The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Be My Valentine February 11, 2014

Wilco2July09It’s amazing how far from my own heart I can wander.  And not even know.  Until a massage therapist hunts me down and kindly reunites us.

“Come back to your heart, Holly.”

The heart does not go anywhere! It’s right there, in my chest; it’s right there, with my head; it’s there, around and within my home; there, all over my entire life.  ‘Tis I that roams far, far away.  So far that, when I look back, all I see is a wall on the horizon.

“Ah, yes – there’s your heart.  Let’s just put that right…back…in…here…where it belongs.”  (Says my body-worker, while chanting warm OMs into my chest).

My chest, arms, elbows and hands are still tingling from today’s massage session – when my heart and I were reintroduced.  “I remember you,” I said.  My heart just smiled and wiggled its way into my rib cage.  “Please don’t worry if I cry,” I told my brave therapist.  The sobs came.  Sobs lingering in the physical memory of my oldest heart breaks.  Sobs freshly stifled during the management of today’s repeatedly broken heart.

*  *  *

DadValentineOutside(2014)My father’s mind is failing.  And my heart is falling to pieces.  To stay on track with the tasks I handle for him?  All I can do is leave my heart behind.  To appear strong and able?  I stray away from the feelings and get lost in the to-do lists.

This approach to “managing” emotions is definitely taking a toll.  That wall on the horizon can feel definitively divisive at times.  Yet I remain devoted to my yoga, my Chakra work and my meditation, which – at the very least – keep me aware and open.

My outdoor practices rock my world.

Standing firmly near frozen swampy ground with the sun shining on my face, I inhale and envision my stability on this earth (1st Chakra), my fluidity in water (2nd) and my powerful inner fire (3rd Chakra).  I exhale and ask nature: “Please take away anything that impedes the integrity of my roots (1st), relations (2nd) and identity (3rd).  Thank you for taking this from me.”  Eventually, I feel an empowered foundation from my feet, into my legs, up through my hips and pelvis, and into my belly.

Then, I move into the heart (4th), throat (5th) and brow point (6th).  I stretch my arms out to the sides and inhale, “May my heart be filled with faith; may my voice be filled with love; may my mind be filled with clarity.”  On the exhale, I envision the faith, love and clarity being shared with the world.  I might close the practice with a few OMs, or, with some quiet time to simple observe what arises within.

I am grateful for my willingness, commitment and action toward self-care and wellness practices.  I stick with these routines despite my feeling of overwhelm from the seemingly insurmountable responsibilities I hold.  Therefore, rejuvenation and healing are always accessible.

If I was not able to feel my heart awaken during a massage session, there’d be a big problem.

*  *  * 

DadValentineInside(2014)When I came home from today’s appointment, I found a Valentine’s Day card from my dad in the mail.  The man does not miss a beat in certain areas.  I am thankful for the days when he is clear, present and able.  I am grateful for the days that I am patient, tolerant, compassionate and kind.

But loving?  My god.  It’s been a long time since I have felt “loving” toward my father.  Certainly not because I don’t love him!  Lord knows, he was my superhero growing up, and became my best friend in adulthood.  I relied on him more than a grown daughter should (although some say it was a completely normal amount of enabling that he lent me…).

And now I’m trying to show up for him.  My dad.  The love of my life.

So, to get through the times that his memory loss saddens me horribly, or his demented lashings hurt me deeply, I turn off “loving daughter” and turn on “responsible adult.”  To get through frustrating interactions with the institutions and people related to his troubles, I replace “emotional family member” with “Power of Attorney.”

I become exhausted and depleted.  My heart fades further into the distance.  And I’m not sure how long I can last like this.

*  *  *

“Hello?  Holly?  This is your heart.  I’m way over here.  Can you please come home?  Please let me back into your life, your waking moments, your dreams, your hopes, your hurts, your fears, your world.  Please – will you be my Valentine?”

“Yup.  Forever.  Yours.”  (She says, looking down at her feet, sorry that she’d ever left.)

Thanks for reading, y’all.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Advertisements
 

Heart Is Where The Home Is March 1, 2012

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,love,Relationships,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 6:48 pm
Tags: , , , ,

In my last post, I wrote, “I feel at home in my heart these days.”  What do I mean by that?

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the idea of “Samtosha” (sometimes spelled “Santosha”) signifies contentment.  For me, cultivating Samtosha requires a combination of understanding, acceptance and surrender.  When I feel upset or rattled or troubled (vs. content) about something, I ask myself, “Is this something I can change?  If so, what action makes sense?  If not, what practices will help me reach acceptance of and surrender to this uncontrollable concern?  How can I grow to be content with things just as they are?”

First things first – I have to accept that I have little-to-no control over the situations, things and people around me.  I am, however, 100% empowered to change myself.

Interestingly, my life circumstances that seem unfortunate or tragic have actually fortified me – because these hardships drive a commitment to self-knowledge for the sake of personal transformation and serving others.  I have studied and witnessed my behaviors, growth and change as a human being.  So I can’t say enough for self-awareness as a tool for accepting humanness in general.  I don’t even need to understand others – just myself.  When upset by someone, I can either stew in resentment, or, I can change my negative opinion by remembering my own past, process and fallibility.  Acceptance leads me to surrender any illusion of control over people; and this surrender leads to inner peace and contentment.

Second, I must consistently cultivate confidence in, acceptance of and love for my self.  I have to grow to be at home in my heart.  And this take practice.

One of my favorite yoga tools is “Pratipaksha Bhavana” – replacing negatives with positives.  Sometimes my own negative opinion of myself can cause problems all around me!  So I try to use Pratipaksha Bhavana to tune into the positive and cultivate a content mind.

When Pratipaksha Bhavana is not enough, I have to dig into my heart center and find its ever-positive truths.  To do this, I like to use an exercise called “Write from the Heart,” which came from a 2005 issue of Body & Soul Magazine.

In this exercise, I: Identify a specific concern at the top of a piece of paper; write, “I know in my heart…” and finish the sentence with a natural, immediate response; after repeating this about 10 times, I pause, breathe, then keep going until out of things to say.  Knowing that no one has to read this, I can be totally honest, dissolving resistance and building confidence.

I was drawn to write today’s blog because I am in conflict with someone who is dear to me, and, I know that this conflict is a result of the stress, self-doubt and uselessness I’m feeling due to unemployment.  I understand my part (a fear-triggered mind, not shifted quickly enough by the above-described practices!), I accept the other person’s humanness (I felt wronged, but hindsight is 20/20), and I surrender to whatever the situation may bring (we have plans to talk next week).

Still, my heart and mind feel troubled.

So right here, right now (after a pause to brew tea, breath and meditate), I am going to “Write from the Heart.”

  • I know in my heart…there is a chance for healing with this person.
  • I know in my heart…I will find the right work situation and be safe, secure.
  • I know in my heart…my fears are valid but temporary.  I honor them as teachers.
  • I know in my heart…I am not PTSD-triggered and insecure…although sometimes, due to certain situations, I can be.
  • I know in my heart…I am not an aggressive person, although due to some situations, I sometimes can be.
  • I know in my heart…I am a loving, caring, generous and connecting person.
  • I know in my heart…I deserve.
  • I know in my heart…the right job awaits me.
  • I know in my heart…there can be healing with this person.
  • I know in my heart…I have already learned about myself from this situation.
  • I know in my heart…I am useful, helpful and of service.
  • I know in my heart…although my past sometimes trips me up, my present is bright and hopeful.
  • I know in my heart…I do not need to be afraid.
  • I know in my heart…I am loved, thought about, cared about.
  • I know in my heart…all will be exactly as it’s meant to be.
  • I know in my heart…I yearn to and have tools to come from my loving, confident, clear, true heart.
  • I know in my heart…how lucky I am to be willing to grow and learn and change.
  • I know in my heart…love is out there…and in here.

Wow.  (Big exhale.)  That was intense.  And awesome.

When I am accepting of and surrender to the truths in my heart, I feel at home there.  This healthy heart then rules my perception, my thoughts, my actions, my interactions.  I might not have control over situations, things and people – but my truthful, accepting and content heart may certainly have an effect.

I know today is March 1st, but I want to thank you, dear readers and students, for spending the month of February moving, exploring, and opening your hearts with me.  I am honored.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Kirtan Is Like A Can Opener For My Heart February 28, 2012

“We never know what’s gonna happen with our emotions.  We try to control them.  We try to suppress them.  But…those old yogis knew that wasn’t really the way – they knew that these emotions were a crucial part of bringing the human being to divine consciousness.”  – Kirtan leader Jai Uttal

*  *  *

Leading into February and our monthly focus of The Heart, I attended a Kirtan with Bhagavan Das.  This is what I wrote in my journal the morning after:

Bhakti.  Devotion.  Kirtan.

Crying out to god.  Crying out my love to/for god.  Gratitude to god.  Reverence for god.

This big voice, crying out a huge “Hello!  I love you!  I thank you!  I surrender to you!  Please be with me!”

After a short time, I could no longer hear my voice as separate from the room.  Could no longer hear my voice at all.  Could only hear one voice, made of about 100 beings, all singing their hearts out to god.

When a chant was unfamiliar to me, I chose to listen deeply until I felt totally comfortable with one small part, and then a whole verse, and then maybe the whole chant.  When I didn’t get the chant, I allowed this sacred cavern of voice to fill my ears, my heart, my soul – and so, still, we prayed together.

Beyond any Kirtan experience so far.  The closest comparison would be the many times the group in a Lakota style sweat lodge reached pure oneness from the weaving together of heart-felt prayer or gut wrenching petition to god, which brought us so close in our yearning and love and respect.

That, too, was Bhakti, I am now realizing.  Those lodges led to such awareness of the power of surrender to the great mystery, as well as the power of service to others as a way of giving back for the great nourishment we received.

Bhagavan Das – 2 & 1/2 hours non-stop Bhakti.  Very reminiscent of those clock-free sweat lodges.

For me, Bhakti is such deep devotion and liberated love, it leads to unswerving trust and therefore total surrender.  It’s what I crave.

Each morning for years, I have prayed: “I am yours.  Please build with me and do with me as you will, as you need, as you wish,” and “Grant me strength to do your bidding.”

Courtesy of DC Supersonic Kirtan

This, to me, is Bhakti Yoga.  And Kirtan is one form of this yoga of devotion.

*  *  *

The first time I said “Kirtan is like a can opener for my heart” was the day after an extra-special,

female-led DC Supersonic Kirtan near my house.  I was honored to play percussion for the all-gal

group.  The event fell toward the end of the Off the Mat, Into the World “Yoga, Purpose and Action” Intensive here.  So my heart was already quite worked up from that deeply stirring training.

I felt the infamous “Bhakti Bliss” during and after the evening of responsive Sanskrit chanting.  Indeed, Kirtan was like a can opener for my heart.

The next day, when we wrapped up our Off the Mat training, I ran outside and gave my phone number to a total stranger!  Hah!  I’d seen this guy all week – he was working on a nearby park’s landscaping.  We’d greeted each other each morning on my way in to training, and each afternoon during lunch.  So at the end of the Intensive, with my heart wide open (and some of my gal-pals urging me on), I took the plunge and ran out to introduce myself.

About one hour later, he texted me to say that he had a girlfriend, but that he’d still like to meet.  YUCK!  I asked him to throw away my number and I never heard from him again.

I’ll tell you, in the past I might have said “OK” to such an arrangement.  In the past, my heart rebounded from drama to drama because I had no faith that love could take any form other than low self-esteem matched up with deception leading to inevitable betrayal.  Sad but true.  So…

Phew!  A close call.  Thankfully I wised up quickly enough to recognize this as one of those times when the heart – wide open and vulnerable – was not the best voice to follow.  Live and learn.

Over the past 10 years, I have come to understand that the heart must be healthy before I follow it.  Yoga teacher and writer Josh Schrei is currently exploring that point in his 8-part Elephant Journal series, “Your True Heart And How To Follow It,” which has become a kind of University of The Heart for me.  I highly recommend it.

*  *  *

“Love is not a monochromatic feeling.  We have passion…fear…longing…ecstasy…we have the absolute bliss of that moment when the individual self dissolves into the great oneness.”  – Jai Uttal

Courtesy of DC Supersonic Kirtan

So what in the world is happening when I chant Kirtan, that could make me so vulnerable?  As I said above, practicing Bhakti Yoga “leads to unswerving trust and therefore total surrender.”  After chanting Kirtan, I can walk out of the yoga studio or concert hall and mistakenly give that trust and surrender to whomever or whatever comes next.  So again, it is important to find the balance between a beautifully open heart, and a dangerously exposed heart.

My healthy heart is not locked closed, but it is wisely contained.

*  *  *

Sometimes I look back at what I’ve published with HUGE fear that readers will judge me as stupid, crazy – or even cursed!  Stories about major breakups, past addictions, family brokenness, loss, grief and pain expose pieces of my life that are potentially embarrassing, or worse.

The reason I am able to tell honest stories about difficult events, is that I am living proof of change.  I am not my past – I am not my yesterday, I am not even my moments ago.  I know that, at this very moment, I am not the girl who mistakenly chose harmful boyfriends, I am not the girl who grew up drinking away her pain, I am not the girl who used to leave jobs, cities and relationships because my upbringing had not taught me how to stay.  I am me, here, now – resilient after setbacks, learning and ever-growing.

In my blogs, I not only expose the tough truths – I also aim to highlight the triumphs of yoga over all of life’s perils!  I also hope to share my process of emotional growth in case others relate.  As Jai Uttal says, “…these emotions were a crucial part of bringing the human being to divine consciousness.”

With its forceful (yes, forceful) habit of prying my heart open despite my Krypto-locks and iron chains, and its time-tested tradition of uniting hearts with an ever-benevolent, all-knowing and protective energy – call it god, higher power, the divine, great mystery, whatever – Kirtan has taught me that in this very moment I can celebrate my beautiful, broken, healing, human, hard-won life.

*  *  *

“The singing voice, enriched with a full breath directly touches that well of emotions inside.”  – Jai Uttal

Now that Kirtan plays a bigger part in my life, and I have faith in sacred singing’s power to shift the mind, I am also practicing non-responsive chanting on my own.  Each Saturday and Sunday morning, after prayers and Pranayama, I chant 108 recitations of the popular mantra, “Asato Ma, Sat Gamaya; Tamaso Ma, Jyotir Gamaya; Mrityor Ma, Amritam Gamaya.”  Lead us from non-truth to truth (or from unreal to real); from darkness to light; from death to immortality.

Repetitions of this powerful chant steer my sometimes misguided mind from pettiness to importance, from negative to positive, from destructive to productive.  It took a little while for me to find personal meaning in “from death to immortality,” because I don’t necessarily accept immortality in a religious sense.  Recently, though, after I started the 108 weekend repetitions, I embraced the idea of being led from things that die to things that last.  For example, my self-centered fear is something that comes and goes according to experience, environment, situation.  But love is something that exists eternally, despite conditions.

*  *  *

“…the mantras…are words that have been sung for centuries…by people just sitting and patiently, patiently, saying god’s name over and over and over again to create a connection from their own heart to that great, great heart.”  – Jai Uttal

A few weekends ago I attended another fabulous “DC Supersonic Kirtan” in this Bhakti-filled town.  When I got home, I wrote this in my journal:

Kirtan is the musical manifestation of Bhakti yoga.  Devotion takes many forms.  Jubilant.  Festive.  Mischievous.  Rowdy.  Reverent.  Mellow.  Serious.  Intense.

I feel at home in my heart these days.

I no longer need intense ritual to pry open the doors of a firmly shut heart.  No longer need clever practice to pick the lock.

My heart is well. 

And so I will follow it.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

The Happy Heart Project: The Home Stretch November 25, 2011

Filed under: Spirituality,Yoga — Holly Meyers @ 4:14 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Now THAT'S a happy heart - post Wilco concert bliss!

Today is Day 89 of “The Happy Heart Project: 100 Days Toward Joy.”

I’ll be away from my computer for Days 90-99, down in Nashville with my dear ol’ dad, my fave yoga teachers and lots of pals. So, no daily Facebook nor periodic WordPress posts for 10 days. Let’s see how these 89 days of effort pan out during my trip!

See you on December 5th – Day 100!

 

The Happy Heart Project: 100 Days Toward Joy August 26, 2011

“The Happy Heart Project: 100 Days Toward Joy” launches this Sun., 8/28.  Curious?  See below, then “Like” Urban Yoga Den on Facebook or subscribe to UrbanYogaDen.wordpress.com to stay informed, join in, and/or, share your efforts!

Under the new moon of Sunday, August 28, 2011 I will launch “The Happy Heart Project: 100 Days Toward Joy,” an effort to document my daily journey away from an annoyingly encroaching emotional darkness and toward the hopeful light of happiness.

The “Project” idea arose when Whole Foods Market discontinued my favorite morning ritual incense – Happy Heart by Maroma’s SPA line – leading me to buy their last 10 boxes.  “Hmmmm…100 days of Happy Heart, ” I thought.  And the project was born.

For 100 days from 8/28 through 12/5, I will wake up, burn a stick of Happy Heart incense and set an intention to grow toward joy.  I will see what happens during the day, and journal about it each night.  When I finish a 10-stick box of my precious incense, I’ll post an UrbanYogaDen.wordpress.com blog that covers my journey over those last 10 days.  The blog will also be posted on Urban Yoga Den on Facebook.

If you’ve read my blog lately, you know that I’ve been in the process of healing from a number of physical and emotional challenges (illnesses, health scares, betrayals, violations) – some have occurred over the past year, and some are connected to older events that have been triggered by recent trauma.  (Please check out “Be A Yogi” and other recent entries for background.)  During this 100 day Project, I’ll share the practices and tools from yoga and other resources that consistently guide me toward the inner peace that allows joy.

I know there are no guaranteed outcomes for this 100-day project – only intentions and footwork, one day at a time.

I’m excited to say that one yoga teacher friend unexpectedly exclaimed, “I’m with you!” and will be sharing the journey!  So, we invite you to join us – choose one simple heartfelt ritual for your morning, intend to practice it daily, and let us know how you’re doing from time to time!

Wishing you peace, joy, love and light.  OM Shanti.

 

Focus Wrap Up: The Eight Limbs – Yama April 10, 2011

It was 10:38am on Sunday, April 3rd when I started writing this wrap up, and the New Moon hung invisibly above.

In that Sunday’s classes we wrapped up our March focus on the 1st of the Eight Limbs of Yoga – Yama, or, abstinence. I extended the March focus through April 3rd so the New Moon – at the height of its energy of surrender, letting go and dissolving – could reinforce our liberation from what we might refrain from in our attitudes, our actions, our lives.

During the past month, our classes bravely began a journey of self-examination by way of yoga’s 1st limb.  For me, such exploration of patterns and beliefs is a process.  I have grown to understand that I might not be transformed within the period of one class, one month or perhaps one lifetime!  Each time I step onto the path, I am simply opening a door – maybe even just a little crack – to look inside with curiosity and compassion.  Still, this is deep work, and I try to balance intensity with restoration – during my personal efforts and our classes.

In his commentary about Yama (and Limb #2 – Niyama, or observance) in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Swami Satchidananda says: “These points are for whole-time, dedicated Yogis; and so, for them, Patanjali allows no excuses.  For people who aren’t that one-pointed toward the Yogic goal, these vows can be modified according to their position in life.”  So rather than introducing the Sutras’ list of five yogic abstinences (non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, non-greed), I invited students to cultivate their own, personal Yama.  Toward the end of the month, we considered the official Yama from Patanjali’s ancient guidance.

Along with students, I cultivated my own personal Yama based on my “position in life.”  And the position I’ve been playing for most of my life is…

DEFENSE.

Last week, I squarely faced the huge deficit this role has hollowed out of my heart, soul and life.  Ugh.

What happened?

A number of things.  I’ll skip the long story about childhood and other traumas leading to the necessity for self-defense.  If you’ve read my past blogs, you know that I am devoted to looking backward in order to move forward with health.  You might also remember that just last summer I was blind-sided by a serious betrayal that erased all my trust in humans.  My heart was on lock down.  In my yoga practice, with professional counsel and through other spiritual practices, I started to open back up.  More recently, during the Off the Mat Into the World leadership intensive in early March, I revisited my bruised little heart and noticed that it did not feel so safe after all.  It was still in defense mode.  Again, I re-committed to the process of looking inside, taking action, sparking transformation.

But the biggest eye-opener happened last week.

I went through a breast cancer scare after a doctor’s examination.  Thankfully, at the radiologist appointment a few days later, I found out that I do not have cancer.  During those in-between days of fearful anticipation, however, I contacted family and spent a lot of time with friends for support.  Knowing me as well as she does, one friend reached out her arms and said, “Put your hands in mine.”  I did.

Then she told me, with resolve in her voice, firmness in her stance and steadiness in her eyes,  “You are going to be OK.  And you will not be alone.”

I felt my entire body seize up in defense mode.  My stiffened hands could not hold on.  My eyes could barely meet hers.  When I did look her in the eye it was through a hard plate of glass.  I could hear her words but not feel the sentiment in my heart.  I wanted to believe her but could not.  I could not trust for fear of being betrayed again.  I could not accept her love.

What’s the big deal?

If I don’t allow myself to accept love, I will never feel loved.  That’s it in a nutshell.  I don’t think I need to go into the specifics of how humans need to share love; how vulnerability is essential to trust-building; how risk-taking might be the only way to true intimacy.  The fact is, if I don’t take action to continually and consistently address, transform and heal the core wounds of my heart, I will continually and consistently struggle with every relationship in my life – at work, in family, with friends and otherwise.

Realizing this last week, I set a deep intention that will bring purpose to my Eight-Limb work in the coming months.  A Sankalpa.  My own personal Yama:

I aim to abstain from fear-based responses to life’s invitations for connecting, trusting and loving.  I will liberate my icy-cold, walled-up, scared little Anahata Chakra through heart-opening Asana, heart-expanding Pranayama and Bhakti-influenced practices.

Some wounds are hard to heal.  But for the sake of Ahimsa (non-harming – the 1st Yama from the Sutras), I am going to non-harm myself by taking the risk of being vulnerable.  No holds barred, I am rolling my shoulders back, breathing deeply and chanting my heart out. I am abstaining and refraining from, letting go of, dissolving, and surrendering fear.  Damn-it.

Why abstain?

As mentioned in the Intro to this month’s focus, I want to offer my best self in service to the world.  That is what Samadhi (yoga’s 8th Limb) means to me – an interconnectedness that dissolves separation, invites love, cultivates trust.  So in the end, I don’t want to heal my heart so I feel better – although I’m sure that will be a benefit!  In the end, I want to liberate my heart so I can serve others with authenticity, strength and sustainability.

Wishing you peace, joy, love and light.  OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Focus: Abundance – Love & Light December 31, 2010

I have long believed that people are beautiful beings, inside and out. Our humanness, our perfect imperfection, our state of constant growth gives me faith in the beauty of life as a whole.

Tonight a street drunk and I watched a meteor fireball together. I was walking to yoga class when a huge white comet-looking thing with a long firey tail burst across the sky then disappeared. “Wow.” We stopped dead in our tracks. “Ha lo visto?” I asked in my unpracticed Spanish. Yes, he saw it. He told me that it would keep going. We stood together for a few moments, faces lifted toward the sky. Then we went on our respective ways. Before we got too far, he yelled to me and gave two thumbs up. I waved goodbye to my new brother.

The gift of light and a moment of love between the two strangers who witnessed it. Seriously. Love.

This is how I experience humanity – when I’m not stuck in fear, distrust, anger and disgust, I look around and I love everyone. I love the street drunk, I love the pushy drivers, I love the grumpy shoppers, I love the crying babies, I love the lashing out friends. I love them in addition to the smiling, cheerful and sober people. So thankfully, it’s been a very loving couple of weeks.

Finally. The return of love and light.

I didn’t plan for the weeks to unfold like this. I didn’t will any of this beauty to happen. I simply wrote a decidedly revealing blog about pain and healing and bouncing back (see “Focus: Abundance – Growth”) a few weeks ago, and soon after, the fog started to lift.

Too simple to be true?

For me, the fact is, when I look squarely at and then honestly share my “stuff,” it’s no longer in the shadows. Writing out my “stuff” sheds light on it. I take action, I spark the flame. I turn my face toward the light. I stretch my arms out to it.

And the light reaches back to me in all kinds of ways…

*  *  *

It all started on Friday the 17th. I practiced a slow and prayerful Vinyasa with my 7am class. We were flowing to Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky,” a spiritual ballad about the power of fellowship on the long road of life. I paused to look outside – and the sunrise sky was a radiant orange! Of course, I was brought to tears.

And from there forward, I have been shifting away from past troubles and toward inner happiness. Hallelujah!

It doesn’t hurt that our December Class Focus has been Abundance, and in my own practice, I have been savoring the sweetness of a favorite Asana among the challenging. Dwelling on that instead of loathing the other poses. Knowing that somewhere along the set, that sweetness is coming. I can bank on it.

Just like life. I’ve been dwelling on light.  And love is coming. I can feel it.

*  *  *

The day after that beautiful orange sunrise, I curled up at a cafe for hot drinks with a friend, and mused about living in the solution of a spiritual life. We were both weighing out certain situations in our paths. I encouraged her to trust her instinct, to research rather than run away from seemingly risky situations. To live. And to discern.

And breath by breath, I am taking my own advice, diving in a little bit while exercising healthy caution.

That evening, I popped around the corner to DC Supersonic Kirtan’s monthly chant fest. Kirtan is like a can opener for my heart. No caution here! With everyone around me singing their lungs out to the gods, there is no room, no need for caution. I leave every Kirtan blissed-out with love. Fearless. It’s like rebirth.

Fueled by Bhakti bliss, the next day was deeply connective, relaxed and joyous. I felt I had more to offer the day, the world, my life. My tiny studio apartment (aka The Urban Yoga Den) became a wonderfully crowded house of chilled-out, indulgent women, celebrating a few rare hours of down-time together at my annual (pre-) Solstice gathering. I love to just stay in the background and soak in how these wonderful women relate, interact, connect.

People are precious! And spending carefree quality time with like-spirited pals is priceless.

Later that night a friend and I discussed the world of dating. He mentioned the sensitivity of navigating what we like and don’t like about our mates – or what they may or may not like about us. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I like everything about you.” He was stunned. “Perhaps even the things you don’t like about yourself.” He paused to absorb the news. “No one has ever said that to me,” he revealed.

We are all works in progress. Growing, stumbling, flying, crawling.  For me, it’s easy to love someone for all that they are. The way I would like to be loved.

The way I would like to love myself.

*  *  *

Moving along the holiday week, the good vibrations kept flowing. I started a temp job. Typically I spend my days alone, at my home office, working on my own projects. Deeply fulfilling, yet also primarily self-serving. There’s nothing like suiting up and showing up for a group of workers and supporting their goals. I am certain this interaction and service to something beyond my personal intentions has also encouraged my softening heart.

To end the week, I attended Caroline Weaver’s “Warm the Heart” workshop on the morning of Christmas Eve. I love Caroline because she’s not afraid to bring god into a yoga class. (Hello, god!) Or god as some personal concept of higher power or a virtue that’s worth our full commitment. The uplifting, devotional energy of her class was so enveloping, I don’t remember much about it, except getting to a point in Warrior 1 where Caroline reminded us, “Remember, you are dedicating all of this to your highest virtue.” I felt this breathtaking swell of gratitude in my heart.

“Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You” I whispered repeatedly like a Mantra.

I strive to remember to dedicate ALL of this – not just my yoga moves, but my entire life – to something beyond me. When I remember that life is about playing a small role of service in the big picture of the universe, the great mystery, the infinite abyss, nature, Jesus, compassion, generosity – whatever name you pick for your god idea or highest virtue – I feel an abundance beyond “having.” I feel the abundance from giving.

*  *  *

Earlier in the week, during Winter Solstice, I’d visited family in Nashville and experienced a totally spontaneous opportunity for pure service, for giving without expectation of receiving. Karma Yoga. I awoke on Solstice morning, after what is known as the darkest night of the year – maximized this December by the the full-moon lunar eclipse. I thought, “THIS is like New Year to me. I truly feel different.”

I continued to lay in bed, in and out of post-alarm clock dozing. My brain started to play that age-old “should” game – I should get up, should do Pranayama/Asana, should pray, should make tea – and then it locked in on one thing. The broken bird house and bottle of Elmer’s Glue sitting on the desk across the room. My dad’s fix-it project. But he’s never been a fix-it guy. Since childhood, I have always been the fix-it girl. If you’ve read my story in other blogs, you know that at times I had to be.

I admit that sometimes my “fix-it” nature is not productive in adult life and relationship worlds. But in this instance, looking at my dad’s broken bird house, “fix-it girl” was the appropriate role to play. My 1st preferences (Hatha Yoga and prayer) were all about my routines for well-being – which I do believe are essential to being able to show up for others. On this morning, however, lazying around in bed after a full night’s rest – I am fine, my well-being is intact. But Dad’s bird house – something that brings him great joy – is not. It’s broken. And I can fix it (and with strong staples, not Elmer’s Glue).

My dad was so excited. He filled up the bird house with seed, went out the back door, and shouted, “Hey guys, we’re back!”

Karma Yoga occurs when love sets the priority. When priority outweighs preference. When big picture beats self-centered routine.

*  *  *

There are many more little stories of heart opening, light shining, exhaling, melting moments from the past weeks. I’ve been basking in the small yet profound pockets of joy.

For instance, while driving to the airport early in the morning, listening to Paul Duncan’s “The Lake, Pt. 2” I watched streams of sunlight (aka “Jesus rays”) burst through the clouds. I thought, “Hmmm, last Friday the sunrise burned radiant orange, and now it’s bright and golden.” And at that moment, I felt a jolt of realization that the days, the universe, my world is getting progressively brighter! The lunar eclipse proves that it’s always darkest before the dawn. It dawned on me – there is personal significance to this year-end season, more than just “The Holidays” and gift shopping and programmed cheer. BRIGHTNESS RETURNS. And at that moment, driving and crying joyfully, it felt like the 1st time I’d ever recognized that significance.

Also, while on my Nashville trip, I felt my 11-month-old grand-nephew burrow his little body into my heart center in the most loving embrace ever. (Ever.) I reunited with my ex-brother-in-law (who has always been like a true brother to me, and my only brother) and got a big bear hug. I witnessed the passion for life returning to my big sister after a very heavy number of years.

And remember that friend who I like everything about? A few days later, during a different tone of conversation, he said he cares about me. “Yeah? How and why do you care about me,” I angrily snapped back. He then proceeded to list the ways and reasons that he cares for me. I was floored as I silently absorbed his penetrating truths. He told me he loves me. And we continued to dwell in that love all evening. I haven’t felt that loved in a long time.

To no fault of the people who love me – just my own obstacles.

On Christmas morning, snow swirled softly outside my window and the swirly songs of Sea & Cake warmed the air inside. My 1st 100% free day in what felt like forever – I flowed with the solitude here in my cozy little home…writing, lounging, being. (Milking that isolation as long as I can. Hehe.) Then I got my butt out the door to accept invitations from the loving and caring people in my life.

*  *  *

In my December classes, I have been encouraging students to concentrate on the space between poses. To take time to grow into each shape.  To be present with the transition, the process, the breath. To make room for discovering abundance where it was unexpected or unplanned. I guess my own instruction has been rubbing off on me. Bit by bit, I have been opening up where I was once firmly sealed shut. Leaving space for orange skies and Jesus rays. Allowing the darkness of an eclipse to reveal joyous Solstice light. Making room for love.

To be honest, it doesn’t always feel safe. But I’m opening up anyway.

For a few of my classes, to complement our Abundance theme and reinforce that we are all surrounded by a supportive community, I taught an Asana set that built to a group pose. We held hands in a big circle for a collaborative Warrior 3 (not my most stable balancing pose). As we leaned into the circle, I felt the entire group unite with a strong energy of responsibility toward each other. We floated into and held the pose for a few long breaths.

Now that’s love. The dedication to serving your neighboring yogi. Or maybe just your neighbor. Or maybe just the random stranger with whom you watched a fireball streak across the dark sky.

* * *

Thanks to friends, family, students, strangers for the beauty of life. Your humanness fortifies me. Happy holidays, merry new day, abundant being.

OM Shanti. h*

P.S. No kidding – after drafting this blog, I checked e-mail and found the following holiday wish from yoga teacher and writer Max Strom:

“Dear Friends, I hope that on this day you experience a rise of the sun within you, the return of the light within your life, the embrace of your family who surrounds you, and the knowing that you can begin again anew. I write this as I witness the sunrise out my window and hear the winds of change blowing the trees outside.”

(Photo credit: “This exceptionally bright fireball meteor trail was photographed with a fish-eye camera at a Czech Republic station of the European Fireball Network on January 21, 1999.” [GSFC, 1999])