Monday, November 21, 2016

Native American Ten Commandments

In honor of Earth Day, yesterday's March for Science and the Upcoming Climate March, I want to re-post this list of the Native American Ten Commandments that we got from the St. Labre Indian School. I think it pretty much covers what an individual person can do to make the world a better place.

I keep it at my desk and read it several times a day. It encourages me and reminds me that there is so much that is within my power.

Native American Ten Commandments

So we don't know what's coming as the result of our recent election. If we are to believe the rhetoric, there is some cause to be concerned for our planet and for many of its inhabitants. So often though, what is said and what is actually done are quite disparate, and one person, no matter how powerful, never has true control over people or events. Each of us, though, as individuals, does have the power to help protect the planet and to make the world kinder, more inclusive and safer.

I think that this list of the Native American Ten Commandments that we got from the St. Labre Indian School pretty much covers what an individual person can do to make the world a better place. I keep it at my writing desk and read it several times a day. It encouragesme and reminds me that there is much that is within my power.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Never Grow Up

This meme nails it for how I feel on my 61st birthday:

Monday, August 22, 2016

Santosha (Contentment)

Santosha is a beautiful Sanskrit word that means contentment. In yogic philosophy, Santosha is the second of five principles called Niyamas, which are guidelines for personal behavior that lead to a happy life.

Living a contented life is something that most of us want. But the road to contentment is riddled with bumps and ruts and potholes. Sometimes we miss our turn and have to double back. Other times we find ourselves well down a path that at first looked so promising, but eventually turns out to be a dead end. We encounter fallen trees blocking the road and accidents and detours. Sometimes we even manage to overlook giant blinking red STOP signs or flashing green lights along the way.

And yet.

Each step on the path, even the missteps, (especially the missteps!) bring us information. When we are young, there is so much to want, and this is not a wrong thing. Where we go off track is when what we want is all that matters, and nothing else will satisfy us. We become obsessed with the idea that our happiness depends on some desired event or outcome – getting a certain job, a certain kind of home, a certain level of income or even a certain person. All of our dreams of a happy life are wrapped up in and dependent upon attainment of these things. Our mantra becomes, “I’ll be happy when ….”

We get so caught up in our highly specific wants that we cannot even see all the other beautiful possibilities that are being offered to us. And so often, when we do get what we want, we find that it does not live up to our expectations, or it only satisfies us for a short while. Soon another want takes over and we are off and running again in pursuit of a new person or thing that we think will make us happy.

And then.

Eventually, we learn. Each time we get what we want only to still feel empty; each time that we don’t get what we want only to find that it was very much for the best; each time we let go of expectation and attachment to a particular outcome and find that something far better than what we hoped for simply "drops into our lap,” we experience our first glimmers of understanding that perhaps our attempts to control outcomes are working against us. We begin to sense that, if we let go of our need to control things just a little, things might work out just fine – or better than we ever could have imagined. We begin to sense that perhaps the Universe is actually on our side after all.

And so.

The road to contentment is the journey of a lifetime. Even when we begin to trust a bit more, to have a bit more faith, we may still sometimes want to seize control again. But control is an illusion, really, isn’t it? We grasp for it, but it has no substance. And so we learn the lesson again and again until it finally sinks in.

Eventually, we look at what we already have and realize that it is so much. We begin to be grateful for the small things, which turn out to be the big things after all. Our breath. Our lives. Our love. We begin to see all the beauty that surrounds us. We begin to see the souls of the people in our lives, rather than their outer shells or their quirks and annoying habits. We begin to appreciate nature again, the way we did when we were small. We begin to let go of clinging to our desires and become grateful for our blessings. Gratitude, acceptance, letting go, love, appreciation, generosity – these are the underpinnings of Santosha.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Limited Vision

I always dreamed of being a writer. I never dreamed of being a yoga teacher. Now I am both. Being a writer was a dream I dreamed for myself. Being a yoga teacher is a dream the universe dreamed for me. These two things, writing and yoga, have danced together in and out of my life since I was 10. In my 40's, they came together and stayed. I know that the universe wants me to teach yoga because it keeps dropping me into it and opening the doors for me. I don't think the universe is against me being a writer too, it's just that I saw that dream and knew it was within my control to make it happen, while living a yogic life and being a yoga teacher were not dreams I ever had for myself when I was growing up. Yet, somehow, I kept being nudged and directed and redirected down that path and when the time came, my soul said, "Yes, I want this," even though my mind had never consciously thought it.

This blog is Writeryogini because writing and yoga have become inextricably intertwined in my life. They are now both what I do and who I am. None of us are just one thing.  It's great to pursue our dreams, but we have to stay open to the idea that there may be more for us than just what we can see or imagine for ourselves. Being a writer was my vision for me. Being a writer and a yoga teacher were part of universe's bigger vision for me. Who knows what else there may be that is beyond the limits of my imagination?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

It Wasn't Courage if You Weren't Scared....

This post from last year has been getting a lot of views so I thought I'd repost it.

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Wasn't it brave of her to say that out loud? Georgia O'Keefe, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, a pioneer for women artists and a woman who lived what appeared to be an adventurous life, was scared the whole time. Wait - not just scared - she was terrified every moment!

Call me crazy, but I find that very comforting.

And recently I read a piece from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, in which she talked about her own fear. She basically said that she'd been afraid most of her life, and it had bothered her until she realized it was just the way humans are and decided to accept it, and more importantly, not to let it stop her.

Fear is a real thing, and I'm pretty sure anyone who says they haven't been mostly scared is either full of baloney or in denial. I've known people who kind of swagger with cocky declarations that they aren't afraid of anything, but I don't buy it. I think it's just that what we fear is different for everyone. I guarantee those folks are afraid of something - we just can't see what it is and they aren't about to tell us.

One person might not be scared to go bungee-jumping, but they might be scared to be in a relationship or to change jobs or to write a book. Another person might be petrified to go bungee-jumping, but might not be afraid to run for public office or to work for the Peace Corps in an unstable part of the world. And then there is the possibility that both people are afraid to do all those things, but each one chooses those things that they want to do more more than they fear doing them....

I used to be mad at myself for being afraid. And there were definitely times in my younger life when the fear held me back from doing certain things and it led me to make fear-based choices that didn't work out so well. But with time, I started to be able to do things despite the fear - to leave unfulfilling jobs, to travel, to move, to learn new things, to try new things, to write my books. Even now, when I sit down to write, I'm scared - that nothing will come; that what I write will suck. But by now I've developed some faith that if I show up at my desk, inspiration will come. I fear it won't, but I believe it will. And I want it more than I fear it.

It helps when we know we are in the good company of people like O'Keefe and Gilbert. It helps when they have the courage to actually talk about their fear out loud. We think people like that are different from us because they are so boldly out there in the world. But their honesty and openness helps us understand that we are all the same.

I'll let Elizabeth Gilbert have the closing word on Creativity and Fear:

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Be the Baby

Is anyone out there a worrier? I've always been one, though I will give myself credit for being far less of a worrier than I used to be. I mean, I used to worry about everything. My yoga practice and meditation have helped me a lot with "being present" and "accepting change" and not letting worry take away my present day joy. But there are still times and situations when my old worry habits can kick in and take over.

Like, when we travel. There is so much stress in travel today and, if you let it rule the day, that stress can discourage you from ever wanting to go anywhere! I'm speaking really of air travel, which is simply No Fun Anymore. There is the stress of getting to the airport on time, parking, checking in, going through security and getting to the gate. If you're like me, then every step of the way through all that you are constantly checking to make sure you haven't dropped your ID, lost your boarding pass or left your backpack in the restroom.

We recently went on vacation to Arizona, and all of those things were on my mind. Everything went fine - we even landed in Phoenix early. But my worried mind wasn't ready to settle down as we boarded the shuttle bus to take us to car rental, which in Phoenix is about a 10 minute jaunt from the terminal.

So I'm standing there on the shuttle bus, holding on to one of the bars of the luggage rack and running through my list of concerns: Would the car be ready? Would it be a good car? Would I be able to add my husband as a driver for no extra cost? Would the gps crap out or send us the wrong way? Do I have my license and AAA card?

A mother with a baby carrier boarded and stood beside me, resting the carrier on the luggage shelf, which fortunately, wasn't needed for luggage. She clearly had gone through all the same rigamarole as we all had, with the added stress of managing the baby AND her luggage.

The shuttle started up, jostling us over the bumpy airport frontage roads. Of course I found myself looking at the baby, because babies are cute. This one was extremely cute. But this one was more than just cute - this one was happy and content. He smiled and gurgled as we bounced along. His mother spoke to him and he giggled and wiggled his hands. We hit a bump in the road and he laughed at the surprise of it.

I thought about how this baby had no idea whatsoever that this was supposed to be stressful. He was just going for a ride. He was enjoying the ride. This baby was totally in the moment. And I thought about how we lose that ability as we grow up and grow older, because we become aware of all the myriad possibilities of things that can go wrong, and we don't want them to go wrong.

But that's not the problem really - of course sometimes things will go wrong. The problem is that this is where we end up living all the time - in The Place Where Things Might Go Horribly Wrong.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, things go fine. But we tend to live in that other one percent, all wrapped up in fear that bad things will happen. What a waste! I realized how silly it was to worry about whether or not the car would be ready - I've rented cars a hundred times and they've always been ready! And if we had to wait a little...well, so what! And I've never had a problem with a rental car. Yes, my gps has been known to misdirect or crap out, but Phoenix is familiar to me, plus there's the safety net of the cell phone these days. So none of these fears represented anything that was a really big deal, but altogether they were adding up to stress and a headache. I started mentally repeating, "Be the Baby. Be the Baby. Be the Baby." I even closed my eyes and let my body move with the swaying and lurching of the bus, instead of tensing against it. I found myself actually smiling and beginning to relax and enjoy the ride.

Since then I've used my "Be the Baby" mantra a few times when I felt myself starting to worry about something and it instantly boots me back to the present moment, like pressing a re-set button. In the present moment, everything is fine. If things are going to go wrong, they will. But probably they won't. And if they do, I'll deal with it. Babies are like little Buddhas, living each moment as it comes. If something goes wrong, they cry. But until then, they smile and laugh and enjoy the ride.

Be the Baby. Be the Baby. Be the Baby. Give it a try.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Sangha is a Sanskrit word that means "community." One of the most wonderful things about being a yoga teacher is being part of a community of students who share a common interest and enjoy learning together.

I recently had the revelation that, in my deepest essence, I have not changed much since I was a little girl of age seven or so. At that age, I loved to go to school and church and be part of those communities. I loved to learn. I loved to be with and play with my friends. And then, I loved to go home and be alone.

And now, I love going to teach my classes at the beautiful studio here or to take classes myself. I need to be in a learning environment in order to thrive; I love being with my sangha; I love tlking and laughing and playing with my friends. And then, I like to go home and be alone! 

It's funny how we have to go a long way in life, maybe even travel far from home, explore different jobs, different relationships, different places and ways of living, only to find that who we were at the age of 7 or 8 is who we've really been all along.

Here are some photographs from the Annual Open House at The Yoga Sanctuary yesterday. This is where I am so fortunate to be a teacher these days. My heart is filled with gratitude for this place, these people and for the miraculous ways of the universe that kept bringing me to yoga again and again throughout my life as if to say, " is your path! Over here!" And it never gave up on me as I tried different paths - it simply kept whispering to me until I finally listened.

Open House at The Yoga Sanctuary

On your left, Jennifer French, owner of The Yoga Sanctuary
and on your right, Me.

Everyone's favorite pose: Savasana
In our beautiful main studio

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Things We Don't Know

So very very true. I always try to choose my words so as not to seem like I don't care or that they don't understand. To those fighting your silent battles, be strong :) you will conquer all things!:

The other day, I had my perceptions of someone turned upside down. And in that moment, it crystalized for me how pointless it is to hold grudges or anger or bitterness toward other people for their transgressions against us.

This person was unkind to me a long, long time ago. We're talking probably 45 years ago. But when we are kids, acts of youthful thoughtlessness and unkindness carry a sting that can last a long time.

So it's not that I have hated this person all these years, or carried any sort of active burden of anger. But if someone were to ask me about her, I would have remembered first the unkind thing she had done and I would have said that my memories of her were not fond.

It was a small meanness that she inflicted, really. She was my friend. We played together and walked to Jr. High School together. We went to the same church. I liked a boy. The boy didn't like me; he liked other girls. After a while it seemed that my friend liked the boy too. One morning, as my friend and I walked to school together, she proceeded to tell me about a party she had had at her home the night before. A party she invited the boy to. A party she did not invite me to.

Funny thing is, though I was a little upset about the boy thing, I was more upset that she seemed to think it was just fine to be telling me she'd had a party and not invited me! That's what really stung. I was in such shock that I don't think I said much, but I was deeply hurt.

By the next year we were in high school. I'd blossomed into the kind of girl that the boy would have liked, but by then he'd gone away to prep school. The friend and I drifted into new groups of friends. There was no big break-up or fight, it was so gradual as to have happened almost without even noticing. The new group she hung around with was kind of wild.

Then, she disappeared. For months. I noticed she was missing. There was a little talk about it. But it was a mystery as to where she was. And it's remained a mystery to me all these years.

Until the other day, when I had lunch with someone from my home town, who, as it turns out, was part of that wild group my friend joined up with. We reminisced about all sorts of hometown things - people, places, events. And eventually the name of my old friend came up. And this person told me, as they say, The Rest of the Story.

My friend had gotten pregnant (she would have been 15 or 16 years old). She told NO ONE. Not her parents. Not her friends. She had an after school job. She saved her money. And in her third trimester, she went to her parents and told them that a) she was pregnant; b) she was giving the baby up for adoption; c) she had arranged to go somewhere for the next three months until the baby was born; d) she had paid for everything. When it was done, she returned to school and it was only then that she told her friends.

How incredibly brave she was! How strong! She could have chosen an abortion, but she chose to have the baby and give it up for adoption. Clearly, she wanted control over the situation and probably thought that telling her parents would take that away from her. She worked. She saved. She researched. She planned. She arranged. And she carried out her plan. At the age of 15 or 16.

At that same age, I got to go to England and Scotland with my family for a month. I danced and sang in the chorus of our high school play. I had a part-time job scooping ice cream at a dairy where my friends and I laughed and had a blast. I gabbed endlessly on the phone with my new best friend.

And while I did all that, my former friend did what she did.

I was awestruck by it. Any lingering animosity I'd felt toward her evaporated. I felt sad and amazed and touched and overwhelmed with compassion for what she had been through and what she had done. 

Compassion is an ongoing practice for me. It's hard to let go of old hurts. But this story made me realize (again) that we really never know what is going on in other people's worlds. That's what makes blaming and hating and holding grudges so pointless. I found that not only was I able to take her off my list of "bad guys in my life," I was able to take off pretty much everyone else too. 

I feel lucky that I can count on one hand the number of people whom I think were truly mean or hateful to me in my life. So my list was small to begin with.

But now there is no list. 

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.":