Monday, October 26, 2015

Little red notebook

Over the summer, during an incredibly stressful two weeks of my life-- negotiating the sale of one studio and the buy out of the other,  Nancy and I went to San Francisco for a retreat away from the madness that was life here in Seattle. The timing of the getaway not only helped us escape from the hideousness of SeaFair, but it was a welcome break from the flood of details and decisions that have were occupying my mind vis-a-vis The SweatBox.

When I arrived at the hotel at 9pm after a short but very turbulent flight, I informed Nancy by text that I just needed a bath and bourbon. I was really on the edge, needing to chill in a big way. Our hotel was old and beautiful and perfectly located for our two days wandering around San Francisco and spending time with my sister and nephew. By the end of our two days, we were indeed restored, relaxed, renewed.

On Sunday, after a leisurely morning in our beautiful hotel, we decided to leave our bags with the bellhop and go to the Asian Art Museum. We both had our laptops and work stuff-- Nancy some files from a case she was working on and me, a folder and a notebook with my imminent work materials. We left about noon and planned to get back by four so we could make our 6:00pm flight back to Seattle. The exhibit was amazing. We ate a yummy lunch. All was well-- our relaxation mission was accomplished and we were ready to get back home.

When I gave our bag ticket to the bellhop to retrieve our luggage, he went to the luggage room and returned with one small bag-- Nancy's case files. We said, "There should be two carry-ons-- one black and one grey-- and they each have one laptop inside." As I am known to do, I immediately panicked. The hotel manager went to the basement to review video surveillance to see if someone had walked off with our bags. Other men in bellhop suits were summoned to try to solve the case. Long story short, the case went unsolved and we raced to the airport with just our small purses and Nancy's bag of files.

On the plane, wearing my San Fransisco tourist sweatshirt from the airport newsstand, we tallied our lost items-- from face cream to jewelry, favorite boots to laptops. As we jotted down our items and their value, I realized that my little red notebook was among the lost items. My red notebook holds three years worth of thoughts, ideas, passwords, and contacts. Of all the items, even my laptop, this was my greatest loss by far because it was irreplaceable.

They did find our bags late the next day (they'd been delivered to someone else's room!) but I had already spun my yarn about what life would be like without my little red notebook and come out on the other side. I'd already raged, grieved, angsted and resigned myself over the loss. I would carry on without my favorite boots and my little red notebook. Letting go of all of it was more possible than I'd ever imagined.

I was very very glad to get all of my things, especially my notebook, back from San Francisco, and I am not glad for that events that stole much of my much needed peace on that weekend, but I am grateful for the exercise in letting go that came from the experience. It's been more than two months since the red notebook disaster took place and I haven't opened it once.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Last Sunday morning during a rainy morning jog in Seward Park, I listened to a podcast about the science of mindfulness with Ellen Langer.  At one point, Dr. Langer shared a quote (I can't remember from where) which was something like, "Placebo is a way of unlocking your brain's pharmacy." I had to stop running and jot it in my notes because it struck me so intensely.

For most of my life I have been "anti-medication." I once had a cough for six weeks straight and finally succumbed to the use of a steroid inhaler and Flonaze. Ultimately what cured me of that cough was acupuncture, further reinforcing my "anti" stance.

I believe that believing is powerful medicine. When Ellen Langer talked about the actual science of placebo, how using one's mind to alter one's body, I was hooked in, validated, inspired.

For years I've heard people suggest that Yoga is a placebo, that it really does nothing. Sure, many people who practice Yoga experience no real life change, physically, mentally, or emotionally, but I would contend that those of us who bring some intention, some belief into our practice, actually do experience life shifts on all levels.

It's subtle, the intention-bringing, and as much as I would love to hone this message down into three words, I cannot, because, above anything, I am truly a student of all of this, trying my best like everyone else.  What I do know is that becoming more mindful, more deliberate on our Yoga mats (and everywhere in our lives), comes from breaking down the moments into smaller moments that we can really digest and truly experience.

In Standing Head to Knee, as soon as you start to fold forward, are you already starting to think about kicking out? It's okay if you are, but try to slow down and just be bending. Experience that before you jump to the "one day moment" when your forehead will be on your knee. You will find your learning, both physically and mentally grows exponentially.

It's hard work. I am a colossal failure at being a mindful parent, for example. This morning, as I packed a lunch box and heated up a baguette for the family breakfast, I had a video from the Mindfulness Summit playing in the background. No small moments or digestible pieces in that picture. For me, my Yoga mat is my one true place. I am grateful for this space to live my life little by little, step by step. For me it's harder in other areas to bring this intentionality. For you, it might be your Yoga mat where you struggle. No matter where you are, what you're doing, just keep trying, baby step by baby step.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fifth Grade Camp

Today Lucia went to Fifth Grade Camp with her school. It's two nights of 120 fifth graders staying in cabins on an island doing fifth grade stuff. Quite honestly, it might be a bigger deal for me than it is for her. Last night I wrote Lucia a letter with an emergency sesame snack and ear plugs.

I'm a sentimental mom. I always write Lucia notes when she goes on trips without me or when she goes to camp; I even write Lucia a little note everyday in her lunch box. I'm not sure if she even reads them, but I love to write them.

In her Fifth Grade Camp letter, I wished Lucia lots of adventures during her two days away. While writing, I thought about what is was like to be eleven. So much is new, exciting, a little bit scary. Last night Lucia was convinced that her suitcase was going to be the biggest one, that no one else would pack their sleeping bag and pillow in a Hefty trash bag, that bringing rain boots was silly.

In Lucia's Fifth Grade Camp letter, I talked about how ready she was for this new experience, how fun it would be to do all the amazing things only a critical mass of 10 and 11 year olds can do. As I wrote, I imagined all the new things the kids would have to negotiate without their parents-- who sleeps on the top bunk; where to stash dirty laundry; how to find the toilet in the middle of the night. And all of the amazing activities they'll do that will bond them during this tender prepubescent time-- campfire songs, Capture the Flag, ropes courses, baby crushes.

Almost all of the activities at Fifth Grade Camp-- the scary and the amazing-- will put Lucia and her peers outside of their comfort zone.  I worry that my kid will be the one who gets desperately homesick or the poor thing who breaks her wrist on the balance beam challenge course.  But if she does, it's still okay. She'll be doing something new, working shit out with her friends, learning to take steps into more independence.

Yoga takes me to this place sometimes. Hard to balance postures, teachers who hold me in one place until I feel as though I might die, resistance to practicing at all some days-- all of these experiences put me in a place that feels awkward, uncomfortable, sometimes downright bad. But when I've finished practice and roll up my mat, I feel good. I got through it. I did it.

I'll pick Lucia up from the Fifth Grade Camp bus on Friday afternoon. I can so clearly imagine it. Her hair will be greasy. Her jeans will be filthy.  She will be ready to get home and back to her comfy bed, her stack of books. But in my image of picking her up, I also envision Lucia's exhausted face radiating the glow of strength, courage, and pride because it was a little hard, a little intense, but in the end, she did it.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What's in a number?

We've just started offering 60 minute classes at The SweatBox. As you might expect, they are faster moving, with fewer breaks and more flow. They are fast and fun and different.

Why take a 60-minute class when you could take a 90 minute class? Why take a 90-minute class when you could take a 60-minute class? Here's my explanation, and like all of my blog posts, it's personal, but I am posting it because I think it might help you understand how to get the most out of your Yoga practice, regardless of how many minutes it is!

When you take a 90-minute class at The SweatBox, we give you lots of rests, fairly long stints in Savasana where you have to work at keeping your mind calm. It's a big part of the practice. In addition to the incredible physical challenges that come your way during the 90-minute class, you are asked to find mental stillness. The quiet between the postures challenges you to override your pounding heart beat and mental madness.

In a 60-minute class, you are working consistently hard with minimal breaks. You have much less time to be physically still. This kind of pacing offers a different kind of mental "wind down." You're really moving the whole time and those quiet moments in Savasana where distracting thoughts or temptations to fidget with clothes, hair, water, just aren't there. All of your energy is going to the physical practice so your chattering mind is at rest.

Each experience requires a different kind of discipline. There is no better, no worse. You might prefer one practice one day, another a different day. Or maybe one just fits into your schedule better one day. There is value in both practices, and we can deepen our Yoga practice by opening ourselves up to the differences, noticing what skills and strengths we bring to each practice, how we feel during and after each practice.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Beep Test

Yesterday Lucia said she wanted to go running. She and I go running a few times a month, usually when she instigates it. It was a leisurely Sunday and we ran down to Seward Park, her young, lithe, little body next to my older, clunkier one.

As we ran, we chatted. It was nice. There's something about talking while running that feels easier, freer. "Mom," Lucia said, "I want to run more regularly so I can be the top scorer on the Beep test at school." The Beep test is a test in gym that measures stamina and speed. "I'm already one of the top scorers for girls, but I want to beat the boys," Lucia chattered on as she galloped along next to me.

Had we not been running, I might have taken this opportunity to make some kind of a lesson out of this statement. You don't need to compete. You're perfect just the way you are. It's not about winning. But I didn't. I thought to myself, "Why not?" Why not try to beat the boys? If this ten-year-old child wants to train her body to run faster and longer, who am I to tame that dream?

Later on the way to meet some friends at a pumpkin patch, I asked Lucia what she thought she'd do when she grew up. As usual, her immediate reply was, "I don't know." I pushed a little bit, "If you had to say one thing, right now, no choice, what would it be? No right, no wrong...." She thought and thought and thought. "A soccer player," she said.

Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” I think about how often I want to jump into Lucia's brain and direct her, to steer her in a direction I wish I had been steered in my own childhood. 

When Lucia said she wanted to be a soccer player, I had to glue my tongue to the roof of my mouth to hold in the words in my brain "I thought you wanted to be a surgeon?!" Being a parent is a constant exercise in letting go of expectations and making room for surprises. Last month Lucia did want to be a surgeon, and this month, right now, in this moment in time, she wants to be a soccer player. And she wants to kick ass on the Beep Test.

We do it with our children and we do it with ourselves- impose limits, expectations, think in terms of decades instead of days or hours. I am grateful for the little jog on the lake with Lucia, a moment in time that reminds me to appreciate the moments and live in the present.

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