Earth Room

What happens when your brain is spinning with ideas, but you’re exhausted at the thought of action? What do you do when you finally recognize your happy place, and it’s 300 miles and a lifestyle away?

I don’t know. These aren’t rhetorical questions. I don’t have the answer – except maybe this: go for a walk.

Walking is my jam. It’s my moving meditation – even more than yoga. And yes, I would love a walk in the woods. But in the city, getting to loamy soft earth takes more time and energy than I have sometimes.

So I tell myself: Do this. Walk home. Walk to the train. Put your feet on hard concrete and walk. And if you want to smell the earth, go here.

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This is the Earth Room, a long-term installation in Soho. It is exactly what it sounds like: a room filled with dirt. In the summer it’s humid and the whole apartment is filled with a damp, visceral smell. It’s tempting to climb over the small retaining wall and let your toes roam. I didn’t dare touch anything when I visited, but people have.

When it comes to feeling disconnected, I tell my students – and myself – there is no better remedy than to tune in to that Muladhara earth energy and get grounded. Pound the pavement, or better, smell the earth.

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The sun is shining and the to-do list is long. And I can tell you, I could use a good nap. Even better, I could use a long walk with dirt under my feet and a breeze in the trees. Or to dig my hands into the dirt and get the garden going.

I’m two weeks in to a three week cleanse.

This is the point where New York City feels more crowded than ever. Where well-meaning jokes don’t seem funny, and the normal volume of life is just too loud.  And where the only thing I can hear my heart say is “Gently.”

My vanity and ego drove me here – put the idea of a cleanse into my head. But the wisdom of my heart told me to take it slow. No juice diet for days. Just simple, clean eating with the support of added proteins and probiotics. It’s slow. It’s clean. It’s working – and not at all in the way I wanted it to.

I wanted five pounds gone. Eight, even? But what I’m getting instead is wisdom. Is my heart breaking open. Is resistance to the wisdom of my own intuition. Resistance to the voice saying things like, don’t forget about me, about who you really are, about what is truly truly important to you underneath all of that ego and discomfort.

I know I need to dig out to give that voice some space, some light, some air. Part of me doesn’t want to do it – wants to go about my daily business, and let the voice be muffled by layers of dirt, ambition and life. I’m tired of feeling and tired of trying not to feel.

The only thing left to do is dig.

 

 

 

 

Fully human

“Being satisfied with what we already have is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted, and inspired way.” – Pema Chodron, Awakening Loving Kindness

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I sit here battered and beaten. Muscles sore, hot, dehydrated. It feels as though someone has beaten me well with a rolled up yoga mat, dipped me in salt water, and left me to dry on the sidewalk.

There may be a small voice in my left knee. There’s a slightly louder one in my low back. And my mind, my mind is one that’s taking the brunt of it.

The past few months has seen a serious recommitment to physical movement. There came a point where I didn’t recognize my body anymore. Didn’t know what it could do, or what it wanted to do. We hadn’t been speaking really.

We went from feeling like strangers to having four or fives dates a week. Things got hot and heavy fast. Barre every week, to barre teacher training. One beginner ballet class, to a crash course twice a week.

I can’t tell if I’m renewing my commitment to health or if this is my mind’s way of punishing me for aging, or neglecting to take nude photos when my body was perfect. And publishing them on the Internet so I could stare at them and wonder who the hell that was.

Rebellion is present. Rebellion against stagnation, restriction, incapacity. And then rebellion again against movement and work. It comes in the form of self doubt, the sinking comfort of the couch, and glasses of red wine. I’m striving for something and then fighting against it.

I read this early this morning, on Satisfaction from Pema Chodron: “It’s very helpful to realize that being here, doing simple everyday things… Is actually all we need to be fully awake, fully alive, fully human. It’s also helpful to realize that this body that we have … And this mind that we have at this very moment, are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.”

So all this work may not get me to some end. My body is my body. It’s getting stronger but it’s not going backwards through time. My mind is my mind. It whirls and sometimes it stops. My heart is full and it breaks. Fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.

The Breath

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I’m on the couch with a heating pad and a dog and a laptop. The snow, still more snow, is swirling around outside and I just stumbled on this beautiful short film.

reathing is at the essence of being human, but not just because it keeps us alive. Like laughter and facial expressions, breathing is something of a global language, capable of communicating a surprisingly wide and nuanced range of emotions without a single word.

This collection video from The Mercadantes, the husband-and-wife filmmakers Daniel and Katina Mercadante in California, explores the human breath and its innumerable forms – from the first gasping cries of a newborn to the sighed relief of a well-earned chance to rest.

If you haven’t taken a deep breath today, I highly recommend it.

Watch the film here.

Shift happens

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I don’t decide who to be every morning when I wake up. I just am.

Shift happens over time, it happens when we’re not paying attention. It happens when whether we’re busy or contemplative; intentional or unconscious.

But what if I could decide? If I could wake up each morning and decide who to be. I can’t wake up and change my job, my house, the weather, my friends and family – not everyday. But what if I could decide who I am at my job; how I live in my house; how I respond to the weather; who I am as a friend, sister, daughter?

I’m starting to think I can decide. And I’m not talking about faking it. I’m talking about real, authentic shifts in behavior chosen based on what I feel in my soul. I’m talking about the possibility, just the mere possibility, that I might be able to behave differently, to choose differently, based on who I am and who I want to be.

These shifts aren’t drastic really. I’m not thinking of picking up and moving to the ashram – which is something I’ve considered a fantasy option for some years now. I love my life, it’s really, really close to exactly what I always wanted. But there are some things that feel out of control: the obligations, the pace, the isolation.

For example, I don’t want to be harried. So, what if I chose to start the day with a walk or a book, instead of checking email while I’m still in bed? Not such a big shift. But over time – who knows?

If I were to embark on this experiment, and test this theory, how do I do it? How do I know who I want to be each morning when I wake up? The only way I know how is to ask.

Ask, listen, act. And then maybe, just maybe, I can decide.

The Power of New

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Pulling out the sweaters for fall. Picking up a new shade of lipstick. It’s amazing what a little change can do. The thrill a little bit of new can bring to your day. Whenever I get my haircut, I feel like a star (silly, right?). I’ll look around in meetings and wonder how we could all be talking about anything else other than this blunt cut.

A haircut or a new pair of shoes doesn’t change who we are. We’re the same person, and every task we’re faced with on a daily basis is the same. But the fresh scent when you change your shampoo, or put a new bedspread on the bed, it just feels different. Game changing in tiny ways.

This weekend I started practicing forearm stand. I’ve been doing yoga for fifteen years and this one has always seemed beyond my scope. I should know better. I tried it Sunday, and flailed around. But I find myself waking up thinking about it. I dream about it and I can feel my body strong and light.

I’m still practicing against the wall for now. And I haven’t felt it all come together quite yet. But I’m walking around thinking about it. Imagining sneaking into a conference room and shutting the door. How can any one get anything else done when there’s forearm stand to practice?

This beautiful pincha mayurasana is from Jessie Barry.

Crisp

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Fall is somehow all about expectation. Maybe remnants of back-to-school time. Some people look forward all year to the lazy, heavy days of summer. And I do like toes in the sand. But I anticipate tall-necked coats and hot tea in my hands. Sleeping with a window open to the chill and breathing hot breath with the covers over my head. Crunching leaves under my shoes as I walk, and walk, and walk with no end and the architecture of the city plays a movie for me.

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