Sunday, December 26, 2010

What happened to the Niyamas

I honestly think the Christmas/New Years season brings out the worst in me.  I am trying to be non-judgemental about it and non-harming to myself about it but I can't help it. 

A bit of review for those who may not know - the Yamas and Niyamas come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  You can find many translations into english if you are more interested.  It basically outlines how a yogi can live.  The yamas and niyamas are more detailed "codes of conduct".  Kind of like the ten commandments in Christian religion.  The yamas are things to abstain from and the niyamas are things to observe.

For me during the holiday season I could do more of the observances and, honestly my practice seems to fall to the wayside a little bit.  The first Niyama - Shaucha: cleanliness of body & mind.  Would not say my inner body stays clean, I definately drink too much. I'm  not a lush or anything but my once in a while glass of wine is certainly more frequent.  I also find a Christmas time I am eating things I don't normally.  I am a vegetarian but Christmas day that goes out the window - I have bacon for breakfast that my dad cooks and then I have a small bit of turkey for dinner.  Not to forget the million pounds of sweets and chocolates that I consume.  The second - Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has.  At a time when people are giving I sometimes think "oh wouldn't it be nice if we could have that".  I am usually a very satisfied person.  I am thrilled that I have a wonderful family, lots of food to each, roof over our heads.  The third Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline & thereby mental control.  My yoga practice of mediation and asana goes straight out the window.  It is like my vacation from work, having my family home and entertaining gives me some reason not to have time or not to take the time to practice.  The last two Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within, and Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.  One would think that on a very Christian holiday I would be reminded more to keep up on my readings and mediations.  But no, again I feel lethargic and would rather sit and each chocolate and watch TV, surf the internet and play board games with my family. 

I almost look at the Christmas season as a vacation from my real life.  The sad part is that the "yoga portion" of  my life, if you can seperate it, is the part that I love.  I guess in life even when it is something you love, it is OK to take a break.  I have a commitment to myself and my practice one that a week of laziness cannot break.  Going back to yoga is not a new years resolution for me but a way of life that I love and enjoy!  If it takes 40 days to create a new patern, it must take about that long to erase it from your life?  Right!?
Maybe I should go practice now...  yup...  I think I will!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Take a Compliment!

This past week-end I attended a Christmas Party that a friend and her partner were throwing at their house.  I decided that since we had spent the night before with our two sons at a hockey game that I would bring just my daughter and have a "girls night".

Since it was a party I had Holly dressed up in her party dress and her party shoes.  I put her hair up in a nice pony tail, she even let me brush it this time.  She had super cute tights with a little ruffle on her bottom.  With her party dress on she had a lovely pink sweater.  Holly was so excited to go to the party that she had her coat on and was ready to leave before I was even ready.

I got my self ready as well.  I wore a new shirt that I had bought for the occasion, put on some make up, painted my nails.  I did my hair, I almost always wear a pony tail.  I pull out my favorite Fluevogs, black Mary Jane shoes that I adore.  I looked great!

We got to the party and Holly was shy at first but soon she was the life of the party.  The older kids took very well to her and were happy to show her around, carry her and make sure she had food.  They brought her to me when she asked for me and took her away when she was ready to play.  The adults fussed over her, wanted to carry her and exlaimed how cute she was.  Of course I think she's cute, she's my baby!

I had a lovely time.  Much needed adult conversation - I spend my days with kids.  I laughed, ate and had a glass of wine which I milked all night long.  I saw some old friends and was very happy that I went.

As Holly and I were leaving.  The host was holding her and told her she was beautiful.  I said thank you for her.  Then he said "just like your mommy".  At that I said "well I think she looks a lot like her aunt".  He then said something to me that I have been thinking about for two days.  You are just like your friend (his partner) "can't take a compliment when it is deserved".  As I said I have been thinking about this since he said it and he is right.  I am thrilled when people compliment my children.  Whether it is how adorable they are, how smart they are, talented, funny, sweet or nice.  THRILLED to hear it.  When someone compliments me, I don't know how to take it.  I get embarassed and either deflect the conversation or put myself down.  I know I am not alone in this.

I have been think alot about why people do this.  In my case it is not an issue of self esteem.  I know I am smart, funny, likeable, kind and great to be around.  Beautiful inside I know but outside I am working on.  It is the outside part that I have personal issues with.  Like a lot of us again, my hair is too straight,  my nose is to wide, I'm too short, my muscles are thick, my thumb is deformed (this is true), my breasts are too...  I dunno I'm working on that one, my feet are too wide and my cesarean scar is too crooked.  I am sure if I gave it time I could go on.  But why?  I could take all of those and switch it - my hair is soft and a beautiful natral colour, my nose is dignifying, I am a petite hight, I have a strong build, my thumb is original, my breasts have fed three babies, my feet are grounding and well the scar...  birthed my baby boy and saved his life!

If we could take all these negative things we think about ourselfs and practice ahimsa (non-harming) and be kind to ourselves and positive with ourselves.  If we took the word Namaste (the light within me recognizes the light within you) and believed it about others and ourselves, I think we might all be able to take a compliment a bit better.  So John if you are reading this... thanks for the compliment - I am working on it!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paying it Forward

I heard of a guy the other day who helped an elderly woman who had run out of gas. He drove to the gas store in his truck and filled a jerry can and put gas in her car. Paid for the gas too. The term I heard after was that he was "paying it forward".

The term "pay it forward" I think gained momentum with a movie in the '80's with Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey and some little kid.  I have been hearing it an awful lot lately everytime someone does something nice for someone else.  I am however finding myself questioning the whole concept of "paying it forward".  I mean why can't we just be nice for the sake of being nice.  To me the idea of paying it forward is just the same as paying it back.  It almost seems like if you do something nice for someone else that eventually the expectation is there that you will get something nice done for you in return.

I personally just like to do nice things for people because I can and it feels good to do a "good deed".  I drove my neighbor to her church the other day after it snowed.  Not because I think someone is going to do something nice for me later or because I am going to get into heaven or find samadhi.  But because it was really cold, there was a lot of snow, she's in her 60's and doesn't drive! 

Don't get me wrong I don't think the idea of paying it forward is bad it is just the overlying concept that you might have something done nice for you in the future.  I think we would be better off if we were present in our actions and just did nice things for people.  Just "paying IT" not forward or back.  Being present in the nice things that we say or do.  Noticing how it makes us feel and how it makes the other person feel.  I think if we were nice to other people and gave more of ourselves and what we have because we accept that we are rich in our own hearts and lives then this over all would make us all better in the long run.

So next time you do something nice for someone else think about being present in your gift.  Don't do it because they did something nice for you or because eventually someone else might do something nice to you.  Just "pay IT".


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Memories of Christmas

I struggle with Christmas in so many ways.  I am not a scrooge or anything like that.  I find Christmas stressful and frustrating.  I hate that my family insists on buying me things that I don't want or need.  Even though I tell them to just enjoy, get something extra for the kids or donate it - it never seems to work.  Then of course I feel bad either returning the item or sending it to charity, as my family has spent hard earned money on the said item that I didn't want or ask for in the first place.

I love the part about Christmas where we go and cut down a tree from a tree farm as a family.  Even the years where the kids are crying and not having a particularly awesome time.  I am still able to find the joy in these traditions.  We all know that at the end, once we have chosen our tree, taken a family photo, chopped it down and hauled the blessed thing out of the bush - there is hot chocolate and homemade cookies waiting at the end.  I know the kids will love and remember this part!

I also love that every year much to my partner's chagrin I invite a slew of people over to our house for some kind of Christmas cheer.  This year it seems that I have inlcuded a range of people all living in our neighborhood who don't have family in town.  They will be here for Christmas eve.  I have asked that they all bring a non perishable food item for the food bank.  My neighbor and her family rent a sleigh and ride through the area collecting food so out there we will be with our many guests enjoying the horse drawn sleigh through our urban neighborhood giving to those in need.

The family part is also a favorite.  Since I was little we have spent Christmas with my dad's family.  Even now that my grandmother has passed away almost 8 years ago now we still keep the tradition.  I don't know a lot of people who are still close to their cousins and aunts and uncles into adult hood but we are very close.  All together spouses and kids included we make a huge family of 14 people plus one dog and 4 cats.  We have a great time and really enjoy it.  We like it so much that the whole group of us get together again on New Year's day and do it all up again!

My children love Christmas.  We play into the make believe of Santa and have a lovely modest Christmas and Santa brings gifts and fills their stockings.  They always hear bells on the roof and Santa never disappointes by drinking his hot chocolate and eating his cookies.  I love the magic of Christmas that I witness in the eyes and spirit of my children. 

I am passing on to my children that Christmas is about the wonderful smells made by me for a month or so by the many treats I make a freeze, that it is about lots of family and friends about traditions and it is about magic.  I want them to realize when they become my age that it is not about all the stuff that you have to buy or that you want to get... 

Christmas for me seems to contradict my big attachement to non-attachement as well as to moderation.  It is a lot of overabundance and a lot of stuff all at once.  How do I balance it all...

Hari Om

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Letting Go...

I am noticing a pattern with some of my blog posts as well as some of the philosophy of yoga that I love - non-attachment.  I guess it's because I am not very good at it.  I wish I could be but so far not so great.  Sure I can get rid of clothes that don't fit so well or shoes that I don't love.  But sentimental items that belonged to my grandmothers or were given to me by some long lost relative or friend I could do better.  Recently the big one that keeps coming up for me is old relationships.

I am of an age where I have had lots of different kinds of relationships in my life.  Friends, lovers, colleagues that kind of thing.  I don't let go of friends or ex's very well.  I am one of those people in a relationship who when she says "let's stay friends" I meant it and hold to it.  My boyfriend from high school/university and I still chat with each other every couple of months and I love that.  I was genuinely excited for him when he told me his and his girlfriend were having a baby and then a while later when they got engaged.  I still hold a spot in my heart for him and want to know and hear that he is happy and doing well.  I have another old boyfriend that I speak to every so many months and it is great.  We chat on the phone as if there hasn't been many years, children and relationships that have happened.  Again I am happy for him when he is happy and sad for him when he is sad.  Both of these men hold a certain place for me and I can't fully let it go.

I have had as any grown ups do friendships that have ended either because of circumstances or deliberately and I think about them often.  It bothers me that a relationship that has been nurtured, cared for, laughed over, cried with and been silly with would end.  These are the people that you can't call and say - "hey wanna grab a coffee".  These are the ones I can't let go of.  I have one in particular that ended almost 5 years ago.  We were great friends and lives an priorities changed and along with it our personalities and other things.  Within that a misunderstanding and very different perspectives on what happened.  I have tried so many things to let this person go.  I have meditated, I have cried, I have written letters never to be sent, I have imagined saying goodbye, I have sent them loving kindness (this actually worked for a couple of months).  Something happens, either a song or a photograph or a mutual acquaintance will ask how they are and boom - I feel like I am at square one. 

Stuff is easy to let go of.  I can give it away, throw it out or donate it.  Feelings, emotions and relationships - those are hard.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Eating Habits

I'm trying to get on track with the way me and my family eat.  I think this would fall under the bramacharya ideal.  Moderation as well as the ahimsa since I follow a vegetarian diet (95%) of the time. 

I recently said to my partner that I had noticed since we moved to our new house that our eating habits weren't as good as they used to be.  He noticed it too and thought that it seemed to coincide with moving, closing my day care and the car accident.  Three major events in my life caused me to stop meal planning and cooking.  Now when I say we haven't been eating as well we aren't gorging ourselves on junk food and pop.  We just aren't as conscious about how we eat and what.

I used to be really great and at the end of the week I would meal plan everything for the next week.  This made grocery shopping easy, cheap and left the guess work out of "what are we going to eat today".  I always knew when something had to be taken from the freezer or extra made to use as leftovers.  For the last year or so it has been a throw together of whatever we have.  I skip meals or eat the same thing day after day - which is often toast!  I lived on toast for years when I was single... "do you KNOW how many things to you can do with toast"!!!  At lunch time I make nice nutritious and delicious meals for my kids and I have toast or a handful of nuts and maybe some chocolate chips for energy.  Oh and I am constantly sucking back a mug of some kind of tea - herbal or non. 

So I have decided to put a stop to the eating on the fly.  I meal planned for this week and we will see how it goes.  The kids really liked lunch and so did I.  Supper was not a huge hit, but I liked it.  Let's see how tomorrow goes.  I can say there is something comforting in knowing that the next meal is not a mystery.  I have everything to make it and I can even prepare some things in advance.  This makes a busy mom of three, who runs a home day care (again) and her own small business (prenatal), cooking/eating life so much easier.  Oh and healthier too!  Less waste and cost effective - win win I think!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Cleaning the space

For those who have known me really well and have been into my bedroom they will quickly see that I love clothes.  I love new clothes, I love old clothes, I love clothes that have sentimental meaning, I love clothes that are comfortable, I love clothes that are vintage and clothes that look good and even some that don't.  Well I am starting to let go.

For those of you who read an earlier post about my painting woes this still continues but before we paint we must purge!  Yes!  Purge!  I painted my dinning room and there was not much stuff in there to get rid of.  I had some items on my buffet to sort through and put away and some papers to throw away but not much.  What do you keep in a hall way - nothing so nothing to get rid of there.  Our family room was pretty much the same it contains a treadmill, a sofa, a small table and kids chairs and two small shelves with kids toys and art stuff.  Not much purging there - but a bit of re-organizing.  I will be painting our basement and bedrooms soon so I let the purging BEGin...

I started in my closet.  I love my closet, I sand the praises of my closet when we bought this house.  It is a rather modest walk in with lovely shelves and racks and drawers for all my things.  The problem was that I had so many things in this walk in that it was more of a walk around.  I was RUTHLESS!  If I hadn't worn it in a couple of years, it was stained, faded or just plain yucky and out of style I threw it in the pile.  I had pants I bought when I was pregnant for my first of three children that I loved.  They served me well through three pregnancies and with the handy drawstring waist through three post-partum periods - done - and gone.  I had t-shirts that I have owned and been wearing since high school!  Yes high school, I am not 17 anymore - add about 20 years!  GONE!  I had skirts and sweaters from styles gone in the late 80's early 90's GONE!  It started to feel so good I went into my extra dresser.  Yes I have two dressers.  Again I was ruthless, if it didn't fit right, never fit right, and was never going to fit right I got rid of it!  If it was not pretty and I did not love it, I got rid of it!  I even discovered some things I thought I had thrown away that fit now and are lovely - that was a treat!  By the time I was done our hallway was a HUGE pile of clothing.  My husband came up and ask "what is all of this".  He was so excited that he joined in the fun and added a few things.  When we were all said and done we had 2 extra large garbage bags of clothing to donate. 

I was so excited and felt so free.  I could see all the spaces in my closet.  I could see all the clothes that I love and want to wear.  I did still hold on to a few things.  I have a sweater that is old and ratty but it was my mom's and I love it.  I have another sweater that I have worn once but it was my grandmothers and it smells like her.  I did keep a few suits because I never know if I might go back to that kind of job again.  My favorite little black dress... I honestly think it might fit again very soon and I LOVE this dress and it's matching shoes and purse! 

Now I feel ready to paint our bedroom but what colour and when.  I may even be content to keep it as is.  I now feel like purging the rest of our house.  I did a bit in the kitchen today and want to tackle our basement next.  Funny thing is, when I look around I don't see that much clutter but when I dig deep I find it.  I think the mind is very similar.  When I look on the surface of what I think is me and how I am and think everything seems quite normal and even.  Then I dig deep through yoga practice and mediation and realize that there is a lot of clutter and un-necessary things that need to be swept out.  Dealt with, managed, come to terms with and tossed.  The freedom from cleaning our physical space, can be paralleled with cleaning our mental space. 

Have you cleaned your space lately?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yoga and Kids

I used to think of my yoga practice as a time that I could be on my own.  Now that I am a busy mother of three with a regular practice it is simply time.  I was practicing in my space yesterday morning and it was good.  You know when you get into the groove and the practice just flows.  You don't have to think about the postures they just happen.  Your body is feeling good and it moves with your mind.  If you haven't experienced this yet, don't worry with lots of practice you will.

Where was I...  oh yes my lovely flowing practice...  My middle child Reilly wanders into the living room and starts jumping around.  Of my three children he has the most energy.  He stands in one spot and bounces regularly and I love it.  If he were a Pooh character he would definitely be Tigger!  I try my first step at shooing him away to no avail.  So then I get him doing some postures - he is usually good for two or three and then he gets bored.  It was time for me to get on the floor.  Now Reilly thinks it is time to wrestle and be silly.  I think to myself, how can I use this to my advantage.  He now becomes a wonderful support in my practice.  Some of those forward folds and child's pose are enhanced with a bit of weight so I tell him where to sit or lie down and it is perfect.  He is laughing and giggling over how silly this is and I am getting some great adjustments and help at getting deeper into my posters.  We are also having so much fun together!

My next thought is how do I get a nice little savasana in here?  With bouncy giggly Reilly this might be impossible but let's be present and try.  So I lie on the floor and have him on top of me so he too is facing up.  I tell him to pretend he is a sleep and to try to be absolutely still.  He was loving the rise and fall of my belly and how it made him rise and fall too.  His arms were wide open and unsupported and he thought that this was fun.  I loved that we were having a little bonding moment in our savasana.  Not as relaxing as it normally is but I loved it just the same.

Practice with your kids around.  You never know what you might learn.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Old and New... attachment issues.

I recently received Toyota magazine in my mailbox.  First of all who ever knew that Toyota had it's own magazine, I didn't.  I was intrigued by an article about an old Toyota Celica that this woman had owned for many years and still loved.  This inspired me to write about  my own Toyota experience and of course how it relates to yoga!

My husband and I have two Toyota's.  The first is a 1997 Toyota Rav4 which I bought about a year before we met.  It is white, it is small still has a tape deck.  The clock works sometimes and sometimes not.  When you go over a bump you feel it, and the radio goes on or off depending...  The seat belt doesn't always re-tract but a good tug will make it happen.  I have been in two accidents with her, one that was my fault and one that wasn't.  Her steel construction is amazing and to quote the police officer after I was hit "they don't make 'em like that anymore:  She has been to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, PEI and back as well as many road trips along the way.  Occasionally she won't start but if you talk to her really nicely and stroke the dash after a few minutes she goes.  She has never, ever let us down and is tried and true.  Truth be told even though she is almost 14 years old and this is old for a car, I love her to death.  You could say I am a little attached.  She holds many, many memories from me from my single days, to married with children days and lots of other memories in between.

We recently had to have the little girl repaired.  She has needed not much in her life.  We replaced the gas tank a few years ago and she has had regular oil changes.  New tires once and breaks once or twice.  This repair was big, she needed brakes, rotors, and a very expensive new clutch.  We struggled with what to do.  We were not ready to get another new car (I'll get to that soon) and repairs are still cheaper than buying something new, another used car would put us into the same boat.  So we bit the bullet and fixed her.  I still love the feel of her when I drive.  Her stick fits perfectly in my hand and the clutch still responds when I need it to.  She is still what I prefer to drive.

On the other hand we have a 2011 Toyota Sienna.  This is our family car.  It fits our three children plus friends.  Has a plug in for the Ipod and a CD player but I still use the radio.  The climate control is amazing and you do feel in control.  The seats stow and go for easy transportation of big shopping trips to the grocery store or Ikea.  It too has been to Newfoundland, PEI and Nova Scotia - not to much else yet.  You don't have to make sure the key is still in the lock to roll up the windows.  It has a remote to lock and unlock the doors.  Tons and tons of cup holders and storage.  You would think that with a new car I would love it, I hate to say it but I don't.

You may say that maybe I'm just not a mini-van person and maybe that's right.  I think there is more.  I like the unpredictability of the Rav4, I love that she's been around the block and I have to listen to her needs.  I think that my car is a reflection of me and with that a reflection of my practice.  Sometimes I just don't drive her as fast as I could because she is older and needs a rest, she has had injuries that affect how she handles.  I certainly wouldn't say that I am older and need a rest, but I do have some injuries that affect how I practice.  I practice ahimsa with my little girl, my Rav, and try not to push her to hard.  We don't take really long car trips (2 hours is about as far as I will go).  Her new clutch is kind of like a repaired injury.  We have repaired one spot but the engine is still old so I need to be careful.

My attachment issues are what gets me.  I never thought I would get attached to a car but I totally am.  Just the thought of her dying and having to trade her in or sell her makes my stomach churn.  I know realistically that we can't keep her forever and that eventually I will have to let Baker's take her away for parts or whatever it is that they do...  but I'm going to hold on as long as I possibly can.  I know that attachment is not the yogic way but I just can't help it.  Is it realistic to replace an entire engine when that finally goes....  maybe I can drive her forever...

Hari Om,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Learning Life's Lessons

Life's lessons are things we often don't pay much attention too.  For example if a person in our life consistently treats us a certain way that we don't like, yet we continue to allow it to happen.  Or if we know that a certain food or drink always makes us feel sick but we still consume them regardless.  Some of us have certain behavior patterns that are either habitual or social that we again know are bad for us but yet we continue to exercise these behaviors.

There are so many teachings around us that can help us learn from others.  The Buddhist teachings, many yogic teachings and biblical teachings and even children's story books.  They will teach us to be kind to ourselves, kind to each other, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, don't eat too much, don't take too much and be happy with what you have.  All of these valuable teachings that some of us either ignore or forget.

If we ignore the teachings that have been instilled upon us as children then how can we pay attention to the teachings from our own life's experience.  It is so important to stay present and connected to our experiences.  Reflect either through mediation or physical practice on these experiences and note - was that experience positive or negative?  If I do that same thing again will it always have the same negative or positive outcome.  I know for example that when I meditate regularly I sleep better, I am calmer and can more easily make decisions and have less drama in my life.  When I don't I eat poorly, sleep poorly and feel more stress.

These learned results are packed in so many of our experiences.  If we just took the time to stop, listen and feel we could become more connected with ourselves, with others and with our experiences.  We may learn more about ourselves and others around us.  We could even lead ourselves and others towards more happy experiences.  Especially if we learned from negative experiences and let that behaviour go.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Circle of Life

When I teach savasana or copse pose in class I always remind practitioners to follow with fetal position and that getting up is re-birth.  Our yoga practice in itself can be representative of the circle of life.

I have blogged about my grandmother before so you may know that she has Alzheimer's.  Well she is also 87 and has been having strokes over the last month or so.  Additionally we suspect that she has also had a heart attack.  Since she does have advanced Alzheimer's and is not in great health there is a do not recessitate order should she be close to death.  When that point comes it will be more about keeping her comfortable and less about keeping her alive.

I am watching my grandmother become almost as dependent as my own children where when they were babies.  If my grandfather could see her now it would break his heart.  She was a woman who was married to a military man and that means that she was also married to the military and the way of life.  She raised her children on various army bases across the country, while her husband was either fighting a war in Korea or on military training missions God knows where.  She raised her five children in strange cities, practically a single parent. 

When my mother became pregnant with me at the age of 17 my grandmother and grandfather stepped up.  They allowed my mother and me to live with them and my grandmother became my caregiver.  In essence my second mother.  As a child I had two mothers and referred to both of them as mommy.  How lucky was I to have two women to live with and care for me and support me.  This relationship continued my entire life. 

Now as the eldest of my two mother's slips away first with Alzheimer's and now with her strokes I am not sure what to think.  I am very much at peace with the fact that she is going to die soon.  I have told her over and over how much I love her.  Even now when she is not entirely sure who I am, I still tell her I love her.  Now it is my turn to care for her and keep her comfortable.  I visit as much as I can and I bring my children to see their grand-nan.  She lights up for them sometimes and other times she just sits and stares, I am sure wondering who these children are?

When we look at ahimsa or non-harming, it is right to allow someone to suffer in order to die naturally?  However ending a life would not be practicing asteya or non-stealing as it is not for humans to decide when someone should go.  We all have something to fulfill on this earth.  I am not sure how to practice non-attachment with someone you love so much.  I am ready to let her go, but does this mean I am not attached?  How do we practice saucha - my thoughts about death and dying are not pure.  I like to believe that we all have our time but is it right to allow people to suffer in order to die naturally?  I look at just some of the yamas and niyamas and I am conflicted. 

I have peace in knowing that when she lies down for her final savasana she too will be at peace.  Perhaps this is the Samadhi or the union with bliss that we all look for.  Can we find this in the life we live or is it only during our final relaxation that this occurs?  I am sure that in these questions I ask nothing new. 

I wish, that as a teacher I could guide my grandmother as I guide so many students.  To tell her that she can lie down and relax, close her eyes.  Tell her that she is safe and that everything is going to be all right.  Tell her that she can accept what ever is coming and remind her to let go... her Samadhi is waiting...


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ahhh paint drying

I have recently been on a painting binge.  Last week I decided to paint my dinning room.  I borrow some samples from a friend to paint on the wall.  She has great taste and I liked the samples she had painted on her wall, so I thought... why re-create the wheel.  Alas no, her colour choices were not right for my space.  Off to Home Depot I went, chocolate brown was the quest.  The choices for chocolate brown at Home Depot are endless.  You could spend hours in a chocolate brown frenzy.  I did not have that kind of time, that and I had two children with me.  I purchase three samples at almost $4 each and home I went, samples and brush in hand.

Brown number one was too red it reminded me of PEI sand or the colour of a rusty bike.  The second choice was much to pale, more like a chai latte from Bridgehead.  The third with the name of ganashe was the perfect chocolate brown for my dinning room. 

I used to be a horrible painter so I bought really great tape and vowed to be careful.  Cover the floors, use a ladder and not so thick with the paint.  On the chocolate brown went, it was beautiful.  I felt like I was creating art.  My roller went left to right and up and down and I loved it.  My edges were flawless, my strokes flowed in that moment a great painter was born.  OK back to reality I was just painting my dinning room but the results where better than expected.  I had it done in less than 24 hours.  I replaced my furniture and hung my curtains and pictures.  The room looks awesome and I love it.

Of course the beautiful dinning room was christened that day.  We had some friends over and we drank martini's (really bad ones made by me), some beer and pizza.  We hung out in our dinning room and never left.  When a room is that cozy you hang out in it!

Two days later I found my self at home depot again.  Now my hallway and adjoining family room must be painted.  I've hated the dreadful mint green since we first came to look at the house.  I again bought three samples and used the samples I had.  Alas none of these would be what I chose.  I had lots of chip samples which I started comparing and fussing over.  I finally made friends with and peace with potter's clay.  Again I was up for the marathon painting expedition.  I was again amazing in finishing this room and a half in less than 24 hours.  Did I mention I went to work in between...  The thing with this room is that potter's clay is as boring as clay sounds.  It looks dull and gray.  I am 90% of the time, the person to find the positive but this one is giving me some grief.  It has improved in that I got rid of the horrid mint green, and it looks clean.  It is not a disgusting colour that makes you point and laugh.  Instead it looks drab and I hate it!!!

So now I wonder what would a yogi do?  I have thought positively on the paint, I have been non-attached to the previous colour and was happy to let it go, I am certainly not attached to the new colour.  Maybe I should have practiced more aparigraha and not been grasping for everything all at once.  I could have been happy with the beautiful dinning room that I love.  Been patient and waited for the colour that I loved.  Been present and become one with the mint green?

Or maybe I can just paint over it....

Hari Om

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Free from judgment.

I am taking a more present approach to life and I must say I like it.  I am learning to let go of fear and judgment and I think I like that even more!  I was at a guitar lesson a couple of weeks ago and I had a mini freak out.  I had been practicing every day in the privacy of my own living room.  I had not played in front of anyone yet and when my teacher and I sat down so I could play what I had been working on I froze.  I couldn't do it very well, or not as well as I had been.  I stuttered I stammered I fell over the notes and apologized saying "I haven't played in front of anyone before".  He said the most appropriate thing "I'm not here to judge you"!  With those simple words I was able to let go.  Smiling at fear and judgment and saying to myself right!  I'm not here to judge myself either.  I am here, in my lesson, in my life and in living my yoga, to learn.  After all if I were already an expert I wouldn't need to be here right! 

We often step on to the yoga mat and are trying to impress someone or do better than someone, sometimes that someone is ourselves.  Some people look at the cute girl or the hot guy or maybe our teacher and try to be perfect in a posture so it will impress them.  Or maybe thinking to ourselves, I could touch my head to my knees yesterday I should be able to do it today - watch me!  Our disappointment when the girl or the guy or our teacher doesn't notice.  As well the discouragement when today is different and we can barely reach our feet.  We do this on the mat and off.  Trying to impress someone or be better than them.  Judging others as better, equal or beneath.

I strive to let go of the judgment, be that on the mat, in my guitar playing, my cooking, my children, or walking down the street.  I am practicing being the witness.  Witnessing my breath, my movement, my feelings.  I am learning more about who I am and why I do things a certain way just by witnessing and observing.  The fear I felt when having to play what I had learned, I witnessed and observed - I needed and wanted to be perfect for my teacher.  Reality is, he doesn't care.  I am sure it is better for him to listen to pleasant music, that isn't broken up, off tune, or just really bad.  However he is there because people want to learn and he's a good teacher.  I am sure if he wanted to hear good music he would go to a concert, turn on his iPod or play it himself. 

Reminding my students and reminding myself that our yoga practice and our daily life can be free of judgment.  So what if the girl beside you can touch her head to the floor or the guy next to you has perfect posture.  If we leave our judgments at the door when we pracitce on the mat we can bring that freedom into our lives and into our world.

Thank you teacher for the lesson!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to school

Last week started a series of back to schools for my family.  My seven year old started grade two.  My five year old started a combination of kindergarten and home schooling.  I started taking guitar lessons again.

Grade two seems to be a bit of a mix of happy and sad for Liam.  He was so happy to see all his friends again and get back into a routine.  He has not been so happy about leaving home every morning to go there.  I think grade two must be a coming of age time for boys as well.  Liam is learning more and more about compromise with free play and his friends.  He is also learning the rewards of hard work both at school and at home.  He is starting to chose his friends more on commonalities, rather then just because our mom's are friends.  I am optimistic that this will be another good school year for Liam and that he will enjoy and absorb.  He is changing so much right before my eyes, I want to savor it all.

Reilly met his teacher and went to school one day this week.  He loved his one day but is still holding fast to only going "one, maybe two days a week".  This is fine with me.  We have established a home school program and system that is working really well for him.  He often goes on to do more than he has been asked to do and I am trying to give him the types of tasks that he enjoys.  I am learning more about my son than I ever had just by having him do simple learning at home with me.  We are spending time together.  Not always working together, as he is amazing independently, but we are side by side.  He is even teaching his little sister a few things.  I am proud of myself for holding my ground and putting his wishes first.  He knows himself what he needs and wants more than anyone.

Holly is noticing that her brothers are busy and doing different things.  She is wanting to go on the bus in the morning with Liam and asking to go to school.  I am going to start a more structured schedule for her and I during the day as well so that she doesn't miss her brothers so much.

As the boys have started their school work I am again taking guitar lessons.  My mother bought me a guitar when I turned 16 and I never really learned to play it.  I learned chords and scales and that was about it.  To my own disappointment I never took the opportunity to learn from an ex boyfriend who played all the time.  In the past few months I have been practicing chords and strumming but finally decided to take actual lessons.  I love it!  My teacher is amazing and I learned more from him in one lesson then I ever have.  In the afternoon I practice and whenever I get a free moment.  I practice as much as I can in front of the children as well.  Watching a parent learn something is important for kids I think.  I hope that they can see me learning something new and realize that you are never too old and that we are constantly learning and taking things in.

I am amazed at how much learning the guitar is similar to my yoga practice.  I need to listen to my body.  Take rests when needed.  Breathe, and stay in the moment.  If I make a mistake I need to be present, let it go and move on.  Not be attached to the mistake but look forward to what is next.  The biggest thing for me is the practice.  I have worked it into my evening routine of yoga, pranayam, meditation, some more gentle postures, and then I practice the guitar.  I am so enjoying this time in the evening and my sleep is even improving.

Reilly and Liam are both talking about taking music lessons as well which is great!  I had Reilly in the music store the other day picking up some new guitar picks and he was asking to buy a guitar or a set of drums.  Friends of ours have a piano and Liam has shown some amazing ability and interest in that.  Perhaps the three of us can start a band....

Enjoy the sweet sounds of music,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yoga and Meditation

Lately I have been doing a lot of reading about  meditation.  I have been to retreats and loved the group meditations and the quiet meditations I can experience on my own.  I am often up at 5 - 5:30 on a retreat while everyone sleeps so I can sit in silence, something I can't do at home with my three children.  Recently I attended a yoga and meditation class.  I do have a regular mediation practice, although not as regular as I would like.  It was so nice to sit and feel the meditative energy of other people.  If you are a regular meditator or have not done it before it is something I recommend.

Meditation is an integral part to a complete yoga practice.  Almost like breakfast being the most important meal of the day.  So many people come to yoga practice and they only do postures and forget the rest of it.  Yoga has so many limbs - 8 in fact.  Meditation being such an important piece of the pie.  For those who already "do it", they would recognize when they are sitting and when they are meditating.  If meditating you will lose your senses, forget what happened.  My favorite part of the meditation practice is when the bell rings and I realize that I was gone...  Fully aware but gone. 

One of my first real meditative experiences was when I was preparing for the birth of my second child.  I had planned a home birth and wanted the best thing I could do.  I already had a regular and strong yoga practice and in fact continued teaching until a few weeks before the birth.  I felt I needed and wanted a bit more.  I started practicing hypnobirthing.  I had read about it and until the practice took affect I did not realize that it was deep meditation.  When it was time for birth I practiced my mediation and did some postures.  The birth was amazing and almost pain free. 

When I sit now and meditate and it doesn't feel like it is working.  I remind myself to be present.  To listen to my breath.  To not worry too much about where my mind is wandering.  I don't try to ignore the itch that happens first on my shoulder, then my leg and then my back.  I know that my body does this every time and if I give it time the itches will go away and my mind will settle.  It will settle just as it did when I gave birth, just as it always does. 

Sometimes it doesn't work right away.  This is why they call it a practice.  I have learned to sit with it.  I have worked out so many problems this way.  I know if it really is a problem or just drama I have created just by sitting with it.  Sometimes the solution comes, sometimes I need to sit with it some more.

Sit with it and be present.

Hari Om,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Home or away

It is getting very close to September.  In our house that means back to school.  A welcome change for all of us.  More time for me to spend with my daughter and more time for my boys to spend with their friends learning new and exciting things. 

At the beginning of August just after purchasing some new pants and a few t-shirts for my boys, my 5 year old said to me "Mommy, I'm homeschooling this year".  We have a few friends who home school so this is not a foreign concept to him.  I said "oh sweetie, we'll see".  He has been persistent for weeks about not going to school.  When people ask him if he is excited he tells them point blank "I'm not going to school". 

My yoga mind is torn.  I want to be present and accepting in what my child wants and probably knows what is best for himself.  At the same time - we all went to school and did fine.  I have been doing my research (for years I think).  I have come to the conclusion that I am a home schooler who sends her kids to school.
As a parent I do believe that in most cases our children do know what is best for them.  Encouragement sometimes helps but if a child says they are scared or not ready, they know when they will be.  If I think of myself being an adult if I am not interested in doing something for whatever reason, encouragement does not always help.  Sometimes it makes it worse.

I have the tools I am ready to home school.  The other part of the equation is that my husband is not in favor of the home school.  He believes that we all went to school, our kids should too.  I am normally in charge of most of the activities, school choices and programs that our children do.  I am torn to ignore what my husband feels is best with doing what I think is best.  After all I will be the one doing the work right!

Right now, listening to my son seems to be what matters most.  In my mind home schooling seems like such a gentle approach to learning.  The child learns at his or her pace.  Has plenty of one on one time with the "teacher".  Does not waste time learning things that he already knows but other kids may not.  Learns things that he or she is interested in rather than what the teacher wants to teach that day.  Home schooling to me really falls in line with yoga philosophy, being kind, gentle and listening and knowing your self.  Also following tradition of one teacher, one student. 

It just makes sense to me.  Let's see if I can help it make sense to my husband...


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yoga Travels.

I just spent the past three weeks traveling with my family.  One husband and three children to be specific.  We drove for two and a half days to Newfoundland, then for a day and a half to PEI and then another day and a half back to Ottawa.  The kids were great in the car but we did have to take several breaks to stretch and care for ourselves.

I will have to be honest in saying that this kind of travel had an affect on my yoga practice and frequency of it.  I was able to practice and sometimes the practice was great and sometimes it left me feeling disappointed.  During our frequent stops along the drive I would do a few sun salutations or standing postures by the side of the road.  I am sure I was quite the sight for people driving by.

While we were in Newfoundland staying with my in-laws space, time and silence were a huge issue.  My in laws do not have a huge house and they had more than just our family of five staying with them.  As well any given time during the day would bring in more family members to hang out with.  Thus bringing the space and the noise factor up a notch.  I had a few nice practices but they were often short and interrupted.  I often settled for a nice long walk outside.

Prince Edward Island was a completely different story.  We rented this lovely house with my brother-in-law and his family.  It was not a big house by any means but the lay out was fabulous.  I was able to do a morning practice almost every morning (I missed 2) on the deck outside.  The deck overlooked fields of green and hay as well as water and a beautiful garden (see picture below of the view).  In the evening on several occasions I had a lovely practice in our small living room.  I closed the doors and went to it, I didn't even mind when my niece wandered in to grab a book.

As far as asana practice went I had a nice balance of listening to my body and my family as to when it was appropriate and when it wasn't as well as not beating myself up if I didn't get to it today.  Vacation is supposed to be like that.

The practice of bramacharya with respect to moderation was out the window, this tends to happen on vacation right?!  I ate too much, I drank a bit too much (I'm not a big drinker) and I certainly slothed to much.  The tapas was not always there and I think it is because of the over indulgence.  Really who feels able to get up in the morning when they ate a huge plate of onion rings (you have to try Spud onion rings in Deer Lake), had a couple of beers with the family and stayed up until 1:0am?  Reality says not me.  I would much rather sleep in, get fat and enjoy than get up go for a walk and then have a nice relaxed practice and meditate.  Honestly if I sat and meditated I would probably be thinking about the next plate of onion rings and perhaps some Pizza Delight (maritime pizza chain - yummy!!!)

I am home and back to reality.  My yoga practice will be back on track, my eating back to normal, sleeping and meditating (not about onion rings).  Vacation is nice but it is nice to be back home!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010


My grandmother has Alzheimer's disease.  We moved her closer to us last year so that she could be surrounded by people who love her and care for her.  I am glad that we did that so we can be with her for the last years of her life.  Her disease is progressing rapidly.  She still knows who I am but cannot always remember my name.  Her health is declining rapidly also because of the disease, the brain forgets to tell the other body parts to function.  She recently had a heart attack and has been having mini strokes, her kidney's are shutting down, she never feels hungry and is freezing when it is 35 out.  Her exercise in non-attachment is easy, she doesn't even remember what she owns or why it is or was important to her.  This is the one good thing about being 87 and having Alzheimer's, the material things that used to be so important don't matter.  Her daily ritual of cleaning her house top to bottom is no longer important.  Her hair, make up and outfit when she goes out is not important (she doesn't go anywhere anymore).  She gets more joy out of seeing my mom, myself and my three children then she does out of the objects or routines that used to matter.  I am happy for this.

My exercise in non-attachment is quite difficult.  I lived with my grandmother for a long time while I was little.  I am the eldest grandchild born to a teenage mom.  I called both my mom and my grandmother mommy for a long time.  In essence I have two mothers.  I am very lucky to have this experience.  It was my grandmother who potty trained me, taught me how to tie my shoes, taught me how to bake and who I talked to about boys.  When I was little she and my grandfather moved back to the Nova Scotia where my grandfather was from.  I would spend entire summers there as a child and loved every minute of it.  My heart broke every time I had to say good bye.  I feel like this is what is happening again.  I knew then as a child and even when I would visit as a young adult that I would see them again, talk on the phone to them again but I still cried.  Now I know that I won't see her physically again in this life, that she is with me in who I am, how I look and partially for who I am but it is still hard. 

How do I exercise non-attachment to a woman who helped raise me, who I love so much?  I have meditated, I have thought about it during my physical yoga practice, I have thought deeply about it, and now I write.  I know that I don't have to let go just yet but the time is coming.  I want to have it some what resolved so that I can let her go be at peace.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ahhh the bike

Last week-end I bought a bicycle.  Nothing fancy, just a blue bike.
m feeling though as if this blue bike may be changing my life!  We have a chariot bike trailer so two of my three children can ride behind me.  My eldest is getting quite good at riding his own bike which is great! 

Yesterday I packed up all our stuff to go to the splash pad, popped my sons bike in the back and picked the boys up at school.  It is quite a site though.  Me with my blue bike, basket on front and a huge purple trailer in the back - I swear it looks like a train!! 

I feel free, fit and it is so much fun!  The kids are loving it and asking to go for a ride every day.  I am so glad that they are on the band wagon.  The one exercise I am learning aside from the physical is being where we are as a family.  You need to keep a certain speed with the bike trailer behind but my seven year old is pretty slow.  He also gets tired after a certain distance.  I am finding that I have to get off occasionally and walk behind him but I know this will change quickly. 

The best part is spending some alone time with my kids.  My eldest and I went for a nice ride together just the two of us and it was so great!  He told me about some of his friends, the things he likes to do right now and we really had fun.  I am a huge part of my children's lives already but it is nice to be with them one on one.  I was able to take my middle child out and we had a similar experience and I loved that equally as much.  My daughter is just a toddler but her squeals of delight and "mama look at that" every so many minutes are amazing.

The breath the movement and the time spent outdoors are so amazing I can't wait to get on my bike again, with or without my children.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Butterflies and Yoga

A few weeks ago some friends of our ordered over 120 caterpillars for our children to take home and learn from.  I thought in taking part that it would be a great experience for my children.  Imagine having 8 caterpillars crawling around in a big glass vase in your home.  We fed them thistles, I brought in sticks and leaves to make a really nice habitat for them.  The caterpillars grew big and fat and then crystallized on the sticks and the material at the top of the vase.  A week or so later we have butterflies.  For now the butterflies are in my kitchen.  We have fresh fruit out for them daily along with sugar water.  They have the warmth of the sun and best of all no predators.  When the butterflies are ready they are free to fly outside through our patio door that is open most of the time.  For now the babies are learning to flap their wings and seem happy in my kitchen.

Through this process I of course think how does this relate to yoga.  Obviously the overeating caterpillar who sleeps and eats all day is not a great comparison.  However then I thought that this process is kind of like a mediation for them.  Really the ultimate goal of the caterpillar is to become a butterfly.  As with enlightenment, not necessarily a goal but certainly something that requires a lot of contemplation and mediation.  Just like the caterpillar.  We assume the caterpillar is sleeping when he is not eating but perhaps his bug size brain is thinking about becoming the butterfly.  If you think you are the butterfly you will become one.  After all who knows what happens when they crystallize and turn from a caterpillar to a butterfly.  Perhaps this is the ultimate mediation.

Then of course the butterfly itself is reborn, its karma is recognized.  It either becomes a butterfly or dies.  The butterfly itself has a tremendous practice.  It has to continue to flap it wings to remove the moisture so that it can fly.  Now its job is to eat sugar and flap its wings.  It does this until the flight is relaxed and easy.  This task or practice reminds me of the physical or the asana practice of yoga.  We do the same postures over and over.  Not so that a posture looks perfect but so that you are able to achieve a relaxed and balanced posture, to fly like the butterfly.

When our butterflies chose to leave our family will try really hard to practice aparigraha or non-attachment.  We have fed and loved these butterflies for many weeks.  Observing their moments, their challenges.  Using encouragement (yes I talked to them).  They have become miniature members of our family. 


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Never too old.

I have been teaching a variety of classes for many years.  I used to teach computer courses, then yoga, then childbirth classes.  I love it.  I think one of my favorite things is the interesting people that I meet.  I love sharing my knowledge but I love learning new things from and about them too.

I taught a yoga class this morning and met a new student.  We got to talking after class and she mentioned she was just getting into yoga and really liked it.  For the past several years she has been running marathons.  She is doing the next Boston Marathon and then that will be her last one.  She has come to yoga for something new.  She felt that she was getting to old for marathons.  I said that she didn't look at all that old and certainly not too old.  She told me she was 68 - imagine the sound when my jaw hit the floor.  Amazing 68 and running marathons.  68 and just starting to practice yoga.

Just goes to show that you are never too old to try something new!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Difficult Decisions

The past few months have been full of new beginnings and closing old chapters.  I am finding making these decisions to start new and end old both exhilarating and scary at the same time.  Most of these decisions have to do with my family and how some of my life choices affect them.

For just over two years I have been working on Sundays and the occasional Saturday at this wonderful store called Milkface.  It is a place where I feel at home.  They sell nursing bras, nursing clothing and baby carriers.  They are also a tremendous resource to parents in out community.  My husband has never been a fan of me working there.  It is not the concept, he loves them too.  It is that I have been spending an entire day away from my family when we could be together.  So after months of him badgering me to quit, I did.  I was so afraid to.  I love the environment and the family that owns it are AMAZING to work for.  I had to put all of that aside and put my family first.  You know something I am really enjoying spending those Sundays with my family.  I now try to get all of the week-end "work" done on Friday.  Things like washing the floors, laundry, changing beds and tidying.  This means that on the week-end we can spend our free time together and it is really nice.

I had also started teaching a yoga class on Sunday mornings.  The timing worked and did not really eat into our family time too much.  I taught this class for six weeks and decided that it was not for me.  I had one person coming, which is not enough.  The owner asked if I would switch the type of class and I said no.  It felt good to do that too.  There were a few issues, one is that I was not making enough money to make it worth while.  I teach yoga because I love yoga, but at the same time I need to make a little bit of money.  Especially if I am to be away from my family for a couple of hours.  The other small issue was that I had to prepare a snack for the class to share when class was over.  This is probably what was costing me the extra.  I barely have time to cook and bake for my three children some days, let alone for strangers who may not show up.  For these reasons I have decided to let this class go.  It has been difficult for me to say no.  Again the difficulty lies in the fact that I love the centre and the woman who owns it is lovely.  I just need to put my needs first I guess.  I am sure that as one door closes another will open.

I am looking towards the Fall in planning my schedule.  I am wondering if there will be more things that I need to let go of.  I want to be home with my family in the evening.  Not just being home for dinner and then leaving to go and teach a class.  I want to be more a part of their routine at night.  I feel as if I am missing out.  I say that but I am still home with them from 2:30 when they are done school until 6pm when I leave to teach.  I know many working parents don't even get to spend that much time with their kids.  When we decided I would be a stay at home mom it was so I could be involved in their lives.  I am seeing as they are getting older that they are slowly slipping away and it happens so fast.  My fear is that they will become adults and I will wonder where the time went.  Being present in every moment with my children is what I want for them and for me.  Not present just for the time we have for now.  As doors to my professional life close, I think the many doors to my family life will open.

Hari Om,

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I spent this last week-end away from my family at a retreat in Prince Edward County.  I had some trepidation going into this.  I had not yet been away from my still nursing toddler before.  I had not been to this retreat before.  I had no idea where I was going.  I was afraid of sharing a room with someone as I would be pumping milk. 

I registered, paid my money, asked about private pumping places and got some directions.  I even offered to drive three other women that I knew who were going.  It was lovely.  The drive was great, I got to know three women who I had briefly spoken in class so much better than I did before.  I may have even made some long term friends from the feelings of it.  We did not get lost, in fact the drive was very straight forward and so scenic and beautiful.  We were there before we knew it.  We were shown our rooms and I was so lucky to have a large room with a double bed to myself.  I guess pumping has its perks.

It was different to retreats that I had attended before.  This was way less regimented.  There was snacks between meals.  The yoga sessions, and discussions were all optional.  I of course exercised my option to attend, after all that is what I was there for.  The beds and rooms were cozy and comfortable.  Not cots or bunk beds lined up with a thin sheet for bedding.  The food was lovely, fresh fruit, oatmeal, pasta, curry and homemade desserts.

The other main difference was that the facilitator and "staff" did not all become inaccessible between sessions.  This was so nice.  They were there to eat with us, and there during free time to chat about whatever.  I even took a bike ride with our teacher which was lovely.

The yoga was fabulous.  This was the one known thing about this trip.  I have been taking classes with Kat for some time and she was one of my teachers in training.  I knew it would be great, but the environment made it that much better.  Kat is someone that I would call "shiny".  She glows from the inside out and this did not change in a retreat setting.  The discussions were also fantastic and although I did not always have anything to say or ask I enjoyed listening.  We even practiced laughter yoga, which I had not done before.  We basically were on our mats laughing hysterically for about 10 minutes.  It does sound silly, but we were in that kind of a mood and it worked.  It was really heart opening and energizing to just sit and giggle, contagious in fact.

You would think that a mother of three who is away on a retreat would want to take an opportunity like this to sleep.  I did take a short 20 minute nap on the first day but that was it.  I actually took the time to get out of bed at 6:30am each morning.  Go down to the yoga studio and meditate for half and hour to forty five minutes before the others woke up.  As a mom of three I don't often get to meditate in the morning and often practice my meditations at night.  I relished in the opportunity to be able to do this in the morning and sit and have a long leisurely meditation.  The retreat would have been worth it if I had only done this.  Well, maybe not... but it was a great part of it!

The other portion I LOVED was silence from 10pm until 10am.  Yes we were sleeping during a lot of this but we were also awake in the morning for several hours.  I even went for a walk with one of my friends in silence and enjoyed some morning air, which was lovely.  People can communicate without speaking.  I enjoyed the silence so much that I think I may try a silent "vipassana" retreat next time.  I did discover that I had a few demon's to slay through this.  Lots of voices in my head lots of thoughts to examine.  This really is something I would like to explore further.  I did however have a hard time coming out of it, even though it was such a short time.

One of the attendees asked me how I keep up my yoga and meditation practice as a mom with three young children.  I simply said that the practice changes when you have children.  You learn to become more present in the moment.  Not so focused on what I wished I had of done or what I still have to do.  It is also a very large exercise in ahimsa, in being kind to myself.  My meditation practice is not at an ideal time.  I meditate a night rather than in the morning.  My practice is often short as I get interrupted.  My body is often tired and I am physically not always where I want to be.  One of my teachers once said that "being a mom is a spiritual practice in itself sometimes".  I really believe that and try to accept that.  I also told this woman that I take it where I can get it, like being up at 6:30am at a retreat when everyone else is sleeping.  She had noticed that I was up and meditating early, wondered why I wasn't sleeping.  It made sense to her when I told her I needed to seize these moments to appreciate my practice.

I think I have written enough.  For those who my be reading who have never been on a retreat before, I encourage you to try it.  Relax, rejuvenate and enjoy.  Be present in all it has to offer you!

Om Shanti,

P.S. For the retreat centre I atteneded:
For my teacher that I respect so much:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chatty Cathy's - Help please!

I started teaching a class at a community center.  Very different from teaching at yoga centers...  Where do I begin.  The class was very large, that I can deal with and am OK with.  The more people I can share my love of yoga with the better.  The room was loud.  There was a squash game or jump roping or tennis or something going on in the room behind us.  There was an aerobics class above and the pounding on the ceiling was scary.  I am guessing a room next to or around the corner as the constant slam of a door that felt like ours was very apparent.   All of these mild distractions are easy to deal with.  I play music, I remind them to use the external distractions as a way to improve focus and of course ignore it.

The one thing I have not experienced before was people who talk the entire time.  I have as a participant made the occasional comment, heard the occasional comment.  A laugh, a giggle, a question, an excuse me, occasional noises.  This was different!  Two women at the back of the class had a conversation through the entire practice.   They never took a break.  I am a talker, I know that.  Get me on the phone or in a room with my friends and I can talk.  I do however know that there is a time and a place.  I do not chatter constantly during yoga, meditation, church, plays, presentations that kind of thing.  I can turn it off. 

They started as soon as they walked in, probably before they walked in.  I thought OK they will stop when the practice begins.  NOPE!  During the centering portion of the class, chat chat chat.  During postures, chat chat chat.  During integrations between postures, chat, chat, chat.  Preparing for savasana and centering for this, chat chat chat.  A bunch Chatty Cathy's.  They were quiet for the relaxation/savasana portion, all seven minutes of it.  I swear it must have been killing them.  As soon as I said "bring awareness to your breath".  It started again, chat chat chat.  I said several times "let us enjoy the silent space".  I don't think they heard me because they just kept talking.   I swear I have never heard or seen anything like it.

I tried a few techniques to shut these women up but nothing worked.  I was talking to other women at the end of class so I did not get to talk with them and come to some understanding.  I know they are paying for this class, but so are the other 18 women.  For some yoga is just another exercise class.  However, for others it is meditative and spiritual and a certain amount of respect is required.

For next week during the centering and opening part of the practice I will prepare something to remind these women that it can be a spiritual practice for some.  I am putting it out there to anyone who may be reading... do you have any suggestions to quiet the Chatty Cathy's???


Expect the unexpected.

I think I am now referring to myself as the substitute teacher.  Or as my children like to call it, the surprise teacher and really - it is.  As a yoga teacher who also has a young family I don't always have the free time to have a regular class as our schedule is always changing.  So from time to time I show up for other people and teach their classes and this is fun.  It of course has it challenges.  The first being that the regulars see your face and you theirs.  I am usually offering a smile and a verbal "welcome".  They often grunt or sigh as if to say "who the hell are you and where is our regular teacher?"

Last week I taught a class in the West End at Metta Massage and Yoga.  A lovely space where I have substituted before.  The teacher I was teaching for told me that it was rigorous class with an ashtanga flair.  I planned my class according to these instructions - it was a strength and stretch class.  I had all these really powerful asanas planned with some amazing challenges and some lovely deep powerful stretches.  I am sitting waiting and ready.  The five women who came to the class were not at all ready for the class I had prepared.  I had three women who were in their 50's and not at all fit, one younger woman who was full of injuries and the other who was returning to yoga after a two year break and this was her first time back.

So I quickly scanned my plan and said no way can I teach them all of this and half of these postures are totally not appropriate.  My strength and stretch was more about strengthening their minds and helping them gently stretch their bodies.  Strength and stretch was a beginner hatha class and that was just as much fun.  They tried things that they had not tried before and felt great after the class was over.

We had an interesting conversation as they were leaving.  One woman said "I wish I had time for this everyday".  I said right back "you do".  They all looked at me as if I had three heads.  I told them that yoga does not have to be a 90 minute practice and that everything they did counts.  I they only have five minutes that is OK.  If they are waiting for something on the stove it is a great time to throw in a few sun salutations or a five minute meditation.  Of course 20 minutes is ideal but it all counts.  I have never seem five women look so relieved in their lives.  I think some teachings do people a dis-service if most people are walking around thinking that they don't have time for practice.  More teachers should spread the message that it all counts.  Be gentle on your mind and your body and just do what you can when you can.  That rigorous practice is not always possible for householders with hectic schedules and lives.

Hari Om,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Empty class

I have signed on with the Shunnya centre on Beechwood to teach prenatal yoga on Sunday mornings.  The Shunnya centre is a lovely sunny bright space that promotes relaxation.  As well, they like to focus on creating community which I think is great.  So many people come to yoga, they do their asanas and then they leave.  Never greeting or talking to anyone in their class - a simple namaste can go a long way.  A space to share in a sense of community is so rare now a days.

The last two weeks I have baked a lovely treat to share after class.  Gone to the centre, set up my room, made some tea, put on some music, and have had no students.  My husband seems very frustrated with this.  He feels that if I am going to be spending time away from the family that I should be earning a pay check.  I feel a bit torn.  On the one hand he is right as our family time is very limited.  On the other hand I quite enjoy having such a wonderful space to have a very long and leisurely practice and meditation.  I love practicing in the morning but with the three little ones I have not been able to do that.  This gives me a once a week practice time in the morning that I do not usually have.

The owner of the centre gives a class 4 weeks to determine if it is going to be a success.  I have half a mind to request longer just so I can enjoy the space.  A space free of clutter, children and noise.  This space gives me time to fully explore my personal practice as well as create new sessions for upcoming classes that I teach elsewhere.  I even thought to myself that I would pay her to rent the space for the hour and a half if she would let me so that I could keep using it.  Have it be an open practice space that I use and if anyone feels like joining in they are free to do so.  Hum  I think I have an idea there!

Cheers to space,
Namaste (Have a nice day).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Not very yogic.

This week was a break from my regular teaching schedule where I had a Thursday night off.  I love this as I normally attend my favorite yoga class with Kat.  Last night was no different a free Thursday and off I went.  The class was peppered with yoga teachers from my teacher training and some of their friends as well.

In walked another yoga teacher as the class was filling up and it was getting packed.  She asked a group of women to move their mats over a few inches so that she could fit in.  They refused and said "let the teacher handle it".  Their attitude was a bit harsh as well.  I mean obviously there was not much room left in the class and there were more people coming.  I thought are you five years old and need an adult to tell you what to do.  What the heck...?  The woman looking for more space gave up and went somewhere else.  Sure enough the room got fuller, Kat returned, and these women had to move. 

I was thinking where is the lesson here?  Aparigraha maybe?  Perhaps these women were so very attached to the spot that they picked and with being beside each other, that the thought of moving was scary?  Tapas?  Maybe they had a burning desire to be in the very spot that they had chosen so that moving inches would throw their practice off completely?  Who knows, all I saw was three very rude women who were probably only into the asana part of yoga and weren't beyond that yet.

I also thought back to some of the things I have heard other yoga teachers talk about, like for instance the fact that yoga mats are a fairly new phenomenon (if you can call it a phenomenon).  Historically people would practice in a place and that personal space was all that mattered.  I wonder what would happen if a teacher asked all the students to roll up their mats and practice on the floor?  Anarchy in the yoga studio I am sure!  I sometimes practice at home without a mat under me and I do find it freeing.  I am not confined to the four corners of my mat.  I return to the front of my space instead of my mat.  I practice all around my room and am not concerned with where I was last time or where I am now, I just am.

I wonder if these three women read my blog.  If not they should and maybe they might try practicing in their own space and not be overly concerned with the placement of their mat.

Hari Om,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Something New

Last week I tried something new.  For those reading my blog or in classes with me you will know that I have been struggling with my back for several months.  Last week-end was very intense I was actually walking bent forward and slightly to the left - even after my massage.  So on Tuesday I tried Cranial Sacral therapy.  I was very skeptical at first but once she laid her hands on me I felt the power of it.  I could feel things in my body, strange and interesting things.  Pain, pleasure or just sensation I could not always tell but I knew someting was working.

I left the appointment standing straight with minimal pain.  Still skeptical as my chiropractor appointments and massage appointments give me relief for a few hours at the most.  So I waited!  I had a rough night of sleep the next night, where I swear I felt the cerebral spinal fluid flowing up and down my spine.  The energy going from my pelvis to my head was intense, I can barely describe it, other than to say it felt like energy.  The next morning, still no pain.  Here we are now 4 days later and I feel fabulous.  I have about 10% discomfort and that is all.  The therapist said that people normally need two or three treatments.  So I am aware that I should not simply be pain free after one visit but I feel as if I am almost there.

One of the great things about this is that I actually had a very strong and healthy yoga practice today.  I have been practicing very lightly for the last few weeks as I can barely reach my toes.  My triangles have been legs close together with my arms on my hips.  Today my triangle was wide and strong and my arms were long and extended, I was even able to revolve! 

I am trying not to become attached to the way I have been feeling for the past few weeks to few months, nor to the way I am feeling today.  In my practice I felt certain postures I was holding back for fear of the pain returning or of over strain.  In some postures the tapas (burning desire) to go further was so strong I had to fight back as I don't want to enjoy today for pain tomorrow (ahimsa).  Very difficult to live in the present moment with my body when I am feeling good, as the fear of that causing unbearable pain for the next day is so intense.  Aparigraha with caution I suppose.

I am just very happy to be practicing without intense pain and to know that my practice is of good quality. I enjoy doing asanas and was becoming very sad and frustrated that I was not able to do very many.  Onward and upward!  Maybe I can even try some  new postures and more undiscovered territory - always practicing caution, being aware of were I am in the present and not grasping where I was yesterday or where I will be tomorrow.

Hari Om

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meditation simply

Over the past few months I have been reading and studying and listening to some amazing teachers.  I cannot say that this has not had a profound affect on me.  It has in so many ways.  One of those ways is the way that I meditate.  My previous mediation practice consisted of mediating for 10 or 15 minutes before or after my yoga practice.  So much has changed.

I have tried more ways to meditate in the past few months than I ever knew were possible.  I have meditated lying down, I have meditated on my knees and I have meditated in postures.  I have had my arms extended with palms up to the sky and held it for 11 minutes or more.  I have chanted the same verses over and over in my head or out loud for 20 minutes or more.  I have counted breaths and I have counted how many seconds my breaths take.  I have forced my breath in and out and various intervals and I have let my breath come naturally. 

I have discovered many things about my self.  One is that it is hard to meditate for 11 minutes or more with your arms extended without feeling some kind of pain afterward.  Second is that chanting Gayatri gives me a wicked sore throat the next morning (probably something I need to work on there).  Thirdly is that no matter how often I meditate I always find myself focusing on my third eye (ajna chakra) - again something I need to explore more.  Lastly, was that I think I really missed my old way of meditation. 

So for the next little while I have decided to meditate the old way.  I will follow my old ritual of lighting a candle next to my statue of Ganesha (the remover of obstacles).  Sit on my meditation pillow, close my eyes with my hands in my lap or in gyan mudra (helping to purify the mind).  Set my timer or not and meditate.  Allow my thoughts to pass or to have none at all and enjoy the simplicity of sitting.

I returned to this practice tonight.  My timer went off and I kept going for several minutes longer.  I feel clear and rejuvenated.  My hip and my back feel nice - the pain started to dissipate after a few minutes.  If history repeats itself I should have a restful nights sleep (not with standing Holly waking me to nurse).

I feel bliss!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Letting it out.

We had the second last week-end in the yoga teacher training that I am doing right now and a very strange thing happened to me today...  If you have read previous blog posts you may know that I have been dealing with some back issues from a car accident about 6 months ago.  It has been an uphill battle and I have not been feeling like I have been getting better.  This morning when I woke up my back was killing me, so much that I went to the pharmacy and picked up some good drugs, which I have still not taken yet.  I wanted them to help me rest and sleep tonight so that I could have a better week.  Then during our teacher training we started our opening practice and I was not able to do hardly anything.  Ahimsa, don't harm your self so I huddled up on my mat in child's pose.  OK great, then I felt my eyes stinging, I tried to will it away but they just wouldn't stop.  I then felt the drip drip of tears and saw the evidence on my mat.  Oh no, what if someone sees me crying was all I could think.  I promptly grabbed some kleenex, blew my nose and pretended I had a spec of dust under my contact.  Thought OK deep breaths now, that's all I need are deep breaths and it will all pass and no one will ever know.  Yeah right I had opened the flood gates and the tears got bigger and bigger and there were more.  Oh god what do I do know, I held steadfast in child's pose and tried to breath deeper hopefully when the practice is over it will all stop.  I took another tylenol, rubbed some arnica on my back and carried on.  I managed to wipe enough of the tears away that I just had that "great practice" look that some people have.  Who was I kidding.

It was time for us to break up into pairs and work on our inversions.  There was no way in hell I was working with anyone or doing inversions today (the first time I had opted out in 6 months).  I mentioned to my teacher that I was going to the washroom and would observe another group when I returned.  There were a few of us needing to use the washroom (very common after a yoga practice).  Three of us started talking, one of my yoga friends started crying, someone asked if I was OK and the flood gates continued.  I wiped them away, went to the washroom and tried to pull it together.  Then our teacher came in an asked what was going on since she had missed us, not in a "hey you guys what the hell are you doing?" high school kind of way, but more out of general concern.  Of course my tears started again, I got some more tissues but felt the pressure, oh god people know I am crying, oh god get me out of here - classic fight or flight!  No where to run, simple explanation - I am in physical pain and I am frustrated.  OK carry on - Hari Om right!

Back in the room I just could not seem to stop crying.  By now it was time for a break, class mates asking if I am OK offering me hugs you know the stuff.  Here is where it gets tricky for me.  For those who know me I am the cry alone kind of person.  I try to run away and be alone with my emotions.  It was everything in me today not to pack up my stuff and go home!  But I decided to let my emotions sit with me and see where it all went.  I got some lunch, and rested a bit.

After lunch it was time for more practice.  I thought here is a learning opportunity.  I can either sit and feel sorry for myself or I can carry on and do what I can.  So that is what I did.  I stood up in mountain while everyone practiced wonderfully beautiful postures and I leaned against the wall when I needed support.  I laid in savasana while others did shoulder stands and you know what, I was OK with that.  I was listening to my body and helping myself heal the best way I could.  I was still doing yoga, it was not vigorous, it was not fancy it just was.  "Now is the time for yoga."  I was not attached I was not where I was yesterday, nor where I will be tomorrow but I was where I was today, in the present listening to my body and where my body was here and now.  I was OK with it.

I was grateful to be in a space full of caring individuals, my peers and my teachers.  I did not feel smothered nor did I feel judged.  I felt as if this is where I was supposed to be, I was present in the best way I could be and I felt accepting of that condition. 

In this today I realized a few things.  One is that I need to try something else, the massage and chiropractic care are not really working - I need to try something new.  As well it is more than the physical, when I got home my pain level diminished immensely,  if I was an 8 during the day I was a 3 or 4 when I got home.  Certainly something to explore there.  I am not sure of what it means but at least I know there is something I need to do.  I shall focus my meditations on it this week and with diligence the answer shall present itself.  I firmly believe we all know the answers, we just need to look inside.