Do What You Got To, But Choose Love

Like many small business owners, I wear my heart on my sleeve these days. My thoughts are dominated by a yearning to move forward. I’m doing my best to be pragmatic when looking at things through the local lens.  But I have worked hard the past 10 years to get where I am and watching it dissolve is disheartening. Why can I drive by Menards on this sunny day and see a parking lot full of cars but my business has to remain closed? What is Right Action? How do I let these hard lessons come through and trust the process when there is so much anger on all sides?

Below are thoughts I wrote May 1, 2009, while creating a mission statement for my business. I don’t think it is an accident that I stumbled on them last night. Reading my own words was the necessary agony of teaching the teacher.

“Give students the ability to further their spiritual growth through the practice of yoga. Create a sense of community and friendship where you have a group of open-minded individuals who are all on their own spiritual path and support each other.  Offer a space where people feel safe and comfortable when going through difficult times. Challenge them to connect with themselves in a more intimate and brave way even when it is uncomfortable.  Empower them to take care of their own health and control their own mind. Get them to recognize and live by their personal values. Remind them that regardless of our differences, we all experience similar obstacles and the same joy when we overcome them.”

The spiritual ride continues, but our training wheels came off. Bear Foot Yoga is just brick and mortar. The studio inside of you is still open to explore your spiritual path.  Keep showing up and moving forward even if you feel stuck. The subtle energy body is the more enduring body; it does not wax and wane with the hard lessons of the collective conscious – the Lila or play of life.  And protect yourself and support yourself in whatever way feels like Right Action for you. Take this situation seriously. Have a sense of humor. Learn something new. Do exactly what you normally do. Stay active. Sleep More. Be in the unknown and uncomfortable. Recognize and focus on what is expected and familiar. Live small and be private. Know yourself better through your connections and relationships.  Be in a funk.  Be jubilant.  Ask for your highest good.  Hold space for others. Watch the birds and the buds move and change. Trust that the planet is the same.

Please continue on your own journey; it is not inside a yoga studio or any other building. Your path is spiritual. So is everyone else’s. Part of trust is accepting your karma and not judging others for theirs.  Don’t let anger drive you to act in ways that are not an expression of who you are.  If you catch yourself doing that, come back. Spirit is always connecting us. The core center of self is divine love. There cannot be fear or loneliness in love. Let the bad guys battle it out. Please Choose Love.

Peace, Megan

A Real Person’s Guide To A Home Yoga Practice

Though I am not new to offering yoga classes on Youtube, I know practicing at home virtually is new territory for some of my dedicated students.  The comment has come back to me that “ I just can’t practice at home”. Here are a few suggestions from my years of home practice trial and error that may help you.

Asana is the physical limb of yoga, so pay attention to what your physical body is saying. Sensation is communication. How loud it is your body talking?  You always control the volume dial. Depending on the posture modifications you choose, how long you hold a posture, etc, that volume dial can go up or down.  Getting the right volume is  part of tuning the station in your practice. It may not be “easy listening” but its not something so disdainful that you want to shut it off or tune out. Pain is not the only way our bodies talk to us. There is pleasure.  And there is absence of sensation. Notice when the station changes. And if you want easy listening to lighten the load right now, try a replenishing practice like yin or restorative yoga.

If you are concerned about the safety of practicing yoga at home without the teacher watching, write a body contract with yourself.  Create a corridor of safety and healing; be curious and explore within that space.  The yoga term for good sensation is sukha, which translates to sweetness.  Yoga can be intense at times, but it moves you in the direction of strength, greater mobility, and comfort in your body.  The sanskrit word for pain is dhuka; it means suffering or bad space. Bad space is typically felt as localized sharp pain, often in a joint.  It might restrict the breath, cause a flinching reaction or anxiousness. Instead of freedom, bad pain brings us closer to long term limitations.

You are not the same as anyone else and you are not the same today as you were yesterday. When we walk in a studio class, we see bodies that look somewhat similar on the outside. That changes the moment we come into a posture. Even though we may technically have the same bones, muscles, connective tissue etc, we are all put together differently and unique in our adaptation of the posture. In a home practice, you have no one else to compare yourself to – take advantage of that! Explore comfortable alignment for your body, or skip a pose altogether and do what your body is asking for. No one can see you!

Space invites you in.  Boundaries keep you out. Those can be both physical and mental.  Bump up to your boundaries but don’t go beyond them. Some days you are unstoppable, conquer the the yoga class curriculum and should hi-five yourself.  And other days, you may feel sluggish or even sad.  Be vulnerable.  Be strong. Cry. Sweat. Let whatever bubbles up on your mat float away and explode into non-existence.  But learn to know what boundaries are physical and which are mental.  Mental limitations are boundaries that may need to be explored when you are ready.

Distractions happen, especially at home.  We can’t all have sound proof, home studios with Himalayan salt block walls; maybe just a spiritual trinket or two in a community room without decaying plants. Some environmental factors can be controlled and others you need to absorb into your practice like a zen master. Birds chirp and dogs snore when I meditate, so I say hello to the birds and send love to the dogs. I have had students willfully attend goat yoga and tell me they didn’t like it because they found the goats to be too distracting and couldn’t take their practice seriously. Seriously???  Lighten up! If you vilify outside distractions as the bane of your mindfulness (particularity sweet furry animals), there is work to be done.  Because guess what? That’s the real world; its what we are training for, unless you plan to live in a cave. Have kids? Let them sit on you in a plank pose or crawl under your down dog.  I’m not kidding.  I used to do this with my twins. Now I just hip check 180 lbs of three dog lovin’ off my mat occasionally – or use them as props.  But don’t use distractions as an excuse not to practice.  The real yoga starts when distractions come knocking.  Just like in the actual world, you can let them stress you out, get angry or quit or let go of expectations and thrive.

Hold yourself accountable. As a yoga teacher who has had a regular home yoga practice for several decades, I know how easy it is to start emptying the dishwasher, or get side tracked into cleaning the sock drawer even when your mat is laid out. If you suddenly have so much time that you feel lost, sign up for classes ahead of time and put them on your calendar.

Please remember to take a savasana or relaxation pose at the end of your home practice to allow all of your systems to absorb and integrate the benefits of your practice.  The physical practice of yoga asana teaches us about how we interact with ourselves and the outer environment, and is hugely important.  But as spiritual beings, savasana gives us the opportunity to perceive our inner environment through the felt sense and the subtle body. Intuition is a source inside yourself that needs to be nourished with time and love. Notice what gets loud when you get quiet and still.

And most important right now, remember you are not alone. Contact a friend and sign up for a virtual class together. Intimacy comes in many forms; some as simple as sending a blessing to the other students who might normally be in your class.

Peace,
Megan

Social Distancing or Spiritual Retreat

See this sunrise? It’s not an NCAA basketball game where I could have won my bracket. It’s not the voice of Sinead O’Connor at the canceled concert I was looking forward to seeing Sunday (and Happy St. Patrick’s day today!) It does not come with the knowledge I stood to gain training with Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in 2 weeks. It also doesn’t give me back the proud mom moment of watching my daughters unfinished musical or the happy human contact of the postponed trip to visit my companion in another state that FaceTime can’t replace. But this sunrise brought joy to my reality after a sleepless night. Today, that is what the world gave me and it is enough.

A difficult but confident decision was made Sunday night to close the studio until April 1. I attended my last class for awhile yesterday knowing that it didn’t feel right. My desire to support neighboring studios at this time cannot take precedence over protecting loved ones and those who may be asked to care for them. If attending a class as a student comes with guilt, why would I offer them? No amount of essential oils or pranayama will keep my parents, my kid’s teachers, our health care workers or anyone else safe right now.

What I struggled with in making this decision is not the idea of closing or staying at home, but how it is being presented. The terms “social distancing” and “quarantine” make me cringe and contract. Sorry, I accept the purpose, but the languaging is brutally depressing right now, even for an introvert. Its only a stones throw from solitary confinement to me. So in finding purpose in my petulance this weekend, I am training my brain to substitute “ spiritual awareness” for “social distancing” and “retreat” for “quarantine”.

Disassociation from the outside world does not need to be seen as a punishment. It’s an opportunity. When I first got divorced, the 4 day weekends without my kids were devastating.  Their bedroom doors were kept closed as if I couldn’t see the empty space, it didn’t exist. I went from being “mommy multi-tasker”, to experiencing painful absences from my kids and acquaintances and having time on my hands to brood. In an unconscious argument with what was real, I made plans doing anything that would avoid silent time alone;  keeping so busy that there was barely a moment for denial. In time, those moments left deep cracks in me. The saying goes that the cracks are where the light comes in. Exhaustion. Grief. Financial fears. Loneliness. Anger. You can only hide yourself from those feelings for so long. Then, against my best judgment and pocketbook, I went on a silent retreat. Intentional silence was nails on my chalk board. I realized I was drowning myself in busy when I didn’t even know I was in the water. Compassionate spiritual silence (mauna as it’s called) was a life vest. Since that retreat, when I’m submerged, I can’t hide from myself. Coming up for air looks a lot like “social distancing”.

As a result of the painful yet insightful retreat, I  began to occasionally schedule purposeful silent extended weekends that I called “home hibernation”.  There was lots of outdoor time to practice presence and gratitude. I had “dates” with myself for dinner, consciously cooking a healthy meal. In time, something changed. Slowing down brought clarity and spiritual awakening. “Home hibernation” was re-titled “ashram weekends”.  I could open the door to my kids empty bedrooms again without tears. I learned to reach out socially not as an act of defiance but with love. I get it that a global pandemic is not a fair comparison, but it invokes the same feelings for me and I recognize them. What do you feel right now? Can you name it, be with it, and know that you are still a Divine Being?

I have been listening with hopeful anticipation for either the state or federal government to close non-essential businesses, or for other local business to start the trend. Then I would not have to make this decision and I wouldn’t be alone in my community. Removing props and extra studio cleaning per CDC guidelines carries good intentions, but no guarantees; and perhaps a false sense of security for some students with compromised heath. It is a simple supply chain. If I keep the studio open, it gives people a place to go. I would like to avoid being one of the places that potentially held the bomb if it goes off. The financial implications of closing scare the crap out of me as they do any small business owner, but worry plants aggressive seeds. Fear is a form of self-mutilation, as opposed to human insufficiencies and difficulty which are normal. I cannot control a pandemic that at times still doesn’t seem real. However, I can influence my own biology with my thoughts and perhaps shine positivity through the veil of universal consciousness. Imperfection is human – the “I, me, my” of what I am forced to give up keeps surfacing. But part of my is job to keep up the morale. I see my daughters’ grief and my son’s anger and feel both of those things. Spiritual awareness is not perfection; it is recognizing, accepting and redirecting selfish egoic thoughts. More than ever, our connection is obvious and terrifying all the same. Are the choices you are making helpful to some and harming to none?

Ask yourself, “what’s my role?” Mine is to take my classes online. I believe it is my highest good and the best way to reach out to my students and beyond. I am genuinely excited to offer daily video classes and communal meditations! I know the difference between creating “busy work” that blinds me and using my gifts. What are your gifts? Find your purpose and reach out to others with that purpose in whatever wacky cyber-social ways you can. We are still allowed to laugh and smile. Thank you for the spoken, written and silent support you offer me and each other. I am here for you and we are all on retreat together.

When I got in the car yesterday to drive to class, the first random song that came on was the Pretenders “Hymn to Her”.  Many years ago in a time of difficult transition, that song gave me strength.

Let me inside you
into your room
I’ve hear it’s lined
With the thing you don’t show
Lay me beside you
down on the floor
I’ve been your lover
From the womb to the tomb
I dress as your daughter
When the moon becomes round
You be my mother
When everything’s gone

And she will always carry on
Something is lost
But something is found…

Peace, Megan