Monthly Archives: July 2014

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 25: Release Attachments and Expectations


Welcome to Day 25 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

September 25 — Give up your attachment to the way you think things are, so you can experience things as they actually are. Our beliefs create a screen between what is and how we want things to be. Yoga is a practice to help us let go of that screen and live authentically. What believe can you let go of today?

So this is a great idea and I really needed to land on it for life. I was going to say “today” or “this series” or “this year…” but the fact is that my life would be generally more pleasant and less complicated if I simply accepted the way it is instead of preferring that it be something else.

Overall, my life is very pleasant and utterly endurable. I feel that my formative years were just that: shaping and demanding and grueling. I married a great guy and have three smart, clever, good, sensitive, and candid sons. I have managed to step blithely (I believe anyhow) into the depths of middle age and I hope that this “season” of middle age will last another 10 years until I will begin advanced age or the regret-less blue-haired lady age, like that Hallmark Card old lady, Maxine. My knees are already starting to resemble those of an elephant, and elephants are born looking that way, so I feel slightly advantaged.

So back to the quote: When we take away the screen (I’ll call it a filter, maybe Lasater is British), life takes on a certain seeming harshness. It’s not really harsh, it’s just reality. I have never been one who has looked at life as Daisy Buchanan in Gatsby (the only truly worthwhile screen adaptation of that book IMHO). Daisy had a white-knuckled grip on fragile idealism. The soft-focus lens effect on her in the film had a significant effect in my appreciation of her portrayal.

the fashion and the times. (c) 1974 Paramount Pictures

sigh… the fashion and the times. (c) 1974 Paramount Pictures

So while I admire Daisy’s feckless romanticism, i’s never been my gift. I have tended to usually be a realist, pragmatist and at times a fatalist. I remember saying for many years, “have low expectations, then you’ll rarely be disappointed.” I look back on that now and I see how much I’ve cheated myself out of living more fully and experiencing life instead of dulling it so bluntly. I have seldom encouraged idealism in myself. I wonder where that comes from: was it learned? Did I anticipate positivity and have it disintegrate and dissolve in my hands?

So my “screen” has been one of marginal safety. I would like to think I’m not fear-based (that’s an attachment right there), but the more I think about it, I suspect that I have become risk-averse instead of an adventuresome person.

This is a little troubling, actually.

So now what? Do I make a sky-diving reservation?

I guess I can follow her advice: give up my attachment to the way I think things are. This is a deeper concept than I am willing to explore in this blog post, but I suspect if you’re with me this far and you’re picking up what I’m putting down, it’s likely a curious concept to you as well.

In terms of yoga, I see this all the time: students comparing themselves with other students and trying to figure out if they’re doing a pose “right.” If your ego is in the pose properly, you really can’t be looking at anyone else anyway. Often the gazes are encouraged toward Heaven or beyond or behind us. In the forward-looking poses, your gaze is fixed, often for focus and balance. Some poses, such as Downward Facing Dog, encourage that your gaze rest completely in your present moment at the space between your hands on the mat. I actually like to close my eyes when I can (ACK: am I denying the present moment when I do that?? ARGH!). Let it go, let it go…

How do you tend to see life? How do you tend to live life? How do you attach to your past and your future while (gulp) dismissing the present?

Drop your filter: your fears, your preferences, your expectations, your needs. That’s the Work. Life doesn’t have to be perceived as something else than what it is; that’s our doing, and it’s likely making a mess of things for ourselves. When we release that filter, screen, then we are free.

Thank you.


30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 24: Butterfly Effect, Chaos Theory


Welcome to Day 24 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

November 13 — The ability to understand the cost of my choices before I make them is the beginning of wisdom. Whatever choice you make, the choice affects the world in ways you will never know. When you makes choices today, make them with love.

Yes. So wise. So true and it is the beginning of wisdom, but to me, it’s also the beginning of so much more.


thing 3 loved this butterfly so much; he wanted me to take its picture.

thing 3 loved this butterfly so much; he wanted me to take its picture.

Have you ever heard of the “butterfly effect” regarding “chaos theory”? It’s quite simply: the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere (wikipedia). It stems from a theory originated in 1980 which posits the notion that a butterfly fluttering in Rio de Janeiro could change the weather in Chicago (wikipedia).

I absolutely believe in the butterfly effect.

I’ve seen it started and I’ve also seen it stopped (regarding human interactions).

When I know that I have to have a difficult conversation with someone, I try to anticipate how my side will be appreciated. I try to think of many sides, many outcomes. Most of the time, I’m pretty accurate. Sometimes I couldn’t be more wrong. Indulge me for a moment regarding the bullying episode this past spring.  Our approach to this dilemma was bonded with honor and love (as much as was possible given the situation) but absolutely with respect.

We attempted to handle it in a way that would be rational. In fact, we handled it in a way that was suggested by three separate school counselors (including the bully’s own school counselor who reached out to my husband to intervene). It was a disaster. We really had no idea the situation would go as badly as it ultimately did. I mean, I could’ve never predicted that.

So it happened.

The choices the other family made were successively colossal in their failures. To me, they were steeped in fear, judgment and anger. It’s ironic, because we were the ones who were attacked. You’d think we were the ones who would be fearful, judgmental and angry. But we weren’t. We trusted.

Anyway, as much as it’s water under the bridge, it’s a really great illustration point for many of these quotes I’ve been dissecting.

The choices we make will absolutely affect the world in ways we will never know. (Beware the ego trap of also thinking you can influence any outcome too — this quote suggests you can, but c’mon… keep your head on straight.)

In practice:

Be nice to the man who pumps your gas. Smile at him and say thanks. Maybe that will keep him from getting angry at the next customer* who might then feel safer on the road after leaving the station.

Choose to take a breath before sharing what’s on your mind with your partner if it’s heavy. That breath can be the difference between a disagreement or a resolution.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Offer assistance to the exhausted mother of three. Hold the door open for her, walk slowly around her so her children stay close to her so her mind can be at ease.

Say a silent blessing to the homeless man on the corner, remember how much your stomach hurt the last time you were really hungry. Buy him a sandwich… (My brother does this: he doesn’t give homeless people money, he asks them what they need: shoes, food, clothes… and then he gets it for them.)

Don’t yell at the driver who just cut you off. Maybe *she just found out her child fell down the steps and is on the way to the hospital. (See? It’s all related, even if it seems like it isn’t.)

Remember that you’re NOT the only person on this planet.

All of these conscious actions require is the simple act of slowing down, noticing, interpreting and executing.

Just slow down. What’s the rush? Be nice. Take a breath. Don’t react. Think first.

Thank you.


30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 23: You Are Made of Stars


Welcome to Day 23 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

July 8 — Finding God and finding Self are the same thing. Ultimately, yoga practice is about recognizing the union of Self and Divinity. Sit quietly this morning. As you inhale, invite the word “Divinity” within. With each exhalation, share your Self with the world. Practice this for ten minutes, and live it the rest of your day.”

Attending to this quote in a way other than declaring it as blasphemy is so going to get me in trouble with the devoutly religious.

I made a commitment to my Self to do this challenge and this is the quote which turned up. I could say God chose it for me, but that might get me into trouble. I could say Fate chose it but that would be calling God by another name.

Ech. My blog. My rules.

Ok: I get what she’s saying here, so well. Christianity (and other religions) impose that God is separate from us and we are separate from God. Yet we are also told that Jesus is in our hearts. But as a Catholic, I have seldom experienced an OK moment when I could refer to Jesus on a first-name basis.

I’m drifting…

I happen to be really OK with having God in my heart. I happen to love the concept. It makes me feel so safe inside. Breathe it in: DIVINITY. That’s good!

I will admit that sometimes I do a really crappy job of honoring God, honoring that Divinity inside me. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I’m impatient and cruel. Sometimes I boast and exclude or shame.

Sometimes I rationalize to the point of guilt for excluding and I end up harming myself by choosing people around me who don’t have my best interests at heart. When we honor Divinity inside us, we can’t make any bad choices, it becomes quite clear: is what I’m choosing good for my slice of Divinity?

I believe what Lasater is going after here is to allow yourself the gift of Being a Product of Divinity: perfect as you are; love as you are loved; believe that it was an act of Divine Love (not your parents getting it on) that created you; that you are made of the same cosmic energy which lights the sun and Polaris and the Eagle Nebula — that you are ALL of that and that is so fantastic, so wonderful and SO COMPLETELY AMAZING that it’s all you need to know. Did you know that the same element, iron, which can destroy a super nova, is the same element that is in you? and when that super nova is destroyed, it creates carbon and platinum and gold and all the foundational elements in things we see around us — including us — that all those things are made of stardust? That you are made of stardust? That you are made of stars?

Take a bow.

the center star is Polaris, the "north star."  credit:

the center star is Polaris, the “north star.”

And it’s all you need to know to be kinder to others. We can not give what we do not have. But once we realize what we are made of: cosmic dust, energy, light, love, photons and atoms and cells and all that amazing stuff… then it’s IMPOSSIBLE to not recognize it in others, the rest of the day.

Maybe the rest of the week. Or the month or the year!

You are made of the same stuff as Polaris!

If we believed this, with all our hearts, all the time: I can’t help but be optimistic and propose that there would be no more addiction, sadness, depression, self-injury and -pain. We would transcend all that “mortal” stuff because we would recognize that we are more than carbon-based: we are made of stars.

It’s lofty. Supremely lofty, to think this way.

One might even say arrogant or blasphemy, to think this way.

If thinking this way makes you feel so radiant, so good inside that you have a hard time suppressing it, that you want to share it and feel the same way about your neighbor or your checkout clerk or your boss, that you allow these people to be made as flawlessly as you are made … how can that possibly be wrong?? That the same Divine energy, God, made you also made Polaris, how is that wrong? You’re not sinning when you are expressing that, right??

You can feel this way about others and not have to take care of them or be their silent partner too y’know. All you have to do is extend light and love … no commitment. No personal sponsorship, just feel love and you’re done. You can keep going on to the next person…

Everyone will think you’re on quaaludes. That’s ok. You’re just feeling good and that scares people. Sometimes if people don’t have something to complain about they feel lost. Let them feel lost; love them anyway. Move on…

You are made of stars.

Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 22: Here? Now?


Welcome to Day 22 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

May 12 — Am I here? How often are we really where we are? Don’t we eat lunch and discuss dinner? Or plan Thanksgiving and worry about Christmas? Make a pledge today to focus on what you are doing or thinking with your whole being. Each time you forget, come back to right now.

MMmmmm K.

I might be one of the first people to suggest that Living In the Moment is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Sometimes (and I don’t say this to suggest that we deny the present moment or experience) escaping mentally is a good thing. It’s a necessary thing. It’s what our psyches do when it’s all too much.

For example, a child is distressed. His favorite toy has been stolen. He can’t deal.

If we were to take Lasater’s advice here, we would focus on the loss with our whole being. We would have to encourage that child to deeply feel the loss.

Or take a car wreck survivor. There’s total denial of the accident and its repercussions (BAD IDEA) or there’s the suggestion that one focus on the event with the entire being.

I know that these states — the events in question: toy theft and a car wreck are ephemeral, instantaneous. I also know that experiencing them fully helps us process them, which can usher healing, but I also know that fully thrusting ourselves into the event can sorta screw up things. The brain has a system for dealing with that. It can be dissociative  (I AM NOT HERE) or it can be schizoid (THIS ISN’T HAPPENING TO ME RIGHT NOW) or one could even have a narcoleptic response (THIS SUCKS, SO I’M GOING TO FALL ASLEEP NOW IN ORDER TO SURVIVE IT).

I’m on board with the brain taking over on these situations in order to survive them. I’m not saying it’s OK, I’m just saying that going into mental shock over an event is likely what keeps some people alive. It’s the dealing with the aftermath that can be very challenging.

But let’s get back to Lasater. Be at Thanksgiving when it’s Thanksgiving. My mother was legendary for not doing this at all. At Thanksgiving, she’d start thinking about previous Thanksgivings. Not Christmas. Never the future. That was … NNNNNOOOOO. Never the future. It was like she only had a replay button, not a fast-forward. That was hard. I don’t know what it was which made it all so difficult for her.

When you’re in traffic, don’t look at your phone; look at the traffic light. Sing along with the song that’s playing or listen to it if you don’t know the words. Be in that moment.

I think Lasater is encouraging mindfulness in a exacting way here. Often we eat mindlessly. It’s our emotions, souls which are “hungry” not our stomachs.

On the yoga retreat we performed a mindful eating exercise with fruit.



I selected a clementine. We were to sit in a comfortable position in the sun and think about and bless all the hands it required to get that piece of fruit to our hands. We were instructed to look at the fruit, and then smell and feel it with our eyes closed. If your fruit was to be peeled, then you peeled it slowly. I was encouraged to hear the rind tear and observe the clementine oils spurt from the tiny pores on the rind upon the pressure of peeling it and to really smell that profusion of scent. Then I could section it. I plunged my thumb into the opening at the core of the clementine with care. Then I could eat it.

I almost didn’t want to eat that clementine; it was already so satisfying.

But I did. It was the best clementine ever.

So be here, now, when it’s good for you.

Thank you.