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Student meets Teacher

30 move. 10 med. 20 journal.

A variation of this is pretty much what an early morning text to my mother and sister has looked like for years. Whatever our “daily practice” is, we each capture it in this ritual of sharing. And the first part – 30 move – is where I tend to discover my day’s baseline.

My most insistent student and my best teacher come together each morning on my mat.

My early morning practice on the mat is a time of self inquiry. “Where am I at today?” is the question that leads me. Because as much as I may think I know **how I’m doing**, my body always knows much more than this brain that wants to stick to its habits, patterns, likes, and dislikes come hell or high water.

I used to think that I was beyond needing my breath as a guide. “Other people might need breath but I’m already at ease. I’m all good. The trouble was, I was controlling my breath. And quite frankly, I have years of practice from the control tower of “Let’s hunker down and white knuckle to get through this.” But I don’t have as much practice from the “Allowing” tower. Which would be problematic if that actually existed at an airport but is vital to contentment. So focused and intense being that I was, I was exacerbating this “control” quality of mine by demanding that my breath go in now and go out then. It appeared that my breath was all good because I forced it to look that way.

And there is more.

When I breathe and am quiet. When I move with intention and am quiet. When I move in a range of connection and am quiet. In these places of exploration, I discover what is and not what I am forcing myself to be. I dance with contentment.

—-
“Huh – my breath today is tinny and ever so shallow. It is heavy.” Pause. Continue to feel it. Yes, that observation is pretty spot on. No need to take deeper breaths. Simply allow it to be. The tinny and shallow breath is my starting point. Now I respond to it by moving in a way that honors it for the weight that it is carrying for me.

I cannot hide from the weight of grief so this very breath is my mirror. It is an honoring of the importance of the feeling that I am doing. The tinny and shallow breath is nothing to be fixed. Grief is not to be fixed. Grief is meant to be felt. My very breath just as it is right now is meant to be felt.

Move through the practice – small therapeutic movements, stillness, component pieces of yoga poses, full poses. I offer compassion to my shallow and tinny breath by moving in a range that does not put more demands upon it when it is already doing so much good and very hard work for me.

To that question, “Where am I at today?” come quiet responses that trickle through as I move.

“My right leg feels heavy. My feet feel light. My feet feel cold. My tongue feels thick. My left rib cage feels bumpy and catches when I come deeply into hip flexion. My throat feels closed. My right shoulder feels a bump when I bring the arm up too high. My head feels heavy and wants to tip backward.”

Nothing to fix. Everything to feel. And everything to honor. I choose to not force further into that tension or this sticky or that bumpy, but to stop just before it. I accept the range of my body that it offers me with ease. Exploring what is. Exploring contentment.

At the end of the practice, my breath feels not nearly as tinny. My inhale and exhale feel more even. My feet feel solid to the ground. My hips feel softer. My shoulders feel broader. My head feels balanced on my shoulders and not tipped back any longer. My rib cage is moving of it’s own volition with my natural breath. My throat feels more open. And so much more.

Noticeable shifts when I quiet to feel them. Gifts from my body in response to my love and acceptance of where it was at. Where it is now at. And new information to carry forth into my day.

—–
The information is endless and my power is limitless when I embrace the quiet, the stillness, the wisdom that seeps from inside to out. Breathe naturally, move well, feel in, discover more, and meet what you’ve discovered with compassion. If you’re willing to dive into your Being, your body will reward you with ever deepening resilience, strength and agility.

May you find joy in the power of discovery.

May you find freedom in the power of choice.

Be well,
Rachel

Open. Receive.

Suffering is innate because we experience the gift of relativity. The measure of felt loss is directly related to the measure of felt love. Without one, the other cannot exist. Without the joy, we cannot know the emptiness that follows. Our stickiness in suffering arises from another place – our intense belief that once a new page is turned, no joy can exist. The certainty that when winter sets in, there is no beauty to be found there without the fullness of summertime leaves. For those moments when we can release our grip on the past as good and the future as bad and we land somewhere in between, we discover awe of the past and wonder for the future. We open. We receive. We reside in the moment in honor of all that no longer lives in body and instead guides us in spirit.

I open. I receive.

We open. We receive.

Open. Receive.

Relativity

I sent this email moments ago to the president of my daughters’ pre-school PTA:

I feel so bad… I sent the cups in but clearly too late this morning as they came with my daughter for her 9:15am arrival. I apologize for my oversight of the (8:30am) time stated on the signup form. It hit me a moment ago that it made no sense I sent them for breakfast and yet they came when teachers would have already needed to be in class. When I looked at the form, I saw my misstep.

I’m embarrassed to have missed this and am so sorry for any scramble.

What do I feel physically right now? My heart is crunched into a held rib cage. My hips and pelvic floor are heavy and tight. My eyes and jaw are scrunched. The left side of my upper back has very faint tingling and as I write, my left tricep is twitching. Those are only a handful of the physical sensations at play.

Emotionally, the most obvious sensation is embarrassment as I wrote in my note.

And mentally? Mentally, I am in judgment of myself.

“How could you forget?” And more accurately to the judgment at hand, “How could you disappoint and inconvenience someone else? You probably made them scramble to find cups for the breakfast. This was YOUR responsibility, Rachel. It was YOUR commitment.”

Shame. Lean in to that. Not the words and the judgments of shame, but the physical feelings. Can I sit with them and let them roll around like a storm on the ocean? What is here physically when I allow the thoughts to pause and sit with the physical ride of this moment? Into the eye, I go.

Electricity in my jaw. Now, as I watch it, shifting to an aching. A dull throb in my temples and specifically at the base of my skull on the right. A full and complete spontaneous exhale signaling that my nervous system is with me and it is downshifting. My pelvic floor has now released on its own. I am breathing easier and although they are still shallow breaths, there is much less effort behind them. I realize that my belly and diaphragm are releasing. Skull tension that I did not know was present is settling as the skin softens back downward and out of it’s taut pull across my head.

What do I feel now emotionally? Still embarrassment. But also deep sadness. Sadness for my loss of a loved one. Tears well up and I sit here with a whole new wave of physical sensations. They are distinctly different than those that came with the shame. They are still heavy but also softer. Less angles. More curves.

And mentally? Mentally I know that this president of the PTA is competent. She is surrounded by competent individuals. Pre-school teachers for lord’s sake. Cups abound. No doubt, they were not drinking out of their hands. And if they were, what a great story for teacher appreciation week.

The question I am left with as I ride this moment is, “What have I learned?”

I have learned that self-criticism can kick in pretty easily right now. And that my self-blame is partially trying to protect me from the intensity of grief and sadness for a loss that I cannot change. That loss is objective reality and my subjective “bad Rachel” self-blame is a convenient camouflage for my grief. I’ve learned that I am still so very sad. That I am doing what I deem “easy” things during a hard time. And that “easy” is relative to the moment. I have learned – once again – that compassion awaits if I can turn toward my pain and quiet the self-judgment and the “good / bad labels” to feel the dynamic physical sensations. I’ve also learned that during this time of grief, I want to give myself the gift of a second look at things that “should” be easy – like what time to drop of cups at the pre-school. These are the details that typically settle so firmly into my brain and right now are washed aside as noncritical. I’ve learned that I want to continuing giving myself that Space and, in doing so, I can hold myself more gently.

My breaths are deeper and more complete now. I still wish I had dropped the cups on time. And I also know it is okay.

All is well.

Welcome to Yoga, the science of transformation by awareness.
Welcome to Life.

Be well,
Rachel

p.s. If you made it this far, you get a bonus of my husband’s input here. I adore this man. We are ever so good for one another.

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In Grief as In Love

I missed a blog post on Thursday, April 12. I’ve connected with you all consistently and without fail every other Thursday morning at 6:00am since January 2017. And I missed Thursday, April 12. That was almost a 30 post run in a lovely and work affirming cadence. And then, as with my meditation timer a month ago:

Week 1.

This post is Week 1.

And that is okay.

It is okay because I had no idea what to say. I had everything to say. I had nothing to say. And so, I will share with you all – my friends of face seen and unseen, met and unmet – my heart’s tragedy.

On Friday, April 6th, my amazing, sweet, thoughtful, smart, funny and without equal 17 year old nephew Thomas, took his own life.

Thomas – as each person in this world – was a one time story of his own making. And for each individual who was fortunate enough to know him, they had their own Thomas. I suppose I’d like to tell you about My Thomas.

My Thomas was an infant when I first met him in Hawaii. My sister lived there in 2000 and for the years thereafter as my brother-in-law was in the military. I was in college and my parent’s paid for me to fly out to visit. And to meet my very first relative of the next generation, Thomas James Joyner.

I took multiple trips to Hawaii to visit my sister with her new son and later, in 2002, with her new daughter. My sister is 7 years my elder. And eons beyond in wisdom. She has always stood on her two feet ever so landed in her center and knowing who she is and how she is meant to walk this earth. She gives of herself wholely and unapologetically. She is my hero. She always has been and she always will be.

My hero gave Thomas to the world. She and my brother-in-law offered up this miracle of a creature. A babe who watched and absorbed. My first glimpse of life everlasting in a new generation, Thomas was a child of curiosity and insatiability. A babe who called “Auntie!!! WIPE ME!” across the house in Hawaii and would not let his mother do the job. A toddler who was entranced by his uncle – my older brother – using his mini-excavator to take down a dead tree in my parent’s front yard. A kiddo who stared at my then boyfriend (now husband) in 5 year old awe as Greg laid beside him on the floor, snores wracking the room while Thomas tried (unsuccessfully) to concentrate on “Shark Tales.” At 6ish, he walked Washington, DC at Christmas time with his family, Greg and I to see the National Christmas tree. And he became so exhausted that he began to fall every 10 steps or so as small legs gave up their goods. He and his family snuggled in my 600 square foot apartment that weekend. Love and joy and family in a pile. (And probably some whining now that I know what small children are like in the same room with their parents.) 7 year old Thomas and his sister carried the rings at my wedding. His face a bit of a grump, bowtie on and endurance in full effect. Thomas, my husband and I floated in my grandparent’s magical Banister River when I was weeks away from delivering my first babe. His father, my dear brother-in-law, sat on our ancient brown Aqua Patio pontoon boat feet away, arms crossed watching us with classic stone face and intermittent single eyebrow raise. Thomas and I were in awe of my humongous belly’s natural buoyancy. Floating me up to the surface each time I tried to go vertical in the water. We giggled as I tested physics over and over again. Thomas held each of my 3 babes with his classic wonderment and peace at the miracle of infancy. Thomas liked Sprite, ate inhuman amounts of ice cream sandwiches and drumsticks in a row at the lake, and read insatiably. Dark chocolate was his love and chocolate pie one of his soul foods. He loved to ski tube and could not turn down my son’s requests to join him. He asked questions of my husband like the one he posed via Facetime only weeks before his death, “Uncle Greg, does the perfect movie exist and if so, which one do you think it is?” In case you’re wondering, one of Thomas’ picks was “Shawshank Redemption.”

I remember he told us it shone clear light on hope when there appeared to be only hopelessness.

Thomas spoke his mind. And his mind was amazing. It saw nooks and crannies that I could not begin to fathom. It was curious, creative and ever inquisitive. Thomas was kind with a heart too big for his body.

At Thomas’ memorial service, the walls of the church rang with peace and deafening space. We spend so much time in our lives clamoring and grasping for S-P-A-C-E and yet when a bright soul leaves a body, it’s like the space is deafening. The service was beautiful, moving and all that it should have been. It was a church filled with Hawaiian flowers, Hawiian shirts and dresses and immense love for a life well lived. Immense love for a soul fully accepted by those who saw him, treasured him and elevated him.

Following the service, there was a family picnic to which all were invited. It was in the spacious backyard of a dear neighbor’s home and a shimmering creek runs through the rear of their flat, green yard. A playset is on the side of the yard, a sandbox in the middle – my children call it “Ms. Laura’s playground” as it sits directly across the street from my parent’s house, the childhood home of myself, my sister and my brother.

I’m clearly a lover of words but there are no words for the heartache or the heartburst that I have experienced in alternating moments over the past two plus weeks. In certain moments, it is like my heart could implode into my center. And in other moments, it could explode into the limitless universe.

At this picnic, there was a Grace unlike any I’ve ever felt or witnessed.
In that backyard at that picnic, it was a moment of heart explosion.

High school friends’ of incredible Thomas sat creek side by the sparkling waters. Some walked in the cool, trickling flow. My small children crawled around with my niece’s amused 15 year old friends in tow playing “Lion King” and roaring life into the trees, the blue sky and the green green grass. Each family member was greeted by face after face of far past to current days and held in love and light. My parents each had their own circle of beautiful love from 60+ years of life and affect on this world. My sister’s in-laws had their own personal web of military life strewn far and wide come together on that green green grass. My brother-in-law and sister were held in that backyard by friends from childhood to college to Tennessee to Hawaii before returning back to their Virginia roots – held in laughter and tears and everything in between. My niece was encircled by her adoring cousins and her friends who see her jewel of individuality perfect in every way. My brother and I were seen and touched by childhood family friends – voices of yesteryear from every corner enveloping us in tears, love, laughter and curiosity for our “now” lives. My own high school, college and “grown-up” friends showed up both in body and in heart with their unique acceptance, their compassion, and their graceful wordlessness. Pure presence.

We walked on Holy Ground that afternoon. We walked on Holy Ground because Thomas’ physical absence invited immense space to fill. And that immense, vast and indescribable void for a moment in time was filled with trees, fresh spring leaves, water, birds, flowers, homemade food in bellies, and the wholeness of love from every direction of Grace. My life was already forever touched by my family’s knit – one of perfect complexity in weave and color. My life is now forever touched by seeing my family’s reach – a gift given to us by Thomas and not to be underestimated.

Thomas felt his thoughts and emotions deeply and passionately to the quick of his bones. They were ideas and feelings that he could not ignore and could not escape in intensity. In my own way, I get that. Starting in adolescence and straight through early adulthood, I battled demons of intensity that I escaped in the only way I knew how. And I lucked out. I emerged on this side of adulthood and have the gift of standing and looking back.

I also have another gift. I have the gift of teaching others and helping them to Be In It. To feel the intensity of this life – which can very abruptly spiral into the anxiety of this life – and to know that it is okay. That this body has got you if you can lean into its gifts. That the ground has got you. That your breath has got you. That your heartbeat has got you. And that it can and will carry you to the other side if you can find the support that you need to ride the current wave.

And so, I will continue to do my work but with such clear focus now and such understanding on so many more levels that my path is mine to walk. And to ride. And to stumble. And that you and I are on it together. We are coming together in this moment through my words and your eyes and we are in a time and space of something more than “Me” in my body and “You” over there in your’s. You get to meet me through my words. And I get to meet you through your Presence. And that is magical. That is a gift of this life.

One last thing. You do not need to say “Rachel, I am so sorry.” And you do not need to ask me, “Are you okay?” As my sister so beautifully has said over and over, “There are no words. There is you feeling what you need to feel. There is me feeling what I need to feel. And in doing so, we can just be together.” As we give each other the space to do so, we honor Thomas’ kindness and compassion. Pass along a kindness today. Honor the space of another’s feelings that may not mirror your own. Allow yourself the gift of stepping into a human Being human, and I will do the same.

Be ever so well,
Rachel

(Less than) Great Expectations

“The secret to happiness is low expectations.”

This is a favorite quote of a family friend from my childhood. There is so much truth here. And so much room to argue.

“But how can we have greatness if we have low expectations?”

To which my softer voice replies, “Because greatness isn’t complex. It is simple in its honesty. Lower expectations don’t change the bar for doing – they change the feeling of doing.”

When my pen touches paper with grippy expectations of performance for others, my right shoulder blade elevates and the left side of my skull tightens. Flattens. Battens down against the potential of judgment. The inevitable individual interpretation that I invite by putting me out to be seen. And I can clog up there. When my focus is on “What will they all think? How will they all interpret this? Will it be good enough for them?” the system slows to a crawl. Gears grind. Words are choppy and thick.

And there is more.

When I side step gently around the circular window of this moment, I can see more.

The basics. Food, water, shelter, rest, movement, breath, love. When these foundational elements are present for the ebbing and flowing desires of my Self, clarity abounds. But there is no exact ratio for clarity as I am a dynamic being in a dynamic world. And there are very clear distractions to its innate simplicity.

“YOU’VE MEDITATED FOR 58 DAYS STRAIGHT!” my meditation timer informs me. It praises me and allows me to feel ALL that I have accomplished. On surface level, I pishaw. “That counter is of no matter to me.” my ultra spiritual corner of self says through downturned, half slit eyes. Meanwhile, another side of me fluffs up my rooster like chest feathers for all the world to see. Because I’ve basically won meditation if I’ve sat for 58 days in a row. Right?

And then my timer turns on me.

One day it gives me accolades and praise of capitals and bigger numbers. Tens digits AND ones digits!!! Magnificence!

Then life occurs. A 36 hour migraine. I miss a day.

And the world ends.

…………………………………………

No, not really.

Instead, the timer count resets.

“You have meditated for 1 day.”

I feel the clench as I stare downward at the screen on that reset day. The gut stab of “What? You wimp to bow out yesterday because of a migraine! What have YOU accomplished now?”

Ah. There it is. The count of the consecutive days that I think matters not. It matters. It equals accomplishment. Please know that I have full understanding that accomplishment has the potential to be awesome and motivating. But when it runs outside of my awareness, ACCOMPLISHMENT feels heavy and dense.

And that grippy, dense, rigid metric is not how I feel the best of me. Remember the talk of simplicity and dynamism in how basic needs ebb and flow? Well, in the mystery and exploration of that dynamism lies sweet, awaiting joy.

Joy is lighter. It is more pervasive. Spreading. Sparkling like water in early morning sunlight. Joy is not necessarily laughter or intense happiness. But it is embracing what is present in the given moment. Joy is sitting and breathing in quiet for 10 minutes with my husband at 6 a.m. because we are alive. Joy is getting to help others move better when I go to work. Joy is the gift of crazy in my house full of five beings and two cats. Joy is the freedom to write of my own heart.

Joy is the reset of my meditation timer from 58 consecutive days to

1 day.

Joy is the opportunity to start anew in every moment of every day.

“The secret to happiness is low expectations.”

Breathing. Sitting. Writing. Moving. Being.
Simplicity.

Be ever so well,
Rachel

Upon the Horizon

My belly is crazy churny right now. My jaw slightly held. My mouth a tad metallic in taste – like when as a kid I touched my tongue to a 9 volt battery to explore the crazy “ZZZZ!” shock. No, I haven’t actually done that today but it is a similar sensation. My heart is quickening. My temples gently pulsing.

This myriad of sensations is fear meets love. It is love for Self and Spirit to step onto new ground. It is fear that I have not yet been where I am going.

I am building something right now. It is happening methodically. Each week, consistency and discipline bring me closer to the whole of my vision. That vision offers one way to fill a gap that I’ve seen.

“Listen to your body” says the yoga teacher to the class.

“Listen to your body.” I used to say as the yoga teacher to my class.

Tricky thing was, I didn’t even know what to listen to. I wasn’t trying to mislead anyone. I was just repeating what I had heard as the “right” words to say to my students. But there was a missing link for me and for almost all of the students who stood in front of me.

“How do I listen to my body? I don’t feel anything right now. You want to know how this feels? It feels… fine. Until later tonight when I have pain or tomorrow when my neck tension returns. But that’s just how life is. I either feel nothing at all or pain. What am I supposed to listen for? hmm. My brain won’t turn off. The thoughts won’t quiet. All I need is some SPACE. ARGGGHHHHH!”

And in that dear friends, I see a gap.

With this heart’s creation, I will help others first become their own Teacher through the awaiting wisdom of their bodies. And, in turn, they will naturally be able to teach others how to respond skillfully to the prompt “Listen to your body.” It offers a place of union – yoga – where our beautiful minds come face to face with our bodies as they are and offer them the olive branch. It is a place of self-compassion and love that can dissolve self-judgments and inner tensions that whittle away at our energy. That whittle away at our contentment. That whittle away at what we deem fulfillment of our everyday.

We cannot teach others what we have not experienced ourselves. But what a soothing breeze we can create when we fully step into the possibility of listening and responding to what is. When we start with what is and proceed one step at a time, we can fly.

If you wish to consider flying with me, more details are coming. For now, know this. In order to dive into a new way of moving and feeling – and to spreading that skill beyond yourself – I need to know amazing you first. And that will likely mean that you’ve worked with me privately a good bit (either in-person or by Skype). I need to know that you get why YOU moving with awareness through asana is key to teaching others. And that it takes dedication to learn a new skill. I need to know that you are a curious learner. I need to know that you are skillful and passionate. I need to know that you want to spread ripples of your own through the practice of yoga.

I’m not being explicit here yet which is both kind of fun and kind of annoying. But for now, it is where my heart is at. To say what this is without actually saying what it is feels safe to me for this moment. So, if you are interested at all in learning more, keep an eye out and, if you haven’t worked with me privately yet, reach out to get on my waitlist.

I remember as a child wondering where my future husband was at that very moment in time. Daydreaming 10 year old Little Rachel, “I know I probably don’t know him or anything but, I mean, he’s out there…. somewhere. He’s doing something right now just like I am sitting here!”

I smile softly at little Rachel and can feel her presence with me now. Wondering, daydreaming, knowing that out there are the people that will walk this path with me.

As a last little seed, please remember that you can still register for YogaFest. It is on Saturday, April 7th at NCSU’s McKimmon Center. It would be a joy to see you and there are a handful of spots available for my morning class. Registration is available at https://youcallthisyoga.org/yogafestnc/

Come and explore how moving well can nurture more ease, strength and opportunity to be fully you.

May we fly together. Now and always.

Be ever so well,
Rachel

The Choice

Okay, my morning practice has officially become my morning play date. Two weeks later the texture of it has changed. Less gritty expectations and sharp boxes to check; more softly hanging out with myself with a general menu of beautiful self serving possibilities. I first explore what my body has to say through therapeutic yoga and breath – no templates or videos – just allowing my body to lead, then I meditate with the hubby downstairs, then I return to our room alone to have free time. Perhaps I meditate a bit more or read or journal or take a luxurious shower or watch the sunrise. In short, I’m just hanging out with myself before the day with others begins.

That brings to mind a story.

When my first child was born (7 1/2 year old John in the blue shirt above), I remember shopping with my mother. He was just over a week old and we had accomplished what I perceived as the miracle of making purchases with a single infant in tow. It was a production worthy of many minutes worth of movie credits. Having checked out and changed his diaper, I realized he was going to be hungry very soon. And so, just as I thought we would be able to walk out of the store, we instead walked into the nursing room. I sat in one rocker feeding John and my mother sat across from me, rocking gently with her eyes closed.

I remember the quiet. The stillness. The closed in darkness of that interior room. It’s stuffy store smell. I was toasted and ready to be on our way home. I felt like we’d moved a mountain that day. Meanwhile, my son was nursing in rhythmic soothing swallows. Enamored by him briefly, I then remembered where I was, looked up at my mother (her eyes-closed-rocking-self of three grown children) and observed sharply,
“So, I guess this is what this is really about, huh? Hurry up and wait?”

To which she paused thoughtfully and then responded, “Oh, no. It’s more like… just hanging out.”

She is a wise wise soul that mother of mine.

My entire exhausted body softened. The moment arrived and I arrived in the moment. Babies, parenting, wifeing, daughtering, friending, working… it isn’t hurry up and wait. It is ALL just hanging out. My mother gave me the gift of softening into the moment. It can take so little to soften into where you are and not where your brain, judgments and beliefs are residing.

When we are tired and suffocating with to do’s, the world can become an unending list of “Hurry up and wait.” But what are we waiting for already? This is actually it. IT.

And so, when space offers itself to you, embrace it. Hanging out is available left and right if we allow it to greet us. You don’t have to prove anything. You don’t have to push yourself. The to do’s will all still be available and you won’t lose the skill of Doing. I promise. But in hanging out – whether it is putting your legs up the wall reading with kids, or sitting outside watching the spring birds on the feeder, or laying on the kitchen floor just breathing for 3 minutes, or drinking tea and feeling its warmth, or reading your book while the kids are in the bathtub – the small injections of hanging out add up.

They add up to Space.

—-
Two days after writing everything above this closing paragraph, there are endless ways my brain wants to complete this post. And in the magic of that nonstop conveyor belt of ideas and the question “Which one do I pick already!?”, I know that tired is in charge right now. It is 2:51pm and my body is saying “All done for right now. Seriously, all done.” The spinning of my brain, the thickness in my head and throat, the warming left ear, and the very dull ache in my cheeks tells me it isn’t a moment for clarity in communication. It is a moment to consciously Stop. Be. Drink tea. Sit on the couch. Look out at the trees. Embrace the ever available choice to simplify. Allow the list of to do’s to remain the list. It isn’t going anywhere.

This will be one glorious pinnacle of my day – the silky smooth zero expectations experience of hanging out.

Be well,
Rachel

The Sparkle

I explored a new level of strength in Calgary. For my body, a new realm of accuracy and stamina. For my soul, a new depth of exploration and resilience. And for my intellect, a new level of mastery in my craft. It was awesome and inspiring.

Just prior to my return home, I had a Vision of what was possible for me. Cue tinkling fairy bells, rainbows and pots of gold. I had a new experiential understanding of my capacity for more ease. More flow. More ripples spreading outward. And I knew what I needed to do to get There. I knew the steps that I needed to take to propel me forward.

Coordinates for destination entered?
Coordinates for Ultimate Ease entered.
All systems check?
Check.
And proceed to launch.

Or not.

In the week following my return home, I slowly noticed that my long standing daily routine of support had shapeshifted into something quite different. Instead of leaning in and enjoying the moment of pause of my early morning therapeutic yoga practice or meditation, or the 10:00 a.m. chai, or the plethora of other mini bites of support that have been a part of my world for some time now… instead of leaning into all of that goodness, the supports had morphed into another list of “to do’s.”

The morning practice had become another thing to check off the list. The chai had become a slug it down because I knew I needed the calories to keep me going until lunch. The carefully selected mid-afternoon activity of nidra or do nothing had become “What do I need to do to get myself through to dinner time?”

But I knew something was up. What was Present was a blur to what I was going to do next to get closer to ULTIMATE EASE (Go back and read that sentence again with a booming echo, please.)
In short, I was watching myself miss out on the Moment.

Oops.

I had totally lost the journey and was laser focused on my destination.

As my wise sister has observed, “Our kids are as they are born. Our job as parents is to help them learn to use their powers for good and not evil.”

Amen. This holds true for my own personal walk as well.

My God given gifts of intensity and efficient execution had snuck in as the engine of this freight train called Rachel.

I was trying to use an old tool to get to a new destination. And it wasn’t working.

In recognizing the cruise control in my daily routine, I know it is time to shift things up. Like the etch-a-sketches of my childhood, it needs a shake and a reset. And to do that, I must first let go of some of the structure that I have built – structure that used to serve me in a big way – that has now instead become a crutch and a check list.

This morning, moments after journaling, I was making our bed when I found the lovely little smiley face sticker seen in the image above. It smiled up at me. And I returned the smile.

“Okay, I get it. Lighten up on yourself. You’re making this harder than it is, dear Rachel.”

This softening was followed by a brilliant insight from an incredible client this morning as she reflected upon her practice:

“If I don’t pause long enough, I might be missing untapped potential.”

Thud. That landed and I received it. I didn’t volley it back. I didn’t have a build on it response. Just silence in her brilliance.

That untapped potential is a wellspring. Mine. Your’s. All of our’s. And it is in the Pause.

Notice when your practice, your exercise, your food, or whatever else scaffolding your day is simply a box to check. And when it is the Pause. The place to play. To explore. To expand.

I fear letting go of what I’ve known in terms of my daily support rituals and playing into a deeper layer of listening and responding to the moment, but I fear even more what untapped potential I will miss out on if I do not.

What can we do together if we lean into the Pause as an opportunity to softly feel, listen and respond? It has me giddy to consider. Shivering in legs, quick in my heart and pulsing in my chest. This is my intensity of focus at its best. Gazing into the depth of infinite space to move better, to feel better and to be better. May we step lightly together on this journey.

Be well,
Rachel

To Hold Dear

I have a long standing habit in my meditation practice. “Just one habit?” you may wonder. Well, undoubtedly I have way more than one but let’s go with this one for today’s pondering. Because it is in my face this morning in a crystalline kind of way.

I have a bias toward shutting down the thoughts. I don’t so much “Let them float by like clouds in the sky.” I put a chokehold and a vice grip on those puppies and knock those suckers out like a hitman on a binge ride.

Yipes. Not so yoga of me, huh? Well, it is now since I’m finally bringing voice to it and allowing it to be seen. Awareness. That’s the practice. And refinement. So, let us proceed.

I’ve known this pattern for a long time but have never been able to meet it. I confront it with my fiery judgy self – but letting go of the tendency to play whack-a-mole with my innocent childlike monkey mind has been elusive. This contributes to a cycle of love / hate with meditation since I historically have a bit of thing with “getting it right.” That thing is more and more deeply challenged as I train in this field of yoga therapy and live it in my own life.

And so we come to this morning’s practice. My husband and I meditated together for what may be the first time ever. And it was definitely my first non-nidra meditation in a long time.

The meditation bell sounded ceremoniously, we sat in textbook quiet for approximately 1 minute, and then Mira, our super duper friendly cat, began to prance around. Punctuating the 6:00am stillness of house with her little meow chirps, nuzzles, paws and general curiosity around “What is up with both of you down here??”.

Over. And over.

Now, as Mira has established already, I don’t typically meditate downstairs so something physical – not mental – was a newer distraction for me.

“Bah!!! Mira. Why do you have to be so sweet and loving? You’re driving me nutso…. grrr. Oh well, it’s just Mira.”

…Insert pregnant pause in Mind and Self…

“Yes, it is Mira.”

And the subsequent stillness swept back over like a quiet wave.

A lightbulb illuminated the quiet of my typically busier brain.

Acknowledge her. It. Whatever. I’ve known for quite a while now that the sensations and fears deep in me desire acknowledgement. I’m growing more and more adept at catching the need for that in my everyday life.

And I’ve also heard that direction over and over in guided meditation, “Acknowledge it. And let it go.”

But ‘acknowledge’ in the microcosm of meditation hadn’t landed as a practical experience yet. Being told something and experiencing it as a Truth are entirely different levels of learning. Feeling a shift is the ultimate lesson and reinforcement for staying the course (or alternatively altering course).

This arrival at a new felt Truth didn’t make this meditation perfect by any means. But it gave it solid earth to nestle into.

“This is hard.” beautiful child Rachel quipped at being back on the cushion again. Not ‘liking’ the still present busyness of a brain that I know has quieted substantially from where it started. Wanting to fidget. Fighting the discomfort as I did with my whole body tantrums of toddlerdom.

“Yes, this is hard.” came the reply from the softer space.

Thought acknowledged. Loved. Held as dear as that inner child.

And so I watched it shimmer as it dissipated. Dissolving back into that from which it came. Merely ripples remaining from the fish that glided past.

See, love and discover – with the support of acknowledgement – what just might let go of you.

Be well,
Rachel

YogaFest 2018 and more (of course)

Once again, hello Calgary! I’m back for two more weeks of yoga therapy training in this two year adventure. A Chinook has come through so my snow pants aren’t biting back negative temps… yet. I’ve got two weeks here so keep your fingers crossed for me that the warm’ish front sticks around. (Hope you guys are enjoying the fresh snow back in NC!)

Once again, I’m also in a space where my teachers are challenging me to see even more as I watch how people are moving well and where they can move even better. They’re challenging me to recognize my biases in how I see movement, connection and synchrony in joints, and the whole of a person. They’re challenging me (for what feels like the millionth time) to go beyond my default patterns – of movement and being – to keep getting better. And better.

Allow me to share a direct quote from my primary teacher:

“You are REALLY good. But don’t you want to be GREAT? What could you do with GREAT?
Can you imagine that?”

To which my inner cranky child replies (fortunately not out loud):

“Geez, that sounds like more work. I’ve already done A LOT of work. Can’t you see that!? I strongly dislike work. Of course, I am signed up for this training for the full two years (and paid in full) so I suppose the work is already happening. Might as well go for GREAT.”

And although I make it sound nonchalant in my acquiescence, there is no doubt that I want to be flashing letters, neon lights, Hollywood sign visual impact:

Capital “G” Great.

I should clarify. This is not about wanting to be a big, well known yoga therapist who teaches classes in my fancy yoga clothes for huge online streaming audiences. Nope. There are teachers for that but they are not this girl. Yet, I do want Capital “G” Great and for good reason.

As I get better, I can help my clients more efficiently (which means faster). As my clients feel better and move better, they can live their lives more fully. They can have energy to play with their kids and grandkids once more, they can rationally talk to colleagues instead of argue with them due to exhaustion, and they can get back to walking, hiking and the general playfulness that can be a part of all of our lives. Most of all, they can spread more goodness throughout the world. You see, when we feel better, we’re generally kinder to ourselves and those around us.

Yes, kindness. It is a big deal. So, in fact, I am going for capital “G” Great.

The annoying (and kind of hilarious) part of this all is that my old great is my new good. And so there is more. A new great that awaits me. Always more.

It’s just like our bodies. We can will our way through most anything. Or, we can explore what it is like to step by step, diligently and consistently do what we are actually capable of doing without grip, or brace, or strain. Stepping from good into great takes one baby step at a time.
It is real and it is game changing.

Curious? It is quite empowering to learn that one is anything but helpless when it comes to pain and feeling generally stuck. If you want to play a bit, I have an opportunity to share. Mark your calendar:

The 7th annual YogaFest NC
Saturday, April 7, 2018
McKimmon Center, Raleigh NC

I’m pleased to share that I am a part of YogaFest this year. I’ll be offering a one hour therapeutic yoga class based around my teaching principles for decreasing pain and increasing resiliency. I’ll also be hosting a 20 minute mini-lecture to directly discuss and answer questions regarding moving with intention and efficiency. This is a beautifully organized conference that benefits the local not for profit You Call This Yoga through a day of classes from 40 area yoga teachers, mini lectures, and an end of day culminating nidra and gong bath . Registration including an early bird special is available here.

Please consider joining the fun and coming to see me and the full lineup of teachers this year. I have no doubt that my belly will be fluttering with butterflies as I take this baby step along the path toward my new Great – whatever that ends up looking like. Come along with me and we can find out together. I’m ever so joyful to have familiar faces and hearts along the way with me.

Be well,
Rachel