Monday, November 20, 2017

The things that make up a life

I love how inspiration will find its way in when I least expect it. I marvel at how I can be wiped out, dried out, seemingly emptied out and then (when my guard is down or more accurately when I have stopped the seeking, the efforting) unexpectedly something wonderful and magical pops up before my tired eyes.

Or should I say my ears?  Preparing for a holiday fair, I was in a beading frenzy making bracelets to sell.  I was wondering about the sanity of having said Yes to this event as overwhelm was taxing my energy reserves. Keine Lust as they would say auf Deutsch.  One soothing balm for me is the voice of On Being podcast host, Krista Tippett.  To the archives I went!

When you are seeking inspiration, who do you turn to?  I listened to several shows that immediately filled my tank:  Ellen Langer and The Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness; Atul Gawande, What Matters in the End; and James Martin, Finding God in All Things. But what really rocked my world inside and out was illustrator/writer Maira Kalman's interview: The Normal, Daily Things We Fall in Love With

Obviously, I was beading for a very, very long time ...

But Kalman's conversation on how our lives are comprised of all these moments of wonderment and worry, joy and angst, sorrow and delight and how she embraces it all in her art and her writing ... it just sung to me.  Her work evokes a deep curiosity and appreciation for all of the details that make up one's world, one's life. That she loves and celebrates dogs in much of her work was a huge hook for me. ("They are constant reminders that life reveals the best of itself when we live fully in the moment and extend our unconditional love. And it is very true that the most tender, uncomplicated, most generous part of our being blossoms without any effort when it comes to the love of a dog.”)  But this!

 Oh my.

Okay, first thing ... I totally know my mother is smiling down upon me, nodding her head in agreement over utter wonderfulness of this all.  I have no doubt if my mother was still alive, she would have read about Maira Kalman and then clipped the article to pass on to me.  

I also know that my mother's closet was HER artwork, her opus, her masterpiece.  I understand now why cleaning that closet after her passing was such a monumental task ... and I weep right now with the realization of all that it meant to her and in turn all it means to me as the one who stood witness to its message.

I look around my home and I see how I am my mother's daughter.  I see the same love of things ... which is really a preservation of memories, a cherishing of events and experiences and a celebration of richness IN living.  The objects we hold on to and cherish speak to who we are and how we love; they bear witness to our hearts and our dreams, our hopes and our aspirations. My mother's closet was filled with shoes and clothes lovingly lined up and organized. She would joke that for a girl who grew up with one pair of shoes, she did pretty well for herself. It wasn't just that she loved nice clothes after a childhood of lack; she didn't merely survive the conditions of her upbringing ... she thrived. And she thrived because she was determined to do so

My mother never went to college but a university professor once told me "Your mother is the most educated person in this room."  And it was true. She read voraciously.  She learned through books and lectures and listening to others. She returned to work in her fifties so she could use her money to travel.  And did she travel! Stashed away in boxes in her closet were the many postcards and brochures collected on her numerous trips abroad.  I also found the letters and cards from the many friends she made while traveling - friendships she maintained over the years and across the sea.  I even found tucked away in a dresser drawer the application to renew her passport. It broke my heart to consider her filling it out, hopeful for one last adventure.

My mother was insatiable in her quest for the perfect shade of lipstick.  My entire life I have been fascinated by the variety of colors and creativity in the naming of those many tubes of coral and pink hues. She was always put together, clothing, jewelry, makeup and shoe wear flawlessly coordinated. I think it spoke to her sense of self sufficiency and her pride in a life lived fully and with no real regrets.

As I sit with all these memories I find myself considering what - or how - will I be remembered? How am I honoring my life?  I've pulled out my sketchbook and once again filling it with images of the things I love, the small things from my day, my life that spark immense joy and love within me.  If I know anything, it is that the details will end up being the most treasured pieces of my life and in turn it is in through details that I will be remembered.   The stories we create from the details of our lives, that is where the magic and the artistry can be found.

I think of my mother and I remember her morning ritual of a cup of instant coffee (Sanka, thank you) in a china tea cup always ALWAYS with a saucer and a a Stella D'Oro brand Breakfast Treat.  Elegance and practicality. I think of her crossword puzzles (which I now do every morning, but never could I aspire to the Times puzzle which she completed ... in pen of course ...) and I am grateful she taught me to be so fiercely myself, to love with no excuses, to follow my curiosity and sense of wonderment and to always, always bring home a souvenir from my journeys.

Once again, I feel the warmth of my mother's love and her encouragement reaching out to support me.  I do what fills me with love - my art and my teaching and my home life are all one and the same -  but I also know my mother loves all that I do.  She is smiling ... and so am I.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Vital Self Care

 "We are matter, kindred with ocean and tree and sky. We are flesh and blood and bone. To sink into that is a relief, a homecoming." (Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living)

There is a common blessing offered at the end of a yoga practice: with hands together at the level of the heart, drop the chin to the chest, and bow in remembrance that the greatest teacher of them all, is the teacher within.  This gesture is a reminder that the wisdom gained through our hearts -through the challenges of living and loving - offer the deepest lessons and opportunities for self growth. 

Often the more subtle messages from the heart are translated through the body. We are familiar with the ways stress is transferred to tight neck or shoulders, or how anxiety often manifests in stomach distress or a sense of constricted breathing.  Through yoga practice - specifically the practice of postures or asanas - I have felt the sudden and intense release of physical/emotional traumas stored for years in my body.  Once, while dropping my head back into a back bending posture, I was suddenly gripped by a crying spasm shocking both myself and classmates stretched out upon their sticky mats.  My body was releasing a charge of intense fear, anger and loss lodged in the muscles and tissues of the upper spine as a result of a broken neck I sustained 8 years prior to that moment. I wasn't aware I had been holding on to all those repressed emotions until that moment of release.  But afterwards I felt my being shift into a new spaciousness and ease. 

More recently an illness brought about sensations of immense discomfort to my right lower back and hip. Gentle yoga postures brought about the only relief.  Returning to my asana practice after a long lapse, I could feel the neglect of my body through crazy tight muscles and restricted movement.  The simplest of poses elicited moans and groans of pleasure finding its way through stagnation and pain. My body quickly showed me the results of my neglect, but that was not the full story.  For a good month or so I would lie down on my mat to practice, shifting into a seemingly gentle posture, and then a tsunami of tears would rush through me.   Day after day this happened.  A part of me would be off to the side, witnessing this curious event.  This again? More tears?  

Baffled, I nonetheless continued with my practice.  Obviously something was ready and needing to be released.  What I gradually understood was that grief - gathered over the years, starting 10 years ago with the passing of my father -  had been steadily stored away in my body. And what's more, the unexpressed or acknowledged emotions were most likely the source of my body opening to an illness that would provoke me into facing these energies of loss, sadness, fear and regret.  

We can see the body as a burden (a perspective deeply entrenched in certain spiritual traditions) or we can forge a relationship with it rooted in the belief that we are, as Martha Beck has shared,  "Spirit awake to itself in Matter." The body as teacher, guide, best friend supporting a full and engaged  - an embodied - relationship to life and living.

"... the real practice is living your life as if it really mattered from moment to moment. The real practice is life itself." (Jon Kabat-Zinn in Becoming Wise)

This is the work I am immersed in; this is the work I love to share.  As part of my healing and embodied living - my daily prayer in heart, bones and soul - I work with yoga practices and teachings and yoga therapy which is rooted in the belief that we are already whole and our body is always moving towards healing and a re-membered wholeness. Or as Matthew Sanford shares " Your body, for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living. That's what it does." (Matthew Sanford in  Becoming Wise

There are so many simple practices and tools to support a nurturing relationship with one's body and in turn, an empowered sense of health and wellness.  Yoga, meditation, breathing practices are where I began but I have also found being in nature and creativity are core elements of my self care practice. More recently, I have found working with certified pure, therapeutic grade essential oils have augmented and bolstered all these practices. The oils have supported physical and emotional wellness in ways I am still surprised and delighted to uncover.  The greatest gift is how they fortify a sensitivity to intuition, allowing me to receive the guidance from my inner teacher who knows me to be already whole.  

The oils - gifts from the Nature  - magnify and quickly reconnect me to a wealth of inner resources. While the oils work on a physical level, I interested in how their aromatic qualities impact us emotionally through a direct connection to the limbic region of the brain. This means I can use the aromatic properties essential oils to impact and manage mood and motivation. Total wellness for me encompasses both physical and emotional health and in fact, the two are linked. When mood, stress, and emotions are acknowledged and addressed, the overall impact is vitality, resilience and an ability to manage the difficulties life presents whether it be physical, emotional or energetic. 

Right now many of us are suffering from dis-ease: the dis-ease of overwhelm, over-stimulation, over-scheduling and over-exposure to name a few. Conversely, there is dis-connection: with the natural world, community and our own selves. It can seem daunting to even begin to unravel all the confusion and dis-comforts and dis-ease. But I can tell you it is vital not only for one's well-being, but for the well-being of our world. Self care is is a revolutionary act in the sense that knowing we must tend to our total wellness, we are inspired to extend that care out into all of our relationships which includes how we interact with this planet, our home and source for life and health.

If what I shared rings true for you, I would love to connect. I will be offering limited spots for working with me to develop a self care practice that draws upon all these elements: yoga,mindfulness, creativity, self reflection, emotional wellness, and essential oils. Leave me a message with a way to contact you and we can schedule a free 45 minute consultation (via Skype or phone) to explore the possibilities of working together (discounted pricing as I beta test my ideas) and in that session receive some ideas on how you might begin a potent and personalize self care routine.