Yoga & Wellness:
1548 Stockton St. (at Union), SF
Sun 6-715p Twilight vinyasa
Mon 12-1p Lunchtime vinyasa
Mon 6-7:15p All-levels vinyasa
Mon 7:30-8:45p All-levels vinyasa
Weds 9-10:15a Mellow Flow vinyasa
Weds 12-1p Lunchtime vinyasa

Private Corporate Classes, Tishman Speyer:
One Bush St., Mezzanine
Tues 12-1p Intermediate
Tues 1:30-2:30p All-levels
Thurs 7-8a All-levels
Fri 11:30-12:30p All-levels

Non-Profit Classes at The Women's Building:
Alternate Thursdays, 2:30-3:30p
3543 18th St. (at Valencia)
June 9

Master Classes, Oakwood Athletic Club:
4000 Mount Diablo Boulevard
Lafayette, CA 94549-3498
Sat June 11th, 1:30-3:30p Theme: Heart and Hamstrings
Sat July 9th, 1:30-3:30p Theme: Shoulders and Hips

Assisting Rusty Wells at Urban Flow:
Friday mornings, 9am, All-levels

Assisting MC Yogi at Urban Flow:
Thursday evenings, 6:15pm, Level 2/3

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

My life is full of

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

There are times, when my heart feels so heavy, and my body feels so heavy, and my joints so swollen and achy, and my head so foggy and weary, and the skies so grey and shadowed with rain, that even a forward fold, or an Ardha Chandrasana, or especially a backbend, feels impossible. Feels fruitless. Feels frustratingly unavailable, and even more frustratingly unable to soothe or provide any kind of solace.

Those are the moments when I am most grateful for yoga philosophy, because rather than providing some Pollyanna-style perky-ass reminder that "it's all meant to be" or somesuch inadequate topical ointment, it reminds us that: the heaviness will pass. That all things are impermanent; that all experiences, feelings, sensations, whether perceived as good or bad, will pass. Our bodies will pass, our relationships will pass, our frustrations will pass, our swollen joints and heavy heads will pass, even this unseasonably cool rain will pass. And that awareness can be, naturally, alternately (and at once) a grace and a sorrow.

Today, it's a grace. I'm glad to know this shadowy moment will pass. Even if, in the middle of it, it's often hard to really believe.

And in the meantime, it's a helluva lot harder to sit with than any Gomukhasana or any Double Pigeon ever could be. And I guess that's why we practice asana in the first place, eh? So that we can learn to sit, and breathe, and be, in the midst of the heavy, and the rainy, and the difficult, and the swollen.

All things arise,
Suffer change,
And pass away.
This is their nature.

When you know this ...
... you become still.
It is easy.

~ the Ashtavakra Gita

Friday, June 3, 2011

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.

My dear friend Jess and her sweet new little man Wyatt hosted several of my favorite yoginis last eve for the wee babe's coming-out party of sorts, so naturally it fell upon me to bring a cake into bloom. I mean, given that Jess has just birthed a small person, I figured a frosting-heavy dessert was the least I could do. And the gestation period for a bundt cake is much shorter than that for a kid.

So I fell back upon that old favorite, the blueberry cream cheese cake, but switched a few things up. Instead of the [so not PC, and kind of lazy, and rather 1950s old school] cake mix base in the original recipe, I created a gluten-free, from-scratch version using GF flour, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder and soy milk, and substituted raspberries for the blue. Frosted it with an almond cream cheese icing; vibrant mauve dendrobium orchids supplied the pretty.

While certainly not vegan, the cake was refreshingly gluten-free, and I was pleasantly surprised by how moist it turned out. I'll toss up the recipe specifics when I have a free minute. In the meantime, enjoy the fresh blooms, the Friday afternoon, and the fog.