Tag Archives: philosophy

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 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 20: Mind Your Own Business


Welcome to Day 20 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to less than 500 words.

Here is the quote:

January 17 — Problems are transformed when we are present. When someone disagrees with you today, stay present, listen and then let them solve the problem.

This is another way of saying, “mind your own business and check your preferences, attachments, and ego at the door.”

I feel strongly that I am being tested in this way, very specifically, of late.

Lots of stuff is going on around my life that I confuse with MY actual life.

For instance, if you have a situation with a parent and you don’t like the situation but are accustomed to having to save the day or come up with a solution due in part to patterns you established as a child, you will likely think or believe that you must wrest with the situation.

Another example, say your child or spouse or friend is behaving in a way that you find objectionable. This happens all the time, right? Well, if you’re me, you feel some crazy drive to repair the objection or yearn to educate this person to stop their behavior.

So if those things are happening, AROUND your life, at the same time, how much of it is your life? None.

Nope. Not a smidge. So in this actual context of all these things swirling around me, none of it is mine. My specific independent life is actually pretty peachy right now.

Lasater mentions “disagrees” in this quote; I don’t think we need to have an actual disagreement to render awareness and detachment (which is what she’s suggesting here with letting ‘them’ solve the problem). I think we just need to be aware of our urges (and they can be subtle) to change events or outcomes.  You can even have a situation where you agree with someone and want to assist in solving a “problem.”

Further with the examples: let’s say we’re talking about an infant here. If an infant is crying, that’s the infant’s issue, yes?

I mean, you’re not crying. You’re not needing anything at that moment (meaning: you’re not so upset about something that it’s making you weep). It’s the baby.

Of course, you might care about the baby. You can assist the wee bairn, and do what you can to soothe her. But it’s not YOUR irritation.


As humans, we’ve been programmed to assist, to solve, to cure, to fix, to amend… sometimes, we just can’t. Most of the time, it’s not ours to solve, fix, cure, or amend. It’s just not.

And we don’t like that.

It makes us feel powerless, helpless, inert.

Deal with it.

So going back to this quote, ” … then let them solve the problem.”


If the solution lies in your assistance, YOU NEED TO BE ASKED FIRST to ASSIST. (And the baby crying is her asking for assistance — so that’s good.) If no one asks for help, there is no help to be given. If you decide to jump in… OK: prepare yourself for a steaming dish of “goscrewyourself” or frustration because your moment of “let me help you” might become a moment of “it’s like THIS you simpleton…” or that horse you’ve led to water won’t drink it, and then shit hits the fan.

Example: say a little kid is trying to open a new jar of salsa. He fusses and moans and oomphs, but he doesn’t ask for help. You watch this battle. Many of us as parents will say, “Here, let me…” but that doesn’t show the child anything other than you’re better at opening a jar than he is. What you need to do (in the context of this quote) is stay present, listen, and then let them solve the problem, which might mean, “Hey, Mom? Can you help me open this jar of salsa?”

That’s the jackpot right there. When they ask for help. Doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we encounter a mess. But the key is learning to ask for help and then … THEN: be willing to GIVE HELP — NOT TAKE OVER. Show the kiddo how you open a jar.

Easier said than done.

(This quote is really limiting… transformation needn’t revolve around a disagreement.)

It’s not a failure of autonomy and independence to ask for help. After all, once that jar of salsa is opened, he might try to pour all of it into a small bowl and it might overrun. Still… we have to step back.

It stinks. But it’s growth for us too.

Thank you.