Washing The Dishes, Waiting For Death

(Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, August 2016)

The first time I really “got” meditation, I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes.

My father was dying. Cancer.

Hospice bed in the living room-style cancer.

I’d flown back to Nebraska to see him one last time, to hold his hand, say goodbye.

Now, the haunting question of when.

I was 26, living in a 100-year-old flat in San Francisco, bartending my way through grad school, subsisting on coffee and cocktails. Standing there at the sink, I could hear the young couple upstairs vacuuming, the Chinese family across the alley clattering pans, and the cable car clanging one block over on California Street.

My mind was obsessively circling the drain.

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The Beauty Of Being An ‘Okay’ Parent, And Five Ways To Get There

(Washington Post, March 2017)

Let’s be honest: Parenting in the 21st century — the age of the curated childhood — is daunting. Parents constantly feel like they should be doing more.

I grew up in South Dakota and Nebraska, the second of four kids, where my parents — a Lutheran pastor and a music teacher — were too busy working and keeping us fed and clothed to hover. We had PBS, a house full of books and music, a big garden, church on Sundays and room to roam. They instilled simple values I’ll always be grateful for and I strive to emulate as a parent. My husband and I moved to Portland, Ore., last year from San Francisco, where parenting felt like an elite competitive sport. I adore the Bay Area, but as a new mother, I wanted to escape the suffocating pressure to produce a privileged champion specimen.

I’m a recovering Type-A perfectionist. As a kid, I was always the best at everything I did. I was anxious about having children because I knew I was at risk of pressuring myself to have perfect little high-achievers. I didn’t want to raise the kind of child who felt like he had to be the best at everything, or start prepping him for college in third grade.

One of my greatest accomplishments as an adult has been chilling the heck out and letting myself be okay with being average. I see no need for personal chauffeurs, overpriced tutors or hardcore chess tournaments. As a child of the heartland, it’s important to me that my son realize that not everybody’s family flies a private plane or uses “summers” as a verb.

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Yoga History & Philosophy Workshops

I’m delighted to be teaching three big fat days of Yoga History & Philosophy next weekend at YoYoYogi. Please join me for a little or a lot. This is gonna be goooood.

(I promise to keep it real.)

There are 3 options to participate:

1. The Full Weekend: $299
September 16 – 18

Curious about the roots of yoga, but not sure where to begin? Wondering what the heck all that Sanskrit’s about? Ready to dig in a little deeper? Here’s your chance. Join Rachel for a fascinating weekend packed with the wild, renegade history of yoga (for real!), the brilliant philosophy behind the poses, down-to-earth tools for working with a racing mind, and so much more. This stuff will rock your world, deepen your practice, and change your life.

2. The History of Yoga $49
Friday, September 16 from 6:30 – 9:30p

Did you know yogis were once such scandalous rogues that no decent person would be seen with them? Or that sun salutations are really a hybrid of British military exercises, Indian nationalist wrestling, and Scandinavian gymnastics? The yogic tradition is rich with mind-blowing history, most of which is news to us contemporary practitioners. Come on down for a glimpse of the dishy roots of yoga you never knew existed. Get the lowdown on all those lunges, the true story behind the Tantra, and so much more.

3. Foundations of Yoga Philosophy $49
Saturday, September 17 from 2-5p

Join Rachel for a down-to-earth look at the inspiring, powerful philosophy that underlies the asana practice we know and love. Here’s your chance to break down some of the key concepts and texts of yoga, both on and off the mat, in super-relatable ways. Learn how to apply yoga philosophy to your crappy job, your gnarly commute, and that pain-in-the-butt boss. You’ll walk out lighter than you walked in. And your practice will never be the same.

You can register here.

HomeBody: Movement Meets Buddha Nature

(InDance, October 2015)

PICTURE A BUDDHIST. What comes to mind? A red-robed monk or nun sitting patiently on a cushion, lips gently smiling, eyes closed, legs crossed in Lotus Pose?

Or perhaps you picture Tina Turner, or Richard Gere, or another famous pop culture Buddhist?

For most of us, it’s definitely not an athletic, barefoot, nude-leotard-clad dancer bounding elegantly across the floor on a brightly-lit stage.

San Francisco-based choreographer and dance filmmaker Claudia Anata Hubiak’s contemporary dance company, The Anata Project, suggests an unconventional new Buddhist prototype. Since 2011, inspired by the Tibetan Buddhist concept of anata (“egolessness,” or the notion that there is no such thing as a permanent, unchanging self), The Anata Project has produced dances and dance films that take a genuine and unflinching look into the unguarded mind and heart. Its interdisciplinary conceptual foundation stands at the cutting edge of the meditative melding of body and spirit, seeking to break new ground in the worlds of modern dance, mindful embodiment, and Buddhist art.

 

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15 Things That Lessen The Stress Of Moving With Toddlers

(Parent.Co, June 2017)

So you’re moving. With small kids. Congrats!

My husband’s new job just took our family from Portland, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts. Schlepping our lives 3000 miles across the country was a big undertaking for us adults – and an even bigger deal for our just-turned-three-year-old son.

We knew we wanted to do this move the right way for him. Here are a few tricks we discovered (some intentionally, some through trial and error) that might help to smooth the process for you and your little ones, too.

1 | When you first share the news, draw pictures of their new room together. What color will they paint the walls? How are they going to decorate? Where will the bed go? Let them share in the excitement as they look forward to making it their own.

2 | Print out a paper calendar of the month leading up to the move and cross off each day as it passes. This can make the few weeks’ worth of “lasts” (e.g. last day of school, last sleep at the old house) and “firsts” (e.g. first airplane flight, first day at their new childcare) feel more manageable.

3 | Check out library books about moving. We found a few favorites that emphasized the adventure and excitement of moving to a new home – try “The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day,” or “The GoodPie Party,” for starters. Keep an eye out for the negative ones, though. Some, like “Little Critter: We Are Moving” or “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going To Move” introduced feelings of fear, resistance, and dread that our son wasn’t otherwise feeling. No need to go there if they’re not already feeling angst-y.

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9 Yoga & Mindfulness Podcasts That Will Feed Your Soul

(Yoga Trade, February 2017)

Have you heard of “beginner’s mind?”

It’s the Zen Buddhist notion that we should approach the world as novices, childlike, open to learning, no matter how much we know about a certain subject. Beginner’s mind means stepping into our lives with a brand-new, wide-open mind, eager to receive, ready to evolve.

This is how we stay young.

This is how we stay open.

As teachers, one of our most important responsibilities is to keep learning.

In yoga philosophy, we call this svadhyaya, or self-study.

These days, for me, svadhaya means a couple of things: home practice, and podcasts.

For wellness professionals and yogis who are teaching or working overseas, or living in isolated rural areas, these are two essential tools to keep in your self-study toolkit.

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Why Colin Kaepernick Is The Yoga Teacher We Need Right Now

(YogaDork, November 2016)

Colin Kaepernick is a stealth yoga teacher. And it’s got nothing to do with his tight pants.

Kaepernick first declined to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the 49ers’ August 26th preseason game against the Green Bay Packers because, as he put it, he couldn’t “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick’s move has sparked outrage across the country, eliciting nationalist critiques, burned jerseys, and even death threats. Earlier this month, just prior to the election, Kaepernick quietly launched a Black Panthers-inspired “Know Your Rights” camp empowering black and Latino students in Oakland, CA to combat oppression.

A few weeks after Kaepernick kicked off his peaceful protest, I led a yoga philosophy training for current teachers. We covered philosophy basics from old school yoga texts like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, and revisited the often-murky history of yoga. Then we dragged yoga philosophy into the 21st century, brainstorming about where to find alternative texts—the kind of postmodern yoga teachers that hide out in unexpected places, like Ferdinand The Bull or Fight Club or (gasp) even Donald Trump.

One student raised her hand. She brought up Colin Kaepernick.

Brilliant, I thought. Yes; this is what yoga looks like in the real world.

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5 Things Fight Club — Yes, Fight Club — Taught Me About Yoga

(Yoga International, May 2016)

Take a look at any mainstream yoga rag, and you might think “yoga” means skinny white ladies lounging around in stretchy pants, talking about probiotics. But yoga is so much more.

Yoga’s smart. Yoga’s radical. Yoga’s counter-cultural.

Yes, really.

The modern yoga scene is at a tipping point. Commodification and “Instagramification” have transformed this profound meditative practice into a trendy, upper-middle-class fitness craze.

It’s time for populist, philosophy-loving yogis to reclaim yoga from its widespread assimilation as a sanitized, fashion-driven workout. Believe it or not, the philosophical tradition’s got much wisdom to offer regarding the messy, sweaty, sacred/profane reality of being alive. Which brings us to…Fight Club. Yep, you heard me right.

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