Living outside the box.

Fridays always stir up my wanderlust. 

In college, we managed to skip around Europe some...and a few other places. I told my now-husband that I could be a nomad, and it was truth. Home was where I was, and in each place we went, I could see myself there. Blending in. Sitting at that little café. Walking, walking, walking. Trains, trains, trains. City or edge of civilization. Or somewhere in between.

Polebridge, Montana
via Flickr. Polebridge, Northwest Montana. Try the bear claw.
Now that there are other responsibilities, we tend to stick on this side of the Atlantic. And sometimes, pretty close to home. Which is okay. Because, when it comes to travel, luxe or cheap isn't the point. The point is in the going.

It sounds silly, but even just crossing the county line does something. Unleashes a little part of us that sees the same landscape day in and day out and has stopped taking it in. It reminds us that people live differently in different places. And that different places aren't that far away. It reminds us that tolerance to a way of living other than our own is vital to compassion. And that interest in someone other than ourselves and our own ways of doing things is healthy.

Downtown Tampa
Ten minutes west of my house.
Downtown Plant City
Twenty minutes east of my house.
Travel also shows us that life isn't always what it seems. It teaches us that stereotypes can be wrong. That small cities can be surprisingly progressive. That oppression exists in radical ones. That beauty and sorrow co-exist. Of joy and wonder stirred with aching despair. Of wealth. Of poverty. And everything in-between. 

Susan Sontag Quote
I heart this quote. Though, really, it's not about where you've been, but how each place has changed you.
So why do some people travel the world and come back no different than they left? It seems like such an impossibility, yet it happens.

Maybe it's that, no matter what the eyes view, it's not the part of us that does the seeing. Walking around with eyes wide open isn't enough. They look, but they cannot and do not determine what leaves an impression on us – or we would all be affected by things in the same way and same form.

A softened heart, however, sees all and keeps it for eternity. It is where the nature and value of our travel experiences live and are pumped to and absorbed into every fiber of our being. An open heart allows impressions to made and those impressions to change us. And whether they make us sad or happy, I have to think that the ways they change us are forever and for the better. 

Catch some rays.

Have you met the morning sun?
Not between the slats of the blinds,
But stepped outside 
and kept it company for the rise?

Have you shaken hands with its rays?
Murmured gratitude and thanks,
Full of love and in utter
Awe and wonder at its glow?

Have you felt its golden warmth?
Letting it shine like silk –
Softly, so softly on the skin
For a moment, just a moment,
No time but now, nowhere but here.


Watching the sun rise from the horizon is like being let in on a secret. Let's try to catch one this week.

A little weekend message.


“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” 

Amit Ray


Right along with students saying why they came to class, first-timers whisper why they almost didn't make it to class. They lean in. Drop their voices. Look nervously over their shoulders (exaggeration alert). And tell me: I don't want people to look at me. I'm not flexible. I can't even touch my toes.

That's when I lean in. Drop my voice. And break the tension with: That's okay. They probably stink anyway.


Breaking the intimidation factor is the biggest hurdle for first-timers. If you're feeling anxious about heading to class, just make a plan to arrive a few minutes early. Introduce yourself to your teacher. Let them know you're new. They'll make you feel better. Or laugh. Either way, teachers know it's easy to imagine that class is a bunch of people-turned-pretzels eying you down. But, just like most places (outside of middle school), everyone is too busy to check out what the person next to them is doing. In fact, many yoga studios are the most welcoming and mind-body intuitive places I know. They encourage respecting limits and offer modifications, so you'll never be stuck doing a pose your body won't do.

So don't let the intimidation factor keep you away from asana. If you can't even touch your toes, know that that's okay. Just bend your knees.


The benefits of yoga asana.

As a teacher, I hear a lot about the reasons why students make it to the studio and onto their mats.

Me time.
Can't relax.

So, does practicing yoga really help all this?  

Well, it's hard to believe, but some students actually look different after class. Physically different. From all of the breathing and yoga asanas (postures), their shoulders are no longer scrunched up all the way to their ears. The tension has left their jaws. Their scowl lines are gone. And there's a faraway look in their eyes – content, peaceful. Rejuvenated. Blissed out. 

If you haven't added a little asana to your practice and practice to your asana – the physical side of yoga – know that doing so comes with benefits like the above, and even others that stretch far beyond the end of class. Just take a peek at this...pretty amazing, yeah?

Is karma what you think it is?

Wednesday night I spent some time at a friend's house. The sky was dark and ominous, and the trees shook from trunk to tip, but we stepped out for a walk anyway. 

We've both been going through what I'll call a rough patch, even though that doesn't really do much justice to things of late. As we spilled and sorted out the latest, the rain started to fall in slanted pelts. On some level, it just felt so fitting to our conversation.

So, of course karma came up.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do sweet people get stuck in the stormiest of storms? And why does it seem like sometimes not-so-great individuals are sailing through life with blue skies and hardly a cloud in sight?

I wish I knew.

The next day, my 2012 teacher training popped into my head. "Karma isn't what you think it is," my teacher said. Like many other things, we've taken a concept, and, well, Westernized it. Simplified it into a crystal ball, an all-seeing force. A force that knows everything and either punishes or rewards accordingly.

If this were true, then life would be fair. And we all know it's anything but.

Which makes me feel like karma is different than "If I do good, I'll be rewarded with good" or "If I'm mean, someone will be mean to me later." It's not about good and bad and paying the price. It doesn't promise that bad things won't happen to good people or that there's any fairness at all in the chaotic nature of the universe. 

Karma is about the laws of action. The laws of cause and effect. And, with that, the laws of reaction. The impression, or samskara, made. Perception.

You may interpret something much different, Buddhism may say something different, but what I take from this is that random things happen to all of us – good or bad, deserved or not. These events leave samskaras, or grooves and ruts, in our subconscious (as yogic philosophy tells us). Our samskaras affect how we perceive past and present, other individuals and life as a whole. Sometimes, as all things are interconnected, we even inherit the scars of others. To some degree (but not all), these scars determine how much influence we allow hardships and celebrations to have over our future and to direct other parts of our lives.

In other words, I don't think we cannot stop what happens to us. The ins and out of who gets hardship and who gets calm waters is still a mystery, and again, I wish I knew. But part of karma, I think, is trying to minimize each hardship's effect, so we are ready for the next thing. So we do not act or react in a way that brings in more anger, more fear, more threatening clouds, but in a way where we can see a little light in even the darkest of skies.


From Steven Cope's The Wisdom of Yoga:
The laws of karma account, too, 
for the fact that our actions are based on our perceptions – 
and our perceptions have been shaped by our earlier actions. 
It's all a great loop. 


Fearing failure.

 I'm afraid of failure.

Have I written about this before?

Probably not – because it's embarrassing to admit, especially with my picture off to the right. But here we are. I'm not a perfectionist. Not a type A personality. Not a person who craves success. Yet failure looms in the background of every new idea that enters my head.

Which means I end up in self-inflicted state of inaction.

Inaction. A dirty little word. Why? Because, despite the imagery of and quest for serenity and stillness that it brings up, yoga is not the path of doing nothing. Serenity is not inaction. Stillness is not inaction. Peace is not inaction.

Yoga is a balance of something and nothing all at once. It is work. It is inner and outer movement through all aspects of life, from meditation to playing, gardening and shopping. There is always action. Even here.
The Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu text, talks a lot about action. Through a story about Arjuna (a young warrior) and Lord Krishna, the Gita makes it expressly clear that renouncing work is far, far away from the path to freedom. From the path of yoga. Instead, it tells us that freedom and lightness – and our life story – are born out of effort. Out of doing. Out of trying. Out of moving forward. Out of action.

Out of releasing attachment to results. To success. To failure.

Be focused on action and not on the fruits of action. Do not become confused in attachment to the fruit of your actions and do not become confused in the desire for inaction (Gita, 2,47).

It's a different thought to process in today's production- and results-oriented society, where livelihoods are intricately tied to the ability to reach a desired outcome. But when has that desired outcome ever been meet through worry, through craving and wishing and hoping? Never. Impossible. Those thoughts only weigh down our hearts and minds, and, in cases like mine, brings around a bad case of inertia. 

So: act. You know all those things you've always wanted to do? You should go do them. Just be in whatever you are doing, and I'll try to do the same. Do your best, with no mindset of pass or fail. The outcome says nothing about who you are. And whatever that outcome is...really isn't part of a yogi's journey. Not yours. And not mine.