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Monday, July 21, 2014

Finding Beauty

We have a dear student at Uttara who began last Summer bringing an arrangement of flowers to class on Saturday mornings  Such a simple but appreciated kindness; fresh flowers; grown, selected and arranged with kindness and love.

And as the weeks passed by and we moved towards Fall, we had an interesting exchange as he brought in his weekly bounty.  "It's getting harder" he explained "now that the Summer flowers are gone."  "What is beautiful is less obvious; and I have made it a weekly spiritual practice -- on Saturday mornings, I go out and I find something beautiful."

And oh, yes, they still were beautiful; arrangements of leaves and greenery; of grasses and seedpods; colors shifting to the subtle but beautiful Fall hues.

It has been a joy to watch the return of the joyous colors of Spring and Summer.  One week he dug up a few little mounds of violets and arranged them in a clay saucer; gorgeous!


Remembering to look for the beauty and the bounty in life is indeed a deep spiritual practice and also a biological imperative.  There is real brain science behind the thinking that positivity and gratitude create a healthier, happier body and mind.

During a recent trip to Asheville to study with Michael and Stephanie Johnson we were studying the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and they were weaving the ancient text into the modern science of brain research.  Check out the book Buddha's Brain for more info. 

My simple take-aways from the weekend of teaching were two-fold:  one, that for every negative thought you need a minimum of 3 positive thoughts to counter that negative thought and neutralize it.  Wow, that's a lot of positive thinking!  Studies had shown that a 1 to 1 ratio of positive to negative thoughts meant you were in the depression zone. 

The second one was for you to spend four days in a row spending 20 minutes writing about the best possible outcome for your life.

We truly are permitted the choice; glass half full; glass half empty; who-took-my-damn-glass-anyway? 

Tomorrow; and the day after; and the day after that; I give you your mission; find the beauty; find the joy.  I promise you; they exist.

Shanti,

Jill



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hell Yes! or No

A recent conversation brought up a new resolution of a friend of a friend of a friend.  My friend told me that this woman was planning her Summer and had decided that she would choose how she spent her time based on whether her internal response was "Hell Yes!" 

Anything that wasn't a "Hell Yes!" would be a No."

That conversation has permeated my life and my teachings.  In very good and profound ways.  Cause I don't know about you, but my life can end up being a whole series of maybe, sorta and I guess so.

How often when you choose to do something, is it a "Hell Yes" -- ?  The activities you choose, the meals you eat, the media you absorb.  The people you spend time on; the things you spend money on.  How much is perfunctory, obligatory, not-what-you-really-wanted. 

When you think about an average day in your life, are you enthused, inspired, excited; or just waiting for a future that never seems to arrive?

How much of your response to daily life is "okay," "probably," or "well, alright?"

Of course, there are responsibilities; of course, there are things we have to do; no one says Hell Yes to taxes or toilet scrubbing, but what if we approached even the tedious parts of our life with that attitude of getting it DONE and moving ON to the good stuff -- and knowing that we have created and accepted multiple experiences and opportunities for the good stuff?


I read a beautiful quote recently in Rob Brezney's Free Will Astrology (www.freewillastrology.com); I highly recommend his website.  It was proffered as a weekly horoscope for Libras; but I hope we will all take it to heart:
"There is always an enormous temptation in all of life," writes Annie Dillard, "to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end . . . I won't have it. The world is wider than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright."  -- Your assignment in the coming weeks, Libra, is to transcend whatever is itsy-bitsy about your life. The alternative? Head toward the frontier and drum up experiences that will thrill your heart and blow your mind.
So, my friends; here is your assignment, and mine, too -- I charge you with creating a life of beauty and service; of doing what thrills you and scares you and what you cosmically came to do.  LIVE YOUR LIFE. 

No more itsy-bitsy; no more maybe or just okay.  HELL YES! or NO.

Shanti,

Jill

Monday, May 26, 2014

Retreat

Wilderness Adventures -- gorgeous Craig County, VA
I love yoga retreats.  I love even "retreating" to another town just to practice yoga; at least a couple times a year my beloved and I slip away to another town for a few days of yoga classes, good eating and time alone together.  We always return a little more ready to tackle our reality and responsibilities.


I've also attended amazing yoga retreats where you can just totally immerse in yoga and meditation with like-minded people.  Incredible expereiences; an amazing sound healing retreat with my Kriya Yoga sister Camella Nair  http://www.camellanair.com/#! and also a great detox retreat with my darling Katie Silcox http://www.katiesilcoxyoga.com/.  Even made it to India this year with the awesome Lisa Bergley and Uschi Gibson http://www.spiritofthelakeyoga.com/.

So whether it's 48 hours or longer if you can swing it, it is really important to get out of your own little patterns for even a couple days; to not just ignore the laundry, the dishes, the chores -- because even if you decide to defer those mundane duties they always seem to mock you just a little.  But to truly set aside time for yourself; to eat well, get rest, read, journal, whatever.  Add in yoga, meditation, nature and sangha, retreat can nourish the spirit in ways a regular vacation just cannot.

It takes effort to make space; to shut down the computer and walk away from the tv; to let go of driving the same streets to the same places and all the familiarities.  By definition a "retreat" is a movement back; a retracing of steps in order to regroup

Our Cabin!
You have to choose to treat yourself to "retreat."

Kimberly Vest and I are leading a yoga retreat next month at Wilderness Adventures in Craig County, Virginia.  A gorgeous little spot that is about an hour from Roanoke, even less if you're out Salem/Botetourt way.  Would you like to join us? 

We're keeping it pretty simple; we've got an entire building all to ourselves; it's rustic, in that it's a wooden cabin and rooms are shared -- but it's very modern and very sweet.  There's outdoor space for practicing yoga in the grass, as well as a large covered pavilion with ceiling fans if it's too hot or if it rains.  There's also indoor space for yoga if the weather requires us to be indoors, and loads of outdoor activities and places to wander.  There's beautiful pond, a rushing river and hiking trails.  Check out the website if you want more pictures and info.  http://www.wilderness-adventure.com/

Dining Hall
We're planning lots of yoga and meditation options; but remember, these are OPTIONS.  I have many times attended a yoga retreat and decided that what I really needed to do was sit in a rocking chair and write in my journal instead of attend the scheduled class.  Or that I needed to dig a little deeper into conversation with a new and interesting person I have met instead of doing another scheduled activity.  The meal times are pretty set, but otherwise everything is optional; following your heart and your head and create your own retreat.

Very auspiciously the actual Summer Solstice is that Saturday -- so of course there will be a fire ritual and intention setting -- oh, and s'mores!  Also keep in mind that you'll pass Carvins Cove, McAfee's Knob and Dragon's Tooth on the way to and from the retreat -- so maybe tke Friday off and go hike on your way; or Sunday as you depart you can add on a little outdoor adventure.
One of the Rooms
The food will be vegetarian and all freshly prepared and served in the main lodge -- though the cabin we are renting has a full kitchen that you have access to if you have dietary restrictions or any concerns about properly feeding yourself.

Here are the details and a rough outline of our schedule; space is limited and there is a discount if you pre-register/pre-pay by June 1.

Let's go!!

Friday, June 20, 2014, 5:30 pm check-in
Sunday, June 22, 2014, 12 Noon check-out


Summer Solstice Yoga Retreat with Jill Loftis & Kimberly Vest
                    
The solstice is an essential point in the year where we can honor the flow of life on earth. It is a time for us to come back into balance and harmony. As the Earth moves through its cycles of darkness into light and back again, we also share a parallel journey. With the Sun at its highest point in the sky, we can be reminded our own light.

Now is the time to reconnect to the light within ourselves, the light of our highest self. Immersed in nature, you will experience yoga asana, pranayama, meditation, kirtan and satsang as well as home cooked meals prepared with fresh ingredients.

Immerse yourself in nature and practice asana, pranayama, meditation, deep relaxation and chanting. This retreat is appropriate for all levels, including beginners.

Accommodations are rustic yet modern, with separate double/twin beds, bunk bed style in each room of the lodge. The lodge has its own kitchen if you have specific dietary needs. All linens: sheets, pillows, pillow cases, blankets, towels, etc. is provided.

Free outdoor activities: canoeing & swimming on pond, hiking the 500 mile property, horseshoes, sand volleyball, Frisbee gold course, field game equipment for soccer, football, Frisbee, etc.

Note: Please bring appropriate shoes, clothing, rain gear, yoga mat, water bottle and insect repellent.

Retreat Schedule

FRIDAY
3:00 - 5:30 pm: Arrival and settling in
5:15 pm: Friday night unwind – gentle yoga/yoga nidra
6:00 pm: Gather at Sly Lodge to meet the group.
6:30 pm: Dinner at Main Lodge
8:00 pm: [talk/gathering/informal tarot readings with Jill]
10:00 pm: lights out

SATURDAY
7:00 am: optional meditation
8:00 am: optional yoga
9:00 am: breakfast
10:00 am: Free time
Noon: Lunch
1:00 pm: [lecture]
2:00 pm: Free time
5:00 pm: optional yoga
6:30 pm: Dinner
7:30 pm: Ritual/Fire/Chanting Social time bring smores bring instruments

SUNDAY
7:00 am: optional meditation
8:00 am: optional yoga
9:00 am: breakfast
10:00 am: walking meditation
10:30 am: optional yoga
Noon Closing Ritual; goodbye!


JILL LOFTIS
Founded Uttara Yoga Studio in Roanoke, Virginia in 2008. Her ecletic style weaves together the knowledge of Kriya Yoga with her studies under many gifted teachers She leades classes and workshops regionally on a variety of topics including astrology, stress reduction, and group breathwork.







KIMBERLY VEST
Kimberly has been teaching and practicing yoga for over 20 years. Her foundational training was in the Integral yoga tradtion and trained and studied in the Viniyoga and Anusara traditions. Kimberly is skillful at adaptng classes to the needs of her students.





Pricing:
$250.00 before June 1 / $275.00 after June 1
To register, please contact Uttara Yoga Studio at (540) 309-0071 or via email:  kimberly@uttarayogastudio.com


 
SPACER

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ummmmm . . . . aaaHHHAAaaaa . . .

April was quite a month, eh?

Make time to meditate.
Oh – you didn’t notice?  Everything easy-peasy-breezy?  Oh good!  Such excellent karma for you; go celebrate; the rest of us are gonna chat for a moment.

Holy crap, two super-strong eclipses sandwiching the Uranus-Pluto square; if your life was stress-free and awesome, that’s great; but did you read the news?  See the weather?  Have you been extra tired?  Lots of crazy dreams?  Big choices to make?  Endings?  (Which are actually beginnings . . . )
We are all connected and the fabric of our existence is under siege.  Many of us are at a crossroads of existence; what/who do we keep?  What/who do we let go of?



Rishikesh, sacred space.
If you figure it all out-got-the-answers-sure-no-worries-mate . . . then please text me at 540-309-0071 and let me know what to do. 

Cause it’s hard for me; really hard.

But I will tell you what has helped me; no, SAVED me during the past few weeks.  I have been meditating every day. 

Well, of COURSE Jill meditates everyday  – you say – she’s a yoga teacher, spiritual healer, all that stuff . . . yeah, but that doesn’t mean I have always made the time to do what I know works.  We usually all know in our heart what is right, what works.  It’s choosing it – that’s the sticky bit. 

For me this past month, it has been SO easy to meditate; to make time, to understand how important it is; my soul knows I am keeping myself sane.  I am literally sucked onto the cushion; and even then I usually have a little routine;  invocation, pranayama, mantra, etc.  But that has dropped away these past few weeks into just sitting; just BEING, sitting, shifting, listening, breathing, living, dying, birthing, receiving, giving, nothing.  It’s been awesome; and so hard not to be attached to that experience.
There is a window of opportunity open for us all right now; it is a time of making hard choices; of reaching for light and removing darkness; of letting go to make space for opportunity and also receiving great gifts of Earthly and Heavenly joys.  Of finding other spiritual seekers on the path; of finding great love or letting go to create space FOR great love to unfold.

My dear ones; be brave; be strong; hold to the light.

Shanti,



Jill

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

India

The healing waters of  Ma Ganga.

So you ask me to tell of India, but one doesn't "tell" of India . . . India wraps itself around the core of the Soul, and as it slowly unwinds, perspective, speech and habit subtly change. The transformation is the tale. -- Layne Neville

How about that beautiful quote from my new friend Layne?  She is one of the many reasons I had an amazing trip to India.  Not just a trip really, but a spiritual pilgrimage.  With a healthy dose of tourist-type experiences and shopping for beautiful things.


Me, Lisa and Uschi in an auto rickshaw
I have the enormous blessing of spiritual sisters all over the place, and one of those sisters is Lisa Bergley the founder and primary teacher at Spirit of the Lake Yoga in Excelsior, Minnesota.  I tagged along with her group of yogis and non-yogis, meeting up with the fearless and fabulous Uschi Gibson who runs LuckyUschi.  Be sure to check out her website www.LuckyUschi.com,
which encompasses her women's empowerment work in creating a line of fair-trade clothing and also offers her incredible knowledge of the country and culture in coordinating journeys in India.  (AND be sure to check back with me at Uttara because I'm going to have some of these gorgeous creations for sale at the Studio soon!)

While I was in India, I realized people would ask me about my trip and let me tell you -- there are no sound bites or quick, snappy sentences that can even hint around at what it is to experience India.  Places like Varanasi, Bodh Gaya, Rishikesh and Hardiwar -- places with enormous spiritual power.


n
Meeting the women; Charrie and I said we liked to dance so they asked us to dance for them!
Any time you travel, you are changed in small and large ways; and sometimes the changes reveal themselves slowly.  I came home with a deep appreciation for what I take for granted; feeding my children so well (even if they complain and they do!); my house still seems enormous.  I came back with a strong sense of wanting to spend my time wisely; to make more time to meditate, to pray -- to take my troubles to the Goddess instead of talking them to death.  And to spend more time with the people that I love. 

I feel more responsibility as a privileged woman with a large amount of freedom to make wise choices for my sisters in other places; I never really thought that much about the bargain yoga pants I bought at TJ Maxx; now I wonder; who is sitting where and in what conditions making my ultra-cheap clothing?  That beautiful silk scarf -- someone sat a loom and made that fabric; like the beautiful mittens my friend Pat made me for Christmas one year that I cherish and make sure to never lose -- could I be more wise with what I purchase and value the time and the person who made it?

There was also so much joy there -- children flying simple kites of newspaper, life spilling out everywhere, dogs nursing puppies, markets and mess and life and death and everything in between; nothing is hidden in Mother India.

So as I integrate my experiences, there will be more writing, more thinking; and hopefully many more trips to that complex and beautiful country.

Shanti,

Jill

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shakti Wants Shiva


My mind has been quite occupied lately with the subject of love; the idea of love; the structure of love relationships, of all the various aspects and ins and outs and ups and downs of love and loving. 
I have also been digging into tantra yoga as introduced and taught to me by an amazing tantric ParaYoga teacher, Katie Silcox.  One of the fascinating and appealing aspects of tantra to me is the worship and connection to the Goddess; the Divine Mother. 
If you haven’t noticed, yoga philosophy as taught today tends to be a little dude-centered.  The asana classes are packed with women, but the leaders, the lineages, the authors – mostly men.

Tantra brought me to study the pantheon of Hindu goddesses (highly recommend  Sally Kempton’s book Awakening Shakti).

All the various Goddesses and Gods of Hinduism represent various aspects of the energy that is the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine.  Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva seem to get a lot more attention; but maybe that’s because there are so very many MORE aspects of the Divine Feminine. 
Women are complicated.  You knew that, right?

This beautiful study of the Divine Feminine has allowed me to appreciate all the aspects of the Goddess within myself; to realize I can be a warrior like Durga; or terrifyingly fierce like Kali.  That I can embody the abundance of Lakshmi; the creativity of Saraswati; the anger of Chhinnamasta; the sensuality of Lalita Tripura Sundarii.  And when unsupported, as dry and withered as Dhumavahti.

It has also made me realize this:  that it is okay to desire, want and work towards finding my Shiva and uniting with him.  That I can be a complex, intelligent, strong, independent woman and want a man in my life.
And not just a man in my life; it’s not hard to find someone to hang out with.  But it is hard to find someone to love who loves you in the way you need to be loved and allows you to love them to the best of your capability.  To be your friend, companion, playmate, comforter, supporter, lover, helper.  Someone to adore who adores you right back.  Who cherishes you, nurtures you enough to call you on your stuff and doesn’t run when you call him on his stuff.

All that?  That’s hard.
So many of my friends are strong, brilliant, accomplished, amazing and beautiful women.  They confide with lowered eyes that they would like to meet someone.  Yet there is this feeling that everything should be okay if you are all those things and yet have no beloved in your life. 

But it’s true, when you don’t, you miss him (or her in some cases); you are looking for that person who brings you to balance; the Shiva to your Shakti; the Divine Masculine to unite with your Divine Feminine.  The sacred union that harmonizes you.
Vickie Iovine has these great books on child rearing, and I remember reading them voraciously when my children were little; seeking advice, help, gosh, anything to help me figure out how to raise these little creatures!  And she wrote a lot about getting children to sleep in their own beds – a struggle I had with all three children.  She writes in one chapter about putting a child to bed with their stuffed animals and the child complaining that they wanted a “live” thing to sleep with – and she proffered the idea that we all spend our lives looking for the perfect “live” thing to sleep with.  She’s got a point.
We want a helper AND to someone to help; a playmate AND co-worker; someone we can tell our successes and secrets.  Who we can laugh and cry with.  Who sees and nurtures the tender little girl that will always live within us, but who can also see the sensual, sexual adult woman and create a safe space for that passionate force to be embraced, enjoyed and explored.  
Kriyananda has said that often the closest we humans will ever get to God consciousness is at the peak of orgasm – because the mind stops.  We come together in union; there is no mind grasping, no separateness; in that split-second of vibration you become one with your beloved and everything else falls away.  Have you ever had that experience with someone?  If you’re not sure, I would suggest that you have not.  There are many of us who have spent our time being sexual receptacles and the experience of truly uniting with another never actually occurs,

Shakti craves Shiva; I’m pretty sure Shiva craves Shakti; together they become greater than the sum of their parts; or as Shellji would say “two together strongly are as four against the world.”

Shanti,

Jill

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dharma Talk; "Dear Human . . . by Courtney A. Walsh"

Saturday mornings for my Hatha 2 class I usually do a little dharma talk; a teaching moment; something for the students to ponder before they set their intentions for their class that morning.  Often I find myself talking about something I had never even considered speaking about; this is how things unfold sometimes as a yoga teacher.

Occasionally I read quotes or spiritual texts.  I found this little gem on Facebook one day and printed it out.  It hung on my refrigerator for a while; I kept thinking that I would take it and read it for the class.

So finally, a couple weeks ago, I remembered it; took it down; carried it to the car; placed it on top of my things.  And then I get to the Studio; it's nowhere.

I'm looking around the office; the reception area; went back, looked all through my car; nothing.

Then the following week, I'm cleaning out my car -- which if you know me you realize is a rare, rare occurrence.  Was getting ready to head out of town for the weekend.

And there it was; wedged between the seat and the console.

Apparently the people who were supposed to hear it did hear; it really resonated with them; and several students asked me to post it; here it is. 

Ponder, absorb and enjoy.

Shanti,

Jill



Dear Human,

You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you’ll return.

You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often.

You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story.

Love, in truth, doesn’t need ANY other adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers. It doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks that you show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU.

It’s enough.

It’s Plenty.

-- Courtney A. Walsh

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Music is Vibration

What do you think about music in yoga class?

It's actually controversial in some circles; I know my asana teacher would only use the most simple tabla music (if anything at all!) and thought anything else was just distraction. 

So it took me a while to be okay with my own personal style; but eventually, I realized, it's okay -- I like music; usually loud, crazy music. 

At least most of the time.

I also absolutely adore a class with complete silence; just the huge, pulsing vibration of a group of like-minded people breathing.  Though usually that requires experienced yogis to create a comfortable-breathing-deeply-spiritually-connected-but-in-our-own-experience-in-a big-ole-room-of-strangers vibe.

But let me tell you -- when it happens?  That is awesome; incredible.  If you've ever been to a class where the breaths are counted (at a good deep-but-reasonable-pace) that is a singular experience that truly reminds you of that song that modifies the Biblicl quote "whenever two or more of you are gathered in my name there is love." 

But for me; and for many of my students; music helps break me out of my regular life; it sets a certain vibration, a beat; a toe tapping, head boppin' rhythm.  I know students tend to hold poses in a static way, but when I practice on my own or in a class, I MOVE, I groove, I pulse; it feels natural to me. 

Love to close my eyes, find the music in my muscles, my cells; practice like no one is looking, you know?

Steve Ross, my original guru, always played the best music in class; and my style of yoga is similar to him; my music is who I am -- intense, thoughtful; moving through some stuff.  And my playlists (if you listen carefully) can tell you a lot about where I am, who I am, what I'm processing. 

For example, here's the playlist from the day my ex-husband moved out of the house.

Yeah, I remember it; it was an intense day, for me and my children:

Xotica -- Kinetik -- Phutureprimative
Digging in the Dirt -- Us -- Peter Gabriel
Bedroom Hymns -- Ceremonials -- Florence + The Machine
I'm Not Driving Anymore (Remix) -- I'm Not Driving Anymore - Rob Dougan
Set Fire to the Rain -- 21 -- Adele
In the End -- Hybrid Theory -- Linkin Park
Where is the Edge -- The Unforgiving -- Within Temptation
Karuna -- Star of the Sea -- Stellamara
Story of Pingala -- Dasi:  Prayers by Women -- Karnamrita
Power of Forgiveness -- Beyond -- Tina Turner
Shri Vidya -- Grace is the Name of the Game -- Steve Ross

Summer of 2012?  Linkin Park; like, LOTS of Linkin Park.  This Summer, a little more dance-y music; a little slower, deeper, smoother pace. And some great retro stuff from my childhood; a favorite recent class:

Dream On -- Aerosmith -- Aerosmith
Ready, Steady, Go -- Bunkka -- Paul Oakenfold
Lights (Bassnectar Remix) -- Divergent Spectrum -- Ellie Goulding
Promises (Remixes) -- EP -- The Presets
Paradise -- Mylo Xyloto -- Coldplay
Red Rain -- Hit  -- Peter Gabriel
Revolution -- The Nu Nation Project -- Kirk Franklin
Rama Bolo -- Maha Moha: The Great Delusion -- Wade Imre Morissette
Kyrie Eleison -- The Seven Valleys -- Stellamara
Dust in the Wind -- The Best of Kansas -- Kansas
Pure Essence -- Sadhana -- Maneesh De Moor
Holy Harmony -- Holy Harmony -- Jonathan Goldman and Sarah Benson

By the way, my new savasana music, Holy Harmony, listed above, is amazing; truly magical; check it out, it's a super long track, great for relaxing and breathing and connecting.

So whatever vibration you attune to -- rock, classical, electronic; the pulse of your heartbeat; the sound of the birds outside your window; yoga is meant to bring you into the moment; to bring you joy, happiness, peace, contentment. 

Whatever facilitates that, DO it. 

Shanti,

Jill




Friday, June 21, 2013

Violence


This week cooking celebrity Nigella Lawson was photographed in a very nice restaurant with her husband’s hands on her neck.  As in strangling her.  He later came out publicly to say it was a “playful tiff“. 
Very distressing, indeed.
The violence was awful.  Knowing that if in public he feels comfortable doing that what goes on behind closed doors?  It bothers me that people took photos instead of helping her, though the event probably happened in just a matter of moments.  Sometimes when you see something like that happening your brain doesn't even register it right away.  And I am sure people sensed complex emotions.  Pain, discomfort, fear and embarrassment. 
But it's time to really talk about domestic violence.  We as a culture have to stop accepting people being treated as property.

It brought back memories of being a young fourth-grade child sitting in a classroom.  Outside the window a young man and young woman walking down from the high school; he is striding ahead and she is trailing behind him; they are arguing loudly.  So loud in fact that the whole class and teacher have turned to look outside. 
And the guy suddenly turns around and punches her in the face; hard.  Hard enough that she crumples to the ground.
My teacher slowly walked over to the windows – still talking, still teaching – and pulls the window blinds down, one by one.  Like it never happened.

Fast forward and I am a young married 22-year old working at a law firm as a legal secretary.   I get a cat – my first one!  And when it gets cornered by the neighbor’s dog I swoop in to pick it up (do NOT ever do that, okay?!) – and she turns and claws me right down the face.  Torn skin on my nose, scratches around my eye, down my face.  Pretty messed up.
The next day at work all the women immediately ask what happened; but not the men.  It isn’t until lunchtime when one of the guys asks me into his office and pulls the door shut and says “honey, what happened to your face?” 

Later that afternoon I asked the attorney I did the most work for:  “Why haven’t you asked me what happened to my face.”  “Well,” he said with a shrug, “I figured your husband did it to you.” 
Hmmmmm.

I have had someone I trusted put their hands around my neck and start to squeeze.  Let me tell you, it’s scary as hell.
In another relationship it was words; because he knew I would leave in a minute if he touched me.  So it was insults and threats and anger.  I remember so many times just wishing he would do the things he threatened to do so I would have a “good” reason to leave.

Eventually I realized that verbal cruelty was a “good “reason, too.
There are things worse than being hit or hurt; Kriyanandaji says cut a person with a knife and the skin heals; cut a person with your tongue and they may never.  Words can terrorize and dehumanize as much or more than many actions.

Nigella, I am not in your shoes and I don't judge your decisions; perhaps you wish no one had seen what happened that day or maybe you are tremendously grateful.  But maybe; just maybe; you opened up the subject for discussion.  Placed our social norms up for scrutiny.  And made people like me more willing to shine a light into the dark places of the soul.
Shanti,

Jill 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What are YOU waiting for?

Mother’s Day I planned myself a very nice day; arranged a bike ride at Carvin’s Cove with a dear friend; we talked more than we rode, but that was just what I needed.  The time in nature was healing;  the conversation and connection even more nourishing.

Came home and made myself a lovely brunch of poached egg on toast with salmon and herbed hollandaise; made an orange juice and Prosecco mimosa.  Yum! 
Ate it on the front porch in the sun.  Very nice.

And in the afternoon I had no expectations or desires.  So I again sat on the front porch in the sun.  And as I was sitting there, staring out into the yard for a while – loads of thoughts wandering through my mind -- my son was riding his scooter in small circles on the porch behind me.
I must have been sitting in silence for quite a while because he inquired “What are you thinking about Mommy?”  And at that moment I had been thinking of laying on a blanket and looking up at the clouds, like I used to do with the children when they were small.  And so I told him.

He began to laugh; like, really belly laugh.  I got somewhat defensive at him laughing at my idea. 
But before I could take offense he said “But, why?  Why would you ever sit there and just think about doing something that you could so easily be doing?  Why don’t you just go get a blanket and look at the clouds!”

It was such a wise and funny response; and it was so interesting to watch the thoughts pass through my mind.  How could I explain my adult mind process -- that I thought about what the neighbors would think about me laying in the front yard; about whether the kids would be too grown to look at clouds with me and think it silly; I even wondered which blanket I’d be okay with getting dirty; you know, excuses.

I wonder where else in my life I am thinking instead of doing.  Where do I need to get up and stop worrying about what someone might think or what might go wrong.  Where should I be dancing/laughing/singing/praying/moving/living/breathing and instead I'm sitting.  On the porch.  Just thinking about it. 
And somewhere, someone is laughing; because there is NOTHING keeping me from what I would truly wish to do; and sitting there, just thinking about it -- it is so, SO silly.
Shanti,
 
Jill

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another Blog . . . .

Hi everyone,

 I have a new gig; have started a question and answer blog called “Ask Uttara.”

 No worries, I will not abandon this blog, despite my lack of posts.  And despite the fact that I will have to channel my inner multi-armed Goddess to approach all the projects that are currently on my radar.

 I am attaching a link that will lead you to today's question and response about letting go; I hope you will find it helpful and follow along if you choose, either through the webpage or on Facebook.

 Interestingly enough I reference a favorite quote from Dr. Seuss; I believe he was a great yogi, right up there with those who immediately come to mind beyond my lineage -- Mother Teresa, Yoda and Mr. Rogers.  Though perhaps those souls even wander into the title of “Guru” -- which simply means remover of darkness.

Also of note was that as I sought out the book Oh the Places You’ll Go! my daughter helped me search the shelves.  We have reached the stage that it is not sought-after reading material; it was mixed in with the other large but thin children’s books; the spine broken from love and use.

When she asked why I was looking for the book, I told her I needed a quote for the blog – that I was looking to quote the part about waiting.
 
"Of course" she replied.  "Umm, really?" I asked; “How did you know?”  “Because you talk about it all the time!” she said.

Hmmmmmm.

So, maybe; just maybe; possibly -- I don’t totally suck at this mothering thing after all.

Much love and blessings,

Jill
 
 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Motherhood and Other Impossible Things

I have some things on my mind.  Perhaps if I convey the stories we can both ponder and it might bring some type of understanding of what is happening in my world.

So last week I am driving past the middle school; and my child remarks that the girls soccer games have started.  And due to scheduling, some of their games will be on the practice field.  I asked why -- because that field isn't maintained like the other field.  She replies that the boys' soccer team gets to use the actual field, the girls only use it if the boys do not need it.  I was genuinely surprised and expressed something about the unfairness of it.  Her reply was "well, Mom, that's just the way it is."  Hmmm.  Okay.

This week I am conversing with a young friend of another one of my children.  We are discussing the fact that she runs for the track team.  "Oh, cool!" I exclaim as we discuss what events she participates in.  "Do you like to run?" I ask.  "Umm, well -- no."  The child looks down, avoiding my eyes.  "Well, then why do you do it?" I ask.  "For college; to get a scholarship; I do things to get into college  -- that's the only reason I do anything."  Hmmmm.  Okay.

See this picture?  Today I am looking at this paperwhite; I put it into water back in December; had a big 'ole vase of them -- most grew roots and bloomed beautifully in my bedroom, bringing the luxurious feel and scent of Spring throughout this dark Winter.  When I went to compost the spent bulbs this one was lurking in the bottom; maybe it was crowded by the others, maybe it just didn't like the sunlight or temperature.  I placed it in it's own little vase on my kitchen window, and noticed it daily.

And now, a little late, it is blooming.  It makes me happy.  And I am noticing how long the roots are; it took a LOT of water.  I notice the pregnant bulge of the bulb; and how very many green leaves it takes to create the food to feed this one small and short-lived bundle of flowers.

All these stories lead to an emotional hard spot -- I have hit a patch in my mothering career that is beyond difficult.  I have a problem, and I do not know what to do.

I look back through the years of being a parent -- I have felt many emotions.  I have been confused; terrified; overwhelmed; exhausted.  I have been thrilled; amazed; joyful; hopeful; and filled with a love so deep I thought I would burst.  Gazing back to the toddler years with my rose colored bifocals and it seems there was more black and white then. 

As I move into parenting teens there is this vast sea of gray. 

So, today, I will remember my paperwhite; it couldn't just fit in with the pack; it needed it's own space and extra attention.  And it blossomed on its schedule, not mine.

Shanti,

Jill

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