Tag Archives: Judith Hansen-Lasater

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 26: Excitement & Fear


Welcome to Day 26 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:

August 29 — Excitement is the surface of fear. Notice today what excites you. Then look deeper and see what it is about that exciting thing that stimulates fear in you. Notice how your excitement is tied to your fear.


We used to have a principal at my kids’ elementary school who would regularly use the word “energize” -d, -s, -ing, to describe her various reactions to my open and fervent interest in my son’s welfare; or when I was PTA president, in the entire student body’s welfare. That was her passive-aggressive way of challenging you into an argument or stand-off. She was terrifically inept. The current, new principal seems at times equally uneasy around parents who happen to give a damn.

I’m not digressing, trust me.

So what would go on in me, emotionally at these exchanges, is excitement. I was not “energized”; I was excited. To me, “excitement” is a good thing, it shows enthusiasm and high energy; but I also use the word (although more sparingly) to describe an elevated energy level in a way that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I’m not quite sure I get what Lasater’s going after by connecting it all with fear though.

My mother would get terrifically excited, almost manic, about a movie, play, song, a visit, or a situation she cared deeply about. Her mood was usually positive and it included lots of clapping, multi-bangle jingling, scarf wafting, hooting, Andy Warhol-inspired-prescription-sunglasses tossing, and thigh banging. If a musical experience were being … experienced, then there was also equally impassioned but angered, “HHHHHUSH! QUIETTTTTT WILL YOU?! THIS IS JUST BRILLIANT!”-ing, head bobbing, “yessss!”-ing, and generally awkward body control to suppress in me (at least) any sort of feral instinct to get her to calm down. She reminded me of a Gilda Radner character or more appropriately Kristen Wiig’s hung-up stage actress:

Kristen Wiig's brilliant "Mindy Grayson" on SNL's Guess That Word! spoof. (c) NBC Universal

Kristen Wiig’s brilliant “Mindy Grayson” on SNL’s Guess That Word! spoof. (c) NBC Universal. I tend to wonder from time to time if SNL had a camera placed in my house as a child.

My father would lose his shit when he’d get excited. You don’t want to be anywhere near the man during a televised sports event. Gasps alert dogs blocks away, or he yells in a way which any unknowing or rational person would think means “Heart attack! I’m dying!” If his reaction were relative to good news, he’d laugh like a despotic hyena and bang his fist into any of the following (combined or solitary): table, chair, knee, ottoman, arm rest, desk, butcher block, steering wheel, phone book, wall, dashboard, hull, rudder arm, or countertop. If it weren’t good news, he’d impersonate Pete Townshend (without actually knowing who Pete Townshend was):

That of course would WAKE ME UP! and then excite me.

I was never really able to bring them, my parents, back to earth.

Often a witness to these emotional explosions, I would do my best to decipher the mood and … Smile? Laugh? Squeal? Hide?

So I think about my personal moments of excitement, including the negative ones, and I can say for the negative ones it’s certainly fear-based, that my world is about to turn upside down. But if I think about the positive moments, I suppose it’s fear-based too, eventually. Say, when a family member is in town and is going to stay with us… I am thrilled to see them, but then I get nervous about the linens, and accommodations and whether we will all get along OK and the rest.

I think, judging from the parents I had, my “excitement” is different from most. I don’t think it’s really the surface of fear; it’s more like the surface of insanity. Snort.

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 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.


30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 21: Self Talk & I’m Mad at Elizabeth Gilbert


Welcome to Day 21 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:

October 13 — How you talk to yourself matters. Our beliefs create a filter through which we see the world. To become free of their power, today pay attention to what you say. Instead of saying “I can’t” say “I’m having difficulty right now.” This will create a space between the present and your beliefs about the present.


I try to do this with myself but I find it’s harder when I’m not actually saying the words out loud. When I speak with others, I hear myself correct myself: “can be” or “might” or “have a tendency” or “can be difficult to do…” that kind of stuff.

The insidious self-damage comes of what we say to ourselves, when no one is around, or what we say silently to ourselves.

I’m a loser.

I suck at this.

My face is ugly.

I’m a fraud.

Me + this moment = failure.

Of all of these statements, I would say that the most nagging of my own, is “I’m a fraud.”

It’s a horrid statement. Yet I feel it deeply, and often. I can’t explain why; it’s primitive and very likely completely irrational and untrue, yet it’s there. Sitting in a chaise lounge beside me, with its fake tan, acrylic nails, smoking an e-cigarette, drinking a non-alcoholic beer, teasing its frosted tips, reading and highlighting a Cliff’s Notes on Hamlet; its half-eaten McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese resting on top of the hour-old services invoice for a botox injection.

Who the hell is that? I don’t know, but I do know I want to base a book on her.


Personal example. I’m almost 47. I love to scull:

sculling: two oars, one in each hand.

sculling: two oars, one in each hand.

It’s a serene experience and it makes me feel free. It also does this to my hands:

yeah. ... i'm 46. can you tell where this discussion is about to go?

yeah. … i’m 46. can you tell where this discussion is about to go?

So for the longest time, I heard the dialogue “gloves are for losers” when it comes to rowing.

I even posted this image of my hand on my Facebook wall and a friend commented, “Gloves?” and I commented back, “Gloves are for losers.” Even though in my head, I knew that saying such a thing was complete bullshit. My hands were injured.

So, I believed this narrative: That gloves are for losers and I let it seep into my consciousness. Until later in the day when I washed my hands and they burned. And I tried to walk my dogs and my hands burned. And I tried to drive my car, and my hands burned. And I tried to do a downward facing dog and my hands burned.

Then I said to myself, “Self… you are almost 47 years old. You are a successful mother of three. You are NOT an olympic hopeful. You are NOT on a collegiate crew. You’re not even remotely interested in competing. You are NOT infallible. You’re hurt. You can’t even wash your hands without pain. Get y’self some damned gloves, y’damned fool…”

And so I did. They arrived today. If using these gloves makes me a loser, then I’m good with that. If the technology exists to make our lives easier and we can afford it, take advantage of the technology…

Anyway, we are hardest on ourselves. This quote above is from a yoga book, about yoga in daily life. The aspect of “Living Your Yoga” means to just be present and to be complete because “yoga” is the sanskrit word for “union” which to me means “complete” or “balanced.”

Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert recently wrote on her Facebook wall a screed against the word “Balance” and how it’s become (in her mind anyway, so every freakin’ female incapable of independent thought should get in line behind her — baaah-aaaaah) synonymous with “perfection.”

Eff that. Eff Gilbert.

I couldn’t disagree more and here’s why: “balance” to me simply means: NOT FALLING OVER. It doesn’t mean perfection. It doesn’t mean “flawless” — it means maintaining your stability amidst the tempest. Not your BEST stability. Not your PERFECT stability; just freakin’ maintaining it: not falling down.

I’m really surprised by her take on this actually. It sounded so whiney. I believe, with all my heart, that achieving some semblance of balance — no matter what the context — is winning at life. It’s not “fake it ’til you make it” bullshit (which is absolutely the most horrid advice ever), it’s about standing in the storm and learning how to dance in the rain.

Heaven forbid Gilbert become the next Oprah. (I call dibs on first predicting this. I will be the Nostradamus of flawed popular prophets.)

Gilbert is far from self-actualized (and then I am too when I get mad about this) when she spouts off about balance.

Balance is our friend. Balance is our barometer. When you feel off-balance, you get to slow down and check out where you’re heavier or lighter on a matter. If you feel pulled-upon or put-upon. It’s good… Balance is … ugh.

Gilbert. NnnnNNNnnnnnn. Shut up.

Back to the quote (speaking of being off-balance): self-talk. Be nicer to yourself.

See if you can get yourself to speak the ugly things about yourself out loud. And then look around you at all you have and all you are and all you have achieved, and laugh at the ugly thoughts.

That inner talk, that ugly talk is garbage. Set it out on Tuesdays and Fridays and leave it for the truck. Seriously: write it down, then tear it up and leave it for the trash service.

Thank you.

(ps – this was way more than 500 words. i blame liz gilbert.)