Monday, December 30, 2013

The Vision of Every Day

During a meditation this year, I had an astounding vision. In my vision, I was sitting in the office of one of my favorite college professors. He leaned back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head and looked at me very seriously and said, “No matter what you believe, practice it every day.” For me this encouraged me to sit on my meditation cushion regularly, to practice yoga regularly, and to practice loving kindness every second of every day.

 This vision reminded me of the importance of daily practice. Whether a practice of yoga, meditation, writing, compassion, prayer, or anything else, a daily practice could look very different for each individual. And it should. This vision reminded me that some knowledge can only be learned by continued and dedicated practice. There can be no substitute, no book can give you that knowledge, no web site or Cliff Notes version can suffice. It’s about putting in the dedication every day. 

This is that unique time of year when Top Ten lists abound, people have totally bombed out on sugar and everybody seems to be inspired to start the new year committed to work hard to be their best selves. Resolutions, intentions, hopes, and dreams, drive us into the next year. And moving forward, there is nothing that we can’t accomplish. Anything can be learned, dreamed, achieved, built, changed, forgiven, moved . . . . Whatever you dream for yourself in 2014, I invite you to practice it somehow every day. Without fail.  
And whether it is related to yoga or not, let yoga be a catalyst for that daily practice. Let it be the practice or a compliment to it so that your body moves strongly and freely, your mind is focused and open, and that your heart is expansive and accepting of all the beautiful things in this world. 

Join me and Jennifer Ellen at Prana Yoga as we honor 2013 and usher in 2014 with ceremony, meditation, breath, and movement. Allow this to be the first mindful action of 2014. Begin your year with intention, purpose, vision, movement, breath, and focus.
Let yoga open you up to your visions of 2014.

Here’s to a new year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jazz for Jesus

You know what I like about the Little Drummer boy? Well, besides the departure from the tired story of a drummer’s death by tour bus or pyrotechnics accident, I like that the only thing this cat had to offer to God was some sweet beats, he gave what he had and he did his best and that was better than good enough for the Lord of Lords. Maybe I can relate because I once had a dream where I was standing there in heaven next to the gods of jazz Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, and Bill Evans when Jesus walked by. I play sax but Bird was already putting down so I picked up what was left, bass. So as Jesus walked by we did our best to swing for the cat of cats, JC, not John Coltrane (even though he is a saint, even has a church devoted to nothing but him) but the one and only JC. These gods of jazz and me subbing on bass played our hearts out. And it was enough, enough to honor God.

Something my teacher taught me years ago was that if you take one step toward Spirit, Spirit takes a thousand steps toward you. All these years I’ve sought to understand that but I think that the Little Drummer Boy sums it up perfectly. When we show up to practice, we offer whatever we’ve got, quantity doesn’t matter, flexibility doesn’t matter, strength doesn’t matter. What matters is that you offer what you’ve got. Anything else would be an inappropriate offering. I believe that God comes in many forms and what does God care if your offering comes in the form of Downward Facing Dog or Cobra Pose, or Supported Child’s Pose? Show up and give it your best. Write off the rest.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Singing in the Dead of NIght

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
All your life, you were only for this moment to be free.  

People have problems. We grant ourselves a certain majesty by allowing ourselves to simply see, and be a witness to our own circumstance, even before trying to change them. Just be there. I suppose this being where we are is what we practice when we do yoga poses.

The Sanskrit word for yoga posture is Asana. It's sometimes translated as your seat. In yoga, like in life, it sometimes feels like you're in the hot seat. Sometimes it feels like you're sitting in the epitome of bliss. And sometimes it feels like you're sitting behind the wheel of a 1960 Ford Falcon with whitewall tires, red leather interior, and a tired song on the am radio as you travel down some unknown dark road (random, I know but work with me). It's hard to imagine that even in the darkest of nights, in the deep, cold winter when it feels as if the world will never warm again, that something miraculous can happen. But just like flashes of brilliant or subtle insight can come during a difficult asana, the light can shine in our dark moments of life and something inside us will illuminate.  

Maybe it's because in these difficult places there's no other choice. From the bottom and the dark there is only up and there is only light. Learn to fly with your broken wings because we're all broken and maybe that's the only way to fly. Everybody's going through their own stuff and that's why it's wonderful to practice with other people, because it's comforting knowing that we are all working our stuff out together. And despite how destitute your situation may seem, this is the moment for you to learn to fly. Now, because there is only now. There is only the present. This is what we are practicing in yoga.

Let's take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were waiting for this moment to arise.

See you in class.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Shoveling Snow with Buddha

 In this fantastic season of snow and cold and shopping and parties, it's easy to get lost in the motion of our own minds.  To offset the inherent busyness of the season perhaps we  could borrow the tradition of indigenous cultures who use this time of winter and cold to come inside, both physically and mentally, to spend a few more minutes exploring the solace of our hearts the quietness of our spirits. 

Here's a simple practice :
2.Close your eyes.
3.Find your breath.

Then when you find your beautiful state of stillness, try to carry it with you into your shopping and be a little more generous with the sales person working the seasonal job, perhaps a little overwhelmed, who has been thrown into the lions den of commercialism during the craziest season of the year. Maybe we could be a bit more conscious of those who have less than we do. Maybe we could also explore ways to give that are more meaningful than just the quantity of digits on the price tag.  Perhaps we can find the stillness in everything we do and share that with others.  

Oh, and turn shoveling snow into a yoga practice. When you do find yourself shoveling snow, that stuff can be  heavy so make sure you go slowly and use your core strength. Then come to yoga to help strengthen your core, stretch out those shoulders, warm up, and help you find that center you can carry with you during this season.

Here's one of my favorite winter poems that speaks to this perfectly. 

Shoveling snow with Buddha

n the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok 
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.  


Monday, December 2, 2013

Thank You!

We did it! We opened our new studio, Prana Yoga Station Park. We had a fantastic Grand Opening complete with a ribbon cutting with the mayor, a bunch of yoga classes, food, a DJ, the works. I am particularly touched by all the people who offered their hard work, support, and presence. Our opening was a big success thanks to the many people who joined together to make it happen. This is truly the essence of Yoga, Oneness.

I will be teaching primarily at our Trolley Square location except for one class a week at Station Park, Hatha Align at 10:20 am. Come up, take a class, check out Station Park, maybe grab some lunch. You can even take Front Runner and get off right next to our studio!

I want to offer a big thank you to everybody at both locations who helped make this possible, for the Station Parkers who helped open this joint, and for the Trolly Squarers who have been patient with me and my crazy schedule, often subbing out classes to have time for this new studio. My schedule will return to normal soon.

I invite you to stay centered this holiday season with yoga and mindfulness. I hope to see you at one of our studios!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Yoga Under a Microscope

Yoga is a lot of things. It's an art, it's a philosophy, it's therapy. Perhaps more than any of these yoga is a science. Science is often misunderstood as a bundle of facts-information that has been proven and is now called Truth. But science isn't that at all. Science is only one thing: a method of inquiry. It's a system of asking questions from which comes insight and clarity. So is yoga.

The scientific method is to start with a question: how can I better understand myself or my environment? Is there a better, less harmful, more efficient way to be in the world? How could I help alleviate the suffering around me with a cure for diseases? The question leads to a theory, the theory to experiments. Then comes the most profound part, the observation. Watching. Once the scientist sees, once the mystery is revealed through data, that data organized, translated, and applied, that information qualifies the observer for more refined questions, more refined data, and closer observation. This is the process of unraveling the mystery.

As any good scientist will tell you, the job of the scientist during an experiment is to watch and allow the subject to do whatever it's going to do. Check your ego at the door. It's not like the scientist is passionless about what they are studying. The reason they are watching, collecting data, working so hard, is because they feel they might be able to see something which hasn't been seen before, to learn something new about the world, to understand something more profoundly. The process requires that the scientist simply be an observer and not to mess with the subject. Let it be. But then skillfully apply that information to the betterment or understanding of the world.

And I guess what yoga and scientific have in common is that they both lead toward understanding and they both center in observation. Maybe it's the intention to understand and heal our bodies or to relieve tension. Maybe it's the desire to heal a bruised heart or to find some mental quietness. Now we experiment using that which is most practical, basic and real-our bodies and breath. As we observe, we gather specialized information and start to see the nature or our being, pain or disquietude. This insight then invites us to ask even deeper, more refined questions and the process of inquiry continues.

Remember, it is all just a practice. It's about asking the question even more than finding the answers. So, I invite you to come to yoga ready to observe and let's practice without expectation.

Monday, November 11, 2013

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 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.

Monday, November 4, 2013


It's Harvest time. Or was recently. I have a stockpile of fantastic peppers grown from my friends garden, just waiting to be eaten.  

I think that the harvest meant a lot more to our grandparents and great-grandparents, many of whom were raised on the farm or who were agrarian for much of their lives. Even if we aren't running our hands through the soil for our daily sustenance, I believe there are many forms of harvests in life. These Harvests equal understanding what you've cultivated, understanding what is, and learning to enjoy the present moment. Yoga teaches us that now is the time to feast on the banquet of what life is offering.

We celebrate the life that causes us to grow. We celebrate understanding that we are all somewhere in our season of growing, of blossoming into our own potential. We make several harvests along the path to this potential. These harvests are not only harvests of years or experience, but also harvests of understanding and realization. Perhaps we have ripened in our career and its time to ask for a raise; perhaps its time to try a more advanced yoga practice, or commit to a consistent meditation practice. Or perhaps our harvest is realizing that things are perfect the way they are and we can learn to be still and appreciate that.

I believe one of the richest harvests is simply being present with what is right now. These harvests come and go, and if we are not prepared to see them,  if we are not present and mindful, the opportunity, the realization, will pass us by. Rainer Maria Rilke says in his poem, "Ripening Barberries," that unless we learn to harvest what is here and now, unless we come to realize this cornucopia of abundant being inside, we are lost in a world of seasonless stagnancy. Kinda harsh but very true. Here it is:

Already the ripening barberries are red
And the old asters hardly breathe in their beds.
The man who is not rich now as summer goes
Will wait and wait and never be himself.
The man who cannot quietly close his eyes
certain that there is vision after vision inside,
simply waiting for nighttime
to rise all around him in darkness--
it's all over for him, he's like an old man.
Nothing else will come; no more days will open
and everything that does happen will cheat him.
Even you, my God. And you are like a stone
that draws him daily deeper into the depths.

We cannot wait for some other time to gather what we are searching for. We must find it, to whatever degree, now. We cannot base our life on contingencies. Unless we learn what abundance is present here and now, we can never hope to see it in the future. Yoga, meditation, breathwork are all ways of learning to open our eyes and see what is here. Every practice is a harvest. We practice until we find the harvest in every minute, where the regale of the world opens up to our understanding and we feast on our lives.   

See you in practice.

Monday, October 28, 2013


What are the masks that we all hide behind? And what is behind those layers? It's Halloween. We get the thrill of putting on a mask and dressing up as something other than ourselves because we love to live out a persona. Especially when the mask is in stark contrast to one's true character: the most docile person in the office dressing up as the Wicked Witch of the West or your mom dressing up like Rambo. We have our laughs, we make the jokes, we revel in the fun. Yet the moment comes later that night when we are alone at the bathroom sink, the wig comes off, we wash off the makeup, and once we've rinsed our face, we lift our gaze and take a good, hard look at the fresh face in the mirror. There you are, staring right back into your own eyes, almost surprised to see that face again. What is behind all those layers?

It's like we are all dressed as mummies, wrapped with layers of things that hide our true form, layers of identity of what I think I am: my profession, my opinions, cynicism, emotions, tensions, attachments, preferences, and prejudices. Those are a mask. To see the mummy in all its bandages is a poor likeness of the radiant being beneath. And yoga is the practice of peeling off the bandages, even just a little, to see what's between the layers. We've all had a look at one time or another. It's brilliant. It's both the most simple and sublime yet natural thing ever.  I believe that I may never get to see fully what's under my layers, but I hope for enough of those small glimpses of the real stuff that I may begin to piece together a sense of what my True Self looks like.  

Sometimes it's hard to take off that mask, especially if we've worn it for a long time and we've come to identify with it a bit too much; the adhesive was a little too effective and it hurts to rip it off. This is the point of our practice: becoming familiar enough with what's underneath the layers that identifying with anything other than our True Self seems as absurd as the ninja outfit we were wearing. And with a little skill, we learn to look at others and see what's behind their mask, because we've seen a glimpse of the same stuff in ourselves. We all have the mask and that's part of the practice, too-learning to see the mask as just that and laugh and enjoy the fun, just like a Halloween party, because we all know there is something more radiant beneath. And somehow we can see a resemblance of it even in the mask.

I love sincere people because I never feel like they are putting on a show. I know where I stand with them because there's no act. At the bottom of sincerity, I believe, rests honesty. Truth. While I love to joke around as much as the next person, I really love sincerity. May we all seek for sincerity in being and learn to see past our own and everybody else's mask. In this way we can show true love and compassion and togetherness. May we all embrace each other, laughing, knowing that something brighter than the mask is dancing beneath the surface. And may we all be brave enough to rip off the mask, to peek between our mummy wrap, and practice seeing our own radiance.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What Is Your Heart's Gift to the World?

What is your heart’s gift for the world? What is that thing that you are really good at? Your heart’s gift to the world could be that you are a fantastic parent and are consistently bringing light into this world by the efforts you make in that realm. Maybe you are a writer and your gift is to touch people in that way. You could be a really great teacher or maybe you are funny or compassionate. Maybe you are a great listener, or a therapist, or a scientist, who knows? But everybody has something that allows them to contribute to the brightness and beauty of this world in a way that is unique. Your heart’s gift for the world can be developed and can change over time, sure, but knowing what your heart’s gift to the world is can be a gift to yourself. 

Knowing your heart’s gift for the world helps you to prioritize and organize our energies and attention in ways that are fulfilling and purposeful and satisfying. Could you imagine if Monet was too busy mowing the lawn to bother with mastering his art? And sure, everybody’s gotta mow the lawn once in a while but once you understand what your gift is you find will ways to make your contribution to the world regular and meaningful, you will sign up for that art class, you will start carrying your camera with you wherever you go, you will finally submit your poetry to that literary magazine.

Maybe we are not sure exactly what our heart’s gift to the world is. Practices like meditation and yoga help bring clarity and insight to our minds and hearts about our gifts. And maybe our work is to discover or refine what that gift is. Once you are aware of your heart’s gift to the world, begin to dedicate yourself to the improvement and expression of it. It’s not just about being good at something, it’s your purpose for being here, and everything you do is contribution to or a distraction from that thing. With practice, we can allow the different energies and excitements of our day to further contribute to that gift and the sharing of that gift. You will exit a movie and have 19 new ideas for an art project. You will go on a walk and somehow along the way you will mentally stumble upon the solution to a problem you’ve been having in your science lab. You’ll see a beautiful sunset and the ensuing emotions will inspire you to go home and practice being a loving partner or parent. 

This week, I invite you to take a few minutes every day to sit, close your eyes, and meditate on the question, what is your heat’s gift to the world? Come to yoga with this intention to cultivate, understand, or discover your heart’s gift to the world. Then in the practice of every-day living, allow the experiences of your life to further inspire you to share that gift.