Monthly Archives: August 2011

Upward Facing Dog

By Martha Marcom

This is my dear old friend Lily, whom I’ve known since she was 2
days old when she still looked like a Guinea pig.

She is a delightful being with sweet charming ways--even now, as
an elderly dog, she will take a jaunty leap over a curb and easily connect to people and other dogs with grace.  As a youngster, though, her obsessive border collie nature was often in evidence.  As we had no actual herding job for her, she found other outlets, as in the time, using only her teeth, she disassembled and moved an entire cord of firewood to unearth a ground hog whose tunnel opening was beneath.

David Swenson stayed with us when she was still a rolly-polly
puppy and he said, “Lily, do you want to break-dance?”  He put her on her back and spun her around.  Another year older for his following visit,
she tolerated another round of break dancing. She was a bit older for his subsequent workshop--a young lady dog.  When David offered her a dance this time, she quite firmly refused him.  “OK. Lily”,  he said, surrendering his arms upward, “No more break dancing, you’re all grown up now”.

Here is the successful argument I used to convince my skeptical husband Jerry that we should adopt the puppy my sister was offering us--“The kids (then 16, 13, and 10),  will love her dearly and they’ll come back home to see her.”  That did indeed come to pass and our dog generated love and fun and joy.

I am not selling you a dog here!  They are expensive and require years of commitment; they are quite a lot of trouble!

Lily is now 15--over a hundred in dog years!  She falls down sometimes when her hind legs give out.  When she falls, she always looks around in what seems to be self-conscious embarrassment.  Dogs are stoic and do not want to look weak.  Sometimes when she falls in the park she’ll turn lemons into lemonade and roll on her back in what has to be yoga--a sweet connection with the earth that also must be something like a backbend.

Dogs get you outside even on the bad weather days, and once you get out there in the elements, things become very elemental-- you realize OK, I’m walking on the planet and breathing…from there you can often find something beautiful or humorous to take back. Last night, I saw the sunset reflected resplendently in the puddles of water that had formed from the recent rain.

The initial resistance to getting outside is not so unlike what sometimes arises when it’s time to get on the yoga mat.  Is there some rain or fog or chill inside me that’s making the walk to the yoga mat long and hard? Some unseen obstacle?  And, as in just getting through the door to the outside with the dog, once you show up to practice, it’s so the right place to be!


Breaking Through the Wall

By Marcia Miller

Memories from the hospitalization of my first daughter have been arising for me lately.  I was in my twenties and she was three days old.  Katherine had been born at home in a very satisfying birth and suddenly we were in the hospital that I had so hoped to avoid.  I wasn’t allowed to be in the room with her while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong.  The pain of separation and the shock of what was happening left me without any resources that I was aware of.  I squatted against the wall of the ICU where she was because the chairs in the waiting room a few feet away were too far away from her.  At one point the doctor came out and said, “It doesn’t look good.”  I had no idea he was telling me she would die—I thought he was saying that we couldn’t go home together just yet—that in itself was unthinkable.  But by the next morning she was gone and a long period of mysterious and often frightening grief began. 

I have worked to heal the grief of this loss in many ways over the years.  I often feel at peace thinking of this dear child of mine who forever made me a mother for the first time.  The things I have learned from her birth, her brief life and her death are a blessed part of who I am now.  And still there are pieces that come forward to be healed at a deeper level—to be integrated into who I am now.  This image of myself leaning against that wall is one of them.  For many years it has been the main image that comes to mind when I think of Katherine.

How I am thinking about this now is based on the research I have done on trauma studies with Susan Skye and the meditation teachers we hosted recently at Yoga on High, Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine.  My experience with Katherine was so traumatic for me that I have not been able to integrate it fully into my awareness.  This lack of integration of an overwhelming experience is an important protective mechanism at the time of the trauma, but can become a liability over time.  And that version of myself, the terrified and shocked new mother, is still very alive in me and sometimes gets triggered when something reminds her (me) of that event.  At that point, I respond as I did then, rather than being able to utilize the greater resources I have now.  The part of my brain that is activated does not know that time has passed since then—I am not having a memory of something that happened in the past, I am in present time AS that young mother.

But, now another level of healing is happening.  Using the meditation techniques we experienced with Lorin and Camille I am having a new experience of that moment in my life—it seems as thought that young part of myself is coming back to ask me to have a new relationship with her.  Here’s what happened:  I was lying in bed offering myself reiki the other day.  I do this almost every morning and it is a time of deep relaxation and self-connection.  I offer myself the loving energy of reiki and self-acceptance and on this day I remember really basking in a deep glow of peaceful, vibrant energy flow.  I hadn’t thought of the image described above for a long time—months, maybe even a year.  Yet suddenly in the midst of the loving energy here she was, leaning against the wall, collapsed in fear and loss.  I have offered her love before, many times, but generally in the context of a meditative experience I turn away from the images and thoughts that arise and go back to my original focus—in this case feeling the reiki.  But this day, she seemed too real to me and I could not turn away.  I internally gave her some empathy in a way I learned from Susan Skye, and then psychically wrapped her in my arms and brought her into my reiki meditation!  She and I lay there together feeling the glow of reiki and I know I will never be the same again.

This morning when I was meditating again I had more images of myself at that time—my ICU self was there but so was the amazed and delighted mother gazing at her darling newborn daughter before I knew there was something wrong with her heart.  I realized that those memories have not been available to me—the exhausting triumph of her birth, the adoration of a new mother for the most beautiful baby ever born, the proud woman showing off her baby to family—these memories had somehow disappeared in the trauma of her death.  They are starting to return now and I am celebrating each one as a part of the fullness of this experience of Katherine’s life that we shared in person for nine months and 3 days, and in another way for the whole of my life since then.

Even though my meditation is only very slightly different now, the difference is huge. The thoughts and images that arise are no longer “in my way” or to be gotten rid of.  I now understand them as precious parts of myself that are asking for my attention and caring, to be brought into the wholeness of who I am.  And they are more likely to do that in the ground of relaxation that a delicious meditation can provide.  From now on my meditation time will be a safe haven for all of me.


To the New Yoga Teachers

By Linda Oshins

As the teacher trainees teach their certification classes, spending an hour and a half leading their peers through each phase of a beginner’s class, I can see and applaud every person’s journey from the first week of training through this last step into their own voice and vision. After graduation, the real learning begins. With all their tools in tact, these new teachers will grow wiser from watching their students—their bodies’ movements and energy flow, their breathing patterns, the slow release of physical and mental tension, the softening of the brow and the gaze.

The teacher trainees have worked hard to acquire some level of mastery and confidence in their skills, and now they have to answer the question, what kind of teacher am I, distinct from everyone else, given what I have to say and do from a place of complete honesty?

Even after all theses years of teaching yoga, every time I acquire a new skill and teach it, I’m a new teacher. I have to feel that I have enough knowledge and experience to merit sharing my skill with others. I have my insecurities and needs for affirmation like anybody else. Besides doing my daily practices, I have done lots of reading on my subject, reviewed the research literature, outlined my classes, and written up the after-class synopsis of what worked and what didn’t, but at some point I throw it all away. From a fresh place, I want to listen to the actual experience we are all having. I want to remember that a novice student’s experience of pranayama, for example, has the same weight and profundity as mine or anyone else’s. I want to be able to be “wrong” and find it as interesting as being “right,” and to live in uncertainty as comfortably as I can.

In Early Morning, Kim Stafford’s memoire of his father, William Stafford, he describes two ways of teaching writing. In the first, the erudite professor tells the student what he knows, often brilliantly; in the second, his father “interviews” his class, “puzzled, and his students help him.” Kim said that sometimes when he taught in the first manner, “…I would feel drunk with insight. Sentences spilled forth from my reading, my pondering, my pure invention. But when I finished we all dwelt in the trance of “so what?” So what if all these ideas were important to me. What question was bigger than me? What question would require the students to help me?”

I want to embrace that odd dance between knowing something and not-knowing, leaving myself open to unsuspected discoveries. Between being the teacher with the insight and being the witness for the insightful student. Being the student of student. It’s easy to remember that when I watch the teacher trainees teach their last certification class at Yoga on High.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2011, you who have acquired such expertise and insight in 12 intense months of study and practice and taught me so much. You have enough, you are enough. Nobody knows everything.


Beginner’s Mind

By Marcia Miller

This is the beginning of our Yoga on High blog and we hope you’ll join us on this new adventure.  Linda, Martha and I will share entries from time to time so you can see a range of thoughts from yoga-infused minds. 

These days I’m very much immersed in beginnings.  As many of you know I broke my ankle in 3 places in April.  I’m now up and about but very aware of so many recent firsts. I recall with great joy the first time I could get into the bathtub by myself.  That took about 5 weeks, was very scary and took every once of my strength.  But what a relief to be able to choose the time I could get clean.  It was a huge effort to get me clean before that—requiring lots of time and energy from both my husband and myself.  And I clearly remember standing at my bathroom sink for the first time with two feet on the ground!  It took about 8 weeks of healing to get to that point.   My first downward facing dog was tentative but blissful and I’m gradually adding in some of my favorite practices each week.  Each new thing I can do again brings waves of gratitude and I find that I am much more aware of the sorts of things I might have not given full attention to in the past.  Just to go down a stair or two takes my full attention and I am so grateful to be able to navigate this simple task on my feet instead of my butt, without a walker or crutches.  It took many weeks to get up the nerve to try my first handstand.  I did it in shoes to offer support to my weakened ankles.  Do you realize how much ankle flexibility it takes to leap up in a handstand?  I had no idea until now. But the exhilaration that I remembered was still there and that was great for my soul.  And after being lovingly cared for by my husband, Kevin, I was ecstatic to be able to wash a couple of dishes one day a couple of weeks ago.  I will not be taking any of my daily tasks for granted in the near future.  Nearly every moment has been an opportunity for celebration since I have been doing everything for the first time again.


The Beginning

Those who know Marcia, Martha and Linda know that they are not young in years (young in heart and body, yes). Social media is not their native medium. They prefer a group setting where you can stand on your head if you want to. But they have been convinced that what they have to say or show in a blog might actually be of interest or use to others, so they are bowing to the suggestion and starting “Three Yogis Walk into a Blog.” Every week one of them will post a blog entry on their favorite ruminations and insights for the week, or invite a guest blogger to do so. Look for audio and video clips, short practice exercises, recipes and Ayurvedic tips for health as well as short essays on various topics.  They invite you to join them in an exploration of yoga over the web and into the heart.

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin.
Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
~Alan Cohen~

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