Monday, December 27, 2010

The Promise of a Brighter Day

Last week we experienced the darkest and longest night of the year. Like I mentioned last week, this time of year reminds us that there's something about this journey toward understanding ourselves that requires that we embrace darkness. And while being in the dark is very harrowing, an encouraging thing begins the very next day—it starts to get light again. There is a new dawn and the days begin to get longer and longer, the promise of summer and warmth and brightness.

One thing I've discovered this year when I've hosted my special Glowga events, where we turn off the lights, black out the windows, paint each other in glow in the dark paint and have gobs and gobs of fun while doing yoga in the dark, is just how difficult it is to get it completely dark. That no matter how dark it seems to be, there's always some light shining through somewhere. That light, no matter how minute, seems to draw all of our attention. The most encouraging lesson with Glowga is the fact that in the moment of our greatest darkness, what shines the brightest and gives us encouragement and joy is each other. Surely you have been bright lights for me this year.

Unlike any other year, this has been a seminal year for me. I've experienced some wonderful growth and changes this year and have been overwhelmed by the incredible support and encouragement offered by so many friends. I guess what makes me the most emotional is how many friends have stood up next to me and have effectively said, "I'm pickin' up, what you're puttin' down." When I wrote This is Where I Stand, so many of you stood up next to me, took my hand, and bravely and honestly proclaimed likewise. When Celeste and I went to India at the beginning of this year, so many of you supported us when it was our moment to say "YES!" and go. I will never forget the moment when I came back from India to a yoga class filled to the brim and told them all two things I learned in India: first, you don't need to go to India to find what you're looking for, that it can only be found within; second, that the greatest treasure in the world is a true friend. Truly in that moment, I was standing in a room of treasure.

This year I made a very courageous move away from my comfortable and beloved Centered City Yoga to open Prana Yoga with Matt and Jennifer Ellen, something which has and will inevitably cause me exponential growth. And even though we are still in our temporary space at Banana Republic while Matt is over at our permanent space swinging hammers, you have shown up. You've come to classes and have supported me and us. I can't tell you how touching that is. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love you all!

I want to celebrate this new year with you. I invite you come to Prana Yoga with me on New Year's Day at noon (sober up, then show up) and with ceremony and yoga and meditation, bury the old year and prepare for the brightness of what's to come. I invite you to come and sit and practice in the presence of like friends, some whom you've not met, friends who are like shining stars, and practice together as we shine our way toward a new day and a bright future. See you there!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Singing in the Dark

One thing I've learned from life and from sages is that on the journey toward self-understanding, we must inevitably experience darkness, grief, and loss to some degree or other. Part of our understanding is to see the whole picture, not only the parts which are peachy. We evolve from our naive understanding of God or the Universe as something which is only beneficent to the ability to hold the fact that to understand the whole picture means that we have to hold both of life's pleasures and life's losses. That to truly fall in love with this life we must somehow embrace the darkness. And I guess the true lesson, that lesson that ultimately will apprentice ourselves to experience the greatest joy, is the lesson of how to sing when you are in the midst of great loss and sorrow, when you feel the most abandoned. I guess we learn that it's not about that shallow definition of "success," but what "success" really means is defined by who can speak to whatever place they find themselves, who can stand at the end of the battle, when your house is burned down, your life feels like it's in ruins and stand with your integrity and honor and sing into the darkness. Or at least hum a little, even if it's interrupted by tears.

The universe has promised us a very dark night tonight. Tonight is the winter Solstice, when the sun is at its lowest point on the horizon, the days are the shortest and the nights are the longest. Solstice means "sun stands still." On this winter solstice, something very rare indeed is happening tonight: a lunar eclipse on the same date as the winter solstice, an occurrence which hasn't happened since December 21st 1638. And, weather permitting, those of us in North America will have prime seats to see this celestial show. At around 12:41 am, early Tuesday morning, we'll get to see what darkness really means. If you can see it, or can't bear to go outside in the cold, NASA will be streaming it online.

Yoga, of course, is a mirror for our life. Our practice of every-day living finds expression and offers us understanding through the ancient wisdom of yoga. So tonight, I'll be the crazy person outside singing to my darkness around 1 am practicing moon salutes to a vanishing moon as I learn and celebrate what it means to be utterly in the dark.

I'd like to leave you with a beautiful poem Celeste wrote about this deeper understanding of life and loss.

Poetry and Prayers

I speak poetry and prayers to myself.

These are my nursery rhymes,

sung soft and low,

as I wash with a fresh mango

and the gauzy morning sun in the bathtub.

Clean and feed myself,

(yes, that is what you can do)

and then

come to rest

change the shape of my body, and

begin to pray . . .

Let the sweetness and the harshness

wash over me.


I prop my warm, clean chest open,

arms and legs wide on the wood floor,

and move out,

here and there,

beyond my thoughts,

into here,

into what surely must be bliss.

I taste the tender, sweet morsels

so easily now,

heart open to breeze and birdsong,

the life moving outside my window,

reminding me

how to breathe.

Though my heart has not forgotten last night,

on rough hands and knees

drilling into the wood planks

beneath me,

wet with tears and anguish,

the wild animal of my heart

moaning its tenderness and loss.

Yes, my body is a canvas

of both fevers and flavors,

and does not forget.

The shadow of last night still

hugs me in deep places,


Yet in the rebirth of morning,

I've enticed myself


into a quieter and softer shape,


So that joy and hope

sift quickly and easily

in and through, and effortlessly

take me


Monday, December 13, 2010

Dance with Destiny aka The Bare Knuckle Brawl

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. Among other things, he taught me how to focus under pressure and how to organize around priority. He taught me principles which I've used every day 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) who fell on rough times. In my dream, I forgave him of the whole thing. Completely. In my dream, he didn't seem 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. Immediately, I felt better. I even began to forget that the whole thing had happened.

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 about 10 years later 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. Not only did I harbor no ill will, but remembering Jeff, I felt 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 after I'd promised Destiny to make amends with Jeff, I was relaxing at The Beehive Tea Room, nursing a cup of Raspberry 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. It felt like I'd just noticed an old girlfriend who didn't leave on very good terms. I'd had even subpoenaed Jeff in court. There surely wasn't a good vibe between us. 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 turned to face Jeff. As I stood there, I reintroduced myself. It took him a minute to remember me but when he did, he sort of stepped back as if I were about to throw punches. As I explained who I was, I reminded him of 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 and how valuable that information was in everything that I do. He stood there for a silent second, 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. At the end of the day he gave me his business card, I don't know why. Maybe it was a token of remembrance.

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, November 29, 2010

Sitting Around the Fire

Celeste and I spent the last several days in Central Utah enjoying Thanksgiving with a few friends. What I love most about that part of the world is the mind-blowing landscapes and the gobs and gobs of peace and quiet. One day we went on a day-trip over Boulder Mountain and among other things, stopped at the Anasazi State Park in Boulder, Utah. The relentless wind, ever-present in that part of the world, blew right through us making our teeth chatter as we explored with wonder the remains of an ancient people who used to inhabit these lands. We saw their homes they made of rock and mud and imagined what it would look like to live at that time in this harsh environment during the wintertime.
As I looked into their homes, it was clear to see that the interior designer of these small abodes made a striking thematic presence of the small fire in the center of the living quarters. The winter time is the time to go inside, to hibernate, to sit around the fire and hear listen to stories. These stories were not simply to pass the time on long winter days but to help the storyteller as well as the listener to remember their identity, where they came from and what their purpose is.

So, as you’re bundled up on this winter day, here’s a story about another people from a cold part of the world.

The Story of Skeleton Woman

The story of Skeleton Woman is a hunting story told by those who live in the far north. It is a story that outlines the life-death-life cycle of relationship. I heard the story as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She heard the story from an Inuit woman who was a cook on a expedition she attended.

Those who tell the story cannot remember why, but one day a man who was very angry with his daughter drug her from the house, brought her to a cliff at the edge of the sea, and threw her in. As she sank deep, deep, deep, into the water, the fish in the sea ate her flesh and eyes so that eventually, all that was left of her were her bones which were churned by the currents of the water as they lay on the floor of the sea.

Most people stayed away from those waters because they felt they were haunted. But one day, a lonely hunter, a man who had never married, strayed off course and ended up in these waters, fishing. He threw his bone-hook connected to his line and fishing-stick into the water and let it sink deep, deep, deep. The hook caught the ribcage of Skeleton Woman and as the fisherman gave his line a jerk, he thought, “Oh! I’ve caught a big one.” The hunter dreamed of the many people he would feed with this big fish and the leisure he would enjoy, freed for a while from the task of hunting. As he began to pull up his catch, Skeleton Woman began to thrash against the line which only made her more tangled. The closer that Skeleton came to the surface of the water, the more the water turned to a turbulent froth. Finally, the fisherman gave a big pull and up from the surface of the water arose Skeleton Woman’s bald, skull with crustaceans on her cheeks and teeth. The fisherman screamed with fright, dropped his fishing stick in his kayak, and immediately began to paddle toward the shore. Not realizing that Skeleton Woman was tangled in his line, she thrashed and kicked as she was pulled directly behind the fisherman. The faster the fisherman paddled toward the shore, the faster Skeleton Woman seemed to be chasing him.

Finally, the fisherman came to the shore, grabbed his fishing stick, leapt out of his kayak, and ran for his snow house. Directly behind him, he could hear the clatter of bones against the rocks as Skeleton Woman followed, still tangled in his line. Eventually, he dove into his snow house and lay on the floor panting, “Oh, thank the gods, Raven and Sedna, for keeping me safe from harm. I am safe now in my house.” Slowly as the fisherman gained strength, he lit his wale-oil lamp and to his amazement saw Skeleton Woman in a heap of bones on the floor.
It may have been the soft lamplight, it may have been how tangled and sorry she looked, but the fisherman began to have compassion on Skeleton Woman. He very carefully crept over to her and began to untangle his line from her bones. Then, bone by bone, he cleaned her and placed each bone in the order that a persons should be. Finally, he wrapped her in skins to keep her warm. Skeleton Woman lay completely quiet, lest the fisherman become scared and drag her out of his warm house and break her bones on the rocks. The fisherman rewound his fishing line, became very drowsy, and fell asleep. Skeleton Woman lay completely still, listening to the fisherman breathe.

And as dreamers sometimes do, a tear formed in the corner of the fisherman’s eye. Skeleton Woman was very thirsty and she saw this tear in the corner of the fisherman’s eye glimmer in the lamp light. So, very quietly, she crept over and put her mouth on the fisherman’s cheek, close to his eye and drank the tear which quenched her thirst. She looked at the fisherman and longed to have flesh. Very carefully, she reached into the fisherman’s body and pulled out his heart. And beating his heart as drum, she began to sing for flesh and hair and fingernails to form again on her bones. Bit by bit, Skeleton Woman gained flesh, and hair, and fingernails, everything that a normal woman would have. Once Skeleton Woman had flesh, she carefully placed the fisherman’s heart back into his body. She looked at him and longed for the feeling of flesh on flesh, so she climbed very carefully into the fisherman’s skins with him.
In the morning, the fisherman and Skeleton Woman woke, tangled from a night of love making. While no one knows exactly what happened to the fisherman and Skeleton Woman, it is said that they left that area and lived the rest of their lives together, very happy. For the rest of their lives, the fisherman and Skeleton Woman lived on the bounty of fish, the very fish that ate the flesh of Skeleton Woman and who now offered themselves as food for the fisherman and Skeleton Woman.

As so we see that both the fisherman and Skeleton Woman needed each other to become complete. The fisherman thought he had hooked into a “good catch” and would live an easy life. He was tangled together with Skeleton Woman, and though at first it was scary and messy, eventually it was this entanglement that drove them together and eventually made them both whole. It was compassion that began the conversation of give and take between the couple that ended in the happy entanglement of lovemaking. When all was said and done, were it not for the life-death-life cycle as shown by the fisherman and Skeleton Woman, neither would have been made whole. In relationship, we hope for one thing, maybe an easy life or relationship, but by the necessary entanglement of this cycle, we receive something much more valuable and lasting. Do not be afraid of the life-death-life cycle of relationship, it is the necessary step that will lead you to your greatest fulfillment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Remembering with Food: A Mindful Approach to Thanksgiving

Several years ago, my wife, Celeste, and I studied meditation in Korea. Nearly every day we performed the same ritual: Around mid-morning, we’d walk the mile or so to the meditation center, don our blue martial-arts-style uniform tied with the lofty white belt (the first level), and take our seats on the padded floor with the other practitioners. We were the only Americans. We’d slowly move through martial-arts sequences, and then meditate while standing, sitting, and lying down. Often, at the end of practice, the master would pull out a small table, place a few tea cups, procure a thermos of hot water, and begin making tea without a word. With the tea now steeped, the master would ceremoniously pour a rivulet of tea into cups whose small veined cracks were stained by a thousand previous pours and a thousand previous conversations. We’d sit quietly and drink tea. I understand now the tea was part of the meditation.

After our very first meditation class, our Korean friend and fellow meditation student, Jin-soon, led us down the street to the most unsuspecting little concrete building containing a church on the top floor, a karaoke lounge on the bottom, and something called Purin Nuri (“green-blue world”) in the middle. We climbed the stairs, slipped off our shoes, and entered through the door into a different world, leaving the garish and abrasive city behind. Inside, we were embraced by the comforting smell of freshly baked bread, aromatic rice porridge, and steaming soup. Soft Korean music floated through the air as we followed Jin-soon to pick up a simple wooden bowl, spoon, and chopsticks, and began to sift contentedly through the Buddhist buffet, containing fresh lettuce leaves, glass noodles with mushrooms, tofu and veggie dishes, and a traditional cinnamon drink made with jujube berries and new pine needles. This style of food is called monk’s cuisine in Korea and attempts to be as close to the earth as possible. In fact, much of the food would be harvested from the wild that day by the owner, Moon-kyung, and her friend and helper, Sun-hee: bitter wild dandelion leaves, sharp-tasting new pine needles, and fragrant and edible flowers. These two were the only people running this intimate culinary temple. Once we filled our bowls, we sat on the floor on a cushion, our legs crossed under a low wooden table. We paused for a moment of gratitude for this feast and for our lives, and then began the long, happy process of mindfully eating. Like tea, our meditation extended through lunch. This, too, became part of our daily ritual.

Meditation is, in part, a method designed to help us understand better who and what we are through the process of mindfulness. Most of us eat three times a day, every day. No wonder it’s so easy to allow something as wonderful, sensual, and delicious as eating to become mundane or a chore. With the ease of consuming on the fly what I call edible non-food substances (read: energy bars), it’s easy to forget that eating is a sacred connection. Eating is a natural break in the day where we stop to eat the roses. We stop our work and our intellectual spinning, and fortify ourselves with something as simple and immediate as physical sensation that brings life to our bodies.

Eating is the sacred ritual of cycling life through our bodies as we ask the life of other beings, plants and animals, to become a sacred part of our own life. We re-member ourselves—as in to make ourselves whole from a dismembered state, by consuming other life and making it a part of us. Eating is like many of the old stories and myths from ancient cultures (stories like Isis and Osiris, Rama and Sita, Tristan and Isolde, even the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) where gods, creatures, and people are re-membered, are brought back together and made whole again, after the refining and learning process of death and dismemberment. And like these ancient stories, so are we re-membered, or placed back into a greater wholeness (the whole of creation), as we stop the process of hunger and death, and assimilate other life by eating. We are gathered and re-membered into an even greater whole during the sacred sacrament of sitting at supper with friends and family, laughing, sharing, eating, drinking. This reverential ritual deserves mindfulness.

The mindful approach to food invites us to pay close attention to what we eat, where our food comes from, and what impact this food has not only on us but on our environment and our economy and peoples. When considering food in this way, we may be tantalized by the panoply of flavors, colors, cultures, temperatures, textures, stories, and histories of the food we consume. With mindfulness, even a humble meal of rice and beans becomes a banquet. With mindfulness, we may sense the love that went into preparing the meal or envision the farm where the food was raised or grown. We may also sense the financial benefit to our community when we choose to support local sources. This heart and soul of eating can be gone in a flash: a fine nine-course French meal may as well be fast food if it’s mindlessly gulped down and barely chewed between commercial breaks, newspaper headlines, or text messages.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, a way of practicing mindfulness is to pause for a moment of gratitude before your meal. If you don’t pray, you may be creative in your expression of thankfulness by reading a poem about food or gratitude, offering thanks to the elements that are sustaining your life, or telling your dining partner(s) what you appreciate about them or the meal. I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving I spent in Zion National Park, under the afternoon shadows of the red cliffs of Angels Landing, where Celeste and I shared a meal with a wonderful friend and her daughters. For their gratitude for the meal, these friends sang a simple song together, smiling and giggling. After, we all clapped, laughed, expressed how we appreciated one another as well as the meal, and then dug into our cold turkey, green beans, and potatoes, lovingly hauled down to Southern Utah in a couple of giant coolers.

With the right mindfulness, there is no guilt in food. We may choose to eat what we feel is nourishing for us, body and heart. And we get to decide what that means on any given day. For my birthday this year, I went to the Beehive Tea Room (300 S. Main Street) and enjoyed my favorite pot of raspberry mint tea and the biggest piece of chocolate cake in the history of chocolate cake. I ate it without a shred of remorse, knowing that this is a way I celebrate my life, and chose to enjoy every decadent bite. It nourished something deeper than body. With mindful eating, we’ll know when to treat ourselves, when to nourish ourselves, and when those two happily intersect.

At the end of the day, ordinary or extravagant food becomes exquisite with mindfulness. Without mindfulness, anything can become as bland as a chalky protein bar. But with the right mindfulness, even a naked bowl of oatmeal could prove to be very provocative!

Here is a quote from one of my favorite poets, Wendell Berry. Post it next to your dinner table, perhaps, as we have:

Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.
(from his essay “What Are People For?”)

Monday, November 15, 2010

That's How the Light Gets In

Last week's message was about standing where you are, unafraid to be with what is most real for you. I was extremely touched by your responses to my letter. Many of you responded to my email with real and honest stories about where you stand, many of you came to class and practiced standing tall despite our challenges, and I'm sure many of you read the message and perhaps forwarded it on to a friend or simply walked silently into another week with increased courage to be exactly where you are. One lesson that writing these newsletters has taught me is when I am the most genuine to my own heart, when I am real, it invites others to be likewise. Not just back to me, but I hear the stories of how people are moved to be genuine to their spouses, families, friends, and strangers. This is the real message of yoga for me. Yoga literally means union. I'm honored to be connected with you in this way.

I feel honored to practice this union not only through the healthy benefits of moving through our bodies, reducing stress in our lives, yes, but in the important work of the nit and grit of every-day life, the practice of every-day living. It's apologetically showing up on the yoga mat and/or in life and simply speaking to where we are. Doesn't have to be pretty.

So I've been thinking of another cool way for us to practice this union. It's with song lyrics. Yep. I did an experiment on Facebook recently and I want to try this out on a bigger scale. I'm interested in the words, set to a groove or a melody, that have spoken wisdom to you, given you courage, or simply made you think. I feel that some of the most powerful poets of our time, those so able to speak to place, have been standing behind a guitar with three chords in their heads and a mic in front of their mouths.

Here's what you do, one of two things: You can click on the "B" at the bottom of this message that says Blogger next to it. This takes you to the comment section of my blog. Write a line or a few lines of lyrics that have moved you, include the artist and the song (you can sign your name as the one submitting the lyrics if you want), then click on "anonymous" and the big orange bar that says "publish your comment." The second way is through Facebook. If you Facebook, click on the "F" at the bottom of this message and on my page you'll see other people's posts with their favorite song lyrics. Add your favorite by commenting on the post. That way everyone who comes by these list of comments, either through my blog or Facebook, can read everyone else's words. This will be a fun way to connect with each other.

I'll start . . .

"Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

That's how the light gets in."

Leonard Cohen in Anthem.

See you in class.

Monday, November 8, 2010

This Is Where I Stand

You know that pose firefly or titibasana? Can't do it. Splits or Hanumanasana? Nope. Not me. And you know what's even more real for me? It's not embracing the challenge of whether or not I can do the splits, 'cuz who really cares, right?

The hardest things I'm faced with is having someone I dearly love battle pain and fatigue every day because of an autoimmune disease she's got. What's real is the fact that I've put my career on the line for a business that I hope will go well but is still concrete and I-beams, while I sit back and hope that people still read this stuff that I send out each week. At this place in my life, I come to the mat and practice working through my own insecurities on a daily basis. Truthfully, I flirt between confidence and insecurity. I hope. I hope, I hope, I hope that one day my love will find her strength again and end this long night of illness (8 years). No pity. I don't need understanding. This is simply the most honest picture of where I am. This is where I stand.

I don't care if you can touch your toes, or if you have perfected a backbend or can hold a handstand. I don't care if you've practiced every day for a decade or haven't looked at your mat in a year. I don't care. I'm more interested in whether or not you are willing to come to your yoga mat today and meet yourself exactly where you are physically, emotionally, and mentally, to practice engaging life from that radical frontier. It's not about who has won or achieved some shallow level of success. For me, it's more about being willing to stand where you are, where life has put you, and with dignity and integrity, look the world straight in the eyes saying, "This is where I stand." In this embrace with the world, there is no wallowing, only an honesty of being. For me there is nothing more powerful.

The word Asana means "your seat" or "where you stand." In Yoga practice, we place ourselves in postures, in asana, to practice standing assertively like the warrior, virabhadrasana, and firmly like the mountain, tadasana, or in submission like the child, balasana. More importantly, we place ourselves in these asanas to explore and expose the place we stand in life. Maybe you stand in a place of deep loss or insecurity. Maybe you stand in a place of strength and security. I've invented a pose called "weeping hovel" asana that speaks to where I get sometimes. I should likewise invent "Toyota Jump" asana for when things are awesome. It really doesn't matter as along as you are willing to engage. And once you do, once you speak to that place through your breath and your body, you open up to the real conversation of the practice which is really the practice of every-day living.

Join me this week. come to practice and take your seat. Stand on your mat and say, "This is where I stand."


Monday, October 18, 2010

Finding the Middle: Satva

The Samkhya school of classical yoga philosophy describes the universe and all its qualities using three main humors, called Gunas. These are Rajas, Tamas, Sattva.

Rajas is generally building, full of fire, or energizing, while Tamas is generally grounding, calming, and inert. The skillful negotiation of the two brings us to the precious middle path, Sattva. If we went into a yoga class feeling sluggish and tired and came out feeling wired and spastic, we would not have served ourselves other than to experience the opposite end of miserable. Instead, we use the balance of steadiness and ease (in the yoga Sutras, Patanjali calls these sukum and sthirum) to bring us to the place where we feel both energized and calm. We are neither looking to be revved-up and wired nor to be too sluggish and sleepy, but rather to optimize the perfect balance, the Sattvic state. This is why savasana is so essential at the end of an energizing yoga practice. This is also why it sometimes helps to go on a gentle walk after a very relaxing practice. Middle feels like home.

For those of us who love to bliss out on Rajas and train or play really hard, don't worry. Just remember that there is a time to sit and meditate too. Also, those of us who could indulge in Tamas and stay on our cozy meditation cushions all day long and then celebrate with a box of Hatch Family Chocolates, well, maybe you could try at least walking to the Avenues to get your chocolate.

Most importantly, these principles remind us that balance is not only comfortable, but optimal. If you need to add more Tamas to your life, more ease, come to my Restore class at Sego Lily (see schedule on the left side of this email). If you could balance out some sluggishness by adding a little Rajas, come to my flow class on Tuesday morning. Yes, it's early but it feels great.


Monday, October 11, 2010

OM: Adding Your Voice to the Family of Things

Om is a word which is derived by joining the first vowel in the Sanskrit alphabet with the last consonant. Om acts like bookends for everything that could be said with language. By chanting Om, we essentially add our voice to the larger voice of everything else that is. Our yoga practice is, in part, a conversation between us and the world around us. It is one way of invoking a divine presence, the creator of all things. The keeper of the symbol OM is the elephant God, Ganesh. Often, you'll see the symbol OM inscribed on the palm of Ganesh.

When we chant OM as a group at the beginning of yoga practice, we join our voices together and thereby yoke or bind ourselves together, as one modern yoga scholar, Douglas Brooks, says, like solders going into battle, bound together in order to serve and protect each other.
I like the idea of adding my voice to your powerful presence. I also like adding my voice to the mighty voice of everything else that is. I feel it allows me to participate whole-heartedly in this marvelous, paradoxical, and mysterious game of life.

Mary Oliver really understood this when in her poem, Wild Geese, she says:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

She points to the fact that you don't have to do anything special to be of value. You "only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." You just have to be. All parts of us, even despair are beautiful aspects of the landscape, just like the rain, the sun, the prairies and deep trees. Nature, specifically geese as they call to us as they fly over head, reminds us that we too belong in the big family of things. And more than that, nature offers itself to our imagination, to our remembrance of belonging.

The next time you hear the geese fly over head, their call "harsh and exciting," call back to them, " Om."

I'll meet you in class. We are bound together like migrating geese on our way back home.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You Just Haven't Earned it Yet, Baby.

Often, when I get bogged down, I'm unsure and rendered immobile by the decisions I need to make or overwhelmed by the feats I feel I must accomplish, instead of worrying about all the logistical details, I often remember my first task, which is to go inside. I practice yoga and meditate and thereby nurture the relationship with that deep part of myself. Then, all that needs to happen, as well as the energy to act, will often rise to the surface from that sure place. I can't go wrong with this method. This method invariably helps me to put my worries and fears into perspective and sometimes gives me the clarity to make radicle changes I'd not even previously considered.

I sometimes think that when I need to make those big life-changing decisions, it is much harder to find this inner place of stillness if I haven't sought a entrance into this place on a regular basis. Some truths can only be discovered by the compounded practice of weeks, months, and years. I hear the iconic words of The Smiths in my ears, "You just haven't earned it yet, Baby." That's why the idea of a practice is so settling. Practicing mindfulness, through yoga or meditation, brings us to this reassuring place on a regular basis and builds a foundation of mindfulness that will help us weather any storm that passes through our life. One could do worse than to practice yoga every day, even if for only 10 minutes; or meditate, or listen to music, or go on a walk in the park, deliberately leaving your cell phone at home, whatever will put you into that place of the timeless, whatever will connect you with your deeper self. And from that place, you know that you'll never be lost.

This week, I invite you to draw inward with whatever practice that makes you mindful. We'll be holding sneak preview classes at Trolley Square starting this week. We'll be in the old Banana Republic space.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dark Feet and Dark Wings

I find something magical about being willing to step away from what is comfortable and stable into the darkness, into the unknown. It's these blind steps which strip all the haze that blocks my vision. And you know, I find that when I make those courageous steps, everything narrows, and for a breathtaking moment everything is dark. But it's amazing how what really matters suddenly starts to shine, like fireflies dancing against the pitch, leading me forward. I feel like for me, creating a relationship with the unknown is sometimes the price to grow in the ways I really need to grow. I have amazing presence in those moments when I can't see where I'm going but walk forward nonetheless. This relationship with the unknown empowers me with a simple yet crucial investigative vulnerability. It shakes me enough to really open my eyes. With my faculties honed, the sleepiness of mundane life shaken from my eyes, I feel alive, more present, more like myself than I have in years.

Yes, the darkness can be scary. It can also be mystical and magical. Like Wendell Berry says in his poem To Know the Darkness:

To go into the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

I invite you to take a step into the darkness. You know that scary thing that sort of nags you, that you almost don't dare to consider because then you may have to confront it? I invite you to consider stepping toward that thing. Yep. And even thinking about it, it's already begun. Take that step. Rest assured, you will be challenged. But you too will create a relationship with the unknown and you will grow and bloom and discover new things about yourself that will most likely surprise and amaze you.

So in preparation for that big step into the darkness, I'd like to invite you to join me for a special event. Here's my idea: On Saturday, October 9th, from 7-9 pm, I've reserved the Sugar Space (616 Willmington Ave ) for us to explore the darkness in such a fun and inviting way. I call it G L O W G A. You heard me,
G L O W G A. And you guessed it, we're gonna paint each other in glow paint, turn off the lights and celebrate the darkness by doing yoga in dark. Try balancing in tree pose in the dark then looking around and seeing phosphorescent lines of light swaying all together. We'll be moving, flowing, nay even grooving in the darkness. We'll move our dark feet, and we'll spread our dark wings. Go dark without going to the dark side, you hear what I'm sayin'. The talented Leraine will rock our souls as she plays live music. I can't tell you how fun this is. This has got to be one of the best ideas in the history of good ideas. Yes, it's crazy but really, really fun. Really, everybody. You don't want to miss this. Get a sitter, bring all your friends, your family, your neighbor, your dentist, your taxidermist, (random, yes, but work with me) and get to G L O W G A!

Space is limited so reserve your spot TODAY by sending me a check or using PayPal register. I'll bring the glow stuff. Just bring a towel, yourself-oh, and 14 or so of your friends. See you there!
October 9th 7-9 pm
616 Wilmington Ave (between 21st and 22nd So. Just past Pep Boys on 7th East)
Bring a towel to put over your mat. Wear a tank top and shorts and/or clothes you don't mind getting glow goo on, it washes out but don't wear your nicest stuff. Again, I'll bring the glow goo.

This will fill up so sign up NOW!

find the pay pal link on the side of this post to pay online.

or send a check for $30 to:
Scott Moore
1020 East 800 South #2
Salt Lake City, UT 84102

Monday, September 20, 2010

We Built This City on Rock and Roll

We Built This City on Rock and Roll.
We Built This City . . .
In the summer of 2003, Celeste and I moved from Korea to Salt Lake City to help D’ana Baptiste open Centered City Yoga. We really wanted to open something at the 9th and 9th area but simply could not find a location. I remember vividly the day when Celeste and I were simply walking around the neighborhood looking for inspiration, we stopped at the front of the Children’s Hour (what is now Orange Boutique), Celeste pointed up and asked, “What’s up there?” There was no sign on the door saying it was available but it looked vacant. A month later, almost to the day, we were teaching classes at what is now Centered City Yoga.
It was a long month, however. Upon our first walk through, I thought it couldn’t happen, that space could not serve as a yoga studio. Did you know it used to be a bakery at one time? In the back of the main studio, you’ll see a post under the ceiling material which extends out the wooden door in the back of the studio. They used it to haul big bags of flour up to the second level by a chain, a remnant of which still exists if you look. It used to be Orion Music. Once I asked a student what he did for a living. He said he was an artist. I asked if he owned a studio. He said that it was funny I should ask because the room we were standing in, the main studio at CCY, used to serve as his art studio. Again, it was Celeste who had the vision to transform this space from its many incarnations into what it is now.
Over the next month, Celeste, D’ana, and I spent 17 hours a day in blood, sweat and tears, 7 days a week preparing the space by tearing down walls, ripping out carpet, chipping away floor tile, inserting windows, installing floors, insulating and covering the ceiling, installing bathrooms, adding baseboards, lighting, ceiling fans, and sanding the stairs and the metal railings. And in time, we opened Centered City Yoga at the end of September, just after the 9th and 9th street fair of 2003. I bear scars on my body that will always be a happy reminder of the work I put it to build Centered City.
In those early days, I remember meager classes with one student in them. In many ways these early classes at Centered City Yoga taught me how to teach yoga. I wouldn’t have believed it then if you told me that on January 1st of 2010 I would teach 86 people at once in the big studio to ring in the New Year with a yoga class. I remember a bright treasure room full of friends greeting me when I came back from India early this year, waiting to hear the message I brought back which was, you don’t need to go to India to find what you’re looking for or to figure out who you are, you can do it right here. I GLOWGA, exploring who we are as we moved our phosphorescent bodies through the dark (Check it out! GLOWGA will happen again on October 9th at Sugar Space. See details below). I remember fun and laughable partner yoga workshop with Kim. I have burned my soul into those walls and floor by practicing thousands of hours of yoga in those studios, sweating and breathing, and sometimes laughing. Two of my favorite teaching faux pas: #1 instead of saying, “move your knees and hips,” I conveniently consolidated those words and said, “move your nips,” and completely broke the concentration of the class; and #2, during a quiet and restful restore practice I asserted that this practice would bring you “wealth and hellness” instead of health and wellness. I’ll always love Centered City Yoga.
Now It’s Time to Rock and Roll
After much deliberation and meditation, I’ve decided to leave CCY and open a new studio in Trolley Square with some friends, Matt Newman and Jennifer Ellen Mueller, called Prana Yoga Center. It’s just a few blocks away from Centered City. I’ll be excited to not only teach yoga classes but also be an owner of the studio as well as help direct and teach the teacher training program. Many of you have said that you would wait to do a yoga teacher training program until I taught it, well here’s your chance. My vision is to teach at and help direct a yoga studio that will be inclusive to all types of people, regardless of experience or ability, to be a tour guide along this crazy ride of being human, pointing out a few things I’ve learned from yoga, and to welcome all into a sacred space as they search for themselves what it means to be human through the amazing practice of yoga. This new facility is going to be AMAZING. Prana yoga Center will be conveniently located just behind the new Whole Foods, with plenty of parking below and will even be connected to a café operated by the people at Sages. There will be massage rooms, steam showers, and lots of clean, pristine space in which to practice yoga. Our goal is to practice community and personal awareness through the skillful art of yoga. We hope to open around the middle of November, so stay tuned! Please visit our facebook page.

Again, though I feel it was the correct decision, it nonetheless was a difficult decision to leave Centered City Yoga. I want to thank D’ana, all the teachers, and especially the students at t CCY, who gave me such a rich experience there. I’ll always love you and hope to see you often. I feel my new adventure is a good choice and I hope you’ll all come and see me as I continue to teach workshops, retreats, and very soon when Prana Yoga Center gets rolling. I’m looking forward to inviting you into this new space. Look at our facebook page to see the construction of our space.

If you’ve practiced with me at Centered City, I’d be deeply honored if you chose to respond to this email by clicking here and posting your most memorable experience with me at Centered City Yoga.
I’ll continue to post this weekly dialogue about yoga. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere!

Love your guts!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

So What

An 2003, I attended a life-changing concert--Herbie Hancock teamed up with other jazz greats such as Michael Brecker (now passed on) and Roy Hargrove. Whether yoga asana or jazz, both modes point to that oneness of being we all share. Both point to and celebrate spirit. The following is an excerpt of something I wrote about this event.


It was Spiritual. There was a moment in the concert when the horns were off stage allowing the rhythm section to solo. The concert hall was dark except for three dim spotlights, each illuminating a musician on stage. Herbie Hancock was hunched over his keys popping dissonant chords like ice on a red-hot stove. John Patitucci's fingers blurred and tangled as they whirred around the fretboard of his double bass. The drummer was nimbly tap-dancing around his set. Popping, clinking, banging, like someone rummaging through a junk drawer. Then, each musician began to play as if oblivious to the other musicians. All three seemed to abandon the song's underlying structure, the musical map that makes playing together possible. They were alone--lost and consumed in the rite of making their own art. Time began to slip away, and it became more of an abstract idea than a perceptible pulse--impossible to find a down-beat.

The music floated like this for eternally long minutes. I could see the music personified on the furrowed brows and grimaces of the musicians. Their notes were together turbulent, raging, furious, and at times lackadaisical. I too drifted with the music. Despite the joy of this ride, however, something was gnawing at me. It was my rational mind wondering how the music could possibly come back together from this entropy. I could see no signs that the musicians were following any sort of map in the song's structure. How would the horns know when to come in and start the melody again, the head? How would the rhythm section come back together? And with these questions, my eyes fixed upon the musicians, hypnotized to the scene before me. Afraid to miss a single note, I stared wide-eyed, wondering what would happen next. Minutes and seconds had ceased.

And after an age, suddenly the horns were back on stage. Without a word, and without a cue, without a gesture, not even a glance, the rhythm section simultaneously aligned to a slow, swung 4/4 meter at the precise fraction of a second that both sax and trumpet blew a soft, low, singular, note. The timbre of this note could not be discerned by the nature of the instruments; it was both sax and trumpet. A third horn. A new name. Invisible but right in front of me. And with this new horn they began the head.

All five were playing as individuals, carving out their own signature and personalities with their instrument. Yet despite the apparent autonomy, chaos, and dissonance, every sound by each musician originated from the same steady beat of one shared heart. It is this heart that makes the maps and this heart that sews the musicians together with an invisible thread. My soul was witnessing a miracle: as I watched and heard them play, I was sensing this shared, invisible heart. I was seeing the finger of God.

One my favorite songs of the night was one that Roy Hargrove wrote called The Poet. It honors Miles Davis and tells an emotional musical story about Miles' character. When Roy took his solo, I was particularly honed to what Roy was saying with his trumpet. As he played, he told me: " if you look in your heart, look deep inside, look way down, keep going deeper, and listen really carefully, amid the discord of life you will find the answer to what you are looking for. You'll find the peaceful and beautiful melody of your deepest inner soul. But be patient and diligent because it will be fleeting; nonetheless, be privy to it. It's there and it's the peace and joy that always resides in you."

I hope that you have similar experiences in your practice of daily living, in those moments of being awake. Maybe you'll find one like this in yoga this week.

Click here for the full text.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Running in the Light of Darkness

A couple years ago, I was with my wife, Celeste, and our friend Ben spending an afternoon in the paradoxical desert of the Great Salt Lake. The texture of the sand, crusted with salt, weather, and time is a sensational feast for bare feet. We played a game: In this extremely barren, extremely flat land, we decided to close our eyes and run blindly and at full speed in any direction for 100 paces. Eager for the adventure, we closed our eyes and shouted, "GO!" I bolted into the darkness of the afternoon sun. My other senses came alive. I could smell the mud, the salt, the sulfur, the decaying brine. I felt the texture of crusty-soft sand beneath my feet as they beat across the surface of the desert. I could hear my companions several paces from me, their feet slapping the sand, laughing and panting.

Then a thought entered into my head, "Hadn't I seen some ominous-looking spikes sticking out of the sand? I would really prefer not to impale my foot on one of those." Regardless, I tightened my closed eyes, quickened my pace, and began to laugh, wild with wonder and worry. " . . .53, 54, 55 . . . ." My paces were whizzing by but the thought of me stepping blindly onto something sharp had almost put me into a panic. ". . .71,72,73 . . ." I could no longer hear my fellow runners and wondered if I'd veered wildly off-course. " . . . 83,84,85 . . ." Only fifteen paces to go. I desperately wanted to stop and open my eyes. Instead, I let out all the stops, opened my running to as fast as I could, and sprinted madly in any direction, no direction, the only direction-forward. From deep in my gut came a raw and uncontrolled scream of anticipation and fear and fun, "98, 99, 100!" at which point I dug my feet into the sand and did an immediate halt. As I stood there panting, I slowly opened up my eyes and looked down at my feet, muddy, unspoiled, unharmed, these feet who willingly leapt me through space as I ran through the darkness toward fear, away from fear. After a moment, I looked up and around for any spikes. None. Nothing for miles. What a rush!

An important concept as explained in the Yoga Sutras explores the relationship between perceptions and actions. If our perceptions are incorrect, we'll often find ourselves in difficulty or fear. If we know what creates such problems, it is easier to avoid them. If I knew for sure that there were no obstacles in my path, I'd have had an easy run. These elements of faulty perceptions are called Avidya. Interestingly, one of the most common false perceptions is called Dvesa, the action of rejecting things because of fear. We have a difficult experience and are afraid of repeating it so we project the effects of the past to try to illuminate the future and end up making our present moment unpleasant. Unfortunately the effects of Dvesa tend to make us reject things that are unfamiliar, even if we have no history with them.

Until we are enlightened, it is impossible to avoid all fears, and therefore we have a model to face those that remain with a sense of adventure. I've referenced a few times one of my favorite movies, Wings of Desire (if you haven't seen it, go out and watch it tonight, but bring a glass of milk to wash it down-it's rich). In this film, an angel, Damiel, decides he'd prefer to live one life, fully human, sentient, and alive, than an eternity of the colorless, only observational life of an angel. Once mortal, Damiel happens upon another mortal who was once an angel (who, interestingly, is Peter Falk playing himself--what better character to decipher the mystery of life than a sleuth). Damiel pleas for Peter Falk to tell him everything there is to know about being human. As he's walking away, Peter Falk turns to Damiel and playfully shouts, "No! You have to figure it out for yourself. That's the fun of it!" You've got to shut your eyes and run full out and experience what you are going to experience. Since we can't avoid all fears, to the extent that it is possible, we must somehow learn to see the beauty and adventure in them.

Even in our fears and failings there is amazement and beauty. Poet David Ignetow says, "I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling. To whom are we beautiful as we go?" He says that even in our failing, there is a part of the Universe that finds us astonishing in that going. In yoga, we explore the relationship between what is personal and what is universal-the universe inside. Therefore, there is a corner of your heart that can grant a magnificence to the most difficult of circumstances.

Through yoga and mindfulness, we learn and experience more about our True Self, Home, who's opposite is fear and worry. With the remembrance of our True Self, we are less and less persuaded by Dvesa's false perception of fear. Against the backdrop of the magnificence our True Self, even in the smallest understanding of it, many of our fears simply dissolve. And from this courageous place, we face what fears remain with presence and boldness. We run into the darkness screaming, laughing, and fully alive.

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

--Wendell Berry.


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Wisdom of Kenny Rogers

You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em . . . (lyrics by Don Schlitz)

Everything dies. And hallelujah. Like that first job I had when I was a teenager when I'd dress up like a chicken and go stand on the sidewalk and invite people over to eat at a fast food restaurant while fielding drive-by cat calls, single fingered gestures, and death threats. I'm glad that job
died. And the restaurant too, for that matter. I was happy the day that my fifth-grade romance with Kelly Campbell died. Something about our relationship was very sweet: I gave her the Twinkie from by lunch box. When I lost my interest in Twinkies, she lost her interest in me. So I'm happy that died. Breaking up with Kelly Campbell made way for my romance with Brooke
Anderson to whom I even gave a locket on valentines day with my picture in it. I was 11 at the time. It was very serious.

We die too-several times. Regardless of what you believe in regarding reincarnation, try the idea that we die and are reborn several times during our lifetime. I'm certainly somebody different
now than I was even five years ago. We all are. That old self who was a little flaky or maybe overly committed to work and underly committed to also having a personal life might need to die in order to give birth to a more satisfying way of living. Old habits, relationships, the old self, can all die. Some things live their season then croak on their own and other things need to be euthanized. With the mindfulness we practice in yoga, perhaps we'll be savvy enough to know when to sustain things, when to let things die, and when to kill them.

The Yoga Nataraj is a statue that depicts Shiva, a Hindu deity, as a dancer with four arms. The dance refers to the constant cycle of birth and death, sustaining and evolution, that happens with all things. We set ourselves up for disappointment if we attach ourselves to any part of this cycle understanding that everything is changing. It's like trying to enjoy the scenic view while riding
the Scrambler, that diabolic amusement park ride designed to spin you mercilessly in circles, eventually scrambling your brain, or making you puke, or both. The Nataraj suggests that everything is turning, changing as we speak. Just as things are dying, something else is being born.

We practice this death every time we rest at the end of class in savasana. In many ways, our yoga practice represents our life: we're born, we grow and learn, we slow down and eventually lie
down. But at then we get to start over. We do so with renewed life, keeping all the good stuff and letting the rest decompose. It's like a computer update-we get to use the most current version of
our own personal operating system.

Practice rolling through this cycle by coming to yoga this week. What in your life needs to die so something else can be born?

See you in class.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Radical Permission for Truth

If it hasn't happened already, there will come a time when we stop trying to produce that infallible vision of ourselves and allow ourselves the radical permission to be exactly what and how we are. This permission revolves around the yogic principle of Satya or truth. To be honest with who and where we are, both our strengths and weaknesses, allows us a solid platform from which we can skillfully step to the next place. We stop trying to be everything that we're not and finally find how perfectly we belong to exactly where we are.

With intention, direction, work, and most of all appreciation for our present situation, our dreams of where we want to end up will start to fill out. If we feel stuck, indecisive, depressed, or angry, our truth is to speak to that place. We can speak to all our situations with yoga, an embodiment of all our inner landscapes.

What we want is within our reach; it's simply laced with a bit of irony: the key to fulfillment in the future is to be content now. If we're committed to the honesty of where we are and are content for what is, knowing things change, we create a bridge of present content moments which links us to contentment in our fulfilled future. Without present contentment, without appreciating the truth of where we are, we may find ourselves where we previously hoped for only to discover our habit of malcontent, and, disgruntlement, wishing we were back where we started or somewhere else. We're back in the viscous cycle of hoping for anything but what is true, what is here.

Our main task as I see it is to understand where we are, where our love lies, and bravely organize our lives to focus on what matters most.

I hope that this truth and brave path may lead you to yoga this week.

Here is an offering I learned from my teacher that you may want to use in your meditations:

By the power and truth of our simply practice,
May we and all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May we and all beings be free from sorrow and any causes of sorrow.
May we and all beings never be separated from that sacred happiness which is beyond sorrow.
And may we and all beings live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion.
And may we live recognizing and honoring the equality of all that lives.

Sarva Mangalam (May the greatest goodness unfold)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yoga with a Knife

There are many ingredients to this soup. Read like a mantra, there is zucchini and summer squash from mom and dad's garden. There are carrots, sprouts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, veggie broth, Bragg's, oregano, parsley, and salt and pepper. And, of course, a knife--to cut through what was once solid. And fire--to cook it up so I can assimilate it.

Another essential ingredient to this practice is breath. I breathe in deeply and smell the aromatic cauldron of veggies boiling on the stove; a scent so pure and strong, it reaches each room with misty tendrils, filling the entire apartment. The broth has turned an orange-brown color and juggles the bits of veggies--orange, green, and yellow--with its rolling boil. Each breath fills me with calm satisfaction, a sensual comfort of work close to Earth.

Like many rituals, this one has a costume. Instead of tight lycra, here I don my bulky, heavy-cotton chef shirt; a now-dirty white, the sleeves rolled up to the wrists, the chef shirt boasts two columns of buttons on either side, with my jazz moniker "SP Train" sewn into the correct place, over my heart. The jazz reference seems fitting. After all, cooking is a performance of sorts. The kitchen is my venue, my Village Vanguard. The other players are the stove on bass, the cutting board on drums, and the sink on piano. It's a concert. It's like jazz and yoga, both: equal parts recipe and improvisation.

Music is part of the ritual. Usually it's Chet Baker or Miles Davis (the trumpet sounds so good in the kitchen). But today, it's the indie band Fleet Fox. My good friend who's struggling right now just discovered this band and gave us a CD as a thank-you gift for letting him stay with us last week. I let the sounds waft through the kitchen on repeat so I can digest all of it: the album, the memory of my friend, the ingredients, the time at home, and the opportunity to savor a moment lost in my own thoughts and designs. I can't help but think how "tasty" this music is, how easy on the ears.

Of course, there is an order, an alignment, to this practice. In the same way I'd align my body in yoga practice, I align all the members of my kitchen. I boil the carrots before the squash to get the texture right. I cut and cook before I clean. At the end, this knife goes here, this plate there. I stretch and reach to put away the tall glasses in the top of the cupboard. I squat to put away the heavy pot in the drawer beneath the stove. My body knows what to do next, accustomed to this ritual.

My life changed the day I realized that I would be doing dishes every day, sometimes a couple times a day, for the rest of my life. This was not a sigh of resignation, but a relaxing realization. Regardless of any other important mental, spiritual, or physical work I may do in this lifetime, one of my most fundamental tasks will be dish washing. It is something simple and ordinary but grounding and essential. Like breathing, I guess. Like moving my body through the same sun salutations. In this way, I get new lessons from old teachers.

There is contentment and ease in this practice. I love the sensation of the warm water and suds over my hands, the stable feel of my feet planted into the kitchen floor. Celeste is in the other room reading; her peaceful pleasure is palpable throughout the apartment, like a sigh and a slow, beating heart. I can feel she's as content as I am, happy to have the comfort of both of us at home, me creating a meal for us in my favorite practice in the kitchen.

Eventually comes the moment of enlightenment: eating. I struggle not to analyze the food. What if I would have added some fennel while the veggies were cooking? I decide in time before I've spoiled the magic that it's good enough, that there's nothing else to do. But eat. This is the moment for enjoyment, nourishing body and soul. I savor it slowly and eat just enough, not too much, like we practice with yoga postures, finding the balance--so we're satiated but not uncomfortable.

This practice starts with me directing the kitchen into chaos: pots boiling, utensils strewn on counters, something dribbling over the stove onto the floor, the molten hot contents of the blender exploding into a veggie volcano when I hit the pulse button... Then calmly, happily, I use a little bit of muscle and bring it all back into order, one sponge wipe at a time. I towel off the last bit of the silverware and put it back into the drawer. I bask in the clean, clear quiet at the end, and then, finally, take off my chef shirt and hang it on its familiar peg as I walk out the door. Only to do it again tomorrow.

As the old Zen adage, "Cut wood. Carry water," teaches us, if we don't find enlightenment, meaning, and purpose in life's everyday tasks, we are moving too fast and missing the bigger picture. Slow down, and find a way to enjoy it. This daily life is the practice. Eat it up!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rest in Natural Great Peace

This week I'd like to invite you to rest in natural great peace. This invitation was introduced to me recently by a poem written by Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist monk. For me, to rest in natural great peace means to come to that place of deep, abiding calm. I believe there are many tools we can use to find this peace, even if our experience of it is momentary. In yoga this week, I'd like to invite you to come and practice creating the conditions for this great peace by moving through your body, accessing your breath, and clearing your mind. Come. This will feel really good.

Oh, and in case you aren't familiar with the term, samsara is a term meaning the continuous flow of recapitulation as a result of the choices we make and patterns we develop. The idea is once we break those patterns, and therefore stop the results (karma) which develop from those patterns, we are not longer beaten by the continuous waves of those past ways of being; we are free.

Here's the poem:

Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thought,
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves,
In the infinite ocean of samsara

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Things That Scare You

What if this week you practiced being with those things that scare you? Call on the spirit of Virabadra, the warrior, to practice strength and focus, call on Tadasana, Mountain Pose, to practice being steady and strong and unmovable, call on Dhanurasana, bow pose, to at once shoot the sacred arrows designed to strike the demons of fear that plague your heart and at the same time keep that heart wide and open.

This week, I invite you to step up to the edge, call on your higher self, and take the leap. Only you know the fears which creep in your heart. This week, practice inviting your fears to the surface to find the power you know is there somewhere and remind yourself of the part of you that is beyond fear. This week, come to yoga with the intention of addressing your fears. Come ready to walk away with greater strength in body and heart. Come ready to find the strength to abide with those things that scare you.

Scott Open Heart Great SAlt Lake

I Go Among Trees and Sit Still.

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

Wendell berry

Monday, June 28, 2010

So, What's Your Neurosis

The Yoga Sutras, an ancient text written around 200 CE, acts as one of the most authoritative texts about yoga. In this book, verses (called sutras, meaning sutures) string together directional truths that give us clues about what we are looking for in the practice of yoga and how to go about finding it.

Patanjali, the author and yoga scholar who wrote the Yoga Sutras, gives us a definition of yoga right off the bat. In the second verse he states, "Yoga chitta vritti nirodha," which means "Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind." So, yoga is stopping the mind from its endless neurotic volatility. Later in the Sutras he states that we've found the experience of yoga once our mind stops moving, once we become one with an object, be that our body, an idea, or another person, etc. Let me make a distinction: the experience of yoga may differ from the practice of yoga. We may practice getting to that place of unity by the refined and skillful means of our asana practice, connecting body and breath for a sophisticated method of listening and focusing, which brings physical health, understanding, and mental clarity-- and still only find the experience of yoga once in a while. Regardless, the practice of finding yoga is itself very centering, grounding, and worthwhile. And with regular practice, we become gradually adept at finding this place of mental stillness and focus and will learn to enjoy the experience of yoga more readily.

Be warned! The experience of yoga may come on suddenly and without any preamble or effort on your part. It may happen in a yoga class, while walking your dog, or while contemplating the meaning of life as you sit in the maddening lines at the DMV. The experience of yoga is different for everybody. For me it feels like everything makes sense, like the universe is expansive and inviting. For me it's calming bouts of real clarity and connection.

Come and practice with me! I invite you to consider your experience and practice of yoga this week. I would love to hear about times you feel you have experienced yoga. Feel free to click the facebook or blogger icon and leave your comment to this message.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Share the Love

Yoga means union. I’ve never experienced such a union, such a sweet manifestation of community as when people from all over came to help out when Celeste was in a very serious car accident in 2006. People stopped by to be with her, to love her, to read to her. People organized kirtans, taught yoga classes and then donated the money to us, and brought us meals every night for two months straight. I gained 10 pounds from all that lovin’. People donated time, money, and energy and in so doing they helped heal Celeste, and therefore heal me, but also they healed the community as they all came together in a common cause. It has also been inspiring to participate in Yogis Give Back, the benefit yoga workshop where the community of yoga teachers and practitioners come together and practice for a common cause to the tune of several thousands of dollars that we can donate to that cause.

Whether it’s the Arts Festival, Gallery Stroll, the Farmer’s Market, Strut Your Mutt, The Salt Lake City Marathon, or the Twilight Concert Series, one of the reasons that Salt Lake City is such an amazing place to live is that it is both large enough and small enough to celebrate a wonderful community.

One of the reasons we come to yoga class is to be a part of the diverse community of yoga practitioners. By coming to this communal practice we offer our personal voice, our body, our breath to the diversity of the practice, a diversity that has been celebrated for thousands of years. We gain enormously from the power of practicing together by feeding off each other’s energy. Nothing is as electrifying as practicing yoga with a lot people in class. Surely yoga means first union of body mind spirit of individual and second we are invited to participate in the union of body mind spirit of a community, then of the world.

Yoga, like life, is very personal. A personal practice is very important yet this personal practice doesn’t have to necessarily exclude other people. One of our greatest personal lessons is how to live and thrive with other people with whom we share this community and this earth. It’s about learning to accept and celebrate differences, work out our problems, and to learn to love each other, even when someone has a different political philosophy than us, even when someone practices differently than we do.

I invite you to practice community this week by coming to yoga class. Celebrate community this week by coming to our Partner Yoga workshop this Friday night at Centered City Yoga (see details below). Come and be with us!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No Shirt. No Shoes. No Problem.

I just spent two weeks in Kaua'i, where I co-hosted a yoga retreat, practiced relaxing, and connected to a very special place. In Kaua'i, there is a feeling that permeates the island, inborn to the locals and infectious to its visitors. For me the feeling can be summed up in a simple motto: No Shirt. No Shoes. No Problem. The island spirit seems to welcome all people to come as they are, whether they are bronzed beach bums or uptight tourists.

I'd like to adopt some of this aloha spirit in our yoga culture. Yoga is about getting to know yourself and the world around you by practicing awareness. It's about willing to refine yourself through the transformational heat of the practice (any change, even gentle change, is refining). It's about practicing surrender and submitting to a force larger than yourself. All of this can be done from whatever place you find yourself in life. Whether you're fit or fat, got a tight butt or just tight hamstrings, stressed out or blissed out, there's a place for you in yoga. Whether you feel like you're falling apart or feel like the world is rolling your way, whether you're going through your daily ho-hum, or major changes are stretching your life, whether you're a soccer mom, a corporate bigwig, or a total wide-eyed beginner, yoga's for you. Whether it's advanced asana practice or meditation or restorative yoga, there's a practice for you.

Besides, yoga class seems to be one of those few places not proximal to the beach that can also boast the motto: No Shirt. No Shoes. No Problem.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Radical Simplification

When something isn't working in our life, often the best remedy is a radical simplification. Simplify to the point where our bodies, mind, and spirit can digest easily and clearly the task at hand. Simplification means choosing to release the unessential, those things that cling to our lives like barnacles. Simplification means organizing your life to focus on that which is most essential, that which makes you feel the most alive, and then putting your energy there.

One mode of radical simplification is to connect back to our bodies through the grounding practice of yoga. Here, everything is boiled down to inhale and exhale, expansion and contraction. Here, everything seems to make sense. Here is where we practice the art of simplification. And from that simple, most basic place we manage our lives in a way that really works for us.

While doing asana (poses) this week, we will focus on our breath. This is such a simple but essential part of our practice. It is one of the secrets to what we are trying to achieve in our yoga practice, this discovery of our True Self through the union of body, mind, and spirit. As we focus on our breath and the simple practice of connecting to our body, my hope is that we leave class feeling freedom and clarity, as well as a deeper understanding what is essential.

I hope to see you in class this week.
By the way, Yoga Nidra (see below) is a great way to practice radical simplification.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shakti to the System

In non-duelist thought, everything has an equal counterpart that ultimately balances the universe into one balanced state. The symbol of yin and yang is a perfect example of this: each side is not only balanced by the opposite of the other, but more poignantly, the essence of one is located in the heart of the other represented by the black circle in the white space, and the white circle in the black space.

Balancing out the masculine energy of light and spirit, in yoga philosophy the energy of Shiva, is the creative and dynamic female energy of Shakti. According to this model of yogic philosophy, while the masculine energy is contemplative and spiritual, the female energy, however, is determined to do something about it-to dance and celebrate that spirit into form. It should be noted that despite our gender we all have energies and traits that are both masculine and feminine. Therefore, Shakti could be described as the spirit producing action. I’m guessing that we’ve all experienced this feeling of Shakti sometime or other when we’ve been inspired to action.

When we express this Shakti, we feel powerful and creative, we breathe and we move. This feeling of Shakti is very empowering. It is the defining action that changes worry into something productive. After all, as one of my teachers, Judith Lasater taught me, “What is worrying but praying for what you don’t want.” Not only worry, though. Shakti tells the Universe that you are serious by putting action to your resolve. Even if our answers to our doubt or what is moving in those subtle realms of thought and spirit isn’t immediately available, by expressing this Shakti, we’ve open up a channel whereby more spirit and clarity can shine through. Sometimes it takes physical motion, a little re-arranging of the furniture, to realize the bigger changes that you’d like to see. Besides, it’s fun! Fun is exactly this: motion on spirit.

I’d like to invite you to familiarize yourself with this feeling of Shakti. My mode to become familiar with this is by first drawing in through breathwork and meditation to identify spirit. Then using asana, we’ll explore a way to celebrate that spirit that will be fun and challenging. We’ll breathe, move, and sweat. Once we’ve been reminded of our higher selves through this practice of yoga, I invite you to apply the added spirit you will feel into the vital elements of your practice of everyday living, your relationships and work.

I invite you to join me and Jami Larsen this Sunday as we explore this concept in a fun and sweaty workshop at Sugar Space. See details below.

See you in class.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Arrivals: Greetings from India

I'm writing this on Friday morning because I know that I'll be in no shape to write when I get to India. If everything went as planned, Celeste and I arrived in India today after a grueling flight. We woke up on Friday morning and flew to New York, then to Dubai, then on to Kerala, India. I don't have to be psychic to can assure you that we're jet lagged, grumpy, but happy to be on solid ground beginning our new adventures in India.

We both received such an abundance of well-wishes, hugs, and encouragement before we left. This trip to India is bigger than just an adventure: it is faithfully walking into the dark, the unknown, it is taking a risk to find help for my love, and it is bringing us all together during the process. Thanks for taking part in this by simply reading, and keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. We'll update you all soon. . .

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Not Troubled

Yoga gives us a chance to start seeing our reactions: our aversion to suffering, and our clinging and attachment to pleasure andjoy . It gives us a breath, a pause, a chance to ALLOW for the world and our lives to play themselves out, even if it is uncomfortable or awkward or even painful sometimes. We can take lesson, as usual, from nature, of which we're a part...
The Buddha teaches his servant Rahula:
"Develop a state of mind like the EARTH, Rahula, for on the earth all manner of things are thrown, clean and unclean, dung and urine, spittle, pus and blood, and the earth is not troubled or repelled or disgusted...
"Develop a state of mind like WATER, for in the water many things are thrown, clean and unclean, and the water is not troubled or repelled or disgusted. And so too with FIRE, which burns all things, clean and unclean, and with AIR, which blows upon them all, and with SPACE, which is nowhere established."
(From "The Glass Palace," by Amitav Ghosh)

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Have a Dream

On that sweltering hot day of August 28th, 1963, Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to hear the social revolutionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sing to the hearts of the world the song of his dream of racial equality. Even though racism isn't completely erased in America, who would have even dared to imagine that 45 years later we would be inaugurating our nation's first African American president?
Dr. King knew of the imperative for nonviolence as did his Open Heart Great SAlt Lakepredecessor of peace, Mahatma Gandhi. The principle of nonviolent revolutions and nonviolent living parallels the ancient yogic principle of nonviolence, Ahimsa. The ancient yoga scholar, Patanjali, lists Ahimsa as the first step toward finding Samadhi, our highest self. Yoga teaches that to truly know one's self, one must also extend this knowledge out to all others. Consider the idea of not only personal Samadhi but a Samadhi of community or collective.
Open Heart Great SAlt Lake If, as we learn from yoga, we originate from the same source, call it God, Universe, Creation, then to hate or harm someone else is ultimately to harm ourselves. This self infliction is therefore the autoimmunity of humanity, the failure of one part of the organism to recognize itself and therefore to fight against it.
But Ahimsa goes deeper than learning not to throw punches. The gate into the temple of peace is nonviolence; however, the true lesson of Ahimsa is to honestly and deeply love each other, even when your brother or sister holds radically different ideals, morals, or opinions than you. When the power of our conviction meets the peace of our compassion, we can sit together as brothers and sisters and build lasting solutions to differences and problems. These solutions last because they are built from the most durable and fundamental element common to all of us-- love. Dr. King said, "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."
Ahimsa also means not harming YOU. Remember, you are a part of the universe and deserve to be here, to be happy, and to have abundance. I believe you cannot truly love someone else until you honestly love yourself. You deserve the pleasure of peace. I believe that Dr. King and Gandhi would both agree with this idea.
Let's practice peace in yoga this week. One of my teachers quotes her teacher who said, "Yoga is one of the most compassionate things we can do for others because suddenly we are not such a pain in the a## to be around anymore."
Please remember our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Meditate and pray for them. If you have the means, please contribute to one of their relief funds. One of the ways some organizations are collecting donations is through text message. You can text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti, charged to your cell phone bill.