Tuesday, October 30, 2012

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

Super impressed that Tadasana Festival has spoken out urging yogis to vote Obama in its most recent newsletter. This is Satya (speaking your truth) and Ahimsa (doing less harm) in action.

Yessirree, even politics can be yoga, too. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

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

I started writing this post last Friday.  Before you get any further, let's just say, as of today, Monday at noon: I'm still waiting.

(That'll all make sense about a paragraph from now, trust.)


My cell phone bit the dust Wednesday evening and I've been living sans-pings and sans-alarm clock and sans-smart-phone-checking since. (Erm, that said, if I've inadvertently blown off your never-received texts and voicemails, don't take it personally.)  FedEx is due to deliver my replacement phone via Next Day Delivery this afternoon.

Expected delivery: 3pm at latest.

Well, 3pm has come and gone.  I drove down here to OMpower (the yoga studio where I had the phone company ship the new gadget, since I'm rarely home to receive packages), parked my car, and set up shop with my laptop on the front stoop.  (The building's locked, as everyone's gone for the day, hence the waiting outside.)

It's the most radiant late-autumn day, and I'm sitting in the sun, working on my computer, getting stuff done, sans phone ringing, and my delivery is late, and it doesn't matter, because it's a Friday afternoon by the ballpark and it's sunny and warm and I have wireless and it's



Funny how one's automatic (habitual, culturally-conditioned) response is to freak out and/or get pissed about the delayed delivery and/or get mad at the phone for fucking breaking in the first place!  It'd be super easy to sit here and bitch and moan and grow increasingly irritable at the inconvenience this waiting has meant for my day.

That's what most of us would do, right?

"FML!  All over the place!  FML!  Poor me!"

But then the yoga mind-training kicks in, and you go: ohhhh, cool, I get it.  There is some perfect lesson, some beloved teacher, some helpful friend hanging out right here in this very moment.

And you get some perspective.

You realize: I have a choice.  I can choose to freak out and get pissy and impatient and still not be any closer to having a phone with which I can call my lovey and tell him hello and happy Friday and I miss you, or I can sit here and marvel at the fact that on a Friday afternoon rather than being stuck in some soulless antiseptic fluorescently-lit office, I am comfortably parked on my ass on a stoop in the sun wearing a tennis skirt and shades, and I have food to eat, and shelter over my head, and eyes that see, and a car that runs, and am not currently threatened by a Frankenstorm or a war in my backyard or gang violence in my home, and my life is pretty damn good.


It's just how you look at it.

Everything's that way, of course.

You can pooh-pooh that as Pollyanna thinking (been there, done that), or you just can realize that we always, always have a choice.

That's yoga, in a nutshell:

Choose to freak out and be a spaz and/or run away when things get challenging, or take a deep breath, chill out, and come back to a place of equilibrium, realizing that the furor you're experiencing is all a product of your own mind.

I think about this a lot when I witness brides planning weddings, or in the rare instance that I get sucked into a bad TLC wedding reality show and see the whole self-created-drama thing writ large on national television.  [This is just one more reason that I've long been cautious about the idea of ever having one myself.] People FREAK OUT and hyperventilate and make themselves crazy and go on and on about how STRESSFUL it is to pick a dress and find a venue and decide whom to invite and how many forks there should be and OHMYGOD how can they get through LIFE with SO MUCH STRESS!!!!!?!?!?

And I sit back and watch and breathe and shake my head and think to myself: how lucky we are to be so affluent that we can get caught up in minor trifles like weddings and guest lists and canapes. 

And I remind myself, in those moments: Rachel, choose.

Choose, girl. Choose to be aware of your privilege, of the ridiculous luxury that is being able to be stressed out in the first place.  That luxury of psychoanalysis is one that only comes once one's basic survival needs are met.  And how blessed we are, how lucky, indeed, to be able to "stress out" about things like broken smart phones and big white dresses and expensive fancy self-celebratory parties in honor of the fact that we've found someone else to love.  Seriously!!!

We always have a choice.  In every breath.  What are you choosing?


Needless to say, no phone came last Friday — it was stuck in Memphis all weekend due to a delayed shipment.  And you know what?  It didn't matter.  I didn't need it.  I enjoyed a little unexpected quiet.  And I got some sweet time sitting in the sun out of the deal.

And haven't dealt with a pinging phone in upwards of 5 days.

And watched the Giants sweep Detroit in the World Series.

And spent yesterday, sandwiched on either side of some sweaty goodness at Flying Yoga in the morning, hauling the contents of my apartment in SF to our new cottage up the coast.

Which feels like home.

And now I sit on a meditation cushion typing in an empty flat at the back of this old 1920s building in downtown San Francisco and listen to the echo of the keys in this shiningly barren room, on the most perfectly blue-skied West Coast afternoon, where we rest comfortably-not-at-all-in-the-path of a monstrous hurricane-slash-snowstorm named after Olivia Newton-John's character from Grease, and it's more than I could ask for.

All good, always, all ways.

I've been listening to Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, in the early mornings and late nights as I drive.  The mister found an old audio tape copy in storage as he was making room for my things, and though a dear friend had lent me that book years ago in the midst of a difficult time of my own, I'd never done more than thumb through it.  So, even though this time in my life feels not at all like "things falling apart," rather, it feels strangely and beautifully like things are falling together, I was excited to listen to Pema's words as I drove through the fog this morning.

The more I learn from teachers like Pema Chodron, the more I am certain that this asana thing is just a vehicle for quieting the mind.  And the more I am able to transfer that Zen spirit, that oh-so-rational and measured Buddhist mentality, into my practice, on and off the mat, and into my teaching, too, realizing, remembering, that a yoga-asana practice without an emphasis on mindfulness is really just gymnastics.

Read it.  I wish I could give a copy to everyone I know.  Pema's good not just for the difficult times, but for any time.  As we know, and as the Buddhism and the yoga remind us, our lives are a constant ebb and flow of sweetness and struggle, so we can trust that even in the greatest and richest moments of joy and ease and certainty, there is always a little chaos around the corner.  Blessed be this impermanence.  It brings us into the present moment, and reminds us how very sacred and ephemeral this very breath, and the next, and the next, really are.

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

Don't forget —

New class starts tonight at 7:45.   

Sunday, October 28, 2012

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

Still buzzing from yesterday's Basics of Bhakti workshop at flyingYoga.

Deep bows to all of y'all for showing up, for shining, for singing, for smiling, for inspiring. So grateful.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

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

Oh baby!! We're rocking the World Series class this evening at OMpower Cycling and Yoga, literally a block around the corner from AT&T Park. 

Come down for the opening pitch at 5, squeeze in an hour's practice 5:15-6:15, and jump back onto your barstool to watch Pablo hit 3 more. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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

What a happy afterglow in SF today.  Giants win the pennant, Barack smokes Mitt in the final prez debate.

The City's been abuzz for the last 12 hours.  Keep it comin', boys.

Monday, October 22, 2012

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

"The heart of yoga is the cultivation of equilibrium in mind and body so that one can wake up to the reality of being alive, which includes not just joy and health but impermanence, aging, suffering, and death. A yoga practice that excludes the shadows of illness or aging cuts itself off from the truths of being alive. Similarly, a practice that focuses exclusively on physical culture and the performance of yoga poses at the expense of psychological understanding and transformation is a one-sided practice.... 
Yoga asks us to stay with feelings without seeking to avoid them. This does not mean dwelling in and indulging feelings indefinitely — such an approach can turn into another form of storytelling. Rather, it means that we stay patiently and with an attitude of acceptance with whatever is occurring in the present moment as it arises, unfolds, and passes away. Just put your body there.... 
When we perpetuate the realm of binary thinking — likes and dislikes, me and mine,  inner and outer — we fail to embody the root meaning of yoga — the ultimate interconnection and nonseparation of existence. This is not a reality without feeling or a life dissociated from the world but rather the ability to be fully engaged in life with the ability to fully experience its impact."
— Michael Stone, The Inner Tradition Of Yoga

I love these bits and pieces from Michael Stone, because they remind me that we as yogis do not always have to be perky. We are allowed to feel the full depth of the human emotional spectrum without invalidating or doing violence to our psyches by denying the more shadowy of those emotions. This means learning to be with all that we feel — even the most irritable, politically incorrect, difficult, complicated emotions — and trusting that, with the help of the breath, we can stay with them, and watch them "arise, unfold, and pass away," all the while residing in that place of equilibrium. This is the true work of the yogi.

I have been blessed to practice with a number of older yogis in the past few weeks, folks whose bodies perhaps no longer rock Double Chaturangas or even slip easily into Child's Pose, but who are no less committed to the opening and the unraveling, the strengthening and the softening inherent to this discipline. And in that brief time, I've been struck by how much I'm learning from just being around them, learning about grace and ease and non-attachment and learning to let go and just be with life, and with this (aging, aching, loving) body, exactly as it is.

About five years ago, when seriously one or two people were actually reading this little blog at all, I heard, through a friend of a friend, that someone I barely knew, some young woman stranger, enjoyed reading my piddling writing "because it made her feel allowed to be sad."

And I couldn't believe how deeply that touched me — how very much her words meant to me.

Because that's the same gift that writers like Virginia Woolf and Ernesto Sabato and Willa Cather gave me, when I was but 16 or 17 myself, living in a time and a place where pretty young things my age were supposed to smile a lot and toss their ponytails and shake a few pom-poms and be content with a prescripted life of khaki pants and status quos and minivans and conservative Christian fluff theology.

Even now, sometimes I have a hard time granting myself that permission — especially here in this most public of places, a formerly uber-personal blog that has ended up being read by, well, more than just my siblings. It's easy to buckle under the increasingly commonplace contemporary expectation that the yogi (and, in particular, the yoga teacher) must always show up as the most Bright Shiny Radiant Happy version of herself. And in moments like today (er, see this afternoon's earlier post), when there's a little dust here and a little mud there and a whole lotta worms over there, I tend to hesitate to share that full realness of being, for fear of not being perceived as "yogic" or evolved or shit-figured-out enough.

But then I remember that the yogis (like Stone, and Richard Freeman, and Judith Hanson Lasater, and Richard Rosen come to mind) and writers (Erich Fromm and Thomas Moore and Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham, for sure) whose words have most powerfully rung the bell of my soul have been the ones who've affirmed that suffering and shadow are in reality intrinsic aspects of the sacred, these true teachers who've been brave enough to name the murky aspects of being as equal counterparts to the bright lights in our lives.

Yesterday I was listening to an old, early 1990's audiotape version of Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within. It was buried in an dusty box of relics I found while cleaning last week, a book-on-tape that I first listened to as a 19-year-old college sophomore driving 3 days through Iowa on my way to Delaware one cold blizzardy January break. And I was struck, in listening again to Gloria these 14 years later, by what a profoundly yogic message she shared. In the book, Steinem talks about whole-body awareness, about slipping back into all five senses, about learning to be true and clear and authentic and self-possessed, and I realize now that she is yet one more name to add to that above list of influential teachers whose emphases on the importance of learning how to be wholly real, wholly authentic, wholly whole, planted powerful seeds in my not-yet-twenty-year-old psyche these years ago.

We keep practicing. Onward. Reborn in every breath.

"When we inspect our everyday experience in detail, we see that death and birth occur one after the other in every successive moment. What we see in one breath cycle we see everywhere."
— Stone

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

It's a strange funky-funk binary kind of day.

I love this, I hate that, one minute this, one minute the other. So much on my swinging monkey mind.

Drove across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco to teach this morning at 6:30am (in the dark, pouring, flooding rain, yes). First big rain of the season, and I felt it on the drive. One of the scarier commutes I've experienced. Hands at 10 and 2 the whole time, baby.

Big day, this one. Giants playoff tonight at 5pm, here at home, to decide the pennant (c'mon, Cain). Final presidential debate tonight at 6pm (Barry, please don't blow it). Rusty's first class back from retreat in Mexico (sweet ass-kicking twilight vinyasa, here I come). And, with the aforementioned morning rain, the true onset of winter here, too (hello, yin season; we've missed you).

Haven't had a moment to practice more than a quick 10 minutes here or there for the last week. Seriously. Blows my mind to see the causal relationship between my inability to get in my body once a day and the corresponding Outrageous Crabbiness Level that results. I don't know how sedentary folks don't go crazy out of their minds. Call it attachment to asana, say what you will; I'm just sayin', a girl's gotta have a few deep breaths sans planning or working or teaching or driving or packing or moving or what have you, or watch out, world. Beee-otch central.

So, yeah — moving. Whoa mama.

As of October 31st, I'll be out of my sweet little Lower Nob Hill garden flat for good. Making the move in with my mister a few miles up Highway 1 along the coast. It's a lovely shift, this, and means roughly more
quiet evenings at home
wood-burning stoves
long hikes
farmer's markets
space to play piano sans upset neighbors
easy parking
small-town libraries
books on tape
home practices
The Rocket
sunlit yoga mats
Yoga Toes
fresh air
free laundry
did I mention driving
rad West Marin types
and less
parking travails
parking tickets
parking cursing
expensive rent (glory hallelujah!)
shit-covered sidewalks
foggy wanders up and over Nob Hill
construction on the street in front of my home
cable car clanging (sad but true)
MUNI (adios, unreliable bus system!)
easy access to ethnic food
easy access to hot yoga
opportunities to catch up with my girls
need for quarters
loud neighbors
thin walls
You get the picture. Lots of changes. But, for the most part, good life-giving changes, right? (I mean, life marches on, you know. That's the way of everything, anyway, always flowing. And who wants to stay stuck in a rut just because it feels familiar? And when the rent for that rut is so friggin' astronomically high?)

But it's been a particularly wild week or so, though, what with teaching a few extra classes last week on top of the usual schedule, preparing and rocking the bhakti workshop with some of the coolest cats around (woot!), trying to squeeze in some dear folks' anniversary and housewarming parties here and one of my best friend's modern dance shows there, having my big sis in town from the East Coast for a hot minute, and, oh yes, digging through years of old crap and packing up a whole goddamned apartment and figuring out what the hell to do with all the shit I haven't sorted through in a decade. And revisiting old selves in the process, whether I am ready to do that or not.

Oh gosh.

Is my irritation showing up?

Let's just say I'm definitely having as much fun right now as this lady on the left is. Though I am also definitely wearing better shoes. And definitely more sweaty. And highly caffeinated.

Talk about an opportunity to practice staying calm and balanced in the midst of chaos. My body aches, I haven't had time to do a legit 90 minute practice in a week, the mister and I have both been sick for two weeks on and off, I feel like a terrible friend for my inability to be 16 places at once, I'm trying to figure out how to get my sis here from Sacramento without driving 6 hours in one day, and the house has a long way to go before it's ready to be cleaned, the keys handed in, and this new chapter officially begun.

Whew. Sorry.

I've been needing a good exhale all day. You can tell. It's hard to show up for oneself when there are so many other people you want to show up for. Back in grad school, I remember our various advisors talking to the Masters of Divinity students about the importance of "self-care,"  especially for folks in service positions like the ministry, nursing, psychotherapy, and yes, teaching, and secretly internally rolling my eyes at this annoying self-indulgent hippie-California notion. I scoffed, digging deep into that salt-of-the-earth prairie spirit that says "Suck it up, get over your affluent First World problems, and deal with it, buddy! You have a great life and nothing to complain about! Can you say plumbing and electricity and a roof over your head??!?"

But, I tell ya what. There's some truth there. You can't show up for anyone else unless you show up for yourself first. Basics, kids. We're not talking expensive spa days and shit. We're talking:
More than 4 hours of sleep a night.
Decent food.
Legit time to work out and/or practice, if that's your thing.
Quiet. Stillness. A measure of solitude for grounding (maybe that means meditation or music or reading to you).
I've oft wondered if it's fate for us chicks to go a little bit crazy once we have a kid or two. (Seen a lot of that myself, anecdotal evidence, you know, just sayin'.) And what I'm realizing is: a good way to prevent that middle-aged-lady-resentful-bitter-crazy thing that I see more of than I'd like to admit is to actually take care of yourself first. The crazy resentful part blooms when you go too long without sleep or food or breath or sweat or quiet. Period. Ya gotta have it. Or say sayonara to having any energy left to be present for anyone else.

That said, I'm gonna eat something, shower, and get to packing.

Love from the lush little courtyard that will be mine for the next 9 days. If you find a whole lotta silence on the blog front in the next week, you can trust I'm up to my ears in boxes and bedframes and dust.

(It'll pass. As all things do. Equilibrium, here I come. And, by the by, how blessed am I to have a home?! With someone I love!?!)

Oh, and please appreciate this too-cute picture of these too-cute ladies who I hope and pray-to-sweet-baby-Jesus will not be moving house anytime soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

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

Had a lot of questions about last Thursday evening's playlist.  Here you go:
Chakra Rhythm, DJ Free & Brent Lewis
Calling All Cars, Sean Hayes
Golden Nectar, J Boogie's Dubtronic Science
Derivation, Beats Antique
Culture of Fear, Thievery Corporation
Dorset Perception, Shpongle
Cynicism, Josh Garrels
Dancing Buddha, DJ Free & Brent Lewis
Celtic Heart, Todd Boston
Devaki, Karnamrita Dasi
Fools Work, Inara George
Gate Gate, Deva Premal
Chanson Pour Une Femme, Althea W.
Elyne Road, Toumani Diabaté
Desert Father, Josh Garrels
Days Like This, Over The Rhine

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

We're smack in the middle of Navaratri, the nine-day Hindu festival of the goddess. Feeling a little Kali and Durga comin' on. 

Fierce Monday morning flow: 9am, Urban Flow

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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

Mad Men meets kirtan = bhakti in the real world. We'll be talking about this and more Saturday at flyingYoga. 1:30-3:30pm. 

No shaved heads required.

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

This is happening on Saturday!!

Spent the last 4+ hours nerdily gathering my favorite bits of wisdom on asana, art, music, philosophy, the Sutras, the Gita, and more.

Can't wait to share them with you this weekend and next. (Oh, and homemade cookies, too).


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

Subbing for MC YOGI tonight at 6pm. Come on out

It's a gorgeous morning already here in Point Reyes. Sun and hiking and oysters and yoga, oh my. Post-debate afterglow, too. All good.

See you tonight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

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

Perpetual awesomeness from Susan Piver:
Look, we're just human beings here. The intention of our practice is not to help us transcend the human condition but rather to dive into it in order to live our lives fully, deeply, fiercely. When we embrace our aliveness, we can explore our creativity, be delighted and confounded by it, have our hearts broken by love and the loss of love and the return of love, fulfill out singular mission, and discover the truth of who we really are.

In other words: the point of practicing all this meditation and yoga stuff is not to numb out, and not to exist in some eternal state of faux-bliss. It's to learn to be real. Authentic. True. To slip softly into the ease that comes with that authenticity. And to nimbly surf the waves of each emotion along the way.

Ever grateful for teachers like Susan. And — as much as I like to talk smack about technology — equally grateful for the marvel that is the modern ability for teachings like Piver's to appear in my Inbox every day in written, audio, and video form. We don't even have to leave the house to get such strong doses of this medicine.

How blessed we are.

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

I am trying to be better about taking pictures.

I hate taking photos.  Always have.

And I have long hated those obligatory moments when I've gotta provide a headshot here or Hanumanasana there.

They feel crass.  And self-serving.  And awkward.

And they make me feel shy.  I don't even like looking at other people's photos of themselves.  Let alone my own.

And I hate the way the yoga biz these days is so much about flashing pretty pictures of oneself, preferably in Natarajasana or Astavakrasana, preferably on top of a mountain or in front of a sunset.

(That's a lot of hating-on.)

But I'm realizing as I get older that, well, I'm aging.  And I won't be bendy forever.  Someday it might be a victory to lift my arm above my head.  And I wouldn't mind having a photo or two to show the young pups someday if I'm lucky enough to be around when it's hard enough to just climb a few stairs, let alone jump into Vasisthasana.

I'm 33 this year.  I dig that age.  (As so many people remind me, Jesus's age.  No pressure, right?)

I like 33.  I've liked the thirties in general.  They feel grounded, solid, at ease, real.  They carry a knowledge and a confidence and a "fuck 'em" attitude that my twenties did not.

(People told me that would happen.  I didn't really believe them.  33 just sounded, well, blah.  Like I'd lost a lot of time already. And should have my shit figured out by now.)

But as the years churn by and I see more and more folks I love dealing with worn-out knees and blown-out rotator cuffs and miserable bellies and cranky colons, I've realized, over and again, what a gift it is to have health.

Yoga is not asana.  That's fer damn sure.  Make no mistake.

And perhaps the more heavily I turn my attention toward the philosophy and psychology of yoga, the easier it gets to take a photo or two, because I realize how very little these poses or those knees or that ribcage have to do with the hard work of living yoga.  Asanas are tools, helpmates, vehicles, for sure.  And I crave them indeed, and am admittedly a cranky beast without practicing them on a regular basis.  But they will have their day, and then they will pass, too.  As do all things.

To bodies.
And grey hair.
And achy joints.
And a back that still bends.
(A little, at least. For now.)

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

Hey hey.

So. Been meaning to share this little tidbit with you.

If you're ever looking to make a cake and the recipe calls for a (gasp!) cake mix, fear not. All you need to do to avoid the processed crap that passes for boxed food is to substitute these ingredients (fresh! and probably already in your kitchen cabinets!) instead.

Homemade Cake Mix:       
     2 cups flour     
     1 1/2 cups sugar     
     1 tbl baking powder     
     1 teas salt 

And shazaaam. There you go.

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

I get a little frustrated with how "dumbed-down," trite, and sappy a lot of yoga writing is these days. This piece is neither. It's intelligent, soulful, and real. 

Really worth a read.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

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

The Anata Project's fall season opens with the world premiere of "Crooked Little Hearts" this weekend at Dance Mission Theater. I'll be there. 

If you dig a spirit of mindfulness, stellar dance, great music, and a little chaos, you should be, too. Taking the yogic arts to a whole new level. 

Details here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

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

On a beautiful (dare I say perfect?) Saturday afternoon in Northern California.  

Woke to gentle yoga with Amanda Giacomini at YogaToes Studio in Point Reyes (she's the master of soft-spoken ass-kickings, that one, combined with sweet sentiments and ancient philosophy), followed by a hike with my mister (most warm late-summer morning), and then a stop at the Inverness Public Library, which is perhaps the most charmingly twee of such public libraries that I've ever encountered (photos to come), complete with DVDs for watching and CDs for listening and a kind little old lady who sits behind the desk, followed by a squash-and-tomato-heavy farmer's market, followed by yoga at home on the mat in the Zen-empty studio that is our cottage, followed by sun on the front porch and reading Erich Schiffman's uber-legit Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, followed by hour-appropriate homemade cocktails (vodka and grapefruit at 4:30pm is completely permissable when you've just spent the last seven hours moving and grooving, right?), to be followed shortly by baseball and more sun and more quiet and quite possibly gluten-free pasta down the road and more cocktails and maybe a little Julie Delpy and maybe a little Gary Snyder and maybe a little wood-burning stove action, too.

Moments like this, you just wish you could bottle 'em up and keep 'em in your pocket and take a whiff every now and then when things seem "off." Of course they're never "off," they're always right on, but it takes a flash or two of October santosha sometimes to remind you that that sunlit space of contentment is always wherein we reside. It's just a matter of seeing it.

Love from a tired body and an open heart on this sunny autumn afternoon. All good, always, all ways.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

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

A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!" 
"It will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly. 
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!" 
"It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.

Such is the nature of all things.

(Thanks to Innerstellar Pilates & Yoga for sharing this one.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

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


I knew I was missing my regular practice and feeling mushy and made of frosting and french fries after the last few weeks' intensive travels, but geez.  This is bad.

So, I rarely practice with Mr. B these days, but every now and then — especially after a few weeks' of plane flights and long car rides and the like — I get a hankering for a good old-fashioned sweat and a nice hamstring stretch and and some deep backbends and a few other ill-conceived postures with made-up Sanskrit names that don't quite match the asana names everyone else in the global yoga world has somehow managed to agree upon for the last 5,000 years.

(Sorry. Couldn't resist a little dig. You'll see why in a minute.)

Sooooooo....I roll into class this afternoon super excited to wring myself out (actually on time, amazing!) and the room heats up and we power through standing series and I'm just so glad to be practicing again that I'm bull-dozing through it and on serious mental auto-pilot watching my breath. Beginning to feel the ease and the relief in my joints again and the flexibility return to my hamstrings and my toes.

We move through the spine strengthening series and Dhanurasana feels stellar. Ahhhhh. Welcome home, body.

Then we get to Hero Pose. Which is a personal favorite of mine. And which, in a Bikram class, I usually bust into right away and stay for one long long long hold instead of taking the usual two shorter sets.

But, dude.

The Bikram teacher — a really sweet twenty-something woman, super sweet — looks over at me and says, "Rachel, slow down and follow my dialogue for Supta Virasana, please." And I yell back at her, "I know the alignment, I've done this 3,000 times!!" 

Out loud.

In front of the whole class.

And in front of one of my old students.

Whom I didn't realize was there.

Until afterwards she comes up to me, warmly as ever, with her same old vibrant, wide smile, and I realize I just yelled at the Bikram teacher in front of her.


Karmic smack, officially delivered.

Say what you want about Bikram yoga's militant style and its annoyingly-preachy dialogue and its questionable physiological cues and the way that it encourages its teachers to put the smack down on anyone who tries to modify anything. That's mostly fair and true criticism, for sure. Say that a yoga-asana practice is not about fluffing the teacher's ego. It's not about fueling power trips. It's not about a teacher's control. It's about the asana itself, it's about your living, breathing body and what you're feeling, it's about listening to what that particular bag of bones is telling you it needs and feels and wants and loves and dreads. Because that body (and the breath that fuels it) is your ultimate teacher.

True, all.

But that's not the point.

I was in Bikram's house, and when you're in somebody's house, ya gotta honor their rules. Right?!?

I was out of place.

Thinking I knew what was up just 'cause I'd logged a few classes over the years.

I should've shut my frosting-filled mouth and slowed down and honored the teacher's rhythm.

She was just doing her job. And she deserved my respect. Period.

(Speaking of ego: I got lost in mine, wouldn't you say?

Wanting a deeper release. Craving my familiar Supta Virasana. Impatient with the slow newbies in the room who weren't as familiar with the alignment as I was. Selfishly barreling right into the pose when I should've been listening with the mind of someone who was hearing the instructions for the very first time.)

Okay, Universe, I get the message, loud and clear:
Beginner's mind, beginner's mind, beginner's mind!!!

Karmic smack, um, officially, officially, delivered.

Deep bows to the One that always sets us right.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

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

Desert wedding cakes = achieved.

Dunno about you, but I'm exhausted.

Camped out here at the Ontario airport ready to haul my ass back home. What a beautiful weekend. Sunset ceremony. Dinner and dancing under the stars. Dried cherries and leftover cinnamon cream cheese frosting for breakfast this morning. Sweetest company.

(Oh, and for the record: those'd be Ginger Pear with a ginger cream cheese frosting and Cardamom Spice with dried cherries and pistachios and a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Succulents, eucalyptus seed, local sage, and oleander for the pretty.)

All good. Joshua Tree adventure complete. I'm ready to be home for more than a few days at a time. Such a cliché, but it's so true: there's no place like it. Eager to hit the mat and be back in the studio per usual. 

We've all had a big weekend. Let's wring it out together tomorrow morning. 9am, Urban Flow.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

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

Sunrise in the desert. Baking.

The ingredients in a cake are like the elements of a strong, steady pose. You've gotta have all the right bits in place: your feet, your hands, your breath, your bandhas.

This morning's asana?

Ginger Pear.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

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

Officially the weirdest packing job I have ever flung together, pictured below.

Prepare yourselves for the Ultimate Bundt Cake Saturday.

I'm flying out (again, I know) early tomorrow morning for my dear old friends' Sarah and Elysa's wedding in Joshua Tree. I've never been. I'm pretty stoked. Spent a few days in Palm Springs years ago choking back criticism when I studied with Bikram back in the day (I know, don't even say it), but we had little-to-no time between sweatbox sessions to explore the desert.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm baking a few wedding cakes for them? In a tiny desert motel kitchen on the cusp of Joshua Tree National Park? Yep.

Witness what's going along in my luggage:
3 bundt cake caddies
3 bundt cake pans
3 strands raffia
1 electric mixer
4 beaters (just in case)
1 jar cardamom
1 jar cinnamon
1 jar ginger
1 Art Deco-looking cake tower
1 shitty travel yoga mat (it's the only one that will fit!)
1 old white skirt to be paired with various yoga tops and the same pair of shoes all weekend (cake materials took priority over clothing, duh)
1 small Pyrex cup measurer 
(God bless Southwest Airlines' 2-free-checked-bags policy. I doubted the do-ability of this all for a minute, but goddammit — it looks like it might just work.)

The cake tower will be my carry-on. (Hot, I know.) And I'll hit a big-box grocery store on my drive through Desert Hot Springs to take care of the perishable ingredients.

The wedding's on Saturday night, in the desert, under the stars. I'll be traveling and baking and mingling and soaking and hiking and flower-buying and the like until then. You may get an update here and there, if I can manage a little WiFi somewhere out in that vast expanse.

Sarah has been a dear friend since college years in Delaware, gulp, way back around 1998. Somewhere in there, we got old. Her partner Elysa is most remarkable. They live in LA now, where they both do Big Beautiful Things, and I'm in SF, of course, too, so we've all migrated west over the years. I am so excited to get to celebrate them as their grown-up selves in the middle of the hot California desert.

Life is so funny. And strange. And kind. And such an adventure.

(Cross your fingers that my luggage arrives where it needs to. Otherwise we'll be rocking a most-delicious starlit grocery-store special Saturday night.)

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

Sick to my stomach after last night's debate.

Smarmy, condescending, petulant, rude.  Any other Romney adjectives come to mind?

And, seriously — dude should know better than to attack Big Bird.

My sisters and I grew up on South Dakota Public Television. We were enraptured by Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" during pledge drives. I am so grateful that my parents modeled true "family values" by donating to intelligent, progressive causes like PBS. The arts matter. They should be funded.  No more of this elitist tax break crap and military waste at the expense of culture, conversation, and populist media.

These next several debates should be hot ones.  I hope Obama comes back ready to rumble.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

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

Yes. This.

"The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters, meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision."

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

Funny the things you find whilst cleaning house.

July 1980.

I was a very. serious. child.

Monday, October 1, 2012

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

The mister and I spent the weekend in the middle of the country visiting my sister and brother-in-law, meeting their (beautiful) new baby Junia, hanging with their toddling daughter Adah (that's them at right), and reconnecting with the fam. The six of us don't get to see one another very often, you know; my mother's in Nebraska, my other sis and bro live in DC, I'm in San Francisco, and the aforementioned sis is in Wisconsin. So it's always kind of remarkable when we're all in the same time zone.

It was a sweet weekend. Couldn't have been sweeter.

(Though — there's a reason we decided to head back in late September rather than, say, December. Just sayin'. Well-played, Meyer family.)

We got home to San Francisco about 2 o'clock this morning. Tired, but well-lived-in. Traveling is so often quite instructive for me, and for most of us, I imagine. There's something to be said for getting out of your usual space and being plunged into a different reality; it makes you see life, your patterns, your rituals, your resources, in a different light. So last night on the plane between snoozes, I got to thinking about a few big

Lessons Learned From Our Weekend in the Land of Beer and Cheese
  1. Do not expect to come home feeling light and open and flexible after a weekend in the cheese capital of the country. Back on the vegan wagon, my friends. Oooooof.
  2. Seasons are nice. Especially the kind that include changing leaves and crisp nights and precede heavy winters with legit blizzards, which you can avoid via quick retreat to warmer climes.
  3. In spite of that, the Bay Area is best. Witness today's incredible late-summer sunshine. Temperate climates FTW.
  4. There are actual real life Romney-Ryan supporters out there living amongst us. As evidenced by bumper stickers and TV news advertisements. Disturbing. Jarring. Upsetting. And weird.
  5. That said: there is a reason I live in San Francisco. 'Nuff said.
  6. My family rocks.
  7. Duh.
  8. Ditto the Cornhusker football team, which kept us rapt for 4 quarters before finally powering past the Badgers for a stellar fourth-quarter win.
  9. Football is more fun to watch outside in the backyard under the glow of twinkly lights and the rustle of autumn leaves and the crackle of a fire pit than inside on a couch.
  10. No matter how much I hear it, that wide-A'd nasally Chicago accent still just doesn't do it for me. Apologies, folks. Add that one to my list of regional accents that I would never let a hypothetical kid of mine develop (also including: Jersey, Southern, Long Island). 
  11. (Ok, I'm a bitch. So sue me.)
  12. Running makes you tight. With limited yoga-asana practice time, I ran a couple of miles 3 different times over the weekend. For the first time in awhile. And ohhhh, mama. Do my hamstrings and my hips remind me of that today. Oy.
  13. Long plane flights suck. Even on Virgin America. And especially when you're delayed 2+ hours and have a belly full of veggie chili and dirty martinis and have to teach in the morning.
  14. Babies are cute, and hilarious, and exhausting, and charming, and inspiring, and terrifying, and sacred, and sweet.
  15. I am more liturgically old-school progressive ELCA Lutheran than I realized.
  16. You know you picked The Right One when his meeting the fam for the first time is effortless, easy, and laughingly comfortable. Good job, babe.
  17. College towns are the best. Love the wholesome buzz of football and youth and intellect and simplicity. You feel more acutely the rhythms of the school year there. I am grateful to have grown up, by and large, in some-such various heartland college towns.
  18. Gluten-free beer and quinoa pasta are two of the greatest inventions of the last decade.
  19. It's hard to find Kombucha in a 7-11 off of I-90.
  20. Who charges an interstate toll for $1.10?!?  (Cough cough, Illinois. So weird.)
  21. Rituals matter. And music can thread timeless nostalgia and bittersweetness throughout our lives in ways that can sometimes trigger a tear or six.
  22. There is delicious raw vegan food to be found at a charmer of a place in Chicago called Karyn's. Hit it. We did — twice.
  23. Goddamn, am I glad to be home.