Alohilohi

Hau’Oli Makahiki Hou!

Happy New Year!

If you’ve read much of this blog or follow me on social media, you probably know I have an affinity for all things Hawaiian. So this is the third year in a row, I’ve selected my #oneword from the Hawaiian language.

#oneword2020 was mohala, a beautiful word meaning to unfold or blossom as a flower, one petal at a time. I was like a jewel inside of a lotus bloom protected and concealed within the petals. Outward journeys were thwarted due to the pandemic, so I began an inward journey through yoga teacher training leading to a rediscovery of my purpose, which is to be a teacher. I learned what I like to call, “the lesson of the ruby slippers” which is, I had the power all along. The answers I seek are within. I. Am. Enough.

#oneword2021 was “lele,” meaning to burst forth. The drawing I made was like the contents of a confetti popper bursting in every direction, but I’m thinking it was more like a firework, exploding in colors with smaller explosions happening at the ends of the original sparks!

  • I completed my yoga teacher training and became a 200 hour registered yoga teacher (RYT 200).
  • I’ve had several opportunities manifest to share my passion for yoga. Teaching at Kom has grown into more than I would have imagined as I continued to read, study, plan and lead classes. Friendships and relationships have blossomed. I’m grateful for the opportunities and for growing confidence in myself as a yoga instructor while keeping the needs of my students first.
    • Cat Yoga was another successful venture in terms of sharing my practice, new friendships and relationships, and cultivating confidence. Teaching in a setting where anything can and does happen has taught me to be flexible and not take things too seriously. From finding a gift of two pieces of cat food on my mat one day when I went into downward facing dog to continuing to cue bridge pose without missing a beat after a cat unexpectedly leaped from my bent knees to my stomach as I laid on my mat. And it’s where I met Marshmallow (more about that white, furry, 6.5 pound ball of love later.)
    • Several other yoga teaching ventures started, but failed for one reason or another. I guess they were just sparks that didn’t continue into a bigger bang. But, each experience or potential experience held lessons and contributed to my growth, so they still count as valuable.
    • I had the opportunity for travel again! Arizona. Florida. Texas. South Carolina. Las Vegas. Utah. Missouri. Arkansas. Some new adventures. Some familiar places. Some solo. Some with new friends. Some opportunities to rekindle existing relationships with friends and family.
    • I finally published the memoir/photo journal I’ve been writing for three years. Yes, it’s a real book, for sale on Amazon. Riding the Waves: Navigating life in the wake of loss. By Addie Gaines.
  • It was hard to let it go and let it live the life it’s meant to. This is still unfolding.
    • I became a brand ambassador for a local boutique. When Wild Orange advertised the position, it took me six days of contemplation and gathering the courage to go ask about the possibility. It turned out, I was just who she was looking for to round out the team. So, another extension of the comfort zone… I put together outfits and talk about them on social media. It’s fun. I get paid. I get a discount. More new friendships and relationships.
  • But, I had to ask for the opportunity. The “ask” is scary. Acceptance is the reward, juxtaposed by the risk of rejection.
    • I adopted a rescue cat from Mochas and Meows where I teach cat yoga. I haven’t had a pet in about 20 years and when I did, we lived in the country and they lived outdoors. I opened my home and my heart to Marshmallow, and while sometimes it seems I’ve adopted a small furry toddler with incredible jumping and climbing skills, most of the time it feels like there is a being in my house who cares whether or not I come home, is so happy to see me and really wants nothing more than my warm lap and love. (But I bought her a kitty condo, a window seat and a blingy collar, so there is that.)
  • So after all this bursting forth in so many directions, it would be easy to ask, “How can I top this?” Or “What can I do next?”
  • But seeking the answers to these questions quite possibly robs some of the joy of the things I’ve manifested. So, instead my #oneword2022 does not grow bigger, but allows me to take the time to bask in the glow of all that has burst forth in the past year.

    Alohilohi means to glow. I envision beautiful embers after an exciting roaring fire. Basking in the glow leaves me feeling warm and peaceful. Like a gentle smile or a sigh. Contentment. Things don’t always have to get bigger. Sometimes they are enough.

    Alohilohi.

    #oneword2022

    Riding the Waves…

    “Write a book,” they said.

    “It will be fun,” they said.

    Well…

    I did it! I wrote a book!

    A real one. For sale on Amazon.

    Seriously!

    For everyone who said I should…

    But, mostly for myself.

    And so it begins…

    “People have always told me I should write a book. I mostly observe things and write descriptions of what I’m observing. I like to take pictures mostly of nature. I post on Facebook. Sometimes I write stories about experiences. Funny stories. But, how could this be a book? One that people actually wanted to read?”

    I guess we will find out!!!

    Announcing my first book, Riding the Waves: Navigating Life in the Wake of Loss. It’s a journal/photo journal/memoir.

    “It’s my journey. I’m inviting you along. I hope you’re glad you came.”

    Available now on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Riding-Waves-Navigating-Life-Wake/dp/B09L3C1NP6/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1636592200&sr=8-1

    Also, I have created a FB page for the book that I invite you to follow: http://www.facebook.com/RidingtheWavesbyAddieGaines

    From the back cover:

    Following the unexpected loss of her husband of nearly 33 years, the author shares “the stories she tells herself ” about her thoughts and experiences during her first 18 months as a widow. She describes her personal journey as “riding the waves” of emotion. Along the way, she shares insights and wisdom within short stories and anecdotes that will make you laugh and make you cry. Mostly this memoir shared as a journal and photo journal will make you think from a new perspective and create compassion in your heart for yourself and others.

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    Goodbye, Summer

    I said goodbye to summer under the gray skies of mourning with my last two hummingbirds buzzing around the feeders, chirping, drinking and dueling as they prepare for their journey. The air is still and damp. The creek ripples. A cricket sings as fall arrives on a slightly cooler breeze, encouraging the clouds to release their truth. The gentle rain fell with the drops tapping the leaves as they ride on gravity and soak into the thirsty ground.

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    Reflection on the journey

    So, I’ve been teaching yoga for six months, more or less. More if you count the classes I created and taught online; less if you count teaching in studio.

    The other day I turned to one of the first pages of the journal where I plan my yoga classes and read a version of my practicum class named Beloved Hawaii Flow 2. I was considering using it for a private class I was teaching. I shocked myself as I realized how simple and basic that first class was compared to those I currently write. Then I smiled, realizing that meant I had grown as a teacher. There was nothing wrong with that class. It represents where I was on the journey. I love that class, it’s beautiful, gentle and balanced. It reminds me of my favorite place on earth. I love the playlist.

    I actually did use an updated version of that class, that I co-created with the participants as we practiced based on their needs. The ladies loved the class and their positive comments afterwards made my day.

    So, this opportunity for reflection led me to reflect even more. Just like we celebrate the milestones of our babies with cute photos on blankets documenting the months and captions documenting growth, I’ll share my self-reflection here.

    • I’m no longer nervous before I teach. The first class I taught I was so nervous that my muscles were tense and shaking. I was exhausted after. Now, I’m simultaneously excited and relaxed. I can hardly wait to share what I’ve planned and co-create with my students. But, I’m not stuck to my script.
    • I have the confidence to handle mistakes as no big deal. If I leave something out, I can come back to it, or not. If I’m having a “left and right are hard day,” it’s okay. Mistakes make us human and relatable.
    • If I want to read meditations or quotes, I can just read them. I don’t have to memorize them (and worry about forgetting the words).
    • I’ve challenged myself to include something “new to me” in each class. Whether it’s using a new Sanskrit word or including a pose or transition I’ve never taught before, I’ve been faithful to this goal.
    • I can take one class plan and playlist and modify it to use in various formats or class lengths. This is very helpful when I teach multiple classes during the week, but have different students.
    • So, in summary the evolution of my teaching is similar to a yin practice.
      I had to find my edge and soften. (Be confident and stop worrying about every detail.)
      I melted and let the breath do the work. (I prepare for class, but once it starts, it just happens.)
      Then the magic happens… the release… the muscle sighs and gives a little more space. (I teach class knowing whatever happens, it’s what was supposed to happen for each student.)

    On the other hand, it’s just yoga. I can’t take myself too seriously. (Thank-you, Sherri, for this wisdom.)

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    Becoming more of who I am…

    I am a teacher.

    I used to teach kindergarten.

    I used to be a principal, teaching whatever needed taught to whomever was learning at the moment.

    Now I teach yoga.

    Actually this isn’t true. I don’t teach a subject or a discipline or a practice. I never have.

    I teach students. People who wish to study and learn. I support them and guide them. Pointing out where to look, but not what to see. It used to be little people and now, my students are a little older and a little wiser.

    I am student.

    Today I celebrate 700 classes at my studio. Not teaching 700 classes, but taking 700 classes.

    Sometimes people ask, “Now that you’re a yoga teacher, why do you still take all those classes? Can’t you teach yourself?”

    Ahhhh… I take the classes for me. The classes I teach are for my students. The classes I take are for me. Actually, they are for my students, too.

    I can only teach what is inside of me. What I know. What is in my heart.

    I’m like a honeybee and the flowers are my experiences. I process the nectar and distill the sweetness. That’s what I offer as a teacher. Maybe it’s your favorite flavor. Maybe my honey doesn’t resonate with your tastebuds. That’s okay. You choose what to accept and what to ingest and how you process it. I become only one of many blossoms to you and you are the bee, creating your own flavor of honey.

    Teaching and learning are reciprocal and intertwined processes, much like reading and writing. Sometimes I’m the teacher. Sometimes I’m the learner. And sometimes I’m both.

    Here’s to blazing the path to 800 classes.

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    A visit to the Valley of the Sun

    The plane touched down at Phoenix-Mesa Airport right on schedule and we headed to the rental car counter to pick up our chariot that would take us on our planned scenic adventure through the Arizona desert to our destination in Sedona. My new friend and I were headed to a yoga retreat. Our friendship born of mutual interest in yoga and mutual need to travel the 150-ish or so miles between the airport and our retreat location. After the customary becoming familiar with the car and getting our navigation tools organized, we took off. We left the airport, skirting the city and avoiding the five-lane highway. Eventually we found ourselves on a ribbon of highway winding, climbing and descending through the scrubby mountains that looked like giant upside-down chins that needed a shave.

    We marveled at towering saguaro and noticed other cacti, succulents and some interesting tall yellow flowers, that reminded us somewhat of sunflowers.

    It pretty much felt that we had been inserted into a western movie and we were on a trail ride. Instead of horses, we had horsepower, and sometimes not quite enough as our little car struggled to climb the mountains, but she did it, persistent like the little engine that could.

    More desert mountains rose on each side of us. We wondered who lived in the random houses and trailers that were lightly scattered about and chatted about life as we got to know one another.

    We arrived in Payson, a town big enough to have a Walmart and stopped for provisions. This was also the town where we were to turn east towards the main highway. For some reason this route would not come up on the phones. I expanded the map and there was indeed a highway. A search didn’t reveal an obvious reason we couldn’t take it. I tried forcing Siri to give directions to a town along the route and she said we couldn’t go there. I tried another town and she chose a route that basically sent us back to the beginning and then started over. We gathered our necessities and asked the person at the checkout to learn that the highway we needed was closed due to wildfire. The next best route went north of our destination, but cut through Winslow, so at least I could “stand on a corner in Winslow, AZ…” there’s always a bright side. As we left Walmart, the northern route through Winslow and Flagstaff disappeared on our devices. Shortly thereafter an orange sign appeared confirming our suspicions. Road Closed Ahead. The only route left was retracing most of the drive we had completed and starting over.

    We retraced our route, but because the highway was divided saw new scenery including amazing stacks of huge boulders. We drove into a town on the outskirts of Phoenix and restarted our trip, this time on the five-lane highway that headed north. At 5:00 p.m. The very thing I wanted to avoid, stood between us and Sedona. With my friend’s navigation skills, we reached the last exit and merged and the lanes dwindled to a reasonable number.

    In the distance my friend commented about what looked like rain. I remarked that it was virga and was probably evaporating before it hit the ground. We wouldn’t see any rain. Comforted by the fact that we were in the desert and it hardly ever rained here, we continued at 75 mph gaining ground on our destination. Presently a drop of rain danced on the windshield. I guess I was wrong about the rain. That first drop was joined by another and eventually the percussion grew louder and more furious. Where were the windshield wipers? I located them. Then our faithful chariot showed us a new skill, skating. Apparently, not only did she struggle with mountain climbing, ponding water on the roads was not her thing either. We slowed down considerably losing ground on our ETA. As I peered through the rain reading a highway sign reading “Flagstaff,” it occurred to me things could be worse. At least we didn’t have Aunt Edna strapped to the top of the car. (Can’t help throwing in a Vacation reference.)

    It wasn’t raining in Sedona, so we knew we had to drive out of it eventually. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and the continued on the journey. Eventually the browns and tans of the desert gave way to red clay and green foliage. Sedona was breathtaking. Uniquely shaped giant red formations emerged from the earth around us nestled in lush greenery.

    We drove through the main road of the town navigating roundabouts and surveying the many shops, but mostly we were awed by nature.

    The resort was past Sedona and with one extra trip in one roundabout we arrived just in time to unload the car and make it to the first yoga session in the darkness to the sounds of a waterfall. So peaceful. I was lying on my mat at the end wondering if I really had to get up or if I could just sleep there.

    I got up and walked back to the cabin and sat on the patio with refreshments and more new friends to chat with. We were awaiting the rise of the full moon from behind the tall trees. Eventually we gave in to the need for sleep. With the sofa bed as my accommodations, I decided I would prefer to sleep under the stars. So a few sofa cushions, a pillow and a sheet followed me to the patio. Guarded by the red mountain behind me and serenaded by the stars I drifted to sleep, as the full moon stubbornly remained behind the trees.

    I awakened to the morning star bidding the darkness farewell, a hazy blue sky and a few bats finishing up the night shift, their shadows dancing to the whoosh of the wind in the trees full of birdsong. Another day. Another adventure.

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    Three words

    Sometimes less is more. I recently read the book, Teaching beyond the poses. As a teacher, I love a good theme and this book had great ideas for theming classes and a convenient framework for planning themed classes. But, I think the most valuable aspect of the book was the journaling prompts.

    This was my response to the most helpful one:

    “Three words that sum up my intention as a yoga teacher: Empower. Co-create. Journey.”

    The hardest part was limiting myself to three words. I wrestled with that, but from the struggle emerged these words that encompass my heart in planning and guiding classes.

    Empower

    Through the practice I intend for my students to feel empowered that they can do anything they set their mind to. If the mind conceives it and the heart believes it, it’s yours. I want to create a safe space where students are empowered to try something new, even if it’s a baby step that day. Shoot for the moon and if you miss, you land among the stars. Ultimately, I hope that the feeling of empowerment extends beyond the mat, into life.

    Co-create

    Through my training and mentorship program, there was opportunity for students to review the classes I taught. Sometimes different students would provide feedback that seemed opposing. At first, I wondered how I would “fix” things for each person, because following one suggestion made the class worse for another student. And, it felt confusing because these students were in the same class, how could the comments be so different? Then it occurred to me that they weren’t in the same class. Each person had their own experience on the mat at the intersection of my voice and the body, mind and heart they brought that day. Each experience (including mine as a teacher) was unique. Each class is co-created by the student and I. It’s important that I communicate and model this idea as I teach, so that students feel free to take the suggestions that are theirs, and ditch or modify the rest. I also believe this idea has value off the mat as you move through life with intention and purpose co-creating your experience, responding to obstacles and accepting life’s gifts.

    Journey

    Yoga is a journey of the body, mind and heart. Today is one step. I want to encourage students to accept where they are and take today’s step. Each person’s journey is unique and beautiful and worthy of respect. Your journey is not your neighbor’s. Embrace your journey.

    These words help me reflect, clarify and guide me on my journey as a teacher and a yogi.

    What are your three words and why?

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    Shine

    In my purpose, I immerse.

    A piece of the puzzle of universe.

    I leave an empty place

    Without my unique shape in the space.

    Being the best me

    I can be.

    Encouraging others to reach their dreams

    Because it seems

    My accomplishments do not take from others, nor theirs from mine.

    There’s room for all of us to shine.

    Forget-Me-Not

    If you’ve read my bio, you know that I am a widow. I don’t write specifically about it much anymore, but the experience of loss and living with loss shades my perspective of everything I experience.

    Valentine’s Day. It can be a difficult day when you’re “alone.” There used to be flowers and fancy dinners to dress up for and gifts.

    Flowers. Usually they seemed like a waste of money to me. They’re beautiful, but cut flowers had their lives cut short. They’re temporary. Finally, they go in the trash leaving some crunchy dried petals that make a mess on the floor and a glass vase that went into the collection of glass vases under the desk in my office, waiting patiently for “someday when they might be needed.” Flowers are expensive. Sometimes they cost more than we really had. But, receiving flowers at school, was a symbol of love and communicated I was that special to someone.

    Valentine’s Day. Even after Alan was gone, every year someone has made sure I felt special. The first two Valentine’s Days I was still working as a principal and someone at school helped “my kids” send me flowers. I never found out who took the time to be kind and remind me that I was special and cared for.

    Last year, I wasn’t expecting anything and was trying not to worry about it, when I was surprised again. I went to Zumba and my dance studio was kindly giving roses to the students. The roses brought a smile and I realized that a night of dancing and rose was a beautiful Valentine’s Day.

    This year, I realized Valentine’s Day was coming several weeks ago and started thinking about flowers. After a moment of worry and sadness, I shook it off. It would be fine. Then I was given the opportunity to teach a yoga class on Valentine’s Day. I knew the class needed to be special, so I started curating the playlist and selecting heart-opening poses. As I listened to love songs, it occurred to me that not everyone experiences Valentine’s Day the same way. It’s not all about flowers and chocolates and a significant other. That thought influenced my class plans. My class isn’t about me, it’s about giving to my students and creating the experience they need and want.

    I grew really excited about the class and was so happy to have something special to look forward to on Valentine’s Day.

    Enter: The Groundhog. Sure. He said, “Six more weeks of winter.” But, did all six weeks worth of snow in subzero temps have to fall this week? The forecast wasn’t great for Valentine’s Day, but the brunt of the snow was for later in the day, so the class went on as scheduled.

    I had gone in to the studio for the earlier class. To my surprise, the teacher said, “I had some tulips I repotted that I was going to bring you this morning. Purple ones. But, I forgot them on the counter.”

    “Oh, wow! That was so nice of you to think of me!” I replied in surprise.

    She said that next time she came, she would leave them behind the counter for me.

    Another student commented that they might have gone into shock if she had brought them in such cold weather.

    It was probably for the best.

    Honestly, the mere thought that went into the kind gesture of planning to bring me flowers meant so much to me. Once again, Valentine’s Day flowers would come unexpectedly.

    My class was a fun experience for my students and I. Following it, I made the careful journey home as the winter weather was beginning to defy the best efforts of the city and county road crews. Basically the next couple of weeks were a snow-pocalypse, relegating most people to their homes. It finally melted and the warmer days of meteorological spring ensued. On a rainy day in mid-March, the purple tulips were waiting patiently when I arrived at the studio. The tulips shared the special message that once again, I was not forgotten on Valentine’s Day and that it was time to “spring forward” into a new season.

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    Eye of the Storm

    Shades of gray drift over the sun like a heavy eyelid.

    The scent of rain wafts like a lullaby.

    Less light.

    More dark.

    The rays of the sun shine like eyelashes.

    Fighting sleep.

    Heaviness closes the eye.

    The tears of the sky wash the earth releasing the spring.

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    Just monkeying around…

    Today I celebrate my 500th class at Kom Hot Yoga. My 500th class was actually a few days ago, but who’s counting? Well, I am!

    I chose my “90% Monkey Pose” to commemorate the occasion. Why? Because it represents important things I’ve learned:

    *It’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect. This is my monkey pose today, and it is enough. I am enough.

    *Yoga blocks are not the enemy. They are helpful in making poses deeper, more comfortable or possible.

    *Monkeys represent intelligence and cunning. Yoga is a place of continual learning.

    *Yoga is a tool to calm the “monkey mind.”

    In Sanskrit, the name of the pose is Hanumasana, named for a character in Indian mythology, who is a monkey. But, he’s not just any monkey. As the sun of the Wind God, he was able to leap across the ocean, instrumental in saving Sita, the wife of exiled prince, Rama. The shape of the splits represents this incredible leap. Hanuman is often depicted carrying a mountain because in another feat, he goes to seek herbs to bring Rama’s brother back to life. Because he doesn’t know which herbs are the right ones, he simply brings back the entire mountain, so that he will have the right ones. Hanuman was brave, loyal, intelligent and skilled. These are great qualities to cultivate in my practice.

    But, the most important thing? Monkeys are fun and yoga is supposed to be fun. I remind myself not to take things too seriously. I always want to keep it fun.

    The Essence and the Flow

    “…both essence and flow can exist in the same breath.”

    – D. Arguetty. (2009). Nourishing the teacher.

    Yoga is balance. Yoga is paradox.

    Darkness and light.

    Movement and stillness.

    Grounding and flight.

    Today I consider “essence” and “flow” as it pertains to the study of yoga, inspired by a selection in one of the books I’m reading. I learned about Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, speech and creative arts in Hindu mythology, who reflects the principle of balancing essence and flow.

    As learners or practitioners of any subject or art, in the beginning, we learn the basics and build a foundation. The essentials. But, the more we practice and the essence becomes a part of us, we begin to evolve, allowing our own creativity to flow. Innovating and allowing our uniqueness to shape the practice.

    Roots grow underground in the darkness, but flowers bloom in the light. Our minds grow in the stillness and bodies need to move. To practice the essence is grounding, but in the flow we take flight.

    If we move too far from the essence, we’ve lost the art or discipline we practice. If we don’t innovate as we grow, we become stale and stagnant.

    Yesterday, in the darkness and cold of a power outage, I wrote a sequence inspired by mountains. It begins with a standing pranayama presumably at night with a rising crescent moon. Sun A emerges in the middle of the sequence. The sequence is mostly grounding, but from the roots, there are opportunities for flight. Near the end a waterfall replenishes the body, mind and heart, melting into savasana, as the benefits of the practice seep in.

    As you read, you may be thinking, I hear a lot that is familiar, and you do. It’s the essence. But, in the order of sequence itself is the flow.

    As a teacher, I must always be mindful that “my” class belongs to the students. If there are 10 students, then there are 10 different classes. One on each mat at the intersection of what I share and what each student brings to the experience. I’m hoping that each intersection is a beautiful destination.

    One more thing…

    Notice I wrote this sequence yesterday, before today’s reading. In that order, I had the opportunity to learn in “the early childhood way” of having the experience first and making the meaning after.

    As a “baby yoga teacher,” I suppose that is how it should be. Now off to practice and polish the sequence and prepare this gift for the students.

    To learn more about Saraswati enjoy this article, which includes a short video.

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    Let Go

    Life is an interesting dance.

    To live it is to take a chance.

    The whole world lives within the heart.

    Accept juxtaposition, balance can start.

    There must be black, the darkest night,

    To pierce the eyes with blinding light.

    It is when silence does abound,

    Entering the ears is resounding sound.

    In the vast expanse of mountain or sea.

    Is where you find the smallest “me.”

    And, yet the vision traverses far.

    The biggest sun appears as a tiny star.

    Because you love

    Is why you grieve.

    Release the grip

    Let go to receive.

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    Chucks and Pearls

    Chucks and pearls

    For all the girls

    Whose eyes are wide

    With dreams inside

    With hearts a fire

    And intense desire.

    You go, girls!

    Sporting chucks and pearls.

    Your road may be tough,

    But, you are enough.

    Sometimes it’s a fight,

    But winners take flight.

    You’ve got this, girls

    Running in chucks, wearing pearls.

    How does it feel

    When dreams become real?

    When your spark is a dance

    Inspiring others to take their chance?

    Lele. Coming soon…

    “She had no idea of the impact her work would have, but she did it anyway.” -Rolf & Kenison. Meditations from the Mat. pg. 399.

    As I read these words today, I took them to heart. When we have creative ideas, do the labor, and eventually give birth to them, we don’t know our effect on the world will be. Remembering that each tiny drop originates a ripple extending beyond our view, we may never know our impact.

    Of course, the authors of the book, were not referring to me. They were referring to Grammy award winning artist, Tracy Chapman, and her 1988 album that brought awareness to suffering of physically abused women.

    I say the authors were not referring to me, but as the reader, I bring my own thoughts and experiences to the process. When we “met” today, I felt the words in my heart.

    “Lele” is a Hawaiian word meaning “to burst forth,” “to leap,” or “to jump.” My #oneword2021 follows last year’s word, also Hawaiian, “mohala,” meaning “to unfold” or “blossom one petal at a time.” My image was unfolding the many petals of a lotus flower, growing from its roots in the muck, revealing a jewel inside.

    It’s still a process, but when the time is right, my 2021 is going to say, “2020, hold my beer.”

    Lele. Coming soon.

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    Inspire

    inspire [in-spahyur] : to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence.

    Sometimes people tell me, “You inspire me.” This statement arouses different feelings in me depending upon the day. Sometimes I feel honored and proud that something I’ve done and shared causes another to find inspiration. In my sharing heart, I know that even if an act only brings a momentary smile to another, it makes the day better. Perhaps that little burst of happiness is shared in a new way by the original recipient and the positive energy spreads from person to person.

    Or…

    Sometimes, I feel that being an inspiration is a burden or a responsibility. I don’t want to be an inspiration. I just want to take a run on a trail in the woods. I just want to stand on my head. I just want to write what I’m thinking about. Maybe I should keep my actions and ideas to myself.

    Or…

    Nobody really cares if I take a run. It doesn’t matter if I stand on my head. Nobody wants to read what I share anyway.

    But…

    The inspiring act is like a drop of water splashing into a lake. The initial splash is but a blink, but the concentric ripples expand into the world influencing countless other drops of water. Inspiration is a cycle. In order to inspire others, we must allow ourselves to be inspired, whether it is by another person’s words or actions, a butterfly that lands nearby or a beautiful sunset over the ocean.

    So, the ripple can happen, the person can act, the butterfly can land and the sun can set, but they are not “inspiration” in and of themselves, we ALLOW ourselves to find inspiration.

    This is the explanation when I feel honored or proud, but it needs to be tempered with the understanding that, it really wasn’t what I did, it was how the other person perceived it. It doesn’t necessarily mean they want to go run on a trail or stand on their head, it means they feel the desire to convert the inspiration into experiencing and sharing their own joy.

    This is also the answer to myself when I feel the statement, “You inspire me.” as a burden or responsibility. It’s simply not true. It’s not my responsibility to inspire others. It’s their choice to EMBRACE inspiration in their lives.

    Because “your feelings of inspiration are not my responsibility,” the thoughts that “nobody cares” and “it doesn’t matter” are also false.

    I know from my days of being a kindergarten teacher and elementary principal that I spent countless hours serving students, encouraging then, teaching them, helping them. I can’t enumerate the number of shoes I tied over the course of thirty years, but it was important enough to one kindergartner to write me a letter thanking me for it when he was in second grade. Why was it inspiring that day? I’ll never know, just as I’ll never know many other acts that mattered to others. So, anytime I feel that something “doesn’t matter,” I remind myself that everything matters, but it is not always my privilege to know how or why.

    Yesterday I read this quote: “Rosa sat so that Martin could walk; Martin walked so that Obama could run; Obama ran so that our children could fly.”

    The inspiration for this quote is attributed to an email from a 19-year-old single mother from Pennsylvania to her Democratic Party chairperson. When this young lady shared her inspiration, it created a ripple for sure.

    On the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she had no idea that she was a link in a chain of events that resulted in our nation electing our first Black president. The ripples continue through this day and beyond in children of color who can truly aspire to be anything they desire, as they see themselves in others realizing incredible possibilities.

    Be the drop of water that inspires the ripples, knowing that it’s not your responsibility to inspire and you may never know how you inspire, but trust that you do.

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    What could you “bee” if…

    What could you “bee” if you weren’t afraid? What if you didn’t doubt yourself? What if no one said to you, “You’re too …” or “You’re only …” or “You’re just …” or “You’ll never …”? Or “That’s impossible.”

    What if you didn’t say these things to yourself?

    “Your wings are too thin.” “Your body is too fat.” “You’ll never fly.” “That’s impossible.” Said no one ever to the bee.

    So, the bee flies because it doesn’t know it can’t. What would “bee” possible if you didn’t “know” you couldn’t?

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    The Monkey and the Latkes

    As an assignment in my YTT, for one week we were to keep a log of our daily activities and record whether they were energizing or an energy drain. This was a self-study of brahmacharya, or “right use of energy.”

    “Entering this realm of more pervasive exploration, we must still bear in mind that anything in excess can cause distress and lack of focus. The remedy, however, is not repression, but rather a watchful and moderate engagement.” (Arguetty & Budreski. Nourishing the Teacher: Inquiries, Insights, and Contemplations on the Path of Yoga.)

    This was an interesting and valuable study in the analysis as I learned several things:

    *Activities I wanted to do were nearly always energizing, regardless of the actual energy expended during the activity. I guess it’s kind of like a car… as energy is expended while driving, the battery is also being charged. My personal alternator is working pretty well. I have a lot of energy!

    *Activities I “have” to do are energy depleting regardless of the actual expenditure of energy of the activity. Hmmmm… why?

    Resistance. (I’ll write more about that later.)

    *Multitasking is an energy drain. I engage in multitasking when I lose focus on what I’m doing. Most of the time it’s because something “takes too long.”

    It reminded me of a favorite movie reference. In Christmas Vacation, Clark’s boss, Frank Shirley, bellows into his phone to an off-screen assistant, “Get me someone! And get me someone while I’m waiting!” This is me, well not really me; this is Monkey Mind, who doesn’t wish to be still and wait.

    What about the latkes? It all started on Thanksgiving, the ultimate day of “nonmoderation” of food (which only comes once a year, so technically it’s moderation in nonmoderation, right?). There were lots of leftover mashed potatoes… the good kind with real butter and cream cheese whipped into a fluffy oblivion. What to do? What do do? I know! Latkes! Potato pancakes! Except I didn’t know how. So, I Googled a recipe that made a dozen latkes and went to work. 10 minutes prep time. 10 minutes cook time. What I learned was latkes don’t cook as fast as regular pancakes… they take 3-5 minutes per side. In my opinion, as a non griddle owner, making them in a skillet, the recipe writer made a serious mathematical error. She forgot to multiply the cook time by the number of latkes. 90 minutes later I was done (apparently my latkes were more generously sized). The cook time for each side, was more than I could mindfully attend to and I found myself multitasking in a major way: eating lunch standing at the counter (the first few latkes), unloading and loading the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen, taking the trash outdoors, checking Facebook, etc.) This was while monitoring the cook time and condition of the latkes in the skillet mostly effectively, with a few panicked returns, running to the skillet to flip them in time.

    About 7 latkes in, I realized I was engaging in the energy zapping multitasking and decided to be mindful with the cooking process. I tried to interest Monkey Mind in watching as the potato mixture slowly bubbled and eventually gained enough stability on the bottom side to allow the spatula to gently slide under the pancake and balance the deliciousness just before releasing into a perfect 180 flip and landing evenly on the opposite side to finish browning. Ahhhhhh….

    Well, if you are expecting this story to end with an epiphany about focus and mind control, you are going to be disappointed. What I learned was, I am not there yet. Even, when patiently trying to engage Monkey Mind with curiosity and wonder, I was fighting distraction and wander.

    But, no latkes were harmed in the making of this story. Well, except the first one, but everyone knows that when making pancakes, the first one is the “sacrifice pancake.” Not so beautiful to look at, but it was still tasty.

     

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    Shoot for the moon

    To explore Santosa (contentment) on the mat, one of my YTT homework assignments was to design a sequence that built towards Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose) and find contentment in the expression of the pose I created, letting go of expectation or achievement. As a person who spent most of my life with achievement as an internal motivator, this idea is challenging. 

    “Nothing to master. Everything to explore.” (Stephens. Yoga Sequencing. 198)

    What a refreshing idea!

    So, I took the time to create a moonlight themed personal playlist that speaks to my heart and is so eclectic and fun! It’s a tribute to some important people in my life and reminds me of some special times. Some of it feels dark like the night sky. Some of it rocks! Why take so much time?

    If I would do it for others, why not for ME? Aren’t I worth it?

    (You know the answer.)

    The sequence itself is lighthearted, “dancy” and fun. It has some silly cueing. It is a mandala, so there are multiple opportunities to practice the peak pose.

    Yesterday, on a Missouri December day, it was 72 degrees, so the only place to practice was outdoors. However, here in the Ozarks, there is no such thing as a flat piece of ground, so that added to the challenge.

    How many times did I fall out of half moon pose? A lot. But…

    “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you land among the stars.” -Les Brown

    This is Santosa.

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    This is how I roll…

    Today when Wheel Pose was offered during my practice, the Yoga Voice from within encouraged, “Do it.” My body resisted initially. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the pose, but when I’d done it before, it was a struggle, with my arms fighting to lift my head and chest. Sometimes I’d get part way up and then rest my head on the floor, while my arms tried to gain a second wind and muscle up that front half of my body. Sometimes it was successful, sometimes not. So usually I just stayed with Bridge Pose, which felt good and stable.

    “Do it,” the Voice patiently repeated.

    My heels walked towards my glutes and my palms found the earth next to my ears, fingers gently creeping under my shoulders.

    “Deep inhale. Exhale. Push into the floor with the heels. Hips to the sky. Chin away from chest. Hips a little higher. Extend the arms.”

    (Notice I didn’t say, “Lift the head and chest with the arms.” My much stronger hips and quads had already done this work.)

    I felt a rush of elation and joy normally reserved for a first time accomplishment. The surprise and intensity of the emotion broke my concentration, so I had to come down carefully, tucking the chin and rolling down one vertebrae at a time.

    After a short break, I took the pose again. (And again a few more times to get the photo.)

    It. Felt. Awesome.

    It was easy! Well, let me rephrase that. It seemed easy. It felt effortless. It is not an easy pose!

    So, there is no prize for attaining Wheel, or any other pose. Or is there?

    Not in the “I’d like to thank the Academy…” sense, of course, but perhaps in other ways…

    *I listened to the positive voice in my very being.

    *I didn’t give in to Resistance. (more to come on this topic)

    *I didn’t fight with my body. I worked with it, how it is designed to work.

    *I allowed myself to celebrate a victory.

    *I let it be easy.

    Life on the mat is a microcosm of life. These lessons are the “wins” I can take with me into real life. They work there, too.

    So, yeah, there is a prize.

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    I am Enough

    “Let go of the frustration and the judgment and work with your unruly mind as you would with a child or a puppy.” – Gates & Kenison

    I’m grateful to have found my “yoga voice.” When I speak it to myself it is much kinder and gentler than my critical voice that internally spoke of inadequacy and disdain to myself. That voice said ugly things. Things I would never say to another human.

    “You are too fat. You would look better if you only lost (5, 10, 20, fill in the number) pounds.”

    “Look at those dark circles. You need to cover those. Is that a new wrinkle? *applies make-up* I can still see them.”

    “My eyes look tired. They look sad. Why can’t I make them sparkle?”

    “My hair is too thin. Especially in that spot right there. Is that a gray hair? Ugh!”

    “What makes me think i can (fill in the blank)? Everyone knows I’m just a (fill in the blank).”

    “*something goes wrong* See! I told you you couldn’t. I don’t know why you even try.”

    And, there are more. If I analyze these statements, what I find is they come from a common root.

    I. Am. Not. Good. Enough.

    I’ve actually been working on this negative self talk for several years, pre-yoga journey. One time I was listening to Oprah and she said, “Do not speak words to yourself that you would not say to a friend.” These words resonated with me at that time. Wow! How true. Why do I say these things to myself?

    But, changing the recording that plays in the mind is easier said than done. It takes time. It takes patience. These thoughts are habitual.

    When I first tried, the “thought poison” came out as it always had, but I could bring awareness to it and reframe it.

    “My body is amazing and carries me through life. I care for it inside and out. I can dress it well.”

    “My face is a road map of my journey reflecting the genuine smiles that crinkled my eyes and the ponderings that furrowed the brow. All of the beautiful carefree days where the sun soaked into the skin left an impression. I am beautiful just as I am.”

    “It’s okay to be tired and it’s okay to be sad. Find rest. Let the eyes leak. I can allow myself to heal. The sparkle is still there and will show itself in time.”

    “My hair is long and the colors of chocolate and cinnamon. It is shiny, soft and strong. I love how it feels.”

    “I can do whatever I set my mind to do. Everyone knows I am capable. And, if they don’t? It doesn’t matter. I know I’m capable.”

    “Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Perhaps there is a silver lining. Maybe I did better than last time and I can continue to grow. I’ve done hard things before and I can do them again. Keep trying. Keep believing.”

    I. Am. Enough.

    But, in this process, you must be patient with your mind. I like to think of speaking to it with all the patience and encouragement that I would have for my two-year old self. Or thinking of it as “Monkey Mind,” a cute, impish being that needs to be patiently reigned in and refocused over and over.

    The ongoing effort to find this patient, kind voice, the one I now call my yoga voice, has been worthwhile. Why? As Sherri, one of my yoga teachers, says, “Your voice is the loudest voice you will ever hear and believe.”

    I. Deserve. Kindness.

    So do you.

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    Living and Learning

    “You can’t step into the same river twice.”*

    Each breath is new.

    Isn’t that nice?

    This is your moment to seize and explore.

    When it fades, it returns no more.

    The past is over; the future lies ahead.

    But, grounded in this moment, find your peace instead.

    Inhale.

    Exhale.

    Feel and let go.

    In the living and learning is when you grow.

    *Gates and Kenison. Meditations from the mat.

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    Wisdom in the Dance (Parts 1 and 2)

    “While performing asana, the student’s body assumes numerous forms of life found in creation, and he learns that in all of these breathes the same universal spirit, the spirit of God.” -B.K.S. Iyengar

    Part 1

    While many of us equate yoga and asana (postures) as one and the same, asana is only a part of yoga. We often strive to perfect our poses by making them straighter, or twisting them to an extreme, or balancing a more complicated form for longer. (Perhaps we get to measure the duration of crow pose in seconds rather than milliseconds.) We believe that the more effort we put in, the closer to perfection we get. Ironically, according to Patanjali, “effortlessness is success.” Attaining “harmony” with our bodies, breath an awareness in that moment allows us to experience the wisdom that is written into our DNA. (Gates & Kenison) While minds must find stillness to be at peace, bodies can be at peace in either stillness or movement. My body typically chooses “the dance.”

    One of my teachers often says, “Let it be easy,” in a calm, floaty voice. I have always taken this to mean to stop trying so hard and just let it happen. (Oh yeah, and relax your face.) But, after reading today’s entries in Meditations from the Mat (Gates & Kenison) I can understand that this cue is actually is much deeper. It is an invitation to experience “the wisdom of the dance,” a chance to absorb what my body has to say and the opportunity to be in a moment of harmony. (Enter: The Onion. Another layer is peeled away and I’m reminded that although I’m excited about today’s understanding, it’s not “the final answer.”)

    I have a couple of yoga classes in a bit… As of now, I plan to choose a mantra like “Let it be easy,” or “I am Harmony,” or “Find wisdom in the dance.” But, I can’t decide now. I’ll do it in the moment…

    Part 2

    The focus of the class was pratyahara, or disconnecting with everything except ourselves. The room was dark and soothing.

    “I am still.”

    The teacher offered these words as our mantra. Seriously? I wanted to dance. Still, I settled into the savasana that began our practice. My breath deepened until it became “the audible breath of the ocean” that I love. Intentional movement began as I breathed the words, “I am” on the inhale and “still” on the exhale. The thought floated through my mind, “I am not my body. I am still, but my body can dance.” As the flow built upon itself, I closed my eyes much of the time, to feel the dance, not watch the dance. There were moments when my eyes opened reflexively as my body struggled to find its harmonic balance without the aid of my vision. Also, I realized, if the muscles of the face began to clench, my eyes needed to flutter open until they could relax, if harmony I sought.

    In the stillness was the wisdom of the dance. It was the heat of the heartbeat cooled by the rhythm of the breath. It was the opposition between micro adjustments to find balance. It was the graceful transition between stillness and movement on the winds of the breath.

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    I came to do the yoga

    “If you never want to be the silohette you got to find your light” – California by OAR

    I came to do the yoga.

    I didn’t come to do the poses.

    I did the poses most of the time.

    But, sometimes I didn’t.

    Sometimes I flew.

    Sometimes I fell.

    But, isn’t that life?

    In the flights,

    And in the falls,

    Let your light shine.

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    I am a Teacher

    This is me reading to Princess Bean, my honorary granddaughter. It’s interesting that I’ve spent a lifetime nurturing a love of reading in youngsters and continue that legacy with Bean (ETA April 2021), but haven’t really read that many books for myself as an adult.

    In my YTT journey, there is a lot of reading. A lot more reading than I’ve been used to. Sometimes the words flow through my brain like a river, not really seeming to stay (but I know they are filed away somewhere for a time in the future when they will serve me or serve another person when I can share them) and sometimes the words convey an idea that resonates in my very being, bringing me to a full stop and the ideas are emblazoned on my heart and mind.

    As I began my study, one of the first things I read (in the introductory section of Meditations from the Mat, by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison was, “The word ‘educator’ comes from the Latin word, educere, which means to lead forth or draw out.” As a retired principal and teacher, who had desired nothing more in her life since first grade, but to become a teacher, this resonated with me. However, it also created a little anxiety. I wondered, “Am I trying to go backward in life to my place that is comfortable. To my life that I have always lived since I was five, in “school world.” Or, is this truly moving forward?

    As more ideas and information washed over my dendrites, the thought occurred to me that being a teacher did not have to look like standing in a classroom in front of students. Maybe it was in a discussion or a conversation. Possibly I share my heart and mind through writing, allowing the readers to bring thoughts and experiences to the story with my words flowing through their minds. Perhaps some nugget attaches itself and sparks thoughts in another being.

    “A Course in Miracles reveals, ‘To teach is to demonstrate’.”(Gates & Kenison)

    Hmmm… that doesn’t say anything about standing in a classroom.

    To put things in my own words, “To teach is to share.”

    Wow, this idea is a little scary because I don’t know that I always want to share. I once listened to Oprah say that as a child anytime she had something, like even a candy bar, she always wanted to share it with someone because it made her happier than having it all to herself. I can’t say that. I had been taught that it was nice to share and I should share, but deep down, I really wanted the whole thing. It didn’t really bring me joy to give half of it away. (I’m working on that.)

    But, in my perception, knowledge is free flowing and when sharing what I know can support another person on the life journey, it does give me the good feeling.

    I’ve always felt that I could teach anyone anything, as long as it was inside of me. As a child, my elementary teachers nurtured this, as I was often allowed to be the one that could get up out of my seat and assist other students when they needed help. When I was in sixth grade, my teacher selected another student and I to be his assistants to help other kids when he was busy. At the conclusion of the year, as a thank-you, he gave me a comical figurine (undoubtedly a recycled Christmas gift) that said, “World’s Greatest Teacher.” I don’t know whatever happened to it, but the memory lives on.

    I’ve taught kids to read, to count, to sing, to dance, to somersault, to skate, and to float on their backs in the pool. Most of all, I hope I taught them that they matter and can do whatever they set their minds to do. Teaching is making a difference.

    When I first posted online to my friends that I had embarked on YTT, a fellow retired educator commented, “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” At first the comment made me smile and the thought crossed my mind “takes one to know one.” (Will I ever grow up? Probably not.) Then the six words began to resonate with me and I realized she was reflecting my truth. I was a teacher. It reminded me of a time I was in an updated rest area with sensors to operate the faucet at a time when they were unusual. As I washed my hands, I noticed the little girl next to me didn’t understand how to make the faucet work, so I began explaining how to turn the faucet on and how the sensor was like the faucet’s eyes, so you had to show your hands to it so it knew you wanted to wash them. The little girl followed my instructions and happily began washing her hands. A voice from behind a stall asked, “Who are you talking to?” The little girl replied, “A lady. She was helping me.” Her mom emerged and we greeted on another. She commented, “You must be a teacher.” I smiled and replied, “I am.”

    In the version of the Sutras I am reading, near the end, the translator explained how some people are born to be teachers. It’s not enough to know things for themselves, but they want to share what they know. It’s their purpose, their dharma. It is their nature. It’s written in cosmic law.

    So, today’s “ruby slipper” gem for me? I’m a teacher and I’ve known it all along. Am I going backwards to the life of the comfort of the known and the security of the familiar? No. We have the desire to become more of who we are and who we’re destined to be. Yoga is a mirror and we begin to see our true selves in the reflection.

    “Everything in life is pointing us back to our true nature.” – Stephen Cope.

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