Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blogging with Love

Yes, it’s that time of year again: Breast Cancer awareness month. Wherever you are, I doubt very much that you are unaware of breast cancer, but maybe you need to be reminded to join up or donate to Dr. Susan Love's Research Foundation Army of Women Program, which helps scientists in their quest to locate the cause of this disease and eradicate it from our planet forevermore.
            On October 1,  the Foundation is launching a new research initiative and you can be part of it. The Health of Women Study is a new revolutionary project that aims to find out why breast cancer occurs and how we can prevent it. Please click on the link to visit the website and sign up to participate.  The HOW Study is a first-of-its-kind international online study that will collect information from women and men with and without a history of breast cancer. The questionnaires are filled out online.  
            The problem (among many others) about breast cancer (and cancer in general), a club that I personally belong to (since even if you’re a “survivor” as I am you must be “on the lookout” for the rest of your life), is that it has so many members and discriminates against no one. Breast cancer will gladly accept your mother, your daughter, your best friend, your wife, your grandmother, your sister, and even your son (yes, some men are also accepted into the breast cancer sorority). Believe me, it’s a club that you don’t want to get into, but chances are you know one or more of its members. We seem to be everywhere. I know more women who have had breast cancer than I care to count. And the list keeps growing.
            Have we so severely poisoned our planet and ourselves with various toxins that we will never find a cure for this and other cancers? I believe not. And as an avid reader of heath-related materials, I know that there are many brilliant minds working on the cure. Dr. Susan Love’s Research Foundation Army Of Women Program is a crucial part of this movement, and I hope that you will choose to help support this cause and effort in any way you can. The HOW Study is a great way to get involved.

            Thank you!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Way of the Peaceful Yogi

The other day, while my husband and I were taking our morning walk, I casually mentioned that maybe yoga could save the world. He looked at me like I was more than a little nuts and said, “Come on, now. You’re sounding like some kind of religious zealot.” (I admit I do tend to be a little head-over-heels about my favorite pastime.)
            But why can’t yoga save the world? After all, if everyone practiced yoga (excluding babies, but they are actually natural-born yogis, some say), the world would be quite a different place. For one thing, if everyone practiced ahimsa, or non-harming, there would be no wars. And the planet would certainly be better off, because no one would be harming Mother Earth, either. Most likely, a number of diseases could be healed as well. We’d all stop chasing after the demands of our egos and try to see things from a more balanced perspective.
            Maybe it’s silly to think that yoga could save the world, but on the other hand, yoga does keep spreading, and I’ve yet to see the negative consequences (other than the fact that the Whole Foods parking lot is always full). There are yoga centers everywhere these days, and it’s not uncommon to find even the most unlikely candidates pulling out their mats. Twenty years ago if someone yelled “downward dog!” in a crowded movie theatre, no one would have known what it meant. But today, I’m sure at least a third of the folks would know exactly what asana was being described.
            Yoga is infiltrating grade schools and churches, libraries and senior centers, police departments, corporations and football teams…so why shouldn’t it get to the point where a giant, cosmic, yogic shift starts to take place? Some say it’s already happening.
            I may be a dreamer (and maybe I am a yoga zealot), but it seems to me that following the tenets of yoga may indeed be the only way for the planet to survive. To be strong yet peaceful, to be compassionate yet disciplined, to be respectful of the natural environment, the self, and others seems the best way to ensure future survival. Of course, you don’t have to be a yogi to believe in these things (any more than you have to be a church-goer to do good deeds). Some of my best friends, after all, would not call themselves yogis (even though they live as yogis do).
Still, I maintain that it’s only a matter of time before yoga takes over the world. And when that cosmic shift happens-- when there are more people who can stand on their heads than people who can’t--humanity is going to view life from a very different perspective. Like it or not, yoga is on a roll, so if you haven't yet, you might as well pass the gluten-free vegan granola bars and join us.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You Say Tomatoes...

My dear friend stopped over recently with these gorgeous tomatoes from her garden.  They were so beautiful (and tasty) that I had to take a picture.  It took my family a week or more to gobble them all up, but the baskets are now empty. However, they’ll soon be filled again with vegetables and fruits from the organic co-op I joined a few years back. This is the time of year when the harvest is really flowing.                              
            I was thinking about the tomatoes this morning when I was at a yoga festival in Pennsylvania. The topic of today’s class was prosperity and abundance, and the instructors pointed out that one of the first laws of realizing prosperity is knowing that we are already prosperous.  I like to harp on this theme because I used to be prone to complaining about all the things I lack (cash being one of them!). But these days I see my life as that basket of tomatoes; full of ripe, juicy gifts.
            As I was driving home on this glorious Sunday afternoon, I noticed that the sky was bright blue, the sun was shining brightly and flocks of birds were soaring. Abundance! I thought. Prosperity!
            Then I got home and opened my email (which I hadn’t checked in four days). There were hundreds of emails (most of them junk!). “Abundance!” I looked at the bag of laundry that I’d dragged in from the car from my outing. So much of it!  “Abundance!” I checked my “to do” list for tomorrow.  “Abundance!”
            And then I thought back to the tomatoes. Abundance can go two ways. You can have too much of something you don’t really want (i.e. laundry or dirty dishes) as well as plenty of sunshine, tomatoes, and blue skies. And yet with everything that we do have (the good and the bad) why is it so tempting to focus on what we haven’t yet acquired or accomplished?
            Like everything else, I’m beginning to realize that prosperity has nothing to do with what’s outside ourselves and everything to do with our mindset and “heart-set.” I can feel rich, loved, full, satisfied, satiated and rewarded by a basket of tomatoes given to me by my beloved friend.  Tomatoes (or to-mah-tos!)…not twenties….are my riches. What are yours?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

So What!

This weekend I had the opportunity to take a children’s yoga teacher training with an incredible teacher named Gurudass Kaur. Along with learning various methods of teaching kids yoga, we also got to act like kids. We threw balloons at each other, played circle games, danced and made funny noises.  Intermixed with the hard work of listening, paying attention and learning was not only the spirit of play, but also the actual experience of it, and in so doing I realized that I haven’t played in a very long time.
            Most of the folks at this workshop had some intention of using these skills to teach actual children. But I was sold on the course by one line in the workshop description that had nothing to do with teaching the wee ones: that it could “wake up your inner child.” I had a feeling that my inner child had been taking a very long nap, and I was right.
            When you have little kids your chances of getting to play are available on a daily basis, though I do suspect that many parents are so concerned with being the grownup and acting the part that they resist letting out all the stops even when they’re playing with their kids. There are always those nagging grownup thoughts that are hard to ignore when you’re playing with your own offspring (i.e. “I have to put that second load of laundry in!” or  “I’d better cut this off or he won’t get to bed on time!” etc.). It’s easy, as adults, to get caught up in “acting our age.” And true enough, we’d be in a fine fix if we all went around behaving like two year olds or even like teenagers. I could imagine the chaos if all the grownups suddenly decided to drop everything except playing Candyland or video games.
            In any case, once my inner child was awakened this weekend I laughed so hard I literally couldn’t stop. I can’t remember the last time I actually hooted and howled with the bliss of pure fun.
            Of course, being a kid also brought back some of the same insecurities I felt as a child. There were memory games (ouch!) and coordination activities, and moments when I had to “share” thoughts or feelings with the group. So along with the fun, I was reminded of what it used to be like to be uncomfortably shy or to not be “good” at a sport or activity.
            What was our yoga teacher’s advice for us to use when a child doesn’t want to do something or join in? Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard: Let that child be her or himself. He doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to. So what if he doesn’t want to balance on an imaginary balancing beam?  So what if he doesn’t want to join in circle time? So what if she doesn’t want to play ball?         
            Playing was amazing, invigorating and inspiring. But the best lesson of all was the reminder that we are who we are. And if I’m not just like you (and you're not like me) so what? We don’t have to be. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You're My...Inspiration

Not long ago I was discussing inspiration with a friend who suggested it is best to write when you are feeling really inspired. I got to thinking about that and decided that most of the time if I waited to be inspired, not much would ever get written. On the other hand, without inspiration, it’s hard to get started. But does one write to be inspired, or does one get inspired to write? It’s a perplexing question that applies to other things as well.
            For instance, I’ve been waiting for about ten years now to be inspired to play the piano, but the instrument continues to sit in my living room collecting dust. Yet, I know from past experience (back when I did play the piano with regularity), that it was the playing itself that inspired me. When I was forced to play (i.e. by an impending piano lesson), I might approach the keys with absolutely no sense of inspiration at all, but after a few bars of say, Debussy or Ravel, I was smokin’!
            Sometimes, external things do inspire us: Beautiful sunflowers, a walk in the woods, towering pine trees, mountains, a multi-colored evening sky, are all pathways to inspiration. But when there’s a job to be done, like writing a column or learning a piece of music, sometimes you just have to sit down and do it. And in the doing itself, comes the inspiration, comes the bliss, comes the satisfaction and connection. Believe it or not, some of my best writing comes when I have virtually nothing to say, as if the words rise out of ashes--an absolute miracle! It’s simply about sitting down, going within, opening the doors, and pounding out the sentences.
            What about life itself? Do you get up in the morning because you feel inspired by the arrival of a new day? Or do you drag yourself out of bed and drive to work in a funk, only to be suddenly inspired by a butterfly that crosses your path, or an unexpected smile from a stranger? Is it the living itself that brings inspiration, or do you need some kind of inspiration to get out there and live? Hmmm.
            It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Sometimes I think I am definitely of the inspired-by-doing camp, but at other times I’m of the get-inspired-and-then-do variety. Or maybe we’re all just a combination or mix.
 In any case, I’m grateful for sunflowers, bagpipes, songbirds, cumulus clouds, and anything else that can get me to sit down and write. And I’m grateful, too, that sometimes I can just sit down and write and in the writing itself find the inspiration to put one word…one step… after another.