Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wherever you go…

There’s a saying that I’m sure you’ve come across, “Wherever you go, there you are.” We’re well into this social distancing season and for all the shifts and changes in my daily life, very familiar behavioral patterns are still following me around. Yep. There I am.

At the beginning of all this, I imagined that not really leaving the house would eliminate the bulk of time-sucking activities so that I’d have oodles of time left over. That sounded like a possible silver lining to this dark COVID-cloud, because when life is busy or stressful, I crave the counterpoint of open time. I need room in my day for practice, writing, and connecting with my family. But that’s not what happened. As soon as my household and I did the heavy lifting to adjust to living in Virus-landia, I unintentionally filled up my schedule. Turns out, busy-ness is one of the things I do when I feel uncomfortable.

We may find ourselves in this strange new world where people wear facemasks, we stand six feet away from each other, and everything else seems to happen on zoom, but our internal structures, the patterns that help us and the patterns that we aren’t proud of, don’t. The internal patterning that each of us has for coping with change and stress seem inextricably and overwhelmingly entangled with our best intentions. This makes it very difficult to merely choose or decide that the aspirational behavior will come out ahead. Most of us need something more than will-power. We need practices that can loosen the old patterns and help new ones to take hold.

Yoga gives each of us a way of working with our internal patterning. Yoga practice gets into some of the deepest and most fundamental patterns that we have – how we breathe, move, and think – and lets us work with those aspects of our being so that something else can emerge. When we work with the breath so that it is long and smooth, the body can feel steady and calm. When the body feels steady and calm, the mind reflects that. And when the mind and body are steady and calm, we have a chance at cultivating, maybe even choosing, a new pattern where we have space in our daily lives for practice, important pursuits and time with those we love, including ourselves.

Faith in human-being-ness

My parenting has had to shift a lot over the last few weeks. I’m still cooking and cleaning, I’m encouraging (and sometimes enforcing) good personal hygiene habits among family members, but other things are changing. This change is unsettling to me. I keep having to ask myself — How much śraddha, faith and trust, do I have in the process of being-a-human? When I ask that question, I come to find that I have quite a bit of faith in humanity. But the second, and harder question comes next… Does that trust apply to my children?

My girls want to be in charge of what they do and how they do it. Nora, my 11-year-old, has been sleeping on the floor of her closet for 3 weeks. Hazel, 16, died her hair bright blue and cut bangs. She wanted to cut herself a “modern-mullet” but thought better of it just before scissors went to the back of her head. Both kids want to wake up when they are ready and do school work at their own pace. They carry their laptops all over the house and into the back yard. They want to eat gross snacks. They want to dance instead of cleaning the kitchen. And when they talk to me, they don’t want advice. They want me to listen to the ideas that are bumping around in their minds and to give them the space and the time to work things out on their own.

I can’t say that I love all of the choices the girls make, but when I ask these questions about belief and faith, the śraddha is there. Hazel and Nora are capable of doing their school work and if they forget something, it’s going to be okay. It’s okay to sleep in a closet for a few weeks. It’s okay to have a dance party instead of doing the dishes. It’s also okay not to explain all the ways they could navigate the challenges they face. I don’t have to say all the things that I may want to share with my kids. They don’t need me to teach right now. They need to learn for themselves.

These days, a super-important part of my yoga practice is listening to my girls without my phone in my hands or an agenda in my back pocket. I see that the more I listen to them, the more space they have to figure out what their own inner voice is saying. There are lots of impulses and identities that drive a tween’s and teenager’s decision making, and it isn’t always the voice of intuition or true-self that wins the debate, but sorting through those voices is part of the process of being human. I really need to remember that because if I can, then my girls are going to come out of this pandemic knowing more about how they feel when they eat a bag of flamin’ hot chips or forget a school assignment. The songs and the drawings will be of their own inspiration. They will feel their own śraddha growing as they learn to trust the still, quiet voice within each of themselves.

love,
Amanda

Gentle yoga is a slow paced online yoga class designed to help you feel more centered and ease-ful in your body and mind. Class meets live on Tuesdays 10:45-11:45am CT and recordings are available to watch on demand. Click title above to join!

Yoga for Vitality & Strength focuses on the wide universe of āsana through challenging and invigorating sequences that sharpen the mind, promote health, and deepen the breath capacity.
Class meets live on Mondays 10:45-11:45am CT and recordings are available to watch on demand. Click class title above to join!

Don’t rebuild too quickly

So many of the external structures and systems that organized the flow of my days aren’t around in the way they were a month ago.  My girls don’t go to school so our daily routine is much more fluid.  I don’t have students coming to my home for yoga, so I don’t prepare the space in the same way I did. I’m not going to church services or to my parents’ house for dinner.  I’m not attending trainings or going to stores. I’m not meeting my sister for hikes or friends for lunch. If all of these things served as the framework that gave my days structure, those boards and bricks are now in rubble heaps all around me.

At the start of all of this social-isolation business I exhausted myself by attempting to scaffold and stack the old structure back together.  I wrote a daily schedule on the kitchen chalkboard with familiar wake-up times, meal times, exercise suggestions and family activities. I was going to be the super-heroine who maintained the rhythm of what life was. My girls appreciated that for about zero seconds and as it turns out, I wasn’t into it either.

I need more sleep and I have varied energy and capacity for focused attention. Without the outside structures of work, school, and calendared commitments, we don’t groom our animal bodies in the same way. Instead of walking upright and moving in and out of cars, we modern-dance our way from kitchen table to bedroom to back yard to impromptu dance floor to yoga mat to piano bench. We aren’t making our appearances out in the world so we can show up for ourselves and each other in a different way. And what that looks like changes by the day.

We are starting to see that there are all sorts of ways to be in relationship, to love, and to show love. Work can look a lot of different ways. Education can and does happen outside of classrooms. We might not know what structure these things will take and it might be too soon to try to figure it all out.  I think we need to leave all the bricks piled around us for a little longer.  Let’s give the feral and untamed parts of our selves time to come out and show us what they want and need. When that happens, when we get to know those parts, when we’ve found the rhythm that pulses underneath the other way we knew how to be in the world, only then should we consider building something with the rubble of what was. 

Coping during covid

Over the last two weeks, my husband and I constructed garden beds for the backyard. I’ve made meals and baked bread. I’ve organized and cleaned. I washed my hands again and again and I have cleaned some more. At the end of every day, I fall into bed sore and exhausted. The only time I sit still is during meals with my family and my morning yoga practice.

When the stress is high, it’s interesting to watch what I do. I try to stay positive. I definitely try to stay busy and I want to have something to show for my efforts. I tend toward tasks that engage my body and my mind so much that I can’t think about what I’m feeling.

I’d like to say that yoga practice brings me peace these days, but it doesn’t. What it offers is space and time to feel the feelings that come with this strange new landscape. It gives me the ability to be with the experiences that I’m having as a result of this time of unknowns, illness, intimate time with family and a sense of interconnectedness that spans the globe. Practice won’t fix the problems, but somehow breathing slowly and deeply provides the stable ground to be able to look at how lives, mine and others, are being effected. It reminds me of my body and the importance of this breath. And this one. And this one. When I practice, I can feel myself move with a river, centuries old, that flows with the human beings who have related to their precious breath in a sacred way and who sat and allowed themselves to be with what happened during their own difficult times. I’m held by the practice and then I have the presence to feel my fear, and to be with all the uncertainty. When I am not trying so hard to tamp it down and avoid it, I’m with it and there’s some freedom in that.

Looking at what we are going through honestly, compassionately and without judgment is a form of self-empathy. Acknowledging what’s actually happening internally and around us takes courage, but it does provide a comfort perhaps because it is grounded in reality. When we aren’t so busy with the avoidance-shell-game or stubbornly refusing to feel, we have capacity to be with what is. Really seeing can be intense, but at the end of the day, it isn’t as exhausting as trying to make it this pandemic into something it’s not.

Yoga practice isn’t bringing me peace, exactly, but it is encouraging grace and stability so that I can be alive to what is occurring within and around me. Yoga can give us the capacity to be with what is.

I sincerely wish that you and your loved ones are safe and cared for. If I can be of support, I hope you’ll reach out.

With love,
Amanda

Prevent future suffering

Hazel in hoops

Hazel in Hoops, Watercolor, Amanda Green

Definitions of āsana Part 6: heyam duḥkhamanāgatam Yoga Sūtra II.16 Prevent future suffering

My grandmother had painful bunions on both feet. Though she didn’t complain, her red-hot joints and crooked toes caused her lots of suffering. By the time I was old enough to notice, she was wearing soft, padded shoes exclusively. (You might be familiar with the brand, SAS?) My mom has bunions, too. Her feet ache though they haven’t reached the severe stages that my Grandma’s did. My mom does massages the bottoms of her feet with a soft ball and walks around barefoot a lot. She doesn’t wear heels and she keeps these padded floor mats in the kitchen. She’s managing pretty well.

With this genetic evidence, it’s no surprise that in my teenage years, I started to see my big toes take a turn. When I wore any sort of heeled shoe I’d feel a deep ache at that big toe joint for hours. Lucky for me, I’m six feet tall, not so fashion oriented and I saw how bad bunions could get. By college, I quit wearing any shoe that resulted in achy big toe joints. That helped with the pain, but not the traveling toes. With yoga I started to work with my feet to encourage those toes to point North. I want to prevent future bunion-suffering.

In the context of āsana, there are several ways that this definition applies. There can be things in the very near and direct future we are hoping to prevent and things with a longer trajectory. Practice with sthira and sukha, stability and ease (more on this next post) and you have the opportunity to improve aches and pains in the body. Practice yoga in the morning and the body is more comfortable in the afternoon. Do some gentle movement before bed and then sleep is more restful. Move the body with presence and intention and a confusing decision becomes clear.
Attending to the needs of the body now can help the it to function well over time. Asana can help improve postural and movement patterns for a well -functioning body as we age. Practice balance, you’re balance will improve. Breathe deeply and you will support a full breath over time.
Some of the things that occur in life can’t be prevented or avoided. There are other times when there’s a potential problem ahead of us and we can do something about it now to lessen or even remove what’s ahead. This sūtra sets the stage for our asana practice and encourages us to reflect on what we can do to prevent future suffering.

… aaaaand we’re back

india ink portrait of child
I look forward to featuring some of my paintings on this blog. We’ll kick it off with this one…
Nora in line’ by Amanda Green

It has been about a year since my last post and almost three since I’ve blogged regularly. When I brought my blog to a pause, the stuff I was going through in my life seemed too vulnerable and personal to write about.  Back then, so much was changing and it felt as exhilarating as it was destabilizing. I guess I needed to let the stuff gestate for a while. I needed time to float in quiet, dark amniotic murk. But I seem to have outgrown the holding place.  It just isn’t cushioning me in the same way anymore.

My home life has a different vibe now that my girls are in middle and high school.  My personal yoga practice and relationship with my teacher have changed and developed. Marriage is the best it’s ever been and my work life has a nice rhythm. While lots of aspects of my life are steady-eddy, there are other things that are really stirred up. I’m grappling with the messiness of being human, trusting spiritual aims in the midst of life responsibilities, clumsy attempts at becoming more clear and present, and other stuff, too. Writing facilitates something for me. Feelings and ideas get integrated and understood a little differently when I make the effort to translate them into words. Seems like an interesting time to rev up the ol’ blog-engine again.

As I dedicate time to writing, I want to acknowledge that the shift isn’t a purely internal event. There are those of you who have contributed with your patient and subtle offerings of encouragement along the way. Thanks.

This platform is more for enduring messages and not so much for the time-specific offerings. If you’d like to spend more time together and hear about workshops, classes, special offers and invitations to take your practice to a new level, you’ll find those in my monthly emails. I hope you’ll sign up for that by clicking here or on the link in the blog sidebar.

Stay tuned.

More to come!

Radical Acceptance

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Two things I read this week have really stayed with me… in that way that puts a wobble in the things that I’ve held onto for stability. I know that if I reeeeally allowed myself to embrace the way of being that’s put out in these words, then a radical shift would have to happen.

The first one comes from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. He quotes Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature:

The problem’s not that the truth is harsh but that liberation from ignorance is as painful as being born.  Run after truth until you’re breathless.  Accept the pain involved in re-creating yourself afresh. These ideas will take a life to comprehend, a hard one interspersed with drunken moments.

NAGUIB MAHFOUZ, Palace of Desire 

The second comes from The Power of Now 

Accept — then act.  Whatever the preset moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.  Always work with it, not against it.  Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy.  This will miraculously transform your whole life. –Eckhart Tolle

Both speak to acceptance of what is. Sometimes what is is painful and uncomfortable. What if we accept that, too? Or what if, beyond just accepting it, we ‘run after truth until we’re breathless?’ Accept it as if we had chosen it?”  This would be radical and empowering.  And, I have to admit, it sounds kind of scary.

 

When it’s unconscious, it’s easy to overlook

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The other day, my daughter walked home from school with our neighbors.   When I went by to pick her up, she was busy playing with her friends so I sat down with my neighbor and we visited. This neighbor and I have had some nice conversations since she moved in last year. We talk a lot about our kids and the neighborhood school. We might share how the most recent trip went or who’s coming in from out of town for a visit.  This time, sitting at her kitchen counter, we had a different kind of conversation.  We talked about experiences of motherhood and marriage. We shared stories about other times in our lives. I confessed that I kind of like my husband’s work-travel and that it’s been good for me and for our marriage. My neighbor talked about how she felt when she lived abroad, what her life was like when her oldest was a baby, and how she’s learned so much about herself since then. There were things I could relate to and things that surprised me about what she said. The conversation was less like neighbors chatting and more like the start of a friendship.

Later that evening, I was fondly remembering our conversation and I started to wonder… why did I find any of what my neighbor shared surprising? I didn’t know much about her and she hadn’t talked about any of those things before. Why wasn’t all of it just new information instead of surprising new information?  As I thought more about this, I realized that somewhere along the way, I created a story about her and her life. My mind filled in all the missing information about her with some made-up, inaccurate details. When my neighbor told me about her actual, interesting life, I was surprised because it didn’t match with the boring story I had written in my head.  Through that experience, my unconscious assumptions were brought to light and I sighed with relief. This is goodAs I become aware of these stories, I can do something about them. Yoga and meditation practice continue to provide me with tools for self-reflection. I’ve seen many old hurts healed and my life gradually transform by means of this ancient wisdom and personal practice.  But at almost the exact same moment I felt the relief, I had another not-so-pleasant realization: Wow. There are thousands of unconscious and inaccurate stories running in my head and influencing my interactions with people around me all of the time. A woman reminds me of an elementary school kid who snubbed me on the playground and I make snap judgement about her. Someone’s posture, expression, clothes, or tone of voice trigger feelings and reactions based on past experiences and that colors my interaction with the person in front of me. I’ve dedicated time and refection to stories of prejudice, racism, and sexism that are out there and in me causing harm, but those aren’t the only ones that are operating. I now see that all sorts of inaccurate stories and unquestioned assumptions can get in the way of connection, not just the obvious or alarming prejudices. These stories, any stories other than the one about the present moment, are obstacles to clear perception and can keep me from getting to know someone. I still have plenty of work to do.

We may not be aware that we are coming into a conversation with impressions and assumptions about a person, but I guess that’s the thing about the unconscious — It’s at work and we don’t even know it. Personalized yoga practice gives us space and time for self-reflection, and can help us uncover the unconscious stories that play a part in our relationships. Yoga is a whole-person experience. Movement, breath and meditation work on us in subtle yet profound ways providing tools to support clear perception about ourself and others. This visit with my neighbor helped me to see that any stories, even the ones that seem harmless or neutral, can cloud my ability to get to know an awesome person…. one who happens to live  right next door.

If you’d like to know more about how yoga can help you to be more present with friends, family, co-workers, and yourself, and watch these relationships improve, use the contact form to send me a note.  I’d be happy to meet with you for a complementary 15-min call.  It’s a great place to start, and there’s no obligation.  I hope to hear from you!

Five essential elements needed to make something wonderful manifest in your life

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There’s a creation story  that comes from the Samkhya philosophy – one that describes how the material elements came to be. This story informs both Yoga and Āyurveda. The simple version goes something like this:

First there was unified consciousness, puruṣa.

From the cosmic vibration oṁ came ETHER or SPACE, the background or void in which other things could exist.

The ether began to move and there was AIR.

As the air moved and created friction, there was light and FIRE.

Fire transformed and liquefied what was there and then there was WATER.

Particles of water became solid. That was EARTH.

The story is Āyurveda’s foundation for many of its ideas about how we are in the world. It is from this story that we can begin to understand the doṣas (vāta, pitta, kapha) and why something we eat or the season of the year has an effect on how we feel and what kinds of problems or emotions come to the forefront of our experience. But the thing that strikes me today is the possibility that this is not only a story of the material and manifest world at the beginning of time, or even how the world around us can affect us. This is a story that describes how each of us can create and make something manifest in our lives now.

So here it is…

Five essential elements needed to make something wonderful manifest in your life:

  1. We need space. If our days, minds, or hearts are completely full, there won’t be the necessary space to start something new. If I am convinced that my partner is totally wrong, and there’s no space in my heart and mind to hold the possibility that he could be right in some way, then it’s not going to be productive. If I want to begin a daily yoga practice, but my schedule is packed, then it’s not going to happen. So first, we need space.
  1. Once we have the space, we take action. The way in which we feel the air or notice it’s presence in the world is when it moves and we feel it across our skin or we see it blow the leaves in the tree. Movement in some direction is required in order to get to the next step. Even if the first attempts aren’t in the perfect direction, you’ll find it out by trying and sticking with it.
  1. From movement comes fire: light of knowing and the process of transformation. Fire is represented in our world with the sun, which gives us light and makes it possible to see.  We can also think of the campfire, which transforms the logs into fuel and leaves them different then they were before. Transformation is possible because of the element of fire.
  1. From this transformation comes a flow. Water carries something from one place to another. Think of the fluids circulating in the body or the movement of the waves in the ocean. Think of the minerals that build up around the kitchen faucet and become hard and solid. The solid stuff is carried in the water.
  1. When something is in us, and the thing we desire is part of us and of our lives, then this is earth. It’s solid. It has some weight. It’s the minerals depositing themselves inside of us becoming our new habit, our new way of talking to our partner, our better way of caring for ourselves.

Part of the richness of this creation story is the map it lays out for bringing something wonderful into our lives. Even though this is presented as a list of one through five, what we really should have is 1a. 1b. 1c. etc, because all the elements, all the things we need in order for something to come to be in our lives, comes from space/ether. Space moves and there’s air. Air, which is made up of ether, is the fire. The fire becomes the water. The water becomes the earth, but it is all made up of the #1 essential element: space!  Space is where it all begins.

 

 

It’s not too late to join us for the Ojai Women’s Retreat. http://handson-retreats.com

If you’ve been considering it, now’s the time! Give yourself the time and the space to create something new in your life.

Svadhyaya: studying one’s own tradition

Richard Rohr

A surprising thing has happened in my life as a result of practicing yoga and learning about the philosophy. I have a renewed interest in Christianity. Patañjali wouldn’t be all that surprised, I bet. Yoga Sūtra talks about svādhyāya, studying one’s own tradition, as an important part of the practice of yoga. Though there were many years that I wouldn’t have claimed it as my own, Christianity was a big part of my early life and influenced my way of thinking and many of my experiences. There’s no doubt it is a part of our cultural and political fabric. In my personal life, its significance is underscored by the fact that I actively turned away from it for several years. But now, I’m turning toward and because I have such a meaningful spiritual practice through yoga, I can see with fresh eyes how so many of the things that come out of the Christian tradition have the potential to foster deep connection with our self and the Divine. Which leads me to this book…

I’m reading a book by Richard Rohr called, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See.* Rohr is a Franciscan friar, and his book describes a spiritual path from a Christian perspective that looks a lot like what I’m experiencing as I continue to practice and study yoga.

Just listen to this:

On Gradual Conversion:  True and full conversion (head, heart, gut) does not really happen until the new program is in the hard-wiring and becomes a permanent and ‘natural’ trait rather than a one-time emotion. This process takes most of one’s life, and is actually the vey task of life and of contemplation.

A good way to gradually and fully convert—to change the way that we perceive, feel, and our connection to our deep knowing or intuition? Yoga practice.

On willfulness and willingness: All great spirituality is somehow about letting go. Trust me on this crucial point. […]IThere are two paths that break down our dualistic thinking and our inability to let go: the path of great love and the path of great suffering. Neither of them can be willed, truly understood, or programmed by any method whatsoever. There is no precise technique or foolproof formula for love or suffering. They are their own teachers.

I’m sure there is a connection here to yoga’s teachings, but mostly I’m including this because I feel this so acutely these days. It’s strange. As much as I appreciate the technique, practice and even form of yoga practice, there’s this other thing happening in my life that is coming from these other teachers: love and suffering. I guess that’s the point of yoga—not that we can do yoga really well, but that yoga helps us to be able to live our lives with presence and attention so we can learn, do, and experience what we are here to do.

If you’d like to hear more from Richard Rohr and enjoy listening to a good podcast, this one with comedian, Pete Holmes, is great. Find it here   http://youmadeitweird.libsyn.com/richard-rohr  OR http://nerdist.com/you-made-it-weird-253-richard-rohr/

*Thank you Marilyn, for the recommendation so long ago!

*** Tomorrow, 7.22.16,  is the last day for the Early Bird discount on the Ojai Women’s Retreat Intensive.  JOIN US! I’d love to see you there. www.handson_retreats.com