Archives for posts with tag: humor

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I know it sounds funny, but shavasana is an acquired taste. It develops over time and takes a great deal of practice to reap the rewards.

How can laying on your back with your eyes closed be hard work you say? Especially after a challenging yoga practice. But being still and quiet and not sleeping brings up a great many things for most people.

I have seen from time to time, people who will roll up their mats as the rest of us are getting ready to lay down at the end of class. True, sometimes people need to leave early and tip toe out. But still others seen no reason for staying, when the “workout” is over. “You are not doing anything anymore, so just leave. It is a waste of time.”

I have seen those who fidget and fuss, eyes open, sighing loudly., and when it is time to begin to “bring awareness to your fingers and toes”, they have sprung up to a sitting position and are ready to bolt for the door.

For some people, if they are asked to just be still with themselves, that is the most terrifying thing they can imagine. That would mean you have to actually be present with yourself and see what sorts of things might float to the surface. Thoughts that are easily kept at bay with being “busy”. You cannot hit a moving target, so as long as we remain in constant motion we won’t have to look at ourselves and see what is there. Quiet is the enemy. Sitting with yourself for too long will be your undoing…

My own personal experience was not that, but something else. I would finish a class, covered in sweat and suddenly not have the actual practice to focus on anymore. So my mind would spiral back to the outside world and all of the people, situations and things that made me insane and stressed out of my mind. On occasion I would drop into shavasana, that utterly relaxing in between space, not awake, not asleep, and I would begin to feel so blissed out. But then, I would pull myself away from it and think “you are wasting your time here pretending that there is bliss to be experienced.  You are wasting precious time that you could be spending being pissed off and furious at how not o.k. Everything is! You almost fell for it. Just say “no” to shavasana.

So I began to lay there, sharply awake and use that time to mull over and retrace the laundry list of how I was being done wrong by the world and the stupid people in it. I began to look forward to this heightend time at the end of class to more finely hone my powers of discontent  and plot the demise of my enemies. Amazing…

Slowly, ever so slowly, I would have experiences of going deep, sometimes falling asleep, but sometimes dropping into a true shavasana. I would be weightless floating in space and enjoying the silence and I would begin to hear a voice. I would think, “Who the hell is that? Is it God? Why are they talking? I really need them to be quiet because I am so blissed out right now….” then I would realize that it was the teacher, and that I was laying on a rubber mat in a room full of people and that I felt like I had been asleep for hours. Reality: 5 minures.

As this happened more often, I noticed that I felt less and less inclined to “hurry up and be upset again at the injustice of it all. Time is a wastin’!” Then I began to notice that I just didn’t get as worked up over stuff the way that I used to. I was spending more and more time in a yogic state. On and off of the mat. The scales had tipped.

I refer to shavasana as a time to “marinate in the juice of the practice”. It is like pushing the “save” button on the computer. It seals it all in. And in that time the body, mind and spirit can rejuvenate, reboot, rewire. Yoga changes us and shavasana seals in the newly edited version. 

Shavasana is now my dear friend and a state that I can dip into whenever I need it. Whether I am laying on my  mat or not.

That is a sweet and  useful life skill indeed.

thanksgiving day….

the cats began circling the bed like small furry sharks about 5:00 a.m…..like they do….their torture goes on until I break and climb out of bed damning them back to hell from whence they came. they cry the piteous cry of their people who have no thumbs with which to operate can openers….

the beasts are fed, the coffee made, the newsletter sent, the sky is lighting up and it is time to cook. my daughter and mother will be here in a couple of hours and I need to get a jump on things. so grateful for this quiet morning time. a leisurely morning of cooking. roasting a turkey breast, stuffing, sweet potato biscuits, steamed green beans, pear and beet salad, mashed potatoes and gravy….mmmm….

I have been writing for quite awhile and have randomly lost my text 3 times, so I shall stop where I am and just wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. there is much more to write and it shall come your way……soon…

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Well, finally… after years and years of much masquerading and posing, I am a real yoga teacher. an RYT200 thank you very much. I do indeed say this tongue planted firmly in cheek, but it has been a fascinating experience to get here to say the least. 

I took my first yoga class 18 years ago in L.A. ( separate story to follow…) we moved back to Boise a few months later and I began my 3-4 year immersion in the Iyengar tradition. Deep foundation in alignment and anatomical precision. After a couple of years of class once a week, I took a “deepen your practice” series that met once a month for a weekend for 6 months in a row. 

Great experience. Then I rediscovered vinyasa flow, loving the dancerly grace and stamina it required. Yoga as active prayer. I went to L.A. and took a 10 day teacher training with Shiva Rea. Amazing transformative time for me. The gates were opened.

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Then more and more workshops, teacher trainings, classes. Rodney Yee, Seane Corn, Micheline Berry, Max Strom, Saul David Raye, Julian Walker, Kristy Brock, Felicity Green, Sarah Ivanhoe. I was  a yoga junkie…in the best way possible.

I started teaching children at my daughter’s preschool 12 years ago. I adored it and they LOVED yoga. Got it instinctively and to see their tiny blessed out faces after class was priceless. I taught there twice a week for 7 years.

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From that connection, a parent at my daughter’s school asked me to come and teach yoga to she and her boss at a small law firm in town during their lunch hour. I declined, saying, “but I am not a real yoga teacher. I just mess around like a dork with kids.” she was insistent and finally I gave in and taught a class to the 2 of them for an hour. At the end of it, I was vibrating and thinking “this is what I am supposed to do.” It was utterly validating.

So I began to teach them twice a week. Then a Saturday morning at a small studio. Then another studio. Then more private clients and another studio. Years rolled by and I was teaching 20 hours a month as well as taking one or two classes a week and doing workshops every 6 months. Constantly deepening my practice and yet, never bothered to gather all of my hours together and turn them in to Yoga Alliance to be certified. Never really seemed important to me.

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I am a reasonably intelligent, passionately curious (about things that actually interest me)  kind of person. I am not an academic, testing, grades and certificates kind of person. in fact, the whole idea of it creeps me out. And also, I have an extremely short attention span for that kind of thing. 10 day yoga trainings were the perfect thing for me. Not 4 years of my life, but 10 days! I could get behind that. So I did, repeatedly.

But now, Yoga Alliance no longer grandfathered in all of your previous hours of teaching and trainings, but required you to do a 200 or 500 hour program with one school. Studios were often not even allowing teachers to teach who did not have this credential. It seemed that the time had come for me to pony up and do a 200 hour program. It would be good for me to do something that was so foreign to me.

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Fortunately, I was able to do this training right in my home town. The Shanti Yoga School, run by Deb Murphy meets once a week and one weekend a month for 6 month programs. You just jump in at any time and ride the cycle through until you have completed all of the units, do your homework, asana check off, writings and tests and you are good to go.

I loved school. All of the information felt new and fresh. I never felt “oh, I already know all of this.” Was never bored, always excited, always ready to go to class, to spend the day learning and exploring. Total yoga geek. Constantly inspired by the endless conversation with the teachers and students.

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A little while after I started the school, I got cancer…and then got cancer again… and then ended a relationship, and then my parents were both not well, and my daughter is a teenager and I moved and, and, and…..completing school kept getting put off. I had all of my contact and classroom hours, now I just needed to do my homework. just do my homework….just sit down and actually do the homework…

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As procrastination, flowed into procrastination, the ominous pile of books and notebooks, always in plain view, anxiety always lurking, I started to ask myself “What the hell is your problem? Just do this thing!”

Then I began to realize this low grade panic and fear lurking just under the surface. I started to listen to the whisperings, and was so surprised when I was able to hear them say quite clearly, “What if you can’t pass? What if you really don’t know this stuff? What if you really have no business being a yoga teacher? What if you are nothing but a charlatan, faking it all of these years? When you go to take these tests and write these papers, you will be found out and you will be hung from the gallows” wow…

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It was staggering to me to be faced with my insecurity around this detail. This piece of paper. I love teaching. I feel that I am a fine and competent teacher. My students are safe with me. Can I tell them the difference between abductor and adductor muscles? Not without consulting my notes….but I can tell them in perfect sensory detail how to allow their entire body to breathe as if they were a jellyfish, and when they tap into that, their abductor and adductors will operate in perfect accordance with each other.  That is my area of expertise.

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I feel less like a teacher and a bit more like a priestess holding safe space and creating a rich sensory experience for people to surrender into. To allow the breath to breathe them. The yoga to work its magic on each person exactly as they need it to be worked. Each individual experience unique. It’s not about me. It’s about the yoga. I am so very blessed to be witness to that alchemy. 

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So, I am now official! And when my daughter graduates from High School (June!!!) I will look into the 500 hour program. All I want to do now is go to school, and take workshops and study and travel to workshops,  to teach workshops and do yoga and teach yoga and give and receive massage and dance and laugh and love big every day…oh wait….that is my life…lucky me…

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It delights me that at 51, I have found my passion and my place. The college world never held any interest for me at all, and now I have found my schooling arena. That there is no end to that diving deeper and learning more . I am forever an eager student. And now I can say with confidence, “Why, yes, I am a yoga teacher. Don’t believe me? Let me show you my papers…” 

…now, if i could just figure out how to rotate photos on this site….

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one year ago today, I shaved my head on Halloween. the ravages of chemo and my “cotton candy pull it out by the handful hair “could be denied no longer. I went to my salon to have it done and ironically all of the stylists were wearing wigs. loved that. now I have a rather sweet soft baby animal growing on my head. I am told, most lovingly, that I look a bit like a who. this makes me smile deeply and I am embracing my seussian qualities. my softness and my wildness. cindy lou who and the cat in the hat…

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(me one year ago…)

last week I had my final herceptin treatment. herceptin is a drug that is specifically for her-2 positive breast cancer. (that would be me) you have to do a full 12 month cycle and then you are released back out into the wild… follow up appointments every 6 months.

interesting mixture of relief and anxiety around the end of my treatment. so grateful that I no longer have to go in every 3 weeks and have a needle plunged into the sci-fi borg port in my chest. ( I get that removed soon!) I will miss the warm blankets and the hour nap I got to take curled up in my hospital bed, but other than that, not so much.

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the anxiety comes from the thought that as long as I was having something blasted into my system that I was impervious. (not true, but a great illusion to hold onto) now I am just a free radical…:) waiting…?

there is something so trippy about the landmark of this happening around and on Halloween. my first trip to an oncologists office was 2 years ago in October. I wrote in another blog about the surrealism of taking an elevator to the bowels of the hospital, the rubber skeletons with ropes tied around their necks, suspended from the ceilings over the receptionists desk with a plastic pumpkin full of white death sugared Halloween candy…seriously….processed white sugar feeds cancer and there it is laying all around the cancer wards…ah….irony….

so here I am 2 years later….an entirely new life….my cat like self creating a new one…. by rough landmark calculations I am on life number 7 right now….or maybe 6.5….and I know for a fact that being here is a treat. a delicious, if often overwhelmingly intense, and complex treat, to be savored daily.

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part two of  “who needs disneyland when you can have diagnostic cancer tests!”

wow…that was a hell of a cliff hanger…sorry about the delay….

and so..the day of my pet scan came and i went in good spirits and calm focus. before i went in, i walked the little healing labyrinth on the grounds of our fine local medical institution.

it was early in the morning in september and i was the only one around at the time. slowly, intentionally walking the circular path, folding ever inwards on itself. i was doing my yogic breathing but, before long had to stop as the company that gathered was ruining my good healing vibe i had going on. three doctors, in their fashionable green scrubs, full access laminates around their necks, clutching giant cups of starbucks coffee, one had a 62 oz. big gulp and ALL of them smoking. yes. smoking. health care professionals.  at a hospital….what is wrong with this picture?

i was stunned by the stinging irony of it all, and yet secretly loved how twisted it was. this is our HEALTH care institution. riiiight…..

so i make my way to the gigantic trash can pod which is where they perform such tests. perhaps because they are  too dangerous to actually do in a facility next to other people..i do not know. i DO know, however, that after one has a pet scan you are not to be near children or pregnant women for 6 hours, because of the radioactivity level in your body. really.

the people in the pod are very nice and get me comfortable in my sci-fi chair where i will spend the next 90 minutes, marinating in my isotopes before the actual scan.

they inject you with your cocktail, dim the lights, cover you in a blanket and leave you in solitary to cook for a while.

i stayed with my yoga breathing and after a while i would have moments of cold moving thru me and a thickness in my veins as i felt the stuff make its way thru my system. i kept imagining those star machine lights: million of tiny green pin points of lights moving lazily across my interior landscape, looking for cancer cells to hook up with in the starlight.

when my time was up, they walk you to the bathroom and then you are ready to lay on the slab while they run the test.

you lay on your back on a very narrow plank, arms at your sides, absolutely still. do not move. cancer is all about being present and still and focused. you spend the next hour or so in this state as they scan various sections of your body. laying there with your eyes closed you try to imagine how much of you is lighting up…

finally i was done, and although i felt a bit odd, it was nothing as traumatic as my mri.

results came back: all clear, except my rogue breast. i was ready for surgery and was grateful to know i was not harboring any other squatters in my body. as far as we know.

with cancer, it is always, “as far as we know.”

but then isn’t that just like life? all we really know is what is right now in front of us. every moment full of potential. everything else is just projecting and speculation. we have no idea what the future holds and that is not an excuse to be reckless, or uncommitted or disconnected or uncaring or fatalistic. it is an opportunity to drink deeply, with our full attention of all that is true and beautiful and meaningful. because this is our life. and it is now. and that, is as far as we know.

who needs disneyland when you can have diagnostic cancer tests!

when i received my cancer diagnosis, i was unwilling to jump to surgery right away. to ease my surgeons mind, she wanted me to have an mri and pet/ct scan to make sure it was no where else, before i took that bit of reflective time. i agreed.

 the only story you ever hear about an mri, is the feeling of claustrophobia from being in the tube. as they were doing an mri of my breasts, i was face down instead. two laughably enormous openings in which to put my breasts. you could have fit 10 of me in each side. they give you ear plugs and the instructions to remain “absolutely still. do not move AT ALL.” then they scurry to the safety of another room, close the door and watch you from behind, what is probably bullet proof glass.

 the banging and vibrating is intense. my yoga skills come in handy. nice slow steady ocean breath. you go in rounds of 10-15 minutes, i believe. they speak to you between. “how are you doing? o.k., now don’t move. and here we go for another 10- 15 minutes. remember, don’t move.” at the end of each round there are sirens (or so they sound like), like warning of an air raid and to run for cover.  i actually managed an odd sort of relaxing shavasana and 45 minutes later i was done and they came to release me. no big deal.

 then, i stood up. i was nauseous. i was trembling and felt utterly NOT in my body at all. like i had been cellularly pulled apart and the pieces put back in all of the wrong places. i took a deep breath and stopped, clutching a door jam.

 the assistant said, “are you alright? it’s the claustrophobia isn’t it?”

 “no,” i said, “not at all.” and i proceeded to explain the sensation i was feeling.

 she looked at me like i was insane. “you can’t FEEL that. it’s not possible. i have been doing this for 20 years and no one has ever said they feel anything. “

 “well, i am here to tell you i CAN. it is a giant freakin’ magnet that pulls you open so that the dye they inject into you can circulate around. it’s a g-i-a-n-t  m-a-g-n-e-t. how could you NOT feel that?!”

 she looked at me with patient condescention, the way some people look at a child who has told some outrageous story, swearing it is true. “ok. dear. whatever you say.”

 i was then led down the hall to a room with a huge nuclear symbol on the door and a warning sign telling “DANGER: RADIOACTIVE  KEEP OUT.” i was to enter this room and have an xray done. i stepped into the room and turned right around and walked out. i went to the technician and proclaimed that i would not be having an xray done that day. he said i could do whatever i waneted, but i would need to have one before i had surgery. i said that was fine.

 seriously, on an intuitive level: i have cancer. you have just magnetized me beyond belief. body under trauma and invasion and now in this state you want to subject me to yet more radioactivity? right now? really?

 mri, came back fine other than confirming the cancer in my right breast. i was still shying away from surgery, feeling that they were wanting to cut me open too soon and i was terrified of doing a pet/ct scan. as i was sharing my fear with an amazing healer, she looked at me with big calm eyes and steady voice and said, “if you were hiking in the woods and suddently felt something on your back and discovered you had a tick on you, you would remove it right.?” o.k, point made…

 “and think about when astronauts go into outer space, it messes up their gravity, they are disoriented, the way they move and operate is deeply effected. when they come back to earth, they spend time reaclimating, before they are back to “normal”.

“think of this test as a trip to your vast inner universe, looking for information to aid you in your healing process. when the trip is complete, there will be a time of re-acclimating. you surround yourself with your reiki tribe. energetically ground your body, and then you will be back to “normal”.

 and so, i was armed with a new perspective and i was ready for my pet/ct scan… ready to boldy go where i had never gone before… 

 

to be continued…