Monthly Archives: July 2013

Missives from the Mat — 4: Fart Water #yoga #sadhana #kundalini #retreat


What tastes worse than well water with too much sulfur in it, especially after you brush your teeth?

Not much.

Note: I started this post on July (yes, July) 28. Today is August 11. I’m running through the content below and am going to try to make sense of it, these 13 days later, so I apologize up front if you end up getting a migraine (yes, I have that kind of power, I know, it’s scary right?). Just trying to keep at it. But don’t give up. Many other posts will be coming along in a day or so about my epiphanies, moments, observations and pictures of food and signs around the retreat site and sunrises and sunsets and healing adventures (anyone out there have a “soul retrieval” performed? oy) and how 13-15 of us survived with very erratic wifi availability and what some of us did during the our occasional digital diets; and my personal favorite: what’s more neurosis-inducing than living with a bunch of psychoanalysts? Living with a bunch of people who might be able to see your aura and your not knowing it. It was a little like wondering if your zipper was constantly needing adjustment or having an eternal panty line…. more to come.

We ended up bringing in those 2-gallon jugs of mineral and spring water because the minerals here were turning our silver jewelry black, our gold jewelry copper and making the cucumber water smell like it had more gas than inherent in the cucumber to begin with. Everyone assures me that it’s safe and that drinking water with lots of sulfur in it won’t hurt me. I get that… I really do; but it’s a little hard to feel clean after bathing in fart water. It just is. I know… I’m not India with 999,999,999 other people around me. I’m in a house with granite countertops and a Jenn-Air cooktop.

So far, though, I must admit that the shortage of Cap’n Crunch in my diet has had pretty awesome effects. On day 3, Sunday, I can actually recall things much quicker than I used to. I remembered not only what I was looking for but where I last deposited it. That hasn’t happened to me so quickly for awhile now.

Chanting. Lots of chanting going on. What’s wild about the chanting is that you can feel the transfer of energies; you can feel the difference from when you began to when it ended.

Lots of breathing in from the nose and out through the mouth or in through the mouth and out through the nose or in one nostril and out the other or holding breath on an inhale, which is something many of us do all the time without thinking about it, but what about this?: holding the breath on an exhale? Not letting the air back in? Try that one a few times. (More to come about which kind of breathing to do when and what the effects can be.)

This retreat is covering a feast of topics for teacher certification: senior yoga, yoga for depression, yoga for women, children. Studies on the glandular systems; the chakras; shifting of subtle energies through kundalini.  For two days in a row, Friday and Saturday and my arms and shoulders wanted to cry but they couldn’t because they have no tear ducts, no matter how much yoga and chanting I did. The kundalini exercises are amazingly difficult: they’re all based on moving emotional and psychic energy through and out of our bodies and they get stuff swirling and tingling and you’re told to think about your challenges, and frustrations and focus on your darker emotions and how those factors coalesce. All the while for one of them, you’re running in place and literally boxing with the ether (which is all an emotion is anyway, it’s just another kind of energy) and you’re working stuff out. On one morning, they had us run in place for 22 minutes with our elbows held at shoulder height or above the entire time. Try it… you think you’re tough, ok. You probably are. That’s why you should try it because … well: my calves were toast for two days after it, and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that being “tough” is pointless. People see right through it. I don’t mind being thought of as strong, but tough? You can have it.

. . . .

On one particular morning, we did the 22-minute run in place kriya from hell. The 21-year-old son of our teachers came to join us to help us keep up the momentum by playing the tablas (drums) for that entire time and then some (and he’s amazing at it, so everyone was working on that deck). So we’re all gearing up… I decide to turn my body in a direction where I can’t see anyone else: I’m looking at the mountains. I thought, “Hell, if those mountains (what some of my friends out west refer to as ‘hills’) are as big as they are and got put through some serious pressure to get to where they are then I’ve got nothing to complain about,” so I’m in. 100%.

After the first two minutes, my arms start to burn and shake, so I looked around and saw that our teachers were swing theirs, just keeping them high up, so I did that. I channelled my inner Balboa: I’m swinging and sniffing and snorting like Rocky, making my worst Stallone-inspired snarls and facial squinches. I’m throwing cross-cuts, jabs, hooks, blocks and ducking… all the while breathing in and out of my nose which creates some crazy woo-woo insane energetic reaction in the face. Every once in a while our teacher, the father of the tablas player would call out, “bring out all your frustration, your anger…” which was a really good reminder for me because sometimes I get so into a workout that I sort of forget it and I start to feel Zen-ish and so reminding me of why I was doing this incredibly crazy boxing-while-standing-in-one-place thing was motivating.

As for my legs? What legs? You see, running in place for me, a runner and a rower and a forward-thinking person is: stupid. It’s worse than running on a treadmill. Why? Because it’s all calves and forefoot strikes and utterly painful. There is no heel strike and then roll to the forefoot. There is no breeze to cool you or terrain to explore with your soles or eyes. You’re all there. It’s truly: in the moment. But I’ll never forget this particular exercise; it will be my go-to when I’d like to take hostages.

At the halfway point, Shakta, the wife of our respective teacher calls out, “We’re halfway there, we have less than 11 minutes to go!” which sets into my mind, an energetic loop translated into the words of “Just repeat what I did.” I shout out, “We’ve got this!” to the masses, all 15 of us, on the deck. We all cheered. The neighbors must’ve thought we were nuts, that is if they were awake because this was happening at 7am on a weekend morning.  Privately, that halfway mark said to me: “Get it out; get it allllll out; these guys are gonna be finished in a few minutes, Mol, so burn out and incinerate whatever angst you’ve thought into and remembered and punched the hell out of. Whatever fear, anger, guilt, sadness, shame… PTA? stir it up. Rowing club? call it up and get it out. Marriage? Punch it. Childhood? Go there, do it. Take it back. Your time with these people is limited….” Our teacher, Kartar, said, “I can take you there, show you the path, but energetically, you’ve got to stay there. You’ve got to get yourself there…” So that’s what I did.

It’s not there anymore. It’s just not.

I’d actually punched my way through those moments. And that, my friends, is powerful.

. . . .

Here’s the wild part: these yogis and teachers: they dress in all or mostly white; they wear the turbans; the men have these fantastic white beards that would make a perfect Santa (but they don’t do Santa) and they teach lessons on spirituality, love, peace, vibration, energy and healing dating back 3,000-5,000 years. Patchouli and sandalwood waft in their tread. It’s nice.

They are caucasian and funny; they tell jokes and they drive cars. Kartar swears every once in a while. I love that. Here’s this guy, he’s probably 6’2″; lean, kind and soft-hearted. He’s wildly intelligent and he can turn your mish-mash of thoughts or fears into opportunities for growth and promise.

They don’t arrive at the retreat on magic carpets or white stallions but they do drive hybrids. They don’t have cobras raising out of wicker baskets or wield magic spells. They are … like… y’know: normal. They eat using a fork; they excuse themselves to use the restroom. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but this is well, really cool.

I have to say, it’s the oddest thing for me.

They’re so freakin’ disappointingly normal, other than their humbling wisdom about metaphysics and sound and motion… the stuff they know and share, it’s mind-blowing. They use iPhones, iPods, Bose speaker systems, projectors and computers. They sell DVDs of their work and offer healing services: reiki, angel therapy, crystal healing therapy, a host of woo-woo stuff that is basically really odd to most of the western world, but that is totally normal to the eastern cultures.

It’s also completely depressing because it shows me in stark relief how very white-bread, totally pedestrian and safe my life has been: I’ve never been on an sojourn to India, or even Indiana for that matter. I hear me though: I can be kinder to myself; all things in good time.

It’s really quite an honor for me to be with these teachers. They’re patient, clever, subtle and loving. It’s like I’m in a sea of flowing organic white cotton scented with lemon grass oil. The kindnesses from these near-perfect strangers are sating.

What’s more: they also have next to no wrinkles. We’re talking: no. No obvious crows feet; no elevens between the eyebrows, maybe a couple horizontal lines from thinking so much about the universe and infinity and harmonic energy transfer and healing, but that’s all … y’know, cool stuff.

I started this post several days ago with the intention of uploading it that evening. It’s hard though, to stay on track, and for me to rationalize pulling myself away from all these fantastic people, most of whom I won’t likely see for several months if not ever again. It’s like a toss-up and a moment of truth: am I here for me? Or am I here for both of you, my followers? I have to use my time wisely; a similar notion comes to mind: when I’ve been to some rock concerts, I’ve been so moved to think that I need to record or film the moment for my memory. But I’ve seldom recalled the recording; the moment is emotional and metaphysical. Capturing it on an iPhone is meh, compared to the breeze on my skin or the sun on my arms which traps the moments on a cellular level. So I’m doing the right thing: I’m doing what I want; I’m communing with people, nature, energy and sharing and listening and laughing and all the rest and it’s been the absolute correct choice.

In a later post, I’ll tell you what our days were like there.

I’m back now. My first 24 hours at home have been largely uneventful and easy. This morning (8/11) was a little odd. I woke at 5:37am, but I need sleep, so I stayed in bed promising myself I’d do my meditation later, which I did. It was odd though because I was doing it alone. I wasn’t on that massive deck with that expansive mountain landscape calling and luring me to be with it; with those other beautiful voices of 15+ people joining me. I was in my home, on my office floor and I was winging it. I forgot a couple steps. But I did it and then I took Murphy, who slept on my side of the bed last night (something he hasn’t done in years) for a walk. Re-entry, which I’ll write about soon, will be … don’t brand it … will be what it is.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat — 3: Departure #growth #yoga #retreat #mindfulness #family


I arrived at the airport on time to pick-up the two people who needed a ride to the retreat.

I had initially planned to take a shuttle myself, thus imposing the reality that submission was unavoidable and that I was in for the long haul. They needed someone with a big car. That someone was me.

Instead of seeing this as a way “out” of complete attunement to the program, I decided this was “destiny” telling me that I was committed; these people would need a ride back to the airport after all, and I would be the one to take them.

This retreat house is glorious. Let me back up — any place can be a retreat; even your own bath tub. It’s a simple confluence of the action, the spirit, and intention that make any place a retreat. Ok, it’s a giant log cabin. It has air conditioning, which is nice, given the fact that it’s also in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains.

This is my view from where I’m writing:


Some people are camping. I determined that roughing it for me was going to be 16 days without Cap’n Crunch.

Departure from home was mostly uneventful. The boys all huddled me and hugged me together for a bit. Thing 1 who is 15 was doing a great job of being mature and composed, that made me a little sad… Thing 2 was very emotional, which I had anticipated. He had a hard time keeping it together, which did me no favors and we both started crying a bit on each other. I had to stop myself from saying, “Don’t be sad, I’ll be back…” because I’d be a hypocrite. I was sad too. So I had to allow him his sadness. What I didn’t want though was for it to become a Barbra Streisand movie, like “Prince of Tides.”

When he and I got ourselves together, Thing 3 was standing arms akimbo in the doorway, “I’m not letting you go. You have to stay. I will teach you yoga.” Then I got on my knee and I hugged him and he lost it. So I lost it again. I told him I’d try to “Facetime” them as often as was reasonable and that I suspected the coverage at this retreat was spotty.

All of this happened before my husband got home to see me off. As I was packing up my car and throwing my purse straps over my shoulder, he pulled up. “I thought it was 2:45 when you were leaving.”

“No, I said it took 45 minutes to get to the airport, and that I had to be there by 3:00 and …” I trailed off. We were on the fringe of having one of our classic pre-trip departure fights. We’d actually not had one in years, ever since I figured out that the reason I got mad every time he left for a trip was to basically create distance between us so that my vulnerability was protected (lie) and that I’d have an easier time being alone. So we just looked at each other and my eyes teared up.

The whole time I looked into his beautiful blue eyes, I was growing sadder but more confident; he has this way of conveying to me strength without saying a word. It was like I could say, “I’m going to rock this, but I am sad about it…” I hugged him and said, “I’m going to miss you most of all.”

“You better!” he said.

We have a way of “signing off”; we’ve done it for years, it’s just sort of happened. We were patting each other on the back and we stopped at the same time and we said, “I love you,” and I walked to the car.

Thing 1 was not far behind. Just as I stepped into the car, he came in for one more landing and hugged me a long time and finally said, “I’ll miss you, mom.”

When I turned over the engine and put the car in the right direction, I waved to them all and I shouted, “We will all grow! We will all grow! This is good! I love you all!” I turned me head and didn’t look back. Didn’t check the side view or the rear view mirrors either.

So I rode to the airport by myself. (“Rode”; thats funny, but I’ll keep it. I am a rider and a driver on this journey.)

I was on my way. I WAS ON MY WAY!!

The weather on departure day was truly sublime: sunny, low humidity, high 70s, and a light breeze; like the breeze in a White Snake video. It was the kind of weather that is so atypical around here, the armpit of the eastern seaboard, that it automatically sets you in the frame of mind that surely something awful is about to happen.

Just kidding. But I think you know what I mean.

When I picked up the riders, we talked a lot; shared some parts of ourselves. We were anxious, we all admitted It. We had about a 90-minute ride and I wasn’t going to be silent the whole time. I needed to expel some of my nervous energy.

Our ride was uneventful. We arrived about 4:30 and thus began a journey that I can tell you already, after just 50 hours, is going to change my life.

I wish everyone I know could be here. I wish everyone with an emotional catch, a hitch, a fear, a doubt, a wonder, a moment of vulnerability (so that means all of us) could be here.

The Kundalini yoga is unlike anything, ANYTHING, I’ve ever experienced. It’s not a religion, it’s based totally on movement, breathing, energy and sound and vibration and consciousness and brings it to a cellular level. It’s awesome, heavy-duty brain stuff and it’s blowing my mind already. I’m in love.

I initially named this post “Arrival.” But then I realized it was more about my departure. Not only my departure from my home and family for the duration of this retreat, but God willing, my departure from my patterns of self-limiting thoughts, small-minded thinking, judgement against others, reactivity and fear.

I will write more soon, but I wanted to say hi to both of you and let you know I appreciate your comments on my previous post and that I am thinking of you all and holding nothing but light and love in my heart for you all.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat 2 — Value: #Identity #Parenting #Fear #Ability #Yoga


If you want to see a radical shift in someone’s consciousness or value in themselves as a person, parent, writer, artist, doctor… human, threaten to change, alter, dilute, remove or diminish that identification. It’s at this point when you will learn how much they value what they’re doing.

I don’t know the origins of the lines in that sappy 70s song, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” but right now the sentiment runs true.

No catastrophe is looming, but a fairly significant shift in our family unit is about to occur in five hours. Not only will I travel for 16 days straight away from my team — something I’ve never done ever, EVER — to train to become a yoga teacher, but my team will experience changes too.

Most people do this training over a course of several months. Some take a couple years, but I’m a great summer school student: I love the quick hits of info and the intensity. I’ve always thrived in some sort of chaos, deadlines… and so this is like that to me.

Other than myself, our two older boys will go on a train ride to see some relatives all by themselves.

My husband and our youngest son, Thing 3, will have the castle and the dog to themselves for five days straight while the brothers are away.

So yes, this is a tremendous opportunity for growth for all five of us; I hadn’t thought about it that way until last night when I was packing for the retreat.

The older ones will ride on a train for 7 hours unescorted. They will be picked up by their aunt and spend some time with their closest (in peer and friendship) cousins. Their aunt will likely grow from this experience as well, in her relationship with my sons as their surrogate mom for a few days. I suspect Thing 2, who is quite demonstrative with me and his father will be needing a little cuddle from his auntie whether he likes it or not. Same goes for Thing 1, although he’s 15 and will be much more stalwart about it.

I tear up a little at the prospect of leaving them all. No Cap’n Crunch… here at least. No brie, unless they have it.

I found out that there is no coffee at the retreat, so I did this:

I don't have a coffee "addiction" in the least; I drink one cup a day, but it's sort of my "moment" in the morning. So there's that...

I don’t have a coffee “addiction” in the least; I drink one cup a day, but it’s sort of my “moment” in the morning. So there’s that… The “Ultima” is actually a hydration / electrolyte beverage mix. Who knows what I’m in for…

I also bought about 10 packets of BumbleBee Tuna in water and some Parmalat milk. So… no real growth for me, I guess.

The thing is, that for years I’ve not so much doubted my mothering, but I’ve doubted my value in my mothering. There’s something very very wrong with our society where (soapbox time) stay-at-home mothering is derided.

I don’t poop on the moms who work; I get it. Mothering toddlers can be MIND NUMBING. School-age is fun, but it’s a lot of repeating. Then preteens is nuts: they are insane people. They act like cats. And now teenagers: Fuhgedaboudit.

But I will staunchly defend those of us who give up sacrifice pause, yes: PAUSE, on their careers or professional growth to raise children into sentient, honorable and contributing members of society.

Not everyone does that. Not everyone raises their kids to be good citizens. It’s unlikely their intent to raise cretins, but to be really honest with both of you: conscious, mindful, calmly assertive parenting is INSANELY HARD and I falter all the time. Some parents just give up.

Yesterday, Thing 2 (mini me) and I had it out. I’ve got this retreat on my mind, packing mentally, where will I hide the Slim Jims? all that… He wanted to go somewhere, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I agreed. I wanted all of us to go. My sense is, “I’m out of here in 24 hours, let’s do something together…”

Then his brothers didn’t want to go, but T2 really wanted to go somewhere with me, he cried and moaned and snuffled about it, so I suggested the place that he really wanted to go to a couple days prior while I was away. He said, “No, it’s OK, let’s just go to the place we planned to with everyone.”

For those who stayed behind, I set my edict: “NO SCREENS. So that means: outside, guitar, soccer in the yard, read, mow the lawn… clean your room, do something, but no screens.”

This caused a row. In the meantime, I’m getting ready to go, my word is law… all that stuff.

“That’s my order — no screens. Come with us or no screens. You’re not sitting on your butts while we’re out.” There was consent, albeit grudgingly so.

So it’s hot out. I’m distracted, I don’t really want to do this. I have to buy gas, I have to buy Breathe Right strips because I’m sharing a room and sometimes I snore… but I’m going to do what I said I would do and T2’s manipulations can be off the charts, so I decided that this little outing with my tender son was better than being a little behind.

We get into the car and no more than five seconds later he says, after literally causing an atomic meltdown from his brothers about the No Screens law, “No, it’s OK. Let’s go to the place I wanted to go the other day…”

I pulled the car back in the driveway. Turned off the engine, opened the doors and said, “Get out. Go back in the house and stay there. I’ve got things to do and I won’t be manipulated by you any more. It doesn’t matter where we go, so long as we’re together, you say. Then you cry and toss a fit, then you get your way and the you CHANGE YOUR MIND?! Are you insane? Do you hear yourself? I don’t need this… you’re almost 13 years old…”

Apparently when he went back inside, and did lose his mind. Backpacks flew, people Murphy (people) ran and hid, soccer balls went careening into bookcases.

I could hear it, but I went to buy gas. I needed a time out. He has a tendency to do these things from time to time; he’s a really smart kid, he’s just got to get a handle on his emotions at home. He doesn’t pull this stuff at school or at other peoples’ homes, so I know it’s something he saves for us…

I went to buy gas. He called me two times on my mobile. I came home as I intended, sort of: I forgot to buy the Breathe Right strips. I sat him down, interviewed all the boys in my room as I packed and warned them to not interrupt each other. I watch a lot of Law & Order around here, so I know how to handle an argumentative witness. They all spoke, Thing 2 couldn’t argue with the testimonies and I told him his sentence:

“Sentences. You have to write out this entire experience: from the moment we were ready to leave to my proposal of the place you wanted to go to a few days ago, just us alone, to your suggestion we stick with the plan to my rule for your brothers, to our walk to the car, to your changing your mind to your tantrum at the house. That’s it. I will not review it, your peers will.”

That sucked. It was work. I went to clean out my car while he was writing. What’s funny is there was some clever editorializing in his notes and excellent detail, so the kid’s got chops. But there were some missing facts, such as his freak out and backpack tossing and other stuff. So he had to revise it.

You know what he said when he was through?

“This was good mom. I really blew it. I can see now how crazy the whole thing was.”

That was a hole-in-one moment for me. I knew at that moment, I’d done the right thing by him.

So I see it now. I see my value in what I do here. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, and that’s the way these things work, I guess.

I’m about to lose my post: I will not be supreme ruler, guide, mother here for 16 days. And with that shift looming, it makes me cling even harder to my value and see in sharp relief, what value I do add to this tribe here. The contrast is stark, the lens is clear and the lighting is perfect: I add value.

We all do. All of us parents who sit on our hands, or bite our tongues, keep our tempers together, or remove privileges and stick to them. We all work so bloody hard.

Just the other day I had to count to five for my eldest, Thing 1, who is now 5’9″ and about 140lbs. He grew an inch in two months this spring. He was belligerent toward his father and myself. I told him to go to his room. He didn’t want to. He wanted to fight with us, get in our faces, give us grief.

I started: “FIVE …. FOUR …. ” up he goes a few steps. My hand is pointing all the way up and to the left, “Go on… GO. … THREE …” a couple more steps. He stops. I glare at him. “TWO.” He put his foot on his bedroom carpet and said, “I’m in my room.”

I glared harder. Squinted like Clint Eastwood. “iPod. Hand it over.”

He did. “I don’t care. Take it. That’s your only thing on me!”

“This is just the beginning. How do you like that Stratocaster? GO. IN. YOUR. ROOM. Do you want to move your body or do you want me to move it for you?” (And I would too…)

“You can’t. I’m too big now.”

“Watch me. Do IT. NOW …. ONE.”

And his door slammed. He picked up his guitar and started some Hendrix. We wanted him in there for only 10 minutes, but he stayed an hour. Jammed away. Zeppelin, the Beatles, some Who…

He emerged smug and sly, “I needed that, I guess.” He said.

“We all did.” I said.

So I leave soon. They will have no mommy here. It makes me want to stay. To say to the world, “They need me! I’ve been awesome to them!” But I need to grow too. I know that if I don’t do this, then I will regret it.

It’s time. They can all swim well now, they know how to use the microwave. I have friends who will check in on them all, their father will be working from home. We can do this. We can swing this. We got this.

I’m ready. RIGHT?!

I am. So moms, dads: do something like this for yourself when the time is right. When the kids are old enough to understand the consequences of their actions and when you are ready to give yourself back to the bigger world and let the bigger world give itself to you.

Namaste. Sat Nam. Amen.

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat — 1: All in Good Time #Yoga #Spirit #Trust #Intuition


I stayed up late into a bit past midnight sorting socks. It’s always the socks without the friends that I seem to vex over.

I spent a lot of the day yesterday catching up on laundry to prepare everyone for my absence, hence the socks at midnight. I am leaving tomorrow at 2:15 to drive to the airport to pick up people who will be joining me on the next stage of my yoga training.

Last weekend I attended at three-day children’s yoga teacher training with 18 other students. That was a 30-hour program and yes, it was 30 hours. Thirty hours of mostly sitting, often chanting, occasionally dancing and playing and working hard to remember BEING children ourselves. It was liberating. Shakta, our teacher, has this … energy that almost insists you be good to yourself.

I saw changes in people just in that short time. Profound changes. One woman (we were all women, I still find it unlikely that a man would endeavor to teach children’s yoga); many of us actual teachers, and I’d say our age averaged at about 37. As I type this, I’m actually very curious now.

I spent a good amount of time with two women in particular, one who is 29 and who has the most radiant skin and smile and good feelings, just like a bubble you’d blow with a wand. She has her own blog, and such style — nothing pretentious, just … a vibration that says “YES.” Our interactions were not very intense; I sensed a vibrancy about her that I was more interested in observing than engaging with; we are at profoundly different times in our lives and she seems liberated in a way that I can embrace for her but I daren’t get too close to it because I know myself too well: I’d end up saying in my head, “Well, enjoy it while it lasts” (about her freedom without the children she wants to eventually have). When I was her age, I was three years married and pregnant with my first son. She knows her realities before her based on choices she will make, and I look forward to watching her develop.

She’s a lovely person, truly positive. We stayed in the same hotel and I encountered her our second morning dashing to class on foot and although we are within walking distance of the hotel, I am not accustomed to waking at 5:45 every day so I drove; yes, lazy I know. But I wanted those precious six or seven minutes I’d save by driving. I picked her up along the way and we would ride back to the hotel for breakfast together at the buffet after our morning sadhana, which I later wrote on my Facebook page: “is Sanskrit for asskick.”

I spent other times with another gal who is a mom like me, also of three boys. She was a couple years younger and had a gentle kindness that I can only say reminded me of the actress Dianne Wiest; a tenderness and vulnerability that I fought a compulsion to scrape away; she seemed right on the edge of some form of emotional collapse. Despite this depth, I enjoyed being with her. She has a perseverance and fortitude that can only come from experience and those of us who have been there understand it. I hope to stay in touch with her; she’s an old soul and I enjoyed eating lunch with her for two of the three days.

Another woman entered the first day blustery and confident arrogant. She complained of her drive; she wore a bluetooth headset to disconnect herself from the rest of us. When she exited the building for lunch she was already on her phone and she said, “Hey! How are you?!” while smiling and looking at me, that I thought she was talking to me. I was in her way. She was talking to someone else. She spoke of her future and that on her way to class that morning, that started at 8:00 am (so it was an hour for most of us who lived locally), she had already read three separate offers to teach yoga, that her life is so busy, that she does Bikram yoga (hot yoga) six days a week, going on seven years now (yet oddly, she seemed completely lacking in awareness of her physical space, that’s called “prioperception”) and blah blah blah blah… I tuned her out. Her shields were up (like Michael Keaton’s “Batman” when he got into the Bat-mobile, he spoke into his glove, “Shields” and up went an armadillo-like covering around the car — still the BEST Bat-mobile if you ask me).

I thought about Jung (day 2), what he said about “often what irritates us in others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves” and I went there; I entertained it: her bluster, her bravado, her “pita” (yoga for “fire”). I used to be attracted to that kind of energy because it told me “that’s a CAN DO person! get to KNOW her! she has SUCCESS!” but now it tells me “there’s a lot there; it’s unresolved; it’s not yours…let her be; it’s a façade.” When we went to lunch the first day, she stood in line at the strip-mall NY-Style pizzeria (Antonio’s — and it was awesome) insisting that she not wait for her salad… she was expecting it to be ready in a plastic box I guess. It wasn’t ready when she had to have it (we all had 90 minutes for lunch, I don’t know what was up her butt … we had plenty of time) and she coarsely told the attendant that it took very long when she did get her handmade, fresh, to order, glorious Greek salad. She sat by herself in her lycra and $400 sunglasses, kept her lipgloss just so and spoke to no one but her invisible friend on her headset. By the end of the second day, she was well into her softening. Her energy was completely different. We’d done so many chants, meditations and kriyas (numerous poses repeated very quickly in a set with intense breathing) that her submission would be inevitable. Her smile was softer, she was on her headset less. She, gratefully, did not infect the pizzeria. I still have a sense that she’s unaware of herself, that her coarseness is a sense of pride for her, but all in good time… she will eventually get there. I hope.

Almost all of these other women have been certified, for several years, to teach yoga with the 200-hour training that I am starting soon. Many of them are much younger than I am. I started out looking at them, in their late 30s, remembering: I used to have that body… (it’s amazing what six years can do to you despite conscious eating, exercise and rest). My sister-in-law and I often joke about “middle age thickening” — this thing that seemingly happens to us without our permission. The slowdown of the metabolism despite your most fervent wishes it do otherwise. I am still “shapely” but I see “more” of myself than I am accustomed to seeing. (We will see what 16 days on a lacto-vegan diet will do to me…) I know part most of this “thickening” is a result of a drop in my “training”; I can still fit into all my same clothes, but it’s different. I don’t worry about it anymore. These things are how we age; we can fight them and be miserable or we can accept them and be mindful of our choices which will accelerate or stave off their aggressive inevitable advances. As I’ve determined over the past few months, especially with the Jungian series I just finished (go to the previous post to see the index) it’s not about looking good, it’s about feeling good.

As I wrote to an e-friend last night on a Facebook post she shared with me about how yoga fashion has gone COMPLETELY NUTS that “it’s about the pose, not the clothes.” There was more lycra and spandex and ripped abs and bulging deltoids in that room… the physical strength is great, but as I’m learning: it’s the mental strength, the strength of spirit that will bring you home. I suppose it’s all well and good for me to say these things, perhaps it’s an unconscious interest in saying to myself, “It’s OK, Molly. >pat pat pat< You can just admit you're sad you've softened a little around your middle…" and there is some truth to that, that my fantastically brilliant observations are just thinly veiled contempt at the youth and strength of some of these women, but then I counter with the sagacious side of me that says, "be strong, be fit, but loosen up a little too" because I recall quite clearly in my memory actually, a time when I was totally wrapped around the axle about my appearance and fitness and yes, it was good to be concerned about my health, but my concern was about my vanity, not my health. I feel I'm in a better place now. I can still run five miles if I decide to; I do a 5k all the time, with virtually no muscle pain or joint discomfort. I just realize now that I'm already there, that I've hit the lottery: I've got a fantastic husband, three great kids, a wonderful home, more solid friends and loved ones than I can count, a pretty strong sense of my purpose now, and that in the end, all we want or need, is love and smile and a gracious hug. Sounds completely woo-woo, I know, but it's true.

I also looked at these women with a twinge of regret in myself for getting started "so late" in life. I'll be 46. I'm definitely on the downward slope now. Lots of the women already have their businesses beneath their belts, they just added the children's yoga component because it is in such high demand. My personal sense is that if you can teach and instill in children the ability for them to learn they can self-regulate their emotions, that they can go to a quiet place in their minds, that they can feel safe expressing themselves physically in a safe and creative way, that they will eventually take it forward with them. That they will be able to calm a room, just by walking into it.

Each day began with a "tune in" that we all chanted to get the room or the energy ready for all of us. The chant (I'm sure my father and brother would be freaking out if they read this, thinking I'm joining a cult, which I'm not) is "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" which means something like … I can't remember. But it's physical effect no different from singing a nice long traditional "Amen" at the end of the Eucharistic blessing in Mass; it's just a way of getting everyone in the same mental space. So chill, Dad and brother, I'm not about to start worshipping long-lashed, eight-limbed elephant women (not that there's anything wrong with that…).

We did lots of amazing things in this program and I’ll share the three most personally profound; one on each day.

Day 1: Shakta introduced for us “The make the bad thoughts go away” meditation to bring us a bit closer to our inner children. I’m sure it has a real name, but for kids (as well as the kids inside us all) that’s all I have. This is a simple exercise but maaaan, I had to keep it together, during it because it is profound and we had just begun the classes. The physical action is to “make like” you are spitting, but it’s your air, not saliva you are expelling. It takes a little practice. The sound is like a pointed, decisive “pih” or “puh.” The breath is powerful, but controlled, coming from the belly, not the lungs. So you have to breath from your belly… it’s very different. (I’ll write more about that in another post.) Practice it a little.


Simply: sit comfortably. Close your eyes and cup your hands in front of you with your left over your right. Bring your hands about 10 inches from your face. Think of a bad thought or bad memory or bad feeling from your life (it could be from your youth or five minutes ago at the exit ramp); a moment when you felt fear, shame, guilt, rage. Anything. Hold that thought, feeling and memory in your head until it’s right there, literally, in your mouth. You repeat this breath for a minimum 26 times; you can go to 54 or 108 if you need. But for beginners, I’m thinking 26 is fine. Prepare yourself, you might get swept away and feel it all. Let it come and let it go. I felt a lot of stuff and I looked forward to being able to do it privately so I could let it all process.

On Day 2, Shakta’s husband Kartar came in to spend some time with us. He is tall, he dressed in white traditional Sikh clothing. He is very mellow, chooses his words with discernment and has a lovely wafty yet grounded way about him. He’s like a willow. He had a long white beard and talked to us about Masaru Emoto’s HADO “Healing And Discovering Ourselves” exercises that he performed with water a couple decades ago. HADO is based on the effects of words and energy on all living things. Basically, if we use kind words, things are lovely; if we use ugly words, things suffer. Check out the link (in red above), it’s pretty amazing. Some people think it’s a hoax. I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think those people who think it’s a hoax are sad. There. I said it. Kartar didn’t stay long; but he played some games with us, one in particular that was really neat:

The “find the feather with your intuition” game. I don’t know why we used a feather, maybe there’s something spiritual about it; but the colors of these feathers (day glo green and pink) suggested they were not originally that color.

Basically, get a group of people together and sit in a circle facing one another. Put the feather in the center of the circle. Everyone looks at the feather. Everyone tunes in. Start by being really quiet together for a moment once seated or sincerely saying some cool thing like “Om” or “Amen.” The deal is that it’s a good idea for everyone to say it so the energy of the vocal vibration is received not only by everyone’s ears (provided they are not deaf) but also their bodies, their rib cages, or “chakral center.”

Someone leaves the circle and goes to an area where s/he can’t see anyone at all. Someone in the circle takes the feather and sits on it. Those in the circle close their eyes. You call back the person who left, and you let that person stand in the circle. S/he can close their eyes (in fact it’s best if s/he does so that the body tells you what’s going on, but you have to be open, you have to be ready to truly listen to your body) and slowly turn (while still standing) in a small circle “greeting” each person’s energy. Those in the circle all (woo-woo alert): “send” that person positive thoughts like “find the feather” or “let your intuition tell you where the feather is” or “key in to your intuition,” Something general like that; don’t think, “The feather is under Bipsy.” or “Help Bipsy find the feather.” It has to be general. It just does. As the feather finder, when you feel like you’ve felt all you can near a certain person, like you’ve gone around a couple times and you just “sense” (not think, you


it) you can tap that person on the head and say, “Do you have the feather?”

I got it on the first try. I was the first to leave the group and I got it. I was amazed. I actually felt it at one person; a person I’d not yet interacted with. I was amazed. This was on day 2, so we all were a bit tuned in to one another. This was probably our 18th hour of being together in that room for lessons. I suppose if you wanted to try this with just one other person, you could do it and the person could hide the feather on their person and you could let your hands hover and guide you; it would likely feel magnetic — at least that’s how it felt to me. Like a gentle pull. I am very grateful for that exercise. Peggie, if you’re reading this, my freckles on my thumb mound are almost gone…

Anyway, each person in the group got to be a seeker. Only one out of our five didn’t get it on the first guess.

On Day 3, Shakta’s son Ram Dass came in to meet us. He works somewhat nearby and he generously left work early to speak to us. It was lovely. He went off to India to live in an ashram and go to school when he was eight and he left when he graduated from their high school (it’s somewhat like an International Baccalaureate school) at 16. He graduated from college, my alma mater, at 20.

Shakta and Kartar, his parents, are American-born, white. His father is a former Christian. Shakta looks to be of German or European descent to me; she is still quite “dirty blonde.” I suspect their birth names are something as “normal” as Stephanie and Richard. They met at a cooperative, sort of like a commune of those on the yoga journey in the 70s. They wanted a child for many years. Finally, Shakta became pregnant and so as a child, their only child, their son Ram Dass, would wear turbans and dress in traditional Sikh garb.

Shakta had told us well before she asked him to join us, that he loves to wear suits now; that he is a businessman, that he works for a large government contractor; that he doesn’t do yoga anymore, that he’s a “DJ” for hobby; that he works out and runs for his health, although he still meditates quite a bit. I smiled inwardly at the irony: here is this young man, born into a yoga ashram-like community, in a communal living way, who left his mother and father for eight years to live in India (as was the path for those living in that way), whose “child” spirit was very much honored and revered and encouraged, who comes back to America to end up working for one of the largest, lucrative and most influential government contractors as an analyst….

He walked into the room, comPLETEly self-possesed. Tall, elegant, quiet, serious, clever. He looked at and considered his mother with a respectful detachment, that they are peers… such is the way of a 21-year-old, I mused inside. I told him this — I wanted to tell him that he is like an “old soul” because he is SO VASTLY unlike any other 21-year-old I’ve ever met. But I countered it with “But I can’t say you’re an old soul, because you’re not — or maybe it’s that you’re so old a soul that you seem new again” because again, he had confidence and a sense of his place in this world that was frighteningly unshakeable. He had the kind of quiet, reflective, sincere, easy smile, and real steadiness that maybe 1:10,000,000 people possess; and of 21-year-olds? Cripes… 1:700,000,000. You can say “reflective” about some people and it sounds as though they’re neurotic. like Woody Allen. No. Not this guy. He knows who he is and you could feel it. It was stalwart. Shakta beamed with love and pride for her son. Yet it was in a way that said, “I was the one who simply carried him to this world… he is not ‘mine‘; he belongs to himself…” and maaaaan, you had no doubt.

I know lots of people who think they mean it when they say that about their own kids. I know now, myself included at times, that they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re not even close.

The Day 3 exercise that affected me profoundly was the “trust circle.” Basically nine people form a tight circle (almost touching each other) facing one another. They are the “receivers.”

Another person (bringing the group size to ten) stands in the middle about 18 inches from each person / receiver in the circle with her/his feet almost touching, they are close together, maybe an inch is between the toes. The arms of the person in the center are like a mummy’s: forearms crossed on the chest with the hands touching each opposing shoulder. Each receiver in the circle grounds her/himself in a gentle lunge and their hands are gently cupped and facing the person in the center. Arms are engaged, but soft; they are “ready.” Make sure no one is wearing socks and that the floor is not slippery.

The person in the center closes its eyes and grounds. Takes a couple breaths and grounds again. When the person in the center is ready s/he asks the receiving group, “Are you ready?”

The receivers say “yes” because their hands are ready and their eyes stay fixed on the person in the center and because they ARE ready. You can’t help but take this with reverence: another person is about to trust you to not let her or him get injured. It’s a big deal. This exercise is mostly performed at grades 5 (maybe some 4th graders are ready) and up through high school… through graduate school … through the mortgage years, and into senior living if you catch my drift.

When s/he is ready, s/he — the “truster” — will begin to fall into the receivers. It is best for about three receivers to have hands on this person (mostly the upper body, mostly the shoulders and crossed forearms) when s/he leans into them. The physical sensation is not to reject or push back the leaning / falling / trusting person in the center, but to “welcome” and guide back to the center and let the truster’s sense of balance and equilibrium guide them or rest them on to another area of the receivers. I couldn’t help but think of those swinging pendulums over those little sand gardens that some people have on their desks.

At moments, the truster’s falls can become fast, a little out of control; that’s up to us, the receivers, to slow down and reassure the truster in the center that “we’ve got you.”

I watched four other women go before me to do this exercise. I answered, “we are ready” for three separate women; I was a receiver three times and then I stepped back. I wanted others to receive the truster and I privately yearned to be the one who could summon the courage to do it. I privately yearned to be a “truster.” This isn’t just about the game, I said to myself. This is about my life. This is a metaphor about everything I’m dealing with. It’s a metaphor about me trusting ME. With each passing person I saw my chances go away.

Shakta said, “one more time. We will do this one more time.” I asked squeaked, “Will we be doing this next week at the retreat? Because if we are, I’ll do it then; but I don’t want to take away this opportunity from someone who might want to do it today because I’ll be doing it again for sure at the retreat…”

Shakta said, “No. We won’t be doing this next week.”

The room grew quiet. The metaphorical light was on me.

“I’ll go then. I need to do this. I’ve got major trust issues. And I’ve been a receiver; I know these women will get me.”

So I did it. I nudged myself into the circle. I visually inspected everyone’s footing, their hands, their deltoids and triceps, the cuts of their jaws and the intensity in their eyes. They were ready. They all said it. They all looked at me with love and intention and a femininity that only other women can understand. One in particular, with eyes like black coffee said, “We’ve got you. We are already here.”

I cried a little inside. I knew they wouldn’t let me “down” — not figuratively, not literally. It was truly up to me.

Do I trust them?

I barely know them, I quickly said to myself in what seemed like nanoseconds; a quiet, private moment.

I closed my eyes. I breathed in and breathed out.

I breathed in and breathed out.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“We are.” They said.

I submitted. I began to lean into the women; their hands were warm and kind; soft and strong. The room was silent. I was stiff at first.

Then I felt a shift in my consciousness; I felt free.

I “let go” and someone whispered, “wow, she just let go…” and I let them carry and receive and welcome and suspend and guide me for another minute until I was really OK with it all. It changed me.

They later told me they could see it in my face; a loosening, that I had submitted; no more fighting, no more control, no more forcing.

We closed the classes about an hour after that. Did some exercises on “deeply listening” which is listening without reacting, interrupting, smiling, nodding, or anything. No relating. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Each person shared and the other listened for five minutes straight. You are deeply aware of yourself at this time while also working hard to honor the speaker without facial gestures, judgment or relating. I heard everything my partner said. I realized then how little of that I do.

The problem with “nodding” or gesturing, as Shakta explained, is that it interrupts the speaker’s flow and it turns it into an exchange. Also, if we wince, we can make the speaker self-conscious, or feel bad for making us feel bad. Same goes if we laugh, we make the speaker feel as though the good feelings must continue. I shared deep stuff. It stayed confidential. I felt heard. She shared her stuff, I didn’t react. I let her spill. Talking to someone else, even though they’re not reacting also helps you feel like you’re not talking to no one; that you’re not crazy.

I pack up today and drive out for the next big stage tomorrow. I have never been away from anyone I’m related to for 16 days straight. I commuted to college, so this is going to be entirely new for me. But I am ready. Suddenly, this isn’t really about yoga anymore; it’s about me.

I will write more while I’m there. WiFi is available, but limited; so it might be like the Jung series — written in the moment, but loaded later … I don’t know. We’ll see when we get there, won’t we? V

Thank you.