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Yoga- Next Chapter

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photo 1I have been joyfully practicing yoga for fifteen months, and am a different person because of this practice. It’s true that I no longer have back pain, can actually hold a plank for several minutes, and can do a headstand (sort of, it would be nice if I could keep my legs together, for the nuns’ sake!) I know more poses than I ever thought I could remember and can actually create a fluid sequence using them. Ah…Vinyasa Yoga…I love it!

A month ago, the studio I belong to (Innerglow at Mashpee Commons) announced a three week Intensive Teacher Training course. The class description says it leads to a deepening of one’s practice and a certification to teach yoga. When I first heard about this offering, I wondered if it might be for me. I’ve been a teacher “of something” all my life; did I want to teach yoga, too? Was I proficient or experienced enough to take this class? Did I need to get into even better shape before embarking on this adventure? Do I want to teach or just live a life with a very open, flexible schedule? So many questions, but I know I feel a driving passion to keep doing yoga.

As is often the case, I must have been ready to learn, and the teachers appeared; Sheryl Light and Michelle Itzkowitz work their magic on me and the six other yogis in our class. For the past three weeks, we have been present, working, thinking, learning, sweating, and laughing 10 to 12 hours per day. I don’t think I’ve ever used so many muscles or thought so much about the connection of breath, mind, and body. Yoga is more than poses and wearing LuluLemon pants. It’s meditation in motion and linking body and breath while clearing the mind of clutter.

In short, this intense class is one of the wisest and kindest acts I’ve done for myself in a very long time. Yes, it is a challenge physically, but also mentally. The physical exercise is only one part of the entire process. Landing on my mat and emptying my mind of chatter, to do lists, real and/or imagined worries, and the urge to find perfection is wicked hard. “Quiet your mind” says the teacher…Then like the shot at the beginning of a race, my mind starts to run…Oh, did I put the clothes in the dryer? Fish or pasta for dinner? Remember to call the vet for Blackie’s test results (he’s fine- don’t worry). Did I lock my car? When are the real estate taxes due? I am learning to listen to these mental interruptions and then release them instead of letting them lease space in my head rent-free.

One by one, I let them go and listen to what a silent mind sounds like. It’s quiet, and all I think about is my breath: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Move my body with my breath, not in opposition to it. Good stuff starts to flow and come together. Then I learn that the word “yoga” means “union” and it all starts to fit together.

At the end of our three-week program, I’m in awe of another “union” that has been created. There are seven of us in class and two teachers. We’ve formed a family of our own. In this short period of time, we have created “siblings by choice.” What a gift this is, and it is completely unexpected on my part. My guts tell me that these women will be good friends for life. Yesterday was our last class together—and graduation. It was bittersweet.

On the mat and off the mat, I notice the lessons learned in this class with these people. In so many ways, it is a gift that keeps on giving. I’m very grateful for it all and will be teaching my first community class on Saturday, August 30(Labor Day Weekend) at 4 PM at Innerglow Studio, Mashpee Commons. The fee is a donation that will be given to Heroes in Transition—a wonderful non-profit that aids veterans by providing appropriate assistance to those with special needs in four key areas:

Home modifications for disabled veterans

Transitional Support Group Therapy

Financial support for service families

Assistance dogs for veterans.

 

Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Portals and Passages WalkDoc July 2014

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Sometimes a walk in the woods is more than a walk in the woods. This week at Highfield Hall/Beebe Woods in Falmouth, MA,  there was an outdoor art exhibit that knocked my socks (and sweater) off. Trees were yarn-bombed with eye catching color and texture.

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They surprised this visitor while traveling up the hill and, like magic, color popped on the sideways and byways– and all of it was hand knit or crocheted. The surprise element worked, and it was delightful.

 

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Of course, the exhibit doesn’t end here, but gave me the incentive to knit some cozies for trees in my own yard.  My daughter Molly’s immediate response: “Do it, Mom! All of them.” Ahhhhh, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree!

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The design, color and texture of the yarnwork on the picture above is my favorite, maybe because it is so unexpected in such a bucolic environment.

 

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The yarnbombing wowed me, but the sea glass fragment house sent me to the moon and back. A zillion pieces of Mother Nature’s worn beauties are linked like jewelry and create a small house. From the outside, it glistens.

 

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From inside, it provides an entirely new perspective to everything around it. My eyes kept having to decide what to focus on: the intricate glass or the altered view of what existed outside of it.

 

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I did think about how much fun it would be to collect and build one of these gems, but after careful consideration, realized that I might want to finish the zillion unfinished projects already in my queue. Maybe not….started to collect pieces already, just saying.

 

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This last portal is a glorious gate created with shells and all kinds of found objects. It was a total surprise on my right as we meandered through Beebe Woods. I love the juxtaposition and the element of surprise. That’s what captured my attention throughout this walk… what a great composition of man made and nature made art. I want to go back again after the storm and see what it looks like.

 

 

 

WalkDoc June 15, 2014

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Cape in Early June WalkDoc

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Bike Path WalkDoc 5/27/2014

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Remainders

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Every once in a while there’s a book that I’m afraid to read, but I know I should read it. Usually they contain some sort of horrible behavior that will give me bad dreams for a long time. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder, is one of those books that I have been avoiding since it was published in 2009.

I had read, totally respected, and enjoyed several other Kidder books: House, Among Schoolchildren, and Mountains Beyond Mountains. What kept me from Strength in What Remains was the story of genocide in Burundi and Rwanda 1994-2008.

I was mistaken in avoiding this book, because although it tells the story of man’s inhumanity to man and the unspeakable atrocities that took place, it is just as much a story of one man’s ability to survive under these horrific circumstances. Deo is this man, and Kidder makes him come alive in every paragraph, every sentence, every picture that the reader creates in his/her mind.

This is a book I could not put down. I started it on Saturday and finished it on Sunday morning. Deo suffers greatly, and yet is able to push through the pain, the misery, the loss of his old life, and the trauma in the new life. The reader sees the battle to survive in war-torn Africa but also sees the desperate struggle to survive in New York City with two hundred dollars in Deo’s pocket, unable to speak English, and vulnerable to every sort of vermin the City has to offer. Both experiences create desperate, debilitating, unforgettable memories that may fade, but never go away. They haunt him like shadows in a darkened hallway forever.

Reading this book certainly put life in perspective for me. It presented struggles that were real and traumatic. It shows hope build and then be dashed. These are stories that were difficult to tell, but needed to be spoken, and most importantly, needed to be heard. Kidder is a wise, articulate, compassionate writer. He tells Deo’s story, and we can’t put it down.

 

Green Sprouts

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Some spring days try to fake me out into thinking it’s summer. That has happened recently. The sun shines brightly on the deck, the chairs look warmed and cozy, and there’s an ever so gentle breeze that bends the trees. It looks like it’s perfect for an afternoon with a book and a lemonade.

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However, once out there, my feet are cold, I need a sweater, and I’m saying “Screw the lemonade, I need some hot black coffee.” So having donned woolen socks and sweater, grabbed a cup of steaming java, I persist in moving the chair around the deck to catch the most direct rays of the sun. Yes, I know, I’m pushing it. Jumping the shark or something like that. But I do long to bask in the sun with a good book… it will happen, just with layers for awhile.

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Today a walk to the beach was truly an aerobic exercise in staying vertical against the wind. It was “refreshing”— ok- it was nippy, and I walked fast because if I stood still, I’d complain more. At WoodNeck, the windsurfers were out in full glory. Sails, black suits, full beards and huge smiles. One energized 60+ year old said the water was 50 degrees and the air was 50 degrees, so that makes it 100. I bitched about nothing after that.

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It’s true that the daffodils have bloomed and the azaleas and forsythia are full color. Periwinkle and all types of short wild flowers have started to open. Spring is really happening, just a little late and a little slower than usual.

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I’ve also noticed that I’ve got a couple of “anniversaries” that are happening right about this time. I’m marking the beginning of my fourth year of retirement from teaching at Bentley University. This is the first year that I was completely unaware of semesters, final exams and last day of classes. I’m having a blast doing exactly what I want, when I want to. The freedom is exhilarating and my list of “want to do’s” grows each day—in a good way. I’ve had the opportunity to read from my stacks of collected books as well as raid the library for some unexpected delights. I love the lack of curriculum and the full range of opportunities.

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On a similar note, I’m celebrating my second blogiversary of http://www.yarnsista.com. Two years of writing generated 99 posts, almost 6000 views and a tremendous amount of fun and satisfaction for me. It’s a place where I can write about my passions: the Cape, my life, my books, my fun with fiber and anything else that captures my attention. Taking photographs has been a new skill to work on. The iPhone camera is a blessing. It makes learning by trial and error plus lots of practice very attainable.

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I also just celebrated my first year of doing yoga. Now that is a very big deal. With the help of many compassionate, wise teachers, I have begun my practice and continue to expand it. My back no longer hurts me; I can move without aches and pain; I’ve lost weight and am much healthier than ever. All of this is exceptionally good news because I’m about half way to 122 years old, and I’d like to be flexible and balanced right up to the last breath. Three yoga classes and one Pilates class per week should help me get there.

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So all of this spring/rebirth/new growth stuff is working. I have no complaints and am looking forward to it all. Life is good.

 

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