Sunday, January 29, 2012

picking pearls

One of the many simple yet profound teachings I'm learning from Babaji is the art of picking pearls.

Picking pearls is to recall, to remind yourself of all the good in your life, of the blessings in which to express gratitude.

Picking pebbles to to recall, to remind yourself of all that is bad in your life, of all the sh*t in which to wallow in.

So today friends, as you lay in bed before drifting off to sleep I invite you to pick a few pearls and hold them tightly to your heart.

Here are just a few of mine:

*A husband that gifts me with a card in the shape of a fave word (believe) and a "trash" mag. Reminding me that I am good, I do good, and the world is good.

*A sunny Sunday and a long walk with Andy and Remy.

*Lots of yoga newbies walking through the big magic door at the treehouse.

*New dreams and projects coming together with ease.

*Upcoming road trips.

*A cabin in the Smoky Mountains to celebrate a healthy, cancer free Mama Alice.

*Seeing red and pink and all things love in the stores. Yes I know that Valentines Day is a Hallmark holiday but I don't care. I love Love.

*Blue Moon & Mellow Mushroom.

*Honeybell oranges.

*Reveling in BFF's happiness.

*The sound of chopping veggies. The taste of homemade goodness.

*A new lush bomb that promises to turn my bath the same color blue as the ocean.

*A new found love of promises and commitments and the power of keeping both.

*Taking classes at the treehouse and feeling like such a lucky lady to have such awesomeness around me both in the form of teachers and fellow students.

*Collaborating with The Massage Center and hosting the one and only Wah!

*The therapy that comes in the form of a good book and putting pen to paper.

*Yogis trusting me with their stories.

*A warm bed and a morning routine that include a dog sleeping close by, hot tea, and inspiring words to listen to and take page after page of notes.

*My desire to know myself and make change as needed.

*Staying present when it would be much easier to run away.

*Mary Oliver and her way with words that continually inspire me.

*How good it feels to make good choices for my body.

*A trip to Mexico that's on the horizon and a yoga retreat that is filling up beautifully.

*Kind cards and letters I've recently gotten in the mail that make me feel like the people in my world are simply the best.

*A hOMe that I absolutely love. As the sun bounces onto my bedroom walls I say to Andy, "I love the color of our bedroom. It reminds of the color of a cottage by the sea."

How about you, what pearls are you picking these days?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

the examined life

"Emerson, I am trying to live,
as you said we must, the examined life.

But there are days I wish
there was less in my head to examine,
not to speak of the busy heart."

Miss Mary Oliver

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

watching, feeling, being

When the hummingbird
sinks its face
into the trumpet vine
and the funnels

of the blossoms,
and the tongue
leaps out
and throbs,

I am scorched
to realize once again
how many small, available things
are in the world

that aren’t
pieces of gold
or power–
that nobody owns

or could buy even
for a hillside of money–
that just
float about the world,

or drift over the fields,
or into the gardens,
and into the tents of the vines
and how here I am

spending my time,
as the saying goes,
watching until the watching turns into feeling
so that I feel I am myself

~Mary Oliver

Last night as I read the poem in bed it was this last sentence that leapt out at me....

"watching until the watching turns into feeling so that I feel I am myself."

I'm reminded this is the power within the yoga practice.

Watching the breath move. Visualizing the breath as it moves in and out the nostrils. Visualizing the breath as it streams into the body and swirls around.

Watching the body move. Do I move and glide with or without restrictions? Watching the movements that come with ease, watching the movements that feel challenging.

Watching the mind move. Are the thoughts positive or negative, constructive or destructive? Are they present moment oriented or drifting to the past or future? Are my thoughts serving me in this moment?

Watching. Watching. Watching.

Watching turns into feeling. Did you hear the invitation? It's not an invitation that screams. It's a rather quiet invitation.

Feeling the breath move. The breath moves in. Feeling the pause at the top of the inhalation. Breaths moves out. Feeling the pause at the end of the exhalation. Feeling how the breath helps the body to grow strong or surrender as needed. Feeling how the breath helps quiet the chitter chatter of the mind.

Feeling the body move. Creating a shape with our body, be it a warrior, triangle, or tree. Feeling the parts of our body that are strong and open, weak and tight. Feeling the rising and falling, expanding and contracting of energy.

Feeling the tone of the mind. Have I made peace with all that is in the moment? Can I cultivate appreciation for my body and breath so that my mind can grow more content? Can I see the good in my pose, the good in myself?

Feeling. Feeling. Feeling.

Watching and feeling lead to being.

And that's a pretty good place to be.

Monday, January 23, 2012

roasted sweet potato and black bean tacos

Yesterday for dinner I made those tacos. They were sooo good. The recipe can be found in the new issue of Oprah. I adapted it just a touch. Make, enjoy, and let me know what you think! Plus they are so quick and easy.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion diced
1 bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 medium sweet potato (diced small)
1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400. Heat a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion, bell pepper (or poblano)with 1 tbsp olive oil until lightly caramelized. Stir in garlic and salt.

2. In a bowl toss sweet potato with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt. Add to skillet and cook, stirring for about 1 minute.

3. Place is pan with veggies and roast for 15 minutes.

4. Remove from oven. Add black beans and black pepper. Black beans will warm from the heat of the pan.

Warm your tortillas (we used corn) and add any toppings you like! We used a delish salsa verde on top.

I love, love, love the combination of sweet potatoes and black beans.

Earlier last week we had another variation with tacos...zucchini, black beans, and black olive combination. They were tasty too!

Friday, January 20, 2012

when our worst fears come true

Anytime I'm dipping my toes into new terrain, pondering a change, and/or pursuing a new dream, I always ask this question:

"What's the worst case scenario?"

This simple question has led to great change in my life. It's given me the first bit of courage to create and live out new dreams. It's also told me at times, "No, this is not the right time." Yes, the worst case scenario felt pretty big and real in my mind! I wasn't ready or willing to risk it.

There's something I've wanted to write about for a while now. I received the inspiration I needed this morning while listening to Babaji online as he spoke of trust and challenges.

He said, "When the worst of our fears comes true and we manage it, we live through it, that trust gives us freedom. Saying, "No matter what happens, I'll make the best of it."

Last fall one of my worst case scenarios came true and it turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me in a long time.

I usually travel to Tulum, Mexico two times per year to teach yoga. Just so happens that both times are during hurricane season. Experiencing a hurricane has always been my "worst case scenario", especially when I'm there leading yoga teacher training.

If you've been reading this blog, if you practice at Barefoot Works, if you were Sarah, or a student then you know my worst case scenario was a very big reality last fall in Tulum. The photo above was taken as we were leaving Tulum for Valladolid, a town almost two hours inland.

Writing that now still makes my heart beat heavier. I can't tell you how thankful I am for the way this all worked out. It could have been such a disaster. I can recall walking down the beach with Sarah to Maya Tulum to learn how they were handling the hurricane (they were all evacuating and yogis were flying home, including the teacher training group that was there).

While there I ran into Fabian, my dear shaman friend. This was the only time I ever rushed a conversation with when he told me, "When things like this happen and mother nature is in charge we cannot argue with it. All we can do is respect it and get out of harm's way." I nodded my head agreeing but mentally I was making a plan.

Of course I agree that safety was (and is) the most important thing. In my heart I knew we couldn't quit, fly home, and continue on our way. I had a feeling it would all be alright. I knew we had to stay and complete the training. These became my priorities and my goals:

1. Keep the group safe by moving inland.
2. Make the transition quickly and with ease in order to resume.
3. Create conditions at our new place to witness 12 students become teachers.

It was a success. I'm still in awe by the way in which this worked, the trust the group had in me and the trust I had in them. And the trust we all had in the Universe.

A beautiful, unspeakable bond was created among this group. I can't say how much of that was due to a crazy hurricane, but it was certainly a force, a factor, a challenge that we all navigated with trust.

And that's only the beginning.

It was this training and a particularly amazing student that led me to Sonoma to a beautiful Ashram and more importantly the monk that lives there. A place I can't wait to get back to. The five days I spent there closed out my year in the sweetest of ways. This was also the time I was so scared about Mama Alice and the Ashram brought me so much peace and comfort.

Last weekend 10 of 12 students gathered together in three lil pods. Sarah and I joined with four yoginis in Lexington, four gathered at Sonoma Ashram, and two in Banff, Canada. None of that was planned. It was all one big delicious cosmic coincidence.

When I think of what happened when my worst case scenario came true I can't help but grin and feel such appreciation for the wild ways of the Universe.

Sometimes it's hard to see that during the midst of challenge and crisis, but time and time again I see that if we go with the flow, do the best we can, and keep trusting, not only will we be free from suffering but we'll live a life of deep peace and inner joy.

I'm reminded that we never really know how things will play out in life. What appears to be great one moment can result in a disaster. What appears to be a disaster can result in a blessing.

I'm reminded that few things are certain in life and that leaning into trust and love is the way to go. I'm reminded that having people and practices in place to support you during tough times is so important.

When I forget this because I'm stuck in the land of challenge and crisis, I hope you'll remind me. :)

Thanks for reading. Much love to all of you....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

photos from shaker village retreat

Happy Thursday Friends!

I want to take just another moment to celebrate these women, this new year retreat, and the fine folks of Shaker Village. I'm still getting messages from yoginis about their aha's and their hopes for the new year. It was such a great weekend and will certainly stand out in my mind and heart as a most power-full weekend. There is such power in gathering in beautiful spaces with like-minded peeps and doing real soul work.

Thanks for Misty for coming and taking these super photos!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

my unconditional committment to wholehearted living

As my previous post noted, wholehearted is my theme for 2012. A couple weeks ago I got the book "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown. I've read her blog for a couple of years and enjoy her writing. But this book, you MUST get it. It's good. Really good.

This is where I fell in love with the idea of living, loving, and teaching wholeheartedly.

I'm spending more time thinking about what that will look and feel like. This morning I also went through my most recent journal and notes to pick words and phrases that resonate with me. This is my list so far:

something new emerges
touching hearts
sincerely devoted
purification of body and mind
fullness overflowing
inspiring change
creating space for imperfection
deeply determined
seeking the source
oasis of stillness
live passionately
feed the soul
believe in magic (sorry Disney)
sacred courage (this was my theme last year and it still resonates)
hosting healthy thoughts
revel in the richness of life
remember your divinity
letting go, touching down
soaking up sweet goodness
anchored with a practice
true hearted contemplation
creating order while open to change
say what i mean, mean what i say (thanks Michael Franti)
peaceful transitions
dancing with what is
a world of endless possibilities
take a leap
immersion into nourishment
laugh, play, and dance (as in the video above!)

Clearly these are broad, vague, and open but I know the meaning behind them.

Next step is creating actual goals and plans.

Love this stuff.
Total dreaming, scheming, pondering and planning geek.

PS - I added the bit about committments because every where I look and read I see committments and promises. It's also a big part of my life coaching immersion work. And so it is, unconditional committments. That's gonna be fun (and tough)!

Monday, January 16, 2012

on wholehearted living

Last Wednesday I was riding in the car with my brother, sis-in-law, and dear Mama. We were on our way to dinner. I ask one of my (sometimes too many) fave questions for this time of year:
"Mama, what's your intention this year?"

Without skipping a beat, she responds, "Too live."

And that pretty much sums it up friends. Earlier that day I was at the hospital with my Mom as she had a scan to see if cancer was rearing it's big nasty head again. As her surgeon (who we are eternally grateful for) had said to her eight weeks earlier after completing her treatment, which was two surgeries, two rounds of chemo, and 33 treatments of radiation....

"You've done all you can and we've (her team of doctors) done all we can. There's nothing more now we can do but have faith."

Later as I reflected on these words I thought of the two ways Patanjali (our yoga sage) says you can attain yoga:

Practice and nonattachment.

My mom exemplified both.

There was also the bit about "having faith". In yogi terms we refer to it as ishvara pranidhana. My Mama never gave up faith. Not one single time. I can't say that she didn't in her quietest, most fearful moments, but she never once expressed it to anyone around her.

When you witness someone you love with your wholeHeart, your entire being, fight a grueling battle to live.....

Well it changes you. I know no other way to express it.

So for this reason and others, I am choosing "wholeHearted" as my one word for the year, my theme, my container, my guiding light to help me to choose how to best think, speak, and act. How best to use my time, energy, and resources.

The day after that question and that dinner we learned that my Mama's scan came back all clear. No signs of cancer.

To say that it was an unbelievably, life changing moment is an understatement. This is the photo I snapped with my phone moments after we heard the good news. The photos below show more of our journey over the last 5.5 months.

Monday, January 09, 2012

simple gifts: new year yoga retreat recap

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
~Shaker Hymn

This past weekend I had the good fortune of being surrounded by the sweetest yogini souls for the new year yoga retreat at Shaker Village. If you live in KY then you know the amazing weekend we had. Wow. Could. Not. Have. Been. More. Perfect.

Shaker Village was truly a perfect place to retreat to. The 200 plus year old buildings that was our "yoga studio" for the weekend. The accomodations. The simplicity. The surroundings (mama nature was at her best). The history of Shaker Village. Meals in the winter cellar. It was really, really special.

We were a diverse and interesting bunch. A variety of ages. People traveled from a variety of places (Lexington, Louisville, MI, TN, and NYC). Different jobs and occupations. But so much in common. If I've said it once I've said it a million times.....

There is no better group to spend time with than yogis. Really and truly.

Laughter is quick to erupt. Stories begin to unfold. Empathy is expressed. I continue to be amazed at just how quickly we can get to know people and bond with them on a quick level when we bring openness and deep presence to the mix.

And that's what this group did. In less than 48 hours we were laughing, crying, hugging, and exchanging contact info. As Melanie Mauer said on her blog post about the retreat "it felt a little like the end of summer camp on the last day."

In the span of 48 hours we....
*Explored six to seven hours of yoga.
*Dug deep into hopes and dreams for the new year using the purusharthas as inspiration. Those were purpose, necessities such as health,home and finances, pleasure, and spiritual fulfilment.
*Did daily hOMework in their workbooks which was exercises and reflecting on the above.
*Shared meals at a long, wood, table lit by candles.
*Took hikes on the property
*Gazed foolishly at the moon and sky filled with stars
*Gathered around a fire, laughed, sang, roasted marshmallows and had smores while continuing to admire the night sky. Our yogini who came from NYC said, "wow, my friends are going to be so jealous."

One of my fave moments was talking a walk Sunday morning with a hot cuppa coffee. The sky and the light were breathtaking. I walked slowly, with my fave new shawl wrapped tightly around me. I admired the winter landscape of Shaker Village. The trees. The birds chirping. The stillness in the air. The birth of a new day. Glorrrrious.

I felt such deep appreciation for everything.

Shaker Village & KY in general.
These students.
My job.
My family.
My teachers.

And that my friends is what happens on retreat. You retreat from your everyday life. You reconnect to yourself. Mother nature wraps you in her warm embrace and you can't help but feel great big gratitude.

It's good.
Really good.

**So many thanks to the Lovelies I got to share with this weekend. You girls rock. And a big thanks to Misty for coming and taking photos.**

Interested in coming to a yoga retreat? The Mexico yoga retreat will be here in a jiffy. ;)

Friday, January 06, 2012

things i want to say....

There is so much swirling around over here in my mind and in my heart here of lately. BUT today is not the day to fully explore them as I am preparing to lead the yoga retreat at Shaker Village this weekend. Big yay, I am sooo excited to meet, mingle, and explore yoga on and off the mat and how it can be a guiding force for us in the new year. Eighteen of us gathering to do good work so please think of us. :)

So yes, so much to say.....


How thankful I am for all the notes I've recently received on FB and by email from my yogi tribe. You are a kind, thoughtful, and compassionate bunch and I can think of no other tribe I'd gather be associated with. You continue to amaze me.

How I'm trying on the word "wholehearted" to serve as my anchor, my inspiration, my theme for the year, and my guiding force for my thoughts, words, and actions.

The recent passing of sweet Bella and how witnessing my husband's heart crack open is changing me in ways I didn't expect.

How I feel deep in my bones that life is not out to get me but out to teach me everything I need to learn.

How my Mom celebrated her birthday this week and how I've never felt so thankful for a birthday in all my life.

How inspiration comes in the form of books. Knowledge comes from a deep understanding of our experiences. And wisdom is how we embody those experiences and what we do with them.

How I've given myself permission to ease my way into the year. How I'm putting my natural tendency to rush and plan the year out to rest for a while.

How I'm flexing my "speaking my truth" muscles in a honest, yet kind and compassionate way.

The teacher who is shaping the way I teach and live.

The recent synchroniciites in life and how they affirm that everything does indeed happen for a reason.

Rich stuff indeed.

Wishing all of you a wonder*full weekend.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

on impermanence

Nearly 13 years ago, in the stage of a new relationship, at the tender age of 21 Andy and I adopted a dog together. We had no intention of leaving Pet Smart at Hamburg with a dog. But one look at Bella that day and we couldn't deny her. Her name was originally Lady. Within a car drive from Lexington to Richmond she became Bella, my favorite girl name of all. She sat in my lap as Andy drove down the road. We were giddy with excitement.

It didn't matter that Andy and I had no idea whether or not our relationship would stand the test of time. We were mostly young and dumb. It didn't matter that I still lived in a dorm or that the apartment Andy lived in didn't allow dogs. It didn't matter that Andy had never owned a pet of any kind before. In our gut, and in our heart, we knew it was the right move.

One summer I went away to SC for an internship in graduate school and Andy sent me letters. In one he included a little snippet of Bella's hair. In another he stamped her feet in dirt and included her paw prints.

Bella stole the heart of Andy's parents. Even though Andy and his siblings never had a dog they accepted her into their home and into their hearts. For years Bella was the only "grand" anything. She was their grand-dog.

Bella was with us as we started our life together in Texas in a small 700 square foot apartment. Soon she moved with us into our starter home. We wandered into another Pet Smart, this time in Texas. I feel in love with a big brown dog named Remy. That night I had a dream about him and the next week he was ours.

Bella had a brother. In 10 years they never had one single fight. She was the princess boss and always in control. They were two radically different dogs, yet two sweet peas in a pod.

Bella has been present for nearly the entirety of mine and Andy's relationship. She was there during our ups and our downs. Our joys and our sorrows. She knew our strengths and our weaknesses better than anybody else. She was fiercely loyal and devoted to us, especially Andy. She was our baby, part of our family.

Her health rapidly declined over the past several months. She lost a lot of weight. She lost interest in food and going on walks. She tail no longer wagged and she didn't get up and greet us at the door as she always did before. She had kidney and advanced dental disease. We gave her medicine. I pureed her dog food and when that didn't work we went to wet dog food. In her final days Andy's parent gave her water and chicken broth with a turkey baster. They cared for her in ways I can't even believe. My heart overflows when I think about what they did to make her comfortable.

Change is hard. Reality, impermanence is hard. Psychologists say that one of life's most stressful events is death. The wise and ancient yogis said that fear of death is the source of all other fears.
Part of practicing corpse pose, savasana at the end of yoga class is about facing death fearlessly.

Yoga reminds us that nothing lasts forever. Not this breath. Not this body. Not our Bella. Yoga also teaches us that we are more than this breath. More than this body. There is more to Bella than what I can see, hear, and touch.

The Self, what the yogis call atman and purusha cannot be pierced by pain and cannot die. It is everlasting and infinite.

Much like our sweet fur baby Bella.

I saw this passage on a friends FB today:
“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”
― Siddhārtha Gautama

Bella did all those. She loved well. She fully lived. Then she let go.

What more is there to do? Truly a lesson we can all learn.

*Photo taken in December. It was mine and Andy's goal for Bella to make it through Christmas as it was important that she get one last time in Owensboro at the "doggy spa" with the family. She made it just after Christmas which is a great reminder of the power of intention (and prayer too).