Ode to India

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


Where’d that Meat Come From?

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 


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.

 


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!


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