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First, thank you, thank you to last week’s yogis.  Donations went to the Red Cross for disaster relief in the Philippines.

There will be two more Thursday night yoga classes this year before I head into the depths of the cave for hibernation.  See dates and details below.

 Thursday, November 21 @ 7:00 p.m. This is a pay-what-you-can donations class with 100% of the proceeds going to the Memphis Union Mission.  $50.10 will provide 30 Thanksgiving meals for those seeking food and shelter at the mission.  If you have gently used coats to spare, donate those too as they are currently having a coat drive.

Thursday, December 5 @ 7:00 p.m.  This is a pay-what-you-can donations class with 100% of the proceeds going to Church Health Center.

Both classes are in my cave, fireside.  Expect a slow, restorative practice focused on relaxation

For more information e-mail


9-3-13 001

Here is a list of stuff I’ve recently traded for the fresh eggs of Myrtle, Pearl, Gertrude, and Freebird:

1. two jars of homemade pickles

2. a loaf of whole grain organic bread

3. two hands full of home grown green beans

4. a bag of home grown cucumbers

5. a bag of home grown jalapeños and bell peppers

Also, a friend recently offered to house/dog/cat/duck/chicken sit if and when I ever go out of town again, in exchange for fresh eggs.

Personally, I find this an impressive list given I’ve had the girls less than a month. The farmy bartering makes me downright giddy. Let it go down on the record that I have not eaten any of the eggs myself. I gave up eggs January 11, 2011 as a strange experiment with “enlightenment.” On a side note, when I just went back to find the link to the first blog post in which I announced this decision, I realized that the date translates to 1-11-11 . I suppose I won’t be forgetting that date again. It wasn’t an intentional “oooh-here’s-a-date-with-a-buncha-ones-in-it,-let’s-do-something-crazy” sort of decision.  But apparently it was a good date for new beginnings, especially since the post I wrote right before that one was aptly named Conflict and Crisis.

a mama carrying her silver orb

a mama carrying her silver orb

On another tangential note…2 years, 10 months, and 1 day after beginning my enlightenment quest, my mother and I are still driving each other nutters. (Hi Mom!)

Looking back, it’s funny to see all the obvious patterns you missed as you’re moving through a life unfolding in real time. It’s also a little embarrassing. There I was, ego bare, for all to see.

And here I am still….


I wonder what obvious things I’m missing even now that I will look back on someday and snicker about.

duck eggs

duck eggs

The self-imposed egg prohibition was largely a symbolic gesture, which I attempted to explain many times to others (and to myself), as in the post: The Incredible Inedible Egg.  In spite of all this, it has never made much sense to any of us I’m afraid.  As a result I caught a lot of flack from family members who were baffled, horrified, or just plain outraged by my perceived havoc-wrecking habits on our family feasting functions.

My life is so different now from when I started all this. I am different. And I am the same. As life continues to unfold in real time, one pattern that has not escaped my notice is the irony.  For someone who has worked so hard to avoid eating eggs, I’m now surrounded by them being laid before me on a daily basis.  This certainly wasn’t planned, but it is welcomed.



A spiritual practice is one that brings us full circle – not to a new self, but rather back to the essence of our true selves.                                                                   

-Rolf Gates


I can’t unsee it.

–El D

The Hungry Raptor

The Hungry Raptor

My beautiful mistress demanded another blood sacrifice this week.

Hiram, our only boy duck that had manners, was taken out by a hungry raptor.

I was headed to work when I met the brazen beast near my car  in the midst of his macabre meal.  At first sight I was so captivated by the hawk’s beauty and proximity that it was all I could see.  I didn’t process the life being extinguished beneath his talon. And then, all at once I did, as the flood of life’s drama rushed in – the hunger, the struggle, and the sacrifice of one life for another.

Sacrifice.  When I was a child, the word conjured terrifying Biblical images of a world that made no sense: Abraham binding his son Isaac, slaughtered lambs, and gruesome crucifixions.  Such interesting tales told to Sunday school children.

Over the years, my understanding of the concept has deepened. When I became a vegetarian I began practicing what the word meant in action: to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.” I gave up my taste for flesh so that another life might go on for awhile longer.

My current lesson comes in noun form, “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.”

Within the linguistic roots of the word sacrifice is the word sacred.  That tangle of meanings is there for good reason.  The life and death of one thing is contained within the seed of another.  Everything must eventually give way for what comes next in Life’s yearning for itself.

This brings me to the topic of the Japanese beetles.  The scarabs are pretty; their shells are an iridescent mix of greens and golds.  However, they don’t belong here. These interlopers have been fornicating all over the roses and eating up the petals and leaves. Last season I came to the conclusion that while they’re pretty, they don’t smell nearly as good as the flowers,  so I poisoned them.  Then I questioned myself about the ethics of a vegetarian destryoing a happy bug’s life — and about poisoning the air, ground, and plants with hazardous chemicals.  Skattur suggested I pick the bugs off, pack them in a box, and ship them back to Japan.  I entertained this fantastic idea briefly, then I decided to pick them off and feed them to the ducks, who seem quite satisfied with this exotic delicacy.

The first harvest of the season comes at the heels of all this sacrificial obeisance.

june 21 010

I managed to pick about a dozen blueberries before the bushes became just another elaborate system for feeding winged-things.

We have also managed to salvage some lettuce, radishes, and a few raspberries, which made a pretty salad.

july 7 2012 001

Keep in mind that you are making memories…..And know that if anyone ever says to you, “What will you always remember about this place?” you will know just exactly which story it is that you want to tell them.

–Pam Conrad, Our House

True Story.

One year and seven months ago I had a vivid dream. I was standing in the middle of a white room. Everything was white – the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the cabinets. There was an incredible amount of light – bright, but not blinding – reflecting off all those white surfaces. It was home.

The pole outside my dream building

After waking up from that dream, the Devil and I started our Saturday by visiting a farmer’s market,which led to a walk around the surrounding area.  As we were strolling down Main Street I stopped to take a peek in the window of a building that was for sale. To my astonishment, I saw what appeared to be straight out of my dream: a solid white room. The building was formerly an art studio and it even had the prerequisite lighting. To compound the surreality of that moment, when I turned from the window to ponder this strange coincidence I spotted my friend Meredith making her way across the street towards us.  She was rocking out a kimono. I wondered absently if I was still dreaming.  I wasn’t.

All smiles, waves, and hugs, she approached, “Heeeeeeey! What are you two doing here?”

“Trying to figure out how to buy this building…” I said without thinking.

“Oh! Come with me.” she said.

And just like that, we followed.

A couple doors down from my dream building was another art studio. Meredith led us in, introduced us to the couple that owned the place. They gave us a tour of their apartment on the second floor. We chatted for quite some time with the couple. Hours. At some point the other neighbors were called. We met them. More time flew by. By the end of the visit I was convinced the dream building and these neighbors were meant to be mine. So began my infatuation. I saved, I planned, I plotted. I made regular pilgrimages to the place. I talked about it to real estate agents, bankers, and basically to anyone and everyone who would listen.

As it turned out, some horrible man bought the building before I could and turned it into a fitness center. Maybe he really isn’t a horrible man. Still, he bought my building. Horrible!

is this home…?

Time marched on. The home search continued. We looked far and wide in a search that spanned two states, multiple cities, and countless houses and buildings. I could have been satisfied with most of the houses we toured. The Devil would have none of it. The only two houses he liked out of the whole lot were bizarre and utterly uninhabitable for mere mortals.  One had a basement that reeked so badly of mold and mildew that neither I nor the agent would even venture down there. The Devil spent a solid half hour exploring just the basement of that place, obviously plotting out the nefarious deeds he could accomplish in that lair. The other of his “likes” was a huge, dilapidated Victorian thing in Little Rock, worthy of the likes of Miss Havisham.  It came with holes in the roof that allowed birds – and no telling what other manner of wildlife – to nest in the attic.

they certainly seem at home…

someone left the recipe for blueberry muffins on the pantry door of this home…

After over 12 months of all this I grew increasingly frustrated. One afternoon, the Devil took me to see We Bought a Zoo.  Great movie — wonderful story.  Afterwards the Devil says to me, “I want it to be that way for us.  I want to have that feeling where we just walk in a place and know it’s right – to know that this is where we’re supposed to be.”

Thinking of my dream building and the dozens of other houses we’d seen that I could have worked with, but that were unacceptable to him, I replied, “Yes, that’s a nice fantasy. But let’s get back to reality…I need a place to live and work where I don’t have to keep doing this crazy state-to-state commute. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life looking for something that doesn’t exist.” What I thought but didn’t say is: PLEASE! Can’t we stay logical? Analytical?  Task-oriented?

I ripped the nasty carpet out of one room and painted my frustration on the floor…

And finally, mid-March of this year I gave up. I was done looking at houses – completely over it. I told him so. We could just live in our existing home for the rest of our lives. We could die and rot there for all I cared. After all, there was nothing wrong our existing home. We just needed to get rid of about 17 years of stuff so we could have room to breathe within the limits of its walls.  We just needed to get rid of disgusting 17 year old carpet that had outlived (I use the term loosely) two pets.  We just needed to hire an exorcist to get rid of all the former versions of ourselves that haunted the shadows of every room.  So I called off the house search.  We would have to do what we had to do to make our existing home more happy and livable.

We agreed to begin by replacing the carpet the week I was back in town for spring break.

As the week before spring break drew to a close, the Devil came calling. He told me he wanted me to look at just one more house.  He had spotted a “for sale” sign in the yard as he drove by. It had only been on the market for 12 days.

Given his strange ideas about acceptable living quarters, I was not even remotely enthused by this prospect.  He was enthusiastic enough for us both. I looked at the pictures of the place online and it didn’t look horrible, so finally I acquiesced. He called our agent and set up the appointment.

The moment I walked in the door I felt it.




…that feeling where you just walk in a place and know it’s right. So strong was the feeling I was overcome. What in the world is wrong with me? I’ve been watching too many damned movies. On the verge of tears, I stepped back outside to collect myself before anyone saw me: the crying crazy lady.  The owner of the house stepped outside with me and said, “I’ve been praying for you to come buy my house.”

We spent an hour that day looking at the house and the grounds.  It was amazing. As we were getting ready to leave, the owner cut her eyes at me and said again, “I’m praying you’re going to buy this house….”

I replied, “…and I’m praying you’re going to sell it to me.”

We moved in 4o days later.

Unlike my dream, nothing here is white.  Everywhere you turn there is color and there is light.

Backyard Sunflowers Rejoice

Tadasana (aka Mountain Pose) has become a staple balance pose in my practice.  Here’s how you do it:

Stand there.


That’s really all there is to it.

If you want more directions – balance your weight on both feet, engage thighs, tuck your tailbone just a hair, and stand there chest proud and chin parallel to the floor.

It’s that simple. Witness the balance and strength you have standing on your own two feet. Then you can go apply that little lesson to life when you step off the mat.

Beyond the Mountain, there are all sorts of poses to practice to learn more about balance.

Vision can be a helpful tool to acquire balance initially.  If you want to go that route, choose a focal point.  That woman in front of you attempting her own one-legged balancing act probably isn’t the best target.  Find a fixed spot to center your gaze.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, close your eyes and you’ll learn that vision is not necessary for balance. Your body is full of subtle built-in mechanisms to keep you upright.  Inside the ear is a universe furled. It monitors balance entirely without your direction.

You can also find balance inside your breath. Steady breath; steady mind; steady body. Let your breath be your focal point. Focus on it as if your life depends on it. Because, of course, it does.


Health is the greatest wealth; the greatest happiness is peace.

–Yogi Hari


No excuses.

The body remembers. It does not lie. It will tell your story even when you do not:  the teeth straightened by braces, the crinkle of past smiles around your eyes and there too the shadows of lingering heartache, the first two fingers on your right hand yellowed from years holding a cigarette, the slant of your shoulders when you crack a particularly funny joke, a hint of grey roots beneath the dye job, the shuffle in your gait when you’re lost in thought. The faint scar above your knee marks the day you slipped when climbing a fence. The months spent carrying your child are recorded in tiger stripes across your belly. The years you spent fighting injustice show up in the way you dance.  Your habit of grasping and holding on for dear life is audible in your breath.  It’s all there – ingrained in the cell, remembered in the muscle, written in the skin.

Did you know you’ve always been beautiful?

Acknowledge yourself.

Listen to your body.

Cherish your temple.

You are a divine work of art crafted in love and situated in this time and place for a reason. Live your bliss.

The physical practice of yoga (i.e., hatha yoga) refines and purifies every system in the body – from the circulatory to urinary systems.  It is a moving meditation. It is a metaphor for the posturing, posing, and transitioning we make as we travel through life.  You can struggle and fight your way through it or relax, witness, and celebrate the dance.

Breathe in. Stretch. Create space that wasn’t there before. In that space lies the potential for greater growth and movement.

Seek alignment in your posture. Align the words of your story with the one your body tells. Allow its beauty to shine.

Breathe out. Let go. Surrender to what is.

Today a guest post from one of my ashram-mates: The Little-Orphan-Annie-haired Noelle of Be The Breath.  She’s an excellent dancer and a beautiful soul. And, I’ve seen her naked…

Ashram Lessons: 5. How to Survive an Ashram? Get Naked.

June  17, 2011: Journal Entry 1-I’ve only been here five minutes

“…Holy crap, what the heck was I thinking? It feels as if there is no working AC. The only thing more suffocating than the lack of air circulation is the chatter of my fellow devotees. Who are these people? Seriously, who cares if you can balance your entire body on your pinky finger? I can do a kartwheel, mofo. Good freakin’ lord, what have I done? Is there really no air?”

June 21, 2011- Journal Entry 5-Shifting

It’s odd. For the past several days, I pleaded with the universe to let me go home. Begged, cried in the 30 degree shower, and thought my heart was turning inside out and upon itself. Yet today, something shifted. I find myself wishing I could stay forever. Why?

June 30, 2011: Final Ashram Journal Entry-And now it’s time to say goodbye…

“Maybe I should suggest a commune. Then we could all stay together forever. Please universe, don’t make me go home. My peace is here; my heart is here. I don’t want to leave the protection of the ashram and these beautiful soul sisters. This has been one of the most important experiences of my life.”

Feeling a bit schizophrenic? For several weeks in the summer of 2011, I was too. My first days as an ashram resident led me to believe that a pamphlet on the proper fitting of a straitjacket should have been included in the required reading. I suppose feelings of insanity, anger, resentment, and frustration are to be expected when you are forced to strip out of what your mind thinks and move into what your heart knows. Pre-ashram, my mind created the challenges of finding an electrical outlet for my hair straightener, hoping I was flexible enough, and wondering what character I should portray to make these yogic folks accept me. My heart, in contrast, didn’t say much prior to the ashram, and really, I didn’t even know where the heck it was. At the time, I thought it didn’t matter. Who needs a heart for yoga? I never once considered that this experience would be difficult on any emotional level.


I quickly learned that in order to survive an ashram experience, one must find their heart, and—what the hell— get naked.

Metaphor, my friends, metaphor.

Prior to the ashram, the prevailing question in my mind was, “Who would you like me to be?” Give me some sort of impression as to what type of person you favor, and that is the person I will be. My true heart would tell you that I am an introvert in public, but a semi-pro/fake Javanese dancing fool around friends. Every morning I repeat the fifteen names of the former Soviet Republics and their capitals to assure myself that I still have some mental dexterity (Chisinau, Moldova, etc). It devastates me when other people feel embarrassed and I worry that I will never be good enough to change the world for the better.

Lame. Weird. Too exposed. Too honest. Too vulnerable. So really, who do you want me to be? I will clothe myself in whatever will make you like me more and show no hint of who I truly am.

I learned that doesn’t work in an ashram. In an ashram, the best attire is you. If you won’t strip down to who you really are, leaving all masks, veils, and facades behind you, the kind yogi will give you a hand with the prescription of some pretty tough self reflection.

Like a weird version of Ayurvedic Survivor, where the game-like challenges are endless meditations, yogic adaptations, and digestive manipulations, we all found ourselves in a desperate fight. There was no time or place to look pretty; we were too busy surviving. There was no need to put up an illusion because as in any great struggle, the real you will eventually emerge—the good and the bad. In those first couple of days at the ashram, I would have paid any amount of money to leave, any price to not have to feel what it was to really, truly be me. I didn’t know that person and it was uncomfortable to find her, but through meditation, contemplation, and yes, digestive imbalances, there she was.

Shockingly, the real me fell in love with the yogic folks. The real me felt embraced and liked by them. My occupation didn’t matter, just as they weren’t disgusted that I wore my curly “Little Orphan Annie” hair for those two weeks (I never did find that electric outlet). We laughed and cried together, said ridiculous things and sang/chanted, but most of all, we helped each other feel an innate okay-ness, even love, in being who we really are. They saw my heart, just as I saw theirs…and those hearts were bright and beautiful. In my newly cultivated freedom to say what I really feel, I can now state that I hope that those friends know what enormous roles they played in the story of my life…you can find their names in the index. I can also now freely state that I love them and the courage they gave me to be me…naked and all (again, metaphor. This isn’t that kind of post).

So where is the lesson in all of this? There is no true lesson, only a reinforcement of common knowledge. Be you, for that is the only way to true happiness. Free yourself, as no one can do it for you. The divine is within you, so have the courage to strip away all of the labels and facades that we assign ourselves and find it. Look in the mirror and be cool with what you see. People are good and kind; this includes you. Maybe most of all, when things are hard or require strength of heart, they are most likely a powerful catalyst towards positive change. Once upon a time, I learned all of this at an ashram. I will never forget it.

Pike’s Peak

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.

–Khalil Gibran

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

–Albert Einstein


“Right association” is the practice of being with those who will help you elevate your being.  Elevating your being does not mean increasing your status or inflating your ego.  It means finding people who will move you closer towards bliss than you can walk alone.

Surround yourself with individuals and environments that are positive, loving, and compassionate. Can’t find these people? Then seek out individuals through the ages who have lived through the wisdom of spirit rather than the drama of ego.  Read their works!

This also means minimizing time with individuals and environments that are degrading or toxic.

And just to share a few of my ‘elevators’ this past year:

Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga by Rolf Gates.

Rolf shares his interesting background and wonderful talent at translating ancient teachings into practical and modern living.  It’s parcelled into bite-sized bits that pack a punch.  It’s a great book for daily study.  In fact, it was so good I had to buy a second copy of the book mid-way through because I couldn’t wait to share it with a dear teacher.
The Lost Art of Compassion by Lorne Ladner

A fantastic book.  Ladner’s perspective is informed by modern Western psychology temper with Buddist tradition.  My copy is highlighted, dog-earred, water-marked, and filled with cookie crumbs — all signs that it’s good.  It has traveled with me everywhere. Thanks to Noelle of Be the Breath (another elevator) for the recommendation.

Please share what or who has elevated you this year!

Nilla Bean, in a rare moment of stillness

 Ти́ше е́дешь — да́льше бу́дешь. 

 (Translation:  The quieter you go, the further you’ll travel.)

–Russian proverb


Be still and know that I am God.

–Psalms 46:10


To cultivate joy it is good to begin by tending the mind’s garden. How do you get rid of those pesky weeds? Meditation works.

For two weeks at the ashram we sat in silent meditation twice a day.  Shy person that I tend to be, I had no problem with the silent part. And I can sit still. I didn’t make a peep, but my mind was anything but quiet…

 How boring. What a waste of time. I had to get out of bed before dawn for this!? That lady is guzzling her water down like a Viking.  Shouldn’t she be meditating? I thought we’d be doing more yoga! What exactly is supposed to be happening here…? What is the point of this! When I get out of here, I oughta — was that a rooster?! Hamburger!

I’m a busy, buzzy person.  I like to be doing things. When I do sit down, I’m reading, thinking, dreaming, planning, remembering, creating, wanting, needing, hoping, composing…well, you get the picture. There’s a lot going in this head.

So what does sitting around doing absolutely nothing accomplish?

Well, nothing!  Which is quite a lot.

You can observe what’s going on in your own mind when the immediate external distractions, competitions for attention, and agendas of others are eliminated.

Consider how much energy is expended on the everyday demands of family, friends, work, and various other obligations.  Be sure to factor in the electronic (e-mail, texts, TV, radios, telephones, computers) distractions….

I discovered that my mental energy was being scattered all over the place in a myriad of unproductive ways.  Furthermore, what was on my own mind was not pretty. I was a grumpy, judgmental, out of control mess – and my ego was NOT happy to see itself. After the first week of regular practice, my mind slowly began to unwind and defragment.  The key word here is began.  It was enough to recognize the value of the practice and to make the time for it in my daily routine.

Note: Time is a funny little non-thing. If looking for time you will never find it.  If you want time, you will make it.  If the path of mastery is defined by where you direct your attention, it’s a good practice to take stock of where your attention is and where is it not.

Cultivating compassion and joy is not a linear process; it’s organic, like growing flowers.  If you work regularly at decreasing your compulsive desires and narcissism gradually you will see beautiful results.

–Lorne Ladner, The Lost Art of Compassion


 Last June, I spent two weeks deconstructing at an ashram.  On the surface, the ashram experience seemed a nightmare.  Group constipation, perpetual cravings for hamburgers, and sleep deprivation combined with withdrawal from various vices, hard work, heat, and allergic reactions.  (See Poo-poo Tea at the Ashram and Ashram Adventures for a recap of those fun details.)

Beneath that muck, seeds of joy were being planted.  Several lifetimes of lessons were condensed into those two weeks.  It was a lot to processes. I’m still working to understand what I learned and to apply it to daily life.  (For more on that end, see A Heart Flung Open and Knowing by Doing.)

And here is but one of the many lessons I learned from the experience: Beauty will unfold day by day when you work to tend the garden.

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