Life Leads me to Become a Yoga Teacher

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

 


The Gift of Time

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I’m standing at the pharmacy counter in San Miguel de Allende, asking for directions in Spanish to Belles Artes when the other woman on my side of the counter approaches.

“Are you American?”
“Yes.”
“Do you have a moment you can spare?”

I assess my personal agenda in a nano-second  for the last day I’m in town.

“Yes, I can.”

I can see the relief on her face when I say yes.

“And you speak Spanish?”
“Yes.”

She launches into her dilemma – she can’t get through to America on her cell phone. Her daughter, actress in Mexico City, who’s been there 22 years has set her up with a phone. She needs to find At&T. She’s got a plan. It should work. The download of information comes in rapid fire.

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“First things first, let’s find AT&T,” I say.
She sighs. “OK.”

We wander the street we’re on. It’s supposed to be close. I pop in and out of stores asking, “Donde esta AT&T?”

Multitudes of answers come. Just up the street.

We find our destination and I spring into action.
Questions are asked.
Responses given.
Money paid.
Sighs released in frustration.

After a good ½ an hour of sorting through the confusion, paying more money, and getting her cell phone number sorted out, Sandi makes her call to the United States.

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“I’m never letting you go.” She says, a wide smile shining out from underneath her broad brimmed hat.

“My pleasure,” with the utmost sincerity.

I’m relaxed. Like this is my purpose for having gone into the pharmacy – to help sort out the confusion for Sandi.

She beams. She’s connected now.

It’s now been an hour since I met her in the pharmacy. I have the afternoon to go see the last sights and shop for a few items. And yet this diversion from my own “plans” feels like the most important thing I will do today.

Sandi and I hug, we exchange phone numbers and emails. She invites me to her farm in upstate New York.

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The whole encounter wakes me up to how the gift of time and attention are more valuable than anything else I could give anyone.

As the heaviest shopping time of the year approaches, I’ve decided to take this lesson to heart and put it into practice.

I will give the gift of time….by either spending time with people, doing something with them, or making them a hand-made gift.

As I leave Sandi, she pops into a shop where she’s spotted a pair of pants she fancies. As I walk down the cobble stone streets, my heart feels fuller than it did before I’d bumped into her.

Thank you, Sandi! Happiest of holy-days to you!


You're a Vegetarian, Right?

“You’re a vegetarian, right?”
I'm asked this question often as a yoga teacher.

After all, it’s practically in the doctrine of the yoga world – that we should all be vegetarians.
“Do no harm. Don’t kill.”

I get it.
I’ve tried.
And I’ve withered on the vegan diet.

So, the answer is a big “No!”
I love meat. I feel best eating ribeye and tenderloins sautéed in some bacon fat. And now that Bone Broth is in, I’m in carnivore heaven!

Philosophically, I’m in complete accord with the Vegans. I WISH I could be a vegan. I don’t want to kill any other sentient being to survive. But when I listen to how I FEEL when I eat a vegan diet, I notice I don’t thrive.

I lack energy.
I’m lethargic.

I know, if you're a Vegan, you might be saying, "Well, you just haven't found the right combo of food. Or perhaps your not taking enough B-12." I’ve had a number of born-again-Vegans proselytize that anyone can be a vegan, and in my own experiment I know this to not be true. I've been experimenting for over 20 years with diet, and I know a few things now.

I need the flesh!
I need the high fat.
My body does a little happy dance when the bacon is sizzling on the stove.

I used to feel guilty about it - that somehow I just “wasn’t a good enough yogi” if I couldn’t grock being a vegetarian.

But yoga is about bringing body, mind and heart into union. If your body is withering because the diet you’re eating isn’t helping you thrive, then a third of the trinity is missing.

The yogic way is to find the right balance for you. Each of us is different, with different needs and different ancestral roots. There IS NO one perfect diet for all.

So, I say, listen deeply within. How do you FEEL when you eat what you eat? For that matter, ask the same questions when ingesting anything from the outside world into your inner world.

How do you feel when you hang out with certain people?
At your job?
In your family?
Pay attention to what you allow into your inner sphere and the impact of that energy.

This is the path of learning to tune into our own inner wisdom and to trust what is true for us. What is true for you most likely won't be true for your friends, family or partners. Only we can know what we need, and the answers lie within.  

In my own acceptance of my love of meat AND vegetables, I offer you this new delight I concocted, called: 

Vegetarian Carnivore’s Delight:
1 head of broccoli – chopped into small pieces
3 strips of bacon – cooked to crispy and chopped up
½ a yellow onion – chopped
¼ cup of bone broth (or bouillon)
Pinch of ginger

In a pan cook your bacon until it’s crispy – set aside and crumble. Pour out some of the bacon grease, but leave some and saute your onion. Add in your chopped up broccoli and saute. Add in your pinch of ginger. Then add in the ¼ cup of bone broth to steam the broccoli a bit. Cook to your preferred texture – crispy or more fully cooked. Sprinkle the bacon bits over the broccoli. Serve right away!


In Troubling Times....

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It seems the world really IS spinning out of control with the abundance of tragedy around the world, from bombings, to shootings, to hurricanes, fires and floods.Things feel tenuous at best, and yet I can't help think that we are all being called forth to create the new world we want to live in. So, in these troubling times, when life as we know it seems to be falling apart, here are simple practices to create more love in life. 

Be kind.
Make it a point to be kind to the person in front of you in any given moment.

Play with the children and the elderly.

Make art.
Create something. Write a new song, paint a painting, write a poem, make up a new dance.

Gather together.
Get together with loved ones…family, friends. Make it a priority. Time is short and we never know when we won't have the opportunity to do so.

Gratitude.
Remember all of the small things your grateful for.

Break bread together.
Share meals with friends, family and strangers. Cook something and invite people over.

Go out of your way.
Take time to honor people who are important to you. Send a card, pick up the phone, send them a present.

Get out to nature.
Go on a hike, get on your bike, sit in the trees or by the ocean. Listen to the wind, the trees, the waves.

Love the animals.
Spend more time loving your pets, or other people’s pets. Go to an animal shelter and love up the furry ones.

Tell someone you love them.
Today.


It's Getting Personal

When my friend in the Bay Area texted me late Wednesday, saying, “Did you hear about the school shooting in Spokane?” my jaw nearly dropped on the floor. My immediate thoughts were, “No, not in Spokane.”

“No. Where?” I asked, wondering if I personally knew anyone who was affected. Because that’s how it is right? We want to know if someone WE know or love was impacted.

And the answer is yes.

Yes.

A dear friend of mine has been a teacher in the Freeman community for years, and in fact, she knows most of the kids in the school who were involved and impacted. She is devastated.

Needless to say, the community is reeling with grief and broken hearts. One student was killed and three others are in critical condition. It’s not only heart breaking, it reminds me that no corner of the world is “safe” and we are all dealing with the DIS-EASE of violence around the globe as a symptom of something much larger than each stand-alone incident.

I know in my own life, when I feel that DIS-EASE – when I have a fight with my husband, or a conflict with a friend, or I’m torn up by grief – I want to blame the outside. I blame the other person, I blame the circumstances, where I live, the conditions of my life. But it never helps. It feels futile and mis-guided.

When I dig deeper, I notice I just want to be loved, and sometimes I’m not going to get that from the outside world. It’s up to me to nurture and soothe myself, because no one, really, can “make me feel better.”

Often, I just have to feel the feelings and let them move through me.

So I dance.
I do yoga.
I hike.
I journal.
I make art.
I cry.

These are my ways to soothe myself, to help move the energy through. These are my ways to handle my own rage, my jealousy, my resentment, my grief, my anger.

I named the art show in Oakland, The Inclusive Divide because it’s about owning the disparate parts of myself – the good, the bad and the ugly. My thought is if I can gently love those “un-loveable” parts of myself, perhaps I’ll find enough space within my heart to be able to love those ugly places in other people.

None of us is perfect. We all have a shadow side that pops out from under the bushes in twisted ways. But the intense violence we are seeing around the world in communities everywhere is symptomatic of the shadow side of humanity and we need to find a way to heal that which is broken within all of us.

It’s not easy to look in the mirror and see, let alone OWN, those parts of myself I’d rather get rid of. I know from personal experience, it takes practice to keep loving – myself and others – and not run away. It’s a moment to moment practice.

As I close, I want to offer my prayers to the Freeman Community and to all who are impacted by this tragedy. I offer prayers for ALL people who are suffering around the world from whatever pain is moving through their hearts.

 

Here are a few good books to support your inner growth, and a TED talk by the mother of one of the Columbine High School Shooters. She talks about her journey as the mother of the shooter and the grief and despair she’s dealt with.

Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron
The Places That Scare You Are by Pema Chodron
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

My Son was a Columbine Shooter – This is my Story – Sue Klebold

 

 


How Long did it Take to Paint That?

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The truth is, I never know how to answer this question when people ask.

I work on multiple paintings at once, often bouncing from one to another in the same session.

Each painting is infused with lots of energy, intention, play, fun and joy. I put down texture and color, layers and richness as I go.

When I dig deeper to answer this question, I can’t help but think my latest paintings are loose and fun because I’ve been studying color, composition, art, and my inner world for a good 40+ years.

Every doodle, every art journal entry, every museum visit has lead me towards the creation of the latest painting.

Each art piece is a practice of letting go, taking risks and having faith in the process.

So often, I get to the “ugly teenager phase” of a painting and the critic comes out with her bullhorn saying,  “See, you can’t REALLY draw.” Or “SEE you’re not a REAL artist.”

Finishing a piece involves facing the inner critic and telling her to leave me alone. It requires determination and faith that I CAN get to the other side and resolve the piece.

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Painting is a spiritual practice where I come up against myself on a daily basis, alone in my studio. Sometimes the only thing to do with a painting is to step away. Go for walk in the park. Or sit by the river.

So, I ask myself, “Does that ‘count’ as part of creating the painting?” Or are people asking about the actual hours of putting paint on a canvas?

Sometimes a painting will sit in my studio for months, almost finished, but “not quite there” and after 5 months of seeing it and not wanting to mess it up, I will whip out the final layer in one session because it’s brewed within me and that “something” is ready to emerge.

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How long did it take me? I have no idea.

Months of waiting? Months of looking?

Years of building up my skill level? Years of practice letting go, trusting my own marks, learning to love my marks? Years of playing with color and finding my voice in line and form?

The truth is, it has taken my whole life to paint the latest painting. It pours forth from a deep place within.

Paintings are works of art because they embody the energy and intentions of the artist who created them. They are literally a piece of the artist. When you buy a piece of art, you are taking home some of the energy of that artist. That’s why original art is so powerful.

So, how long does it take to make a painting? You tell me.

(Post Script:
The abstract painting above was finished in a few sessions. Underneath it is the image of this boy I'd been working on for MONTHS. I could never quite resolve it. I worked from a photo I'd taken in India 20 years ago. I so wanted to represent the mystery of this boy. But after 5 months of waiting, I was finally willing to let go and do something radically different. The outcome was the final abstract piece.)

 


I Have Everything I Need....

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As I was parking my car for the journaling workshop, I saw a woman towing a small cart behind her.

Hmmm, I mused. She must be going to Orly’s class too.

I wonder what she has in tow? For once, I was traveling light. I’d brought my journal, a few paints, brushes and pens.

I’d been following the teacher, Orly Avineri for a few years. I love her style, her depth and her rich textures. Her work feels like someone who’s traveled her inner highways.

I knew I had to be here at this workshop, on this weekend.

As Orly began, she told us to bring out the materials we’d brought – fabric, old pictures, memorabilia. We were building nests.

I looked around.
My stomach did a mini-flop.
I didn’t have any “materials.”

I didn’t bring anything but my journal. After all, it was a JOURNALING workshop. I’d even asked in the FB group if we were supposed to bring anything and I heard nothing back.

I gently chirped, “Ummm, I don’t have any materials. I must have missed that memo,” feeling the heat of embarrassment race down my neck.

With eagle eyes, Orly looked at me, “You didn’t bring any materials?” she said, in a kind and yet curious tone.

“No.
No materials.
Missed that memo.”

“OK,” she glided on without missing a wing beat.

“Well, you can use some of mine and I’m sure people will share.”

Heads began nodding in the room of 11 women.

Before I knew it, I had a pile of papers, cheese cloth, string and pictures in front of me to build my nest. I felt my shoulders drop down away from my ears and I took a long inhale and exhale.

Of course!
I have everything I need, even when I think I don’t.
Even when I think I don’t!

We were building nests.

I’d been thinking about the nest – a home, a safe place, a place to grow and develop. A place that is about coziness, togetherness and family.

Just like Orly’s rich journal art, the weekend was already more complex than I had anticipated. Just weeks before, my half-sister, Vicki, had died and her memorial was in Los Angeles on the Saturday of the workshop weekend.

The moment I found that out, there was no question I had to be there.

My Saturday was spent in Vicki’s nest. I flew into the tender place where her kids, friends, and family honored her through their stories. I walked away with a beautiful picture of a woman devoted to raising her children to bloom into their most authentic selves – a true gift of a mother.

We all laughed and cried and I felt a sense of being inside the nest while there.

On Sunday, the instructions were to pull our nests apart and lay out the newly died strips of fabric and paper. Some balked a bit at deconstructing the carefully stitched together bundles. And yet everything that comes together eventually falls apart. Nothing is permanent.

The whole weekend felt like a dream and like I’d been delivered to the place I needed to be without me having to do anything. It was the perfect lesson. I just have to remember that I have everything I need, even when I think I don’t.


We Have the Same Eyes, Lips....Like His...

I asked for her address a few months ago. I wrote down her new digits on a piece of paper which lay in some pile on my desk. I had good intentions of writing.

Writing a letter to reconnect.
Writing a letter to see how her new life in LA was going.
Writing to stay linked to a past I know so little about.
Writing, perhaps, to just say hi.

After all, we were related by blood. There’s something to that right?

Even if you don’t grow up in the same household.
Even if you have different mothers.

We have the same lips. Similar eyes. They look like his eyes and lips.

Over the years, I’ve scrutinized pictures of our father, me, her, looking for something. But truly not knowing what I’ve been looking for. Perhaps a sense of belonging.

A sense of family.
A sense of connected-ness.

The long Winter came and went, the tulips bloomed, the dogwood shed her pink buds, and now the poppies are blooming.

I didn’t write that letter.

And now it’s too late.

She has transitioned….passed on to the other side where letters are of no use. So now I’m doing my best to talk to her in my prayers, connect in a way we couldn’t in this physical form.

It happened so quickly.
Nine days from knowing she was in the ICU to her being on the other side, address-less.

 

We weren’t close, though she always had a tender spot in my heart. Family. Blood line. It counts, right?

I have no answers.

I spent the weekend going through old photos, looking for bread crumbs through my past to help me make sense of it all. Make sense of the twists and turns in life that have broken my heart open to grow bigger each time it’s smashed to smithereens.

The day after she died I wrote 10 people in my life and sent them photos. I have more to send. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to let them know they’ve been important parts of my tapestry.

That counts right? Letting people know you love them. Or have loved them to the best of your ability.

It’s all I know to do. Sweep up any mess I’ve made in my past. Forgive myself and others and move forward.

So she’s helped me write the letters to the ones who still have addresses.

I will miss you V. Miss the chance to reconnect here in this sphere. As they say,
“May you rest in PEACE.”

 


Whose Dog is that Barking?

It’s 3 am and there’s a dog barking. I’m groggy and annoyed. “Whose dog is that anyway?” I wonder in my melatonin stupor.
“Is that Zara (our dog)?” I mumble to Erez.
“Hmm dunno,” he mutters and pulls himself out of our cozy bed to go check.
“Nope,” he says upon return to slumber-land.

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It’s 6:30 am, I’m still asleep. Erez bursts into the bedroom.
“I found that dog whose been barking. He’s been tied up all night in the park.”

When I come downstairs, I see my husband in the park with the dog. He’s laid down a blanket and has what I can only assume is a bowl of food in his hands. He’s doing some fancy moves walking back and forth, talking to the dog.

That’s when I fell in-love with him all over again.

We just celebrated 10 years of being married last weekend, and right there I see the man I fell in-love with the moment I met him.

He’s the brave one. The risk taker who’s willing to approach the lunging, scared, barking pit bull tied to a tree all night.

I just stand and watch him work his magic.

“Come. It’s ok. He’s warming up to me. I’ve already pet him.” I approach with caution, get on my knees on the blanket and put my hand forward. The dog sniffs and begins to relax. I move in to pet him.

Within minutes, (and after an hour of Erez being with him) he lets us both love him up, rubbing his head, his backside. He offers a kiss.

“We need a name for him,” we say almost simultaneously. “And then what? Facebook? Animal Shelter??”

He has no name tag, his ribs are showing and he needs a bath.

The morning wears on with texts, Facebook posts, calls to shelters, a visit to see if he’s chipped. We relax into the fact that “this is what we’re doing now.” We aren’t going to “get any work done.”

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He migrates with us to our front porch where we keep him on a leash. He’s had a meal, done his business and he’s so tired he crashes on the hard wood floor..

With each passing hour I fall more in-love with him. We’ve named him Cuba. I can feel how I want him to be part of our furry family of two dogs and a cat, but Erez tows the line. “No, we don’t have room or time to take this on. He’s a puppy really. And strong. Not the time.”

I know it’s true. But my seven-year-old heart wants him. There’s room for everybody at the Inn when she is in charge.

With the help of our Corbin Park, yoga and Spokane communities, not to mention friends in other cities lending their kind encouragement, “Cuba” finds a home and is moved to that home in the early afternoon.

I cry. It’s just my nature.

Letting go of him breaks my heart.

I already love him even though I know we can’t keep him.

I love his sweet, fierce, loving disposition.

We pack him off with his new Mama, Denise, who has fallen in-love with him on sight too. As evening comes, I cry some more and Erez holds me, loving me for my own tenderness. I am once again reminded how grateful I am to be married to this man.


I've Left My Hot Steamy Lover

You’ve seen him before. It’s not your first time.

He’s the sexy refined one flashing his seductive ways. He hangs out in the shadowy corner and seduces us with his fast moves and fancy hip swings. Then when you’re close, you can’t resist his allure, and you let him grab you by the waist and pull you close despite the inner danger signals.

The minute his arms are around you, you feel high as a kite. You’re titillated like a blushing school girl who can’t find any way to articulate the word “NO.” Then he works his wonders and looks at you deeply with his chocolate almond eyes capturing every ounce of your attention.

Your whole body says, “Yes, Yes. YES.”

You know what I’m talking about girls? Right?

And you breathlessly say “Oh, I want more. Yes.”

“More.”

And you want it bad!

Even though you’ve been down this road before; even though you know this seductive lover isn’t good for you, you can’t help yourself and you succumb to his polished ways.

In this moment, you are the most beautiful, sexy, alive, desirable one in the room. You’re hooked.

When he dances that sensual dance with you, his strong arm around your waist, he pulls you in closely, and you feel the flush of heat rise up through your core. With shut eyes, your head tilts back and you are soaring in the clouds.

Up until the last drum roll of the song, you are in heaven.

And as quickly as this slick steamy lover chose you, he drops you like a sizzling skillet on the floor. You land in a pile of your own bones, shaking your head, awakening out of the love-sick dream. You feel bruised and banged up, stiff and cheated.

“No, no.”

“NO” you want to scream. “This can’t be. I felt so good. I was so in love.”

You desperately look around the room for the smooth mover. He is nowhere in sight. You are left. Stranded. Alone. Addicted with no fix. No way to soar to the clouds and back.

You pull yourself up and dust off your skirt and your pride. You’ve been here before. This is not the first time. You try to tuck away the huge cloud of shame billowing around you.  For the next few dances you sit on the bench and encourage yourself with kindness.

Feeling a bit hopeless, like there’ll be no life without him, you pick yourself up and decide to dance alone. You sway your hips, roll your spine. And then you see someone else on the floor ambling your way.

“Who are you?” you ask.

“I’m a hot date,” he smiles in a joking way. You look at him, he’s a bit pudgy and round, looks a bit soft, but his eyes glow and his humor is sweet. He extends his hand in an invitation to play with him. When he takes your hand, he twirls you like a lady and you wrap your bruised arms around his neck and settle in for a new dance.

It’s not as mind blowing. You don’t soar as high. Instead you feel nourished, held, grounded. You know he’s not going to dump you at the end of the song. He’s there to lean into, to comfort you. He’s there for support.

When the song ends, he looks into your eyes, bows like a prince to his lady and smiles a wry smile that says, “We should do this again sometime.”

Your heart skips a beat like you may have met someone for the long haul.

You smile back and your eyes say, “Yes.”


Seeing Red!

We are what we feel and perceive. If we are angry, we are the anger. If we are in love, we are love. If we look at a snow-covered mountain peak, we are the mountain. We can be anything we want…” Thich Nhat Hanh
 
I know I’ve heard it many times – "whatever you place your attention on is what you’re going to experience." It seems so simple and straightforward. But this lesson hit home in a new way when I was in India with our group last month.

Each day we had an exercise to look for one color as we moved about the streets of India. Each color corresponded to a Chakra. We were to take pictures of that color throughout the day. The first day was Red, for the Root Chakra and as we set out on our way to see the temples of Mamallapuram, lo and behold, it seemed all of the women were wearing red saris. We all exchanged smiles, and snapped away, often taking pictures with the women.

The next day, we traveled on to Tiruvannamalia, a few hours to the South to visit Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram, and our focus was on orange. Well it turns out, all of the Sadhus were wearing orange, and they lined the streets as well as milled about the ashram.

The group began to ask me if I had called ahead to get India to cooperate with our color exercise. And so it went – whatever color we worked with, we not only found it, because we were placing our attention on finding it, we had the visceral experience of this lesson.

It is true, that wherever you place your attention, that is your experience. The person who sees the glass half full is right. The person who sees the glass half empty is right. It’s all in the perspective.

So, the question is what do you want to focus on? Where do you place your attention and what are you growing in your life? These are the questions I will keep asking myself.


I am in the chaos phase!

Of the painting.

The phase where all of the marks just look like a scrambled egg on the canvas, the kind you think any 6 year old could make.

And it’s probably true.

It’s the phase full of potential, power, possibility.

It’s the phase in the middle, when after “trying” so hard to “make” something happen that the inner voice just says, “Fuck it” and you throw down paint and get back to the truth of who you are as an artist and step back into PLAY.

It’s fun. It’s messy. It has no goal.

It is unbridled energy that infuses the painting with mystery.

The mystery of something greater. That intangible “something” we long to paint, describe in words, but best to just feel it and be it.

The chaos phase is also the phase where the critic can come out and say, “See, I told you so! You’re not a REAL artist.” She knows your tender spots and goes in for the kill, while standing on the side having a cigarette looking cool.

If you let her intimidate you, if you believe her, this is the phase where you give up on the painting. You let her win.

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I have re-framed this phase for myself when she shows up. I tell her, “Yeah, yeah. THIS mess, you’re calling it, is a new beginning. It’s a new possibility infused with so much energy it’s bound to be “better” than what I started out to make.”

She tends to skulk away when I stand my ground. And now, she barely shows up anymore because she knows I’m not giving up.

My layer is dry now, so back to playing with more color to see where it will take me!


Winter Storm: How the Painting Emerged

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The good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. Lao Tzu

As with all of my paintings, I had no fixed plans when I began Winter Storm. I lay down the first few layers in pinks and reds, browns, oranges and yellows, making marks with brushes, my hands, tools from around the house.

I let go into the play of color and movement.

The canvas sat for a few weeks with those layers pulsing their energy. Then winter descended and all I wanted to do was see what snow looked like on the canvas. How could I “express” the feel of snow, cold and a winter storm? How could I make YOU the viewer feel winter?

That’s when I began to drip white, make marks in white and finger paint in white, gold and the super light hues of gray blue.

Winter felt abstract – hard to see through the snow. It felt barren and yet full of beauty in subtle ways. As I layered the whites, light golds and gray blues, I began to see hints of bushes, trees and ponds within the landscape of white.

So I followed the winter path laid out before me and Winter Storm emerged. Here’s the first in the series.

Often I find, I need to drop into faith – and remember that things WILL work out, but perhaps not how I had imagined. This is the lesson I receive from painting again and again!

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Sometimes I just feel so unsure. That is why I paint!

we stand together

Sometimes I just feel so unsure.

About what’s actually real! My truth or someone else’s?

For so many years I’ve been looking to the outside to find the answers. Surely SOMEONE must know what to do to fix things – to bring about love instead of hate, to end discrimination, poverty, global warming.

The pain in my heart.

Unfortunately, I have found no one else who has the answers and that is why I paint. That is why I write. That is why when I get completely triggered, once I get over my tantrum, I look inside and ask why I got so triggered.

What in me was threatened? What in me is that other person reflecting for me to see? To help me transform within myself so I can be a bit more freer.

It’s so uncomfortable.

Sometimes I just have another tantrum and say fuck it, it’s their fault.

But I know that’s not true. I know if I’m uncomfortable, that I have some work to do.

 

So, how does painting help?

When I create a painting – from beginning to finish – I experience the range of emotions. It starts out fun and free, like “yay, I’ve just met the love of my life and they are going to be the perfect person for me.” I’m in bliss. Nothing held back.

Then I start to see the “flaws” in my own mark making. The painting turns ugly. My inner critic saunters in and leans against the wall having a cigarette (notice SHE’s not painting) and says, “See you SUCK at this. WHY are you even bothering?”

I know her now. At first, when I returned to painting she got my goat. Now, I expect her to show up and I wave, give her a head nod and go back to what I’m doing. She gets bored with no attention and eventually she leaves.

I then summon the inner steadiness to stick through the messy, uncomfortable, ugly parts of making a painting, because I know I WILL get to the other side.

But I have to commit. It’s exactly the mid-point of making a painting where I want to give up.

Resilience, stamina, discipline come into play – just like in relationship – oh yeah, that person is not going to solve my personal problems. DAMN. Maybe I should dump them and move on to find the one who will.

Uh uh. No…

As I stick through it, the joy returns. I’ve slid over the hump and the image starts to come together in feel, tone, composition, meaning. The excitement is back and it’s richer than the first fling.

It has more layers.

It’s deep with the meaning that has come through as the painting revealed itself.

My job is to listen to the muse. To be the channel. To let go of what I think I should be making and drop into the space of dancing with the Divine –  then the magic happens. And THAT is bliss.

It is there, that I find my teacher.

Divine intelligence speaking through me.

It is an awesome (note the word AWE) experience to let go and trust something else “has got this” and you can relax into following instead of leading.

It’s my biggest practice – to trust, surrender to something other than my own little efforts.

That is why I paint every day.

That is where I am getting an inkling of why I am here, what I am “supposed” to do.

How about you? Where’s your teacher?

Where do you find your own answers in life?


Donald Trump is my Teacher

Donald Trump is my teacher. No seriously, hear me out. I am in shock that he is our new president, but he is now a reminder to me that ANYTHING is possible.

Absolutely anything.

So why is he my teacher?

Because here’s a guy, who not only was a laughing stock when he announced his candidacy, NO ONE thought he’d become the presidential candidate, much less the president.

And yet he did!

How did that happen?

He believed. He believed he would become President. I heard it in his shoot from the hip rhetoric – “We’ve got this.” “Did you see the polls? We’re ahead in the polls!” “Hillary is a liar and a cheat.” He planted doubt about her at every step of the way, and touted his lead, even when he wasn’t leading.

He TOLD us he was going to win. He got HIS supporters excited and engaged them.

Strangely enough I feel energized and even more committed to my own path. It’s exactly the kick in the pants I need. There’s no more time to be asleep, to drop into self-pity that “I can’t” or “I’m too afraid…” to do what I’m here to do.

No, the time is now to make change – for all of us. We can’t wait for the government, the corporations, our friends and family to “take care of us.” It’s time to step up into the game and play. Play it big. Bring our gifts to the world – whatever those gifts are. Stop apologizing for our faults (note Donald doesn’t do that!).

It’s time to DO what we love. Love who we’re with. Accept ourselves as we are, with all of our blemishes, unhealed parts and to DO IT ANYWAY. Whatever “it” is.

So, despite the “bad” news for half of the nation, I say it’s a wake-up call.

Do something today.

Hug someone (as Michael Franti tells us in his song, Once A Day “Everybody oughta hug somebody at least once a day…)

Do a random act of kindness.

Send a love note.

Pick up some trash.

Smile.

Do something to make this world just a tiny bit better!