Find the Funny Friday: Yoga & Hiking

It’s Find the Funny Friday–here we go:

A year ago, I went to Kripalu, for a yoga retreat.  It is one of my favorite places to go for a long weekend alone, to delve deep into my practice, and eat incredible food.  This time, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and so signed up for a Yoga & Hiking retreat as Kripalu is immersed in the beauty of the Berkshires.

I bought myself my first pair of hiking boots and pants.  I covered up and doused myself in DEET as my adventure preceded an incredibly wet and rainy November.  I headed out, ready to climb into bliss.

Now, I have say that I was fully conscious in my decision to head into the woods knowing that I get an incredibly bad reaction to mosquito bites. I was entirely covered up, but made the poor decision not to spray my face as I thought DEET on the rest of my body was bad enough.

I wish I could exaggerate the swarm of mosquitoes that followed me on the trail.  I wish I could exaggerate the amount of bug bites I got on my face, the only part exposed and unsprayed.  The thing about my reaction is that it, rarely, takes a bit to get into its full swelling.  But this time, I found myself enjoying the view, amidst the swarm, and then made my way back to my room, content and exhausted.

Kripalu’s dining room is cafeteria style, with long buffets and long tables set up.  Breakfast is silent, a way to add mindfulness into a meal.  I woke up and went to eat, with one eye swollen shut, my hairline puffed up (it’s quite a strange sight) and my cheekbones gone.  I had to silently ask those I knew as I sat down to eat, if they had Benadryl.  Not an easy charade word to perform! And what was even funnier, was their reactions as they tried to stay silent.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the weekend inside, in zen safety, on my mat.

What’s your funny?


I Quit

There once was a monastery that was very strict. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But there was one exception to this rule. Every ten years, the monks were permitted to speak just two words.

After spending his first ten years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. “It has been ten years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Bed… hard…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk’s office. “It has been ten more years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Food… stinks…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Yet another ten years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, “What are your two words now, after these ten years?”

“I… quit!” said the monk.

“Well, I can see why,” replied the head monk. “All you ever do is complain.”

I love this zen story.  The monk could only speak two words every ten years and those two words were complaints.  He spent his time thinking thoughts that kept him stuck in that cycle of angst without movement or transcendence.  Thirty years dwelling on what was wrong without taking the turn to see what is…where the road opens up and eventually becomes road-less. It also took him thirty years and six words to finally say, “I quit!”  He stayed stuck, following the rules, until he decided to make a change.

How often do we do this?  How often do we stay stuck in complaints, almost delighting in our chance to point out what’s wrong with everything?  How often do we stay stuck for years before making a change, deciding on a choice that was always there?

I have said before that it took me twenty years to write, “Inside the River.” I complained about my lack of discipline, time, inspiration, talent.  I quit, deleted, ignored, complained. The monk realized after thirty years that he could make a choice to quit rather than complain and rather than transcend into the spiritual realm that his silence could offer. I, too, decided another way.  Each draft, restart, and new choice veered away from the complaining.  Each misstep, rewrite, and finishing touch was a step forward.  Each time I acted upon instead of complaining about was a spiritual awakening.  If I only had two words every ten years for those twenty years (regarding my book), my words would be similar to the complaining monk.

My first two words now would be, “Thank you.”

What would your two words be?


Don’t Borrow Trouble

My yoga teacher (thanks Meg) said this phrase to me after I imagined the worst case scenario (which never did happen).

It’s now my mantra for everything:

My son driving home from college in the rain…don’t borrow trouble.

My book has gotten rejections and one interest (still waiting back)…don’t borrow trouble.

I’m getting on a plane soon and I’m not a great flyer…don’t borrow trouble.

Did I leave the oven on…don’t borrow trouble.

You get the point.  It’s a quick statement to reset your brain, to clear it out of thoughts based in fear about things that may never happen.  We all do it, this habit of borrowing trouble, as if anticipating it can make it somehow lessen or go away.  It’s a way to disengage from our present moment, a way to keep the illusion of control about the future. It’s a way to stay stuck, with the pay-off being “see, I was right.”

We have no control…the only thing we can control is our reaction.  The only way to control our reaction is to stay present: what do I see, what do I hear, what do I feel, deep breath.

I wrote, “Inside the River,” because I had a story to tell.  Now I want that story to be heard.  I am trying to find an agent who believes in the magic of Magical Realism.  It’s a small niche in the United States…don’t borrow trouble!



Rejection is just a game of catch

Yes, I am trying to find an agent for my book, “Inside the River.”

Rejection: from Latin rejectionem, “act of throwing back.”

I kinda dig that image.  I am sending out my query letter and unknown people are throwing it back to me…still in one piece, without stealing or using any of the parts.  I get to keep it and throw it out to someone else.  And so the game continues, like playing catch.

Soon, someone (very clever and innovative) will want to hold onto my query and then want to help me with my book.  A new game of catch begins with a wider audience and the opportunity for larger teams that may actively throw back.

It happens every day, in small and big ways, and oftentimes this sense of rejection feels far from a playful banter between yes and no.  We swallow it and digest fear and sadness, loneliness and insecurity.

Yoga has taught me to take action without clinging to the end result. And so with each throw back, I just send it back out with deep gratitude to be able and willing to play.



Expand your presence

“An old zen master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, he sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it.
“How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter,” spit the apprentice.
The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.
The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”
“Much fresher,” remarked the apprentice. ”Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man.
At this, the master sat beside the young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering,
“The pain of life is pure salt, no more, no less.
The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same.
But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.
So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things…Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

I read this a few weeks ago and it stayed with me and so I thought I would share it with you.  For me, this is the reason I practice yoga.  Yoga expands my presence, it’s the way inside so that I can stay awake.  Otherwise, I am the apprentice, only drinking from my salty cup, thinking the world a bitter place.  

I will always recommend yoga (remember the physical practice is just one of the eight limbs of yoga so there is a lot of yoga out there to study) but if yoga doesn’t call out to you, then find something…a cooking class, dance lessons, learning a new language, saying yes to something that you’re afraid of…anything that can keep you anchored to the present moment and expand it.  I find that the more conscious I am, the more the world isn’t defined by the past or the future, the more I can be the lake.

Happy swimming


House of Jai 30 day Yoga Challenge

mindypicI work and practice at House of Jai yoga studio in New York City.  As many of you have read, my yoga practice, my action of self-study, has unleashed the courage needed to finish my novel, “Inside the River.”

The studio has started a fun and non-competitive 30 day yoga challenge.  The challenge is to get on your mat every day for a month.  It doesn’t have to be at House of Jai so there is a wonderful component of Satya or truth to the challenge.

Today is Day 1 and so I thought I would write about it and perhaps give updates every few days as to how being aware of a daily choice can shift old habits of mind and body.  For years, I’ve been getting on my mat almost every day, and each time the practice teaches me something as I hold onto my beginner’s mind.

Day 1 is a seated meditation pose.  I chose to sit on my mat at home, and on a bolster so my hips are higher than my thighs, making it easier to align and balance myself.  It also helps drain some of the fluid in those hips, and we tend to hold a lot of our unconscious in that area…all those push under the rug emotions often get stuck in the hips.

My photo is in my pj’s or my version of sleepwear…no make up, my hair tussled.  It was my time to meditate, to drop my ego, to bolster my journey inward.  Yoga is a journey inward and my action of stillness is a path to my center.  So I offer up the challenge to all those out there, beginners all of us, to get on your mat in some way, for some amount of time, and take notice of the effects.  Take notice of the shift and the space and what comes your way.  After ten minutes on my bolster, I felt open and grateful.

Happy challenge…and please let me know! Check out House of Jai on all the social media sites for other fun photos and insights.


Yoga beyond the physical asanas…what does that mean?

Fourteen years ago, I went to physical therapy for a non-threatening but persistent stomach condition that had painfully nagged at me since I was a teenager.  The therapist, basically, taught me yoga…how to breathe, link breath and movement with cat/cow, some stabilizing abdomen work.  It was a pretty immediate reaction of feeling more present and relaxed,  and more connected to my core, (an area I’d avoided in fear for many years).  She said I needed yoga in my life.

So I looked at a nearby yoga studio’s schedule and picked “power yoga,” because I didn’t want to sit still and chant.  I was lost, sweating, holding my breath, and self-conscious.  Fortunately, there was a teacher trainee who was assisting the class.  He stayed near me, gently informing me about the poses and breath, and then went over the schedule for me.  New yogis–beginner flow, vinyasa 1,  slow flow, gentle….take those classes!

I stuck with it and within a few months I started to begin to understand the language of yoga.  My stomach felt relief, and the “episodes” lessened.  I felt myself learning how to be awake in the present moment on the mat.  Breath, where my foot goes, shoulders aligned over wrist, tuck tailbone slightly, knee over ankle, etc.  My mind began to quiet as I realized that most of what my monkey mind was thinking was either about the past or the future, both fear inducing.  As my core became stronger, so did my confidence and my will.  By year two, inversions, arm balances, a lot of the party tricks were tried and conquered.  By year seven, I even went deeper and did a 200 teacher training and taught a little.

And yet I was still on my mat, studying my physical practice, and reading about the philosophy of yoga like a college subject that was going to be tested.

Only through confronting painfully needed life choices and injury did I finally begin to do yoga.  Only when I acted on my present condition was I able to get beyond the physical poses. Suddenly the other limbs of yoga (asana is only one of eight limbs) opened up to me.  Headstand was a path inside, but headstand alone won’t bring transformation, freedom, and truth.  And you don’t need a headstand to find the bliss.  Let me say it again, as we are bombarded by beautiful and artistic photos of incredible yoga teachers in their incredible poses…you don’t need to do that to be invited to your own enlightenment.  Samadhi can happen in sparks throughout your day and off the mat.

The benefits of asana practice are astounding and the research is abundant.  But when I overdid my SI joint and had to modify with blocks and realized how heart opening blocks can be…that’s the yoga.  As years went by and my body changed, I let go of many of the party tricks and realized the incredible depth of refinement Warrior 1 asks of us…that’s the yoga.  Deciding to become a vegetarian, deciding to use my voice as an action of my will, deciding to write “Inside the River,” is all about the yoga.

I guess this blog is about gratitude for the practice that is new for me each day, that is still unfolding, that is “unsheathing” the mist.  And if someone reads this, who is intimidated by the onslaught of yoga olympics, please know that as long as you have breath, you have yoga.  Find a class that speaks to you in some way and try it…try it at least twice a week for 3 months.  If a teacher asks something of you that doesn’t feel good for your body, listen to your body. If a teacher comes and assists you and it hurts, tell them. If a class didn’t work for you, then pick another class.

Then take notice of the benefits…there is no separation between the practice on the mat and off of the mat, just as there’s no separation between our mind and body and spirit.  We’ve called them different words and created that separation.  And to every reader, and beyond, I wish you peace…

Om Shanti