Monday, January 31, 2011

Big Giant Fur-Covered Happy

Sun in Winter Ferris Wheel by Marcy
We are surrounded right now by animals under the age of 3.  Our span with our most recent additions is 3 months to 3 years.  That is a lot of energy, to say the least.  There are moments when I wonder how a herd of elephants got in the house and what kind of damage said herd is doing on the second floor or deep in the basement or if I can get out of their way in time...

One of the things I love watching right now is how they react to us getting up in the morning.  Their day really starts then, and they all (cats and rabbits both) leap and bound and seem to be saying with every fiber of their being:

We are so happy to have another day to be alive!  Life is so awesome!  Yay for this day! Time for FUN! Life is FUN!

I can't emphasize it enough in writing.  I could act it out but that would be slightly embarrassing for all of us.  (I did so in my class the other night and there was lots of laughing and joining in, but then my students tend to be just as weird as I am, for which I am ever grateful.)

As I have been observing this utter lust for living, I have to wonder:

What would happen if we all rolled out of bed every day with that attitude?

Is there ever a better time to claim our inner bunny or kitten than the (Y)ear of the Rabbit?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Damn Fears...

When you set out to say YES to life, something funky happens.  Something funky in that annoying way.  Yet it's also exciting.  But still annoying.  Oh, I go back and forth...exciting, annoying, exciting, annoying...

This is a shot Marcy took the other day when we headed to the beach to take some winter tutu pictures.  It represents a lot.

First, look how relaxed I am. And laughing...smiling in that natural way.  This is rather amazing and it has everything to do with the fact that the person taking the pictures loves me.  She sees me.  I am seen.

Which brings me to Second -- being seen.

I went out in public in my tutu and snow boots.  Big deal?  Why, yes, thank you.

I also am posting a photo that is not, like, totally perfect.  It's just this fun shot that I liked and so here it is.  I let go a tiny bit with this act -- or quite a bit, actually.

Which brings me to the Third -- showing myself.

This is a tad different from "being seen," in that it is my actions.  My willingness to put myself out there via videos, podcasts, performances, etc.  I have been fighting this urge for so long...

But I said I would say YES.

I promised.

And so I am working behind the scenes, getting ready to flex my Big Courage Muscle.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Being Vulnerable

I've written before about not being a fan of Public Displays of Emotion and having that challenged during my yoga dance teacher training. This is something I've been working on for a long time. Sure, everyone needs their own boundaries, but there is also something to be said for being...human.

The other day I was having a bad one -- day, that is.  I was experiencing some deep darkness around my fear of abandonment and my main protections were coming out, causing me to be angry and fight-y with Marcy.

And I had to teach yoga dance.  This practice that is about nothing if not joy.

I didn't know how I could do it, but I knew I would because that's what I do: I buck up.

My normal method of dealing with a situation like this is to swallow it all down.  Shove it into an even deeper place.

But I am trying to change these non-grow-y patterns, these patterns that only create more stuck and prevent me from being as shiny as I am meant to be (as we are all meant to be).

So instead of acting like I was fine and just teaching and getting on with it, I did something completely opposite of what I wanted to do: I shared.

I shared my pain. I told my class that I was having this super hard day and that I was dealing with some truly ugly demons that I was no longer willing to hide.  And yes, there were a few tears, which kinda pissed me off because that's what they do, but I breathed deeply and continued and tried my hardest to accept the love (in word and in witness) that was being offered to me.

Then I went on to teach one of the best, most-opening-for-my-students class ever.

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest Post: Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo

This is a guest post written by Elizabeth of Yoga House Studio, Washington D.C. Elizabeth is a Kundalini Yoga teacher and here writes about the chant we use at the beginning of Kundalini classes to "tune in."

Subbing at the Ritz-Carlton gym, a student who had never done Kundalini yoga before asked me at the end of class: what was that beautiful chant? I thought she was referring to the Snatam Kaur music which so many of us enjoy, but it was our opening chant that caught her attention.

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, sung three times, bowing to that infinite elevated creative consciousness within.

If it has become 'ho-hum' in your practice, or you have not yet chanted it in class, make it a point next time to really listen to your own voice as you chant, to understand that by doing so you are "tuning in" to a particular frequency where the deepest understanding of Kundalini kriya and meditation has been coded so that we might benefit most profoundly from this practice.

As a Kundalini yoga/kriya Teacher Trainer, I went through a dynamic process of relating to this mantra, our golden chain, on deepening levels. It was like falling in love again with an old friend.

I now feel completely supported by this mantra, for myself during my own practice, and when I teach students and trainees. The more I practice and teach tuning into this mantra, the bigger the space it contains - allowing for myself and others to use this amazing tool to develop our consciousness.

Simply put, this mantra refines the energy around and within us.

A Kundalini yoga teacher should relate to these words as an opportunity to let their ego step aside while in front of the class, to make the experience NOT about the teacher, but about holding space for the student to go in and through whatever is right in that moment.

This is the power of Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo - humility that drops us out of our ego's tendency to control, allows us to feel our Infinite Self that goes beyond time and space, to see that all our answers are within - that we can move from the ignorance of darkness to the realm of Light.

Yogi Bhajan was the right teacher for me because he never tried to initiate me, to fix me, to keep me, to even really care about me in any personal way. It's not that I didn't spend time with him; he gave me my name personally while in his trailer at Summer Solstice in 1982; he married me to my first husband and on a few occasions had some pretty serious things to say to me - but his recommendations didn't directly engage my neurosis - his advice instead went to positive action I could take to elevate my life experience. Once given, he wasn't personally invested in the outcome, that was up to me.

What he said when I last saw him in 2003 that was so valuable to me was, "Thank you for the work you are doing. We are all in this together." That was the level of humility I needed to see from him - to finally know he was the real deal. Human and imperfect like all of us, and yet inspired to be greater and rich with wisdom and this amazing technology that he shared with us.

I feel the same with each of you: that we are all in this together.

I am grateful each time you bow your ego to your Infinite Mind, and each time you chant Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, whether it is with me, with yourself, or with another teacher or friend.

We are blessed to be in this human life with all its wonders and frailties and I thank you for sharing this time and space with me. Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter Tutu Banner

It is how far into winter, and we finally got outside with me in my tutu and Marcy with her camera and did some picture taking on a sunny blue (10 degrees Fahrenheit) day at the beach.

It resulted in a new banner (which, of course, you can't see in this reader, so stop on over and say hey!).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Changing Communities & Solving Conflict through Healing Arts

This is Elisabeth, a wonderful, witty, wacky woman with whom I went through YogaDance teacher training.  (And someone with whom I would love to work more in the future...)

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Elisabeth in which she talked about coming home from a Kundalini workshop to discover she had been accepted into and partially funded for a competitive artist's residency in France at this amazing place. (Side Note: The POWER of Kundalini!)

As usual with Elisabeth, she is not headed to this residency to focus on herself but to create work that is meant to help others.

From Elisabeth's description of the project she will be working on:  In the PLAY project, I am working with collaborator Lindsey Bailey to develop a new format for interpersonal and community problem solving through mixed media art performances. We want to teach individuals and communities alternate ways of solving problems through structured play experiences. This will include dance, theater, and visual art.

You can read more about it here (and it is truly interesting and impressive work that could change lives and worlds).

Elisabeth needs our help with the remaining funding for the program, travel, and materials.

In her "regular" life, Elisabeth teaches art in the Baltimore city public schools. She is truly in the eye of the storm on a daily basis. If you can, please help her with her amazing vision.  Go here to find out how to donate and see what lovely "perks" Elisabeth has created for the people who want to support her project.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Blisschick is a bit "under construction" right now.  In an attempt to create a new banner, it has been discovered that Blogger is pixelating/blurring header images, new and old. So excuse our disheveled look.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dance Lessons

Today I was working on a piece of choreography, just the very beginnings of something, and Marcy was helping by being my "mirror."  I don't have a proper, real mirror, and I needed to be able to see the shapes I was making. I needed to make sure they were worth exploring, that they looked like what I was feeling.

They did.  I was also a bit stuck, trying to figure out how to get from one sentence to the next, so to speak.  And just being seen and having someone to talk to helped me figure it out almost instantly.

Hemingway said that in order to write, you must write one true sentence. Then another. Then another. And on and on.

I am learning how deeply, profoundly true that is for any art, for all of life.

I also had read many months ago that if your own choreography does not challenge you physically when you are first making it, then you're not working hard enough.

And today, yes, I really got that.  I have only created a few phrases of material and it leaves me breathing heavy, muscles feeling like jello.

If your work is not leaving you breathless, how will it ever do that for a viewer or a reader or a listener?

To be made breathless by our work means being will to take risks, to go back to beginner mind, to start afresh each time you approach yourself.

Good lessons for dance and great lessons for every minute of our lives.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Assuming Love

Giant Citrus with Bunny Sticker: Who Could Resist?
Who knows what makes things click in our minds?

One of the main things I am working on lately is understanding Love.  I've written about my insecurities in this area, about my core abandonment fears in past posts. And I've recently written about how it can take a very long time to rewire the brain, so to speak.

My idea of Love is that it is conditional, fragile, easily broken, and not to be completely trusted, and thus my tendency to hold back parts of myself.

As I become more and more conscious of these thoughts, I can see that all of these fears drive me to spend much of my time looking at, inspecting Love, waiting for something to "happen."  This is draining, to say the least, and it means I have little energy for my Real Work.

I wonder how true this is for a large number of people?

I have so many books in me to write, so many pieces to choreograph, so many workshops to develop, but I spend most of my energy questioning and worrying about some very basic things about my life.

I was reading a blog post recently in which the writer mentioned spending their week being completely absorbed by some difficult theological texts, and like I said at the top of the post, who knows what makes things click in our minds, but this idea of being absorbed brought light to some dark spaces inside me.

Specifically it struck me: People who assume love is strong and stable can get on with other things.

Ray of lights and angels singing!

This Assumption of Love is a foundation upon which they are able to build their lives, their work, their creativity. They can take risks in all other parts of themselves because Love is never questioned.

My assignment for myself for a long time to come is to review each morning, first thing, this Assuming Love.

I will Assume Love in a few ways: I assume the love of Marcy and our little family; I assume the love of friends; I assume the love of God and all that is Infinite.

What would Assuming Love do for your life?  Can you even imagine!?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tolstoy for MLK

Tuppy in my writing room window
About a week ago, we watched the film, The Last Station, about the end of Tolstoy's life (with stellar performances by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren).  The movie was enough to make me want to read more about Tolstoy, and I have come to learn that his ideas about nonviolence were hugely influential for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some quotes:
Love is life. All, everything that I understand,
I understand only because I love.
Everything is, everything exists,
only because I love.
Everything is united by it alone.

The greater the state, the more wrong
and cruel its patriotism, and the greater is the
 sum of suffering upon which its power is founded.
 Everyone thinks of changing the world,
but no one thinks of changing himself.

Friday, January 14, 2011

On Holding Back A Small Bit...Just in Case

I know when something extra powerful and important is happening in my prayer life when I get a glimpse into some dusty, dark, hoped-to-be-forgotten part of my heart. This can happen, of course, on the yoga mat, while dancing, or kneeling at mass.  It's all the same thing.

The other day, I had one of my Fear of Abandonment Attacks.  These can happen in response to just about any perceived threat ("perceived" as in imagined, not at all based in the reality of my present, love-filled life).  Sometimes the same "threat" comes along and all of my new coping mechanisms work and I don't respond.  Sometimes nothing works and I have to simply walk through the fear and get to the other side.  Each time this happens, I learn something extra big.

This past week, I learned, firstly and thanks to Marcy pointing it out, that I perceive Love like a pie and if anyone else is getting any of that sweet treat, it means my piece is shrinking.

Love, of course, does not work like this.  Not "perfect Love."  Perfect love grows each time we are offered another soul to share it with.  It is exponential in its growth.  So, my treat gets bigger as Love in general gets bigger.

This led to my second and even Bigger Lesson.

It came to me, this time, during prayer: I hold back.

I hold back bits of myself, bits of my heart, bits of my enthusiasm, bits of my awe...just in case.  Just in case someone or something is out to hurt me.

Just in case I find that I "need" to say, "Well, it didn't really matter anyway...I didn't really care that much..."

What really startled me was hearing myself admit for the first time in the deep silence of prayer that I hold back bits of myself from Marcy!

I hold back bits from God and bits from my spiritual life.

I hold back bits from Dance.

Just in case.

Just in case any of those things are maybe possibly going to hurt me in the future.  So I can say, "it didn't really matter...I was only partly invested."

It used to totally confuse me when people would talk about giving one's self over completely.

Now I get it.

I have to lay my heart bare.  Like those icons of Mary and Christ where they are holding back their robes to reveal their Immaculate and Sacred Hearts.

I need to live a meditation that I guide my movement students through: Imagine peeling back the sternum and allowing the emerald green of the heart center to emerge. See yourself walking around with this green glow preceding you, bathing you and others in its loving light.

Or really?  I am still just saying No.  I am still living from Fear.

And this is the year of saying Yes and confronting fear so holding back will no longer do...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Hips & Blissful Belly: A Chakra Workshop

On Sunday, February 13th (in time for Valentine's Day), from 3 to 5 PM, I will be offering a workshop at Dharma Yoga, 722 West 8th Street, Erie, Pennsylvania.  I will also be teaching my usual 6 to 7:15 PM Kundalini Yoga and Movement afterward so you could come for one and stay for the other!  A full chakra evening of radical self-care and love!

You can either email me (information below) or go to the Facebook events page to reserve a spot.  Here is a description of the workshop:

A flat belly and small hips are what we are taught constitutes “beauty.” Women go to great lengths to attain this ideal or suffer everything from depression and anxiety to eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder when they are unable or simply do not meet the ideal.

Enough is enough!

We are all built differently and we are all beautiful in our differences! Our bodies possess an intelligence that culture has attempted to squash. There are physiological reasons, for example, why we gain belly fat as we age, but we are never told these things.

Whether you think you are too big or too small or too much or not enough, this workshop is designed to help you restructure the stories around your belly and hip area so that they are inspiring and constructive rather than defeating and destructive.

Corresponding to this physical area is a chakra area -- your creativity, self-expression, groundedness, sense of belonging, feelings of safety, will and determination all reside here -- and here is where most of us are stuck.

This workshop will explore your relationship to your hips and belly through story telling, movement, yoga, chant, breath work, and community building.

The cost of this workshop is $20 and there are limited spaces so reserve yours now!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email: pinkyogi at gmail dot com

Monday, January 10, 2011

Riding My Bike Naked & Just Generally Being Brave

At the end of Kundalini yoga classes, like any yoga class, I lead meditations. Sometimes they are very simple and other times they are more involved. They are always spontaneous. I never plan them, but instead, I trust that they will come to me based on what happens in class and what I am feeling from students and the needs they are projecting.

Lately, I find myself leading a lot of meditations about our younger selves.  Specifically, I am leading meditations asking people to see that essential, perfect self...the one that has no baggage, has no blocks, has not been altered (in negative ways) by time and experience.

This has profoundly affected some students.

And the other night, I realized how deeply it was and is affecting me.  I had a memory pop up and I saw different things in it than I usually do.

This is one of those stories that families tell.  There are photos that document it.  And the story is told with great humor (because it is funny!). But I never looked beyond the funny...not in this way.

This is one of those memories that feels like it is actually happening each time I think of it.

I was only about 2.5 years old.  I woke up in my crib and the sun was coming in the small window above my head.  It was early morning and there was not a sound coming from inside the house or outside.  I very much wanted to be riding my bike but I also did not want to wait for my parents or wake them.

I sat up and looked around.  I crawled up and over the railing of the crib, which was only set at the halfway point.  I stood up in the middle of the small room.  I removed my night time diaper and walked out of the house.


I got my red tricycle and proceeded to ride up and down the block.


Some neighbors called my parents, who came out and took photos, in which I am so happy and triumphant.

Like I said, usually when I think of this or tell this, it is just for laughs.

But after leading all these meditations about our essential selves, I have come to see so much in this memory about the confident, adventurous, open, happy little person I was. She knew what she liked and she never stopped to question her right to just do it.

I was daring.  I was self assured.  I had NO SHAME.

I love this little person.  Love her.

To honor her, it is time to fulfill her innocent, dynamic, GIANT YES idea of life.

I may not be riding my bike naked any time soon (ouch! and OH MY GOD), but there have to be other ways to explore this idea that my "nakedness" is nothing to be ashamed of, right?

Friday, January 7, 2011

One Million Mantras or The Importance of Devotion

Photo by Marcy, taken at Erie Art Museum
Why do we not do things that we know are good for us?

I have asked myself this question a million times.  I have suffered such a large portion of my life from severe depression and anxiety, and that question used to bring me to tears, as I struggled just to GET UP and TRY...whether that be to take a short walk, do a bit of yoga, write a few sentences.  It could all feel impossible.

I still struggle, but now -- the majority of time -- I win out over the impulse to NOT.  This ability to see that I am hurting myself and to overcome that tendency has been hard won, for sure.

But that is why the word is "practice."  My practice is Saying Yes, because saying No was not working for me.  Saying No did not feel good.  It was not making the depression go away.  Saying Yes works every time.

The practice of Saying Yes has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  It is also the simplest and the most necessary.  It has saved my life.

Again, it is not easy.  There is no "Secret" to it.  It is painful (and then glorious).  It is physically gut wrenching (and then light filling).  And no one else will ever totally get how hard it is for you...but you have to do it anyway.

About a week or two ago (my sense of time is off from all the stuff that has happened lately), I was reading something about long term mantras.  (I can't for the life of me remember where I was reading this so if anyone knows, please share.)

The writer was talking about the such and such 1 million mantras, for example, and how that is practically impossible but it is intentionally so.

First of all, taking on the practice of "finishing" 1 million mantras removes the ego from the equation. There simply is no room for thinking about concepts like "success" when you take on such an unimaginable task.

Second -- and this deeply applies to what I am talking about here -- the 1 million number is meant to represent what it takes to truly change our brains, to remove bad habits of thinking, to create new good habits.

This is Devotion.  (And telling people it takes this kind of hard work will not make for a best seller.)

This is the sort of Devotion to the Practice of Saying Yes that is necessary.  Saying Yes for one week is not going to eradicate your depression or anxiety or whatever your problem in this life is.

Saying Yes for one year will not do it.  It will start to change you, but the change will be slow and will come in unnoticeable increments, until one day down the road, you do notice.  You notice that the impulse to say No perhaps lasts a few seconds less and is therefore "more quickly" replaced with the Yes.

This is Devotion to the You, You Were Born to Be, and it is the Devotion of a Lifetime. Every minute, every day, every week, every year, because You are worth it.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dance is for Every Body

When I write about my own experiences with dance, I write from the perspective of not only a person with a fully functioning, physically healthy body, but also from the perspective of someone with a definite gift for Dance with that capital D.  We all have gifts and this is mine.

But I believe with all of my heart that dance is also for every body.  That we are built to move and we are built to do so in a joyful matter our physical limitations, no matter our age, no matter the concept of "talent."

Our bodies are built to respond to rhythm. Period.

Furthermore, the concept of dance has become too narrow (and far too acrobatic and competitive, as far as I am concerned, thanks to silly shows like So You Think You Can Dance -- to which I say, OF COURSE you can dance because everyone can!).

Dance, at its most basic, is simply your body's unique expression of its unique story through your own unique movement.

As David Leventhal of the Mark Morris Dance Group and of Dance for PD says in a PBS special segment (see below), "Our society tells us again and again that there are people who can dance, and there is everybody else, who shouldn't even bother, and I think that's such a tragedy."

Tragedy indeed.  Especially now that we learn more and more that dance is a key to long term health as it stimulates the brain in a unique way and provides opportunities for social interaction.  Especially now that we learn that movement is the key to healing emotional trauma in a way that talk therapy cannot touch.

I offer here some examples of the Great Work of Dance. First up is a piece about a choreographer's work with a man living with Cerebral Palsy. Second is the piece about dancers working with people living with PD. And third is a piece on Anna Halprin, and for this blogpost, the part I want you to really notice is her work with elderly dancers using rocking chairs (starting at minute 4:25).

(Note: If you are in google reader, all the videos are not showing up for some reason, so please click over to my actual blog to see them.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Move Out of Depression

A total kitsch Mary -- just my thing!
I did everything "they" recommend: I wrote; I talked; I walked; I ate better; I did yoga; I meditated/prayed.  I would get glimpses of my true self, a happy self, but she had no staying power.  Depression and anxiety always returned and were my majority emotional/spiritual states.  The glimpses were few, far between, and short lived.

The glimpses even felt cruel.  Why give them to me if it were inevitable that they depart so quickly?  The up and then the was exhausting and felt purposeless.

Then, as I have written here a million times, I returned to dance and found my joy, which is the key to our healthy hearts.

Last night, after teaching a Kundalini Yoga & Movement class, someone asked me about her sadness.  And oh...her eyes...I have seen those same eyes looking back at me in the mirror.  I know that look.

I found myself telling her that where her body goes, her spirit and her emotions will follow.

This is the beauty of teaching: your students push you to articulate all of this knowledge that you have spent a lifetime gathering, not necessarily noticing that you have it to give until someone asks it of you.

What a beautiful exchange this is...

Back to what I told her: Where your body goes, your spirit and emotions will follow.

This is the missing link in most approaches to emotional and spiritual illness.  We intellectualize it; we try to understand it; we construct story and then new story around it; we try to put into words what was done to our (wordless) souls.

We mistakenly try to heal our brains with our brains.

And then we wonder why...or I do, anyway...why it feels as though our heads may explode!

For many years, I have suggested to people that perhaps starting with something more concrete, like feeling healthier in a physical way, may be a trigger of sorts to your mind and heart that you are ready for the real work of shedding and becoming new inside.

From the outside in, for some reason, always made more sense to me than from the inside, out, but this goes against most of the mental health professions recent and late thinking, so I thought I must just be full of it.

But now I know: the more fit I am physically, the more I am able to be fit of mind and spirit and heart, because this work is hard and it takes literal strength and stamina.

This is, by no means, an "easy solution."  Getting physically fit means committing to yourself.  It means sweating profusely, not just taking a little walk every day.  It means working your butt off and pushing your body past what you thought it could do.  And that means finding movement that is fun because otherwise it won't last, you won't last.

Are you willing to work this hard to save yourself? To be reborn into the beauty and joy for which you were intended?