Love Letter to a Dying Friend

Dear Danielle,

You have been the Roman to my Greek, the Aurelius to my Aristotle, the Archaeologist to my Philosopher, the arrow on my tilt-a-whirl. The dry ground to my faucet.

We’ve each given up so much, had so much taken, let so much go by; but all that together is nothing in proportion to what we’ve been given and what we’ve created. You were the first person who seemed to get all there was that was unsayable, unwordable, but true. I wish I could’ve given it all words for both of us at the end, but I’m still the Greek Philosopher on a tilt-a-whirl around the Divine and you will always be the Roman Archaeologist pointing to your beloved cemetery.

Now, you’ve got all the permits and all the time in the world…. send me some postcards. I’ll be here twirling. I hope you find what you’re looking for on this dig. Love, Christine

Addendum: Love letter to a dying friend

Sadness. My best friend from graduate school was diagnosed with a rare variant of leukemia more than three years ago. She fought hard, was placed on palliative care in the last several months.

When I got home from work Saturday morning my husband  told me to call her. He’d received a call during the prior night, it might be too late. I called, she told me it was our last chance to talk. I don’t know if she was planning or not, if she knew or not. We were both raised Catholic – Irish Catholic. But we were both Classicists, too.

She wanted me to say something, to tell her something, to give her something I didn’t have to give her. She wanted me to tell her a story, to play a part that wasn’t mine. Absolution, apology, a passion play.

I could hear the oxygen running, I could hear the Morphine in her voice.  I could hear the little girl she once was and always had had in her heart. I wish I could’ve held her hand again. I don’t have much to give a dying woman, I’m not sure who does. But I wish I could’ve given her that. I would’ve given her anything mine to give.

But there is no way to cross countries in seconds, there is no way to rewind clocks. There is no way to redo bone marrow transplants that don’t work, change who we are, where we we’ve been and what we have & haven’t learned.

There is only now, the oxygen, the morphine and my love for her. My love for her is every now, every then, daughter to the Big Love. It contains my sadness and my grief, her need. It contains the answer. I just can’t find it right now.

I love you, Danielle. Whenever you are.


 Rhythm, Persistence, Patience.

That pretty much sums up my favorite of Patanjali’s yoga Sutras: II.47

“Yoga pose is mastered

by relaxation of effort,

lessening the tendency

for restless breathing,

and promoting an identification

of oneself as living


the infinite breath of life.”

     ~tr. Stiles

Ah, the infinite breath of life!

New Yoga Teacher Podcast

Yay! just want to spread the word: Elsie and Hillary have a new podcast chat about teaching:  Yes, it rocks. You should go listen to it!

Growing Pains and Milestones

I’m a great believer in celebrating small everyday milestones and delights, as well as acknowledging the embarrassing and unexpectedly awkard moments along the way.  Usually, I find unexpected events contain blessings I wasn’t smart enough to ask for for myself, but sometimes that has to be unearthed from feelings of being out of control, not measuring up or having let someone down – perhaps the three biggest causes of embarrassment I can think of right now. Sometimes it’s so tempting to turn away and hope either no one else noticed or that they noticed but didn’t realize it was your responsibility. Of course, this temptation is so foolish, in the deepest sense of that word, because the information is locked in your soul, wearing away at your sense of self, building a false one and keeping you from your best.

So, the celebration? I had my biggest class ever last night! 12 people! I know, it doesn’t sound like Carnegie hall, but it’s so different from having four or five people.  I’m excited by but not yet comfortable with so many students, being used to giving very individualized attention, expanding my awareness to include so much movment, so many moments, so many levels was a great challenge. 

After class I realized my yoga pants have a hole in the butt.

What a comedown.

Maybe no one else  saw?

Yeah, right.

But that was just one of those “C’est la vie!” moments – what can you do? Class is over & no one keeled over as a result of seeing my butt. Well, there was that one woman falling in Trikonasana…? just kidding 🙂

Adjustments are so intimate, the hands on ones especially. There is something of a May-December romance about them… “Here, try putting pressure just there… how does that feel?” There’s a sense of trust and vulnerability on both parts. Obviously the student is trusting the teacher to know what they’re doing and have caring intentions. The teacher, too, has to have watched the student enough to know how much they are attuned to their own body, to know how deeply their connection to their own embodiment reaches, and not to work more deeply than the student is prepared to respond.

I wanted to crawl under my mat Tuesday evening when I assisted a student in falling awkardly from a headstand attempt.  Well, to say I assisted the fall is to assume too much control. We were both surprised by the fall, and while I had the presence of mind to go with and settle her in balasana after she was down (unhurt, thank goodness!), she was shaken and I was mortified. What kind of teacher am I that she would fall while I was assisting her!

Well, of course, that would be the human kind. How many times did I fall when “assisting” myself into headstand? How many times have I fallen since supposedly mastering it, because I was either unattentive or trying something new? (my latest experiment is pressing up into handstand from it…. that’ll be a while 🙂

Now, I did learn that there’s a difference between asking someone to press their leg down into your hand and actually specifying that they should keep it straight while doing so, which I will do in the future. Moreso, I learned a little bit of what to look for in someone who is really ready to go upside down. Before we did it she told me she never had before. After, she told me the experience frightened her. It challenged me deeply to be steady and let her own this information about herself and integrate it in her own time. On my own part, I’m integrating what I’m learning about observing students’ readiness and emotions.

My own teacher has recently had t-shirts printed with her favorite translation of Sutra 1.2 (yogah citta vrttti nirodha): “Don’t believe everything you think.” These awkward falling times are such a rich ground in which to plant this wisdom: what was I thinking during that disturbing experience? is it something I believe? is it accurate? does believing it draw me closer to the person I want to become?  Does realizing I believe it make me feel the same way as finding out too late I have a hole in my pants?


People often remark on how different my career appears to be from my training. Graduate Student in Philosophy to Paramedic and Yoga Teacher. It couldn’t make more sense to me, but I get why it seems so odd to others.

The thing is, I’m not sure how I’d survive as a medic without my training as a philosopher. The things we see, the situations and injuries and pain and loss and waste and depravity… you have to make sense of them somehow. My training as a philosopher is my touchstone for that.

This week I’m wondering about forgiveness. Things that happen in my patients’ lives invariably make me wonder about mine and those of the people I love. Is there anything beyond forgiveness? Is the unforgivable possible?

Even if the answer to this is “no” – as I think it must be based on the existence of people who’ve forgiven their own torturers, rapists, murderers of their loved ones, –  should everything be forgiven?Are there some things in front of which we must draw a line in the sand? Something to seperate these particularly degrading acts from the even marginally acceptable, to scream “NO!” some things won’t be forgiven?

And then I go back to the examples of people from the various holocausts of history, people who forgave other people who took everything from them – not just took what was prescious, but defiled it. Those who forgive usually say they did it for themselves, for the future, and to keep the same awful things from happening again.

Because it’s that pure impulse in to say “NO!” that can warp into its very opposite, morph into the very thing you’re trying to draw a line against. You push so hard against something you’ve made out to be the other that you fall into it’s soft belly and get digested there, become it without your even noticing.

But perhaps we’re each supposed to be at different stages of forgiveness all the time. If we’re all refracted luminescences of Spirit, perhaps we need each other in our various stages of grief and forgiveness and peace so that someone, somewhere is drawing a line, someone else is crossing it with open arms of peace, and someone else is just sitting on it crying. Perhaps together we all express the truth of it. Perhaps together we are beautiful.

Gratitude Activates Life

On the PRI Radio program Human Kind ( this morning, they interviewed some extraordinary  people on the practice of gratitude. One, Brother Rast, made an ontological statement that really struck me deeply:

Gratitude activates life.

One of deep quests allowed by the abundance of our Modern lifestyle is the quest to find and embrace what makes a life lived well different from a life of drudgery, and it’s clear from our modern lifestyle that the answer isn’t money, it isn’t access to resources and it isn’t busyness.

It may have more to do with individual recognition of our access to resources, and this may indeed have a lot to do with gratefulness for what we have in our immediate environment. Perhaps this does activate a peace that allows for openness that allows for expanding our vision and recognizing all that is around us, all that is open to us, everything available for our care and interaction.

 Things I am grateful for right now….

my lovely, loving dogs

my wonderful, amazing husband

my messy house

all the unfolded laundry and the washer & dryer

the internet

yoga, my body, my mat, my studio

all the books

the radio and the people at PRI & NPR

Marva, my IPod & the podcasters

being a paramedic, my partner, my equipment, drugs and the whole system that allows us to bring help to people in need, even the radios that are driving us crazy right now

the amazing people I work with

my garden, the overabundance of sunflowers, cosmos, roses, bachelors buttons, the bees on the oregeno, poppies, the tomatoes that are coming, the basil growing with them


the bathtub, and the water to fill it and the heater to make it oh so lobster pot hot – and the luscious bubble bath

the kitchen, the food, the time to prepare it

filtered water

jasmine green tea

………………………… and the ability to feel full, to find peace in emptiness and to put this into words.

What’s one thing you’re grateful for right now? Leave it in a comment… or go back & blog it! Most of all feel it, notice it… how does  it make you feel?

Camel Contentment

Been doing more doing than writing lately, but a lot of the doing has been exploring Ustrasana – camel pose. The one thing that’s clear is that the more I play with it – gently, respectfully – the more the sensations and emotions change. Or perhaps it’s my perception of the sensation that’s changing the emotion.

The original emotion was overwhelming fear. I now look forward to this asana, and usually end up with a pleasurable lightheaded feeling afterward.

I’ve also played with a lot of preparation. I prepare by playing with a lot of other backbends and twists, lengthening gently my quads, pecs, abs, warming up my knees. At first I cried a lot after coming out of this pose at home during my private practice. Not about anything really, just wordless tears.

It was during one of these times I remembered a quote I recorded from Mukunda Stiles when I took the workshop:

“There is nothing to do except to watch your reactions to your situation. From this comes samtosha, contentment.”

So I applied this meditative stance to my fear, my crying, my distress. When the crying was over, my distress had dissolved. And I’d learned a lot about contentment.

Backwards Under the Top

What is your favorite backbending asana and did you work to find yourself in it, or was it always natural to you? Leave me your thoughts in a comment, please.

I love backbends becuase they work with the deep structure of the body so organically: it’s just because they’re incredible back strengtheners that they’re powerful chest stretches and heart openers. The reason is just that the back of the chest is only the front of the back & visa versa. The forms invite us to explore the non-duality of our own bodies and to play with how we meet ourselves.

My current fave is Natarajasana, Dancing King Pose. At one time, I thought this was the most advanced pose I could imagine and couldn’t see my Self in it. Now, I enjoy the play of forces, compressions and taughtness that allow me to fly… until I fall again 🙂 which is ok too. There’s a lot of freedom in falling, and information if you stay conscious during the process.

Next week, the classes I teach will be organized around backbending poses (never fear! (an instruction on its own) we will end with inversions and you can work on headstands Vanessa and Dave!) Because backbends really do work on whole body integration we will be warming up every part of the body gently so that we can burst forth into bloom from a steady seat, enjoy the sweet blossoming.  Happy yoga!

camel terror

English: Dromedary camel in outback Australia,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve been attending Bikram yoga classes now for a week and, much to my surprise, really enjoying them. I am fascinated with all the emotion churning up and know from experience that some of this happens with each yoga pose when fully engaged. However, the intensity is, well, intense.


Most of it is palatable and not undiscovered territory. However, the abject fear I feel in camel is suprising to me. Because of it I back off a bit, focus on my breath. Today in class, the teacher mentioned that this is normal. Now, for me at least, it’s not a situational fear: I’m not afraid of falling back or anything. It’s primal, abject, ontological, objectless terror. I feel like I’m in a horror movie when I come up & look in the mirror.


I surmise this has something to do with third chakra opening. The third chakra, where we process raw materials and the focus is on getting our needs met. Perhaps even the integration of the first three. But I haven’t found anywhere where anyone’s written about this emotion specifically with this asana.


Teacher also mentioned that some of its effects come from the compression of the kidneys and adrenals. This could have something to do with it. But again, nothing found in references.


Does anyone else have this experience? Has anyone dissolved this experience – by that I mean, did you used to have it and now experience something else (maybe even bliss?) in camel?


Just wondering. I guess the universality, while intriguing, is practically meaningless. The point, really, is to be present with what arises and remain clear enough to notice that it changes. But I’m still curious…. leave me a comment about your camel experience, please:)