The Downward-Dog-In-Heat Down-Low

make time for yourselfI’m going to answer your burning questions about my introduction to hot yoga; yes, I survived.

That in itself is success.

In an attempt to come up with some sort of healthy schedule in light of my new empty nest status, I have signed up for a month of hot yoga, hoping that I love it enough to make it a habit.

Empty-nesting has left a hole in my life where all of  my put-off self care needs to go.

So, I started at my local yoga place. The greeting at the door at Moksha Yoga was not a spiritual-community-greeting.  It was extremely clear that the sinewy, dewy-faced, blonde-haired  twenty something behind the counter was running a business.   After years of meditation practice, temple visits (and spa visits…), I get it.

Although I arrived very early, she was all about the rules. I might suggest that for identified first-time visitors, that business warm up their hellos. I’m pretty outgoing, so it didn’t deter me, but for others who are coming in,  carrying more anxiety and fear, it would certainly make the experience much more attractive.

A few folks that I know helped me choose an outfit that would not be sloppy and inhibit my movements; a sports bra, tank and pair of yoga pants. I took two towels, a water bottle, and rented a mat as I tossed my old one during my recent move. AmazonPrime will save me within 36 hours with a new one.

Hair: the bain of my feminine existence. I clipped my naturally ringlet tight curls up and added a sports band for good measure. After class I looked like I was making a  half-assed attempt at blonde dreadlocks but, whatever.

joy in livingThe class slowly filled in at the last minute, and I eased back into my position on the mat which I hadn’t made time for in at least five years.

It was hot, and I was wise choosing a reduced-heat class. I survived, and felt refreshed at the end of class. Even joyful.

I will be back.

 

 

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Letting Fear Scream Like the Child It Is

It’s April 7th and there is snow on the ground. I feel (physically) like I’ve been hit by a truck , and you know what? I’m so miserable I want to crawl out of my own skin.

zen circle.jpgWhich is really crappy. But sometimes crappy is ok. Sometimes we must embrace the tired, sore, discouraged and frustrated parts of our psyche and let them have their say.

Today I’m not in a shit mood, that’s why I’m writing about it. I’ve gained a little more perspective and had a little more sleep.

You see,  I was also in a shit mood on the 9th. Despite the sun shining in as I drove to work,  some poor sod got the finger when he rode my bumper, and not just a flip of the bird. I must have held it up there  and waved it around for a full 10 seconds like a hillbilly waving the confederate flag. I wanted to make sure he saw it. Yah, not a proud moment.
It’s in these moments, I want to not only be aware of, but practice, Thich Nhat Hahn’s famous teaching about cradling our suffering like a newborn baby. I want to be aware of that, but what I usually do is spiritually squirm like a spoiled toddler, wanting to stamp my feet, whine until someone gives me ice cream and then tucks me in for a nap.  But I am getting better at it.

Spiritual practice is long and sometimes it feels grueling. In a culture that praises speed, cultivating grace is a long, slow, lifetime process.

Recently I’ve had the benefit of more solitude and silence than usual. Unlike during years past, I’ve had questions of clarity pop into my mind about my attitudes, reactions and fears. Better still, I’ve had the opportunity to let the reasons why come to the surface.

angry trollWaving a white flag and needing a hug, all of these reasons have come crawling out of the past. Finally. Since the distillation of my emotions and thoughts, fear seems to be their leader.

When you’re angry, jealous, sad or hurt, ask yourself why? And then ask yourself why again. And again, and again….trust me, it always, always boils down to fear.

So give yourself the bad days, the pissy, miserable moods, and yah, every once in a while you might slip up and lay on your horn for thirty seconds or flip an intentional bird. Just look a little deeper if you can when the clouds have passed. You might catch a glimpse of your fear poking out of hiding, ready to make friends.

 

Saying Good-Bye to Christmas: A Beautiful Mess

peaceIn the quiet stillness of the-day-after, I sit alone looking at the lights on the Christmas tree.

The house is finally empty and I have my first few minutes alone.

Putting together the holiday for everyone feels like nothing short of a miracle some years, but this year was different. I was happier and more relaxed. Exhausted still, at this point, I am spent.

The evidence is all around; an errant ribbon on the table, a Shriner’s fruitcake card atop a red velvet jewellers box, gift tags that got left behind, a bottle of wine reflecting the lights on the tree. There is one gift bag left unopened, intended for someone who didn’t make it over in time for the festivities, and a piece of art behind the tree that the kiddo forgot to tuck away.

All of this beautiful mess here and there makes me happy. It is proof that family and friends were here, cozy, happy and fed well. Hopefully everyone felt connected and loved.

It’s over for another year, and perhaps, the beginning of some new traditions for everyone.

Your Invitation Awaits: Shine On My Wonderful Friends, Shine On!

centenary_red_tan_50406bNow that you feel comfortable in my writing space, come on over and get cozy with www.andsheshines.wordpress.com

If you are in the midst of change, and looking for inspiration, this is the place. Pack a bag and a fabulous pair of shoes my darlings…xo

See you there… https://andsheshines.wordpress.com

 

A Night Owl’s Meditation Lesson for Morning People

no wormI’m not a morning person. Unless I’m the first one up when I’m in the great outdoors, marvelling at a sunrise, watching mist rise from a placid lake, and listening to the first call of the loons.

But that rarely happens.

So, I’m basically just not a morning person.

I am a night owl. The still darkness is rich ground to cultivate ideas and search out creative genius.

We all have a delicate balance of extroverted and introverted needs, and as a fence rider on almost every element of the Myers-Briggs assessment, I need as much time alone as I do surrounded by other fascinating human beings.

Morning people often insinuate that I’m wasting the day. They gently suggest that perhaps I’m a tad depressed, lazy, unmotivated, or accomplishing less than my potential. Morning people are wrong.

My very naïve beginnings at meditation have developed throughout the years, and my practice is now something I am aware of every day.

Waking slowly, at my own pace allows me to be quiet with the thoughts that come and go from my mind.

It’s easy to be aware of all of the thoughts that come to mind as your head is on the pillow waiting for sleep to wrap her arms around you. Unless you’re dog-tired, thoughts come fast. You can’t help but be aware of their presence in the quiet darkness of night-time.

Morning thoughts are different. These are the thoughts that come out quietly, like a hungry stray hoping for a leftover morsel. They slink quietly into consciousness and scatter as soon as you turn to thoughts of preparing for the day.

be the awarenessThis morning as I woke,I listened to the heart-breaking howl of the neighbours oft neglected dog.  The irony is that if some of my thoughts were sounds, they would have sounded like that baleful howling.

In the silence of my fluffy duvets, snuggled warm and safe, I had time to reach out and hold each of those thoughts gently, examine them, and then let them go.  At peace with my own self, I felt prepared to face the day, and share it with whatever the world had prepared for me.

My not-a-morning-person mornings are a simple pleasure, and a quality of life indulgence.  I have the peace to let my emotions and thoughts speak their truth, and the time to gently make peace with everything, both good and not so good. This is the value of meditation, practice, and the awareness of personal presence.

 

Being Jolly on a Budget

Each year I come up with some grand ideas about how to spend time with the ones you hold near and dear without breaking the bank.

I mean really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Spending time together is my very favourite gift.

So, this year, I bring you a list of ideas for being jolly on a budget, and I encourage to you to do at least TWO of them.

 

  1. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Define that however you like, but it implies watching more than one movie. It requires that you snuggle under a cozy blanket and sip hot cocoa laced with something that will make you giddy.

snuggle up

If you’re not sure which movies to watch, try one of these;

White Christmas

Holiday Inn

The Holiday

It’s a Wonderful Life

Miracle on 34th Street

2) Wander through a Christmas Market – no purchase required, except for a minimal entrance fee and optional hot cocoa or eggnog. If you go on a cold night, all the better; it’s a great excuse to snuggle your sweetie.

distillery market

3) Attend a local carol sing. Usually the admission cost is a bit of food for a local food bank. What better way to celebrate the true meaning of the season?

Children's Christmas Pageant 2011 + Christmas in Fan Concert

 

4) Have a Christmas themed games night with your closest pals or your family. BYOB and a snack to share. Voila!

twister-4x3

5) Go for a walk on a snowy night. Take in the Christmas decorations and talk about your hopes, dreams, what your favourite traditions are.

windowshopping

6) Bake and decorate a gingerbread house of your own design. Pick out your favourite candy together, make the gingerbread (gingerbread often has to sit overnight before you bake it, so it could be a romantic pj party!), decorate the house just the way you want I to be.

gingerbread house

7) Read your favourite Christmas poems or stories.

robert-frost-the-road-not-taken

8) One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas. It makes me smile, laugh, and remember what the true spirit of the season is really all about.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season that brings you closer to the ones you love.

 

A Beautiful Messy Life

  

Music As Therapy: Knee Deep with Zac Brown & Jimmy Buffett

peenMusic is an ancient form of magic. It can transform the atmosphere within seconds, and conjure emotions that have been buried deep.

If you are excelling at the art of living (and it is an art darlings), despite the middle-aged or just aged person looking back at you in the mirror, you still manage to rejuvenate, dismiss the nay-sayers with a regal gesture of your arm, and still have lots of life left in you.

We play music at all of our rites of passage and carefully select which melodies and lyrics reflect the emotions that words seem inadequate to describe.  For instance, on the way to a funeral, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell came blaring out of the radio. It certainly changed the mood in the car, especially for the priest.

At an outdoor summer concert with my kiddo, after a spring and summer of emotional bull-riding, I let the music of one of our favourite-fun bands wash over me.

Gonna put the world away for a minute
Pretend I don’t live in it
Sunshine gonna wash my blues away
Had sweet love but I lost it
She got too close so I fought it
Now I’m lost in the world tryin’ to find me a better way

The sun was setting over a ferris wheel lit up with bright colours, seagulls were flying over the roof of the amphitheatre, and all around me were thousands of people  had paid out their energy (aka money) to escape from the stress of life to sing and dance and be washed clean of the crap of daily living.

Wishin’ I was
Knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky, breeze and it don’t seem fair
The only worry in the world
Is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise, there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise

This tune brought me back to a holiday I took with my kiddo.  We had so much fun listening to this song as we planned, packed and piloted away. Every time I hear it, it’s like a trop-rock meditation bell reminding me to chill-the-heck out.

Wrote a note, said “Be back in a minute”
Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
Don’t think anybody’s gonna miss me anyway
Mind on a permanent vacation
The ocean is my only medication
Wishin’ my condition ain’t ever gonna go away

I recognize that my note to the world saying, “Be back in a minute”, can apply every day. We have happy hour at our house. It’s a relaxation ritual that involves letting the demands of the day wash off, and lots of laughing about everything.

As it turns out, you can abandon stress right here, right now, if you so choose. Life has relentless stamina, and even though there may be times you don’t want it to go on, it just keeps on rolling like the ocean after a storm.

This champagne shore watchin’ over me
It’s a sweet sweet life livin’ by the salty sea
One day you can be as lost as me
Change your geography and maybe you might be

Whether you’re cleaning the house or front-row-centre, always, always, always, choose the soundtrack to you life carefully.

Knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowin’ wind through my hair
Only worry in the world
Is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise, there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise

Come on in
The waters nice
Find yourself a little slice
Grab a backpack
Otherwise you’ll never know until you try
When you lose yourself
You find a key to paradise…

A Guide to Achieving the Perfect Life

daring adventure or nothingPerhaps there’s been a huge cosmic shift in energy, maybe we’ve had some rare planetary eclipse, or maybe it’s just the big old world shaking us up a bit to remind us that nothing is as it seems and everything changes. You see, I can’t seem to understand what the heck happened this week in Andshelaughs land.

Just when I think I have it all figured out, somebody shakes the snowglobe and I haven’t got a clue what’s going on.

When I was a kid, I used to see adults and think how nice it would be when I finally had my life together. Ha! Anyone over 30 knows how much of an illusion ‘having it all together’ really is. Throughout  years of helping people during crisis, I have come to realize that we never, ever have our lives together in such a way that we are immune to change.

Often change can cause suffering and pain; anxiety, addiction, grief, fear, or  tightly woven combination of all of those emotions. If you can make your way through it, keeping fear at bay, and even a tiny flame of hope burning, change can be the best thing that happens to you.

This week, I had a number of conversations that were difficult, enlightening, and even shocking. People I assumed to be sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful demonstrated qualities just the opposite of that, and others, surprised me by crawling out of the dark-ages and exposing excellent quality of character.

Because the conversations were not what I expected (expectation is such a fickle bitch anyway) they made me think. Hard. Should I have said that? Should I have kept silent? Can I trust you? Who cares...

fancy dark chocolateThe bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter. Most of our big decisions in life come about as a result of something we never expected.

So I’ve decided to sit back and watch. Wait and not wait; carry on. See what happens. Go with the flow. Dream. Hope, and even laugh a little at it all.

Life will always roll like waves on the ocean, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, and every once in a while there will be a rogue wave that knocks you down, pulls you under, and spits you out, disoriented but with a fresh perspective.

The only time we ever have life under control is when we can sit back, breathe deeply and accept that life changes. When you are aware of your reactions, you can actually stop reacting, and remain calm, observant and cultivate a deep sense of who you are and what you need to do.  In the mean time, there’s champagne; bourbon if it’s serious.