Throughout time and across cultures, women have heard the call into service. In days of old, these women were cloistered and trained for three to nine years into service to the world as a vessel of the Goddess. They were revered and cared for as important members of the community. They were healers, oracles, storytellers, ceremonialists. They were women who were sovereign unto themselves and who walked between the realms as channels of love, wisdom and power. A priestess knows the cycles of the Earth, is trained in the arts of the sorceress, but above all is the hands and voice of the Goddess on the Earth Walk. Her lifetime is a path of service, ritual and living in the joy of embodiment even as she hears and deeply feels the cries of the Earth and her creatures.Read More
October has met its end, and to most of us it means Halloween and the fun celebration of all things that induce a little fear with no small degree of costumes, decorations and candy. It’s a fun time that ushers in a two month holiday extravaganza.
In my life, it is all that, and . . . There’s more beneath the surface, and, for me, it is the place where things go to die and where the seeds of what will be born sit together in council. What we call Halloween is a fixed calendar date for a much older holiday season known as Samhain (there are also the astrological and lunar dates for Samhain that change each year, this year 11/7 and 11/19 respectively). Samhain, which means “summer’s end” is the final harvest of the year; the time when we not only literally harvest what is left in the garden because after this date, anything left is a gift to the birds and creatures who we share our land with, but we also harvest the year.
Samhain is the end of the Earth’s year. Nature doesn’t follow the solar calendar, which starts the year on January 1, but the Earth’s calendar, which begins by acknowledging it’s own end—the death of the solar year. Nature’s final exhale for the year happens during this mini-season. She goes into dormancy. She goes into the dark, fallow in-between. She lets the year—from its conception, birth, fertile period, growth and reaping—land and decompose right where it dropped. It’s done. She dies and isn’t immediately reborn.
As a modern woman who integrates the old ways, I call the year done during this mini-season as well. It’s a time for going in and going deep. It’s a time for going back through the year in my heart and mind with thoughtfulness and to recapitulate (to bring new form or expression to it) so that I may move into the next year from a place of freshness and clarity. In other words, to not carry what doesn’t need to be carried forward into the new cycle. In the traditions that I follow, this is the period, not only, where all that has grown and manifested in the year decomposes, but when it goes back to its essence, both as seed and source.
The cycle (year) that we’ve experienced since Halloween of 2016 has been intense. We have had our foundations rocked and have often felt swept away in the methodical chaos that has been our collective experience as the vestiges of the patriarchal power structures of the past are surging just as the moment of their ultimate demise approaches. This cycle began with collective shock and has drained so much of our personal and collective life force and resources. It is ending with a glimmer of hope that individual voices—great and small, loud and in whispers, out-there or beneath the surface—have power. We are re-seeding towards the power of the collective to call out the tired out karmas left to us by old ways of being. Our wounded history of a paradigm of “power over” is moving towards a paradigm of “power with,” though not always on our restless timeline.
I, for one, am happy to let this cycle go and to sit in the period between. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others and invite myself to let go of anything that I don’t want to pull forward into the future. I’ll be spending the next six weeks or so stripping the year to its essence and allowing some parts of it to decompose and to hold with vision the seeds of the next cycle.
Blessed Be All Hallows’ Eve.
Blessed be the year that dies.
Blessed be the year that waits.
Blessed be the year that will emerge.
Yesterday, I wrote about embracing and being embraced by the Dark Mother during this waning and Dark Moon phase of the moon's cycle. These dark nights are leading to a darkening of the sun on Monday (the Great American Eclipse). Everything is pointing us towards taking a long and clear look at our individual and collective shadowed selves--the parts of ourselves that we placed in exile or the parts of ourselves that we deny exist.
The thing with working with the shadow is that you aren't trying to get rid of it, because ultimately you can't. Your shadowy bits are the pieces that desperately want your love and attention. They are the the parts of ourselves that we have cast out and all they want is to be invited back to the table. When they aren't, they lash out.
As is my usual practice, I pulled an oracle card for the Dark Moon period with the question of what virtues do I need to hold and exhibit during this Dark Moon period. I pulled "Compassion."
There really couldn't be a more perfect card for this Dark Moon and for working with and embracing the Dark Mother, who is ultimately and fully compassionate. Yes, she can be fierce, but it is out of her compassion that she is so. The Dark Mother takes you on the journey to welcoming back all of yourself, to call all of yourself back home and to the table. Sometimes that journey includes a lot of kicking and screaming and we have to remember to be compassionate with all parts of who we are. Note that compassionate and indulgent are very different. Compassion is not always comfortable. As a dear teacher and friend of mine says, "You can only go as fast as the slowest part of yourself."
So during these nights leading up to the New Moon in Leo on Monday and in this deeply influential eclipse portal, remember that compassion is your ally. Look at yourself and our nation with the sword of clarity and also with the lens of compassion.
It's been an intense few days.
It's been an intense week.
It's been an intense month.
It's been an intense 7 months . . . 9 months . . . Year.
We are in the center of an ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis, and while I do feel that, at its heart, this time of chaos and crisis will lead us to the transformation that is required to finally shake the chains of bigotry, misogyny and greed that grip our nation and much of the world, arriving at the world we want sometimes requires passing through the firey thresholds of initiation and alchemy.
We are entering the Dark Moon phase of the month when the moon is at her darkest leading to her rebirth. The dark moon period of each month is always a time to be in reflection and release of the hidden and shadowed parts of ourselves. This dark moon is particularly potent as it leads us to the full solar eclipse, known as the Great American Eclipse, this Monday with the second new moon in Leo. Eclipses shine a light on the shadows, and for us as a nation, this one is arriving right on time. Will we finally face the great shadow of our nation?
During these next days, I will be spending time in deeper relationship with the Dark Mother archetype. The love of the Dark Mother is so great that she absorbs it all into her benevolence. And, while sometimes that looks like a great burning away in our lives, we are simultaneously being embraced by Her in the process.
The Dark Mother goes by many many names and arrives in as many forms. She is Kali, Inanna, Hecate, the Dark Madonna, the Morrigan, the Calliach. Her names are infinite. Her forms diverse.
I invite you, my friends, as part of our work of stepping more fully into our sovereignty to be embraced by and to embrace the Dark Mother during these dark and chaotic times. Sit with her, talk to her, gaze on her face, chant her many names, pray to her. She will embrace you completely and she will lovingly absorb all those exiled parts and call them back into the community of love and acceptance. Jai Ma!
It's hot. Here in the Gold Country our days are in the upper 90s and our nights only dipping into the 70s. We're passing through the mini-season called Lughnasad or First Harvest (August 1 - the Full Moon in Aquarius on August 6), and for the first time in several years, I'm not on a flight to Scotland to spend the dog days of summer in the ever-so crisp Scottish Highlands and in England's Summer Country. I'll return to Scotland for another great pilgrimage and retreat in April 2018, but for now, I'm settled into my regular schedule of teaching, so if you're in town this August, stop by and say hello.
I'm feeling both lazy from the heat and excited for the autumn season, which was energetically initiated in this Lughnasad portal. This mini-season is known as First Harvest and is the moment you pause and celebrate your accomplishments of the year. We look back at the seeds of intention we planted in late winter, and celebrate what took root, grew and is now bearing fruit. Just as our summer vegetable gardens are now providing enough that we must start considering how we will make use of all the abundance, the first harvest of our year gives us enough to keep us motivated to keep going and, yes, to create something new from these fruits.
One of my great joys and accomplishments of this year thus far is stepping ever more fully into my path as a priestess. Part of this work was the creation of The Sovereign Path Earth Wisdom Immersion. The first iteration of the SPI completed itself in March and I'm now heavily into the evolution of the program for the next Immersion beginning in October, as well as beginning to dream how this fruit will create more. As I reflect back, I'm also extremely proud of our yoga and sisterhood communities and how we have stood confidently in our values in these chaotic times and have spoken truth to power while maintaining love in our hearts. These are the times we have been practicing for and we are the heroes we've been waiting for.
In addition to the upcoming Earth Wisdom Immersion, I'm also stepping back into teaching as part of a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training at Namaste Yoga beginning in September. This is the first 200 Hour program I've co-taught since 2015, and I look forward to sharing the wide array of yoga thought and philosophy with the trainees.
- As always, take good care of yourself and nourish your body, mind and soul during these waning summer days!
Disciple of Disciples.
Nevertheless, She Persisted.
The Jar and the Oil In It.
She was "crucified, dead and buried" by those she threatened.
Nevertheless, She Perstisted.
And in the 2000th year she arose.
And Heaven was Earth.
And Earth was Heaven.
And the Beloveds joined hands.
And were finally seen.
We’ve made it. After a year of surprises and upheaval on global, national and personal scales, a new cycle dawns and with it, we turn our awareness to our intentions and how we are going to set the tone and foundation for the coming times.
While so many themes swirled around in the beginning (Resist!), I began to look around at what and who truly embody what it means to be a leader. Who do I see in the world—whether they are on a large platform or a leader in their own personal life, family, community—that I respect for how they are using their resources (money, talents, influence, time) for the enrichment of others; for the protection of our home planet and her beings; for justice. Who do I look to and see dignity, honor, compassion, revolutionary thinking? And what do these extraordinary beings have in common?
Our 2017 Theme Is: Noblesse Oblige
In 1960, when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated President of the United States, he spoke it: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” His mother, Rose Kennedy had cultivated the quality of noblesse oblige (“nobility obliges”) in her children, teaching them, “To those whom much as been given, much is expected.”
We live in a culture and time when self-centered celebrity makes is mistaken for leadership—a time when entitlement to take what isn’t ours (corporate theft, rape culture) leaves the land and lives in ruin.
In ancient Celtic times, the LAND was sovereign and the leader (king or queen) was put to many tests in order to hold the title. If the land started to falter, the ruler was replaced. Upon coronation, there was a Triple Marriage. The King took a life oath and vow protect the land, her waters and her inhabitants or his life was forfeit. The Queen took a life oath and vow to serve the people.
To take on the mantle of noblesse oblige is a dedication that each one of us—out of our privilege, whether it is the privilege of wealth, race, gender, talent, access—vow to use it honorably and for the highest and deepest good for all beings everywhere. It is Angelina Jolie serving as a UN Ambassador and going into refugee camps. It is Dolly Parton pledging $1000 a month to 1200 families who lost their homes in the Smoky Mountain wildfires. It is Barak Obama going quietly and without the full press corps to Walter Reed hospital regularly to visit and be with vets who had lost their limbs. It is Oskar Schindler, an industrialist who saved the lives of 1200 Jews in Nazi Germany. It is the white woman standing up for the black man who is being harassed. It is the straight man who stands up to protect a trans-gendered woman. It is anyone who is devoting their particular resources to something beyond your own interests.
Noblesse oblige is about being a dignified and compassionate person who stands for truth in the face of lies, even if those lies don’t hurt us personally.
When we cultivate noblesse oblige, we become the leaders that we are looking for and the leaders the world so desperately needs. We teach our children to serve and respect others and the Earth. We show leadership by example.
I look forward to cultivating our nobility together in 2017. We’ll explore examples living or from history who exemplify true leadership through their service and their devotion to truth and love. We will look for opportunities to serve as a community, as well as each to our own talents and resources. This is our journey on the Sovereign Path. May we rise to the occasion of this privilege of being alive in such extraordinary times.
This is likely to be a very long post. Settle in if you like or if you dare . . . "Can I be real a second? For just a millisecond? Put down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second" This is not a statement of neutrality.
When you place euphoria and devastation side by side in a matter of hours, well, your mind, body, and heart revolt. While I was able to hold it together well enough to hold the space for the 40+ crying souls who came to class to be in community and share their grief, afterwards, well, a splitting headache, body aches and nausea, put me in bed. I feel like my body was moving out all the toxic build-up from this long nightmare of election and was simultaneously wailing from the depths of not only my own body but from the body of the Earth, for the course things have taken.
But today, I am up. I am strong and clear. I know what my values are. I know what are my Yes's and that they direct my No's. I know that the warrior within me will fight for my Yes's on every level and in every realm.
The President-Elect makes my body, mind and heart scream with NO. But it is folly to reject the fact that this is the situation (even though it was only chosen by a quarter of eligible voters and a full half of eligible voters opted out of using their voices). I am the first to stand up and say that I, too, believe we need a serious evolution in how things have been done and handled to this point. I was a Bernie voter who made her way to Hillary. All that to say, I'm not an establishment kind of woman who wants to maintain the status quo. Far from it.
So, on this day, I proclaim and declare what are my Yes's and you can rest assured that I will be standing up and working in all the realms with all of the power of my birthright and my training for those things and against those which stand in their way.
I am for the thriving of all humans, regardless of age, color, sexual orientation, gender, culture, ethnicity, ability or disability
I am for the Earth, the waters, the trees, the animals.
I am for the children, not just mine. I am for the children beyond my lifetime, and beyond and beyond and beyond.
I am for the full dismantling of the Liararchy that has subjegated and oppressed not just the women of this world but the men as well.
I am for all beings to live into their full potential regardless of what family they were born to or what country they were born in.
Whatever stands in the way of these things, I reject with the full force of my power.
Whatever stands in the way of these things, I reject with the full force of my power.
Whatever stands in the way of these things, I reject with the full force of my power.
Perhaps you have not fully seen me until now, because what I showed you was in the "polite good girl" column.
Let go of that image. I am a woman who is stepping with fullness into her Sovereignty. And I'm not alone. We are legions.
I'll leave you with this, from one of my mythology teachers, Sharon Blackie:
"Sometimes, anger and grief is a necessary precursor to transformation. Sometimes, we need to let the wild woman rage. To grow feathers and fur, and run wild through the woods. Sometimes, we need to bite. To stop being nice and talking about love and light and thinking that we can make the world a better place just by pretending that it’s so, or that we can make Donald Trump a better man by sending him love and light through the ether. (Yes, I’ve seen that proposed as a solution to yesterday’s catastrophe by women I’d expect to know better. It beggars belief.) These are dark days in our history, and dark days for women. If women want to change that, we need to take hold of that pure, honest energy which fuels our necessary rage and grief, and use it next for transformation. Find the hag energy. Use it. Transmute it; transform it. It’s what all good alchemists do, and women are born alchemists."
I wrote this essay 7 years ago in 2009 when Michael Jackson died. I never published it, because, well . . . somewhere inside there was a shame, that although my rational mind knows is not mine to bear, it was there nonetheless. In the events of the past week, related to Donald Trump's attitude towards and treatment of women, hundreds of thousands of women, have spoken up about the ways that they have either been assaulted or felt preyed upon during their lives. When I wrote the essay, I did share it with one friend, and until today, when I first told my husband about this, no one else ever knew. It's been locked away in a little filing cabinet. While I wasn't physically harmed by the event, it has never left my awareness anytime that I am in a parking lot. Today, I add my voice to this conversation, and in the words of our first lady Michelle Obama. "Enough is Enough."
Just Beat It
The King of Pop is dead.
How did that happen? I mean, it’s Michael Jackson. He’s been around my whole life. He was a cartoon when I was in kindergarten . . . and I guess, he was a cartoon now that I’m 42. Somewhere in between the two sets of cartoon years, there was a brilliant moment of music and dancing. Driving down the 580 headed to a baseball practice, the radio played songs from ABC to PYT, from Rockin’ Robin to Beat It, and intermittently, recorded phoned-in memories by listeners. Memories of the first time we saw the “moon dance” on the American Music Awards, fear of the Thriller video, a lifetime of memories to Michael Jackson songs. Gotta hand it to the guy . . . the music was fun and from 1979’s Off the Wall to 1982’s Thriller (and even awhile after) he was on top of the world. It didn’t matter what type of music you were a fan of in the rest of your life, when a Michael Jackson song came on, you danced, sang at the top of your lungs, and felt connected to everyone around you.
Memory of the Victory Tour—an outdoor stadium extravaganza, where he was reunited with his brothers, The Jackson 5. We couldn’t believe our luck! The center of the universe was coming to Knoxville! No one good ever came to Knoxville. Somehow, we scraped, saved, and begged and got tickets. It was the ticket of the year, and me, my sister and two cousins would all pile into my 1974 Oldsmobile 98 tank of a car for the long-awaited event. It was an August Sunday, and the four of us, and some 70,000 other people would converge on Neyland Stadium, usually reserved for the sacred activity of Tennessee football games only. The very fact that it was allowed on sacred ground pointed to the importance of the concert in my mind. We had hit the big time and I was going to be right there in the middle of it . . . or at least in the upper deck looking down on it all.
Earlier that day, I drove the maroon-colored behemoth with a peeling vinyl roof down to a strip mall so that I could purchase something cute at “Hit or Miss” to wear to the concert. This was the best day ever! Not only was I going to the Michael Jackson concert, I didn’t have to go to church that day because the cousins were visiting from Florida. Leaving the nearly empty shop, cute item of desired attire clutched in the white bag with red letters, I began walking to my parked car. A shopping center parking lot is a desolate place on a Southern Sunday morning. In the South, EVERYONE goes to church. It’s as social as it is spiritual.
As I unlocked my car, a man pulled up, politely calling out to me and asking directions to the interstate. I turned to answer, and stupidly approached his car. A naïve 16-year-old girl never suspicious in her perfect little community, approaches a strange car with a smiling face who just needs directions. Getting closer to the car, a hint of discretion comes into my stomach, perhaps I should stay just here. Then, my eyes landed inside the car. His pink fat hand clasped around his exposed penis—fat too, pulling and laughing grotesquely as I shrieked and ran back to my blessedly unlocked car, jumped in, and peeled out worrying that he would follow. Driving away, I cried cry all the way home, and then pulled it together and vowed to not tell how stupid I had been. Truly embarrassing.
With the excitement of the concert, my mind was occupied almost entirely, although at moments, even within the thrill of the concert, I kept drifting to how foolish it had been to be caught off guard like that, and how gross it all was. But then the music and the energy of this bigger than big event—Michael Jackson!!!—took me away from thinking about it, or even much remembering it for all these years.
But now he’s dead. His energy boosting music still plays on the radio, and it still makes me want to move, even after he turned from that to the odd being that died today. And now, remembering the star who turned into something that seemed almost un-human by the end, reminded me of another moment of the inhuman. Nearly 30 years later, I’m again 16 and peering into a car. I can vividly see a fat body, brown unruly long hair and beard, and I can hear his sinister laugh at having deflowered me in his own way.
Funny that memory. I had forgotten. It’s not a traumatic memory. Just a memory, strangely associated with Michael Jackson. How ironic. It was all such fun music, and then he went way wrong in all the curious ways he did; and, it was all so fun to be going to the concert . . . until the PYT saw the fat redneck Beat It in a parking lot on a hot Tennessee summer Sunday.
I've just come in from the garden, where my beets--planted two weeks ago-- are sprouting. The noon sun is high and hot, and it's time to come inside for a few hours.
This morning, the moon turned new in the sign of Aries, which is the first sign of the astrological year. The symbol for Aries looks very much like a sprouting plant--perfect for this season of spring where the seeds that have been hidden away beneath the earth's surface, or the seeds of intention held deep in our hearts are now ignited by the growing height and heat of the Sun and begin to break the surface into the seen world. Aries is a fire sign and holds the qualities of the spark that ignites and propels us into the new.
Since the last new moon in Aries, I've been through a tremendous amount change and transition--I changed yoga studios and now teach all my classes at Namaste Yoga and Wellness in Berkeley; I was initiated as a Priestess of Avalon in Glastonbury, England; I moved out of and sold my home of 9 years; lost my beloved grandmother and a dear uncle; lived in 13 different places during the moving process; and bought and moved into my dream home with 6 acres of land in the Sierra Foothills. As I look back over each decision I made, I can trace back the roots of each change to five or so years ago. It has been a several year process of letting go of old ways of being, communities, and even identity to arrive at this place where I am living with more clarity, authenticity, and inner power.
It feels appropriate to announce on this new moon in Aries 2016 that I will begin to transition from the name Yoga Bohemian, under which I have done my work. My teaching and offering have broadened in scope and are becoming more defined in structure.
I am very happy to introduce The Sovereign Path.
The Sovereign Path will encompass all my yoga offerings, as well as my programs that are based more in the mystical Celtic and earth wisdom/shamanic traditions. The deep underlying essence of the paths that I have chosen to study and practice share a core value to become the sovereign of our own lives and to aim to move from that state of self-sovereignty in all that we do and offer into the world. To be sovereign is to remember our innate power and value. It is a lives-long process of stepping more fully into our own wild essence and nature while being lovingly self-governing.
Several programs are being developed. The first official Sovereign Path program is The Sovereign Path: A Women's Immersion into Earth Wisdom. This will be a 6-month immersion into living in rhythm with nature and with the seasons of our own lives as women. Additionally, I am currently developing the full curriculum for a 200-hour Sovereignty Yoga Teacher Training that will begin in the fall of 2017. And there is more brewing.
It feels very good to move in the direction of more clearly reflecting the evolution of my teaching and offerings. Over time, the Yoga Bohemian moniker will be retired. While I love it and have carried it since 2003, it was born very early in my teaching career and was pointedly aligned to the style of yoga I was practicing and teaching at the time. Today, it feels less and less like it truly expresses who I am now as a person and as a yoga teacher.
Thank you all for being such a supportive and generous community that is willing to grow and evolve our practices over time.
May we all continue to Live Our Legend.
We won't all be known for all of history. Our names will mostly be lost to time. But we are known by the cosmos. We are known, too, by the Earth herself. She recognizes your particular footsteps, your particular song, your particular offering.Read More
It's been an active few weeks here in Yoga Bohemia. I am preparing to teach the sequencing module for the Yoga Tree's June Intensive 200-hour Teacher Training, and that has me thinking a lot about yoga poses, and in particular, the fundamental yoga poses. In fact, I would say much of my waking life this May has been swirling around these poses and their import both as a basis of practice and as the very heart of practice.
So, first, we need to all get on the same page on what I mean by Fundamental, and I'm fairly specific in my definition even though it sounds vague at first. Fundamental poses include, but are not limited to Basic poses (basic poses are beginner level poses). Fundamental poses are simple, meaning not complex, though not necessarily easy to perform. Fundamental poses are the elders, the ancestors; more complex and more advanced poses are simply the offspring and descendants of the Fundamental poses. Fundamental poses are the indicators of readiness to begin practicing their descendant poses. Fundamental poses are the lifeblood poses, the wellspring that gives life and to which you must return again and again and again no matter how long you practice or how advanced you think you are.
Fundamental Poses are the poses that you started with, where you will spend most of your practice, and the poses to which you will return as you continue on the journey of life with its inevitable changes. Simply Put: Fundamental poses are your primary relationship in your yoga practice.
When we enter into an intimate dynamic and long-term relationship with a pose such as Trikonasana (triangle pose), we begin to cultivate a depth of understanding as the pose begins to reveal itself (and conceal itself again!) over a period of time and in multiple layers. Intimacy with Trikonasana carries with it the beginnings of courtship with its descendant poses, many of which happen to be arm balances. You can trace such poses as Stage 3 Vasisthasana (side plank arm balance with full leg extension) and Vishvamitrasana (Friend of the Universe arm balance) back to the wellspring of triangle, which you probably practiced in your beginner level yoga class.
We are so lucky to live in a world and time where we can see so many beautiful and diverse poses in our social media feeds every day, and yet, it's fairly rare to see Fundamental poses included. Though the more complex poses are inspiring to see, they can also make many feel that yoga is out of reach for them. I can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me that they would like to try yoga but they "aren't flexible enough" or "aren't strong enough." So sad that what we are portraying in social media is actually discouraging some people beginning the journey even though they are interested. As a student, I encourage you, when you see photos of more advanced poses, to realize that you are looking at one moment frozen in time, but what you are seeing could very well be years and years of practice. Many people consider BKS Iyengar's classic book Light on Yoga to be the bible of yoga poses. Iyengar demonstrates each pose in his vast syllabus in the book. What most don't realize is that the book was taken approximately 40 years into his practice of yoga. It took a lot of warrior 1s, downdogs, full wheel backbends, and handstands (all fundamental poses: remember fundamental doesn't mean easy), to practice full scorpion and more.
Last week, my friend and colleague Sean Haleen, started the #SimplyYoga Instagram Challenge of fundamental poses. I've personally never participated in an Instagram pose challenge, but when I saw he was doing it, I knew that I wanted to join in and remind all of us that there is so much beauty and so much to be learned from these Tirtha (wellspring) poses. The challenge runs until July 4th. I hope you'll join in either by posting or simply following. Please follow Sean (@Sarcasticyogateacher) or me (@yogabohemian) to find the pose for each day. If you are posting, please use the #SimplyYoga hashtag and tag @sarcasticyogateacher (me too if you want).
This summer, in my classes, we will delve into the Fundamentals as the exploration of more complex poses. We'll do a deep dive into their form, function, and how they flow and grow into other poses. I look forward to seeing you in class!
Sometimes I have so much to say or share that I end up not saying anything because I'm not sure where to start. So, here's what I'll offer today. It's about my teaching.
I don't cater to students, though I do always try to be in service to students.
When I look out at the classroom, I see the folks who have in some way connected to my classes, whether it's the storytelling, the alignment focus, the homey vibe, the other students in the community. I see the students who are specifically connected to what I have to offer.
I don't try to win over a potential student by changing my teaching to suit them or by adding things that feel inauthentic to me. You want it hotter? I can point you in the direction of 30 classes at this exact same time that will give you that. Want me to spend less time on philosophy, meditation, and pranayama so you can do more "vinyasas?" I'm not your gal. Don't want to learn about alignment? Again, there are plenty of classes out there for you, but I will not let you hurt yourself on my watch.
One of the many problems of the yoga industry is that many people are confused and think that yoga teachers are in the "service industry" and that the customer is always right. We aren't and they aren't. Creating the problem is that yoga instructors often feel they have to cater to students because we get paid by the student (in general), which means if I cater to you, you might like me, and come back and then I'll make enough money from you on that day to buy a kombucha and if I cater to enough people, I might even be able to pay my rent. When teachers pander to students, the students then don't see yoga as an education process and the teacher as, well, a teacher. So, they then expect to have their expectations of what they want in a class met by any class they attend.
The way I see it, there are more than enough yoga classes in the world that will meet the wants and needs of those who want it hotter, faster, less spiritual, whatever. Way more of those than there is of me. Those are the students who have a hard time finding what they want. If people come to my class, it's because there's something in it they didn't find elsewhere. If I cater to potential students, I actually am disrespecting the students who are coming for what it is that I uniquely add to the mix. We've created a community together over 13 years. I no longer am the sole magnet for my classes, my students magnetize the students.
So, if you stumble into my class, I am going to welcome you wholeheartedly. I am going to be excited that my community may have discovered a new friend. I'll introduce you to the folks on the mat near you. I am going to give my utmost and best to serve you, to teach you and to offer something that may be valuable not only on your mat, but in your life. And also, if I'm not the right fit for you, ask me and I will tell you where and with who you might find the right fit...
but I will not cater to you.
Where we are in time and space: Today we’ve hit the mid-way point of September, a month that, to me, is all about settling back into the rhythm of our lives after the long-march of the summer scatter. I’m starting to feel my feet more on the ground and my mind more focused than it’s been since Summer hit in earnest 3 months ago. In the Northern Hemisphere, the balance of our year will tip towards darkness in just over a week, and yet we still have the amazing autumn months that seem to be everyone’s favorites no matter where you live. There’s a pull inward, and yet there is still so much warmth and beautiful light, we stay out just a little longer, as if we are children who’ve already been called in for dinner once and can’t seem to stop while there is still even a hint of light.
About 10 years ago, an odd series of thoughts led me to a book that was all the rage when I was growing up, but I was too young then to read it or appreciate it. The book (which over time became a series of books) was called Foxfire, and it was born of a quarterly magazine created by a group of high school students and their teacher in Georgia in 1966. It was an exercise in gathering the oral history of their elders as old ways of life were quickly fading. Foxfire celebrated the home life, seasonal living, and storytelling traditions of Appalachia.
I grew up in a university city in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, near the Appalachian range, which runs from Newfoundland to Alabama, though we primarily think of their expression in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Georgia. The mountains there are soft and rolling, and the seasons—at least during my upbringing, though I fear with human-induced climate change that has likely changed—were distinct and clear cut.
My great grandparents on my father’s side were mountain farmers who lived and farmed in the Cumberland Mountains in the southeastern section of the Appalachian chain. I remember as a very young child driving what seemed an incredible distance every so often to visit their farm. I remember they had an outhouse, which was thrilling to a pre-schooler. My great grandfather wore “overhauls” and my great grandmother wore calico printed dresses with a full apron, work boots, and a bonnet on top. It was like Little House on the Prairie! Mammaw wore her long hair, which was gray with auburn streaks, braided and in a neat bun. The farmed tobacco, grew their own food, and kept bees. I remember, in particular, how they spoke in what I later learned was old English. Appalachia and the southern mountain ranges were really the last part of the country to have television in the household. They were cloistered and with no outer influence via network television, they spoke as their ancestors had. They said “thee,” “thy,” thou,” “ye,” and “yon.”
When I discovered Foxfire, it was like discovering my great grandparents and their way of life—an incredible gift. I learned about the tradition of planting by the moon, and, in fact, using the moon for all manner of things from planting above ground crops (waxing moon) to below ground crops (waning) to cutting your hair for more growth while the moon waxed and for less growth while it waned. I was fascinated and started paying more attention to the cycles of the moon and the seasons than I had before. Perhaps, because I had moved to Northern California, which natives will tell you has seasons, which of course is true, they are just . . . subtle . . . I had a yearning for a seasonal rhythm that I had not even realized I was deeply connected to until I moved to the Golden State. Paying attention felt right in my cells, and I knew that it was more than just me, but all of us who must be yearning for something known that had been lost.
In 2008, during an October trip to New Mexico, I made a conscious decision to begin living my life more based on the earth wisdom and natural cycles that my ancestors (all of our ancestors!) had moved with. Trust me, I’m not someone who is interested in turning back the clock to some silly idea that long-ago and far-away was better. (We may be battling superbugs that have adapted to antibiotics, but, really, it’s just silly to think that we were better off without them, and if you aren’t sure about that, you wouldn’t have to go far back in your own family’s history to find the child that died from something ridiculous to us now.) So, what is it to follow the Old Ways in 21st century California?
When I say “the Old Ways,” I’m talking about realizing that our lives have rhythms and cycles. They ebb and flow. There are outward periods and inward periods. There are times more conducive to growing and more conducive to releasing and everything in between. Time is a circle, not a line. Problem is, our modern life doesn’t acknowledge it whatsoever. We can have daylight at any time of day, 72 degree heat in winter and 68 degree air conditioning in summer. We can eat tomatoes from California or Mexico all year round, and even my beloved autumn persimmons can be procured from the Southern Hemisphere in the spring if I so desire.
We’ve lost our connection to nature—our own nature and the nature around us.
The good news is: it’s actually a pretty easy fix—start paying attention. Watch the moon. Feel the subtle shift of the season before it’s outwardly obvious because you are spending time outside every single day. Yes—eat local and in season, and if you live in Maine where local and in season looks different than in California, maybe consider learning to “put up” the bounty of the summer. Use the dark half of the year to do projects that are more inward. Honestly, it’s not that hard. We are wired for this. We just forgot.
I had forgotten, and I’m still learning.. And, what I’m finding since embarking on this path 10 years ago casually, 6 years ago actively, and late this spring formally—it is such a rich way of engaging in the world. At first, to be honest, so much feels impossible, counter-intuitive, because at this point, we’ve grown up outside of this rhythm. But, you see, your DNA is old and wise. It knows the Old Ways. I’m not a farmer, nor much of a gardener, but I follow the cycles across the wheel of the year in the rhythms of my life and day. Some projects are better suited to June than January. And when nature speeds up or slows down, and I’m attuned to that, I actually live and work at optimal amounts of ease and effort. I more readily delight and adapt to change.
Following the cycles of nature and her seasons is something we should all be able to agree upon regardless of religion or political persuasion, and the fact that we can’t, is the very proof of how far off we’ve gotten. We may have screwed a lot up. That’s a fact. But, I really do believe that a lot more than we realize could actually be solved by paying attention to our own nature and to nature itself, because they are one and the same. My by-the-moon planting great-grandparents were down-home, red-state, backwoods Christians. Your Jewish grandparents were (and are) following the moon for Rosh Hashanna, Sukkot, and Passover. Stepping into this flow doesn’t need a label, though there are words people use to describe themselves or others who do it. If you need a label for this, here’s a suggestion: call it being a Human Being.
I’m a human who is finding her human-ness reflected in the seasons.
I’m a woman finding her womanliness reflected in the moon.