Friday, December 28, 2012

Faith in Your Effort

It never ceases to amaze me the power one little phrase or a few words can have. I was listening to Panditji from the Himalayan Institute talk about creating the environment for practice (meditation) and mixed in with many other quickly recited instructions was the comment, "have faith in your effort."

I found myself scrolling back the talk to hear it again. Faith in your effort. Such a powerful thought for me. This little comment gave me a big huge space to see that I try so hard because I actually lack faith in my effort. While Fynn was with his Dad, I had a check list of things to do. I focused on getting homework questions answered correctly, not on faith that my understanding was sufficient and woudl be revealed in my answers. I didn't focus on the intention to offer a small token of my love to people I was shopping for, rather, I was focused on getting gifts for everyone on my list and to keep it within a budget. I didn't focus on relaxing and taking care of myself in this brief relief from parenting, I realized I was focused on being productive and filling time with something with an outcome like a puzzle and fixing the trim in the house.

I have not planned any resolutions for 2013, but I have established a resolve. A resolve to have faith in my effort. To approach the things my heart tells me to do with the resolve to have faith in my effort. I feel happier and more fulfilled, relaxed. I haven't stopped doing, just changed the focus from the outcome to being in the process of doing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The ethical life

With the close of the fall and many changes and challenges swirling through my life, this little vata/pitta hybrid (this basically means I tend to multi-task without really getting the job done and burn up people as I go with my fire (ire), has felt the roller coaster ride between continual movement and the intensity to get the job done at all costs. The costs included a lack of personal nutrition, practice and basic self care beyond showering (most days) and only getting exercise with Bella, my steadfast companion; she walks me 2-3 times daily.
Not at all an ethical approach to living.

Having the quiet of home without a child to dictate my schedule and my attention, I have now taken some time to reflect on how it all happened. The root of it was I lost faith. I am not speaking of faith in God or the Universe, or in my mind Divine light within myself. I lost faith that my light was bright enough. I lost sight of it. I stopped believing that I would ultimately navigate my way through it.

The result = fear. Fear of being not enough; not good enough, strong enough or loveable enough. Bottom line, I wanted to feel like I was loved and my life had meaning. Truth was, I wanted that from folks who really were so busy trying to feel they had meaning and they were worthy that we really couldn't connect. Everyone was losing.

I remember so many years ago having that word - Faith - pop into my mind in a meditation and I spent months trying to grasp its meaning. The meaning I understand now, even though sometimes I lose sight of the feeling of faith. Because sometimes, especially when I don't take care of myself, I lose touch with my own fire; my light and I follow my mind into the world of 'what everyone else wants and thinks is most important'.

Real faith is living a life for myself, living in my own heart, 'to thy own self be true.' Not that I forsake responsibilities, because really being a single mom is one of the greatest gifts of all time, no matter how scheduled one can become while doing it. And finding yourself laying under sheets of foam trying to move the 30th sheet into position because you know the value of finding your own fire through climbing and want that for others, and That is what I call living an ethical life.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Puppy Days

A new puppy brings love and cuteness. They need it. I find myself continually moving. When my back is turned, my cuteness, Bella, will find something. Perhaps a slipper, maybe underwear from a hamper, socks or my favourite Yoga tee. She has discovered the wood as a great source for things to chew, loves to jump up on the counters or table, after all, that's where I keep the real good stuff.

The other morning as I made my way through my morning routine, interrupted by trips to retrieve something from her yet again, I realized she was alone in the kitchen. I yelled to Fynn, "Bella's alone in the kitchen," he bounded from his room to save the butter dish.

I crate her during the day and worry the whole time about the unfairness of it. Saturday I decided I would puppy proof a room and leave her there with more space. I came home to a door barricaded with a fallen crash pad, skates and little feathers swirling through the air. Apparently sleeping bag tags are fair game.

I find myself thinking back to my past puppy days. Autumn who chewed anything with snaps, socks and undies too. Sebring just chewed her stuffed toy. Tour, I really cannot remember with Tour. And then I realize, the reason I cannot remember is not because they didn't misbehave and get into trouble, I still have scratches from Luna on the door frame and chewed window sills compliments of Tour. It's because all the years of loving them erased those infractions that seemed so large at the time.

My interventions will continue, and I will try to remember that one day I will not even remember this behaviour that seems so disruptive. But I will remember all the love those big brown eyes are trying to convey. Suppose this is true with humans too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stability in an unstable world

Events happen. People I love are experiencing pain. My pet ate something that will probably not agree with her. A flood has occurred and threatened my plans. And change is about to happen. I cannot make any of this go away as much as I may wish to. It is my reality right now.

I can't pretend it isn't happening, I can't make it go away. I can try to distract myself from it, with a glass of wine or binging on some cookies, but that is only a temporary fix and I will eventually be sitting right where I am in the middle of these unknowns and lack of control with the added guilt of indulgence and bodily disharmony. And if not these things, then I am sure before too long there will be other things that disrupt my plans and things I will not like.

Yesterday I heard about an experiment where subjects were put into two groups. One group could eat all the cookies the want, but not eat the radishes (which they most likely were okay with) and a second group could eat only radishes and despite the warmth and the odour of the cookies had to not eat them. After a period of exhibiting self-discipline, particularly for the radish eaters, the subjects were given a very challenging puzzle to work on. The result - radish eaters got angry, frustrated, very unhappy and usually gave up on the puzzle more quickly than the cookie eaters who could sustain a longer focus and effort more easily.

Given the circumstances of my current reality and the conclusions I can draw from the experiment, I think now might be a good time for a few things that will not require a great deal of discipline. Now is not the time to try to sit and get my book report done at all costs. Now is the time to relax into myself. To relax into a good book, warm and loving smiles and warm and nourishing yummy food, especially if it means I don't cook it myself.

Monday, November 5, 2012


The room is busy with multiple climbers of different levels. All eager to learn how to be a little better, to gain knowledge. We begin. Trying to give the more experienced an opportunity to understand movement, what you look for, how you teach what balance is in someone else's body. The function of a movement, not just the form.

Then the time elapses and I need to go. I am leaving, not wanting to leave, not wanting the moment to end. Wanting to cover more ground, to get them to really feel it and understand what I am talking about.

As I hurry between the task of dropping my son off at hockey and getting back to the staff for a meeting it dawns on me that I really enjoyed what I was doing. I was lost in it. It was as if the person, Heather, no longer existed. What was happening, the information, the actions were bigger than me. The giving was spontaneous and essential. Their success was my goal.

I wonder how it felt for them, the participants. I wonder whether they felt the same connection I felt. Not a connection to them, but to something really big.

I need to do that more often.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thankful for the beauty of life

This morning I read, "Two years ago today.... and I thought what was happening for me two years ago. Then what popped up was one year ago and not quite today... but around this time. Learning of cancer afflicting two people I love.

Then a fall many years ago presented itself. I was spinning a story about University bullshit, paying tuition and unrealistic expectations and not being understood, when, from out of now where, I felt the warmth of the sun on my face. Then saw all the amazing colours of the autumn leaves fluttering on the trees. In that moment I smiled and sighed. This was something no one could ever take from me. I connected to this powerful beauty and tenacity of nature. A feeling of complete safety and peace swept over me. It would all be okay, it already was okay.

Recognizing that even in the sad news, confusion and fear, there can still be beautiful fall colours and bright sunlight, today I will look around me for that freedom and peace, even if just for a moment. What an amazing remembrance going into the Thanksgiving weekend.

And I am very grateful to still have these two people I love in my life.

Monday, October 1, 2012


What is your gift?
I am stealing this question from Stephen Cope, from Kirpalu.
This is what really got me interested in Yoga five or six years ago, this and a few very unexplainable moments in savasana.
I journeyed to Colorado, sat in a room with a practiced Yogi and committed myself to many journalling experiences that led me down a path of self understanding at one level deeper than I had prior to the experience. I have since continued to study and practice and realize that like the layers of sediment a geologist studies, there are many layers of self understanding.
And yet... it does always come back to the question of whether I feel I am living a fulfilling life. Am I using my gifts?

How does one know if something is ones gift? Often the gift isn't mastered when it is first being used. Even our greatest athletes and musicians put in ten's of thousands of hours of practice before being considered a great athlete.

I think you know because it is the thing you must do above all others things. It is the thing that you lose sight of time and space doing. So what is it you do that gets you lost?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Choose a smile

Stories, we all have them. These are the events in our past that we believe are true. It is true I was married and now I am not. But everything I tell myself about how that happened and why it happened and what it means are all up for the interpretation I choose. Life is full of these choices.

My life has been busy. And I find myself constantly choosing to believe I need to keep up with it all. I have to answer every complaint and try to fix all the situations and head off future troubles before they happen. But that is a choice.

Yesterday I chose to have tea with a friend. I could hear myself debating and defending my choice to step away from the busy work to have this purely selfish meeting. And when I left that tea, I was smiling more broadly than I have smiled in a number of days. The choice was a choice to support ME, rather than to DO more. Sometimes, less is more.

Now to remember that feeling and that choice more often.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Princes and ugly step sisters

Life has been busy. It has been full of things to do or more aptly described, expectations to be met. And I have to admit I have been feeling a fair amount of resentment. Closer examination revealed it wasn't real expectation placed on me by others, rather it was my own expectation that people would do what they are supposed to do, what is right, just get along, accept one another as they are, see the strengths and weaknesses they have and others have and just well.... get along.

But that's not the way it is most of the time.

Today, as I sat, I realized I was waiting for someone to come in and save me. Preferably a handsome man who makes a decent amount of money and wants me to be able to relax and do only the things that inspire me. That is when I saw Cinderella. Oh.. I know her pain so well. Being berated and belittled by those ugly step sisters! So unfair! And there I sat in my rags, on the floor, scrubbing away while the ugly step sisters laughed.

Then my good friend Dorothy's kind and generous words popped into my head, "I don't get it, I just see a vibrant, intelligent, loving woman." A reference to me in a moment of feeling just like this. Right! I thought, I choose whether I am the vibrant woman or the one carrying the heavy sack of others ideas around with me.

Sigh.... so putting that sack down, getting out of the rags and standing in the place of here's what is important to me and you can just figure it out people.

Oh and the prince... well, I'll take one if he comes along, but in the meantime, no need for one.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's been a while

The months of summer have disappeared into the days of fall. Where did time go and what did I do with it? My week away with my Parayogis peeps seems so far in the past and yet it was only a few weeks ago.

Time. It seems illusive. And yet the reality is that my mind has been so quickly pulled from one task to another, one person to another, one expectation to another, that time seems to have speed past me. Time doesn't speed, it is the rpm's of my mind through these past months that has.

So what's the trick to slowing it down? Oh... I know about meditation and certainly use that tool frequently. But what about in the moment. The moment when there are 24 children gathering around one with a gash in her knee that will need stitches and you have four instructors looking to you for 'what's next.' What slows you down when the there are people betraying your trust or expecting you to take care of something immediate when you are 30 minutes away?

Breath. For me I don't think about breath first - though it is what I suggest to others to think about in those moments. For me it is the magic of the vastness of this Universe. I recall one fall day many years ago, recently mistreated and scolded by University officials for wanting to pay my tuition without penalty, but not being able to stand in line for a few hours without losing my job. The unfairness of it and the lack of compassion and understanding washing over me. And then my eyes caught the radiant light reflecting off the fall leaves. And I had the thought, "well, they can't take this away from me." The this in my mind was the beauty of nature and her continuation despite war, struggle, despair and destruction.

I have a new puppy now and one of the most grateful parts is the getting outside twice a day and walking, just appreciating the mist, the rain, the sun, the mud, the trees, the beauty and steadfastness of nature. It is just what brings me back to earth.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Back to play time

It all begins with packing for one night in the Bahamas at a resort hotel. I examine my body in the mirror and see the bulge just below my belly button. Then my eyes skim across the side view of my upper thighs. Whew. These are not the legs I used to have. I should go for a run... and I do. Unhappily I am pushing myself to just continue. Count my breaths between the power pole.... "one more pole, then I can walk. I'll walk fast," I tell myself, still feeling disappointed with my performance.
It continues... I jump in a pool to swim and cool off after the run. "Laps, I should probably do laps," I think.

In the morning, I struggle to complete my asana practice, wanting instead to just rest. Meditation. The mind wandering and my attempt to just surrender seems futile. Flashes of my son running around the field with his lacrosse stick just throwing the ball. My neighbour's little girl just tossing a ball with no objective except to see it bounce. The thought rolls in like a wave, 'when did exercise stop being play and become something you 'do' to lose weight or firm up the thighs?' Do we force this ideology on children? When kids just play, are we the ones who turn the play into something productive - winning - by making up a way to compete?

I wonder, "when did play stop being play for me? When did it become about doing something?"
As I think back to my lazy summers of youth, I recall just swimming and diving at the pool. All day I could just splash around and be completely swimming. I remember when it became about getting badges and eventually being a lifeguard. I can remember when running became about my time. That was about the same time my body became more feminine. I remember when paddling stopped being about just being on the water and it became about getting somewhere... fast.

It was not some imposed idea of a coach or parent. It was a self imposed idea of being productive, proving myself. That was when I started worrying about whether I was good enough. When I started worrying about what others thought of me. Funny how some things stay with me and seem to rise up when I am tired and feeling vulnerable. I guess the answer is to surrender to just being who I am.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


It was eleven years ago joy was born into this world I know. It has been the most incredible opportunity for me to grow and love. It is true that ll things must happen as they do to be where we are. And I would not change a thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The game

Play the game for the sake of the game. But what is the game? Life. Each moment is a moment of the game and it is not whether you win or lose, for in the end we all meet a similar end to this life as we know it. It is the moment.

How easy it is from an armchair to espouse such knowledge. And yet, all I notice in this moment is the quiet and I want to try to hide from it. I busy myself with projects, listen to audio books, watch movies and sometimes I even attempt to write. Why indeed do I not choose to go for a walk? Or perhaps to vacuum? Why not paint the chair or do something else of value? Because none of those actions are any more skillful - except having a clean house and healthy body. It is not the action the counts, but whether we are acting with a full heart. Og Mandino in "The World's Greatest Salesman" I believe considers this as the message in the first scroll, "I will greet this day with love in my heart."

Usually it is the big dramas that give us expression. The joy in new life, the sorrow in death. Arguments brings opportunity to love others who support our importance. Yet in every moment there is always another possibility. Sitting in boredom in a chair, there is the opportunity to open one's heart on a page and spread words with love.

As Rod Stryker says, it is not until the pain of our awareness in any moment becomes so great that we choose to move away from it, that we are stimulated into action, (or something to that effect). But it then becomes a choice whether I run in fear toward the next task or embrace it with love.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More of what you do want.

Text - "2 Spot"
Reply - "See u there."

I headed out from the CWA conference, trying to navigate the best route to The Spot Bouldering gym in Boulder, Colorado. I have a little intrepidation, but I am feeling more confident after not falling en route the day before at Momentum. Besides, it's my friend Mike. After all the tumbles my life has taken, I am quite certain he will not be a harsh judge and will only want my own success.

I arrive, no Mike. I chat with the woman at the counter. Eventually deciding something must be up. I read the text again. Oh, maybe he meant 2pm. I decide to climb anyway. I wander aimlessly, making up my own routes and ignoring the tape. Not quite ready yet to see just what I can and cannot still do. I get caught up watching these guys trying to send projects in a couple of tries. I can see what they need to do, but I say nothing. I could do that when I was a known climber, now I am just some chick in her 40's climbing at The Spot. Eventually I try the same grade. I can do it first try.... "not bad," I think.

Eventually I head back to the conference and know I will return for 2pm.

Round 2: Climbing with Mike is like ordering a great meal where we will share the plates. We stand around selecting the choice things from the menu. I can already feel the earlier session in my forearms. The pump coming fast. My head still isn't into topping out on these 14 foot walls. Baby steps. Eventually I am laughing at my own lack of power to press through a mantel on a huge sloper and reach out high and left for a perhaps not-so-bad hold. I am gassed. The hands will not sustain the intention I have for them. Time to head back to the conference.

Man... I have got to do that more often.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Being my own lover

This week seemed particularly challenging. I seemed to be on the wrong side with a number of people and that always challenges me. I want to be seen. I want to be acknowledged. I want to be loved. I don't think I am any different than those I seem to disagree or disappoint.

This morning as I practiced, I realized, what I needed was compassion for myself. If I could not give it to me, why would anyone else think to. I was a doing machine this week, doing all the things I was responsible to do. Go to work, dot the i's and cross the t's. I was not allowing myself to be a being who was moving through grief from a personal loss. Today as I luxuriate in the freedom of not doing, there is space to realize I need to offer myself compassion, and it doesn't help coming from anyone else. I am the only one who can truly know how I feel and what it means to me and how to continue to move forward without my friend. And really, I am the only one I can trust to not leave me. Eventually everyone else will or I will leave them.

I can offer myself kindness, love and nourishment from the place of a full cup, I then can offer it to others, even if it won't help them as much as any love and compassion they offer themselves. After all, we are all just small blades of grass struggling to survive in rocky terrain.

This is the foundation of freedom. This is seed of fulfillment. This is fully being.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

This moment

I am struggling this morning. I did not want to get up. I did not want to get on my cushion. I continually ran the tape of Tour's last breaths, holding him in my arms and the sadness.

I want things to be different. I chose instead to journal. My heart is full of a variety of emotions... grief, frustration and a little resentment, and even relief. There is a constant stream of 'what's next' going on in the background creating a hum of anxiousness. A desire to write something important. A desire to have a more meaningful life. A desire to not live in so much solitude. A desire for distraction.

Then it occurs to me. I am sitting in outcome thinking. Of course! That is why I do not want to meditate.

I am thinking about how can I get all the things in my life that I think will make it be a good life rather than sitting in this moment realizing it is a good life. And so I am suffering.

That is excellent. I am so glad I saw that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Today I learned of impending loss. A disappointment. My expectations are not being met. I am feeling sad, frustrated and even guilt.

Even in the face of loss, if I can focus on offering love, nourishment and kindness, even just presence, I can sense a light in my heart. Cheerfulness is so much easier when I focus on what I give.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chaos and Contentment

One thing is certain, life is full of change and that change often feels like chaos.
A week of a dancing carefree spirit and sparkling eyes has transformed to a week of persistent doing and resolve to stay grounded.
The mind has become more animated and critical. And my heart longs for the bliss and stillness of last week.

So where is the peace and contentment in this moment?
I catch it subtly lurking behind the words, "Mom, will you pass the ball with me?" I see it in the shadows of the dog prancing back and forth to the door, looking at me expectantly and the flowers beginning to open in the morning sunshine. In the stillness in my office it whispers as I hear the conversations of coworkers in the hall. The methodical movement of my body softens as I watch others rushing in for their Yoga class, determined to find 'their' spot before it is taken by someone else.

Home is not the sattvic environment of the Himalayan Institute, but this is also my life. This is where I can practice feeling safe in the midst of change and chaos. Home is where I can practice receiving the experience beyond the obvious appearance. I can feel the desire for my attention from those who love me, the courage in the petals opening to the warmth of the sun and the desire to be heard and to help in conversations around me. Even the hurried and determined nature of those grasping for their spot in the Yoga class reveals the desire for healing, for a connection to oneself.

Because some things do not change, there can be contentment, even in the midst of chaos.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

To love, to give and to receive

The week already seems a blur of meaningful moments and yet so much wisdom. I cannot remember all the postures, the sequences, the mantras or the guided pranayamas. I do remember the stability, the stillness, the prana, the grace. I remember relaxing into the joy of the movement. I remember the words as they touched my heart. I remember surrendering. No longer doing a pose, no longer trying to control or obtain a specific result.

As I am writing this, sitting at a cafe in the Toronto airport, a gentleman asked me if I was using a chair. I looked at his averted eyes and with a bright smile, I said, "No." He grabbed the chair and pulled it away. I felt my angry flash. The judgment pressed in my mind. How rude! And then I laughed. What am I afraid of losing? Certainly not the chair! It is my sense of self importance. With my mind turned toward the manner of his behaviour, I am turning away from my own inherent joy. He does not need to reject me, I have already rejected my heart and placed my awareness on my thoughts, rather than on my capacity to love. As I remember, the smile returns and my fingers dance across the keyboard to share this amazing experience with all of you.

The two situations share the same element of safety. In a room of ParaYogis and Yogarupa there is only love and compassion, it is so easy to feel my heart, surrender my fears.

I am the only one who can truly love me.
I am the only one who can truly honour me.
I am the only one responsible to care for me.

To be a teacher who can hold that much space for others, one must be able to hold more space for oneself, for a true teacher embodies what they teach.
Practice, practice, practice.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dancing by the butter

Practice was challenging and definitely ignited tejas. I left the room walking with a new experience of my hips and a spring in my heart. As stood by the butter, my hips needed to move, shifting the weight from one leg to the other. More importantly, my heart was singing. My heart was dancing and I could feel the sparkle in my eyes. I was no longer competing to be a valuable human doing on this planet. I was free from my desire for that. I was just relishing joy.

This morning, more than 24 hours later, still feeling a little lighter than usual, and I can now also feel the edge of the competition returning. And I feel comforted that I have tools to return to the state of clarity. No need to compete, only to be radiant joy.

This is yoga!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

With a little help from my friends....

It's time. Time for me to leave the 'real world' behind and head out on my own adventure.
How lucky am I to experience this so frequently!
How lucky am I to be able to have the support of family and friends to take care of some of the responsibilities I have so I can drop them for a week!
How lucky am I to be able to make the necessary resources to pursue my dreams!
I used to believe I did not have dreams and yet, here I am so happy to be going where I am going and doing what I am doing. Clearly I have a dream and clearly I am manifesting... with a lot of help from my friends.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jealousy being a sign

Using an exercise in "The Artists Way" I am thinking about the people I am jealous of. I would have to say one of the top people would be my ex. He has the capacity to travel anywhere, anytime pretty much. He has what seems to me to be very little responsibility. What does that tell me? I want time and money to do new things. I want others to support me.
That explains why I am also jealous of some of these guys who have worked at the RC. They are off to climb full time. To travel and release all responsibility. They are traveling together as friends and partners.

Kind of tells me I am looking for a little less responsibility and lot more connection. How on earth can that happen?
Maybe responsibility is a state of mind, not an actuality. Perhaps I am making myself responsible for things I do not need to accept. What could I stop being responsible for?

Ahhh... I could stop feeling responsible for others valuing my contribution, company and/or support. That feels a lot lighter. Maybe connecting to myself will make me more available to others. Maybe.
Worth a shot.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Work in Progress

When I was a young teenager, on the cusp of becoming a woman, I was looking for love. I was craving acceptance and I feared rejection. My vision of the world was driven by my external view. It did not matter what my heart said and I am not certain I was able to really listen to it with all the confusion in my head. I was going down the wrong path. I talked to the wrong people, I allowed boys what they wanted in hopes of getting some validation. I was around illicit activity so I wouldn't be rejected. The world felt more desperate than loving.

We are fortunate that society sets us up to leave high school and change our lives in the twenties because that shift forces a shift in who we see, and what we are able to choose. Going to university was not just a great educational choice, it was a fantastic mental health choice. It took me away from the negative influences and introduced me to more positive influences. I still partied, I was still looking for love from outside of me and I was desperately seeking validation... Still, but at least I was looking for it in a group that was less likely to take advantage of me.

By the time the next decade passes, there are many accomplishes and more responsibilities thrust into ones life. You have to eventually pay those university fees, the degree(s) are complete and you really do need to get moving in the real adult world out there whether you have found a partner or not. This is a time when all of that begins to take shape.
Lots of young twenty-something's are heading west to tree plant and then off to climbing adventures in the big badass way that they can. It is what I did at that time too. They will see that chasing those grades doesn't necessarily get boring, but eventually you long for something tangible to ground you. You want a home, a partner, maybe a baby. Mostly you want to be able to not live in the dirt.

By the time you get here, which is where I still am, you realize shit happens and it is not what you want. Life can suck and in a very big way. Maybe you get to stave it off for a few more years or maybe it happens a little before this point, but at some point you begin to look back and see that all that striving and doing hasn't made you feel one little bit safer.
The question is, 'what's next?'
The transforming experience for me was a divorce. It shattered everything I wanted to believe and the burning insecurity of my youth erupted all over me. It was an undeniable statement of "you, Heather, are not enough." At least that was my early interpretation. That was the thought lurking behind wanting to drink it all away and that kept me from keeping meat on my bones.
In this turmoil, a life ring was thrown and I was able to see it and grasp it. I believe we all have a safety switch, a reflex in our hearts and minds that wants to see us through the challenges we are here to meet and move through. It's like finding little Easter eggs on Easter morning, but if you stay curious about what this shit is happening to you, you eventually begin to see there is a possibility in all the painful emotion you are experiencing. It is that moment that the transformation begins and so does your growth.
As I look around me these days, I see so much more of myself, an inner light that I did not really acknowledge before. I am no longer denying myself food in some bizarre attempt to end my feelings of insecurity. I no longer feel the need to drink to soothe my feeling of not being able to do it all, do it perfectly and not break a sweat. And I no longer feel the need to run a marathon, climb V10, and do the most challenging Yoga postures to prove my strength and physical beauty.
Okay so some habits die hard and I occasionally have flashbacks of these things.
But more often I recognize that these feelings low self worth are being crowded out by a realization that everyone has them to some degree. I am more than this small insignificant human doing, I am a part of a much larger organism of life. My interactions with young teenagers, ten year olds and twenty something's impacts their lives in ways I can not even imagine and maybe not even today, maybe the impact comes down the road. Maybe it will be my high bar of expectation that will encourage a life altering choice. Maybe it will be the soft arms of loyalty and acceptance they feel that will remind them how to feel compassion.
Who knows?
I can't determine any of that, except by truly being who I am in as many moments as possible. Rather than trying to be who they want me to be, perhaps the pure raw honesty of being truthful about my own fear, my own sorrow and my joy, will touch someone's heart and that will make all the difference. For both of us.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A little non doing

In a recent attempt to let go of a bad habit, I realized something about this habit. I indulged in the routine of this vice because in doing so there was a little part of me giving permission to no longer be responsible. The reward of the habit was an escape, a moment of peace. Now the joke is, I wasn't really craving the vice, I was craving the feeling of not being the one who had to keep doing, who had to be responsible. BUT I would indulge in the vice and yet still be responsible. That led to frustration and resentment. Disappointment.

Reading this book, "The Power of the Habit," I am beginning to understand a couple of things... recognizing the reward is important. Recognizing the cue, the desire that sparks the craving for the vice is a part of the process and then to find another way to satisfy the reward. This is going to be tough. What do you do when you want to feel like you don't have to be responsible. The very nature of trying to change this habit is a responsibility I am placing on myself.

The book states it, my teacher has said it.... I must cultivate will.
My solution... I will start with something a little more manageable. I will measure and record my success and build on my success, which in turn will build on my will.

Time to do nothing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Confidence, courage and will

It's a Saturday morning and I am relaxing through the hangover of a week of March Break camps. Lots of youth, little and not so little, coming together to learn some stuff, have some fun and, most importantly for the parents, to be kept safe and sound while they (the parents) get to work. All these little lives coming together, many for the first time and many with very different backgrounds. Some happy, loving homes and others no home and violence. And yet all here for the same thing. How does an instructor make it work for all of them at the same time? When I walk into the Yoga studio to teach asana, how can I offer a positive experience for everyone?

It's tough. It's pretty much impossible. Or is it? I think it depends on what you measure.

I just watched Brene Brown, TED talks... the new one on shame.

None of us like to think about it, or talk about our shaem. Some people experience more shame than others. But we all have some. Perhaps if my goal is not to just teach a pose, rather my real goal is to make people feel safe, safe in their shame, then perhaps that is the path to success.

As I reflect on my own experiences with profound teachers, this is what I know. When there is a space to accept who I am as I see myself to be, then I am free to love me. And really that is the only way to continually build my confidence, courage and will. These qualities are the foundation for real change and allowing even more of me to shine.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I just returned from 5 days of study with my teacher, Yogarupa, Rod Stryker. I learn as much studying the texts and the knowledge around Yoga as I do studying myself. Every day in Asana I watched my mind roll through it's vast array of thoughts about how good or not so open my body is. I saw my longing for an assist, my fear of not getting one and what that might mean. And also the fear of receiving an assist and what that may mean. I watched how I engaged with others, pushing my opinion on them or allowing them to force their ideas toward me.

With a return to routine and the busy nature of life, I am sitting back a little and noticing my thoughts around what it means if someone thinks I am right or wrong. Noticing my own judgment of others and the shield that places in front of me. This stance has also allowed me a glimpse also, that I am not the only one wielding the shield.

With just curiosity, without really believing I know already, there is a space for wondering. A space where there is more openness, possibility. It's much less stressful. At the very least this is an incredible gift of Yoga practice.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mining truth

Cereal or oatmeal?
To get up or not to get up?
To go to work with a positive attitude or to go with dread?
Everything is a choice. What makes that choice? Is it from the reactive part of my brain, from habit, or from my memory or from a sense of what I know to be true? Or does it come from a place deeper?
Most time I do not even think about where it comes from. Most of the time the choice is made with a limited degree of consideration. Last summer, I attended a training on discovering what you really want and developing a strategy for heading in the right direction. The doing was left with me. As I have progressed through this process of trying to fulfill my desires, I have become very aware that when I take a moment to witness a less helpful choice, and in that pause, I remember what I really want, then sometimes, I choose differently. Eventually, as I repeat this process, it gets a little easier. Some days, it gets harder again.
I am also very aware, that the choices and the process doesn't end there. It is a choice again to continue to work with the process, or not.

The training? Yoga for Fulfillment. A choice you should consider. ;)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Practicing with the witness

Day one of Sutras and the insights roll over me. Not surprising. This is the nature of training with Rod. Paying attention to my experience. As I go into pose after pose with the intention to witness the experience, I do not only experience the pose, the lengthening of my hamstrings, the opening in the side body, I also experience my thoughts and the emotions arising with them. Only this time there is space - distance as another person said it. It is as if I am a fly on the wall hearing a private conversation. "Why is my side shaking like that? I should be more stable. Maybe I should not have gone in this deep. Aww.. I always push so hard? Why am I so intense?"
Self-rejection, defence, anxiety...
Slowly it comes to me that these thoughts are all seeded with my vikalpas, the wrong thinking I have. I am stewing in ongoing thoughts of defence of my ego and striving for approval. I am striving for love and acceptance and in the process completely and utterly rejecting myself.
A smile creeps onto my face... Why am I taking myself so seriously? All of this is what I am here to learn. Learning to discover how I create my own experience... one of suffering. Obviously suffering can be the only outcome of feelings of rejection and defence.
Sitting in curiosity, in the seat of the witness, there is so much more room to enjoy the show.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The science of Yoga

Why do we get blissed out in Savasana (corpse pose)?

As I mentioned in the previous post, we use the poses in Asana practice to shift the energy of the body. When we do lots of back bends, they have an uplifting effect. When we stand in Mountain pose or any of the Warrior poses, as the name suggests, we cultivate a sense of strength and stability. I remember being asked in the early days of my practice to move into the pose I like the most, and I immediately went to Warrior 2. It was a time in my life with lots of change and movement, a very ragasic time, and this pose helped me to feel stable and grounded, purposeful. Yet, in a room of a dozen people, I was the only one who choose that pose.

As an exercise physiologist, I will take all the fluff out of this and tell you that when you breathe in a rhythmic pattern, you balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, resulting in less stress. Both mountain pose and warrior pose do not involve movement, and thus enable steady smooth breathing. The more we stabilize the breath by focusing on it, the quieter the mind becomes and this results in less interpreting and more receiving or awareness of this moment, directing us toward more sattvic energy expression, a balanced state.

Now you can imagine when a Yoga teacher walks into a room and sees some folks ready for Savasana before you even start and others already forward folding and still others doing twists that s/he has quite a challenge. How does one offer a class to meet each of this participants where they are, and eventually get them all on the same energetic wave length? On one level it is easy... just smooth out their breathing because that will have the greatest impact. Thus beginning with rhythmic movement, whether that is a Sun Salutaion or simply moving the arms up and down on the breath, will begin to bring the inhale and exhale into alignment. Offering poses that provide a solid foundation is the next best step. A sense of balance also has a sense of stability. Thus most teachers will move into standing and grounding poses to cultivate that sense of being grounded, stable. From there, the class will probably be designed to meet the description; if it is a core class, there will be core work. The entire class however, should focus on the flow of the breath. And if breath is not being smoothed out during a Yoga class, then you are not practicing Yoga, you are exercising. Still a healthy choice, just not Yoga.

To sum up, these sanskrit words, tamasic, rajasic and sattwa give name to and simply describe what an exercise physiologist would call the degree of balance or imbalance of the parasympathetic nervous system. The attention on the breath and where it flows in our body, which is different with different poses, draws the Yogis attention to tension and openness in their body. This attention or awareness brings the focus more inward that reactive to the external influences on the senses. This new awareness can result in a new perspective or curiosity about ones body and that is a step on the road to self-realization.

We are all experiencing life differently and there is no one magic Yoga class that suits everyone in the same moment. A power class is great for folks who need to burn up energy before they can get clam. A back bending class is fantastic for someone who has a hard time getting going. A nourish class, longer holds and more opening can be fantastic for someone who is already fatigued and stressed. What class is right for you? Get curious. Start journalling how you feel right before and right after your noon hour class, or your Saturday morning group class. Then pull out your journal and notice how you felt a few hours later. Then ask, did this class have an overall positive effect or a tiring effect. Remember your goal is to learn to cultivate and direct energy! Did you meet that goal of feeling more empowered not just after class but hours later?

Good luck. Shopping around for the right class can be fun!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Step one

There is this funny image roaming it's way around facebook.

I loved this because there is truth in it. Talk to a Yogi and they will eventually drop some very new age lines, like "I must be operating out of my second chakra." Or "It's all love." This gives others the impression of some weird cult practices and yet, they also can see the general calming effect of all that Asana practice, (the poses most folks misunderstand as the breadth of Yoga). But this final image boldly displaying ENERGY really stuck and inspired this description of how I understand what I am learning through Yoga under the guidance of my teacher, Rod Stryker.

We humans are reactive beings. Much like a plant will grow toward sunlight, and like a pet will jump up when they hear you get their food, humans react to our sensory experiences and our interpretation of them. The reaction is how we use our energy. Yoga is about learning how to manage the direction of our energy. By definition, Yoga literally means to join or unite. As we get further along in the practices, we understand this to mean to unite our actions with our inner self; or in other words, to achieve self-realization. By adopting certain tools and practices, and there are many of them, many that do not involve a Yoga mat, we can learn to direct our energy, contain our energy or build our energy. To illustrate this, I will share this experience. Recently I read something that provoked me negatively. I resisted the ideas presented. Sensory input (the words) and my interpretation (the mind) resulted in a reaction - resistance. To resist something means to give our energy to it and, since there was no way to receive energy from this situation, the result would be a net loss of energy. Now I will throw in a little additional note here that interpretation is influenced by my past experience, my attitude in the moment, my energy level.

First step in practicing Yoga then is to become aware in any given moment to what our current energetic state is. Yogi's classify the states as Tamasic, Rajasic and Sattvic. Tamasic is very dull and lethargic, akin to a seed that has not sprouted and yet has potential life. Rajasic energy is the full blooming and growth of the plant. There is movement. Sattvic is quiet stillness; the state where we see the bloom and it is not changing and yet is expressing it's beauty fully. This is the desired state. If you think back a little, I am quite certain you could remember a time when you were fully alive and yet there was a sense of calm and non-doing in the moment. So humans fluctuate between these states and what a Yogi is learning in the initial stages, is to identify their current state and then what tools help them adjust their current state to a state they want.

These states - tamasic, rajasic and sattvic are affected by the foods we eat, the interactions we have with others, the degree of sleep we get, the number of responsibilities we take on and how we perceive all of this. On the Yoga mat practicing these poses, the teacher is often drawing our awareness to the experience in this pose and to our breath. Standing tall in mountain pose, well balanced and the body aligned, chin drawn in, we begin to experience a sense of inner strength and calm, purpose. This inner awareness is the point. It is our interpretation of the pose and our experience that begins to shift our energy, not just the pose itself. The dedicated attention to what our experience is at that moment begins to show us how to see our energetic self. As we continue to practice, we eventually begin to see how a particular pose can influence our mood, or emotions. We begin to understand things happen and we have choice with how we respond.

But that is only the beginning.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

You simply cannot fail.

"Giving your power away is what hurts you."
"There is nothing more powerful than a woman with an open heart."

Power is our sense of self-worth, it is shakti and shraddha for us Yogis. Not self-esteem, that contrived idea of ourself, rather our self-worth. Self-worth is the faith (shraddha) we have that we are really something special and the spark of living that draws the next breath in and expels the last one, (shakti). For as many years as I can remember, I have believed there is 'a little God in all of us.' This self-worth is this God. It is the innate sense that I must be magical and good; that I must have some divine reason for existing that adds to this amazing world.

I have suffered loss in my life and I cried a good many tears, held on tight with a load of fear. My power seeping away to what I believed the loss meant, not to what my heart knew to be true. I was buying into a story I had told myself about why people leave us. A story about how perhaps I was not good enough. A story handed down to me by classmates who made fun of my skinny body and under developed breasts. A story about who I am with this person, after all, aren't I that person's daughter, sister, student, teacher, mother, partner... who am I if I am not that?

So why would I ignore that God within me and buy into someone else's God, a God that believes you are not worth loving unless you have big breasts? Or a God that doesn't believe I exist without that other person, job, success? Because it is me who believes that others must know more than I do. I am taught that as a toddler learning to stay on solid ground, in sight that the world is scary and I cannot make it without others. I am taught that in a school classroom when a teacher tells me she is right and I am wrong and I must follow her rules. I begin looking for the teacher and protector everywhere. I begin to believe I cannot make it on my own.

It has been through Yoga, a process of learning to listen to my own body in asana, my own mind in meditation, my own breath in pranayama that I have learned I do have an inner teacher, a God within. It has required courage to listen to my inner light, spirit, intuition, you pick the name... and to test my inner power. Following my heart and letting my son speak with love of his new step siblings, to congratulate my ex on his new wife, to watch my family as we confront our own loss and shifting roles. But having faith that I will still breathe no matter what. Sometimes you have to fall down (really hard) to discover just how all powerful you can be. And from this place, your heart can courageously open to the stories we hide behind to feel safe. The rules we create to have some sense of ground and truth. From this place you cannot fail, "you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."- Christopher Robin.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Very first thing...

"The very first thing, you must learn to love yourself." Swami Rama

This is a love that is unconditional.
This is a love that comes from ones heart, not from adoration or acceptance from others.
This is a love that means you are never lonely.
This is a love that comes when we surrender to who we are.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What if...

Today I played with my little friend. We used her scarf and made a hat, then we made a blindfold. It was funny to use a scarf as a hat. It was funny to put our coat on backwards. It was funny because even a two year old understands a coat goes on a right way, not a wrong way. Do we really get that locked into our ideas at that young an age? What thing could I remain really curious about? I wonder what things I have taken for granted today as 'knowing' rather than questioning whether it is true?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Trust in action, not outcome

What seems like ages ago, I asked, "What is faith?"
The response, "It will come."
This week as I parried with the idea of following a desire, I decided to just trust that if it is meant to be it will be. If it is not, then that is what is meant to be. And in either case it is what is best for me.
I still acted, requested, took the necessary steps, but I let go of the outcome. I let go of what had to happen and just held onto what I felt I should do.
It felt good.
Perhaps this is a momentary state of faith and grace. Perhaps I will learn to practice this daily, with all the people and aspects in my life.
Actually, if I manage to let go and trust, or not, perhaps that will be what is best. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Finding the zone

There are a vast array of experiences I have had in rock climbing with years of pursuing the next level, again and again. Always in search of that moment - No, not the moment of success. The moment is when everything drops away and I am fully present in the experience. The moment of no thinking, no fear, no anxiety or anticipation, the moment of clarity.

As a settled in mom of a busy 10 year old, I have few opportunities to experience this in climbing. Fortunately, the experience is not dependent on the activity, rather it is dependent on a process of letting go and trusting. This is something I found in Yoga. Watch the following video of a Master explaining what Yoga is really all about. Thank you Rod, I am so blessed for this guiding presence in my life.

"It is something that is alive. The power of potential in each of us."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Discipline or attachment

Practice in Yoga can be hard. You hear about all the rules. Real Yogis eat an Ayrevedic diet, they do not consume intoxicants, they do asana and meditate, a little pranayama and most importantly practice ahimsa, non harming. All of that requires a great deal of work to integrate into a Western lifestyle where pleasure seeking and instant gratification are on the menu. So recently I have been having thoughts about whether I am a good enough Yogi. That means I was creating a comparison sheet of my lifestyle to those other Yogis I know. Then real help came. I was reading a Tantra book and it described how some Yogis attach to the idea of being pure. This was me! I was attaching to the idea that There is either following the rules and that being good or not following the rules and that being bad. I attached to the idea that if I wasn't disciplined, I wasn't good enough. And yet the whole point of any practice is to learn non attachment. To allow the flow of life and our own actions and in that we become free. Now... I do recognize that the point of discipline initially is to teach the benefits of not numbing out or pleasure seeking. All of these practices, the meditation, the asana and the proper food and rest, have been necessary to getting clear enough, open enough, to hear the heart and to learn to listen. It is from this place, I can discern what is non harming for myself and others more readily. The idea that my heart knows what is best for me... Hmmmm... There is freedom.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beyond frustration

Frustrated. It has been one of those days with the feeling there is much to be doing and yet somehow nothing gets started because I just do not know where to start. Perhaps that means there is nothing to be done, yet. Perhaps that means the first step is to become clear.

But I find myself waiting for answers. Not being present, waiting for the emails, waiting for the phone call. Perhaps that means I am not making decisions from a place of discernment, rather from a place of reaction to the calls. True. Thus leaving myself powerless. Ahhhh... yes, that is the feeling behind frustration.

So I just need to do what feels right for me, and in that, I trust I will chose the action that is supportive and beneficial to myself and others.

Friday, January 6, 2012

More seeing

Two things came to my mind at the same time. The first a comment from my yoga teacher and the second my confused thoughts about work. The first was a simple comment that was made 30 minutes after I sauntered into an amazing practice room at Prana Del Mar in Baja. With 12 hours of travel already logged that day, my mind was receiving, not processing much as I found a seat for this 5 day Kundalini adventure.

"Will you continue to practice (Yoga methodologies) for pain management or do you long for something more?"

Then my mind rolled around the challenges in my life right now. I could immediately sense the struggle... and this thought, "but how can I maintain my life, the life of my child and pursue that connection?" The defence, "I can't make more room for this! I am already so busy."

There was the answer. I do want more than pain management.
Then came a feeling of relief. There is no need to strive. I will just apply as much effort and discipline as I can on what I know will be a long and sustained adventure... but I can only ever make this journey, one step at a time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Girl Talk

I had the pleasure of re-running memories of a friendship that supported me in what was an incredibly challenging time in my life. As I recalled the so many girl talks, I could see my animated confusion and the well known face of my girl friend I could not remember what was said, rather I remembered how it made me feel... Safe.

We all just want to feel safe, especially when we don't. When the the rug is pulled from under us, we just want to get the ground safely back under our feet. And yet this is the perfect moment to learn to fly.

For some of us flying is too big, we just want safety. Someone I love is in just such a place. The rug is gone and they don't want to fly. How can I help? I just want them to fly. But I am not them and this is their fall.

Compassion. My heart stills and I go to the place I believe they must be. I can see I have been here too, feelings of fear and sadness, with no ability to change what is. Perhaps in some way I am still in this place. I smile. Tears fill my eyes and love for them blossoms in my heart.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Walking on the Wild Side

The sun shone through the clouds creating windows of bright orange and red light across the granite rocks. Fynn and Tour run ahead. I am taking my time, contemplating what V7 I would want to climb. Why am I resisting climbing something here in NS? There is that one at Chebucto, close to home, not really needing a spotter. Who could I ask to be a climbing partner? No, spotter? What is this tension about? Hmmm.... Is that the problem with climbing, the resistance? Is it that I do not want to have to trust anyone? YES.
Makes sense, everyone I have trusted as a climbing partner has let me down. Whew.... well, everyone I have trusted and been intimately involved with. Huh... Didn't see that coming.

Doing V7 just got harder.

Definitely afraid to trust people. Wait. My heart speaks, urging me to see all that I have gained from that trust and then broken trust. All the climbing adventures, writing, training, five years of travel, a marriage, a child, so many amazing friends. All possible because I allowed myself to trust. And with the broken trust, I picked myself up and grew even more. I learned to trust my own capacity to love, to be open, in the face of great loss.

Would I still want this goal if nothing but the pure act of climbing existed?
Climbing just two people, sunshine, cool rock, no responsibilities, distractions. Just a challenge, an adventure to explore. Just moving, sharing how to make the body fit the sequence.
So really, the goal is to share a project with a friend.