June 30, 2011

Wilting in the South

As I've been walking around DC, I've noticed that people are a bit curved, like they are wilting. As the heat increases, I feel myself getting curvy too. I think it is hard to be vertical, and keep your infrastructure in place, when you are melting from the heat. In fact, I just really want to nap.

Colombian Salsa!

Learning the Colombian Salsa moves at the Folk Life Festival on the DC Mall. Continuing the HOT theme for this summer holiday.

June 29, 2011

Kalachakra with the Dalai Lama

My sister Marlene and I just got tickets to see the Dalai Lama speak on his 76 birthday, July 6, here in DC. What a fantastic summer adventure!

June 28, 2011

June 27, 2011

Hot New Shoes

Thank you, Lord + Taylor, for having an amazing sale on these hot, sexy, comfortable shoes. Yes, thank you, 42 and finding my fashion groove.

June 26, 2011

Girls' Day Out

My friend Karen, her four-year-old daughter and I had a day out on Greenwich Avenue window shopping. We had a blast looking for the most outrageous shoes and found the mother-load at LF Stores. This limited edition Jeffrey Campbell show, called Evita, almost captures the essence of the best shoe we selected - however, our favorite was painted like an American flag. I'm going to bring my mom to the store so we can consider adopting a pair.

Reconnecting

From DC I quickly headed up to CT for a family gathering we had on Saturday. I'm always quite shy at these get-togethers and never so sure how to explain myself - since sometimes I feel like the mysterious Californian who lives an "alternative lifestyle." In CA my lifestyle would probably be considered anything but alternative but out here, a woman at 42, divorced, living on her own and constantly re-inventing her career, is quite a mystery. So, in preparation, I practiced my lines "Focus on my work as a teacher." Seems silly but it gave me the talking points I needed to feel not-so-shy.

Even better, at the family gathering was my "oldest" friend Lori who I've known since I was a wee tot. Seeing her, catching up and hanging out with her siblings and kids, is like drinking from the fountain of youth. I instantly felt like I was at home with my some of my closest friends and family, which I was.

The day was so wonderful, hanging out, chatting casually, and then catching up with the Kweskin inner circle of peeps for the entire afternoon and evening. I slept so well knowing that I had reconnected with so many wonderful people and also was resting comfortably in a house filled with close family. It healed any rifts in my heart which are inevitable when you live so far away in mysterious CA. 

I'm up here for a few more days and then back down to DC to hang with my sibs. 

June 23, 2011

Done with the Red Eye

Arrived in DC on the super red eye that left Oakland two hours late, at midnight, and arrived at 8am. Sounds like eight hours of sleep but that's just a marketing trick to the mind.

Here for a day and then up to Connecticut for a brief visit before returning to DC for another week of family time.

June 20, 2011

Giant Paella

I am at a paella party in the Berkeley hills and the theme is paella. What a way to kick off the summer break!

June 16, 2011

Funky Fern

These emerging fern leaves look like critters crawling up a branch.

June 13, 2011

The Journey of Self-Compassion

The greatest lesson I am practicing, the one that is most challenging, is to release and make space. This sounds quite abstract and "very Californian" but I believe the freedom will be worth the journey. To give an example, quite often I feel as though my brain is a constricted muscle, holding so desperately on to an idea, an ideal. My thinking moves into an obsessive sequence of what's and if's. Lately I've been asking myself, what if I release these thinking, thinking, thinking schemes and made space for what is? For some reason I often engage in this internal dialogue on my mile-long walk to BART and frequently recognize new and undiscovered nuances of the neighborhood when I become aware of what is around me instead of the stories inside of me.

I believe that these internal stories create anxiety. As I learn to relax my brain, I start to notice how noisy other people's brains are in their externalized internal dialogue. This is evident in their actions and reactions. Sometimes other people's noise is too loud and I have to walk away. In my Year of Balance I have become exceptionally private. With this quiet I am also making space for more thoughtful and engaging interactions with my friends and family. This is the "being present" space that is now available with releasing the brain muscle.

As I have been practicing yoga with Vickie Russell Bell, she has been challenging me to to move into a pose by releasing instead of pushing. For most of my life I've believed that to move towards an intention you have to work hard. Actually, the hard work is letting go of the push. What could I let go of, right now, to ease into the direction I want to go? What am I clenching to "do my work" - is it my jaw, my stomach or perhaps a thought spiral? What if I didn't hold on so hard to that muscle or idea? That's when I release my clenched brain or muscle, even just 10%, and experience spaciousness. Suddenly there is the possibility of reaching my intention because room has been made to move.

Yoga is about moving in two opposite directions at the same time, a concept I am just now beginning to recognize. In the Downward Dog pose you direct your finger knuckles, wrists, and lower arms forward while moving the upper arms and shoulder blades backwards. This dual-direction action happens throughout your body to create elongation and the possibility of space. As one part of your body releases, so does another. For instance, Vickie asked us to notice how when we clench our jaws we also clench our hips. We create our own ecosystems of interconnected weather patterns with one area of our bodies pulling from another to tie us up into stormy knots. Ever notice how little kids are so flexible? I believe it is because they haven't begun that dialogue of the brain creating stories and the body tightening up in an effort to conform to constrictive thinking. As we mature, we constrict.

The most challenging un-constriction is to allow your heart to be open when we are told to toughen up, deal with it and be an adult. In relationships - family, friends, colleagues, we do just that as we navigate through the waters of emotional tides. That's exactly where our brains and bodies become constricted, often out of necessity. How vulnerable to be pulled into swirling eddies and getting stuck, with an exit only possible when you desperately paddle back into the flowing river, away from the obstruction. Frankly, I believe many people just stay in the eddy, completely resigned to the situation. Perhaps that is easier as it is familiar, but at the same time life passes them by as they are swept into the same emotional circle, over and over.

How do you release yourself from an eddy? For me, I notice that I get to a breaking point of total frustration and then an "aha!" moment happens and I see an exit. This usually takes several months or even years to recognize. Being able to have that recognition moment requires spaciousness - allowing yourself to release muscles and thinking patterns. The only way I have been able to do this is to explore what small mini-change I can make as the first step, allow for the space to open-up, and to celebrate the recognition of movement like a ripple in the water that expands ever-outward.

So it is with keeping an open heart when dealing with difficult situations. My inclination is to get mad and shut down, which always results in more damage to myself and others. But what if, just if, I open up and make space to recognize what is occurring in the situation? What if I can be with the tide, not judging, not thinking, just receiving and letting it flow through me instead of getting stuck in my brain's  sticky cobweb of thoughts or hold on to it with Velcroed muscles?

My practice is to keep my heart, mind and body open, to be vulnerable to be invulnerable. For me this is the journey of self-compassion.

June 9, 2011

Interactive Google Logo

Check out today's Google logo commemorating Les Paul's 92 birthday. You can actually play notes by scrolling over the image - however, not the image posted here.

You can listen to my musical creation here http://goo.gl/doodle/EhsZF

June 7, 2011

Uncaring Neighbors

On my morning walk I passed a business which had been broken into over night - evident by the broken window. When I called 911 they said I had to call the Oakland Police non-emergency number. When I asked for it they said, "you have to call information." That's what I call not helpful.

I walked down a few doors to a shop which was open and said to the owner, "a store a few doors down was broken into and I need the police phone number." He said that he had seen the broken window but it was clear he had not called the police. Another example of not helpful. He searched through a pile of business cards and found the police phone number. He gave me the card and then went into his backroom, leaving me alone in his store, so I walked out and called the police.

When I got the police on the line they put me into their voicemail system that had not a single option that applied to this situation. When I pressed zero I told the operator the situation. She took down the info. Hopefully they will send over an officer.

As I was standing in front of the broken window a woman walked by, snarled and said "that sucks". Yes, it does, but if we don't build a caring neighborhood it will happen again.

June 6, 2011

Accurate Horoscope

There must be magic to writing horoscopes - do they always hit it?

Expect big drama all around you today — but you can avoid getting drafted as a player. It’s hard for you to see the big picture, but that’s true of almost everyone, so just lie low and wait for it to pass.

That explains my day in a nutshell. 

June 4, 2011

Casa Flores Kitchen

Here's the kitchen of the B&B where we had our yoga retreat yesterday. I love that Frida was "in the casa flores house." The retreat was a wonderful opportunity to stretch my body and my mind. Six hours of yoga with an hour-and-a-half of restorative was the recipe I needed for ultra relaxation.

Following the retreat I headed out to Petaluma to spend the night with my cousins. We had a fantastic evening partying it up and in the morning my little cousin and I painted, played cards and ventured into a game of twister. Plus, crepes for breakfast. Who could ask for more?

June 3, 2011

Sebastopol

I'm out in the boonies of Sonoma County for a yoga retreat. My new goal, long term, is to save up for a cabin out here. So hard to believe I am 90 minutes from Oakland.

June 2, 2011

Hearts Live On

On BART I sat next to a woman with this Hearts in SF bag! How funny that I'm sharing the project with my students today.

June 1, 2011

Prepare for Life - Buy a Stapler

At my school, and almost every other place I have worked, finding and keeping a stapler is like panning for gold. Why is that? When I went off to college my mom gave me a survival gift basket of must-have supplies. In it she included a stapler. Little did I know that she was giving me insights into life in the real world.

I kept that industrial strength stapler until 2008 - over 15 years - and then foolishly left it in London. What was I thinking? It felt like just too much to pack up that stapler which I had carefully shlepped out to the UK. Perhaps I was inspired to leave it behind as a parting gift as finding office supplies in the UK was just as difficult as staplers in the US. Hopefully it has found a good home.