A time to dance.

This is what’s on my mind lately: now is a time to dance.

We’re watching our world accelerate into change and suddenly its effects are clearly perceptible. We’re in an experiment of shift.

In other times, we might occasionally notice the fact of change for its irregularity in an otherwise predictable pattern. The truth is, we all undergo and experience change from one moment to the next. These days, however, change is stark and comprehensive. We are, most of us, impacted by a big and total shift.

The recent demands that we return home, maintain distance, close shops, and otherwise severely alter our routines has sharpened our awareness of how change strips us. We can feel like we’ve been skinned. We become angry, agitated, frightened, worried; we become vulnerable.

Maybe we feel a little raw.

Current events, on an almost universal scale, are provoking dramatic changes. Traumatic, even, if we insist on resisting them. These are those changes that sever our tethers, loosen our moorings and dissolve our cords. We didn’t necessarily decide to see our former patterns released but here we are… floating a bit, and also stuck at home.

Our hearts initially perceive loss. Our hearts will long for their friends and communities and places and roles. Our hearts will suffer their disconnections at first. This is grief. It arises with loss – big and small – and our willingness to see it, honor it and move with it allows it to process.

Grief is appropriate, requisite and beautiful. We’re meant to honor our losses for what they’ve taught us. Grief provides that awesome weight to sit in the vacuum of what’s left behind.

It’s also an absolute gift.

And so is our willingness to move into it.

So, now is the time to dance with our grief. Now is the time to learn how to explore it with curiosity, courage and compassion. However it presents itself, now is our time to dance. Which means we have to listen in to our hearts to hear the songs they’re playing. Grief is as diverse as our world’s music. And the songs of our hearts will all play differently. Even within one heart, the playlist will be diverse, dependent on experience, mood, context and the presence of others.

So we’ll all be dancing a bit differently. Not every song inspires the same movements. And if you’ve ever watched a dance floor, you’ll know that one song moves five people in five ways. As we dance with our grief, we can remember this and smile kindly at those dancing around us.

As we reckon with loss, may we recognize in our dance the instincts behind our bargaining, the energy of our anger, the sweetness of our sadness and the wisdom of our growing acceptance. As we dance, may we discover our heart’s treasures. We are beings who love and connect. We are beings who change and seek something unchanging. We are, all of us, dying from every moment to proceed to the next. This is life. We are alive. We are life itself, at our best when we learn how to dance gracefully as every moment comes and goes.

The universality of loss, and the emotional charge that follows, confirms our lovely, connecting nature. May we realize the intricacies of our connections – those gone and those developing – and remember ourselves amidst the support. Our solace develops as we feel ourselves supported and supportive. We feel ourselves dancing with every connection for however long the song lasts. And then we say thank you as we part ways.

Now is a time for us to dance together. Now is the time for us to learn the delight of moving through grief, and saying thank you. Again and again. We say thank you to every connection as it buds, blooms and fades.

Can you do it?

Of course you can.

You know how to dance. Even if you pretend like you don’t.

I love you. Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to dance a little with me. Or we can chat about the goodness of grief. Or the things that keep us from feeling it and dancing as we go.

Think about how you rise.

A friend recently asked how he could stop feeling so negative about the imposition of a quarantine. Like a lot of us, his daily routines have been dismantled by the requirement that we stay home. Challenging this wonderful dude even more is the fact that he’d spent the last six months deep in the discipline of rising above a long-standing depression. His self-care routines have enabled him to shift his diet, strengthen his body, redirect his career ambitions, communicate effectively with his family and reach out for support when he needs a boost.

In short, he’s done amazing work on his own behalf. Understandably, he’s concerned about losing his momentum.

Now, his world is mostly in the home and quite a few of his new patterns are not. I told him, everything you’ve done has prepared you for this. You’ve learned how to rise.

The same can be said for all of us.

We all have the capacity to thrive through this. In fact, it is precisely in situations so far beyond our control that we can see most clearly how our response to it determines our bounce.

Please forgive me if this ruffles feathers but your resilience is based on every little thing you’ve ever done to rise above terror and into the wonder, the potential, the call of your entire life. In short, your bounce is based on a choice. Will you celebrate everything that life has to offer or will you stand in the posture of the victim? We don’t get to choose life’s gifts for us; we do get to choose how we receive them. What life gives you is reality.

This doesn’t mean we don’t all occasionally lament. And it doesn’t mean we settle. It means we strengthen ourselves to welcome life, moment by moment. We’ll have the stamina to participate in whatever change is yet to come. We’ll know how to respond.

Here’s an exercise for you. It requires your awareness, your honesty and a willingness to feel your body. Take a moment to dish out some serious lamentations. Say them out loud even. Here’s help: ‘I don’t like this at all. I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to stay home. This ruins my routines. Why are they doing this to me? What if I have to be on a ventilator? This is scary and lame at the same time. I miss my life.’

Now, pay attention. Notice how you feel. What kinds of sensations are present in your body? Picture the many ways you might act out these thoughts. How do you behave with these thoughts in your head?

Is it awesome? Do you dig this person? I’m not saying that the situation we’re all sharing is easy. I’m simply saying that we might be more competent in our healing if we choose to experience it differently. It’s new and fascinating, if you choose the wonder over the lament.

I had this experience earlier today. I sat with my dog on a piece of grass beside the sidewalk. Balboa Park, just beside me, was closed. A cop cruised by and ordered everyone out of the park toward the sidewalk where I sat. They moved. We all shared a small amount of space now. My thoughts told me that the cop was absurd for putting us all in awkward proximity. Then I realized how tense I felt. I decided to welcome the fact that, like me, all these fellow wanderers had an instinct to savor the grass beneath their feet. I fell in love with all of us. We knew our bodies wanted the nourishment of sunshine and air and trees. We all scattered in our quiet, physically distant ways.

I had to shift my thoughts. The experience changed for me. I found connection, comfort and peace in place of the tension.

Try this now. Say the words out loud that offer the opposite of your lamentations. Like this: ‘I don’t mind this at all. I can get sick and will probably heal as I have before. I can stay home and be productive. My routines can be altered and adapted. I don’t have to worry about a ventilator right now and I pray for those who are using one. This is scary and I’m okay. This is lame and I’m okay. My life is ongoing and changing at every moment.’

Check in again. How do these words affect your body differently? How might you behave with these thoughts in your atmosphere?

If you know me, you know I’m a proponent of practice. I’m pretty sure the whole of our life is meant to be a practice in learning how to experience every moment without pretending it’s supposed to be somehow different. Every day, for as many moments as I can muster, I practice loving the world and all its inhabitants exactly as the package comes. I don’t always succeed. But when I fail, it’s great. When I fail, I know I’ll learn how to practice better.

So consider using this time to practice watching your thoughts and the effect they have on you. Your thoughts are powerful and persuasive. Please use this incredible time to learn how they convince you of your posture in life. Then look at yourself in a friendly way to see if that posture is really how you want to stand.

You can rise to this wonder. You’ll be strong and helpful toward yourself and all those you love. We’ll all heal together. See how it feels to let these thoughts settle in your head. This is our practice. We all stand together.

I love you.

Connecting through the distance.

In the last 10 days, we’ve had some changes. All of us. What a fascinating experience. We’re told to keep our distance so I invite you to connect. We’re all in this together. Let’s support each other and realize how we can be friendly toward each other.

My heart goes out to all those who are suffering. To those who are unwell, affected either by the virus or any other illness, may you recover into greater strength and find peace in the process.

To the caregivers, the responders and the medical workers, thank you for your attention and compassionate service. May you feel the community’s gratitude and may it invigorate you.

To those who are worried, may you remember to nourish your body and calm your mind so your resources are full. Reach out to friends and loved ones for support and laughter. Experience your surroundings with curiosity and interest. Notice something new. Feel your body supported by the ground and become aware of your breath. Let it deepen and lengthen and feel the difference. Now is the time to maintain your personal self-care practices and consider seeking assistance to further develop them. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out.

I love to remind myself that my personal practices are not intended to keep me well during easy times. They do, but they’re intended to go beyond. My practices are what prepare me for life’s challenges. These, I’ve lived long enough to know, are as predictable as weather. My practice reduces their impact.

To those who don’t know what to feel, may these events inspire you to look within. The whole world is experiencing a shift due to the changes of the last few days and weeks. A universal experience like this is a gift. It reminds us that change is absolutely persistent. Not a moment goes by that doesn’t change us. We simply forget to realize it.

A wonderful practice for realizing the constancy and necessity of change is to watch your breath. It comes and goes. It changes you, moment to moment. It moves you through life and moves life through you. Every movement of life around us is important and precious.

If you’re interested in learning to observe your breath in a gentle movement practice, please join me for online classes. Send me a note and I’ll send you an invitation. We’ll meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4pm, California time.

For those of you in Europe, you may be interested in joining me this Saturday, March 21 from 10am to 12:30pm for an online workshop to honor spring and build personal energy. Please let me know!

To all of us, may we all be well. May we all support each other. May we see the finest in each other and share our love unconditionally. May we connect over the distance.

Let’s always be there for each other.

Please share this moment with me. I’d like to share some love in this time of fear.

Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus are understandable and we are all wise to take important precautions. Let’s all keep clean and calm, give each other adequate space and honor the body’s need for rest and isolation if we aren’t feeling well. 

Likewise, I urge you to make your decisions for self-care appropriately. I care for you.

My care for your well-being includes supporting your will to ask for what you need when you need it. This means that if you’re scheduled for bodywork with me but feel nervous about submitting to touch, please know that I understand and support your choice to forego the experience. If you aren’t scheduled for bodywork but are overwhelmed by tension from reading or watching the hysterical news cycle, you’re most welcome to schedule some time with me for bodywork, mind work or soul work.

For those of you who feel particularly compromised, but sense that you’d be supported by some time together, please know that I’m more than happy to schedule online time with you via Zoom. We can meet virtually, chat, do energy work from a distance, move together, breathe together, chant and meditate. I use the platform regularly with several clients and it’s a wonderful way to cover the distance, when distance is required.

As always, I promote a pay-as-your-heart-likes fee structure. If you’re feeling low, don’t want to leave the house, but want to try a remote, friendly spirit check-in, please give it a go. It’s so much better to maintain those important self-care regimens when times are challenging. Indeed, these are exactly the times when our practices are most required and most profound.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I give you my deep love and gratitude for every bit of wonder you’ve shared with me. Please keep me posted if there is anything I can do for you. And don’t think for a minute that this excludes even those little things you may require… a good joke, an errand, a book recommendation, a kind word. 

Let’s always be there for each other.

Also! Looking ahead is good as well… if you’ll be in San Diego, please mark your calendar for a spring equinox workshop on Saturday, March 21, 2020 from 10am to 12:30pm. We’ll consider some practices to bring balance to our bodies and our minds as we begin to turn our faces toward the sun once again.

At the NPTI Yoga Studio, 3252 Greyling Drive in Serra Mesa, CA.

Those chance encounters…

On my walk this evening, in the lingering light of this extended day, I chanced upon the rising moon. Oh, hello!

In that moment, as I admired her brilliant silver face, I only knew the moon. There was no further thought for my footsteps or the cool air. Whatever thought came before let go and whatever thought would roll in waited in the depths. There was moon. And only moon. So much moon that she was totally incomprehensible. There was no need to comprehend.

Then the thought crashed gently over the quiet. It said, ‘this is a beautiful story.’

We have these chance encounters, here and there, with every breath, with every perception. When we smile at each other silently in passing, when the hummingbird hovers, when we fight, when the plan fails.

Tonight, one of the finest teachers of the dark reminded me to see the beautiful story in every experience. It may not always shine so brightly for me but it’s there. And looking is so worthwhile.

33 conversations: a book of poems for you

At the beginning of 2019, I gave myself a project. I intended to celebrate the blessings of this life every morning. I would take a walk in the early sun and listen in. What I understood from the young activity of the day is that every blessing wants to celebrate with me as well.

It wants to celebrate with you too.

Every moment, and everyone gathered in it, awaits us eagerly, whether we look, listen or don’t.

I started writing down these little experiences, these interactions with the morning and its friends. They turned themselves into these conversations.

I turned them into this collection. If you’d like, please have a look and celebrate with me. And if you’d care to support me by purchasing a copy, I’d like to share 75 percent of the profit (that’s $6.46 of every print book sold) with PATH, an organization helping those who are ready to find their way to a stable home.

We are all on our way home.

Thank you for sharing this world with me.

All the gifts.

Lovely friend. I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful season of sharing. May you find new and joyful ways to support, nourish and encourage one another.

Then maybe you take it all a step further. Maybe you begin exploring the various ways you and your loved ones offer gifts to one another. And the ways you might prevent yourself or each other from receiving them.

I mention this because I noticed a personal pattern in the gifts I shared this Christmas. The pattern is this: I’m pushy. I want so badly to see my friends and family deeply settled into experiences of comfort and joy that I impose a certain spin on whatever it is they might really love and I give them what I love instead.

You want a Ferragamo belt? Tough. I got you a book about freedom by Pema Chodron!

You like vape things? That’s cool. Here’s an essential oil pack for clearing your space.

This isn’t new. Decades ago, I gave my nieces and nephews, who did not want for much, a book about children around the world, who did not want for much in very different ways.

Well. I do my best. We all do. In every moment, whatever it is we do is really our best for that moment. The pinnacle of our ability just then. It doesn’t mean we can’t do better; just that the moment we have is meant for reconciling whatever we know with whatever is happening. And that’s the best we can do just then.

So here’s how I’d like to do better. I’d like to offer the best gift I know, in all moments, all year long.

I’d like to offer my loving attention. I’d like to be one in the family and a friend among friends so that whatever else is exchanged between us is always a tiding of comfort and joy. To me, this means I put aside whatever ideas I have of myself and your self and situate myself beside you as a soul with a soul.

So to all of my friends and family, please pardon my personal best and know that I promise to always do better. Let me just get on out of the way of the steady improvement we all discover when we stop trying so hard.

May you enjoy the harmony of all as we move into another year. And may we offer our loving attention to all those wonderful creatures in our lives who are the greatest gifts we’ll ever receive.

Thank you.

Recently, a new friend asked me to explain my specialty. It made me pause.

I’ve admired the process of personal inquiry as friends, students, clients learn how to slow down. I’ve celebrated as they realize their worth. I’ve cried as they discover love.

Of course, there’s also the reduction of physical and emotional pain as folks come to understand why it’s present and how it guides them. That’s a joy to observe.

I also love to witness the increased freedom of movement that folks find, whether it’s in the physical, emotional or spiritual realm.

But I don’t think these things are my specialty. I think these are the results of one consistent bit of guidance that compels me to do what I do. It’s this bit of guidance, I think, that has become my specialty.

It’s gratitude. Experiencing it. Encouraging it. Being it.

Seemingly simple, I know. And so timely for us Americans as we begin to make our Thanksgiving pies. But it’s much more than saying thank you once a year.

Being in a practice of gratitude means a commitment to reverence. Can you cherish every gift life has to offer? It demands a profound engagement with our will, our faith and our resilience because many of these gifts are challenging to bear. When we begin to develop our inner resources, we cultivate the wisdom to recognize how important these challenges are. We evolve with this acceptance. We thrive with gratitude.

So I’m grateful. Thank you to my friend for her question. And thank you to all of my guides and teachers for helping me grow strong in appreciation. Every moment is precious; thank you for guiding me toward a posture from which I can honestly give thanks for each one and share the power of that expression.

If you’re ready to learn how to say thank you, again and again, please send me a note.

For now, here’s a sweet practice to begin working with gratitude. Every morning, say thank you to three things… about you, your life, your world. Every evening, say thank you to three things you learned… about you, your life, your world. Finish by saying thank you to you, just for being. Notice how your body feels when you say these words out loud. Notice what your mind does as you begin and end the practice.

The lessons of pain.

We’ve all suffered from pain. Sweet pain, sour pain. It arises as an alert; we’re meant to pay attention and change our behavior. Usually, once we do, it passes as we heal. Sometimes, for many, it doesn’t. And for far too many these days, management of chronic pain becomes chronic use of medication, traumatic surgeries, a bit of rehabilitation and a lifestyle that limits movement to limit compounded pain.

And yet the pain persists.

We’ve known for a while, as humans, that pain is more than a physical response. Two thousand years ago, Roman philosopher Seneca wrote ‘Pain is slight if opinion has added nothing to it; … in thinking it slight, you will make it slight. Everything depends on opinion. It is according to opinion that we suffer. A man is as wretched as he has convinced himself that he is.’ Unfortunately, our doctors sometimes forget to have this conversation with us. For a few hundred years, our culture has relegated the pain experience to something disconnected with emotion and behavior.

Pain is slight if opinion has added nothing to it; … in thinking it slight, you will make it slight. Everything depends on opinion. It is according to opinion that we suffer. A man is as wretched as he has convinced himself that he is.

Seneca

Thankfully, old knowings are finding their way back to credibility as science finds its way to proof. Any consideration of pain from a purely physical perspective misses the very important contributions of our emotions, thoughts and beliefs about pain as well as our cultural and contextual relationship with these psychological factors. In other words, pain includes a bunch of stuff that pills and surgery won’t actually address.

Which means medication and other biomedical approaches in isolation are an insufficient response to the presence of pain. We can do better.

We can work together.

The tools of yoga therapy– including gentle and appropriate movement, breathing practices, intention-setting, visualization and meditation– are effective methods for establishing a relationship with chronic pain. Chronic pain is like an alarm system that doesn’t shut off. The system itself isn’t faulty, just not working properly. We sometimes think that we are only reactive beings, constantly bouncing off one impulse toward another. The truth is, we are highly responsive. And every impulse offers an opportunity to turn toward the experience instead of bouncing away from it. To do so requires practice and patience.

We have the means to communicate directly with our own nervous system. Breathing practices provide a lovely, peaceful and efficient route to establish this connection. Cognitive reframing, or the yogic art of pratipaksha bhavanam, is another effective means of changing perspective to establish a response that nurtures our well-being. Likewise, developing careful and simple, pain-free movement sequences to develop strength and range of motion will help to rewire the patterns of physical and emotional tension that prompt the persistent alarm. As the urgency decreases and silence grows, we discover our resilience.

If you’re ready to learn more about yourself and to discover creative, effective, nurturing responses to your pain, please reach out. Let’s see what we can learn together. Likewise, if you’re a medical professional ready to collaborate, please send a note. I’m always honored to share. Let’s work together.

Come Home: a book about you.

We don’t have to suffer so much. We have our reasons for it. I’m sorry we choose to carry them. The weight can be overwhelming. Whatever the reasons may be, there’s a way to lighten the load. Even to enlighten ourselves. Slowly or quickly, depending.

You’re the condition.

The method depends on you. Which is exactly as my teachers offered it to me. And exactly the way that frustrates folks because most of us prefer to outsource our well-being. We even say, ‘I just don’t have time for myself.’ Is it any wonder we have no idea what we’re meant to do to relieve our own suffering. If we don’t know enough to prioritize ourselves, we certainly don’t know what’s going to work for us when we eventually do.

Which is probably about where you are right now.

The human story, regardless of how or where it originated, is rich with wisdom on discovering solace. Universally, it involves a journey without a geographic destination. Where we’re meant to go is within. We go inside to go home. The path to follow will depend on who we are. To understand who we are, we’ll have to inquire.

For all of this, I’ve written a book. And this is part of it.

It’s meant to offer a hand as you make your inquiries. Also to share some of my own and those of others who shared with me. I don’t really have any answers; that’s your job. I do have decent questions. I’m grateful for an opportunity to offer some of them. Your role is to proceed with compassion and honesty as you answer them. It’s your path. How you navigate is for you to decide.

Because it depends on you, you’re the one who has to pay attention. You’re the one who has to discover your methods. You’re the one who has to come home. This is your journey.

May we learn, along the way, to recognize the guideposts that remind us to care for ourselves, to love ourselves, to realize ourselves. May we commit ourselves, moment to moment, to the wonder of being ourselves. May we realize that the journey into a grateful awareness of this precious life is the destination itself. May we free ourselves from suffering.

At this stage, I give my thanks to three friends who are taking the time to read through a working draft. And thank you to another friend guiding me toward gumption as he helps me format for the publishing process. Thank you to the friend patting me on the back. Thank you to everyone who’s trusted me so I might learn and share. And thank you to the friend who sometimes makes me dinner while I wonder at putting this out from such a great distance across such a wide world.

Couldn’t you just come over and we could talk?

I’d prefer if we could all just hang out. My friend from Australia reminds me that sometimes we have to accept that long letters will suffice and even make us happy.

Thank you to her as well.

I’ll keep you posted as I get closer to sending my long, long love letter to you. If you have space in your heart, please send good thoughts that I’ve honored my teachers and their teachers and all teachers with appropriate clarity.

Love.