Yoga Glow

This is the yoga glow in a busy yoga weekend. It’s the glow as one class finishes and a workshop begins. This is the glow between Vinyasa and Practices for Peace. It’s the glowing break between hydrating to get through the day and grabbing a fiber filled (energy boosting) light meal to get through some yummy gentle flows and deeply healing restorative poses of a two hour workshop.

I walked into my first yoga class 25 years ago. I fell in love. Becoming a yogini changed who I was mind/body/spirit. I had been a bit of a gym rat and my gym was offering yoga to se how the members responded. I’d never tried it before, but I was definitely drawn.

Pressing up to my first downward facing dog, I felt like I was home. I felt like everything just clicked and I wondered how it is it I had never put my body in that position before. I mean seriously. How had my hands and feet never been on the floor with my Sitz bones pressed up in the air? The traction in my back was delicious. The stretch in my calves was and deep and satisfying. I was hooked.

Becoming a yoga teacher almost five years later, changed my life. There’s a saying about your chosen family. I found that whatever yoga community I’m in, becomes my chosen family. Now I’m the matriarch, creating the family. Knowing that I always have yoga sisters to practice with, to connect with, to chat with before and/or after classes and workshops feels so good. Some of that family interaction extends beyond the mat and class time. My yoga sisters and I share food, sip wine by the fire, check-in on each other.

Yoga is more than just down dog at your gym. It is practice, it is mindfulness, it is a way that you hold yourself in life, a way that you choose to walk through life. It is non-violence, selfless service, lovingkindness and compassion at the core of who you choose to be. It is connection, not just with others, but with who you are at your core. It’s getting clear about who you are. Yoga means so many things to so many of us, but I can’t call myself a yogini or a yoga sister without more than just the poses and some breathing. Yoga is a choice.

Is there a simple thing that you did, like walk into a yoga class at your gym, that changed the course of your life? Maybe, like me it changed who you are and how you choose to walk through your life? It feels like a year to reflect a bit and choose to do some big, maybe even hard work. I think that’s why I’ve been thinking about how I got to yoga and what yoga means to me. I’ve been thinking about where I’m going with yoga. I’ll always be a yogini, but what does that mean? What does it mean for my career? Will I always be a teacher? A yoga therapist? A wellness coach?

I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, but it feels like 2021 is asking me to think about some of these things.

What’s making you glow today?

If you’re not glowing the way that you’d like, if you’re craving some connection, if you’re wishing you were more active right now, join us. We are a yoga family of mostly, but not all, women. We are safe and comfortable in our own homes as we practice through Zoom.

We’ve got big sisters and little sister of all ages. Some of us have been practicing for years and some of us are brand new. All the classes are all-levels, but we love meeting new sisters who are new to the practice. Some of us know each other in the real world and some of us only see each other online.

Grab one of your sisters (or brothers) and join us! All the information you need is on the website, but you’re welcome to text me, 785-760-5412, or email me, with any questions or concerns.

I couldn’t love this group of accepting, open, warm and fun women any more than I do. We would love you to join us!


Food Delivery! A Day of Love and Joy.

Each week at A Yogi Kitchen Monday and Tuesday are cooking days. This week I wanted to make big batches to share some, freeze some. Cooking for people, professionally or for friends and family makes me happy. It makes me smile. It makes me feel like me.

January has been a difficult month of highs and lows and I I wanted to share the love with a teacher friend who is also in my yoga family.

Teachers work so hard. Right now they’re working 100x harderl. They’re exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed. I’ve heard from more than one teacher that they cry, sometimes on a daily basis. So, I wanted to share a little love. I wanted to make a part of at least one day a little easier.

I wanted to say thank you. I wanted her to know that she’s seen, that we know how hard it is and how much we, our community. appreciates her. I wanted to show a little love. I wanted to say thank you for making our community special, for caring for and educating our kids, for parenting when we’re not there and for pivoting on the fly all year long. Teachers deserve our thanks, our respect and a better wage every year, but no year points it out more than this year.

First, I made a big batch of marinara from scratch. I tested a new method. A few weeks ago I posted on Instagram about this new approach. I simmered veggies that I needed to use up till soft. I seasoned with oregano, salt and pepper, added diced tomatoes from the pantry and pureed till smooth. This version has so many more vegetables and is so much faster to make. It’s also a great way to use up veggies and there can be greater variety of veggies. I used to spend a lot of time chopping carrot, celery, green pepper, onion and garlic, sauteing in layers, tasting, added more of this or more of that. I also think that this pureed version tastes healthier and cleaner.

I sent some over to my ex and our kids with store bought meatballs. I’m learning to let go of my need to make everything from scratch. There are so many high-quality store bought foods out there these days. It’s not all cheap tv dinners anymore. Then the next day I cooked up sweet Italian sausages with green pepper and oregano for my yoga sister.

Earlier in the week, on Sunday, after Yin and Restorative Yoga she shared her intention of eating more veggies during the week. In many of my classes, but especially on Sunday I ask my students to set intention. It can be intention for the day or, especially on Sunday, intention for the week. Setting intention, taking breaths into how you want to walk through your life helps the week feel more like you want it to feel. It helps you focus on what’s important. While she told me her intention as a goal, I heard the intention beneath it. With some other things she told me she wanted, what I heard was she wanted self-love and comfort. She wanted to take care of herself. And I wanted to help.

So, when I saw organic greens on sale for 88 cents at our local, family-owned grocers, it was a no-brainer. We are so lucky to have Checkers. They strive to offer as much local food as possible and so often have really great deals, especially on produce. They are an asset to our community. Many people I know shop there exclusively. I went there specifically looking for deals and boy did I find them. So I grabbed a huge clamshell of organic spring mix for her and arugula for me. I threw in some veggies so she could have something raw and crunchy. I threw it all together in my Chicago Trader Joe’s bag and took it to her family’s house.n

The families that support our educators and school staff are so important. They love and support the people who care for our children. I felt like it was important to do something for the whole family.

Cooking for people, both professionally and personally brings me so much joy. it is how I nurture people, how I help them heal, how I help their lives feel a little bit of ease, it’s how I love them. So, I had a big smile across my face the whole drive over.

Later, after the dinner hour, she texted. “We all feel cared for and full!!” And isn’t that the foundation of what we all want? Literally, figuratively and metaphorically cared for and full kinda sums it up.

I incite you to think about what makes you feel cared for and full. What can you do for yourself to create that feeling. What can you ask for from someone? Whether it’s self-care or care from a loved one, it’s a good feeling.

Are you finding yourself in the need of a little love and care join us online Saturday February 6, 1-3p, central US time for Practices for Peace. It is a workshop I created to open your heart and help you feel connected, grounded and full of peace to radiate into the world. Our world needs your peace and needs it to ripple into your family and community. Small changes make big differences.

You’ll leave feeling relaxed, loved and cared for. It’s a super gentle practice. It’s two hours long because many of the poses that we practice are restorative. They take time. You relax into deeply healing poses and breathe, letting restoration, rejuvenation and renewal wash over you. It’s an all-level class, you do not need any previous yoga experience. You’ll need props. If you don’t have yoga props, you can bring a few large towels, blankets and/or pillows.

You can read more at the website and you payment of just $25 for two hours of yoga saves your mat space. Email me with any questions or concerns.


Give Yourself Permission

Wow! What a tough January we’ve had. It’s hasn’t even been two weeks since the storming of the Capitol and the failed coup attempt.

If you’re anything like me you’re feeling a huge barrage of feelings. Still. From rage and disgust to sadness and sorrow, I think these feelings are universal in the US right now. And I want to acknowledge that we are all feeling raw. regardless of our political beliefs.

I invite you to take a moment and give yourself permission to take a beat. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, even over ten days later. Don’t bully yourself to get over it or to move on, if you’re not ready. It’s okay to be where you are. It’s okay to be who you are, without any excuses or explanations.

We’ve all suffered a trauma. Assuming that you’re not someone who stormed the capital, you’ve been the victims of trauma. You’ve been traumatized by the events, the images, the constant news stories, tweets and blog posts. This I know, trauma takes time to heal and there’s no real timeline. It’s a lot like grief and shares some of the same aspects of grief. Be okay with your inner rhythm of healing. Remember, you may be able to move past trauma way faster than I can, but maybe not as fast as your sister. Don’t apologize or judge yourself. Let it be okay to heal the way that works best for you.

I also want to take a moment to just say, you’re not weak or highly sensitive if you’re feeling raw, weepy and traumatized. You may be highly sensitive, but not because you are accurately reacting to trauma. You WERE traumatized and these feelings are appropriate to what has happened. We all have some shadow beliefs about how our feelings show up in your lives. We have a lot of SHOULDS. Let is be okay to just be who you are. You CAN be devastated by trauma AND be super strong.

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which I include in my Yoga for Anxiety and Depression teachings, we talk about healing from trauma, especially as to how it relates to anxiety, depression and PTSD that existed before a trauma. Those of us with past trauma tend to come down from new trauma a little slower than other people. However, as an interesting juxtaposition, we often deal with trauma better in the moment.

For example, I am a wiz at getting through a crisis. My PTSD, in most cases, make it so I’m calm and helpful. I’m great at seeing the big picture and prioritizing what needs to be done or how to be safe. It’s not until the calm after an accident or traumatic event that I actually might feel stress or have stress symptoms, like nightmares, sleeplessness, digestive issues, crying or feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. . By the timeI actually start to feel trauma the people around me are through it and sometimes frustrated that I’m still talking about what happened.

So, I highly encourage you to really be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to manage however best works for you. Don’t worry what anyone around you says. Enjoy the process. Although, it’s often painful, it’s also filled with so many lessons.

If you’re feeling raw from anything in your life, join us for Practices for Peace. It’s a two hour online workshop to help us access the peace within and also vibrate that energy for the world around us.

It’s a soothing break on Saturday February 6 to release, relax, rejuvenate and heal. Whatever you need ot heal body/mind/spirit needs to focus on, you’ll get quiet and practices poses to open your heart to peace and love.

Sign up for this workshop and get 20% off a wellness coaching session for some mentorship around healing, releasing and relaxing for either before or after Practices for Peace!


It’s The New Year! A Shift in Energy.

It’s shifting, do you feel it? I’m feeling it. Do you feel a shift in your energy and in how the season is affecting our world?

I feel it and normally I think that it’s mostly in our heads. I think that we like the idea of new beginnings, so we like to believe that a new year feels different.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that whether the shift starts mentally or in our bodies, it doesn’t really matter. There’s a shift.

This year, though., there is literally a shift in the energy around us and within us. The last full moon was just over a week ago in the house of Cancer.

I’m not big into astrology, but I will tell you that as someone born on June 23rd, right on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer, I feel moon energy. My dad was a doctor who said I don’t care what the research says, I’m busier delivering babies during a full moon. The hospital is a little weirder and busier during the full moon. He’d say I don’t know what kind of data they were gathering, for that research, but if you just stand in a hospital ER on the full moon, you feel it.

The energy of the full moon in her house is generally thought of as a little less weird and wacky. It can be soothing and nurturing. it can also be about emotional release I felt that shift in energy. It inspired, motivated me and got me excited about 2021 and the shift into the New Year.

I invite you to think about and perhaps even journal about how this shift is affecting your life. Even if you didn’t really notice much of a shift. Imagine it. Take a moment to write about shifts in your life. What they mean and how you can move with that energy and not against it.

Then I encourage you to think about and maybe journal about how you’d like to support that energy in your life. Maybe you write about the year, but perhaps just about this quarter, this month or this week. you do not have to figure out everything all at once. Give yourself some space to think about things.

I’d like to give you permission to do what feels right for you. Do not feel pressured to figure out all of 2021 if that doesn’t feel organic to you.

With all of that, everything it means, I would love to see you come to yoga at A Yogi Kitchen.

The January schedule is above and descriptions are on the website. It would be lovely to have you join us in class. If you do, please introduce yourself and let us know how you found A Yogi Kitchen, but don’t feel pressured. If you want, just come to an online class, leave your camera off and do whatever yoga you can, that’s awesome!

Maybe you drop me an email later, mel@ayogikitchen,com, to let me know that you were there or maybe you don’t. You do what feels best for you. I’ll always tell you is that this is your practice. It’s not about me, it’s about you and your needs.

I invite you to snuggle down into the energy you’re feeling these days and then go to the website and see if there’s a class that matches that energy. There is lots and lots of yoga out there and I may not resonate with you. That’s cool. Check out other teachers around the internet. Feel free to drop me a note and I may have a connection for you and the kind of yoga that you’re looking for.

I hope you’re having a fantastic new year!


Slowing Down Even More

This post is a bit different for me, as I’m shamelessly promoting my classes. But here’s why.

Learning to slow down is a special skill. It took me a long time to get it. Perhaps because I grew up in the restaurant industry where the pace is go, go, go, I thought of slowing down as silly or even weak. The faster you move, the more you get done. The faster you serve the more money you make. I thrived in that environment. I was a fast thinker, a fast talker and a fast mover.

Well, not a lot has changed. I still talk too fast sometimes and think too fast most of the time. I have learned, though, how to just be still and breathe. I’ve learned to crave the space, time and energy that slowing down creates. I’ve learned that slow is spacious, nurturing and delicious. Fast now feels constricting and miserly to me. Slow feels generous and gracious.

This month at A Yogi Kitchen, I’ve been teaching slowing down. Even in Vinyasa, I’ve been teaching how to slow it down a bit, but still get the strengthening workout we associate with a flow class. This is the last week of 2020, so I feel like the lesson is even more important right now. I’ve been teaching and we’ve been experiencing how slowing down actually creates space., time and energy in your life.

When I feel like I can’t squeeze another thing into a day, but I take 30-60 minutes of time that I didn’t think I had and get on the mat, the second I walk off, I feel lighter, more focused, centered and productive. I feel like the things that overwhelmed me just an hour ago are doable. It’s much easier to sit at my desk and bang out the work I need to do, or run the errands and start the meal I know will take some time. Everything is streamlined. There os ease I didn’t have before.

I’ve been inviting my students to slow down with me in all my classes, but especially in the Yin Yoga class that meets twice a week. We slow waaaay down and breathe into each pose, feel it expanding and releasing mind/body/spirit.

I invite you to join us this week for Wednesday evening Yin Yoga to slow down and get ready for a new year where we all do a better job of treating ourselves well, taking breaks and creating space.

AND, just talked with a longtime student and we decided, this minute, to do a special New Year’s Day practice! It’s a tradition I’m bring back this year as I’m not traveling like I so often do around the holidays.

We’ll meet on Zoom at 10:30a central time for a gentle, flowing and restorative practice. You’re invited! So check out the website and join us to slow down to enjoy more of your life the way that you want it.

Invite your friends and family. All classes are donation-based. You pay what works for your budget. Looking forward to meeting some new people. Come a few minutes early. You do not need to turn on your camera or microphone if you’re shy, but you’re always welcome to be a part of our community by introducing yourself and requesting a pose or help for an area of the body that needs some attention.

Whether you slow down with me or not. I hope that you have a lovely, safe and fun New Year’s celebration and that the way you choose to bring in the new year feels significant and meaningful to you!

Peace, love and light.


How Yoga Asks You To Know What’s True

I had already been teaching yoga for anxiety and depression when I took dialectical behavior therapy to help me manage my own anxiety and PTSD.

When I walked into the group therapy room at Bert Nash in Lawrence, KS and the therapist started talking, I felt like I was home, much like I felt during my first yoga class. In DBT, they were speaking my language.

The core of DBT is mindfulness, so how could it not sound like my language? DBT asks you to get quiet, to listen and to distinguish what’s true. What is true in this moment from the story you tell yourself, or even worse, what other people have told you about who you are or about your life? What does that even mean?

We all do this, so if it resonates with you, please don’t beat yourself up. There are a lot of stories we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves stories about different aspects of our lives. All of the time.

Let’s say you try an arm balance in a yoga class. Everyone else is lifting up gracefully into crane pose and you are shaking and sweating and can’t get your feet off the floor. So, you say to yourself, Well, I’ve never been very strong so no wonder I can’t do it. I’m weak. This isn’t a pose for me, I won’t be able to do it.

That’s a story. I’m weak is a story that you’ve told yourself. I won’t be able to do this, so I should quit is a story you’ve told yourself. Perhaps your stories have kept you from things your whole life. You don’t take in any of the truths of this moment.

You don’t remind yourself that you’re new to this pose and the others have obviously done it before. Perhaps it’s true that strength hasn’t been your strong point in the past, but does it mean that you can’t gain that strength? Does it mean that you don’t get something out of the pose every time you try it even if you can’t do it? Does it mean that you shouldn’t try it and try it over and over again?

People often tell me they don’t like yoga because they can’t get quiet. They’ve told themselves a story, about themselves, about yoga and about quiet.

Quiet isn’t necessarily your state of mind. It’s also your environment. You don’t have to get quiet, you can just be in the quiet. Quiet also doesn’t mean silence. Yoga isn’t necessarily quiet. My classes often has a bunch of chatting during asana practice. There’s laughter, there’s loud breathing and chanting. You are an amazing changing, learning, growing human. Just cause quiet has been hard for you in the past, doesn’t mean it will be again and hard isn’t bad. You probably learned a lot with your effort.

What I tell people is that it’s okay to have a busy mind while you’re on the mat. What we’re doing when we meditate, when we practice, when we’re focusing on the brain is observing. We’re watching the brain. We’re not trying to control our brains. We’re just observing and that is the act that helps us quiet our brains.

Cause we cannot affect change without getting present with what is true first.

As you sink into the work, the practice, the brain naturally gets more quiet. Sometimes it takes more than an hour practice. It might happen slowly over time. It might take weeks, but I promise your brain chemistry will shift and your brain will feel different. Your patterns will start to shift.

Sometimes when I ask students to check-in with how they feel, mind/body/spirit, they have no answers. They don’t know how to connect with their heartspace, they don’t know how to get present with what is in the moment. Sometimes, it’s just being on the mat, being in the practice. Sometimes you need something more, faster,

I invite you to take a few moments. Close your eyes and just name the things that you know are true right. now, even if it’s just two things, but I bet you can get more than two things.

I do this when life is feeling scary and hard. Often it’s the thing that helps me relax a panic attack. I breathe and notice what’s around. I say, I am cold. My cup is red. The clock is yellow. The dog next door is barking. And I just keep noticing and naming everything around me. That is what’s true. It’s sounds ridiculously simply doesn’t it? We try to make it so hard, like quieting our brains, but that’s part of the story we tell ourselves, right? It’s too hard. I can’t. What if you let go of the perfectionist and just said, I’ll do it or I’ll try and if I get a taste of it, that’s enough.

Relax, there’s no way to mess this up. It’s not rocket science, it’s yoga. The cup is red. It’s not green or blue or purple. It’s red. That is a fact and it is not going to change. That’s enough.

Start with the little things that you know are true and then work towards the things that might be true. I’m cold is most likely true. you’re not going to get confused, right? You’re not going to say you’re hot when you’re actually cold. It may change, though. In 20 minutes you might be warm and that’s okay. We’re just noticing this moment. Feeling grounded right now is what we’re aiming for and noticing this moment will help you do that.

If you need to return to this practice in 20 or 30 minutes because you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, disconnected or in big pain, then you’ll notice what’s true then. You don’t need to worry about what’s true in the future. Just notice what’s true right now.

So, that’s the how. I invite you to join us for yoga practice online to work on this, no matter how much you fear or push away the quiet and the poses, just join us and do this part of the practice. Now that we’re online, that’s an option. Most teachers are not watching you during practice, so you don’t have to feel self-conscious. You could just drop into a class and do any part of it that feels good and leave the rest.

Baby Steps.

You could also do a YouTube or pre-recorded yoga practice. You will be asked to be present in the moment, no matter where you’re taking yoga.

If you’d like to join us, our Zoom ID is 494-009-9537, password Peace for at least the next two weeks. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the updated schedule and workshops that are looming. And of course, you can always ask questions there or by commenting below.


No One Gets To Escape Grief

About six years ago I started working with people who were having trouble with loss. They were in grief, but couldn’t wrap their minds around it and couldn’t process it. They were incapable of letting it move from their head into their heart and body, which I think is the best way to move through. So often, though, we keep it in our heads and believe we can think our way out of an emotional experience.

Logically, those clients back then understood they’d experienced a loss, but refused to feel it, refused to examine their pain other than to try to think or logic their way out of it.

I believed that many of those people were suffering in unnecessary ways. Their grief was showing up mentally. There was a lot of depression and anxiety, not because they had a mental illness, but because they were in grief. However, there were a few who had mental health issues and the grief was magnifying their symptoms. There was a lot of body pain, lethargy and ruminating. For some of those people, they were used to the discomfort of mental illness, but suddenly they just couldn’t manage it. Grief.

Just at that time I met a therapist who specializes in grief work and who was interested in creating workshops. We met at the perfect place and time in our careers. We started giving talks and teaching workshops to help people process grief, to help them move ino the net part of thier lives and to feel grounded body/mind/spirit.

What I learned from that time was instrumental in how I dealt with my father’s death several years later. I learned how much shame people feel about grief and about how we deal with it. One of the things that we taught in those workshops is to release expectations, around how long it takes or how much pain we experience. How often have you heard someone say, “I didn’t even know them that well, I don’t know why I’m so sad.” . In the United States you are told that grief has a timeline. Most workplaces allow THREE days of leave for the death of a family member. THREE days.

Most people feel that they should only take that time for a parent, child or partner death. Most workplaces only allow that. They don’t take time off for the death of an old friend or a coworker. We’ve come to believe that unless the death is of a close family member it shouldn’t affect us that much.

After dealing with the death of my dad I find that absolutely ridiculous. Our whole attitude is baffling. If you’ve lost someone, you know that often it only takes a week or two for people to stop asking how you are or to stop dropping off meals. They assume you’re over it all. They start asking you out, way before you’re ready, as if you should be ready to return to normal.

I also learned that people think grieving should be very private. We shouldn’t talk about it, we shouldn’t share online or in anyplace other that our small circle of insiders. I was super surprised by this attitude in a very diverse group of people. Even therapists.

When my dad did died and I talked about it in conjunction with the work that I do, people considered it opportunistic. My mouth was hanging open. This is what I do and this is what I’m going through so why wouldn’t I talk about it? I don’t believe that we should be quiet about how we’re feeling or what we’re going through. I think we should share. I believe that by sharing the big and hard things, the B sides of our lives, we support and care for each other. We don’t do anyone good by sharing or only sharing the A sides, the birthday parties, the engagements. It might be fun to share or feed our ego, but it doesn’t serve anyone. You never know how what you say about your pain or your own tough situation affects someone else. You never know how what you share is exactly what another person needs to hear.

Now, that goes both ways. Sharing what you are experiencing may hurt someone else and I think that’s what was happening with the people who wanted me to stop talking about losing my dad. I think my openly grieving and talking about my pain made these people have to contemplate their grief and pain and people do NOT like to think or feel that. They like to stuff it down. Even therapists.

So, I tried not to take it personally. I tried to sit with the pain of feeling rejected, but also know that their pain was not about me. It was their fear, their grief, their avoidance. Obviously, I don’t really know, hut it was about them and their experience. It was not about me at all.

The thing that I really walked away with when my dad died, years after I started teaching about navigating grief, is that no gets to skip it. There is no escape. I thought I was prepared, but everyone’s experience is different and I couldn’t expect that just cause I taught it, I understood it. I also thought I’d done a lot of work around this difficult relationship so that I would be able to accept it when he died.

I suspect that some of the people who had a hard time seeing me post about my dying dad and my business hadn’t processed their own grief. Maybe they had some anger that I was talking out loud about my pain and they couldn’t, for whatever reason, talk about theirs. Maybe they thought I was getting a lot of attention, too much for the subject. Or maybe they just thought I should get over it and move on.

I’ve been thinking about this because we just finished Grief Journal Week at A Yogi Kitchen, some of the prompts are above. We’ve done this every year in the fall for four or five years. I’ve also been thinking about this because the holidays bring up so many grief issues. We feel the loss of people who have died and relationships that have ended more than at other times of the year. This year so many more of us have lost people, sometimes multiple people. Due to the nature of 2020 and how it just keeps making our heads spin, it feels that it’s important to take an extra moment to be present with our feelings of loss and grief.

The absolute best way that I know to process feelings, especially loss, is to get out of your head and get into your body. I encourage you to use movement as a tool when your feelings are big and unmanageable, but also as a way to consistently get through the day to day. A run, a long walk, even just dancing in your kitchen can help you be present physically and calm some of the mental anguish of your pain.

And, of course, you can join us in December on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday for a yoga practice to open your heart, release tension, relax your body and soothe your nervous system.

The small gift of the pandemic is that there is so much online movement, whether it’s yoga or Barre class, Body Flow or dance, it’s there and it’s possible that the mental benefits are bigger than the physical ones.

Remember that you’re worth the time and effort to create a little space and ease in your day. A little bit on a daily basis goes a very long way. Let the discomfort of loss and grief be okay. It’s the fastest way to move through it.

The other side feels pretty good.

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My Office Today

Life has changed.

What a ridiculous statement, right? 2020 has been about nothing, if not change. We’re exhausted by the change, we’re overwhelmed by it.

But that’s not exactly what I was thinking as I snapped this pic, sitting in the corner of the cafeteria at Chicago’s Loyola University Medical Center waiting for my dear to get a test. I was here last week nervously waiting for him to get a procedure to close a hole in his heart. I can go into great detail about this, because I Finally really get the anatomy of the heart. I may forget again next month, as I always do a few months after learning it, but I think this time it might actually stick.

But the point is getting away from me, as it so often does.

When I took this pic and decided to let it be, uncropped, so you could see the absurd color of the carpet and the actual space between tables and feel the lost and forlorn atmosphere was that my life has changed so much from when I used to spend so much time in hospitals and nursing homes.

As i so often do at this time of year I’m spending some energy looking back. We are in the last two weeks of the year, Weeks 51 and 52.

I’m looking back and remembering that just two short years ago I was trailing my dad around from nursing home to nursing home, hospital to hospital as he kept hearing what he didn’t want to hear and kept firing Drs, staff and facilities. That was a year of a lot of death,.

The next year, I call the year of doctors appointments. After my dear had an ischemic stroke, it was schans and specialist a few times a week for a long time.

Then a dear friend’s mother died and I spent long hours sitting with her, singing to her as she slept fitfully or struggled to get relief from her pain. Then, a child in the ER in the midst of the pandemic.

So, it was a few years of a lot of hospitals, mostly in Chicago.

These days the inside of a hospital is a rare sight. Now being inside one, after so many months away, it feels so strange. The pandemic has taken its toll. People seem wary. Staff, faculty and healthcare workers seem exhausted and weary. This is the sight you see in waiting rooms common areas, empty tables, spread far apart.

The last decade, especially the last four years, has taught me a lot about change. This year accelerated that learning. So little of what I knew four years ago is true today. So little of what I knew just nine months ago is still true.

In yoga we’re taught to embrace, accept and surrender to change. We’re taught that it’s natural, normal and we should anticipate it and relish it. I think that 2020 has been a practice of that lesson.

We may not have relished it, but I think we’ve learned. I think just like the generations that lived through World Wars and The Great Depression, we will no longer take things fort granted like we once did. I believe that we will accept change on a different level than we every did before.

I think there has been a lot of hidden gifts during the pandemic. I think this is the biggest, the most important and the one that will serve us the best into our futures.

Journal Prompt:

I learned…..this year. What was your big hidden gift this year? It doesn’t have to involve the pandemic. It can be absolutely anything that impacted you this year and will continue to do so.

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The Scarab and the Horses or Slowing Down For Joy

I’ve been thinking and writing about slowing down lately. We got snow in the MidWest. Lawrence, where I am for a few more weeks was particularly pretty because a lot of our trees hadn’t changed colors yet. So, there were green leaves, some yellow and orange leaves and SNOW!

So I feel like the universe is encouraging me to slow down right asd I’m starting to really connect with the benefits and deep self-care involved in slowing down. It’s such an important practice and the lessons from it change you. In the last post, Slow Down! I thought and wrote about what slowing down is and what it isn’t.

Writing that post, I took a moment to reach back and remember an experience about 18 years ago. I went on a mindfulness retreat somewhere just outside of Wichita, Kansas. It was out in the country at a private home that could have been an intimate hotel, tucked away in the woods with a pool and horses. We spent the day getting still. We swam and indulged in a delicious fresh and homemade lunch when we weren’t meditating and engaging, learning and stretching.

After lunch, in the warm Fall afternoon of our full day retreat, we practiced walking meditation. We each chose a separate area of the large property as out own. There was an open field or two, a garden, pasture, and wooded areas.

I chose a wooded area that had a slightly worn path that circled a large copse of trees. I walked slowly in the dry orange and brown leaves. I rolled each foot from heel to toe minutely, listening to the crunch of leaves, feeling the bones in each foot shift and spread as I slowly rebalanced my weight, staying centered through the pelvis. I relaxed down a tiny bit into my center and my power, released my shoulders, opened my heart and walked with purpose and intent. I watched the patches of brown and black earth give way to a bed of crunchy Autumn colored leaves with an occasional green sprout still working hard to fight the end of Summer. It was the middle of a Kansas country October day, Life felt good. Walking meditation felt like a good place to be.

I heard something crunch near me, but not on top of me, not too near me. I felt my heart speed up and my breath get shallow. I felt panic and the desire to run. My fight or flight can go either way. Often when it taunts me to run, I can gather my strength and want to engage in that fight instinct.

I didn’t know all this about my anxiety and PTSD back then. I kept moving. I kept rolling my feet slowly, one after the other, heel to toe, heel to toe. What would have taken seconds in normal time took minutes. I heard the crunch again and a shuffle. I instinctively looked up and saw blue sky, semi-bare branches and soft rolling clouds. It felt calm and there was no energy of danger or expediency, except in my nervous system. I took deep breaths.

I returned to watching my feet and the ground beneath me move past slowly. I became even more quiet, observing the almost stillness around me. There was still the sound of a gentle breeze and the feeling of calm. The crunching got louder. It had a shuffle to it again. It didn’t sound like anything big, but I was suddenly scared.

Now, scared is not an easy place for me to be. I didn’t just push this feeling away. I relaxed into it. My instinct to run and hide has served me well in a childhood of trauma. Again, more often, my instinct has told me to fight. However, I fought my instinct to make myself small and disappear. I fought my instinct to rush or attack. I continued to breathe, heavily, and to be present with my pounding heart. I remember thinking if I screamed, others could reach me in a matter of seconds, not minutes or hours as my past had prepared me for.

I kept walking, having a trust in the universe that I didn’t know that i had. Really, it sounded like an animal, but I had trust that I was bigger than it was and that it would be more scared of me than I was of it.

Finally, after several minutes, and what seemed liked longer, but only a few steps more, I realized that I was on top of the sound. I stopped and looked around. Slowly. With a sense of wonder, because I’d been so intent on the ground that looking up felt like a huge world had opened up in my little grove of trees, I took in my surroundings. Everything seemed brighter, more clear and open and I felt my heart melding with the sunshine, the trees, the ground beneath my feet.

I know, it sounds hokey, but if you’ve experienced something like this, you know, it’s not hokey and there are no other words to describe it.

It was a beetle. A rather large iridescent green and blue beetle. A scarab, in any place other than Kansas. I stopped. I’ve never seen an insect like it in real life. It continued on, completely oblivious of me. The beetle’s movements matched the sounds that I had been hearing. It didn’t move many crisp leaves. It just determinedly moved through our little forest, which to it must have seemed immense.

In the time that I had become aware of it’s sounds and movement it couldn’t have moved more than a foot, maybe a bit more. Yet, in my silence, my commitment to the moment and my slow movement, my heightened awareness made it seem much bigger. The beetle seemed to me like a large animal crashing through the forest.

This is slowing down. This is what happens when we are intentional and deliberate in our movement. Everything seems bigger, louder, more intense than it would in everyday life. In everyday life we numb out, we watch too much tv, we consume too much sugar, alcohol and caffeine. We dull our senses. We consistently escape from the moment.

When we crash in front of the tv or crawl into bed in our attempts to push everything away, the opposite happens. Pushing the world away in a haze or even in a deliberate attempt to escape actually speeds up time. All of the sudden four episodes and 3 hours have passed, but it feels like just a few moments. It’s this kind of slowing down that makes us wonder, what happened to the day. Easily it becomes day after day of doing nothing, but we tell ourselves, we’re just taking time, it’s just a moment and it’s okay. And it is okay. It’s totally fine. We do what we feel we need to and whatever it takes to get us through is perfectly fine.

What I know though, is that everytime I do that I feel kinda yucky,. I feel heavy and lethargic and sometimes my brain has to bully my body back into regular life. When I do the other kind, the intentional slowing down, it makes me feel better. It makes me feel more me, in the best sense. It makes me feel rested and energetic and whole.

When we set intention to slow our heart beat, slow our brain, slow the moment, the moment feels infinite. That afternoon outside of Wichita, of trusting and waiting to see what was in front of me, was just a few minutes. It felt much longer. The entire exercise was just 20 minutes or so, but it felt like the entire day. .

I stood for a moment in awe of the moment. I watched the beetle. I watched it’s slow and deliberate movement. I listened and learned from the beetle. I delighted in its beautiful colors and smiled at its jerky movements as it navigated the bed of leaves left in the copse of trees. I smiled deeply and felt peace.

This is the gift of being present. This is the joy of the moment.

I have two thoughts about sharing this with you. The first is that in taking a breath, taking a moment, I connected with joy. Joy is our natural state. An open heart full of love for the oft unseen, is joy.

Think about young children and how they find such delight and joy in the simplest pleasures; a first bite of ice cream, seeing a familiar face again, laughing at a puppy or kitten. That child was connected to its natural state, a state of joy, openness and delight. That is the gift of slowing down and being present.

The other thought is to tell you the rest of my amazing story. This alone was a life-changing experience, but then the leader of the retreat sounded a bell and our private time was over. It was time to return to the group.

I picked up my pace and left the wooded area. I came into a clearing next to a horse pasture. I stepped out into the full sunlight, blue sky and unconcealed air and felt refreshed. I felt full of energy and fully in my body. To my left was the fence for the horses and almost fifty yards beyond were beautiful brown and black horses. They’d been grazing when I’d gone into the small forest and as I stepped out they lifted their heads and froze. They stared at me.

Then they did the most amazing thing. They ran towards me. They ran so fast, that I got a little scared. It was what I imagine a celebrity must feel when fans realize who they are from down the street or across a square. They ran, with manes flowing and I could hear their hoofbeats so loudly that I cringed a bit. And then they stopped. They all, five or six giant horses, stopped dead at the same time just a few feet from the wooden gate and stared at me.

And I stared at them. They stared at me. In my delight and that feeling of being chosen, I moved towards them. And it almost feels like I crashed back to ground, cause when I moved towards them and the gate that separated us, they retreated. It was almost like they said to themselves, oh, it’s just one of them and we don’t know her.

It is an experience I will never, ever forget. It was so…different and may I dare say…surreal, that it is sealed in my memory. That is presence and from that comes joy. And this is the gift of presence that I gained from slowing down.

If this is an area where you’d like to do more work, subscribe to the newsletter and join us this November as we open our hearts into gratitude and deepen our mindfulness practices. You can also check out the website to see what we’re up to.