Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Dog Thinks I'm Perfect

There is a fantastic bumper sticker that says something to the effect of, " May I be the type of person that my dog thinks I am."

For those of us who own dogs. . . who am I kidding, every person in this town owns a dog-you get one free when you buy your Subaru. Anyway, dogs know us better than we know ourselves. Our dog worships the ground we walk on, even though, ironically, we are the ones who pick up their poop, go figure. Back to dogs' undying love for us . . . yes, in our own mind we could be the most miserable wretch who ever climbed out of the pond, the dumbest thing to ever darken a doorway, but at the end of the day, we'd come home to sit on the porch and revel in our misery, only to have our best four-legged friend, come prancing up to us with nothing but profound love and worship for us.

Maybe dogs can see something about us that we can't see. The same way that a dog's sense of smell is dramatically more sophisticated than our own, perhaps the K-9 sense of goodness, the ability to sniff out the best parts of us (not just our crotch) is somehow innate in those creatures. They remind us that we, too, are lovable and amazing creatures.

In yoga, we are trying to see that our own inner-awesomeness, as one wise woman (my wife) puts it, is just beneath the surface. In part, yoga is finding focus, strengthening, and removing the physical obstacles of an unhealthy body. Yoga is also cultivating a relationship with both the numinous parts of ourselves as well as those ethereal parts of the world around us. Yoga carves away the crap that blinds us from that lovable person that our dog sees all the time. If our dog can see it all the time, then why can't we? Maybe it's because we forget. Yoga helps us to simultaneously discover and remember who we really are and perhaps see our selves the way our dog sees us: supercool.

Come to yoga and practice being the person your dog thinks you are.

Here's a supercool video to illustrate this point.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hey You Know What I Love?

Instead of saying I’m grateful for something, I like to speak to all those things I love. Those are the things for which I’m grateful, but it touches my heart more to speak to love, the more refined source of gratitude. I both look forward to and loathe this letter. A couple of years ago, I decided that on the week of Thanksgiving, I’d write down all that I love and share it on my newsletter. I loathe it because it makes me so vulnerable and raw, I love it because it fills my heart up to the brim until it spills out through my eyes. And so, with a lump in my throat and my heart on fire, here she goes . . .

You know what I love? I love coming into my apartment at night, all alone, locking the door and standing there for a second in the dark, silence. I love sitting in my big green chair with a good book and a beverage with Chet Baker blowing plaintive notes through his trumpet on record player.

I love, love, love, the bliss of running on a long, mountain trail, deep, fresh air in my lungs, my feet which feel they can take me anywhere, and this body feeling like it could do anything. I love having running partners who will listen to the long-winded drama of my life as we wind our way through the trails of the Wasatch.

I love practicing yoga. I love the inquiry into my body and heart, the work to focus my mind. I love how fun it is to practice handstands or arm balances or to flow though a great yoga sequence. I love savasana and how solid I feel physically and mentally when it’s all done. I love meditation.

I love Celeste. We split up a few months ago. Yep. She’s doing well, she just moved back to Hawaii. I love that woman immensely and we’re wonderful friends. We just need really different things. She’ll know parts of me that no one else will. We’ve had an amazing journey together, the best and hardest times of our lives and I know our lives will somehow always be connected. So, a special love to you. I love all the amazing friends who have been there for us during this time of change and challenge, tears and transition. Pardon me while I wipe my face free of tears and snot. Ah-Hem!

I love Prana Yoga. Running a new business is the full-spectrum of difficulty and reward. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I love everybody who has wished me well and supported me emotionally, financially and energetically this new endeavor. I love to see you in class. I love the fact that people show up to classes and enjoy this beautiful studio that Matt built. I love my business partners, Matt and Jennifer Ellen. They are amazing teachers, yogis, and business partners. Mostly, they are wonderful friends. I’m very grateful for that. I can’t tell you how touched I am that I get to do what I do. I love it. I am passionate about teaching and still get choked up that people want to come to my yoga class and move and breathe and listen to my voice.

I love Jazz. I love to blow through the saxophone. I love the way it feels in my mouth, the weight around my neck, and the vibration of the reed singing out notes that I couldn’t make on my own. I love to sit with my sax teacher as he’s trying to teach me a song, we will be right in the thick of it and he will blow out some amazing line on his sax to me, his one-person audience. All I can do is shake my head in stunned disbelief that something could be so hip, sophisticated, and soul rending.

I love sitting around dinner table of dear friends, laughing or singing along to the guitar someone brought as their date. I have such amazing friends, people who really get me and know my secrets and my issues and still love me. These are people who also trust me with their hardest things. I love all the people whom I fee have my back in tough times. I’ve had an incredibly transformational past year or two. With transformation comes a lot of the extremes and I feel like I’ve had a legion of peeps around me, picking me up, and reminding me about what’s important. I feel like I have so many friends who really share their heart with me and who are equally willing to let me hold their heart. It’s a beautiful thing.

I have an amazing twin brother, he’s far away but I feel like he’s right here, always there when I need him. He doesn’t have to say a lot because for so much of our lives we were experiencing concurrent variations of the same thing. I love that he’s patient enough to teach me to fly fish. All I catch is bushes and trees. It’s catch and release so the trees go on living. He can read my mind. He’s still the funniest guy I know. I have some pretty amazing parents. They have always supported me and offered love. They gave me a pretty solid upbringing and helped encourage me to follow my dreams, and didn’t freak out when I did something off the wall. I have two fantastic sisters.

I love to laugh until tears run down my face and someone has to stage and intervention to get me to breathe again. I love a poem that will knock me on the floor with its poignancy or simplicity or elegance. I love live music. I love great food. I love to see people who struggle (we all do) and who get up off the floor and try again and try to make a difference, for themselves and others. I love people who stand for something. I love animals. I love motorcycles. I love a really rockin’ and loud concert. I love Hatch Family Chocolates. I love the Tandoor Grill. I love the Coffee Garden. I love Tabula Rasa. I love the Beehive Tea Room. I love Eva’s. I love the Broadway Theater. I love Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake. I love Zions and Moab. I love the Farmer’s Market. I love Tony Caputo’s.
Most importantly, I love. I love all of you. A toast you all of us!

May I invite you to write out all the things you love, things you might be grateful for, and watch to see how your entire day turns bright and shines to all around you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Angels in the Rafters

I love rituals. They make the everyday special. I also love chocolate. So it's no wonder that one of my rituals is to regularly and consciously go to my favorite chocolate shops and deliberately enjoy. Everything about the experience becomes part of the ritual, including the people who work at the shop. It turned out that as part of one of the rituals, one of my sister's good friends worked at one of these shops. His name was Ryan.

When I lived in Korea, one day I was talking to my sister on the telephone and she mentioned that Ryan had killed himself, tragically, along with his sister in a joint-suicide. Even though I wasn't extremely close to Ryan and had never met his sister, this news weighed on me immeasurably. I couldn't shake the thought from my head. Lucy, my sister, asked me if I would go to a Buddhist temple and light a candle for Ryan and his sister. I didn't know if they even did that in Buddhism but I told her I would.

It was about this time that we went on a meditation retreat up in the mountains with our dear friend and guide, Jin-Soon. After our time at the retreat was spent, Jin-Soon suggested that we go on a light hike up the mountain to her favorite temple. It was late Autumn and we hiked, swimming in the warmth and light of the sun, especially after the biting cold of the morning.

We came to a small temple and quietly, we took off our shoes and stepped inside. Already sitting inside the temple were two female monks, both with shaved heads and gray habit, sitting on mats, deep in meditation. I thought about my own meditation experience, how difficult it can be at times, and I wondered how long they had been there or planned to be there. They looked as though they may as well have been permanent fixtures in the temple. Jin-Soon handed Celeste and me a mat, and we all sat down and began our own meditation. The sun shone through the window of the door in a perfect rectangle that surrounded my body like a picture frame. I was warm and quiet. I don't know how much time we spent there. Time just dissolved.

Once we finished our meditation, outside of the temple, I remembered the promise I had made to Lucy to someday light a candle for Ryan and his sister. I asked Jin-Soon how to go about getting candles lit in the temple. She kindly walked me to the center of the compound not far away and helped me buy two 14-inch candles.

With the candles in hand, I walked to the main temple, took off my shoes, and solemnly entered the door. Just inside the door was an old monk whose face was perfectly wrinkled, obviously from a lifetime of smiling. He saw the candles in my hand and speaking no Korean, I motioned that I wished to place them on the alter. He understood and beckoned me to follow his lead. I watched as he approached the enormous, golden Buddha in the front of the room and performed a dramatic bow, lowering himself to the floor then standing up again with his hands together in a prayer motion. I was amazed and how similar this bow was to the Sun Salutations, Surya Namskar, we practice in yoga. The monk performed this beautiful bow simultaneously honoring both the Buddha and the Buddha Nature in himself and all beings. I approached the Buddha to give it a try. I kept Ryan and his sister in my mind and intended to honor their Buddha nature as well as my own and that of every other being. As I accomplished my bow, I tried to remember all the steps I saw the monk perform. I did my best version and then together the monk and I walked to the alter and placed the candles gently on the candle offering.

After placing and lighting the candles, I retreated slowly backward and made motions to leave. My monk, however, had more to teach me. He held up seven fingers and motioned that it was now necessary to complete seven more bows. Again, he made dramatic motions for me to see the precise actions to perform this rite. I tried to follow his exact gestures but got lost in the details. The kind smiling monk instructed me to do it again and made me watch him again to get it right this time. Again I tried and by now the monk was softly laughing. Despite the spectacle I was making, I couldn't help but smile as well. With my every attempt at a bow, the monk hovered over me and corrected me where I forgot. Before too long, the monk decided that I was all but hopeless and encouraged my actions by physically helping me put body in the right places. After what seemed like 30 tries, I eventually performed seven correct bows. I guess this is how I learn the best-- by experience. This is the process: Stand with legs together, hands in a prayer stance. Kneel down and cross the left foot over the right while placing the palms on the floor and lowering the forehead to the floor. The butt must come down and touch your ankles (which must be much easier for him than it was for me because the monk couldn't figure out why I couldn't get that right and corrected me repeatedly on this point). With the forehead on the ground, raise the hands off the ground, palms facing up. Replace the hands on the ground, palms down, uncross your feet, and press yourself to a squatting position. Then stand up, feet together, without using hands. Finally, with hand pressed together in a prayer, make a deep bow toward the Buddha. When I completed my offering, my monk gave me a gentle bow and an enormous smile. I reciprocated in bowing and smiling my deep thanks to him.

As I left the temple, I was certain that Ryan and his sister were sitting as angels in the rafters, laughing at my tutelage and grateful for my gesture. I'm sure of it.

Whatever you may have in your intention for practice, come and make a ritual to honor the angels in your rafters. I'll see you in practice.