Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Choices

You can spend your life being afraid or you can choose to live in hope - you can choose to put all of your cards on the table and live honestly, passionately and without apology. You can choose to see yourself - truly see the depths of your being - or you can plod along, only skimming the surface of your vast internal world, always too afraid of what you might find were you to plunge deeper, never realizing that there is nothing to be afraid of at all.

Every moment - every breath - is an opportunity for choice: to choose to fully live this one life - the darkness and the light, the happiness and the sorrow... or to not live at all.

I've realized that it's not about being happy. It's not about feeling good. Happiness is always fleeting, and feeling good can be nothing more than an illusion. But the joy of life is always present - and hope is the eternal constant.

I know exactly what I want to manifest for my life in the next year, and yet I'm aware - very aware - that nothing is guaranteed except for this moment. And, at least right now, right now, I'm at peace with that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Only 6% of rapists ever serve time. Ever.

I used to think Keith Olbermann was one of the good guys, and that Michael Moore was pretty sound in his thinking, for as dramatic as he might be. And maybe Keith is a good guy, and maybe Michael is pretty sound, but I think they both royally fucked up this week. I could repeat what has already been said over and over and over about this issue, or you could just read this, and then read this.

I'm serious. Please click and read. I'll wait.
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All over the big, wide world of internets this week, I've seen people say, suggest or insinuate - in regards to this case - that continuing to penetrate a woman once she has withdrawn consent for any reason and/or having sex with a sleeping woman do not constitute rape. Let's be clear. Whether Assange committed these acts or not, YES, they DO constitute RAPE.

Sex without consent is rape. Get it? (I can't believe we still have to spell this out, especially to people who claim to be progressive like Moore and Olbermann. It is repugnant.)

Instead of getting all pissed off and angry about this situation (again) I'm heading over to RAINN to make a donation. You're welcome to join me. =)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Girl Who Cried Yoga

I'm not even apologizing for falling flat on my face in terms of blogging every day. I have spent the past three days SO SICK. Ridiculously so. Perhaps it was the culmination of a week of nausea followed by a week of a head cold, but WOW. Trust me, you don't want to know any details regarding the past few days. Gross.

But the good news is, I'm feeling a little bit better! I'm actually out of bed! I ate some saltines and chicken soup! I kept it down! Go me!!

I also just did a 30 minute pranayama practice followed by a 15 minute yin practice, both from yogaglo. And I'm now more convinced than ever that there is a yoga practice for every occasion. A few days stuck in bed left my hips feeling really tight, and this hip-opening yin practice was EXACTLY what I needed. Because I've been SO sick, and had (have) no intention of changing out of my pajamas or putting my contacts in, I chose basic level 1 classes. Even on very depleted energy these both felt amazing. I've been teaching yoga so much more often than being taught that I had almost forgotten how WONDERFUL it is to be the student. I'll also give a thumbs-up to yogaglo - I just signed up for their free trial, and I'm really impressed with what they are doing. If you live in a rural area without access to a solid yoga studio or a teacher you connect with, this could be the answer.

Jai Bhagwan!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Confession.

Yeah, I've completely dropped the ball on this blogging every day thing, haven't I?

Here is why, as far as I can figure out: whenever I sit down to write a blog, all I want to do is BITCH. Bitch about people who have hurt my feelings, who have broken promises, who have disappeared. Bitch about the difficulty of trying to find the time and space and privacy for my yoga practice. Bitch about money and car shopping. Bitch about how stressful it is to re-start your life from scratch. Bitch about...well, anything and everything you can imagine.

And really, that's not me. That's not who I think I am, and it's definitely not who I want to be. So publicly blogging from a place of negativity just isn't something I want to engage in. I don't think it serves any purpose. And it's not actually the perspective from which I function on a moment to moment basis, either. I'm actually in an incredibly positive, hopeful place right now - which is not to say it isn't a struggle sometimes, but I am. I truly see life as limitless possibility. I have actually finally been able to understand the mantra "so hum" to a point where I can always talk myself out of feeling really bad about myself. But when I sit down and see this big white box, waiting to be filled with text that I will subsequently publish for anyone to see, bitching is really all that comes to mind. And then I just feel frustrated and angry, and finally disappointed that I can't seem to find anything to write about that I feel is worth publishing on a blog. Ta-da! Ugh.

So in lieu of bitching I've just been NOT WRITING. However, I've come up with a solution. If all I want to do is bitch on my blog, instead, I'll share something that inspires me. Today it's a TED talk from the man I would marry (if he didn't already have a wife and two kids) - Jamie Oliver. I ADORE him. Even before he was an inspirational activist, I LOVED his cooking show. And now there is even MORE to love about him: his cause is one that I can really, really get behind, to the extent that I would LOVE to dedicate time and energy to helping, however I can. Find 20 minutes and watch this video. I believe so strongly in the power and importance of FOOD. I took for granted growing up in a home where my mom cooked healthy, nutritious meals every night. I took for granted learning to make whole wheat bread at five years old and eating all sorts of exotic vegetables all of the time. This isn't to say that I didn't subsequently struggle with my weight - I did, and I still do - but I feel so lucky to at least have the skills and knowledge to make good choices, and to teach my nieces how to cook and eat healthy, local, organic, sustainable food. It amazes and terrifies me that there are children (and probably adults) out there who can't identify a tomato, who live on fast food and Chef Boyardee meals and pizza. When I really consider the impact of what we eat on our health, well-being and success, it is truly awful that there is no real education offered in the school system in regards to food, nutrition and cooking. It needs to change. Go, Jamie Oliver, GO!


Friday, December 10, 2010

So hum

We give each other so much power. As though our worth depends upon what anyone else thinks of us.

As though we aren't already worthy. As though we aren't already whole. As though we aren't already real. As though we aren't already complete.



I am that I am.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Missing

I miss Kripalu. I miss yoga teacher training. I miss getting up at 6am for 90 minutes of yoga before breakfast. I miss the people, the place, the food and the sauna. That is my blog for the day, albeit a day late - kind of. It has only been 24 hours since my last blog post, so date stamps aside, it's not too bad.

My energy is just really, really low. Ever since the car accident I've felt yucky... Wednesday just hasn't been a lucky day for me as of late. Two Wednesdays ago I hit the deer, last Wednesday I came down with a nasty stomach bug and now a week after that I've an awful cold. Boo hoo.

One foot in front of the other...

xoxo

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The power of the Kokosing

So according to the time/date stamp on my blog, I've missed yet another day in my quest to blog every day for a month. HOWEVER, I haven't gone to bed yet, so it's sort of still Tuesday in my world. And 1:27am central time means it's still Tuesday - for REAL - on the west coast, and since some of my heart resides in SoCal anyway, that makes this totally and completely legit.

Or not.

In any event, it will have to do because despite my very best efforts, I just can't seem to turn back time. Bummer.

I'm coordinating the reunion for my college choral group again (I did it in 2007, too) and today I finished the letter that is going to go to all of the alumni in the next few weeks. It has me super excited for a weekend back on the Hill in May, singing with Doc Locke and the Chamber Singers again. The story I tell in the letter is one of my favorite memories from college, so I thought I'd share it here. I hope you enjoy, even if you've never heard of Kenyon College and you hate choral music. =) xoH


My junior year (1997-1998) we had a tour stop in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I remember distinctly that the average age of our audience was about 97. Most of the people there were half asleep, and there was a gentleman in the front row, right over Doc’s right shoulder in a wheelchair, whom I spent a large part of the concert worried about. He showed absolutely no sign of life whatsoever - his head was on his shoulder, his eyes closed and his mouth half-open. By intermission I was convinced that he had died during the Brahms.

We opened the concert that year with a hauntingly beautiful arrangement of ‘Shenandoah’, and every night Doc said the same thing right before we closed with, (of course), Kokosing Farewell: “We began our concert singing about a river in the south called the Shenandoah. We will close our concert tonight singing about a river up north, a river that runs right next to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, a river called…”

A voice cried out from the audience, interrupting Doc in mid-sentence.

“THE KOKOSING!”

Without warning, the man I had been convinced was, well, DEAD, seemed to spring to life – his head flew up, his eyes opened wide, his hands were gesturing. And as we sang our (honorary) alma mater, he sang HIS (honorary) alma mater right along with us. There were very few dry eyes to be found when we sang “fare thee well” to Old Kenyon that night.

Doc Locke told us on the bus after the concert that the gentleman was, indeed, an alum. And I was convinced that he had, in fact, died during the Brahms only to be revived by Doc Locke and the Chamber Singers and his memories of Kenyon.

As we all immediately started telling and retelling our own versions of the story, (some people had the man jumping from his wheelchair, miraculously regaining the use of his legs), I knew, even then, the magnitude of the moment. I knew, though I could not articulate it, the connection I had to this man,70 years my senior, because of our shared alma mater, and perhaps even more powerful, the connection we both had to the music. I knew then that the Kokosing Farewell and singing with the Chamber Singers would forever be touchstones for me to a time in my life full of love, joy, pain, hope and possibility; a time in my life where I was so open and ready to learn, to absorb, and to grow.

We will never be 18 to 22 again. We will never again be active members of the Kenyon College Chamber Singers: disciples of Doc Locke, memorizing pages and pages of music, learning translations in eleven different languages, rehearsing five days a week, touring for a full week all over the country. But we CAN go back, and maybe for just a brief moment reconnect to an amazing time, a beautiful place, and most importantly: with each other.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh no! I missed a day.

Of course I have an excuse.

I got a nasty little virus (or maybe it's technically a malware program or something like that) a on my computer yesterday afternoon.... from a yoga website!! I didn't even click anything or download anything or do ANYTHING but go to this website. How do I know I got it from said website? Because the same thing happened a week ago when I bought a yoga mat from this place. The yucky, icky, awful thing fronts as something called Action Antivirus, and it is a BITCH. The first time it happened, one of the recommended programs for fixing it was able to do so quickly. But this time, the same program that found and fixed it the first time isn't finding it, nor are the two other recommended prgrams. Ugh. So my computer is going to the doctor today. Boo hoo.

It's scary, though. Perhaps naively, I thought you had to actually CLICK on something to get a virus. I have McAfee and I'm really careful blah blah blah. But it turns out that even a legitimate website can get hacked by these meanies and just visiting can give the virus the split-second it needs to start infiltrating the computer. I mean, isn't that just AWESOME? (Awesome is one of my favorite words to use sarcastically, by the way.) As if there isn't enough to worry about all of the time.

I have a headache, a million things to do, and nothing specific to write about, so I'll cut this short. But just to make it worth your time, here is my current favorite breakfast:

2 slices of cinnamon raisin bread, toasted
1 oz. cream cheese (I use that 1/3 less fat cream cheese - I like it better then regular cream cheese.)
some sliced deli-ham (I dunno how much. However much you like on a sandwich.)

Microwave the ham for 30 to 45 seconds. Spread the cream cheese on the toasted bread. Top with the warm ham and the second piece of bread. Eat it. Drink a latte. Have a few raspberries on the side. It's yummy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

philosophy and a math-a-thon

I consider myself a pretty low-maintenance kind of girl. It's not that I don't enjoy wearing them, but I have to remind myself to put on jewelry and accessories. Today when I taught yoga I forced myself to wear a Prana yoga dress with leggings and a flowy scarf only because I read a blog post on Spoiled Yogi about yoga teachers showing up to work in basic yoga pants and tops without giving any thought to fashion whatsoever (umm, yep) and how that is a big faux pas. The thing is, when it comes to clothes and fashion I'm mostly interested in comfort and not making a complete fool of myself. I absolutely despise shoes and have never, ever worn a pair of heels. (The platform shoe phase in the early 2000s doesn't count - they aren't heels.) There are a few ways, though, in which I'm a total and complete girly-girl. I love getting my nails done - in my perfect world I'd have a weekly mani/pedi, no questions asked. I love massages and really all spa-type services (I even enjoy having my eyebrows waxed. I'm so weird.)  And when it comes to skin-care I don't mess around. I adore philosophy, and have been a die-hard philosophy-girl for seven years now. I have to be honest - every time I get carded ordering a beer or a glass of wine I thank myself for making a really solid skin care decision seven years ago. Hope in a Jar, the iconic moisturizer (yes, it's been one of Oprah's Favorite Things a few times, including this year - the big ultimate Favorite Things blow-out,) is more effective than any facial I've ever had. I am lost without it (and/or my skin starts looking icky.) In fact, in a very un-Kripalu-like event, my Hope (my hope! my hope!) was stolen from the community bathroom sometime during week two and within a few days I could absolutely tell a difference in my skin, and it wasn't good situation. I use a LOT of philosophy products, but there a select few staples that I ALWAYS have on hand:

Purity Made Simple - the best cleanser/eye-makeup remover on the market. The end.
Hope in a Jar - the most miraculous of moisturizers. Makeup optional skin is incredibly convenient.
Amazing Grace - I really don't enjoy smelling like perfume. I REALLY enjoy smelling like Amazing Grace. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've been approached, in public, by strangers, who semi-awkwardly tell me "umm, you smell SO GOOD." It's happened at Trader Joe's, Starbucks, the airport, Kroger... and I mention this only because a perfume that inspires someone to actually walk up to a stranger to discuss the way they smell is pretty, well, AMAZING.

___
In other news, my beloved niece, Madeline, is raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by participating in a math-a-thon. Although I'm not entirely sure what a math-a-thon entails, it sounds about as fun as a root canal to me. Let's face it, though, outside of geometry, math was never my strong point. Anyway, it would be super lovely if you helped her reach her fund-raising goal of $300.00. She even said she wants to donate any prize for which she qualifies right back to sick kids at St. Jude, which I think is pretty spectacular (and mature) for a 7-year old. So click here and sponsor her, won't you? It would really mean the world to her, and helping sick kids is never a bad thing.

xox and happy day 4 of my blog-a-thon. =)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Teaching yoga two days after a car accident. Shanti, shanti, shanti.

I taught yoga on Saturday, just a couple of days after my car accident, and it made me realize that what Priti told us is so true - as a yoga teacher you are in the amazing position to use whatever is going on in your life to inform your classes. I had planned, pre-Wednesday evening, a vigorous vinyasa class for the Saturday after Thanksgiving (burn off the turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie! Woo!) but on Saturday morning, after two days of hot baths and tears, I was in no shape to do a vigorous practice myself, more or less lead one. So I sat down and took the first ten minutes to tell my class as much, and share with them about the accident and how it really hammered home this idea I've heard in yoga classes all of the time - the importance of honoring, living in and appreciating the present moment. I suppose I can only speak for myself (although I'm quite certain most feel this way) when I say that I take the future for granted every minute of every day. I'm constantly making plans for the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year. Coming within inches of severe injury or even death, I realize that every little thing I say I'm going to take care of at some point I need to take care of RIGHT. NOW. Nothing is promised except for this breath. And this one. And this one. And now this one. That's it. The next five minutes, five hours, five days and five years are a mystery, and in no way guaranteed.

At first the realization was overwhelming and terrifying, and in some ways it still is. How do I integrate this knowledge that it could all be taken away in a heart beat with being responsible and planning for the future? It's the same balancing act it always was, it just feels a lot more real and important now.

On Saturday I led a class that incorporated solid pranayama practice to start, some heat-building sun salutations and standing asana in the beginning, a lot of heart-opening backbends in the middle, and a good solid five minutes in child's pose before an extended relaxation in savasana at the end. And after savasana I led a heart-centered meditation, just to give everyone, including myself, a chance to really savor the moment and give thanks we were all on our mats, alive and healthy that Saturday morning. I have never closed a class without chanting "shanti, shanti, shanti" but this time I almost began to weep, so grateful for the unexpected peace I was able to find - the first peace I was able to experience after the accident - in sharing the beautiful practice of yoga. Priti was right - it was incredibly theraputic to realize that my JOB now isn't about pretending everything is okay and disconnecting from my personal life in order to be professional for eight hours a day. Yoga is about truly engaging in life exactly as it is, all of the time. And the things that happen in my life can be used as inspiration for classes and themes, which is such a wonderful integration of personal and professional identities. In my own personal practice this week I've been experimenting with twisting sequences, trying to use the physical integration a twist provides the spine to help me emotionally integrate all that is going on in my life, and I thought "my goodness, I could lead a whole retreat helping people to integrate traumatic experiences into their body, mind and spirit using asana and pranayama. Cool!" You see, I probably wouldn't have thought about it like that before. Find the beauty. Find the beauty. Find the beauty, Hilary. There it is.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hope.

See? This is already difficult. Day two and I've no idea what I'm about to write. In fact, I've no idea why I should write at all. Blah blah blah etc etc etc angst angst angst. Oh, DEAR.

I've been perusing cars for sale on Craigslist and I'm just a tad overwhelmed. Maybe a tad and a half, to be honest. The last (and ONLY) time I bought a car I was fresh out of college and the world was my oyster. I was desperate to have a Honda Civic. I didn't look at any other type of car. My friend Kristi had a Honda Civic that I used to borrow when I was a student, and I just LOVED her car. I loved the way it drove, I thought it was absolutely adorable, and I knew (the way someone who really doesn't care much about cars, generally, as long as they get from point A to point B in one piece) that Hondas were supposed to be great, reliable, safe vehicles. I *wanted* a brand-new green Honda Civic, the same way I *wanted* to go to Kenyon, the same way I sometimes wake up *wanting* hot dogs and hot chocolate (okay, that happened once. But it's the same feeling.) This is the kind of want that is plain as day, easily identified, no gray area. You want something so, so much that you'll do whatever you have to do to GET IT. The END. So when I found out that all I needed to drive a new green Honda Civic off the lot was a college degree, $500.00, and a documented job offer, I was a woman on a mission. It was some recent college graduate special the Dublin, Ohio Honda dealership was running. So I spent the summer of 1999 waiting tables at Max & Erma's, sending my resume to any and every admissions posting in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and double checking that I had, in fact, received a college degree (hey, my diploma is in Latin, it could have said something along the lines of "nice try, but too bad" for all I knew!) By mid-July I had the cash, by late-July I had three job offers and on August 16, 1999 (I've no idea WHY I remember the date, actually) I drove my brand-spanking-new-bursting-at-the-seams-with-all-of-my-shit Honda Civic from Columbus to Chicago and started Life.

There's all this hoopla surrounding leaving home and going off to college - trust me, I worked in college admissions for ten years, I know - but I think the real hoopla, at least for those of us from a midwestern suburb who go to a cushy liberal-arts school, is when you leave school at start living as an adult. An adult who rents a place to live and sleep, buys groceries, gets up and goes to work, pays the cable/electric/water/telephone/insurance bill, etc. etc. etc. THAT is the REAL transition. When I first moved to Chicago and started working at Lake Forest College I stayed in the guest house on campus while I looked for an apartment, so for about two weeks, my car was my refuge. Living in a college guest house really doesn't offer the comforts of a home, so I found those comforts in my little Honda as we explored Chicago together. And really, my car was my refuge every day since, in each of the four states I've called home.

I'm actually starting to feel excited about getting a new (to me) car, though. It kind of fits the general trajectory my life has been taking for awhile now - clean breaks, fresh starts. new, new, new everything. New career, new home, new attitude, new perspective... and now a new car. In a lot of ways it's terrifying to be starting over on every single level, but it's also thrilling. I told someone the other day that I just have to look at life as limitless possibility, otherwise there is just no point. I'm hopeful. I'm so, so hopeful. And isn't hope the only thing that really matters?

My little green Honda served me well for eleven years, and when it was all said and done, it saved my life. Who knows what kind of relationship my next car and I will have, but I'm hopeful and excited about plenty of adventure.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blogging. Daily. Who knows what might happen.

I saw something recently about a blog version of National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is something I've always wanted to do, although you wouldn't know it based on my few feeble, short-lived attempts. I forget what the blog version is called (yes, I should google NaBloPoMo or something like that) but it's basically writing a blog post every day for a month, and I think I'm going to try it. It's December 1, 2010, so today is a good day to start, right? And there is always something to talk/write about during the holidays. I mean, if push comes to shove, I am absolutely capable of writing about cooking, baking, food or wine (/beer/scotch/gin) every single day, especially during the month of December when nothing is more satisfying than spending an entire day making challah and drinking hot chocolate (with cayenne pepper, whipped cream and sea salt, please), or making ten different types of Christmas cookies, or testing a new rub for the Christmas Day prime rib, or perfecting my Yorkshire pudding in anticipation of the annual "Yorkshire-Pudding-Off" during which my dad and I compete to make the most delicious, obscenely puffy Yorkshire pudding possible. (For the record, I've won for at least the past two years. He may have spent the first 30 years of his life in England, but I'm the current Yorkshire pudding CHAMPION, thankyouverymuch.) 

So, there it is. Hello, December, and hello Hilary committing to writing a blog every single day for the next 31 days. Maybe it will end up being therapeutic and fun, although I have to admit that I'm still kind of unsure what I want to share with anyone who happens upon my online presence and what I do not. There are a million and one things going on in my head every day that I could easily babble on about - but many of those things are just too personal for my comfort. I suppose writing a blog post every day will help me figure that line out, though. Maybe it will also force me to figure out how to use images from flickr like my super-cool friend Nina does on HER blog. Yeah. This will be a good thing.

Please check back frequently, please click that little follow button over there, and please comment often - blog comments make me feel happy and validated. And clearly my happiness and validation is of the utmost importance to you, right? Ha. I kid, I kid. Kind of. ;)

Oh, and if you've seen the cover of Bon Appetit this month, get excited - I've decided to attempt that over the top chocolate cake with white and dark chocolate ribbons for the holidays. I'm sure that will be at least two blog posts, because those ribbons are going to be a feat. You use a pasta machine to roll out the chocolate!! Whoa!!

xoH

ps - I'd be remiss to not mention, after my last blog post, that I'm feeling a bit better than I was the last time I wrote. It's been a really, really, REALLY rough week, to say the least. I'd never even been pulled over, more or less been in such a scary accident. Realizing that you take your life for granted is just not fun, and realizing that you need to cherish every moment can feel really overwhelming. But it's getting easier as time goes by. Time heals all, I'm told. Time will not, however, heal my poor Honda. I still haven't gotten word from my insurance company about what my total loss settlement will be, but I'm not holding my breath for much. 1999 Honda Civics don't have a particularly high blue book value, although the emotional worth of that car should put me in a new Mercedes. =) Oh, life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fear.

I hit a deer (a huge 9-point buck soon to be consumed by the fire department, I'm told) head on going 70mph on the interstate the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, lost control of the car, spun across the highway and watched several other vehicles narrowly miss slamming into me as I finally came to a screeching stop horizontally across two lanes of traffic, the hood smashed in, smoke billowing into the air, headlights to my right for miles, my car totaled.

And I walked away.

Actually, I ran away at first, thinking the car was about to start on fire. I was choking on fumes trying to get out, and the locks kept locking and unlocking. When I finally got the door open I just ran.

And then there were just so many PEOPLE - pushing my car out of the road for me, asking me repeatedly if I was okay. Then there were all of the police officers and the fire men and the clipboards and the questions and the flashing blue lights. Mostly I was wondering if the Thanksgiving dinner and the five bottles of really good wine in the trunk were going to be okay. How fucking ridiculous and insignificant that seems in retrospect. Less ridiculous, though not nearly as important as my LIFE, is the emotional significance of that car to me. The one and only constant of my adult life, it was the car I purchased eleven years ago - brand new - the summer I graduated from Kenyon. I saved up the $500 deposit waiting tables at the Max & Erma's in Dublin while I applied for jobs in college admissions all over the country, ultimately ending up in Chicago.

A day later, I still feel totally and completely terrified. About what could have been. About what is. About life in general. I feel like I should just be so grateful that I'm okay and feel so lucky - and I absolutely *DO* - but I mostly just feel scared. Really, really scared.

I guess that the truth is this: I'm really a wreck, right now. I know I'll be okay, but I'm not okay right now. That's as real as it gets.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Perspective.

I just did Jennifer Reis' Deep Relaxation practice (okay - confession. I fell asleep 10 minutes in to the 40 minute version. Her voice knocks me out - it's SO SOOTHING. So I let my iPod keep playing and did the 15 minute practice and stayed awake. Mostly...) and in this fleeting moment of tranquility I thought I'd pop in and jot down a few of the things I'd like to blog about sooner rather than later:
  • How I am always so aware of all that I don't know - there is SO MUCH out there to learn that it sometimes makes me feel overwhelmed and paralyzed, but also incredibly excited for each and every day I have to educate myself and discover knew things.
  • How the perspective that comes with age is really interesting; how we think we have things sort of figured out at 18 but can end up entirely different people at 22, and again at 25, and again at 30 and again at.... etc. etc. etc.
  • How I absolutely CRAVE yoga and meditation. And La Croix.
  • How music is still one of my deepest passions and how listening to music sometimes makes me feel like I've popped a little bubble and found myself in a slightly bigger bubble that I only have a few seconds to explore before the other bubble comes back.
  • Why a lot of movies and television shows don't seem to stand the test of time, whereas most books that I've loved at one time or another I still love (or love even more) when I read them years later.
  • The complex I'm starting to develop about not getting invited to weddings. I'm serious. It's starting to hurt.
I'm sure there are a lot of other things I'd like to blog about, but these things have been on my mind while in the shower, driving, etc. =)

In the next few months my life is going to change a lot, and I have a feeling that blogging about it all will be a priority, so please stay tuned!!

xoH

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Meaning(less)(ful)(?)

I've been truly awful at updating my blog as of late, but here's the thing - I don't want to post random, meaningless crap on the Internet just for the sake of doing so. I want my blog to be meaningful and honest. And I can be really picky about my writing - I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time composing and editing and re-writing EVERYTHING, even blog entries. And for the past few weeks I just haven't had the energy, or at least, I haven't had THAT kind of energy - the blogging energy, we'll call it. Such is life. I'm sure I'll go through phases of being overly-prolific when it comes to writing blog posts. Right now isn't one of those phases, though.

In the meantime, check out my girl Julia's AWESOME website that she just finished. We did our yoga teacher training together at Kripalu and I just adore her beyond measure. She is another kindred spirit, for sure! 

I'm enjoying the autumn rain today. Lots of people complain about rain, but I LOVE rain. Especially the kind of mellow, warm rain that allows me to go for a run or a walk and experience the exquisite way it falls on my skin. It's so beautiful!

I've already worked out this morning. Now it's time for a latte and then I'm off to teach yoga this afternoon.

xoxo

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My intention in yoga this morning was GRATITUDE.

Let's talk about gratitude, shall we?


I'm in Southern California for the week, and I've been practicing at Yoga Shakti in Irvine every day. It's been AMAZING to experience all sorts of different types of classes again. I don't currently have access to these types of yoga studios (I've also practiced at Yoga Works in Newport Beach since I've been here) so this has been such a treat! It's neat to see the way so many yoga instructors blend their own style with the tradition in which they've been trained. I've heard a LOT of cues involving lifting all four corners of the heart, which is a new one for me. I've heard a lot of heart-opening cuing, generally, though, which is something I really need to weave into my own teaching. I've been aware of good cues and not so good cues, and of course, my biggest pet peeve, not safely cuing the release of a pose. Mostly, though, I've been incredibly impressed with the teachers I've had out here. I have a LOT of new ideas and new sequencing to build into my own teaching, and that's exciting. (As an aside, and in case anyone from my Saturday class reads this, I was also vindicated in discovering that wide-stance downward-facing dog really IS a legitimate position and not something I made up because I really dig that specific hamstring stretch - great news! Haha!) I'm REALLY fascinated by the fact that there has been chanting in every class I've been to so far - both at Yoga Shakti and Yoga Works. Some of the Sanskrit I recognized from our morning prayers at Kripalu, some was totally new, but it felt really comforting to hear it again.

I've also given a yoga class to my lovely hosts, Molly and Buddy, which was a lot of fun. Molly has a ton of pilates and yoga experience, so she was easy to teach. Buddy, however, had never, ever, ever, ever, EVER done ANY yoga before. Ever. So that was GREAT experience for me, because I really got to work on how to cue to someone who doesn't have that yoga intuition that really helps us along after we've established a solid practice. 24-hours later he hasn't sued me, so I think it went well. =) No, he said he really enjoyed it and how he felt afterward, so that's a good sign.

In addition to one or two 90-minute yoga practices a day, we've been doing lots of fun things like going out for sushi, eating LOTS of delicious cheese, taking long walks in the BEAUTIFUL weather, going for frozen yogurt at Yogurt Land, and even seeing Dachshund races at Oktober Fest in Huntington Beach. Oh, and hitting the hot tub, watching mindless TV, drinking good wine, having fabulous conversations, drinking even better margaritas and getting LOTS of sleep. YAY!

Grateful? You better believe it. =)

Shanti, shanti, shanti! Peace, peace, peace!

xoH

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tolerating the consequences.

I'm feeling less than inspired these days. I'm kind of blue. It's disheartening, yes, but just part of the journey, right? Being present for exactly how things are is part of yoga, or so I've been told. That is what I learned from Stephen Cope, anyway. I probably need to re-read his book and/or read his other book and/or actually finish that meditation book I started.

And/or just breathe. (That's what I did last night, by the way. I locked myself in a room to practice yoga, and instead of doing any asana practice, I did Micah Mortali's Inward Diving flow, which is about 25 minutes of pranayama - yes, BREATHING - and then I did a 40 minute yoga nidra practice - yes, flat on my back with eyes closed NOT MOVING - from Jennifer Reis's Deep Relaxation CD. I'm not ashamed. It was exactly the yoga practice I needed.)

So instead of attempting a witty, profound, charming, om-worthy blog post, I thought I'd point you (whoever you may or may not be) to some super-great yoga blogs that I've been enjoying as of late where you CAN read witty, profound, charming, om-worthy blog posts (and please accept my apology that it's not HERE these days....)


Spoiled Yogi - I have automatic respect for anyone who admits to writing their own Frequently Asked Questions.
Daily Downward Dog - one of the DDD mantras is "Mean people suck." Another is "You don’t have to rub crystals and listen to Yanni to get into yoga." I dig it.
Yoga Dork - I'm a proud dork, generally. I'm an especially proud yoga dork.
Naturally Nina - this is the blog of one of my yoga school BFFs, Nina. She is an INCREDIBLE woman. You know when you connect with someone in a way that makes you believe you SURELY know this person in a parallel universe where your paths crossed much earlier and/or you SURELY knew this person in a past-life, if there are such things, and/or you SURELY are from the same planet and it isn't this one? Yeah. I love, love, love, love her. Also, she just got married and the photos of her wedding and subsequent honeymoon in Norway are awe-inspiring. Check her out.

Those should keep you busy for awhile. In the meantime, I'm going to have some ice cream.

Yes, ICE CREAM.

Shanti.
Hilary

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Taking stock. And dessert.

In the six weeks since I graduated from Kripalu School of Yoga I have:
  • Taught three yoga classes at the local YMCA and secured my own regular weekly 90-minute class.
  • Taught eleven one-on-one private yoga sessions.
  • Led five meditation classes.
  • Been practicing yoga personally at least six times per week.

I have to remind myself that I'm on track because I so often struggle with feeling as though I'm not doing enough, or not doing enough fast enough. But I really am making progress - and I'm right on track - toward my goal of getting as much teaching experience as I can this fall and winter, and that's exciting. Exciting!! I am also subbing for my lovely friend/yoga teacher Katie the next two Thursday evenings, and at the end of October I'm going back to SoCal (to visit my EXTRAORDINARY Kenyon girl, Molly) and hope to take as many classes as possible with the amazing woman who was (unknowingly) a huge part of all that inspired me to pursue my dream of teaching yoga. When I visited Molly last January I took a bunch of yoga at Newport Beach Yoga Works, and LB's classes blew my mind. It felt almost magical, the way she would float through the room, giving such beautiful, articulate and poetic voice to the body. For the first time in my life I truly experienced yoga the way I think it should be experienced: a deep and transformational connection of body, mind and spirit. More than anything, I want to be able to teach like her (and like Priti. And like Devarshi. And like Danny. And like...) and offer other people the type of experience she offered me. I'm so excited to take classes with her again. LB's restorative class was so intense that I had to sit on a bench for about 30 minutes afterward before I felt okay to drive. No kidding.

I'd really like to start reading and learning more about Ayurveda. That's next on the list.

In other news, I'm watching Top Chef: Just Desserts and, umm, I want to eat everything they are making. I'm an honest yogini: moderation is not my strong point. Working on it. ;)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh, October. I adore you.


Madeline. October, 2008. Autumn leaves on Middle Path!
I've been waking up in the BEST mood for the past few days. Even pre-espresso, I just feel GOOD. I feel excited. I feel light and twirly and clear-headed. I just figured out today that OF COURSE I'm waking up in the best mood, and of course I'm feeling generally fantastic all day, every day - IT'S OCTOBER! This is my very favorite month of the entire year. The weather is absolutely perfect: it's not hot, but it's not TOO cold - I can wear jeans and long sleeve shirts (preferably with thumb hooks - I really love thumb hooks) but still get away with my Teva sandals (at least sometimes!) The breeze is decadent and the leaves are starting to turn, the promise of their crunch under my feet in a few weeks a source of blissful anticipation, and it's great weather to do yoga outside, take long walks or drink lattes on the deck. It's also Holiday-Eve - the promise of Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the horizon but it's not stressful just yet. This really is the best month of the entire year, I'm quite sure. If I ever get married, I think I'd like to get married in October. =)

I'm also feeling good because the next three months are an incredible chance for me to really hone my teaching skills before I move back north in January. I am teaching a 90-minute group class at the YMCA on Saturday mornings, I have a few subbing dates set up during the week for another yoga teacher, I have two private sessions a week (and I'm hoping to add a few more - I've been having people sign up for my email list when I teach group classes, and soon I'm going to have a website set up where people can get more information on private sessions) and I lead a weekly meditation group on Wednesday evenings. Meanwhile I'm spending quality time with my beautiful sister (and forcing her to do Power Thought Cards with me every day! Ha!) and my adorable nieces (see photo!!) I've also made a few really close friends here whom I absolutely love spending time with. (For example, my friend Christi, who just started her own sewing business called Thread Head Designs - yes, the reference to the Grateful Dead is purposeful, she's THAT COOL, and also SO TALENTED!! Check her out!) I'm also doing a lot of cooking, reading, and even a little bit of writing. And did I mention that IT'S OCTOBER?!?

I think the best thing, though, is that even in my moments of NOT feeling *this* amazing, I have gotten a lot better at coming back to the breath to find peace in the present. The power of just one inhale and one exhale is sort of mind-blowing. Wanna try? Okay - this isn't a specific yoga breath, per se, but something I started doing even before YTT that I find extremely comforting. I've shared it with a few people who have also found it helpful, so I'll share it with the blog-world now: inhale actively to a count of five, and then continue to inhale passively (just allowing air to go in) as you continue counting to ten. Even if you feel like you have no more room in your lungs, just keep letting air come in. Then exhale actively for a count of five, and continue squeezing out the air as you continue counting to ten. Repeat as many times as needed. If you know Dirgha and Ujjayi breath, you can use them, but you don't have to know fancy-shmancy yoga pranayama, I promise. I do this all of the time when I can't sleep, or just when I feel really off-kilter mid-day and need to come HOME. Let me know if it works for you!

And once again....HAPPY OCTOBER! XOXO

Friday, October 1, 2010

Intention.

I am recommitting myself to the connections I made, internally and externally, during my yoga teacher training at Kripalu. I don't feel that I've written enough yet about my immense personal growth over the course of the month or the insights I gained, and I need to reconnect with these things before I completely forget and can't figure out how to remind myself in the darker moments.

And that's just it - I'm trying to embrace those darker moments. Devarshi and Priti encouraged us to live in and with our own darkness - it's part of self-observation without judgment - the very definition of Kripalu yoga. Yoga, this beautiful and ancient science meaning UNION ...of body, mind and spirit. Being completely and authentically aware doesn't only mean being aware of the happy, flowy, feel-good stuff, but it also means being absolutely tuned into to the other side of it all...the UNhappy, not at ALL flowy (what's the opposite of flowy?) feel-bad stuff...and knowing that it's okay, too. It all just IS.

Sometimes I hear a strange mixture of Stephen Cope's voice, Devarshi's voice and Priti's voice, with a hint of my OWN voice, asking: Can you be okay in THIS moment with exactly how it is? Can you be okay in THIS moment with exactly who you are? Can you connect through your breath, through prana - life-force - with your own divine nature and honor your connection to spirit? Can you ride the wave of whatever emotion you're experiencing and find out that letting yourself go into the darkness won't actually kill you? That you'll come out the otherside in one piece?

Yes. Yes. Yes. You really can. You can go there - all the way there - and find that little child version of you who only wants to be loved and accepted, and you can love and accept her. And then FORGIVE her.

____
*I'm excited about the logistical details of this recommitting, which include restructuring my schedule with a 90-minute morning sadhana as the priority, even if it means getting up at 6:30am every day, as well as a minimum of 20-minutes of evening meditation. The answers are in the practice, I think. My friend Kelly's business website says "your yoga becomes you. you rediscover you." It's true. On every breath.


Jai Bhagwan.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger...with a side of compassion.

Last weekend I kept meaning to sit down and write about what it was like teaching my first real-deal-real-people-real-life yoga class. Didn't happen. Tuesday did happen, though, so as of Tuesday at 6:31pm I started meaning to sit down and write about what it was like teaching my SECOND real-deal-real-people-real-life yoga class. Now it's Friday. Sitting down? Check. Writing? I suppose.

At Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training we would set inquires for every Practice Teach. In fact, we set inquiries all day, every day, which was part of what drew me to the Kripalu program in the first place. I'm the product of Montessori School and an Authentic Liberal Arts College Education (on the World's Most Beautiful Campus - yes I'm bragging on my alma mater. Again.) and the Kripalu YTT methodology, much like every other educational experience of my life, reminded me of that amazing Rilke quote:
...have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
...which is NOT to conjure images of sipping scotch (although I am a fan) in an imposing Ivory Tower feeling generally superior. In fact, it's the opposite - sometimes I feel incapable of making decisions because my brain has been wired to live everything as a question, to see a million POSSIBLE answers, and then see each possible answer in shades of gray - good and bad - right and wrong - and OH! Every possible answer PROBABLY becomes another inquiry. Woo!

Learning to teach yoga from this perspective (it's one of Pantanjali's sutras: Atha Yoga Nushasanam - Now, the inquiry of yoga) means the realization that you could teach an entire 2-year series on Tadasana (mountain pose). "What happens if you soften the knees? What happens if you shift your tailbone down ever so slightly? How does it feel when you lift the ribcage? Spend the next hour noticing your fingers!! Namaste!" To be fair, we did spend an entire day learning/learning to teach Tadasana, and nothing changed my understanding of yoga or helped me tune in to the details of my own body more than that day.

I used to get so anxious standing in mountain pose. First of all, it felt ridiculous to just STAND there. I wanted to move on and start beating myself up - you know, force my body to work hard, harder, harder - be stronger, be more flexible, be BETTER - whatever that meant. Second, I was always sure I wasn't doing it "right" - the cues to notice these subtle things in my body were just totally lost on me. It was almost impossible to connect my mind with where my hips might be. How could standing be SO complex? That drove me crazy.  These two things are connected, though, and common. And exactly why I'm teaching yoga.

It's the devastating thing I saw in my own life and I see in the lives of people all around me, all of the time. Somehow the body has become a thing we have to punish, beat into submission, force into compliance. On those TV shows where people are losing weight in groups or working with celebrity trainers I've heard it spouted off as a way to do more, work harder, get results: "Show the body who's boss! Run faster! Push harder! Don't let the body control you, you control the body! No pain, no gain!" Essentially we're encouraged to disembody ourselves in order to achieve something physical. As opposed to being one integrated human being, we are a floating head who happens to own a body, and as the owner of the body, we're going to whip it into shape. I used to do this all of the time in fitness classes, running, working out at the gym: I would tell myself I was the boss, I could keep going, I could do more -as though my body and mind were totally disconnected. And it can work for a little while. Maybe it could even work for an extended period of time, at least on the level of keeping the body in good physical shape as defined by the clothing industry.

But it's a recipe for failure, misery, injury and weight gain, and here's why: perhaps on Monday I disembody myself so that I can run five miles as fast as I can - I'm pushing and beating myself up and forcing - and maybe it's a good thing in and of itself. Maybe my body really needed the movement, the exertion, the oxygen. That's good. Except if I'm doing it from a disembodied place - if I'm forcing my body to run as some kind of power-play, showing it that I'm in charge, I'm setting up a really warped mind-body connection. And then on Tuesday, maybe I continue feeling disembodied, but this time it makes it easy to binge on fast-food because, hey, the body is just this thing, it's not really me. And maybe on Wednesday I feel really guilty about the fast food binge, and I spend a lot of time hating my thighs, obsessing about how much I hate my thighs. And then on Thursday I feel generally shitty and I don't really know why. On Friday I am so disembodied that during my latest and greatest strength training program (that has promised me THE perfect abs) I don't listen to the cues that I'm using too heavy of weights and I put my back out. On Saturday my body and I are involved a serious war - stupid, hurt, not good enough body keeping me flat on my back in bed, all the while probably gaining weight and making sure I can't fit into my skinny jeans. On Sunday I'm in a state of such serious self-loathing I can hardly see straight. Why? Here's a guess: if I'm punishing my body, I'm punishing myself. If I hate my body, I hate myself. The end.

I don't mean this as a literal example. Each day could represent one year in a person's life, even. But this is what we are being told to do by many in the fitness industry - even in yoga classes, especially the latest and greatest super-vigorous-core-power-vinyasa-ass-kicking-in-a-room-as-hot-as-a-sauna class (and I mean no harm - I love intense vinyasa classes, and I even love Bikram classes!) - and  we are so completely disconnected from our bodies that it is hardly a surprise that we fill them with food that has no nutritional value, or that morbid obesity has become a serious and scary epidemic, or that people are starving themselves and over-exercising on a quest to meet some arbitrary standard of physical beauty. It's no surprise that we pack our schedules so full that we have no time for any relaxation, restoration or anything else that doesn't serve a specific purpose toward getting further on the imaginary totem pole of necessary life accomplishments.

I want to teach yoga from the perspective of how miraculous the body is. Instead of hating your thighs, what if you marvel - simply MARVEL - at their strength holding you, sweet and easy, in Virabhadrasana I? Instead of hating your belly, what if you explore the way your core strength allows you to move and stretch and stabilize poses? What if your goal wasn't to show your arm muscles who the boss is, but to instead notice, every day, how much longer you can stay in chaturanga dandasana, and then thank those muscles - those parts of YOU - for the effort? In my experience, if I work WITH my body - with the muscles that I am strengthening and training and stretching every day in my yoga practice and any other form of exercise, then it becomes fun and compassionate to work hard, challenge, explore the edges of exertion and endurance.

(As a related aside: I truly believe that yoga is the key to solving the morbid obesity epidemic in this country. Being morbidly obese is the same type of mind-body disconnect as beating yourself up in the gym. When a yoga practice allows you to begin reconnecting the body and mind - inquiring into parts of the body that have been ignored because of shame and experiencing the beautiful power and potential of the body even after years of neglect - the door to compassionate, healthy weight-loss has been opened.)

What if I can connect my body, mind and spirit in such a way that we are one entity: moving, flowing, living and loving together? Moreover, what if I can inspire my students to approach their practice (and by extension, their lives) from a place of compassionate self-awareness so that one day choosing healthy foods that nourish their physical form becomes second nature; not holding back during a vigorous yoga practice becomes an act of love; sweat pouring and heat building goes from being a punishment to an expression of the connectedness of mind, body and spirit?

Now, the inquiry. =)



PS - My first two real-deal-real-people-real-life yoga classes went well, by the way. =)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Life. The way it is. The way it isn't.

I can't believe it's been three weeks since I returned from yoga teacher training at Kripalu. It feels like three YEARS, and that can, at times, feel disheartening. I think back with such a sense of bittersweet longing to waiting at the Albany airport on August 1st and meeting the sweet Kelly ("Are you doing yoga teacher training?" "YES! Are you?" "Yes! Are you SO excited!?" "Yes." -pause- "I'm also SO NERVOUS." "ME TOOOOO!!") who in many respects may as well be me 14 years ago. I think we were both so relieved to make a connection with someone else in the program right away, and specifically with someone with whom we could RELATE. We sat next to each other on the shuttle from the airport to Kripalu and exchanged stories, and I had that funny feeling that in four short weeks this slightly uncomfortable small talk would be replaced by a deep and abiding connection. (I was very, very right.) We checked in together, chose our bunk together in the huge dorm room with 20 other bunk beds and explored the building together. We met Pam, who had been a volunteer at Kripalu previously, and as such seemed to have lots of good inside information (for example - even if the doors to the dining hall are closed, you can still go in and get tea! Anytime!!) and went to a gentle afternoon yoga class taught by Grace, who would end up being our Anatomy and Physiology teacher. I will never forget how nauseated and nervous I felt during that class. It may as well have been a super advanced vigorous class because it was destroying me, probably because I had gone to bed (on an air-mattress at a wonderful friend's house) at 1am the night before, gotten up at 4am to be at the airport for a 7am flight, had traveled all day and was embarking on a whole month that was really a complete unknown, except for the vague notion of supposedly coming out the other end a yoga teacher. Hello, nerves! I remember meeting Launa (with her amazing British accent, her intimidatingly powerful and yet kind presence) outside of our program room. She told me immediately that she was petrified that she wasn't ready for teacher training, but that she was convincing herself it was just a journey. That made me feel SO much better, especially coming from someone who looked the part of Yoga Goddess already. And, of course, I met Murphy that night at the opening session. I had no idea we had already chosen top bunks right next to each other or that I would eventually be her visual alarm clock in the morning (I would always see her wake up with a start and check if I was still in bed around 5:45am. If I was, she promptly went right back to sleep. I'm guessing if I wasn't she either checked the time and/or got up herself. Ha!) She sat on a cushion next to me and just seemed READY. TO. GO. She was emanating so much energy that she may as well have been vibrating. I told her, much later, (in the sauna, which became our nightly ritual - The Sauna Situation, it's called) that she had seemed so front-bodied that I wasn't convinced she might not propel herself forward at the speed of light and crash through the wall on the other side of the room before the program even started.

And these are just a few details of day one that I think back on with fondness and longing. 27 sixteen hour days equal an INFINITE number of details, a lot of fondness, and a ton of longing.


I always find it so tempting to try to hold on really, really, really, REALLY tight to experiences and people that make me feel good, and while understandable, it's no good to get so caught up in the past that I'm living in it and/or mourning it ALL OF THE TIME, right? I'm reading a book that another Kripalu friend, the lovely and talented Julia, suggested: Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Were the battery in my Kindle not low and were I not feeling too comfy in this big blue chair to get up and find the charger, I'd quote a few passages from the first chapter that deal with exactly this phenomenon: the intrinsic suffering of being human that is essentially not seeing life as it is in the present moment. Ah ha! And there it is. I think this was one of the stairwell signs I saw most often at Kripalu.

I suppose I wonder how we remember, celebrate and learn from the past AND plan for the future, all the while living squarely and fully in the NOW. I have a few ideas and theories, but I'm curious, does anyone know THE answer?!? Or have AN answer? Please share!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Granola!

I made granola! I made granola!!

The granola at Kripalu is LEGENDARY. During my month-long teacher training I ate it almost every single morning with organic yogurt. It was SO perfect after our 90 minute morning yoga practice, especially if that practice was particularly vigorous. In fact, I specifically remember very sweaty morning classes with Jovinna, Danny and Roger during which the only thing getting me through the class was the promise of granola. I'd be hovering in plank for what seemed like an eternity, watching the sweat drip onto my mat below me, and just think "granola-granola-granola-granola" over and over and over again. Ha!

I have been craving Kripalu granola ever since leaving the Berkshires two weeks ago, and today I found a few different recipes online claiming to be THE Kripalu granola. After reading them (and doing some general granola research) and coming to terms with what I could get at the local grocery store (i.e. NOT rye flakes or barley malt) I sort of made up my own recipe. It's not EXACTLY like that magical Kripalu granola, but it IS very delicious!!! Now that I have the granola-bug, though, I think I'm going to be doing a LOT of granola experiments.

So this is what I did today, in case you, too, are in the mood for some delicious granola!!

Mix together in large bowl:
9 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup flax seeds
2 cups shredded cocount
2 cups sunflower seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
2 cups chopped almonds
(set aside)

Combine in saucepan:
2/3 cups canola oil
1 & 1/3 cup maple syrup
(warm on medium heat for a couple of minutes)

Remove from heat and add:
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 tbs almond extract
1/4 tea maple extract
1 tea salt


Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture in two stages, combining well after each addition.

Spread the mixture onto two large baking sheets and press down with a spatula (or, let's be honest, your hands.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Unless you have a huge oven, you'll have to use two racks; I switched the position of the sheets in the oven after 20 minutes so they would bake evenly.

Cool for 30 minutes (the granola will harden and darken as it cools!) Break up, add raisins, and store in an air-tight container.

Serve with yogurt (I'm partial to Seven Stars Farm which you can usually find at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) or milk or just snack on it dry!! Be careful, though. All those nuts and seeds means a little goes a long way, but it tastes so good that you may end up REALLY FULL before you know it. =) This is a powerhouse food!!

YUM!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Antsy-pantsy-pie

I've been horribly anxious this weekend. I can't really place where it's coming from, this anxiety, and I've been trying all of my top-secret yoga teacher tricks to combat it to no avail. And by top-secret yoga teacher tricks I mean really revolutionary things like BREATHING. It's that kind of anxiety where I just feel like I can't sit still. Nothing satisfies me. Ever since Friday night I've been trying to find ways to feel less antsy and more grounded. I tried forward bends, hoping the sense of introversion would connect me with myself. I tried back bends and chest openers wondering if I needed to set something free. I did a bunch of sun salutations to work up a sweat. I went to Starbucks and had a pumpkin spice latte, a pumpkin & cream cheese muffin, sat outside and tried to write. My writing had no spark or direction so I gave up. I did this Inward Diving pranayama flow, a guided relaxation, and my own meditation practice. What did it all get me? Well, I woke up with a stiff neck and a sore upper back. Awesome.

I have no inspiring story about how I've fought and won this odd sense of just-NOT-okay. What I did remember a few minute ago is that the idea of witness consciousness isn't to turn all bad sensation into good sensation, but instead to just watch it without judgment. So, that's my plan now. I'm going to stop fighting the antsy-pantsy feeling and just notice it. Consider yourself seen, anxiousness. You can stay. Or you can go. I'll be okay, either way.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday night, red wine, plans!

Ahhh. Red wine. I ADORE red wine. I tend to favor cabs, but tonight I'm enjoying my go-to red, Chateau Ste. Michelle merlot. My sister and I call it Chateau DE Michelle - I can't remember exactly why except that we thought that was the name for quite awhile, and once we figured out our mistake it was too late to change the habit. We discovered it back in 2004 or 2005, shortly after our mom passed away. We were on a BIG red wine kick, and we were trying a different bottle almost every night (don't judge!) and this one really stood out. It became an instant favorite, and ever since my Aunt Nancy has given me a bottle of it for Easter, which is absolutely adorable.

Tomorrow I have the whole day to myself! I'm planning on going to my first hot yoga class since getting back from yoga school. It will be interesting to see what I notice about the teacher/teaching style/style of yoga now that I'm a certified teacher myself. I'm also going to write, write, write. I want to write more about yoga school, but I also remembered a story tonight that I've always meant to write down - how I knew Kenyon College was the right school for me based almost solely on the cute boys in khakis in the all-male a cappella group singing Elvis Costello's Veronica at the admitted student program. Yes, I chose my college based on cute singing boys. True story. I also need to fill out the paperwork for the Yoga Alliance folks (I signed up for my liability insurance today! Woo!) and plan out my private sessions for next week (I have two scheduled!) plan for the meditation group I'm leading on Wednesday night....annnnnd start planning for my FIRST REAL GROUP CLASS! Yes! My wonderful yoga teacher, Katie, invited me to lead her Thursday night class at the YMCA next week. I am SO excited, but also SO nervous! She is going to be there, and I'm so anxious that she is going to think I'm doing an awful job with her class. Oy oy oy.

Lastly, I need to really start thinking about where I'm going to move in a few months. Right now NYC, Boston, Chicago and Nashville are all on the table. Decisions, decisions! Any opinions??

Happy Friday, world!! After reading this blog, I invite you to come to a comfortable standing position, feet parallel and hip width apart. Inhale, lift your arms to the sky as you ground down through the feet, engage your thighs, draw the belly in and up, lift your rib cage and SMILE! Exhale as you slowly float the arms down, feeling the air around you, bring the hands together in front of the heart, bow your head and thank your body for all it does for you day in and day out. XOXO!!

JAI BHAGWAN!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why Kripalu?

I got a message via Facebook yesterday from a lovely lady who found me via Tumblr (and now I'm on blogger - oh the confusion of social networking!!) who has been searching for a yoga teacher training program. She asked me about my experience at Kripalu. After responding to her message I thought it might actually make a decent bloggy blog blog post, so I am sharing what I wrote about YTT at Kripalu here. I'm planning on eight more stories like The blue and black stone (each corresponding with one of the wall hangings in the stairwells at Kripalu - that's what the Plato quote photo is!) but as inspiration hasn't yet hit...until then... Jai Bhagwan! =)

Hi xxxxxxx,

Sorry it's taken me longer than I thought to get back to you!

It's really hard to synthesize my EXTRAORDINARY month at Kripalu into a general picture, but I'll try.

The month-long at Kripalu was the PERFECT teacher training program for me for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, the complete immersion and the ability to be 100% focused on the program, the process, and my own experience of it was invaluable. (I used to love going on tour with my choir during college for this reason. During the academic year I could really only focus on the music for the hour we rehearsed each day - maybe working on it outside of rehearsal for a few hours a week. But during tour (over spring break) it was the ONLY thing I had to do. There is something profoundly meditative and peaceful about being able to put our focus on ONE thing and really live it.)

I had looked at other programs that met once a week or even once a month, and I somehow knew, deep down inside that what *I* needed was the opportunity to be completely focused on the process of becoming a yoga teacher. I didn't need real-world distractions, I didn't need an environment that would be anything less than supportive of what I was doing, I didn't need to have to make time for my studies - I wanted my life to BECOME that study. I also had a sneaky suspicion that the four weeks would involve a lot of self-inquiry, and I longed for that. I truly can't imagine doing a yoga teacher training program in any other way now that I've completed the Kripalu program. Getting to LIVE yoga in a way almost impossible in the "real world" (depending on your circumstances, I suppose... but those would be rare circumstances to say the very least - I don't know anyone in my circle of friends who has a personal chef who prepares all of their meals with organic, local, healthy ingredients!! Heehee!) was such an INCREDIBLE and rare opportunity. Just writing about it now I'm so aware of what a gift the month was!

I think you do need to be prepared ahead of time that it is, really, yoga boot camp - and they do tell you as much in the literature. You are going, going, going for, essentially, 15 hours a day, six days a week. Those 15 hours include at LEAST 3 hours and 15 minutes of yoga practice, but when you add in experiential posture clinics, practice teach sessions, shadow mentoring, etc, there are days you will be actually, physically, DOING YOGA for eight solid hours a day. That sounds almost impossible when I see it in writing, but having done it, and many a time over the last month, I know it's doable!! (And no, I was not in the habit of three hours of yoga a day before I left. I practiced approximately 90 minutes, four times a week.) I think the fact that you are almost guaranteed eight hours of sleep a night (you're too tired NOT to go to bed by 10pm, usually!) and eating such nutritious food supportive of health and energy is what makes it possible - and, of course, in my experience a lot of physical activity tends to actually GIVE you energy as opposed to depleting it, especially when your body gets used to it. I will say that there were days towards the end of week three and the beginning of week four when my body was, truly, EXHAUSTED, when I woek up horribly sore, and I think at one point I may have gotten a memo from my quads along the lines of: "one more warrior pose and we're going on strike." =) But it's really an incredible thing to look back on and say to yourself: "holy SHIT, I did that. I am SO, so, SO much stronger than I ever, ever realized." =)

One aspect of Kripalu yoga that I truly appreciate, and was not completely prepared for, is the spiritual side of things. Of course if you practice yoga you probably realize that yoga is, at its core, a spiritual practice - or, at least, initially developed as such 5000 years ago in India. But in today's culture it's becoming increasingly unpopular to acknowledge or explore that - maybe out of fear of offending people, etc. I'm not sure. In any event, I really did not know a lot about yoga philosophy before August, and it was incredible to learn about it, and even more amazing to actually begin practicing some of the rituals and traditions in my own life. My class had people from all different religious backgrounds - devout Catholics, practicing Buddhists, on-the-fence-Methodists, Atheists... and somehow the spiritual side of Kripalu yoga was presented in such a way that everyone really welcomed it. I don't know exactly how they do that, but it's amazing.

I think the lovely thing about a program like Kripalu is that it is somewhat self-selecting (my 10-year college admissions background is coming out now) in the sense that, like a small, private liberal arts college (I went to one and worked at three!) the people who are drawn to a place like Kripalu tend to have a certain base-level of what I'd call a kindred-nature. I really felt, and still feel, that each of the 56 other people in my program were people I could develop a strong connection with on some level. Of course, it's impossible to actually become super, super close with 56 other people in one month when you're THAT busy, HOWEVER, I can honestly say that I came away with at LOT of VERY close friends who I will probably keep in touch with for the rest of my life, and a lot of people who I know will always have my back and who I'd drop just about anything for in a heartbeat. In this sometimes cynical, sometimes cold world where it's really hard to develop intimate relationships outside of certain constructs (like college or family) meeting like-minded, interesting, POSITIVE people is SUCH a gift. Especially as we were encouraged to be more and more and more real and honest and vulnerable with each other, it felt completely SAFE to be incredibly and powerfully honest about things we don't talk about in the workplace, on first dates, at bars, or even often enough with our own family and friends- those pesky FEELINGS!! EMOTIONS!! Ha!!

I suppose I should mention (for some reason I feel like it goes without saying, but that is silly) that the actual instruction on HOW TO BE A YOGA TEACHER is second to none at Kripalu. I studied with people who are essentially ROCKSTARS in the yoga world. Their experience and accomplishment would have been overwhelmingly intimidating were it not for the fact that they were the kindest, most humble and most LOVING people I've ever met. Having graduated from Kripalu, I now feel beyond confident in my ability to lead a safe, positive yoga class. The Kripalu toolbag, as it's called, it really unbelievable. You learn exactly the tools you need to teach yoga, and it's surprising how quickly they become second nature and, really, how simple it is. It is a daunting process to actually give voice to the body to lead someone else though a yoga practice. On one hand I quickly learned that it truly is a skill that takes development - teaching yoga is NOT easy. On the other hand, the Kripalu methodology makes it straight-forward to learn.

I think I'll cut this short for now - certainly I've given you a lot to think about!! Let me know what specific questions you might have at this point.

Jai Bhagwan!!!

xoxo
Hilary

Monday, September 6, 2010

The blue and black stone

“I’m not going to be very good dinner company.”

No response. At all.

“I’m NOT going to be very good dinner company,” I repeated a little bit louder to the woman who had placed her tray across from mine, clearly, in my mind anyway, taking pity on the poor girl eating all by herself in the crowded Kripalu dining hall on a busy Saturday night. She glanced at me only briefly, obviously not intending to take my not-so-subtle hint that I wanted to be left alone, and I wondered if she could tell I’d been crying. My instinct to pretend everything was fine - to will the tears backward from where they lay precariously on my bottom eyelids, one blink away from streaming down my cheeks - was met with a manipulative curiosity. Maybe if I WAS obviously crying she WOULD leave me alone, and I REALLY wanted to be left alone. Even more so when I recognized her as the 50-something, abrasive woman with the thick Boston accent who had snapped at me in the laundry room the night before. I, riding the euphoric high of a week at Kripalu, had been shocked by her “real-world-ness” - she had been angry that there were no washing machines available on Friday night (umm, join the club, sweetheart - Kripalu may be heaven on earth, but when it comes to laundry it’s the only part of the organization a bit closer to hell - of the six machines in the basement two are for staff use only, requiring a special card, and at least two are always out of order, leaving only two coin operated machines for the 600 guests who may decide to do laundry on any given day) and when I had admonished her (in a positively giddy, and in retrospect, probably obnoxious way) for saying the situation was hopeless (“Don’t say THAT! Nothing is EVERRRR hopelesssssss!” I had gushed. Who did I think I was, exactly?) she had quickly put me in my place, snapping back at me with such anger that I had physically recoiled. It hadn’t phased me in the moment, particularly, but less than 24 hours later I was feeling pretty hopeless for other reasons, and quite enjoying my trip to Wallow-World alone in the dining hall with my plate of kale and other assorted steamed vegetables. After a week of pure bliss, it was almost comforting to revert to old habits. Not almost, actually. It just was.

Why was this woman sitting down with me? I searched her eyes for any glimpse of recognition, but if she did recognize me as the overzealous-life-is-BEAUTIFUL-smiley face-LOVE-exclamation-points!!!! type from the night before, she hid it well. Instinct winning out, I pushed back my tears and tried again, a bit more forcefully.

“I’m just finishing up, really, and honestly, I’m not going to be great company anyway, and…” Wait - were my tears betraying me, the little JERKS, or was that residual sweat from the vigorous yoga class with Danny I had just finished 20 minutes prior? I didn’t have to wonder long.

“Why, because you’re crying? That’s why I’m here.”

She said it with such authority that I was quite sure she was telling the truth, and in my current state of self-loathing, I was also quite sure it was to let me know that I needed to pack up and leave the yoga teacher training program immediately. My tears made up their own minds and sprung from my eyes.

In somewhat of a quick-cycling-bipolar-like episode, I had gone from being on top of the world to the pit of despair in less than 24 hours. When I had last seen angry-laundry-room-lady, everything in my world had been perfect. More than perfect, actually. I was riding a somewhat insane high after a full week of teacher training. I was managing four hours of yoga a day, plus posture clinics and lectures, eating incredible organic food, going to the sauna and hot tub (with cold dip plungey pool!!) and getting eight solid hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT, and being encouraged to be completely authentic and real. And to my surprise, everyone seemed to really like me! A lot! I was getting so much positive feedback, constantly, and I was eating it up. People I thought were drop-dead gorgeous were spontaneously telling me I was “stunningly beautiful” when I felt anything but. People who had intimidated me to the nth degree when I first met them were asking me to have meals, vying for my attention, telling me I was funny!! I was was being real and I wasn’t being rejected!! Incredible! My extraordinary teachers seemed to really like me and, as far as I could tell, thought I actually BELONGED in their program! Who knew?!?

So far I had spent our one day off a week taking a joy ride into the quaint town of Lenox with Kelly and Athena. We had eaten at the most adorable cafe, owned, in fact, by a Kripalu yoga teacher (and his wife) who had led morning sadhana on Thursday. Athena and I splurged on the most beautiful wooden watches at a little boutique shop, and I found only the most PERFECT gift for my sister - real butterfly wings set in sterling silver earrings (the butterfly died a natural death, I was assured.) We had pedicures and lattes and I bought note cards at the local general store so I could be a superstar yoga student and make flashcards to learn the Sanskrit names of poses. We listened to Deva Premal on the way home and sung Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya like perfect little yogini angels. But toward the end of our adventure something inside me had started to feel broken, somehow fake. I had pushed away the feeling.

After getting back to campus, I decided to go to the 4:15pm vigorous yoga class with Danny, “to kick my own ass” I had thought. And kick my own ass I did. The whole 90 minutes I was pouring sweat, internally admonishing myself. Accepting this voice without question, I let it berate me. “You’re sweating like a PIG, Hilary. This is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be so FUCKING hard! You’re pathetic. Can you even bind?? Oh my god, did you just fall out of TREE POSE after 2 seconds? Ridiculous. Awful. Oh, you’re NOT going to take the option to “build more heat” - eh? What a cop out. You suck. You have no right to be in a yoga teacher training program. None! You’re awful! Aww, poor BABY, you really don’t want to stay in this plank pose much longer, do you? TOO BAD! You’re fat! You’re ugly! You’re weak! Look at you! You’re failing at this class! You can’t do yoga! You SUCK!!”

The mean, mean, mean voice had actually brought me to tears in the middle of the class, and sitting at dinner afterward, alone, I was still listening to it. Nevermind the fact that I had made it through one of the most physically demanding yoga practices I’d ever attempted with grace and strength, after a week of more yoga and exercise than I’d ever done in a 6 day period before in my life (Kripalu YTT is, truly, yoga boot camp) - no, no, I was a FAILURE. A complete failure.

“Pick a card,” angry-laundry-room-lady said to me, fanning out an imaginary deck.

“Huh?” I was the one hearing evil voices, I really didn’t need to interact with a crazy person who had an imaginary card deck.

“Pick a card,” she said again, evenly.

I had a boss once who made me knock on a pretend door to his pretend office. Life is certainly cyclical.

“Okay. What card did I pick?” I asked, holding out my imaginary card, humoring her.

“You tell me.”

I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the conversation without telling her to fuck off, but that would FOR SURE get me kicked out of YTT at Kripalu, so I bit my tongue.

“I picked the two of hearts,” I said, glancing at the clock and wondering if there were any massage appointments available that evening.

“Ohhhh. So you’re anxious to communicate and longing to tell the truth.” She picked up her fork, not even pretending to put down her imaginary deck of cards. So she wasn’t quite as insane as my former boss. Or maybe just careless with her cards?

I paused, thinking that I’d like to say that were I ANXIOUS to communicate, lady, I wouldn’t have tried repeatedly to convince you NOT to join me for dinner, nor would I be eating ALONE when I have 56 new best friends here, all of whom would join me for dinner if I asked. How’s THAT for the truth?

“I’m doing my yoga teacher training here, and I don’t think I’m good enough.” I said, instead. “And that really is the truth,” I realized, starting to cry. I was, out of nowhere, telling angry-laundry-room lady everything. How my wonderful day started feeling horrible, how this mean voice inside my head just wouldn’t let me feel happy, or good about myself, how my brain had rebelled against a week of feeling so high on life and happy and free and positively BLISSFUL by tearing me to shreds, how Danny’s vigorous class should have been easy for me if I’m training to do what he was doing, RIGHT?

Angry-laundry-room-lady responded with a story of her own, a story of years of self-loathing, the women she had loved who had used her and left her, weight she had gained and lost and gained again, and how in the end hating herself didn’t serve her at all, and how, in fact, she had just spent $4000 on some 10-day workshop in the wilderness to rid herself of her self-loathing - because it was that or killing herself - and had then come straight to Kripalu for a weekend of R&R, massages and time in the hot tub. I momentarily forgot all about my own mean inner voice and wondered why on earth someone would spend that much time despising themselves when it served absolutely no purpose and, Christ, cost them a LOT of cash. And as I studied her more carefully, I felt my heart break for her struggle. She was actually very beautiful, incredibly articulate, and just another soul on this earth trying to do the best she could. (Much later on in my Kripalu adventure a stunning yoga goddess would teach me that intimacy means “into me I see” - just like me this person wants to be happy. Just like me this person has known hardship. Just like me. Just like me.)

“I happen to know, however, that you are going to be a spectacular yoga teacher,” she said, out of nowhere, ending her own story without any specific or necessarily happy resolution.

I looked down at my untouched kale, wondering for a moment if anyone would lend me a car or knew where the nearest burger joint was. “How do you know that?”

“You have the eyes for it,” she said.

“Thank you.” I said, perhaps too flatly. It doesn’t take EYES to be a good yoga teacher, I thought. It takes a perfect body! It takes being able to bind in a really, really deep warrior twist! It takes holding chaturanga dandasana for 30 minutes and not breaking a sweat! It takes always choosing the option to produce “more heat” because YES, IT’S AVAILABLE TO YOU, and if it ISN’T then you SHOULDN’T be teaching yoga…

“It’s in your eyes already,” she said, as though it were a matter of fact, cutting through my self-hating reverie. “You radiate compassion. Maybe you just need to start looking at yourself the way you’ve been looking at me for the past ten minutes as I told you my story.”

Kripalu means compassion, and Kripalu yoga is, in fact, the yoga of non-judgmental, compassionate self-observation. In my classes I had been learning about something called witness consciousness - the seer - the layer of being that just watches. Just sees. Without judgment. Things just are.

It wasn’t in that moment that I got it. It wasn’t any specific moment, at all. But my dinner with angry-laundry-room-lady was part of the journey to realizing that I can choose to tell that mean voice in my head to fuck off when it tries to tell me I’m not good enough. When it calls me names. When it treats me the way I wouldn’t treat a perfect stranger. And, low and behold, I’ve started to do just that.

“Pick a stone,” she said. Certain these were stones as real as her deck of cards, I reached out lazily, stopping with my hand hovering over hers when I realized there actually were several little stones laying gently in her palm.

“Which one?” I asked, feeling anxious all of the sudden.

“You tell me,” she answered. “You know which one is yours.”

I picked a small, smooth blue and black stone, held it tightly in my palm, noticing how cool it felt against my skin. Still unsure if the stone was actually real, or if maybe the cards hadn’t been imaginary at all, I thanked her for the company, and treated myself to a massage at the healing arts department, followed by a long sauna and soak in the hot tub.

My last morning at Kripalu, three weeks to the day after my dinner with angry-laundry-room lady - three weeks that equate to a lifetime of learning and self-discovery, to the point where I can almost not recognize that girl in Danny’s class kicking her own ass both internally and externally - I took that same stone on a walk with me through the labyrinth. The stone had come to represent a moment when I was so afraid of failing that even while trying my very hardest, and in reality, succeeding, I told myself I wasn’t good enough. I thought about my limiting beliefs, all of the ways I treat myself poorly, the voice in my head that shows up to scream at me during difficult situations, both on and off the mat. I thought about all of the ways I let baseless self-loathing negatively impact my life. I put it all in the stone. Every last bit of it. I placed it in the center of the labyrinth.

And I left it behind.