Saturday, December 29, 2012

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

William J. Broad published another fear-mongering anti-yoga article last weekend in the NYT.  "Wounded Warrior Pose," outlining "the perils of yoga for men," is a follow-up of sorts to his controversial piece from about a year ago on why yoga's the most dangerous activity anybody could do ever and you definitely shouldn't do it.  (Paraphrasing here, natch.)

This one made me even more irritable, because it's grounded in a ton of pseudo-scientific-data and full of supposedly-foolproof evidence about how yoga is just sooooo much more dangerous for men than it is for women, and how men are soooooo much more frequently injured than women.

Broad's article leaves, of course, very little space for nuanced analysis, anything approaching psychology or sociology, subtle observations beyond "dudes have tighter hamstrings and more muscle so we should design different poses for them with lots of squats!" 


I get so tired of sweeping gender-based generalizations, especially as related to yoga.  Broad notes that most women who are injured from yoga are admitted to the ER because of "fainting."  Oy.  Cue the 19th century gender stereotypes already.

What do you do with something like this??  Let alone the fact that it's published in the NYT, where Broad apparently will continue to write crappy stereotypical things about yoga in this most-respected national platform, given that "he's a long-time practitioner" and all?

Wounded Warrior Pose (NYT)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.

We bought a Vitamix the other day.  Our one Christmas gift, you know?  I'm generally averse to shopping and commodities and fancy bourgeois appliances and all that.  So I wasn't really aware of what exactly we were getting into.

But, holy mama.  Game-changer.

This thing should have birds and angels and stars humming around it at all times.  It's that good.

So far, we've made:

3 batches of homemade hummus (evidence at right), daily banana-blueberry-raspberry smoothies, kale-beet-carrot-celery green smoothies, and, most impressively, this morning the mister made homemade almond milk, nut bag and all.  Did you know this thing makes soup — hot soup, no less??!  AND it kneads your bread dough, too?  AND whips up a quickie sorbet for dessert?

Off the hook.  This is ideal medicine for the hating-to-cook tendencies I've coddled for too long.

We've got 8 avocados that will soon be guacamole on deck for later today and enough greens in the fridge to feed your cow.  I can't believe how much easier this beast makes it to eat well, and to eat raw, too.

(I will admit that between this and the crockpot, though, I fear that my bohemian credentials are perilously threatened.  Sigh.  Damn you, modernity.  Damn you, delicious green drinks.  Damn you, 240mph blending machine.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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

Teaching a special 9am class 
tomorrow morning at Urban Flow.  

Keeping it classic, sweaty, soulful, real.  
My favorite kind of yoga.

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.

The day after: 

dino kale, ginger, lemon juice, pineapple, 
carrots, celery, beets, parsley, ice — 
oh, and Ganesha.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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


It's that time of year again.

Here's all the latest holiday news 
from your girl Rach.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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

This is so disheartening.

Conservative "Christians" are challenging
every tolerant bone in my body. 
On a daily basis.


Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”  
— Leonard Bernstein

My mother sent this quotation along today.  Said she and her music teacher colleagues had been sharing it.

It struck me as appropriate.  We all try to make sense of how to respond to tragedy in our own ways, our own languages, our own modalities.  You can see that in the outpouring of "struggling-to-make-sense-of-this" articles in the national media.

I've been hesitant to write anything since Friday's tragic Newtown school shooting.  Social media was immediately flooded with thoughtful sentiments, stories of heartbreak and the like.  But I felt weirdly quiet.  Was tempted to rant about Buddhism and suffering and how there's so damn much of it in the world, and isn't this just yet another reminder, here in the midst of so much glitter.  Feeling the heaviness and all-pervasive quality of that suffering.  But even that observation felt trite, and pathetic, and inadequate, and small.

So I shut up, and just read, and listened.

Was strangely hungry for news updates as the story unfolded.  Listened to the live press conference with the Governor and the police department as I drove home. Kept checking my few go-to news sites for more ghoulish details all day.  And even as we headed out the door to a holiday gathering Friday evening, the shooting was foremost on my mind.

Same yesterday. 
Same today.

But, as I drove to Oakland to teach this morning, I thought to myself, well, shit; what do I do to mark this tragedy in a way that feels at once mindful and respectful and aware but also refrains from slipping into the neurotic or the hamhanded, the clichéd, the patronizing?  Because what the hell do I know about this massive experience of suffering and loss, and haven't I been sitting here going to holiday parties and baking cookies and making small talk and drinking wine and generally going on and about with my usual routine even though 28 souls are absent from their own daily routines?

I sat in that grey space for a bit, feeling inadequate and hopeless and unprepared.  I listened to Sharon Salzberg teach on equanimity.  And my mind went to metta (loving-kindness) meditation.  And I knew that that simple boundless-heart practice, interwoven with song and breath and the unitive power of the chant, was all I needed to offer.

I'd read the Bernstein quote right before I left the house.  And I felt Leonard's words beat in me as I moved through the morning.

Sensed the rhythm of the practice especially deeply, that driving, solid Ashtanga beat that echoes the metronome of a heartbeat, and we sang, and I felt the music of it all, and I bowed to all those hearts pumping at the same time in that sweaty room, and heard the silence echo after the last note rang out, and it was all we could do, this morning, that is, there in the wild and cold and bizarre juxtaposition of so much light and celebration and normalcy with so much suffering and shadow and pain.
That, and ban guns.  There is no fucking need for gun ownership in this country.  Amend the Constitution already.  End of story.

Ahimsa.  We do less harm.

Satya.  We speak the truth we can no longer avoid.

Asana.  We sit, we yoke the mind to the breath, and we find ease, sukha, even for a fleeting moment, for all those who suffer dis-ease, those sitting in dukkha, in suffering.

And then we sing out.

We turn to the arts.  Because there are those moments of life for which the rational is simply not enough.

This is Bernstein's.  It's one that I've loved for a long time — decades, really.  Dear to my heart.  And one which sends me straight to that place of poignant complexity, wherein suffering and ease and sweetness and pain all intermingle to speak to that ultimate beautiful mind-fuck of being alive.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

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

Teaching yoga reminds me of bartending because you're always the first to know somebody's pregnant.  There's a hushed little 30-second exchange meant to seek helpful advice or encourage sweet complicity.  Either way, over the years, you get really good at keeping a sacred secret.  I love this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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

Best band you should be listening to but aren't: Birds of Chicago.

Saw these two perform live a couple of Saturdays ago opening for Sean Hayes at The Independent and they are FAB.  And not only are they both gorgeous, but damn, can they strum a guitar or two, too.  And damn, does she have some pipes.

This chart's my fave, but check out "Galaxy Ballroom" too if you're not yet a believer.


Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

Deep bows today around the globe on 

I'm reminded of the 
power of one.

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

Watch this brief, poignant teaching below from Michael Stone on the gift of our wounds.

This calls so very much to mind the work of Thomas Moore in Care Of The Soul.  Grateful for writers and philosophers who will speak these words in a contemporary yoga culture that feels increasingly perky-bound.

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

An artist/designer friend shared this the other day and it was a good and necessary kick in the pants.

Don't play by the rules, kids.  Make up your own.  Life's too short to let somebody else decide your operating instructions.

F*#k approval.  Embrace vitality.

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

Ok, first of all, let's get this business out of the way:

Today is 12.12.12.  So at 12:12pm apparently we are all supposed to have some kind of remarkably unitive, enlightening, rainbows-shooting-out-our-butts moment of being.

Or should I say, BeingMagick!!!

Cheers.  Have fun.  I'll lift my coffee mug in your general direction.

Always been so underwhelmed by these days.  11.11.11.  Yeah, whatevs.  10.10.10.  Sure, dude.  The calendar's a social construct, just like everything else.  Big effin deal.  But you go on and enjoy the artificially-created furor.

Feel me?

Moving right along....

So it's a Wednesday morning, and that means one of the beloved and rare mornings I don't haul outta the house early with bags packed and podcasts loaded.  I'm home and it's quiet and twinkly and sweetly empty.

[I've always loved emptiness.  Why does that word have so many negative connotations in the West?  That's one of the myriad things I appreciate about Buddhism: its fondness for emptiness.  Sunyata, baby.  Yeah.]

So, yes, here on this divinely empty Wednesday morning, a couple of posts in the hopper for you, but let's start here:

Buddhist Geeks.  Have you found them yet?  You should.

I've been listening to a number of their talks from recent conferences, and loving their general spirit of realness, their laughter, and the ways in which so many of them meld ostensibly disparate aspects of life and spirituality.  For example: check out this most excellent talk from Jane McGonigal on Buddhism and gaming.

Yes, I said gaming.

I don't even really know what "gaming" is, although I suspect it has something to do with strange teenage boy phenomena like Farmville and Zynga and Angry Birds and the like.  I definitely know it's tied up with that more-dated action from my generation called Dungeons and Dragons and something or other else about Warcraft.

But that's all I've got. Not exactly my speed.  In 1989, I was more likely hiding behind a tree reading Albert Camus while my peers (dudes for the most part, yes, if you'll forgive my dramatic and irresponsible gender stereotyping here, folks) played weird Atari games and whatnot.

My only real experiences with gaming came back in the day in the basement with my sibs at the hands of the old Commodore 64: Summer and Winter Olympics (joystick involved, natch), Frogger, and Oregon Trail.  Oh yes, and that one game whose name I can't remember with some Neanderthal riding a unicycle rock that we could never manage to win.  (Sisters?  What was that called?)

Beyond these vaguely shrouded childhood memories, I just don't know a damn thing about it.  And, truth be told, I almost closed-mindedly skipped right by this podcast when it queued up because I figured it'd be boring as hell and absolutely irrelevant to my understanding of the world.

So boy, did I feel like a grade-A jackass when scholar and general cool chick (at right, gorgeous, no?) Jane McGonigal's talk, "Awakening is an Epic Win," turned out to be rich and real and ripe.

Here's the video description from the Buddhist Geeks website:
The qualities of a good gamer and a bodhisattva have more in common than you think. Find out how video games — unexpectedly! — have trained today’s young people to be more prepared for Buddhist practice than any previous generation.
Cool, huh?  Watch it.  You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Whether you're a gamer or not really has nothing to do with it.  Jane is engaging and spirited and humble and really damn smart.  And she weaves a ton of intelligent observations about the sociology of play into the piece — observations that about knocked me over with their intrigue and profundity — and moves on to talk about the ways in which gaming functions like meditation, the ways in which it's a practice that can potentially relieve suffering, and how you can find benefits a la those of a yoga-asana practice or a seated meditation practice in gaming.

Rad.  Impossible.  Syncretic.  Love.

Awww hell, let's just post the whole video here:

When you're done with that one, here's another interview with her, too, in which McGonigal talks about gaming as a spiritual practice.  (What?!?! Yes.)

McGonigal published a book recently called Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.   In this interview she explains that
"...the first part of the book looks at the way games provoke positive emotions and how they help us achieve the kind of emotional goals and really basic human needs that we really need out of life; like to do satisfying work and to strengthen our social relationships, and to feel like we’re mastering something, and to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

And the second half of the book looks at how we can take that amazing power of games to provoke these four positive states, and try and direct it at addressing big problems, like hunger, poverty, climate change, education, and healthcare."
Great, right?  So check this out, then, further along, as she talks about the similarities between awakening and play:
"For me the really core one is wholehearted participation. That was actually a phrase that I pulled out of a Buddhist podcast — out of Living Compassion podcast, actually. I heard a monk use the phrase “wholehearted participation” to describe a Buddhist way of approaching life, to be fully present to the moment and totally open and curious and joyful about whatever that moment brings, and up for the challenge of that moment.
And to me, that’s what describes being a gamer, that you are open to whatever challenge presents itself. You approach it with curiosity. That you are totally mindful of the environment. You have this brightness that sort of both optimism, but also just a positive energy to what you’re doing. And the joy of being fully engaged with these challenges, and approaching them with equanimity. Gamers fail all the time. Gamers fail 80 percent of the time, and that don’t beat themselves up over it. They just keep making that kind of right effort to achieve the goal. But if they don’t achieve it, they don’t bring their hands and beat themselves up over it. They just make the best effort."
Yes.  Sounds a lot like yoga to me.

Somewhere in there, too, she calls Super Mario a Buddhist.


Before you go any further, please do take a minute to check out McGonigal's bio, too.  Badass.  Her story alone is such a good reminder to do what you love and trust that your life's work will emerge from there. I'm inspired, for sure.

Dharma in the most unexpected of places.  Now that's magic(k).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

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

You know it's Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-Solstice time when folks frequently start asking about how to practice when they're away from home.  The holidays are just around the corner (well, actually, some are already here), and depending what you celebrate and where you're headed, you might be staring down an impending inadvertent asana break due to circumstances beyond your control.

(If I had a dollar for every student last week who asked me about the best videos and podcasts to use while they're traveling over the holidays, well, let's just say I could buy a helluva lot of coconut water.)

This absence-of-yoga thing has especially unfortunate timing, of course, given that most of us need some calming and centering more than ever in those moments of our lives that mean visiting family, hauling cross-country, and/or being stuck inside with cabin fever when the temperatures drop.

Modern technology to the rescue.

Have you met YogaGlo?  If not, get there immediately.

I've heard so much about this site over the last few years, not only from friends who've gotten hooked on it, but also from a few really highly-respected colleagues who provide some of the online video content.  I've long had the luxury of living in a part of the country that's saturated with studios, so I never even thought about needing to practice online.

But sometimes you can't make the 7am class, for one reason or another.  And other times you're just really craving an arm-balance heavy practice, or you need a hit of restorative after a week of intensity.  Or maybe you're hungover and your body doesn't want to practice until 5pm.  Or you're brand-new to yoga and a little too shy to take a public class just yet.  Or say you live in rural Alaska and there's no studio around the corner.  Or maybe you're a student or living on Social Security and a couple-hundred-dollars-a-month-yoga-habit is waaaaay out of budget.  Or perhaps you've always wanted to study with Elena Brower and Kathryn Budig, but a trip to a big shiny yoga festival isn't quite realistic.

For all of those reasons and more: helloooooooo, YogaGlo, you sweet populist yoga-source, you.  (I mean, seriously — even the brand logo is adorably populist: "everyone's yoga."  Holler out, my little commies!!)

I've been meaning to hit this up for awhile now — not just to have new classes handy, but to keep my home practice fresh, and to feed my own hunger for education and inspiration.  So this afternoon, belatedly, I finally sat down and registered.  And — holy mama goddess!  It's fab.  I can't believe I didn't do this any sooner.  Opportunities to practice with some really legit teachers, at any level you'd prefer, in a diversity of styles, with all kinds of different asana and pranayama emphases.  I'm in love.

So, if you're one of the many who's traveling in the next few weeks, first of all: I'll miss you.

Second of all: here's your answer.  And if you're skittish about long-term commitments, you can even just sign up for the free 15-day trial and cancel if you decide it's not your thing.

But seriously, folks — for $18 a month, which is roughly the cost of one single drop-in class in the city, you can have over a thousand classes at your fingertips.  All you need is a computer, and maybe a mat if you're feeling official.  Bonus points for fresh air and space and heat and whatnot.  But this is the kind of keepin'-it-real action you can enjoy in the comfort (?) of your grandma's basement whilst rocking that old pair of ratty 1993 high school track team sweats you found in the guest bedroom.

Sanity-saver, spirit-preserver, mind-clearer.

If that's not quite enough, google "yoga podcasts" and you'll find plenty, not only on Yoga Journal's website, but also on the fabulous, which I mentioned the other day.

And if you're in a place so remote that even an internet connection is not an option, go for old-school videos from Rodney Yee or Shiva Rea or anybody, really.

Worst-case scenario, just unroll your mat, sit down, and follow wherever your body takes you.  Self-directed home practices can be challenging for the yogi who doubts her own ability to sequence or challenge, but I've often been pleasantly surprised by the ways in which simply plopping down on a mat can unfold into its own creative and fulfilling practice.

Above all, trust.  You're not alone, even though sometimes when you're out in the middle of the boondocks far away from any organized class, it can feel that way.  But the yoga lives in your body, stored in your cells, hanging out in your muscle memory.  And even if you end up taking a few more days away from the mat than you usually would, have no fear.  That's all a part of the deal, this ebb-and-flow of the practice, you know.

We'll kick your butts once you come back January 1st.  That's why we're here. (Well, that and to remind you to be nice to yourselves.)

In the meantime, Glo.

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

Christmas has officially landed in Point Reyes.

Last night Santa was in the house at Toby's, along with approximately 187 very excited local small children, tables loaded with homemade pozole, prosecco and blue cheese, and (naturally) Joseph, Mary, and the bebe Jesus himself.  Sweet, dude. 

Digging the chance to bust out a little plaid and winter white in celebration.  My favorite thing about this particular pic, though, is the fact that Amanda's renditions of the Divine Mother and Durga herself are both staring over our shoulders.  Given how Durga-rich the last few weeks have felt, this feels most apropos.

Happy holidays.  (The sun's out.  Even better.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

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

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life; they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

 ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some 
Instructions on Writing and Life

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

This went down about a month ago in the City.  Worth a watch:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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

Stoked to announce the OMpower 30-day Challenge, which I'll be co-leading with my most-incredible colleagues Michael, Vanessa, and Jennifer in January 2013.

This month-long challenge may or may not involve hanging out with some seriously inspiring folks, drinking delish green juices, practicing a lot of great asana, killing it on the indoor cycling bikes, cutting out coffee (!!!!), and/or generally setting the new year off to a deeply conscious, mindful, confident start.

I've always loved the symbolism of a new year for triggering a necessary and life-giving kick in the pants.  No better time to reboot.

Do it in good company.  Set your intention.  Details at left.

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

Seriously fab solstice action this year with MC Yogi, Amanda and the crew.

Hit up your tickets now before they sell out.

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

Current census of fresh flowers in the hizzle holding strong at
1 mason jar blooming with white stargazer lilies
1 vase tumbling with open red roses
1 branch of jasmine chilling in a water bowl
1 white orchid holding court in the hallway
1 small Christmas tree twinkling at the doorn
None of which were procured by Yours Truly.

(Also known as Reason #467 you know you scored the Right One.)

Other bits of demographic interest this rainy December morning:
1 fire in the woodburning stove
1 half-eaten container of pineapple chunks, ever-shrinking
1 pair of grey sweatpants
4 oz not-yet-but-about-to-be-consumed Mocha Mint coffee in the coffee pot
172 books that can't wait to be read
485 emails you know you should be replying to but which really wouldn't mind waiting just a few more hours while you read that one article and ponder that one existential truth, right?
It is yin season for sure.

(Also known as that time of the year when it's entirely normal to just curl up on the couch, read, and eat potatoes:
....Taoist philosophy conceptualizes universal balance in terms of yin and yang, complementary forces that govern the universe. Yin characteristics are cool, wet, slow, feminine, and quiet, whereas yang is the opposite: warm, dry, fast, masculine, extroverted. Winter, the yin season, is a time for storing and conserving energy in the way a bear retains fat by hibernating, or a farmer stores food for the cold months ahead.

In agrarian cultures, people spend the shortest, darkest days indoors by the fire, eating warm, slow-cooked, nourishing food and sharing stories with their families....)
See?  The universe dictates such behavior, dude.  Simply seasonal, baby.  So bring on the root veggies.  We gots some bodies to keep warm.

Winter Wonder Yin (YJ)

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

Had a few requests for my most recent playlist.  Happy to oblige.

This one's a favorite, heavy on Desert Dwellers, Go-Ray & Duke, and Prajna and Ben.  Hit it.

(Come to think of it, you should really just suck it up and buy the whole fab new album from Prajna and Ben, Amrita.  Pic at left.  It's crack-yer-heart-open stunning.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

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

Grace is the key to happiness. When bad things happen, if we have confidence in grace, then we can remain grounded in that and not be overwhelmed by the soap opera of life. And grace is a circular blessing. The more grace enters your life, the more grateful you are. The more grateful you are, the more easily grace seems to enter.

— Dharmavidya David Brazier,
"Let Grace In"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

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

Sweet tidings to Rusty Wells and the Urban Flow teacher training yogis who are celebrating their final day together today!

In the spirit of Hanuman, that ultimate bhakta, may you ever leap across oceans in service of the Beloved.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

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

This afternoon I'm baking vegan snickerdoodles.

Started the day teaching a little gentle flow.  Then got my fix in a great asana practice with Nicholas G.

Hit the local grocery, and now, it's rain, wind, and more rain, and a helluva lot of cinnamon and sugar.

We have kind of a packed next day and a half, so I'm glad for a few hours to just be home and cornstarch-covered.

Which I definitely am.

This is a really easy recipe.  I just mixed the dough, wrapped it, and stashed it in the fridge to chill for an hour or so.

Snickerdoodles are really just sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar, so I figure they'll do fine as a guinea pig recipe for my fab new Yummi Yogi cookie cutters.  We'll just sprinkle them with the cinnamon-nutmeg-allspice blend instead of rolling them in it.  (Rolled-out cookies usually work better after refrigerating the dough a bit before busting out the rolling pin, though.  This is a convenient fact for those moments wherein you realize you actually don't have one and need to either use a massage foam roller or run to the store to get one.  Like right now.)

In the meantime, check out these two cool ideas from Amy over at Yummi Yogi.  Inspired by these striped variations and their metallic brothers.  Next on the baking-project list, for sure.

Classic Stripe variation:

Modern Metallics variation:

While we're being all domestic and shiznit, can I just mention the pure joy of Mrs. Meyer's Iowa Pine scented handsoap?  (Swear to god, none of this is product placement.  Pet peeve of mine and many I love.  These are just holiday-esque little touches that are making my winter season that much more festive.)

But seriously — I picked this up on a lark the other day whilst powering through Whole Foods and it's such a lovely evergreen scent that I'm trying to find excuses to wash my hands.  Simple pleasures.  So fragrant.  Just a hint of pine on your hands.  And named after my brethen, no less.  Perf.

Enjoy your Saturday.  December, I'm glad you're here.

Update, 4:04pm:

Snickerdoodlasana.  With a side of cinnamon-sugar.  The place smells good.

Friday, November 30, 2012

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

This "most popular baby names" list is always so fascinating to me. 

Tell me you haven't met a kid lately named Sophia or Ava or Emma or Olivia or Zoe or Jack or Aiden or Henry?  How does that happen?  Especially when, ten years ago, there were so few Avas or Aidens to be found?  The sociology of why and how we name children, and how those trends shift over time, just intrigues the hell outta me.

My name had a good run in the late 1970s, but since then, there haven't been a ton of Rachels.  Fine with me.  The moniker has a strangely ahistoric feel to it; I mean, it's not exactly your 1980s "Tiffany" or "Tracy," what with the whole Old-Testament-origin thing going on.  But I dig classic.  And all of my sibs have managed to escape the whole unfortunate "mass popularity" or "clear cultural moment" branding-association thing. 

Good job, Mom and Dad.

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

Nerd alert!!

Stoked about these new Yummi Yogi asana cookie cutters that arrived yesterday.  Perf for the little bakers in your life — and just in time for holiday season.

I'm gonna roll up my sleeves and hit these puppies hard tomorrow in preparation for Sunday's workshop at OMpower.  Great excuse to stay cozy and avoid the rain.

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

I'm teaching again Saturday morning at Yoga Toes in Point Reyes.  8:30am, gentle flow.

Throw on your galoshes, grab a latte at Toby's Feed Barn, and stick around for MC YOGI's class to follow.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

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

Windy Thursday morning.

We're hunkered down for what promises to be the second of three major winter storm systems due to hit the Bay Area in the course of the weekend.  "Three major winter storm systems" out here means something a helluva lot softer than what it would've meant growing up on the prairie, but still.  Water, wet, wind.  We're braced for a formidable slap across the face from the Universe.

Don't mind it.  I'm digging the quiet, the turning in, the yin everything of this winter season.

Also digging the kindling in the woodburning stove currently getting its burn on to my left.

Speaking of the prairie — we've been trying (and failing) to watch the new Ken Burns documentary on The Dust Bowl which is streaming on PBS through the 4th of December.  We've started it a few times and then given up when a few minutes into it the damn thing is buffering so often we can't watch it. (First-world problems.  Also known as: holler out to not having a TV, whoop!).  But I'm committed to seeing the whole thing; I can't believe how tight in the chest I feel on seeing the vistas and the sweeping grasses and remembering that scrappy populist farmer spirit that my grandparents modeled when they lived through the devastation of the 1930s on the farm.  Am convinced that shit is powerful, and life-changing.  And I trust that as a kid I learned a lot from just knowing what they'd been through.

(Funny how regionality informs your understanding of the world.  The mister, who grew up on the East Coast, was stunned to see images of the Dust Bowl.  He hadn't heard much about it growing up.  Well, of course not.  And of course I had, growing up as I did smack in the middle of all that action.)

We have a Christmas tree.  Sweet Chris G. gifted us with one fresh-smelling little guy (speaking of scrappy) from the seasonal stash over at Toby's.  And it's perfect.  Snuggled in right there next to Hanuman and the Buddha.  And lovingly wrapped with silver ribbon and white lights.  Documentation herein.

I've been driving a lot this week back and forth to San Francisco, which means I've been up to my ears in new (enriching, thought-provoking, humbling, world-rocking, energizing, motivating) podcasts.  Highly recommend anything from Sounds True (check out Tami Simon's interviews with Richard Freeman and Jim Finley, with big props to my old girl Sarah for turning me on to these), as well as the rich resource that is (head directly to this fabulous podcast from Prahaladan Mandelkorn on the Bhagavad Gita).

I listened to Prahaladan not once, but twice as I drove to and fro, and couldn't believe the lightness, the laughter, the ease, the wisdom, the sense of play in his teaching.  At alternate times in his talk, dude whips out his guitar and sings, dude references the Oscars, dude lapses into a kind of grounded, wise knowing in which the listener can simply rest.  Maybe it's his warm Santa Claus voice, but there's something about this teacher that really moved me.

I am convinced that, as Taoism and so many other traditions remind us, one of the most telling symptoms of enlightenment is this very childlike sense of play.  We often subscribe to some silly idea that Really Wise People are very sober and serious and earnest and devoted.  And sure, I suppose some are.  But I believe, and I see around me, that the folks around who appear to be most wholly living their practice are the ones who are really damn light.  The ones for whom laughter comes easily.  And for whom a sense of this divine play ("leela") is evident in everything they say and do.

[Blog time out to rearrange the tree.  After slapping some ribbons on a few nights ago and calling it good, babe walked in this morning with new white lights to adorn it.  And, being the perfectionist that he is, after putting them on an hour or so ago, he stood back, took a hard look, and proclaimed it mishigas.  So, I hauled my ass off the couch, stood (aspiringly-)patiently trying to unravel the tinsel, and then we proceeded to take everything off the tree and put it back on again so that the white lights look perfeck.  Points to the mister for being adorably detail-oriented.  I thought I was clean and tidy until I met this one.  And now I'm getting schooled.]

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Two more calendar-type things this morning:

1.  Saturday morning I'm teaching a gentle flow at Yoga Toes Studio here in Point Reyes.  Do join me.  I can't believe how much I'm loving the mellow flows these days.  After grounding my practice in ass-kicking amazingly aggro-asana for years, it's kind of sweet to take things down a notch and really dig deep.  8:30am, Dec. 1st, kids.

2..  Please do join us, too, ladies, for our second chicks' gathering at OMpower this Sunday.  We're talking shiatsu massages, restorative yoga with hot stones courtesy of Peter Wong, chai and cookies (baked by Yours Truly), a Yoga Ninja trunk show, and a few tools for keeping it real (and staying sane) this holiday season.  Sign up here, or just roll up Sunday at 1.

We're seeing Sean Hayes this weekend at the Independent.  Do you know his stuff?  Fab local musician.  Really worth listening to.  Can't wait to hear his openers, too — Birds of Chicago.  Seriously crushing on these two songbirds.  Give 'em a listen.

And while you're on the music trail, check out Ben Leinbach and Prajna Vieira's newest, Amrita.  Favorite new album.  You know these two from many of my class playlists.  Gorgeous melodies, more Bay Area indie musicians, and seriously bhakti-full intentions.

On a less-musical note: do you live without irony?

And did you see this little piece on the daily routines of famous writers?  It makes me want to be Joan Didion and Simone de Beauvoir all over again.  (How can you look at that photo of Joan and not want to be her?).  Annie Dillard, too.  Virginia Woolf, too.

(Sigh.  There is so much I want to do and be and not enough time in the world.  Do you feel this, too?  Last March in Costa Rica I resolved to be singing in a jazz trio and playing my trumpet again by the end of the year while wearing a sparkly red vintage gown — that red gown part is key, along with the red lipstick, although the trumpet might challenge that a bit — and here we are staring down December with no jazz trio in sight and a lip that's horribly not yet in shape.  Anybody know of a combo that needs a brunette in a red dress with dusty trumpet skillz?)

I think the lesson is just to be here, in this moment, over and over.  It's so easy to get lost in analysis of the past (damn, why didn't I buy a Powerball ticket?) and fantasies about the future (tomorrow I will finish the last chapter of that manuscript and send it to agents and promptly make a gazillion dollars so all I have to do every day is practice yoga and blow my horn and listen to charming old men with Santa Claus voices lecturing about the Gita), and thoroughly fail to be in this present moment, which right now looks like

a fire in the stove next to me heating up the room for my soon-to-unfold morning asana practice
a dreamy babe wearing a newsboy cap working at his desk in the next room
a windy winter morning reminiscent of the prairie
new books to read
a fascinating article on former lululemon CEO Chip Wilson that makes me want to wear stretched-out Target sweatpants and ratty old sports bras to practice in from now on, just to be contrary
Blue Bottle coffee and soy creamer in the mug at right
a dear old friend's birthday today
cookie cutters due to arrive in the mail from New Jersey where the fabulous Yummi Yogi lives
a reminder that the world is small
fresh honeycomb and quickly drying-up gluten-free cornbread on the countertop that are begging to be eaten
the onset of horizontal monsoon-level rain
coffee with my girl E this afternoon
a reminder that all things pass
so you sure as hell better be in it
while you've got it.

Yessirree, I'll take it.

That.  That very fire below right.  Waiting for me to bust into a few sun salutations to the accompaniment of the rain.

I've cooked dinner a few times this week.  This is strange, for three clear reasons.
  1. I don't particularly like cooking.
  2. I don't particularly like dinner.
  3. I don't particularly like doing things that make me feel like a bourgeois suburban wifey, or a middle-aged lady, or my mother.
Obvious enough.  I'm a [recovering, now-more queer, postmodern eco-] feminist, I'm someone with a long and historic lack of interest in food, I ideally prefer raw foods for political and health and anti-consumeristic reasons, and I generally avoid doing anything that makes me feel like the suburban housewifey I've spent my life heretofore trying not to become.  I could easily live on raw broccoli and hummus and a Power Bar (erm, I mean, some nuts) now and then and be fine.  You know, dude?

("But you love to bake, Rachel," the masses counter.  "What's the deal?")

Dude.  Cooking is a wholly different beast from baking.  When I bake, it feels more like an art project than a process-of-creating-something-to-consume.  When I bake, it's more about making something that can be an offering to someone else.  It's a moving meditation that usually doesn't involve juggling six different pots and 12 different ingredients, all of which need to be delivered hot and steaming to the plate for consumption exactly at the same time.  Cooking, not so much.

The mister isn't a huge cook, either.  Most evenings, I'm teaching, so we navigate simple bites on our own.  And when I'm not, we dig a nice dinner out.  With wine and quiet and breath and hot food and no clean-up.

But I'm trying.  As my most-fab friend and colleague Andrea Maltzer says, we're changing our story.  So last night we rocked some delicious roasted potatoes and quinoa and steamed vegetables and brussels sprouts and the aforementioned quickly-drying-out cornbread.  And it was fine.  Delightful, perhaps.

But I'm not quite ready to dive into that territory.  I read that link above about the daily routines of famous writers and I think to myself, Joan Didion definitely did not spend her early thirties stirring broccoli and simmering quinoa and trying not to burn the potatoes.  She was sipping a martini at her typewriter and hammering out something brilliant.

So we'll see.  This domesticity thing is for some.  And not for others.  And manuscripts aren't gonna see any progress if I'm spending rare evenings at home in the kitchen.

But I know there's a teacher somewhere in this, too.  We're reminded, of course, that Guru Vishnu is in the day-to-day, the boring, unsexy, daily-grind type routines of our lives.  So what am I supposed to learn from taking on this new, oft-dreaded, unfamiliar beacon of bourgeois domesticity?  Do I cook in the nude wearing nothing but punk boots and a glittery apron while swilling vodka to prevent the whole act from becoming one more lapse into heteronormativity?  Or do you say: hey, I'm gonna queer this whole thing so it's rad and smart and life-giving and not some throwback to something I don't wanna become?  And at what point do you decide you're just not a dinner person and let go and order take-out?

Props to all of y'all who love it.  We'll be over at 7 tonight.  Set two extra place settings.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

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

Once again, Pico Iyer nails it.

This is so much yoga.  Great read for anyone who's ever worried about anything.

The more I study, the more I listen, the more I learn, the more I realize that yoga's all about training the mind, watching the thoughts, simply transferring the tactics of seated meditation to the yoga mat.  Simple.  Profoundly difficult.  And potentially life-changing.

I know and love so many folks who are wracked with anxiety.  People whose lives are suffocated, driven, constricted, by the worrying that comes of a full monkey mind that just will. not. stop. thinking.

And that's what yoga is.  It's the finding that sacred moment of pause between our stories of the past and fantasies about the future.  That's what Pico's talking about here.  And that's a glimpse of sweet salvation for anyone who's been run around by the kind of thoughts that oppress.

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

Sooooo, this is happening a week from today.

Sunday, December 2nd, 1-4pm.

Gonna be rad.

Join us.

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

We have a few schedule changes this week at Urban Flow to accommodate the Bhakti Flow teacher training.

Check 'em out — and see you mañana at 9am for our usual Monday morning jam.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

Black Friday.

My favorite day of the year to not shop.

Happy Buy Nothing Day, dudes.

Dunno about you, but I'll be busy hiking and breathing and sweating and reading and drinking coffee and being with my lovies and sitting in the sun on the porch and practicing yoga and writing and generally avoiding any and all semblances of big-box store mayhem.

I love not shopping.

(See santosha, aparigraha, bliss.).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor

If you think you're enlightened, 
go spend a week with your family.

— Ram Dass

Friggin' love it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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

Practicing the Rocket II this morning. Amazed by and grateful for the myriad friends and teachers in my life who were once taught by Larry Schultz.

Seriously a lineage.

Testament to the power of one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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

OMG.  I have no words.

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

Whassup, kids?

Wednesday morning in Point Reyes.  Smack in the middle of Diwali, and I'm so full of blog-o-licious stuff I don't really know where to start.

It's a holiday in which we usually celebrate Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, but this morning I'm feeling a lot of Saraswati coming on — she at right, goddess of knowledge, music, and the arts.

Muses everywhere I turn.

Inspired by this video from Barack himself, which offers a sweet intro to Diwali, a nod to Jainism, and a helluva lot of mindfully-spoken words.  God, I dig that man.

My baby bro Mikah wrote this blog, "Slapping Gay Christians in the Face," for the Huff Post the other day.  So proud of him.  Reading his writing left me with so very many mixed emotions.  I thought to myself:
  1. Badass job, little bro. Way to go.
  2. God is love.  Period.  And any religion that says otherwise is off-track.
  3. How lucky were we to be raised by parents who taught us that the divine is loving (and leftist, too).
  4. Gay rights are human rights.
  5. Christianity will only remain relevant if it abandons literalism.
  6. The current state of Christianity in America makes me so. fucking. sad.
  7. This is a big cultural battle that is so little about actual theology and so much about fear.
  8. Fighting is exhausting.
  9. There are a lot of scriptural conversations to be had that could support any position, really, if you're looking to support it.  Ideology + theology = religious fascism.  Must be careful.
  10. I need a drink.
But seriously.  It was such a reminder, in so many ways, of the life I had once chosen and left behind.  I dove into graduate study in radical theologies because I wanted to transform this culture of conservative Christian fear.  Because I believed that God — in whatever form that word means to you — could only be loving, and life-giving, and justice-cultivating.

And I got burned out.  Because I didn't want to spend my life fighting.  Because, the truth is, these days, if you want to be a beacon for progressive theologies (Christianity in particular), it means swimming culturally and politically upstream.

And life is so short to be angry all the time.

So I felt proud and sad and excited and exhausted, all in one, in reading Mikah's article.  I'm so glad he has the passion to speak on behalf of a loving, all-inclusive faith.  And I, for one, was motivated to dig out my old theology books and do a little revisiting.

I'm in that nerdy student mode these days, you see.  Saraswati in the house, baby.  Hungry for learning.

And listening.  A lot.

One of the aspects of my recent move that I was most unsure about was the new commute.  I'd suddenly be spending upwards of 2 hours in the car nearly every day, as opposed to well, zero, for the last 9 years or so.  Big difference.

But I wanted to find a way to not dread this new shift. To see it with new eyes; to view that 2-hour chunk of time not as "lost" or "wasted" or "goddammit, the time I could've spent doing asana instead of sitting on my ass in traffic"; but well, pardon the cheesy yoga-ism, to "look to the light" in the situation, Gayatri Mantra-style, yo.

So I changed the story.

I starting telling myself that this new commute thing was actually a gift.  Because it meant I'd actually pick up the phone (erm, "hands-free headset") and keep in better touch with all of my long-distance loves.  I mean, what else could I do in those moments of just sitting?

And that's proven true.  My siblings have been shocked by the frequency with which this phone-fearing sister has been calling to just say "hey, petunia, what's new."

But even moreso, the gift of that little drive, just two weeks into this new home of ours, has been the time it has offered to study.  Yeah, to study!  Can you believe it?!?

I started with listening to some old audio tapes we'd found in the process of moving.  Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within.  Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart.  And those alone were fabulous.

But then.

I bought a new gadget.  And it has lots of storage space.  And the fastest downloading skillz around.

Podcasts have cracked open a whole new opportunity to literally spend two hours a day listening to dharma teachers.  Soaking it up.  And you have to understand — as the former bookish college student in the front row who always had a fountain pen in hand and one ear cocked, a total whore for a good lecture — it's a dream come true.  Totally, dude.

To the point where I can't wait to have to get in my car again.

I'm listening.  Just listening.  And how wonderful it is to receive.

And I feel pretty evangelical about this action.  As in, I woke up this morning, reached for the iPod, and subscribed to six more teachers before even once rolling out of bed.  Kind of want to scream it from the rooftops.  For as much as I've ever talked smack about technology, this free dharma teaching is really the bee's knees.

What I'm listening to (in other words — get in there, search for these names, and fast!):
Sally Kempton
Buddhist Geeks
Centre of Gravity
Eckhart Tolle
Susan Piver
Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now
The Interdependence Project
Ted Talks (particularly the ones by Brené Brown on vulnerability and shame)
Carlos Pomeda
Where Is My Guru
These alone are so rich, and so inspiring, and they're just a start.

Search for Rosemary Radford Ruether, too, and you'll get a taste of my own badass graduate school mentor.  She's done some powerful work with Catholics For Choice and all kinds of feminine-celebrating religious traditions.  And she's probably about 80 by now, I'd guess.  Kali in action!!

I could go on

The lessons, though, if I may —
1.  It's true.  Your world becomes what you choose to see.  If you choose to see a shitty hour-long commute as your most dreaded and boring part of the day, and resent it every time you turn on the engine, and moan and groan about how miserable and unlucky you are the whole time, that's what you'll experience.  That's what you'll get.

And if you choose to see that same commute as a teacher, an opportunity, a lucky gift, your experience of that sacred hour will be entirely different.  Positive.  Life-giving.  Eckhart Tolle even used this commute example in the podcast that I listened to last night.  He talked about it as one more chance to be alive in a body, to see the trees that pass and the skies up above and the little things that populate and energize our worlds.

He's right.  It's all about where your mind chooses to put your attention.
2.  There are teachers all around, if you tune your eyes to see them.  I'd been feeling so conflicted about the "loss" of those hours I would've usually spent practicing, moving my body, breathing, those sacred few free moments when I get to fill my tank with asana.  And now I can only laugh and marvel at the fact that I've been graced with two whole hours a day to study with the best dharma teachers in the world.  All at my fingertips.

It's like going to college again for free — at the best university in the world — only with no obligatory calculus classes to take, and no exams, and no hangovers, and you get to wear yoga pants to class, and eat trail mix while you listen.
Hot damn.

On other fronts: stay tuned for the official roll-out of a long-in-the-making book club in the next week, a few playlist suggestions, and upcoming workshop action, too.

Much Diwali love.   Much pre-Thanksgiving love.  Much post-election-glow-thank-goddess-Romney-wasn't-elected love.

Now start downloading.

Monday, November 12, 2012

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

Celebrated Thanksgiving last night with several of my amazing colleagues at OMpower Cycling & Yoga. Meet Elliott, Peter, Shirin, and Mariah. 

Whether on the bike, on the mat, 
or on the street: they're fab.