Category Archives: emotions

Respite

img

Tuesday morning, I woke up, but barely. I was heavy all over. It has been raining for weeks in Austin, and this morning was particularly dark and wet. My body and my mind moved slowly and my heart felt heavy, too. The night before I watched a movie and I woke thinking about it. It made me feel so sad.

I went through my morning yoga practice but didn’t really mean it. Some days are like that. When I was finally at the end, I thought about the story of the woman in the movie who had suffered so much. I thought about women throughout history who have suffered in similar ways, and I started to cry. Sometimes the weight of these things feels overwhelming.

But then something happened. Peace came over me. It wasn’t just peace, it felt like God was there with me and all this suffering that was so painful a moment before shifted and I wasn’t holding it alone. This happened at the exact moment that the air conditioner kicked on in my practice space, and the cool air felt so good, I wondered if i had it wrong and it wasn’t god I was feeling.  Maybe I was just hot. For a moment, I considered going with the air conditioner explanation, but then I remembered that I have an old habit I have of denying anything spiritual. I took a few deep breaths, felt my body cool off, and I noticed that the relief was still with me. So was the feeling of peace.

Philomena-and-Anthony

from ‘Philomena’, the 2013 film starring Judy Dench and Steve Coogan

It’s hard to be happy when we’re worn out

tree rings

The other day, Hazel came back from a weekend at girlscout camp. The camp was wonderfully exhausting. She loves her troop and all the adventures that go with hundreds of girls and cabins and camp activities, though three days of it left her introverted soul worn out and in need of a recharge. She came home still buzzing with excitement but within an hour, the exhaustion overcame her. She retreated to her room, flopped on her bed, and stayed there, sad and crying for a long time.

After a while she came and found me.  We talked about feeling sad and not knowing why. She wondered if this big mood swing was normal or if something was wrong with her. I assured her that for a lot of us, being physically tired goes along with feeling sad or having negative thoughts. We talked about puberty, too. Her body is in the midst of a big change and these changes aren’t just happening in the body…they happen in the mind and the emotional parts of us, too. Even though the sadness can overtake her, it isn’t forever.  When I asked her if it was there during the weekend, she said it wasn’t. That morning, she was happy to be with her friends and was looking forward to coming home from camp. What a big change a few hours can make.

Yoga’s pañca maya model* has helped to make the relationship between body, breath, mind, personality and emotions more clear to me. It speaks to the interconnectedness of all aspects of our being. Any shift, for better or worse, at any of these levels, sends a ripple of an effect through all of the layers. For worse—a tired, sore, worn out body may leave us sad, crying and catastrophizing. For better – we’re rested, well fed, and with time to recharge, then our thoughts are positive and we have feelings of peace. Yoga Sūtra III.9** says, there are patterns of distraction, OR patterns of attention playing out in our system at any given time. When patterns of attention predominate, this extends to the whole system. This is nirodha pariṇāma. In other words, when we make efforts to find or maintain balance and be attentive at any level of our system, this extends to our whole system. Attention and balance in our mind, goes along with ease in our body, long and smooth breathing, and peace in our personality and emotions.

These teachings have helped me to better understand the relationship between these different aspects of my being. I’m grateful for yoga, and my teachers who have helped it to come alive for me. And I’m so grateful that I get to be Hazel’s mama. It’s very possible that Hazel has more emotional intelligence at twelve than I have at thirty-nine. She can watch and identify when she feels sad. She can tell what happens when she feels this way. She asks for help to understand it and to normalize it and is learning to see the connectedness of it all along the way. She is one of my teachers, too.

 

*The pañca maya model describes 5 layers or ‘veils’: annamaya (body), prāṇamaya (breath or prāṇa), manomaya (mind, intellect), vijñānamaya (personality), and ānandamaya (emotions or bliss)

**Yoga Sūtra III.9 vyutthānanirodhasaṁskāroḥ abhibhavaprādurbhāvau nirodhakṣaṇacittānvayo nirodhapariṇāmaḥ

——————–

Interested in learning more about the deeper teachings of yoga and applying them in your life?  Join me in Ojai, CA this August for a 5-day retreat!  http://handson-retreats.com It’s going to be great. 

Pants on Fire

lady gaga telephoneI caught myself fibbing the other day. Hazel wasn’t feeling well and I called her friend’s mom to cancel plans. Totally reasonable, right? Certainly every mom of a 12-year old has had to cancel plans for a sick kid. Never-the-less, in that moment ‘reasonable’ didn’t matter because while we were on the phone I detected disappointment in the mom’s voice. The disappointment triggered my old insecurities and these insecurities took control of my thoughts and my communication. Is she judging me? Oh, she’s totally mad at me. What if I’ve messed this up and our kids don’t get to hang out again for a super-long time. Five seconds in and I was spiraling. It was from this needy, nervous, and not rational place that all these could-be truths started to spew from my mouth. “I’m going to pick Hazel up from school” (though hadn’t made arrangements to actually do that) …”And we’ll go see the doctor” (possible, but not a plan). “And we’ll get a strep test and if it isn’t serious, maybe we can get the girls together tomorrow instead” (maybe, maybe not). “Yeah. She’s that sick.” (I wasn’t actually so sure how sick she was.) I was fishing for some reassurance that I was still okay in this other mom’s eyes. That this was normal. That she understood. I wanted to feel better about myself and lying was the way I attempted to get the sympathy and acknowledgment that I needed in that moment. I hated what I was doing, but it just kept playing itself out until finally, I got off the phone.

Satyam, truthfulness or right communication, is one of the yamas or ethical principles that Patañjali lays out for us in the second chapter of the yoga sūtras. (II.30) This chapter teaches about the obstacles we face and the path and practices to diminish them. The ability to communicate thoughtfully, truthfully, and with sensitivity is one of these practices. Who can argue with that? When we lie, we create problems or obstacles for ourselves down the line. We worry about getting found out. We miss out on intimacy. Dignity diminishes. This resonates with me and even seems kind of obvious. Honesty is the best policy.

There’s another aspect to this truthfulness conversation and it comes later in the chapter. Sūtra II.31 says that if the five yamas aren’t interrupted by circumstances including one’s occupation, jāti, place, deśa, or time, kāla, AND they are sustained at all levels (action, speech, and thought) then it is as if the person is upholding a great vow, mahā-vratam. Start talking about upholding a vow, and this shit gets real. Why we practice honesty isn’t just policy, it is something sacred. Efforts we make to be truthful are in line with a holy promise or a hallowed act. When I think of this sūtra, I shudder. Mahā-vratam. Truthfulness as a great vow.

YS II.36 describes what happens when a person demonstrates a very high-level of satya. ”If you only tell the truth, then what you say will come true.*” Satya pratiṣṭhātāṁ kkriyāphala āśrayatvam. I have a friend that totally follows through on what he says he’ll do. He also is very sincere and thoughtful about what he says, everything he says. He’s straightforward and honest and i admire and appreciate him so much because of it. For example, if Mark says, “let’s get together for dinner next week on Saturday,” I know that he is going to make it happen. I’ll receive a text or a call with a time, a place, and a plan and I’m happy to go. He comes through every time. I know I can count on him so when I say yes, I’m more likely to follow suit. What he says comes true.

Satya, or truthfulness, hasn’t come easily to me. For a long time, I lied for convenience, to avoid awkward moments, to avoid getting into trouble, or so that I can have the little hit of dopamine that comes when I let someone believe I’m going to give them what they want, even if I have no intention of following through. I’ve been working on these saṁskāras or patterns of mine for a while now and I’m happy to report that the self-awareness and the self-assurance that comes from my regular yoga practice is gaining ground. I’m getting better at being truthful. I still hope to be able to slow down when I’m talking and to better notice what I’m about to say and where it’s coming from. Is this insecurity talking? Is what I’m about ot say truthful? I working toward good habits around communication so that honesty is my go-to. I may not uphold a sacred vow of truthfulness when it comes to breaking plans and feeling like I’m disappointing people, but I’d like to keep working my way there.

*from Yoga Sutras lecture by Chase Bossart on 12.5.2014

 

Early Bird discount ends May 15th

Ojai Women’s RETREAT

www.handson_retreats.com

Save $200 now!IMG0172

REAL LIFE. REAL TOOLS.

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT. 5TH, 2016

This 5-day retreat is specially designed to teach you the art of unlearning and letting go of old patterns that have long since lost their usefulness while also providing precious leisure time which allows these new skills and understandings to become more rooted in your daily life.

We teach YogaAyurveda and the Alexander Technique in a practical and meaningful way so that when you return home you will have useful tools to keep this new, balanced relationship going—not only within yourself but with everyone around you.

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green ~ Sydney Laurel Harris

Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments to receive your discount. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

 

 

 

 

That thing we hate about our personality might actually save us one day

IMG_0013

I have two kids. When our whole family is out and people see how much Nora looks like Dave and Hazel like me, we often get the comment. “looks like you got one of each.” We laugh a little because if that observant, friendly stranger hung out at our house, there would be no doubt. Hazel is her own person, but she and I have a lot of the same tendencies and personality traits. You could say the same about Nora and Dave.

One of the things that Hazel and I share is sensitivity. If we get hurt, it hurts a lot. If we are sad, we feel it so deeply that it can be overwhelming. If someone in our presence is having a great/bad/emotional moment, we feel great, bad, or emotional right along with her or him. When I was a kid, I was labeled as moody.  I knew that my sensitivity could be hard on my relationships with other people, and it was also hard for me. At the time, I managed this sensitivity by ignoring it and by pretending to be different than I was. That didn’t work out very well for me so I’m trying my best to help Hazel develop a healthy relationship with this aspect of her personality – something I am still in the process of doing for myself.

I had an appointment with my yoga mentor this week and he asked about Hazel. He knows that Hazel is a special kid with a lot of sensitivity to what is happening around her. The question helped me to reflect on how this process is going for her, and to appreciate how good she is, even at her young age, at self-regulating. When she starts to feel overwhelmed, she usually knows what to do to get grounded again. She’ll take some space from a person or situation. She spends a lot of time alone, reading, listening to music, and especially drawing. If she needs it, she’ll come over to me for a hug and then stay there a while and I can feel her settling. Because she has ways of managing her emotional world and taking care of herself, she doesn’t struggle in the same way I did.  I really think she sees her sensitivity as a special part of who she is. I think she even appreciates it.

Just writing this makes me choke up because this is amazing to me. We all have things inside of us that are the difficult and wondrous gifts. The yoga sutras talk about the functions of the mind, the vṛttis, as kliśta akliśta (I.5). The same mental function can be helpful or not, just like the very same aspect of our personality can be great help in some situations or the very thing that gets us into trouble in others. When we know ourselves well and have a perspective that lets us accept and work with our personality traits instead of wishing we didn’t have them, it gives so much meaning to why we are who we are. Maybe this kind of acceptance and self-awareness even brings us closer to understanding what we are here to do, our dharma. Those are really lofty ideas, but for me, today, it boils down to this… I’m so grateful that Hazel can be herself and like her self.  I deeply admire the emotional intelligence she’s cultivating. And if I have some small part in helping her be able to do this, then I’m here to tell you, this motherhood thing I’m involved in is worthwhile and meaningful.  I’m grateful to be able to watch this magic happen.

Registration Opens soon! 


Ojai Valley Women’s Retreat:

Practical Transformation from the Inside Out

August 31st to Sept 5th, 2016

Inside Pavilion1

 with Amanda Green and Carol Prentice


 

Spend five days in the beautiful Ojai Valley immersed in good company, gourmet Ayurvedic cuisine and the transformational teachings of Yoga, Ayurveda, Alexander technique.

*Private and double occupancy rooms available.

Peppertree Retreat Center, Ojai, California

IMG0172 IMG0171 IMG0118a

Feeling nervous isn’t glamorous

This is "Rascal." The photo comes from ODEE's article on ugly dogs.

This is “Rascal.” The photo comes from ODEE’s article on ugly dogs.

I was about to get into my car on the way to an interview this week and I was excited and nervous. I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be calm and collected. I aspired to radiate peace, clear communication, and just the right amount of confidence. Even though I may experience some version of this at other times, it wasn’t happening in this crucial moment and I couldn’t will it to be so. I knew this because there was an uncontrollable quivering that originated from deep inside my body. I was trembling. When this happens I feel like one of those little shivering dogs with too little fur or a nervous constitution.

I left my coat on, cranked up the heat in my car and then did my best to drive more slowly than I wanted to. I attempted to breathe in a relaxed way. I went over the reasons that I looked forward to the meeting and how I’d like it to go down. After the twenty minutes it took to arrive, the shivering had mostly subsided and my level of ease improved. I decided to ignore the sweat rings in the armpits of my blouse.

Aṅgamejayatva describes one of the five symptoms that help us to recognize when we are out of balance (YS I.31).   And get this… aṅga = parts, and mejayatva = “are trembling.” I’ve heard aṅgamejayatva described as an inability to be comfortable in a posture or being ill at ease in the body, but then I had this literal trembling thing happen and once again, I had to nod to our sage, Patañjali, for nailing it. Yes, I was experiencing emotional distress, duḥkha, there may have been some negative thinking, daurmanasya, breathing was agitated, śvāsa praśvāsā, my body trembled, and I experienced some agitation and lack of focus, vikṣepasahabhuvaḥ. Patanjali’s symptoms of distress? Check. Check checkity. Check. Luckily the sutras also offer ways to manage these symptoms.  I’m glad I’ve practiced ways to take care of myself when these are present.

The interview went well. It was actually pretty fun and I think really good things will come of it. I don’t know that I’ll ever totally outgrow the nervous-excitement trembling condition I have, but maybe I’ll get to the point where I can come back to balance and without sweating so profusely in the process.

blog2

Save the date

Women’s RETREAT: August 31st to Sept 5th, 2016

Join me for 5 days in beautiful Ojai, CA, where you can replenish and reset with three master teachers as your guides.  You’ll have time to steep in the wisdom of yoga, ayurveda and well-being while enjoying the beautiful accommodations and the surrounding Ojai valley.

More info to come!

paperwhites flower

Married, part II

5e5cf3ec-3b97-11e5-9be2-c9beed7c2430-1020x573.jpg

People Places Things — it’s a  movie

Dave and I have been back together for Married, Part II for a couple of years now. The hurt and the tumult of our separation isn’t so close to the surface anymore, though occasionally, a memory from that time will come up and I can feel it’s presence even if I’m not actively thinking about it. Like when you have gas… you can go about your day, but you aren’t as relaxed as you could be.

One evening last week, with the girls in bed and Dave out of town, I snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie. I picked one from the ‘quirky comedy’ list and, turns out, this story is about a couple navigating separation and co-parenting after divorce. With this story playing out on the screen, those gassy feelings I mentioned moved into the realm of fully conscious reflection. I could relate to the confusion, the excitement, and the parenting negotiations that went on with our hero and heroine. I appreciated the story telling that gave time for the uncomfortable stuff that’s a part of divorce. I was happy, in the end, when the two of them were able to move on.

Memory is such a funny thing. We might forget something that has happened to us, the details may fade, we may remember something correctly or incorrectly, or imagine something. However they come about, and in one form or another, these experiences stay with us. In the first chapter of the Yoga sūtras, Patañjali presents us with 5 functions of the mind, one of which is smṛti or memory*. In YS 1.11 he defines smṛti as the “unthievable record of your experience”**. Untheivable… can’t be stolen. I love that because it is totally true.

Memories don’t leave us, but as we create more memories, the old ones do change and can be refined. After the movie, I went to bed but didn’t fall asleep right away. I was having a lot of old break-up feelings.  They are so different now than when I was in the midst of it. Back then, I could feel my heart race and my body respond over the littlest reminder. This time, they didn’t overwhelm me.

Time heals. Yeah, okay. But the thing about time passing is that in that time, we have other experiences. Time spent laughing together, really listening to each other, offering care and feeling loved – all of these things leave their own memories and record behind.   These experiences have more power than the break-up ones once did.  The new experiences are the ones I want to connect to, and am trying my hardest to create. As a result, these new experiences are reshaping the old memories and giving rise to who we are together now.

 

 

*The 5 vṛtti, functions of the mind.

The mind can…

prāmaṇa — perceive correctly

viparyaya – perceive incorrectly

Vikalpa – create something that isn’t there (imagine or invent).

Nidra – be in a deep, dreamless sleep

Smṛti – create memories

 

*This translation comes from yoga sūtras classes I took with Chase Bossart.

Thin Places

FullSizeRenderWe’ve all had the experience of hearing a song we haven’t heard in a long time and then it reminds us of who we were and the people we hung out with at a time when we listened to it a lot. And I had this experience yesterday.

When I was in high school, I had a friend who was killed in an accident. I still think of her often, but the thoughts don’t stick around for long and they don’t trigger a lot of emotion like they once did. But one day this week, Dave played a song on the guitar and it happened to be a song that Lori danced to in a talent show when we were in school together. As he played, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of Lori. This fullness of memory, images, feelings, colors, emotions, things I hadn’t experienced in years came to me in an instant – I closed my eyes hoping I could better watch what was happening —how she danced, the line of her perfectly even front teeth, the way she held her head a little sideways so her side-bangs wouldn’t hang in her eye, the weight of the bones of her shoulders. I could feel how she smiled and how funny she was. She was so bright and so nice to me. With tears streaming down my face, I could feel the wonderful 15-year-old love I had for my friend and I realized how much I love her still. This was such a gift.

Later in the day, with Lori still on my mind, I reflected on this experience and about thin places, an expression I came across in a reading about Celtic spirituality. These are places where the veil between the physical and spiritual realms is barely there; where sky meets water or where people worship, where we may sense the ephemeral and more easily move in and out of time. I love this and it resonates with me after having this experience, though I have to admit that I was sitting on my brown couch amongst a motley crew of hand me down furniture in my living room when I had my experience. This is a setting that wouldn’t strike anyone as particularly ‘thin’.

Yoga is mysterious. It starts out feeling like it’s about stretching, or breathing or taming the mind or maybe even finding peace, but then it so much more. It’s such a deeply personal practice. There’s a way that yoga practice helps me to feel more open to these moments. The separation between myself as a spiritual being doesn’t feel so separate from the rest of me because of yoga. Yoga has a way of letting my system be a thin place. Quiet attention to breath and movement and the intention of coordinating all of that in one direction might have started as a way to feel better, but along the way, this same simple work is so much more.  The other day, I stopped what I was doing and watched as time folded in on itself and something amazing came. I was so close to my teenage experience and to my friend and to love.

Wholeness

IMG_7158.JPG

I love these two. and karaoke.

If we really believed that we are whole, if we felt it, if we had faith in our wholeness, then I think a lot would change. I think we’d still seek, but out motivations would be different. Instead of trying to fill a hole or thinking we are incomplete somehow, we’d care for the parts that feel lonely or empty in a different way. Instead of believing that something is missing, we’d look into the hurt and see that hurting as a part of a complete, whole being. We might see it as a part of life, of something we need to notice and attend, not as some mistake that needs fixing.

Our relationships would be different. Two whole people, together, feels really different than having that weird thing of “you complete me” or “better half” running through the mind. Wholeness includes a willingness to see, know, and accept all the stuff that we experience and that we are. And if we can do it for ourselves, we have some practice and an understanding that helps us do that for other people, too.

Whether we know it or not, we are whole. There’s nothing missing. All of it is important.

 

Best wishes for the Holidays xo

Yoga Sutra I.38 – Dreams can give us insight

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.04.28 PM.png

Yoga Sūtra I.38 svapna-nidrā jñāna-ālambanaṁ vā

Inquiry into dreams and sleep and our experiences during our around these states can help to clarify some of our problems.

-T.K.V Desikachar, Heart of Yoga

 

If everyone is born with a central issue that they’ll live and work with throughout life, mine is loneliness. The feeling isn’t always acute, but every year, around Christmas, it comes up and I wonder why I’m sensitive and moodyuntil I remember, “Oh yeah. Me + loneliness… We have a thing.” Then I attempt to consider the experience as yet another opportunity to be with this feeling and to see how we are doing.

I’ve been feeling the loneliness over the last few weeks, but life continues and as you may know, our house has been home to rats since October. Though we have made a big dent in the local population, we know there is at least one hearty and resourceful survivor. We don’t see evidence of this rat every day, but then we’ll hear it running in the attic or see a nibbled piece of fruit and we are reminded that it isn’t going down without a fight.

Last night, I had this dream.

I went into my bathroom and though it was the middle of the day, it was really dark. I guess there was some sort of storm outside. As I walked in, I encountered a dozen rats just hanging out, like they were having a meeting. I freaked out because now I could see that this rat problem was so much worse than I thought. I had to capture and kill them. The rats ran out of the bathroom and I followed them into the sunny entryway of my childhood house. As the rats went along the 1970’s flecked marble-like tile, they morphed into these large, soft, docile, bunny creatures. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture them, but then they slowed and allowed me to pick them up.

I picked them up one-by-one and carefully put them into a paper grocery bag. Each one was so much softer and sweeter than I expected and I realized how hungry I was for gentle touch and connection. I spent a little time with each one before I put it into the bag. I had a change of heart. I knew these rat-bunnies couldn’t go on living in my house, but did they really need to be killed? I decided to call the Animal Shelter so they could be someone’s pet.

In the past, I’ve shrugged off dreams, but since studying the yoga sūtras, and seeing how Patañjali is pretty much right about everything he says, I’ve taken I.38 to heart and look for insight from the dreams I can remember. I’m pretty sure this dream has a lot to offer me in the way of better understanding myself and these feelings of the season.

These themes of connection and alone-ness, of fear and love, of avidyā (misperception) and awareness are familiar ones to me, but having this dream and it’s weird sequence, associated emotions, and rich imagery is something more tangible to work with than mere concepts and ideas. It isn’t unlike what happens after meditation. Something else takes over in meditative state and what I see or experience isn’t exactly of my own conscious creation. My self takes a back seat while something else drives the experience. At the end of meditation, there can be a feeling of “coming out” or “coming back” from somewhere kind of like when I wake from dreaming. Sometimes, the impressions from that place stay with me.  These impressions provide another little window into my being which can enrich my practice of svādhyāya, self-reflection, so I know myself better. They can show me another way of looking at a situation. Each year that comes around and I check in with this central relationship, the one of me+loneliness, my perspective is a little different and my appreciation for what it means grows.

 

 

 

sensitive and cranky… Is it existential angst or just the holidays?

IMG_7043

I’ve been crying at everything lately. It’s not because I’m terribly sad, but it isn’t always joyful either. And it’s a little exhausting.

I guess I’m sharing this because most of the time, the things I write about are generally upbeat and positive. Or something happens in my life, related to yoga, and even if it was troubling or difficult at the time, I learn from it and it leaves me feeling hopeful and it’s easy to share. But I’m in a place that doesn’t feel easy. I’m sensitive and uncertain, I’m rebelling against the things that are good for me, and I feel like I’m waiting to know what to do next.

Practicing yoga makes my life better. No doubt. But it doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be times like these – times where the predominant experience is something other than unending bliss. Even in the cry-fest that’s going on right now, I’m comforted by the teachings. There’s a way that yoga helps with these times, too. Or maybe it’s better said that this can also be yoga. I can notice and reflect on what’s happening. (svādhyāya). I can make efforts to care for myself in a way that supports balance and attention (tapas). I can trust, that along with the bliss and the joy, this is a worthwhile and important part of my experience. This isn’t permanent. And the result of this experience is more than I can imagine. (Īśvara pranidhāna).

 

I love you all.