December 31, 2020

2021 The Year of Mindful Reset

waterside menagerie
Waterside Menagerie at American River Parkway
At the conclusion of each year I set an intention for the next. My 2021 intention is an alliteration: 

Calm, Kind, Courage, Confident

I embody these words as touch points in a physical, emotional, and spiritual practice. 

Calm - opening the respiratory diaphragm by releasing any tension in my lungs and belly, for a full breath and deep respiration.

Kindness - noticing the wrapping of my ribs and muscles around my torso for a constant self-hug supporting me from inside and out.

Courage - finding the connection between my left shoulder and right hip, right shoulder and left hip, crossing through my sternum for an open heart center and energy shield. 

Confidence - linking my full spine, starting by sensing the drop of my tail bone - coccyx to the sacrum, as I lengthen my spine from its bottom point up through the lumbar, thoracic and cervical sections of the spine, to the occiput at the base of my skull for interconnection from ground to sky.

This is a mindful reset I will use when meditating, moving in my practice and throughout the day. 

August 12, 2020

Reconnecting with Yoga Family

Now that we are 6 months, yes 6 months into sheltering-in-place, I'm feeling the need to reconnect. So, I've been reaching out to friends past and more present. This whole experience, since March, has been like a retreat for me. I've pulled away from the noise of the outside world and have become focused on the internal world - that within my being. 

Sometimes the internal world and the Zoom universes converge and I find myself asking, "is this TV or actually my friend?" So was the case this evening when I reconnected with my yoga family Joe and Christine. Joe calls me his yoga wife and Christine is for sure my yoga sister and teacher. Here we were - seeing each other on Zoom - when we have known each other's bodies so intimately through our yoga teacher training and ten years of practice togeher. Our love for each other transcends time and space - it is based on a practice of body and breath.

We talked about our other family members as well as the business of this somatic practice. Our dear mentor is in a difficult place and that was a topic of exploration. What do we do when one of us is disconnected and lost? Is there support for yoga practitioners who can no longer teach and have no safety net - because of age, health or even economics. This brings into the discussion our position as contractors or are we employees? Yes, this is the conversation that pollutes our practice. Ironically, this business of art is what I teach all day. But here it is merely a distraction from our shared practice, passion and connection.

Thankfully, we have made plans to see each other in person - albeit socially distanced. These are my people. These are my family of choice. 

August 10, 2020

Strengthening The Working Body

Since the start of sheltering-in-place I have developed a daily practice of pilates, yoga and gyrokinesis supported by Oakland's The Working Body gym via Zoom. Through this practice I have experienced a deep level of self-calming, caring and centering. At first the practice was filled with crying through losses old and new. Eventually that gave way to finding laughter and building strength. Now I am the strongest I have ever been - physically and emotionally.

Last week I reduced my gym membership level as I began to expend my outdoor practices of biking, walking, hiking, and some swimming. This culminated with me telling a friend today that I am ready to stop attending a regular-virtual-gym and practice on my own combined with spot-sessions with a trainer. 

Ironically, I just now received an email saying that The Working Body is closing because their business model is no longer sustainable. Tears flow again for loss and also for transition. These are difficult times for somatic businesses, of which I include performing arts. So many of my teachers are dancers and theatrical artists, as are many of my colleagues, clients and students. 

This is a time for rethinking the practice of movement; redefining practice and performance spaces. I will continue to support my key instructors as I also redefine my yoga teaching. Can we practice outside together - socially distanced yet still connected? That is my intention for discovery. 

The Working Body - Viyada the Administrator who is their lifeline - you will be missed - you are appreciated and loved.

May 27, 2020

Choreography of Interdependence

Working virtually I am able to accomplish so much more but it is in the setting of Zoom. When I go out on morning bicycle rides there's an opportunity to see living systems. But I have to take the time to notice, be present, use my senses.

Riding through Jack London Square in Oakland, near the Amtrak Station, I heard men yelling to each other above the street. As I searched for the source I noticed a construction site that was alive with workers moving through the scaffolding.

Stopping to take notice it was clear that they were disassembling the intricate exoskeleton of a newly born building - shedding its cocoon. The men were like tiny organisms coordinating their interdependent system through voice and movement. A practice of trusting communication. 

May 25, 2020

Attunement: The Risk Worth Taking

How can we grow emotionally, socially and spiritually without taking a risk? Sure, we're living in the Covid no-risk age but does that mean we have to be stagnant? Is risklessness a life of safety but no growth? Do we even need to grow? These questions are always on my mind and even more so these days. 

While working with a strategic planning client via Zoom, we were articulating guiding principles for her dance company's artistic and business practices. As we dove deep into the purpose of artistic risk-taking the word attunement crossed our screens. What exactly does it mean? Why is it paired with risk? 

As soon as I read this definition out loud we each got shivers as it is accurate for both the artistic experience and this time of living in isolation. 

A blooming succulent - flowers once a year.

Attunement is the reactiveness we have to another person. It is the process by which we form relationships. When we attune with others we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another. This resonance is at the heart of the important sense of “feeling felt” that emerges in close relationships.

As we stare into our screens we see both a reflection of ourselves and an image of the other. I find myself seeing both of us, simultaneously, breathing in sync. My senses are heightened in this virtual touchless time as I intermingle with myself and the other. 

This past week I was able to transcend pain from my past, guided into an internal state of resonance by another. I was feeling felt, seen and heard. The result - a transformation as I released the load I was carrying - it was no longer serving me. The journey was a risk worth taking as I merged into a more peaceful inner world, guided by a friend.

Reflecting on attunement I am reminded that as a Level 1-2 Reiki Practitioner, I have been through the attunement ceremony. The healing modality of hands and heart.

May 24, 2020

Cathartic Release and Cleansing

My dad says I look content in this photo.
Over the past 8 days (my favorite number) was a journey inward to a tremendous emotional release. Being in my head through all of this SIP, and frankly for the past 3 years, I finally got back into my heart through the prompting of a wise soul - an agent of change.

Let me be honest, it has been a painful reconnection for my heart. For so long it was sheltering in its place protected and guarded by my brain, afraid to feel pain. But that was even more damaging because I was disconnected. This caused self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and energy blockage.

Now that my heart is again alive I am feeling the pain so long suppressed and I keep singing a song, "I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive, my heart is alive."Accompanying the song are deep sobs cleansing out the little pockets of remaining pain deep in my heart. This cleansing is so necessary, healthy and healing.

Now that my heart is open and alive, I feel lonely. There is more vulnerability and free flow of energy through me and I want to be hugged and feel the warmth of other people near me. I know I am not alone in this feeling.

Ironically, this week two other Amy's reconnected with me - we had lost each other for years. Amy = Amo (Latin, I love). Plus, I am once again taking photos - an element of my creative self that was dormant for so long.

Through all this, what's clear to me now is that I am beautiful, perfect, healthy, calm, relaxed, grounded, balanced, with a strong heart and a strong mind. I AM LOVE - and every day I am amazed by what I bring into this world.

I found this definition of catharsis from Very Well Mind and it perfectly captures my experience.
The Meaning of Catharsis
The term itself comes from the Greek katharsis meaning "purification" or "cleansing." The term is used in therapy as well as in literature. The hero of a novel might experience an emotional catharsis that leads to some sort of restoration or renewal. The purpose of catharsis is to bring about some form of positive change in the individual's life.
Catharsis involves both a powerful emotional component in which strong feelings are felt and expressed, as well as a cognitive component in which the individual gains new insights.

April 19, 2020

Learning, Growing, Innovating

Since moving into sheltering-in-place I have been struggling. Not with loneliness - I do not feel alone. It is that I am constantly slogging through mud to get all my work done. This week, a month into this life, the pressure has hit a boiling point and I began to feel like I was going to crack. But then early this morning I realized - I am constantly learning, growing and innovating - and that takes energy. When I say constantly, I mean every waking hour. Almost nothing is how it was before and still I am pushing to be at the same production levels.

Taking "inventory" of my life, I realize now that the only thing that is the same for me are my belongings. But not much else. I recently moved out of a long-term relationship, I am in a doctoral studies program taking courses on topics that are not familiar to me. I have numerous clients that need my guidance in their innovations. Courses I teach are about business innovation and self-reflection. The exercise I practice is different from before. Even my home is new to me. Plus, I'm cooking new foods. How about my cat - we too have a new relationship as I let her sleep on the bed with me - whereas before she was not allowed in the bedroom because of allergies. So, finding new ways to breath as well.

With all that said, I have always craved learning, growing and innovating. What's different now? The external environment has changed. As I continue to be mindful and bodyful in this new life situation my intention is to recognize these challenges. Instead of complaining, how about acknowledging that this is a different life and nobody has a roadmap.

March 24, 2020

Baking Bread - Sheltering at Home

My first loaf of bread - made in Oakland.
This is the first loaf of bread I've ever made from scratch. It took me 24 hours to let the dough rise. Normally I wouldn't have the time to venture into baking bread, which I find intimidating. But with time at home I was able to take the baking leap. It is a rustic wholewheat loaf that tasted great with butter and then I used the remainder to make french toast and bread pudding. 
Ida's loaf made in Maryland.

I shared the photo with my family in Maryland and my 8 year-old niece was inspired to use the same recipe (Mark Bittman No Knead Bread) to make her white flour loaf featured in the second photo.

March 20, 2020

Sheltering at Home - Days 3 & 4 - Oakland, CA

What can I say, Day 3 was difficult. I lost momentum. In reflection I think it was that I didn't have any meetings set and I got lost in jumping between emails and to-do lists. Mid-day I gave up, took a bath, a nap and a walk. Then I asked a client for an extension. That was humbling. I pride myself on getting my work done - and at a high level of quality.

Here's Dhalia cat practicing safe social distancing.
The day turned around with the facilitation of my Golden Gate University class. These students inspire me and their engagement rekindled my motivation.

Day 4, today, was a roller coaster. I went from calm to anxiousness, to letting-go, then ennui, followed by motivation, and then energy! Yes, all of that in 10 hours.

What I notice is that people who are anxious on zoom really stand out in calls. Their frenetic, kinetic, energy dominates. I'm learning to sit back and listen, but not absorb. Also learning to get use to my wrinkles. They are very noticeable in the zoom image. Gives me some feedback as my face gets more tired and stressed in calls and as the day moves along.

Went for a walk after "work" and am noticing that aches and pains I've had for years are disappearing. Is it the lack of commute? Internal focus? Bike riding? Even though my work is nearly overwhelming each day, I feel a sense of calm, purpose and clarity that indicates I'm on the right track with my life.

Tomorrow I teach my first online yoga class via zoom. Thank you zoom, you are the hero in this story.

March 18, 2020

Sheltering at Home Day 2 - Oakland, CA

Home Office Executive Suite
Awoke in the wee hours and thought, "I need to put love into the world." A couple of ideas came to mind - putting out care packages along Lake Merritt, creating a giving tree, maybe a wishing tree with messages written on paper, or painting little rocks with messages and mandalas to leave along the lake. 

I gathered up my crafting supplies and I have plenty of options. It was rainy this morning so I didn't create my craft project yet. But there is plenty of time to make it happen. 

Late in the afternoon I transformed my dining room table into my desk. This is my home office setup as I monitor 5 email addresses and manage multiple clients and schools. I barely had time to get work done with all the online meetings. Plenty of time to see and be seen, hear and be heard.

March 17, 2020

Sheltering at Home - Day 1- Notes from Oakland, CA

Practicing Warrior II in my Oakland apartment.
Quiet. That was the first thing I noticed when I awoke this morning. I could hear individual sounds instead of the cacophony of general background humm. Shelter at Home means fewer cars, busses, trains, and planes. Next I heard my cat companion Dhalia purring and felt the warmth of her fur as I reached out to give her a loving touch. This sweet (and sometimes bitchy) creature was sitting on my side, above the covers, as I dozed in bed. The next sound was a garbage truck clunking its gears and then a bird singing its morning song.

In this time of the unknown when everything is so uncertain, I am trying to savor the quiet soundscape, the ease of pace and the time to take care of myself. Without the need to rush into the commute of San Francisco, I am able to take the extra time to...meditate, walk, practice yoga, bike ride, cook. This is in between endless zoom meetings and also getting my work done. 

My job is to hold space for my numerous students at several Bay Area colleges and universities as we meet online for our now virtual, synchronous classes. That means we "see" each other in real time. At first the many faces on the screen, reacting and responding, seemed surreal. But now it is our opportunity to see and be seen, to hear and be heard, to listen and share. Similarly, each student assignment that I grade I am taking more time to write thoughtful comments in the text and students are taking the time to resubmit their work, sharing clearer ideas with more details. Going deep. 

Today's mantra: slow down and notice my surroundings.


Update: Went for a bike ride this morning around Lake Merritt. Virtually no cars on the road. It was glorious. Then practiced yoga at home.