Archive for the 'nature' Category


This weekend I went on my husband’s version of a horse ride.

We went down the Sacramento Delta — river-lined agricultural land south of the city. Feels like another world far away from traffic and stop lights.

We stopped at a roadside fruit stand, went to a biker bar and swung over to see Cowboy and his buddies.



Even though motorcycles aren’t my thing, I’m starting to understand why my hubby likes to ride.




Actually, what he enjoys about his time on the motorcycle is similar to what I enjoy about being with Cowboy: he must be present and mindful, at the same time he can slip into another realm of awareness, and it gets him out of the house and into the gorgeous world.



The last few times I’ve gone with him, I’ve found myself in an almost hypnotic state. I think it’s the fear factor and knowledge that 1) I’m not in control; and 2) I could die any second. Of course, those two things are always true, I’m just much more aware of that reality on the back of a motorcycle.

In this semi-hypnotic, hyper-aware place, I begin to wonder what the heck I’m doing with my life.

It could be over so quickly… Have I told the people in my life how much I love them? Have I given myself as fully as I can to causes and moments and making a difference? Why am I waiting for someday to do the things that matter — my dreams and life list items — and to let go of the piddly things?

I can almost imagine the moment one’s life might “flash before their eyes.” It reminds me that it’s good to do things that scare me. It’s good to check in with my priorities. It’s good to love, forgive… and go for a ride with my husband.

Now if I could just get him to take a ride with me and this sweet, beautiful beast.



work hard, play hard

work hard
play hard
try hard
think hard
run hard
do we even love hard?
we definitely hate hard
sometimes we even make our yoga hard

Why does everything have to be so HARD?

We’re a culture of extremists, intensity junkies. We go-go-go until we drop. We hold on as long as we can, and then we fall. We hold it together as long as we can, and then we crash.

What about softness, gentleness, rest, innocence, ease, peace, spaciousness, kindness, love, tenderness, curiosity, slowness?

Not as words or ideas or trite clichés, but as things we do

Things we make time for. Qualities we bring into our lives. Now — not when it’s the second before too late.

when hard shows up

Of course, I am thinking about this because I see it in myself. I justify it because the things I’m doing are (I think) “good” and worthy things. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s too much.

The other day I canceled a monthly lunch with friends because I had an overwhelming amount of work to do. Both women gently came back with, Really? You’re canceling lunch to … work.

In my overly stressed state, I was pouring lighter fluid on the fire. Yes, I had a ton to do and there are times to block out the world, hole up, and get to it. But my state was more chaotic than clear. More self-loathing than focused. And by avoiding the one thing in my day that could offer spaciousness and love, I was buying into hard.

extremes are easy

It’s really easy to tell when you’ve worked yourself to exhaustion.

It’s easy to justify a week-long vacation when you haven’t taken a day off in three years.

It’s not so easy to identify the first signs of overwhelm. Or to build mini breaks into your day/week when you don’t feel like you’ve earned them. Or to be soft and slower-paced… because that doesn’t feel like 100%, and boy, do you always give 120.

Extremes give us something to rub up against. We can feel them (as they slam the nervous system back and forth).

Middle ground is much harder to navigate. It’s broader and doesn’t give such a strong sense signal.

how to tell?

Hard feels urgent.

It’s also LOUD. And aggressive.

I have to keep working or else…
I need a day off now or else…

Or your body tells you — the heart races, you get sick, injured, clumsy.

Middle ground is… well, kind of boring. There’s no big drama. No panic. No bright and shiny.

It’s quieter. It’s wide. You may feel resistant to it (I would much rather work than take care of myself).

One way we can develop sensitivity to middle ground is to practice tuning into the subtle. Even now: notice the sounds around you. There are obvious ones, sure. See if you can begin to listen underneath those louder sounds. Are there softer ones? More far away? Closer? A lower tone?

Or go outside. Not for a power walk, but to sit and watch the leaves dance on a tree. Look at the sky. Plop your tush down in the grass and do nothing. No, you can’t take your phone with you.

We’re talking about feeling spacious. Feeling ease. Feeling soft. What would that feel like?

do the little things before you need a big thing

Take a break before you need it. Rest. Go slower. For God’s sake, go to lunch with your friends (which, by the way, I did—tears and all).

Because here’s the thing: you do not have an endless resource of energy. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to do this good and worthy work, at least not well or with joy.

What one thing can you do right now to come into middle ground, to get out of hard, to take care of yourself?

reward the slightest try (part II)

Effective training (whether it’s dog, kid or self) involves small steps, incremental changes and positive reinforcement for any effort made in the desired direction.

I continue to re-learn this lesson in working with Cowboy.

I wrote about it last fall in reward the slightest try (part I).

There is still so much to learn. So much that I need a part II.

Cowboy and I recently had our first formal lesson. What I wanted was a riding lesson — tips on technique and etiquette. What I got was more groundwork — exercises to strengthen the bond and clarify roles for me and Cowboy.

The purpose of one of the exercises is to get Cowboy to lower his head when I’m taking off or putting on his halter.

Let’s say I want him to lower his head to my waist height so I can untie the knot and take off the halter:

Holding the lead rope where it attaches to the halter under his chin, I give a pull downward. As soon as Cowboy lowers his head—to any degree—I am to release the pressure and let go.

The point is not to get him to lower his head down to my waist height on the first try. The point is to get him to lower his head at all.

This sounds deceptively simple, but boy is it a hard lesson: to not need to go all the way, to acknowledge small efforts made by him, to literally let go of the rope.

By repeating the exercise several consecutive times, his head may end up at my waist height. And by practicing this for several consecutive days, he now lowers his head all way without any pull from me.

I’m just a horse

I recently came across a quote by Krishnamurti:

When the movement in the direction of becoming something other than what you are isn’t there anymore, you are not in conflict with yourself.


I keep reading this quote over and over. Each time its texture changes and it reflects a new shade of light. It melts me completely.

The freedom of not being in conflict with myself? I can hardly imagine it.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly why this quote is so mesmerizing right now.  Surely it has to do with vulnerability, it’s definitely related to my little kidneys and it’s about noticing the tendency toward separation — all clear themes in my life right now.

I know that when Cowboy offers movement in the direction that I want, I release the pressure on his rope and we are not in conflict.

I know that when I am not fighting with him about however he is that day, I am not in conflict with myself.

I know that when he’s had enough of me being gooey and philosophical he throws me a face that says, Hey, I’m just a horse.

So that’s me. Grateful. A little bit uncertain. And so in love with this horse!

And you?
What small steps are you taking?
How is it for you to let go?
What does conflict feel like?
What are you in love with!?


One more pic, cuz he’s so pretty. Happy Monday!

feng shui and poem

A recent conversation with Jodi, the Feng Shui consultant, went something like this:


You know that giant space you made in the living room by taking away three of the five large items? How there’s now enough room for “a dance party” (as my stepdaughter put it)? How it looks like we’re moving either out or in? Ya, what are we going to put in that space?



Giant open space. Dance-party-worthy space.


It’s really hard for me to not fill it up. To not put something in it just because it’s there.

Where else in my life do I do this? And how can I learn to keep those corners empty?

To create space and rest in my schedule, I’m taking recess.

To create freedom in my soul, I’m getting outside more, back to what is real and alive.

To bring a sense of spaciousness into my life, I’m considering simplicity (in rasta fashion).

Sometimes I clutter up my teaching with talking or poses… things that don’t matter much to Yoga. I want to spend some time exploring and practicing making space there too.

The same way we walk into a room and see the stuff in the room. …. can I see/feel the space around the stuff. In my house, in my body, in my life.


The Gate
by Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.

And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.

And I’d say, What?

And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

I recommend reading that again. Slower. And aloud.
These empty spaces become portals through which we have the possibility of entering another way, a new realm. Be it through the absence of a person, a thing, or just a little room around a feeling or experience.
This is what I’ve been waiting for. This odd moment: sitting by the fire in a paint-stained shirt, listening to the popcorn pop, noticing the band-aid on my hand, husband anxious to watch a movie. This.
From I-5, Dec 24th, 2010. Through a most dynamic sky, light rays over Mt. Shasta.
What’s in your corners? Is there adequate open space in your life? Have you stepped through one of those gates into a new space, and what was that like?
One day till recess!!! An end and beginning, yet again.

dean and rasta wisdom

Leave it to a self-described not quite Rastafarian to tell it like it is.


He calls everybody Man.

He smokes weed, reads the Bible and meditates every day.

He lives a very simple life on the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize. Cares for a woman’s yard and flowers in exchange for board.

And he can’t understand why the rest of us have so much stuff.

One of his four sisters lives in Brooklyn and is a special education teacher. To hear him talk about her you’d think she lives on Jupiter. Dean visited the States once and couldn’t take the pace and lifestyle. Too much goin on, man.

As you know, retreat life was quiet, simple, and uncluttered. It was just what I needed to unlayer some of my habits of busyness and reconnect with the essentials.

My conversations with Dean helped deepen these reflections.  Aside from his iPod (which is non-negotiable because he’s got to have da music) Dean’s possessions are few. He worked in the jungle as a researcher for 7 years and had to travel light. Having a bunch of stuff is also counter to his faith: God, nature, and kindness are all der is.

The morning of my departure Dean and I were chatting over breakfast at the bar.

An, man, yu peepole ar always on da compewtr, he said emphatically, throwing rasta signs with his arms.

Oh that. I admitted to being one of those peepole.

Why would you do that, man? The world is so beautiful. I want to be outside, in nature, or reading one of my spiritual books. I don’t get it, man. Everybody checking out and missing this beautiful world.

I slid my cell phone across the place mat and under my hat. And truth be told, I had two other computers in my bag: my laptop which I’d brought to check in on studio stuff (thankfully I wasn’t able to do much of that) and an iPad that sweet Bubby brought to give me for my birthday.

This hits a nerve because it’s balance I’m continually trying to negotiate.

Simplify. What does that mean?

Usually what comes up for me is get rid of it all! Sell everything, move to Belize and live in the moment happily ever after.

I tend toward extremes in situations like these.

Here’s what I’m trying instead: we returned the iPad (I don’t need another reason/way to be on the computer); had a Feng Shui consultation (if you’re in Sacramento, Jodi is amazing); and I’m dramatically simplifying my schedule (recess).

The last thing? I’m going to devote my online work life to exploring this im/balance. If you haven’t signed up for news and notifications on my new project, you can do so here. I’m planning to launch in February.


How do you keep things real and simple? What unexpected people or moments have helped you deepen your understanding of yourself? What do you consider to be your life philosophy?

Finally, let’s throw it down to my friend, Dean… Absolute Love, man.

swipe your card and stay entertained

After ten days in Belize—at a pace, schedule and mindset only beachgoers know—I got on a plane to come home.

Sitting in the stiff, blue tweed airplane seat (can we agree that they make those seats as ergonomically awful as possible?), I looked at the TV screen in the seat back in front of me to read:

Swipe your card to stay entertained for $6.

It might as well have said Sell your soul for peace of mind. I was triggered.

After ten days of lounging, napping, resting, reading, and sunning…  days of simplicity, quietude, subtlety, and beauty, the sign felt like a poke in the eye. Stay entertained. For $6.

The thing is, we are constantly entertained, stimulated, engaged, and distracted.

And isn’t it just like us to think we can buy it…. the right yoga pants, new boobs, peace of mind.

It can even sneak into yoga. This is one of the main reason I no longer (at least not very often) use music in class. We don’t come to practice to be entertained.*

*Post Script: And by this I mean no offense to those who do use music. Ain’t no one shoe that’s gonna fit all people.

We come to the mat to spend a few precious moments with what’s real… what’s really happening.

A few moments of quiet. (As quiet as it gets on 21st Street in Anycity.)

A few moments of simplicity.

A few moments when no one else is putting their expectations, mood, or agenda on us.

As only time and space away from one’s regular routine can do, my short stint as a beachcomber has me meeting ordinary circumstances with an out-of-the-ordinary perspective. I’m simplifying my teaching, we’re doing major purging in the house, and, as you know, I’m taking recess (again) in February.

Now, don’t think I’ve gotten all high and mighty.

Remember in When Harry Met Sally when the two are talking about how hard the dating scene is, and Sally says, It might be a long time before we feel comfortable with someone again… and even longer before we can have sex with them. And Harry casually replies, Oh, I has sex with her!

Well, I swiped my card.

That’s right. I wanted to be entertained. I’d journaled and self-reflected my heart out for 10 days.

It’s all about balance, baby.

So I ask you… from the whisperings of your heart, the knowing that is suspicious and can be scary to trust: what is it that you need?

A break from the intensity of work? A “zone-out” where you aren’t putting 110% into an outcome? A pause? Connection and quiet? Some alone time?

And what would it be like to give that to yourself? Can you do it guilt-free?


EIGHT DAYS TILL RECESS!! But who’s counting.

I hope to see you at class. Or online (yes, my new project is almost ready!!). Or in the comments. Take care of yourself!

what does it meeeeean?

I’ve always been of the mindset that everything happens for a reason. There’s a lesson behind it all. There’s meaning in everything.

I’m not saying I don’t still mostly subscribe to this.

But lately I’m wondering.

Am I so busy looking for the reason, the meaning, that I miss living the moment? In its uncertainty and non-answer. In its unknown.

And by knowing, concluding, naming, I am limiting the possibilities of what something might be, how it might turn out.

What if I didn’t do this?

What if, instead of every single thing meaning something, every thing just is. What if I could be with it just as it is?

This sounds scary and ridiculously simple.

I know the mind, the ego, wants hard lines, rights and wrongs. Scary and simple don’t go over well with the ego.

So I turn to the poets who can camouflage simple in story and beauty, so that it sneaks up on you.

There’s something special about hearing a poem. If you have one minute and thirty eight seconds, please enjoy being read to. Just click the MaryO link. The text is also included below.


Snowy Night

By Mary Oliver

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
an indeterminate number

of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.

I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –

it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,

so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more

than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried

over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out

my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,

whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

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