We have a field behind our house. It's not a particularly scenic field in and of itself. But sometimes in the morning mist or the evening light magical things happen.
I've learned to glance out first thing in the morning and see if there was heavy dew, when the first rays of sun from the other side of the house are making their way across the field. And check right around dusk, before the proper sunset, when the light is all golden and streaming and then checking in with each stage of the sunset.
Sometimes I grab my camera and run out to catch an image. I know just the shot I want.
Every few years in the spring some creature spins thousands of webs overnight across the whole field and in the morning they glisten and glow with dew. I got the top pictures 2 years ago so when I woke up last week and saw all the webs I headed out just sure I'd get some great shots of the webs. But no matter what adjustments I made and where I knelt down they just weren't turning out the way it looked to my eyes.
Crouched down in the wet grass I happened to look left and found this right at eye level:
Delicate and beautiful, looking crystallized in the dew. But not at all what I set out to find.
Another evening I headed out to capture the sunset and met the same frustration. Nothing looked quite right on the camera as I walked around. And then I looked to my left:
And met a new tree that I have no idea how I'd missed before this. With gorgeous heavy scented blossoms and bees happily buzzing. All glowing in that evening light.
I think this theory applies to more than just my picture taking adventures in the field. If things aren't turning out the way you planned or hoped or imagined, maybe it's time to look to your left.....or your other left. Maybe you're finding yourself in this place to do or see something you didn't even know existed or meet someone new.
This morning I got up early to prep for the yoga and meditation classes I would be leading today. I mentally outlined where we would go in the yoga class. Then decided on a basic outline for meditation and picked a theme of cultivating inner strength for one of our silent portions of class.
I usually open the meditation class with some sort of reading and lately I've been just pulling a book off the shelf from right in the store and seeing what is there when I open is. This morning I pulled a tiny book called "Meditation" by Brian L. Weiss, MD. The page I opened to said in big letters "Magnificence Waits for Us......"
How do I get there, where is it waiting?
It's already here. It's inside you and all around you. Waiting for us to become aware of it.
The chapter in the book went on to talk about meditation as a tool to better know ourselves, and the resulting mindfulness as a way we begin to recognize that every step we take is sacred; every breath is holy. That by using meditation to know ourselves better we are able to transform fear and feelings of limitation into power (strength) and joy.
Meditation is one of the tools I use for cultivating the power to see what I call "magic" in the every day. Around me and in me and in you. Magic, magnificence.
I teach yoga, meditation, and holistic fitness classes and lead programs for women. In the course of my work I end up talking to a lot of people about their bodies, many of them women. Outside of my work in groups of friends or other parents at school events, because people know what I do I still find myself talking to a lot of people about their bodies, what they do for exercise, etc.
I notice a lot of interesting trends. One thing that has really been on my mind lately is how reluctant women are to celebrate their accomplishments without qualifying it in some way. This is what I hear over and over:
"I mean, I know I can still stand to lose 10 lbs but I just realized I can do the whole class without resting"
"I still have a long way to go but now I can get into that pose."
"I'm not anywhere near getting in my skinny clothes yet but I just ran my fastest mile ever."
There are a thousand variations of this and most of them include something around the size of the woman's body, fitting into certain clothes or looking like someone else.
I could write a whole separate list of how we react when someone gives us a sincere compliment.
What are we doing????
It has been my experience in observing people that men tend to not do this. Which supports the idea that this is very much wrapped up in messages that we get from society about what it means to be a "good girl" and what it means to be pretty, sexy, fit or "healthy".
I can do the whole class without resting!!
I just did a yoga pose that wasn't available to me before!!
I ran faster than I ever have before!!
Thank you, I love this dress (or haircut or how I feel today)!
Health and fitness is not only measured by how small your body gets or a number on the scale. Taking pride in accomplishments has nothing to do the current size of your clothing or your body. You are allowed to look gorgeous or sexy or glowing or confident and OWN it, completely when someone notices and compliments you.
Let's learn to allow for celebration. No strings attached.
Revel in moving our bodies for the sake of moving them. Maybe - gasp!- without any goal in mind but to feel good and have fun!
Recognize the outside pressures about how we are "suppose to" look and decide that just maybe what we do and how we feel is more important.
Several other local women and I have been working with Taryn Brumfitt and Gathr Films to have her documentary "Embrace" shown in Traverse City. In Embrace Taryn examines how and why so many women criticize and even loathe their own bodies, where the messages are coming from and how to change our perspectives.
To find a screening near you search HERE
If you are local to Traverse City, our screening is scheduled for Monday October 10th at 7:30pm at the Cherry Blossom 14. Tickets can only be purchased through the link at Gathr, not at the theater. The link for our screening is HERE
I personally love dance as a way to connect to my physical body and have fun while moving. The holistic fitness classes I teach (Bellyfit®) have a belly dance element to them but I've had very little true belly dance training. We're offering a 6 week Belly Dance Basics course this fall at Source that I'm really excited about. More info can be found HERE.
Currently we are being sold "transformation" every time we turn around. Especially women, not only women, but especially.
Transform your life!
Transform your mind!
Transform your body!
Especially your body, because once you transform your body you will of course be more confident and happy which takes care of the mind and life aspects, right? Just look at those before and after pictures! Those abs! Those smiles!
Transformational life coaching.
Transformational health coaching.
Programs that will allow you to:
All of this is telling us over and over in subtle ways that we need to be totally different than we are right now (transform), that we're toxic (detox) or dirty (cleanse) or broken (fix).
I love yoga, I teach it. I have friends who are amazing life, business and health coaches and there is a time to seek out help from people like them. I love meditation, I lead group classes in that too. I certainly see value in eating well and finding fun ways to exercise, I teach holistic fitness classes.
There are times that things feel "off" in our minds, lives and bodies for sure and it's worthwhile to take steps to feel better and more like ourselves.
However as with many things there is a trap here and a shift in where our attention and intention lies in all these endeavors can make a big difference.
"I just want to be my best self."
I think that's a great idea. If we're taking the time to dig deep and explore our true selves, even the dark shadowy parts, and see them all with compassion and love. We need to be able to connect to, be comfortable with and reveal our true selves at least in some ways before we can grasp what our "best self" might be.
If we enter this self-improvement game without doing that, skimming the surface and avoiding the places that maybe aren't so full of "love and light" things get pretty fake, really fast. Or it's really common to dig deep and start analyzing every aspect of our selves - assigning labels of good and bad to our various qualities. This is just another part of that trap of believing we are broken, dirty - unworthy.
It's so easy to picture our best self and set goals based on what others look like, how they act, what their life appears to be like. So I want to be my best self that has a body like that girl's "after" picture, surely my best self is highly efficient and motivated and accomplishes as much as she does in a day. Or the newest version of the perfect woman is the one who is totally badass and gives zero f*$#s - I'm going to be like that, even if truly I'm wired to give a whole lot of f*%#s about a whole lot of things.
If I was just a little better version of me, then I'd move through life with ease.......
Towards yourself in each moment and day.
My needs today are different than they were yesterday. The world around me is different than it was yesterday. I can plan and set goals but always fully knowing that tomorrow many things will be different too. One of my friends and teachers, Hannah Marcotti, has a lovely way of encouraging us to learn things from out past self and imagine the feelings of our future self to gain insight while never losing sight of the need for acceptance of the self we are right now in this moment.
The days I feel like I'm actually on my way to being my best self are the days I take time to sit in stillness, really assess what I need and follow through on those needs. Even if outwardly, it looks "worse" than yesterday, doesn't fit with what is culturally considered the ideal mom, wife or woman or doesn't make sense to those around me.
Because my best, true self knows that each moment is different and that some moments call for floods of tears and some call for laughing until my stomach hurt. Some call for gorgeous nutritious food and some call for whatever sounds really really good. Some call for spending all day with my kids and some call for demanding time for myself. Some call for releasing irrational fiery anger and some for calm.
It's sometimes tricky to tease out the difference between the small still voice of our true self and the sneaky voice of the inner critic that is actually judging everything and comparing to others. It takes practice. We might get it wrong sometimes and that's ok too, because tomorrow is a new day with a different set of needs right?
To celebrate our first little glimpses of spring, the more regular sunshine and the start of several new things I will be launching over the next few months I wanted to make a gift for you!
You can download all 10 of these full size desktop wallpaper images with calendars. My own photographs of some of the amazing natural beauty around us in northern Michigan and Wisconsin. Far more magical than the boring desktop calendar widget that came on your computer!
You will get an email asking you to confirm your address and then get a separate email with the download link.
I hope you enjoy them!
I realized this week that I'm a little lost. A few weekends ago the kids and I went out of town for a very fast and full long weekend. The yoga workshops were amazing and the change of scenery was welcome. But sometimes even the positive changes in our day to day make it hard to reintegrate, to get back on track.
I've been feeling ungrounded, scattered, disconnected. Busy. Then I got a head cold, which definitely exacerbated that disconnected feeling. When we're "in it" it can be so hard to see the simplicity, the how and why we got there and how to get back. With the gift of a few snow days this week that slowed down the pace of our whole family I started to see (and the snot started to clear out!)...... that I'd lost my practice.
My personal practice(s).
I've been doing yoga, but not yoga just for me. I've been reading some but not writing or drawing very much at all. Not enough stillness/meditation. No vision pages, no pulling cards. Hardly taking any pictures. Hardly any time outside just for the sake of being outside. I don't need to do every single one of these things every day but I sure feel better if I do most of them on a very regular basis.
When we feel busy and like our life is controlling us from the outside in it can feel counter-productive or even impossible to ADD something more to the day. Yet somehow it works to slow things down, ground and bring perspective.
Today I found a few minutes between an appointment and work. Despite below zero wind chills I parked and walked out by the water. And that's how I begin again. Making small choices one at a time that bring me home to myself.
A few weeks ago on a whim I signed up for 3 days of yoga workshops. A friend and I had been talking about a teacher she worked with this fall who use to live in Kohler, WI. Kohler isn't far from where my parents live, where I lived for my teenage years and into my 20's. Later that week someone else mentioned Kohler.....weird, it's not a place I think about very much and most often when we're in WI we got north and not south. Then a "celebrity yogi" yoga teacher whose anatomy work I greatly respect and follow, Sadie Nardini, posted about her upcoming live teaching events, including - you guessed it - Kohler, WI.
Ok I'm paying attention now, maybe I should be going to Kohler! So I signed up, all the details fell easily into place....travel, coverage for work, childcare and even the weather forecast. Boom. I'm going to Kohler. I'm in planning mode, I'm excited to get out of town.
Fast forward to last Friday evening, I'm sitting in my truck in a parking lot in Kohler and in just an instant I go from a rational, confident grown woman......to a self conscious 13 year old girl. Vulnerability.
I came here alone, I don't know anyone. I've never been to this studio before, I have no idea what they are like here. Are we doing yoga for the whole 2 hrs? What if my hip pain flares back up again from all the driving plus the yoga and I can't even do the yoga tomorrow? What if the poses are too hard for me?
So I took Brene Brown's advice and reached out to a trusted friend. The text message read something like this: "I'm sitting in the parking lot at this yoga studio and suddenly panicking - I don't know anyone, everyone will be 25 and skinny and wearing $100 yoga pants and everything will be too hard for me."
She talked me down gently and of course assured me I would be just fine.
So I took a deep breath and walked in.
About half the class was my age or older. Far more people over 30 than in their 20's. Quite a few women in their 60's. I put my mat down next to a man closer to my dad's age than mine. (Safely in about the middle of the room and way over against the wall of course.) There was a woman there in a neck brace...... ok, so clearly if I need to modify poses I won't be the only one. There was a really wonderful wide variety of body shapes and sizes in the room.
Then they decided it would actually work much better for Sadie to teach from the center of the room rather than the front so they split the room in half......my safe middle of the room suddenly became the front row.
Well played Universe, well played.
So I went with it. Over the next few days I even talked a few times when she opened the floor up for questions and comments and in return got some fantastic feed back that seemed to help other people as well.
So Brene Brown is onto something here.....getting support from trusted friends when we need it and stepping into and through these fears, this vulnerability, to gain something fantastic on the other side!
We woke up this morning to an unexpected snow day and a thick blanket of wet heavy snow. Overall I don't mind shoveling, but this heavy stuff can be an overwhelming. I started on the driveway this morning and got a little grumpy about how slow it was going and convinced myself I'd finish it in several small chunks later.
Once I got back in the house and had some coffee, I started thinking about how to look at this differently. One of my teachers, Hannah, is always encouraging us to "flip" things. Flip our perspective, flip our preconceived ideas about things, move forward and get to the other side.
After lunch I headed back out with an idea to make this my "workout" today, keeping in mind the anatomy and physics principals I teach in my yoga and holistic fitness classes and also playing with mindfulness in motion.
First off - shoveling as exercise, especially in the wet, heavy conditions like today:
-if you have known heart or back conditions this may not be the right exercise for you.
-keep your hands more than 12" apart on the shovel
-remember to keep switching the side you are pushing towards to bring balance to the body. I like pushing a path down the center of my driveway and then moving out from the center toward each side to make it easy to keep switching sides.
-push as much as you can rather than lifting everything and take manageable chunks
-get a good rhythm going and keep yourself at that pace and after a short time you'll notice your heart rate up a bit and maybe even some sweat starting!
When it comes time to lift it up and over the bank there is great opportunity for muscle awareness:
-get low, feet rooted into the earth, tailbone straight down and back straight
-before you lift consciously engage your core starting with lifting through the pelvic floor, drawing the hip points together and pulling the navel towards the spine
- push the feet into the earth and straighten the legs to start the lift and keep the weight close to your body as long as possible rather than reaching way forward away from the body - this way when you lift you have all the muscles in your legs, core, back and arms working together rather than all the strain on your back and arms.
*we don't ever want to feel like we're "bearing down" on the pelvic floor or pushing outward on the abdominal wall when lifting.
From a mindfulness perspective:
- paying this close attention to which muscles we are using and using them properly is a form of mindfulness in itself.
- adding deep slow inhales/exhales and keeping your mind focused here
- reminding yourself to stay in your rhythm and focus just on that stripe of snow without looking forward and getting into the story of how much snow is left, how long the driveway is, how long it's taking, etc. Just coming back to the breath, the rhythm, how your body is working and that single stripe of snow in front of you.
I tried it, it worked! Driveway is clear, the kids took care of the front and back decks while I did it and it didn't even seem to take that long.
And of course shortly after I came inside the plow came by and we have a giant crusty bank at the end of my clean driveway.......how am I going to flip my ideas about that?!
I wrote a little about the space between last fall, you can revisit it HERE.
I find myself still really connected to this idea of spaces between. All different sorts of spaces. Right now we sit in a space between.....between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. Midwinter really here in northern Michigan. Between death and new life. It's still dark many days but the light is trying to return earlier each evening.
We start to feel restless, "cabin fever" physically but it's a deeper restlessness here in this space between. It can be exacerbated by this pull we feel towards resolutions, big action, change for the new year coming up against the remaining winter season desire for stillness and introspection.
Honor your desire to dance in the spaces between. Starting to play with the big ideas and stepping into the light while staying connected to darkness and stillness.
When we learn more about the cycles of nature, the old ways and old celebrations it gives us a framework to use to make sense of these commonly held feelings and inner pulls so many of us have. We are coming up on Imbolc, the old way of marking the halfway point between solstice and equinox. In climates more coastal, more forgiving than that of northern Michigan it marked the first signs of spring. Here, in climates like ours, we must look carefully for much more subtle signs of spring and pay attention to these natural pulls and feelings within ourselves. Here in the north by the Great Lakes we are still in the space between and we can see now why we might start to fee energized with big goals and ideas one day and the next come right back to this need for introspection and taking longer to incubate our ideas.
As a way to honor this at Imbolc my children and I have created light gardens in previous years. We read about the idea initially in the book "Circle Round". We filled a pan with soil (again - northern Michigan - we bought organic potting soil, things are far too frozen here to dig it from the earth! ) and planted "seeds". These seeds were little rolled up scraps of paper with wishes and dreams and intentions for the coming spring and summer. Rolled up and planted in that soil then topped with a candle to represent each seed. Eventually the candles would be removed and some real seeds added then the whole thing transplanted to the ground outside when the time is right.
What a perfect representation of this space between - the desire to dream and ignite and make goals paired with the remaining darkness, cold and need to incubate just a while longer.
It's been a few years since we did this but that last time I remember one child wanted to learn to swim, the other to ride her bike without training wheels. There were wishes for traveling certain places and flowers and what we were to plant in our garden. I think it's time to bring this tradition back.
I know you're "busy" and sometimes even the best intended new ideas can still seem like just one more thing - but our ancestors didn't have a lot of free time either, they were too busy surviving. And yet they took time to honor and celebrate these subtle changes in season, these cycles of nature. Their lives were directly connected to the cycles of nature so the importance was clear to them. Coming back to noticing and honoring these same cycles now in modern times connects us to nature more deeply, something our daily lives lack and something that scientist and researchers keep finding more and more importance in. Coming back to these traditions roots and grounds us in our current location and climate. And it offers us a framework for understanding our physical and emotional cycles as well.
If this is new to you and you are interested there are many books and blogs on the topic. The Wheel of the Year (seasonal changes and the old way of celebrating) can be celebrated solely as a connection to the natural and planetary cycles, it can be integrated into the framework of your existing religious tradition (for example Imbolc has been called Candlemas in some Christian traditions and not only marks the space between the solstice and equinox but marks when Jesus was presented at the Temple), it can be celebrated as part of a nature based framework of spirituality, or as part of a Goddess tradition based spirituality.
For those who are local, I am presenting a workshop on the topic this Wednesday January 27th at 6pm at Source in downtown TC. Registration information can be found HERE
The kids often have some form of DIY Halloween costumes. Usually it's a combo of stuff we already have around the house, a few smaller things we buy - mostly second hand - and some simple things we make. The years they have really really wanted to be something that required more than that we call Grandma.
This was the first year we tried anything this complex totally on our own. In theory I know how to sew and in theory I can follow a pattern but it isn't easy or intuitive for me. Alex really wanted to be Chewbacca but most of the patterns and all of the costumes we found were expensive and for the cost not that great at all. So we made it up. We bought a $5 sweat suit and I used it as a basic pattern. Then he just slipped the fur suit over the sweat suit and we safety pinned them together. I couldn't figure out how to properly sew the sleeves on. So we didn't. We just pinned them to the sweat shirt. It was good enough.
For Maya I found perfect fabric on sale, we found a pattern online that looked easy enough but it was adult size....so we measured and did creative math and used freezer paper to make one sort of her size. I couldn't figure out how to properly attach the collar to the tunic dress so we bought a $3 white turtle neck to wear under it. That also sort of hid the fact that the sleeves weren't the same length. It was good enough.
Ben made the weapons out of left over wood from the deck we built a few years ago. The kids chose the shapes based on internet photos, sanded and then spray painted them.
They were good enough.
I'm a perfectionist. Good enough is really really hard for me. I'm the kind of perfectionist that likes to pair my perfectionist tendencies with procrastination. The result is crippling. It means that most of the time I never even start the project, make the art or write the blog post. Because it never comes out the way I imagine and they way that it "should be", the way that is right. And if it's not right it's wrong. Right?
Or is it? I forced myself through this Halloween costume business this year. Literally forced, knowing I did not have the skill set to make it perfect. (Deep down inside actually thinking i'd probably be at Target the day before Halloween buying shitty plastic $40 costumes because our homemade ones were such a disaster.) And they weren't perfect. Not by a long shot.
But they were good enough.
Actually pretty great.
The kids LOVED them. They got tons of compliments and even each got an second full size candy bar from one house in the neighborhood because their costumes were so great.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this a lot in her book "Big Magic" and in her companion podcast series - Magic Lesson. Learning to just make things......make things no matter what. It doesn't have to be perfect, in fact it doesn't even have to be good! It's the act of making it that matters.
In the case of our Halloween costumes, good enough turned out to be perfect in the end and I know I gained some confidence and bravery in the process.
Magic in the everyday
There is magic all around us all the time. In this blog section you will find photos, musings and examples of how I try to find this magic in my own life. Yoga, meditation, ritual and community all play a role for me.