Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FOLD / meditate to elevate

I'm new to this. This whole sit in silence and look so at peace, "I'm meditating" thing. Here are some thoughts on exploring meditation for the 40 day and 40 night ritual of lent; my first foray into this spiritual custom. My boyfriend has held this practice in his life for as long as he can remember and I was curious to explore a daily devotional practice for myself. It seemed like a beautiful moment of accountability for both of us.

My meditation practice feels like this: a bolster tucked behind me (along my spine with the bolster ending at my lower back), a blanket on my belly for support and a gentle reminder that I can hold space for myself, my hands resting gently where ever my body is calling to be comforted [these days it's usually one hand to my heart and one to my belly], a deep breath [or several, depending on the day], and permission to just be. To just be here, for at least 10 minutes.

Some days it's in silence, some days it in a conscious ten-minute walk outside [pod-casting it or in silence: Dear Sugar Radio and Being Boss], some days it's guided by someone I love and admire (see Mary Beth LaRue and Elena Brower}, some days it's loud inside my mind and it's really hard to tap to in, some days it feels like work, some days I sit and take a deep breath and find that's all I really needed.

It's going to look and feel different everyday: that's the beauty of a practice; it's adjustable, adaptable, and malleable to whom ever you show up as in that moment you choose to pause. 

A friend of mine asked me yesterday, "What is the right way to meditate?". I sat with that question for a minute before thoughtfully responding, "There is no "right" way to meditate". All it takes is intention, a quiet whisper that says, "take a seat, settle in, and take that first deep breath". You may not be able to turn anything "off". You may or may not figit and resist, but that first breath will take you in. Just spend a few moments there, you may find that a few minutes passes and maybe, someday, you'll find yourself in that quiet seat for 20 minutes with a smile lightly present on your face. It's all about the baby steps.

If you need a place to start, I recored a short 8 minute meditation for you!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

GATHER / road of the spiritual

Fair warning, this post is deeply personal. It might not resonate, but it was on my mind and heart and I wanted to explore how it felt to write it down.

I didn't grow up with religion; with God, with a focus on mystical, the eternal, the ever-changing or the bigger picture. My whole life it felt a lot like moving ahead into the unknown without a road and only a few companions. I clung to my family, that unit of three, for so much of my needs, desires, and roles. I poured who I was into who they are. There was a lot of discomfort and unease in faith among my family. My dad grew up in a traditionally religious household, I think it was mostly a remnant of how his parents grew up, and they wanted their kids to be rooted in those steadfast traditions. When my dad left his family home, he decided with thoughtful intentions, that that wasn't the best practice for him. My mom grew up in a household that firmly explored eastern religious practices and I think my mom soaked up observations about the beauty of religious tradition without necessarily putting any of them into practice. I think for my dad, religion was confiding and for my mom the traditions, not the tenants of faith, was just something beautiful to behold. My parents gave my sister and I a wide berth for exploring how we wanted to be in this world; but religion kind of never came up. We indulged the periodic visit to a church a Christmas, but it was never rooted in a belief in any sort of God. And quite frankly, my dad has a bit of disdain for the whole church thing, for those angry and loud Christians in the news that seem to be trying to exclude anyone and everyone from their inclusive faith. It's just not something my parents are seeking to explore or understand. But, for me, it has made this whole exploration of faith and religion thing quite difficult. It's one of the first real moments of learning to pave my own path with regards to how I want this whole faith thing to play out in my life.

I have had the esteem privilege of getting uncomfortable in faith these past five years. Loving someone whose faith is a central axis onto which everything else moves as been such an interesting journey to be a witness to. As I find myself walking with open eyes to my next decade, I keep coming back to that space of grace. There is something so beautiful in surrendering to that bigness; that forever loving figure gently and quietly communing through your prayers; that trust that someone else has a bigger plan and we can rest gently in our efforts. I love that feeling of big love, of surrender, of a deep deep inhale followed by that sweet exhale. But for some reason, I cannot just walk blindly into this understanding. It's taking some searching and questioning and exploring into the unknown. I know that it's worth being curious about because when I am a witness to it in others something softens within my heart.

I can feel it's soft seeking, it's call to ask more and let go of how I have come to misunderstand this whole faith thing. I don't think my faith will ever be rooted in a church, or in a institution, but rather in intuition and exploration. I think God is alright with that. I think he gets that we are all on our own path, and it doesn't have to look the same for anyone.

Does this feel similar to any of you out there? 

How are you exploring in your faith and belief systems? 

Do they tie you down or lift you up? 

Do you struggle with how much to pour into them? 

I am so very interested.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

FOLD / a teacher of two

I was sitting quietly in my client's home last week, they were blissfully lost in savasana, I was softly watching them drift. I gently closed my eyes and luxuriated in the silence [well, there was an ocean wave soundtrack in the background, it's their favorite go-to savasana sound]. It was quiet and cozy and I watched my attention settle as they feel deeper into their own experience. 

I realized sitting there that some of us start really small, I'm a humble teacher of two. We start sincere. We start with intention. We gently navigate what it means to be a teacher as we seek to find our unique voice and expression. I realized that this is why I gave up a life that wasn't serving me, this is why I chose to not teach in a studio space, this is why I seek to cultivate my chosen tribe, this is why I practice in my own body, this is why I dig deeper, this is why I am in the work. 

This is my WHY. 

In those moments when my students are nestled in their own body, their own breath, in a super supportive pose; I know that I am meant to do this work. I am meant to stand witness to surrender, to kindness, to laughter, to exploration, to one-on-one connection, to walk beside on a similar path, and to always keep learning. 

I've been honored to witness time and time again when my students inhabit a pose fully with their breath, when they navigate to find the next pose without me, when a forward fold feels good, and when an extra breath is needed. 

They are the teacher.
I am here to bear witness in the deepest well of gratitude. 

Know that wherever you are in your path as a teacher or as a student, your journey is meaningful and transformative to someone in your life that bears witness for you. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

POUR / maple olive oil banana bread

Lately, I've been noticing that I do not spend any time in my kitchen. It's tiny and the walls are a blazing white. It's one of the least inspiring rooms in my home and as I dreamed about ways to make it all the more dreamy I got inspired to get my hands dirty. This receipt fit my kitchen without any effort. The bananas on my counter were almost fully black, the Greek yogurt in the fridge had just enough left for this recipe, and miraculously I had maple syrup in the fridge. It was a moment of baking synchronicity and moments like that should not be wasted. Let's bake some bread!

I hope you get to share this with someone you LOVE. Happy Sunday!

Maple Olive Oil Banana Bread from Tracy Benjamin, originally adapted from a Tara O'Brady recipe

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed (the closer to black, the better)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used Fage; we happened to have some in the fridge)
sprinkling of cinnamon sugar blend on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8x4 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Add the maple syrup and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until fully incorporated. With a wooden spoons, stir in the mashed bananas, then added the Greek yogurt. Add the flour mixture to the liquids, stirring until just combined. Do not over mix. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Add a sprinkling of your cinnamon sugar blend on top!

Bake about 60-70 minutes, it took abut 65 minutes in my oven, until a inserted cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, then let it cool for at least 10 minutes before removing and letting fully cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee goodness for the perfect afternoon pick me up!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

FOLD / get your mudra on

A beautiful yoga teacher and friend of mine Brianna Turpin loves to incorporate yoga mudras into her intelligently designed yoga flows, deeply restorative and nourishing yoga classes, and meditation practice. I am so inspired by the way in which Bri brings this mystical force into her teaching; she is always illuminating new and meaningful ways to engage with our practice that create an element of play, something that I always need reminding to bring into my personal yoga practice.

So what exactly is a mudra? A mudra is a gesture made with out hands that "engages certain areas of the brain and/or soul and exercise a corresponding influence on them". Each mudra should be led by the breath to support the mudra; find a relaxed and effortless position where you feel supported and comfortable; inhabit a meditative seat. You want to engage with these energy fields in a supportive and positive way; harmony creates synergy. Try practicing a single mudra in your yoga practice this week, while finding a moment of stillness or quiet before or after you wake up or go to sleep. Try really feeling into how this one specific gesture helps you to shift energy and bring healing into your week. The pressure of the finger tips should be light and hands should remain relaxed.

All of this beautiful knowledge on mudras comes from the wonderful book, Mudras: Yoga In Your Hands by Gertrud Hirschi. This is an easy to understand text that deconstructs the wisdom of mudras, and with easy photographs and descriptions to help aid in this healing art right from your own home.

So here we go, down the mudra rabbit hole. Let's deconstruct three of my new favorites.

Chin [Jnana] Mudra:

thumb: divine cosmic energy (intuition - inner energy)
index finger: individual consciousness (inspiration - outward energy)

Bring your pointer finger and thumb to touch, extend your other three fingers.

Through this mudra we can connect the individual with the diving creating a symbolic gesture of unity with ourselves and the greater forces gently guiding us

Isn't that beautiful, just by bringing together our thumb and pointer finger together in momentary acknowledgement that we are not alone, we only sometimes think we are alone. It's a gesture of longing to connect with that which is greater than ourselves.

In this mudra, INSPIRATION AND INTUITION JOIN together. Both lie within. 

Shell [Shankh] Mudra:

Encircle your thumb with the four fingers of your right hand, while at the same time, touch the right thumb to the extended middle finder of your left hand. Curve your left hand around the fist you've made with your right hand. It should resemble a conch shell.

I love this mudra because it calls on us to use our voices to help resonate the energy in our hands. It's best practiced after a few rounds of "OM" in your present space. Try taking a deep breath in and letting your voice open in to the sound of OM. Try this several times and then sit with your hands in the mudra. See how this settles in your body.

Through this mudra, we come to connect with our higher self, which helps us to remember that all we need is already present within.

Ganesha [the elephant; remover of obstacles] Mudra:

Hold you left hand (facing palm out) in front of your chest. Bend your fingers and grasp the left hand with the right hand (backside of the hand facing out). As you exhale, pull the hands apart from each other without releasing the grip. As you inhale, release all the tension in your hands, chest and shoulders. Repeat this up to six times. Then spend a few moments with your hands on your heart, sitting in silence. Then repeat the mudra, this time switching the grip of your hands.

This mudra engages our heart and opens our fourth chakra (the heart chakra) which helps us cultivate courage, openness, and generosity to those around us and inward towards ourselves. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

GATHER / a lesson in loving

This year our anniversary, five years in, felt remarkable; as in, "wait a minute, it's actually been such a long time, we should take a moment to truly honor that". Over the past five years, we've had so much life happen to us both; we've morphed, changed, been altered and somehow having each other at the end of the day is the thread that pulls us through.

I am by no means an expert on, in, or through relationships; but these are some honest observations and reflections I've made throughout the last five years of ours.

1. Give yourself and your partner permission to speak freely. We had a contract very early on, "I will never be mad at you for being honest". This has served to firmly root us in honestly, even blunt and brutal honesty that stings upon hearing, but the truth always finds a way to land, settle and resonate. It's hard to ask for honesty and then stay to hear it, but I truly believe that this is why we are still here, still together.

2. Don't let it fester. Not speaking your truth will just build up and cause resentment; trust me, we've been there, on both sides. That old adage about never going to sleep angry is so very very true. We did it once, about 3 months in, and it was a very lonnnngggg night in the dark.

3. Remind them that you love them; with all the scars, flaws, and insecurities. Let your partner know you love them because of those things. We are all weird and scared and hoping to be loved.This is a constant practice and a forever reminder. We need to hear these things, all of the time.

4. Take down your walls - Look, I know they're there because you built them: to keep something or someone out, to shore up your defenses for the agony of experience, but the beauty about our ability to create is also our choice for destruction. Someone is worth letting down that wall for. And loving without the walls is filled with miraculous wonder among new nicks and scratches, but your heart can manage without all the protection.

5. At the end of day, I know deep in my bones that this man; the one that I fall asleep next to every night, the one who breaths in soft whispers, the one that holds my hand, and challenges me and fills me to the brim and is the only one I want to be in trenches next to. The battles will come, they always do, but I know that I'd rather be with him than on my own.

6. Family is complicated, and difficult, and messy, and so-far from perfect. But we only have the one, and if we are lucky, we get to create our own. This has been such a huge area of stretching and growing for me. It's helped me access patience, where I thought miles existed. It's help me find new and deeper ways of supporting from a loving distance. It's helped me learn how to navigate language in unfamiliar and sticky situations. It's shown me that intimacy and trust must be earned and sometimes aren't so easily given. It's a work in progress, but I've got the rest of my life to keep on trying.

7. Listening is as important as being heard. Let them talk, acknowledge them and then just listen. I know it's hard: something is on the tip of your tongue, you want them to know what you're thinking, you really really need to speak. Trust me, it can wait, and if you're anything like me, you need to listen more. Stop interrupting; your time to be heard will be honored when you need it. This is a major work in progress for me, but when I take the time to really listen, he softens into me.

8. You are enough. You really are. It's taken a lot of soul searching and I think I am still in the space of learning how to re-charge my own batteries before helping others. I have gotten lost in loving, taking care of, supporting, and engaging with my partner; it's something chronic and deeply rooted and I am working on it. But I came to realize that when I speak to myself in a kind, loving, and supportive voice, I am able to love bigger and harder and more. It comes way more easily when I've put my own oxygen mask first.

9. Take an interest. Be your partner's champion. Be their biggest fan. I know that I feel the most comforted in my relationship when he acknowledges how far I've come, all the insecurities I've conquered, and the life goals I've crushed. We really just want to know that you're proud of us. We are proud of you.

10. Love, love, love, and then dig deeper and love them even more. After five years, through life's trials and errors, new beginnings and excavating old wounds, remember that they entrusted you with their fragile and oh so tender heart and so did you, to them. That's a lot of responsibility and such an honor to behold and bear witness too. Just love them, with everything you've got and make sure to love yourself too.

What have been the your difficulties? Where do you find ease? How to you get all touchy feeley together? Do you have misunderstood moments? Do you get vulnerability hangovers? How have you deepened the intimacy?

These are the questions I ask myself and the questions I hope to always be answering. I think the beauty of loving someone a long time is the unwavering sense of questioning; of always seeking to uncover who they are becoming and to be loved that way in return.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

FOLD / slow down and take it apart

@10000buddhas at Wanderlust Hollywood

Last night, I found myself in a quiet space, softly lit, among other evening yogis. I rolled out my dusty mat and quietly whispered, "Hello, i missed you".  As I found my way into my first downward facing dog it took a few moments to get reacquainted with the pose, but, like an old friend that forgives all past indiscretions and long absences, I quickly settled into my palms, pressed my heels towards the mat, and found that first lonnnngggg exhale.

This pose, deeply rooting into the earth below, always has a way of making me feel instantly at home.

Last night was a practice in patience, a practice in receiving. Which unknowingly, built strength and released tension through resistance.

Try standing with your back against a flat wall; bring your heels about 12 inches in front of you; away from the wall. Feel your low back nestle up to the wall. Let your tailbone sink toward the floor. Press your shoulder blades down your back and straighten your upper back against the wall behind you. you will feel taller than you knew possible. You will feel expansive in your chest. You will feel rooted through your feet. So many things are happening in your body, in this moment, in this pose.

Stay here. Stay here even when your mind tells you to let go, to get out, to move on. Breathe. Breathe three more deep and long breaths. Now stand up straight and tall, do you feel that? You changed something in your body. You shifted something in your mind, and all it took was a few moments of checking in, honoring where you were at, and creating space for you to inhabit a space you didn't consider before.

On this Sunday eve, find a moment to move slowly, mindfully, and as you ride your breath, you will find that you start to soften to the noise and find space in your mind to let go.