Trust your goodness

I listened to a refreshing interview with meditation teacher Tara Brach today, and she mentioned this in passing.

Trust your goodness.

Do you??

If you’re interested in Buddhist psychology, Tara’s work is a perfect place to start. This year is the 20th anniversary of her book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of A Buddha, and it’s a game-changer.

I’m always amazed by how revelatory and mind-blowing a statement like this feels for folks who grew up in religious traditions that emphasize original sin.

Trust your goodness.

It’ll change your life.

Morning light at B. Yoga

January is my favorite time of year in the yoga studio.

Brave newbies nervously unroll their mats in the back row. Packed classes pulse with eager bodies ready to (re)build a practice. There’s a childlike, not-yet-disillusioned sense of hope.

I teach in this radiant B. Yoga Basel space every Friday at 9:30am.

Join me for a little 🧘🏽‍♀️ and 🎶 and 🫁 and mostly ✨.

Begin again

This is the heart of yoga and meditation.

You can start over in every new breath. You’re brand new every time you inhale. Every exhale, a letting go.

Doesn’t have to be the new year. Doesn’t have to be January 1st.

So don’t get tripped up on the New Year’s resolution bullshit. Every inhalation can be a new year. You can always just leave that last one behind, and begin again.

A quiet corner of Chicago O’Hare

I had a six-hour layover in Chicago, so did what any yoga teacher would do: wandered the terminal until I found a deserted corner and then plopped my ass on the floor for a few surreptitious stretches. Ahhh. A necessary balm for the 21-hour journey.

Des Moines International was quieter. The tiny airport felt like all sky, and old carpet, and silence.

I was in Iowa last weekend, unexpectedly, for a heartbreaking family funeral. There is immeasurable suffering in the world right now — Gaza, Israel, Maine — but this slice of heartbreak was particularly tragic, for its youth. I was so grateful to be able to make the trip, and to spend hours in community and conversation with my family — in the same time zone, for once.

Distance from loved ones is one of the hardest parts about living abroad. I think there’s a perception that expat life is all roses, all the time; so many people have casually remarked about our “life in paradise” over the years. It is often wonderful, yes. And I know I’ve subconsciously not shared a lot about our life here in Switzerland out of fear of people resenting me, especially in those first few years when Trump was still President and we had managed to escape, when so many others wished for the same and couldn’t.

But this is one hard thing. Wanting to be with your people when they’re suffering, and being so damn far away. I was fortunate to be able to return this time around. But I feel increasingly aware of those inevitable realities of life that Buddhist teachings highlight so clearly: illness, aging, and death. They come for all of us. And they are as much a part of life as the highlight-reel moments.

Yoga and meditation are practices designed to work with suffering, both in body and mind. They’ve been largely co-opted by Shiny Happy People wearing stretchy workout gear and spouting bullshit about abundance and manifestation. But thankfully, these practices go so much deeper than that.

I love how portable they are. A towel on the hotel room floor for a yoga mat. Legs up the wall in Terminal 5. Box breathing on the plane.

Atha yoga anusasanam. Now is (always) the time for the yoga to begin.

Prana

In yoga philosophy, the Sanskrit word prana means “life force.” It’s the spirit that drives you. Energy moving through. 

Sometimes it’s just not there, right? Last week Switzerland roasted under a massive heat wave. We all felt drained and sweaty and blah after endless days of 95° heat and humidity.

When cooling rain finally set in Friday night, it was like the whole country went “Ahhhhhh!!” And now, as the mist continues, our garden looks lush and green and renewed — and my body feels the same way.

PRANA.

We all do things, consciously and not, in our daily lives to feel more awake (or, in yogic terms, to increase our prana). We sing, or eat nourishing food, or dance, or play drums in an 80s band, or hang out with babies, or garden, or paint. And that’s great, because ultimately, we all want to feel more alive. 

Especially if you are currently spending 8 or 10 or 12 hours in front of a computer in a cubicle in some measly office building off a concrete highway.

For me, a regular yoga asana practice makes all the difference — even if that’s just five minutes a day. Paired with walks in the forest near our home, I feel rejuvenated and connected and alive. That time is nature is essential. 

What can you do today to increase your prana? It doesn’t have to be fancy. A quick puddle walk just might do the trick. 

Bhakti bundt cakes

Stumbled across this old gem while I was in Nebraska. My first national print magazine publication, in a 2009 issue of Yoga Journal. On bundt cakes, bhakti, and the yoga of baking. 🍰

I’d just finished defending a masters thesis on Karl Marx and bodies and queer theology and the commodification of salvation. “The Joy of Baking” felt so damn cringe. 😝 (Needless to say: I did not pick that headline.)

But it truly was a joy to see my words in print for the first time. For a writer, that feeling never gets old. It’s at once thrilling and heart-racing, vulnerable and terrifying. Now that print media has essentially died (RIP magazines 😢) and the yoga world has changed so much, I’m glad to hang on to this dusty memory.

The last few years, I’ve been mostly writing behind-the-scenes, doing corporate communications work. But now, with several more personal projects in the pipeline, I’m feeling quietly excited to get publishing more frequently again.

Stay tuned. ✍🏼🪷

Belly

I use this word a lot in my yoga classes — purposely.

BELLY. 🪷

Because it’s a great one to make friends with. Normalize. Welcome.

“Soften your belly like a nice loose Buddha belly.”

“Bend your knees so much you can press your belly into your thighs.”

“Hug your belly toward your spine to stabilize.”

“I like to move my foot to the right a few centimeters in this pose to make room for my belly.”

And so on.

BELLY. 🪷

Say it. Love it. Embrace it.

Twice a week I teach yoga to my kid’s soccer team. The other night I had them lie back on the turf in Supta Baddha Konasana and place both hands on their bellies, and say “Thank you, belly.”

They giggled. A lot.

It was so sweet and silly. And gentle.

Can you be a little more sweet, and silly, and gentle with yours? ✨

Be like water

My favorite mantra of the last few years. We can thank Taoism for this one. ✨

Be like water. 💧

Go with the flow.

Don’t get attached to one place, or state. 🌊

When you bump into something hard (say, a rock mid-river) stay malleable, take a deep breath, and just flow amiably around it. 🪵

Pour your whole self into the space you’re in, whatever the size. ☕️

Stay soft.

Shapeshift to suit the season (ice, water, steam) — but always stay elementally the same. 🧊

Bend, don’t break.

Rinse off the dust. 🚿

Nurture the living. 🌻

Stay close to things that grow. 🌱

Queer theory meets yoga philosophy

June #pridemonth always has me marveling at the incredible overlaps between queer theory and yoga philosophy. 🏳️‍🌈✨🏳️‍⚧️

Take these, for starters:

🌈 An emphasis on fluidity and non-essentialism

🌈 The sense that our identities are always and ever unfolding

🌈 A deep valuing of embodied experience as a source of wisdom

🌈 The notion that your body and your desires are inherently GOOD

🌈 A spirit of playfulness and camp. In Sanskrit, this looks like the word “leela”, meaning “divine play”

🌈 A history of folks who’ve consciously lived on the margins, outside of heteronormative nuclear family models

🌈 A countercultural spirit

🌈 A celebration of individuality

🌈 The value of relaxing into authenticity; dropping all masks

🌈 A rejection of dualistic binaries (though yoga still has much to unpack in this regard: the tired sun/moon, ida/pingala categories we use in hatha yoga desperately need to be queered)

If you want to check out some examples of queer theorists’ work, dig into:

✨ Judith Butler

✨ Adrienne Rich

✨ E. Patrick Johnson

✨ Angela Davis

✨ David Halperin

✨ Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

✨ Audre Lorde

✨ and so many more I haven’t mentioned here

Who are your latest favorites? Love to hear.

Everything is temporary

This is the most bittersweet time of year to be an expat. 🥺 Jobs change, contracts end, and people pack their families up to leave as soon as the school year ends.

Over the last few years, we’ve sent dear friends off to Ghana, Dubai, Singapore, England, Spain, France, Canada, Malaysia, Sweden, and more. Our little village just keeps churning.

Right now, folks are frantically selling off their cars and sofas and lighting fixtures — getting as physically light as possible so that they can return less expensively to their home countries, or move on to the next job somewhere else.

Being an expat means that your life abroad is tied to a job — and when that job ends, so does your permission to stay. But the folks you meet along the way become your immediate family, since none of you have blood family within hundreds (or thousands) of miles.

So living in an international community, you get really good at sad goodbyes, and super quick with warm hellos, and plan your life in weeks or months instead of years, as you all constantly hover in that liminal space of wondering: when will it be our turn? Should we bother hanging art on the walls?

The truth is, though, of course: everything is temporary. Living an expat life, this reality is exacerbated every single day. You know it won’t last forever. So you try to enjoy it while you can.

In places like where I grew up — Nebraska — a lot of people are born, stay for high school and college, settle in as adults, and spend their whole lives in the same community. It can be easy to forget, there amidst the illusion of permanence and safety, that even this is all temporary, too.

I like to think that, as bittersweet as this expat churn is, the “loving and leaving” that is our regular experience is just living deeply in relationship with the Buddhist and yogic teachings of impermanence.

That all things arise, change, and fade away.

Like an ocean wave. 

And when you know this, you become still.