Thursday, July 30, 2009

Baking a Difference

Hey, everyone. My name is Nan. I'm a friend of Scott's and he asked me to be a guest writer on his weekly email this week. I own one of the Great Harvest Bread stores in Salt Lake City and am passionate about baking and making a difference in people's lives. Please read my story below and check out the opportunity to help less-fortunate families AND check out the coupon below to get a free loaf of artisan bread from the Great Harvest store at 9th and 9th.

Last week I had the opportunity to be with bakery friends serving dinner at the Road Home family shelter. I have been there before serving dinners to homeless families, but this time was a bit different. Instead of serving approximately 75 people as we had in the past, I believe we served closer to 150. This time, the line of people, mostly young children, seemed unending. Ashley, the volunteer coordinator, explained that the shelter is currently overflowing with so many families that many have to sleep on cots in the halls. I assumed that many service groups would be bringing dinners in the summer, but Ashley told me that the dinner we were serving was the first brought in over a month.

We came back two nights later to share a family bread making activity with the shelter. In my time at Great Harvest I have led hundreds of bread making parties and field trips; kneading dough, reading The Little Red Hen, grinding wheat into flour, and teaching kids about whole grains. Like all the others, this activity was fun but it was also uniquely challenging. Children participating ranged in age between 3 and 12, all of them eager to take part and be noticed. The only space available for this activity was the crowded and unequipped common shelter kitchen- it is the communal living space for all the families and there is a lot of comings and goings making it difficult to stay organized and be heard. With a lot of help from my bakery friends, all the kids kneaded their own dough and baked their own bread. Against all odds, eventually the smell of fresh baked bread filled the kitchen. The highlight of the evening was helping the kids take turns grinding wheat on the small mill. When they turned the handle, we had everyone count "One, two, three.." Something about having a whole room full of people counting out loud for them really lights kids up. From the curly haired three year old girl to the teenage boys trying to look and act a lot tougher than they felt, every kid was just beaming when it came to their turn.

Although I went home tired and feeling discouraged about all the things these kids are lacking, I held joy in remembering the small shiny moments from our evening. I thought about how Scott's guided meditations of Yoga Nidra (Thursday nights at Centered City Millcreek) have taught me to hold joy and pain at the same time while understanding that my divine essential nature is bigger than both. In the past, without this perspective, I have sometimes collapsed under the weight of a broken heart and chosen not do anything just because I can't fix everything. With a Yoga Nidra perspective, I am able to do something else: to remember that a broken heart is an open heart and to use my open heart to do all the small things that I can, remembering that life is nothing but an accumulation of small moments and each one makes a difference. My invitation to you is to join me in some small things. Here are three easy things that you can do:

Join us at our Great Harvest pancake breakfast to benefit The Road Home on Saturday, August 8th from 8:30 to 10:30. All you can eat, 100% whole-grain pancakes will be served for a suggested minimum donation of $3.00 per person. Feel free to give more because all proceeds from the breakfast will be donated directly to the Road Home. The Holladay, Draper, Downtown, and Taylorsville Great Harvest bakeries are all participating. (See www.greatharvestutah for addresses.) Our goal is to raise $5000 with the breakfast.
Buy a great looking limited edition t-shirt designed specifically to benefit the Road Home. Shirts can be purchased at, but are only available until August 31st so order yours today. The shirts look great and our goal is to help sell just 500 shirts in order to raise an additional $3000 for the Road Home. ( Christmas gifts, if you are thinking ahead!)
* Please forward this message to your friends and family and courage them to participate.
* Forward to a Friend

Thanks for reading and helping. I hope to see you at Scott's Yoga Nidra class on Thursdays. Peace and love.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The experience of yoga and the practice of yoga are different things and both are different for each person. When I feel the experience of yoga, I feel like everything is perfect, like the world is just the way that it needs to be and I am a privileged be a guest here. When I feel yoga, I feel boundless, like my body is able, lithe, and strong. I feel like my heart is huge and sturdy enough to hold any pain. When I experience yoga I am aware and intuitive. I am still. Sometimes the experience of yoga is subtle and fleeting, just happy and aware. Mostly, when I feel yoga, I feel like I've sourced something inside that I knew was there all along: a wellspring of creativity, love and understanding and a contentedness to just be.

The experience of yoga is about transformation, the transformation of recognizing our True Selves. It's not that our current self isn't real or true, it's that yoga helps us see the big and deep part of ourselves that doesn't change. It's about coming home and seeing ourselves in our true identity.

The practice of yoga is about making the conditions right in body, mind and spirit, for the experience of yoga to happen. In our asana practice, we become stronger, more flexible, and balanced. We ease tension from muscles and set our nervous system at ease. We focus our minds and learn presence. All these qualifiers are vital for the experience of yoga to happen but don't replace the experience of yoga.

We may not feel the experience of yoga each time we practice. Some of us may have never felt or maybe just haven't recognized the experience of yoga. That doesn't mean that we are doing anything wrong or should stop practicing. The more we practice, we find how to most effectively travel our own pathway to transformation until the path is well-worn. Simone Weil said, " Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul." She's saying to keep practicing and one day it will all pay off. Often when we are least expecting it, going about our practice like any other day, we'll find ourselves in a posture or something and suddenly everything opens up to the experience of yoga, or some sudden insight about ourselves will come flooding in. Sometimes its not so grand, but rather subtle and sweet, a simple feeling of contentment. Either way the more we practice, the more frequent these moments come.

I'm excited to be on this journey with you all. Every day I experience the value of this practice. I feel honored to be able to help direct you down your own path of transformation. I am a practitioner first and foremost and a teacher second and I am humbled by the privilege to walk this path next to you. I hope that through yoga you can all taste of that rich experience of yoga, transformation, and experiencing your True Self.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Join the Dance

Everything, down to the last molecule in the last corner of the universe, is moving. As we seek to find stillness for body, mind, and spirit, ours is not to hold up our hands and try to arrest this inevitable motion. Instead, we are to join the dance--and by so doing, find the stillness that comes from moving in tandem with the larger motion, like a surfer riding a wave, like friends walking together, like the fluid motion of a yoga class. Please join me this week, as we enter the dance of life, and thereby find stillness.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Road to There is Here

Wherever you hope to move in life, be that physically, mentally, spiritually, or anything, that journey begins with the first step. And though we envision our end point, we must first look at the ground at our feet to calibrate our our first step. We must find solid ground where we stand before we can move forward.

To move forward, to find there, we must first
see here. This means learning to take an objective look at ourselves. Equipped with compassion, hope, courage, appreciation, praise, and a healthy sense of humor, we take a good look at ourselves and try to see, not judge. As closely as possible, see what is rather that what we fear, detest, or covet. If we want to improve our asanas, loose weight, stop smoking, become more financially abundant, or anything else, we have to honestly accept and thrive exactly where we are with what we have. The refusal to inhabit where you are ironically makes you a prisoner of that place. It's like we have to learn the lesson on how to move past that place and the only instructions are at that place.

One we've become clear and comfortable with where we are, next we view where we wish to move with a pure intention, like a guiding star. We can move forward with clarity based on the real information of our practice of seeing clearly. We move forward driven by the hope of Intention rather than the hindrance of expectation.Though we may have a direction, we must realize that part of the fun of this journey is the improvisation along the way. We know the direction, not the exact path. This allows us the freedom to feed our spirits by working creatively toward our own unfolding.

And like Antonio Machado, a wonderful Spanish poet, says:

Why call
those random paths
Everyone who walks
like Jesus
on water.

We're all moving forward and every step for every person is a miracle. Thus the entire process makes us grow, not only by the measurable strides of seeing what we'd intended come to pass, but also by the refining heat of moving through the process. Soon, we habituate living with presence. Its walking around the next bend on the path of life, fully aware yet totally surprised and thrilled to experience the unknown steps toward there.

Soon we'll realize that we may always be looking forward but the one constant, again, is here. Always here will eventually take us there. The present is the only firm platform from which we can project ourselves to there.