Thursday, June 28, 2012

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

I could not be happier to be adding TWO brand spankin' NEW permanent classes at Urban Flow. Please join me there Mondays and Wednesdays at 9am, starting this coming Monday, July 2nd.

Bring on the bhakti, baby!

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

We're 3 days out from July. What are your intentions? What do you want this brand new month, this one-and-only-July-2012-that-you'll-ever-get, to bring?

Over the last month, I've been working with a posse of remarkable colleagues in a peer coaching-type group, and while it's brand new to me in lots of ways, I'm slowly "getting it." And even though we're just a few meetings in, the coaching process has shown me the power of a) making commitments, b) setting intentions (even if they are tangible and seemingly-small, as in "email so-and-so by so-and-so-deadline"), c) keeping it real (as in, "D'oh, I totally didn't get my shit done this time around"), and d) being compassionately accountable to one another.

So, in the midst of your pre-holiday weekend, take just a few minutes — seriously, like, 5 minutes will do — and scribble out a few intentions or goals for the month. I always like to sit down and write, "This July, I want to:" and then rattle out a long list, everything from simple to-dos like booking flights to huge aspirations, like sending a manuscript or two to agents. There's power in the envisioning; there's power in the saying; there's power in the doing; and the three are intimately connected.

If we are all indeed sculptors and painters, as Thoreau so poetically wrote above, and our material is that of which we are already made, our very flesh and bone itself, then this kind of intention-setting is not some wanky California hippie thing, but is instead just a matter of lending attention and energy to our art — the art that is our lives. This temple, this life, this particular incarnation, only comes around once, and so rather than letting the next month run rampant as you cruise along on numb autopilot just trying to get through, shift the focus; set the tone; make things real.

I'll start.

This July, I want to
  • simplify
  • save money
  • cook more often, and better
  • practice asana deeply every day, whether in class or on my own
  • write every day at least an hour
  • start a book club
  • be up by 7 and in bed by 11 most days
  • celebrate my mister well
  • get lots of space and sky
  • cultivate ease
  • mail overdue gifts
There you go. That was easy enough. (Some of mine didn't go on this blog list — duh. But that gives you an idea.)  Your turn.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

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

“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless, it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.”
― Louis C.K.

(Spoken from the mouth of a 21st century American comedian, but these might as well be the words of an ancient Taoist monk. That sense of childlike wonder, the unchecked awe at being alive in a body that actually lives and breathes and sweats and wakes and sleeps all over again, every day, one which does so in the midst of a vast interwoven ecology doing the same thing, in different ways, in infinitely varying forms? That wonder, that paying attention, that actually seeing; well, it's the mark of a truly enlightened being — a yogi, if you will.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

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

We did it!

Anne and her beautiful husband Shannon are married up, I've eaten the last of the leftover frosting, and the kitchen's finally clean again — phew.  Jai Ma for a little kitchen yoga!

(I am happy not to bake again for a day or two.)

Stories to come.  In the meantime, you can find lots of pretty pics here.

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

Had lots of questions about Sunday morning's playlist at Flying Yoga.  Some great new jams here.  Hit it, music lovers.
Give Love, MC Yogi
Down To Love, Hot Toddy
Cerulean, Ben Leinbach & Geoffrey Gordon
LifeB, Nicken
Shyam! (prabhu mix), Deva Premal
Live Your Life, Yuna
Crossing Beyond, Desert Dwellers
Two For the Time, DJ Drez
Om Tare Tuttare, Deva Premal
Selecta Move, DJ Drez
Culture of Fear, Thievery Corporation
Tala Odyssey (Quade Remix), Desert Dwellers
Celtic Heart, Todd Boston
Mariachi, Ani DiFranco
Open, Rhye
No One's To Blame, Wolf Larsen
Origin, Quixotic
Elyne Road, Toumani Diabeté
At The River, Ingram Marshall

Friday, June 22, 2012

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

And so begins the biggest bhakti baking project yet.

Armed and dangerous.

After a deep practice this morning at Urban Flow, it's time to move the yoga into the kitchen for the rest of the day.  Rolling up my sleeves and pulling the aprons out of the closet in preparation for baking enough wedding cakes to feed some 80, yep, you heard it right, 80 people.  My girl Anne's wedding is tomorrow in Tiburon, and I'm on pastry flour duty today, hardcore, baby.

Right now we're looking at this for an agenda:
Raspberry Cream Cheese (with Cream Cheese frosting)
Carrot Spice (with a Cream Cheese frosting)
Maple Pecan (with a Maple Buttercream)
Almond Cream Cheese (with Almond Cream Cheese frosting)
Lemon Poppyseed (with a Lemon Buttercream)
Chocolate Raspberry (with a Chocolate Chambord frosting)
Ok, kids.  Could be a late night.  Let's get it on.  Play-by-play to come.

But first, to the grocery and the flower shop...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

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

Here's yoga philosophy in a nutshell.  Love this easy-to-read diagram for making the 8 limbs so clean and clear.

(Thanks to Gary for 
sharing this.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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

Solstice today, kids.
It's the longest day of the year, baby, a midsummer night's dream, for sure.  The sun hung around late last night at Flying, deep into the heart of practice.

And it's got me thinking about land.

Have you read any Wendell Berry?  He's a writer dude from Kentucky with a populist progressive earthy-pagan-Christian spin whom I've long adored.  Something about this penchant for old man writer crushes — Gary Snyder, anyone? — makes me wonder if there's anyone in my generation who's saying the same thing, who's got an eye for the wild and for the sacred and for the fact that endless Tweeting and Facebooking can't quite reimagine the divine in the way that stepping through wild prairie grasses or an overgrown ridge overlooking the sea just might.

Wendell Berry's writing is so rich with truth and spirit and fire and, well, just down to earth knowing, that sometimes I get overwhelmed.  It hits me all hard, square in the jaw, and reminds me of my roots — those southeast Nebraska German farmer roots that I tried for so many years to run from and that I now realize are, well, a rare gift.

We uproot ourselves (literally, folks) and zoom off to urban centers and get so stuck in that prana-empty, cement-hewn life that we forget.  We forget our bodies and our labor and our breath and we get so goddamned lost in our heads (as Berry reminds us, “thinking is the most overrated human activity") that suddenly all that rich real stuff of life ends up by the wayside.

So god/dess bless Wendell for reminding us.  Check it, people:
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love." Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss."
It's not about the 401K or the company car or the sweet benefits.  Fuck that shit.  It's about the intangibles.  It's about the realness.  It's about coming back into the body, the moment, the day.
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want."
“There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things."

This is yoga, kids.  Think about it.
“[All the ancient wisdom] tells us that work is necessary to us, as much a part of our condition as mortality; that good work is our salvation and our joy; that shoddy or dishonest or self-serving work is our curse and our doom. We have tried to escape the sweat and sorrow promised in Genesis — only to find that, in order to do so, we must forswear love and excellence, health and joy."
Here we re-envision the body as agent, as actually involved, as not engineered out of the work in deference to the mind, but rather, in fact, as a contributor, a restorer of labor's dignity.  Sweet.  So, indeed, there is potential for work to be holy after all.  But, in spite of that understanding,
“We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit — a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation.”
This is fucked up.  We've talked about this before — that potentiality for our labor to be something sacred, enjoyable, rather than a chore.  What does it take to find life-giving, prana-enriching, valuable, powerful work?  Getting out from behind the goddamned computer?  We go to the land, and it reminds us what true connection — that's code for yoga, folks, and community, and even art, too, dammit! — might feel like.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
"Every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist. The small family farm is one of the last places — they are getting rarer every day — where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker — and some farmers still do talk about "making the crops" — is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”
        ― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food 

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

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom &
Community: Eight Essays

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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

Busting out a home practice on my ratty old mat while I listen to MC YOGI's brand new album, just released TODAY. Whoop whoop!

Monday, June 18, 2012

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

I've been subscribing to Susan Piver's meditation practice newsletters — what she calls "The Open Heart Project" — for, oh, about a year now.  A couple of times a week, an email teaching will pop into my inbox, and though I don't always get around to sitting with these teachings right away, they never fail to be useful, relevant, and grounding.

This morning I sat down with her latest, on the "Real World," and it struck me as particularly apropos.  Susan talks in her brief informal video teaching about how often on retreats, as the end approaches, folks will wistfully sigh: "Ahhh, well, here we go — back to the Real World again."

I've spoken those words myself, at the end of yoga trainings and overseas adventures and my own solitary retreats, always accompanied by that wistful sigh.  As Susan describes, when we're living in a place that's structured to facilitate a way of being that is open-hearted, tender, and kind, we naturally sink into rhythms that maintain that way of being.  And the resulting grace is so sweet, feels so unfamiliarly comfortable and balanced and at ease, that we imagine it's far from the "real world," which we have come to associate with being frantic and busy and "stressed out" and disconnected.  And always, ever, we say (or at least I know I say): Ok Rach, what are you gonna do to hold onto this state of rested, balanced, patient, grounded, well-being?  And then I make a big list with lots of bullet points about sleep and meditation and stillness and rituals and greens and melons, and try half-heartedly to swim upstream, living in what really is a counterculturally mindful kind of way, and it usually kind of lasts, for a few days, at least....

...until inevitably the creep and the crawl of the "real world's" pull takes over, and I'm sucked back into that vortex that is rushing and going and doing and hurrying (what my friend Briksha so aptly calls "hurry sickness"), and before I know it, I need to go on retreat again stat before things spiral out of control and I get lost in the hurry and the buzz.

Such is life.  That's why we practice.  All good.

But I love Susan's point that perhaps we need to rethink what is "real."  That maybe the "real world" we know is a construct that has kind of unconsciously evolved, and that perhaps it is no more "real" than the "retreat dreamworld" state many of us have experienced that looks like rest and peace and time and good food and great company and soulful, skillful practice.  And maybe it's just our work, now, here, to bring those elements of being into our own "real" day-to-day worlds.

I've experienced this a bit, here and there, of late.  I'm spending a lot of time these days up in stillness, "on retreat," so to speak, in a little old-school Western California frontier town that overlooks the Pacific Ocean called Point Reyes.  My mister lives there, and it's peaceful and quiet and calm and clear and you wake to birdsong and sky and the beaches are empty and spare and wild, not packed with crowds or boardwalks or funnel cake shops.  Everything feels more slow, more real, more earthy, more grounded.  My phone doesn't get reception.  (God bless.)  So there are no pingings, no ringings, no perpetual summons to the electronic beacon of the kind that usually pepper my hours in the City.

I can write there.  I can read there.  I can breathe there.  I feel like I can actually be in the moment there, sit in the sun on the goddamned porch and drink coffee and not think about which email I should be replying to.  It reminds me of what it felt like to be a kid in rural South Dakota, all sky, all sun, all wind, all elements — technology as a background feature, instead of the main event.  It's a retreat from the fast-paced world we now know to be "real," a going-back in time, of sorts, sure, but I can also see how, for folks living there permanently, their lives, their biorhythms, their bodies begin to linger in that relaxed, open, trusting, tender space at length.

All of which means, of course, that the "real world" in fact doesn't have to mean zipping-rushing-going-doing-buzzing.  Maybe it's just a matter of choosing a "real world" that's conducive to the internal state you want to cultivate.

On the final morning of our late April retreat in Sierra Hot Springs, one of the yogis there shared some wisdom she'd heard from a teacher at a past retreat.  Rather than saying, "Awww, damn, dude, back to the Real World now," she said: "Ok — the first half of your retreat is now complete.  Now, we move onto the second half: carrying that lightness, that ease, that openness, that peace back into our lives at home."

The work doesn't end on the cushion, on the mat.  You don't pack it up and shove it in the trunk and wait to pull it out when you once again, six months later, exhausted and running on fumes, head out for vacation.  You build it into your life here, now, so that the day-to-day might better become a perpetual retreat.

I think again of Seth Godin's perfect advice:
Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, 
maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.

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

Excellent little piece on "new Buddhists" in yesterday's Sunday NYT.  You don't have to be a Buddhist to appreciate how much you can learn from the tradition. It's changed my life (and my yoga), fer sure.

The article offers a decent one-paragraph description of the fundamental Buddhist worldview — not always an easy feat to encapsulate, for any tradition:
"The fundamental insight of the Buddha (the Awakened One) is this: life consists of suffering, and suffering is caused by attachment to the self, which is in turn attached to the things of this world. Only by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of perpetual wanting can we be truly free."
Shazaam.  Sounds daunting, I know, but stay the course.  It's a very readable introduction.  I recognized myself in the author's description of his need to escape from the constant ringing-pinging-going-doing of urbanity.  Props for mentions of Beat writers Ginsberg and Kerouac, an emphasis on pragmatism, and a shout-out to engaged Buddhism, too.

Buddhists' Delight (NYT)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

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

In honor of Father's Day weekend, a wee litany:

My dad taught me, among other things:

how to swing a hammer
how to talk football
how to weed petunias
the rush of road trips
the itch of restlessness
the pleasure of a shared silence
the pleasure of a good sunburn
to make of my life something I love
to change my oil every 3000 miles
that we already have everything we could ever need,
here, now, in this moment; enough.

Nov. 21, 1946 - Apr. 29, 2005

Friday, June 15, 2012

Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.


Today's kind of a big day.  "Auspicious," if you wanna get all wanky yoga-sounding about it.

I felt it on waking.

It's over.  I'm done.

After 7+ years shaking martinis a couple of evenings a week — a gig that has slowly dwindled in the last year or so, such that sometimes I'd go two weeks without doing so — this is it.  Tonight, baby.  The bhakti-bartender-ninja chapter of my life will be officially closed, as of about 1 am.

It's with mixed emotions that I write that.  I mean, hello: I'm thrilled.  It's time.  The gig has run its course.  It's served me so beautifully in so many ways over the years: I mean, since back in the day, way back in grad school circa 2005, rescuing me from the onslaught of perpetual French cultural theory and endemic political correctness and endless academic obligations and returning me to the real world of sticky hands and sweaty foreheads and swearing and dirty jokes and a right arm perpetually soaked with gin.

Bartending was the last thing I ever thought I'd do.

But it was also one of those things, along with riding the rails solo across Europe (check) and driving a stick shift (check) and living on the West Coast (check) that I'd always had on my bucket list, that unofficial mental list of life experiences I wanted to tackle before it was too late.

And it came into my life unexpectedly, and wrought a lot of grace.  It brought rich relationships and lifelong friends and a lot of laughs and a helluva lot more savings than I could've ever managed if I'd stuck with the various early "badass radical Marxist professor" or "pole dancer at the Lusty Lady" or "non-profit bleeding heart liberal activist" career paths I thought I'd take.

And though it's time — ok, let's be honest, it's past time — to let the gig go, to hang up my martini shaker forever, to throw out the nasty beer- and vodka-soaked shoes with the holes in the soles, to resign myself to cutting limes and lemons only for myself from now on — I can also only ever be grateful for those unexpected bits of grace.


Bartending was what got me through many dark years in my twenties: the headaches of graduate school and thesis-writing, the heartaches of being in a new city across the country from everyone I loved, and the immediate and lingering days of sorrow after my father died.  It lent me community and spirit and laughter and fire, a true family of sorts.  Oh, and a little baseball knowledge amidst a World Series win, and a few run-ins with random D-list celebrities, too.

So it's with bittersweetness that I say goodbye.  I knew, oh, six months ago or so, that the clock was ticking. I couldn't take it anymore: the juxtaposition of my early morning yoga-teaching hours getting up with the sun and the late nights closing the bar, my preference for quiet and stillness as opposed to the chaos and agitation of a night behind the rail.  In a life that had become increasingly mindfulness-centric, bartending — which for a long time felt radical and subversive, funky and fun, a real-life, gritty, down-to-earth counterpart to my philosophy-wonk self — had grown exhausting, draining, a chore.  Being somebody's beer wench didn't quite jive any more with my pervasive sense of self as a writer, a teacher, a thinker, an intellect.  I was tired of living in two polarities.  There was a troubling disconnect, an unsettling lack of alignment, that I couldn't ignore any longer — and which showed up in my increasingly crabby attitude and my ever-tired eyes.

(This in spite of that fact, though, that as Stanley Kunitz and Matthew Crawford and Thomas More have each written so eloquently, there is something subversive, artistic, populist, beautiful, about work performed with the hands — its own moving meditation, a craft, a prayer.  And that's an awareness from which I never want to wholly remove myself.)

But then, last month, when the company I work for fired my good friend J (the new mother of a 4-month-old baby boy, effectively terminating her family's health insurance along with her 7 years' standing as a model employee, all on the basis of a complaint), I knew the end was in sight.  The thing is, over the years, the yoga's really taught me: you've gotta be authentic, you've gotta keep impeccable ethics, you've gotta be true to your heart, you've gotta use your labor, your voice, your breath, in a way that is sacred and life-giving and true.  And, truthfully, my heart was no longer behind that bar, and my mind wanted to be writing about santosha and satya and Sarvangasana, not pouring the 16th whiskey sour for some kid just out of college going out and getting sloshed on his company account.


In his chapter on "The Economics of Soul," Thomas More writes that
Sometimes we refer to work as an "occupation," an interesting word that means "to be taken and seized." In the past this word had strong sexual connotations. We like to think that we have chosen our work, but it could be more accurate to say that our work has found us. Most people can tell fate-filled stories of how they happen to be in their current "occupation." These stories tell how the work came to occupy them, to take residence. Work is a vocation; we are called to it. But we are also loved by our work. It can excite us, comfort us, and make us feel fulfilled, just as a lover can. Soul and the erotic are always together. If our work doesn't have an erotic tone to it, then it probably lacks soul, as well. (182)

Whether we really acknowledge it or not, work — especially the kind we do employing our bodies — can be sacred.  Work can be holy.  Work can be that divine expression of purpose, of dharma.  It can be that embodied yoga-asana, yes, that draws us more deeply into our bodies, into our breath, into the moment.  And I'll always be grateful for the ways in which my years behind the bar did exactly that.  All those late nights sparked divine connections, dear friendships, lifelong memories for which I can only ever give thanks.

And now?  Now we just shift that dharma, that spark, that sacred sensuous labor, into a different arena.

Now it becomes about the writing.  Now it becomes about the teaching.  Now it becomes about the really listening, really living well in this body that is mine for just this brief moment in time.

I sat across from my friend J at lunch two Fridays ago.  She had her sweet son on her lap and she was sitting, serenely, self-possessed, a changed woman from the twenty-something friend I'd shaken martinis with and cut off drunk old dudes with for so many years.  She's an artist, she's a true creative.  She's got the Masters degree to boot.  And she'd put all that on hold all these years, caught up in the pace and the ease and the lure of the industry, with its instant gratification and its kind of ridiculously high-paying income and its lack of responsibility.  (We've all enjoyed that aspect of it, for sure, and for awhile, it serves.  That high income, that lack of responsibility: they're what allow us room to create our art.  They're what allowed me to dive deeply into yoga and philosophy without financial fear.  And they're gifts, in plenty of ways.)  But at some point, those benefits no longer serve.  And my friend J, she sat there across from me and talked about how in the last unexpectedly jobless month, she'd realized how much time, years really, she'd wasted there behind the bar, when she could've been creating art, following her passions, pursuing her true dreams.  That she wanted to do something her kid could be proud of.

And that knowledge hit me hard, in the belly.

Because I knew it was true.
I knew she was right.
And I knew I didn't want to waste any more time.

So I didn't.


Two days later, I gave my notice.  Since then, life's been a flurry of new plans, unfolding opportunities, and the prospect of lots of unfamiliar space — not to mention the long-awaited pleasure of a normal bedtime.  And it's been with gratitude and a light heart that I've said goodbyes to all of the warm folks who have been my tribe, my family, in so many ways, over the years.  And I will do the same tonight, one last twilight, before clocking out for good.

Because it's time.  It's time to get the goddamned 900-some pages of writing to agents.  It's time to wipe off the dusty piano keyboard and play again.  It's time to teach the hell out of this yoga that I love so much.

Because we only get one shot.  We never really know when those breaths will end.  And we owe it to ourselves to do work that is life-giving, and rich, and full, and in line with our ethics, and our dharmas, and our hearts. 

The grit and the hustle and the humor of this wee bartending gig of mine will always linger in my cellular memory. And I will ever remain astonished by the unexpected surprise of finding therein a subversive source of embodied work, a moving meditation of a social kind, a sensuous labor that brought me into my body and wrung it out, shattered it, on a nightly basis.

It was a teacher, this.  A guru, in a zillion ways.

Your yoga doesn't have to live on a mat.  It can hide behind a bar, in front of a stove, behind a copy machine, under a broken engine, behind a dirty toilet, beneath a flowerbed, if you let it.

So here's to the years.  Here's to the chatter.  Here's to the endless spilled beers.  Here's to the infinite glasses of wine poured, the champagne corks popped, the bourbon mopped up, the glasses polished, the barbacks trained.

I'm grateful.

And I'm even more grateful to see that bartend-asana becoming laptop-asana, studio-asana, garden-asana, art-asana, music-asana, full-time, full-throttle, baby, no beers poured, no martinis shaken except for the ones I sip whilst knocking out late-night paragraphs.

Cheers.  And good night.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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

Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.
 ― Natalie Goldberg

Thursday, June 7, 2012

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

Today, I looked up, and found love, in a snapshot, sitting on my countertop.


Thursday afternoon, cleaning my flat.  Lush and bright and green outside, slowly making progress on the year-old dust inside.  I'm watering plants and putting spices away and wiping down counters and throwing out rotten kale and stashing the olive oil in the liquor cabinet and wondering when I missed the memo about being a legit grown-up which means having matching dishware and a full range of wine glasses appropriate for every varietal.  And, in the process, I look up from that stainless steel sink-scrubbing, and stand back, and wipe my bangs out of my eyes with the back of my hand, and in one sigh, this still love-life of sorts comes alive in front of me, pulsing with handcrafted presence and time.

You know how I feel about making things, about baking things, about embodied sensuous labor being a kind of yoga, really, a practice, an expression of bhakti.  Shopping, gift-giving is so overrated.  I really dislike it. [Ok, I fucking hate it.  Especially the obligatory kind.]

But this?  This?

With this, well, in one breath, one glance, people rush right back to you over the years, over the moments, over the miles.

And beloveds thousands of miles away are suddenly so near, so present, just in the noticing.

I'm feeling very simple these days, simple and quiet and light, wanting to empty, wanting to let go of a lot.  And as I stood there in that moment, breath hushed, staring at that collection of sweetnesses from my various sweets, my heart jumped into my throat, and I felt them dear, and near, in spite of the distance

I was never a big "things" person, but I find, especially as I get older, even more, watching friends grow ill and die, watching the seasons change with more awareness of time passing, I don't want any more jewelry, I don't want your Prada and your Gucci, and I really don't think your sportscar's a striking metaphor for your sexual prowess.

I know, I have seen firsthand, that all of those things will fade away.  They'll pass.  Impermanence, kids.  Every little thing.

But these gifts?  They're just you. Your hands. Your time. Your breath.

Your prana — your life force.
in the form of homemade ginger preserves and Meyer lemon rosemary chutney, from Sarah and Elysa, shipped up for Christmas from Los Angeles.

in the form of marmalade sunkissed and wrapped by Erik and Zoe in their design-magazine-worthy Oakland bungalow with the great secret garden.

in the form of sweet and dill pickles canned by Matt and Melissa, 3000 miles away on Long Island, two summers ago. (I can't bear to eat them.)

in the form of a babycakes cookbook, shipped from Delaware courtesy of ever-thoughtful Toni, mama of Rachel Lynn and Clara Mae and Norah Grace, three of my four precocious young goddaughters.
in the form of wildflowers from my most-amazing mister, carefully packed into the vintage benz and chauffered down winding roads into the city from Point Reyes.
Simplicity.  Over and again.


The richer for it.

Presence doesn't have to look like bodies together in a room.  It can be so much more, this.  It can just be the barely-lingering memory of a moment in time, packaged, shipped, hauled, savored, remembered.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

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

Earthy brilliance from Steve Krieger over at Tricycle — on practice, meditation, and the art of composting (human) manure at the Zen monastery in Southern California where he lives and works. Love the realness.  And the dirt.  Yes.

"You deal with your shit in Zen by sitting with it. By breathing right into it. You don’t try and ignore it with pleasant thoughts or lofty ideas, and you don’t try and bury it with solutions. You deal with it, you work with it, one breath at a time."  Read on.

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

Come sing with us this Saturday night at Urban Flow.

Jai Uttal will be rocking it out, along with Ben Leinbach and Prajna Vieira. (You hear these fab musicians on most of my playlists.) If you dig music and would like to delve a little more deeply into chanting, this one's for you.  We call it a kirtan, which is just a fancy way of saying: rad folks singing and breathing to lift up the divine — whatever that means to them.

In bhakti yoga, the chant is as much a part of the vinyasa as any Chaturanga or Up Dog.  If you've never experienced it, kirtan singing is a really earthy, embodied, ethereal way to get back into your breath, into your body, and out of your head.  And, well, honestly — to just wail the shit out of some really great melodies whilst in excellent company.

So just come already, ok?

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

MC Yogi's long-awaited new album 
drops on the 19th.  So exciting.

Check out a killer preview here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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

Period, amen.

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

Summer 2012 Teaching Schedule

Urban Flow
1543 Mission St. (at S. Van Ness)
Mon 9-1030am
Tues 12-1pm
Weds 9-1030am
Thurs 12-1pm

Flying Yoga
4308 Telegraph Ave, Temescal, Oakland
Sun 1045a-1215pm
Tues 745-915pm
Thurs 8-920pm

OMpower Cycling & Yoga
66 Townsend Street (at 1st), South Beach
Tues 515-615pm
Thurs 515-615pm

417 14th Street (at Valencia), SF
Mon 12-1pm
Weds 12-1pm 

Oakwood Athletic Club
4000 Mount Diablo Boulevard
Lafayette, CA 94549-3498
Sun June 10th, 130-330pm

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

There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won't have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain or Lazarus.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Monday, June 4, 2012

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

Stanley Kunitz, on writing:
Develop any other skill; turn to any other branch of knowledge; learn how to use your hands. Try woodworking, bird watching, gardening, mushrooming, cooking, fishing, sailing, weaving, pottery, zoology, astronomy, cosmology, take your pick. Whatever activity you engage in as trade or hobby, or field of study, will tone up your body and clear your head. At the very least, it will help you with your metaphors.

Bartending, baking, anyone?

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

Knee-deep in my most daunting yoga challenge yet: planning the wedding cakes for my sweet friend Anne's ceremony in late June, which I am — gulp — baking myself. Reminded of how much art, creativity, and play are a part of a yoga practice, whether that means on the mat or in the kitchen. Love.