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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Small Steps (part 2)

Small Steps, part 2 (with a few more to come!) Another list of small changes that make a big difference:

4. Start a journal. You know, like a diary. It doesn’t have to be detailed; it doesn’t have to be every day. But it is important to express yourself; to get what you are thinking and feeling OUT of your body and mind. A journal helps you to see the patterns in your life; to see the recurring, cyclical nature of things. It helps you to figure out who you are; what you want; and where you’re going. To set goals, and measure growth. If you have time to watch tv; time to fiddle around on Facebook; you have time to journal. Start today.

5. Eat less meat. I’m not asking you to adopt a sprouts-and-rice diet here. Just to look at how high up the food chain you are eating at each meal. There is no dispute – the more meat you eat, the more resources are used. Look at your week of meals – breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks. Can you switch out even two meals a week to something without meat? Skip the chicken sandwich in the drive through and pack a hummus sandwich. Order pizza without the pepperoni or sausage. Two meals a week over an entire year – that would save a lot of cows (and a lot of cow poop), my friends.

6. Be pro-active about your health. What does that mean? It means working towards staying healthy, instead of waiting to get sick. It’s kinda like doing the dishes; you maybe don’t feel like doing them right away, but when you let them sit, everything gets all dried up and stuck; and it takes so much more time and effort to get them clean again. Same goes for your body.

Try going for a monthly massage – it’s not just a feel-good rubdown for the spa and tennis set – it moves lymph which aids your immune system; it helps to relieve stress (the cause of a great number of illnesses and diseases); helps to keep you aware of what is happening in your body – I could go on and on here. I go once a month – WAY less expensive than getting sick.

Getting regular acupuncture treatments works well for me, too – it’s like an energy tune-up every month. If I feel a cold, sinus infection or sore throat coming on, I make an appointment for acupuncture right away and head it off at the pass – one visit is usually less expensive than whatever prescription I would need if I let it get really bad – that doesn’t even include the cost of an regular doctor's office visit (or is it actually an office minute . . . .).

Talk to your doctor or naturopath about what supplements you should take. Maybe speak with a dietician or ayurvedic specialist to determine what foods are best for you and your body type. Everyone’s body is quite different; and you might need more protein, or less dairy – take the time and figure it out!

And, for heavens sake, get off your butt and move around every day. Take the steps; park far away from the store; do some yoga; crank up some music and dance; take up a sport; do push ups and sit ups while you watch tv. Unless you some day want to be CONFINED to that Lazy-Boy chair, get OUT of that Lazy-Boy chair.



Friday, June 25, 2010


There was recently an article in the paper about how emergency rooms are now seeing just as many patients with prescription drug overdoses as patients with illegal drug overdoses.

It’s a blurry little line, I guess.

It reminded me of an experience I had back after my youngest child was born. He was my third baby in five years; I was nursing him; and true, I had my hands full. But I felt extra tired; really lethargic; my hair was turning gray really fast; I was constipated all the time; and the idea of being intimate with my husband sounded like the most insane idea ever.

I was not myself; and I didn’t know why.

There are always symbols around us from the Universe, from our higher selves, that are trying to show us the way, and one day, as I stood at the pharmacy counter waiting for a prescription for one of my children, I noticed a little card. It said across the top “Do You Have Hypothyroidism?” It went on to list 10 symptoms of the autoimmune disease. I had 8 of the 10.

So I went home and called my doctor; made an appointment; and when I saw him, explained that I had seen this card; that my grandmother had been hypothyroid; and asked to be tested.

He looked at me kindly, and inquired about my symptoms; asked if I had gained any weight. I said yes – there seemed to be a good five pounds that I couldn’t beat off my body, even though I was doing yoga daily, and was strictly monitoring my diet. He said “Come back to me when you gain 30 or 40 pounds; you’re just a little depressed. You have three small children, you’re not getting enough sleep. You need a little something to take the edge off – I’ll prescribe you an antidepressant.”

If it had not been for my yoga practice; if I did not know my body intimately; know the state of my mind, I would have probably just taken the prescription. But I DID know my body, and I DID know my mind – I had suffered from depression as a teenager so I knew I was NOT depressed. Something was really wrong with me, and it wasn’t just a case of the blues.

I stood my ground (which at the time, was unusual for me); he agreed to test me; and called within days to say “Good diagnosis, doctor.” The normal range was 0-5. My level was 55.

I shudder to think what would have happened had I simply taken that prescription for an antidepressant; as the lack of thyroid hormone slowly set off a cascade of problems, and the antidepressant covered up some of my symptoms, like a bandaid covering a festering sore.

My thyroid still doesn’t work, though I have been able to get my hormone dosage lowered through acupuncture and going upside down every day.

But how many other people – women especially – have been placed on these medicines; these mind and body altering drugs -- when in fact, they are seriously ill?

Part of this coming cycle is to bring us back to being responsible for ourselves; to stop leaving it up to experts, to doctors, to politicians, to religious leaders – to others – it is up to YOU to take care of you; your health, your finances, your spiritual well-being; your community, your nation, your planet.

It is time to stop the cycle of looking at the people in charge and simply throwing up our hands and saying “geez – look what they’ve done!” as you shake your head and walk away.

It is time to step up. To take responsibility. To seize your power, your creativity, your wisdom; and do the work.



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To My Children's Teachers

To My Children’s Teachers

Dear Teachers:

Hello everyone. You’ve had a week or more to finally relax for the first time since (literally) last year. School is out; time for a break. Except for those of you (most of you) who continue to work in the school system through the Summer, or take on additional jobs, extra work or tutoring to make a wage sufficient to raise a family.

My children were in grades 6, 4 and 1 this past year. All big kids now; especially the middle school child. And what a wake-up call for Mommy it was.

I recall a dear friend telling me that once they were out of preschool, it was all over; school just wasn’t fun any more. Surprise! -- she was right.

Most days, I have no idea what has happened to my children for eight hours of their life. I’m lucky to get the tiniest nugget of information. I can pump them (Who did you sit with at lunch? Did you have any substitutes? How did your test go? What was the best part of your day? What was the worst? ), though it usually yields just the facts, and not the big (or more important, little) picture.

Even if you’ve written a carefully prepared newsletter; a blow-by-blow description of the entire month; I usually get it about two weeks after you sent it home, if at all.

This year, all my children had really amazing teachers; it made my life so much easier.

It is not always the case.

So, I want you to know that I appreciated your hard work. That I noticed that the email reminder you sent us about school activities was prepared and sent over the weekend at 10:00 pm. That you are trying to teach some children who come to school unprepared, unfed, and unloved. That somehow you are to conquer all their personal dramas (and sometimes, their family’s dramas); and not only teach them to the best of your ability, but teach them a laundry list of specific things determined by some person in an office somewhere who possibly has never even met a child under the age of 16.

I want you to know that I think the SOLs are ridiculous; and that if your students don’t all pass, that we parents realize it is not all your doing; that it is not a reliable barometer for you as a teacher.

That I realize so many of these children have no pencils; no paper; no tissues; and that more often than not, you dig into your own pockets to provide these things.

I want you to know that I appreciate your creativity; your patience; that you try to include fun, interesting, hands-on learning activities – even though the system does not reward such activities, and could care less if you went to the trouble.

I especially appreciate when you try to broaden their horizons; instill a love of learning. The system would prefer they be automatons that automatically repeat to you pat, memorized answers. True learning does not necessarily occur in such a system, and I do wish for them to love to learn.

In preschool it was so easy to say a quick thank you – to send a little note; a bag of homemade muffins; some flowers from the yard. To catch a glimpse of the teacher’s face and see whether it had been a good day or a – “Good Lord! Please, please! Take this child AWAY!!!” day. Now, its more complicated; elementary volunteering is pretty easy, and gave me some eye-opening insights into what you had to work with. [Whoa.]

The middle school teachers – they probably couldn’t pick me out of a lineup.

So to all my children’s teachers – and to teachers everywhere – an encouraging hug; a moment of gratitude. These few days that you have time to catch your breath, and review the year – they might leave you feeling unappreciated; unhappy; unfulfilled.

Please; please don’t give up on those children; even when our society gives up on you.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Small Steps (part 1)

Sometimes you want to make changes to your life; improve your diet, be more environmentally conscious; etc., etc.

But change can be hard; sometimes the status quo, even if we know it’s wrong, it just feels so right.

This is part one of a series of blogs on little changes you can make to help yourself and (we are all connected, you know) others. A little shift in habits; a little shift in attitude; can go a long, long way. Three small steps for this week; give one (or more) a try:

1. No more soda. Stop buying it, stop drinking it. It is an addictive, chemical concoction, stored in a plastic bottle; there is no upside here.

If you truly love soda, then begin to limit your consumption; cut it in half to start. After that, maybe switch to a more natural, glass bottle product like the Izze brand of juice drinks; or find some fabulous brewed root beer at your local food co-op. If you check around, you can even find Coca-Cola that is actually made with real sugar instead of chemicals.

Will switching be more expensive? Absolutely. Try to lower your consumption, and that will help to lower the cost. Even then, it is much less expensive than getting diabetes or any of the other diseases that can be attributed to some of the ingredients in soda.

And for heaven’s sake, please stop buying the diet version of anything; the chemicals in those sodas are BANNED in Europe; they are PROVEN cancer-causing agents. For more on this, check out the book Skinny Bitch. [But beware; the book is an absolute cuss-fest (the title is tame compared to the book)]. There is a ton of information in that book about how some very toxic chemicals are permitted into our food supply.

2. Get over having a perfect lawn. What is wrong with a few bare patches and dandelions sprouting up in your front yard? When you start seeking that level of control and perfection in anything, you are walking – no, running -- down the path to unhappiness. The chemicals in the “weed and feed” you pick up at your local home improvement store are seriously toxic; they harm wildlife and domesticated animals – you should not have your children walking barefoot on them.

Bees are dying off in huge numbers in this country right now, and it is no wonder; let some clover grow in your lawn for what bees are left. Remember, no bees, no food.

Another huge reason to let go of your chemical lawn; when it rains, all those chemicals pour into the ground, into your local drain system – into our rivers and the oceans – and your drinking water, too. Great article in this month’s Men’s Health magazine about it. One of the chemicals in your standard bag of weed and feed? A chemical that was used in Agent Orange. Enough said.

3. Bring your own bag; everywhere. Now, I know I’m going to post this and next week forget my bags at Kroger and have someone behind me in line going “Uh huh, there’s Little Miss Yoga getting her groceries in plastic bags.” I forget, too; or I go in with one bag and the intention to buy three things and leave with a cart filled with stuff. We’re not aiming for perfect; we’re going for improvement. Begin to cultivate the habit of reusable bags; I keep mine in the front seat of my car and try to take them with me – to the hardware store, to the clothing store – everywhere, not just to the grocery. The other option is when you are getting something little you can carry – just say “no bag please.” You know the day is coming when they will charge us for those bags – it is already that way in Europe. So train yourself now.

Little, everyday things. That is what creates a life. Create your life consciously.



Monday, June 7, 2010


Hey, anyone else leaning hard on their crutches?

You know – that stuff you do that gets you through the day, that you know isn’t the best for you, but you rationalize. Too much shopping; over-eating or junk food; alcohol; cigarettes; drugs, prescription or otherwise; zoning out in front of some kind of screen. You feeling it?

Me, too. One of the Niyamas in yoga is “tapas” meaning austerity; self-discipline; literally “heat” or fervency; the ability to withstand hunger, heat; pain and fear; and stick with your practice.

Lately for me “tapas” has been more like the Spanish translation –a plate of cheese and crackers and a couple glasses of wine. Geez.

I am feeling so desperately imperfect; so absolutely human. Like my “get-up-and-go” got up and . . . . crawled away.

One of my teachers says the following: cigarettes block anger; alcohol blocks fear; pot blocks sadness; and coffee blocks everything. Um, hey --- you seen the line outside Starbucks lately? OKAY.

What are we all blocking?

Well, seriously, refer back to several of my previous blogs; this is a difficult period of existence; even those of us that understand that we CHOSE to be her are saying . . . . . “um, WHAT?”

Was talking to a friend recently – an evolved friend, a tuned-in friend; a trust-you-with-my-children friend, and she said – “I don’t think I could do without my crutches right now – everyone I know is really leaning on their indulgences.”

I agree with that statement; and I don’t judge anyone, or their choices, or their pathways. There’s a quote that goes something like this: “Be kind to everyone; for we are all fighting an epic battle.” So true.

But, please – work hard not to indulge your masking, your numbing, your ignoring. At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself. According to yogic thought, we chose to be here on this planet; at this time, for this moment in history – the curriculum in this school for the soul is about to ramp up. Stay flexible, open and adaptable; ready to let go of old ways of thinking and doing.

The energy this coming week will help us all to begin to move forward; note the dates of June 8, 12, 26 and July 11; lots of planetary energies are coming together.

For me, this week “tapas” moved back to its Sanskrit definition; and I was able to jumpstart my practices. Meditating daily, renewed my asana practice, eating better, etc. It felt easier to do the right things.

Hopefully, you too will cultivate “tapas.” The heat, the fervency to do the great work that must be done. We can be there for each other – to strengthen our resolve when we falter; to remember what we came here for; and to remind each other that we can have faith, or we can have fear; we cannot have both.

Blessings, shanti,


Thursday, June 3, 2010


I was shopping at my local Staples today for paper. At the register, my favorite cashier. A kind, gentle man who is from India. It seems like he is ALWAYS there; that he is ALWAYS smiling; and that he is ALWAYS patient. I have seen people be; well, let’s say I have seen people be less patient with him than he is with them. He speaks with a thick but melodious, clipped accent.

From the first time he helped me, we’ve discussed yoga. Brief exchanges about the Studio; about the logo and it’s similarities to Laxshmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity). Usually our conversations are quickly ended by the arrival of the next customer.

“You still doing the yoga?” he intones, noticing my Uttara shirt. I’m still not sure he understands that I teach at the Studio. “Yes, always” I reply.

Today there is no line of people behind me; he becomes animated, using his hands as he speaks. “The yoga, it is very good! It helps with everything!” He pauses, searching for words. “You do it every day, and you have no tension. “ Again he stops, searching in his mind for the translation to continue. “The . . . . diabetes, heart disease – it helps with these” he says. “Men can do it too, it helps with the tension.”

“Yes,” I reply, “I try to tell my students.” He’s not listening as he continues. “It is wonderful, it, it – it helps with everything -- you tell them, tell them these things.”

Just yesterday, I decided to look for space for a second studio location. So, in this moment, it doesn’t feel like I’m talking to the guy at Staples. It feels like I’m talking to God.

“Yes,” I reply with a smile.

“I will tell them.”



Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Long time, no blog – so sorry loyal readers.

It is a difficult cycle; a lot of choices; for you, too, I am certain.

Just returned from Alabama; a few days inland, and a few days on the Gulf Coast. Let me tell you – when oil hits the shores of the Gulf Coast, it will be a crying, criminal shame. Those are some pristine white beaches. We were in Orange Beach, Alabama -- lots of natural grasses, birds, dolphins, fish; no big, invasive boardwalk. It’s not an East Coast beach, to the extent I even know what I’m talking about. But seriously; when the oil comes – harm will come to people, to businesses – to entire ways of living. The true tragedy is that LIFE will be suffocated, on every level.

We were on a family trip; most of my family had no interest in the actual beach. We were at a lovely, upscale resort; several pools, hot tubs, saunas – one of those floaty “lazy river” things – it was a take your cooler, spend the day type of place.

We had to take a special shuttle to even reach the beach area; serious, over-a-mile pilgrimage-if-you- walked; even with the little resort shuttle, it was a LONG walk down a wooden bridge, and even longer to the shore.

Our first day on the actual beach, we arrived mid-morning; at most a dozen other humans in sight; fine, white sandy beaches. A big drop off from the flat “hang-out” area of the beach into the “up to your knees” area of the water. There was like a shelf – and it was filled with seashells. Handfuls of shells, whole-perfect and beautiful shells; it felt so magical.

Our regular beach is Virginia Beach – a family beach, a commercial beach – truth be told there would be no beach except they dredge it up every few weeks and plunk more sand on the shore. It is lovely, clean, fun – but so different from this little area of the Gulf Coast.

We dropped our snacks and towels and walked into the beautiful blue-green ocean – calm current, a small little shelf loaded with shells. The occasional small school of fish; these interesting clam-like creatures that washed up on the shore and then uprighted themselves and disappeared into the sand.

My daughter brought me a small, pure black spiral shell. My very favorite – I love the spiral, a representation of the Universe. I pondered it’s perfection; the smallness; the very perfect pointed tip, unbroken by the strength of the water. But as I looked, a small, black something emerged – only slightly – clam looking, nothing with eyes, but yet alive.

I called her back and showed my daughter “Look – it’s beautiful, but it is still someone’s home.” There was no hesitation. “Oh, I will take it back” she said. And she quickly took it from my hands, and tossed it as far into the ocean as she could.

We, as a society, have not done right by the waters or by the inhabitants of this planet that cannot speak. But this child, she intuitively does the right thing. It gives me hope in the face of unspeakable destruction.

What can we do now? You and me – thousands of miles from this disaster, feeling helpless and hindered – no way to fix or change? What can WE do?

We can pray; we can meditate. We can send blessings to the Mother Earth and to the very floor of the oceans; we can ask the oil to recede; we can ask the wildlife to be blessed and spared. Never underestimate the power of your intention; never underestimate the power of your prayer.

You are powerful beyond your imagination; if enough of us think it true, and it shall be.


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