Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Chirstmas!

May the blessings of this holiday season bring you warmth and light, continuing long into the New Year.

Narragansett, RI
Sunrise, Christmas 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Class #66: The Spectators vs. The Players

My gosh I was running ragged and while DC - somehow I managed to make it to my mat only a few times this month, culminating with five 2.5 hour sessions at a workshop with Ana Forrest last weekend. More yoga in one weekend than I had in the entire month. I'm still processing all that I learned, all that I discovered. This past week in DC I hardly made it to my mat and hardly had time to review my notes from the workshop. Gotta love the holiday season.

Then why, oh why, did I wake up at 6 am on a Saturday morning, to be on the road at 6:30 am, for a two hour Baptiste class that began at 8 am? After finishing a class at 5:30 in Wakefield last night?

While at home with the Mathematician and the Artist, I knew it was going to be important for me to return to my mat and begin the process of continuing to work on those things that I picked up last weekend. I packed for RI in a hurry - only packing one pair of brown high heeled boots in my suitcase, the clogs on my feet, and more yoga clothing than everyday "normal" clothing.

After finally locating the studio - above the garage of the teacher's modest home in Charlestown - I ascended the steps, entered the studio, and felt a bit like the new kid in the class. I set up my mat as I always do at Down Dog and did some light stretching, smiling at those who entered and who were already there, engaging those I could with some small talk. The teacher calmly walked into the room and class magically began. It started with some light breathing exercises, pranayama, and meditation, then the poses and vinyasa began.

My gosh it was hot. There were maybe 20 of us, but the heat generated was only rivaled by a packed house on a Saturday morning in Georgetown when Coeli is in town. We moved through the flow and then we came to wheel, Urdhva Dhanurasana. I have no clue how many wheels we went up and into, but they kept on coming. Slowly I could hear the complaints of the class rising and could feel some aggravation rising at towards their complaints, but I just kept on going. My wheels became deeper and soon I found my hips the highest they've been and my forearms to the mat. Last night was the first night I had stood from wheel and went back down from standing. More possibilities of wheel just blossomed - continuing some of the opening I experienced in the last session with Ana Forrest.

By just letting them rise to the surface.

I stopped thinking - I hit a point of flow.
I was dead tired but I kept on moving deeper and deeper into my wheels.

In life we have really have two options, one is to be the spectators and comment on our present situation - to complain and whine and make judgments on others. What good does that do? The second option is to take action and be the player - take responsibility and follow through with honesty, integrity, and letting our hearts be our guide.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Travels: Coming Home

The holidays are stressful, none of us will question that - having to travel here and there go to parties, cooking, baking, shopping to complete, Christmas cards, office parties, and in all of this we neglect ourselves. When all is said and done, it is truly wonderful to retreat into the love and comfort of heading to that place called home - whether down the block or a car ride or a flight away.

As much as things change, I'm convinced, ultimately; they stay the same. Upon my arrival to RI I headed to the holiday service at my Middle/High School - I walked in the front door and I was transported back to my school days. My first question - Where can I find my mom? The secretary and my high school AP English teacher burst out in laughter, pointing me in the direction of the Middle School where I found the head of the Middle School (my 6th & 7th grade English teacher) and rest of the faculty valiantly attempting to put the students in perfect uniform into some semblance of order. I couldn't help think that was my classmates and me 15-17 or so years ago.

Has it really been that long?

I headed over to the service wondering how it had changed - my Junior year they radically changed the service the complete dismay of the student body and it was really no different when we were Seniors. Looking at the program, there was no pageant; the music was for the most part the same. As the Lower, Middle and Upper Schools processed in I saw my classmates, other students and myself in the current student body. The bell choir began, and the Seniors entered, candles and white sweaters.

A Quaker School, they celebrate Silent Meeting, a time for community to worship in silence, to meditate, reflect, and come together as a community. The Seniors invoke the silence for the service:

Now is the time of the winter solstice;

Now is the time of the greater night.

Now is the time for songs and stories;

Now is the time for candles bright.

Now is the time to dispel the darkness;

Now is the time of growing light.

We're gathered together in love and in kindness,

In joy and in unity, warmth and good cheer.

Ages and seasons surround us with wisdom,

And light from within makes our way the more clear.

The lessons of youth do not pass, but repeat

Like the cycles of the seasons of each passing year.

Sitting in reflection, I felt the most at home I've felt in a long time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

One Year Markers; The Second of Two.

One year ago my life radically changed.
One year ago, many of our lives changed.

But our lives change on a daily basis.

I've been thinking long and hard about today and looking at the words I wrote in August for some possible inspiration. Some might say that of late I've retreated a bit into myself, spending more time with my meditation and yoga practices - seeking stillness, seeking presence.

In life we search for those activities and people who help us live with happiness, fullness and awareness, even in our darkest times.

When we find those, we are truly blessed.

It's not easy to live in the present. It's not easy to regard difficult situations as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. After events pass, in reality they become nothing more than memory. Yes events change your path. The challenge then lies with allowing the memory, or impression, of an event to be just that and to be defined solely by its own time.

I cannot put things any more eloquently or succinctly than Kofi Busia, "the teacher we seek is the one who can help us forget the things we should never have remembered and to remember the things we should never have forgotten."*


*Brusia, Kofi. ed. Iyengar: The Yoga Master. Shambala: Boston, 2007. 86.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lady Apollo's Project

This is a blatant plug for one of my dearest friends, Lady Apollo.

This coming Sunday, December 9, 2007 she will be running her first ever marathon, for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society in Honolulu, HI.

The idea of running a marathon has never even begun to speculate in my mind and when I received her announcement letter about it I was totally and completely floored. Lady Apollo, running a marathon? The same Lady Apollo who would stay out at Irish bars in Boston with me until 3am (or later) slinging back Guinness and Irish Whiskey? I knew that with the blooming of this past spring she began working-out more and running, but nothing like this.

Oh, did I also mention she didn't get this idea until June of this year?
Beginning her training in July?

When I asked her how she came to do this (what at the time I considered a) crazy idea. Lady Apollo offered a simple response:

I was running with some friends from work and when I got home, there was this brochure from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society that mentioned this run. I've come to enjoy my time running and I thought what could be better than to do something you enjoy and help fight cancer?

But ultimately, I just did it, there was no thought to it.
I wanted to do it.
You know?

When she said this, my respect for her grew tenfold. The ease with which she purposefully and adroitly takes action has always been an inspiration to me. Since meeting the first week of college, she has been a resolute voice and continually reminds me how important it is to do what feels right to you. She never ceases to amaze me.

Please take a moment and surf on over to Lady Apollo's site:
(donations will be accepted for about a month after her run on Sunday)

Good luck Lady Apollo.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mantra Monday: Follow your heart.

"Stop it and just do. Try and tickle something inside you, your 'weird humor.' You belong in the most secret part of you. Don't worry about cool. Make your own cool. You are not responsible for the world - you are only responsible for your work. So do it. And don't think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be."
- Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse

In the interest of time and as Tuesday is rapidly approaching, I offer the above from Sol Lewitt, an American artist linked with minimalism and conceptual art as today's Mantra. With the holidays fast approaching, it's very easy to forget about the Self with the stresses that go along with the looming end of the year. During this time of year, we need to be gentle with ourselves. However, we often place ourselves second or even lower on the priority scale - ignoring our own needs.

Follow your heart.
Follow you inner-voice to the truest representation of what you need - ultimately, to the truest representation of who you are.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mantra Monday: Floss Daily.

I dislike going to the dentist, probably about as much as any other individual. This morning, after a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend traveling with the Mathematician and the Artist for a show and before setting foot in the office, I sat down in the dentist's chair for my 6 month check-up. My cleaning was proceeding as normal and then the dreaded question cheerfully popped - the question that strikes fear into the hearts of many patients:

"Have you been flossing daily?"

I'm reminded at this point of the bright red Lululemon shopping bags with their manifestoDance, Sing, Floss, and Travel and my heart sank. "Honestly," I replied, "not recently."

As the thin bundle of nylon fibers scraped down the sides of my teeth and snapped under the gum, I realized, that flossing is comparable to tending to the Self, the Soul; things that should be done to some extent every day. Even when the day isn't quite going right or you just done feel like it or there's another voice telling you there's something else you should be doing.

I came so close to heading directly back to my apartment after work, but a couple coworkers and friends reminded me about my practice - which is sort of like metal/physical/spiritual dental floss. At 6:10 or so this morning, on the drive back into DC I decided that I needed to go to practice. In class, I set myself in the far back corner and had probably one of my best practices. The first couple down dogs were a little difficult and I certainly considered throwing the "floss" away for the evening. But I diligently worked my way though the flow, not forcing myself into a pose that I couldn't fall into. In turn other poses opened up with fuller expression than I have achieved previously. Holding two sets of Bakasana, Crow Pose (if you remember, my nemesis from earlier this summer) for a total of 16 seconds!

Floss really isn't just a piece of nylon thread that your dentist asks you about every visit. It is an action that needs to be tended to every day. For the teeth. For the Self.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mantra Monday: Some a day, is better than none a day.

The Artist has regularly said this to me since 6th grade.

This past weekend while I was taking a break from my regular yoga practice and fighting the good fight against the kipple* in my apartment (which has accumulated over the last...well, too long), I checked my email and there was one from a member of Bauhaus, forwarding a link to Life Hacker, what I can best describe as a Getting-Things-Done-Zen-Lifestyle tip blog. One entry on cleaning specifically struck me, 15 Minutes a Day. I immediately thought, "I'm now spending each and every one of those 15 minutes I previously didn't use cleaning - on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. GRRRRrrrrrr "

This is similar to the recent dialogs by the teachers at Down Dog, emphasizing the need to start a regular practice, even if it's just 30 minutes a day in your home. The simple act of returning to your mat every day, even if for a short practice with a yoga tape or dvd becomes cathartic and something to look forward to, just like that first cup of tea in the morning. Over the past 8 months, I feel I've developed a strong meditation and yoga practice,
by just taking a little time for myself either right before or after work.

While vacuuming, my mind began to wander, it drifted to another blog started around the same time as this blog, Sixty Minute Artist. The process of a man setting out to spend a minimum of 60 minutes in his day on his painting. I've talked about this with Vespa Boy on multiple occasions and Friday night at the Dubliner, we made a pact. With the new year, each and every day we're going to spend a minimum of 60 minutes on our respective crafts.

His writing, my jewelry.

While doing battle with the forces of Kipple, I began to organize my jewelry pieces. Taking inventory of completed projects, pieces in process, thinking over my goals, and preparing for a meeting later this week. I was able to see my work in a new light. Tonight, I worked on a repair for CoffeeShop Girl and started working again on a piece I began out at Revere Academy - in January of this year. I spent well over an hour and a half working on my craft.
I feel great!

So tonight:
  • I went to yoga practice.
  • I finished cleaning my apartment
    (except for my paper files).
  • I worked on jewelry.
  • I wrote my blog entry.
Either 15, 30 or 60 minutes a day, they really do add up.

* Kipple is "useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morening there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more."
O.M.A., Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Mau. S, M, L, XL. New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998. p.866

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mantra Monday: I will play on both sides of my edge.

Wake up. Stumble to kitchen. Fill kettle with water. Turn stove on. Pull out clothes for day. Choose shoes. Get ready for work. Pour tea. Pack bag for day. Walk to metro. Commute. Arrive work. Work. Commute home.

Generally, we're faced with the same routine every single solitary day - at some level we find comfort in these patterns that establish themselves. To make it sound more palpable, we call it a "routine." Things become predictable - in a world of quickly spinning chaos of the rest of the world it starts to feel almost "zen-like." Is that really what zen is supposed to be? Where is the exhilaration and wakefulness of life and the potential it holds?

If you're routine is numbing, it is anything but "zen-like." Then how can we actively wake up from these patterns? The easiest solution, as I started to explore in a recent post, mix it up a little. Wear flats to work one day. Try wearing a color you necessarily wouldn't try.
Let go. But it's truly something more than that. Hold back. Recognize something in your life and actively seek out change. See where that change takes you.

When we hear, "play on your edge," we immediately assume that we have to do something wildly different or something that pushes closer to being superhuman or doing some fantastic feat of cortortion. That's not true at all. Sometimes it's asking for assistance or knowing to hold back.

In practice Sunday night, the visiting instructor recommended trying various modifications - to find something new. Put another way, to not automatically go to where you "always" find yourself in your pose. Instead of entering into full expression of side plank pose (vasisthasana) with your leg fully extended, try a modification, try placing your knee on the ground. A whole different series of sensations might present themselves. In the case of vasisthasana, maybe you're able to pull your hips higher and roll your shoulders open even more.

Playing on both sides of the edge gives you a gauge of where you are. The edge is not the precipice of a cliff. Think of it as the apex of a pyramid, a point to balance on, allowing self-discovery of something new about yourself by looking at yourself a little differently.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mantra Monday: Smile! Laugh!

Yes, it's Thursday - not Monday. My thoughts, why not mix it up a little, Mantra Monday on a Thursday? At work we celebrated Halloween a day early so why not juggle the week around a bit more?

The office was inundated by a flood of the attorneys' children for pre-Halloween festivities on Tuesday this week. All in all, approximately 30 children from ages 4 mos all the way to 6 breathing life and energy into the silent, placid, taupe hallways. Needless to say a few escaped from the regimented trick-or-treating line, racing up and down the hallways hiding from their parents.

One child looked on my desk and inquired after the three bight colored balls resting there. He asked, "Are those stress balls? My dad has those on his desk too." As I reached for the balls, "No...watch." I began to juggle. His smile began to widen and his eyes brighten.

Looking at him, I instantly remembered watching the street performers and jugglers when the Artist, the Mathematician and I would travel up to Boston. I could sit for hours watching them contorting their bodies through tennis rackets, riding their unicycles, and juggling fire. Part of me likes to think that my parents had a fear that I was going to want to grow-up to be a street performer (sort of an oxymoron if you think about it), making it one of those clandestine occupations.

Many of us pass though our days without a good hearty laugh or a smile that is easily reflected back at us. One of the ways to find that smile, to find that laugh - channel the innocence and love for Life many of us have buried
through hours of sitting in front of the computer, or paying bills, or commuting to work.

Maybe you'll even see me on a street corner in Georgetown during some lunch break.

What made you blissfully happy when you were a child?
Try to tap into that joy at least once a day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

On Saturday as we began our workshop, we were asked the question: What was your favorite Halloween costume?

The real question was: What was your favorite role that you played for one evening?

Halloween gives people free license to become something they cannot be in their everyday life. Super silly, super sexy, super scary – caricatures of that small voice that often doesn’t express itself. But if you think about it, don’t we play characters everyday?

We dress up in our best business suit and leather soled shoes to go to a meeting, put on a cute halter top and peep toe sandals to go out for a night on the town with our girlfriends, or put on our Lulu wear to go to yoga or relax at home. Really, they are all just costumes.

We can take this analogy one step further, stripping off that costume. Who do you see as your Self? Who is your main character? What is your role?

Pulling from my favorite mystery stories, I identify with Harriet Vane from Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter stories and Tuppence from Agatha Christie’s Tommy & Tuppence stories. Both are strong, independent and intelligent women, with a sharp wit, a great sense of style and flirtatious side.

I have a friend who is convinced that her Self was written by Jane Austen and she is now actually dating an Englishman. Walking onto the sales floor, the Artist sees himself as Archie Goodwin from Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories.

What character do you see yourself as?
What role do you play?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Workshop: When was the last time...

…that your entire being smiled?

Every weekday morning a jungle of well suited zombies emerge from the Metro doors. I admit, some days I also fall into formation - each individual moving indiscriminately through their day. Many of us chasing something, something that we think defines us. Chasing an impression of a dream, that remains illusive until we awaken to our true reality.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to learn how to fly. In a few short minutes I relearned what it feels like to connect, feel the warmth of joy, to be truly present. My feet didn’t touch the ground for the rest of the evening – and I still don’t think they have found the ground. Yet, I feel more grounded than I have in the last year.

In life we’re presented many opportunities, it’s awakening to the spirit of the moment, to soar far past what our minds immediately perceive to see our true potential.

To smile.
To laugh.
To live.

* * *

This past weekend, Down Dog hosted a workshop in AcroYoga, lead by a woman with boundless energy, intrepid stillness, and a beautiful spirit. In my posts for this week I can only hope to share some of the volumes I learned in 5 short hours.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mantra Monday: Everything is moving at the proper speed*

This evening after work I stopped by the grocery store conveniently located at my metro stop and picked up some essentials for the week. You know, milk, eggs, veggies, some marshmallows. As I was heading to check out, I saw that water was on sale, $1 for 3 liters. Impulse buy, but it’s water, water is good for you, I picked up one bottle.

Going through the check out I remembered that I have to walk approximately one mile up hill to my apartment wearing my 3.5” green suede/croc print stiletto heels today. No problem. If the bus was there, I’d take the bus. I walk out the door and there in the street lamp the glorious L2, stopped right in front of my market. Lumbered with my 3 liters of water and various other groceries I take my time heading to the bus stop, only to arrive as the bus is pulling away. I place my bags on the bench, look at the schedule and much to my chagrin to discover, the next bus is in 35 min (for those of you unfamiliar with the DC Metro bus system, 35 min = 45/50 min).

I made the executive decision to walk. Yes, carrying 3 liters of water and groceries – including eggs. I turned my iPod on and began my methodical and careful trek home. Every step jostling the bag with the eggs. With each jostle, I could feel my jaw clench in fear that I’d have scrambled eggs in the shopping bag by my arrival home.

After maneuvering into my building, up the stairs and into my apartment, I carefully place the bag with my eggs on the counter. I close my eyes as I lift the lid on the egg carton. All eggs are intact.

Every day we are faced with the challenge to live as freely as possible within the constraints we are given. Robert Frost said, "You have freedom when you're easy in your harness." How do we achieve this freedom with the harnesses that society has imposed? What about those we unwittingly impose on ourselves and those around us? Whether it’s our image we present to the world, or our lifestyle choice, or whether we use whitening toothpaste or not.

Part of it I think is acceptance, acceptance that we’re on the path we’re on, heading towards something. And, also, having the willingness to take some action and tread in the face of fear. I could have waited for the bus, but I wouldn’t have had as much time to work on my drawing tonight if I had waited. Another example, the Artist is finally taking steps to focus more time on his photography.

Calculated risks are almost always better than the haphazard.

So, the eggs?

After opening the lid, the phone rang, leaping across the kitchen to answer it, I knocked the carton to the floor, breaking each and every egg. My kitchen is now spotless, giving me space to work on jewelry and drawing.

I don’t mind trading a dozen eggs for that.

* Mantra originating from: Lasater, Judith. Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. California: Rodmell Press, 2000. 80.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Class #34: Yes, It's Thursday

Yes, it has been a while since my last post. That’s not to say that a lot of thoughts have not been percolating and developing in my mind – or that a lot hasn’t been going on these past couple weeks. I got stuck a in cycle of running on autopilot and couldn’t quite get out of it. Even my co-workers have noticed that I’ve been wearing the same couple pairs of shoes, maybe out of comfort, maybe out of a feeling of implied safety in a time where we’re all transitioning. You can imagine their surprise when I wore my hair down to work today.

Many of us are not only attempting to move from one season to another – here in DC we’ve been enjoying 80 + degree weather on a fairly regular basis – but trying to find something to propel us further, out of our cycles and ruts, to find our edge again. Something to help find our smile again. When teaching Calculus, the Mathematician sometimes likes to call this rut a Blue Funk.

Tonight in class our teacher told two similar stories, one we’ve all probably heard, the one about the girl standing on the shore, joyously throwing the starfish back into the ocean with a smile on her face. There is a man by her just watching, wondering of what good the girl’s actions are, given the plethora of starfish littering the coastline. The second parable was that of a forest fire. All the animals ran out of the forest to safety and the humming bird stayed behind, fetching water drop by drop, working to bring the fire to a halt.

What do I take from these?

From the starfish story, it’s the daunting prospect of all these starfish littering the coastline and the girl just starts with one. She doesn’t try to save them all at once. Each single starfish she picks up gets her full attention as she hurls it to the heavens and back into the ocean. She doesn’t dwell on that last starfish she saved; she picks up and moves onto the next one as if it were her first.

I initially had some issues with the second story, but after letting it float around for a couple of hours, I think I may have found something more in this parable. The humming bird is pressing on in adversity; not running for safety, not running from the obstacle presented him. He’s meeting the challenge, giving his heart to something he believes in. Maybe others will join in, maybe they won’t, but at the end of the day he’ll know he did what he could and maybe even more than he would have expected.

It’s easy to be swept up into the spin cycle of life, relying on those things we find safe and easy. Maybe some days you have to step out in those new shoes, wear your hair a little differently, go somewhere you haven’t before. Take a step to where you can joyously follow your passions and your heart.

But the key is that you need to take some action.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Mantra Monday: I am.

What am I going to wear to work with those shoes tomorrow?…Do I have shoes to wear to her wedding?...Am I going to have time to go out shopping before going away this weekend?....What should I cook for dinner?…Is the milk still good?...Why did I buy that book that hasn’t been opened and is sitting on my bookshelf?... Shoot, I left my book at work…Did I finish everything I needed to at work today?...


We all need a moment of pause in our day, something to balance ourselves. Every day life demands an immediacy that spins us out of control and forces us to learn to spin slightly off kilter. How do we maintain our sense of balance? How do we return to center? One of the easiest ways to do this is through mantras.

There are many types of mantras. Probably the simplest, yet most enigmatic modern mantras are: Who am I? and I am.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the image that we have generated for the outside world. This past weekend, I continued going through my shoes, pulling out those pairs that no longer fit quite right. I had worn one of these pairs to work last week, black suede pumps. Whenever I wear them I always receive complements on them. As far as my memory will permit, they used to fit wonderfully, but now, they are not comfortable in the least, the sides rubbing against my outer heels, blistering and tiring my feet.

Each day we present to the world a reflection of who we are at that moment, by how we respond to outside factors and on a superficial level how we dress. Do we meet that research project for work head on or do everything in our power to get around to it? Do we eschew that beautiful pair of fall boots in favor of purchasing the supplies to cook dinner for friends?

How often do we really reflect on who we truly are, once we peel back all the layers?

While running errands on Saturday, I came across a pair of black leather pumps at Banana Republic, as soon as I put them on, they felt just right, this is who I am…

…at least for right now.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Class #25 & #26: Just Let It Go.

If your keys fall into molten lava, just let them go.
I believe Jack Handy said this, or at least something to that effect.

Three days ago I celebrated the start of my forth set of sevens. For those unwilling to do the math, that's 28. Seven has always been a pretty good number for me, most odd numbers actually, have been good numbers for me. I think it's because a natural balance point is created. That's why with reluctance, I recently let my Banana Republic sandals go to that great shoe tree in the sky. I am now down one pair of shoes.

Purchased for $82 back in April 2002, Lady Apollo and I bought the same pair - opening a BR credit card so that we both could get a deal on our shoes. These shoes have taken me from the Boston Spring though the DC Indian Summer. The midfoot support structure has long snapped from the rigors of running for the Metro or balancing on my heels while impatiently waiting for the fore mentioned Metro. The leather on the sole has certainly been worn thin and is flirting with a developing a hole. Not even Geroge Clooney's Dr. Ross character on ER could have saved these shoes.

You know, he probably couldn't have helped either CoffeeShop Girl or myself in class last night. We both battled through Ardha Chandrasana, half-moon pose. Neither one of us could find our balance on our left, we both tried resetting multiple times. It just wasn't there for either of us. This morning while drying my hair, I thought, why not, give it a shot. The pose was there.

One of the recurring processes of yoga is letting go. It's easy to see the letting go of toxins that have accumulated from being bombarded on a daily basis with sorbitan monostearates, polysorbate 60s and their evil brethren. Yoga is about the deeper shift and letting go of the emotion we store and bottle up. The stresses that accumulate over the course of the day somehow massage themselves out while moving through the postures. In some instances the postures become a metaphor for our lives or current situation, revealing another path or opportunity or gently reminding us to slow down.

Maybe this coming spring I'll find another pair of sandals to replace my dearly beloved BR sandals.
But, come to think of it, isn't 42 the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Class #24: Mind, Body, Sole

Try as I might I cannot walk in ballet flats to save my life. I stumble, I trip, I stub my toes – all in all it’s not a pretty sight. Give me a pair of 4” heeled shoes with beautiful leather soles, I can polka all night long. Trust me. CoffeeShop Girl, VespaBoy, Sophisticate, & Mr. Trivia can all attest to the polka statement from Friday night’s celebration of CoffeeShop Girl’s birthday.

In our lives we all look for a way to balance. Pondering this, I’ve come to realize that a lot of this balance comes in threes, implying a triangle. Think about it:

Green Pepper, Celery, Onion
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
Work, Family, & Friends
Mind, Body, Soul

Our triangles are always in flux, ever evolving and shifting. Sure, it would be great if our lives were a perfect equilateral triangle.

I wonder then, would life be stagnant?

* * *

During my brief hiatus from writing I’ve been pondering a way to give structure to this blog while examining my own various triangles.

Please bear with me through this process.

I welcome any comments or questions you might have about shoes, yoga, or life in general and will address them in due course.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Class #8 - #11: Continuing to Breathe.

There are those days, that we wake in the morning and want to surround ourselves in comfort, unassumingly passing through the day. This past Thursday I desperately wanted to wear my Dansko's to work. It seemed a little silly for a humid, overcast DC August day. In my own small effort to rally against the elements I pulled out my tan/peach seersucker suit and strapped on my summer loafers. Upon arriving to my office, I gasped in horror at the appearance of the black greasy stripes accessorizing my left lower pant leg.

Beware the DC Metro - it will attack any clothing light in color.

There are some days where we need to sit towards the back of the class and just let rest of the world flow around us or shift positions and look at the world from a new location. All in the effort to become caught up in the flow - where movement becomes a meditation and each breath is cherished. During the last class of the Intro series, a week or so ago, we moved into the hip openers during our flow and I found mine wouldn't open. They had beautifully and easily opened not two nights before - why wouldn't they now? I had to use the modifications and those were still very uncomfortable.

During this last Intro class, my breath was stagnant, I didn't breathe into the poses. I just took a passive response and accepted where they were. At the time, I was unable to see that other asanas were beginning to open.

I stepped into the studio this past Thursday after the seersucker incident (and a later one involving my white oxford shirt and a tomato) with a little trepidation - cognizant that I needed to take control of the way my day was moving. When we began our practice, my mind was turning over, then I started to listen to my breath. Upon reflection, this was the first time my practice became a meditation, it flowed easily from one pose to another slowly moving deeper, pushing further. I dexterously followed a pose or two I had never performed before. When we moved through the five sets of Urdhva Dhanurasana
, I was fully present for each one. On the final wheel, I began to do push-ups at the suggestion of the instructor. Ask me how I did this, I cannot say for certain, just that it came, very simply. It wasn't forced.

Thurday's practice, heralded a change. I found out today, the marks on my seersucker pants are not permanent. Apparently, the dry cleaners here in DC are accustomed to dealing with the scourge of black greasy marks. And yes, my hips were still somewhat tight in today's practice; however, other movements continued to open. Just like the spots, that will be erased by the miracles of perc, poses will blossom in their own time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

One Year Markers; The First of Two

We celebrate anniversaries as the passage of time, a way to mark milestones. I'm celebrating with friends and two yoga sessions, to honor Life and the changes that it brings.

As the years pass, we keep mementos and photographs to remember those special moments and hold loved ones close in our hearts. As I look back over my life, this last year and these last 8 months, a lot of who I am and have become is begotten of Parson's Fifth and The Cru. In my short yoga practice, I've realized that I have had many experiences that I never would have had and tried things that I never would have considered. Ultimately, I would have never grown in the ways I have over these last 8 months, wearing shoes I would have never expected to.

One event doesn't wholly define a person or community, it is the response to that event that defines them.

Through Loves and Friendships, we give each other the chance to become stronger and learn more about each other than we would have been content to know, to delve deeper, and gain a better understanding of ourselves. Simply, together we embrace Life - both the joys and the sorrows.

The people who come into our lives come in at the time they do for a reason, helping us realize our potential and then some. They come in their own way and they exit in their own time and fashion. However, we step forward sometimes alone, sometimes alongside another, and sometimes surrounded and propped up by others.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Class # 7: Ice Cream and Inversions

CoffeeShop Girl emailed me today and suggested we meet up for an ice cream date. Her words, “Ice cream makes the world better.” I recommended meeting up at Gifford’s - I had vanilla ice cream (with chocolate jimmies) for dinner.

A week has almost passed since my last post and there has been so much. Possibly, too much. My mind has been a cacophony of thoughts and I have been filled with a broad gamut of emotion.

I have multiple drafts of posts and comments and observations - all leading down paths that just don’t connect naturally or express all that I have to say. Going back to the concept of Satya, not posting was a way for me to give Truth - to be honest, I was lost.

When we boldly walk down a path, relishing the the sound of our own footsteps, we sometimes forget to listen for the steps of others or to look behind us or to look forward. There’s a delicate balance to be had in looking forward with strength and determination (as in Virabhadrasana II) and looking behind (as in Matsyasana) while remaining in the present.

Concurrent with looking forward and back and being in the present, we try to reach out to each other to help ease the burdens carried by our Loves and Friends. Through this, we gain some further insight to our own beings and garner deeper strength to conquer our own lives. In class last night I did my first shoulder stand (Salamba Sarvangasana), assisted by our instructor. I had spoken with her last week about my fear of full inversions; last night she gently guided me past that edge.

Due to the nature of the pose, it is imperative that you are fully present and focused on the pose itself or the likelihood of injury is heightened – pretty much like the rest of life. But at the same time, there is no better way to live, than focused and awake.

In Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar writes about the pose:

“It is no over statement to say that if a person regularly practices Sarvangasana he will feel new vigor and strength, and will be happy and confident. New life will flow into him, his mind will be at peace and he will feel the joy of life.”*

In a way, it’s very much like having vanilla ice cream for dinner on a mid-August night.

* Iyengar, B.K.S. Light On Yoga. New York: Schocken Books, rev. ed. 1979, p. 213.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Class #6: Inch by Inch, Millimeter by Millimeter

Walking to grab a chai (and maybe a cupcake) from the Baked & Wired I looked down and (!!!) the cap thing on the bottom of the heel of right shoe was gone. Lost forever. It actually probably disappeared earlier this morning, because I distinctly remember my step sounding slightly different as I walked through the foyer of my office building first thing this morning.

So I spent my day .25" slightly slanted. Not that it was a big issue, that was just my day I guess.

It's amazing the difference something so small can make.

Last night we spent a lot of time working though half pigeon and fire log pose* (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana and Agnistambhasana respectively) . Going into eka pada rajakapotsana (elka pada translated as one legged/footed) I know that my hips are still tight from years of playing field hockey and I always use a block for a little extra support. You can imagine my surprise when I easily managed to get into agnistambhasana. While sitting there in my amazement, the teacher came over to me and moved my top foot .5" further over my knee bottom knee. WOW. I felt my hips open up even further.

Something similar occurred in the first class where the instructor placed two fingers under my right arm-pit, lifted my shoulder what seemed like two millimeters and my Down Dog changed forever. Now, I'm always checking in further with my shoulders and hips, trying to recreate that sensory experience.

The idea that a small movement can make a world of difference - we've all heard the ripple in the pond analogy - is very true. I think a word of caution though is that you have to be careful not to become hesitant because of the details; details can hinder forward movement and growth. If you wait to be perfect you never will get ahead, you have to actively seek out your dreams. If you act, the details will fall into place and help you soar far past your expectations realizing your dreams and maybe something more.

*According to the Baron Baptiste school, this is called double legged pigeon. In Light on Yoga, Rajakapotsana bears no resemblance to the Baron Baptiste version, so for the sake of being a bit of a traditionalist, I'm going with the yogajournal.com name for the pose.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Class #5: Presence

This morning I looked at my shoes and I honestly had no clue which pair I was going to wear. I have 43 pairs of shoes, and still, I had no clue. Finally after ten or so minutes of deliberation, I settled on my suede Cole Haans. They are familiar and easy, but they were oh so uncomfortable today, I couldn't wait to get home, peel them off and soak my feet.

Similar to how you can tell my mood by the shoes I wear, breath in yoga acts as a gauge and a moving force, carrying one through their asanas.

Back in December and January, people would tell to me that I seemed calm for all that was going on, I would say, "Well, I've been doing a lot of yoga breathing." Without knowing it, I wasn't that far off - breathing was a way for me to exercise some control. Prana, literally translated as life/breath, is the external manifestation of life; Pranayama is control of prana. In my practice, my breath is my marker. If I'm not breathing, I'm straining and pushing past where I should be. You breathe into a pose to move deeper, to open up the spaces that are tight, deepening your existence and focus on the present.

Breathing is just one of those things we do without thought. When we monitor our breathing, we have the opportunity to pause, assess, and savor life.

We started the back bending series this last class. Physically, the chest is opened and exposed, just as a foot in the graceful arch created by a Manolo Blahnik shoe. Philosophically, we bend into the past, honoring all that we have experienced, bringing us to our present. Breath acts as the bridge linking past and present and helping us step forward, into a new present.

Even though I feel a little as though I settled on my Cole Haans, looking at my closet, there are no other shoes I would have rather worn today.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Class #4: Simplicity

Returning home from work Thursday, there was a letter in my mailbox from a good friend, now in Chicago pursuing her PhD. Such a simple pleasure, such a long forgotten gesture. With this letter, my thoughts in class Thursday remained on the elegance and grace that is found within simplicity.

The focus of Thursday's class was the triangle series, four poses. Simple twists and elongations of the spine, that gently massage, strengthen, ground, and lengthen the body. One of the poses is Namaste Forward Bend - Parsvottanasana. In this pose, you extend your torso over and down the front leg, with your hands in prayer at your back. During class, I knew I could get my hands into prayer behind my back; however, my mind just couldn't figure out how to get my shoulders, arms and wrists to connect and properly rotate. So I settled on one of the modifications.

After class, I asked the instructor how to get to prayer at the back. He asked me if I could get to downward prayer. No problem. He said that maybe my shoulders haven't opened yet. He then put his arms in to upward
namaste at his back. As I watched him do this, something clicked and I easily flipped my hands into namaste at my back. He looked at me and said, well, there you go.

A very simple form, the triangle is able to be very dynamic while still grounded - something that many of us strive for on a daily basis. A triangle is probably the truest expression of equanimity - there are three sides, each supporting one another. It has a solid base while reaching to lofty heights. It has an elegance and a playful element. If any of you have ever seen
Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land, you know that triangles are playful shapes.

In this discussion, there are really two types of simplicity: that of the classic black pump and that of being barefoot. On the one hand there is the simple confidence that can be found in striking out and asserting yourself in a classic black pump to take on the world. On the other, the joy that can come from walking barefoot in the grass and reaching for the sun. Both important to remember in our days worrying about bills, commitments, and other various and sundry stresses.

Oh, and
bakasana? Yes I was able to hold it for 3 seconds on Thursday, and 10 seconds today.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Yesterday afternoon I was complaining about my lack of plans to Courtroom Cowboy. His response, "Why don't you just chilax for a change?" And thus, last night was the first night a long long long time that I have done absolutely positively nothing with my evening. Well, nothing planned. I returned home from work, kicked off my heels, changed into my super comfy clothes, heated up some dinner, crashed out on the couch and watched a movie. Did a little fluff reading and chatted on the phone.

All in all - it was a success.

At dinner a couple Fridays ago, Sophisticate asked me, "What do you do to take care of yourself?" I had a hard time answering this question. My response was "Well, the pedicure and the massage that Courtroom Cowboy arranged for me were great!" While completely honest, I don't think it fully answered her question - a very important and difficult question we all too often neglect.

Can we leave work at work? Why is it so difficult to do this? Try not too look or think about your blackberry for an entire night. Focus on just one thing.
Your friends. Your family. You.

Is "everything" else so important? It's hard to believe that the business world actually functioned without all of these things. But, guess what? It did. Take sometime to honor yourself and allow yourself to be blissfully happy and let go of all the "stuff" that surrounds you.

Browse the shoe departments of various stores. :)
Take five minutes in the middle of your day to go outside and grab a nice cup of tea from the local indie coffee shop.
Browse the local bookstore for a new book.
Rock out on your air guitar in your cubicle.
Call a friend you haven't spoken to in months.
Write a love letter.

What makes you smile and your eyes sparkle?
What do you do to take care of yourself?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Class #3: Satya, Reaching Back & Deep

Try as I might, I have never owned a pair of standard, classic black pumps. I've looked, I've searched, I've tried black pumps of varying heights and toe shapes. To this day, I have not found that perfect pair. There is always something wrong with the various "plain" black pumps I've come across. Today, I reached back into the bottom of my closet and my pair of Black NYLA d'Orsay pumps - purchased from Nordstrom’s at the beginning of April 2005. They might not be the “classic” black pump, but they are still some great black shoes.

I had forgotten how comfortable these shoes are - not to mention how cute, with the light pink stitching and slim 2.5" stiletto. I lived in these shoes for a little over a year, wearing them with a charcoal pencil skirt or khaki linen slacks. Wearing these today was like coming home on a long, cold and rainy day, to a loved one and to a bowl of hot tomato soup with homemade mac & cheese.

They were actually almost thrown out when moving back in September; however, I couldn’t part with the joy these shoes brought me and who I am when I wear them.

In a way, this is related to the focus of tonight's class, Satya – Truth.

Truth – a sentiment and quality echoed through the ages, by Socrates, in all religions, and even resonating in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There are so many levels of Truth – personal, inter-personal, global, etc. In our days we carry ourselves through a vision of what we want to portray to the world. But does this image reflect our own personal Truth?

At the foundation of Truth is the need to let go, dig down deep into ourselves, acknowledge, and accept who we are as individuals and as a community. The way to grow into Truth is to wholeheartedly embrace who you are, inclusive of your history and your limitations. History is the one thing we each own and can only hold ourselves to – we can share it and also learn from others, but we cannot change it. In history we can learn more about the Truth of ourselves and those limitations.

In my practice I'm noticing that there are poses that come easier to me than others and there are some I cannot fully express. But, again I come back to Bakasana. Although my Crow is more of a baby Crow and I still have a tendency to topple forward – with every practice the pose is becoming stronger for me. I'm learning where my balance is, what did not work and what did.

Ultimately, it's still about embracing the entirety of the path you’ve walked on and where it takes you – knowing that you can either change the path or the shoes that you’re walking in, or both. Mindful of the past and the future, but knowing that Truth lies within the present as that is the only thing we can control.

I know that one day I will find my classic round toed black pumps – I can’t rush it, until then I don't mind continuing to search. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy my black NYLA d’Orsays.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekend Yoga

The weekend is a time for pause and where we can begin to celebrate the week that has past and focus on our own worlds. To forget about putting our work shoes on and to pad around in socked feet or barefooted!

My weekend yoga practice is centered around the community - Saturday at City Fitness and benefiting various local charities; Sunday at the Lululemon store in Georgetown. There's actually a lot of community yoga out there - you just have to look around for it.

Saturday's practice was interesting in that the Instructor had us arrange our mats in a circle and the flow was very different from what I have become accustomed to. After the class, as Bauhaus would attest, I was fairly critical. Upon further reflection, I did get something huge out of it.

I *almost* held Crow - Bakasana.

I've read the section on Crow multiple times in yogajournal.com and pp 315 to 317 in B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga are well read, flagged and dog-eared. Not to mention the fact that Baron Baptiste taunts me on a daily basis in his Crow pose on the cover of his book Journey into Power.

Seeing the instructor on Saturday next to me beautifully holding Crow with ease was awe inspiring. Too often we try to fight ourselves into something, fighting against a zipper or a shoe that's just a smidge too small. In a moment I could see where both the balance point and the weight of the pose were located. Her feet were beautifully pointed into each other and neck gracefully extended.

As much as we read about something, sometimes you actually have to go out and practice, step a little to the side, and gain a new perspective. In my late-20-some-odd years, I’ve begun to notice that it’s the little things that make a world of difference.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Class #2: Intentions.

I woke up this morning in a haze, feeling off balance.

My morning rituals were all the same, nothing different, but even they felt off.

Having pulled my left middle quad during softball last night, I decided to wear my flip-flops into work. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I almost always wear my work shoes on my walk and commute into work. You could say that when I do this, I’m setting my intention for my work day.

I hobbled out of my apartment and headed down CT Ave to the metro. Half way there, I realized I left my inhaler in my kitchen. So, back I went, set my water bottle on the counter and placed my inhaler in my purse. Walk to the door head back on my way to work. I was having difficulty carrying, my gym bag, purse, and yoga mat – things I have carried together before with no difficulty. I must have been quite a sight heading down the street.

I ran into Bauhaus and my thoughts were confirmed - I was off balance, I truly was flipping and flopping.

Work was a flurry pulling together documents in prep for this afternoon. I felt like I was wheeling and teetering on the precipice, still having difficulty finding my balance. I panicked as I realized I left my water bottle sitting on the counter. I thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t go.” No, I had set my intention to go. I was going.

On my way over to the studio I began to think about my intention for my practice today, consciously attempting to slow my mind. As I tripped up on the curb and strained my quad a little more, I found my intention:

Center and listen to your body. Don't go further than your body wants to go. Push the edge a little, but listen to your body.

The "power hour" passed in what seemed like minutes. The phrase, be here now is so true. The only time I became cognizant of the external was the one time I didn't listen to my body and rushed into a pose. The teacher spoke to the class, "If you're in wheel, start to walk your hands and feet closer together..." I thought to myself, "Heh, I can do that. No prob..."*crash* Think running down the cobblestone streets of Boston in leather soled high heels crash and burn. *ouch*

I broke my concentration and was listening more to the teacher than myself, not listening to where my body wanted to be.

That was on the 3d of 4 Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel Pose. For the remainder of that pose, I slipped into Bridge. There was one more repetition to go. On that 4th and final wheel pose (!!!!) all I can say is watch out US Olympic Gymnastics Team! Okay, maybe I'm slightly over selling myself - but for that final wheel, I pushed my hips up on high and I managed to walk my feet and hands much closer together than I was ever able to.

I went back to work more centered and focused. If you're curious, on my commute home, I carried my purse, gym bag, and yoga mat with great ease - wearing my Charles David pumps.

Coincidentally, the shoe style is called "Joyous."

Today’s lessons are as follows:

  1. If you let your body guide you, and follow your intuitions, 99% of the time you’ll make the right decision and you’ll surprise yourself.
  2. Don’t let the external sway you from your path or decision, there’s great strength and flexibility from defining events and not letting them define you.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Class #1

I just realized I haven't posted anything about my first honest to goodness, hot-Baptiste-yoga class!

One word. Wow.

That sums it up. After drinking a vat of water between the studio and home, I felt amazing. My arms continued to burn long into the night. I was a little worried about heading into strength training with MaxBob the morning after. But rest assured, everything was okay - there might have been just a little extra burn while doing squats and leg press. That's all really.

I went to the first class of the beginner series - I had little clue of what to expect. From the heat, from the teacher, and from the philosophy. The class is broken down into segments, each class building upon another, until by the end of the series a full flow is practiced. There are many levels in the class from those who have never been on a yoga mat to those who have been practicing for a few years. You know, it is always good to start at the beginning for two simple reasons:

1. If you have some knowledge in a subject, you will get that much more out of the basics and be able to refine the fundamentals. I'm reminded when I took the Fabrication#1 class out at Revere Academy this past January. I went in fairly advanced, knowing a lot of the fundamentals, because of this, I was able to focus on the tricks to work more efficiently and cleanly in the studio.

2. It's good to get a new perspective, challenge your own perceptions. (This is actually quite similar to the point above.)

To be honest, I was also a little disappointed that there wasn’t more emphasis on the philosophy. But, it can be argued that a large part of this practice is about personal discovery. This is not something that can be taught on the first night of an hour and fifteen minute introductory class. Go figure. A bit like asking a novice painter to paint a piece on the same level as El Greco, or Caravaggio, or Monet, or Manet…well, you get the picture.

I'm missing the second class in the series tonight, due to softball, but I'm certainly going to a class tomorrow and the next beginners series class this coming Tuesday.

Oh? The shoes today?
You guessed right.
[photo coming soon]

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mantra: I have many shoes...I have enough.

2:30p.m. Check email.
Shoe sale at Nordstrom's!

I immediately check out the pumps, there are two absolutely fantastic pairs. [See?] I email Courtroom Cowboy - maybe he'll enable me to make another shoe purchase.

Phone rings.
Back to work preparing exhibits for an upcoming deposition. Saved.

Over dinner tonight I was telling CoffeeShop Girl about these shoes. Her comment to me, "some people wear lots of different hats. If you think about it, you wear lots of different shoes. Aren't you trying to pare down, do you need to add more?"

I looked at her, took a sip of my PBR, and I blinked a couple times.

CoffeeShop Girl was right.

In the book Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life, Judith Lasater ends each chapter with a series of modern day mantras. These are not the long chanting mantras of Sanskrit. Lasater’s mantras do, however, reach to the core of the philosophy of a Mantra.

My understanding of a mantra is that it is a short phrase that brings a depth of thought and emotion, leading to focus, lending itself to clarity, comfort, and healing.

I have a feeling that the true meaning of a mantra has been pretty much lost on the majority of our society. How many of us have begun and ended a yoga class with a resonating "Om!" and had no clue why we were doing that, blindly following our teacher?

The "Om!" is a unifying force, bringing teacher and students together.

“I’m fine” is not a mantra. This statement purely suppresses and crams a blistered and hammer-toed foot back into the same uncomfortable shoe. It might look good, but it will eventually hurt like hell, if it doesn’t already.

“I have many shoes… I have enough.” I would consider this something of a modern mantra. I am content with what I have and all the different shoes I try to wear. I now think of those beautiful red suede Stewart Weitzmans, purchased at the end of last July, that I could wear all day and long into the night.

How often have I worn those?

What shoes am I wearing tomorrow?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I woke up this morning and had this strong desire to begin blogging. I can only think this was brought on by two things:

1. Imitation. The sincerest form of flattery. (Yes, CoffeeShop Girl)
2. Timing.

Wearing my first pair of expensive shoes (purchased at BR in 2002) and juggling my navy blue Kate Spade purse, gym bag, and yoga mat, with the crowds on the Metro this morning - the concept came to me in what can best be described as a purple epiphany. Immediately, I pulled out my moleskine and began frantically brainstorming ideas for this blog. In recent months, as many are well aware, my world was quite literally turned upside down and inside out. I’ve talked at length with my parents (The Mathematician & The Artist), Courtroom Cowboy, Sophisticate and CoffeeShop Girl about life and recently often about yoga, coinciding with my deeper involvement with the practice. I am a firm believer that things occur as they do within a time and a place for a very specific reason.

Tonight is my first hot-Baptiste-power yoga class and I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a blog. Why not share the beginning and the process? I figure, now is as good a time as any other.

So often we are caught up in the product. For me, yoga is about process, evolution, revolution, and learning – much like life when you get down to it.

I’m not going to bore you with the specifics now, they will trickle out in their own time. Ultimately, I hope my words can provoke some thoughts. Always feel free to comment, agree, disagree, or share something.

Grab a nice cup of tea, sit back, stay awhile.