The bitter and the sweet

The bitter and the sweet

I have loved the word bittersweet since I first encountered it. I find that it describes the ebb and flow of life – also known as the flipping roller coaster of life –  perfectly.  So bitter that it bites. So sweet that it is like the first taste of nectar on the tip of your tongue. Life is more often than not a balance of opposites. Laughter through tears is something that I have experienced more times than I can count. So many feelings. Like a friend said to me once: “Brianna, you have feelings about your feelings.” July started with a beautiful bang. A book tour the length of the Maine Coast with workshops, readings and signings. My husband and I having downtime in between. My beautiful dog in her favorite place. My parents. My healing house. All good things. Delicious things really. But then life tilted and my ground shifted. In the very midst of all this beauty, joy and gratitude I had to put my beloved Shanti-dog down.  One minute soaring, the next on my knees. I will write more about my Shanti-girl at a later point. She deserves her very own post but, I know you hear me when I say: its all too close right now. My grief is too heavy on me to really do her powerful being justice. This post is about the choice I had to make about my own behavior. It is always a choice and it is mine alone to make. Two options were clearly in front of me when this drama/trauma started. I could have either gone kicking...
Breathing in I calm my mind

Breathing in I calm my mind

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace I often return to Ticht Nhat Hanh’s beautiful teachings on presence and peace in times of personal unease. His words help me, to: calm myself, turn inward, tune in, and serve as a reminder to wake up. His simple teachings are a firm reminder to: be here, now. Recently, as part of my practice, I listened to an interview between him and Krista Tippett on: On Being As an aside, I listen to On Being, a lot – which is why I have noted it before. One of my self care rituals is to rest supine in a restorative pose and listen to this brilliant show, where beings – from many disciplines – wax poetic about their beliefs, their thoughts, their motivations. Its fascinating really. Its definitely worth discovering. An additional aside, self care becomes MORE necessary during difficult times. What simple things are you doing today to take care of you?   Right now, I am finding the energy of the world very chaotic. Currently, there is a lot of strife, upset, and intensity in our country and abroad. There is a lot of fear.  We are living in a very tense and intense time both politically and socially. For me, the landscape is proving more and more difficult to navigate. As a librarian and historian I am finding it challenging to wrap my mind around the notion of “alternative facts” or that one religious group should be the...
My Harmonium and Me

My Harmonium and Me

When love first tasted the lips of being human it started singing. ~ Rumi If you have come in contact with me in the last three months chances are I have talked to you about my Harmonium.  I have a knack for working it into most conversations. It is entirely plausible that  I have even bored you with a picture or two. Last fall, I was feeling very uninspired by my practice. For several months it was as though my practice was completely void of joy. I was literally slogging through it. Forcing myself daily to make it to my mat. In November, when I taught my annual retreat I decided to shift its normal curriculum to include a workshop at a local studio. I really enjoy Rachel Nixon’s classes and I knew her focus on Bhakti (the yoga of devotion) would be right up my students alley –  especially as they all love to chant. At the workshop, Rachel played a harmonium that she had recently purchased.  She was a novice but she accompanied us during multiple chanting practices and she did it well.  I left that workshop so inspired. I left WANTING A HARMONIUM. I can now play the scales. Chords are coming. Songs will soon follow.  Adding the harmonium into my practice – and broadening my practice to accommodate it – has been so rewarding. I now undertake to do my practice joyfully!  How are you feeling about your practice? Are you inspired? Or are you in a rut?...

Singing in the Sunrise

I always loved singing but when I first started with yoga I hated chanting. HATED it.  In my world chanting was not singing – at that point in my practice my personal comfort zone was so narrow and tight that I am amazed I could breathe. Looking back I think it was the delivery of my first teachers that turned me off so much. In the classes I attended chanting seemed tortured, usually the teacher was loud and everyone else was whispering.  We were all uncomfortable and for years I thought it was the lamest most antiseptic thing ever. Sometimes I would get so frustrated by chanting in a class that I would simply roll up my mat and go. I was years into my practice before I attended my first Kirtan and my belief about chanting shifted. Kirtan is a beautiful practice of call and response chants.  I realized then that chanting is uplifting, it is freeing – my first Kirtan was absolutely opposite of every experience I had had with chanting until that moment.  I fell in love with the practice – in LOVE. Singing as healer is as old as human kind.  It is part of every tradition.  Like songs chants can be short and sweet or long and elaborate.  By nature chants are repetitive and repetition is a known doorway to the meditative mind. Chanting is an energetic expression and a powerful tool of healing.  Now, I use it daily and infuse it into my world by chanting while driving, or cooking, or showering. I interweave it into my classes and try to inspire my...

In Transition

In Transition (a workshop I taught last weekend and offer biannually) has become a touchstone in my teaching. It reminds me to tune into myself. To see where I am at in both my practice and in my life Many of you know that I am active in my studies better known as trying to: reduce my own stress, figure out patience, release my fears, accept and love myself and be an active present participant in my own life.  Everything I ask my students to do I have explored myself.  When I find something that is healing for me I play with it for a while. I explore my edge. Making sure I am ready to hold open a wound before I use it as a parable in my teaching.  As I am a type-A personality and a recovering stress addict there really is loads of material to draw from. In Transition Tea made my Zensations This weekend right before I ran my workshop I totally got bugged. Workshops are different then typical classes because there is a theme that people are expecting to be adhered to.  Because of that I go early, I prepare the room, I light candles, make tea and sing to the space.  On Saturday I left my house early to do just that – according to the schedule I had the luxury of time. But the schedule was wrong. Bath Salt envelopes for In Transition Another teacher had scheduled a private lesson in the workshop space and while the student was there she was late. According to a work-study the lesson went till the...

We are all one. It is we who are the universe.

Almost twenty years ago, when I was a teenager I became interested in psychic phenomenon. Because of that fascination my Mom arranged an appointment for me with an acclaimed medium. During my session, she said to me, “I don’t understand this but they say you will.  They want you to know that: ‘We are all one. It is we who are the universe.’” At that time I really didn’t understand it either but I never forgot it. Although I had been raised Christian, and deeply respected my Reverend, I spent most of my late teens and very early twenties trying on other peoples beliefs like clothing. It is not all that rare after all, I was young and I was seeking. At different times I practiced being: Agnostic, Buddhist, Jewish, Sufi, and Wiccan – to name just a few.   Where I landed is a very personal place as all belief is.  From my experience if you put two people of any tradition together and ask them to define their belief, you best step back and simply watch those sparks fly. Debating faith, which is literally man’s ability to believe that which he knows not to be true, is fascinating. As years have passed, and my understandings have shifted through both trial and joy, I can summarize my belief like this: “We are all one. It is we who are the universe.” The Lamps are different, But the Light is the same One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-Mind. ~Rumi This weekend at Charm City Yoga (www.charmcityyoga.com), I am teaching a Yoga Benefit for Japan with Kim Manfredi....