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.