I am in a unique situation that is forcing me to see things differently.  The situation is an opportunity.  In this opportunity, learning to be a yoga teacher, I am learning about the idea of emptiness, the idea that grounds Buddhism and yoga philosophy.  Once I finally allowed this idea of emptiness to be planted in my mind, I realized that with each moment of life that I was misinterpreting, I had the responsibility to reinterpret the moment for what it was, empty of its own nature.  This is a difficult yet life-giving task.

A brief explanation of emptiness:  Emptiness is the notion that nothing has its own nature – our perceptions are nothing but perceptions.  Our minds work in ways to make us believe that everything has its own true essence, so that the computer I’m typing on is, well, a computer.  The end.  When we apply the idea of emptiness, reality changes.  Without my twisted mind getting in the way to call see this thing as a computer in and of itself, this is a thing made up of a bunch of little squares with shapes on them, connected to a rectangle connected to a rectangle and all these other little microrectangles that function as a computer.  One day this rectangle of a rectangle will not function anymore.  And while it may function as a mechanism of productivity for me, it may function as a toy for my son.  It may function as a warm (and hard) bed for a kitty cat.  So, I see this computer as a computer because of my own perceptions of it.  The way I see things comes from ME, not from the things I am saying. 

It’s expected, in the beginning of “getting” emptiness, that one goes back and forth, forgetting that things come from us and not to us and then coming back to emptiness.  Even in the atmosphere where I can express all of the yoga teachings to the fullest at teacher training school, I am noticing that I am reverting to my old conceptions. 

For example, in my attempts to constantly censor myself, I’ve noticed that when people seek to know about my life, I tend to act superficially until I know that (1) I am not burdening them in whatever way with knowledge about me (2) They are genuine in their concern (3) I have nothing to prove.  Though I know my yoga teacher is genuine in his concern, I feel that I burden him if I share or explain my pain and then suddenly I have something to prove:  that I am strong.  And then I become overanalytical, judging everything I say, judging everything my teacher says to me, wondering if I offended my teacher or a peer, UNTIL I remember emptiness. 

STOP!  STOP!  STOP!  Stop apologizing, stop wondering how others are perceiving me, stop doing all this nonsense, I have to say to my self.  See the situation for what it is.  When I am in pain, sometimes I am not genuine with others.  Sometimes I don’t speak meaningfully and truthfully.  Sometimes I engage in meaningless chatter because I am afraid to say that I’m in pain.  Sometimes I want to feel like I’m not in pain so I put on a smile and try to make others feel comfortable and good about themselves, and I agree with them when I really don’t or don’t even have an opinion about what they’re saying. 

Life Lesson 4:  Everything comes from me.       

Life Lesson 5:  I can change everything.

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A few months ago I transitioned to a gluten-free diet.  That’s when Whole Foods entered the picture, moving me up from a part-time shopper to a seriously full-time, once, twice or thrice a week shopper who brings her own bags to save the planet.  Whole Foods had the organic produce I was always too stingy to buy.  But my priorities changed.  It became important that I invest in the one body I have and feed it nutritious stuff free of man-made sh-tuf.  My friends laugh at me for it, but they’ll get it soon enough. 

Life Lesson 1: I laughed at my sister who said organic eggs TASTE better.  But she was right, and I am a convert. 

But, Whole Foods, I haven’t visited you lately, have I?  While I was busy getting nourished with the yummy goodness you offer, you stole my wallet!  You see, I started writing down the cost of my purchases and comparing to the local nutrition store just a 7 minute walk from my very own home.  The health food store won on many, though not all, of the products.  And even when Whole Foods offers the lower price, the gas I would waste alone to get there would make up for the difference.  Plus, in addition to the cheaper alternative, walking to the local store would be the healthier alternative that gets the body moving, the more social alternative greeting passerbys, the environmentally responsible alternative that leaves less carbon footprints, the support local business alternative that pays rent in the downtown area keeping it lively, and also offers the feeling of a slow down, take one step at a time and enjoy your life kinda lifestyle.  I like it.    

Life Lesson 2:  Realizing my priorities helps me make decisions.  Making decisions I believe in can lead to unintended delights. 

Life Lesson 3:  Tend your own garden first.

Happy Friday 😉 

I’ve always felt a pull towards creating stuff.  And I’m learning that creativity isn’t necessarily a reflection of the deepest darkest pits of our imagination.  Yah, pits.  Each thing I make, even the gluten-free vegan vanilla brownies or the silly flower pens, gives me a feeling of connection to myself and to the potential for human creativity.  So, for Amado’s birthday this year, I wanted to go further than my homemade Thomas train cake from last year’s second birthday.  This year’s theme was Cars the movie.  He had two birthday celebrations.

First we celebrated with his dad’s side and my mom and stepdad.  We mad a chocolate and yellow cake with buttercream frosting  in the shape of a car modeled after Chick Hicks, the antagonist in the movie.  Amado likes antagonists.

Although this car looks nothing like Chick Hicks, Amado made the connection and that’s the most important thing, right?

The following week, I made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting for my dad’s side of the family.  The aunts thought it looked cute but they really loved the taste.  It wasn’t sweet like other chocolate cakes.  I forgot to tell them it was an organic box cake and not homemade 🙂  I still feel guilty.   A simple free-hand drawing took much less effort than engineering a cake in the shape of a car.  Amado requested Doc Hudson, and so it was.

And though I’m gluten-free, I did have to take a taste for good measure.

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I was living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a few months when one day I decided to take a healthy walk by myself along a dried up river.  I could hardly hear the nearby traffic, which the birds did a beautiful job of drowning out.  The patch of earth was a desolate spot even though it was so close to the cobblestone street that kind of marked the edge of town for me.  It was near the same little bridge where I once watched a horse break loose from its owner, cross the street despite the traffic, and laugh at the man he escaped, who was desperately trying to get ahold of him again.  

The sun was melting my face off and the humidity was 200% with no rain when I realized I wasn’t alone.  Approaching me, I could see from a distance, was a largely built and very fit runner.  He was wearing a baseball cap and dark sunglasses.  His red sleeveless shirt, drenched in sweat, made his muscles gorge out of his arms.  It was disgusting, but it was a perfect place for a famous person, like myself, or a really disgusting sweaty person, like the man in red, to go walking or running.  He zipped right by me, ignoring my existence.  In that instant, just as he swept away, I turned around to see if I had indeed been star struck.  Was that Sylvester Stallone?  He was healthy enough to go running, I’m sure.   This is a town that supposedly attracts “stars.”  It must have been him.  I told all my friends that day and I am still convinced that I had a silent encounter with Stallone.

But I don’t care.  Famous people are just people, you know.  What am I supposed to do?  Scream?  Rip my shirt off?  Pa-lease.  So when we were walking around the farmer’s market this past weekend and my husband told me, in Spanish mind you, to look at the man exactly to the left of me so that if I even turned left I would have wacked him in the eye, I’m thinking, “Oh man, not again.  Now who could it be?”  I don’t know who it would have to be for me to get excited.  Not even Johnny Depp or Salma Hayek would make me break the code of normalcy.  So who was it?  It was Jack Kevorkian.  Of course it was!  My husband took pictures of him on his phone a couple of years ago when they were both standing at a computer at the public library, which was a year after he got out on parole.  In prison for eight years serving a 10-25 year sentence while in his 70’s, he should be about 82-years-old.  It’s like living in Little L.A.

Imagine how much we can accomplish in just fifteen minutes a day...

Years ago I read Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis by Joan Bolker, Ed.D.  I was beginning a Master’s Thesis in 2003 while working full-time.  I struggled for years to bring my thesis to the forefront of my life, but life’s happenings usually beat me.  As my life perspective has changed and continues to change, and as I come to finally seeing my thesis as a final product, I’ve come to the realization on my own how “fifteen minutes a day” really works.

Making time to write is like making time for my new morning meditation ritual.  For weeks and even months I thought about wanting to meditate regularly.  Each day I would put it off until later until the day got away and I would never realize that moment of reflection.  Once I realized that the only feasible time to meditate was when I was the only one stirring in the house, I began waking up earlier.  I consciously carved a time out in my day to meditate.  And each time I meditate, I reinforce how powerful the act is, making me more and more committed to seeing through the next morning’s meditation.  Meditating in the wee early morning while the house is still silent has replaced my caffeine intake.  I have cut coffee and black tea completely and drink green tea as a treat.  I now look to meditation to get my brain going in the morning so that I am alert to the subtleties in the data I’m studying.  I feel prepared to deal with the challenges of the day and to recognize each moment, and challenge, as precious.  There is a level of commitment to this act, and even reliance on it. 

Writing “fifteen minutes a day” has taken on a similar role.  There are days where I literally only get fifteen minutes to write.  After getting ready in the morning, the short meditation of 8-12 minutes, making my tea and writing in my production journal, I may be working for only 15 minutes when my son has unexpectedly started his day before 7:30 a.m.  The teaser sample makes me want more.  I can’t wait, I look forward to, I rely on being able to write again.  But when I’m not writing, I don’t need to think about how I’m not getting anything done (though I do have those moments, they are not pervasive), because I trust that all the other moments of joy will only help me the next day when I write again. 

It is the simple act of carving out 15 minutes of my time daily to something I love that makes the 15 minutes so potent.  Making the time, the act itself, is how 15 minutes really works.  It’s like growing a plant.  When you give yourself to those things you love, they grow.  And the relationship is circular.  When I give time to my writing, I am giving time to myself, and we grow together.  If my goal is growth, how could I stop protecting this ritual that gives me fifteen minutes to two hours a day if I’m so lucky?  The real progress that is happening, even when one writing session is only filled with thinking, is too powerful to ignore.  Yet with the other elements that make up my life, this level of committment can be fragile.  And this is another way that “fifteen minutes a day” works.  “Fifteen minutes a day,” that’s all it takes to show your love, and it will grow all on its own.

I’d like to know: What makes you committed to your passion?  What are your daily rituals that help you stay connected to the different elements in your life? 

Following an example

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When you care for someone you want for them what you think is best.   So it becomes tempting to tell someone they should try to pick up healthier activities or food options.  For example, when I first started seeing the many benefits of practicing yoga years I go, I tried to introduce yoga to others I cared about.  It caught on for those who are open to new things, but not so much for the more reluctant and even defensive.  I didn’t realize there was a much more powerful way to go about it other than being direct.  NOT SAYING ANYTHING would work in a way I couldn’t imagine, while avoiding hurt feelings and defensive reactions.   JUST LEAD BY EXAMPLE.  Ultimately, when we choose to change or try something new for ourselves, a real transformation can result.

To “lead by example” is a common saying in our language, but it’s preciseness is not credited to the degree it should be.  But I never understood the power of the example until the last couple of months when a firestorm of change swept over my entire local network of family and friends. 

In late 2010, someone close to me told me she was going to cut down her gluten intake.  At the same time, my husband and I were considering doing a detox sometime in early 2011.   We were both having digestive issues and thought a good old-fashioned healthy raw diet would help us out.

A week before the detox, my close friend’s example made me realize that perhaps I should lay off the gluten and see what happened.  That week I felt much better than usual.  After the detox, I ate something that made me feel horribly sick, and after putting some pieces together, I realized I probably have candida albicans overgrowth in my system.  I remain on this candida detox diet today.

During this time, a friend of mine decided she needed to lose weight and started a program with a hospital in late January.  Her husband was supporting her by doing it himself.  Her coworkers observed her progress and commitment and within two weeks, two of her coworkers were ready to start the program themselves.  Her mother, father, and uncle also decided to begin eating healthier.  Our friend’s mother asked her in detail about what she eats, because she wanted to start eating healthier as well.  One by one, people around her began to FOLLOW HER EXAMPLE.    

Others close to me who have been dealing with major digestive distress saw me change my eating patterns as I remain on a candida detox.  Curious, one of these individuals bought a book on detox and is going to begin in the coming week.  She called me with questions.  I WANTED to suggest to her that she try a detox, but I was afraid that verbalizing it would make her pull away.  So she learned by MY example.

It’s all very magical.  Your wishes for others come true in their own time.  When I started practicing yoga in 1997 my mother thought I was crazy and even selfish for not eating breakfast with the family before my practice.  Since then, with a little encouragement from my sister she has tried yoga herself and is extremely encouraging of me to become a certified instructor.  And this chain of practicing yoga is longer than I realize.  Imagine how many lives will be changed because of one person learning from another’s example and not their suggestion. 

 How all of these events happen in conjunction is powerful and uplifting.  It’s pure magic.

In preparation for our first detox fast, I drove on snow covered roads to Whole Foods.  I met a gentlemen looking for watercress, something  I searched for earlier and had given up.  “How do you eat watercress,” he wondered? 

“We eat it, like rabbits, stem and all,” I answered wondering how else you’d eat it.  Wacko!  He must be new to watercress, I thought.

Or not!!!  This man, once medical student turned minister, juices watercress with other superfoods as an effort to treat his chronic fatigue syndrome.  He took me to the juicing carrots and explained how fat carrots have more nutrients than skinny ones.  We talked about peeing on ph strips to test our body’s acidity and he showed me the huge superfoods list floating above the bulk foods.  So far, his quality of life has changed. 

Returning to Whole Foods today to get the goods for our 3 days of straight-up juicing!!

Today's first lunch