Thursday, December 30, 2010

love letter to 2010

Dear 2010,

You have rocked my world. I really think that you have presented me with my all time, most favorite year in my 33.5 years. I know, that's big. BIG.

I don't even know where to start, at the beginning perhaps? Sure, let's do this thing. First of all, the talented and driven yoga teacher trainees (who are now teachers!) that I journeyed with for six months. They totally inspired me in numerous ways. They inspired me to be a real student again. A student of Ayurveda. They were undeniably dedicated to the rigorous process of becoming a teacher. They did the work (for real). And more students from this group then any before actually did all their work and became registered with Yoga Alliance. I had coffee with one of them today. I can't believe it's only been six months ago. They all seem like they've always been teachers now. Total delight they are.

I was a lucky participant in happy happy travels this year.....Travel fills my heart and soul in ways that's hard to express. Thank you so much for helping me to spread my wings and literally, soar through the air. I am forever grateful. Even today when I get on a place, I pinch myself cause I truly feel so lucky. I tell Andy that if I didn't travel my soul would wither up and die. I think it might be true.

Speaking of travel I spent six whole weeks in Mexico! I know, I still can't believe it. AND I go to share Tulum, my spiritual home with my Momma and Andy. I met fabulous people from across the US in July for my 4th annual retreat at Maya Tulum. I had people join me from four countries in Tulum in October. The teacher training is Tulum was the most significant event for me this year. I still can't believe I was there. With those people. Working through the process.

Barefoot Works, the yoga tree house. Could it be any more perfect? I still walk into the space, look around with wide eyes and feel unbelievably lucky to call it mine. I feel blessed to have a team of talented teachers that gives so much to the students. Last night I lay in bed (in the cocoon) and read a Christmas letter from a teacher, not just a card, but a whole letter. It brought happy tears to my eyes. I have students that come to class, each week, each month, season by season....they show up and do the work. They inspire me to want to become a better yoga student and a better teacher. It's truly a community of soul. When I think about this world of yoga created around me, I feel giddy.

I took three local retreats in the area. One at the beginning of the year to craft and collage my intentions for the year, a work retreat in June for Mexico training materials, and a recent three day silent retreat. Retreat, retreat, retreat...I do love you so.

This was the year I gave myself full permission to all inclusive of all of my parts and pieces. With the help of Grace I've become familiar with the wise one, the dancing one, the poor Appalachian, the dreamer, the rebel, the stubborn bull, the tree hugger, and so on. I love all of them. They each have a place in my heart and bring their strengths (and weaknesses too) to the table.

Speaking of tables, Ayurveda has inspired me to make cooking a higher priority. I'm having so much fun getting cookbooks from the library and cooking up yumminess. I love my near daily green juices. They make me dancey. I've even taken to making Andy's lunch. That's a first in nearly 10 years of marriage. I did two cleanses this year, one in the spring and one in the fall. I do appreciate a good cleanse.

The Big Blue House received some love this year. I fancied up our bedroom at the beginning of the year. Right now during the cold winter months, the bedroom has become my sacred space. Andy and I refer it to the "cocoon" and I find my way there early in the night and slumber there into the morning with books spread on the bed, hot tea next to me, and pinktop on lap. And snoring dogs on the floor. We got the Big Blue a fancy new roof recently too.

Heartache and hurt. Not everything has been good 2010. I've had to sit by and watch people that I love hurt in numerous ways. I feel deeply as it is. My heart has been a tender mess much of the year. I've shed many tears, cursed people aloud, said and sang prayers, offered advice, hoping that those I love would be spared of suffering. I stood at the bottom of a hospital bed holding my unconscious Daddy's feet, feeling helpless. Pain. Pain. Pain. Lots of hurt.

This summer while I was away in Mexico a dear student of mine suddenly and tragically passed away. This was harder on me than I could have imagined. It still aches to think about it. She was here, then suddenly gone. I think of her often and still sense her presence in my life. Her friend taught me a valuable lesson when she said in reference to their friendship, "I'll never waste time being reserved with a friend again. L and I wasted a lot of time in the beginning being reserved." Give of your heart. Always.

More hurt when I learned people were saying hurtful things about my baby (Barefoot Works, of course). I won't say more other than it sucks when you realize business is business, even if it's yoga business. Yogis too have their issues.

I've made decisions that weren't great in hindsight. There were times I worked too much, said the wrong thing, and regretted not saying anything at all.

But still, I wouldn't change a thing. I truly trust you. I trust that everything that happened has happened for a reason.

From the bottom of my heart...
I thank you for letting me soar through the sky.
I thank you for bringing me exactly the students that I need to teach and learn from.
I thank you for bringing me to my knees in pain.
I thank you letting me howl at the moon in Mexico.
I think you for a yoga community that gets it.
I thank you for a family that isn't perfect. But perfect for me.
I thank you for a husband that believes in my and my dreams.
I thank you for the beauty, the magic, and the mystery that you are.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the moment i freaked out

"Yoga and writing demand that I stay with what's true and what's present, however painful it may be - the sticky joint, the breaking heart, the ragged, unacceptable, truth that needs to be spoken. To stay with it, but also to know that what's true changes moment to moment, breath by breath. And that in the very act of noting it, I transform it further." ~Ann Cushman

There is a lot that speaks to me from this passage. The part that I'll focus on is the idea of what's true can (and does) change moment to moment. This has been something I've struggled with, especially the latter part of the year.

One of the biggest "things"/aha's, learning experiences from this year was my decision to cancel yoga teacher training for Lexington this January. That one was a toughie. The very moment that I truly realized that I just wasn't excited about it was the moment I got scared.

I was sitting with a few of the teachers and we were having lunch together and talking about the training. We were discussing ways of promoting the training. One teachers turns to me and asks, "First off, on a scale from 1-10 how excited are you about the training." I sat for just a moment, and replied "Five". Even I was surprised by my answer. Now I know that I was being liberal in my answer. Another teacher responds, "Wow, thanks for being so honest."

And that my friend was the moment I freaked. Yep, it freaked me out. I had so strongly attached myself to the "thing". Ever since I did my very first training, I fell madly in love with it. I love the process. I love the students. I love the material. Love. Love. Love. I know that when I lead this training I give so very much to my students, leaving everything on the mat. I'm humble about most things and don't toot my own horn about much stuff. But with this training, we totally rock it. I would put our curriculum up against any one's and feel confident.

"Leading yoga teacher training is the thing I love most about my job." I've said it over and over through the years. It had become like a label that I wore. I was definitely attached to it. Uh, oh. The wise sages thousands of years could have predicted suffering of some sort on my end. They were correct.

Now here I was not even excited about it. Over the course of the year something had shifted. How could that be? I asked myself over and over. I got some insight and I continue to get more. Insight comes as maybe you were doing much, maybe you shouldn't have left it all on the mat, you weren't strategic (fancy word for not being very smart) in planning, and so on.

But it's been within the last week that I think I've finally really gotten it. I needed space to be. I needed space to allow things to unfold. I need space to discover the other parts of me. Something had to die in order for something to be born. The lines of my personal and professional purpose are so blurry. I've been honest on this blog in the past about how I strive for balance in work, home, and family. It's never been easy for me. I have such passion for what I do I can easily let it consume me, which is what I've done (again) this year.

So I'm taking a six month sabbatical from yoga teacher training. I need to figure out who I am other than a yoga teacher. I do have a hope for the studio for this time. My vision is to come back to my sweet and loyal students that come to class, over and over, to teach in a way that inspires and elevates them/you. And we've got a plan for that. It's gonna be a fun year.

Personally, I want to dig out my fancy pants Canon Rebel camera and get back to taking pictures. Something that has brought me such joy in the past that I haven't made time for. I want to go home and see my parents and family more. I want to hear and record their stories. I want to learn from them. I want to go to Owensboro more and spend time with The Tessandoris. I want to spend more time with my nieces and nephew during this time that they need love. I want to connect with two cute little boys in Texas. Take daytrips around KY with BFF. I want to be with Andy and take hikes through the woods and walk the dogs in the cemetery. I want to take a writing class at The Carnegie Center. I want to live in a decluttered, cozy Big Blue House. I want to cook and have more friends over. I want to read poetry. Every day shall be a Rumi lovefest.

And speaking of Rumi.....
"Come for the best of days,
For a festival of roses,
For what only gets better.
Come raise a joyful noise,
For we have discovered the friend, beloved, and guide.
What else is there in the world like this?
This deliciousness spilling
everywhere and the roar of invisible oceans."

I'm truly hoping that you too are taking the time to ponder the moments of joy, sorrow, and freak from the year. Not that this is the only time you reflectt, but to really give yourself time to learn from your year. I think that's the key, not just reliving the year, but continuing to ask questions around the joy and sorrow to learn the lesson. I believe so stronly in this. Cause we all know, until we truly get the message/lesson from the just keeps repeating itself. Ahh universe, you are wise. You are a magical mystery to me. :)

Ps - Photo from Jen's blog.

Monday, December 27, 2010

my first tango with tofu

First off, Monday Monday Monday....I love you. Before I tangoed with tofu I had a really delicious day. It is Monday, which means "I refuse to do ______(insert word/task/chore/job) unless doing so makes me smile. Monday also means "I refuse to drive day." Unless of course, in doing so I smile.

Luckily I love my Ayurveda course so I was happy to review notes and textbook for the chat with my teacher tomorrow. This module has been Ayurvedic psychology. I loved psychology in college. I love Ayurvedic psychology even more.

Working today brought me great joy, because I'm getting to immerse myself in creating a bunch of awesome-ness as we kick off the themes at the studio starting in January. {If you are on the email list you should have gotten a note this morning. If not, it's below.} I even wrote (a rough draft) my very first guided visualization. That was pretty fun. Also worked on mudras and a pose for each mostly theme. See I told ya. Fun stuff.

Today's Monday also included a short drive to the coffee shop and library. I worked and played at each.

Now to my tango with tofu.....

I've been vegetarian for over five years now and this is my very first attempt at doing something (I guess cooking) with tofu. I'll happily get tofu at restaurants, but when it came to making a dish, I was sorta at a loss. I've bought it a few times only to have it sit in the fridge for months only to end of being thrown away.

I was perusing through Vegan with a Vengeance at the library and saw a lil section about tofu. I recalled that a had a block of tofu at home. I knew what was for dinner.

I bring said book home (along with The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore). Remove said tofu from the fridge. Turn on Beyonce and begin to tango. I know, totally wrong music, but....

So the tofu, it is quite a process. First off I needed to get rid of the excess water in the tofu. This is key. Even though I've never made it, I've heard and read numerous times. I put the block of tofu (which now I totally understand why Andy says, "It's like sponge.") between a clean hand towel. I needed to weigh it down. So what do I do....grlb a cast iron skillet and kay it atop the tofu. Decide I need more weight, grab the closest things on my kitchen island which is a binder, my pinktop (netbook), and the three books from the library. I carefully stack them. Perfect I think.

Until I hear them all crashing to the tile floor a few minutes later. Uh oh, I think and hope the cast iron skillet didn't land on the pinktop. Pinktop seems to be ok, with the exception of a cracked corner.

After sixty minutes of weighing the tofu, it should be good to go. I combine a recipe from Barb Napiers cookbook (from Snug Hollow) and a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance to make BBQ Tofu. A make a little sauce to marinate the tofu. This takes another thirty minutes.

I then bake the tofu for thirty minutes (15 minutes each side). While this is baking I prepare the bbq sauce (saute oil, onion, and garlic). Instead of making the bbq sauce from scratch I use some we already have.

With said sauce finished I pour it atop the tofu. Then guess what? Yep, back to the oven to bake some more.

Finally finished I have the tofu with (vegan) cheesy new potatoes. I admit the tofu tastes quite good. I was pleased with my first tango with tofu (ok last time I say that, promise ;)

However, it was quite the process. I imagine there is a more simple way and perhaps I may discover it sometime. Also, I don't imagine Andy will be eating my tofu as he's tasted it several times when I've had it out and does not love it. Or like it. At all.

But all in all, a wonderful day of working, playing, and cooking.

what's your vision for 2011

Greetings Friends! This is a long letter, so bear with me. There is some really important information to follow.

For as long as I can remember I've always wanted "to help people". In high school when I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, that was all I got. In college, it was the same thing. I knew I didn't want to work in the healthcare setting. I thought about psychology. I loved philosophy, but what did one do with a philosophy degree? I eventually landed on Recreation & Park Administration. I could help people by administering their recreation. I was so intent that I stayed in college and went on to receive my Master's degree in Recreation & Park Administration. I wanted to be really good at planning and supervising the pursuit of play.

I helped people for the four years that I worked in City Parks and Recreation in Texas. I was good at my job. I loved the people I worked for and with. I didn't dread going to work everyday. But something started to shift for me. There were many life events happening that were forcing me to look at myself in ways I never had. I was changing, growing in ways that were new and uncomfortable. It was during this time that I really connected with the yoga practice. Each hour I spent on the yoga mat saved me a little more. My body, mind, and heart were opening in new and profound ways.

So why did I quit my job, sell my house, and move to back to Kentucky (thankfully I have a supportive husband)? Because I literally felt like I was being called to something greater. In my young and impressionable twenty's I created a vision for myself. A vision that included living life on my terms, choosing my path, sharing yoga, exploring life with hope and curiosity. And yes, helping people. That's how Barefoot Works was born.

That was over six years ago. Now I'm being called to a higher vision. I've said it numerous times that the yoga poses we practice in class are just a tiny part of the practice. There is much more to this ancient and wise system. Practical tools that continue to amaze me. Tools that I've used throughout the years that have assisted me in most every area of my life.

Where is all this leading? A few weeks ago I spoke in great honesty about the idea of something dying in order to give birth to something new. I am birthing a new vision for myself and Barefoot Works for 2011. Each week I have students confide to me in person and through email. Backache, heartbreak, no energy, feeling anxious and uninspired. You have questions. While I don't have all the answers, I do have some. I am confident that one can find their way to greater joy by tapping into the wisdom of yoga.

Together with group classes, workshops, tools, blogging, and more we'll work to create balance, harmony, and happiness for all of you. Meaning the physical, mental/emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

As the leader of Barefoot Works I will provide all of you with tools, systems, and strategies to support your growth and transformation throughout the year. It's simple. Twelve months. Twelve themes. Why twelve months? Because neither thoughts, actions, beliefs, nor bodies change overnight. It takes time. Why one month per theme? Research shows that it takes at least 21 days of practice to create a habit, a practice, a pattern. Why themes? These themes will challenge each of us as teachers to take our teaching to a whole new place. The themes will be a common thread (sutra) that run through each of our classes. For you the benefit is going deeper into your yoga practice. Every thing about your practice will be elevated.

You come to your fave classes, enjoy your fave teachers, get a great physical practice and learn how to take your practice to the next level. Nothing will be taken away, you will be getting more. If you love what you're learning and want to know more there will be a workshop each month. It's totally optional. What you practice and learn in class will elevate you to a whole new level. The workshops will rock your yoga world.

Over the course of the next week we'll have an additional page on our website where you can find information about this transformative year. In addition to information on the website and in classes, I'll be blogging one day a week on the theme of the month. I have other ideas too, as this is just the beginning. I'm so very excited and I hope you're feeling energized too.

What better theme to begin with but our hopes and dreams for the year? What might your vision for 2011 offer? What is important to you? What values do you choose to live by? I'm looking forward to exploring this with you. If you are feeling that you want to move through your year with passion and purpose then please consider joining me for the daylong retreat Resolve to Evolve. You can find details (and register) here.

Don't wait, space is limited and last year this event sold out. And to help everybody out, I've extended the early registration date.

Looking forward to sharing this magical year with all of you. I welcome your ideas and suggestions about how we can support you.

Can't wait to dive into the New Year with each of you!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ramblings & randomness

{Warning: This post has no particular theme. Just randomness}

I've been away from the blog all week. Seems that I blinked and not only is it the end of the week, but it's the end of the year. How the heck did that happen?

I'm sitting here at the Big Blue House, all ready for Christmas with the Tessandoris. There is a fire in the fireplace (so what if it's gas logs), a cozy blanket on my lap, sleeping dogs, and a green juice by my side. I've been back on a sugar kick, hoping that my daily green juices counter all the sugar. ;)

I just finished an online yoga class with Elena Brower. She shared something that a cardiologist friend of hers shared with her, which is...

"Don't give your heart to everything. Take everything into your heart."

Elena shared her thoughts on this and it's really intriguing me. Pondering how at first glance it may seen like taking every one's burdens on, or how we can take on every one's problems and crap and make it our own. But Elena was sharing from a place in which is wasn't a heavy thing. Explaining that we could use it in such a way that it becomes healing and nourishing. She also made references to Kali which I really appreciated. Nothing like a good ass kickin' from Kali.

I'm thinkin' also that it a fabulous thought in general. But not thinking this is a practice or concept that would be accessible to all. Not sure that someone with serious physical, mental, or emotional problems would need to "take everything into your heart."

Also, here are some delights from my week:

Yummy delicious holiday lunch with BW's teachers at Bella Notte. We are cooking up some pretty fabulous things for 2011. I've been busy as a bee working over the last couple of weeks (one reason I've been blog-less)

Fun times with my sis and family. Monday night was an impromptu gathering. I went out at bought stuff to make pizzas and my sis brought drinks and dessert. I had plain white gift wrapping paper on the kitchen table along with lot of markers and color pencils. We baked, they went to town creating a masterpiece, we ate pizza, way to much pie, and the kids were all hopped up on sugar so they danced, hopped, and sang. Wow, the energy. It was actually really good for me. A little noise and ruckus after the silent retreat.

Teaching at the studio on Tuesday, two classes back to back, which was super awesome. It wasn't until I got home after 9:00 and working over 12 hours that I realized I use to do that every week, a few times a week. Always love to sub that Tuesday 7:15 class. But also happy to have amazing teacher to help me share the yoga love.

Wednesday (today) I got to spend half the day with niece and nephew. We dined on bagels at Panera then I took them to the most wonderful place of all....the bookstore. Which they honestly love just as much as I do. We left with new books for them, and two new yoga mags for me. Happy morning.

I've also been playing a yoga elf over the past few weeks. It's been fun chatting with people near and far about "the perfect" yoga package for their loved one. Yoga for Christmas? I mean really, is that not the best gift ever? Ok, so maybe I'm a tiny bit bias.

A wonderful chat over the phone with one of my fave people of all, my brother Joel. For some reason it has been a couple of weeks since we've talked. And he just makes me happy. We've taken some type of trip together the past two years (Mexico one year, Kripalu the next). So I told him we would have to think about what to do this year.

Connecting with a dear, dear friend from many, many years ago. Facebook has been really amazing in some ways. Bringing me and my old pal together after about 15 years. I can't wait!

Andy Andy Andy. My husband. I get to see tomorrow in Owensboro. So yay....

That's all my yoga pals. If I haven't said so in a while, I appreciate you in whatever form I know you.

I bow to all of you...the students, the teachers, the friends, the family, and you blog readers. May you be blessed with peace, happiness, love, and all things good this holiday season.

{The studio is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day}

Friday, December 17, 2010

more silent retreat

{Notes from my journal}

What a treat it is to be here. This place and this moment couldn't be any more perfect. I woke at 7:00 and till 7:30 I lay in my bed all cozy underneath the covers and watch as it grows light outside. I am reminded of how much longer it takes for the light of a new day to reach those of us nestled in the woods, in the hills. It's a familiar feeling of home.

Slowly the trees that I've become familiar with over the two days reveal themselves to me one by one. Each taking their rightful place, each owning their own space. No two are alike. Some tall, some short, old and young. I am in awe of all of you.

I get out of bed and make my way to my yoga mat for meditation. I sit at the edge of a blanket that I've brought from home. I take the afghan blanket from the bed and wrap it around my shoulders. I am delighted to see it's large enough to cover my lap. It's the small things in life, right?

I rest my hands, palms turned down on my knees. I close my eyes and count ten slow, conscious breaths. I am comforted by the sound of my inhale and exhale and the peaceful easy way of breathing this morning. I turn my awareness to my mind and begin to ask the three soul questions:

Who am I?
What do I want?
What is my purpose?

With each question I start at the surface level and slowly draw myself more inward. Today I am a part of the divine spark of life. I want to live my life with passion and purpose. My purpose is sharing my heart through the teachings of yoga and inspiring reverence for all of life. Then I let it all go.

I come to my mantra (repetition of a sanskrit phrase) and together we sit in silence for the next thirty minutes.


Gazing out the window I can't help but stare at what unfolds before me for it is the perfect play put on by mother nature herself. I just saw three deer hopping through the brush and the bramble. I wonder if it's the same three I saw yesterday grazing in front of my cabin. I think it is. The white of the snow is also making it easy for me to identify the lil creatures that would usually be blending in with the trees, shrubs, and fallen leaves on the ground. I watch the squirrels and the birds with equal delight.

I feel the simplicity, the inner contentment that comes from being here and watching the world outside. I wonder how much I miss when I'm living in my head, planning for the future, and waiting for the next "thing" to occur. For sitting here in this sweet little cabin in the woods, drinking hot tea, watching the snow fall and writing is restoring and replenishing my heart and soul in a way that's surprising to me.

Two days into silence and I'm feeling a shift. Two days ago sitting and watching how the light changes in the woods seemed like a big stretch for me. Now I can think of no other way I'd rather be spending my time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

quotes & passages from retreat

While I was reading while retreating,if something struck me if I would stop and spend a few minutes writing the passage then commenting on it. Here are a few of the passages I read, hoping they inspire you in some small way as they did me.

"Simplicity means having a clear focus on the one necessary thing, an undivided heart." ~Elaine Prevallet (Elaine wrote a small book titled Reflections on Simplicity. She lives at Cedars of Peace)

"When I am liberated by silence, when I am no longer involved in the measurement of life, but in the living of it, my whole life becomes a prayer." ~Thomas Merton

"It in not silent here. But there is stillness. The essence of that spiritual source we humans try foolishly to name." ~Visitor at Simplicity

On talking, "The watching or knowing place in me is in a position that doesn't correspond with the position represented by my word. I am not in my word. The word is empty of my presence, my truth. If, for the word to be whole, to have integrity, in must contain my inner truth." ~Elaine Prevallet

"Poets must read and study, but they must learn to tilt and whisper, shout or dance, each in his or her own way, or we might as well copy the old books. But no, that would never do, for always the new self swimming around in the old world feels itself uniquely verbal. And that is just the point; how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question and the one the world throws at you every morning, "Here you are alive. Would you like to make a comment?" ~Mary Oliver in Long Life

thursday - december 16 classes

Good Afternoon Friends,

Evening classes are also cancelled. It's never fun making these decisions. I asked BFF to do it for me and she refused, saying something about that's what happens when you're the one in charge. Pfffft, whatever. ;)

I must say that the snow, ice, rain, and a power outage had me feeling less than enthused about this day. But then I heard the only thing that seemed to bring a smile to my face....Willie Nelson singing Frosty the Snowman. So I shall suck it up and be ok with the fact that we've had workshop and class cancellations,I have to pick my way through the ice to get into my car, that I went to the grocery store, came home, unloaded the groceries and the power went off. Grumble, grumble, grumble....

Then I see my note just below me here from this morning. I will follow my own directions. Do a tiny bit of yoga, connect to my breath, and again choose gratitude.

Take some yoga breaks throughout your a seated twist from your chair, seated cat/cow, stand up and reach for the sky, bend side to side, take five slow conscious breaths, appreciate your body, silently say namaste to someone, and choose gratitude.

Be safe & stay warm. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

silent retreat schedule

One of the questions I've gotten most about my silent retreat is, "What did you do all day?" I'm actually both surprised by how little, yet how much I did. I really didn't feel like I got bored. I didn't feel like I was reaching, grasping for things to do.

What I do see now that I've been back for two days is it took some adjusting for me just "to be". To be without a goal. To be without an agenda. To be, without being productive.

In looking back at my journal I can see how I was dealing with that on Saturday while retreating. While I wasn't working, there was probably still a part of me in work mode. One example....I recorded everything I did on Saturday.

This is how it goes:
7:00 Wake, lay in bed, and watch is grow light outside.
8:15 Make hot tea, write in journal
9:00 Meditate
10:00 Drink a green juice, sit in the rocker, and watch outside
10:45 Yoga
12:00 Abhyanga (self massage), shower
12:45 Lunch
1:30 Start to walk labyrinth but it starts to rain, go to chapel, then the common area. I get a book by Mary Oliver, Long Life
2:30 Start a fire, sit in front of fire for meditation
3:30 Reflect and write about end of the year questions
4:15 Make hot chocolate and read Mary Oliver
5:15 Yin Yoga
6:30 Dinner
7:00 Read & write
8:00 Meditation

I look at this list and it looks like sooo much! But then I read back over and it pretty much includes: eating, mediation, yoga, reading, writing, and watching.

But I was on some kind of task. Part of me wanted to record so I could come back and see what I did later on. Part of me wanted to record so I could share here on the blog. So, some part of me was connected.

Which I'm ok with. Interestingly enough I didn't make any more notes, didn't record my play by play actions any other day. I think Friday when I arrived I was excited about my retreat. Saturday was my first full day of silence and I probably had a harder time this day unplugging from everything.

Surprising even to me on Sunday when I woke, sat, drank hot tea, and watched outside I thought to myself "I can't believe I only have one more day." Then I see the three deer grazing outside my cabin about fifteen feet, and at that time observing them was the most important on my agenda.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

beginnings of a retreat

{Notes from my journal as I leave home & begin my silent retreat}

It's cold today so I go out and warm the car, turning the dial to high heat. I go back inside and gather the few things I'll take with me for my three days of silence. A bag of food, a small bag with a change of clothes and toiletries, and a backpack with a couple of notebooks and books. I chose the books carefully. It would have been easy for me to stuff numerous good reads into the bag. Instead I chose a book of poetry by Hafiz, a book of Yoga Sutras, and a book with writing prompts.

Andy walks me to the car. I ask him once more if he's clear on the "rules". "You call me if there is a dire emergency. I call you if I'm on the brink of going crazy" I say to him. "I'll text you later", he replies. I give him the look that says otherwise. We both laugh. Thirteen years together has taught us a few things about one another.

In the car I make two last calls, one to my sister and one to my BFF before officially beginning silence. Turning off my phone, I hold down the red button, realizing that rarely do I do this. Just me and my thoughts from here on out. Not even Taylor (yes as in Swift...I admit I'm a fan) sings to me.

The drive through the countryside is beautiful. A blanket of snow remains in the woods. Horses are standing in the fields, cows nuzzling by the hay. I drive over the Kentucky River and see a flock of birds sailing through the air. I make a mental note that never would I have seen them had I been on the phone, jamming with Taylor, or checking the latest Facebook update.

I turn onto the road that leads me to Loretto. It's a smaller country road with a creek that runs to my left. On the other side of the creek are the woods. The sun is shining through the trees and creating the most interesting flickers of light on my left eye. I'm astonished by how much more aware I am. And yet I haven't even arrived to my cabin in the woods, appropriately called Simplicity.

Driving onto the gravel road that leads me to my cabin I immediately feel at home. The sounds of the car tires on the gravel feel comfortable and familiar. Third cabin to the right S had told me in the email. I pass Hope, then Namaste and pull into the shed when I see sweet Simplicity.

It feels good. I get a flutter of excitement as I walk down the short path to my cabin. I open the door and I'm immediately happy. And relieved too. For what I see is the coziest of cabins. Plus a handwritten welcoming note from S. A small twin bed sits in the corner. A quilt and an afghan make the perfect spot to rest. On the mosaic wood floor lies a braided rug. There is a rocking chair and a small side table to it's left. A wood stove in aother corner, one that I'll use as the weather is calling for snow this weekend.

For a moment I sit in the chair, gaze out the large window into the woods. It's just after noon, the sun is sitting high in the sky, shining through the trees. This cabin has everything I could possibly need for my time and purpose here. I sit and soak it all in. The silence. The sights. The sounds. The general sweetness of Simplicity. I decide there is no place I'd rather be.

{On other retreat news I sat down earlier to begin re-writing content for the annual Tulum, Mexico retreat. I opened a book for inspiration and landed on's a letter I wrote to myself on the last day of our retreat this summer. Love it.}

Monday, December 13, 2010

classes on today + home from silent retreat

More snow here looking like quite the lil winter wonderland (even though it's still fall). Happy to report that we will be having classes this evening. Teresa will be there awaiting the lovely yogis today....warm, cozy studio and all. Go, breathe your way to bliss.

I just returned home from my very first silent retreat. Three whole days of silence (I didn't even use the ipod for guided meditations as originally planned). I only saw one person briefly on my first day. I had a day of sunshine, a day of rain, and a day of snow. It was pretty perfect.

I walked the labryinth, prayed in the chapel in the woods, walked through the snow to the pond, built fires in the stove daily, meditated, journaled, reflected, gazed out the window the woods, enjoyed simple meals, danced (who needs music?), drank hot chocolate & chai, read Mary Oliver.

I loved my silence way more than I expected.
I plan to blog each day about my experience.

The words that follow came to me as I sat in the rocking chair, gazing out a window watching the snow fall:

Clouds parting
sun bursting through
wind blowing
snowflakes dazzling.
It is a feast for the eyes.
It is food for the soul.

And just as quickly as it appeared
the sun slithered between the clouds.
Wind becomes a whisper
the snowflakes scatter too.
But I, I continue to be
bathed in light.

Looking forward to seeing all of you. Happy snowy day mi amigos.

Friday, December 10, 2010

the true guide

There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.--Howard Thurman

**lovelies from mexico yoga teacher training**

Thursday, December 09, 2010

silent retreat

I'm leaving tomorrow for my very first silent retreat. I've been wanting to take a silent retreat for some time now. On one hand it is very appealing to me. I am quiet by nature. My natural tendencies are to be more introverted than extroverted. I enjoy (actually I must have) time alone. I love time to reflect and contemplate. For all of these reasons plus more, I am excited to remove myself from the chatter of daily life and retreat to the woods.

But this retreat will be different than others that I've taken. I'm going alone. I wont be taking a computer. No working, or surfing the internet to distract me from what I'll be doing, which is simply being with myself and my thoughts. I don'thave an agenda. I don't have a goal.

In April my brother and I made the trek to Kripalu for an ayurveda spring cleanse. It was suggested that we observe silence for one of those days. We both found ourselves kinda excited about not talking to anyone. We both own businesses and at that time we were both super busy. Silence sounded great.

Well it didn't last for so long. Not long at all actually. In fact I don't think we made it past breakfast. We were donning our "In loving silence" stickers. Looking at one another, giggling, signing, and general miming. We both attributed it to us sharing a room and getting to spend precious time with one another. How could we not speak (even if only for a day)? Geez.....

Much different this time around. No brother. No other people. Just me and a cabin out in the middle of nowhere.

A friend of mine sent this for inspiration:

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, from "Sounds "

I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands.

I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.

Sounds pretty magical. But for some reason, I'm kinda doubting that I'll be sitting in a sunny doorway for hours, just observing. I could be wrong, but....

So that's partially why I'm giving myself a little wiggle room. First silent retreat. Go easy on youself Sharon. I will not be working, facebooking, blogging, or general computering. I will not be planning or strategizing. I will not be talking on the phone. Or texting. I've let Andy know of my intention. Which is again, to be silent.

I will only take one or two books, so I'm not burying myself in books, again taking myself away from my intention. Being with me and my thoughts. Still. :)

The wiggle room is coming in the form of a book or two.
A journal.
Some questions to ponder and reflect on the past year, the moment at hand, and the future.
My ipod to listen to a few meditation lectures. I'll give myself perhaps two times per day to listen in. I thought this would be ok since many guided retreats have lectures.
I'll take my yoga mat and props.
A change of clothes and some comfy jammies.
Healthy food.
And I think that's about it.

I plan to spend time doing yoga morning and evening. Take three times for seated meditation (30-60 minutes each).
I will do inquiry and journaling each day.
I don't have a goal or any big expectations from my time in silence. I'm trying to give myself a break from setting goals. Even if for only a little while longer (cause I can't deny how much i enjoy working towards "something"). I simply wish to be alone and see what unfolds.

This is where I'm retreating to, The Sisters of Loretto.
And here in an article from Yoga Journal about silent retreats.

Wish me luck! I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


A new moon teaches gradualness
And deliberation and how one gives birth to oneself slowly.
Patience with small details
Makes perfect a large work, like the universe.
What nine months of attention does for an embryo
Forty early mornings will do for your gradually growing wholeness.

Monday, December 06, 2010

spiritual hillbilly life lesson: nature is good for the soul

John Burroughs said it best when he said, "I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order."

If I close my eyes I am immediately transported to a particular tree from my childhood. It sat diagonally across from my home, just partway up a hill. It wasn't as big, or as majestic as many of the others. It wasn't a birch, beech, oak or a sycamore. No, it was just a pine tree.

But not just any pine tree. This particular one was made for me. At least in my mind it was. I would climb this tree often and perch myself onto a limb. It was a small limb that held a young gal, in more ways than one.

The bark felt rough as I breathed in the scent of pine needles and mountain air. All around me I see green. The green of the grass surrounding my modest home. The green of the trees that surround me in every direction that I look, only a small portion of the blue sky reveals itself to me.

The time that I spent perched in this tree soothed my soul in ways I'm only now discovering. It was this tree, these hills and my family's love of nature that taught me to respect, love, and bow often to the earth.

Nature provided us with a lot. Food, fun, memories, and more. If there was a hill that got enough sunlight there was a garden growing. In the summertime my Daddy cut vines in trees and we swung from them. In the fall the leaves would gather in the crevices of the hills and we slid down the mountain. In the wintertime we made sleds and slid down the mountains. If was a simple time and a simple place. Instead of buying fun, we created fun. To this day I'm sure it's why I love the gift of experience so much.

It is this reverence for the earth (among other things) that inspired me to formally begin studying Ayurveda. Dr. Robert Svoboda, the first Westerner to graduate from an Ayurveda college (and be licensed to practice Ayurveda in India) said that "if Ayurveda were a religion, nature would be its goddess."

At my first Ayurveda event with the folks of The Chopra Center, David Simon said that all of the beauty, magnificence, and wisdom that exists in nature exists in each of us. These words stuck to me like glue. I've written and spoke those words many times since hearing them. I love it.

On a good day I know those words to be true. Even when chaos swirls around me I feel clear and balanced. I feel wise and magnificent even in the face of a struggle. On a bad day when I'm needing a little reassurance, I only need to get outside. Take a walk, feel my feet on the earth, gaze up at the sky, look at a tree, take a deep breath and know it to be true. When I'm feeling uninspired, anxious, or angry the first places I go to are outside or my yoga mat.

Yes, I go to nature to be comforted. To be soothed and healed. To have my senses, my mind, and my heart put in order. I have my family to thank for instilling this in me.

**photo of my Grammaw Zola. The one who taught me how to break green beans, shuck corn, and set a wonderful example of what it means to be a strong woman.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

how one question changed the course of my life

I'm a fan of questions. I enjoy when a student asks me a question. As a student of yoga, and as a participant in life, I enjoy asking questions. Questions are a form of inquiry. Questions encourage curiosity. Questions promote learning. And learning can create change.

I incorporate questions into my yoga classes. Typically when I am guiding students to set an intention for their yoga class I will invite them to silently ask questions such as....
What am I most needing to receive from my practice today?
How can my practice help create balance and harmony in mind, body, and spirit?
How can I nurture myself through my practice today?
How can my practice be an expression of gratitude and joy?

In holding asanas (poses) I invite students to ask, "How can I relax ten percent more? If I were holding this pose for ten minutes what might I do differently?

In meditating we often use the three soul questions, "Who am I? What do I want? What's my purpose?

Over seven years ago I asked myself a question that changed the course of my life. In looking at it now, one would not think it to be mind blowing or earth shattering. It wasn't that deep. It wasn't terribly complicated. It certainly wasn't "What's dying to be born?" No it was much more simple.

However it changed my life in profound ways. It was a question that created heartache. It was a question that created challenge. In many ways it created chaos. And more confusion before it led me to clarity.

But clarity it did give me. Not in a moment. Not overnight. Not in one month. But over the course of many months this one question guided me into my very heart, into my very soul.

It was one question that encouraged me to explore living my life differently. It was one question that put me on this path that I'm still on today. A path of creating a life that resonates deeply with my heart. A path of yoga. A path of exploring my deepest, truest, most authentic Self. A path of doing what I wanted to do for as long as I could remember, which was simply "to help people."

The question that changed my life was "Is this what I really want?"
Yes, not much of the surface level. But I suspect that if you ponder this question in that area of your life, you know the one that keeps poking it's finger into your will lead to some juicy revelations.

What do you really want? Would love to hear...

PS - Photo by Martin Husch. Under the stars in Tulum.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

class is on, workshop rescheduled - Dec. 4

Woke up to the sweet surprise of snow! I'm here at the studio getting it all cozy. It's warm, good music, and candles are doing the trick. We are having class this morning if you want to come on out. However, the workshop scheduled for today has been rescheduled for next Saturday, 1:00-3:00

Whatever you do do, be safe, stay warm, sip hot chocolate, and feel a sense of wonder. Although I don't enjoy the cold, I am quite smitten by snow.

Happy snow day.
Happy December friends.

Friday, December 03, 2010

inspiration for 2011

Have started the inquiry for 2011. Pondering how I want to move into and through the new year. As a lover of words, I'm starting with the ones that resonate most:

free spirited

Do you have any words or phrases you want to embrace in the months to come?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

lesson from temalzcal & a wink from the universe

I know I said yesterday that I was going to write about my hillbilly yogini life lessons, but......we'll save that one for another day.

I can't even tell you the number of emails I've gotten from people about my "dying to be born" message. I can hardly wrap my mind around the support I've received. And my heart feels cradled by lots of loving hands across the land.

Clearly I didn't make the decision to cancel my yoga teacher training overnight. No, it was something I'd been debating, pondering, and questioning for a few weeks. This whole idea of push and yield repeatedly kept coming up.

Push and yield.
Push and yield.

One day I journaled about the idea of push and yield (see above).
In my journal I wrote about a specific incident from just over a year ago. Last November I was in Tulum with my dear bud Debra. We spent a week at Maya tulum. We stayed in a fabulous palapa right on the beach. We did yoga. Took long walks. Talked and strategized for our businesses. Got massages. And more massges. We ate delicious food. And drank delicious beer. Fresh mango juice too.

There was one experience I so wanted to share with Debra. I really really wanted us to do temalzcal (sweat lodge) together. We were at Maya Tulum during a really slow week. We made friends with four other gals that were traveling alone. In order to do the sweat lodge we needed six people.

Let me just say how amazingly kind the folks that work at Maya Tulum are. I adore them. Love them to pieces. They always go above and beyond to make me happy (and all guests) when I'm there. They tried to rally people for sweat lodge. Debra and I tried rallying up people. People on the beach, in the restaurants, on the street. They were all fair game. Still we could only come up with five people.

My fave healer/shaman/amigo Fabian agreed that he would lead temalzcal for our lil group. Debra and I both felt a little uneasy at this point. We totally knew that we were pushing (there that word is again) for this experience. It certainly was not unfolding in an easy way. But still we went on....

As we walked up to meet Fabian later than night I could see that something wasn't right. He pulled me aside and explained to me that we couldn't do temalzcal. Turns out they had a lot of fire ants over by the sweat lodge. To rid the fire ants someone poured gasoline on the sand. Not a good idea when you're dealing with fire.

Fabian specifically talked about how something as important as temalzcal could not be forced, could not be pushed. He didn't even need to explain at that point. I totally got it. In looking back now I can see how a part of me knew that beforehand. The universe is way more in charge than I am. Fine, I get it.

Things happen when they need to happen. I believe that. I think that we have a little control over some outcomes, but probably not as much as we give ourselves credit for.

Yes we need to do the work to move us closer to that which we desire. But we also have to detach from the end result. This is super familiar to me as it's part of yoga philosophy...practice and nonattachment. This practice is not just for the mat folks (puhhlease don't limit it to just the mat).

Now onto the wink from the I had finished writing in my journal in which I pondered the idea of push and yield, thinking back to this experience of temalzcal, and knowing deep down that cancelling the training was the best thing when I heard my phone buzz that I had an email.

I received a message from my dear friend Mia and this was part of it...
"I've been revisiting Erich Schiffman's book for some wisdom on this and I love what he wrote about "pushing and yielding"."

I stood there in disbelief. I ran to my room, took a picture from my journal and sent it directly to Mia. That's it above.

So while this has been a tough time in some ways, it's been an inspiring time in many other. It's so hard to share the part of us that is scared and uncertain. It's hard to admit that we don't have all the answers, that we're not perfect. But I think we should.

Why, because we're all human.
We're more alike then we are different.
We all have the same basic desires. We want to be happy. We want to be loved. We want to be healthy. We want to have a purpose.
We also have many of the same fears. We all get frightened and angry. We feel uninspired. We get restless. We're confused.
But none of us are alone in feeling these feelings. So why not bring voice to them? And just for the record when I sent that email I was nervous as hell. It's not easy being so vulnerable. I get that.

Thank all of you. I feel incredibly lucky, incredibly blessed to have such kind souls orbiting in my world. You truly amaze and inspire me in ways you can never know.

Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.
Peace. Peace. Peace.

on being a spiritual hillbilly

Last night I was putting my laundry away. Not a chore that I love so much, but I'd put it off for....lets just say a while. I pulled my cute lil "spiritual cowgirl" shirt out to fold up and put away. I do love this shirt. It's long sleeve. A nice length. Not too thick. Not too thin. The perfect shirt for yoga.

I thought to myself, Yes I'm a spiritual gal. A cowgirl maybe not so much. A hillbilly would be more appropriate. A hillbilly typically refers to people who dwell in the rural, remote, and mountainous area known as Appalachia. I'm sure you are familiar. I imagine you may have heard or watched the nice little special Diane Sawyer did on the area of Eastern KY.

But please don't go throwing the word hillbilly around. Those of us born and raised in this area use term more as a celebration, a way of connecting to one another. But when others throw the term around in a derogatory way, it's more about judgement then celebration.

When I teach my private yoga sessions I ask my students to call me out if I speak "yoga lingo". Meaning I say something that makes total sense to me and they have no clue what it means. Us yogi's we can do that.

As a hillbilly we also have our very own secret language. Andy usually learns at least one new term or phrase every time we go home. Last week at home I said something about someone "cuttin' a shine". Andy says, "huh?". I further explain that it's the equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum.

I've been thinking a lot about home these days. Thinking of the most useful was to integrate who I was then and who I am now (cause I definately wasn't vegetarian growing up). Home, such a precious place to me. Maybe tomorrow I'll share my top hillbilly life lessons.

But don't call me a hillbilly. Unless of course you are a hillbilly yourself. ;)

PS - Photo above is of my gramma Zolie, dad (cute lil blonde boy in the front), aunts and uncles. Thanks for the photo Irene.