Monday, October 31, 2011

Thanks for the latte!

This morning I found myself at a drive-through espresso shack in Naches, Washington (a tiny little town-lette outside of Yakima). The barista, a twenty-something dressed as a she-devil for Halloween, prepared crappy lattes but delivered delightfully engaged conversation. There was something about her. She was so open, so interested, so genuine. I left the drive-through shack feeling full of joy, a happy humming coursing through my body from this little jewel of unexpected connection in Naches, Washington. It's an energy that comes when two people, even complete strangers, are both open to connecting.

Had I been the age of the barista, I likely would have taken away only the fact that my latte sucked. But now that I am comfortably into my middle age, I have the ability to recognize and appreciate this kind of random connection more readily. Historically, this has not been my forte. Good friends who eventually made their way through the deflector shield I wore through my twenties and much of my thirties often told me that I presented as "aloof, judgmental, intimidating, unavailable."

Survey says, I'm no longer the Nellie Olson of my youth. My openness evolved over time, and with age, from a combination of experiences-- childbirth, motherhood, heart break, death of my father, falling in love, therapy. All of these experiences created in me a vulnerability I couldn't fight, and ultimately an openness that was easier to bear. The ongoing experience though, that keeps me open, is yoga. Yoga is a conversation between the body and the mind, the physical and the mental. In postures that are physically demanding, requiring great balance or focus, we have to draw from the physical and the mental. When one strength falters, we draw from the other, eventually finding balance. In Savasana, where we attempt to quiet our minds, we do the same thing, quieting the body to remind the mind to be still, stilling the mind to calm the body. Connection.

The ability to connect internally enables us to feel grounded, whole, stable in ourselves. It creates an internal knowing of oneself and consequently a comfort in our own skin. For me, this internal knowing has created the ability to be open to other people. And every once in a while, like this morning, there's a surprise. A fleeting connection that, for a moment in time, makes strangers feel a little bit more like friends.

Monday, October 10, 2011

30 Days of getting to know you.

Right now at The SweatBox, the 30-Day challenge is one-third of the way through. Students are walking around in states ranging from insane, slightly manic nutbags to semi-catatonic zombies. All who undertake the 30-Day Challenge experience ups and downs, peaks and valleys, periods of insatiable hunger and days of feeling the possibilities of existing on breath alone.

At the end of practice, whether we are practicing once or thirty days in a row, we experience the feeling of being depleted, stripped down, cut open, exposed, fried, tenderized. Shortly after these feelings, we may also experience great surges of energy, clarity, wholeness. But, there is a moment when class is just over, after the final breathing when everything is still for a few moments. Our bodies are no longer moving- contracting, extending, contorting, balancing. We get the chance to be still.

In this stillness, final Savasana, we have the opportunity to be deeply vulnerable. In our practice we are moving, sweating, listening to the teacher, but here in final Savasana, when the lights are dimmed and the teacher leaves the room, we are, for a moment or two, ourselves. I always tell students, get into Savasana right away. Don't let the door open to distraction. Just go right to it because the moment of being authentically, exactly who we are supposed to be won't last. Those after practice moments are precious, and fleeting.

For the students doing the 30-Day Challenge, the most significant gift they are giving themselves is the daily experience of these fleeting final Savasana moments. You will hear many teachers say, "if you want to turn your life around, practice every day." And for these 30-Day Challengers, this is exactly what happens. After years of listening to other voices, other ideas, other beliefs, they have the daily opportunity to get in touch with themselves. My favorite months of the year as a yoga teacher and student are March and October, the months where I get to watch the challengers dive deeper and deeper into knowing their true selves. Thanks you guys.