Tis The Season for Connection

It’s December and this is when our lives are full of connection. Connection is why we look at this time of year so fondly. It’s when we made cookies with Great Grandma, when we went with our parents to see Santa, when we schemed with our siblings to figure out what we were getting for Christmas. Later, it’s when I spent late nights whispering with my husband about what would bring that look of delight into our daughter’s eyes.

Years after those childhood baking adventures and well after my marriage ended, I still feel connected by engaging in those same activities. I learned how to make pepper nuts from my former Mennonite MIL and I feel connected to her and my daughter, who loves pepper nuts,  by baking them every year, even though my ex’s mom is no longer family.

This is the season we connect. But let me suggest a better solution to this one-time-of-year-connecting. Let me suggest, that most of us take these weird MIL and extended family connecting

as a way of getting the big fix to carry us through the year.

Let me suggest that while this holiday connecting is a wonderful, wonderful thing, it is not where we should be planting all our connection energy. How many of us go into hyper-mode for the holidays and then feel like we need January to recuperate. Then we’re depressed in February?

Why are we depressed in February? We’ve taken a step back from everyone and lived on the couch for month. Our brains need consistency and stability. Choosing to connect in December and then disconnect in January is not good for us.

So, how can you do this differently? As humans we are really big into binging. Netflix makes billions off of this habit.  We love eating ice cream until we can never eat that flavor again, drink until we need a whole day to recover and work until we need TWO WHOLE DAYS to restore.

What if we found some moderation? What if we took tiny bites and baby steps interspersed with some deep, loving, self-care? What if we coped ahead and saw busy times ahead and planned ahead for the ups and the downs. What if we thought about balance and moderation? What would that look like?

What if you did the most healing yoga pose you know, every day for the next 3 weeks?

What if we didn’t feel obligated to do everything everyone else thinks we should do during the holidays? What if we did special things just for ourselves? What if we snuck away for an hour or two every weekend till the end of the year and did something that we really enjoy, like look at the windows in the department stores with a cinnamon hot chocolate. No kids. Go to a favorite restaurant and have a glass of prosecco and the most decadent appetizer. No partner or bestie. What if we did special fun things just for ourselves? What would that feel like?

If this makes you cringe or start to get edgy just thinking about it, don’t worry. In February we’re going to work on love. SELF-LOVE. Stay tuned for the Self-Love challenge. If you don’t like A Yogi Kitchen on Facebook, Go There Now and Join us!


Until February, think about joining me for the Free BreahteEcourse! We start January 7th!







Airport Office

img_20161230_092938290.jpgHere’s my office today. I’m back in the Kansas City Airport, where I spent the night just 12 days ago.

Today, I’ve been rerouted to Denver. To fly to Boston.

As frustrating as it is, it’s because of delayed flights and cancellations and it has nothing to do with the people handling my baggage or checking me in. These people have been extremely helpful and nice.

So, I’m here again and it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just one of those little things that life throws at you. You can’t let it ruin your day and I’m certainly not going to ruin anyone else’s day because of it!

Luckily MCI has lots of places to charge and fairly reliable wifi. Terminal B has two restaurants and a Starbucks near my gate, plus at least two of those little deli places to buy overpriced sandwiches

So, whether I’m here or whether I’m in Starbucks in Boston, really doesn’t matter that much. Unless I let it.  Tonight, I see my sweetie, after being away for almost 3 weeks. The change in flights doesn’t delay that at all, cause I was going to sit in Logan waiting for him to get off work. So, whether I’m sitting in Logan on my computer or in the air on my computer doesn’t matter at all. Unless I let it.

Looking at the big picture, this is a little inconvenient, but not all that much. I probably am going to get more work done today than I orginally planned and certainly more than if I were going to be home today. So, this will only become a big issue, you got it, if I let it.

Today, I chose not to let it.

Be The Skillful One In Your Family

I originally wrote this at the end of 2016. It’s appropriate again. BreatheOnline starts again November 12th. If you’re wondering whether it’s a good fit for you, read on. 

So, we’re here. It’s the biggest holiday of the year for a lot of us .Maybe you’re already with family. Breathe! I don’t have any great advice about how to avoid all the drama or hurt feelings or fights. I do know how to get through the weekend, though. christmas

This I know. The repeat behaviors, the patterns that you have didn’t start with you.  It probably didn’t start with your parents, or cousins or even your grandparents. Patterns in families go back many generations. It’s crazy when we look at our family tree, how often a pattern repeats, generation after generation.

You do, however, have the power to stop the pattern, at least for your generation and give the future generations some hope. A sweet friend once taught me, “You teach your children how to treat you when they’re adults, by how you treat your parents.” Ow! That one hurt, but it made sense and I’ve  worked on it.

This morning I got this lovely text from another beautiful friend. She said…”Spending lots of time practicing compassion and opening my heart to my family instead of acting on habitual annoyances and behaviors that haven’t worked over the yeas, so shouldn’t work now.” Wow!

Now, let me start by telling you that this is  a woman that I LOVE. She’s smart as hell and has a huge heart that compels her to love deeply and fiercely. She’s a force of nature.

As so often with this friend she shared with me exactly what I was already thinking about and what I needed to hear. Because, to be frank I NEEDED to hear that. When I think about difficult relationships in my life, I think about my parents and my family of origin. However, if I’m honest, I could probably do better at being compassionate and open with my ex and my kids, who I’m spending this holiday with.

Deep down, I think I do a great job at this, but since my kids have some of the same reactions I have with my parents, I know I could probably do some work in this area. The part of her text that really struck me was…”that hasn’t worked over the years, so shouldn’t work now.”

Yes! Of Course!

This is where I fail. Isn’t that the hardest paryt? Recognizing our own patterns is so difficult. I can pick out yours/his/hers in a second, but mine?

So, here’s what else I know. You’re very likely the most skilled person in your family. You have the tools. You have the skills. Or, if you’re reading this, you’re probably really interested in gaining the skills and tools to live a great life with great relationships. (Or you’re just someone who loves me and is interested in what I’m doing in life.)

When you walk into your aunt’s/mom’s/grandma’s house this holiday, act like you’re the most skillful pechristmas2rson in the house. Even if you’re afraid that you’re not, act like it. Acting right is a huge tool.  If you don’t what that looks like imagine what your favorite skillful character in a movie or literature would do. Not the broken one you identify with, the one that you want to be like.

That doesn’t mean you’re the person that knows the most. It doesn’t mean you should move through the living room, person by person, sibling by sibling and tell each one how to fix their life. In my family there are people with medical degrees and master degrees, neither of which I possess. They are way more book smart than I am, but I’m still the most skillful. I don’t always act like it, but I am.

To be truly skillful, I need to act like it, though.

So, how do we do that?  It means be present. Be present with the moment, each moment. Stay out of your head and open your heart. If you’re  remembering the snide comment your sister made at Thanksgiving, you’re not being present. Let the past go. Whether someone did something truly terrible to you or slighted you in some little way, getting over that and thru that is work for you and your therapist and possibly work for you to do with that person in the future. Delving into it in front of your five year old daughter/niece/granddaughter is not acting skillful. Nor is it fair or the recipe for a great family get together.

Acting skillful means taking care of yourself.  First, do what you know to do. Take care of all your immediate needs. This is where being present helps a lot. If you’re in your brain or being run by your emotions you may not notice that you’re starving and haven’t eaten since yesterday. Take care of your immediate needs as they arise.

Do NOT be a martyr. It may seem selfless, but it’s passive-aggressive and selfish. Don’t put off eating lunch so you can run out for your nephew/son/grandson to replace the charger that he left 300 miles away. If this is your family role, mix up the pattern by doing something different.hydrate

Hydrate. Eat. Rest. Pee. These are basic survival skills and if you’re making excuses why you don’t have time to do them, there is something seriously whacked about your thinking.

Eat and drink WELL. It is so tempting to overindulge. We LOVE to numb, don’t we? Eating your emotions around your family may seem like a great escape. It’s not. Try not to eat too much sugar or over-caffeinate. You won’t feel great, you’ll get sluggish and your temper will be short, you’ll be more reactionary and a lot more likely to say or do something to ratchet up the tension and drama.

This one really sucks. Don’t drink too much. Alcohol may seem like a good idea, but it’s another way of numbing, which means you won’t have the chance to be present. It’s also going to loosen your inhibitions, which means that you’ll be more likely to say something you shouldn’t-even if you REALLY want to-and you also may act the way you really want to with your cousin’s hot third husband. You’ll only hold your head in your hands the next day and wonder WHY!

Two more quick things about too much alcohol and numbing. If there are family members that get drunk and act poorly, just let it go. It is not your place to break up a fight, teach anyone how to behave or settle any family disputes. ESPECIALLY, if this has been your job, this is the time to change the pattern and not do it. Don’t get your dog in the fight. You are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior or feelings, unless you have a child under 16.

We are not capable of numbing selectively. You can’t numb your discomfort/fear/pain without numbing any chance of being present and being in joy/happiness/connection. It all gets numbed and even if it’s uncomfortable or ugly, ultimately you lose out.

So, those are basics, but there are some upper level skills, too. These are the ones we kinda know we’re supposed to do, but often get pushed aside. Get some exercise. Exercise will help your attitude, your physical happiness and will help your brain be less reactionary. Maybe it’s just a brisk walk around the block a few times today. Maybe you get to take an hour for yourself and get to a gym. Whatever it is, if you can get out of the house to do it, all the better. If it’s sunny and not too cold that’s even better. Sunlight helps with managing our moods.

That leads us to take breaks. We all need to take breaks from our families. That’s not weakness or selfishness, it’s skilled behavior. Take ten minutes, go into a quiet place (yes, there is one somewhere), throw your legs up the wall, close your eyes and BREATHE. Don’t ruminate over your rude uncle. Just close your eyes and listen to your heart beating, feel the breath filling your lungs and emptying your lungs. Be present in the moment and don’t think about any part of the past or the future.

Finally, back to openness and compassion. THIS is the weekend to flex those compassion muscles. If you are having trouble feeling open to your mother-in-law’s nit-picking and constant criticism, do a heart opening pose. Do a passive backbend by folding some blankets till they resemble a bolster and lay over them so that the blanket/bolster hits you midway in the thoracic spine. For women, that’s about where your bra hooks. Breathe. Imagine your heart opening,. Literally it means the space at the breastbone is expanding.

When I’m really struggling with compassion I try to remember what’s under the behavior. Under anger is always fear. Fear of losing something, fear of not being enough, fear of not getting enough. Mostly, that’s about love, but it can be other things also.

Your nit-picky, critical mother-in-law? She’s probably a lot harder on herself and doesn’t realize how hard she’s being on you. There’s a good chance she doesn’t think that she measures up and there’s a really good chance she’s intimidated by you.  Along with that may be a fear of losing her child to you.

Now, when our egos get in the way, we may think GOOD. I’m glad I scare her. When we’re standing in lovingkindness and compassion we can feel how much that must hurt and how scary it can be. We’ve all been there, right?

Regardless of how you feel like acting, try acting compassionate and loving. In DBT, it’s called acting opposite to emotion. Regardless of what horribly, sexist/racist/bigoted thing your uncle says, let it roll off your back. Today is not the day to challenge his long held beliefs. A different day, not a holiday, you can open your heart to him and sit him down and tell him that it hurts you and it makes you feel like he doesn’t value you. The holiday is not the time to call him a pig and is not going to endear his family to you. Don’t be the one that starts the family war. You’re better than that.

If all else fails, there’s one skillful trick that absolutely never fails. Sit quietly, keep your mouth shut and smile. If nothing else, you will be considered the zen one this weekend. Nobody has to know about the turmoil inside. Just smile and eat your potatoes.

breathe-onlineInterested in learning more about these skills and tools? I’m teaching BreatheOnline in January. It’s aimed at people who want to learn to manage their anxiety and/or depression, but lots of us can learn to be more skillful, right?  It’s full of life-changing skills and tools. Can’t wait for you to join us! for more information or to sigh up. for even more info and community on the FB page. Always feel free to call, 785-769-5412 or email,






Pizza Office

It’s a short week and I’m working from Flying Saucer Pizza in Salem, today. Seriously, I think it’s the best pizza in town. Yes, I’m drinking on the job and that is one of the things I love about my work life. I’m so grateful for the flexibility and flow of my life. I love that I can work at 5am at Starbucks, like Tuesday. I can work from my phone on the bus or, because this is my Friday ,at 1:33 in the afternoon at the bar of the nearest pizza joint.  While you may think that seems crazy, sometimes my most creative ideas come with a glass of Citizen Cider and s slice of portabella.

There is no behind. You’re perfect.

You all know how I like to beat myself up about stuff, right? You might be able to identify with me. You might find it charming in the same way my mentors over the years have found it. One after one throughout my 20s and 30s they get this warm, indulgent smile on their faces and shake their heads slowly. Oh, Melissa they’d often say.

girlfriendsNow, I find myself the mentor and I try to avoid that knowing indulgence. More often, I find myself smiling at myself, Still making those same mistakes years later. I have to wonder if I ever learn.

A few days ago I blogged that I had signed up for some self-care online challenges and courses and hadn’t done any of them. Of course, I’ve spent some time beating myself up about it.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. I’m working on it.

I signed up for Sheila Pai’s Nurturing You: Online Retreat. So instead of continuing to beat myself up, I decided that even if I was behind I could sill benefit. This is growth for me. So, I took some time to listen to the interviews and meditation that she offers weekly.  They were wonderful and I urge you to check sheilaher out.

Surprisingly, my biggest takeaway was just from what she shared in her email reminder. You’re not behind. It’s okay if you’re catching up. It’s okay to be right where you are. It’s the perfect place for right now.

I teach this ALL the time. I urge my students and to stay on their own mats. I tell them it doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing, it doesn’t matter what they think about you-they should be staying on their own mat too. I remind them that they’re right where they’re supposed to be and the beauty of yoga is that it meets you right where you are every single time.IMG_20140527_083649_671

Yoga has this amazing capacity to bring you the lesson on the mat. The one lesson that you’re really supposed to get. I believe this is true in life, just walking down the street, but it never ever fails when you get on the mat. You open your heart and listen. and yoga helps you smack right into yourself until you get to the core or the practice that you really need.

When you think of your practice whether it’s yoga or just taking moments of quiet you can’t really be behind. Only the moment that you’re in matters and that moment is always here.

This crazy idea of being behind is my biggest  illusion. There’s so little that matters outside of this moment and this moment is always right where I’m supposed to be.

If your brain is like mine and is busy with thinking about the  future, join me in staying in the present. Breathe, a yoga group for anxiety and depression is a six week course for connection, sharing, mindfulness, breath work and yoga poses to help us manage emotions. We start in person October 14th in Salem, MA and in January online. See the schedule for more information. 

That Super Moon

It’s the morning after the third night of struggling with sleep. My body is exhausted and my mind is only moving with the help of Starbucks. I really just want to climb back in bed, but the cleaning people are scheduled today. I’m really scrambling trying to figure out how tonight is going to be better. I have clients tomorrow and I can’t have another day of being this unproductive because my brain is mush.

Should I buy a bottle of wine? Or a six pack? Last night’s benedryl/melatonin combo did nothing.

Organizing my day is tough. I can’t keep a thought in my head. Am I terribly dehydrated? Is that why I’m so scattered. So I decide to just walk some things over to the new yoga office. Slowly over the last few weeks I’ve been decorating and organizing and each time a regular client comes they comment on how it’s coming along and how comfy and cozy it is. This has been fun, so I think maybe I should just focus on that.

When I climb the stairs and open the door, I just want to collapse on the bolster. I drop my bags in the corner, turn on the fan and do a chest opener over the purple bolster.  As I’m lying there heartopeningIIIthinking about how I need the energy and increased circulation this pose gives me, the image of the huge moon pops into my head.

The super moon! Of course. How come I didn’t connect it earlier? Normally during a full moon my sleep gets disrupted a bit and since sleep is such an issue for me, I don’t always put it together. This has been three nights of sleeping only an hour or so at a time and then waking every 3o minutes the rest of the night. Even then I’m wide awake at 5:30 and have been starting my day. You’d think that would mean I could fall asleep early. Nope. I’m just….Exhausted.

Armed with this new information, I flip over and do a supported twist over the bolster. My favorite. The one that all my clients rave always helps them fall back asleep. Of course, for me, the person who taught them the pose it never works as well, but it does work. Then I do a supported child’s restorativepose and legs up the wall. After about 40 minutes on the mat, the creaky crankies are worked out and I feel a bit more energetic, but the beauty in these poses is that tonight I’ll sleep better.  It’s not like taking an Ambien, it’s more gentle and easy on the system. If they’re doing their job right, I’ll just sleep and not even remember that I did poses to help me sleep!

Having trouble sleeping, managing your anxiety and/or depression or have back/neck/hip/knee pain? Check out A Yogi Kitchen. If you’re in the Boston area you can come on up to Salem and schedule a session at the yoga office. For a small fee, I’ll come to you. If you’re in the KC area you’ll have to wait till November. Online classes coming soon!


Staying in Gratitude, Staying out of Anxiety

gratitudeGratitude is such a powerful place to be.

And I’ve e so far away from that place. It’s not that I’m ungrateful. It’s that I forget. Something happens and I start to obsess about fixing it or changing it or obsess about obsessing over it. Slowly gratitude slips away. Then I’m in that place. That place where there’s never enough. I’m not smart enough to figure this out, why is life so hard and so consistently full of obstacles. What am I going to do?  How am I going to fix this?

My shoulders get tight. My neck hurts. My breathing gets more and more shallow and then I can’t sleep and I’m nauseated on a daily basis. The anxiety has slowly crept in while I wasn’t watching and now I’m deep in it. What am I going to do?

Last week was like that. Many, many things crept up. Slowly, like the cat trying to climb into bed with me. A tiny step, then a pause to see if I’m paying attention. Then another tiny step and then another long pause. Meanwhile, I’m drifting farther and farther away from being awake, in both the spiritual sense and the asleep sense and the cat’s on the bed and the anxiety has taken over my life.

Now, as you probably remember anxiety and I are old friends. (Me and my companion anxiety). She doesn’t like to just visit. She grabs the comforter and settles in.

So, last week it all came to a head. Everything that was a tiny bit wrong seemed enormous. I couldn’t seem to manage my moods, which I’m pretty good when it comes to teaching and helping other folks. And to be fair, I’m good at it a lot, but not last week. Last week was anger and tears and feelings of hopelessness. So what’s the answer?

Being in mindful gratitude-taking time to meditate and do one thing mindfully eases the negative thinking, distracts from the problems and increases concentration. (I created a different relationship to the voice in my head)

Writing that gratitude list that everyone hates to do really helps. Start tomorrow morning. In your journal or in a notebook make a list of ten things you’re grateful for. Begin by listing the numbers 1-10 on ten separate lines and then don’t think, don’t take your pen off the page, just write ten things. They don’t have to be big things. Once I took a journaling workshop and we had to write 100 things.  Somewhere around 43 I started listing things like my toothbrush. Really, I AM grateful for my toothbrush, but you get the idea. They can be silly, they can be meaningful. My kids were early on in that list.

Start the list tomorrow and write another one the next day. Try it for seven days and see what happens. I’m not promising magic, but I do believe it helps.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and take back your comforter. Anxiety will find somewhere else to bunk.