Four Months, Awake

(Mamalode, May 2016)

He’s fallen asleep, finally, finally.

His teething mouth is clamped onto the Ergo strap.

Is he breathing?

I check.

Yes, phew, breathing.

I am so tired. He is so tired.

He’s been up every hour the last two nights.

Out of the blue, after settling into a nice pattern of sleeping for 6-7 hour chunks, followed by a quick 3am feeding, then cuddling in the big bed til 7am. It had become a lovely routine.

We took it for granted.

He hates to nap. He needs to nap.

I need for him to nap. Desperately.

Those naps save me.

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The Geography of Prana

(OM Yoga Magazine, May 2012)

Buddhists talk about learning to cultivate spaciousness: an internal boundlessness, a softness, a room free of excess thought and clutter that lets the tumbleweeds of changing thoughts and moods blow right by, a certain openness to what is, unreliant upon what was or what is to come. Geographies of prana – be they the big Utah sky over the salt flats, or your backyard garden, or a quiet detour off the Appalachian Trail, or a roadside rest stop off the Great Highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean – cultivate this spaciousness, open it up, crack open our chests and allow room for breath and life and a connection with the buzzing kind of material realness that we can only find in nature.

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Why Yoga’s Not a Workout

(elephantjournal)

As a teacher, am I shepherding those students well, am I really doing my job — ahimsa, baby — if I pummel them with some robotic core workout routine that’s devoid of purpose beyond sculpting a six-pack, that fails to connect the breath or slow their minds or bring them more deeply into their bodies?

Because, guess what? Your six-pack will pass. One day it’ll be there. The next day, it won’t. Things change. Bodies change. You’ll eat Cheetos. You’ll find a new lover and stay in bed and skip yoga. You’ll have a baby. You’ll get old — if you’re lucky.

Skin stretches. Skin roughens. Skin slips away.

This body will be a corpse.

Your breath stays. Your breath rises. It falls. That’s yoga. Nothing else.

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The Uphill Battle With Impermanence

(BeYogi, April 2016)

I’ve been taking more care with my words these days. Having learned from my yoga and meditation practices over the years not to identify with my thoughts, I try hard to no longer say I’m tired, I’m furious, or I’m over it.

Yoga philosophy teaches us that the world is in perpetual motion and that all realities are always changing, whether they’re our bodies, relationships, or thoughts. That underlying notion of a permanent me? Simply an illusion. That’s impermanence for you.

With that in mind, rather than saying I’m exhausted, I’m angry or I’m sick of this, I decided to consciously practice saying I feel exhausted, I feel angry, or I feel sick of this.

I am mortified became I feel mortified.

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Sweat and Sorrow: How I Learned To Swing a Hammer, Build a House and Let It Go

(Raw Rach, April 2010)

I sit on the roof and soak up the great sunyata, the vast rich empty void that is the night sky, knowing, knowing that I am not this house; I am not this heat; I am not these scarred ankles; I am not this sorrow; I am not this ache of knowing I have let down my poor dead father, who placed so much trust in our ability to hold on to his baby in the years to come.

Neti-neti; not this, not that.

And sitting there drowning in that vast sunyata sky, it is all stars, it is all pine, the air is rich with lush green forest and hope and new growth and creeping Spanish moss. And I lean over and try to pick up a few of the piles of pine needles that have fallen on the roof, threatening it with their heavy wetness; I gather them in my arms, clear the sap, but the needles keep falling, falling, and we keep going, going, and at some point you realize those needles will continue to collect on that precipice whether you are there to gather them or not.

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Bartendasana: The Yoga of Bartending

(Raw Rach, February 2010)

Bartendasana: the huffing-puffing, bending-twisting, sweating-flirting, laughing-cursing embodied moving meditation that is shaking cocktails in a dimly-lit, jazz-infused, oak-scented bar. See also: bhakti ninja.

Buddha in a microbrew? Meditation in a martini? Santosha in a Stella? It’s more plausible than you might think.

Most of you know me as a yogi, or a writer, or a teacher, or maybe a baker; but for a few hours a few nights a week, I’m a bartender. Find me black-clad and spinning circles inside a horseshoe-shaped bar while straining cocktails at warp-speed on any given Friday night, and I think you’ll agree: a bartender is a bhakti ninja.

Suspend disbelief for a few minutes here, and consider the possibility that bartending might be a rich source of yoga, embodied meditation, and a kind of active “practice mat” for yogic values like compassion, patience, and peace. Sure, it can often look like just a lot of broken glasses and spilled wine, tipsy blondes and belligerent drunks, but tending bar can also provide a rare opportunity for prana-rich, fulfilling work (what Marx deliciously called “sensuous labor”), nourishing sangha, energizing physicality, and open-hearted karma yoga. My gig shaking martinis gifts me with a living, breathing space in which to practice listening, observation, mental quietude, living well in the body, and balancing the yin of my yogi/writer’s life with the yang of a bartender’s fast-paced flow. And in that practice comes the softening, the unraveling and the dharma of work that fulfills in unexpected ways.

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Why Wanderlust is Like Cheerleading Camp

(RecoveringYogi, August 2011)

Some strange sense of deja vu hung over me that whole weekend, and I couldn’t figure it out.  It was like I’d been there before.  And that’s when I realized.  Wanderlust was cheerleading camp for grown-ups.

It’s dangerous, though, you know?  Practicing in the sun for hours, concrete under your mat, knees ripped up and feet filthy, you get so lost in the contrived removal from the Real World, this Yoga Disneyland of sorts.  It’s tempting, a total tease; after all, who wouldn’t want to leave the day-to-day sludge of the work world behind to just hang out half-naked in a perpetual Savasana, listening to music under the stars, punch-drunk on Parivrtta Parsvakonasana?

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The Yoga of the Prairie

(Raw Rach, January 2012)

The roots of yogic theory, the roots of Zen, the roots of an appreciation for all that is simple and clear and populist and no-bullshit and impermanent and expansive and wide in its emptiness?

Right there on the prairie. For which I will always give thanks.

For making desolation feel normal. For making space seem fundamental. For making stillness appear friendly. And for making the constantly churning, impermanent, suffering-laden reality of life seem, well, so very natural.

Fiercely so.

SO here’s an ode to the under-appreciated land of my youth. Here’s a shout-out to the Willa Cathers and the Laura Ingalls Wilders and the Harvey Dunns who taught me, growing up there, how rich, how rare, how rolling-around-in-art is this spare, bleak, empty, sunyata place. Here’s to the scrappy pioneer spirit that infuses my own urban reality now: this understanding that only the sitting with what is difficult, and the staying with what is terrifying, and the breathing through what is grotesque and inhumane and so vastly impossibly huge that you’re reminded again and again how very tiny you are, truly a flash on the landscape of being alive, well, it all matters. And it makes us who we are.

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