Friday, May 31, 2013

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

A few schedule updates for you, along with the latest on the soon-to-debut FlyingYoga Annex:

I'm teaching a couple of special classes in the next few days.  Join me 
  • Tonight at Urban Flow for a rollickin' chaturanga-filled Level 2/3 flow (6:15pm)
  • Saturday morning at YogaToes in Point Reyes for fresh air, vinyasa and Western Weekend shenanigans (10am)
  • Sunday morning at FlyingYoga in Oakland for our usual sweaty church-yoga-flow (10:45am)
  • Monday evening June 3rd at YogaToes in Point Reyes as I sub for the most-awesome Peggy Orr (6pm)
  • Wednesday evening June 5th at Urban Flow, Level 2/3 rock-and-roll flow — subbing for the one-and-only Rusty Wells. (6:15)
We were crossing our fingers and toes (and all other possible bodily digits) that we might be able to debut the FlyingYoga annex on June 1st, but the construction/permitting process is teaching us to be flexible.  So, please join me in the usual studio space for our Sunday, June 2nd class. Judy will be subbing for me Monday night the 3rd while I sub for Peggy.

Follow me?  Clear as mud?

One final note: this means our June book club meeting will now occur on Tuesday, June 11th, at 7pm, at OMpower Cycling & Yoga.

Thanks for being flexible! That's what this is all about, eh?

Stoked to see you on the mat.

Much love.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

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

In the annals of "Things I Am Practicing So I Suck a Little Less," right up there with roller-skating and tire-changing, right up there at the top of the list, is domesticity.

Not making a ton of progress on the caring-about-dusting side of things. Nor in the needing-a-cocktail-to-have-any-desire-to-cook-dinner factor. Nor in tackling the nagging and persistent "oh man, this makes me feel like such a middle-aged lady" factor.

In terms of engaging the crockpot, though, we're getting there.


Slowly but surely.

Training wheels help.

I found this recipe online about six months ago and have been leaning on it regularly since then. Not only is it vegan, delicious, hearty, and super-versatile, but it's also fairly easy to make (chop some vegetables, dump in some herbs, douse with olive oil), and it lasts for a long time.

Also, I like writing ratatouille.

Funny word.

Make it in the crockpot (shivers of suburbia down my spine) and you're good to go.

(Just remember to plug it in first, which today, brilliantly, I forgot, until 30 minutes in when I wondered why the pot was still freezing cold. Duh.)

Vegan Ratatouille (Serves 8)

2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
1 large eggplant, sliced, cut in 2 inch pieces
4 small zucchini, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large green bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
red pepper flakes, to spice it up


1. Layer half the vegetables in a large crock pot in the following order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes.

2. Next sprinkle half the basil, oregano, sugar, parsley, salt and pepper on the veggies.
3. Dot with half of the tomato paste.
4. Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.
5. Drizzle with olive oil.
6. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.
7. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or the vegan equivalent).

Refrigerate to store.  May freeze up to 6 weeks.

You can really switch things up here. Serve it with quinoa or gluten-free pasta. Throw it on a pizza or a baguette. Eat it plain. It's your call.

And feel free to throw in whatever you've got in your fridge. Today I had a bunch of crimini mushrooms and kale, so those went in. Switch it up. Some of the reviews on the original site mentioned using potatoes, celery, asparagus, etc.

Viva las veggies. (Now where I'd put that cocktail?)

Well, hot damn. It really does work.

Ok, so.  Let's be real.
No thank you.  I do not want to be delicious.

I've never been one for that whole California hippie-dippie wanky notion of "visioning."  You know, like, create a Vision Board of things you want for your life and cover it with glitter and flower petals and pretty pictures cut out of magazines of people looking happy and sporty and well-medicated.

(Evidence at right.)

Not my style. Guess I was always a little too cynical. More of the mind to just get up off my ass and do something, make it happen, yo'.

So bear with me here.


My cynicism may have been shaken a bit.

The Mister and I have been looking for a long-term home for awhile. Owning a home in Marin County (the wealthiest in the country, oy) is a pipe dream, a millionaire's game, and at best, it's 2 or 3 years away for us.  But, in the present-tense, there are plenty of charming and mad-funky places around here that could serve us well until we can buy.  So, driving home from the Bhakti In Bloom retreat on a sunny Sunday afternoon in late April, high on the buzz of mountain air and rocking chairs and mineral hot springs, we started spouting our ideal notions for a home.

The descriptors flew fast and easy.

Words like: peaceful, private, sunny and light, 2 bedrooms, detached, parking for 2 (+ guests), a view, a garden, a nice deck, etc.

All of those kinds of things that I couldn't have even realistically dreamed of whilst living in the City.

[Parking?!  For 2?!  Plus guests?!  Gimme a break.  That's $1000/month right there in the 94109, just to ensure that your hood ornament doesn't get ripped off by hoodlums and your bumper doesn't suffer the to-be-expected serious 45-degree-angle-hill-parallel-parking damage.]


It's a slightly different world up here in earthier, farmier, more spacious West Marin.


We rambled down the list of every possible dream quality, and when we got home later that evening, the Mister sat down and filled three pages with these very descriptors.  He dated it 4/22/13 and tucked it on the little home altar next to Hanuman and the Buddha and their friends.

Three days later, he found a sweet light-green 1930s cottage about 10 minutes from where we now live, available for rent immediately.

We stopped and toured it the following Saturday.

It was adorable and I loved it, but it was several hundred dollars a month more than we wanted to spend.

So we said, "Thanks, all best to you," got back in the car, and moved on.

Two weeks later, out of the blue, the realtor emailed us.  "Are you still interested in the cottage?"

Why, yes, more than ever.

I hadn't been able to stop thinking about the gardenias and the Meyer lemon tree and that beyond-charming Alice In Wonderland-style dutch door out front.  You know, the half-door kind you can lean over and call the cows in through for dinner.  The kind you swing open and lean out of and sing "June Is Bustin' Out All Over," accompanied by little elves on lutes, while bluebirds twitter in circles around your head.

You get the picture.

But at the same time, I knew enough to not get attached.  That sometimes when something you really want doesn't "work out," it's all for good, because there's actually something waaaaaaaay better waiting around the corner.  This applies, of course, to relationships and jobs and cars and all of it. Homes, too.  So when this one was out of range, I figured it just wasn't our house.  All good.

So how beautiful was it when, two weeks later, the realtor circled around and offered it to us at $400/month less than she'd advertised it for?  Our initial (ideal) price?  The reward of patience.  And of trusting.  And of no urgency.

Long story short, the last week has meant hustling through the usual application process: credit reports and employment verification and references and all of that schtuff.  It has been an exercise in watching the mind, in not letting it run, in keeping the chatter of "What ifs" and "Maybes" at bay until things came through.

We put a deposit down on Monday, and as of this morning the check has been cashed.  Which means, I think, that I can finally exhale enough to say out loud that, baby: WE GOT IT!

The point of all this is: holy crap.  I guess I need to quit being such a cynical bitch about this visioning process.  Because here's what we put down on our list back in April and labeled as Vision of Home:

Sunny and light
2 bedrooms
Parking for 2 (+ guests)
Outdoor deck/porch
Yard (with flat portion for gardening)
View of the water
Hardwood floors
Gas stove
Modern; renovated recently.
Good, clean energy
Woodburning stove(s)
Propane heat
Hot tub
Located near current home
Private without being remote
Safe and well-secured
Yoga space
Writing/office/creative space
Closet space
Ample good storage
Greenhouse onsite
Lots of land

A long and quite specific list, I know.  I mean, really?  Who can expect a private detached yoga studio anywhere, kids?

Last Wednesday evening a few friends came over for dinner.  Over dessert, we were talking about the home and our vision for it.  We pulled out this list and walked through it one by one.  And, by god — we realized that this new home has EVERY SINGLE THING on the list except for one.

Decks, check.
Huge yard, check.
Yoga studio, check.
Hardwood floors, check.
Recently renovated, check.

And on and on.

(And what were the chances there'd really be a hot tub, I mean, yes?)

I'm still blown away every time I think about it.  The new home is above and beyond even our sweetest hopes.  It has a separate detached yoga studio & writing office.  It rests on almost two acres of its very own knoll, with a long private driveway.  It boasts 7 closets and a chicken coop (!!!) and a woodburning stove and even a heated bathroom floor with adorable brand-new 1920s-style fixtures.  It has not one, but TWO decks, one of which overlooks the Bay.  And French doors and charming entryways and you name it.

For $100/month LESS than I would be paying right now for my teeny-weeny little 1-bedroom flat at the back of an old Nob Hill building on California Street.  The one where I could hear the iPhone of my upstairs neighbors vibrating and would then look over to check my phone, thinking it was mine.

Oof.  For reals.

I'm a believer. Speak your goals. Write 'em down. Get real good and clear on what you want, and then, my friends, put 'em on paper. Place it on the altar, whether that's a figurative or literal space in your home. Light a candle. Make it real. And then watch it come. Whether it's a vision for a home or a job or a partner or your health or new habits or whatever you want it to be.

I for one won't be talking smack about those hippie-dippie vision boards anymore.

And apologies in advance if the blog is a bit more vacant in the next month.

We gots a cute little fairytale house to move into!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

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

I listened to this story last night as I drove home after teaching, and it broke my heart a little bit.

Just right there as I rounded the corner from Nicasio and saw the vastness of the reservoir and the night sky unfolding in front of me. The tears rushed and, before I knew it, I was bawling like a baby.

Give it a read. It's worth your time.

Made me think a lot about what it means to really show up in the world with an awakened heart and a listening ear. Made me realize how short and perpetually in flux this life is. And it reminded me a great deal of my years bartending and the unexpected intimacies that resulted from that ostensibly meaningless gig. And how we can make meaning for one another, simply by showing up well.

How powerful it can be to simply bear witness to a life unfolding.

There was a time in my life twenty years ago when I was driving a cab for a living.

It was a cowboy’s life, a gambler’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss, constant movement and the thrill of a dice roll every time a new passenger got into the cab.

What I didn’t count on when I took the job was that it was also a ministry.

Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a rolling confessional. Passengers would climb in, sit behind me in total anonymity and tell me of their lives.

We were like strangers on a train, the passengers and I, hurtling through the night, revealing intimacies we would never have dreamed of sharing during the brighter light of day. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and made me weep.

And none of those lives touched me more than that of a woman I picked up late on a warm August night.

I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or someone going off to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at the address, the building was dark except for a single light in a ground-floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a short minute, then drive away. Too many bad possibilities awaited a driver who went up to a darkened building at 2:30 in the morning.

But I had seen too many people trapped in a life of poverty who depended on the cab as their only means of transportation.

Unless a situation had a real whiff of danger, I always went to the door to find the passenger. It might, I reasoned, be someone who needs my assistance. Would I not want a driver to do the same if my mother or father had called for a cab?

So I walked to the door and knocked.

“Just a minute,” answered a frail and elderly voice. I could hear the sound of something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman somewhere in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like you might see in a costume shop or a Goodwill store or in a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The sound had been her dragging it across the floor.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. “I’d like a few moments alone. Then, if you could come back and help me? I’m not very strong.”

I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm, and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. Her praise and appreciation were almost embarrassing.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I should go there. He says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

“What route would you like me to go?” I asked.

For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they had first been married. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she would have me slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. Without waiting for me, they opened the door and began assisting the woman. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her; perhaps she had phoned them right before we left.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase up to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers,” I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held on to me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

There was nothing more to say.

I squeezed her hand once, then walked out into the dim morning light. Behind me, I could hear the door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I did not pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the remainder of that day, I could hardly talk.

What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? What if I had been in a foul mood and had refused to engage the woman in conversation?

How many other moments like that had I missed or failed to grasp?

We are so conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unawares.

When that woman hugged me and said that I had brought her a moment of joy, it was possible to believe that I had been placed on earth for the sole purpose of providing her with that last ride.

I do not think that I have ever done anything in my life that was any more important.
— Kent Nerburn

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

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

So glad to see our WildSoul farm-to-table yoga dinners at Gospel Flat Farm featured in the June 2013 issue of Yoga Journal.

Kelle Walsh writes:
A few miles from California's cliff-hugging coastal Highway 1, past a tidal estuary and beyond a grove of towering eucalyptus trees, Gospel Flat Farm comes into view. Its roadside produce stand brims with lettuce, radishes, beets, and kale, and a cheerful sign announces, surprisingly, "Open 24 Hours." I'm here in the morning, under a bright and cloudless sky, but I'm tickled to imagine a midnight customer stocking up on salad greens at this tiny country outpost 30 miles north of San Francisco.

I've made the trek today along with 14 other city dwellers to participate in a new take on local farm-to-table dining. At this event, and at others like it held on a growing number of small farms across the country, yoga will lend a soulful aspect to the rich experience of eating a meal in the place where its ingredients were grown and harvested. A natural complement to the locavore movement, yoga expands our awareness of the subtle energies around us, deepening our connection to all that a farm-based feast offers—delicious food, a sense of place, and a powerful feeling of gratitude.

"Cultivating the land, creating a meal for people, practicing yoga—all embody the same lessons with different paths," says organizer Ben Crosky, founder of Wildsoul, a Bay Area company dedicated to creating yoga events in inspiring locales. Each action, he explains, starts with a singular focus—a seed, a recipe, an intention for practice—that is tended and nourished until it grows into something else: a crop that will feed a community, a meal that will be enjoyed with others, an experience of inner peace that allows for greater union with the world around us.

"In a world in which we often only see part of the story—we eat in a restaurant, buy groceries in a store, practice yoga in a studio—we become disconnected," Crosky adds. "When we move in ways that create more connection and understanding, we can become more fully present in living."
 Awesome all around. Read the whole thing.

And then join us next time!

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

This is happening right now at Urban Flow! Jump on the chance to power it up with Andrea, Neil, and me.

Tuesday and Thursday noons at UF are highlights of my week. Please join us one of these days.

Always great to see you on the mat.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Anata Project: Modern Dance Meets Mindfulness

Just bought my tickets for The Anata Project's world premiere spring show this weekend, The Hush Hush Chronicles.

Cannot wait.

If you, too, dig art that melds bodies, movement, mindfulness, beauty, original music, and the sacred, be sure to check it out:

Based on the idea that everyone has a secret, The Hush Hush Chronicles tells of the twisted stories that carve pathways deep within us. Set in the late 1920's at the height of Prohibition, this world premiere explores the undisclosed elements we lock away, and sometimes spill along the way. With an original score performed live by We Became Owls, the seven dancers who form The Anata Project bond together to create their own secret society of misfits. Also included in the evening performance are The Anata Project's 659 Days of Ruby and Mr. S (2011), and a new work by Summation Dance from New York City.

Choreographer Claudia Anata Hubiak founded The Anata Project in January 2011. Hubiak, who was raised with a Buddhist background, based her company on the concept of Anata, or "egolessNESS" in Sanskrit. The word Anata, used in reference to the spacious and ever changing quality of the mind, serves as the backbone and founding principle of Hubiak's dance company.

Love it.

You can learn more about The Anata Project here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

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

I'm teaching 2 classes at MC YOGI's studio this Saturday. Bring yo' mama up to 
Point Reyes Station for a little 8:30am gentle flow, or 10am vinyasa instead. 
Either way, sweeeeet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lessons From The Boondocks

It's been six months now since I left the City and moved into a rustic little cottage an hour or so up the Pacific Coast.

Never ever ever ever thought I'd leave San Francisco. I was married to it, dude. It was home. It was my place. We were destined, meant to be.

My people were there. They thought the same way I did, they voted for gay marriage, they ate local arugula and wore stripes and walked everywhere when they weren't moaning and groaning about how shitty the Muni system was.

Alcatraz was right over there. I could run to Crissy Field in a heartbeat. The opera house was 8 blocks down the hill, fer crissakes. And my yoga studio just a few blocks further. Easy, obvious, perfect, duh.

But then I met someone. As one does. And he lived up Highway 1 in a wee little hamlet numbering about 350 in all. And he'd been there, done that, in terms of years in the City. And he loved simplicity and valued nature and spaciousness and ease and stillness a great deal, which was, of course, one of the many reasons I loved and valued him.

So after nearly a decade of wedded-to-San-Francisco bliss, I let go of my Lower Nob Hill garden flat and packed my bags and got rid of lots of shit and settled in up here (officially, full-time) on November 1st. Right at the onset of wet, dark, rainy season in Northern California. Just as the days got short and the skies got heavy.

Great timing, Rach.

Six months later, here we are. Savvier at dodging skunks on winding roadways, with a sharper eye for wayward deer, more tan, for sure, and better at sautéing vegetables, too. Maybe a little wiser. And lighter in more ways than one.

So, here, in no particular order, I give you my Lessons From The Boondocks:

1. Just sit in the sun and be still. Feel it on your face. Congratulations, you're alive. It will all be ok.
2. Wear sunscreen. This isn't the same sun you knew in the City. You're gonna be leathery by June if you keep this up. Put on some SPF 30 already. 
3. The stereotypes about people from Marin are (mostly) true. Love them anyway.
4. Life can be full and eclectic and vibrant wherever you are. At first I mourned the thought of leaving behind all of the cultural highlights of life in the City: walking up and over Nob Hill past the Mark Hopkins to have a cocktail at a speakeasy in the Financial District, hopping on the bus to the DeYoung, rolling down Larkin to the Asian Art Museum. But I've realized: you don't have to have the opera house down the street, or Grace Cathedral just up the hill, to find grace and art and inspiration. Those things are all still right there if I want them. Sometimes the richness just shifts, and it looks more like time to read an actual book again, or a killer hike to the beach just a few minutes' drive away, or the horses that serenade you every morning with an unexpected whinny, or the artist who lives down the street and teaches ceramics classes, or the old dude sitting next to you at the dive bar downtown whose family bought this land back in the 1920s.  
5. You really don't need to answer that email right away. Unless you're Barack Obama, it can wait.
6. Scent matters.  Living on the edge of the Tenderloin for all those years, I got, uh, real good at not noticing the inevitable smells of the City: human waste on the sidewalks, frat-boy vomit along Polk Street, rotting garbage in back alleys. It's cool; you figure it's just one trade-off for the benefits of living in urbanity. But, I tell ya what: there is nothing like the scent of stepping out of my car on a cool Monday evening after driving home from Oakland and taking in the heady whiff of so much lushness. Everywhere I turn, there are lilacs and jasmine and wild roses and eucalyptus. My scent experience has flipped 180 degrees. Where there was displeasure there is now sweetness. Cannot begin to express the grounding power of this alone. And a little manure along the way now and then, too. 
7. Quinoa is a wonder food. Especially when you no longer have a Thai place up the street that's open til 2am. And there are only three restaurants within 20 minutes' drive, and they all shutter at 8.
8. Gluten-free quinoa pasta is a double-wonder food. Especially when you throw some local mushrooms, a little garlic marinara, and some melty Cowgirl Creamery action on top of it. 
9. Your environment can affect your energy. I wish I had a dollar for every person who's told me, "Your energy is different. You're calmer, you're more grounded, you're more present." And it's true. My fiery Type-A pitta self has chilled out. My freneticism level has been dialed down 10 degrees. I sleep better. I move more slowly, more deliberately. And I listen more. The fast pace and callous anonymity of urbanity can seep into your bones. The stress of fighting for parking leaves you irritable and bitter. Even the experience of pounding the cement pavement versus walking on twisted, tangled dirt paths shifts you, let alone the sound of the crickets at night or an owl hooting in the distance. Much preferable to the sound of my neighbor clipping his toenails — or worse — in the bathroom on the other side of my thin apartment wall. Ahem.  
10. You can take the girl out of the prairie, but you can't take the prairie outta the girl. After 17+ years living on the East Coast, in Europe, and then in San Francisco, I've come full circle. No wonder this place feels so right. It's all big sky and spaciousness and silence. Prairie, anyone? Right at home, even down to the cows. But where's the corn?
11. Never speed by the Nicasio reservoir. There will be cops sitting right there waiting for you. Trust. They have nothing else to do. This, upon reflection, is a good thing.
12. Practice. Alone. As a yoga teacher, I've always had a decent home practice, though I have long been attached to my sweat and my sangha. Perhaps the biggest shift for me in leaving the City was leaving my regular (daily) practice at the studios(s) I called home. At first, dude — I cracked. I missed my people, I missed my regular hit of 95 degree sweat, I missed the fact that I could walk in and check my mind at the door. Now practicing with my peeps means an hour's drive on both ends, and either getting up waaaay early or driving home waaaay late. So I listened. I shifted. I started practicing at home, really practicing at home. Made a fire in the stove, got my Primary Series on, moved from an externally-driven practice to an internally-driven one.  I learned to kick my own butt.  I wore ratty old black leggings with holes in them and tank tops that hadn't seen light in 10 years. My arms got a lot stronger, my mind a lot quieter, and I got a lot better at listening, and sequencing, and getting lost in the practice. The result being that I felt a whole lot more self-sufficient, more present, less distracted, and much more empowered. And I am now in the throes of a full-on Mysore-style Ashtanga crush. Which reminds me how easy it is to get comfortable in our routines, settled into the familiar, and how sweet it is to be pushed (forced) into learning a new way of being. And what a gift it can be to be thrown out of the nest.  
13. Petaluma is adorable. 'Nuff said. 
14. Your most dreaded experiences can offer the sweetest gifts. I'd spent 9 proud years sans car. I walked everywhere, I felt like a self-sufficient badass every time I willingly ignored gas prices and hustled down the street instead. I was so afraid of the new commute; dreaded spending unaccustomed hours in my car, joining the thousands of other minions driving up and down 101 every morning and evening. And, as I mentioned a few months ago, that commute ended up offering me such a beautiful gift. It has created (and continues to offer) an ongoing opportunity for study in a way that I never expected. I've learned to love the silence, the solitude, the buffer of alone-time between teaching and home. And I'm in full-on podcast nerd mode. Learning endless bits of information in the 20 or 30 or 50 minute interviews with writers and teachers and scholars and farmers. Introduced to the wisdom of folks like Natalie Goldberg and Anne Lamott and Noah Levine and Michael Stone and Richard Freeman and Lodro Rinzler and Elizabeth Gilbert and I could go on and on and on.  Let's just say: never doubt the possibility that the most-dreaded change in your life could actually offer up the sweetest benefits, the most intelligent, informative windows into a new way of being. There is grace all around, if we have the eyes to see it. 
15. Fashion is overrated. Fuck style. Wear the same stretchy pants you've been wearing for the last two weeks. Put on a stretchy skirt instead when you go out to dinner. Be comfortable. You can't buy personality, anyway, and style is what you make of it. And it's easier to carry the firewood in when your bangles don't get in the way.
16. Let your body mirror the rhythms of nature. In the city, I'd drag myself out of bed in the dark of 5am, stumble down the street to a 6am class, wring myself out, spend the day teaching and then shake martinis til the wee hours, not stopping until I flung my tired bones into bed at 1am. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was a state of perpetual highly-caffeinated exhaustion. Moving north meant a lot of things, but most of all, it meant sleep. I quit my lucrative-but-energy-sucking bartending gig because I no longer needed the money to pay for an overpriced teeny-weeny flat in the City. I started going to bed at normal-people hours, and sleeping til the sun came up in the bedroom window. Now, when I feel tired, rather than pushing through and chugging another iced coffee, I sit down and take a nap with birdsong as accompaniment. I wake up 'cause I want to, not because I have 16 commitments before noon and need to build in an extra 45 minutes for riding the bus on the way. I've lost weight, inadvertently, really, just from eating well and sleeping well and living more in a grounded, listening kind of way, and not pushing my body to function 18 hours a day.
17. Put your damn phone away. You don't need to be plugged in all the time. Thanks to Sprint for the spotty cell service that's made that abundantly clear. 
18. Sun and sky can go a long way in helping you forget the City. Especially when it's 80 and sunny here, and 63 and foggy there. 
19. Good Earth in Fairfax is the Marin version of heaven. Go early, go often. And don't miss the deli. But do miss the dudes trying to get your signature on umpteen petitions outside. 
20. Just because it's quiet (remote, private) doesn't mean you're going to get any more creative work done. The silence helps the muses, for sure. But wherever you go, there you are — along with all your psychological "stuff." Don't rely on the stillness to do your work for you. The practice continues, daily. So get off your duff and into your art. That trumpet isn't gonna play itself. 

It's easy to romanticize this whole shift, I know. And I don't mean to paint everything with rose-colored glasses. There are things I miss deeply and regularly, for sure: having a mom 'n pop sushi place around the corner, hopping on the cable car for a Saturday morning farmer's market at the Ferry Building, meeting my girlfriends for a quick cocktail up the street, zipping down to the studio for a quick class with my peeps, popping into the Chinese florist down the block for a handful of tulips.

But now, instead, we make dinner at home (something I never ever ever did before moving up here), I walk down to the creek with the Mister for a sunset stroll around the barn, we go to Toby's for fresh vegetables and lettuce that grew up around the corner, I unroll the mat in front of the fire and get my homemade hot yoga on, without ever brushing my teeth or wearing a bra, and we collect handfuls of lilac and jasmine as we walk through the garden after dinner.

And the wild roses bloom in the yard, and the calla lilies pop up along the highway, and you can drive to the beach and get lost in the sun and the fog and the wind.

And it's all, always, everywhere, all good.

Monday, May 6, 2013

In which she writes from her kitchen counter. On Buddha. And blonde wigs.

Good morning.

For the last 9 months or so, Monday mornings have meant hustling out the door at the crack of dawn, packing a bag for the day with a couple of apples, a change of clothes, and my laptop, joining the rest of the North Bay morning rush hour traffic to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on Southbound 101, and spending the day bookended between teaching a 9am class in the City and a 7:45pm class in Oakland, with an opportunity for some sweat and some silence in between.

But my schedule has shifted a bit of late, which means this Monday morning in May finds me contentedly ensconced in my home office (read: perched on a barstool at my blue tile countertop with a wood fire raging to my right, a bouquet of sweet peas at 12 o'clock, and an empty coffee cup at left).

Ahhh, santosha.

Cannot complain.

For years, really, before I started teaching, Mondays were always my day off, and I secretly adored the fact that the rest of the world was dragging off to work, heads heavy, while I got to savor a quiet morning in my pajamas curled up with the Sunday paper and a bottomless cup of coffee. Now that life has come full circle and I'm settling back into that mellow-Monday rhythm, it feels pretty damn good.

Sixteen things I'd like to write about this morning, but the fire's flaring and I'm ready to launch into the Primary Series in a few, so I'll be brief.

(Speaking of, this is great. And true. Read it.)

We enjoyed a much-appreciated chill weekend for the first time in awhile; lots of sunshine, stillness, reading, and good friends. A few of whom are pictured above right, with our man Buddha himself. (This is the only photo in which I am not inadvertently grabbing Buddha's breasts.) Had the pleasure of celebrating our good friend Chris's 60th on Saturday evening (whilst wearing blonde Britney Spears wigs, another story completely), which meant a jaunt to Petaluma that reminded me how much incredible scenery is at my feet, right here in Northern California. Really hard to imagine living anywhere else — well, that is, except in those moments when we number-crunch the possibility of buying a house and I realize that Wyoming is really the place to be if you wanna be doing any buying.

The roses are busting out in the side yard. As of this morning, we've got brilliant red, soft yellow, a peachy-pink, and a yellow-pink-hybrid. Plus irises. Plus something else that I don't yet recognize.

Waking to crickets and stillness and an odd horse-whinny and the low buzz of oncoming summer lends a certain ease to the day. I find myself thinking often of Annie Dillard (Live like the weasels, Rach!) and Willa Cather, and feeling in their writing the deep knowingness that is understanding the ways in which our natural topography, the land, the life that thrums around us, can change our days.

We are thinking about buying a greenhouse.

(“People need to realize how powerful the transformation of soil can be,” he said, with a hint of evangelism. “We’ve gotten so far away from our food source. It’s been hijacked from us. But if you get soil, plant something in it and water it, you can feed yourself. It’s that simple.”)

My neighbor Peggy and her husband Jim (both amazingly inspiring teachers, yogis, and people) grow nearly all their own food, make their own honey, and are generally just rock-your-world quietly-incredible folks. I admire them so much. I aspire to their blend of authenticity and travel and wisdom and sauciness and warmth.

(“People in my neighborhood are so disconnected from the fresh food supply that kids don’t know an eggplant from a sweet potato,” Mr. Finley said. “We have to show them how to get grounded in the truest sense of the word.”)


Get grounded.

I'm drinking homemade almond milk in my coffee this morning. (Thanks to the Mister.)

I'm not driving anywhere.

I'm listening, a lot.

It's nice.

You should look into the podcasts from Against The Stream. You maybe already know their meditation work as a subsidiary of Noah Levine's book, Dharma Punx. Both worth your time.

There is so much to learn.

And the more I know, the more I realize how little I know.

Clichéd, but true.

And you should hope that any and every teacher who purports to share "yoga" should feel the same way.  200 hours is just a toe in the water, my friends.

We've been reading Hafiz every day. This book, the one I recommended a few months ago. It's so great. Silly, light, wise, deep, sorrowful, endlessly joyful. Carefree, in the sense that it acknowledges the base of all that is sacred, the divinity and the ease that transcends, that undergirds, everything seemingly small or large in our lives.


It felt so good to celebrate Chris the other night. As a blonde, in a maxi-dress, with toy musical instruments all around. (Part-ayyyy!) He has done a great deal for so many; really is the heartbeat of this small community, and the love with which he was toasted was a direct result of the endless offerings he presents (oh-so-humbly) on a daily basis with no expectation of return. Ishvara pranidhana, my friends. Doing it all for the joy of doing, finding the perfection in the process.

(There's a new production based on The Gospel of Mary Magdalene this summer at the SF Opera. So excited. AND, it features Nathan Gunn, baritone-dreamboat extraordinaire. Do not miss.)

Yesterday after class a student came up to me and thanked me in particular for the short meditation we had done together at the end of class, before savasana. He said he'd had a meditation practice for 40 years and it meant a lot to him. I was struck by his gratitude and so happy to know he liked it. Because that brief meditation — a couple of silent breaths, in which we hold the stillness together in that refuge, that sanctuary of the breath — is one of my favorite parts of class, too.

If not the favorite.

Slipping together into that sweaty hushed silence, holding the stillness together, hearing the sirens blow by outside, listening to the sound of one another breathing, feeling the wet heaviness of the air, smiling tenderly when the inevitable errant cell phone rings. It's sacred. It's dear. It's a blip of stillness of our own creation in the midst of otherwise harried days. And I would not trade those few shared breaths for anything.

Start where you are.

Your life is the path.

Susan Piver writes in this morning's meditation practice:
In meditation, it is not helpful to be mad at yourself for the inability to be peaceful. Start where you are. Start with sorrow. Start with rage. Start with boredom/anxiety. Start with high hopes. Start with disappointment. Start with your very own body, breath, and mind. Your experience IS the practice. There is nowhere else to go. Within your own experience, the entire path can be found. Please give it a try anyway and see for yourself. I will try too. 
I fucking love that.

Yes, yes, yes. Start where you are. Atha yoga anusasanum. Assuming that you have everything you need, here, now, enough.

I don't really think of myself as a yoga teacher anymore. Lately, if anything, I think of myself as a meditation teacher. A moving meditation teacher. I don't give a shit if you can put your foot behind your head. That open hip, that stretchy hamstring won't necessarily lend you mental peace. I do care if you can follow the breath, if you can watch it rise, watch it fall, if you can witness your thoughts and know they are not you.

That's all. The body will come and go. The body is an illusion. The body that you know now as yours is nothing like what you were born into (soft and malleable and oh-so-hydrated), and is very little like what it might someday be (bald and wrinkly and arthritic and hunched over).

I have been aware of this lately, this sense of the body as illusory, as merely a fluid, ephemeral veil. Several of my friends are getting married around the same time I am, and they're in full-on diet/work-out/body sculpt mode, like, actively shaping a new outward shell. And I sit back and watch what they're doing, and admire their mindfulness and their deliberacy, and how sweetly excited they are about feeling optimally fit and healthy for their weddings, and a little part of me wishes I cared, but another bigger part doesn't, and I don't even wanna get on the same boat, because the body's an illusion, yo, and life is so short and precious and unknowable, so I put some water on to boil for pasta and open up the Mt Tam and pour another cocktail. The wedding's a few months away, sure, and if my belly hangs out a little or my arms are jiggly, sweet, dude. My dress is stretchy and beautiful and comfortable like a pair of velour sweats. And today, I want to have a gin fizz and eat cheese with my baby and enjoy this moment, this life, this day. Maybe because I know that the body I bring to a wedding day is just an illusion, just like the body we bring to any other day of our lives.

You are not this body. You are not your hair color. You are not your BMI. Or your BMW.

(Smiling at my own cleverness. That's a sharp one, Rach.  Good job.)

Ease. Go for ease. Go for comfort in your skin. Knowing full well that you are not even your skin. It will change, too. Someday, if you're lucky, you'll have liver spots.

Good job, you.

Good job being alive in this life that is all tired Mondays and sweet Saturday evening birthday potlucks and sunny morning visits from beloved friends who don't like to hike.

It's amazing to me how much easier life gets when you can live in a spirit that is unattached. Unattached to whether you buy a home or not. Unattached to what number is on the scale. Unattached to whether your job shifts or not. Unattached to what the next day brings, never naming it as "good" or "bad," just letting it be as it is, rooted in a spirit of non-reactive equanimity.

Just like that wise farmer, whose story I think of every time something goes "wrong."

("The yogi accepts a pleasant turn of events with equanimity, knowing that pleasure and pain never last forever....It is wise to give thanks for everything that happens, knowing that the present situation can change in an instant.)

Meeting every moment with what it has to offer, and seeing the God within.

Because it's all God.  Duh.

Sound said to me, "I want to be holy." And I replied, "Dear, what is the problem? You already are." 
Then sound quipped back, "What do you mean?" 
"Well, the wind speaks, does it not? And what about the refrain of geese? And what of the moo and the baa and the rooster at dawn, 
and the chorus from the sea and the rain, and the thunder? Is not all a part of God, thus sacred? 
I think God has surrounded us; we better give up, or God might bring out the heavy 
artillery . . . like just outright lifting His skirt everywhere. Think of all the sweet madness that would cause." 
— Hafiz

Thursday, May 2, 2013

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

Just ordered Lodro Rinzler's new book, The Buddha Walks Into A Bar: A Guide To Life For A New Generation, and cannot WAIT to read it.

Check it out:
"This isn’t your grandmother’s book on meditation. It’s about integrating that 'spiritual practice' thing into a life that includes beer, sex, and a boss who doesn’t understand you. It’s about making a difference in yourself and making a difference in your world—whether you’ve got everything figured out yet or not. Lodro Rinzler is a bright and funny young teacher with a knack for showing how the Buddhist teachings can have a positive impact on every little nook and cranny of your life—whether you’re interested in being a Buddhist or not."
Yes, please.

Pony Express, get that book to my doorstep pronto.