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Monday, January 25, 2010

Feng Shui and the Jolly Roger

Over the Summer, a new family moved in next door. There is a flag pole right next to the property line. My previous neighbors had flown the American flag.

I came home one day, and there, flying proudly from the flag pole, and flapping over our fence, is the jolly roger; no kidding – the classic pirate flag; big, ole’ black flag with the skull and crossbones.

Right in the “wealth and prosperity” corner of our backyard, too.

My mother was visiting at the time, and I lamented, “What does it mean to have the jolly roger flying in my backyard?” She wisely observed “It means you have a teenage boy living next door, that’s what.” Aaah, true. Maybe it means no more than that.

There are no accidents, I truly believe this. And when something (or someone) comes into your life, into your Universe, as it were, there is a reason.

Last year, for weeks, I kept seeing men with canes. I would pass at least two on the way into the Studio to teach every morning, and then also see them randomly throughout my day, EVERY day. A man with a cane waiting for a bus; a man with a cane walking down the street. Even had one walk directly out into the street in front of me, so that I had to stop the car and let him pass. So, I kept thinking “what is going on?” What is God trying to tell me with these men with canes?

I knew there was a message; the language of the Universe, of the subconscious mind, is not English, or Spanish, or even Sanskrit. It is symbols; that is why dreams are important, symbolic events are important; and if you happen to see three or more men with canes EVERY SINGLE DAY for a month, there is some meaning there.

During this period, I also kept thinking – getting the message in my mind -- that I should spend more time reading and studying the Bhavagad Gita (literally the “Song of God”). But I wasn’t making time for it. Couldn’t see why I should drop my several other books, and study materials to go back to something I’d already read.

One Saturday morning, I was preparing to teach. It’s about five minutes before class is to begin, and the room is filling with students. Up the (very long) staircase to the Studio, limps a man, using a cane. One of the men I’d seen daily, waiting for the bus.

He was dressed in street clothes, and obviously dependent on the cane. I’m thinking, “How the heck am I going to teach asana to this guy? And isn’t it a little weird that one of my cane guys is HERE?”

One o f my students knew him by name, and greeted him in a reserved manner; this made me a little less nervous, but I was still freaked out. He started walking around, checking the place out, and quizzing me gruffly. “So, what do you teach here?” “Do you teach meditation?” “What about philosophy?” I tried to respond to his questions, as my eyes darted back and forth from him to the clock to my students, realizing that it was time to begin class.

Finally, he turned dramatically toward me, pointed his finger at me and said “Have you read the Gita?” “. . . yes . . .” I answered, none too convincingly. “Sum up the Gita in one word” he commanded. My mind was swimming. “. . . umm . . .” – “This,” I said, circling my hand around my body, “this is the battlefield.” He stopped for a moment. I was holding my breath. “Yes!” he said, and hobbled over to the bench, beginning to put his shoes back on. I wished him farewell, and went in and started teaching the class.

I’m still not sure that is the right answer.

Upon review of my life, I realized that men with canes meant that I was leaning on something. I stopped doing that. I made time to study the Gita. And, the men with canes, they disappeared.

As much as I would prefer that the Universe would drop a scroll from the sky with detailed instructions, or tell me in a booming voice “JILL, DO THIS” or “JILL, DON’T DO THAT,” or even “JILL, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR HAPPY MIND?” it doesn’t work that way. We have free will; we make choices; but we are being guided towards our highest and best self, if we simply open our eyes, and our minds, to the symbols all around us.

The picture up at the top, I took it out of my kitchen window. I’m still trying to figure out why the view includes a skull and crossbones. Look today out of YOUR kitchen window; look upon the symbols in your life -- with fresh eyes and an open mind. You might be surprised by what you see, and what you learn.



Monday, January 11, 2010

On Babies

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like a newborn baby. Oh, some people aren’t fond of the squishy newborn phase.

But, for me, there is just something about this teeny-tiny babe. All gurgle and coo; wonderment and wiggle. This tiny little being, just a bit bigger than a bag of flour, swallows your heart whole as they completely take over your life.

It is so much harder than you can even imagine.

Even with the help of loving family and friends, when you’re the momma, you’re the momma. You are the preferred (and demanded!) cuddler and feeder. For me, especially with the breast feeding, it felt like my whole body belonged to my baby. Like I had handed my entire being over to this adorable little dictator, and I was no longer within my own jurisdiction or control.

Rather terrifying, actually.

Not long ago I received an email request for advice from a student who has become a friend. A sweet, shiny soul, who has had three children in the span of four years. (All together now – YIKES!)

She asked for some advice for when things got “really crazy.” And if you’ve never been the point person when the responsibility includes a four-year-old, two-year-old and an infant, then you just can’t even comprehend the level of chaos. And combine it with a serious lack of sleep and the total subjugation of pretty much all your own desires and goals. Even if your most ambitious goal for the day is to just take a shower (for God’s sake!).

She found what I wrote helpful, and I hope that whether your babies are two or thirty-two, you’ll consider this advice:

I'm feeling for you girl. Having it all is HARD WORK.

Only advice I can give . . . err on the side of giving attention to those older children. The baby will be the most flexible.

When people offer help TAKE IT. And if they don't offer . . . ASK. Asking is so hard, but you've got to do it.

Book the babysitter. Make 20 phone calls if that is what it takes.

Ignore everything but toxic dirt. Sleep absolutely whenever you can.

Let go of silly things. The best thing about having the third is that it makes you realize what really matters, and what doesn't.

Decide what nourishes you and MAKE IT HAPPEN -- massage, yoga, walks in the neighborhood. Remember if Mama ain't happy, ain't no one gonna be happy. YOU and your happiness, it matters.

Don't let your marriage suffer; ask your husband to do what will be helpful and keep the lines of communication open. I read once that any good marriage is a re-marriage . . . because you grow and change, he grows and changes . . . and your life changes. So you need to get together every so often and renegotiate who does what, what you need, what you want, what makes you happy, etc. Make sure you both realize this and it will save you a lot of money in therapy.

Know that as long as you feed, clothe and love your children, you are able to do more than most other mothers on the planet, despite their best efforts. Everything else you offer is a bonus; whatever happens to them is really their karma; take care of yours, and the rest will fall into place.

Now, where is my babysitter's telephone number . . . .



Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Inspiration. This time of year people are casting about for inspiration to create conscious change in their lives. We all want a catalyst, something or someone that will propel us through the inertia of our habit patterns and old ways of thinking and being.

Interestingly enough, the first definition of inspiration that appears in Webster’s New World Dictionary is this: “1. a breathing in.” And the last is this: “5. a divine influence upon human beings, as that resulting in the writing of the Scriptures.”

Where are you looking for your inspiration to become the best expression of yourself? Will you choose to create meaningful change based on a number on a bathroom scale? Or from realizing that you are co-creator of this life experience and you want to make your life better?

What you are “breathing in” to create change in your life and the lives of those around you? Have you made space in your life for that divine influence to flow in and inspire you?

And most importantly – do you think you’re worthy?

You’ve got to really care about yourself if you want to improve your life. To believe deep down that you deserve all the good things this existence has to offer. To understand that happiness and prosperity, love and respect are all things that can flow into your life if you can get out of your own way.

There’s a lot of self-importance in this world, but not much genuine self-esteem.

When was it that beating ourselves up became a sport?

Do you disagree? Truly – open any magazine, watch television, look at the books on our bookshelves. The message being openly (and not so openly) communicated is “you’re not enough.” You need this product to be more beautiful; this food to be more healthy. A better car; a nicer couch; a cooler phone. Even best-selling book series are for “dummies” and “idiots.”

A couple years ago I purchased the “Idiot’s Guide to Yoga with Children.” When I opened the box and extracted the book, my eldest daughter (age 9 at the time) immediately protested about the name. She took the book, sat down, and taped paper over the word “idiot” on the cover and spine of the book and wrote the word “genuis” in its place.

At the time it didn’t seem very important to me. But every time I see that book on my shelf, it reminds me to think about the importance of positive language and positive symbolism. To watch out for the under-current of negativity in our culture, and counter it with my own brand of positivity.

Go back and review your list of new year’s resolutions; of things you want to change, fix or improve. What is truly inspiring you to make these changes? What are you taking into the very core of your being that will spur you on to become your highest and best self?

Don’t change because your culture wants you to, or your husband wants you to, or your mother, or your neighbors or your boss. Do it because you want the best for you. Because you want to feel healthy, be happy, and become wise. Do it because improving your life is the way to improve the entire world.

Be inspired by the fact that you are a part of God, not apart from God. Know that you are “purnam” -- perfect, whole and complete.

Let that knowledge inspire you this year, and always.


Uttara Yoga Studio, LLC. Blog design by Jessica Hedrick