Monday, December 29, 2008

A New Dawn

I used to hate New Years. It was that unique time of the year when I looked back and saw all the things that I didn't accomplish and made a grand list of other things I knew I wasn't going to get around to doing. I used to feel beaten by this realization.

That was before I began to think of the new year like another form of yoga: a PRACTICE. Even the word practice suggests that what your doing is for no one but you. Practice says that if you did something you like than, great, you're learning and so keep going in that direction. Practice says that if something didn't work out so well, then, you learned something and now know what not to do and that knowledge is valuable. Either way, the idea of practice takes the pressure off and makes it more fun.

Each time we practice yoga we could compare the first OM to January and the last OM to December. Everything in between, like seasons, like new arrivals and deaths, comes and goes and is just one more shot at making sense of this spin on earth.

It's not neutral, though. It's actually a big deal. And what makes it a big deal is the fact that we are taking another shot at this. "Okay, this time I'm going to try it this way."

The New Year is another opportunity to come back and look at some things that we've previously closeted, like our yoga practice. One of my mentors, a dear friend and successful entrepreneur, Gary, would practice something I have often found useful. One day when he was feeling particularly overwhelmed, he said "Follow me!" and led me to his office. He then pulled out a cardboard box and shoved everything on his desk inside the box then threw the box into a corner. "Now, I feel a lot better. And when I come back to sort out that box in a month, most of it will have absolutely no importance!" Genius. Whether we flagrantly throw our business into a box and ignore it or just take another stab at something that didn't work before, New Years can be that time we take another look at some of that stuff we've closeted.

I want you to join me in saying good-bye to 2008 and hello to 2009. I want to create a ritual with you that will do this important but fun task justice. I want to add music to movement to poetry and see how the ancient practice of yoga brings new light to the dawn that is just before us.

Join me on Thursday morning, for sure, (see below) but all week as we'll be exploring this idea.

See you soon!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Keeping Quiet

It's late. I'm sitting here in my big, fat, green chair: the one that people will fight over if I die, still wrapped up in my coat and scarf. I've just come in from the cold on the longest night of the year. "Solstice" meaning the "sun stands still." It does so and in some sort of grace to us allows us to feel the cold, to draw inside and hibernate for a while. It makes us think and feel.

I'm thinking: as I was driving home alone along the eastern bench of our Salt Lake valley, looking over the street lamps and house lights, the glittering stars of our universe twinkling below me, I picked up my phone, and by pressing three buttons was able to talk to one of my most dear friends, Jason, in Dubai. It was less than a minute. He didn't have time except to say that it touched him to hear my voice. I was satisfied just hearing his. Alone and together--him in the blazing sun of a hot desert, me alone staring out the frosty windows of my snow-covered car into the night.

The poem, the yoga of words, that was read to me earlier tonight from the book whose pages open up automatically to this poem, the cause of the many nights it has rested face-down on the night stand holding it's special place open to be read again tomorrow, and which is really about us all sitting here reading this, is what I want to repeat as my offering for this solstice.

Keeping Quiet
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

by Pablo Neruda

This week may be our opportunity to think about the creation of the Divine. As we are still, hibernate, and draw in, you may want to practice savasana for 45-60 minutes each day. I'm not joking. Just for this week. It'll change your life.

I'm out of town. I've arranged some great subs. See you next week.


Monday, December 15, 2008


Almost exactly 10 years ago, I worked in a different town for a little loan company , processing loans. The man who owned this company (we'll call him "Jeff," mostly because that was his name) taught me many valuable things, many about people, others about myself. He taught me that even more important than processing people's loans, my real business was connecting to people, sort of like last weeks letter, Zen and the Art of Automobile Maintenance. Among other things, he taught me how to focus under pressure and how to organize around priority. He taught me principles that I've used everyday for a decade. He showed me parts of myself waiting to come out.

Everybody has their Kryptonite. Despite Jeff's shining attributes, he wasn't a very good business person. I grew very concerned the day that my paycheck bounced. When I approached him with this dilemma, he asserted that even though the company was in a little slump, everything would soon be ironed out.

It never was.

When I finally left the company, he owed me about $1,000 in wages--a lot of money for a starving student, right before Christmas, who needed to pay tuition for next semester's classes. Come to think of it, that's a lot of money, period.

I became bitter. I wasn't going to easily let this go. I called the Utah Labor Commission and filed a complaint. They began to subpoena Jeff to arrive in court. The process was unfruitful and painfully slow. I soon realized that I could easily gain my $1,000 back if I were only paid five cents every time I heard the Labor Commission say the phrase, "your file is under review and we'll notify you once we know anything different." This empty search continued for over two . . . (I pause for effect) YEARS. Each new attempt to resurrect my file brought more pain and frustration.

Then I had a dream. I dreamed that I met Jeff. I saw him not as the evil person I'd made him out to be but as just a simple dude with a five-O'clock shadow (that's the way he was in my dream). In my dream, I forgave him of the whole thing. Completely. In my dream, he didn't seemed very thankful or changed, nor did he seem really to even care, but that didn't matter because I had changed. Instead of angry and dark, I was light and free. So, I woke up that next morning let it go. I let it all go.

It took me several years to understand that even though Jeff wasn't a good business person and I had suffered because of it, he still taught me some very valuable things. I began to think that my lost $1,000 was a tuition paid for some very valuable lessons. Unbeknownst to me, my lessons weren't over yet.

I hadn't thought of Jeff and that incident for several years until one day earlier this year when something on the radio jolted my memory of Jeff. I didn't remember so much his faults but all the positive things he taught me. I felt not only complete, but like I'd even grown from the experience. Proud, I said to myself, "If I ever meet Jeff again, I promise that I will vocally forgive him and thank him for what he has taught me."

Something else I've learned: when you call Destiny out for a bare-knuckle brawl, know that she'll come. She'll test you just like you asked her to. She'll give you what you wanted but expect a little more blood--your blood.

Almost exactly an hour later I was relaxing at The Beehive Tea Room, nursing a cup of The Behive Tea RoomRaspberry Mint tea when over my shoulder I heard a disturbingly familiar voice. I didn't have to turn my head to know that it was Jeff. It was 10 years later, a different town, in an entirely different context and I already promised Destiny that I'd forgive him.

I sat there in a cold sweat. Now that it came to it, I didn't know that I go through with it. I hadn't seen him in several years. I'd had even subpoenaed him in court. He started to get up to leave. If I was going to act, it had to be now.

I took a deep breath, stood up, and did it. I reintroduced myself and reminded him how he had hurt me and with a genuine smile, told him, " but you know what? I forgive you." I also explained all the things that I learned from him. He stood there stunned. He didn't know what to say. He made no apologies. He didn't try to explain. He simply told me that I made his day. I made mine, too.

And no, he didn't write me out a check for $1,000.

I learned that intentions are powerful. Our yoga practice is one way to act upon the privilege of dancing with Destiny. With clarity and self-awareness, we can see through the muddy waters toward the lotus.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Zen and the Art of Automobile Maintenance

My good friend John Peake teaches yoga at Centered City Yoga. He has been happily teaching the free intro class on Saturday mornings since the studio opened more than 5 years ago. He is the kind of guy that you can't help love--up beat, smiling, looks you in the eyes when he talks to you and is always sincere. After several months of knowing John, I was surprised to learn that he owns an auto shop, Peak Performance Automotive.

Upon my first visit to his shop, I realized that John isn't just a humble mechanic, he's a humble MASTER mechanic. I soon learned that this guy could fashion used appliance parts, bike tires, and a cardboard box together and make it run better than most cars on the road, AND it would look sexy and get 60 miles to the gallon! When you are as good as John, bragging seems redundant. Everything about his shop braggs for him: his employees LOVE their jobs, his customers are fiercely loyal and make excuses to stop by the shop, and business is going great.

Like the ancient practice of Zen Buddhism, John understand underlying form. More to the point, John understands that everything is spirit. Cars seem like a simple vehicle to explore spirit, my spirit. When my scheduled pilgrimages lead me seek maintenance at his temple of tappets and timing belts, I go to his shop. John drops everything he's doing, important things, and treats me like I'm the most important thing he could be working with. If my car needs something simple, an oil change or maintenance, he sends one of his highly-qualified mechanics out to work on Nina, my truck, while he takes me back into his office to show me his photos; John has an amazing and artistic eye for beauty and somehow manages to capture people's spirit in his breathtaking photographs. I love one of his photos which hangs on the wall in the reception area of his shop. He took it while on one of his trips to Cuba. It shows an old, worn-leather-woman with the biggest cigar I believe ever conceived, stuffed tightly into her gaping mouth. Somehow behind all that tobacco you can still see that she's smiling. Whether its a car, a yoga student or a mirracle photo occurance, John knows how to climb inside and see the greatest essence of it, make it sing, and project its beauty and potential.

John knows the name of my truck: Nina. It's named after Nina SimoneNina Simone and another friend of mine. John knows my ride better than I do and if there is more serious work than maintenance he tells me straight forward and honestly exactly what's wrong and why, what the parts costs him, if he can get cheaper ones, how much the labor will be, and gives me several options about what I want to do, even if it won't benefit him. He treats it like it's his biggest priority. He's even loaned me his personal car to drive around in for the day until he's fixed mine. He invites me back to see what he's doing and more than that, he let's me participate. I'll turn wrenches, raise the hydraulic lift, put my ear to special car-stethoscopes; not just for kicks, but so I'm empowered to know what exactly is going on.

Earlier this year, Celeste needed a car. A year or so ago, she'd asked the Universe to provide her something, anything, that both drove . . . and had a sunroof. Along came into Milt--a fat, old, Lincoln Continental that sailed down the street. That car felt like a "Milt," mostly because my late grandfather was named Milt and he loved Lincolns like they were holy. After a year of driving Milt (the car), the head gasket blew and he was pronounced dead on arrival. So we found ourselve back on the hunt for a different car.

This time, Celeste thought she'd be a little more specific with the Universe about what she hoped for in transport. Perhaps this time she could get something that ran well, had low miles, (a sun roof of course. After all, Celeste is Nature's Child) and didn't make her feel like she had blue hair and was one stoplight away from adult diapers. Each potential car she brought, unannounced, to John, who would drop whatever he was doing and skillfully study it inside and out. Within seconds, even before a test-drive, he could read its past and future like a fortune-teller reading someone's palm. "See how the paint is rough here? this means it's had some body work done, probably a wreck. Check out the rust on the tail-pipe, it has been poorly maintained," etc. We very much appreciated John's expertise choosing a car but we were getting discouraged that it was taking us weeks to find a car that was in our price range and that wasn't a lemon. John insisted that the right car would come along.

Finally, by chance Celeste spoke to Jeanine, a friend and yoga student, who happened to be selling her older car. It was cute, extremely well cared for, had low miles, within our price-range and . . . had a sunroof. Giddy, we immediately drove it to John's shop. Like always, he dropped whatever he was doing, jumped behind the wheel of yet another candidate, and with us in the car, drove it a total of 4 feet before he stopped the car, put it in park, closed his eyes, raised his hands to the Heavens and said, humbly, "thank you." He then looked over at us with a big grin and screamed, "Sold!" He still raced it around the block like he were on the last lap of the Grand Prix, just to confirm what he already knew: that this was the car for Celeste. While exploring new limits to the G-forces felt as one pulls around corners, he said, "You see! when you don't push it, when you let the Universe work out the details, miracles like this car happen and everything falls into place."

John understands cars but he works just as effectively on the coggs and machanics of people's hearts. It's no wonder that he invites new students into the exciting new realm of yoga. Many of my long-term ygoa students talk fondly about John being their first yoga teacher.

Just like yoga or Zen, we explore our inner workings by enjoying the shiny, alluring, and sometimes frustrating form of form. It all points to the driver--spirit. Our privilege is to practice the yoga of every day living, like John does, and take the opportunity to connect with every soul we meet, with fascination and humble curiosity.

By the way, John is excellent with all cars but LOVES to work on Subarus. Let's be frank 3 out of 4 yoga practitioners drive Subes. Take your car to John and let him work his magic on you and your car.

Peak Performance Automotive is located right by the DMV at:
2810 S. 400 W. Salt Lake City

See you at Yoga.

Monday, December 1, 2008


You know, the holidays don't have to be so crazy. With a little mindfulness, we can usher in a potentially beautiful season with joy and balance. We can navigate partys, family, and vacation with ease and clarity. We can remember those who have less.

Please, come to yoga this week and explore how to use our yoga practice as tool that helps build a foundation of mindfulness that will keep us grounded during this season.