December 31, 2012
As the year comes to a close I feel a new closeness and appreciation for family and friends. My heart and mind are clear and balanced. I have identified the giraffe as my inspiration - tall, alert, aware, and large-hearted. There are no extreme highs or lows as I savor each day.
Next year's theme will be The Year of Connection as I further develop relationships, community, creativity and the practice of deepening my personal practices of connecting mind, body and spirit through clear intention.
December 30, 2012
December 28, 2012
December 27, 2012
Tonight I said my first "Cheers" after hearing the flight attendent say "lovely" six times in the three minutes she helped me. I love hearing lovely but am cautious about falling back into British colloquialisms.
I am going to frame this visit as an opportunity to create new memories and experiences. So happy I'm going with my friend Leah, meeting my other friend Laia and also spending quality time with my dearest friend Simone. Girl power!
December 26, 2012
December 24, 2012
Tree Pose, near the end of the class, she had us look at someone in the room to whom we were attracted for any reason. I looked at the woman across from me and found that it was very uncomfortable to make eye contact, so intensely with a complete stranger, especially while balancing on one foot. As we were in the pose I noticed that she and I were becoming more in synch as I lifted my arms, so did she. As I lowered them into prayer position, she did as well.
The Vinyasa unexpectedly penetrated my dreams. I thought about someone who use had been in my life and who had hurt me deeply, but in my dream I actually felt love and compassion for them. I awakened in the morning with a warm heart filled with forgiveness through the connection I regained with this person in my dreams. What had been categorized as evil actions in my memory, were now behaviors that I saw as weaknesses that I did not have to accept, just notice.
I know that I will never let anyone define me by their actions and behaviors. We are independent, even if we are interdependent.
December 23, 2012
December 22, 2012
December 20, 2012
December 12, 2012
December 11, 2012
Hopefully, they will live through the Amy-not-very-consistent care of plants experience.
2009 The Year of Amy
2010 The Year of Living My Dreams
2011 The Year of Balance
2012 The Year of Being Present
For 2013 I'm contemplating the following options:
The Year of Connection
The Year of Love
The Year of Community
The Year of Truth
The Year of Strength
Giving the options some thought.
December 7, 2012
December 4, 2012
November 28, 2012
November 27, 2012
November 24, 2012
November 23, 2012
The class was 90 minutes and it was based on all my learnings from Mary Lou Weprin at the Yoga Room in Berkeley. I was amazed at how I could make the class flow. The focus was on Tadasana, foundations and equal and opposite extension. The participants said I did a good job, that I have a calming voice and gave clear directions.
This trip to Mexico City is turning into a culinary and yoga adventure. I would love to come here for a three month sabbatical.
Here I am in a restorative pose after teaching. I felt quite calm and relaxed.
For dessert we headed across the street to one of Tesy's restaurants and shared a crepe with carmel sauce, pecans, vanilla ice cream (made from goat's milk), and pecans. I see a new tradition developing.
November 22, 2012
November 17, 2012
November 13, 2012
For now, I am practicing the release of anticipation and enjoying the final weeks of the Year of Being Present.
"If 2008 was about exalting the One, 2012 was about the disenchanted Democratic base deciding: 'We are the Ones we've been waiting for.'
Last time, Obama lifted up the base with his message of hope and change; this time the base lifted up Obama, with the hope he will change. He has not led the Obama army to leverage power, so now the army is leading Obama.
November 9, 2012
By the conclusion it was like reading about neighbors that I have yet to meet. Now, when I drive along Telegraph, I find myself looking for the people and landmarks so creatively depicted in the story. With so many references to Oakland-specific landmarks and colloquialisms I kept wondering how anyone who does not live on Telegraph could ever understand this book. Perhaps it is a secret read for Oak-Landers?
November 6, 2012
November 5, 2012
I use to "ping" off of eye contact when I first started teaching. If a student looked skeptical or confused - with a furrowed brow - I would stop mid-stream and try to clarify what I was saying. As an extrovert, I was extremely aware of my audience and adapted my actions based on immediate feedback.
Now that I'm somewhat more experienced as a teacher, I recognize that each person has their own unique facial expression when they are looking up at a speaker. Instead of drawing immediate conclusions - that I need to change my presentation in real-time - I now know that the person sitting there is coming to the "moment" with their own experiences and set of lenses.
There were a couple of occasions this week when the nuances of eye contact became very clear to me. The first was when I was watching Dancing with the Stars. Professional dancer Karina Smirnoff fell during in a Hip Hop dance with Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno. Following the performance she was completely distraught that she had "ruined the dance" and could not make eye contact with either Apolo or the judges. I realized that she was ashamed and could not look anyone in the eyes. You rarely see someone vulnerable and real on television.
On Saturday night I went to see one of my favorite performers Don Reed at The Marsh in Berkeley. Her performs a one person show called The Kipling Hotel. I've seen Don perform three times and the second time I went, a few months ago, I talked to him after the show to say that I loved his work. He said, "you look familiar, I know you." This Saturday, feeling like I was seeing a friend on stage I sat in the front row. During Don's performance we made eye contact a few times. I was so engaged in his performance and felt like I was giving him feedback by being an active and attentive audience member. This was especially important because the audience member to my left kept yawning loudly and checking his phone for the time. I found this so disrespectful and if you ask my students, they will tell you that distracted students are my biggest irritation. Don, however, is a true professional and even if he noticed the distracted man, he did not let it show in his performance.
After the show Don, as always, came down into the audience. Again, he came up to me and said, "do I know you?" I told him my name and that I had attended before. He gave me a hug, as he does to many audience members and thanked me for coming. The interaction made me feel welcome and included in the intimate world he creates in the small theater environment. I felt recognized and respected.
That famous saying, "the eyes are the window to the soul" seems so true to me. I have met plenty of people who are absent in their expression. They can not look at you, or do not see you, or hide away from you. Have these people learned to put away their emotions? Perhaps they have been vulnerable and did not find it to be a good experience, or were reprimanded. I admire bravery - even if you have to look away because you are vulnerable, at least emotions are real, normal and natural. Hiding them is a loss.
October 31, 2012
On Monday I stopped by my dentist's office because I felt like there was something stuck between my teeth, irritating my gums and I couldn't get it out. I hadn't called to set an appointment, but simply walked in since I was in the neighborhood. They had me wait for five minutes and then snuck me into see the dentist between his appointments. He cheerfully poked around my gums and said, "nothing there, I think you've over flossed, give it a rest." As I walked back to the receptionist I expected her to charge me for the immediate care. No charge at all, just wished me a good day.
From there I went to the shoe cobbler to see how much it would cost me to fix the zipper pull-latch on my boots. "That is $25" he said. To replace the zipper, I asked? No, just the small piece. Seriously, $25 to fix the small piece? Then he looked through his inventory but didn't have a match. I offered $20 for a non-matching zipper replacement and he said, "No, it is $25. You can pay the remainder when you pick it up in eight days." Really? $25 and eight days to fix a zipper? I felt like all the dentist's good will was lost on the shoe cobbler.
The next day I went to get my hair colored and cut from my dear friend Dave. He also bought me two giant bottles of my favorite shampoo and conditioner. When it came time to pay for his services, he gave me a tremendous discount, one that I thought was too generous. So, I gave him more than he had requested and I felt that Pro Bono vibe pumping again.
Immediately after getting my hair styled I went to meet with an artist who attended a Pro Bono workshop I presented the previous Friday for the Foundation Center Library. He needed help with social media strategies and so I agreed to meet him and provide some pointers. I was not sure if I should charge for the meeting. But then I reflected back on the week and recognized how wonderful it was to receive so many good faith Pro Bono services from my community. Turns out that I gained just as much from the consulting session as he did. All the lessons I teach in class came together as he and I discussed the project for which he was fundraising via social media. He too was offering Pro Bono services to benefit the community.
Yes, I realize that Pro Bono services do not pay the bills, but they do fill your heart with good will.
October 21, 2012
October 18, 2012
"Upon realizing it was time for a new binder, I factored in my deservedly less than equal salary & headed for the economy section. I found this binder to be an adequate fit for myself & my 2 grown daughters but am afraid it will be a bit snug when I add my 2 granddaughters. In order to afford the Family Expansion Pack binder I will have to get a second job which will not allow me time to cook & clean. On second thought, maybe I'll just squash the young'uns into the ample pockets...that will allow me to continue saving my money for a dancing horse."
I was hooked and brought the topic to my class. We watched the segment from the second Presidential debate, when Romney made his "binders filled with women" comment. Pure gold. Then the students showed me this website: http://bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com/
Amazing, the power of the Internet as a conduit for public opinion. I am enthralled, literally, with people using Amazon comments as a new form of social media. Bravo!
October 11, 2012
October 7, 2012
October 6, 2012
The quarter has just started this week and I feel extremely optimistic about my classes and students this Fall. It is the first time that I feel relaxed in the classroom. Perhaps I can now focus more on connecting and listening rather than staying half a step ahead of crashing into the blackboard.
October 1, 2012
Gritty up-and-comer Uptown made this list thanks to its fast-paced growth. New restaurants, bars and coffee shops have been opening weekly, and arguably the some of the best farmers markets in the country take place here. The district was deemed the city's entertainment center in the early 2000s and since then art galleries, an improv theater, and several medical marijuana clubs have sprung up to cater to the growing community.
As a first-time home-owner my first thought is, "I hope this brings up the value of my real estate."
September 26, 2012
September 22, 2012
September 14, 2012
September 10, 2012
September 9, 2012
For practice we each demonstrated a pose and then were instructed in how to see where the energy was blocked. I always wondered how yoga instructors knew how to make adjustments that seemed simple but made such a big impact. Our instructor, Mary Lou Weprin, helped us train our eyes on how the foundations of poses and the simplest adjustments could unblock the energy flow and energize the asana, from within.
All week I've been considering the concept of blocked and unblocking energy flow both physically and psychologically. It actually began earlier in the week when I was preparing for a hike with my friend Una who is a physical therapist. I told her how I had pulled a muscle in my neck when I fell hiking a few days earlier. She laid me down on her couch, comforted my head in pillows and then began to explore my neck. Very gently and delicately she found the strained areas and simply put light pressure on each one for 90 seconds. My muscles and ligaments, feeling safe, were able to release and relax. Energy began to flow.
Throughout the week I practiced releasing the tension in my neck by gently placing pressure, using my fingers, on the painful areas in my neck. Una said that my neck was extremely tight. I'm sure this plays into the migraines I frequently experience. Noticing how a gentle, comforting touch allowed my body to relax, I felt kinder towards myself.
This made me wonder if the same concept of gentle touch of comfort could be applied to upsetting thoughts that swirl around my head. As an experiment I breathed into each thought that came up and allowed it to disintegrate. It felt like a similar energy block release. All of these internal physical and psychological adjustments are simple and gentle, yet I can feel the spaciousness in releasing the blockages.
September 8, 2012
September 6, 2012
September 3, 2012
August 26, 2012
August 25, 2012
As I reflected on my feelings of loneliness I realized that I don't have a community. In fact, I've given up quite a few communities this past year. First, I moved away from my lovely neighbors when I bought my own place. Second, my favorite yoga class with Nancy Leigh-Smith on Saturdays has ended and I no longer practice with my long-time yoga family. Third, I have taken one foot out of the non-profit arts world now that I am teaching full time in Fashion. And fourth, I am no longer the Co-Chair of C2Arts the Community of Practice that I co-founded four years ago.
Simplification has been my goal and I've achieved it. Instead of seeing this as a problem, I'm framing it as an opportunity. Now I can make a deliberate choice of how to define my own community.
Creating art - photography? Writing?
What I what I would like is a "third place" other than home and work. Not a club, coffee shop or bar yet someplace like Cheers, where everybody knows my name. Someplace where I am not in front of a computer, iPad or iPhone but actually interacting with people.
August 20, 2012
August 18, 2012
August 14, 2012
Throughout the day, as I let myself relax, often I am mingling memories of the past with fantasies of the future. One depends on the other and become blended as my mind contemplates, day dreams, plots, and analyzes. Is this being present? The only solution I could find to anchoring myself in the here-and-now was to focus on my breath, noticing it move through my body. Usually this lasts a few moments and I again float into the merger of past and future.
My memory-fantasy world is a well developed place. I have all kinds of alternate realities in this "Amy World". But I also noticed that many of the roads lead to frustration an disappointment. My creative mind spins all kinds of scenarios and often I grab on to one and take it for a ride. These adventures are reckless and exciting but often end in crashes with reality.
Being present is hard work.
August 12, 2012
Here's the Cirque du Soleil video we are using in Human Resources to discuss management of creative talent: Cirque du Soleil The Fire Within. The students love that we use it for case studies throughout the course.
August 11, 2012
August 10, 2012
August 9, 2012
August 4, 2012
July 31, 2012
July 29, 2012
I googled "Single Urban Woman with No Kids" and the Urban Dictionary took me to a page with an ironic listing called the San Francisco Syndrome. This was an amusing take on why it is so challenging to date fantastic single men in the Bay Area. Thankfully there are fantastic gay men. I can't help but wonder if this was written by an angry single straight man:
With such demographics ostensibly in their favor, a surprisingly small number of single straight men in such centers take pleasure in the availability of so many single women.
Rather, the single straight males afflicted with the San Francisco Syndrome become intimidated, resentful and reclusive, refusing to socialize in such demographics, preferring to remain at home playing with their remote controls.
This leads to the single women becoming more and more independent, more friendly with gay men, and generally (if not totally content) far more prepared to remain single.
Which in turn leads to a further schizm with the absent single males, often leading to their feelings of general insecurity, misogyny and homophobia.
The result is the three most prominent social groups found in such cities: gay men, their single women friends and the absentee, almost invisible single straight males."
July 23, 2012
July 22, 2012
Earlier in the day, I had been reflecting on how my language and behavior, sometimes, can convey victimhood or less-than-ness. This is not my intention but can be my Modus operandi. What I really want to convey is, "hey, I'm a cool chick with lots to offer the world" but instead I can come across as, "hey, I'm a cool chick, I have a lot to offer the world, please enable me." Oy.
I think that this angst-approach to life seems safe. You can't hurt me if I'm already down. But, really, it causes the other person or people anxiety. How should I interact with this person? Why do I feel so strangely powerful around them? Why am I having these thoughts? At least that is what I imagine the other person wondering, if they wonder at all. Anxiety making to say the least.
In his May 26, 2012 New York Times Opinionator piece, Do Jews Own Anxiety, Daniel Smith writes that the conflicting message of Jew as anxious victim and Jew as intellectual hero is a way of claiming mental power.
"Because if anxiety is rooted in excessive intellectual activity, then it is also rooted, by association, in excessive intelligence. When a Jew says he’s a member of the most neurotic tribe in existence, it’s a backhanded way of saying he’s a member of the smartest tribe in existence, the tribe of Spinoza and Marx and Freud and Einstein — and Roth and Allen. It’s a way of claiming mental power (Smith)."
But he concludes, and I agree, "There’s a whole history of claiming that anxiety, for all the pain it causes, is a sign that the person who struggles with it exists in a higher state of being than those who don’t — that they are more alive to life’s contradictions, more receptive to the true nature of things, that they have sharper vision, more sensitive skin. That they are more conscious than other people (Smith)."
I believe that anxiety is painful and damaging, to oneself and others. It is an agitated state of mind that then causes physical agitation. Watching Allen's latest film, you see it play out on screen. Each character hurts another by over-analyzing and then manipulating through underhanded power. The role Alec Bladwin plays is that of the Greek Chorus where he is both in and not in the scene, speaking as the reality-based conscience translating mixed message and predicting disaster. "Another lie!" he says as one character seduces another through her intelligence and anxiety.
Smith concludes his article with, "And I am here to tell you: this is a really dangerous position to accept (Smith)." Why dangerous? Because it perpetuates stereotypes, causes personal and communal anxiety, and is a backhanded way of getting what you want.
How about living simply and in the moment? What if you could be present and experience what is around you and not try to warp reality through a lens of anxiety? This would lead to clearer communications and offering loving-kindness for yourself and others.