Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

15Jul/200

Goodbye Yoga Props

When I got my teaching certificate I had a dream of becoming a "yoga studio on demand". I could show up anywhere within driving distance and set up a class with props for 10.

After leaving tech I expanded my inventory. I made a capital investment to purchase bolsters, two types, and more straps. More I could offer Restorative Yoga anywhere.

For a while it was great. I rented dance studios and made them yoga studios for small classes. When those dwindled to the point I was paying to put them on and no one would show up, I stopped.

They props lived in the van, four large Rubbermaid cases and one big suitcase to hold them all, until we needed it. Then they moved to the garage.

Now there's COVID. I won't be teaching in person anywhere for a long time. The props were taking up space now.

Today I sold them a huge discount to the Om Thrive Foundation. The Foundation supports survivors of domestic violence and was created by an amazing Black woman, Day Bibb. The bolsters, blocks, and blankets will be packaged up to be delivered to participants in the program.

I was so happy dropping them off today that I nearly cried.

Getting straps, which can be triggering to domestic abuse survivors (I absolute get this), to students and friends. Ditto for mats.

5Jul/200

Freedom

Some things my students named this morning when I asked them to share what freedom meant to them:

  • Choices
  • Love
  • Inclusive/Including & Responsibility
  • Movement
  • Breathe
  • Good sense to live a life of service to others
  • Lightness, ease, & abundance

I then asked them to notice how related all these things are. Then we considered how each thing on the list is not a fixed point.

If we stop attending to our abundance we no longer have abundance.

In this way we began to unpack the wise words of Angela Davis, that freedom is a constant struggle.

I spent much of the rest of the day trying not to feel enraged at every shriek of group laughter from the neighbor's. It's 01:05 and I just heard another firework.

I loathe the Fourth of July with a passion this year especially.

1Jul/200

Hello July

Today some trash and yard debris that's been sitting over a year was finally picked up and hauled away. I did a bunch of raking with the small crew to get it done, and I'll be feeling it, but it felt good to be part.

I released a patch set today in the soccer fan group I'm in. It's also something I've been working on for over a year and finally got it out there.

I found a really good home for the majority of my yoga props. I'll still need to deal with straps, which students will claim, and mats, which will be donated. The bolsters, blocks and blankets are going to a yoga foundation, run by an amazing Black woman, that supports people who've experienced domestic violence.

It's been a good day even if I'm up too late again!

25Jun/200

Freedom as Practice

With the Fourth of July just around the corner I've been pondering freedom. Not only what it means, but how it is a "constant struggle", as Angela Davis wrote.

This makes me think of the ways in which I remind students and myself that yoga is a practice, something we're always doing. The goal of our practice is often liberation, freedom from suffering, from the wheel of rebirth.

Trying to determine what, if anything is to be done about my peer who’s integrity I now question. Pandemic Days bring clarity!

16May/200

Gratitude

After ending yesterday feeling so frustrated by these times, tonight I'm trying to focus on gratitude. Here are things that brought me happiness today: the connection with students this morning, playing games with my wife, talking with friends online together, and making dinner number 63.

A dear friend bringing us fresh fruit and sweets, which was especially lovely.

When I guide people in exploring the Self of Bliss in yoga (anandamaya kosha) I'll have them reflect on connections they have with other living beings. Specifically the connections where were feel seen and appreciated, just as we are.

That's how fruit and sweets delivery felt today, dwelling in the Body of Bliss.

There were also these roses today.

14May/200

Both And

I’m finding that many of my students are welcoming learning more yoga philosophy, more yoga during these times. I realized how I could teach concepts of non-dual awareness based right in the emotions people are having.

Someone shared feeling guilty for feeling bad about missing things and the anxiety they had. They have so much to be grateful for, they shouldn’t feel bad. They could be so more worse, they are being selfish when others are experiencing much more danger.

I reminded them it doesn’t work like that. Feeling anxious about the pandemic doesn’t cancel out your gratitude. Likewise, your gratitude doesn’t make you unable to hold compassion for others.

It isn’t either gratitude or anxiety. Nor is it compassion or gratitude. We don’t have to buy into this binary, dualistic model. The world doesn’t work that way, even if many philosophies have tried to push for this.

Yoga reminds us that life isn’t a series of either/or scenarios, it is both/and. Gratitude, compassion, anxiety, and everything else.

We’re back to Whitman again, “Do I contradict myself?”

5Jan/160

Welcome 2016

So far the New Year has brought sleeping dogs, which is a big improvement since Bertie the Bulldog arrived in June unexpectedly.

First Nap of 2016 - January 1, 2016 - Portland, Oregon

Snow, at least for a few hours. Long enough for a two+ mile walk to, and around a nearby park.

Bertie's first experience with snow was pretty awesome. He particularly likes snowballs.

Soon after we got home from that walk the freezing rain started, leaving us with old Portland folks might call a Silver Thaw. It inspired this first poem of the New Year:

Ice envelops all.
Winter’s chill embrace lingers.
Swaying trees murmur.

Thankfully, by the time I needed to teach my first class of the year, I was able to safely drive.  My current schedule of classes around the Portland Metro area can be found on the Samatha Yoga site.

I will be heading back up to Plain, Washington, later in the month to attend a contemplative retreat lead by my teacher. It will be truly snowy; I'm looking forward to photographing the beautiful Grunewald Guild in the winter. Having already photographed summer and autumn, I'll have to think about a trip in the spring to complete a year of seasons!

Before I leave for the Guild, I'll hopefully pick up new glasses. My distance vision hasn't change that much, but my reading vision is showing my age even if I do still get carded once in a while. I've found frames, apparently made by an Italian designer who has Sir Elton John among their customers. This time the eye doctor, in discussing what they call my "photophobic eyes" (so nice to feel like I'm not making up my light sensitivity for the sake of melodrama), is suggesting a rose tint instead of yellow. That as well as a coating to filter out blue and UV. Should be much more soothing. I'm amused that I will indeed be wearing "rose colored glasses" when they're ready!

2016 will bring more teaching, new yoga classes and workshops in the works! I'll be working on my certification in Integrated Movement Therapy and my goal is to be done by the end of this year! I'm excited to continue to learn and grow into my path as a healer and teacher. I'm also hoping to attend the Northwest Yoga Conference in early March.

Some fun stuff too, as well as the intention for CK and I to do more fun adventures together. In May we'll be in Los Angeles to see The Cure at the Hollywood Bowl, which is pretty exciting. Discussing making it a road trip, camping in the van along our way south.

2015 ended with the news of my Mother's death. I'm not yet ready to write about it publicly. Not too surprisingly, she used even this to find a way to hurt and exclude me.

29Jan/100

The Body That Practices

I finally brought my notes together into a rough draft of the workshop on Metta Yoga, "Union with Loving-Kindness". I've been thinking about this for so long and tonight a question from a Dharma Sister wondering if I'd set a date in a few weeks reminded me I needed to not loose focus. I'd brought up to Hogen that I was deeply committed to teaching this workshop, that I see it is so necessary to cultivate love and compassion for the body that practices.

Once I started writing down times and what practice went where I was surprised at how quickly I brought it together. A morning introducing Metta practice before moving into Asana to warm the body and open the hips before resting. Sharing lunch, including some time to just eat, perhaps even 10 minutes of silent eating before people talk. Then gather people back together for discussion about the body, how we view it, how we compare it, and how we stop that cycle in favor of cultivating gratitude and compassion for it. Deep focus on Pranayama after discussion before moving into another hour of Asana practice to open the heart and focus the mind. Time to practice Metta during meditation and then ending in full Savasana.

There it was, a full day of yoga built around Loving-Kindness practice, cultivating love for our body. A part of me feels like a big fake. I have a lot of days where I rush to put my clothes on, even more disappointed with my body after weight loss than I was when I weighed 290 pounds! I certainly have times when I feel entirely unqualified to teach anything and no one wants to hear about my experiences.

And then I'm brought back to center. I become present to my body, that which supports me even on days like today when I don't feel very good. I've become better at recognizing when I need to rely upon the loving support and encouragement from CK, my friends, my Dharma family, and even my Mom. These people are all my Sangha, the good company of people seeking the Way. Like falling backwards into the thousand arms of Avalokiteśvara, I let myself feel the support of all of those hands of my Sangha and through that find belief in the truth they see in me in those moments I am unable to see it myself.

I am grateful for the belief of my Sangha and for my body which supports my practice, the Sagha of me.

29Jun/090

Body

It was one of those realizations during zazen that felt like it kind of thumped into me. Why writing about, talking about the weight loss is so difficult.

I feel shame for having gained all that weight in the first place. For having abused my body so much.

Every day I'm reminded of it by the skin. I mention it sometimes, like wanting to wear something with long sleeves to cover my upper arms, the underside of which have a great deal of loose skin. People shrug and say how that happens to a lot of people, it is genetic.

Only really, this isn't like that. It is extra skin. One of my dearest friends, who has had a lap band surgery, calls them her "Bat Wings". More exercise and different body care products will not make the skin go away. There or any of the extra on my belly (upper and lower abdomen), breasts, and thighs particularly. There is quite possibly 10 extra pounds of skin. That's what happens when someone goes from 290+ to 140 +/- (I stay within a few pounds of that in either direction).

I mentioned it to Chozen and Hogen after sitting. I was reminded that instead of shame I need to honor my accomplishment by helping others. I joked with Hogen, asking if he kept a tally sheet under the sazen cushion for how many times I'm told this lesson. He laughed and said only for me. Chozen noted that I needed to go back to the piece I'm writing for her with this mindset.

And Loving-Kindness, of course.

I haven't done it yet. We were in Sacramento all weekend visiting CK's family. It was an inferno there compared to Portland, painfully bright. There was a lot of family dynamics and tension I was getting introduced to at the same time. It brought up some tough stuff in my past.

On top of that CK's step-dad, a professional photographer, took a series of photographs of me. Well over an hour of going through yoga poses again and again, turning to get different angles. It was exhausting on so many levels.

I shouldn't have looked at the images mid-way, but he was making a light adjustment for me to do standing asana, so I looked. He was complimenting my chaturunga, how great it looked to get it in series. He does yoga, so often he had a comment or suggested a couple of poses I hadn't done.

I couldn't stop looking at the way the loose skin on my upper abdomen hangs down. Gravity being what it is there's just this round line. It doesn't matter how strong or lean my core muscles are in my abdomen, nothing will make that skin hang smooth against my body again.

I continued on with the asana, working up a real sweat in the warm house in my yoga outfit with long sleeves and pants. CK expressed surprise several times, noting how I could do some poses she didn't even realize I was capable of. I wasn't able to move away from feeling shameful about my body for a while, it wasn't until I looked at other poses that I could work my way back to appreciating my alignment in the asana the way a teacher would. Moving towards looking at my body as just a students, not actually my own.

Back to the writing for Chozen. Now that I'm out of excuses and have zeroed in on at least one big reason I'm so uncomfortable with it. I suspect there's others but this appears to be a good one to start with.

14Jun/090

New Tattoos and First Workshop

After the sadness and quiet of Friday we slept in late on Saturday before hitting a very full day. We popped by the annual Buddhist Festival in the Park and dropped of flyers for my class today as well as running over to the Dharma Center to pick up the post cards CK had printed of the various meditation times. Saw several members of ZCO there and we had planned to get back, but the day's errands just took over!

We decided we would take advantage of the Let Live fundraiser being held by Scapegoat Tattoo, a $30 tattoo with a vegan and/or animal rights theme. We lucked out and were the last ones to get our names on the list for my 9th and CK's first tattoos. It was a good thing we had several errands since we ended up being all bandaged up around 11:30PM. Afterwards we went off to Whiffies to get celebratory pies!

Today CK made some maple walnut cookies to share after my yoga class in the morning. Given that we hadn't had much time at all to publicize the event and there were so many conflicts this weekend (the biggie being Pride) I was thrilled that 3 students came and donated money towards the Heart of Wisdom down payment fund.

I learned a lot teaching this mini-workshop on Metta Yoga. I started by doing some simple stretches to open the body a little in preparation for meditation. I allowed several minutes to just settle into the breath and then introductions the three phrases of loving-kindness practice for five minutes each. After meditation we moved into an asana practice that included sun salutations, abdominals, and a warming of the legs in preparation for some heart openers. I offered Side Bow as a challenge option at the end before moving into some twists and forward bends, still opening the hips up. I allowed over 15 minutes for a long savasana and used a guided body scan that offered appreciation and loving-kindness to the body. At the very end I read the translation of the Metta Sutra from the San Francisco Zen Center that Chozen read to us one of the days during the Loving-Kindness Sesshin.

I would like to offer this workshop again in the fall, maybe September and perhaps for 3 hours. I don't want to cut down the meditation at the beginning or the body scan at the end, but the asana practice in the middle felt a bit rushed to me. I'd wanted to do a few more poses to go more deeply into the hips and legs, especially prepping for bow pose at the end. I also felt like I offered too few hands-on adjustments since I was moving quite quickly - only getting up to correct in bridge (four-footed-pose) since the precision is very important for the feet & knees.

I had a good chat with another member of ZCO after teaching and a meeting for the Founder's Dinner next Sunday. I expressed that I was feeling like I was to a point where I wasn't sure I wanted to keep teaching at the community center. More than anything I'm tired of asking students to come put their faces down on a floor that is often covered in glitter, dried mud, Skittles, and bits of popcorn. I also walk around on this floor barefoot - ick! The absolute privilege and joy of getting to teach at the Dharma Center highlights just how nice it feels to teach in an enviroment that supports practice.

I don't require a fancy location, but I look forward to a clean environment that supports the practice (Saucha!). To that end I expressed interest in working out teaching a couple of classes at Heart of Wisdom, when we have our own building, instead. I just felt that if I was splitting the earnings from teaching with a studio space, I'd rather split that money with my Zen center to help support it. It was wonderful to hear her agree that this seems like a good fit for Heart of Wisdom and my practice of teaching. I really look forward to working towards this goal in the future and helping support my sangha in this way.