I invite you to consider a new paradigm....

Lovebirds.150dpi.small.jpg

All artists are story tellers, transformers of the soul. 

There is no REALvalue to art.
Yet, imagine a world without it. 
How bleak.
How devoid of soul.

Artists tell the stories of their time. They are the translators of human emotions.
They are the record keepers of the socio-political landscape of their generation. 

Without art, life would be dull, void of color, poetry and drama. 
Artists speak to and for the soul.

Think of how a piece of music takes you back to a certain time or relationship in your life.
Or consider how you feel when you hear poetry that speaks for your heart.
Imagine a stunning painting you can’t turn away from.

Art translates our emotions. 

I am an artist who makes art because I have to.
I make art to beautify, to express and to process this human experience – for myself and for the collective.

I also sell my art. 
And right there is the rub!

Believe. Butterfly.5 1.jpg

I write this essay to begin a conversation with you about the current commodification of art.
I want to change that paradigm and I want to start in my own life as an experiment with you. 

Right now, art is sold as a one-time transactional experience. Each artist must put a “value” on their art, and so often that “value” relates to time and supplies spent on the piece.

I challenge this system, because art needs to be valued and exchanged in a completely different way. I can’t put a price on the thousands of hours and dollars I have spent arriving at this point in time, where I create a piece of art and then put a price on it for you. This is a simplistic, commodity oriented basis for pricing something that cannot be valued with this scale. 

And really, when we look at the art world, and what collectors will pay for art, who sets those prices? Hundreds of thousands of dollars for a splash of paint on a canvas. At the other end, artists so often asked to donate their work for “good exposure,” to offer their talent for free. There is an imbalance of over-value and under-value in the system. None of this is real. And all of it is real.

Art is made to speak to and for the soul, to translate human emotions into some tangible form so we can better understand our own experience and the conditions of our time. Art is made to shift our consciousness. When a piece of art speaks to your soul, that is when you want and need to live with it.

And yet, how do we put a price on translating our emotions into something beautiful, lyrical or poetic? How do we put a price on shifting our consciousness through art? How do we put a price on something as intangible as a skill that translates emotion into something beautiful and understandable?

Birds Nest.web.jpg

Art must be valued by the soul. 

“Good” art speaks to some deep place in us that begs to awaken. When you say to yourself, “I must have that piece,” then you know something within you is on the verge of awakening.

It doesn’t matter if anyone else likes the piece you’ve chosen, it only matters that it speaks to your soul. We must trust our own choices.

For making art is a journey of trust. One artistic decision leads to the next and the next until resolution comes.  

Just like life, we cannot rush our unfolding. We must believe in our choices.

So, I want to do a personal experiment with you, one that will have a direct impact on us. I want to invite you to consider looking at art in a new way when you feel drawn to owning a piece of art. Instead of thinking you will “buy” the art piece for a certain price to “own,” ask yourself, “What would my soul offer for this painting; to live with it and let it work on me?”

This self-reflective process engages you to ask a few questions. 

First, why do I love this artwork? 
Why does it speak to me? 
What can I give in exchange for this art piece so I can live with it transform me?

It asks you to consider your own resources and what you genuinely have to offer the artist in exchange for their life energy and years of practice they bring to creating the artwork at hand.  

Instead of having a one-time transactional experience of “buying” a piece of art, you enter into a relationship with the artist, and you find a price point for the exchange that speaks to the “value” offered both ways. There is no clear cut “price.” You, along with the artist, begin a dialogue around the artwork, what you have to offer, and together you find a value that works for both of you.

It feels uncomfortable doesn’t it? 
It does to me.

Frozen Lake. small.jpg

As the artist, this system asks me to step into a place of trust that you, whoever you are, will value what I bring to the table in making my art – not just the piece at hand, but all of my years of study, practice, education, and inner work. And you, you must take a real look at your resources, what you value in life, why you want to live with this piece and make an offer on the piece. You must open the conversation with the artist. Your offering may also be something in non-monetary form. Perhaps you have skills that I’d love to trade for. Make the offer. See what happens.

The upside of this new paradigm, as I see it, is that art goes to the people whose souls are truly affected, regardless of monetary resources. The art then gets to do its job – bringing joy and transformation to someone’s life.

And you, as the “buyer” become more than that. You become a patron – someone who has a relationship with the artist, that is not about the “price” of any one piece, but rather you support and value the work the artist does in the world. There is an acknowledgement of the power of art beyond its commodity value.

You have stepped into a place of patronage, which is far more valuable. You have stepped into a relationship with the artist, which in the end, is what life is about: relationship|

this is the world I envision - where we change the paradigm of how art is circulated, and we find a way for you to enjoy the art that we as artists create. My art is not able to do its full job unless it goes out into the world to live with you. Lets try this!


Less is More!

IMG_7207.JPG

We’ve all heard the phrase, “less is more,” and yet it’s such an abstract concept. I know I’ve had good intentions of pairing down and letting go of the things I don’t use and don’t wear. But that task usually gets pushed to the bottom of the list.

That’s why I made a date with a friend of mine who had just “Marie Condoed” her closet. Yes, Marie Condo’s name is now a verb – if you don’t know of her, she’s the lady who has a book and a new Netflix show that helps people clean out their junk and only keep the things in their life that “bring them joy.”

I had seen my friend’s pictures of her newly transformed closet on FB, and I thought, “Oh, I HAVE to do that.” I needed help. When she said “yes” to my request for her help, I was thrilled.

So, last Monday, she came over – we’d set aside a block of time to go through my closet. First thing we did was kneel down in the closet and say a little prayer of gratitude for all of the items in it, all the joy that had come from buying the clothes, to wearing them and all of the events and people I had enjoyed in those clothes.

I was already tearing up.

Then, Cami began her magic and invited me to pull all of the clothes out of my closet – yes ALL of them – and put them on the bed so we could sort through. I did as instructed. I hadn’t seen the inside walls of my closet in years. I immediately got a wet rag, got down on my knees and cleaned the dust balls out.

Even THAT felt good.

We got to our task at hand right away, ranking, grouping and organizing the clothes –  our categories were keep, consign, donate, trash.

What I didn’t realize in this process was that I kept finding gems of clothing – things I loved, but hadn’t worn in years because I’d either forgotten about them, they were buried in the back of the closet, or I didn’t know what to wear with the top or the pants. 

Cami helped me bring my wardrobe to life in a new way with her fresh pair of eyes. 

At the end of 3 ½ hours, we had diminished my closet by 25%, and I simultaneously felt an amazing sense of abundance because I had just gained a bunch of new outfits with clothes that I already owned and loved. Not to mention, the clothes fit me.

I kept only the items I loved, so now my closet is filled with outfits I want to wear, I feel great in them, and I am able to see everything, so will now wear the things I have.

I didn’t expect to feel such a sense of abundance by getting rid of things. It was a kinesthetic lesson in feeling abundant with less, because everything I kept was something I love.

Now the phrase, “less is more” lands for me. It makes sense. I can honestly say, YES, less IS more. Thank you, Cami! I am so grateful for your help and your great eye!


Becoming My Own Best Friend

FullSizeRender+15.jpg

The year I decided to become my own best friend, was the year people in my world seemed to scatter to the far corners of the earth, my husband became consumed in his work, new friends in town were busy, old friends were occupied with their lives, so that left me with myself.

Just me.

Now, I had always thought I was comfortable being alone – after all, I grew up an only child, I knew how to entertain myself. I would draw, or dance, or ride my bike. As an adult, I noticed I filled my time with similar activities – going for a hike, writing in my journal, doing yoga, cleaning. And yet, I didn’t just “hang out” with myself. I didn’t know how to hang out and let the moments unfold. I usually had a plan, and for much of my adult life, I crammed my weekends full of activities – meeting friends for dinner, going to shows, having coffee at new places in town.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something in my relationship with myself was missing.

I’d spent a good portion of life morphing into what I thought other people wanted me to be. I  was a consummate chameleon, making sure not to offend anyone, saying the right thing, stuffing my true opinions back inside if they were controversial. I had a hard time standing in my own center, because, in truth, I don’t think I knew myself THAT well. I’d been a people pleaser, and had gotten so many accolades from pleasing others, that my ego latched onto that strategy for a long time.

Until I declared that I wanted to become my own best friend.
That was 2014.

thumb_IMG_1589_1024.jpg

When I set that intention on New Year’s Day I thought it was a lovely, supportive heart-warming and kind intention. Who wouldn’t want to become their own best friend? Little did I know I’d have to travel through some dark alley-ways of myself to integrate the bits I had dispossessed. I would have to retrieve aspects of myself that were hard to acknowledge, feel and bear witness to.

I’m talking about those bits that came in the form of anger, jealousy, resentment, judgmental-ness, shame, blame, anger and grief. There were the happy places I’d also get to know more deeply – the joyful, ecstatic, fun, playful, risk-taking, active parts of me that were pleasurable to feel and acknowledge. 

Prior to my stating my intention of becoming my own best friend, I thought I was “living the dream.” I had a husband who loved me, I lived in a gorgeous house on a park in Spokane, WA with two dogs and a cat, our furry family. I had great friends, loving parents, good health, skills to do many different things. I had resources to travel the world. The world WAS my oyster.

And yet….

thumb_IMG_1603_1024.jpg

Something was missing….some deep inner contentment. I could feel how I was dissatisfied with my life, even though it presented so well. All the boxes checked off. I noticed how I wanted more of my husband’s attention, I took it personally when friends didn’t call me back in what I thought was a reasonable amount of time. I noticed how I didn’t feel like my teaching career had bloomed into what my vision for it had been.

Deep down inside, I felt a bit like a looser. It was so hard to put my finger on. Somewhere inside, I didn’t value myself. I kept myself running around at such a high speed that I never had to feel the feelings of unworthiness, sadness, insecurity. Without knowing it, I chased the words “You’re so amazing, Diane,” which I often heard from people and it was like a line of cocaine (something I never actually tried!) The “hit” of praise kept me running to the next activity to prove how great I was – for one more moment. 

It was exhausting. I was chasing my ego from here to there, running this way and that way to hear those words.

So, in the first 6 months of 2014, I was literally left with myself. No one was available to distract me and that’s when I turned back to my art practice. I’d been an artist all of my life, but had put it on hold for a good decade as I dove into studies of yoga and meditation.

Slowly, through the art process, I began to witness my patterns of thought – I’d notice how the inner critic came out to tell me what a crappy artist I was because I couldn’t draw well. I noticed how I loved the beginning part of making a painting – that free, fun zone where you’re throwing paint on a canvas to get texture and color down. But then, when something emerged on the canvas that I liked, I’d freeze, afraid I’d mess it up. Sometimes, paintings sat in my studio for 6 months, ½ finished because I was paralyzed to take them any further.

What I began to see as the dominant pattern in my life is that I was not in charge of my own life. It felt more like I was in a little dingy, out at sea, floating along with the waves that moved me this way and that. I was in a completely receptive mode, accepting whatever came my way, instead of making things happen.

Now, this is a longer conversation, because life is a dance, and we need both the ability to “make things happen” while also “allowing things to occur.” Just like we can’t live on the inhale alone, or the exhale, we can’t always “make things happen” in the way we want, nor can we allow our lives to simply float by without giving it direction.

Painting, alongside art journaling, became not only my refuge, but my way of understanding myself, my life and my mission.

I can say now, five years later, I AM my own best friend. I have traveled through every emotion I listed above, and have investigated the root of those emotions. I’ve felt them, written about them, done art around them. I’ve used my journal as a way to deeply explore my inner world as a study of humanity. We ALL have these emotions at some point in life, the question is HOW do we acknowledge them, process them and finally integrate them?

thumb_IMG_1622_1024.jpg

I have found art journaling an amazing way to creatively process our lives, while developing art skills and developing confidence in our own choices.

We are all here to experience this life in human form, and yet our purpose and reasons for being here are unique to each individual. We are not here to live the same lives as our friends or family, and we need a way to discover our uniqueness and VALUE who WE are rather than comparing ourselves to one another.

We need to learn to celebrate ourselves, to learn to write love letters to ourselves. We must learn to BE the solace for ourselves in life, because in the end, everything outside of us will leave – people will move away, they will die, jobs will end, our health will change, our energy level will diminish with age. It is the natural process of life.

So, in the face of finding our own center and our own answers in life, we must find the ways to nurture our inner child, to develop our strong adult, to invite all aspects of ourselves to come to the table to take part in this thing we call life.

For me the art journal has been, and is my way to love myself. I have learned to love my bright shining light, my broken heart, my scared little girl, my powerful warrior. I have learned to love the incredibly creative soul I am, my curious nature, my ability to sit with you in your joy and despair.

I have truly, learned to love myself. As I am.
Without apology.
Without an inflated ego.
Without false humility.

I have learned to simply accept and love who I am, as I am right here and now.


Starting here, what do you want to remember?

Winter Tree

Winter Tree

I want to remember the wide black wing span as you glide over the river.

I want to remember the crunch of snow under my boots with every step in the woods and the silence of snow covered trees.

I want to remember cups of hot golden milk swirled with honey and ghee soothing my insides. I want to remember the coziness of flannel sheets, my soft fuzzy blankets, and burrowing under comfy covers for a long winter sleep.

I want to remember your kind hearted hugs where you pulled me close so our hearts could touch with no words. I want to remember your yellow toothed crooked smile and the sparkle in your crescent eyes when you opened packages of home-made chocolate chip cookies.

I want to remember the wordless afternoons as we sat together in the living room, over-looking Lake Merrit – you with your thriller mystery in hand, me with my art journal – just there. I want to remember my early life with you spent navigating the kitchen together, me moving twice as fast as your turtle pace as you made breakfast for mom.

I want to remember your made up calisthenics routine, where you flung your arms up and down, right and left - your own version of yoga, juicing the joints.

I want to remember the last time we went out to the Legion of Honor to see the Impressionist show and I told you how much I loved you and how I felt that the only time I’d be uncomfortable with that love would be at your funeral in front of your biological children.

And you told me just to be myself.

And I did.
And it was.

 I want to remember all the times you trod up the ski slope when I fell to help me back on my feet.

Yes, I want to remember your warm heart, the kind and gentle man you grew into in old age. And I will remember.

I will re-write my story.
I will remind myself that I did nothing wrong.
That I just landed in the role of your daughter through marriage.

I never stole anyone’s place.
I did nothing wrong.
I simply loved you.

Proximity made it so.
You were there.
I was there.

Under the same roof, in the same house.

I want to remember the last thing you said to me on the phone in your garbled voice, and I will:

“Di, I love you. I love everyone.”


Fire Elixir Recipe

fire elixir image.jpg

(from Sunset magazine)

Fill a 1.5 liter airtight glass jar with the following, layering as you go:

 3 to 5 dried arbol chiles
1 yellow onion
10 cloves garlic
3-7 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Small handful each of fresh thyme, and oregano
Add 1 slice of lemon
1 slice of orange
1 grated knob of ginger and turmeric
½ cup of grated horseradish 

Infuse:
Pour 1 liter or raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar into jar until full to the brim. Seal the jar; place in a cool, dark location and let sit for 3 weeks. Check it a couple of times a week and give a good shake.

Strain:
After three weeks, filter the mixture using a cheesecloth and strainer and pour liquid into a clean glass jar. Stir in up to ¼ cup of honey. Place in refrigerator where it can be stored for six months to a year.

This recipe is great for supporting the immune system and taking it as a tincture. When you do get a cold or the flu, you stir a few tablespoons into a hot cup of water to clear out your chest and head.

 


Seeking Imperfection

2016-10-08+14.30.38.jpg

It is in my art journal that I relish the blemishes, the messiness, the absolute imperfection of life. I love seeing chaos on the page, and the feeling of letting go of any attempt to produce something beautiful. Instead, I let the scribbles, drips, tears and rips dominate. I allow the emotions to roar forth through color and shape. 

It is perfectly imperfect.

It is where I compost my life and let the layers of myself decay and transform into rich, nourishing soil. It all becomes compost that feeds the lotus to bloom from within.

2016-10-08+14.33.37.jpg

I write tidbits about life there: the piles of snow that came overnight; the chicory coffee I had with a friend; the ecstatic dance where my heart soared to the heavens. There, between the hardbound black covers of the journal are my bits, the ones I chose to collect and recollect. 

I listen for messages from the Universe through the random scraps of paper, wrappers, pictures and string haphazardly glued into the bound pages. I read it all as though I were reading tea leaves and learning about my life. 

I am at once the mad scientist artist composing, and yet I have no idea what is coming through me, so end up deciphering the mysterious messages once they appear. 

2016-10-08+14.33.52.jpg

The art journal is my living breathing mirror – a reflection of my psyche at any given point in time, not to be judged for its beauty or resolution, but to be witnessed and read for the codified missives that spirit sends from the other side. In this way it is a thrilling document, and a mystery unfolding.

It is a means to understand the worlds beyond and to open to guidance from something far greater than my little self. 

2016-10-08+14.34.01.jpg

The process is none less than magnificent. It strips me of ego and shows the microcosm of a human life, which just happens to be mine.

 


Losing a Poetry Icon

24.jpg

This week we’ve lost a poetry icon: Mary Oliver.

She has been a favorite poet of mine over the years, and I’ve read her poems in hundreds of my classes. So, today I am offering a few of her poems here in a tribute to her. That her words live on in our hearts, and she continues to inspire us from the other side.

Thank you Mary Oliver for your insights, your poetic proficiency, and your ability to see and feel so deeply. You are missed already.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

         love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Mindful 

Every day

            I see or I hear

                        Something

            That more or less

Kills me

            With delight,

                        That leaves me

            Like a needle

In the haystack 

            Of light.

It is what I was born for

            To look, to listen,

To lose myself

            Inside this soft world

                        To instruct myself

            Over and over

In joy,

            And acclamation.

                        Nor am I talking

            About the exceptional,

 

The fearful, the dreadful,

            The very extravagant

                        But of the ordinary,

            The common, the very drab,

The daily presentations.

            Oh, good scholar,

                        I say to myself,

                                    How can you help

But grow wise

            With such teachings

                        As these-

                        The untrimmable light

Of the world,

            The ocean’s shine,

                        The prayers that are made

            Our of grass?

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean – 

The one who has flung herself out of the grass,

The one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

Who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

Who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

Into the grass, how to kneel down into the grass,

How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

Which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

Coming Home

When we are driving in the dark,
on the long road to Provincetown,
when we are weary,
when the buildings and the scrub pines lose their familiar look,
I imagine us rising from the speeding car.
I imagine us seeing everything from another place--
the top of one of the pale dunes, or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea.
And what we see is a world that cannot cherish us,
but which we cherish.
And what we see is our life moving like that
along the dark edges of everything,
headlights sweeping the blackness,
believing in a thousand fragile and unprovable things.
Looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.

Messenger

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird-

                        Equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

 

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect; Let me

Keep my mind on what matters,

Which is my work,

 

Which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

 

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are there,

 

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart, and

These body-clothes,

A mouth with which to give shouts of joy

            To the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug up

Clam,

Telling them all, over and over how it is

That we live forever.

 


I didn’t care that I’d have to sit on the floor for months!

AwakeningBlossom.72dpi.jpg

It’s 2001.

I’ve just bought my first quaint place in the flatlands of Berkeley. It’s 850 square feet and I need to furnish it. First and foremost, I need a couch and a bed. But my heart wants something else. It needs art for the walls. Something that will speak to my soul.

My first purchase for my new little home was a large, wooden Lotus that was carved out of beautiful wood and made in Thailand. Yes, that was what I needed. I didn’t care that I would have to sit on the floor for months.

That lotus flower was the thing for my soul.

You see, I’d entered a whole new period of my journey. I was becoming a yoga teacher. I’d just done my first yoga teacher training and had entered a second one. Yoga was my life at that time. I was using it to rehab myself after a major car accident I’d been in just a couple of years prior.

AwakeningFromtheDepths.150dpi.jpg

The Lotus Flower represented the calm I was cultivating within myself. It’s blushing pink beauty grows out of dark, swampy, mucky places and then dazzles the world. It was a great reminder that our own blazing light can only shine brightly if we own the shadow sides of ourselves.

I bought that heavy wooden lotus, hung it in my house and looked at it every day as a reminder of what was growing within me – calm, the ability to integrate my shadow, my own inner beauty, stability, and much more.

One might say we don’t “need” art because we can’t eat it, sleep in it, wear it (most art) or drive it. There is little “practical” use for art and yet, when we live life as a journey to open the soul, art and ritual objects become the most important things in our collection.

As the years have passed, I’ve collected pieces of art here and there. Each piece represents a time and place in my life and reminds me of my journey. When I can’t stop thinking about an art piece, it’s a sign that it is talking to my soul and will help me evolve the next place within myself.

So, next time you’re drawn to a piece of art, check in with yourself deeply. What IS it about that piece that calls you? What is the art saying to you? How does it make you feel? Do you want to live with the piece or is it enough to just see it once, or visit it regularly?

AwakeningForgiveness.150dpi.jpg

If you keep thinking about the art you’ve seen, perhaps it needs to live with you.

Just like art calls us, there is often a time when the artwork has done its magic and it’s time to move on to work with the next person who needs the magic of the art piece.

I recently sold the wooden Lotus. I was happy to have it find a new home with people who were delighted to see what it had to offer them. Letting go of that piece opened up space for new art to come into my world….and recently I bought a piece from a friend of mine, and every time I look at it I think of her.

 

 


Ode to our Mothers

IMG_1510.jpg

We come from your flesh and bones,
Grow out of your marrow and your beating heart.
We would not exist without you.

We suckle at your breast,
We grow from your body’s rich nourishment.
We depend on your heart to love us
Without condition.

Thank you….

For the times you stayed up in the night
to rock us to sleep.
For the times you nursed us, fed us, wiped us clean.
For doing all that laundry for us!

Thank you…

For holding our hands as we walked the path
to the new school.
For bandaging up our scrapes and burns.
For coming to the play we were in, the soccer game,
the ballet or piano recital.
For all of the birthday parties, balloons, cakes
and presents you put together for us.

Thank you…

For listening to the “boy” problems,
Or “hair” problems, or for tolerating the door of our rooms
being shut with loud music on to drown you out.
For help with our English papers, math problems,
history lessons.

Thank you…

For teaching us to drive, despite your terror
and pushing your right foot onto an imaginary brake
on your side of the car.

Thank you…

For taking us out in the world to see
mountains, lakes, rivers, museums, plays, and music.
For taking us off to college and having faith
we would blossom out in the big world.

Thank you.

For all of your love throughout the years.
For rolling with your child’s evolution.
For trusting us and for trusting yourself
that you’ve done all you could
to make us the best human being
you possibly could.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 


Saucha: The Great Spring Cleaning!

IMG_8621.jpg

Being a yogi, who’s down on the ground a lot, I’m particularly obsessed with clean floors. I’ll admit it, I’m somewhat of a clean freak.  I love to be able to eat off of any surface.

Cleaning gives me immediate satisfaction. When I vacuum up tiny crumbs, dog hair and little bits of I-don’t-know-what, I feel an inner sense of relaxation. I have this sweet satisfaction that some little part of life is in order, under control.

I can relax.

At least for a while.

Yoga gives us a built in cleansing practice called Saucha.  It is the first Niyama (the second of eight limbs of yoga). It means to purify and cleanse. Generally, the practice of Saucha invites us to examine what we take into our bodies – food and drink – but also what kind of energy we allow into our energetic fields, and how we may be “polluting” our inner landscape by creating inner clutter.   

Each Spring I ask myself what I want to clean up internally as well as externally, and this year my big task is to take on an old habit of mine called AVOIDANCE. I have the nasty habit of avoiding conflict, avoiding making “the phone call” to someone I may have to say ‘no’ to, and avoiding the uncomfortable feelings within. But the burden of Avoidance is high.

It starts to feel like I have a pile of tasks, conflicts or people I’m avoiding and I then hear the nagging voice in my head that says, “You’re gonna have to make the call. Or you’re gonna have to face that conflict, or crunch the numbers."

This year I say, “No more avoiding.” It’s time to face whatever I’m avoiding head on. What I find fascinating is that alongside the inner clean-out, I notice there is always the accompanying outer clean-out.

When I take on my inner work of cleaning out I usually find I also get a bug to steam clean my rugs, wash out all of the drawers, or do a deep clean of my closets.

In the past couple of years, this cleaning practice has lead me to change the products I use to clean my house. I’ve gotten rid of pretty much all of the store-bought products and replaced them with three simple household products that work really well for cleaning.

What are they?

Baking soda (bought in a large back at Costco)
Distilled White Vinegar (also bought at Costco)
Dr. Bronners Castile Soap

These three are the foundation of all of my cleaning products now. At first, I was skeptical that these products would actually do a good job. To my surprise, they work great. I just cleared out an oil clogged shower drain with white vinegar (with a quite a bit of help from a friend!)

But why do this, you might be wondering, when the other products work just fine?

As I’ve traipsed down the yogic path for the past 20 years, I’ve become more and more sensitive to chemicals, smells, and their energetic impact. I love knowing that the products I use  to clean my house are safe to ingest,  and I feel happy that the products I use are all environmentally safe and made with love.

When I spray down my kitchen counters now, with my homemade All Purpose Surface Cleaner, I have a smile on my face and I just feel happy.

So, if you’re interested in this part of the journey, I’ve got a few home cleaning products listed below, and some ideas on how to use these three household products to clean your home.

Happy and Clean Spring to you all!
 

IMG_8253.JPG

All Purpose Surface Cleaner 

Ingredients
funnel
2 oz distilled water
6 oz distilled white vinegar
Spray bottle: glass 8 oz
8 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops lemon essential oil

What to do
Using a funnel, pour water and vinegar into a glass spray bottle.
Remove the funnel and add the essential oils. Put spray nozzle onto the bottle.
Shake well to combine, and use on any surface. Works great on stove and kitchen counter tops.
 

Wood Cleaner

Ingredients
funnel
2 cups distilled water
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
spray bottle: glass 16. oz
10 drops lemon essential oil
8 drops cedarwood essential oil

What to do
Using a funnel, pour water, white vinegar and olive oil into a spray bottle.
Add in the essential oils and shake to mix.
Shake before using to mix the ingredients. 


Ode to India

IMG_0365.jpg

Oh India, mirror of mirrors!
I walk more easily now in your crooked streets and craggy sidewalks.

You are my teacher.

You beg me to let go, to watch my step, to soften my judgment.

I walk as if in wonderland, enthralled by your jeweled colors, billowing saris, bobbing turbins. I am a child in a candy shop and you gently show me my greedy nature.

I want….
…to take a photo.
…to take the jewels home.
…to capture the flavors, smells, scents and sounds.
…to take, to have, to hold and to keep.

But there is no taking, keeping, holding or “mine.”

There is only flow.
Letting go.
Relaxing into what is.

Oh India, your dust lines my lungs, your dirt a second skin on my body.

IMG_9447.jpg

My heart aches seeing your brilliance….
…the Taj Mahal
…the snow dusted Himalayas
…your fantastic festival Holi painting people purple and pink
…your plethora of temples honoring the gods….Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna, Kali….

My heart aches seeing your pain…
…the bride burnings
…the man with a deformed arm reaching for rupees into my rickshaw
…the shanty towns butted up against millionaire apartments
…the heaped garbage…

How do you manage?
How do you keep it together?
How does it work?

My heart starts to get the joke. It all works out in the end.

IMG_8661.jpg

The electricity works.
             For a while.
The hotel room is mostly clean.
The horns ARE the traffic system.
             You must be the flow. No room for doubt.
Squatting and having no toilet paper IS an option.

I’ve come here to practice.
To open my heart.
To be present.

I practice breathing.
I tell myself, “Let go, let go.”

I remind myself the driver wants to live.
I remind myself they’ve done puja for good luck.
I remind myself I am not in control.

Is this why your people pray so much?
Light incense, roll sandalwood beads between brown fingers?

There are so many paths to God in your vast land, from the Himalayas to the beachy shores. Why are some lives so filled with so much struggle while others flash and sprint around in Lamborghinis?

“Only one rupee, only one rupee,” she says, hand moves towards mouth. The baby needs feeding.

Black hair is matted, her feet dry and crusty.

IMG_9768.jpg

Another woman’s craggy face reflects the 100 years it has turned up towards the sun. Brown, with rivulets running through the valleys of her cheeks, she radiates warmth from inside her stooped and bent body that has traversed the Himalayas to find safety in India, away from her homeland, Tibet. She has no teeth. She gently suggests we give her some rupees.

We take her photo.

We take.
We give.
India gives.
India takes.

Give. And
Take.

IMG_9254.jpg

I return home changed.
I return home with more cracks in my heart.
To let the light in.
To let the light out.

I am more resilient.
I am more tender.
I trust in the flow.
More.
Than before.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you feel "called" to India, check out two trips I'm offering with Mela Joy, Founder of Touch of Spirit Tours. Two spots left for the Fall 2018 trip and we'll have a new one for Southern India in early 2019. for more information and itinerary see Touch of Spirit Tours


Love Potions for a Sweet Valentine's Day

File Feb 12, 9 36 42 AM.jpeg

It's here!

That week that makes some light up from the inside, and others cringe at the thought.

It’s the Hallmark Holiday week. Valentine’s Day!

Remember grade school? Where we cut out hearts and gave them to everyone in the class? Or those little boxes of chalky, wintergreen minty hearts with little ditties written on them? They said things like:

“You’re the best.”
“I love you.”
“You’re mine.”

Back in grade school we were taught to be egalitarian, to love everyone, and to make sure everyone was included. At least that was the goal.

But out here in the “real” world, life is messy. Some of us are single, others partnered, some getting un-partnered. We can’t really count on anyone to give us flowers and cards, chocolates and massages. I know I’ve certainly ended up feeling disappointed in life when I waited for that “other” person to do something for me.

So, I am advocating that we all take on becoming our own Valentine and treat ourselves impeccably. Here’s the recipe I have to share with you for a FABULOUSLY Relaxing Valentine’s Day….

Valentine’s Day Prep……(done before hand)

Start by making yourself some delicious, on-the-healthy-side chocolates. (All recipes below) Do that today or tomorrow so you’re ready with your chocolates! Then make some bath salts for yourself, so you can take a luxurious bath on Wednesday night. Make sure to get candles to light up your bathroom with a soft glow. Make a play list of songs for yourself to listen to while in the bath relaxing. Check what creams and toners you have and set them out for yourself. And/or make some. Don’t forget to get yourself a card and write out what you love about yourself and why you’re so awesome! Buy or pick some flowers and put in a vase.

On Valentine’s Day….

Give yourself your card in the morning with breakfast, so you remember how incredible you are and that you ARE loved. Treat yourself to something “out” on Valentine’s day - - a fun coffee, a delicious lunch, or dinner.

Once home, set up your spa time for yourself. Draw your bath with the bath salts, set out your candles and creams, get your playlist ready. When you have everything set up, slide in and soak, remembering how much you are loved (because you are loving yourself!). Once out of the bath, spritz yourself with your face with your favorite toner and follow up with a delicious face serum that smells divine.

Enjoy.

Here are some of my own recipes that I use regularly. This is a fun habit to get into and doesn’t have to be reserved just for Valentine’s Day!

File Feb 12, 9 23 08 AM.jpeg

Chocolate Treats with Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients:
1 lb bar 72% dark chocolate (Trader Joes)
½ cup of coconut oil
½ teaspoon cardamom
1/3 cup maple syrup
¾ cup toasted walnuts chopped

Parchment paper
9X12” pan

What to do:

Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a pan on low heat. When melted, add in maple syrup and cardamom. (adjust to your taste). Line your pan with parchment paper while chocolate is melting.

While hot, pour the chocolate mixture onto the parchment paper and spread out evenly. Add crumbled nuts on top.

Put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Break up into chunks of chocolate and eat or give as a gift! Best kept in the refrigerator.

 

File Feb 12, 9 28 17 AM.jpeg

Bath Salts

Ingredients
2 cups Epsom Salts
½ cup Baking Soda
2 tablespoons Avocado or Olive Oil
10-15 drops of your favorite Essential Oil. (I like Lavender and Peppermint for this)

What to do
Mix all ingredients in a bowl thoroughly. Store in an airtight container. Use 4-5 Tablespoons in your bath. Enjoy.


Where’d that Meat Come From?

cows in the field.jpeg

A few months ago, I wrote a blog piece about being a meat eating Yogi and how I can’t survive on veggies alone.

True.

What I didn’t say was how important it is to know the source of your food. We actually are what we eat, and we are also what the animal we are eating has eaten. If the chickens and cows we’re eating are filled with hormones and corn, and raised in places that cause them anxiety and fear, we are ingesting those chemicals, corn and fear. Not to mention any other issues.

What we eat has a huge impact on our health and how we feel.

One of the best ways to insure we are eating happily raised animals who have lived healthy lives is to know your food source and where and how the animals were treated.

In this blog piece I want to introduce you to friends of mine, who are yogis and who raise cattle in the Inland Northwest: Frankie and Bill Browning, who run a family ranch in Spangle, WA. Their cows live their entire lives happily grazing pastures, and are hormone and anti-biotic free.

I met Frankie in a yoga class I was teaching 7 years ago, and soon after met Bill and we’ve become friends. Here’s my interview with Frankie and what she has to say about their journey:

frankie and bill.jpeg

Why did you get into the cattle raising business?

Bill was already in the cattle raising business when I met him. He always wanted to do it. He grew up on horses and roped, so it was in his blood.

How did you start out?

We started out as sport and hobby – roping cows. I was the one who was more into the food idea.

Before I met Bill, I was a borderline vegetarian. I certainly didn’t eat beef. But, I also had this affinity towards Native Americans and their stewardship of the land, and how they offered prayers and blessings when they sacrificed an animal for food.

What lead you to raising cattle that graze in pastures?

We had an incident that changed everything for us in how we raised our cows. One of our cows had a traumatizing birth situation. The mother and calf should not have lived, but we intervened and ended up saving both mother and calf. It was truly a miracle.

The mother cow could never give birth again, and we just couldn’t send her to the feed lot to have a horrible life and die. So, we gave her a new life in our pastures and later, we sacrificed her life with much gratitude and she fed us. We kept her skull, and her hide (which is still in our house) and gratefully nourished our bodies with her meat.

That was the turning point for us. We then decided to raise cattle to sell for beef, and to raise them with love and give them a good life before becoming our food source.

As we started keeping more meat for ourselves and selling it to friends, people began to notice how good the meat tasted and we began to pay attention to how the animals lived and how the land was managed and impacted the cow’s lives.

How did your business grow over the years?

When I met Bill, he had 20 cows. That was 13 years ago. We now have 150 cows. The growth of Browning Beef has been an organic process. The cows are all raised from birth on our property. They are all grass fed and grass finished. We don’t give them any grain, no GMOs or hormones. All of our hay is bought locally.

Why is your grass-fed beef not tough?

Well, it’s super fresh. It hasn’t traveled or waited anywhere. It could also be the Longhorn influence we have in our breeding. The lean flavor of the meat resembles bison.

Why did you start eating meat again?

I started eating meat again because I knew where the meat came from and how we raised the cattle. And it’s so delicious.

2 cows.jpeg

How does being a yogi influence your business?

Yoga continually reminds me of the connectedness we have with all living beings. Having a first-hand connection to my food, and being able to share this with others is a gift.

What are your biggest challenges raising cattle?

The nature of raising cattle is that you don’t get to go anywhere. It is a business that grounds you. We’re also dealing with the seasons and their mercurial nature all of the time. There’s also the temptation to make your calves weigh more and use grain. But that’s not what’s best for the animal or the environment, and it doesn’t support our values.

From a fiscal perspective, I’d say it’s challenging to get people to understand why it’s worth spending more for grass fed beef that has never touched grain, corn or bread, been in a feed lot or pumped full of hormones. We take a cut in that the hanging weight because the weight of a grain fed animal can be between 800-1000 pounds where our grass-fed cattle are 400-600 pounds. Sometimes, doing the right thing requires sacrifice.

What do you see as a major benefit of raising cattle this way?

There is a symbiotic relationship with cattle and the pastures they graze – the pastures literally come alive and are happy with grazing cattle. They look like green parks.  Noxious weeds are naturally controlled with mindful grazing practices.

The food we are producing is super clean, and is a healthy source of beef for our community. We know that people feel great when eating our beef.

The major benefit is that everybody prospers.  The land flourishes, the cattle are happy, people who eat the beef are healthy. It’s a win/win all the way around.

black and white.jpeg

Our philosophy

Being so reliant on the Earth for our lively-hood keeps us highly attuned with Mother Nature. We graciously do our part, staying in harmony with the environment by creating multiple ecosystems on our ranch. Despite "loss" of grazing land from our ecosystems, doing the right thing to help the Earth and future generations is both and honor and a duty.

frankie at farmers market.jpeg

Where can we buy Browning Beef?

Directly from Browning Beef 509-953-2062, Call, Text or Email: browningbeefllc@gmail.com
See website for updated farmer’s market schedule: www.browningbeef.com
Petunia’s Market, 2010 North Madison, Spokane; 509-328-4257
Golden Gem Mercantile, 18805 WA/27, Rockford, WA 99030; 509-291-3600

Get and EXTRA Pound of Ground Beef for Free

Buy 5 pounds of ground beef and get an extra pound for free. This promotion will last until March 1st. Use the Code word: YOGA to indicate you are getting the promotion through this email or blog piece

 

 


The Multi-Tasking Queen

NightSun.72dpi.jpg

I’m driving over the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland with my then-husband. It’s 1994 and he says, “You’re always doing multiple things at once.”

“I know!
It’s awesome!” I boast.
“I can do at least three things at once.”

I loved that feeling of being “oh-so-efficient” by doing multiple things at a time. “Don’t you think doing one thing at a time makes us more present?” my then-husband asked.

As I hurtled through space over the vast expanse of water, it suddenly occurred to me that he was not giving me a complement, but rather gently pointing out that I was not present most of the time. The very fact that I multi-tasked meant I was inevitably NOT mindful of one of the tasks at hand.

My heart sank.
“Hmmmmm.” I mumbled.

He went on to tell me some story, but all I could hear was the drone of words. His earlier comment made me realize I had a skewed perspective of my multi-tasking talent.

bone healing with elephant.jpeg

Five years later, after a car accident that reoriented my life, I was on a 12-day vision quest in New Mexico. My big questions at the time were “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do now?” I felt like I’d been given another chance at life and I didn’t want to waste it.

As I sat alone under the cotton candy New Mexico clouds, with only water for sustenance and myself to be with, I waited for answers. I was eager to know why I’d been given a second chance. I wanted to KNOW. What was my life about? How could I serve best?

On day 3 of the solo- portion of the vision quest, I began to hear a whisper of an answer.
It said:

“Be present.”

Each day I chased shade in the noon sun, and battled my longing for food and my desire for big answers, and I knew it was coming.

Still the answer came:

“Be present.”

I could feel my own grasping, that desire for something else, some BETTER answer. Something more precise.

“Really? That’s it? ‘Be present’?”

Yup. That’s it.
“Be present.”

I was hoping for something more – something like
“Become a nurse, go live in Africa and help build latrines.
Something more than ‘Be present.’”

christ hand hearts.jpeg

I left the vision quest disappointed and discouraged. What was I supposed to do now? I trundled on, down my life's road and continued seeking.

It took years for me to understand the answer I received on the vision quest.  Only after I’d been teaching yoga for 5 years did the “aha” moment happen.

“Ohhhhhhhh!  I’m supposed to be teaching people to BE PRESENT because that is my biggest life lesson.”

Since that vision quest, I’ve spent the last 20 years cultivating presence in my life.  With the onslaught of technology, with hundreds of apps vying for our attention, and the constant need to stay connected, it’s harder and harder to STAY present and to not check the phone, the computer, email or texts, much less Instagram, Facebook and twitter.

Our modern times are amazing and overwhelming at once. Never before has there been a time when we have needed to find the inner discipline to stay present and practice doing one thing at a time.

Never before has it seemed so critical to practice simplicity in our complex, fascinating world.

As I look back at that vision quest, I see that the answer I got was my life’s dharma. I still practice staying present. I have some personal policies that help me which I thought I'd share with you as we start 2018:

1.       Do one thing at a time. (I’m devoting 2018 to REALLY take this one on)

2.       If I’m with a person, face to face, all technology can wait – texts, calls, emails.

3.       When eating, slow down, be present with the tastes and flavors of the food. (This often means not talking or listening to someone talk I find)

4.       Check what I allow into my energetic field – books, news, movies, music – make sure whatever I read/watch/listen to is going to help me feel uplifted, not beaten down.

5.       Get out to nature every day.

6.       Play with children or animals as often as possible.

7.       Draw/paint/dance/sing/play a musical instrument

8.       Pay attention to light and how it changes throughout the day.

9.       Practice gratitude for what I DO have.

10.   Remember that there will always be more “work” to do, “laundry” to fold, and “errands” to run, have fun now!

These are some of my practices. As I said, I’m going to take on doing ONE thing at a TIME for 2018. Wanna join me? Let me know if you decide to take on any new practice in 2018 to help you stay more present.


Life Leads me to Become a Yoga Teacher

hit and run.jpeg

It’s 1999.
I’m 38 years old.
My world as I’ve known it has just been pulverized.

My identity is that of dancer, mover, yogi, runner, hiker, biker. All of that seems like a distant past in this moment.

I’ve been hit by a car as a pedestrian. As I lie on the black asphalt in the crisp February Bay Area blue sky morning, I hear the sirens in the distance.

“Oh, they’re coming for me,” I think as I lie there unable to move. I‘m terrified that I’m paralyzed.

A golden haired, black skinned angel comes by, looks down at me and says, “You’re alive honey, just keep breathing.”

I do.
I breathe.
I wait.

cast leg with hearts.jpeg

The paramedics come.

“Do you know what year it is, mam?”
“Really?” I think.
“Don’t these guys KNOW what year it is? And they’re the ones taking me to the hospital?”

“1999.” I say curtly, with a dash of disgust thrown in.
“Thank you,” They reply.

Four days later, in a morphine haze, lying on scratchy hospital sheets post-surgery, the doctor who operated on my leg tells me, “You’ll be able to walk normally in about six months.”

“Six months?” I blurt out before he finishes. “Doctor, I need to know when I can dance? I need to dance,” I demand, as though saying it forcefully will help make it happen faster.

“Well, that’s going to be a while young lady.”

crutches.jpeg

Months go by.
My boyfriend and I break up.
I convalesce at my parent’s house.

I’m left with myself for days, journaling, doing physical therapy, learning not to be afraid to cross the street.

My yoga practice, which is only a few years old, becomes a refuge. Though I have a hard time surrendering to restorative yoga where I hang out over bolsters and blocks, and wrap myself in blankets. I still identify myself as physically capable and strong.

Not long into the recovery journey, the physical therapist tells me I’m good to go, and I think to myself, “Are you kidding? Look at that poor range of motion in my ankle.” But it’s no use fighting the system, they have other people to rehab. So, I take it on.

black sky eye.jpeg

“I will rehab my body through yoga,” I reassure myself.

I find another yoga class in Oakland taught by Susannah Bruder. She’s awesome. She gives me alternative poses for my recovering body. It’s a whole new experience for me. I walk into class with a cane and have to use 2 bolsters for Virasana (a pose in which you sit on one block on the floor with bent knees). I’m tired and fatigued by many of the poses, and Susannah has to give me alternative options frequently.

Yoga becomes a haven, and a deep practice of acceptance. My identity has been stripped down to the essentials. My body and heart are raw and vulnerable. I have to re-learn how to walk, and how to move my ankle and knee, as well as develop a lot of patience with myself and the healing process.

bone healing with elephant.jpeg

What I don’t realize at the time is that I’m being trained for my soon-to-be profession as a yoga teacher. I spend hours learning to do yoga poses with props to help me get into poses I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

A year later, I take Susannah’s teacher training in San Francisco. As part of the training we have to offer some public classes. It’s the year 2000. I’m TERRIFIED to stand up in front of people and speak. But I forge ahead with the assignment. I have NO intention of becoming a yoga teacher. I just want to deepen my knowledge of yoga.

Life has other plans for me.

Within six months of finishing my teacher training I’m teaching 7 classes a week in the East Bay, and that grows to 10-12 a week. When people walk in and say, “Oh, I could never do that pose,” I look at them and say, “I know exactly what you mean.”

Then I tell them my story.
I see them visibly relax.

Healing.leg held in love.jpeg

They settle in on their mats, with their props and my instructions to support them to get into a pose they thought they couldn’t do.

Joy bubbles out of me when I see them accomplishing something they thought they couldn’t do. It makes my healing journey worthwhile.

Over the years, I find gratitude for the man who hit me as a pedestrian. The one who fled the scene because of his own fear. I am grateful, still, for the accident that lead me to become a yoga teacher.