Building an amplified community

Today I spent a lot of time on the phone with a yoga teacher, trying to hash out an accurate description of the class she will teach on Wednesdays in March at MSY.

It was an exciting creative process that I was even aware of as it was happening and I actually pulled out of the convo for a moment to comment on how cool it was that we were having this incredible discussion about Tantra, and prana, and introspection and transcendence. It made me want to meet with her more often just to “talk shop.”

It occurred to me that I am really lucky in the people I know, but also know that I make my own luck much of the time.

If there is one thing that is undeniably true about me it is that I need people around me who share my interests and passions.  So my strategy is to try to rope them into my corral.

“Did you ever consider being a yoga teacher?”

“Have you read this book?”

“Do you know about this podcast, this TED talk, this  food, this meditation technique?”

I do this because I need playmates.  I need people around me who are ENGAGED IN SOMETHING. I need the people around me to be living lives that they are passionately stoked about.

The yoga teacher and I hammered out the conceptual framework for her class for March, then I wrote and sent my newsletter, and then I dashed to my meeting with my test group for the book I am writing, and there again I noticed how much I love the people who are attracted to, and love to talk about the same thingsI love to talk about:

What do you love?

What do you not love?

What are you doing?

What do you stand for?

What is amping your vibe at the moment?

These things really MATTER to me. And incredibly, these things matter to these people, too.

Tonight I had this crazy thought: What if I could revolutionize this town? What if I could be the force that starts to dispel the pervasive toxic cloud of apathy and laziness that hangs over this place?

What if I could enliven a critical mass of people, amplify their vibe, until  there would be a felt energy shift in this ‘hood?

Wouldn’t that be cool?

Winterlude

In the week between Christmas and New Years I rented a little apartment in Ithaca, NY.  I needed a getaway: from Christmas, from busyness, from tired.

I needed a retreat. But instead of booking myself into a fancy place like Kripalu, I tried a “self-guided” retreat this time, in a nearby city where I know a few, but not many people, and where I could be happily alone.

I cooked up a a batch of kitchari in my home kitchen and brought that to eat, along with a few other staples.

Every day I cooked up the kitchari for lunch with greens I bought at Oasis.

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The man at Oasis who checked me out told me this joke one really cold morning:

Q: What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire?

A: Frostbite!

I drank a lot of hot water which I heated up an electric kettle I found in the apartment kitchen. But the mugs there didn’t fit my hands so I wandered into Handwork and bought a beautiful handmade mug for my hot water.

The one I bought was made by hands, for hands.  It is beautiful and I treasure it. It is currently sitting on the the table beside me. It will forever remind me of this time of great regeneration.

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I sat on a small brown couch all day and edited my manuscript.

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I slept like shit. (The bed was very mushy.)

Most nights I stayed up very late. (For me.)

I sat on the windowseat and looked out.

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I finished The Distraction Addiction.

I started Daring Greatly.

I went to yoga every day.

When you teach yoga every day like I do, it is such a thrill, such an utter indulgence to be led. I got to follow someone’s else’s path every day and it was lovely.

I went to Starbucks. (Not every day, but almost.)

I cruised through the bookstore a few times. I ran into people I know, and like, from home. I ran into people I know, and like, from Ithaca.

I sat and meditated with my dear friend Zee, and her friends, on New Year’s Day, and then had Indian food with them afterwards at Diamonds.

All day I worked.

I noticed the way I worked. I noticed that I like alternating between digital and analog; between computer and fountain pen. When I started to stagnate on the computer, I’d pick up the pen and a fresh world would appear. When I felt that world begin to fade, a return to the keypad ignited me again.

And in this way, back and forth, digital to analog, hour after hour, day after day, with breaks only for fresh hot water and to pee, I spent my interlude.

I worked on my manuscript, but I wrote other things, too.

I wrote deep reflections on all the yoga classes I took, for example, pondering what it really means to be a yoga teacher, and how I might become a more effective one.

I wrote my “manifesto” which was deeply inspired by the two books I was reading. My manifesto lists the qualities that I hope to cultivate and manifest in myself and my life from this time going forward. I love this list and feel so happy to have finally articulated it.

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I wrote in OmWriter, which is a new writing platform for me. I was inspired to try it from the writer of Distraction Addiction. I really like it a lot. I found it allowed me to go deeper into reflective space than I have ever gone before, and stay in that depth longer.

I severely limited my connections to other people, and to distractions like email and internet. I only went online twice a day: morning and night, and would not have gone on at all if I didn’t have a business.

I thought about installing Freedom but my self-discipline was strong enough and I really didn’t need it. Still, I like knowing that it exists, because I can foresee a time in the future when I will need to utilize it.

I loved living in this small, walkable city. Everything I needed and wanted was less than a 5 minute walk away: yoga, health food store, bookstore, Starbucks, even an indie movie theater. I could walk to Indian food and Thai food, as well as Tapas and Mexican and vegetarian.

On my last day, G came and we went to see the movie Wild. For my final dinner, we chose the tapas restaurant right below my apartment. We drove home in two cars, following each other.

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(my apartment was on the 2nd floor, the 2 windows on the left with the white blinds.)

As I drove home I thought about the Prius, and how the battery of that car recharges every time you apply the brakes.

It recharges when it brakes.

What do you know? Me, too.

Go figure.

A Time to Pause and Reflect

I am getting ready to go to the studio and set up for this afternoon’s Yoga Nidra class. Every New Year’s Eve I lead this deep guided meditation called Yoga Nidra, and then offer people the opportunity to stay afterwards and write a letter to themselves.

Here is what happens: Unlike my normal classes where people arrive and chat as they take off their coats and set up their mats, today they will be greeted with signs on the doors that read: Please Keep Noble Silence.

They will enter the warm yoga room, find a mat and settle in. There will be a bowl of stones outside the yoga room door and each person will be invited to take a stone as they enter just as a way of letting other people know how many spots are still left in the room as they arrive. This is a free class, but I only have room for 16 mats.

At each mat will be a piece of paper explaining what is going to happen in the next hour. There will be a half hour of Yoga Nidra which is like a guided savasana. At the end of the Yoga Nidra experience, I will ring the bowl 3 times and people are then free then to leave, still in silence.

I will then increase the light in the room and invite those who wish to stay to take paper, a pen and an envelope, and move to any place in the room, or even into the lounge, for the letter writing part of this experience.

People tend to be in a very introspective and open place in their bodies and their minds after the Yoga Nidra experience, so it is the perfect time for some deep listening.

I invite them to start their letters by writing on the paper: “Dear (their name)” and then write: “I have been waiting for this opportunity to talk to you for a long time. Here is what I want to tell you.”

And from there, to just let their inner voice speak.

When the letter is finished, they fold it, place it in the envelope, seal it, and address it to themselves and leave it with me. I will then mail it to them so that it arrives in their mailbox on the first day of spring.

I have done this for a number of years now, and I think it is both a beautiful and a fitting way to end the year that is passing, and begin the new one that is dawning.

Happy New Year everyone.

Namaste.

 

13 Things You Should Get Rid of in 2012

I have started thinking about New Year’s Resolutions lately. Not that I am going to make any, but I am thinking about things that I would like to do, or see happen in the coming 12 months. Mostly I think of adding things to my life when I think of changing it, but sometimes it’s more interesting to think about getting rid of things.

I think I have managed to get rid of most of the following 13 things from my life for the most part, but it’s always good to be reminded of what does not serve. I really think that that these things Have. Got. To. Go.

1. The extra 13 pounds you gained during the holidays (and before). Fewer cookies, more cardio.

2. Grouchy people.  Get rid of them. If you are married to them or they are your children or your relatives you are going to have a hard time with this one.  One thing I do with grouchy, negative people is laugh at them.  Yeah.  A grump pretty much hates not being taken seriously and will avoid you or move out of your vicinity if you make light of their situation.

3.  Get rid of dirt, grime, filth.  Clean your space. Throw stuff out. Get a dumpster if that’s what it will take. Do this. It’s important to your mental health.

4. Get rid of your fear of hard work, fear of success, fear of failure, and of all the other scary (non-existent) monsters under the bed. Stop procrastinating.

5. Get rid of the idea that you are going to live forever, or that you are probably going to die at a very old age and that you still have a lot of time left to get your act together.  You don’t.  The days are long, but the years are short.  Make things happen.  Now.  Don’t defer doing what you always wanted to do.

6. Get rid of the idea that only big things count.  Everything counts, and just like Mother Teresa said, we can’t do great things, only small things with great love.  Get rid of the idea that there are “small things that don’t count.”  The smallest little act of kindness or consideration counts.

7. Get rid of the need to be thanked or appreciated for anything.  People don’t write thank-you notes any more.  (When was the last time you wrote one?) So don’t work for the nod. Do your job, or whatever you do, because you want to do it and derive pleasure from just doing it.  Nobody is going to give you a trophy just because you played, or tried your best.  Life isn’t Little League.  Stop expecting praise.

8. Get rid of laziness.  Start by never admitting that you feel lazy even when you do.  Never say the word lazy.  Banish it from your vocabulary.  Don’t call anyone else lazy either.  Lazy does not exist anymore.  Get rid of the whole idea of it.

9. Get rid of bored, too.  Once you’re past age 3, there is no excuse for bored. Once you realize that you are going to die some day, there is no more “bored.” Never be bored.  Bored is just a form of lazy and we kicked that one to the curb in number 8.

10. Get rid of all your slovenly health habits.  Really people, floss.  I’m serious about this. Brushing your teeth doesn’t count.  Brushing your teeth doesn’t do a damn thing except make your mouth feel pretty.  There’s still garbage dumps worth of crap between each tooth.  Floss.

11. Get rid of other bad habits, too. Like eating on the run, or in front of the TV or computer.  Eat as much as you want, just don’t do anything else while you’re doing it and then just watch as those 13 pounds we talked about in number 1 disappear.

12. Get rid of anger.  Stop getting angry. It doesn’t help you or the person you’re angry with.  Ever.  Instead, develop your non-violent communication skills. There is a book that will help with this.  Get it, and start learning how to think in terms of identifying your needs and trying to get them met with the help of others.  And if you can’t?  Give up on them.  Seriously.  Take my word for this.

13. Get rid of complaining.  Complaining makes you a living breathing crap magnet.  Don’t complain anymore and walk away (actually, run) from chronic complainers.  If they don’t have an audience they’ll stop.  They really will. You can even try making a game of this. This book tells you how.

And finally (this one is just for me), Get rid of your need to hand out unsolicited advice or  tell people what they should get rid of on your blog.

It’s annoying.

If I Had A Hammer…

I have some good ideas for some entrepreneurs who might like to make some good money: teach real-life skills to people who don’t have them. Like me.

So, say you know your way around woodworking tools: circ saw, band saw, hammer, etc. Do you realize how many people out there never took a basic shop class? (me! me!) Do you realize that there are people who can scan the meter of The Faerie Queen but who can’t drive a nail into a piece of wood?  (me! me!)

Do you know how much call there is these days in for the ability to extrapolate the deep meaning of a poem by Milton? (None).  Do you know how crucial it is to know what you are looking at when you pop the hood of your car on the side of the road?  (Very!).

So today I was trying to drive a nail into a joist hanger and it was Pah-thetic.  Hammering is a skill, people! I wish I had taken a basic shop class in high school instead of spending all my time in AP English. I wish I had taken a basic class in auto mechanics, too. And accounting.  Accounting skills would have really come in handy now.

So if you are living around here and you know your way around a circ saw or a spark plug, you could totally start a class in Basic Woodworking for Women. Or Basic Auto Mechanics for Women. And I bet you’d make a killing!

I would totally pay for a course in those things.

In Loving Silence

Today we (G and I) attended a brunch to celebrate the new marriage and the the 30 year anniversary of two of our best friends, Zee and Marty. The food was delicious, the company was sparkling, but what touched me the most about the whole day (and so many things touched me) was when Zee asked us all (about 16 guests) to join hands and share a moment of silence with them.

When Zee and Marty got married at the courthouse in Ithaca after New York sanctioned gay marriage, they took their vows in silence.  And then again today, after expressing her love for all of us in attendance, she asked us all to stand in silence together.

In that silence, happy tears fell from many eyes.  It was a moment of holiness, and deep intimacy.  (Zee starts all of her writing circles at Emma’s with a minute or two of silence, too, so it felt like being home.)

At most weddings, I feel snarky.  I think: “What are the odds that this will last?”  A wedding is just the beginning.  Everything is easy in the beginning.  It’s a whole different situation to stand in silence with two people who have weathered the storms of thirty years and still look at each other with love and perfect devotion.

Today I felt honored to stand in such loving silence.

Rowing

I went to the gym last night after yoga to do my rowing. This was a mistake because the place was packed with students, and not only that, I forgot about the whole “proper footwear” thing, and was in my Mione’s and my feet kept slipping out of the straps, which was annoying.

The two rowing machines at the gym are situated RIGHT next to the free weights, and if guys are lifting and preening in front of the mirrors, having some chick doing her thing on the rower at the same time is a big pain in the ass because people have to time it just right so as not to get elbowed by the rower as they make their way to the  ellipticals.

Last night I turned out to be that chick on the rower causing the little aisle between the free weights and the captain’s chair to be practically blocked.

(Ask me if I care.)

The students did provide an interesting show for me last night, though. All the freshman are instantly pegged by their school-issued lanyards, from which they dangle their IDs and their room keys. It’s adorable.  (I wonder how long it will take them to realize that this isn’t that cool of a look?  My guess: Halloween.)

A lot of students walked in looking tentative and uncomfortable. It was clear they had neither a clue, nor a plan.  Maybe they walked in “to work out,” but then instantly realized they did not know what that entailed, exactly.  The gym is definitely a “scene” where it appears everybody knows what they’re doing, but you.

It’s hard. I wanted to put my arm around them, and whisper in their little ears: “Look, come back tomorrow, in the afternoon, when there is nobody here.  Then you won’t feel so intimidated.” Because god knows, they need it.  We ALL need it.

Rowing is my new worky-outy thing.  I discovered it a few months ago when I stepped off the treadmill feeling all tight in my shoulders, so I did a few minutes on the rower to loosen up.

“Huh,” I thought. “This is kind of all right. It’s easy and flowy and kind of relaxing.”  I then Googled “indoor rowing for fitness” when I got home, and whatdaya know?   Indoor rowing as an exercise is pretty kick-ass.  Cardio and strength all in one.  Excellent!  So I bought a few books with different rowing routines, and now I am launched on a 12-week rowing “experiment.”

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.

Yeah. Especially that last line.