September 2008

I didn’t realize Wallace had died.  Killed himself yet.  Here’s a quote from an interview:

….there is this existential loneliness in the the real world.  I don’t know what you’re thinking or what it’s like inside you, and you don’t know what it’s like inside me.  In fiction, I think we can leap over that wall itself in a certain way….There’s a kind of ah-ha!  Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do.  It doesn’t happen all the time.  It’s these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes.  I feel un-alone – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually.  I feel human and un-alone and that I’m in a deep significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and in poetry in a way that I don’t with other art.


“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit.”

George Sheehan


I loved the article in Yoga Journal, back in June or so, on mudras.  There was one hand gesture where you spread your hands, palms toward you, and then interlace your fingers with thumbs stretched wide to either side, and then press your hands against your chest. 

I think i’m going to do this one in Power Yoga tonight.  It’s a protection mudra.  Not in the sense of closing yourself off to life and people, but in the sense of giving yourself the safety and protection to do the things you want to do.

Fear is such a wacky thing.  It’s tough to have a good handle on it because it happens in that primitive part of the brain and we usually react or form a conclusion about something before we’ve really given it any thought in the less primitive part of our brain.

It’s like – gee I’d like to do do x, oops was that fear?  Yup, OK I’m not going anywhere near x.  Here I am walking briskly in the opposite direction of x.  x?  what’s x?  Before we know it, this thing we want is not even in the picture anymore.

Frank said something cool about fear though, that we really don’t want to be *fearless*.  People who are fearless are the ones doing things like careening down a hill in a shopping cart well on their way to a lifetime in a wheelchair.  That’s fearless.

Fear simply tells us we’re doing something new.  That we’ve found our edge.  It’s a signpost.  It tells us that we’re just outside our comfort zone.  And that’s good right?  It’s a good sign because life begins at the edge of our comfort zone.  That’s where the juice is.

So the key isn’t to wait until our fear subsides (you should live so long) but to act anyway.  Feel the fear and do it anyways as Susan Jeffers said.  And to do that we need to find room for courage *with* the fear.  Not replace the fear, but to let them co-exist. 

It’s like the yin/yang symbol, you allow some fear in your courage and some courage in your fear.  Like the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup ad put it – You got peanut butter in my chocolate!/You got chocolate in my peanut butter! – mmmm.

So I think we’ll do that mudra in class tonight.  We’ll think about an area of our life where we want to move, but feel fear.  Maybe find room for our fear and our courage too.  Maybe we’ll find a little bit of protection and a feeling of safety to help them live together.  So we can move ahead.

This moment, stop right where you are. Stop all effort to get whatever you think will give you fulfillment, whatever you think will give you truth. All that is required is one instant of truly stopping.  Gangaji

Frank was talking about stopping at the Mindfulness Yoga weekend.   The basics are this.  We’re body, breath and mind beings.  Body and breath are always grounded in the present moment.  My belly is growling *now*.  I’m inhaling a breath *now*.  In the next moment both of those conditions are very likely to be different, I’ll feel a different sensation and I’ll be breathing another breath. 

The mind is where the challenges starts.  I am regreting the stupid thing I said yesterday.  I’m freaking out about the thing I need to do tomorrow.  Or I’ve started telling myself a story about something, making all kinds of assumptions and I’m starting to feel really pissed off. 

And the way to detach from all that is to bring my awareness back into my body so I can notice my rumbling belly or whatever is there to notice.  And to bring my awareness back to my breath so I can notice whether I’m inhaling or have stopped breathing all together.  It’s that stopping and coming back that helps me to detach from all the head stuff that makes me cranky.  And boy it takes practice.

Frank suggested using mindfulness bells.  In some meditation traditions the leader will ring a bell at random times to remind the practioners that if their mind has wandered off, to stop, bring it back, to come back to the breath or whatever they’re focusing on. Frank suggested finding our own random mindfulness bells in our daily life. 

He gave the example of using the sound of car alarms when he lived in Brooklyn.  Other suggestions in the class were yawning, walking through doorways,  hearing your child say, “Mom?”, getting in/out of the car, opening your email box etc.  When these things come up you can use it as a reminder to come back to the present.  To come back to the breath and the experience of being in the body.

A mindfulness bell I’ve been using these days is helping my son get dressed.  It feels like there is no end to the things he can find to do while I hold out clothing out for him.  So I’ve been trying to spend the time breathing.  And I try hard to avoid the stories – the ones where I think he’s *trying* to drive me insane, he’s rotten to the core or he’s Not Listening. 

Because the minute I go there, I lose patience.  But really he’s just being four and seems to believe that dancing around ones bedroom starkers is really fun.  It probably is.  But if I stay with breathing, he comes around and finally gets into his clothes.  Without it being a lousy experience for anyone.

Frank told a great story about stories.  A guy is in the grocery store line-up to buy a quart of milk and an older woman is in front of him with a baby.  After she gets the groceries taken care of she’s chatting to the cashier and he starts getting angry.  He starts thinking – this is rude, all I want is a quart of milk.  Can’t they see i’m here waiting?  How rude can you be. 

Then he notices what he’s doing and starts to breath and calm down.  He’s able to notice that the baby is cute.  So the woman passes the baby to the cashier and she starts gooing at the baby and he starts feeling himself get pissed off all over again, but he goes back to his breathing.  Finally the woman takes the baby and moves on and it’s his turn. 

When the cashier apologizes for his wait instead of blasting her he’s able to say that the baby was really cute.  She says, “you think so?”  He says yes and she says, “my husband was killed in Iraq 9 months ago and I had to go back to work.  That’s my Mom, she takes care of my daughter while I’m here.” 

I love that story.  It’s a great reminder to drop the stories and the assumptions and the head stuff.  Frank said that the zen folks have a term, “Don’t Know Mind”.  Where your practice is to recognize that you don’t really know what’s really going on so you let go of the stories.  And it’s worth doing because the stories usually cause us a lot more suffering than the circumstances themselves. 

So I will go on breathing and holding out clothing to my son for what seems like forever at the time.  Because I know that he’s not trying to piss me off.  And because I know that one day he’ll be heading out of the house in the morning and I may not even know what he’s wearing.  And on those days I’ll miss him at four years old dancing starkers in his bedroom.

Ever buy tickets for something and then the night of you wonder what on earth you were smoking?  I’m kind of doing that now.  I eagerly booked a Mindfulness Yyoga weekend with Frank Jude Boccio, who’s awesome.  I happened to see him when I was at Kripalu in the spring.  We talked about him coming to Halifax this weekend and I was convinced the whole thing was so synchronistic that it was simply meant to be and besides he’s a great teacher, so of course I booked it.  But right now I’d rather do anything but. 

What can I say, I had a shit week.  Lots of lousy things happened and on top of it all I’m feeling hormonal and probably just need a good cry.  I’m thinking I should be in my jammies tonight with a glass of wine watching Lee and Starbuck punch the crap out of each other because they’d rather be doing You Know What on TV (yes, i’m addicted to Battlestar Galactia fer frak’s sake, ok? ok?).  That would probably be more my speed.

But the problem is that I know if I feel this way, life is overwhelming.  And if life is overwhelming there’s nothing I need more than to get a download of some good Frank chat.  He’ll get me grounded again.

Sigh.  So the bottle of wine will stay corked.  Lee and Starbuck will have to fight without me.  And I’ll go sit in a gym and listen to Frank.   Maybe I’ll go in my jammies.

I guess i have a thing for playing R&B during my Power Yoga classes.   I cooked up another one.  It has a couple rough edges at the top so I won’t use for a newbie class but definitely a class of experienced yogis. 

  • Superwoman – Alicia Keys
  • Way Down – Steve Earle (for my fellow Wired fans)
  • Answer Me – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
  • Dirty Day – Divine Brown (not *that* one – the Canadian R&B singer with the awesome pipes)
  • Sweet the Sting – Tori Amos
  • Who’s Gonna Save My Soul – Gnarls Barkley
  • The Thing About Love – Alicia Keys
  • Breakfast in Bed & Just a Little Lovin’ – Shelby Lynne (I’m loving her Dusty Springfield album)
  • Rosie’s Lullaby – Nora Jones



A friend sent me this link to a video about painter Harry Ally.  I love the image of his hands methodically rubbing the paint onto the canvas.  He says – “Every painting is a failure but gives you just a little ray of hope to try the next one.”

Here’s to failing more often.



I did a Jivamukti workshop last week and it was so cool to do a class where music is used well.  I don’t mean playing frenetic drumming on a tinny boombox until the teacher realizes it’s driving people crazy and turns it off, but really used to manage the energy of the class.

Lots of teachers, my own included, are against music or at least really cautious about it.  But my thing is, for people who *like* music, when it’s used well it only enhances what’s going on.  If the goal is to help people get in touch with their insides, music is simply one of the best ways to do it.

I learned that the Jiva folks are really into inversions, like they work up to 75 breaths in Shoulder Stand.  I lost track of my breaths but we held it really long.  The teacher wandered over to the music player and switched to some spoken word thing with a strong veggie/enviro-message and beat.  It was great and did I ever need it because at one point my legs started shaking, I could barely hold them up anymore.  And I thought – this is *gravity* I’m working against, why am I having a challenge with this?  I mean ok, we were going on to hour 3 of yoga and I’d run the day before but still – gravity?  So, yeah I appreciated the music.  And the fact that she let us cross our ankles.

She played Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” towards the end of the workshop and I’m not sure I’d ever heard it before, what a beautiful song. It motivated me to go through some music I’ve been collecting and create some new CD’s for my fall yoga classes.  I’ll post here with any juicy finds.

But back to inversions, she said that Jivas spend 5 minutes every class on Headstands.  I’ve avoided them in my Power Yoga classes because we only meet once a week and I figure there’s no way someone can build up the strength to avoid neck injury that way.  So I don’t do them.  But since the folks who’ve registered for the next session are physically active experienced yogis,  I think it’s time to lighten up. 

If strength is an issue they can use the time to work on that by walking their hips over their shoulders, creased at the hips with straight legs.  Or they can walk up a wall they’re facing so their legs are parallel to the floor, hips over shoulders.  Those who can hold their weight without compressing their neck can spend the time playing with their balance and getting into the pose. 

I really want to see where it goes.  Inversions may be good for us physically but there’s something about turning our world upside down that I’m convinced is pretty powerful.  Even when you have to cross your ankles.