21 November 2013

Shivertime

Winter came to Portland this week, did it arrive where you are?  For us, it is here, that special movement of inward longing and reflecting that I both love and fear; a movement that involves preparing, evaluating, waiting, hoping.




As it is suddenly (seemingly) dark before 5 pm, and the cold settles in on the ground, I find it takes work to allow the movement that is Winter to permeate my being and do its work.  It asks me to close my eyes and just be...




This asking can be difficult. We long for color and light, things to whisk us away from darker feelings, thoughts, and dreams. But it is only by appreciating our inner depths that we can truly scale the heights. So Winter offers a time to go soul-spelunking, if you will.




I find that the deeper I go, the more I am rewarded by the light that reveals itself to be within the darkness. This is the diamond in the coal: the fiery heart of our own nature, full of light we cannot even begin to comprehend.



As the light leaves and the leaves fall, we see the nature of reality.

Life comes from seemingly nowhere, bursts forth in beauty, blows in the breeze and turns its face to the sun.

When it is time, it turns golden and releases, falling and dancing free before finding rest, and what will be its next beginning.

Winter is for rest and the nurture of what is to come. Winter invites us towards growth and whispers one of nature's great secrets: face the darkness and be rewarded with light.


01 August 2013

How can I help? Meeting Tara Stiles & Mike Taylor and Learning Strala

This blog post is a bit different than usual, but some things just make you break the rules.

A few weeks ago, I had the amazing experience of meeting my yoga idol, Tara Stiles, at the beautiful Love Yoga studio in Albany.

I found Tara last Fall, when I was looking to begin practicing at home after getting back into yoga over the past couple of years.  I found her DVD set and then a 7 minute YouTube video and thought, "Who is this casual girl doing yoga in a New York loft like it's no big deal?"

Well, I bought the DVDs, began practicing her sequences via YouTube and was soon hooked.  There was just something about her style that was different, and that made my home practice open into something creative, empowering, and fun.  So, when I had the chance to not only meet but train with her, how could I pass it up?

I have to admit, when I first met Tara, it took me a minute not be starstruck, but not that long because, simply put, she is the real deal.  What a treat, to meet someone you admire and have them look at you with clear eyes, hand all that admiration back, and ask "And how are you?"



Tara is a real person, a really kind, funny, genuine person who has taken her gifts and gives of her knowledge and expertise without expecting or wanting you to become a follower or devotee.  She and Mike have tapped into some truths about 'helping' that are often missed by those of us 'professionals.'

My favorite of these: asking "How can I help?" rather than "What can I prove."

Strala, the style of yoga that they have created in New York City, is a movement based system that seeks to connect each person to themselves.  There is minimal instruction beyond movement and breath guidance; no lectures, insights, or corrections.  Rather there is laughter, encouragement, and fun.  And continued emphasis on being relaxed so you can breathe and move like a wave in the ocean.



Mike and Tara talk about how your own breath should set the pace of the experience, and the result is a class or experience that leaves you feeling refreshed, empowered, strong and smiling. Strala encourages the person moving to not only be responsible for their own experience, but tells them that they are the expert on themselves.

Our medical establishment struggles with this idea, seeking instead to offer expertise and advice.  Strala is a conscious response to this disempowering and fundamentally unsuccessful approach to healing and health.  Strala is a mind-body medicine that guides you into your own body, so that you can listen and act accordingly.

While Tara is a trained ballerina who found her passion in yoga, Mike is trained in medicine and martial arts.  Together they seek to create a style of yoga that heals body and mind through ease in movement and connection to breath and inner self.  I think they're doing quite a good job.  Obviously.

Hopefully I will soon begin my journey towards guiding Strala here in Portland.  I cannot wait to share all of this with others.  It's yoga party time.


Tara has a ton of free or minimal cost videos available on YouTube, full classes via the Strala website, and through her DVD set This Is Yoga ($20).  She and Mike have also just launched a full instruction course for Strala, available via MindBodyGreen.  If you live in Portland and love Strala, let's get in touch!!

23 July 2013

Finding Your Inner Rose

A few weeks ago now, I went for a walk in the Portland Rose Garden with a friend. I had had one of those weeks, and walking among the flowers felt like a balm for my heart.


Roses give rise to all kind of metaphor, don't they? They are such a literary tease.

Their beautiful smell, the thorns, the perfect shapes and petals. They are truly a gift to us human earthlings, reminding us of what's important in life, and that thorns are a part of it all.


A rose shows us so much about how to relate to ourselves; about what gives rise to gorgeous blossoms.

The alchemy of care and thorns and weather produces a display that takes your breath away. But to achieve this, we must be able to recognize rose from weed, and this goes for us and our own hearts, too.


As we seek happiness and the expression of our true self, we must patiently look for the rose within, the blossom waiting to unfold. Often it is invisible to us, wintering away, hidden by other plants that can look much easier to tend; or that we have long ago mistaken for a rose.


But with patience, we can find that gorgeous blossom, and once we've found it, we no longer mistake anything else for our own precious rose, unique and perfect and ours alone.


For both the rose and ourselves, summer is a time of full expression, the culmination of a year spent working patiently, hoping for sun.


May you experience the joy of your own inner rose, the part of you that no one else can touch, but that, with care, will always be there for you.


13 June 2013

Knocking from the Inside

Love is a verb.

This is a pretty popular saying these days, or idea.  Love is action, love is what is, not what you think.  Love is of the world, as are we, and the world around us is loving us, all the time.  Do you see it?



I feel this the most at the coast. As I've written about before, I am so lucky to live near the beautiful Oregon Coast.  And on a perfect Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, K. and I set out for an impromptu trip to Cannon Beach, a small town just West of Portland.




That's Haystack Rock you see in the background, twice.  And this is me... with K.'s photographic whimsy thrown in.


But enough about that.  Let's talk about love.  What is love?  Is there a more important question?



I see and feel love everywhere.  It is life itself.  Often in session I will guide my clients to feel how life is loving them, just by being.  How the energy of life is love, breathing in and out of them, their cells, their very being.  And when you go to the coast, and feel the energy of the waves crashing and the wind and maybe, just maybe, the sun or sunset...


or feel the trail under your feet, even it's a bit muddy...


That's all love is to me.  No need to look for it, no need to seek it.  You find it by surrendering to the moment, by living the life that is yours, by being a creature of the universe.


As the Sufi poet Rumi said many years ago:

I have almost driven myself mad,
wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door.

It opens.
I have been knocking from the inside.

Get outside!

06 May 2013

Our Most Dear and Ancient Friend

The Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is a favorite place of mine.  It crept up on me when I wasn't looking and became very dear to my heart.  Nowadays, when K. and I are getting read to "go out", we often head to its dry, wind-blown hillsides for a heart-expanding walkabout.


It is a magical place, full of sunshine and long grasses blowing in the breeze.  The Columbia River Gorge is famous for its woods and waterfalls, but we more often than not opt for the bright, dry views of its Northern side.


Today, it is unseasonably warm in Portland, but that weekend Spring was just beginning, the wind blowing its way through our hair and hands as we climbed around buttes and walked through fields of wildflowers, and up and down bright green paths.




Whenever I'm around rock, I have to reach out and touch it, put my hand on its gnarled surface, feel the age of the Earth moving under my fingertips.  And there is something about this place that always feels new and big and grand, like I'm discovering it in that moment.  It is a place that elicits awe.



In the picture below, you can almost see to where Celilo Falls used to be, a Falls that was sacred fishing ground for over 10,000 years, flooded in the 1950's when The Dalles Dam was built. It is also a place dear to my mom, who grew up in The Dalles and remembers watching the Indians fish.




That day, I looked towards Celilo, face in the wind, and thought about how the great rock I was standing on had been there the whole time, housed Native Americans at its base, felt them climbing to where I was now, watched them fish, and eat, and live. And then had watched as their home was destroyed.

I felt sadness as I thought of this, but more than anything I felt a part of our Earth that has seen history come and go, that mourned what was but accepts what is.  A part of our Earth that would be there long after there was a Dam or someone to wonder about it.  And as we descended down, I felt myself understand a little bit more about the Gorge and its magnificent, cleansing wind.


27 February 2013

The Green & Gracious Mirror

Mmmm... the first almost Spring days brought me not just one but two walks outside this past weekend...


I love to walk in the cold of late winter.  The fresh green air has a way of surfacing important and overarching themes, while dispersing the mundane and petty.  As I walk, worries shed and creativity and motivation take their place. It is a very strong medicine for me.



Stillness, aliveness, newness, deadness.  It is all there in the Earth just before she awakens to Spring.  And all that is inside each one of us too. Nature invites us to learn from her, and to find our connection back to ourselves through seeing her as a reflection of our own inner world.


The past two winters have gone by quickly for me. I cannot believe that it is almost March, and that summer plans are already being discussed and put on the calendar. K & I tend to hibernate in Winter, we're not snow folks, so I am already dreaming of wildflowers on the hillsides of the Columbia River Gorge, and that cleansing wind.


I saw this quote today:
“He who is outside his door already has the hardest part of his journey behind him.” — Dutch proverb 
There have been very important days in my life, when important events occurred, that began with my simply saying to myself, "Just put on your shoes and go outside."  Which meant I walked...


And looked up....


And saw new things and beautiful things.


May your day bring something fresh and new and true, and may that bring you closer to your self.

Practice for Bringing on the New

If you can go outside...

Put on some walking shoes and your coat and hat and scarf (if appropriate),
Drink a big glass of water
Open your door
Go outside.

Stop.
Look at the sky,
Breathe...

Walk
Look at a tree branch, notice its beauty
Breathe....

Walk
Listen for birdsong, hear the kindred spirit there,
Breathe...

And Walk and Remember
Remember that you are a child of the Earth and that you don't have to earn the right to live this life. Every being alive has the right to just be.  And that includes you.

So walk...
and breathe...

If you can't go outside...

Find a window to look out of,
Look at the sky,
Or a tree branch,
And just be, just watch and breathe.

Fill up with beauty,
Allow yourself to feel light and loved.

13 February 2013

Love Lost, Love Found, Love All Around

This is always an interesting week in my office, Valentine's Day/week/season, that is. I don't know how to tell people to just not worry about it so much, because they will anyway, but I try. And there are often pesky memories.  What I do end up saying a lot are things like,

"It's worth waiting for."
                                                                                "Wait until it isn't a choice."
                       "Trust."
                                                                     "Breathe."

I have been fortunate in my life to know many, many people who are deeply in love. I see it all the time, all around me, the support and connection of commitment that comes without effort. Not that the happiness of the relationship comes without effort (for that is the work that bears the greatest fruit), but that the commitment itself is not a question.  There is a with and a we that becomes as natural and normal as... well, anything else in life.




In these days of so much kind-of connection via the Internet, it seems even harder to let life lead. To just put effort into the things you enjoy, get out of the house, and let love find you can seem impossible.

Even if you have found your partner, you can lose precious time to the computer when you could be holding hands, smiling at each other, helping out, or expressing appreciation or support.

Whether you're single or partnered, think of this this Valentine's Day:  Make yourself happy first and the relationship you find will always bring you back to that version of yourself: the person you were that day when you first knew, when you first felt it, when you first realized that you were getting to know the person you would be with for the rest of your life.  Then you get the best of both people: a happy, loving you, and the person you fell in love with when you were most at ease in yourself.

Recipe for the Experience of Love:

Take a moment when you would be doing something else, and lay down on your bed or on the floor.
Get comfy. Put a pillow under your knees, make sure you are nice and warm.
Smile.

Now soften your whole body, your whole mind, your whole heart.
And again.
And again.

Luxuriate in doing absolutely nothing but softening, melting, being.
Accept absolutely everything in your conscious awareness.  Every thought, every itch, every sound.

Be the center in the storm.
And breathe.
And soften.
And breathe.

And love.

Happy Valentine's, and thank you for reading!

17 January 2013

Don't Miss the View

Don't miss the view. 

I feel like this every moment I am at the beautiful Oregon Coast, one of my favorite places in the world. I was lucky to be there over the holiday break with my family, watching waves and enjoy brisk days in front on a cozy fire.



Don't miss the view. What view am I missing today? What am I not seeing, not noticing, not understanding?

In Indian mysticism, they use the process of negation to discover truth, to see the view.  For example:

What is truth?
It is not my hand.

What is truth?
It is not my breath.

What is truth?
It is not this computer.


The process of negation leads one to de-attach from all the things we unknowingly see as "true" or important. The process leads one to a feeling of peace, settling, and the experience of what is rather than attachment to trying to control what is always moving and changing, becoming and dying.

Yet in that same moment, as we experience flashes of the real, we are more deeply attuned to all that is changing around us, because we have found the right viewpoint.  And this leads to the experience of deep, deep love for all of life; for life in all its complexity. Compassion.


2013 feels like a year of discovery, of searching, of finding that right view.

"Our happiness and the happiness of those around us depend on our degree of Right View. Touching reality deeply -- knowing what is going on inside and outside of ourselves -- is the way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that is caused by wrong perceptions. Right View is not an ideology, a system, or even a path. It is the insight we have into the reality of life, a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love."
~Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, page 51
What does it feel like for you?


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