Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Gift of Silence and Simplicity

To play, or not to play music in yoga class. That is the question.

I used to always play music when I practiced and taught class, and I loved it. And my students loved it. These days, however, I never practice with music, not even in an hour long restorative practice. And over the past few years, I have really moved away from bringing music in during the instruction portion of class, but I usually include music at the end of class for savasana. For restorative yoga, I only play a little in the first pose, then I create the opportunity for the students to get comfortable and accustomed to silence because I feel that this is an important part of the practice.

Now don't misunderstand, I LOVE music. I do. I have always loved music, but I have really grown and come to love and crave silence and simplicity in my practice over the years. It's taken me a long time to appreciate and get comfortable with just being with myself, my body and my breath in my practice. And I cannot even begin to express the joy and rejuvenation that doing a quiet focused practice gives me. A quiet practice has helped me to heal from chronic stress and fatigue.

Recently some students who've been in my classes for a long time have mentioned they miss the music I used to play. When I share with them that I do not play music during instruction time because I feel it can be distracting and I want students to just focus on their breath and their practice. invariably I hear that the music is not a distraction but a delight. This is great feedback, and I appreciate it and am taking it in.

And this is also a conundrum for me as a teacher. Why? The reason I feel torn on this is because I am someone who wants to learn, and I want to listen to and hear what my students have to say. I also am someone who really believes in the middle way of doing things. I am not a this or that, black or white person. I really believe that there is a balance between those two places. That said, I also have to trust myself as a teacher and student of yoga. I have to trust that I what I have found valuable and important in my own practice is worthy of sharing with others. And here is where it gets tricky. Do I do what makes my students happy and pleases them and fulfills their expectation of what they are used to or like, or do I share what I have learned and what I think is important and useful and valuable right now? Maybe it's a bit of both?

As I have said, I believe there is a place in the middle where we can meet, but not at the expense of what I deem is a truly valuable part of the practice, and what I am noticing is missing in practice these days. And I certainly don't want to play music just because I want to be liked and/or because I want to please my students. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to be willing to find middle ground. You see? It's tricky. So in order to untangle and clarify this a bit, let me share why I made the decision to move away from playing music in class.

The reason that I have moved away from music during class is because I felt that people needed a break from too much. We are used to noise all day long, and we are used to doing multiple things at once (e.g. perusing our phones or computers while eating breakfast, talking on the phone while driving, texting while waiting in line, et cetera). I know this is the norm and something we have all become accustomed to, but I feel we need a break from that. It doesn't appear that most of us make time for silence or rest in our days except for when we lie down in bed to go to sleep. We are on the go and doing all day long. And we are exhausted at the end of our days because we are doing so much all the time. To stop, to pause for a moment, to breathe, to get quiet and feel where we are is so foreign that it's uncomfortable.

What I've come to learn is that my yoga practice offers me a much needed break from all of that. And perhaps this is the gift of our yoga practice? Our practice reminds us to slow down, to listen in, to take a moment to absorb our experiences instead of rushing through them. Our practice is not meant to be another thing we hurry up and do so that we can say we exercised today. The point of practice is to create time and space for us to go inward, to move from the external to the internal.
Listen, my life is busy and noisy, too. Perhaps that's why I've taken up a more quiet and simple practice. I need that kind of practice because my days are full of doing multiple things, and hearing multiple voices, and life singing in chorus and in rounds at me. Maybe because my days are full of caring for my children and being out in the world, I have come to understand that I need sacred breaks. I need time to be with just myself, my body, and my breath on my mat. And the simplicity of that is everything.

Maybe I really have learned what it means to take care of myself in my life through my practice, and that every time I have stepped onto my mat over the last 17 years has yielded great insights and a craving for depth. Maybe I have learned the art of drawing my senses inward, a state in yoga called pratyahara, in which I truly revel in the sweetness of silence, of listening in and just being with myself. And maybe this is one of the gifts I have to share.

And maybe this is what I want to share with the people who come to my class. This is what I have to get clear on. I have to remember that I have always been taught to teach what I know, to teach from a place of integrity and heart. And this is where I have to make my teaching choices from.

I do think learning how to be still and quiet is an important part of the practice, but it's not necessarily easy or comfortable at first. So maybe we are all learning something new, and it will just take time to get acquainted with the space that is created when music is not played. We all need moments when we just turn the volume of the world down and just simply hear and feel our breath while we practice. Maybe the sound and song of the breath is enough. Maybe just doing one thing at a time and having time to be still and quiet is the greatest gift and teaching I can offer students at this time.

Blessings, Marcia

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two my life flows."
(Nisargadatta Marahaji)

February 1, 2017

A whole new year has begun since the last time I sat down to write. And since my last post, a lot has happened in my personal life and in the world around me. The end of 2016 went out hard and the new year began in much the same way with me getting a strange virus and getting really sick.

My family and I went camping on a small organic farm outside of Tombstone in the hopes of ending out the year in a quiet, peaceful way. Of course, life had other plans. We had a good time on our trip, minus the fact that I was exhausted and did not sleep well and then got sick.  Once the virus hit, it hit hard attacking my liver and nervous system and was painful. Thankfully, though, no one else in my family got sick.  It took a good 2 weeks to recover and, really, I still feel a bit turned around and behind from it.  That said, I am feeling pretty good now, and slowly but surely getting back on track.

In other good news regarding family, we have experienced a big turnaround with Liam since he went on the anti-anxiety medication.  What a difference it has made in my son and my family's life to not have so much intensity and difficulty and stress on a daily basis. Liam is much happier, more cooperative, more helpful and easy going, and much more active than he was prior to the medication.

And I am happy to report homeschool is going alright, it's not perfect, but it's getting pretty good. The best part of having both kids home for school is the fact that they have really bonded together.  It's been so great to see them hang out together and buddy up. I was worried they would bug each other and drive me and Jason nuts.  I am happy to say that has not happened, they have their moments or days, but not too often.

In the world, leadership changed hands and that has been an intense and disappointing and pretty much unbelievable shift. What a stark difference from the Obama administration to the debacle that is the T-rump administration. What a joke. The good news is, people are waking up and rising to the occasion to be empowered and to remember that: We be the many and they be the few.

Of course, like so many other people, I was feeling the worry and a deep concern for the way the tide has been changing, feeling the fear rising and feeling overwhelmed.  Now, however, I really just see T-rump as the catalyst for change and the puppet that he is.  Once I realized that, my worries began to shrink, and my faith began to expand.  And the most important realization I have come to in the midst of this very odd time is that it's so important to stay focused on life. To return to my family, my community, to daily life as is.

We all need to stay focused on what's important and anchored and clear headed at this time.  I know for myself that I have to keep to my practices in order to stay sane and calm. I have to keep to the things that help me stay grounded in my body, anchored in the moment so that I can be steady for  myself, my husband and kids, family and community. So I continue to step on my mat and practice, I take daily breath breaks, walk or move my body in some way to move the negative or worrisome energy out, eat well, and, most importantly, limit my intake of news.

I caught myself the other day feeling pulled under by the barrage of negative news in my Facebook news feed, which used to be really positive and uplifting.  These days, however, it's too much.  I did read a great article recently that essentially asked the question: Are you staying informed on current events, or are you getting immersed? And in the article, the author gave great tips for "How to Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed by Your Newsfeed". It's a great read with great tips.

You can read the full article at this link:

All we can do is what we can from where we are, right? And if we need to do more to make the world a little better and brighter, we rise to the occasion to do so. In the meantime, keep to your practices, stay connected to the moment, and give thanks for the good that is present. Oh! And change the steady diet of bad news to good news.  There are always good things going on in the world too! I think that is easy to forget as the good news seems to be buried under the mountain of bad news. The difficult and bad, sad and strange events and news have always been there.  It's just that now, they are hitting closer to home in order to wake as many of us up from our slumber as possible. So wipe the sleep out of your eyes, sit up, breath, stretch, and stand up tall and steady on your feet.

And most importantly my friends, stay anchored in your heart and be as kind as possible every chance you get.

With Love and a Hopeful, Optimistic Heart,


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bricks and Mortar

Just a note: I started this post a week or two ago and have been sitting on it.  Today, I was able to add to it and finish it. Read on.

I don't have lot of time to write as I only have a small window of time to call my own.  I will get down what I can in the hopes that this will release some of the weight I feel.

I feel tender and heavy, sad, mad and unclear today after our meeting with our therapist yesterday afternoon.  We met with our therapist yesterday to go over the results of the assessment forms that I filled out for me and Liam. I was not surprised by the results but am not happy about them all the same.

As far as Liam's assessment results go we are looking at: depression, anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, some obsessive compulsive tendencies, and sensory issues. I feel like a ton of bricks were just placed in my lap, and they feel heavy and cumbersome. That information, all those labels are a lot to take in, and I dislike all of it.  I feel deeply sad about all of it.

I thought that I would feel some relief just knowing what we are dealing with, but the truth is that I don't. I hate all these labels. I hate that my son feels like shit so often.  I hate that this is "just how his brain is". I don't even know what that means! I hate that he will have this to deal with his whole life. At least that's what the therapist said. But honestly, I find myself railing against that idea because I don't want that to be true and am not sure what she means by that exactly. There's gotta be a way to help him feel better, to feel like himself, and I'm going to figure this out.

I feel grief, not relief. I wish my son did not have to deal with all this weight either. This is far too much for a boy who just turned 10.  I know that as I let this information sink in, we will find a better way together. I know, and really hope, that the psychiatric evaluation will help give us some clarity and direction because we really need help navigating all this so we can help Liam to feel better, more balanced and happy.

For now, though, I feel I need to allow myself to feel this disappointment and sadness fully. I need to feel this strange, unfamiliar loss and let it move through me so I can clear it out. Otherwise, I will never be able to start fresh and look at things with new eyes.

I know a lot of people, friends and family, struggle with depression and anxiety and mood disorders, and I know that they have found some relief with medication.  But some folks I know are more zombified by the medication and just sort-of live. Meaning, they just get through their days half alive on auto pilot. And the truth is that I worry about the addictiveness of medication and the long-term effects they might have on my son, and the fact that Liam is just 10!

I know medication can help, but I feel so averse to this route. I don't know. All I know is that I have a lot to think about and to consider, and I really hope that our psychiatrist is open and knows of other alternative ways to help balance Liam's brain and emotions other than just medication.

To add to all this, when we went over the stress assessment that I filed out for myself, it was as I thought it would be.  On a scale of 100, there were several areas where my score was 96! Not good, but not a surprise either.  I know that I feel stressed and depleted and have felt sort-of locked in my life for a long time now.  I don't think that Jason and I have had a typical or easy parenting journey. In fact, from birth on, motherhood has not been an easy or smooth experience for me.

I always imagined myself taking to motherhood easily and naturally as I consider myself a nurturer by nature.  But the truth is, I have found my mothering journey way harder than I ever anticipated it would be.  I also thought my births would be smooth and easy because I was healthy and fit and everyone pegged me for easy births, all for the very same reasons that I just mentioned. But both Liam and Lila's births were traumatic, but in very different ways. And I'm not going to launch into that now. The reason that I mention this is because it was the start of the biggest learning and growing period and experience of my life as a mother-so far. I am sure there is more to come, there always is.

Anyway, I am beginning to realize that the reason that my life as a mother has been hard is not because I am inept or lacking some special ability to be a good mother, or that Jason or I have failed on some level.  Mine and Jason's experience has been hard because well, we have not been dealt an easy hand. It has been hard because it is hard. It is as it seems. We have bummed up against a lot of unexpected challenges and issues from traumatic births to heart issues, from issues with Lila's teeth to sensory and anxiety issues,  to difficulty with school and more.

I don't think that I realized or even considered the fact that I am doing a good job until a friend of mine pointed out to me that I am. My friend mentioned to me that she thinks I am quite skillful and calm and that all my years as a yogi have really served me. Fancy that. And here all this time, I have been thinking that I am not handling things well enough. Funny how that not-good-enough feeling creeps in everywhere!

So back to it...

All I know at this point is that it just is what it is and now all my energy and attention and love has to go toward helping my kids and family to heal and balance out.  There is still so much that Jason and I need and want to learn and still so many things to consider as far as what changes we can make in order to turn our troubles into triumphs.

I feel that little by little, I am getting clues, and help is coming in different ways and from different sources than where I have been looking. The point is that help and insights are coming. They are still coming slower than I want, of course, but they are coming.

In an effort to reduce stress and make strides toward real change, we decided to pull Liam from school and have begun homeschooling him. Lila has decided, for the time being, that she would like to stay at school because she really likes being with her friends. She is such a sweet, social being. Lila could give a hoot about the rest of school, though. So for now, Lila goes to school while Liam stays home with us.

At first, I felt pretty sad about having to pull Liam from school because I really wanted it to work and because I felt like we were forced to choose homeschool as an option because we had run out of  options. And on some level, that's true.  That said, it's not the whole story nor is it the end of the story, it's just the beginning of a new story. After a bit of grieving, I have come to accept our decision and am embracing it. As I have sat with and come to terms with this whole homeschooling choice, I have come to realize that the only thing we need to focus on right now is Liam's health and happiness.

So the first thing we did was to become part of a local homeschool group and that has been an excellent help and decision. At our first meet up with the group, I met an amazing woman through this group who is also new to homeschooling. We have really connected and have been meeting weekly since. She has really been a Godsend to me in more ways than one.  And the best part is that her son and my son have also connected which is such a blessing because Liam has been in need of a friend, and I guess I have too. Actually, our families are a really compatible. She has a younger son Lila's age, so it's a great match, and maybe we all have been needing each other. And I know it's something special because the minute I saw her and her son, I recognized her as someone I knew, like an old friend.

So homeschool has already yielded great benefits and opportunities. And pulling Liam out of school has helped relieve some stress as far as morning's go.  We still have a lot of work to do as far as helping Liam goes, but we are one step closer, and at least we are moving in the direction of change for the better.

I suppose with some time and changes, we will figure out all of the other stuff, and I will know what to do with and how to think of all the labels-the bricks that were recently placed in our lap. Life is all about how we make use of what we've got, right? So now Jason and I have to find a way to make a magic mortar in order to build something with our pile of bricks instead of being weighed down by them. Something from nothing is the phrase that comes to mind. Or it could be that from nothing we are making something. You get what I mean.

Onward and Upward.

Peace to All,