Category Archives: yoga – theory and practice

Thought for Thursday; The Starfish Story

A storm raged during the night and left masses of starfish stranded on the shore. The next morning dawned bright and clear on the receding tide, and the starfish began to dry out and die. A man walking on the beach came upon a little boy industriously carrying starfish back into the waves and commented to the child that there were thousands of starfish in the sand, that he couldn’t possibly make a difference. “Well,” said the boy, gently setting another starfish into the water, “I made a difference to THAT one.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been blindsided by Sandy.

Here’s the thing; the Chili family (and all our neighbors) escaped with nary a scratch.  Seriously; no major damage, no flooding (and our basement ALWAYS floods) and no significant power outages were experienced by anyone in our immediate little corner of the world.  We were very, very lucky.

There are a lot of people who were not, however, and I’m keenly aware of the magnitude of the disaster.  Really; if you haven’t seen the pictures, you should take a look.  This is not something the people – or the infrastructure – is going to just get over; this is going to require months, if not years, of work repairing, rebuilding, and rethinking.

When something huge like this happens, it’s really, really easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed.  I mean, really; where do you START?!  How can you – little, middle-class you – possibly make a difference?

I’m telling you that you can, because your little contribution joins up with my little contribution, which in turn gets together with a zillion other little contributions, and before you know it, we’re making a real difference.  Together.

Start at the Red Cross.  If that’s not enough for you, go and visit Kizz’s post (and keep coming back to it; she’ll be adding to it as time passes).  She’s listing a bunch of businesses and shelters and other places that could really, really use some support right about now.

These are our starfish, People.  Let’s get to work.  Do what you can, even if you don’t think it’s enough.  It is; trust me.


Filed under compassion and connection, concerns, doing my duty, Friends, Home and Family, messages from the Universe, social issues, technical difficulties, this is NOT a drill, weather, Worries and Anxieties, yoga - theory and practice

Nearly Wordless Wednesday, Part II

Please, I’m begging you, donate some money to the American Red Cross.  It’s SUPER easy and DESPERATELY needed.  Don’t believe me?  Go here and check out some of the pictures, then bust out your credit card.  If that’s too much for you, you can donate 10 bucks just by texting REDCROSS to 90999 on your cell phone.

Really.  Please.

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Filed under compassion and connection, concerns, doing my duty, family matters, technical difficulties, this is NOT a drill, Worries and Anxieties, yoga - theory and practice

Quick Hit: Today’s Meditation

Today marked the first day of my double yoga practice Sundays; last month, the health club asked me if I’d be willing to teach back-to-back classes on Sunday mornings after the new year, and though I was hesitant to take it on, I said yes.

I’m glad I did.  I ran the first class as a power practice and managed to work up a sweat.  The second class was the more stretchy, meditative format I’ve been leading in that time slot for something like six years now.  I left the place feeling a little bit stronger than I usually do, and I’m considering starting up a personal, at home practice because of it.

At the end of every class, I sit still and quiet while the participants settle into their resting poses for savasana.  More often than not, something will pop into my head to say as I’m waking them up – something for them to take off the mat and out into the world with them .  Today, it went something like this:

In 2009, I helped my mother die of cancer.  One of the greatest lessons I took from that experience is the truth that you cannot give what you do not have; that taking care of yourself first is not an act of selfishness, but rather a necessary first step toward being able to take care of others.  Take time to figure out what you need, then do what you need to do in order to get it.  Recharge your own batteries; treat yourself, give yourself time or space, work to clear the clutter in your environment or the toxic people in your life or the static in your energy.  If you’ve taken good care of yourself, you’re better able to take good care of others.

I’ve come to understand that most of the meditations I hear in my head at the end of yoga classes are intended primarily for me.  Much of my focus these last few weeks has been on just this practice.  I’m starting to get the hang of it, but it’s still something I have to do mindfully; with luck, I’ll eventually be able to absorb it into my habits and not have to be so carefully deliberate about tending to my own needs.

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Filed under compassion and connection, health, messages from the Universe, yoga - theory and practice

Ten Things Tuesday

I was talking to my yoga class on Sunday about how, when we turn over a new calendar, people start getting all self-critical and resolution-y (a fact they appreciated as they were jammed in the room with far more people than usual because of all the folks adhering to their New Year’s, go-t0-the-gym resolutions).  While I think that self-improvement is a grand thing – I mean, really; where would we be if we stopped trying to get better? – I think that we, as a culture, take the idea to its extreme.  We’re much more likely to tell you what we don’t like about ourselves – our flaws, our shortcomings – than we are to highlight what we have or what we do well and easily.

This week, then, you get ten things that Chili can do with relative ease, competence, or aplomb:

1.  I can cook.  Seriously; I have some killer recipes that I always – and I mean always – hit out of the park.  I am proud of my ability to feed people with satisfying, and sometimes sublime, dishes.

2.  I am a decent writer.  I haven’t quite worked this into what I want it to be in the grand scheme of my life, but I do have a facility with language and the ability to tell a good and engaging story.

3.  I’m an excellent teacher.  I have always, for as long as I’ve been aware of my own self, been put in positions to teach others.  Regardless of what I did – from figure skating to my work in a bank to fitness to English – I’ve managed to land  in situations where I was called on to teach others.  I love it, I’m good at it, and I’m grateful that I’ve finally found a place where I can do it for a living instead of just a hobby.

4.  I’m generous.  It helps that my life allows me to be generous with money and things, but I am also very free with my time and my energy.  If there’s something I can do to help you – if I can share a lesson plan or give you a ride to the doctor’s office or buy you lunch – I will.

5.  I’m a good listener.  I’ve gotten better at this as I’ve gotten older; I find that good listening often means having more patience than one would expect.  I’m getting very good at really hearing people, too, and I think that a lot of that can be credited to parenting my daughter; I need to do more than just listen to her words, I have to really hear what she’s saying and really think about what that means.

6.  I’m neat and (mostly) organized.  I’m certainly not a type-A personality, but I do like a reasonable amount of order.  I know where things are (that is, if someone in my family hasn’t moved it on me).  My car is not a rolling dumpster and things do not rot in my refrigerator.  My children have regular dental and doctor visits and our cars’ oil gets changed when it’s supposed to.  Our clothes are clean and reasonably wrinkle-free.  I pay my bills on time.

7.  I can solve problems.  Like the listening thing, I find I get better at creative problem-solving as I get older and have the capacity for greater critical and inventive thinking.  Sometimes, I can come up with simple, easy solutions and sometimes my answer to a problem is complex and convoluted and resembles a Rube Goldburg device, but either way, I get shit done.

8.  I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, unable to do something, or confused.  I will ask for help or clarification when I need it, and I’ve gotten much better at acknowledging when I’ve made a mistake or behaved in a way that wasn’t warranted or appropriate.

9.  I’m flexible, and not just in the “well, DUH; you’re a yoga teacher!” way, either.  I’m not upset anymore when plans have to change or when something doesn’t work out exactly as planned.  I’m a lot less tied to outcomes than I was in my youth, and I’m finding that opens a lot of doors for me.

10.  I am kind.  I go into situations assuming the best about everyone involved.  I am polite and gracious in public (and in private, too, come to think about it).  I try very hard to be always aware of the kind of energy I radiate.

So, what do YOU do easily and well?  What gifts do you bring to this party?  What do people go to you seeking?


Filed under compassion and connection, cooking, ideas and opinions, Little Bits of Nothingness, messages from the Universe, my oh-so-exciting life, Parenting, ruminating, teaching, ten things Tuesday, the jobs, writing, yoga - theory and practice

Looking Forward

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Even though I don’t do resolutions, per se, I do take this time of year to reassess my focus and goals.  What can I say?  I get caught up in the momentum of everyone else’s resolution making.  So, in that spirit, I’m going to take a few shots at finishing this sentence:

This time next year, I …..

… will be 20 pounds lighter, stronger, and more healthy.  Seriously; I need to get this under control, not only for my self-esteem, but also for my health.  I’ve been making little changes which, to talk to the professionals, is the way to do it; little, gradual changes are more likely to stick, and so far I’ve made a couple of good ones that are sticking.  Now I need to make a few more, like going to the gym a half hour or so earlier for my Sunday class to get in some weight lifting (and maybe a mile or so of walking).  I’m also adding in some short-burst workouts that I can do in my living room with a couple of hand weights and an exercise ball.  I can do this… I need to do this.

…  will have spent less time behind my computer screen while I’m at home. I have already started this; I’m reading more actual books and just this morning I started clearing out my feed reader of the blogs that I only skim.  I don’t want my girls’ primary recollection of me to be sitting at my desk behind my computer.

…  will have stressed less about things I can’t control. One or two of the blogs I’ve cleared out are ones that focus primarily on political issues.  I’m going to stop fretting over the dumbass things people say on the television.  I’m not going to engage people who plainly have no interest in discourse.  I will tactfully avoid people who try to undermine my energy, and will be more mindful about not allowing them to do that when they can’t be avoided.  The partner to this is that I’m going to get MORE involved in the things about which I CAN effect change, and I’ve already got some ideas around that brewing in my head.  I’m sick of feeling helpless and frustrated, so I’m going to do something about it.

…  will have spent more time with the people I love and care about. My one big disappointment this year was that I didn’t see nearly enough of the people who make my life feel full and complete.  It’s not that I put those people off, it’s that we’re all so busy with the details of our day-to-day that it’s often weeks (or longer) before we get in touch again, and I’m done with that.  I’ve already made dates with a couple of people I’ve not seen in too long, and I’m going to see what I can do about making a weekly visit with people like O’Mama and my grandmother stick.  It’s my connection to the people I love that makes up a significant part of who I am, and I’ve let that go for far too long.

…  will have cultivated and nurtured that which makes me me. As an offshoot to spending time with the people who complement my energy, I will take time to be mindful of the things I need for myself.  One of the things I tell my yoga people is that taking care of yourself is not selfish; we can’t give what we don’t have, and if we don’t take time to restock our own stores and give ourselves what we need, we won’t have anything to offer anyone else.  I have a lot of people who need me, and I want to give them everything I can, so I’m going to start heeding my own advice and working on manifesting my highest and best.

Five valuable (and manageable) things.  What are YOUR goals for the coming year?


Filed under celebration, compassion and connection, concerns, doing my duty, frustrations, health, Home and Family, Little Bits of Nothingness, messages from the Universe, my oh-so-exciting life, Parenting, reading, ruminating, technical difficulties, this is NOT a drill, Worries and Anxieties, yoga - theory and practice

Quick Hit: Yum

I’ve never been a huge eggnog fan.  These varieties, however?

These, I like.

A lot.

Of course, I don’t treat them like beverages; they’re more like dessert (and at something like 180 calories per quarter cup, that’s what they really are).

I’m baking eggnog poppy seed cupcakes for my Sunday morning yoga people at the moment, and I used the vanilla variety.  Despite the fact that I’m not much for nutmeg (I might leave it out of the next batch), the cupcakes do smell scrumptious; if there are any left over after class tomorrow, I might have one on the drive home…



Filed under celebration, cooking, Little Bits of Nothingness, my oh-so-exciting life, yoga - theory and practice

Compassion as a Public Virtue

This was posted on fb, from the Dalai Lama. I thought it something less than a coincidence, given what I posted yesterday:

Any idea that concern for others, though a noble quality, is a matter for our private lives only, is simply short-sighted.  Compassion belongs to every sphere of activity including, of course, the workplace.

I don’t have a problem with workplace compassion, specifically. That’s easy, really; I work with a bunch of really wonderful people and, even though the kids sometimes drive me to the brink, I am always able to see beyond their dumbassery and deal with them from a place of genuine love and concern; even if I need to step back and re-center myself for a second, I can always find that place when I’m dealing with my students.

No; my trouble comes in extending compassion to those whom I find it difficult to love, much less tolerate. While any number of you (hi, Joe!) will tell me that it’s not really my job to be nice to the bastards in the world, I’m not sure that fighting fire with fire is the right approach. I’m reminded of the MLK quote about love being the only thing that can overcome hate – treating someone with the same kind of disrespect and aggression with which they treat me just seems to me to give them more reason to hate and disdain.

It’s a lot to think about on a Saturday morning, isn’t it?


Filed under compassion and connection, dumbassery, ideas and opinions, messages from the Universe, ruminating, yoga - theory and practice