over the years I have done many kinds of exercise. Aerobics and Jazzercize back in the stone age… ballet, modern dance, light weight training, gym workouts, mountain biking, running, walking, hiking, and the last 12 years, yoga has been at the forefront of my physical activity. In the last 6 years ecstatic dance (you, wildly dancing like no one is watching in a room full of people who are dancing like no one is watching them, and, no one is watching anyone else) in the last couple of years I have also been a regular at the Y and incorporated weight training, stairs and elliptical machines into my regime. In the last few months, BodyJam is the latest addition. BodyJam is a fantastically fun dance class where you learn dance moves and the choreography is built on section by section. The music is great and the moves very hip hop inspired. So I am now at the Y about 4 days a week, and am having a very different experience being in a gym atmosphere than I have ever had before in my life. I attribute my yoga practice to this shift.

In the past I had approached working out as something I needed to do to atone for the sins of my indulgences to radically alter my imperfect body into something thinner and hotter than it currently was.  It was a loaded masochistic exercise in feeling unsatisfied with myself and striving to attain something that was never realistic. At times it was obsessive. Weighing myself a couple of times a day. Not healthy at all and I think chances are good that a huge percent of people have this experience when they work out.

Fast forward to me after doing yoga for 12 years. I LOVE going to the gym. I do not see it as a task or grueling punishment that I must subject myself to. I focus on my breath, find a rhythm. Slow the movements down. Each move mindful and controlled. I delight in the strength of my body, the sweat and exertion, and I smile and laugh a lot in the process. I am curious as to what my body can do, how I can help it move with grace, build muscle and burn fat. Enjoying the workout itself rather than foucs on some nebulous end result.

It is very interesting to see how many people do not smile, nor even seem to enjoy any part of their workout experience. How uber serious people can be in dance class, or even yoga class for that matter. Sometimes I think yogis can be the most pious and humorless of all. I always try to remind people that we do yoga because we love the doing of it, not because someone held a gun to our head and made us go.

Find the joy, the playfulness, the curiosity.

Try something new: Dance, fencing, tai chi, zumba, kick boxing, yoga, ballroom dancing. Our bodies can fall into habitual ways of moving, so stir things up. That is good for your brain too.

Savor and luxuriate in the moving of your body and your breath.

Have fun, work hard, but keep yourself safe and don’t push too too much.

If you happen to take a class called Body Attack, please don’t take it literally…

Find an activity that you enjoy, not something you find torturous or you will never stick to it.

Don’t starve yourself, your body needs fuel. Make sure it gets the nutrients you need.

Be kind to yourself. No negative self talk, only encouraging words even if they are only in your head. Health comes from the inside out.

Finally, do it because you have your best interests at heart. If you don’t, who will?

look Ma! just a wee scar!

the borg specimen....

the alien borg port

on thursday november 14th , I went to the hospital and had my port removed. A port, is a device that is inserted under the skin, that the needle can be inserted directly into, rather than mess with your veins. Chemo can actually burn the veins (yikes!) and cause them to collapse… so the safer alternative is to install a port directly above your heart (?!?) where the toxic chemicals can be immediately and efficiently pumped through your whole body.   Mine was installed when I had my mastectomy, so when I woke up from surgery, there it was. My matrix borg port…being infused with the chemo kool aid…super sci-fi.   Apparently, they are not noticeable on most people, but I am leaner than most, so I looked like I was trying to smuggle a wire tap under my collarbone. Needles are never fun, but having one plunged into your chest every 3 weeks always mildly creeped me out to say the least. Then it becomes just a ritual that you are a part of, and now the day had come that I was to have the last invasive intruder removed from my body.  

I walked to the hospital as it was a beautiful day, and as we walked, I was overcome with the ride the last two years had been, and wept the whole way there. Thinking of all of the people who had surrounded me with love and then come and gone and moved on, and new troops to take their places. How all of the circumstances of my life had changed so dramatically, I hardly recognized it some days. Although I was not alone, it was my solo journey. My experience exclusively.

As I checked into the hospital, I realized this was my 3rd time there. I was even put in the same curtained cubicle to wait to be wheeled to surgery, with someone new beside me, but this time I was to be wide awake. It was a 15 minute procedure, so local anesthetic only and then I would go home….so wild. My crew came to get me and I was wheeled thru the labryinth of the hospital urging them to run faster so that we could get some speed in those long hallways. We entered the operating room, which has the climate of a walk in freezer, brightly lit, no mirrors on the ceilings and a super festive atmosphere. I was wrapped in the obiquitous warm blankets ( my favorite thing about all of my hospital time) and asked what kind of music I wanted to listen to on the pandora station. Someone had just sent me this amazing youtube clip of this woman dancing in the OR before she had a double mastectomy.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/breast-cancer-flash-mob-deborah-cohan_n_4227915.html

I mentioned it to the doctors, and they said if they had known before I had been prepped, they would have let me dance first!….as a concellation I listened to Beyonce’s “get me bodied” as they did the minor surgery. Hard for me to keep still. So cool to be awake in the OR, but my face was draped during the procedure, so I still don’t really know what goes on in there, they said they would have to kill me if I saw anything..so it ended up being a positive, upbeat and party like atmosphere. I requested one other song (Aural Float)  and then I took my port in a ziplock… ( I asked to keep it) and was taken to lunch at Bittercreek and then home. Done. Only the tiniest scar. Barely noticeable.  Then I crashed hard. Slept. Was taken care of and let it sink in that this part was over. Actually, all of it was over. It was a new time. A new place. A new life. Not like it was before. At all. No more doctors appointments, treatments, ct scans, mri’s, exrays, ultrasounds, emotional collapses from the fall out of chemo ( a separate blog…) just living and moving forward. May I not have to do this again, but if I do, I will, and I will know the drill. Now to be in this new place because of where cancer took me and yet not identifying myself as “a cancer girl” either. Living with an awareness, but not a fear. Being healthy and conscious with my eating, but not paranoid. Today is New Years eve, and a new untouched canvas lays before me. The brushes are already swirling in the paint…  

pregnant with possibilities….

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Hello, now that I have your attention…..I just wanted to share my very favorite Christmas poem with you. A friend of mine wrote it the year my daughter was born and I pull it out to revisit every year. I love it’s simplicity and the last line bring tears to my eyes every time. regardless, of your belief system, this is a story of birthing light and hope into the world. I wish you all a beautiful holiday season and turn your face towards the light and move forward.

 

heavy with god

I walk beside the donkey

swaying in the dark

follow some star

never seen one quite like that

my carpenter husband

frightened with responsibility

holds my hand

and the donkey’s rein

finds us shelter

in a barn

frets

no matter how he tries

things never turn out right

but I think it’s perfect

for God to take a human form

in an animal setting

the manger looks like a cradle

no birth is easy

not until the star’s straight up over the eaves

is the boy born

wise men appear

with gifts worth more

than Joe makes in a year

shepherds adore him

sheep sleep

the light comes from everywhere.

-Josephine Jones-

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I adore david whyte. love his words, the pictures he paints, the feelings he holds up to the light. the only thing I love more than his poetry, is listening to him read his own work. entrancing.

this poem has been going through my head a great deal lately, and as I was driving back from a yoga workshop in McCall across this landscape, it rang loud and clear. I wanted to share this. hope it touches you the way it has me.

 

the winter of listening

“no one but me by the fire,

my hands burning

red in the palms while

the night wind carries

everything away outside.

 

all this petty worry

while the great cloak

of the sky grows dark

and intense

round every living thing.

 

what is precious

inside us does not

care to be known

by the mind

in ways that diminish

its presence.

 

what we strive for

in perfection

is not what turns us

into the lit angel

we desire.

 

what disturbs

and then nourishes

has everything

we need.

 

what we have

in ourselves

is what we cannot know

in ourselves but

what is true to the pattern

does not need

to be explained.

 

inside everyone

is a great shout of joy

waiting to be born.

 

even with the summer

so far off

I feel it grown in me

now and ready

to arrive in the world.

 

all those years

listening to those

who had

nothing to say.

 

all those years

forgetting

how everything

has its own voice

to make

itself heard.

 

all those years

forgetting

how easily

you can belong

to everything

simply by listening.

 

and the slow

difficulty

of remembering

how everything

is born from

an opposite

and miraculous

otherness.

 

silence and winter

has led me to that

otherness.

 

so let this winter

of listening

be enough

for the new life

I must call my own.”  

david whyte

 

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just some memories from the past and a reflection on my present…

….the thanksgivings of my childhood: often spent at a card table in the other room of a relatives house with cousins of unknown origin eating off of paper plates and drinking kool aid out of jewel toned anodized aluminum tumblers that left an odd clear metallic taste in your mouth…

David and I announcing our engagement to our families…

eating at a diner in San Francisco with a friend from Idaho on a rainy day before having wine and dessert with our new found “friend family” …

continuing the “friend family” tradition and all of us meeting up in Medford Oregon when one of the couples moved there…

on a remote cold and windy beach in Mexico with 50 people who brought all of the ingredients for a traditional spread…tequila and fireworks, sleeping on the beach, and driving home to discover multiple messages that my husbands father had died in our absence…(pre cell phone…)

on a bus traveling from Bangkok to Chang Mai and being given a small boxed “snack” consisting of some rancid drumstick from some unidentifiable fowl…

my daughters first solid food consumed that day at 6 months old, and the look of utter delight with each new taste…

cooking my first one alone 3 years ago…the last one with my grandmother…

and now, this one, a month after my final treatment and 2 weeks after my port was removed!  cooking it with my daughter who is now 16. having the meal unexpectedly ready at 11:30 in the morning….Lily, my mom and I….a sweet surprise of having my roommate and her boyfriend join us…driving up to see my dad and stepmom at their cabin, sitting by the fire, rubbing my dad’s feet and admiring his new head of hair…singing Adelle songs loudly in the car on the drive…going to my boyfriends folks house and eating again that night and playing with the worlds most adorable kitten….miss hazzington. this Thanksgiving being Lily’s last one still living at home…college bound next year…

and so, I find myself grateful, full of grace of where I have been before that got me to where I am now. there is room at my table for all of it…