Everything Can Wait Except for Love

I am pleased to share the second piece in a small series of pieces written for Catalyst Wedding Co., exploring how mindfulness practices can support greater presence and peace on your wedding day. Below is an excerpt from this piece, Everything Else Can Wait Except for Love:

“There is a Zen teaching that goes “when you have only a little time, meditate for 10 minutes. And if you have no time at all, then meditate for 20.” This teaching acknowledges that a sense of not having enough time is not an objective law, but rather a subjective experience, one that we can change.

Taking time for meditation is difficult, especially when we don’t feel like we have any time in the first place. Yet it is that very sense of time-deprivation that we stand to change by slowing down and making space.”

As we continue to move further into a new year, bustling with visions and goals, can we catch ourselves in the loop of thought that insists we have no time for all of it? How is your yoga practice a support for extending your sense of space in your body, peace in your mind, and time in your day?

Here’s to taking time to make time, and allowing more room in our lives for what makes our hearts sing.




Letting Go and Giving of Yourself

As we close out our first “official” year in business, and give thanks for all that we have experienced, learned and accomplished, we are taking stock of what works and what does not serve us. We just held our first Quarterly Retreat, in which we discussed some of the aspects of the Air Element. One aspect is its connection to this time of year when the natural environment is closing down, drying up, and turning inwards for the long Winter’s rest.  All of the natural world is taking stock.

In a couple of weeks, we are then asked to confirm our findings and make “New Year’s Resolutions” based on our latest discoveries and let go of what is no longer useful. If you observe yourself, your friends and family, and the natural world, you can see this evolution in action. Everyone is deciding what to keep and where to let go. What will you keep with you from this year and take into the next year?

There is a fine line, however, between deciding what is of quality and worth holding on to and what is “perfect”. One can show an imbalance in the Air element, by constantly striving for perfection. This constant striving for perfection can actually be covering up a sense of low self-worth, that somehow if we surround ourselves with things of importance, that we will become important and “valuable”.  It is a fascinating anthropological study, particularly this time of year, when consumerism is at it’s peak. Notice feelings in yourself of self-worth around what you can afford to “give” to someone.

Many of us are so far from the roots of the holiday season, which is about giving, miracles and celebrating the return of the light. It is not about giving in the material sense, but about giving of yourself, something so much more valuable than a sweater from wherever.

We encourage you to take some time to give of yourself this holiday season. Ask yourself, “Who is truly in need?” and “How can I be helpful?” Notice what changes in you when you do this. How does thinking of others and offering help make you feel? Spiritual wisdom traditions have always taught us that selfless service is a way out of ourselves. So what are you willing to give this holiday season?

Start Where You Are

Union Yoga is pleased to share the first in a small series of piece written for Catalyst Wedding Co., exploring how mindfulness practices can support greater presence and peace on the morning of your wedding day. Yet as we approach the HoliDAZE, meditations on how to stay grounded, joyful and sane are particularly timely. The below is an excerpt from this piece, Start Where You Are.

“The practice of accepting ourselves exactly where we are creates a more grounded and joyful wedding day, but it is also a foundational principle of mindfulness. (Or, if it jives better with you: it’s my party and I’ll feel weird if I want to). Sounds nice, right? But why can it be so hard to be exactly where we are, especially in extraordinary circumstances and on special days?”

To read the rest of the piece, continue here. 



Give Thanks

We are hosting Thanksgiving this year. I am very much looking forward to it, but as we mentioned before, it can be startlingly scattering to host an event, so much so that you can loose track of why you came together in the first place.

How can you remember to be grateful?

No matter who you are, events are more fun for everyone when you can share the responsibilities. Don’t be a superhero and think that you have to be responsible for every last detail. Try these three simple tasks.

1. Ask for Help.
2. Trust. Trust this person is doing the best of their ability.
3. Say Thank You. Thank You for helping. Thank you for contributing to this shared event.

Expressing Gratitude gets easier every time that you do it. It is recommended as a practice to alleviate anxiety and depression. Try this simple daily practice.

Check in with yourself first thing in the morning, before you even get out of bed.

1. Is there something I am grateful for in the physical world?

I am often grateful that I have strong arms and legs and I stretch them and strengthen my body on a daily basis. I am so grateful to be physically well.

2. Is there something I am grateful for in my mental/emotional life?

I am grateful to be intellectually stimulated at work and at home. I am grateful to be emotionally balanced

3. Is there something I am grateful for in my spiritual life?

I am grateful for teachers who guide me. I am grateful for my sense of intuition. I am grateful for my prayer and meditation practice.

Try this practice in the days leading up to and after your Thanksgiving Celebration. What Are You Grateful For?

The Yoga of Courage: Ancient Spells for Modern Fear

Last week, I went to Louisiana to visit my brother and his son, Walker, who just turned five. The first day I was there, the three of us went to a Pumpkin Patch, orange faces of all sizes lined up on haystacks in the swampy October heat. Walker’s choice in pumpkin, like many of his current choices, was determined by which pumpkin he thought might be the scariest. My brother and I watched Walker mix this delicate potion for himself, which ending up with a pumpkin so large my brother had to heave it in and out of the truck.

Later that evening, when the pumpkin was carved, orange goop on the table, floor and our faces, it was not yet dark. ‘Let’s light it in the bathroom!’ Walker declared, ignoring suggestions that it would be scarier at night time. The three of us huddled in the bathroom in front of a jagged-orange, razor-blade grin, oohing along with Walker in his response to the monster he had made; one part fear, two parts delight.

Halloween has roots in the Celtic celebration of Samhain, a feast held on November 1st celebrating harvest, the end of the summer and the eve of the Celtic New Year. The Celts believed the veil between the living and the dead was thinner during this time, lighting Samhainbonfires to ward off winter darkness and trespassing spirits. In the 7th century A.D, Christianity adopted this tradition of Samhain into All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day. Believing every prayer helped the safe passage of souls, poor people went door to door carrying carved, candle-lit turnips to represent souls in purgatory. In exchange for bits of food, or treats, they offered prayers for the recently departed souls of a household.

This year, the season of Goblins and Ghosts happens to have coincided with one of my own reoccurring states of extreme fear; one I have orbited around since a child, at times appreciating it as a sensitive strength, other times dismissing it as a good old-fashioned haunting. I believe I am drawn to the practice and teaching of Yoga, partly, because it is a practice that has given me tools to self-soothe. Still, when I become thoroughly spooked- the witches of my childhood replaced with the adult threats of the world- my response feels sometimes like it hasn’t budged: body frozen, eyes open, flashing images which I did not welcome and cannot stop.

These states are often prompted by larger events like the horror of Las Vegas, but they spiral into an obsession that is local, and this often feels inappropriate, shameful; child-like. So this is how I showed up in Louisiana, partly as a sister, an Aunt, and partly as a person in the middle of a spell that I have not been fully able to break.

One afternoon, Walker and I went out for a spin in the neighborhood, him zipping along on his scooter and shark helmet (a fin protruding ominously from the top) and I intermittently walking and running behind him, telling him to slow down. Several people had not held back in making mini- museums of doom on their lawns, so occasionally I waited tentatively on the edge of people’s properties and watched my nephew pick up big fake bones and touch partially-submerged rubber hands. He walked right up to a life-size skeleton, clad in grey tattered robes blowing in the wind and shouted ‘Hey!’, an incantation of authority, hesitation and thrill. ‘Hey!’ he yelled again, inching closer to the skeleton until he was right beside it, pieces of its cloth tickling his face. I smiled at him while I thought of guns and gun-wielding home-owners and alarm systems. When he had finally freaked himself out enough, he ran back to me.

On All Hallows Day, no one was safe from the dangers of a soul that was lost, slipping through the crack of thin Autumnal light. In a combination of carnival, haunting and exorcism, rich and poor were responsible for lifting a net of prayers, masks and treats, to usher those souls to safety. In 2017, Halloween remains a time when we allow boundaries to blur: between the living and the dead, ideal and worst-case scenarios, the collective and the private. It’s a time when a kid can tromp up to the front doorstep of a halloween spellstranger’s house and shout ‘hey!’; a shared ritual that resembles private crisis and celebration, when unfamiliar doors swing open and new winds move through the trees. But sometimes, the Ghouls and Goblins are there to help us along to those new places, onwards to being stronger and braver than we were before. Children innately understand this, letting the skeleton’s robes tickle their face so they can run like hell, back to the street.

My third night in Louisiana, I decided that if I couldn’t sleep, I wouldn’t bother getting in bed. I lit a candle in the living room. I sat upright on the couch and said to my jangled self ‘Ok.’ And the demons came. I held on to my own sense of my spine, like a person holding on to a ship-mast. Breath moved in and breath moved out. Attention waxed and waned. There were waves of fear and waves of pain. I noticed as much as I could about their movement through my body. My only conscious focus was to not run. To continue to walk out into the forest of the self with my sword and shield, yelling ‘Hey!’

The poet Rainer Maira Rilke wrote: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.” More often than not, such displays of courage depend on meditation: tying my attention to my breath, watching- -really watching– my breath move through my body, so that I am better able to listen- -really listen– when someone I love tells me a story, instead of staring at them from the other side of a trance.

Rituals, at best, support this emotional expression and help us face our demons, until we relate to these demons with more intelligence and agency. This is where a tradition like Halloween and the practice of Yoga cross paths in the night: as a body of spells, symbols; gestures that give art and commonality to the tough work of embodiment.

I was called to bring courage to my practice this past week, on the eve of a Pagan-Christian ritual honoring the flimsiness of doors and the need for a little magic, letting the truth of my thin boundary-of-skin flood in and placing the candle of my presence into that hollowed out place of fear, until I was filled with terrible light, the veil between multiple worlds began to lift, and some big, toothy, orange grin from inside me, said, back to all that I thought I could not stand: BOO.