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little things

How you do anything is how you do everything.

-Unknown

This is a phrase that is spoken often by masters of yoga.  I first heard it when I began taking yoga classes over a decade ago by a teacher I really admired.  I remember thinking ummm okay lady… sure.  whatever you say.  It didn’t resonate in me at all.

Then, years later, during my teacher training, my amazing teacher started our first day by saying the very same words and telling us it was her mantra for life.  Clearly, I had undergone quite a journey since the first time I heard it because it was like someone smacked me across the face…in a good way.  Instantly I clearly knew this to be true.

I had started realizing, when I was calm, centered and positive–I was kinder, happier and kept everything in my home, or on my desk organized.  When I was depressed or down, I was angry, self centered and my house was a mess.  I started realizing that my life happened everywhere.  Not just at my job, or with my close friends.  It was in the NYC subways, walking down the street and at the grocery store.  If I left my apartment in a hurry and my closet a mess, it was really a symbol of how I was truly feeling. Taking extra care to put things away at home.  Or cleaning out my purse on a regular basis and not carry around 10 pounds of stuff I didn’t need.   On the really good days, I would hold a door open for a stranger….but what about the bad days?  Why shouldn’t I still hold a door for a stranger?  When I did, I was still living in my truth…I was bringing myself back to center.  To an open hearted place that I could respect about myself, regardless of the positive or negative things that were happening in my life.  It was helping me find a balance.

It is a challenge to really look at ourselves, our lives and our behaviors, and be honest.  We put on a “public face” to the outside world but what’s really going on inside?  When I finish a yoga class, I am mindful of other people who rush out, or talk on their cell phones as they exit the studio.  It kind of negates the practice of meditation and universal understanding to push past others blindly and continue along your own journey.  We all affect each other.

So no biggie but, tomorrow, just notice the little things.  All the moments of our lives are important.  Especially the mundane things.  If we can find a way to fill them with joy, bliss and respect….then maybe it will bring us closer to the calm center.  Take great care with the small things, and the big things will follow suit.

Build your life well, one little thing at a time.

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free and clear

SIMPLICITY- noun

The quality or condition of being easy to understand or do.  The quality or condition of being plain or natural.

Webster’s Dictionary

When I first began to take yoga, I had to have my mat in the same place in the studio every time.  I needed a water bottle, a towel, a kleenex, 2 blocks, 2 blankets, my sweatshirt– and my purse nearby. I needed to get to class at least 15 mins early to stretch and focus and have everything just right.   Even when I started cooking as a teenager; I made a mess – sometimes even forgetting whole ingredients.  I burned cakes and cookies.  I would finish a dish triumphantly and look around the kitchen at a mountain of dirty dishes, spilled flour and melted butter on the countertops. When I started dancing, I needed my favorite ballet slippers-broken in just right and my favorite leotard.  I needed my hair off my face and tied in a bun just so.  If I didn’t have these specific things….how could I possibly be at my best?

But it was only a starting point.  Sometimes you have to just dive in and figure it out as you go.  I would watch the experienced yogis in class.  They strode in without fanfare-with just a mat– and seemed to be so streamlined in practice.  A great chef has a clean kitchen, palate and serves flawless and focused food.  And my favorite dancers of all time seemed to eliminate all extraneous movements.   Slowly over time, I needed less “stuff” next to my yoga mat in class. I would arrive with my yoga mat and a smile.   I began to cook dinner and have an actual plan.  I would just clean as I went.  When I arrived for ballet class, I would just throw my hair up and grab whatever pair of shoes I could find in my bag…just to see how I would deal with something different….after all, live performances have lots of surprises.  As I grew older, life got busy and I didn’t have time to have “perfect” conditions.

While my skills increased, so did my confidence.   You begin to master a skill, or improve your natural talents–and find you need less outside “stuff”.  You start to rely on yourself, and trust that all you need is you.  True mastery of something means that it becomes simplified. You can boil it down to it’s elements.   It becomes part of you, and you of it.  You can just open the door and let it flow.

We always tend to overthink and overcomplicate things.  Simplicity is a glorious goal because it is free and clear of self- doubt and fear.  Less movement, less worry – more focus, more freedom.  Being in the moment, and trusting your talents and instincts is the reward of the long journey.

You already have the power Dorothy……you didn’t need the ruby slippers after all.

now what


A moving door hinge never corrodes.

Flowing water never grows stagnant.

-Deng Ming Dao

Well I am officially certified to teach yoga.  After the craziest month of Sanskrit, sutras, lots of practice–tests, nerves and very late nights….I achieved my goal.  Certified!!!

Now what?

I am starting a brand new show next week.  I still take yoga classes from my favorite teachers.  I still teach lots of Masterclasses to dancers and performers who want my expertise. Life has come roaring back into focus.  But I have opened a new door.

I want to teach people what I just learned.  I want to begin to get my feet wet in the yoga studio teaching classes, figuring out how to balance a class and have students leave feeling satisfied and grounded.  I want it right now.

Not sure how to start.  How do I get from here to there?  I see the path stretching endlessly in front of me.  Seems impossible.  Seems overwhelming.  But that’s the point.  It IS impossible and overwhelming if you look at everything all at once.  We earn our goals by walking the walk and talking the talk.  Plain and simple.  Start small and make your mistakes.  Have your triumphs.  Learn.  Grow.  And soon you realize, you’re there.  You’ve arrived.  Isn’t that life?

The getting there gets you there.  The path is the journey.  Just remember to enjoy the walk.

whatever lola taught

TO BE A GREAT TEACHER YOU MUST BE WILLING TO GIVE UP ALL YOUR SECRETS.

– GWEN VERDON

Miss Gwen Verdon spoke those words to me during the pre-broadway tryout for Fosse the musical.  I had known her for a few years by that point having worked on the show and it’s creation for years before it ever came close to the big ol’ Broadway.

We had just finished a note session in which she had given me an immense amount of very specific, picky corrections.  I was feeling a bit picked on…but was relishing the time with Gwen.  I had made a promise to myself to always try to be a sponge around her.  One of my idols–was literally telling me how I could be a better performer.  It was thrilling, really.  I thanked her for notes and I asked her how she was doing…if she was as tired as I was?  (probably not-this woman was a workhorse) And she said…..(with the famous warbling voice)…well…it’s a funny thing.  When you become a teacher-you give yourself in a different way than when you are performing.  When you perform, you always have a secret….it keeps the audience interested….when you teach….to be a great teacher, you must be willing to give up all your secrets.  It’s a different energy. You have to be ready for that.  If not, then you aren’t ready to teach. Then she wished me a good show, and left me standing, awestruck in my dressing room.

Did I realize that in that moment the universe had literally opened up and dropped the meaning of life in my lap????  Well.  No.  But it has stuck with me ever since.  A few years later, Gwen passed on in her sleep and it hit all of us very hard.  But I have always felt that among the mountains of gifts that she gave me, including the opportunity to perform Bob Fosse’s best work; with that comment, she gave me a little glimpse of the divine.  She lives on every time I step on a stage-what she gave to me is part of me now.

As I come to the end of my Yoga teacher training, these words echo in my head again.  To be a good teacher, you have to be willing to give up all your secrets.  Hold nothing back.  Do everything you can to make sure your student gets every morsel of info to make them the best they can be.

Pass it on and you will live forever.

do no harm

AHIMSA- non injury/non violence.

-Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

“Do no harm.”

Kind of a universally accepted phrase.  Doctors pledge this in the practice of medicine.  For most of us this makes sense.  Don’t cause damage to others with your words or actions.  But– doesn’t it also mean do no harm by NOT doing anything.  If you stay silent and someone will be harmed by your silence…is it your duty to speak up?

Go even further….do no harm…to yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Love yourself.  Forgive yourself.  Protect yourself.  By doing no harm to yourself, you actually begin to cultivate this energy for the world.  Having an awareness of the prevention of suffering is a key to the connection we have to each other.  If you are kind and generous to everyone around you- but beat yourself up and put yourself down….all the good you gained by caring for others just evaporates. Easy to do….. We live in a world where it’s every man for himself.
We are disconnected from each other and most importantly ourselves.

Cultivate Ahimsa in your life.  Even just the tiniest bit.  You will create a tiny ripple of change.    Care for yourself as you would for those you love most.  It is the small steps that bring us to the great rewards.

burn baby burn

TAPAS

I know what you are thinking.  Mmmmmmmmmm….tapas.  Yummy Mediterranean food…….wine…….laughter.   Well.  You’re not wrong…

However, in Yoga, Tapas is a very, very different experience.  It is a mindset-a decision to go to a deeper level of sensation and brings the gift of purification.  Tapas is the act of staying in the intensity and holding strong to create intense heat and healing.  It can be likened to the smelting of metal.  If you heat gold to the melting point, it purifies and condenses into a solid-with new purer properties.  Our mind body connection is similar to this.  Quite often the mind is the first to give up.  It tells the body- this is too intense, we need to stop, we can’t take this!!!  The body usually blindly obeys and we miss out on the deep and important changes that take place when we are pushed to our limit and stay calm and focused.  If you really listen to yourself…..you can go to the deepest level of your ability and discover new territory.  The physical obstacles that we encounter in Yoga practice are there to become a teaching tool.  The act of embracing intensity- Tapas-can create intense sensation- but only in those deep, intense and well earned moments can you purify yourself and your baggage and create a beautiful, new being.  The ability to stay and deal with uncomfortable situations is a valuable tool.  Only the most confident, grounded people can triumph in these situations.  Even on a basic level….physically….tapas can jumpstart healing, wake up a sleepy immune system and even melt away scar tissue.  The ability to triumph over pain is a revelation indeed.

It takes pressure, heat and time to make a diamond.  And baby, we got carats!!!!


transformation and vibration

It is good to have an end to journey toward,

But it is the journey that matters in the end.

Ursula K. LeGuin

I am deep into my second week of training and now the REAL work begins.  I still have hope and a sense of newness…..but now the physical and emotional obstacles are making themselves known.   Sore bodies, full brains and even strong emotions out of nowhere are popping up.  Our daily practice in the morning now consists of 2-3 hours of yoga and workshops on particular poses and how to teach them.  We are now speaking the names of the poses only in Sanskrit and learning about sequencing the poses together.  More importantly we are practicing meditation daily.  I have meditated before and found it very soothing and focusing, but have never made it a daily thing until now.  And boy does it tell the truth fast!

When you sit and quiet the mind—- ahem…..TRY to quiet the mind you can get down to business with yourself.  It makes you feel the subtle movements of energy in yourself and the space around you in a highly sensitized yet distant way.  We’ve been discussing the yogic belief that there is a constant vibration- a universal vibration that has always existed and is always present.  When you can focus the mind, you can begin to tap into that universal vibration and feel a sense on calm, focused oneness.  A focused mind operates in a more efficient way….and the energy can flow freely.  People have been trying to master the mind for literally thousands of years.  I find it amazing that we still sit quietly with our eyes closed and feel the same frustrations, the same fleeting calm moments and the same connection with the vibration.  The sound of “OM”-really “AUM”-is the verbalization of the tapping into the universal sound.  Isn’t that cool?  And even cooler???? Energy cannot be destroyed.  Once it exists it can’t be destroyed-it merely changes form.  It literally TRANSFORMS.  So throughout our journey we can have small transformations of our energy-taking us to new levels along the way to our final transformation– When we become one again with the universe and vibration.

Until then…..I will be working on sitting quietly for 10 mins and not thinking about my grocery list.  small steps…….small steps……

baby steps

YOU MAY BE CAPABLE OF GREAT THINGS,

BUT LIFE CONSISTS OF SMALL THINGS.

Deng Ming-Dao

I have completed exactly 4 days of yoga training.  My feet hurt, my lower back is sore from sitting cross legged most of the time and my brain is so full I have sanskrit coming out of my ears.  But I am smiling.  On the first day, my fellow classmates and I—(about 20- all women) nervously sat on the floor in a circle silently sizing each other up.  We spoke a bit about ourselves and what brought us to this teacher training and then—we literally dove in headfirst to the land of yoga.  Although most of us have been studying yoga for a long time and are quite advanced, we all realized that we really don’t know that much about yoga itself.  We were all terrified when our amazing and respected teacher/guru Jeanmarie informed us that we would be doing a practice teach in pairs on the second day.  REALLY?  Like actually lead someone through a yoga pose?  I have done these poses for 15 years….but I realized I had no idea how to tell someone else how to do it!!!  and safely….well……hmmmmmm.  Facinating.  We were all so ready to give…..but we really had no idea how to even begin.  We didn’t have the technique or the tools yet as teachers.

Slowly we are learning the proper sanskrit names for the poses……and things like the most effective way to teach a beginner how to just stand in Tadasana.  Just stand and be. (and ground all for corners of your feet down AND pull up the front of the quads AND soften your front ribs AND…….)  We are deepening our practice of meditation.  It will help us to focus our own minds so we can be more helpful as teachers and more focused people in general.  Deepening our own yoga practice is part of teaching….we are all students.

Each day is a baby step.  Each day is another small step forward….another individual pebble added to the giant sandy beach of yoga teaching.  All of these little tiny steps will someday be something great.  It is so easy to get caught up in the monotony of life….the everyday-ness of it all.  But if we look closer, our lives truly are the sum of the parts.  The little things ARE essentially the big things in time.  The challenge is to live in the small, so you can earn the great.

new journeys

This is the moment of embarking

All auspicious signs are in place.

Deng Ming-Dao

Sunrise symbolizes the dawning of a new day.  It happens every single day.  The sun rises and it sets.  Some days we rise early and take note of the morning sky.  It brightens and turns colour, there is a sensation of anticipation.  Then the sun appears; just a sliver at first-and then it slowly rises up from the horizon.  Another new day.

In the beginning, hopes are high.  The first steps of a new journey may be tentative but they are filled with honesty, optimism and innocence.  That is where I am today.  I am taking my first steps towards more knowledge.  The first steps towards expansion.  I know all days won’t be filled with this level of newness and hope.  But during the times when I doubt myself, I will try to remember the feeling of the first step and my hopes for my journey.

Yoga School……here I come.


nature as mirror

USE A MIRROR IN DIFFICULT TIMES

YOU WILL SEE BOTH CAUSE-        AND RESOLUTION.

Recent events in the world have proved that human beings and nature are intricately connected.  Whether we like it or not, we are a part of the earth.  It is easy to forget- in our busy modern lives-that without simple fresh water or microbes in the soil, our lives would not exist.  The trees churning out oxygen, the seas teeming with aquatic life.

In yoga, the unity of nature and the soul is called prakrti/purusa.  The belief is that our lives here are a quest to live in balance-between the earth and the sky.  That is our predicament…honoring ourselves and honoring nature.  When we forget, the balance is off.  It is a strong but fragile connection.  To know ourselves and to know where we are going…. we can look to plants and animals.  Are they diseased due to pollution?  Are they struggling in a dying environment? Are we so disconnected that we believe that we are immune to the cycle of life?  Nature is our great mirror.  It will always answer honestly.  It will always show our mistakes.  Yet it will always provide the solution.  What happens in nature will happen to us.   I am seeing a new respect rise up in the world.  We are starting to grasp the bond between us and the earth.  We can no longer look away from ourselves in the mirror.