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Rainbow Connection

July:

Last four weeks at The Yoga Fitness Center in Missoula, MT, teaching people ashtanga. Hatha. Watching people grow. Grace. Cultivate space in their lives for their own practice. Patience and persistence. I surrounded myself with nature. Swam in the Flathead, Kootenai, and Blackfoot rivers. Drove through parts of MT I had never been. Mountains. Nothing like the smell of those pines. Family. Coffee on the back porch. Practice. Self-study. Quiet.

August:

See you later. Say goodbye to Missoula, family, friends. See you later. Say goodbye to Spokane, family, friends. Travel back to Durham, NC. Hello, Durham family, friends. Practice, teach, sleep, plan. Dream of MT. Dream of India. Give up dairy. Thank God I gave up dairy. Nutrition studies. Self-study. Not as quiet. Pranayama. Cuddles with Skeet and Littles.

September:

Fly to Florida. Cousin Rachel gets married, dream wedding. Beautiful. Family. Ocean love. Fly back and immediately drive to Outerbanks, NC for DG 2014. Yoga, asana, pranayama, practice, study. Intense. Beach time/rain time/coffee time with friends. Back to Durham. Mini workshops. Am I going to be a workshop teacher? Littleman calendar shoot. Photos, yoga and community. Clean house. More cuddles with Skeet and Littles.

October:

Turned 35. My nephew died. My brother Jake’s life turned upside down. Fly to New Mexico. Hold my family. Hold myself together. Grace. Support and light. Heartbroken, our family moves through a horrific and tragic loss. My nephew loses his brother and my brother and his wife lose their son. Self-study. Practice. Pranayama. Let the connection of breath and movement hold and support me. The month disappears. Empty. Confusion around the state of this world, my existence, the business of being alive… multiplies. Nothing is promised. Time to face that part of myself. Again. How do I feel about all this? Unidentifiable. Back to Durham. It hits me. Reality can be so overwhelming. Drive to Philly for Primary intensive with David at Ashtanga Yoga School Philadelphia. That hits me. What is happening here? How do I fit in all this? What’s real, what’s not? The scheme of things. So. Fucked. Up. … Simplify. Morning light. Keep warm, stay connected. Breath finding rhythm, rhythm supporting awareness, awareness developing consciousness. Cuddle with Skeeter.

November:

At the start of it now and beginning to pull it back together. Have tickets for India, tickets for Christmas visit to Albuquerque, a new pair of winter boots. Will see Atlanta, GA for the first time. Get to assist my teacher in DC. Thankful to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with Suzanne and Nikos and the AYCD community of yogis. Cuddle with Skeeter and Littleman.

The Rainbow Connection:

One of Harrison’s favorite songs was “The Rainbow Connection” as sung by Kermit the Frog. Here is an excerpt of the lyrics that was shared with friends, family and community who came to support each other through this tragic time.

“… Who said that every wish
would be heard and answered
when wished on the morningstar?
Somebody thought of that
and someone believed it.

Look what it’s done so far.
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing and
what do we think we might see?

Someday we’ll find it,
the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me. …”

The Rainbow Connection, Kermit the Frog 

The hard stuff.

IMG_2370The other morning an interesting question came up, about giving more focus to the things that work well than those that don’t in an asana practice. My answer, “well, that depends.”

If a person was to mainly focus on the aspects of their practice that already work well, those things will continue to stay the same, or perhaps get stronger. If the aspects that are more difficult to work with, lets say… ummm…. chaturanga, never receive the same level of focus, they will likely get more difficult as time goes on and potentially start to cause problems. It also introduces the idea of the “artful dodger”, as David says.

Something like Uddiyana and Mula bandhas, the center of your body, the “core” OR – the use of the legs is vital. It’s so underestimated, that use! The lower abdominal muscles and the legs… they do so much work and rarely get the focus and diligence they need to stay strong and vigilant. So the shoulders and lower back tend to take the brunt of it.

There are smart ways to work on things and not so smart ways to work on things. If you’re not creating an action because you have an injury, well, that’s probably smart but do it in a purposeful way. This practice has the capacity to inspire some serious critical thinking. Harness that, and use it to your advantage. “What can I do that will help me rehabilitate my body?” And, leave me at the other end of it with a greater knowledge of how to move with awareness and dynamism.

And hopefully, it will truly be inspiring!

The hard stuff will pay off in the end. It’s true. Maybe just a little but none-the-less enough to initiate a sense of gratification. It’s so simple and applicable to so many aspects of existence, and at the same time can prove to be difficult. No one really wants to work on the hard stuff. But if you don’t, it never gets easier and you lose the opportunity of tapping into your true potential.

Rehabilitation of a damaged part of the body is a serious challenge. Both mentally and physically. The trick for me, was to remain aware of all parts working together to create stability. To look at the aspects I was unable to work with in the usual way and developing new ways to achieve a similar result. By diligently approaching practice like this, I have come to better know my body, my limits, strengths and received inspiration in surpassing limitations. Relearning how to engage my foot with the earth, rediscovering the muscles in a severely atrophied limb, finding the ability to walk… challenging. Now, it’s all coming back alive.

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Goin’ to Montana

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“I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such rush? 
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves 
birds and animals and the ants– 
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you 
in your mother’s womb. 
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely orphaned now? 
The truth is you turned away yourself, 
and decided to go into the dark alone. 
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten 
what you once knew, 
and that’s why everything you do has some weird sense of failure in it.” 
― Kabir

Practicing Ashtanga has helped me find the strength to heal myself from injury. More than once. It also GAVE me strength to dig deep and find some level of understanding as to what direction I’ve traveled that created the necessity for healing in the first place. Physically and mentally. Not to mention, the realization that there is more healing yet to happen. This is an interesting and fairly difficult time for me and my development along this trajectory. It wasn’t just mobility or physical ability that I lost when I fell off those rocks in NY. Though I think some of those losses were already in progress. It’s possible that many people would have given up. I don’t want to give up. I’m not giving up.

The past two years have been quite possibly the most physically and mentally challenging of my entire life. The relationships that have come into and out of my life during my stay here will continue to teach me things about my relationship to the world for many years to come. Losses and gains. Experiences with trust, doubt, love, hate, disappointment, joy… packed into a condensed time frame and jammed inside my entire being; jostling loose INTENSE emotion and drive to discover my Self and sense of worth.

Once again mobile, all my “things” moved out of Philadelphia and safely stashed in Durham, its time to hop a plane for the west side of the states. Montana. I will be teaching at the Yoga Fitness Center in Downtown Missoula so if you find yourself there, come and practice!

One more thing… Suzanne Faulkner and Nikos Chremos (Littleman and Skeeter too), thank you for the incredible amount of love and support you have shown me. I don’t even have the words to describe my gratitude. I love you all so much! Please send pictures of Skeeter often. See you soon – xoxo

A distant familiarity.

A strange sense of familiarity swept over me. Like finger tips swept through a layer of dust on an old mantle. A distant familiarity. I lived here once. Like many places. Many sensations. Hope, excitement, trust, fear, loss.

This body has been searching for healing. For quite some time. Call it a country girl curse, this tendency towards accidental injury. With certainty it is more than this. I see it. However it comes, I’ve grown tired of pain. Physically and mentally tired. Draining and disheartening it steals from me. IT is a thief.

Coincidentally, this pain provides the training grounds for self-development and the discovery of compassion and empathy. What luck.

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And where shall this start? Within one’s Self. Myself. Yourself. The pain is there already. My pain. Giving it strength and fuel through self-punishment is asinine. The levels have to go deeper. More focus becomes a requirement. More breath. More silence. More steadiness. Most importantly… light. How else can one reveal what lies in the shadows without LIGHT? Discovery is key.

1. The source of choice; a reasonable place to look for answers.
2. Recognition of limits and boundaries. Recognition and respect for.

The double-edged sword of discovery will never cease to grace us with it’s lessons, heartaches and triumphs. No matter what stage of it. It would be a mistake to believe otherwise.

 

April 1, 2014

Two years ago today I left the great Northwest in my packed up, little red car and drove across the country. Had never been to the east coast, didn’t really know anyone and it didn’t really matter. Full of inspiration, to the brim with intention, absolutely no idea how things would pan out, only wanting to practice as hard as I could and learn as much as possible.

Certainly, I’ve become aquatinted with my limits, been blessed with an incredible amount of knowledge and by some kind of grace, so far survived. Here’s to the next round.

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“You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.”   ~ Mary Oliver

Modified. Primary, prim.

The injury, creating an intense rift in physical ability, gave me plenty of things to work around. Limitations included no weight bearing, little to no range of mobility, and a general state of fatigue/physical weakness. However, as famously stated by Guruji, “anyone can take practice”, no matter the circumstance.

At the beginning, all I could really do was breathe. And, for whatever reason, even that proved to be difficult; in, out. Keeping at it everyday, adding physical movement even as minimally as inhale reach up, exhale fold. Inhale reach up, exhale fold. For the first two weeks this and some of the pranayama exercises outlined in Vayu Siddhi got me through to a place where I could get to the floor.

Then I started modifying/creating versions of the Surya Namaskara’s, thinking of ways to get a well rounded system of movement while remaining within my limits.

Slowly adding on poses everyday, using props, sometimes a lot of props to help accommodate my limitations and discover possibilities to move forward with. Some efforts where quite informative while others just didn’t work out. 

Couple times a day, everyday and everyday developing a new plan for the next day.  As I got stronger, more was added, planned and modified. However, even though movement was there and practice was happening I was experiencing loss of muscle control with visible atrophy.

Physical therapy has helped with that some. Once a week receiving exercises designed to help with range of motion, strength and balance. Some of the most simple things prove to be the hardest. However, by applying the foundational principles of ashtanga yoga, I was able to grasp the essential aspects of reanimating movement with an informed mind.

Progressively, less props are needed though many limitations still exist. Standing postures recreated as well as possible while seated, trying to activate the body the same way as it would be while standing. Tricky. Working with backbends; mostly accessed through Ustrasana and Kapotasana with blankets under the left foot. This was a great way to work with the back bending principles in place of Urdhva Dhanurasana but not ideal in the way of using and accessing the shins to aide in the foundational work. Slowly this is changing.

At just over seven weeks I have a fully modified primary practice and the ability to modify over half of second series. The modifications and alignment principles I worked with were inspired by what I have learned from David Garrigues, not to mention the depth of understanding of what it means for my personal and spiritual development to practice. I highly recommend anyone who doesn’t study with him to do so. I also used this video for ideas and greatly appreciate the fact that it was out there. Today Suzanne Faulkner and I made our own version, Ashtanga Yoga Club Durham style.

In all accounts, Ashtanga has taught me, and continues to teach me, many things and in the face of giving up, I don’t.

Taking it in the Talus. Part One.

“The talus is a compact bone that sits between the calcaneus (heel bone) and the tibia and fibula (bones of the lower leg).  Because the talus is a primary connection between the bones of the ankle, a fractured talus can severely limit the ability to walk and bear weight.” - someplace on the internet

X-ray

The two x-rays on the left were taken three weeks after the accident. The image on the right is what a normal, healthy foot looks like. As Dr. Zura from Duke Hospital put it, “there are three components to look at here.”

1. Os Trigonum. This had nothing to do with the injury but is an interesting find and could pose a potential problem in the future.

2. Lateral fracture of the talus. Shattered. “Snowboarders break.”

3. Left distal fibular fracture.

The next level, is what Dr. Loard at Triangle Orthopedics classifies as, “a sever sprain and some tearing of the ligaments surrounding the ankle.” As of now, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid surgery though it may be necessary at a later date if any one of these components become an issue due to their inability to heal.

Back to the beginning….

I was pretty much alone, stuck in New York with my thoughts and a bottle of Percocet. “Where do I go from here? Am I going to get surgery? Where? How am I going to do this? I’m going to need some serious help.” Thankfully, I was tossed a boon: Suzanne Faulkner. My dear friend and fellow ashtangi, invited me to come to Durham and stay in the apartment connected to her house and eventually practice in the yoga studio on the second floor.

IMG_1509Next step, get back to Philly, pack up my apartment (the lease was up two weeks post accident) and figure out how to get to Durham. Second boon: Elizabeth Sitzler… my wing man? my front man? Whatever she is, aside from being my friend/saving grace she brought food, clothes, books and yoga props to the hospital, took me back to Philly and organized a packing crew to take care of my apartment. Not only that, she took over my classes at AYS and has been holding down the fort on her own since my departure.

Now, to North Carolina. Fly? Bus? Drive? Third boon: Christine Myers. Another friend who offered to drive me to Durham and stepped in to help get my affairs in order. On our way, not ten minutes past the Maryland state line we survived a crazy freak car accident in which my little red car was totaled. I located a rental for us and Christine, without skipping a beat, transfered all my belongings and ourselves into it and we got back on the road. Goodbye little red car.

Grateful to get here, I settled in and let it all hit me. And it did.


This is what practice looked like three days after the accident. Inhale arms up… 

Is the rule of three a real thing?

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One: phone stolen. Mostly an inconvenience, an invasion of privacy. What could they possibly have wanted with that phone? It wasn’t fancy. Wasn’t worth anything. At least not to anyone but me. 

Two: broken talus bone, left foot. Surgery needed. This is the worst bit. No walking on it for three months. Everything is hard. Harder. Bathing is an accomplishment. On the plus side, once the pain subsides to a more tolerable level, it will be fun to explore asana from a new perspective. And the pranayama sessions… off the hook. Right?!

Three: car gets totaled. My friend offered to drive me to Durham, where I will be getting the foot surgery and spending my recovery. On our way here, in my car, we were run off the road by a man in a pickup. No one was hurt. We were lucky. The car is totaled.

The most frustrating part? I was just about to settle in. Had a plan. A good plan. Things were looking real solid. Then, BAM!

Has there been a mad, planetary shift? A universal change in game plan? A cosmic practical joker getting his kicks? I can only trust that it’s the rule of three, that it’s actually a real thing, and things will be turning around from here out.

Busted up in NYC

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Vulnerable.

I felt it smash when I landed. FUCK. Shit, shit, shit! No (a long string of choice cuss words, some new ones, inventive ones) way! I laid there on the ground. Squeezing my eyes shut as if I could erase what just went down.

Maybe it’s just sprained. Fuck no, you idiot, it’s broken.

Maybe if I just try to move it I’ll see, it’s not broken. It’s broken.

Fourteen hours in the ER. Morphine, couple shift changes, lots of nurses and a couple doctors with confirmation I did in fact break something. The Talus bone in my left foot. Though this bone is small, it’s an important one. Surgery?! No surgery? Still not certain. Tomorrow will be the decider of that once I again enter into the cog of American Healthcare. Proud.

All you had to do was pause. Choose a different route. One different move. How could you be so CARELESS!?

The inner war began immediately. It’s been hard enough recently to decide what the right decisions are. To make the right decisions. Still knowing what it is I want yet battling the shadows of uncertainty cast by wings of doubt. There’s been enough doubt. Enough! What I believe in has been tested and pushed. TESTED and PUSHED.

Did I choose this? 

Choice is an interesting thing. Simple yet complex. I suppose it’s a choice I made. Perhaps a result of the choices I have been struggling with. Minor injuries, personal losses, struggling for a gain. For a while now I’ve been facing a need, or a desire, for a place to heal, space to heal, to think, to re-coup. However, I believe it could have been a little less forced and a lot less literal.

One: I still know what I want and what I want to do. And I’m not going to stop doing it. No matter what.

Two: I have more faith and belief in what it is I have been doing, and who it is I have been learning it from, than I ever have.

Three: Life’s lessons will continue to bless me with their persistent presence and relentless force.

 

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In some ways, I feel I’ve come to realize a sensation of dignity within my practice. (Dignity: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.) Meaning… I respect it.

I feel as if the way I am learning to practice and study this lineage is honoring what I believe to be it’s purpose; developing consciousness. More specifically, developing the conscious awareness of opposing forces, lifting into the resistance of gravity, understanding the guidance of uddiyana bandha. Discovering a new found rootedness that stands clearly within my being as I solidify the primary or explore my limits within second and third.

This dignity, a source of self-centeredness, (in the sense of balance, not in the sense of conceited egoism) reveals a need for tolerance, as well as dedication and observation. Seeing the connectivity between a grounded set of shins and the lift of the spine as it gracefully arches over an imaginary bubble into the conundrum that is Kapotasana. Dignity, tolerance, grace, connectivity, rootedness. Thank you, David, for teaching me their importance and encouraging me to develop them within myself.

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