It takes tremendous effort for me to go to parties, even with family. I get overwhelmed by all of the people and noise. I am an introvert, and, as my children will tell you, I only know how to have conversations about life. Basically, I am awkward at small talk.
I did go to a party a few weeks ago. A woman approached me about how yoga and meditation could potentially help with a painful condition that she was recently diagnosed with. We talked for a long time about the stresses in her life, including those stemming from life as a working mother, and trying to keep afloat while also taking care of herself.
At the end of the conversation she asked, “Do you ever experience stress because you do yoga?”
This was not the first time I had been asked a question like this. Unbeknownst to this woman and the others who inquire about my life, it touches a vulnerability and tenderness as a yoga teacher and owner of the Beverly Yoga Center.
The simple answer is that just because I practice yoga, I am not immune to the challenges that life offers or being human. I have the same life experiences that my students have and struggle with.
My children fight. I get overwhelmed. I have personal struggles that I don’t have the answer to and wrestle with. I have a tendency to rush, feel pressed for time and can lean towards anxiety when I am out of balance and not taking care of myself. I ask myself the same life questions that most of us ask: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why am I suffering? I see my limitations and flaws as a human being.
Yoga, meditation and Buddhism have been my home base as an adult. These philosophies and practices have not solved my problems, but rather, have acted as pathways to work with the complexities of being an imperfect human being. In the same way, they act as pathways to connect me to peace and joy.
I often ask myself, “How can I apply these principles in life to ease my suffering, to understand myself and others and be engaged in life with an open and compassionate heart?”
Do I do it perfectly? Absolutely not! Do I get off track? Absolutely! Does it look messy sometimes? Yes!
Over the years as my understanding of yoga and meditation has deepened and changed, I see with fresh clarity that the practices of yoga are for us to build our capacity to be human and meet all the complexities and uncertainties in life.
Yoga is a philosophy that has many elements to it besides the asana practice. It suggests that there are several layers to a human being that must be considered for healing to take place and to live in harmony. These layers of the human being are interwoven, interrelated and interactive. What happens on one level affects all layers of the body. This includes the body, breath, mind, personality and heart-center, or spirit.
Living yoga doesn’t mean that we have live up to an idealized perspective we see on the cover of a magazine, perfectly pretty and trim with a Mona Lisa smile. It means that we continue to meet life and ourselves just as we are. We lean on the practices to come home to ourselves. It may not be neat and tidy sometimes, but peace is always there beneath the surface of stress, tension, racing thoughts, hurt feelings and patterns and conditions that don’t serve us.
This is why I practice yoga. This is why I own the Beverly Yoga Center. It is to remind and inspire myself and others that despite the messiness of human life, peace and goodness are always there.View Post
A few years ago I asked my daughter what color she wanted to paint her room. Within a few minutes she had made her choice. With my doubting and indecisive mind, I asked her if she wanted to look at other shades or colors, in some ways questioning her clarity and quickness to choose.
She looked at me and said, “Mom, sometimes you just know.”
Julia, my daughter, was right–sometimes you just know. So often we know, but we doubt that quiet inner voice and instead trust the mind and all it’s options and reasons.
Choosing to make a big change from our yellow walls was a bold and risky move, “Would everyone like the new color? Why change what’s worked for 12 years? It was good enough.”
In deciding to change the color, I remembered that moment years ago with Julia. To honor the lesson I was reminded of with her, I painted the walls at the Beverly Yoga Center the same color as her room.
Sometimes you just know. Most often trusting that quiet inner voice will lead you to a deeper trust in knowing what’s right, underneath the thinking mind of fears and worries. We may disappoint people. Our choices may not always make sense to others and may even be uncomfortable to feel what is true for us, but when we trust that voice and listen closely there is a kindness in trusting that we know.
I understand the importance of creating a clean, comfortable and nourishing space for you to practice yoga. I decided to add a fresh coat of paint and new window treatments as a commitment to our students and the space that we have created together at the Beverly Yoga Center. I hope you enjoy.
Every week for the past 6 years, a group of women who are part of my spiritual community in California checkin with each other by email. These checkins are an honest account of what’s happening in our inner life. These include challenges we are coming up against and how this is relating to our life and where we feel stuck and see ourselves shifting and growing.
It’s not an account for what’s happening on an outer level, the day-to-day stuff, but rather an honest account for our inner experience as a human being.
A few weeks ago, a dear friend wrote this checkin about her experience as a middle age woman. I haven’t been able to shake the discrepancy between what I see and what she and so many other women feel and experience during this time in their lives.
She wrote as part of her checkin, “I see the ways my body has changed (skin that is dry, wrinkled, sagging in places; hair thinning, dry, dull, frizzy; fat in places I never had fat before) and to be completely honest with you I’m sometimes repulsed by what I see. So no wonder I believe that men are repulsed too or at least simply don’t look at me. Plus, I’m bored with myself and my rat race, boringly predictable, no fun life. Who is going to want to join in on that?”
Let me say that from my seat, what I see is a beautiful and confident woman and that’s the discrepancy that I feel across the board with middle age women.
What I see are women who have experienced life. Who have weathered many storms, who have endured the arduous experience of raising a family, who have often sacrificed themselves for others, who have questioned their purpose at times but persevered, who have gone through many transitions and yes, have watched their body change.
And they are still standing, still doing the best they can to find meaning and joy in their days.
I had a conversation with my 9-year-old daughter a few weeks ago about how her body is changing (she too is struggling with it) and I thought to myself that the relationship we have with our body starts so young and really never ends.
I am 42-years-old and only started to experience certain changes in my body so I don’t really know what it’s like to go through midlife changes.
But from my vantage point, I see wise women. Women who have endured. Women who are strong. Women whom I admire.
I kind of knew and I kind of didn’t. I kind of wanted to know and I kind of didn’t, so I kept going and carrying out daily responsibilities between family and work. And yet, I knew that this nagging sensation around my heart was growing. There were certain things about myself that I noticed were either missing, not present or I was avoiding.
I noticed that I was a having a difficult time writing my newsletter-blog. I couldn’t get the words out and when something started percolating, I froze and convinced myself that I didn’t have it together “enough” to write something public.
I noticed that tears didn’t come as easily. Not that I cry over everything, but my heart can get touched pretty easily. The ancients believe that tears are a way of cleansing the soul and I wholeheartedly believe in that.
I also noticed that I was more on edge both on the inside and out. There was a degree of hardness and tension that was more present in my body.
It was true that in the past 18 months, a primary relationship went from bad to worse to a total collapse. Good hearted community efforts were met with a lot of resistance and hostility that were exhausting. Various events in our country and world have caused me great concern.
It was also true that it was the first time my husband and I had entered the phase of parenting an adolescent into the teenage years. With this new phase of parenting came a host of unpredictable developments that we weren’t totally prepared for and yet common and normal for middle schoolers.
As these life circumstances started unfolding in a way that was not in accordance with my preferences or liking, the resistance in relation to these situations started accumulating around my heart to form a protective shield.
For years I wanted to attend a specific meditation retreat that focused on Metta or loving kindness in the Buddhist tradition. However, it always falls on my son’s birthday and so I’ve waited. This year the timing worked!
It was a seven-day silent meditation retreat. Everyday we would alternate between a 45-minute sitting meditation practice and a 45-minute walking meditation from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Meals were silent and you took a vow to leave all electronics in your car. Each day, there was a Dharma talk about the teachings of the Buddha and Metta (loving-kindness) practice, which extends loving qualities to other beings.
At the beginning of every retreat most people arrive and ask themselves why they signed up. The first couple of days can be hard. The speed of which we are living at home is still very much in the mind and body. It can be especially difficult to sit still, stay awake and focus on anything besides discursive thoughts.
From the beginning, I started noticing the tightness around my heart. I was frustrated it was there and I wanted it to go away. It lingered and then intensified the more frustrated I became. My thoughts became more frequent and focused on blame, guilt, loneliness and a host of other feeling/thought combinations that revolved around my son.
“How many more days did I have left?” I asked myself on day two of the retreat.
A lot can happen from day-to-day when you are in quiet, nature and contemplation.
What started happening for me was that the defense structures around my heart started softening. Underneath the tangle of thoughts and feelings was a well of love and vulnerability and the simple truth that I have loved being a mother to my son and I wasn’t ready for him to grow up and for it all to change. There in the silence as tears streamed down my face into my lap, my resistance began to melt little-by-little.
I prefer life challenges to be packaged and wrapped up with a big red bow. I like to learn the lesson and then move on.
I realize that this isn’t the case in life, not only with parenting, but also with relationships and life circumstances.
I had been busier then usual this past year and with that came less quiet time in my personal life. I started to resist the uncomfortable feelings, the hurt heart, the vulnerability in not having the answers and the uncertainty about what comes next. All these feeling that accompanied the collapse of the relationship, the frustration and anger that arose in the face of trying to do good, the sadness for people around the world and of course adjusting to my son growing up. I was living life more withdrawn, protective, and hardened in an attempt to stay “in control” and put ground under my feet.
I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want for others to know that I didn’t have the answer. I was humbled to not have my life’s challenges wrapped up in a box with a bow.
I still don’t have the answers and I still don’t have the box with the bow, but I have my heart back at the moment. The box with the bow doesn’t matter anymore.
That’s why I could write again today.View Post
I was about 10-years-old, when my father made a point to slow the car down and point to a homeless woman pushing a grocery cart with her belongings. He asked me, “What do you think it’s like to be in her shoes?”
I don’t know if at that age I could really grasp what it was like to be in her shoes, but 30 years later, I still remember that moment and the image of this woman on the sidewalk slowly pushing the grocery cart.
“What do you think it’s like to be in their shoes?” is a question that has been central in my adult life. It was the question that literally propelled me to collect, package and distribute over 50,000 pairs of shoes to children in Kenya in my early twenties when I founded a non-profit organization called Beyond Shoes. It was also the motivation behind work I did to help relocate a homeless shelter on the West Side of Chicago. I was fortunate enough to receive a $100,000 grant from the Oprah Winfrey Angel Network and was able to rehab a new facility for them.
And on some level, the Beverly Yoga Center was created because I had an understanding that in life people struggled and suffered. The yoga center I had envisioned could be a nourishing place of comfort, ease and calm.
Beginning this spring several things are happening that speak to these questions. We will:
I invite you to consider participating in these activities alongside your fellow yoga friends and BYC teachers. If you would like to be notified as these events come up please send us an email and we will send you alerts about upcoming events.View Post
It was a rare evening that my son and husband and I had time to talk. And it was even more unusual that our adolescent son calmly made several requests to reconsider some decisions we had recently made about his phone usage and bed time. He also asked us to consider giving him permission to buy a video game that many of his friends had just received for Christmas, Grand Theft Auto.
Very calmly he explained that in recent weeks since Grand Theft Auto came on the scene most of his friends were playing it. He felt left out since he didn’t have it. When he did play at someone’s house he was clearly not as good because he was unfamiliar with all the intricacies of playing. He shared that when his friends talked about it or played remotely he was uncomfortable because he couldn’t join in.
It all made total sense to us and we asked for time to think about it.
I thought about it for days and understood where he was coming from in his request to want to connect with his friends through a common activity. I also didn’t think that by him playing this violent game he would necessarily become violent or addicted.
What I continued to contemplate was that the violence in this game was an activity for him, but in the real world and in our city, violence and shootings for adolescent boys is actually their real life. That is what I could not shake. What is play for my privileged son, is someone else’s reality.
In the end, I explained my position. He was disappointed and frustrated with me. I understood that too.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about listening to ‘This American Life’ in the car with my children. Over the weekend, I asked my son to choose a program on our way home from soccer.
Ira Glass, the show’s host, talks to Luke Huisenga, a Marine sniper. Luke talks about being on watch for days at a time with a long range rifle monitoring and sometimes shooting people setting up bombs in the streets in Iraq.
The story though isn’t about the stress of their job, instead it is about how this tough platoon of Marine snipers became devoted fans of the ‘Gilmore Girls.’ The drama revolves around the relationship between a thirtysomething single mother and her teen daughter living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut.
This unit of men became loyal fans of this drama that mostly draws women. Why? Well, the answer makes perfect sense to me. Watching Gilmore Girls for them was an escape from the war zone that they were living in. The show, according to Luke, feels warm and idyllic to them and in a way comforting. And in a man’s world in which they lived, the voices and dynamics between mothers and daughters brought some normalcy to their not normal life.
In the end of the show, this unit of 200 tough guys received large boxes of Gilmore Girls shirts and jackets from the show’s creator. It’s a great story.
While my son, even today, is still disappointed with my decision, listening to Luke, the Marine sniper, reminded me that real violence isn’t a game for everyone.
If you want to share your thoughts with me please send me an email.
On this particular weekend day, it was a somewhat normal collection of activities. We had gone grocery shopping, taken Julia, my daughter, to her horseback riding lesson, made our way to the the suburbs of Naperville to be spectators to a youth soccer game, planned to go out to dinner as a family and watched 7th grade boys tumble into our basement to watch a movie.
In recent months, I started using our drives together when I shuttled kids around to listen to “This American Life” on NPR. In all honesty, it was an attempt to quell the common fighting in my car and to somehow distract my 12-year-old from the constant, slumped over attention to his iPhone that was driving me crazy lately.
Julia, Patrick and I had listened to a series of programs that told the story of what it was like to live in refugee camps all around Greece. So I figured it was likely that the kids would be interested in the story about a Somalian refugee living in Kenya. Abdi, the refugee, gets the luckiest break of his life: he wins a lottery that puts him on the short list for a U.S. Visa. So the story goes . .
On this quiet winter day, when I have a list of things to do, I can’t help but think and remember those who live in very different and dire situations than my family. Those who live with fear and uncertainty of their future and their family’s future.
I feel the polarized parts inside of me. The part that genuinely aches for people in our city, our country and world right now. The other part of me that sees the comfort in my life and even the entitlements I believe I am owed as an American: quality education, health care, job security, and neighborhood safety.
I know that something will grow with this ache. Something that will inspire my hands and heart and help ease the suffering that is unknown to me, but not to my fellow human beings.
What would happen if tonight when we quietly go to sleep, we take a few deep breaths and offer peace for those who do not have a comfortable bed to lay their tired bodies on to rest.
I know that there are many of us writing, contemplating and talking about what happened in our recent election and in our neighborhood. I by no means want to add another voice and yet, these past couple of days have reminded me of something deeply important about human beings.
People are hurting, sad, angry and genuinely scared regardless of how you voted or what you feel is happening in our country. We are wondering about how our government will treat us. How the decisions our leaders make will impact our families.
This is what I am reminding myself at the moment. Extend kindness to the person in front of you because none of us really know what fears, sadness or hurts lay close below the surface.
The same is true for us. Extend kindness and give space for the fear, anger and sadness to be present.
The beauty of the human spirit is that when we are gentle and compassionate towards ourselves, love and kindness genuinely radiates out.
I know that all of us at the Beverly Yoga Center appreciate the sacred space that we are holding for our fellow human beings to care and nurture their spirit during this time and always.
You are welcome just as you are.
I’ve sat at my computer and stared at the screen several times over the past few months waiting for that moment when my mind is clear, my heart is open and the words flow out to reflect a deeper truth or lesson in life that I feel has value in sharing or contemplating with you.
Nothing has flowed lately. My writing has felt rushed and stressed, sometimes with a tinge of an agenda or something that hasn’t fully taken root. So I delete the working piece and continue to wait because I know that something will come again that is sincere and genuine.
This fall has been generous to someone who loves walking in the woods. These beautiful days have been an invitation to soak in the bright blue sky and sunlight streaming through the bare branches and falling leaves.
With those walks come quiet hours reflecting and noticing what reveals itself without distractions, conversations, agendas or expectations.
Every walk reveals a calling to all that is stirring, not resolved or doesn’t have an answer. Some of these thoughts need more time, patience and space:
– My dear friend and beloved spiritual teacher who has aggressive stages of cancer.
– Fractured relationships that feels like a constant heartache.
– Questions of where our country is headed given our political environment.
– Contemplation of the neglect and overconsumption that is destroying our earth. What role am I playing? How are my decisions impacting the many people living around the globe and future generations?
And in those same walks there are blessings that spontaneously arise in the gaps of heartache and contemplation:
– The joy in responding to my daughter’s curiosity to explain what words mean like “refugee” and “Somalians”.
– The humble appreciation of the meaning and intention of my work.
– Recognition of the choices my family has because in this moment there is security.
On another walk today in the woods what was clear is that there are only fleeting moments when all the ducks are in a row. Waiting for them to all align puts an unfair expectation on life.
Life is about paradoxes, contradictions and polarities. Ease and suffering. Blessings and loss. Calm and fear. Love and anger. Joy and sadness.
One does not mean life is or is not working for us. It means that an engaged and contemplative life asks us to be with all that is present in the moment. Not just what we prefer and makes us comfortable. But to also be with and include what is uncomfortable. The questions that don’t have an answer. The heartbreak that we don’t know if will ever be fully healed. The lives that aren’t guaranteed a timeline.
This year, as in years past, I set an intention personally and professionally that guides my choices, decisions and perspective. It seems appropriate that the word that arose underneath the blue sky is surrender.
Surrender—“The courage to allow life to unfold without expectations of what we think it should or hope it to be. To trust the intrinsic qualities of our being as our ground.”View Post
Say, “happy, Chicago and orange!” I stood in a group of 7th grade boys and girls at my new school and they giggled at my Midwest accent as I repeated these common words back to them.
In 7th grade, my family moved from a Chicago suburb to Arizona and the way I talked was funny to my new classmates. . . apparently.
I remember feeling like I did not fit in or knew where I really belonged. I appeared to be social and outgoing, but on the inside I always felt a bit insecure about how to be a friend and who I was. That insecurity showed up in many different ways. I sometimes chose the wrong friends. I sometimes talked too much in class. I secretly was relieved when I was “in” with the popular girl because that meant I wouldn’t be talked about that week. I sometimes talked about other kids to fit in with the popular crowd.
I was known by teachers and parents as the social girl. The one who didn’t put much emphasis on her studies. The girl that was boy crazy and WILD . . . yes wild. I definitely was not known as the good girl.
This behavior lead to my house becoming known for all the social gatherings. Our house was often the wild one with dozens of kids over at a time, which meant we could get away with things that didn’t happen at the other homes.
I knew that other parents didn’t like when their children were at my house and I knew that there was always a sense of mistrust for my parents and me. I didn’t feel good about that because I had a secret.
Underneath what appeared to everyone else that I wasn’t good, I actually felt really bad about that because I wanted someone, anyone to see that I was in fact a good girl just like everyone else.
Middle school years were tough for me and when I look back 27 years later, I kind of want to cringe at who I was.
I’ve been told this many times and it is coming to fruition again. The times in our lives that were hardest and are unresolved in our adult life will show up for us when our children are that age or meet the same challenges. I’d like to wish that wasn’t true, but it is.
In all the causes that are important to me in life, I never thought that advocating for middle schoolers would be on my list . . . but it is now. I have a middle school son!
It is because for many, it’s a tough, complicated, confusing time and it isn’t cute like the toddler years.
Deep down inside, I had a wish that someone saw my goodness instead of my goofy, careless, loud, and obnoxious middle school behavior. Or saw that this behavior was a youthful and misguided attempt to learn how to relate and be in this world.
What wasn’t seen was that school was actually hard for me and I wished that it was easier. Nobody knew that sometimes even in the best of families you can get lost and forgotten about and will do anything for attention. And what appears to be popular and social, has it’s own set of complications in navigating friendships that are often difficult and hurtful.
What wasn’t seen was that underneath all my imperfections was a sensitive, vulnerable and kind girl trying to find her way. Isn’t that true for all of us?
So what this life lesson is teaching me is that our kids are good even with the things we don’t like or make us cringe. Sometimes we need people to have faith in us. Sometimes we just need someone to see past our imperfections and current mistakes, and still love and care for us deeply anyway.
Beginning this fall the Beverly Yoga Center along with other neighborhood businesses is spearheading a initiative called the Beverly Speakers Series: Meaningful Conversations for Parents and Educators. The initiative this year will focus on understanding the difficult time of the middle school years. Stay tuned for more to come.
This past week I have been on vacation with my family in Bozeman, MT. They returned to Chicago, before I head off to hike in Glacier Park with a dear friend.
In the past week, I’ve been on many hikes surrounded by beauty and quiet. (Except when my kids fought!)
One thing that has struck me being out here in Montana, besides the beauty, is the genuine kindness people have towards each other. When I first arrived, I noticed how city living really does accumulate in the mind and body.
In miles of undisturbed noise, I have thought about the Beverly Yoga Center. How we are servants of kindness to those who come to the studio. We teach people how to be kind and gentle to themselves, in a world today that feels hardened, scary and rough.
In Buddhism, Bodhisvattava’s are ordinary human beings who are dedicated to alleviate suffering for the sake of others. My hope is that we provide relief and compassion for the mind, body, and spirit of our community.
Being in the outdoors is my office for reflection, clarity, and perspective that is the underlying influence and nourishment for my personal and professional life.
I hope that you make time this summer to nourish your spirit and care for yourself with kindness and compassion.
My son was trying to tell me something and I said, “Just a moment I need to give Julia a hug before she falls asleep.”
“Do you think I can have a hug mom?” my 12-year-old son says.
Stopped in my tracks, I said, “Of course sweetheart.” And we hugged heart to heart. I actually didn’t want to let go. I don’t know the last time I really hugged him. Even now as I write this, I get tears thinking about it.
I am still thinking about the experience days later. Not that he asked me for a hug, but how often I am too busy to hug the people that I love or brush by them because they “know” that I love them.
Perhaps subconsciously, I thought that my son was too old for mom hugs, but he actually isn’t at all too old. In fact, children regardless of how old, need hugs, tight hugs, and lots of love. That just doesn’t go for our children, but for our spouses, family, and friends too.
We all need hugs. Give a hug today.
Every year on my birthday, my father would always tell me about his grammar school friend, Harry Cohn, who celebrated the same birthday as mine. There was always some story with this recollection. My dad loved Harry because, from what I could tell, they were both pranksters and enjoyed a good laugh, but underneath that goofiness, they were simply good friends.
My dad passed away three years ago this April. When we knew that he was moving into hospice, I called my dad’s longtime friend, Harry, who I only knew because we shared a birthday. I had never met or spoken to Harry in my 37 years.
Several months ago, I received an email from Harry. My father and his 50-year high school reunion was taking place in May, and there was a website that shared my father had passed where former classmates wrote reflections about him.
I sent an email to the host of the reunion that extended my appreciation for the reflections on my father. She asked me to send in an email about my father’s life with some photos, which I happily did.
A few weeks later, I received an invitation to attend his 50-year reunion to meet his old friends. I accepted.
Last night, I walked into my dad’s 50-year high school reunion. There I stood, connecting with his friends who shared stories about his kindness, practical jokes and eclectic hobbies.
My favorite was learning about the school bully who everyone was afraid of, including my dad. One afternoon he had pushed my father to the limit and my dad punched this bully. My dad became the class hero because he did what everyone else was afraid to do and stuck up for those being picked on. (I am not advocating that’s the answer to solve conflict. This was in the 1960s.) It wasn’t the fight these grown men remembered, but what it stood for.
I came home late from the reunion last night, and my son and husband were having an intense conversation about a boy in school who is having a hard time with friends. My son is confused and doesn’t know what to do. It’s complicated. My son and I got into a heated disagreement. We were both defending our stances. I was advocating for kindness and forgiveness and he was still upset for being blamed.
This morning, I woke up and my heart ached the same way it did when I said my last goodbye to my father. It hit me like a crashing wave. Last night was one more night with my dad. It was an unexpected gift out of nowhere. When I said goodbye to my father’s grammar and high school friends, I said goodbye to my father one more time.
Tears streamed down my face this morning as I explained to my son that what I was reminded of last night was that kindness was the one thing people consistently remembered about my father. Sometimes, we have to dig a little deeper to be kind. It’s not always easy.
“Start thinking with your heart, not your head so much,” I said to him. In my son’s way, he got what I meant.
There are gifts in even the hardest losses and challenges in life. A gift that I have been blessed with in my father’s death, is that my dad’s dear friend Harry has now become one of my most beloved friends.
There is a sweet word in Jewish tradition, kvell which means beaming with pleasure. My father was kvelling last night.View Post
For the past 18 months since I paused from teaching, it gave me time to reflect on what I love about teaching and learning. What I learned is that I love exploring and teaching about how the uncomfortable parts of ourselves and the difficult times in life are actually entry ways for transformation, growth and joy.
When I decided to stop teaching it had a lot to do with being pulled in many directions and feeling spread especially thin with my children. What I learned over the past year and a half was that it also had to do with feeling exposed and vulnerable in that what I appreciate about meditation, yoga and life isn’t mainstream.
When I share what is so close to my heart it opens me up to a host of vulnerabilities that are privatley uncomfortable. So in this time what was manifesting and growing unbeknown to me was courage to stand by what’s meaningful and inspiring to me, even if it is uncomfortable.
Slowly life is unfolding in a way that is leading me back to teaching what I love and is meaningful.
I hope to see you around!
Last week, on one of those rainy, dreary days, I received a blog post from one of my favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton. This particular piece was about marriage AND divorce. It made me think of a woman who I heard is going through a separation. I don’t know her well, but my heart swelled with compassion for her, the difficulty and challenges of marriage and the decision to divorce.
I wrote a few sentences to her with the link in the email, paused and convinced myself not to send it. A voice said, “Listen to your heart, not your head.” I pressed send.
A few minutes later, I received a note back from her that shared she didn’t realize word had spread. In an instant, my heart started beating quickly and I felt like I perhaps overstepped a boundary and should have kept to myself.
“It’s not your place to inject yourself into other people’s lives,” I thought.
I replied to this woman that I remember the difficulty of when my parents divorced and can only imagine the many feelings she must be experiencing. I also apologized if I overstepped any boundaries.
I went back and forth for some time on whether I did the right thing by sending this email and wondering if I perhaps should have kept quiet and not said anything.
I thought about my friend who lost her brother to suicide. She shared how people didn’t say anything to her about it even though she knew that they knew.
In my musings back and forth I found myself caught in a dilemma. Do we keep quiet and not extend genuine kindness? Or do we follow our heart and connect with kindness? How often do we think about reaching out and then don’t? In my contemplations, I didn’t come up with an answer and felt torn because there was perhaps truth in both.
These contemplations touched on something deeper that I’ve been thinking about lately.
Where has genuine kindness gone between human beings? More and more, it feels like we are quick to judge, find the negative and be defensive.
I am not talking about the socially accepted kindness of raising money, putting on a fundraiser or writing a check.
I am talking about the kindness in asking how someone you love is doing and letting them talk. Looking the homeless person in the eyes at the intersection. Giving the crabby person the benefit of the doubt. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding their perspective. Extending compassion to the angry person who has lashed out. Hugging a dear friend. Thinking about the goodness in people rather than only their faults. Making time to go on a walk with a friend. Or reaching out to someone who is going through a difficult time.
There’s a part in all of us that is resistant to giving and receiving kindness, myself included. My heart’s tendency is to close down and tighten up when it hurts or afraid of being rejected. Kindness doesn’t always flow out easily. I also know that a tight heart is the one place where love, joy and kindness cannot flow in and out.
Being kind, reaching out, letting someone know that you are thinking about them can feel vulnerable. It hurts when in our vulnerability we are rejected, aren’t seen, aren’t validated, etc. But being kind isn’t about what the other person reflects, sees, receives or appreciates. It’s about lifting people up and supporting people visibility and invisibly. It’s about remembering that we are all in this journey of life together.
Not everyone will receive your kindness even when you have pure and sincere intentions, but trust your intentions. Trust your sincerity. Be kind without expectations or agendas. Practice kindness even when it feels vulnerable. Practice letting kindness into your heart. Practice kindness toward yourself.
When I felt I had made a mistake by extending kindness to this woman, my heart tightened. Later in the day there was a note in my inbox that read, “Thanks for reaching out. Your thoughtfulness was welcoming.” My heart opened and softened.View Post
BAPA believes in small business owners. Small business owners make up the fabric of our neighborhood. They are often the men and women with whom attend church, volunteer and exercise. Their children attend school with our children. We know there is a story behind every business owner and that story is often tucked away.
In February, the Beverly Yoga Center celebrated 10 years of business. When I first thought of opening a yoga studio in our neighborhood, I had recently moved to Morgan Park from the North Side where yoga studios were abundant. The idea emerged from my wish to create a place where I would like to spend time.
Market research showed opening a business in Beverly was risky. I wasn’t willing to give up on my wish, so I lessened the risk and signed a lease for a small studio apartment to see if people would come. My in-laws generously invested $575 for my security deposit.
Shortly after my son turned one, he became my assistant. We travelled to IKEA to plan a reception area. He played with blocks as I called about hanging drapes. He sat in his stroller when I applied for my business license and signed my lease. His long naps allowed me to create marketing materials. At my dining room table, the Beverly Yoga Center was transformed from an idea into a business.
I love many aspects about owning a small business. I am inspired that my job is filled with purpose and aligned with my deeper core values. I feel blessed to use my innovative and creative energy for the bene t of our community. That being said, there is also the voice of the small business owner that isn’t shared and only spoken about with those who know—other small business owners.
Being the person behind the small business exposes our vulnerability as ordinary human beings. When customers aren’t happy, it isn’t about the business, it’s about the person behind the business and in our neighborhood, we most likely know who they are.
I’ve talked to many small business owners who are colleagues and friends and this is a feeling everyone has had to get used to. People watch, judge and make assumptions about decisions that we make both personally and professionally.
In our neighborhood, small business owners know we are watched. Every time I place junk food in my grocery cart at County Fair, I secretly hope I don’t run into anyone to see that fruit snacks, Doritos, frozen pizza and chicken nuggets do enter my kitchen.
When I’ve had a long day and my children have pushed me over the edge and the peaceful and stress-free yoga-studio-owner’s voice carries down the block, I want to hide under my covers and pretend it wasn’t me who yelled.
We have limitations as small neighborhood businesses. We know we are competing against large businesses with lower prices, more incentives, deep discounts and entire departments to execute what many of us do with the help of a few. It’s humbling to accept the limitations of what you can do.
Small businesses become part of family life. Children come to help empty the trash, wash windows or le paperwork. Spouses take on many different roles. My husband is my honorary book- keeper and sounding board in the middle of the night when a long list runs through my mind.
Most small business owners will tell you they work seven days a week because the business is often in the background of their mind even when they are closed for the day. Business owners are always the first line of contact regardless of what family party or plans they have for the day. Then there are the people who are behind-the-scenes lifesavers who work for us because they believe in us and our mission, not for the pay. I’ve learned to appreciate that small business owners are hard workers, innovative and deeply committed to our neighborhood.
Today, as I was lost in thought, getting to my last email before picking up my daughter from art class, I was stopped in the school parking lot by a dad who said, “You own Beverly Yoga Center, right? My wife and I started attending and love it.”
Small business owners often forget we are valued. As you can imagine, it filled my bucket to hear that comment.
Do you have a Story Behind your neighborhood small business? Please send it to Grace Kuikman, firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share it with our neighbors.View Post
I saw her from across the room standing with a bandana tied around her head, neatly woven braids, and a colorful, layered outfit. I assume she was somewhere around 40 years old. But I couldn’t continue to look because she was skin and bones. For the week, I avoided her. I avoided eye contact. I avoided sitting close to her at meals. I avoided any interaction with her.
The other day, I made my way from where I write in my journal to the corner in my bedroom where my meditation cushion lives. I sat quietly.
Within moments, the image of my father appeared. The image of him struggling to walk and lift his leg into his car. The image of fast food bags in his passenger seat. The image of him having to sit after walking a few steps or knowing it was easier for him to sleep in a chair than a bed.
I felt my heart clench. The pain of those images and watching someone you love struggle and suffer is heartbreaking.
I knew deep down that although my Dad never said it, being obese impacted his life. It was his snoring that was the start of him and my Mom sleeping in separate beds. It was his weight that led to other health conditions. He couldn’t do the things he loved like swim or soak in the hot tub. Traveling to see his grandchildren was difficult. He couldn’t get down on the floor and play with them. He could only watch.
As I sat quietly remembering my father, tears trickled down my cheeks. The image of the woman soon appeared in my mind. Although appearances presented themselves in different ways, their pain showed up in their appearance.
Just as it was sometimes too hard to bear the pain of my father’s suffering for 20 years, it was also, humbly, too painful to bear the pain of this woman’s story who I did not know.
In the last several years of my Dad’s life, I softened to his pain. For many years I was hardened, judgmental and angry about his suffering. Those feelings protected me from my sadness.
As I thought about the woman with the bandana, who was later confirmed to be anorexic; I reflected that my avoidance to her was to not feel the sensitivity of her suffering.
How often do we turn away from people’s pain and suffering because of what it touches in us? The hardness, tightness or judgment points us to something deeper in us that is being touched. Something that is often much softer, more tender and genuinely human.
My husband, Tom, came home from work on Friday with a terrible headache. All he could muster were the words to describe his day of people fighting and sending emails back and forth with countless obscenities. He went to bed early.
On Saturday morning he woke up with the headache still lingering and said, “Do you think I should go to yoga?”
“You’ll never regret it,” I said.
And so he went.
Two hours later he returned from class and the words just came. It was something like this:
“This was one of the worst work weeks in a long time. My body was tight and tense all over. In places that I didn’t know could be tight. My head felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to it. I went to yoga at the BYC and everybody was kind. They said, “Hi,” and smiled. The teachers were welcoming and chatting with students and making small jokes at the beginning of class. Everyone felt happy and genuine. I could barely move when class started from the tension in my body, and by the end of it, it had all melted away and I felt back to myself. There is no other place that could have done that for me. Thank you for owning the Beverly Yoga Center. It is a special place.”
For weeks I’ve been sitting at a blank screen waiting for the words to make their way to my computer to reflect on these past 10 years of owning the Beverly Yoga Center.
Tom, who is my beloved husband and has an insider view of the joys and challenges of owning a small business, articulated my deepest wish for people who come to practice yoga at the BYC.
It reminded me of many people’s stories and how the BYC has been a sanctuary at different moments in their lives. The many students who have come for nourishment during a parent’s illness. The pregnant women preparing their bodies for birth. Mothers who come for respite after a demanding day with young children. Those who have come when there was a job loss or as a place to come when feeling overwhelmed by life. Many who come to care for their aging bodies. And the little ones who learn how to breathe and practice tree pose for the first time.
Even during the moments in time when life is going smoothly, it is a place where we can take deep breaths and relax into ourselves. The BYC is a place to welcome our humanity, and to come back to the essence of who we are beneath the accumulation of life.
Celebrating 10 years is a vulnerable and humbling process for me. To consciously draw attention and say, “I am proud. I am happy. Come and celebrate with me,” triggers a vulnerability of being seen in my joy. I use life as my greatest teacher and whenever I come up against resistance or discomfort, it is always a signal that this moment is here to teach me something. So even as uncomfortable as it is to stay with this vulnerability, I am committed to celebrating the BYC this month.
None of this would be possible without the teachers, students and all those around me behind the scenes who unconditionally support and love me.
In looking back on 10 years and in the midst of learning about where I have expectations in life, of people and myself, I was reminded that the BYC began as a simple wish. I wanted to create a space to practice yoga and meditation where I would like to go. I didn’t have grand expectations on what it would lead to or what it would be. It was just a place I knew that I wanted to be. Now, 10 years later, I have a hunch that’s part of its success.
I’ve learned on my journey the past 10 years to trust intention and to let life unfold even when there is uncertainty and the future is unknown. Everything we do is leading us somewhere. The BYC has unfolded these past years as a reflection of our community.
And do you know that the idea of a yoga center in Beverly came right after a meditation session with a group of women who I wholeheartedly hold responsible for it coming to life?
I hope you will join me on Saturday, February 20th at 4:00 pm to celebrate 10 years.View Post
It’s that time of year. If we haven’t already set a New Year’s resolution, we’ve at least thought about it or felt the expectation that we need to. Culturally, the expectation to set a New Year’s resolution is most commonly tied to health: losing weight, eating better and exercise.
Historically, there is a sacredness at the beginning of the year. A time of self-reflection of our lives in the past year and our wishes for the year to come.
But New Year’s resolutions have a subtle way of highlighting where we’ve gone wrong and what expectations we haven’t lived up to for the past year. There is self-judgment associated with resolutions on how we are living our life. Often resolutions are based on how our inner life is comparing to everyone else’s outer life.
So what would happen if instead of using the traditional New Year’s resolution to set the tone for the upcoming year, you changed it to your New Year’s intention and asked yourself this question, “What do I long for in life?” The answer to this question is felt in the heart, not figured out in the mind.
In the past couple of years, I’ve longed for simplicity and space. In the awareness of my longings, I’ve set my intention for the year around them.
This year my longing is for more courage in life. I notice that I can get swept up in self-judgment, insecurity, and fear. Fear of feeling vulnerable and seen. An insecurity of not being good enough. Or a self-judgement that I could always do more and be better.
I created a working definition of courage for the year. Courage is the confidence in and commitment to life. It lies deep within the heart of the human spirit. It is the source of inner strength with a soft, open and vulnerable heart.
So my intention for the year is to live from a place of courage. That may mean that I trust my heart more than my mind or that I trust the uncomfortable places in life like watching my son transition into adolescence.
Just the other day I had made a long list of things to do and on that list was, “Take a walk in nature.” On the way to my hike at Swallow Cliff, I passed a car wash. My car hadn’t been washed in months and the crumbs and the garbage had definitely accumulated in the backseat. There was a choice moment. Do I add to my list and end up compressing my time to get the car washed, or do I honor the part of me that loves time in nature and knows it is medicine for my spirit?
I passed the car wash and decided to put in on my list for another day. I had the most lovely walk in the woods. That moment of choosing took courage.
Intentions ask us to pause and hear what we long to align with in our lives. They are closely aligned with the essential qualities of being human like kindness, peace, simplicity, joy, and love. Setting an intention can be the touchstone in all your decisions and aspects of your life. It is a guiding theme that leads you in work, family, school, community and relationships. The question then becomes, “Is this choice bringing me closer to my intention or further away from it?”
The intention is led by the heart, but it’s also a process. It’s a process that is ongoing and also one that unfolds for us to see the ways in which we can disconnect and ignore our deepest longings in life. The process of living from intention can also shed light on the ease of getting swept up in the surface layers of life and forgetting about what calls us deep in our heart. We can think of setting a New Year’s intention as the process of strengthening the pathways to the heart.
Getting swept away in life is part of the process of awareness and also presents the choice of coming back to your heart. There’s nothing better than that.View Post
My brother-in-law was adopted in Texas in 1966*. For the past several years, we’ve had candid conversations about the impact of not knowing who his birth parents are and how he longs to see someone he looks like.
In 2011, with my brother-in-law’s permission, I contacted the adoption agency he was adopted from in Texas and got the paperwork for him to complete to start the process of finding his birth parents.
The only thing he knows is that his mom and dad were 18 and 19 years old. That information alone speaks volumes about what must have been going on in their lives. It was the time of the Vietnam War. It was before Roe v. Wade, and birth control was uncommon. It was at a time teenage pregnancy was seriously frowned upon. Young pregnant girls were commonly sent to maternity homes where they surrendered their newborns at birth. Only then could they join their families and society.
In October of 2015, four years later, he completed the forms. The uncertainty and possible deeper pain of knowing that there may never be a chance of connecting with his birth parents was too much to bear, so it took time.
In this time, he married my sister and now is even more aware how this emptiness inside of him impacts his own longing and fear to have children.
I sent in the forms and for some unknown reason they got lost in the mail. The contact at Catholic Charities would understandably only speak to him so I’ve had to let go and leave this quest in my brother-in-law’s hands. He has to do the legwork and call, leave messages and call back when they don’t return his calls.
This morning in my meditation practice, my attention went directly to this situation. Within minutes I had planned my text to my brother-in-law about continuing to reach out and not giving up. I had devised a plan in which I would take him to Texas myself and find his parents. I had planned my Google searches, “How to find a private investigator in Texas to find birth parents.” I recited the message I was going to leave on this woman’s voicemail about the incomprehensible inconsideration of not calling back a man trying to find his birth parents. How in the world?
This flutter of activity happened within minutes and my mind was perfectly happy devising a plan and making myself feel better.
So what was actually happening in my planning and strategizing? Well, I was distracting myself from the sadness that I feel for my brother-in-law and his birth parents. I was trying to make myself feel better. I know the sadness is tremendously deep for him. From what I understand, the trauma of what happened to these young women still haunts them today. The emptiness is carried in the mother and child.
In all of my well-intended efforts to make this pain go away for him, I realized in my morning meditation practice today that really the best thing to do was open to the sadness for this sweet and loving human being and hold his pain tenderly and with compassion in my heart. I need to trust that this is his journey, not mine.
And so with the greatest love and respect for him, I offer up to the universe that if it’s meant to be for him to reunite with his birth parents, it will happen. I trust that the emptiness and longing will inspire him to keep calling, keep leaving messages and get on an airplane with his sister-in-law to Texas, if he so wishes.
* I obtained my brother-in-law’s consent before sharing his story.View Post
For some reason in the last few weeks, when my husband calls my cell phone it comes up as Dad. This is, in part, due to the fact that my son has crossed the threshold into adolescence and he now has a phone of his own.
In the process of entering his contacts, Dad now appears when my husband calls me. The only dad that has ever called my phone is my dad and he is no longer with us. When I see Dad appear on my phone my heart sinks and my mind gets fuzzy because I think it’s my dad calling me.
For the first time in many years, I’ve entered the holiday season without the overwhelm and anxiety that usually rush in on November 1st. For years I’ve made small changes to my holiday to-do list which is now only the few things that are imperative to me: eating at the Walnut Room, organizing my flower boxes with evergreens, enjoying our Christmas tree, purchasing the few gifts my children will receive and hosting my daughter’s December birthday party.
I let go of mailing Christmas cards, exchanging gifts with family and friends, and attending holiday parties. It’s opened up new possibilities and time to do other things that I look forward to like Christmas caroling, seeing The Nutcracker, visiting with close friends, attending church downtown for the winter solstice and teaching a few classes that are inspiring to me. I look forward to this month.
Looking back, I see that what was hard for me over the years during the holiday season was the inner polarity between what I actually long for during this time of year, and the surface activity and expectation of doing more than ever. The honest truth was that I couldn’t do it all without struggling inside.
In 2015, I committed to the intention of space. Space to see how my life unfolded without adding to it and seeing all the ways that I fill space because I have creative and ingenious energy. With this commitment of space, what at first was pleasurable and luxurious shed light on an underlying, human anxiety. An anxiety of crossing a threshold into my forties and all the ways that I try and make myself comfortable to avoid the uncertainty and fear of getting older.
These layers of anxiety revealed the deeper truth that thresholds in life have potential to provoke questions about the meaning of life.
I am acutely aware in these quiet and dark days of winter that time is moving forward. There is an ache of letting go of some of the youth of my thirties and growing up into my forties. This is the first time in my short life that I’ve wanted to go back a few years to have just one more moment.
One more moment with my dad. One more moment with my young son and baby daughter. One more dinner at my grandma’s house.
This process of getting older touches the vulnerability of being human. The anxiety is just merely a way it manifests and tries to protect me from feeling the ultimate tenderness of change and uncertainty in life.
The change of my children growing up. The uncertainty of our environment and the world we live in. The uncertainty of what my life will look like when I enter into my fifties. All the unknown changes of the future.
Irish Poet John O’Donohue says, “Because we are so engaged with the world, we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are.”
My dad often called me from a park bench. I know that’s where he felt most vulnerable and tender. I imagine that is why he was calling from there. Perhaps Dad appearing on my phone is an invitation to pause at the tenderness of life.
This time last year I stayed in a hermitage cabin in the woods for what I call my strategic planning meeting. It involves a few days of quiet in the woods by Lake Michigan with my journal, poster size paper and markers, my meditation cushion and yoga mat. The intention of my strategic planning meeting is to look back on the year and into the next one.
I ask important questions that shape many of the decisions that I make both personally and professionally.
In 2015, I committed to the theme of space. The freedom and scope to live, think, and develop in a way that suits one. Unconditional friendliness.
As a result of the theme space, I expanded the BYC to create a more comfortable space for students where they could feel at ease and at peace. I stepped back from teaching to allow for extra space in my personal and professional life and to question my motivations and intentions behind my teaching. After almost 10-years of working at my dining room table, I gave myself permission for an office space.
A couple of weeks ago, I was back at my strategic planning meeting excited about my new word for the year. Courage. Borrowing from David Whyte, Berne Brown, and the dictionary, I created my working definition of courage for 2016.
Courage is the confidence in and commitment to life. It lies deep within the heart of the human spirit. It is the source of inner strength with a soft, open and vulnerable heart.
In putting courage at the center of my life for 2016, I have reflected on my devotion to living a meaningful life, not a perfect one.
For several years, I’ve been tangled up about teaching. What I teach in class is a reflection of what I am practicing in my personal life. That was deeply vulnerable for me to share. I developed an expectation that if I am teaching these things, I should be perfect at them, knowing that I wasn’t.
With the intention of space, I learned all sorts of things about myself that wouldn’t have been revealed had I not given myself time for reflection. And while I am still in process, I do know that I am devoted to courage and sharing practices that are deeply woven into my life.
I want to share those with you and hope that you will join me for my collection of classes beginning in December called Mornings of Nourishment.View Post
Last night I did something for the first time. I read a piece I wrote for the Frunchroom. The Frunchroom is a Southside reading series made up of a collection of writers who showcase a story.
Even though I write a monthly blog for the Beverly Yoga Center newsletter, I do not consider myself a writer. I have agonizing memories of getting back papers in high school and college with so much red ink that I thought the teacher went through a package of pens just for me. Since my teen years, I’ve always been self-conscious of my writing.
I started writing again by accident when I began writing the BYC newsletter, which told stories about my life and what I think about on my journey as a human being. All of my writings reflect what I think and feel in quiet, which is either on a yoga mat, meditation cushion, a long walk in nature or swimming laps in a pool.
When I was asked to do the reading, I accepted without hesitation because it just so happened that I had something percolating in my mind that was best put to paper rather than replaying the series of events in my head over and over again.
I also know that when life is uncomfortable, it’s an opportunity for growth and that is always exciting to me. I have a love and devotion for growing into new frontiers and shedding fears that hold me back from living life whole heartedly.
Not only did I read last night, which was an edge in itself, but I promoted it and sent emails and even posted to Facebook to friends and family to attend for support. And they did!
I was overflowing with love and appreciation for my friends and family who showed up for me. I am much better at giving love than receiving it. In my private life, receiving love is actually a practice for me.
So this morning as I take some time to pause and reflect on the evening, I am reminded of all my friends and family who love and support me. I am going to take that in and let my heart continue to overflow.View Post
I’m 12 years old driving with my dad in a white Cadillac convertible listening to the oldies station. The trunk was full of groceries and we were headed home. I was excited to go swimming in our new pool. My father slowed the car down and made a turn to point out a woman pushing a grocery cart full of her belongings. He asked, “What do you think it feels like to be in her shoes?” I didn’t have an answer.
“Pack your bags with whatever snacks you like,” I said to Patrick, my 11-year-old, and Julia my 6-year-old, one day afterschool. “We’re going on a field trip!”
In late August, I took my son and daughter downtown to Malcom X College for one of Mayor Emanuel’s budget community meetings. They were held throughout the city for residents to tell City leaders about important things they would like to see as part of the 2016 budget.
Of course my children acted as you would expect any 11-and-6 year-old to when told they were going to a town hall budget meeting.
“Where are we going?”
“Mom, you’ve got to be kidding!”
For five years, I’ve been advocating on behalf of Kennedy Park Pool to make it more family friendly and to expand the season for many taxpayers who use the pool who are not necessarily tied to the Chicago Public Schools calendar. For taxpayers who use the pool for exercise and recreation, additional weeks means more time outside in the sunshine. Over the years, I’ve collected signatures, met with the Alderman and Park District, and written countless emails and letters. Many changes have been made, but it’s taken a lot of effort and time.
We arrived especially early to Malcolm X to get my name first on the speaking list since I thought that the kids patience would wane rather quickly. And so we sat in the auditorium-with their bag full of snacks – waiting for my name to be called.
We listened to the moderator and a 15-minute power point presentation by the budget director. Both Patrick and Julia looked over to me when the moderator explained that he would take a deep breath and calmly ask the speaker to end their comments when their time was up. As you can imagine I was quite pleased as a yoga studio owner to see deep breathing as part of a formal government meeting.
Carly Carney. I was first on the list. I walked up to the microphone with my daughter and held her small hand in mine. I asked very simply for the mayor to consider extending the pool season for select outdoor pools across the city for residents who use them for exercise and recreation. I also invited him to come swimming with us at Kennedy Park pool anytime he wanted. By the way, the mayor is an avid swimmer.
As I walked back to my seat, the woman behind me said, “Those are white girl problems.”
And as I sat down next to my son, the woman behind us said, “You’re just a rich country club girl.” Patrick looked over to me with curious eyes and a crooked smile. I gave him the look–“we’ll talk about this later.” Meanwhile, every muscle in my body tensed up.
Then one by one people came to the microphone:
The woman immediately after me said, “We don’t have those problems in our neighborhood. We don’t even have grocery stores in our neighborhood where I can even get food for my family.
The grandmother waving her finger at the mayor for not having more African American police officers, like her grandson, to keep her neighborhood safe.
The young teacher screaming her prepared speech that the reduction in funds for special needs is child abuse.
Supporters of the Dyett hunger strikers chanted at every opportunity. “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now. What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now.”
Many times I looked to Patrick and said, ready? “No.” he replied. His big blue eyes were fixated on the microphones as new people spoke criticizing, bullying, and pleading for recognition of their issue to be heard.
We stayed there for over two hours.
On the car ride back to Beverly we chuckled at the language, sayings, outfits, and hairdos. We laughed at the craziness of the night. It felt like an out of body experience.
The next day I went through online newspapers and watched video clips from the night before. I thought about the conversation on the way home with Patrick and Julia and could see much of what we laughed about were really judgments and even seeds of prejudice.
I noticed the remnants of irritation that I was judged and stereotyped as a “white country club girl” and was frustrated that many in the audience saw me only as privileged. They didn’t know that there is much more to me then they saw. I imagine that is true for everyone who came to the microphone.
That evening before bed, I asked Patrick. “What do you think it feels like to have your school closed and be sent to another neighborhood?”
“What do you think it feels like to not feel safe where you live?”
He didn’t have an answer and I really didn’t expect him to. The questions were what I felt were important, not only for him but for me too.
What does it feel like to be in someone else’s shoes in our city? Do we really ever think about that?
I’ve been contemplating this for weeks now. There was a part of me that was uncomfortable with the anger in the room. But what do I know about anger? I know that is a feeling that protects and distracts us from grief, sadness and helplessness. I imagine that there are many parents who appear to be angry, who are really quite sad and scared for their children. Parents who wish that they had a different set of circumstances. Who are doing the best that they know how with the resources they have, but it still doesn’t change their situation. And so what the public sees is anger, when really it is a reflection of deep sadness.
I thought about the teachers who were yelling at the mayor about taking away services for special needs children and who referred to their job as babysitters. To see firsthand all the needs these children have with limited resources must be heartbreaking. Underneath the yells, were heartbroken teachers who can’t do their job the way they feel is honorable for those children.
And this is MY simple story. I have a difficult time during the winter months. The pool is the symbol of relief from winter suffering. When the pool opens I know relief is on the way and when it closes, I know what’s ahead. Extending the season doesn’t take away the harsh winter, but it allows many of us around the city who enjoy being outdoors to get the most of what Mother Nature will allow us.
A common denominator with everyone who took the time to come to these budget meetings was a sense of hope and a longing to be seen and heard. For someone to notice them and decide that their story was important. They ultimately were asking for help and that showed their human vulnerability. That takes courage.
What did my dad teach me when he stopped to point out the homeless woman? Ask the question–What does it feel like to be in their shoes?
Maybe it’s a brief moment that before we speak, think or act, we ask the question, “What’s their story?”View Post
This February marks the Beverly Yoga Center’s 10-year anniversary and my 40th birthday. It’s a time of reflection of where I’ve been; where I am going; and what’s important to keep at the center of my life. Looking back on the past 10 years, I’ve thought about the many blessings in my life, as well as the struggles as a wife, mother, friend, business owner, etc.
As I pause in anticipation of turning 40-years-old, I am reminded of the importance of service and kindness to those who are suffering.
I am reading Brene Brown’s new book Rising Strong and she tells the story of a lecture she attended about homelessness. This quote struck me, “When you look away from a homeless person, you diminish their humanity and your own.”
I think of the courage that it takes for those who are homeless in our city to make signs and stand there on the street or corner everyday asking for help and often being rejected or unseen by people who have it “all together” — myself included.
Tomorrow night is our first of several Karma yoga classes that will happen once a month leading up to the Beverly Yoga Center’s 10th anniversary party in February.
The proceeds from these donation based classes will support Harmony, Hope & Healing, an organization who supports homeless men and women in recovery.
Please join the BYC tomorrow night at 7:00 pm for a restorative-yin class. We are asking for a $10 donation. Of course you can give more if your budget allows.
Our family was invited to a party this summer. I didn’t want to go. Someone in the family hurt my feelings. It definitely wasn’t malicious or even intentional. They probably don’t even know. I’m not angry. My heart simply feels sad and a bit protected around this person. It’s happened more than once over the many years, but somehow I’d end up back in the relationship and something would happen again.
Several years ago, my son was playing at a boy’s house he didn’t know very well. The boy made a comment that hurt his feelings and after all these years, he still hasn’t returned to play.
My daughter came home crying from school one day because a girl in her class told her that she wasn’t invited to her birthday party.
And even my husband, who has a tendency to not get hooked by these things, came home from work befuddled about a co-worker who continues to lie to him.
None of these examples have stopped us from living or carrying on in relationships, but they’ve touched a tender spot in each of us.
“How do we care for our tender hearts?”
These situations got me thinking. Four people with different temperaments, personalities, ages and perspectives all carry a little hurt in some small corner of their heart.
When we carry unresolved hurt or pain, it becomes the protective shield around our heart and keeps us disconnected from others. The shield keeps the heart closed to its essential qualities that are warm, soft, gentle and loving.
So how do we open our hearts when it’s easier to keep a shield or stance that “they” hurt me?
I’ve been reflecting on this situation for weeks. I made a list as a way to soften and come back to my heart.
1. Give the person the benefit of the doubt.
2. Put yourself in their shoes.
3. Don’t take it personally.
4. Talk to the other person.
5. Choose to relate to the problem differently.
6. Ask what life lessons I can learn from this situation.
I came to this understanding. No matter what your age, we get hurt in life.
What would happen if we held the hurt and trusted that the heart will re-open spontaneously and soften?
When we turn away from feelings of hurt, sensitivity and sadness they become the scars around our heart. The turning away rejects the vulnerable side of the heart, which longs to be open, loving, warm and connected. The scars unintentionally become a hardened place we live from and relate to other people.
So I ask you to take some time over the week and pause in the place where you may have been hurt and ask what it needs to soften the protection. What does your list look like?
The heart always wants itself back.View Post
It happened the other day when I was meditating. I couldn’t sit in quiet or at least it felt almost impossible to stay for 30 minutes. Every few minutes I’d open my eyes to peek at the time slowly passing by. I started putting my hands on my racing heart. When that didn’t work I started counting my breaths. And when that didn’t calm me down, I started repeating to myself, “I am here . . . I am here. . . I am here.” That didn’t even work, (which usually it does) so I finally forfeited all my attempts and for the last 10 minutes I turned on a song and chanted with it. That was even hard and it’s my favorite song to chant.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened in the last several months either. It’s becoming more and more common that my meditation practice is presenting new challenges. It’s not what you think would challenge someone in meditation.
What I’ve been experiencing are simply deep feelings of joy, happiness, blessing and gratitude, but with that comes a vibrant, pulsing heart that is actually hard to be with in quiet and stillness.
It’s a lot of simple things that I am noticing in abundance like looking up at the beautiful sky and trees, acknowledging the blessings of good friendships, feeling grateful for happy and healthy children, being able to swim outdoors during the summer, and being part of a stable and loving marriage. Nothing that money can buy or that couldn’t be taken away in a moment’s time, but nonetheless present in these moments.
I also know from my young life that these are indeed blessings because they weren’t always in the fabric of my life. In fact, I often did not think joy and gratitude were even a possibility. Like all human beings I’ve had struggles and losses.
I also know that this isn’t forever and that in life there is pain, disappointments and challenges and that I am not immune to them just because I feel joy and blessing in this season of life.
I went online to search happiness, joy and blessing and came across a sweet video that documented a group of people who were asked to write about someone whom they were grateful for at any point in their life. After they finished writing, they were asked to call the person who they wrote about and read them their reflection.
The study showed that happiness increased for both the person writing and receiving the reflection. In fact, happiness increased more for the people who came to the study least happy.
Who are you grateful for in your life? Do they know it? What would happen if you took a few minutes to handwrite a note put it in the mail and let them know?View Post
This is true about me: I am a planner. I love music. I love quiet. I love nature. I don’t like parties and big groups of people. I am a devoted mother and wife. I am a hard worker. I don’t like attention or celebrations about me. I practice taking in compliments. I love contemplating life’s difficult and unanswerable questions.
This is also true about me: I trust that moving towards shaky areas in our life, which introduce us to what’s uncomfortable, are the ways that we grow as human beings.
My children have this look on their face when certain songs play at our house. Sometimes they peek at me to see how long it will take for me to cry at church when the choir starts. Music has this penetrating way into my heart that is unexplainable. Certain songs just break it open like hard ice cracking. While it is painful, there is relief when the tears start and the protection that I carry around from being human just dissolves.
When I was in my early 20s, I travelled to Africa. In my idealistic youth, I collected and distributed over 50,000 pairs of shoes to children who were without footwear and susceptible to contracting diseases through their feet. When I stayed in the villages on a church floor under a mosquito net, I would wake to a group of schoolgirls singing. If I close my eyes now, 15 years later, I can still picture them as I peered through the window.
In Africa, I witnessed how they used song as a way to live and celebrate in everyday life. For 2 years I’ve been carrying a business card from a gospel choir I love. It’s been on my mind that when I turn 40 and the Beverly Yoga Center turns 10-years-old I want to celebrate with this choir!
And as much as putting myself out there to celebrate the joy and hardships of 40 years of life, 10 years as a small business owner, 11 years as a mother, 13 years in a marriage, I feel the shakiness to celebrate, which ALWAYS tells me that I am on the right track to some gift unfolding.
On Saturday, February 20th at 7:00 p.m. the Harmony, Hope and Healing ensemble will come to the Beverly Yoga Center.
Harmony, Hope and Healing is an organization which provides therapeutic music programs to homeless and underserved women, children and men who are struggling to overcome poverty. The choir that sings is comprised of men and women who are being served by the organization’s various programs.
As part of a deeper intention for myself, my family, the Beverly Yoga Center and stepping into 40, I hope to continue to support HHH’s mission to ease the suffering of many who are impacted by life’s unanswerable questions.
I hope you will save the date and celebrate with me. For more information about Harmony, Hope and Healing please visit their website at http://www.harmonyhopeandhealing.org.View Post
This afternoon my husband called to say Patrick and Julia were vying for Subway after soccer. I quickly said with an outward and inner smile, “Perfect and let them eat there as well.”
My husband laughed and said, “Ah, you get the house to yourself.”
Two hours of unanticipated time in my house . . . what a gift. So what else do moms do . . . clean. I picked up shoes, washed the floors, vacuumed, wiped down bathroom counters, etc.
As I cleaned I thought about what else; none other than Mother’s Day. Why I’m supposed to love it, but really don’t.
It puts everyone on heightened stress. My husband’s got to get the perfect gift to show me just how much he loves and appreciates me. Threaten the kids all week to be on their best behavior and come up with some scheme to make sure I know they appreciate me. Also, it’s stress for the kids to feel an extra dose of love and appreciation for me when chances are Mother’s Day is just another Sunday for them.
And then the stress that it puts on me, the mother. First, the guilt when really what I’d like on Sunday is a clean and quiet house so I can put my feet up without a to do list or the expectation to be anywhere else. Then I have to figure out what cute outfit I’ll wear to an overcrowded restaurant so that at least I look the part of a joyful and loving mom. However, who knows what the weather is going to be, at least in Chicago. And speaking of weather, I’ve also been charting the upcoming temperature and silently praying it will be nice enough for everyone to help me in the yard without eye rolls or complaints.
During the repetition of sweeping today, I realized that my children and husband show me time and time again how much they love and appreciate me. A random afternoon when Julia cuddles up next to me and says, “I want to be a mom just like you.” Or Patrick, who quietly agrees to go on a hike because he knows that it means something to me. Or my husband who buys me tulips and writes me a card that says, “bad days happen to good people.”
Mother’s Day happens all the time in those precious spontaneous moments that come out of nowhere like a shooting star. You can’t plan them or expect them on a special day. All you can do is let them in when they arise because they pass just as quickly.
If anything that a couple hours today of nobody home, listening to music, sweeping the floors and wiping down the bathrooms reminded me is just how much my heart aches in love for my children and husband.
And just maybe that’s why on Mother’s Day many of us wish for quiet by ourselves. In the momentum of being a mom we can miss the moments of that heartbreaking mother’s love that is always right beneath the surface.
And as a few tears stream down my cheeks, I wait for them to come home to mess up my clean house.View Post
The four of us finally made it to our spring break destination . . . Tulum, Mexico. I’d been counting down the days since I clicked ‘purchase’ months ago. One of the great memories growing up in my family were the many vacations my father took us on. I always remember my mom on a chair in the shade. My dad always packed in activities.
On the first night of our arrival under the moonlight in the Gulf of Mexico, I felt tremendous joy as I watched Julia, my daughter, jump the waves and squeal with delight as the water brushed against her naked skin . . . yes she was naked.
I remembered many conversations with my father over the years telling me that this was the best time of my life with a young family and one that he wished that he could go back to if ever given the chance. As I sat there under the moonlight, I knew what he meant.
Several days later on the same vacation, we went to visit the Tulum ruins early one morning. By the end of the morning excursion, both Patrick and Julia were tiered, hungry, and crabby. There were a lot of complaints and arguments coming from the back seat. In the front seat my husband and I were navigating Mexican roads and the quickest way to relieve the commotion . . . just get back to the hotel was our mantra.
By the time we arrived, I quickly got Julia to the bathroom and changed to go for a long walk along the beach to settle down from the morning antics. An hour later I arrived back to the room with questionable looks, “where are the keys?”
I looked in all the places that had already been searched-no keys. Patrick came back from a last look and said, “I found the keys! They are inside the car AND it is still running.” Four local men, my husband and Patrick maneuvered the keys out of the car with a hook, pole and a lot of prayers.
I was embarrassed. But underneath the embarrassment, I felt completely seen by family in my vulnerability as a mother.
Then it brought the tenderness towards many mothers I’ve had conversations with about forgetting words midstream in a sentence or forgetting simple things that typically flow effortlessly.
From the book that I recently finished to just seeing Still Alice, I was convinced that I was experiencing the early signs of a brain tumor or Alzheimer’s. So on our technology free vacation, I started sneaking the iPad into the lobby researching what was exactly happening to my brain. No success in finding an an a nswer since the limited internet access was far more frustrating then believing my self-diagnosis.
It just so happened that Julia had a doctor’s appointment when we returned home. As we were leaving the doctor’s office, out came my story about being forgetful, the embarrassing situation of leaving the keys in the car and about feeling that my mind is sometimes like a pinball machine.
The doctor started asking many questions and replied with genuine kindness, “There is nothing wrong with you. This is motherhood.”
I didn’t know whether to cry or smile. Either way, I knew why my mother sat in a chair under the shade on all of those vacations and why my dad said this is a great time in my life. Today is the two year anniversary of his passing and I bet that he wishes he could be here in all the busyness and commotion of a young family and especially on vacation.View Post
Last week I was away on a yoga and meditation training. I’ve been on enough trainings and retreats to trust my own inner rhythm and find comfort in being by myself and making choices that are nourishing.
I savored the long walks alone, sunrise dips in the Jacuzzi, star gazing in the evening, and quiet meals. I felt content and happy with the blessings of sunshine, nature, reflections, and inspiring teachings. I was feeling energized by the time alone.
However, at lunchtime, I made a conscious effort to find a table with other people and share a meal. “Hi, I am Carly. Do you mind if I sit here?” I was always welcomed and then afterward returned to my quiet and introverted ways.
On the fifth day, I arrived at my door to a cup full of beautiful daffodils. There wasn’t a note, just the fresh yellow flowers. The gesture was sweet, but I wondered why someone would leave these flowers for me, since I did not really know anyone. So I pondered and came up with scenarios to calm the confusion of not knowing. Would it really be appropriate to start asking people if THEY happened to leave flowers at my door and if so why?
I relinquished my quest to figure it out and enjoyed their simple beauty on the windowsill. On the last night, I walked past my neighbor’s room and chatted about the training. As I left, something caught my attention . . . a vase full of daffodils.
“Did you leave me flowers by chance?” I asked. She replied, “yes.”
“Why,” I asked.
She replied, “you looked sad and alone.” I smiled at her, without any urge to explain.
I’ve been thinking ever since about the dilemma faced by myself and many others I know who are introverted. I fill up and get nourished by quiet, being alone, space, reading, and personal connections. I get overwhelmed by noise, chaos, and big groups of people. Small talk is anxiety producing, while sharing about feelings and life feels natural and inspiring.
This also reminded me how easily introverts can be misunderstood as someone who is withdrawn, protective, sad, and anti-social. It can give the impression that they don’t want to connect, but the truth is that introverts are sensitive, contemplative, and appreciative of genuine heart connections.
A lot goes on behind their quiet ways.View Post
Last week I stood in the book aisle at Target checking off the last items I needed to get before I left for a week retreat in Mexico. My list said, “book, not too light, not too heavy.”
Minutes passed and before I knew it I had five books stacked in front of me. I was stumped at which one I should choose for the week of beach time. So I plopped them in the front cart and continued checking off my list.
When I arrived at the checkout counter, before reading the summaries one last time, I spontaneously choose the blue book.
Packed in my suitcase was the blue book I selected, A House in the Sky. By the time I arrived on the beach, I had actually forgotten what it was about. I gave myself a couple hours every morning to read after teaching yoga and I enjoyed the story about the travels of young Amanda Lindhouth. In some ways she reminded me of my younger self. A young woman who loved to travel, experience different cultures, and enjoy the thrill of travelling to places that made me feel alive and curious.
However, on day three, as I sat in a lounge chair with a warm breeze, bright sun, clear skies, a full belly of a delicious organic breakfast and not a worry in the world, the detailed story began of her kidnapping and 462 days of extreme and cruel torture and rape.
I knew that she lived to tell the story, but I couldn’t read fast enough to get through the detailed precision of her captors gang rape, the 10 months lying on her side without seeing daylight, the animal fat delivered to her dark cell for her one meal a day . . . if she was lucky.
As I read her days, weeks, months and then year of torture and trauma, I was in some way traumatized by the details of her kidnapping. However, to put the book down and donate it to the lending library at the retreat center, felt like a betrayal to Amanda.
A deep dilemma emerged for me. At night, as I closed my eyes, the first thing I thought about was her and what it must have felt like to be in her situation. Images of her torture emerged like graphic pictures in my head. During meditation, which she practiced during her kidnapping, I felt the constriction and fear of her life. I couldn’t shake the images or the gripping. I had an uncomfortable feeling and I didn’t know whether the feelings were from my life or from hers.
For a couple of days I was mad at Amanda for putting herself in a situation that was clearly dangerous, even if it was out of the goodness of her heart.
However, I found that my anger, judgment, and disapproval were about my lack of capacity to hold the feelings that another human had been so inhumanely treated. I was also keenly aware that I was being served three nutritious meals a day and that my pressing concerns at the moment were trivial at best.
I gave myself afternoon breaks from reading and eventually finished the book as I swayed in a hammock, with a warm breeze listening to the waves crash onto the shore. For hours I was stunned. Part of me stunned that I had made it though the book. Part of me stunned that she made it out alive and continues to do good in the world.
As the shock and disbelief settled, what emerged for me was an unanswerable question that I wrestle with often, “how can I hold the deep agonizing pain of our world and the blessings and fortune of my life?”
Yes, Amanda’s story was extreme, but the truth is that torture and imprisonment is common and people are held hostage and kidnapped in many scenarios around the world even if they are considered “free.” People starving, displaced, tortured, raped, forgotten about, and helpless. Women, men, and children all around the world experience this as their reality.
And when I really contemplate what’s underneath my tense heart, fear, and anger, I recognize that I am genuinely sad, confused, and heartbroken that other human beings endure so much and in my own privileged life I feel helpless to change this.
It’s easier and more comfortable to turn away, put the book down, turn the channel and skim the photos. But what would happen if we paused and let the words sink in, looked into the eyes of the starving child, displaced women or felt the fear as bombs go off as the reporter tells the story?
I don’t have the answers to solve the humanitarian crisis in our world, but I do have the choice to not turn away from headlines, stories, and photos that make me uncomfortable with the pain of the world and the blessings of my life.
So I hold both, one in each hand, the blessings of life and the pain of life and know that both are true and have space to be in the human heart.
As I fly high above the clouds into the bright blue sky home to Chicago, I am reminded by the Buddhist practice of Tonglen in which we breathe in the pain and suffering of others so they can be well and gently breathe out peace and love or whatever we feel would bring them relief or happiness. That feels like a compassionate choice today.View Post
We began navigating through the crowds to make our way to our car. The four of us were laughing and still in amazement over what we just witnessed.
In the midst of our carefree night, we began walking towards a fully pregnant woman with a sign that read, “Homeless and Helpless.” Her eyes were turned down grazing pedestrian’s footsteps as they passed her. My heart sank and both children looked back at me with that “look.” It’s the look of this doesn’t make sense, what should we do?
When children don’t understand something they look to their parents to help make sense of their experience. And as I too walked passed her my mood changed, and I felt an ache in my heart for this woman. Almost instantly I thought about my own pregnancies at her stage and my children’s lives.
Our pace slowed and a man and woman a few feet in front of us stopped, began going through their wallet and turned around. They made their way back to her and deposited some money in her cup.
We did the same.
Yesterday I was stopped at a red light, with a woman pacing and her own sign that read, “Please Help.”
I sat there for what seemed like forever and looked her directly in the eyes. Tears began to well in her eyes. The only thing I could do at that moment was pull out my change bag in the console of my car and deposit in her cup what was left.
As I rolled up my window and watched her continue to the next car, I noticed something. I noticed that every car rolled down their window and put something in her cup.
Kindness is contagious in even the smallest of measures. Watching the couple pause and go back to put money in the pregnant women’s cup prompted me to pause and go back. Rolling down my window might have prompted the car in back of me, and so on.
There is a children’s parable called the Little Soul and the Sun. It’s about the angels that come into our life to remind us of who we are and to teach us lessons. It is available here.
I can’t explain why my life’s journey is quite different then the women I came into contact with recently. The best way that I can explain it to my children-and myself-is every human being is an angel sent down from the heavens. They all have different guises to remind us of our own humanity and that there is more to a human being than we see with the naked eye. We come from the same place.
“Always remember,” God smiled, “I have sent you nothing but angels.”
Something inside me slowly shifts. My body starts to tighten. I begin to feel low. My eyes get glassy. My mind gets foggy and my capacity to accomplish dwindles. I start to lose connection to my heart.
I feel SAD. And when I start to feel SAD, I feel embarrassed, flawed, vulnerable and weak that I can’t somehow manage my symptoms well enough to transcend this winter experience into joy and happiness. A part of me believes that despite the tremendous blessings I have in life, I should be immune to winter depression.
The truth is that I am fighting this situation because I would prefer my life to run smoothly, peacefully and happily all the time. Despite ALL the practical measures I take to ease my discomfort, winter depression is still at the forefront many days. I can’t control life AND I don’t like it!
I have my life’s intention posted around several places in my house, “I vow to let life be the vehicle for my awakening.”
What are the hidden gifts of this pain? What will the dark days to come reveal to me? What will I learn in this suffering?
I don’t know the answer today, but there is a deeper trust in life that if I let it in, if I welcome it, if I turn towards it rather than away, it will guide me to peace. . . peace even in the darkness.
I’ve committed this season to slowing down, becoming friends with the sadness, and waiting to see what emerges . . . very much like the tulip bulbs I planted last week.View Post
“I vow to let life be the vehicle of my awakening.”
What it means is that I use life to teach me lessons about myself that I may be sleepy or closed off to for deeper connection to my essential being.
Translation: a difficult person teaches me what I perhaps am not seeing in myself.
Yesterday afternoon I was working and breaking a serious rule in our house of NO drinking water by the computer. Wouldn’t you know it, I accidentally knocked it over and the computer crashed.
No power, no backup in weeks, no anything!
In the past week, I had spent hours writing, organizing pictures and getting to a project that’s been on my list for months.
As uncertainty grew about the possibility of loosing everything I had worked on, I frantically jumped in the car and headed over to the Apple Store at 8:00 pm just before the store closed.
The man in blue shirt greeted me and I explained my accident and headed over to the Genius counter and waited.
“Let me take a look”, Jonathan said. When he opened it up water was everywhere even after hours post the accident.
“Your computer is beyond repair with the amount of damage,” he said.
I explained that I purchased it just two months ago and had only paid a fraction of it off on my 12-month financing from Best Buy.
He looked at me compassionately and I asked if we could figure out the a cost for a new computer and if there was a payment plan.
I sat and contemplated what lesson I was to learn besides not having water near the computer and wondering for 15 minutes how I could use this as a teaching moment. I didn’t have an answer.
Fifteen minutes later, Jonathan appeared with a new bright white box and started opening it up.
“No charge,” he said.
Tears welled up in my eyes and I knew in that moment that kindness was the lesson to learn.
Kindness and doing the right thing when you don’t have to melts the heart and confirms the deep goodness in people.
Jonathan at the Genius Bar reminded me of this quote by Mother Teresa, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”View Post
We are taught and encouraged to do for others. We are rewarded by our accomplishments and degrees of success. Sometimes we are explicitly taught and other times it’s an unsaid cultural expectation.
The most common plea and disappointment I hear repeatedly as the owner of the Beverly Yoga Center is that people don’t have time to practice yoga.
In those same conversations what I hear people saying is that they want to have time and long to have inner quiet.
The truth is that the only way to getting yourself to the yoga mat is to put yourself in the center along with those other things that are important to you. So if reading to your children, cooking dinner, working, volunteering, going on date night’s are important, then YOU must prioritize it.
The meaning of the word nucleus is the heart or central hub for growth and so only a few key things can fit into it.
If it’s not yoga or self care, then remind yourself that what you put in the nucleus of your life is feeding a deeper part of your being. It’s different for everyone and it changes as our life circumstances change. There are levels of priorities.
Human beings get caught by that catchy self talk statement, “I should be.” “I should be doing more yoga. I should be taking better care of myself. I should be 15 pounds lighter. The “shoulds” go on and on and on.
It is essential to ask yourself if you are being deeply fulfilled by what you put at the center of your life. The “shoulds” may get quieter.
Or ask yourself how you spend your time and that will point to where you are living from.
Mundane and repetitive aspects are part of all of our lives. When we feel fed by something deeper it gives us space for joy to emerge.
Stay connected to what’s important to you and revisit your nucleus often. Post it to a sticky note!View Post
It was the longing for freedom and space from the mundane aspects of life. I longed to escape the never-ending repetition of it, and even the meaningless of it.
In truth, the longing is the recognition that I’ve gotten caught. The reality is that I’ve gotten off track, became distracted and chosen to let the momentum of life continue to carry me away to another to do list, another issue at work, another relationship I can’t understand, and another load of laundry to do.
The longing, I know now after many years of meditation, is the missing of oneself. It’s the painful disconnect of getting lost from Self. It’s the awareness that I started living from the surface. To be specific, it is the realization that I can never fill up from Facebook browsing, shopping, working, eating, TV, reading another book or the losing myself in the I-phone, on which I can Facebook browse, shop, work… you get the idea.
So when I landed on my mediation cushion on retreat last week, I crashed into myself and the residue of life met me head on with tension, restlessness, heartache, confusion and sadness.
There was nothing in particular about my life’s circumstances that warranted these feelings and yet each feeling in their own way revealed to me what it feels like to simply be a human being engaging in life.
I sat for days in quiet, taking long and slow walks in the Redwoods, watching the sunset above the clouds, getting curious about my relationship to life and others, and giving myself space and permission to just be.
What emerged was the simple human feeling of joy.
Joy in the blessings of my husband, children, work, friends, etc. Joy in the blessings of this human life—all of the pretty and the ugly.
Today as I landed back on my cushion, I sat and met my joy and excitement about being alive.
You may wonder how does sitting with tension, restlessness, and heartache manifest joy. The answer is that in the momentum and speed of life we don’t give our heart time to feel, pause and get quiet. As a result it hardens, tightens, and keeps moving away from what feels uncomfortable. Space and time give the heart permission to let go and release all that we hold on to.
Put yourself in the center today and give your self some space and quiet and see for yourself what emerges . . . meet whatever it is with kindness and let it grow.View Post
I knew that I was sending the newsletter out to hundreds of people, but I had some belief that people really didn’t read what I wrote. So when my inbox became flooded with comments and people stopped me at the store expressing their appreciation, I froze and haven’t been able to write since then.
I got scared that in my vulnerability of my stories and curiosity about life that people were going to see the very human side of me and judge me for not having it all together.
A few weeks ago at the start of the school year a fellow mom I was in conversation with said to me, “You are always so calm. It must be all the yoga you do.”
It was a genuine compliment, however a huge knot emerged in my belly.
I’ve been in her shoes before and that was the knot. Her comment pointed to my own expectations and ideals of what someone represents by their work, status or self-presentation. It also brought up the disappointment we feel when humans show their human side of not being who I thought they were.
The priest who is never to make a mistake.
The doctor who should have all the answers.
The therapist who is expected to give perfect advice.
The rich movie star who lives in a 5 million dollar house and has a “perfect” life.
The yoga teacher who is always calm, centered and kind.
We don’t give a lot of space for human beings to be imperfect, myself included. But even more important is that we don’t give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We create strategies to hide our imperfections by doing more or judging ourselves for what we could be doing better.
I am completely human with contradictions, vulnerabilities, insecurities, heartbreak, and even a temper, however I am also a human being that has a deep wish to wake up to all the lessons that life has to teach me to bring me closer to my essential being (some may say God). That is why I meditate and practice yoga.
Pema Chödrön, wonderfully reminds us, “Life’s work is to wake up, to let the things that enter into the circle wake you up rather than put you to sleep. The only way to do this is to open, be curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will. It’s going to stick around until you learn your lesson, at any rate.”View Post
It’s been one of those months where the repetitive and mundane aspects of being a mom has landed me on my bedroom floor crying and praying that I not loose my temper, yell or come up with an ultimatum for better behavior one more time for the rest of the summer—it’s only the beginning of July!
So a few days ago on my way home from a teary–eyed appointment with my therapist, I decided to go for a quiet walk around Lake Katherine.
I took off my flip flops and walked sole to earth to slow my pace down so that I wasn’t walking with the momentum of my thoughts.
An older gentlemen walked up behind me and suggested that I be careful walking barefoot. He then asked, “Why are you walking barefoot?”
“To slow me down.” I replied.
Within minutes we were walking in sync side-by-side talking about our lives and before I knew it we were sitting on a bench overlooking the lily pads growing in the pond.
Victor and I sat on the bench and continued to talk about our lives and go back and forth with questions. Victor is 86 years-old and has 5 cçåhildren and 10 grandchildren. He owned his own business installing furniture in churches and schools. Each of his children send him different types of birthday cards from very sentimental one’s from his eldest son to funny cards from his youngest daughter. One of his granddaughter’s, Carly, is energetic and recently shaved her head to raise money for a girl in her high school who had Leukemia. The people at her new job find it fascinating she could do something so brave. He’s been married for 61 years and his wife is currently undergoing treatment for bone cancer.
“What’s been the best part of your life?” I asked.
He replied, “Raising my children.” “The place you are in right now.”
We continued our walk and said good-bye with a genuine hug.
I don’t know why all of the moments in my life that Friday morning lead me to Victor at Lake Katherine. Yet, I trust that life guided us together for that brief moment in time as an angel from the heavens to remind me of the present moment. . . even though it’s sometimes hard.View Post
It’s been happening a lot lately or at least more than I have ever remembered or noticed. It actually feels a little strange when it’s happening because it’s more of a sensation in slow motion and doesn’t have a feeling attached to the experience (at least not yet). But these experiences have been presenting themselves more frequently lately which naturally calls me to ponder what exactly is occurring in these slow motion moments.
It happens when I see a young mom with a newborn baby or when I pass by a park in the middle of the day when my children are at school. It happened when I was in a conversation with my father-in-law about the void that is never filled when you lose a parent. It even happens when I see my husband’s bald spot get larger and larger over time. It happens when I see my son’s feet look almost adult like now. It definitely happens when my body goes through a period of aches and pains like it is now.
It’s these slow motion moments of life moving on and of people in my life getting older, including me, where it literally stops me in my tracks and reminds me of where I once was or the tenderness of life continuing on.
John O’Donohue, an Irish poet and philosopher, tells the story of when he was asked what haunts him in life. He replied, “I can tell you exactly; it is the sense of time slipping through my fingers like fine sand. And there is nothing I can do to slow it.”
He continues, “. . . it has been one of the deepest longings of the human heart to strain against the erosion of one’s life, to find a way of living and being that manages to find some stable ground within time . . .”
That’s just it! In these slow motion moments it doesn’t feel stable. In fact it feels like fine sand slipping through my fingers. It feels groundless and in truth there is nothing I can do to slow life down. All I can do is slow my own life down to notice all the tender moments around me.
Each day this month is a reminder of what was happening a year ago last April-the phone call, the airline reservations, seeing him, the nurses, the doctors, the decision, hospice and then the good-bye.
My Dad died last April. It’s a tender time for me on the year anniversary of his death. I have been reflecting on my Dad’s passing and find that my message is actually quite simple this month.
You see I am deeply grateful for what meditation and yoga has taught me over the years. What I’ve learned in the quiet of these practices taught me how to BE with my dad as he was dying.
I will be forever grateful for that time.
In the year since his passing, my meditation cushion and yoga mat were the places I could let my heart break and also rest in the mystery of life.
As I reflect over this year, I am reminded that yoga and meditation are not just postures and practices that we do to get to a certain place, but rather practices that support us through the journey of our entire life.
In my own journey this month I am again reminded of my intention that the Beverly Yoga Center is a place that honors the tenderness and sacredness of our inner life.
This is a quote I read several times today on the anniversary of my dad’s passing by one of my favorite author’s, Pema Chodron.
“When things fall apart and we can’t get the pieces back together, when we lose something dear to us, when the whole thing is just not working and we don’t know what to do, this is the time when the natural warmth of tenderness, the warmth of empathy and kindness, are just waiting to be uncovered, just waiting to be embraced. This is our chance to come out of our self-protecting bubble and to realize that we are never alone. This is our chance to finally understand that wherever we go, everyone we meet is essentially just like us. Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us to a loving relationship with the world.”View Post
My daughter Julia is 5-years-old. We recently went to get our hair cut together. Prior to our appointments, there were many discussions and negotiations about her new length.
Julia’s hair was quite long, and she made it known that she wanted her hair cut to her chin. This meant cutting almost 10 inches of hair. After lots of conversations, we agreed that a shoulder length cut would be a better compromise and if she wanted more cut off next time we could do that.
You see I was afraid doing something too dramatic to her “look” would startle her. I was attached to her long, unruly hair. It reminded me of our shared womanhood connection. I loved her pigtails and braids.
When our stylist came to greet us, I explained that we wanted a shoulder length bob. The stylist took her back to the chair.
Julia is fiercely independent, has a confident voice, ideas and a creative imagination. Part of my parenting style is to trust and encourage that independence in safe places so she grows to fully trust her voice and sense of self. What better place than a salon chair?
30 minutes later when I came to see her haircut, my jaw dropped and eyes popped out at the sight of her. She indeed had gotten the haircut that she wanted-a chin length bob.
During the client and stylist consultation, Julia precisely explained the haircut she wanted and followed through by pointing exactly to her chin. The customer gets what she wants even though mom is paying! The truth is that Julia wasn’t fazed a bit by the dramatic change-I was. She was confident and proud. It was me who was agitated, irritated, distracted and annoyed.
What does a 5-year-old haircut have to do with my yoga mat? Just about everything. The practice of yoga and meditation brings awareness to the places we hold on to and turn away from. Life’s mishaps, regardless of how big or small show up in our mind and body.
Julia’s haircut shined a light on the challenges that I have to surrendering when things don’t go my way. It highlighted ways in which I like to be in control and how that shows up in my mind and body when I’m not. In my resistance and effort to hold on to my feelings of being right and in control, I didn’t see a young girl who was proud, confident, encouraged and happy.
I now love Julia’s haircut and all the reminders of letting go into the flow of life. . . regardless if it’s just a haircut.View Post
When my son Patrick was 3-years-old, we started visiting Smith Village, a senior living facility on south Western Avenue. We typically passed out lollipops and Hershey Kisses to the residents and just said hello. We became good friends with two residents, Betty and Helen, and gradually our visits to Smith Village became more centered on spending time with them.
Betty and Helen were our friends during both of my children’s young life and I grew to love going to Smith Village and seeing them. It slowed me down and connected me to the evolution of life and how it changes. According to Patrick, Betty and Helen taught him that some of the oldest people are also some of the kindest.
The truth is that life got busy and during the past two years we didn’t visit as much and each time I drove by I thought about them.
The last time we saw Helen, she had just found out she had cancer. Sadly, she died a couple months later and we never had a chance to say good-bye.
Recently, Patrick and I went to visit Betty to watch the Olympics with her and when we peeked in the first floor dining hall to wheel her out she was nowhere to be found. We asked the aide where she was and the aide responded that she wasn’t on this floor. Patrick and I looked at each other with tears welling in our eyes—we knew.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but Betty died a few weeks ago.” The tears that were welling in our eyes streamed down our cheeks.
Betty died the day after her 97th birthday. She had a strong spirit about her and there was a part of me that honestly thought she would live forever.
This morning as I write with an achy heart, it brings so many life lessons to the forefront.
I got busy, too busy, to visit someone that I cared about and appreciated. There were times that my busyness could have waited; yet I so easily got caught in the cycle that never ends.
Some of my tears are for myself. It’s the end of an era. The end of Patrick and I visiting our dear friend Betty and her reminding us of just how much he’s grown up. Our visits to Smith Village were a meaningful chapter in my life and with Betty’s passing it’s time to turn the page.
I believe that special markers are placed by a higher power that invites us to pause and reflect.
The last time we saw Betty was in December. We brought her Cracker Jack, her favorite, and Patrick wheeled her around Smith Village.
What do Betty and Helen have to do with yoga? They are simple reminders of how important it is to pause from time-to-time and reflect on who and what is most important in life.
In December, I started reading a book by John O’Donohue called To Bless the Space Between Us. I’ve gone back to one passage again several times. It has resonated with me, especially this week.
“Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. . . Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. . . The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival.”
Our inner and outer lives are closely interrelated. What happens in our outer life impacts how we feel on an inner level and how we feel inside effects how we relate to life. The severe cold this winter has impacted our inner body. It may show up as tightness, fatigue, lethargy or irritation. This winter has set up an overpowering relationship with nature.
Today as I sit and write trying to make sense of this arctic January day, I don’t have the answer except to wait, allow and trust that this will all pass and that spring will arrive no matter what—but I want to do something to make it go a little faster because the waiting is hard and uncomfortable.
There is a surrendering quality this winter has taught me. It’s taught me about the mystery of our universe and how it unfolds and reveals itself in ways that are hard to understand.
I was downtown last weekend with my family, and we passed a homeless woman who was bundled up and my children asked, “what should we do mom?” I didn’t have the answer and my heart sank because we continued driving in our warm car with heated seats.
There are many things in life that don’t have answers, and I am continually learning that there is a practice of surrendering and trusting the mystery of life.
So how does this relate to the yoga mat? It is the small rectangular shape that we place our physical bodies on when we are driven from our inner voice to show up. When we arrive it’s a warm hello to ourselves, like checking in with a dear friend. How are you today? The body speaks truthfully and honestly and we can feel the impact our outer environment has had on our inner body. The tight muscles, the creaky joints, the frozen mind and the restless energy to just survive another cold day.
When you show up on your mat these next few weeks give yourself permission to really hear yourself. How are you dear friend? Let every choice you make to breathe, move and rest come from a place of inner kindness and respect of just how hard these winter days have been this year.View Post
I think a lot about life and how to make sense of it all–how to relate to life’s difficulties and how to live genuinely and authentically.
When I was 8-years-old, I first listened to the song, “This Little Light of Mine . . . I’m Going to Let is Shine.” I sang it over and over again. Those were the first times that I experienced what peace felt like in my body. Since then, I’ve been in an ongoing relationship with peace; feeling the mysterious magic of it when it’s there and missing it when it’s gone.
My husband and I recently took our children to New York City and I spent a lot of time thinking about the people who travelled to the United States via ship through Ellis Island. What tremendous courage and faith it took for them to start a new and better life. I thought about the 3,000 people who lost their lives in 9/11 and all the mothers, fathers, children, and friends who are forever impacted by their loss. I also saw how hard many ordinary people work to make a living in NYC.
I thought about what the immigrants’ bodies must have felt like from sailing on a ship for days and weeks at a time. I thought about how little space and quiet people had to feel the impact of their worries and fears had on their inner life. I thought about the emotional and physical heartache that runs so deep in people’s hearts when they experience a sudden and tragic loss like 9/11 or an unknown or incurable sickness on their way to the United States. Many people lived to simply survive.
In the quietness of my own heart over this past week, I’ve been feeling a renewed blessing for the Beverly Yoga Center and the sacredness of being a space that was created to care for our minds, bodies and hearts. A place to land softly and to care kindly for our well-being.
The start of the New Year is often the time we want to better ourselves and/or to change something. For me this year I am focusing on the simple blessings of my life.
I hope that at some point when you find yourself on your mat or cushion in 2014 at the Beverly Yoga Center, you feel the blessings of peace within your own mind, body and heart.