You know that bumper-sticker cliché about life being about the journey and not the destination?
Let's substitute "Yoga" for "Life."
With the Instagramification of pretty much everything, especially Yoga, it's easy to think that the finished, filtered version is the point. But prioritizing the pose over the process results in a one-dimensional perspective that applauds the moment of achievement and turns the practitioner into a performer.
What if, instead of prioritizing postures, an equal amount of attention and airtime was devoted to the process of entering into and coming out of an asana? Rather than your yoga practice being a sequence of poses that build to a peak and end with a nap, what if you considered each pose as a complete practice that moves through the natural cycle of birth, growth, death, and regeneration? How would imagining Yoga as a continuous spiral towards center, essence, Source shift your practice, your life?
From this perspective, each asana, like Whitman's famous grain of sand in which we can "see infinity" is a whole practice unto itself. From this perspective, each asana becomes less about achieving and more about receiving. Balancing on the backs of your arms becomes less about "look what I can do!" and more about "what can I do?" Nothing to do with perfection and everything to do with presence.
Let's be clear: this is not a call to abandon asana altogether; it is form that gives shape to feeling and function. Orientation whether towards a pose or a point B, gives a sense of purpose and, when coupled with clear intention, propels us onward, especially when challenges arise.
Without a clear vision to guide us, we risk forever saluting the sun without ever experiencing our inner light. Asana is one of many tools that, when engaged with clear intention and skillful implementation, can reveal the radiance within. Like any tool, the value is not in the thing itself but in how you use it and why.
Instead, this month’s love letter is an appeal to explore an approach to Yoga (also Life) that celebrates equally the journey and the destination. It's an inquiry into the ways that we hold tight to a fixed, idealized image when letting go opens us to following a fluid vision. It's a recognition that we are all in process and a reminder to see beyond the pose and remember that Yoga is a practice.
And finally, it's an invitation to join us this month as we celebrate our first birthday in our space. In addition to remembering all the steps we've taken together to build this beautiful community, we'll be sharing glimpses of the next phase of our evolution as we grow into the vision that has guided Mytree from the beginning. Because, as much as Mytree Yoga is a space, it's also a process that we as individuals and a community practice what it means to live yoga and love life.
The most amazing thing is happening as I sit on the couch, digging deep to find the inspiration to write something meaningful to you. My kids are also sitting on the couch, books in hand, quietly reading. Each of us in pajamas, still sleepy from last night's farewell dinner for dear friends, quietly absorbed in peaceful reflection, seeking nothing and simply enjoying a Saturday morning.
Let me be super clear: this is not normal behavior in our home. But this rare moment is a very welcome respite from the usual busyness of our quotidian lives, full of activity and noise and movement and messes and conflict and go-go-go. And my practice is simply to notice that it's happening, appreciate it, and then, and this is hardest part for me, let it pass and welcome the next inevitable moment when the kids realize they are starving.
What happens next tends to go one of two ways and depends entirely on my mindset: if I'm holding onto those silent, serene seconds on the couch, I'll ignore the grumbling tummies until I've got two ravenous beasts raging at me and each other and I'm left feeling resentful, enraged, and exhausted before I've even entered the kitchen.
I'll set aside this task and turn my attention to what needs it most right now: slicing strawberries and sipping tea.
This is not a major issue, obviously, and yet, it's these little interactions that make the day. How we attend to our basic needs and obligations to ourselves and each other determines the quality of our relationships and ultimately, our lives.
Every moment offers a choice, and so the minutes and the days and the months pass in this continuous dance of awareness and acceptance, ignorance and resistance. As a perpetual beginner experiencing a stage in life that feels particularly full of responsibility, this focus on being response-able lightens the load of duties that come with being a householder and puts into perspective the incredible fortune and freedom that I do enjoy in my blessed life.
This month, let's practice presencing peaceful moments, appreciating them for what they are, and releasing them with grace. Let's trade responsibility for responsiveness, attending to ourselves and each other with love and kindness. And when we find ourselves holding on to the past or projecting into the future, let's pause and begin again.
Nine Mays ago, I became a mother. Isla Luce was born on the first day the sun peeked through three solid weeks of rain. True to her arrival and her name, she became the light of our lives. The mother love I felt--nurtured through the longest days of postpartum and sweetest moments of connection--opened me to a whole new way of being in the world in which my heart beat to two distinct rhythms.
While pregnant with our second child three years later, I wondered, worried even, how I would manage not only to care for another being, but to love another child as much. And of course, when Maverick launched into the world, he earned his own special rhythm and territory in my heart. It comes with protective gear and quick reflexes.
As much as it sounds like it, this is not some sappy love story about how much I love my kids. I do. And they also drive me insane no less than seven times a day. Hence the daily yoga practice and LOTS of deep exhales.
What this is about is how I learned that our capacity to love is much greater than we may think it is. Becoming a mother not once, but twice, has given me a zillion gray hairs and the faith that my heart will expand to embrace all kinds of loves.
When we were first falling in love, my husband and I would say to each other, "One." As in, one love. Two decades and two kids later (let's not forget the dog), it's pretty clear that there are many loves. And that there are many ways to love. And part of our journey is discovering and evolving how we love.
Amidst all this living and loving, really at the center of it, is the most epic love story of all: our own. Which, of course, is the blueprint for ALL of our other love stories. Loving ourselves well teaches us to love others. And I would contend that loving others is good practice for loving ourselves. Until I became a mother, I'd never considered self-love as anything more than a concept. And then, it became a survival skill.
Now, it's emerging as a mission for myself and as my work in the world to support others in living and loving well. This month, you'll notice we're expanding our offerings, especially "off the mat." Like our hearts, Mytree embraces new ways of practicing the principles of maitri. Because treating ourselves with unconditional friendliness and lovingkindness supports us to do the same with others, thus increasing our capacity for love.
In this way, like a pebble dropped in a lake, may the ripple effect of your explorations of the many ways to live yoga and love life bring blessings and benefits to your Beloveds and well beyond.
What have you come to receive? What have you come to give?Seven years after being invited to consider that, as a student in a workshop I was there not only to receive the teachings, but to contribute something to the experience, this precious inquiry continues to inform and inspire me.
It reminds me of what my mom used to say before we went to a party: "remember that you are here to give." Early this morning, with the self-imposed deadline of sending this to you today, I am struggling to write.
Feeling blocked by the collective tiredness of a busy month, the pressure to produce, and the loop of "not enough ness," I wrote:
What is in my heart now? What can I possibly offer?
At this very moment, 5:36 am Monday morning, I don't feel like I've got a whole lot. And you know what? It's ok. In fact, after a super-scheduled month, my energy reserves are low. I can hear now my dear friend Adele saying with a smile and a wink: "So, you are not Superwoman?"
No, indeed. I am not Superwoman.
And yet, I always have something to give. Today, it's simply my attention. This moment when I am writing and thinking of you reading this. When we are connected through space and time, sharing nothing more, nothing less than our presence. Actually, what is more precious than presence?
And in our digitally-distracted, hyper-active, over-stimulated, under-nourished culture, bringing your whole attention to a single moment is no small effort. In fact, it feels like the biggest challenge for me and therefore is the heart of my practice.
And right now, with birdsong in the background, my cushion calls, asking me to please pay attention. To honor this sacred time with myself. To offer my devotion and dedication, and in exchange, to receive the sense of being at home that comes when I sit and breathe and move and pray and practice presence.
So, I send this out to you with love and gratitude for receiving what we are offering at Mytree and for all that you are giving to support and sustain our blessedly ordinary human community.
Today marks the one year anniversary of what I call the “getting off the fence” phase of my life. Though a number of personal, and likely planetary, factors aligned to create the conditions for a year in which I experienced firsthand and in so many ways all the phases of the cycle of life, it began exactly one year ago today, when I was literally pinned to a wall, upside down.
Inversions are, of course, a regular part of many asana practices. Not mine. Though I practiced them occasionally, I never felt like I “got” it—both the point and the benefit. And they scared me. Every time I went upside down it was like flipping on the negative self-talk switch and letting all my insecurities run rampant in my mind.
So when practicing with my teacher he announced that we’d be doing not only handstands, but handstands with backbends, I wasn’t stoked. In a larger class I’d usually just do it half-assed and then spend the rest of the time rolling around on the floor. But since we were four students, and all of us good friends, there wasn’t anywhere to hide.
After a few demonstrations with pointers about how to proceed, I gave it a go. I can’t remember if I got myself up or he assisted me (probably the later), but once I was up he helped me into the pose, guiding my hips towards the wall and my heart away from it. Then he supported me by pressing my thighs against the wall, cueing me to press my chest forward. Once there, the floodgates opened and the familiar chorus of doubt, fear, and shame began:
“I can’t do this. I’m going to fall. I’m going to break something. I’m not strong enough. What if he drops me? Why am I doing this? I don’t want to do this! I’m too weak. How am I going to get down? I’m going to fall….”
Usually, when practicing on my own, I would get to this last thought and come out of the pose. But this time, I couldn’t. I was being held. I wasn’t falling. When I realized that I was, in fact, quite secure, another voice, quieter yet clearer than the others called out from deep within: TRUST. In this moment, I recognized that I had a choice: trust that I am held or freak out and fall.
I chose trust.
And thus began a year of nearly daily inversion practice. I started with this posture (I have no idea what it’s called, google wasn’t any help). Getting up and into the pose took a few days, but getting out of it—off the fence—took weeks to figure out and months to master. I just couldn’t figure out how to move my bum away from the wall; it felt stuck.
And then I remembered something that another teacher said to me years before as I was contemplating leaving my job; she said that I had been living “on the fence,” in a perpetual state of non-commitment. Plagued by fears, I preferred to remain on my perch with a view of life rather than actually getting down in the dirt and living it. More impactful than the accuracy of her assessment was that, as she was noting my hesitation to dedicate myself to my heart’s calling, she was also dying.
Literally faced with the fact of mortality in the form of my beloved teacher, the choice to pursue my passion was clear. But, over time in the years following her death and my career change, I veered back toward the fence. Choosing familiarity over freedom, I found myself again stuck in routines and relationships that hindered the seed I sensed germinating in my soul. Again, the death of a magnificent woman, one who started as my student and became a dear friend, rekindled my resolve.
Two months later, there I was on March 1, 2018 with my world turned upside down and faced with what I now understand is the most fundamental of choices: whether to trust. To trust that you can hold yourself. To trust that when you can’t hold yourself, you will be held. To trust also that falling is part of it. In the months of mourning and inverting and getting off the fence, the soundtrack of doubt and fear got a lot of air time. But as I continued to practice, not only handstands but also letting go—I started to hear also my authentic voice. The one that called for trust in the midst of panic.
Like my arms which went from feeling wobbly to secure the more I got my feet up, the more I listen to this voice and speak with it, the stronger it becomes. What I’m hearing lately echoes the simple advice of Julie Yip-Williams in her memoir Unwinding the Miracle, which I listened to this past week while grieving the passing of yet another dear friend and former student. The book is a collection of blogs Julie wrote during the five years she lived with, and eventually died from, cancer. In the final chapter she implores her readers to “Live, friends! Just live.”
And that’s what getting off the fence means to me: living wholeheartedly. Diving in, facing fears, and taking chances; trying and failing and maybe someday, remaining upside down, bum off the wall, with my feet in the air. Trusting that I can hold myself up with my own two hands and, when my hands tire, that I will be held. And when it's time to fall, trusting that here, too, I will be held.
Last Saturday, in our sweet studio that I was certain could fit 8 yoga mats, 17 teachers on 15 mats assembled to move, breathe, chant, drink tea and talk. It was a healing moment on many levels. When I started writing these love notes 6 years ago, I wrote about a conversation that I'd had with my teacher about whether there was enough room for the growing number of yoga teachers in our small community. As a new teacher trying to establish myself here, I had to believe the answer was "yes." As a veteran teacher who was herself training a number of the new teachers, she wasn't so sure.
Since that conversation, a lot has changed for both of us and for our yoga community. But, through shifting alliances and expanded opportunities to practice, the opening of studios and the migration of teachers, the influx of students and emergence of yoga as an industry, what remains is Yoga. Just as our kula is in constant flux, so is Yoga, and has been for more than 5,000 years. The practices adapt to the needs of the practitioners even as the essence endures.
And this is what was so inspiring and important to experience in the company of my colleagues and friends: this practice, which we all "do" differently, is expansive enough to welcome us all. It is only our limited perspective--like my conviction that we could fit half as many people as we did--that inhibits our evolution.
My wish for each of us is to sense the spaciousness in your mind, heart and life. May you let go of the question of enoughness. Trade it in for a new inquiry: what else/who else can you include?
Notice when limiting beliefs take over: whether you're considering how many people you can host in your space, what your next career move could be, or what kind of love you give and receive. And when the light of awareness shines on entrenched ideas, may you remember that like everything and everyone, you are constantly shifting, expanding to encompass reality as it evolves.
In other words, there may be room for it all, but you get to choose what (and whom) you invite into your mind, your heart, and your life. May we greet this new month--one in which we celebrate Love--with the intention to invite Love in.
Even as we head into the darkest days ( it sort of snowed this morning!), I feel the light within as vibrant and clear. And, after spending last week as a student in Yoga Teacher Training, I am full of inspiration and insights to share both in my own offerings and by supporting our growing tribe sharing their own gifts.
Last week, we celebrated our one-month anniversary! Thank you so very much to YOU for your support: from attending classes and telling your friends to connecting with us on social media and simply asking how it's going. (By the way, it's going super good, as you'll see from our gorgeous offerings).
And in this time of flourishing --when it feels like anything is possible and there is so much creative energy bubbling up around and within the space--what comes through is the recognition that this moment of blooming is just that: a moment. Part of a natural cycle of equally precious periods of birth, growth, and decay which are always occurring simultaneously and harmoniously.
For example, as I write this, my dear friend Prue is spending her last day here in Ticino before she returns to Australia and, as thrilled as I am that the seed of her intention to grow her family in her homeland is about to sprout, I feel deeply sad to close this chapter of our friendship.
Insert your favorite cliche about doors opening and closing or flowers blooming and withering or waves rising and falling. We all experience this. It's when we "go with the flow," to use another cliche, neither attaching nor resisting that, no matter the circumstances--dark and rainy days, the loss of loved ones, and the manifestation of our dreams-- that we access the light within.
If you're called to reconnect with your radiance, there are a few spots left for the Yoga + Self Care day retreat next month and tomorrow is the last day for the early registration discount. You can save your spot by contacting me directly.
With Gratitude and Grace:
the light in me honors the light in you
View the entire Newsletter here.
After less than two weeks of opening the space, it felt at the very least unwise and more like terribly indulgent to head to the Bernese Overland over the weekend for a yoga retreat with my teacher, and yet, it was the very thing I needed to restore balance and recharge my energetic and spiritual resources.
In a culture that uses spreadsheets to measure success and values productivity over peace, prioritizing self-care is a radical act. Whether taking three minutes to breathe consciously or three days to study in community, the results aren't quantifiable, but the impact extends far beyond the individual.
As Parker Palmer writes:
"Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch."
This week as I spend time with my kids during their school holiday, I'll draw on the reserve of patience and presence replenished by spending time conversing with spiritual friends and communing with nature. Each morning, the well gets refilled through the daily ritual of rising an hour before the others to breathe, sit, and move. Most evenings, a bath or a book or an oil massage invokes relaxation and rest.
These are just a few of the ways that I take care of me so that I can take care of whatever and whoever needs my attention, which at the moment is building legos with Isla and Mavi. Because ultimately, the revolutionary potential of any self-care practice—including yoga—lies in its ability to empower us to take care of ourselves so we can truly care for each other and our world.
It is my sincerest wish that, at Mytree Yoga, you discover a welcoming space where you can come as you are, connect with kindred spirits and dive into practices that support and sustain you in your daily life.
Enjoy our offerings this month, spread the word, and take really good care of yourself.
View the entire newsletter here.
Hey there, it's been awhile! Seven months, to be exact, since I wrote and sent a letter to you. Not much has changed on the exterior, but as I've taken time to explore my inner landscape, the shifts within have been both subtle and seismic. And as ever, my practice is to remain present with it all.
As I write this, 20 years ago today I graduated from high school in Park City, Utah and soon after took my first yoga class from Tiffany Wood. That summer, one evening every week my best friend and I joined the other beginners assembled on the lawn outside our local athletic club as Tiffany guided us through asana, meditation, and my favorite, the nap at the end.
During a time in my life when I used marijuana, alcohol, sex, and bulimia to cope with the uncertainty of my future and life in general, Yoga entered as something to keep me occupied and out of trouble, yet over the course of the next two decades emerged as my passion and my purpose.
It's always easier to view with hindsight the steps along the way that lead you to your current position and, looking back, I remember hundreds of moments ranging from apotheosis to crisis that, when added together, equal a pretty clear map pointing to here.
As with all trips, the journey has been highly personal and also totally universal. The gift of yoga is that, no matter where you start, with the help of a skilled guide, every road leads inward, to the center of your own heart through which you can view the universe. As the visionary poet William Blake writes:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
To view the macrocosm in the microcosm--to look at the world and see yourself and look at yourself and see the world--this is both the work and the reward of a disciplined yoga practice. Although each of us must follow our own path, we do so in the company of others, or as Ram Dass says: "We're all just walking each other home."
I've been beyond fortunate to be accompanied by outstanding teachers: Erin Geesaman Rabke, Peter Francyk, Kelly Griswold, Smadar and Barto Lanza, Jeff Fisher, Elena Brower, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Yogarupa Rod Stryker and now, Stephen Thomas. I could fill volumes with the teachings I've learned from each of these generous and gracious guides, and someday I probably will, but for now, I'll share a recent treasure--a variation of the message all my teachers express--gleaned during a training with Stephen.
He opened our latest course with a teaching from J. Krishnamurti to engage in the learning process not to gain something, but rather to be in the experience. Echoing the lesson of the Bhagavad Gita that we have the right to act but not to the outcome of our actions, Stephen emphasized Krishnamurti's point that the process, which is happening in the present moment, is where yoga happens. And then, in his easeful and earnest way, he encouraged us to "have the guts to be yourself."
It wasn't the first and it won't be the last time I'm reminded to just be me; in fact, I'm pretty sure one of my senior year quotes was Polonius' "To thine own self be true." But still, I lose my way, sometimes hundreds of times a day, sometimes for weeks; there were a few years that I detoured off the path completely. And then, in an instant, the way becomes clear and I realize I am already home.
In this way, we all traverse the territory of our lives; may we do so with the courage to be ourselves, the compassion to love one another, and the clarity to see that we are always at home here.