Changing practice

Combat boots are very popular for women to wea...

Mine zip up the sides so I can keep ’em tied. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I write this, I’m sitting on my balance ball in my yoga room/office next to my hula hoop in BDUs, combat boots and a yoga top. There’s a pair of trauma shears in my pocket and a carpuject device, all just in case I’m called in, and a blue tooth in my ear to take that call if it comes. Right now, I’m writing. If I’m called in, I’ll be medic-ing. I’ve come to think of all my identities as verbs so they don’t feel so heavy.

I’ve also begun the process of negotiating those identities. Being a Paramedic was once a dream so intense it burned the grad student right out of me. No longer a dream, Paramedic-ing is one of my awesome realities, all of which inspire in me gape-mouthed breathless devotion at my good fortune and the amazing opportunities put in my path. And the larger reality is this: for the first time in my life I have more awesome than I can do justice to.

I used to work hard to quit stuff because it sucked – cigarettes, coffee (I’ve stopped stopping that), snarkiness (always a struggle, cause it’s just so fun), late nights, drinking too much, that kind of stuff. And in the process I learned that working hard against things usually keeps them in my life (does it work that way for you, too?) That it was a matter of choosing away from them, not against them that helped them fade into the fuzziness and golden light of good stories. The difference is to choose something awesomer than you think the old thing will feel if you do it right now, just one more time, because it looks so shiny and sexy and real.

Now I find that I have so many amazing choices for how to spend my days that I constantly feel like “not enough.”  I’d tell you I don’t understand people who complain of boredom, but really that’s just another way of bragging about busy-ness <yawn> and I’m choosing away from busy-ness. I am too busy, but I’m not going to tell you about it when I call to ask you to do something for me – because I know you probably are, too. Or remember having been, and know it’s a choice. Anddo understand boredom. It’s the feeling I get when I don’t want to do what’s in front of me (Is it that way for you, as well?). And I also understand choices.

So I’ve realized that for the past several years I’ve been choosing away from Paramedicine, but not because it sucks, but because there is so much to do, to tell, to love and to give. I love what I do when I go out in uniform and go places with my partner that someone in a room somewhere else tells us to go just because some other person called and asked for help. I love walking into a 26A that turns out to be 10D (fill “ho-hum” in the first slot and “do something now” in the latter), I love listening to people’s stories about why they need help, and I love finding the kernel of what I can actually help with in their story. I love sirens (when I’m working, not when I’m not) and opposing traffic and getting a nasal tube and chest darts and trans-cutaneous pacing and chasing your life faster than overlapping pathologies can. I love a good trauma because it lets me and people I work and train with do what we train to do, and when we’re good all at once, it’s most certain access to flow, to presence and to grace.

But (you knew there was one, right?) I’m realizing how much I love the life that I’ve woken up to realize I’ve  created: one of writing and coaching and teaching that creates quiet and flow and grace without sirens and chasing lives. And last year, while we lived in Silicon Valley for the hubs’ career and I took a break, I realized the UN-think-able: I can live without them. Yeah, I’ll just let that settle in, ’cause it took a while for me, too. I. Can. Live. … Without sirens and do-it-now.

CRazY. “Crazy!” I tell you! And here I have been, trying to craft a calendar, a schedule, a mind, a life that let’s me encompass the whole big, badass mess of my identities and activities. Tuesday will be my day on the streets; Mondays I’ll tend to accounts and licenses and the paperwork of business; Wednesdays I’ll work on the book and the launch; Thursdays and Fridays I’ll write for other awesome people because they treat me awesome and give me lovely things to do. Oh, and pay me pretty nicely. I’ll be sure to take weekends off to re-charge the ol’ creative battery and tend to that crazily amazing hubs and our groove, and to practice yoga and meditation every day (I’ll just slip it in between the this and the that), hike a lot (gotta enjoy the new hip) and enjoy the hot springs I longed for like a 13-year-old boy longs for real experience all last year when we were in Hippy Disneyland.

And Danielle LaPorte is right: Balance doesn’t exist. I wasn’t balanced when I was learning to be a Paramedic and holding onto it isn’t balancing me – it’s tipping me right over. Of all the -ings I’m embracing, it contributes the least to the life I’m creating. One of these things no longer fits with the other things. Not because other people don’t see how elegantly they go together (they did for oh-so-long), but because the life that feeds the -ings is no longer aligned with everything it takes to do that thing: the continuing education, the getting into and out of uniform (Hint: it’s more than putting on and taking off clothes), the never knowing when a shift will really end or how many nights I’ll dream of that man, that woman, the old couple saying goodbye, or the baby not crying when he should be. [I once knew a medic who said he didn’t do that (remember, get moved by). He wasn’t a very good person.]

So this morning I rose extra early to get my practice in before I went on call, just in case. Today’s my last day on duty, on call, on the hook, in the bus, my last day “just in case.” From now on, my life is not “just in case.” My life is for the burning fire of creativity and words and serving in another, a different, a new way. I’m choosing away from “just in case” and toward definitely here. I’m choosing away from “fitting it in” toward placing it carefully. I’m letting something awesome go so I can grab the awesome right in front of me with both arms. My practice is changing. I’ll tell you how it goes.

Yoga: The Prophylactic for Your Inner Weiner (Part 2)

Sigmund Freud in a Slip

Image by Loz Flowers via Flickr

continued from yesterday’s Part 1…. Why is it that when we fail our commitments and the very relationships that give our lives shape and substance, we lead with this seeming revelation: I’ve not been honest with myself”? In an attempt to turn a relational failure into a personal tragedy, we seem to take full and total responsibility. After all, he did say he’d made mistakes, hurt lots of people, he even named classes of them. All the while he abdicated his ownership of those very consequences and his own intentions.  The lead phrase might as well say: “But the real tragedy is my lack of self-knowledge, some deep inner turmoil which allowed me to be non-transparent to even myself!” (cue collective hand to mouth gasp and cluck.)
Welcome to the human race. Seriously, this isn’t any personal tragedy or deep, intimate secret; this is what The Bible called original sin, Freud called the unconscious and the Sutras call the vacillations of the mind. Get real. This is no more revelatory than saying “I screwed up.” So what’s all this got to do with yoga as a prophylactic? I mean, if yoga teachers fall prey to the grand scandals and transient peccadilloes of  the oh so maligned politicians, then isn’t this evidence that yoga doesn’t work to make us purer, better, nicer and truer?
No. See comment regarding The Bible, Freud and Sutras. If you’re going to yoga class expecting to be relieved of the maladies of being human, you’re in for a serious disillusionment: whether it happens when your teacher propositions you, underpays you or simply unloads on you, or maybe you find yourself propositioning your teacher, underpaying and unloading on your staff, you’ll come to a crisis of confidence in yoga, in your practice, in your teacher, in your ability to be purified, cleansed or saved.

But here’s the deal: yoga doesn’t save us from us from our bodies, our desires, our pasts or our possibilities. It makes them all that and more so. It makes the body more of what it was born to be, our desires grow and morph and take different forms, but they still grow from the same needs and truths and until those are acknowledged, those desires aren’t going away with your copious sweat. Our pasts and possibilities will always be inextricably linked and bound by the truths we bury or reveal in them, and no amount of twisting, dandelion cleanses, inverting or sweating is going to change their content. continued tomorrow… in part 3.

Yoga: The Prophylactic for Your Inner Weiner (Part 1)

Yogi's Ark Lark

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A week and a half later, the Weinergate jokes run their course and our fascination wanes (if we ever sustained one) … until of course the next installment or revelation. Or the next Weiner. And let’s own up, the next Weiner could be a yogi.

Go ahead and search on “yoga teacher sex scandal,” I’ll wait til you get back. If you didn’t think those words went together, you’ll probably gasp before you giggle at the titles: “Chakra full of scandal,” “Yogis behaving badly” and the titles go on. What allows someone who willingly takes a mantle of leadership to abuse the trust of those they purport to serve?

Politicians may seem a breed apart from famous (or not-so-famous) yoga teachers: so much more glad-handy, duplicitous and mendacious. So much more malleable and less principled, right? But this quote could have come from any of the yoga teachers I’ve ever taken, talked to or practiced alongside (okay, maybe minus “the media” and sub “students” for “constituents”):

“I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends and supporters, and the media.”

Just prior to this he admits to “terrible mistakes” and “hurting” significant people in his life. Just after, he details that what was meant as a “private” direct message was accidentally posted publicly. I want to focus on the lead-in, the part you could almost act as if you hadn’t heard, the part that almost might seem to make the others excusable: “I have not been honest with myself…” 

(continued…. tomorrow….)

Online Yoga to Support Your Practice

Ushtrasana yoga pose

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“you. YOU are the yoga.

simple fact.”

I love Bindi Fry’s latest post about practice, grasping and surrender (my take, not her words) from which this quote hails. Short story: home practice is where the magic happens. Home practice is where the yoga happens. Want to know what “yoga” is besides “just the asana“? Engage your own home practice. Your habits, your loves, your obsessions, your truth, your hiding , your obstacles and games, your beauty: all there. Seriously, go get it, cause it’s there on the mat when you roll it out every day on your own.

Now, the best of this occurs when you’re in a self-guided practice, meaning you either have a practice that’s been given to you or you follow your body on the mat.

But among the many “dirty little secrets” of yoga teachers that we learn after teacher training aren’t so dirty and aren’t so secret is that sometimes we’re tight on time, and sometimes it’s just luscious to have someone else give the cues, and sometimes we could use some motivational oomph.

When I’m crunched on time, want a “class” and am seeking inspiration, a reminder of Beauty, an invitation to Love and a beckoning of the Truth, I have a couple of websites that are my rock solid go-to’s. One is Harmony’s Well and another for private lessons is Now Lesson. For quick classes from yogalebrities, I go to And today they have this great giveaway! A Camel Cushion from Halfmoon Yoga Props. All you have to do is leave a comment about how you increase chest and back flexibility. Here’s mine:

My shoulders are my limiting factor, and I use this preparatory move I’ve heard called the ‘Windmill’: Prone, extend hands directly out from shoulders, palm down. Bend right elbow, tenting fingers in near right shoulder, using this only to stabilize your roll. Start rolling your right side up by engaging the core, feeling the stretch across the front of your left chest and shoulder. As you are comfortable and not before, you can reach the right hand back towards the left, bring the right leg behind the left, all to deepen the stretch.

Head over and leave yours and maybe you’ll have a new yoga prop to beckon you to the mat!

Change and Consequences

Evolution is change 3

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Hard and soft ways to react to our experiences and hold our bodies fascinate me. One of the ways that yoga has unbiddenly shaped me is to open my eyes to all the ways I’ve hardened my own body, mind and heart and so clear a path for their softening.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been listening to some sparklingly generous Yoga Teacher Teleseminars coordinated and hosted by Tal Rachleff. Several of the teachers have been influenced by a method of life coaching associated with The Handel Group. My takeaway from listening to these teachers is that the “Method” includes writing down our mental chatter (love this, and has roots in so many traditions – more on that in another post), stating our dreams in increasingly precise, positive, present sentences and crafting plans for realizing these states of affairs. One of the surprising and innovative strategies is deciding on effective, targeted, meaningful consequences for not executing on these plans. This consequence stuff really did shock me on first hearing, and so I’ve been turning it over in my mind. On first blush it seemed so harsh, and felt like my first Ashtanga teacher who was of the ‘pain is a sign you’re on the right path’ school. On second blush it seemed so elegant and logical. My mental chatter kept bouncing from these walls. Time to get writing.

The idea, again – as I understand it, is that after you’re clear about your desire, dream and goal you break it down into steps and then decide on an action you can take right now, and do it. Very cool structure because it allows infinite fine-tuning, tweaking and considered transformation. But this adds the sentence, “And if I don’t xyz, then I’ll ….”

And then I wondered: “If I don’t xyz, then why on earth would I …???” Right? Maybe I didn’t put it on my schedule and forgot. So then, what’s to remind me of the consequence? Maybe I avoided it because it brings up discomfiting emotions. Does the consequence have to be even more discomfiting? That sucks.

My commitment was to write down my mental chatter during my morning practice. The first morning, when I got up, there was no time left for my practice. As my mind twisted around to figure out how I was going to get my pedi in that day, it dawned on me that it was my chosen consequence to forgo it. Makes sense: no time for practice, no time for pedi. Cool, this is working. I felt grown up and responsible and very, very good. Odd for someone who missed practice this morning.

I totally forgot to write the second morning. I got there on the mat, I did my usual do, and phewt! Even though I’d gotten a special journal and put it next to the mat, I totally didn’t pick up the lovely turquoise pen. Not once. Shows me how much the chatter didn’t want to be written down!

And that’s when I realized the most important component of consequences for me. While I concocted consequences for my lapses of integrity, there was an essential component for them to work, and when it’s in place, the real consequences are natural. Awareness is both the cause and the effect, and because it’s a circular relationship, it is facilitated in the context of a modern, busy life by some kind of an accountability partner. Once awareness is achieved, the presence or absence of a monetary or treat or physical consequence may or not be valuable for other reasons (for instance, if you’re a parent, it can be a great teaching tool to create these agreements for yourself in the family to show the reality of consequences to our actions) the real transformation happens in the “Aha!” moment of realizing what you’ve done and cutting through your own bullshit. The consequence is missing out on the value of what you’d promised to do. The real consequence happens when you come to the end of practice and realize you’ve not written a single word, and yet the chatter was nearly deafening. The light that turns on, really stays on.

Always looking for softer ways of doing what was once hard for me – difficult, effort-full, will-full and imposed – this truly appeals to me. I’m still turning over the value of these concocted consequences, but am more convinced than ever of the value of writing our selves down. The consequences that matter most to me are the ones I don’t manufacture but are imposed by the structure of the activity itself: I really wanted the feeling of having gotten that practice. I’m deeply curious about what would have gotten spilled in my journal that morning had I had the extra ounce of awareness to put pen to paper. And I haven’t missed a practice since. I’m not sure I’ll ever get on a mat without pen and paper nearby again, this has been so fruitful. Now it’s time for my pedicure.

It All Comes Around

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Here we are again. If you’re new to my blogging, that might not make sense yet. I’m not claiming any sort of karmic or dharmic deja-anything. This was my first blog that’s still up and running, and now they’re all consolidated and unified here in one place, and I’ve come back home.

We started here as a fledgling way to share class plans, back when I was volunteering at the Senior Center – shout out to the North Valley crowd! I migrated to when I thought I was getting more ‘expert’ – whatever that meant. And I migrated again to when I got ‘professional.’

Well, I’m bringing it all back home because I’m claiming what I’ve been and what yoga’s been to me all along: Love, Truth and Beauty. We’ll talk more about all that in blogs to come. For now, Welcome. I’d love to hear your take: What does the phrase “Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now” mean to you? It’s big, isn’t it? And it’s immediate. And it’s complete. In all its glorious imperfection.


Yoga allowed me to re-imagine myself.

I realized this today practicing with one of my old faves, Shiva Rae’s Solar Practice CD from 1999. It was one of my first home practice guides, and even today when I need another voice in my head, someone else’s metaphors and images to bring freshness to my Warrior, I slide this one into the player.

And I realized, her metaphors became my own. Her voice helped me re-imagine my body and re-connect to the way I related to my body when I was a girl. I remember squinting my eyes to make haloes and fireworks as I balanced my arm, perpendicular to the earth in its socket, so perfectly that I could imagine it wasn’t mine. It stood there on its own. And I was the earth.

And when Shiva Rae used the metaphor of “wings” for the shoulder blades today (well, the recorded sound of her voice…) I realized, that was the first time I re-imagined my body as an adult. Imagined it wasn’t set in stone as it sometimes felt, or in mud or even bound in cotton as it sometimes felt I was insulated from the world. That my body could become a conduit for energy and images and power. That I could live differently.

I had just delivered my last academic paper about a year before when I was practicing with this CD for the first time: Metaphor as the structure of Truth. Having received much interest, many plaudits and requests for reprints and further investigation, I vanished to the desert. My name had changed (returned to home), my profession, my location, my possessions (mostly left behind), and I had some radical re-imagining to do. I didn’t know it at the time (I had come here to be a Paramedic) but yoga would be the vehicle for my to realize the deep truth of that last talk. And Shiva Rea’s voice would plant a seed in my heart, a seed of wings and of roots.

The structure of metaphor is a container and yoga helps us explore how we contain our breath, and so how we express our meanings and truths. I still believe the basic tenants of that last talk, that sentences are derivatively true, that when we seek truth we are never ultimately looking for statements and that what makes statements true are neither facts nor objects nor worlds but states of consciousness.  Yoga helped me not only realize the truth of what I discovered, but to re-imagine it and myself in ever more revealing ways. That’s why I practice yoga. Every Day.