An older Blog Piece, But a Good Start to a New Blog!

June 26, 2010

My reasons for practicing and studying the philosophies of Yoga, Vedanta, and Buddhism have constantly changed bit by bit over the past 13 years or so. The basic trend seems to be from the micro to the macro. Micro – initially working on all the tiny approachable self fixes in hopes of constantly evolving (or devolving) into (or back to) the best version of me I can unearth. Macro – As I become more refined and find more inner strength, I can then begin to become the most useful to both my immediate environment and eventually a broader and broader environment. More and more I am associating WHAT I am trying to become and HOW I am trying to be in this world with the Mahayana definition of Bodhisattva. Now, by no means am I calling myself one, but it is my ultimate goal to pursue this particular ideal. A couple of quick definitions…

Bodhisattva
-person whom has attained a certain level of enlightenment, has found nirvana (freedom from existence/reincarnation) who postpones it to return and help others.

-“For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.” -Santideva

– …the bodhisattva as a person who already has a considerable degree of enlightenment and seeks to use their wisdom to help other sentient beings to become liberated.

As I said earlier, this was not my initial intention. I just wanted to start out with the ego based micro fixes, i.e. asana based practice with goals of flexibility, strength, relaxation, and well, ego. I loved becoming great at the poses and looking great in them. I loved what the yoga was doing to my body and still do. Something however started to change over the years. The asana benefits just seemed a bit hollow in comparison to the mental and emotional benefits I was starting to notice. This led me to delve much deeper into history and philosophy of not only hatha yoga, but down into its roots of Vedanta as well as Buddhism. Moving from the micro/the self to the macro; the global spiritual betterment of us all. This is something I try to work on in every breath of every day. Practicing, preparing, getting better. I want to be effective. I want to be powerful. I want to be happy and utterly satisfied. Then I try to design my physical existence around these fundamental concepts.

Recently I found myself again face to face with death and dying, and it is the inspiration for all that I am presently babbling about here. Whilst horseback riding on a beach in Santa Barbara, a group of us came upon a woman yelling and waving by the water. To make a long story short, we pulled a dead 64 year old man out of the water, I administered CPR, and a minute later he began breathing again. I recently got a very much awaited call that he is basically ok! One huge aspect of this encounter that is sticking with me is how prepared and sure I felt in this situation. This is not a testament to me, but more to the training I have pursued in my life. A strange part of me hopes that I am there when bad things happen because I want to be there, helping, effective, powerful, making a positive difference when things may be at their bleakest.

The bodhisattva in me has come to relish hardship and challenge as the greatest learning experience in this lifetime and as eventually one of my main reasons for being here. I am studying the physical, spiritual, and emotional boundaries of my personal existence in an effort to become as useful to the world around me as possible in both the best and the worst of times. Even more oddly, part of me feels that if I had a choice of something bad happening to me or “you”, I would have it happen to me as I feel like I am not only prepared for it but willing to except it and use it to learn from. The bodhisattva concept really feels right to me personally and is a concept I draw a lot of strength and purpose from. The yoga asana practice has allowed me to practice trying to relax and focus in both the easiest and the hardest or least liked postures. Yoga is simply a controlled environment practice, that I am finding more and more everyday helps me to focus and relax in both the easiest and the hardest of times. This yoga stuff seems to be working!

The above is really more of a very personal mission statement to myself more than anything else. However, it does beg the question to us all… what is YOUR mission statement? Not just what you are trying to do this year, but what is your purpose for being here? What ripples can you leave when you are gone? Are you doing what you want to do? Are you acting/behaving the way you want? Its not about what we “deserve” (i hate that word) or what we have been handed. It is about what you envision and what you need to do to get there. Life is short and will most likely be shorter than we expect. There is a great buddhist concept that I find as more of an inspiration than defeatist or morbid. House on Fire – Many of us will go through life concerned only with material things and immediate pleasures not realizing we are living in a house on fire. All our houses are going to burn down at some point. It is as if we all secretly believe we might be the only one to make it through without dying. Im going to die. It could happen in 5 minutes. I constantly ask myself, “If I died right now, would I have any regrets or things I wish I should have gotten to?” Personally I feel at present that the only thing I would miss is getting to share more time with my wife.

Make a list. Get the list done. Clear up anything with other people that weighs on you. The house is on fire and there should be some urgency to LIVE! Love and appreciate all of you out there! Have a great weekend!

New Classes!!

Ok yoga friends and students. It is official! I am picking up two classes a week! My teaching hiatus is over. Feeling out of the loop, but very psyched to teach at a new spot and get to see both all my past students and meet a bunch of new ones! Beginning Monday March 24th, I will be teaching the noon hour long class at Wanderlust Yoga Austin for my friend Ashley Spence Clauer. I am also teaching a Wed. afternoon class at 4pm beginning on April 2nd! Please come out if you can. Hope to see many of you again and get back into the groove!

The Past: Rolling the old onto the new

New post here on a new site. The last blog site got buggy! First post was an easy effort to save all my old material by copying right into this blog. There is a lot of material there so peruse at your leisure if you so choose. Hopefully, given time, there will be new stuff to come!

Happy Birthday Wifey! I got you… a vasectomy?

 

Yeah, that’s right. After months of not blogging, this is what I am blogging about and I’ll tell you why. I recently got this procedure done (all is well and I feel fine) and have wanted to blog about it as I feel it is an interesting subject that is probably too often NOT talked about. When in conversation with other Daddy dudes, if it has come up, said dudes shy away from even using the V word. I get it, sort of. Few people want to talk about surgery and very few dudes want to talk about anything slightly uncomfortable concerning the naughty bits. Those are your boyz and that area can be quite a source for both physical and emotional discomfort. However, what I don’t get is not sacking up so to speak, and taking responsibility for your own actions in your relationship with your lady friend.

Why should it be my wife’s responsibility to not only have periods, BE pregnant, birth two kids, and then take nasty birth control with horrid side effects or an IUD? Condoms I barely mention because they flat out suck. Abstinence is silly. Having tons of kids due to zero family planning and control is irresponsible no matter what your religious beliefs are. It just is. It might be what others think is the right way and that is fine, but it does not make it any less irresponsible.

The alternative? I go have a 20 minute operation, ice my boys for a day, and have a lifetime of not ever having to even think about it again. Everybody wins in my book! No more babies, no more hassle for the wife, no more expenses, and potential for having MORE SEX than before because now it is a non-issue!

Male friendses. Don’t be skerred. It will be ok. It is as chivalrous as you can be. It will not lessen your masculinity or “mojo”. Personally, I think it is a testament to your manhood to do it. I have so much confidence in my own mojo that I feel I can do this with zero negative effect. Like I said, it may in fact lead to more interest from the wife. So she claims at least!

Vasectomies!!!! Git er done and live free!
Quote from yesterday… Nurse: Just breathe and find a happy place.
Me: Yeah, the problem is that you are operating ON my happy place.

Thanks for allowing me to be so publicly honest and blunt people! Have a great weekend!

PS: I really did get it done on Hannah’s birthday. It was too funny to pass it up.

 

Happy Fathers Day!!!!

 

Here is a piece I wrote a long time ago for a father’s day gift.

I never used to LOVE the banjo. I used to think it
was somewhat corny, unique, but corny. Now it is an
instrument that I am sad to say I have not learned to
play…yet…

Bath time was the best when I was growing up. Not
just because it was another version of playtime with
the brilliant addition of water and bubbles, but also
because it was often me and dad’s bonding time. This
is man time when you are a young boy. There I would
sit, surrounded by way too many suds and a wealth of
bathing accoutrements. Pops would, on the tail end of
bathing, pull out his banjo and take a seat on the
crapper right across from the tub. For those who
cannot share my mental image of the experience, he was
SITTING and not a variation of this word involving the
strategic addition of the letter H. He would then
launch into one of the two songs that he actually knew
all the way through. Hopefully starting out with “Goin
Up Cripple Creek”, my personal favorite. We would
sing, listen and splash to the silly twanging of the
banjo. It’s a memory and a vision that I can see and
hear crystal clear even now. I am now constantly
figuring out how to acquire and learn to play banjo.
Maybe even only if to learn “Goin’ Up Cripple Creek” to
play for dad and my children to-be someday.

There have been two enormously important male
influences in my life. One being dad and the other
being my brother, a product of mom and dad. If you
ask me, and I am biased, I think they did everything
just right bringing us up. My father has always been
my shining goal of how to be as a man, a husband, and
a father. When people see the two of us together and
say I can see where you came from, it makes me
unbelievably happy. I can only hope to ever be as
kind, generous, loving, and free minded as either of
my parents. I love them unconditionally, as I know
they love me. If I could love them any more I would.
Dad…thank you for being the unbelievable man that
you have come to be.
Someday I will learn to play the banjo too.

I have recently begun learning the banjo and can now hack my way through a couple tunes. Sorry Lottie and Milo, this tradition WILL get passed on.

Milo Floyd Borer!

 

So as many of you know, this little dude was born 12 days ago and he and momma are doing awesome. This is just a funny story concerning the monicker MILO.

Almost two years ago we started talking about kids names when we were pregnant with Lottie Bird. One evening as we were chatting about it in bed, Hannah said to me, “What do you think about the name Milo?” I started laughing… a lot. She said, “It’s not supposed to be funny!”. To those of you who knew me in high school, you realize immediately why this is extremely funny.

Beginning in 7th grade, I was dubbed MILO during a meeting for those interested in going out for the high school track team. This was based entirely on the fact that I looked very much like the cartoon character from Bloom County know as Milo Bloom. Picture…

 

I had poofy blonde hair, super thick glasses, and a propensity for bad fashion.

This nickname BECAME my name. Teachers called me Milo. Friends, relatives, and even my parents called me Milo. It’s on my varsity jacket. It’s the name in every year book signature. It’s the name signed on every bit of art from high school. For all practical purposes, I am indeed Milo Borer SR.

SO, if you are a high school friend, I have not sadly named my son after my high school nickname. It was just an hilarious coincidence that was too good to pass up. Record straight.

 

P.O.I Pond -Something New

 

So I read a ton, A TON, and am always finding out new and interesting bits of information. I am creating the POI Pond category here to pass them along. Kind of like a koi pond, but full of shiny and colorful Points Of Interest. I am hoping that it will have a two fold effect; to help me remember said facts as well as to pass them along to others!

 

The first entry –“Hearsay” the hunchback.

Beginning in 1532, the French friar Francois Rabelais, began publishing a series of books that became know as the comic epic: Gargantua and Pantagruel. Looking into these books is interesting enough on its own as they were super controversial due to their obscene language, subject matter, and general love for the grotesque. they were meant as parody through the ridiculous. According to Rabelais, the philosophy of the giant Pantagruel, or “Pantagruelism”, was rooted in “a certain gaiety of mind pickled in the scorn of fortuitous things”. Awesome. However, I just stumbled across a character mentioned in the books known by the name Hearsay, whom I think is both interesting and relevant!

I am currently reading a great factual account of Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe in the 16th century, entitled Over The Edge Of The World by Laurence Bergreen. It is in this book that this POI is mentioned.

Hearsay was a blind hunchback who ran his own school and taught all the classes. He had seven tongues, which also had seven tongues, with which to teach various truths to many people. Basically, you went to school and learned whatever Hearsay wanted to teach you, and then walked away being a brilliant scholar of said information. Students often included those fairly high up in society.

It is basically the opposite of the Greek concept of autopsis, seeing for one’s self. This was an obvious effort at parody of the popular behavior of basically believing anything as truth not only if it was fantastic, but often because it was fantastic.

Seems like a relevant parody once again with the age of internet and television and the ability to pass along so much misinformation. So many of us choosing to believe what sounds good as opposed to what is actual factually correct. Hearsay vs Autopsis. Coming to theaters near you this summer… 3D.

Recognition…

My Dad’s momma is right now entering the last leg of a very long journey here on Earth. She is the last of my grandparents. She is amongst so many loved ones and is just patiently waiting to depart. I am sad. Sadder than I thought I would be, expecting this journey for her to end fairly soon. I think I am sad due to seeing someone pass, who created sooo much. A matriarch whom would never ever use that term.

She is the mother of 12 kids that are 15 years apart. 40 or so grandkids, I lose count, and many many great grandkids. She quietly and with never a complaint ran a huge dairy farm household in Western NY, which also included looking after the hands that worked there as well. She also had a huge hand in raising several of her grandchildren.

She is devoutly Catholic and to me epitomizes what it is to be religious. She LIVES it in every breath and sees it in every aspect of her life. She passes as much good will on as she has been capable of, but never judges others for their beliefs or pushes her own beliefs onto others. Her religion is hers, it directs and permeates all aspects of her life, and that is as far as she has ever needed to take it.

A loving, quiet, patient woman. Never a complaint. Never a raised voice. Some of her first children may disagree, but that has been my observation.

I write this because it is bringing to my mind how many people get recognized for their life or their deeds and how many do not. She would never deem her life worthy of recognition. She never did anything intending or hoping for any recognition. She certainly wouldn’t be interested if it came her way.

Looking at the scope of her life and all the humans she has created, raised, assisted, or inspired is astounding. It just makes me ask the questions… Who are you recognizing for their deeds, life choices, and priorities? Do they deserve the attention? Who is not getting the respect and attention?
The folks that this world truly benefits from are often the ones you never hear of and most of them would want it that way.

On this day, I am giving my thoughts to those that go quietly unrecognized and live amazing lives. Those that make the world a better place. Those that the world will miss when we lose them. All my love to my Grandma Borer, her children, and friends. Although I cannot be there with you, I am HERE with you.

Today I am also deciding to not play my gig tonight. I am choosing to be with my close little family and take advantage of this moment. -m

In addition to the previous post: I would like to thank…

January 19, 2013 In addition (after re-reading my last post), I want to add that my folks did a fantastic job of it. My point in using them as an example was that when we are IN IT as kids, we have such a different perspective. When we are IN IT as parents we have such a different perspective. Eventually our places in life and with each other change and we have a chance to either look back on things with understanding and comprehension or misunderstanding and a somewhat self centered point of view. Right NOW being the new normal does not mean forgetting about the past. It means having an understanding that everything has,is, or will change and being okay with it and letting it go. Thanks mom and dad for everything you have done and continue to do! Everything has led us to this point right now and right now is really fantastic!

Right NOW is the new normal.

January 19, 2013 This concept has been rolling around in my head and heart for a while now. I really discovered it due to the process of parenting, but have been pondering on it as it relates to life in general.

In parenting I have really found that whatever works today is of the most importance. What was working or what you want to work is mostly irrelevant. In the relationship I have with my wife, this has become our strongest asset as well. Instead of aggressively holding on to our little wants/wishes/needs and butting heads often, we tend to just steer toward whatever works best and most efficiently to make life easy and successful. This is not to say either of us give up on the things we love. We just choose to not make it a bit deal when something other than our personal “ego wishes” works better. Life is too short and precious to waste a bunch of it planting your flag on mountain tops that either turn out to be speed bumps are turn out to be irrelevant. The mountain top next door probably has a bunch of people on it laughing and enjoying a picnic.

RIGHT NOW is the new normal. Allow yesterday to simply be what it was. Adapt, change, and release the need to blame yourself or others for the things that did not go the way you wanted them to or the way you think they should have.

In a related note, when thinking about my parents and my upbringing I have recently come to a great place in my life. Part of this is due to becoming a parent and part of it is due to me just allowing enjoy the present and see things a little more as they truly are and were. It is impossible for any of us to blame things on one person or circumstance. It is easy for sure, but it is not very logical. It makes sense in ego driven logic. “I am this way because that happened.” The awesome revelation that I am finally beginning to really and truly understand is that nothing stands alone as an isolated person or event. My parents were and are who they are because of millions of factors, i.e. who their parents were, where they grew up, neighbors, friends, relatives, money, who they were as a team, etc. The list goes on forever of internal and external factors that make us who we are at any given time. AND who we are is always changing… hopefully. If I listened to myself talking 10 yrs ago what would I think now of that person? My folks loved each other, loved us, and parented in the only ways they were capable of at THAT time in all of our lives. The bottom line for me is that life right here right now, although often tough and financially strapped, is awesome. We are so blessed in the things that surround us. We are healthy, happy, in a great town, great friendships, great parents and family, a happy and healthy munchkin with another on the way.

Learning to view people and circumstances without having to judge them and/or hold things against them has been amazingly liberating as well as allowed me to really enjoy those relationships more at the present. Again, it doesn’t mean that everyone gets a free pass. There is certainly behavior which warrants being dealt with or avoided, but for the most part a little bit of compassion and understanding can help to see folks in a fuller spectrum. It does involve that hard element of taking the ego out of the equation; that whiny inner voice that needs to blame others for your present. That voice that won’t allow yesterday to wash away. The voice that can’t let others be who they are without comparing them to what I want, how I behave, how I think it should be done.

RIGHT NOW is the new normal. What worked yesterday may not work today. What happened yesterday is not happening NOW. Who I or others were yesterday is not who we are NOW. My greatest personal inner hope is that every day in every way I can keep changing to become the best version of myself possible. It will take a lifetime if not longer, but it does make every day a bit easier, every day a bit fuller, and every relationship a bit deeper.

BLOG DISCLAIMER: Often this is my stream of consciousness rambling here. I tend to right as if I were talking to “you”, whoever that may be. In reality I am mostly talking to or about myself when I refer to “you”. I am the last to be “preachy” as I am acutely aware of my own struggles, faults, and failings along my path to “get it right” in this life. -mb

Introducing “Nemo”!!!!

December 7, 2012 Hello all and Happy Holiday Season! Have a good look at this pic…. I have a story to tell.

 

On Mothers Day of 2006, Hannah and I had our first date at Enchanted Rock. We went out for an afternoon of rock climbing and got stuck in a big ol’ Texas rainstorm. We were forced to play in the rain and then make out on a picnic table. Not a bad afternoon. Her family joined later with wine, cheese, and smoked salmon for a Mothers Day picnic. We finished off the day sitting on the Rock and watching the sunset. Not only was this an amazing day, but it was the most important day of my adult life for so many reasons. It led to our life together, to meeting a wonderful new family in the Floyds and extended, and has now led to us making more of… well, us!

In 2006 there were two people on that picnic table. In 2012… there were FOUR! Yes!

We just came back from a doctor visit and we can now proudly and publicly say that we are having Thing 2! 7.5 centimeters long and kicking away, our little Nemo is coming along swell. Hannah is doing well, besides feeling like barfing 24 hours a day, and I am stuck between total excitement and “OH SHIT, what were we thinking?” Lottie is also excited, she just doesn’t know why yet. Lottie has about five teeth now and several others moving. She is officially a crawler, says “mama” a lot (which we are working on associating with Hannah), and has learned to clap!!

Have a great holiday and new year. We will keep you all posted! Thanks to family and friends who have inspired us in this endeavor as well as helped in so many ways.

August 29, 2012 Had a wonderful 10 days in Ecuador. Just the right amount of time to be in a new place. We went for the dual purpose of visiting Hannah’s folks who live there AS WELL AS getting her family together for her older brothers wedding. Here are some pics!

Lottie Bird Birth Story by Hannah Floyd (mom)

March 21, 2012 Hi all! I asked Hannah if it was ok to share this in a more public aspect. Birth stories are pretty amazing to read, but are often only for the consumption of family and friends. I thought some of you might be interested in the details of the whole experience! I have edited out any parts where she mentions me crying, because we all know that that was artistic writing license and I don’t cry… just kidding. I cried for about 12 hours straight and still do fairly often. So, here it is!

Lottie Bird’s Birth

On Wednesday, February 22nd, we had a prenatal appointment in the early afternoon at the birthing center. My mom had arrived from Ecuador the night before, and she had come along with Matt and me to see the center and meet the midwives. Jayme was on duty that day. Mama’s and baby’s vitals were healthy, and everything looked good. We made our next appointment for the following week, but of course I was thinking and hoping that I wouldn’t make it that long before “Butters”, the nickname we had given the mystery baby, made his or her appearance.

Later that afternoon, knowing that staying active was a good way to help Butters along, I walked the three mile loop around Lady Bird Lake. It still felt good to move and get some exercise, but during this walk, I definitely noticed an increased sensation of pressure lower in my pelvis than usual. I came home and then went with Matt to his evening vinyasa flow yoga class, while my mom went to an Ash Wednesday church service. The yoga felt a little more taxing than usual, which wasn’t too surprising since, at this point, I was feeling bigger and bigger by the day.

Matt and I came home, had dinner, and put on an episode of Seinfeld that we had on DVR. At about 8:45 p.m., halfway through the episode, “The Couch”, I started to shift my weight to change positions when I suddenly felt a little pop in my pelvis, and then a warm gush started to soak my underwear. I looked over at Matt on the other end of the couch and said, “My water just broke!” His eyes got really big and a look of excitement, joy, and a hint of fear spread over his face. I got up and ran to the bathroom before the water soaked through my pants, and let it drain into the toilet. Matt started cracking up and said that he wished he could have captured the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face as I froze mid-movement, clutching the sides of the couch at the moment I felt the pop. We checked to make sure the amniotic fluid was clear of meconium, and called Jayme to give her a heads up that depending on how fast things progressed, we might be calling her back in the middle of the night to head to the birthing center. She recommended that we try to get as much sleep as possible before things got more intense. Right after we hung up the phone, my mom walked in the door, and we gave her the news. Matt called his folks to let them know that Butters was on the way.

I was still in my sweaty workout clothes, so I went up to take a shower and wash my hair. During the shower, I started having some light contractions. Matt and I got into bed and tried to sleep. Matt dozed off for a short time, but I was never able to fall asleep with all the anticipation and the building sensations. My contractions were already coming less than ten minutes apart, but they weren’t that intense yet, more like having bad menstrual cramps. Over the next few hours they kept getting stronger and closer together. Taking a cue from Matt, who is always making up silly songs by inserting people’s names into existing songs and changing the lyrics up, I was getting myself through contractions by singing little songs in my head about Butters, and reminding myself that, though the contractions were starting to really hurt, every one was bringing us closer to finally meeting our baby. At about 3:00 a.m., I had been having strong contractions every two to five minutes. Matt was awake, and we decided it was time to think about heading to the birthing center. We called Jayme and planned to meet there in an hour. We woke up my mom, and she and Matt started getting my bag and our snacks gathered up and taking them to the car. I called Elizabeth, one of my best friends whom I’ve known since junior high, and who was also going to attend the birth for extra support wherever it was needed. At the time of Lottie’s birth, Elizabeth was about twenty weeks pregnant and still trying to decide if she wanted to have hospital birth with a doctor, or take the midwife route, so it was also an opportunity for her to see the birthing center experience.

 

When we got to the birthing center, Jayme and the apprentice midwife, Stephanie, checked our vitals and let us rest in bed for a while to adjust to the new setting. My contractions slowed down a little with the change, but started picking up speed again soon. Elizabeth arrived at about 4:45. At this point, my perception of time gets fairly blurry, but I remember that over the next few hours while I continued to labor, I noticed it going from darkness to light out the windows of the birthing center, and knew that my mom had gone out to take some photos of the beautiful turn-of-the-century house in the light of dawn.

I labored lying on my side in bed for a while. The midwives didn’t want me to get in the tub too soon because sometimes it can relax you enough to actually slow labor down. When the contractions had become very intense, they started filling the huge garden tub for me. Meanwhile, Matt and Elizabeth teamed up to rub my low back and legs while I breathed my way through contractions. I remember thinking about how helpful the “pursed lip breathing” technique that I frequently teach patients at work was at getting me through the waves. Long slow inhale through the nose and long slow exhale through puckered lips. When the tub was full, Matt and I got in together. I sat on my knees and hung my arms on the side, with my forehead resting on a towel on the edge, rolling my head around on the towel, groaning and sighing at the height of contractions. Matt held a cool towel on the back of my neck and continued to rub my back as the contractions continued to surge higher and higher. All the while, Elizabeth was regularly offering me sips of the coconut water that I had brought to stay hydrated. Over the course of my labor, I drank three large cans of the stuff, and I don’t think I will ever be able to dissociate coconut water from being in labor for the rest of my life!

 

Jayme suggested getting out of the tub and moving around to help the baby work its way lower. Matt and I went upstairs to the yoga space and slowly walked laps around the big room filled with morning sun, taking breaks to either lean on him or kneel over a chair when I started feeling a wave coming on. After a while we went back downstairs and I sat and ate a yogurt. The contractions had goitten exhausting by now, and I was starting to feel like it was never going to end. I did a stint sitting on the toilet, but I couldn’t relax onto the seat without bringing on wrenching pain. At this point, Jayme wanted to do a cervical exam to make sure I was dilating, since I had been in active labor for quite a while now and hadn’t felt the baby get lower. She didn’t give me a number, but said that I was opening beautifully, and that at any point thereafter, if I got the urge to push, to go ahead. This was encouraging, though nothing even close to the urge to push had happened yet, but the thought that I was getting close was a a major relief. I don’t know what time it was, but it was still definitely morning, and I’m glad I didn’t know how many hours I still had to go, because it would have seemed impossible.

I was getting quite fatigued, having been awake for well over twenty-four hours at that point. Jayme had me periodically “rest” by lying in bed on my side for a while, which I alternated with kneeling over the birthing ball on the bed. The intensity in my abdomen and back during the contractions was reaching what felt like emergency level and I was having to put every ounce of concentration into keeping my breaths long and slow, and keeping my sounds low, which promotes staying more relaxed. While I was on the ball, I heard Jayme say to Matt, “There’s your baby,” and pointed out that from the back, you could see the baby’s head pressing my sacrum up and shifting it around during the contractions. Somehow in the midst of my own intensity, I was impressed that he seemed fascinated by it rather than wanting to pass out.

A couple of times I started crying a little, not as much because of the pain, but because it felt like it was going on and on with no progress. I started feeling like I was failing and I wanted so badly just to throw in the towel and get completely drugged up at the hospital. I was desperately fighting resentful thoughts of being in the midst of the most horrible event of my entire life, and not even caring about the coming baby aymore, just wanting anything to make the contractions stop. Matt, on the other hand, had been tearing up with emotion and empathy the entire time, and though I wasn’t cognitively processing it at the time, his connection to and expression of the emotional side of the momentous event happening was invaluably helping me hang on to the ability to keep enduring and concentrating on what I needed to do for as long as it took to bring Lottie to us.

Over the next several hours, Jayme coached me through a circuit of techniques to help the baby keep working its way downward and turn into a better position for exit. I walked up and down the hall doing high knees, did stints sitting backwards on the toilet, and alternated “Captain Morgans” with my left foot up on the bed and squatting during contractions. Jayme performed a “hip rocking” technique on me, where I lay on my right side while she vigorously rocked my body side to side between contractions. I could tell by the light coming through the windows that it was no longer morning, and that we were forging on into the afternoon. The baby’s and my vitals continued to be rock solid, and though I was exhausted by now, I just had to keep going.

Elizabeth had gone out to get lunch for everyone, and Matt had stepped out briefly to eat while Jayme and Stephanie continued to monitor our vitals and coach me through contractions to help me stay as relaxed as possible. By the time Matt came back in, he told me later that he could sense a significant change, and said I looked like I had gone into some deep primal state of being. I stilI didn’t feel like I was making progress, and voiced to Jayme that I didn’t know how much longer I could do it. She assured me that this was a good sign that I was getting closer, and firmly stated that I could keep doing it as long as I needed to, taking it one contraction at a time. I tried to make myself believe her. It was taking every ounce of power in me to keep breathing in a controlled way and keep my entire body from clenching up. At some point I noticed that April, one of the other midwives had also arrived.

While I was taking another “rest” on my side, Jayme observed that it seemed my baby really liked gravity, and suggested kneeling on a pillow on the floor and leaning forward over the edge of the bed. I felt like I might need to go sit on the toilet to try to poop, but Jayme persuaded me to try a few contractions in kneeling over the bed first, and said that maybe the urge I was feeling was actually my baby finally coming down. I was at the point where I didn’t really care if I pooped on the floor anyway, so I got down to the floor. Matt sat in front of me on the bed and I held onto his legs to brace myself as each new wave came on. Down on my knees, I still wasn’t feeling a strong urge to push, but the pressure in my bottom was growing a little. I decided that I had nothing to lose by trying a few pushes, so with the next contraction, I tentatively started to bear down a little as I exhaled. It felt okay, so I gave a bigger push with the next breath. The pressure started to dramatically increase and I felt a head-sized object wedge down lower into my pelvis! Finally!

All the midwives started into a flurry of activity putting gloves on and warming towels up. Even though the contractions still hurt, I got got an intense rush of euphoria knowing that there was an end in sight, and was able to completely reconnect to the excitement of getting to meet this baby I had been carrying for so long now. I eagerly, but patiently, waited for the next contraction and gave three pushes of mounting intensity with my breaths. I felt the baby move further and further down with each one, and began to feel my tissues stretching wider. I would push until I felt like I would tear if I kept going, then stop to let my tissues relax around the baby and wait for the next contraction to start pushing again. With the first few sets of pushes, I could feel the baby slide back up a little between contractions, but as the head continued to move down, I could tell that it was on its way out. The stretching was getting intense and burning, but I didn’t care because I knew it was only a matter of minutes at this point. I heard the midwives saying that they could see an ear. Jayme was using olive oil to feel around the edge of the head to check for the cord, and telling me that I was stretching beautifully. I wanted to keep it that way and prevent as much tearing as possible, but I also wanted that baby out so badly. I gave a strong push, making what I’m sure sounded like a wild animal cry, and felt the entire head come out. One more big push brought the shoulders and rest of the body through with a big, warm swoosh.

A wave of relief like nothing I’ve ever known swept over me and I gave a huge sigh, releasing my vice grip on Matt’s legs. Jayme was rubbing down the blue, slimy baby, and I held my breath for a second until that first scream hit the air. After hearing me make the cry that was unmistakably the sound of a final push, my mom and Elizabeth rushed into the room just as the baby began to scream. The baby’s little body quickly went from blue to pink as the midwives massaged it.

I anxiously looked over my shoulder to finally find out the baby’s sex. At first glance, I thought I saw little testicles and said out loud, “It’s a boy!” but then registered that something didn’t look quite right and double checked. There was no little penis, and what I had thought were testicles were really swollen little labia, and I cried out, “No, it’s a girl!” Though I would have been completely thrilled either way, I had secretly been having strong intuitions that it was a girl, and finding out that it was indeed felt like everything was falling into place as it should. We had a Lottie Bird! Matt and I had chosen her name for a hypothetical daughter long before we even knew whether or not we wanted to have kids, and had never considered any other girl names along the way. When I took Lottie Bird into my arms that first time, she perfectly embodied her name, and it felt like destiny.

 

I still had to deliver the placenta, which slid out effortlessly with a gentle contraction and slight pull on the cord. With the placenta in a little tub on the bed, and Lottie still attached to let the blood pump into her body, Matt and I held her little body wrapped in a warm towel with wonder and elation. With the help of the midwives, we got her to latch on to my breast and nurse for the first time. Then, the midwives gave us a little time to rest and take in our new daughter. They came back in a little while, and Matt cut the cord. The midwives examined an alert, but calm Lottie, who weighed in at six pounds, thirteen ounces, and was twenty and three quarter inches long. She got her shot of vitamin k and didn’t even cry. Matt diapered and dressed her while she wiggled and squirmed.

I felt pretty good, but I was still bleeding a little more than normal, and was feeling a little light headed when I tried to stand up. My pulse was up a little and my blood pressure lowering. My fundus wasn’t quite shrinking down like it should. Jayme wanted to keep me for observation a while to make sure I wasn’t having any internal bleeding. I ate a little, knowing that low blood sugar and fatigue were probably contributing to the light headedness. When the midwives started doing more fundal massage on me, I realized that I had to pee really bad. They didn’t want me to get up, so they put a chuck under me and I let loose. Aaahhh… It turned out that I hadn’t been getting the signal that I had to pee due to urethral swelling after the birth, and once we figured that out, I had several amazing pees over the next hour. Without the obstruction of a full bladder, my uterus was able to shrink up again and the bleeding waned. My vitals normalized and I started feeling better. After holding me a little longer to make sure I had stabilized, the midwives released us.

We packed Lottie into the carrier, hugged the midwives, and headed home. I sat in the back with my beautiful little girl, unable to stop staring at her perfect face and stroking her soft head of hair. We made a stop at the grocery store for some smaller diapers, since we realized the ones we had were too big for her tiny body, and a “0″ candle to put on her birthday cake, which was the other half of the Italian cream cake left from her baby shower that we had stashed in the freezer. We got ready for bed and nestled down with Lottie between us for our first night of intermittent sleep between feedings and diaper changes, exhausted and deeply in love.

baby!!

February 25, 2012 Hi all!  Quick official announcement for you!  Feel free to pass this info along to others!  Our little girl, Lottie Bird Borer was born yesterday afternoon at 2:58pm!  She weighs in at 6lbs 13oz, and is 20 and 2/3 inches long.  She is a long skinny little thing with a full head of dark brown hair that is most likely going to change to blonde soon! Hannah did an amazing job (at Birthwise birth center on Rio Grande) and is feeling great! I am taking a couple days off to soak it in… mind blown, heart hurting with daughter love, and blown away by who my wife is.  We have Hannah’s momma here for a couple of weeks and my folks are going to come visit as well the first week of March. Woke up this morning to roll over and see my wife with a little 20 inch long daughter snuggled between us. “Baby… we have a family.” It was a good morning.

A new family member in 2012!

August 10, 2011For those of you who I have not had the pleasure of telling yet… Hannah and I are expecting a baby near the end of February! We are super excited and can’t wait to meet this new human! We are as of today around the 10-11 week mark and will have a better view of it after an appointment Friday afternoon. We also conveniently just moved into a condo with a spare bedroom, which will quickly go from guest bedroom to kiddo room! Will keep folks posted for sure! Huzzah!

Asana is to yoga, as a hammer is to a house; a useful and necessary tool, but it is not the house.

February 3, 2011

Asana is to yoga, as a hammer is to a house; a useful and necessary tool, but it is not the house.

Just something I have been recently discovering about my personal views of physical yoga practice. Finding myself over time caring less and less about asana and simply using it as a physical practice. I don’t care about fancy postures and or pictures of me doing them, I care about fancy enlightenment, breath, meditation, quality of life, and how I am to serve in this lifetime. Loving watching my students become more flexible, stronger, and powerful humans and not just little asana machines.

Truly it will be very different and personal for everyone who has ever hopped on the path, which is part of it’s brilliance! I am personally realizing that asana practice has become something very different for me these days. Asana practice for me is just a framework to challenge my ability to focus, relax, and breathe in the physical world. It is the element that invited me in the door of spiritual and philosophical change, however it has become the least relevant part of my overall philosophical view. The above statement was relevant to me BECAUSE the hammer becomes less of a focus once the house is built. Yoga is so closely tied, if not completely married, to my Buddhist practice that it has become a different animal all together. My goal… I will veraciously settle for nothing in this lifetime except enlightenment, OR die happily knowing that I have tried my best. Facebook Stati are cheap, getting the most out of every breath I have is expensive!!

AND it has been a challenge for me as a teacher of physical yoga to realize and admit it! So many of us get caught up in the fancy postures, showing students in class or pictures what our abilities are. It is inspiring to show others what we have achieved with so much work, but I am finding that what inspires my students on a deeper level, is not what I can do… but who I am become! I think it is socially expected for teachers to be very Asana based and I am trying to break away a bit. I want my students to find that yoga is way more than postures and warm fuzzy soundbites. I very much love teaching the postures and doing them still, they just mean something very different to me than they used to. I assume that can only be a sign of change and growth. Maybe I am just getting old and lazy?

I am also realizing that as far as blogging goes, I have never been interested in writing about specifics and tricks of asana practice. I AM interested observing my deeper thoughts, changes, and experiences; and keeping tabs on them over time. But who knows how I will feel about it all a year from now?!! If I always felt the same about it, I would be observing very little progress methinks.

A Brief Review of 2010!

January 1, 2011

Man, I have had a lot of fantastic years up to date, but this was one of the best for sure! I have never really done a year recap. I was thinking last night about the changes this year has brought, and felt it noteworthy enough to put to “pencil”. It started out yesterday when I was listening to KUT. They had a brief “man on the street” radio ad that consisted of some cat stating that he didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions. His reasoning was that he was pretty happy as is, should accept himself as is, and would just give up on any resolution anyways. Now, I don’t do the resolution thing either, but for drastically different reasons. I am all for accepting myself as is, but part of that is accepting the fact that I am flawed AND can change constantly for the better. I also realized how often I DO make resolutions; weekly, daily, minute by minute! I would suggest to that cat, forget about resolutions and fix whatever it is in your hardware that allows you to not follow through with things! Anyhow, now follows a random list of the bests of 2010 for my personal life.

Getting my wife Hannah back from 2 years of grad school in L.A.! Easily tops the list here.

Meeting and getting to know what has become the greatest group of friends I have ever known to date. My Kula rocks!

Pulling a guy out of the sea (Chris) in Santa Barbara, administering CPR (blue, no pulse, no breath), and being amazed to see him come back to life. He must have some important work to do. A life changer for the two of us for sure.

Santa Barbara wine tasting trip with my brother and his wife. They live in Japan and we rarely get to see each other. Learned a lot about each other on this trip and absolutely adore each other.

Getting super addicted to Muay Thai kickboxing and getting back into some of the best shape I have ever been in.

Finding my new teaching home at Kula Yoga… the gold standard for what a yoga studio in the West should embody.

Beginning teaching at Castle Hill and reconnecting with past students as well as new ones!

The best birthday party (and fanciest) I have ever had thrown for me (and Sheila).

Restarting my music career with live gigs and recording opportunities! Buying some amazing new instruments! Teaching myself the Pandeiro, the Bodhran, and making/learning to play my vintage washboard.

An amazing trip to South Carolina to hang out with Hannah’s family.

One of the greatest parental visits to Austin. Such a fun trip.

Teaching great classes and students. Teaching several awesome workshops and Lululemon events. Thanks Lulu. Getting calls to branch out and teach workshops around the US. Picking up the best private teaching gig I could imagine. Thanks Troublemaker and Elizabeth/Kelly.

The super exciting ability to give my long time Guru a call anytime to hang out. This is a dream come true!

Taking Hannah to the Borer family reunion at the family farm, which I had not been to in years! Hannah hand milks a cow and we watch one born!

Black Sheep Lodge, as well as many of the other great places opening up in the ’04′!

I am missing a ton I think, but these are the ones that come to mind. I can never express my amazement enough concerning the life I have carved out here in Austin. My wife is an enthralling creature whom I am always amazed, inspired, and thankful for. My immediate family seems to get closer every year, just not by distance. I also inherited an incredible family through Hannah! I do what i love to sustain my living. Our two kitties are two of the sweetest souls I have ever known. My KULA (you know who you are) is the shiznit. Constantly amazed and schooled by all my students and fellow teachers.

What May 2011 Bring?

I envision great things for me and Hannah. She starts a new job this Monday and I am very excited for her AND us.

Fun new teaching experiences and returning to teach in Costa Rica with Wooten!

Growing the classes at Kula and Castle Hill! Great things are coming.

Getting back to a steady Asana practice, which fell out of importance for a while. So many activities!

Traveling more as always! Would like to study with David Williams in Hawaii. Planning on meeting my bro. in Hawaii. Would like to get back to Thailand to study Thai Massage more, Buddhism, and Muay Thai.

Become a better human, a better man, a better husband, teacher, and two-stepper! Happy New Year friends! Be safe and make resolutions all year!

A Quick Thought Concerning Uncle Ralph

I have not thought of ol uncle Ralph in years. As a kid I always wondered why he still lived with another man. I thought they were just room mates or something. I love that kids mind that doesn’t really care care why he lived with another man, I just loved when him and Angelo came to visit. It never occurred to me they were gay, because it didn’t matter. They were both incredibly sweet and Angelo (very Italian) was a great cook, “mangia mangia” he would yell at little skinny me. They lived in long Island and visited during the Holidays. Angelo would still come to Western New York to visit for years after Uncle Ralph died.

I was reminded of this as I was watching Countdown and they were interviewing a much older gay serviceman, who began crying when asked how it was to watch this signed into law. Amidst tears he could only mumble, “amazing.” He looked a lot like Ralph and it made me think about him and how he may have felt, both then and now. I can only hope that he is also amazed somewhere out there today!

A Savasana Remembered

November 13, 2010

Lying down, I exhale, and there is complete release. The work, the practice, the pranayama, swiftly fade into history. I can hear and feel my breathing and heart rate slowly begin to return to normal. With eyes closed I exhale again and search my supine body for any areas of tension that can be discovered and released. The practice fades away. The room and spacial awareness fades away. With eyes closed and physical body so relaxed that it becomes momentarily irrelevant, I begin to see. The darkness against my forehead gives way to a gentle and calming gray light. I am in a boundless yet comfortable space. There are no walls, ceilings, or floor, yet I feel very safe and very grounded. I am standing and looking out into this gray space. Before me and at a small distance, as if a mist is slowly dissipating, I begin to perceive a vast crowd of people. I recognize them, every face. They are every person in my life from past or present; parents, friends, sibling, and even grandparents I have only known through stories. Dead or alive they are all there, smiling, and calmly observing me. From this gray haze of comforting smiles, one person steps forward. It is my friend and former band mate Collin Watson.

Collin passed away years ago in a car accident in which I was the driver. Taking his seat belt off to sleep in the passenger seat, he was thrown from the car as it flipped front to back several times before resting. Exhausted and trying to drive back to D.C. to work in the morning, I nodded off just long enough to lose control of the car…

I awake to silence. I am gripping the steering wheel unbelievably tightly. Little makes sense. I don’t even recognize that the car is on its side. I look to the passenger seat and it is empty. This makes no sense. I exit the car by crawling out of the hole where the sun roof used to be. The SUV is resting on the drivers side and there is very little left of it, except for a miraculous space about the size of my body. I step onto the grass and it is an oddly pleasant evening. It is about 4AM and there is little other traffic and a beautiful and surreal covering of mist and dew on the finely cut highway grass of I95 Northbound. Calling Collin’s name out at the top of my lungs, I cannot grasp in the least of where he could be. Dazedly wandering across the expanse of dewy grass, I eventually do find him. Nothing makes sense. It can’t be him. It can’t be anyone. There is too much blood and his limbs are at angles that are impossible for my already shocked head to make any sense of reality out of. I bend down to try and help. I feel almost out of my own body. I feel as if I am 30 feet above and watching the situation unfold. It is too harsh and violent to be completely present with. I can feel my brain receding and guarding me from the present. There is no me. There is only Collin, quiet on his back, and staring to the stars as several last breaths pass his lips like hiccups. I hold his head and am telling him to relax… it will be ok.

This seemed like hours, but was actually minutes. A car traveling behind us saw the accident happen and dialed 911. The first time I am aware of anything and the first memory that came back to me was of standing next to Collin in the grass, watching the red and blue lights play across that wet grass. Someone walked me to an ambulance, where I sat and received treatment for the few scratches that I had incurred. Collin was gone. It got super cold as I went into shock and began to shiver uncontrollably. My body and brain were numb. There was nothing in me but an observer. Yet, amongst the haze there was a shard of amazingly singular clarity. A voice. Me, telling the observer that a decision had to be made. “This will create you or kill you.” I immediately knew that this experience before me would either be the biggest learning tool and leap forward in consciousness OR would become something that destroys me. Something that I take with me the rest of my life and use it in the best or worst ways possible. It had already happened. Collin was gone. There was a decision to make.
I believe less than two weeks later we played a gig. Everyone wanted to cancel, but I knew I had to play. Those weeks were filled with family, friends, and fans giving me more support than I could have ever imagined. People I barely knew showing up on the doorstep with kind words, flowers, and cookies. If I didn’t play then, I felt I might never get back to it. I cried for almost every second of that gig in Fairfax. I kept getting odd sensations of Collin being on stage, of Collin sitting next to me as I played telling me it was ok, juxtaposed with the reality of him being gone and replaced with a sub. I can only imagine that it was the toughest subbing gig imaginable.

Months later, in an Ashtanga class in Georgetown, I had the most amazing Savasana of my lifetime.

Dead or alive they are all there, smiling, and calmly observing me. From this gray haze of comforting smiles, one person steps forward. It is my friend and former band mate Collin Watson. He approaches me with a big smile. I am unsure of what is to happen next. We are face to face and inches apart. I smile back. There is an overwhelming sense of understanding between us. So much so, that no words are never exchanged. They would be of no use here. He reaches out and we hold a long and warm embrace. The detail is amazing. I can feel his beard against my cheek and his black dreads come to rest on my shoulder. After a moment we step away from each other and I am holding him at his waist. He feels so light. I lift him up and gently let him go. He smiles again as he slowly floats upward and fades away. With a lighter heart and eyes full of tears of gratitude, joy, and love, I again look to the crowd standing in front of me. Smiling at each other, I know I will be back to this space. I know someone new will step forward. We will smile, embrace, enjoy the silence of love, understanding and forgiveness and then I will let them go.

**As a brief side note. I have always wanted to write about this experience and the yoga related release/epiphany that followed. It took weeks/months/years to remember details about the accident. At first there was a big blank spot. Much of it I heard for the first time through police reports and others folks. To this day many of the details are very fuzzy whilst some things are crystal clear. Much of it I still keep to myself. It took a long time to drive again and I am still never that comfortable driving at night. I thought the dreams and sleepless nights would never end, but they eventually faded. For years I awoke every day with this experience being my first thought. I wanted to remember it constantly. I wanted so dearly to make it worth going through for the both of us. What could I do today to honor that experience and his memory? My life changed drastically. I still think about it fairly often and hope I am living up to the person Collin would have been proud of. It is less of a weight now, and more of an inspiration. Through tragedy we can gain so much understanding, for the only other option is to let it destroy and weaken us.

Y4L Sutra 3

September 2, 2010

“If you had a crystal ball to gaze in and ask what your practice looks like in the future and you didn’t see the results you hoped for or as soon as you hoped for, would you simply quit and take up some other method?” -Dave Swenson

So many students of mine often ask how long is (insert asana or tight muscle group here)__________ going to take to open up or feel a bit more comfortable. Most often they are students that have been practicing for a year or less. It is important to note that the physical aspect of yoga was designed with the mindset that it would be a daily practice, hopefully for the rest of your life. In other words, think about your practice in decades and not months or even years. I often joke that the reason I believe in reincarnation is to hopefully come back as a yogi again and get more time to work on it!

Personally, for me this quote has been something I also need to work on, albeit in a different venue. I have taken up kickboxing as of a few months and am loving it! I am usually really quick to take up any type of physical movement or exercise, but the learning curve in kickboxing is complex and slow. I am watching myself get frustrated at not getting better faster. This is not helped by the fact that I have always had an overwhelming need to be good if not the best at everything I do. It is one of my greatest assets and detriments. I dont do things half assed as they say. In a hilarious twist of irony that many of you who know me will enjoy, the instructor noticed and heard my frustrations, and told me “Dude, you have been doing this for like 3 months. It is going to take a while to figure it out and process it.” Much laughter was had by my wife Hannah, who gets to hear me tell the same thing to all my yoga students.

As a teacher it is so often too easy to say the right things and even practice them, but have them disappear from your perspective in a different/new environment. It is easy (easier) to practice yoga during YOGA, but much harder and conversely much more productive to practice it in all other pursuits as well. As one of my students and now teacher so recently stated…

“The more difficult yoga really lies off the mat, in the face of frustration, sadness, triumph & joy.” -Sheils

I will be patient. I will observe the emotions that course through me. I will enjoy the process. I will retain humility, often correctly dished out by Hannah! I will be better for it all. I will become a kickboxer!

Dharma (Truth): What is yours and why?

August 15, 2010

‎”The proper teaching is recognized with ease. You can know it without fail because it awakens within you that sensation which tells you, this is something you have always known.” -Frank Herbert in the DUNE Appendices

My Personal Translation – Your religion, your spirituality, and that which inspires and elates you should not be a struggle or battle. It should be something that makes sense, is believable, functional, and based in something you truly know without fail is the truth. Strip away the dogma, the ceremony, the tradition, and uncover the reason it feels right. Is it right because its what you have been told? OR Is it right because it is what you have always known to be true.

Does what you believe/feel elate you due to its condemnation of what is considered inappropriate? i.e rising above by stuffing others down. OR Does what you believe/feel elate you due to its overwhelming brilliance and its natural inclination to bring everyone up to the same elated state of consciousness?

fellow friend/teacher Jen Wooten Translation -” ‘Guru’ means one who helps elevate us from the darkness to the light. I’ve had many teachers who have taught me things I didn’t know – from trigonometry to headstand, but my true teachers are the ones who have helped shine the light on the things I’ve always known. A true teacher helps remove the shroud of darkness (and boy have I had a lot of it) to reveal the light, love and freedom that has always been there underneath. “

This Yoga Thing DOES Seem To Be Working

June 26, 2010

My reasons for practicing and studying the philosophies of Yoga, Vedanta, and Buddhism have constantly changed bit by bit over the past 13 years or so. The basic trend seems to be from the micro to the macro. Micro – initially working on all the tiny approachable self fixes in hopes of constantly evolving (or devolving) into (or back to) the best version of me I can unearth. Macro – As I become more refined and find more inner strength, I can then begin to become the most useful to both my immediate environment and eventually a broader and broader environment. More and more I am associating WHAT I am trying to become and HOW I am trying to be in this world with the Mahayana definition of Bodhisattva. Now, by no means am I calling myself one, but it is my ultimate goal to pursue this particular ideal. A couple of quick definitions…

Bodhisattva
-person whom has attained a certain level of enlightenment, has found nirvana (freedom from existence/reincarnation) who postpones it to return and help others.

-“For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.” -Santideva

– …the bodhisattva as a person who already has a considerable degree of enlightenment and seeks to use their wisdom to help other sentient beings to become liberated.

As I said earlier, this was not my initial intention. I just wanted to start out with the ego based micro fixes, i.e. asana based practice with goals of flexibility, strength, relaxation, and well, ego. I loved becoming great at the poses and looking great in them. I loved what the yoga was doing to my body and still do. Something however started to change over the years. The asana benefits just seemed a bit hollow in comparison to the mental and emotional benefits I was starting to notice. This led me to delve much deeper into history and philosophy of not only hatha yoga, but down into its roots of Vedanta as well as Buddhism. Moving from the micro/the self to the macro; the global spiritual betterment of us all. This is something I try to work on in every breath of every day. Practicing, preparing, getting better. I want to be effective. I want to be powerful. I want to be happy and utterly satisfied. Then I try to design my physical existence around these fundamental concepts.

Recently I found myself again face to face with death and dying, and it is the inspiration for all that I am presently babbling about here. Whilst horseback riding on a beach in Santa Barbara, a group of us came upon a woman yelling and waving by the water. To make a long story short, we pulled a dead 64 year old man out of the water, I administered CPR, and a minute later he began breathing again. I recently got a very much awaited call that he is basically ok! One huge aspect of this encounter that is sticking with me is how prepared and sure I felt in this situation. This is not a testament to me, but more to the training I have pursued in my life. A strange part of me hopes that I am there when bad things happen because I want to be there, helping, effective, powerful, making a positive difference when things may be at their bleakest.

The bodhisattva in me has come to relish hardship and challenge as the greatest learning experience in this lifetime and as eventually one of my main reasons for being here. I am studying the physical, spiritual, and emotional boundaries of my personal existence in an effort to become as useful to the world around me as possible in both the best and the worst of times. Even more oddly, part of me feels that if I had a choice of something bad happening to me or “you”, I would have it happen to me as I feel like I am not only prepared for it but willing to except it and use it to learn from. The bodhisattva concept really feels right to me personally and is a concept I draw a lot of strength and purpose from. The yoga asana practice has allowed me to practice trying to relax and focus in both the easiest and the hardest or least liked postures. Yoga is simply a controlled environment practice, that I am finding more and more everyday helps me to focus and relax in both the easiest and the hardest of times. This yoga stuff seems to be working!

The above is really more of a very personal mission statement to myself more than anything else. However, it does beg the question to us all… what is YOUR mission statement? Not just what you are trying to do this year, but what is your purpose for being here? What ripples can you leave when you are gone? Are you doing what you want to do? Are you acting/behaving the way you want? Its not about what we “deserve” (i hate that word) or what we have been handed. It is about what you envision and what you need to do to get there. Life is short and will most likely be shorter than we expect. There is a great buddhist concept that I find as more of an inspiration than defeatist or morbid. House on Fire – Many of us will go through life concerned only with material things and immediate pleasures not realizing we are living in a house on fire. All our houses are going to burn down at some point. It is as if we all secretly believe we might be the only one to make it through without dying. Im going to die. It could happen in 5 minutes. I constantly ask myself, “If I died right now, would I have any regrets or things I wish I should have gotten to?” Personally I feel at present that the only thing I would miss is getting to share more time with my wife.

Make a list. Get the list done. Clear up anything with other people that weighs on you. The house is on fire and there should be some urgency to LIVE! Love and appreciate all of you out there! Have a great weekend!

Living Yoga: Yoga As My Lifestyle

June 3, 2010

Another one from about two years ago that I recently unearthed!

The most important thing in my life is my yoga.
Under the yoga umbrella I include my relationships to everything from my wife, my cats, my family, rock climbing, kula, and environment to my study of yogic history, philosophy, teaching and practice. These things are all part of my daily practice. To be a yogi is a very powerful and personal LIFESTYLE for me that extends far beyond the confines of my sticky mat.
For me, being a yogi does not simply mean to practice asana, sometimes pranayama, and forget that there is a much larger philosophy at work. Injury, health, and a good workout are some of the elements that initially brought me to yoga, however it has come to mean much much more.
I am happy and excited for those that take the first step of attending a class for any reason! I attended my first class in 1998 at a studio in LA, taught by Brian Kest. I thought there was just
“yoga”…turns out there are different types, and my first class happened to be Ashtanga. Although forced to go by the friend I was visiting, it ended up being an experience I walked away from saying, “So that’s what I was looking for. I just didn’t know what IT was.” Since then I have tried many styles and many teachers, and yoga has grown into something that pervades every breath of every day.
Over the years my practice has also progressed to the point that my asana practice has become only a tiny part of the whole. So where has this brought me? I have become a full time yogi! Being a yogi is an ancient tradition that has always involved being a force for positive change, not only for your own spirit and body, but also for the world outside your skin. Yogis were the original tree huggers. They were fierce environmentalists far before our own time. In studying the relationships in my own life, I have truly come to believe that all things are connected; that karmic action does indeed exist on both a personal and universal level. I try to do everything I can to positively effect both my inner and outer worlds. Being a conscious and informed consumer has become an element at the forefront of this work. Being a conscious and informed being is something I have always striven for, and yoga has given me a framework for that action. Every breath of every day is another chance to change the world, both within and without, for the better.

Living Yoga: This Yoga Doesn’t Seem To Be Working As I Expected

May 13, 2010

Here is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago that I just unearthed!

My parents began practicing Hatha Yoga years ago. I suppose I talked about it so much that they figured there must be something to it! They’ve been practicing twice a week ever since. About two years into his practice, I asked my Dad how it was going. He said, “My back and body feel much better, but I am not sure if this yoga thing is really working.” I was astonished by the comment, and curious, so I asked him to elaborate. He said that, although he was physically feeling a better, he was getting more and more frustrated with daily living. “It’s just making me realize all the things I don’t like about my own behavior.” I was blown away! He had come to THE most important stage of a yogic journey beyond asana!

I liken it to step one of Alcoholics Anonymous, the admission and acceptance that I have a problem. We all do. We all have imperfections and behavior we’d like to change! At first it can seem daunting and even depressing, but a great power comes from this realization. In any given breath I can change who I want to be and how I want to be. The path to change begins with the recognition of what needs changing.

So how does this yoga thing work? How does an asana practice lead me to recognizing things about myself I need to change?

We can all look back at our yoga history and see how we got from just doing asana to sleeping better, walking better, feeling better, acting better, etc. I’ve seen students become entirely different human beings as they continued their practice. I have meditated a lot on the questions of why and how, and these are my thoughts so far:

To me, asana is a way of processing all the emotions and reactions of your daily life on a microscopic level in a safe environment. The beauty of it is that you may never even be aware of it! I believe that the ultimate result of an asana practice has nothing to do with physical ability. Don’t get me wrong, there are fantastic physical benefits to practicing yoga, plus it’s just plain fun to play with the body and get it to do fantastic things. But Eka Pada Sirsana is not about how great it is to get a leg behind the head. To me it’s all about how to be in a posture that is that challenging and possibly uncomfortable, and still be just as calm and relaxed as I would be in Savasana.

Each breath in each asana, I am forced to deal with dozens of emotions and reactions on a small and inconsequential scale. “I hate it. I love it. I’m bad at it. I’m great at it. That guy is great at it. Too slow. Too fast. It hurts, but I’ll do it anyway. I need to try harder. I’ll just sit here and hang out.” All of these classics and more coming soon to a brain near you!

This is where Ashtanga becomes a great method for moving beyond asana. We are learning to deal with all of that turmoil, not by ignoring it or sleepwalking, perpetuating what Buddhists call “conditioned existence,” but by peeling it away a bit at a time. Ujjayi breath, Dristi, and Bandhas are our tools to relax and focus during each asana. You can observe your thoughts and respond to the challenges of each posture. This is practice and this is hard! We constantly observe ourselves and make adjustments until the hardest asana is the most comfortable place to be. Constantly dealing with these thoughts and emotions is one of the most profound benefits we take from Ashtanga. In any challenging situation, just as in class, you can choose to plow through with abandon, or observe yourself and adjust.

My feeling is that from beyond our own skin, the world is out of our control. You will always stub your toe and it will hurt, there are things you will be good at and struggles, things you may never do, and so on. However, from the skin in you have the power to harness complete control. If we can breathe easily and smile with a leg behind our head, then we can also breathe easy and focus through ecstasy or tragedy. I love this idea, that from the skin in I can have a choice of who I want to be, how I will react to situations and interact with others. In any given breath I can choose who I want to be and how I want to be.

This is the power of yoga! To meet any situation with compassion, understanding, serenity, and efficacy. This evolution is happening during every breath of every asana, and you may not even notice! Enjoy your practice. Take it seriously and with humor. These are simply silly postures to play with, but the effects can be life changing.

Living Yoga: Re-Cycling, Composting, and Consumerism (amongst other things)

April 3, 2010

So I was recently chatting with a student about my day…

student:”what are you up to today?”
matt: “running errands. very exciting. composting, recycling, heading to the bank.”
student: giggling a bit “oh that is sooo MATT.”
me: a bit taken aback, thus time for thought and then write a blog piece that is very important to me and how i live my life daily.

Disclaimer: So right off the bat I want to say that this blog piece is more aboutresponsibility than it is about tree hugging, liberal, progressive, hippie, feel good stuff or whatever more conservative folks like to call it. This has nothing to do with religion, politics, or any other volatile subject. Although I am greatly disappointed in humans that are not responsible for their own actions involving recycling and consumerism, I am not judging anyone. This is meant to be as informative as possible; for I remember in my not too recent past taking much less responsibility for my own behavior in these regards as well.

I used to smoke. I used to buy whatever I wanted with no regard to where it came from or how it got here. I used to throw anything and everything in the trash. I used to think very little of the quality of food going into me. It was all about what was convenient and what I wanted. Total unawareness and lack of any responsibility. Now looking back on it I cant imagine how I did any of that without any kind of conscience.

When a student recently said to me that is “sooo Matt”, it made me pause. Sometimes it is easy to forget that other people are not behaving the same as you. That statement in itself is a lot to think about on many levels. However, shouldnt her statement be something like… “that is sooo human of you to take care of yourself and the world you live in.”

My first thought on this subject is: Why Do Adults Get A Pass?
We tell children to pick up after themselves; to care for their animals or other peoples posessions/property; to behave a particular way in social situations; to BE RESPONSIBLE for everything they do. Does this no longer apply at a certain age? Does this only apply to toys and kid stuff? Why would i NOT recycle? It is being responsible for the things I have bought and consumed. Why would I not compost?

I admit it is hard to compost and recycle in my tiny apartment, but this is not a question of what is easier. It has taken me a while to learn the best and easiest system. To learn what is best to buy due to both the trash a product will create and and how a company making a product behave does take a little bit of work, but there are endless resources out there AND I live in Austin TX! Austin is a great town to find stores selling healthy all around products. This can also be done without a ton of extra spending for fancy products.

For the religiously inclined or the socially conservative that think that how you behave as a consumer is irrelevant, reread the Bible and then read a fantastic book by Matthew Scully called DOMINION. He is a former Bush speech writer and social conservative with a great take based on religion, of what it means to be a steward of your own environment.

For the yogis, study your Yama and Niyama intricately.
Suggestion for Daily Living

Composting:
I went to target and bought a small 2 gallon size sealable container that now sits on my countertop. I fill it with compost and take it to a friends compost pile every 1.5 weeks. The benefit is that my trash NEVER smells or gets bugs AND my friend gets more compost.
Some folks put compost in a bag in the freezer to keep it from rotting/smelling at all.
I buy only compostable plastic cups, plates, and cutlery for parties and picnics.
To create your own composting pile just look around on the internet briefly. SO many resources to be found.

Recycling: I try to buy only items that come in recyclable packaging if I must get packaging at all.
NOTE: #1 and #2 recycle. #3-#7 get either shipped to Asia to recycle which negates the benefit OR they get pelletized with the addition of sawdust and used for fuel… yuck.
Ecology Action here in Austin takes paper, cardboard, plastic bags, plastics, glass, tin, and aluminum.

Since everything that I consume can be composted or recycled, I throw trash out bi-monthly at the most right now.

Consumerism:
Buy local if at all possible. It supports local economy, lessens shipping and gas usage, and you know where it is coming from!
Buy bulk when possible. This means less spending and less packaging!
Bring your own canvas bags and reuse plastic bags for bulk items. ALSO – clean and reuse zip-lock bags and plastic containers at home. ELIMINATE ONE TIME USE ITEMS. When you get chinese food delivered; the usage time of that little pagoda container is a couple hours max, HOWEVER it will get tossed into a plastic bag and then into a landfill and last thousands of years. What a waste. Get the most usage out of everything before you are done with it.
Knowing the ethics of a business that is producing a product takes the most work out of all of it. Just a bit of research involved. I try not to buy from enormous companies i.e. Nestle and Kellog. Often now though they disguise their products as smaller companies to sell to those of us looking for organic labeling. For example; Seeds Of Change is a popular “hippie” brand that is made by Nestle.

For further info read: World Changing: A Users Guide to the 21st Century.

It is your responsibility as an adult human to pick up after yourself. Awareness of what you are doing in your everyday life is an enormous step closer to enlightenment. Being aware of everything you are doing, creating, using, and ingesting is a powerful tool to becoming a better human being. Mental Image: I have this image of Christ, Buddha, Gandhi or any other revered figures sitting there and watching the entire massive scale process of animals getting abused, painfully slaughtered, covered in preservatives, packaged in plastic and styrafoam, and then sitting down and opening the package, eating it happily, and finally digging a hole to throw all the packing into. Wiping the grease off their hands they go to a small hill and begin preaching how to treat ourselves and the world around us. I just dont see it. EVOLVE people. I would think this would be a primary concern to those that are religious and those that are parents. What are you leaving behind? What will have meaning after death?: Inspiration, radiance, compassion, love, and earth for others to enjoy OR fame, fortune, selfishness, cruelty, irresponsibility etc.

Y4L Sutra 2

March 21, 2010

I use methodology, I just do not believe in it.

-a quote borrowed from Matthew Sweeney who also borrowed it from elsewhere. This is one that is worth recycling to me. Used it before in an entire blog piece, but felt it would be one of my personal Sutras.

This particular “sutra” represents my entire philosophy of teaching. Teach to the student in front of you… not to the tradition that is behind you. Be courageous enough to break away from traditon/method when you are a teacher, when the situation dictates that this is the most intelligent option for your student. ALSO, be courageous enough as a student to tell a teacher what they are asking of you is not working or even creating pain. Challenging yourself is good, hurting yourself is idiocy. I have literally heard teachers tell students to “work through” the pain, “this is the way i was taught”, or any other number of non-compassionate total lack of understanding type of comments. Seriously people. I actually had a conversation with a certified (or whatever the term is for Ashtanga) Ashtanga teacher straight out of Mysore, in which I was told that what and how I was teaching was “not Ashtanga”. AND that if I wanted to keep teaching it I should label it differently. Tradition… what the heck does that word even mean? There is nothing more idiotic to me than prescribing to tradition blindly. In my mind I was thinking, “Well if you are so concerned about tradition, then why are you ( a woman) teaching?” At some point in history some crazy person thought it was ok to let women teach yoga. Breaking tradition is often hated at the present and then called progress in the eyes of history. AGAIN – Teach to the student in front of you and not to the tradition behind you. Believe in methodology/tradition, but not at the expense of a students needs… progress. Practice ahimsa constantly. BE a yogi all day long. It is not an asana… it is how you live, who you are, how you act/re-act, and eventually how you die.

Y4L Sutra 1

March 3, 2010

Going to start a new concept on this blog of throwing down some sutras/quotes from either myself or things I have picked up from others. Basically Sutra translates from Sanskrit to English as meaning “thread”. Threads of knowledge gathered up to eventually weave a bigger picture! These are just one-liners of wisdom to give you something to chew on. One of the beauties of Sutras is that they are so brief and succinct. Interpreting a Sutra is up to either the teacher AND student, or up to the student themselves. Thus, any Sutra can become relevant to any reader for a myriad of different reasons AND might mean something different to you on any given day. Some I may follow with my own thoughts and others I will just throw out there like a Sutra grenade. Here we go!

Y4L Sutra 1: Practice yoga 6 days a week for about 6 years and then decide if it is something you want to try.

Adapted from David Swenson and David Williams. Williams once told me he is trying a life long experiment of practicing Ashtanga Yoga 6 days a week for his entire life just to see what happens.

Also, almost EVERY student at some point has asked me about some kind of time frame. “How long til these hips open up?” “How long did it take you to learn to “jump-back/through.” As a general answer I often refer to Sutra 1, “Ask me this question again in about 6 years.”

Being A Student: Western Mindset vs Eastern Methodology

March 2, 2010

In a conversation some time ago I had with David Williams, we were talking about how to step away from your practice and view the bigger picture. Stepping back and seeing the forest (yoga) for the trees (asanas). He was trying to impart that one should be approaching any yoga practice with a constant eye toward the longevity of that practice. “How can I approach my practice today, so I can still be practicing effectively and healthily 20-30-50 years from now.” When I began to really dig deeper into this concept, I realized I was often only practicing for right now! “How can I go deeper and push harder for some more immediate results.” For all students this will eventually result in one or both of these occurrences;

1) You are getting very advanced at intensely practicing frustration. There is a time and place to “get after it”. The practice, however, should not be a constant epic battle in every breath. Is it possible for you to stop “practicing” and just breath and enjoy the process of getting from point A to B? The beauty is the “practicing” part will happen over time with consistency wether you are “getting after it” or not. Yoda: “There is no try, only do.” Stop trying paddle and maneuver in the stream so much and just start to move WITH it.

2) You are also getting good at learning how to injure yourself. For more on this see almost every other Blog entry here, especially; Thoughts On Yoga For Life.

It has been in my mind now for quite a while that there may be a huge disconnect as to our Western approach to Yoga vs. the historical Eastern approach. This can be due to many things, some of the greatest being how it is advertised by various trendy magazines, trendy studios, and simply not understanding (instructors at fault mainly) how asana was intended to be approached.

Here it is in a nutshell in my opinion. Westerners make yoga a BIG DEAL. It is cool, hip, and trendy. We buy all the magazines, clothing, totes, bags, mats, shirts with “yogic” phrases, bumper stickers, etc. We tell out friends we are heading to yoga class as if its a big deal. I completely understand this all and have been guilty of most of it at some point!

However, here is another point of view that… it is not a BIG DEAL. In theory your practice should simply just be a regular part of you daily activity. Get up, drink coffee, poo, yoga, and then on to the rest of the day. And yes I said poo. It literally is meant to be part of the pre-asana ritual. If you dont make it such an EVENT, then you have a much better shot at simply doing it daily and then moving on. Then it becomes less of an event and more of a lifestyle! This is what it was MEANT to be.

Again, I understand how it has been made into a big deal. The Western working world does not necessarily allow us to practice every day consistently, especially once you add in kids, family, and the dozen other activities you are probably trying to take part in during the week. To me, this makes it even more important to treat it like no big deal. If you only get to practice now and then due to scheduling, you are more apt to push harder to make up for lost time. = ouch I always hurt so much after practicing.

Epiphany! Approach your yoga in a way that makes you overjoyed to get on the mat every day. Run gleefully toward your mat as opposed to dragging yourself there because you know you HAVE TO or SHOULD. Stop “practicing” in every breath and simply sip each one and enjoy it to its fullest extent. As a teacher, I really dont give a Savasana as to what your physical abilities may be. I am excited about progress of course, but am truly blessed when I get to watch “practice” slowly fade into joy!

Epiphany #2! No breath in your life is any more important than any other one. You kind of really just need them all. *** More on this in the next piece discussing the reasoning behind Pranayama!***

SIDE NOTE: Due to several personal injuries and life changes over the last year or so, my personal daily asana practice has been altered more than I would like. Within the last several months I was basically down to meditation and pranayama due to a severe hamstring injury (thank you rock climbing). Within the last month I had the first cold I have had in about 13 years and the first resurgence of back pain as well. Started practicing yoga daily about 13 years ago. Hhmmmm.

 

Don’t be scared… Physics CAN be fun! In this unique workshop we will be focusing on the architecture of your Asana practice from a whole new perspective. We will be investigating concepts such as equal and opposite force, gravity, and weight distribution as they pertain to deepening all asanas. This is especially helpful when we delve into the challenges of balancing and inverting! Intended to be a fun lighthearted workshop for all levels of practice which will give both a fresh perspective and a safer approach to your physical practice!

AT Austin Kula Yoga- corner of Exposition and Windsor
JANUARY 23rd, 2-4pm

 

Free Day Of Yoga, 2009!

September 25, 2009 Hey all! Thanks to all those that participated in Austin Free Day of Yoga again this year. It was exciting for me to teach one right off the bat in a new studio and see a great mix of old and new faces! Just got some pictures back from the event at KULA and thought I would share them! This was a Vinyasa Flow class packed to the gills with 39 yogis! Had a blast and hope you all did as well!

New Favorite Quote!

August 17, 2009

First off, hello and long time no see! Been a busy summer! My wife Hannah is in grad school at USC in Los Angeles whilst I am here in Austin and she was home for the summer for an internship, thus, me being quite distracted for the last three months! But i digress…

I just recently had the pleasure of attending a weekend of workshops with Matthew Sweeney and had a fantastic time. There was quite a bit I picked up and am still processing and integrating much of it. The initial golden nugget that I came away with was a quote which he passed along to us and I can unfortunately not remember the source. It is a succinct way of defining a philosophy I have been a fan of possibly since birth.

“I use methodology, I just dont believe in it.”

He drove this concept home all weekend as it regards to teaching/practicing yoga and how many of us get so firmed in our belief of a method or technique, that we often stick to it much to our own detriment. I have personally found in my own teaching to use certain techniques to help students along the path, but to constantly leave myself open to completely altering that technique if something else seems to have a better result. There are far too many teachers and styles of yoga, in my own opinion, that adhere so strictly to a particular method, that they often are doing the student a disservice if not even injuring them at some point. If you think your way is right, you are wrong.

One of the gifts that separates some of the most successful teachers and some of the happiest human beings from the pack is the ability to have a well thought out and fact/experience based method or opinion and the freedom and forethought to give it up if something better comes along. I love it when I am in conversation with friends and holding strong to an opinion until someone gives me a better reasoning and I simply change my perspective. “I used to think one way, but now I am open to another, and I am better off for it!” There are few worse crimes as far as freedom of thought goes, than that of belief or blind faith. Once you put a thought or method in a steel box, all other option have now been ruled out.

As far as yoga goes and asana practice, every student that has ever been in a particular asana has had a different overall experience than any other person ever! We all have completely different ages, physical/psychological/ emotional injuries, body types, etc. Thus, methodology is a useful starting point but should never be the golden rule!

Let the temple doors open so that all that come may be served! (conch shell blowing in background)

Etiquette of being a student is always a hard subject for any teacher to approach.  This subject could cover a lot of different items that come up in a public class.  In this piece I am mainly going to refer to personal hygiene and its communal classroom effects, a subject we Ashtangis are intimately aware of!

The first one that I m going to mention is that of sound.  There are many sounds that can come out of the human body, some can be controlled and others not.  Some effect only the student and some effect your immediate local environment.  Gas related hygiene is most often a controllable event that can negatively effect the entire room rapidly.  Now, granted, historically there are postures for releasing gas and dealing with digestion.  Pattabhi in fact mentions getting rid of “bad gas”.   My observations are thus…  Sometimes things just sneak up on you and there is nothing you can do, but one of the benefits of consistent practice of yoga is that over time you can balance out the body and what you are ingesting, so this no longer happens.  I am aware of students that just “let it rip” all of the time.  FIrst off, we are in a public and often crowded environment.  When most of these concepts of releasing gas were written or created, you were in a room with you and your teacher, not in a room with 30 people you did not know too well.  Big difference.  Second of all, yoga should be dietary introspection as well as spiritual or physical.  If you have gas all the time,  then you need to look at what you are eating and alter it.  Gas is your body telling you that you are eating something that is not in your best interest (or those around you).  I know this because garlic is my first love and the bane of all of those who are subject to its aftermath.  So I stopped eating a lot of it and my digestion AND skin were altered for the better.  If its bad etiquette to wear perfumes or colognes, than dont you think it would be worse etiquette to have digestive “cologn”?   Haha.  Thats funny.  I am always amazed at the ease with some students comfortability and obvious non  caring or even the reinforcing of this particular behavior.  Seriously.  Respect those around you.

The subject of smell in general is a big one.  Personally, I am a bit allergic to perfumes and colognes and will spend my teaching/practicing time sneezing and crying when someone decides to douse themselves in them.  I dont jump around and show off, wear distracting clothes (whole other subject), or do anything else that distracts me or others.  This includes smells.   I find that the best situation for me is to shower immediately before a practice and immediately after.  I know that it is hard to find the time or shower for that matter.  Because of this, I often carry wet wipes or use a wet tissue in the bathroom to spot clean problem areas before class.  I understand that some folks fundamentally disagree with deodorants and whatnot.  However, there are ecologically minded products out there that work well enough to get through a practice.  I  have found some great ones!  Also, what you eat comes out of you not only in “sound” but in sweat.  When I eat onions or garlic, I smell like I ate onions or garlic.  When I stopped eating all things fried, my skin and sweat were totally altered for the better as well!

Cleaning your clothing and yoga mats/rugs is huge.  HUGE.  Us men smell like man things and its not a good smell when  left to “age”!  Your rug should be cleaned, often.

Patanjalis’ Yoga Sutras mentions the concept of SAUCHA, purity and cleanliness of body, heart, mind, and environment.  It is one of the 5 niyamas.  The Niyama are the second of eight elements in the 8 limbed approach to yoga, asht+angas.  Caring about yourself and your local environment is an integral step on the path to yoga.  Conscious of not only yourself, but of those around you.  By all means eat what you want, “expell gas” at will, and clean as little as you like while in the privacy of your own home.  If you are putting yourself in a public environ, however, your behavior cannot be the same as when you are at home.  I try to behave in a manner all of the time that does not need to change due to my environment.  Life is much easier this way and I find that I am always respectful of both myself and others constantly!  SAUCHA for my people!

Could not say it any better.

April 17, 2009

“I will serve my Guru. In this world, I will be a slave to nobody, work under nobody. Money and status mean nothing to me.” ~ T.Krishnamacharya

Life is my Guru.  My students are my Guru.  My wife is my Guru.  Happiness, joy, pain, hardship, death, sex, nature, music, and everything else that inspires me to feel… these things are my Guru.  I am simply a sum of the ripples that I have created.   The only Guru I refuse is that of fear.   I refuse to be lessened by fear.   I always have.  I will face both joy and tragedy with the same open mind and learn to hold them both dear.    Tragedy has the potential to allow us great leaps forward in our consciousness, however, fear can rob us of any of this invaluable information.

I say all this for many reasons.  One- to confirm it to myself as I often do, because this is at the core of who and what I am.  Two- because I see so many of my fellow students and teachers doing the work, Sadhna.  Improving themselves and their environment.  Finding beauty in all that surrounds them.

BUT, I also say this because I ran into a fellow teacher today who reminded me that fear is out there; fear that creates complacency, comfortability, and creates change for the worse.  Money is part of trying to sate the fear.  Status is part of trying to sate the fear.  It is sad to see folks in the yoga realm that get blinded by money and status.  They lose what it is that brought them to it and I can only hope they regain it.  It is a reminder for me to be aware of those pitfalls that exist.

Which is why I say that the above quote cant say it any better!  It took me a couple paragraphs to get it done!

Teaching: Intention and Adjustments

February 20, 2009

Hoping to start a bit if a series here concerning teaching yoga.  For me, teaching yoga IS a very integral part of my yoga practice as well, so there are a lot of topics to possibly cover.

This first one is a huge one involving a teachers intention with regards to what they are hoping to create for their students and how that can effect physically adjusting them as well.  This is a somewhat controversial subject as well as it brings up the dark secret of students getting injured by teachers, a topic that is one of my highest priorities to battle against.  It makes me both ired and physically ill when I hear of students being injured.  Granted there are a couple of ways to find oneself injured and two of them are all ego.  1. Student Ego- “I need to push hard even if I know intrinsically that it is a bad idea.  2. Teacher Ego- “Let me show you how far I can put you into an asana.  3. Asana is a physical approach to yoga practice and things sometimes just happen.

Before we crack into that subject I want to preface it by talking about intention, as intention of the teacher is preventative medicine for those first two ego situations.  When I began learning Thai Massage one of the first things I was taught was to take 30 seconds to a minute and briefly set my intentions.  Something to the effect of, ” I am simply a conduit of this knowledge with the addition of my own personal experiences.  I am here to make this person healthier and happier and not to prove how good I am at this or to touch them for any ulterior motive.  Let the history, knowledge, and energy flow through me and not simply from me.”  By setting this intention before dealing with any student or client, I am trying to clear the way for patience, awareness, and complete compassion for their needs.  ***Teaching is not about you.***   Your personality and creativity may effect your popularity of course, but do not fall into the ego trap mentioned in almost every old yoga text.  In teaching yoga I also am constantly aware and thoughtful both getting my ego out of the way, but also setting an intention for what I want my students to receive.  ”No matter what the reason is that you have stepped into my class, I simply want you to leave feeling happier and healthier.”

Here we get into a bit of controversy as to us Ashtanga teachers.   I have no problem “bucking the system”  to get the best results and firmly believe that that is the point of yoga.  What can we do together to have the best results.  I have not been to Mysore and have no wish to go there, at all.  There are things that are simply being taught improperly (in my opinion) by many teachers simply because it is “traditional” or its what the powers that be say is right.  Well, if tradition trumps logic and compassion than we might as well head back to the Dark Ages of human treatment.  I only mention the above as I have had teachers reprimand me for teaching in manners that they didn’t believe were traditional.  Now I certainly disagree with the way some teachers are approaching the teaching of yoga, but it is not for me to confront them in the least UNLESS… they are injuring students due to their methodology.  Oddly enough the teachers that have been offended enough to tell me to be more “traditional” have all injured students, some of which have had to have surgery.  Personally, if I find that I have EVER injured someone by pushing and pulling on them, I would reconsider my job.  Often teachers never get feedback as students are reticent to confront them.  In fact the only time I personally confronted a teacher who assisted me so hard in a posture to give me a life long knee injury, I was told that it was my fault because “you men, you push too hard.”  Geeze, I wonder if said teachers assist was from a place of compassion or ego?  This is obviously a subject I get my dander up about, and rightfully so I believe.  Can anyone put a price on giving a student a life long injury?  If you are a student who has been injured, you need to let a teacher know so history does not repeat itself .  Most likely the instructor will be broken hearted and do whatever it takes to help you out.  Two side notes here… 1. I have actually heard of instructors telling students to go until it hurts and then push a bit further.  If you hear this run away fast as you are no longer learning yoga or teaching yoga.  2. I have also had a student have a visiting instructor assist them by pushing down hard on their thighs in Baddha Konasana.  Student to instructor; ” I am uncomfortable with that assist and it is hurting me.”  Certified Ashtanga Instructor to student: “Its ok.  You need to work through the pain to break through.  I had to go through the same process.”  Student to me later on;  ”I need to take time off for a while as both my knees are really hurting and I cannot practice now.” Seriously?  What is wrong with some of you?  (author steps away to drink some water and breathe deeply)

So as far as assisting goes from a teaching perspective,  come back to the concept of intention;  ”What is the purpose behind this physical adjustment?”  After much thought and observation I have come to the realization…

1.There are two types of assists.

A. Feel good assists.  The act of touching a student to make something simply feel better.  A massage-like assist best done by those with solid massage and anatomy knowledge.

B. Awareness assists.  The act of touching a student to impart knowledge to them concerning what is a better anatomical approach to the asana they are attempting.

*There is a lot more here to be said but I have simplified the above quite a bit.*

I find that assisting someone aggressively, i.e. pushing on them with a lot of weight, forcing their body somewhere it cannot go,  forcing binding, pressing downward on limbs, twisting them further etc, are all assisting for the wrong reasons.  If you are forcing a students  hands together to bind what are you imparting?  You are telling a student first of all that the goal is to get deeper, faster.  ”I am not in the posture fully unless I am binding.”  This creates a goal oriented practice and thus frustration as the student is now a bit less satisfied without the assist to get them where they cannot yet go.   At some point you WILL injury someone by doing this.  Unless you have x-ray vision for anatomy, you have no idea what is truly going on in their body.

Patiently waiting for the process of deepening and opening asana is a must for both teacher and student.

If you are a student let none of those brief stories scare you.  Let them empower you to practice more attentively and to let teachers know when you are uncomfortable with what they are doing.  Ask yourselves what the intention of your teacher is and if it is something you agree with.  I personally never find myself pushing to %1oo in any asana for several reasons.  It would be easy for me to misjudge what %100 is.  A teacher may decide to assist me and push me beyond where I already am. And finally, if you are practicing and pushing hard you are most likely responding more to the energy of adrenaline release as opposed to endorphin release.    Aggression and excitement vs. happiness and euphoria.  Again I simplify, but hopefully the point comes across.

If you are teaching, truly observe and study your intentions!  Constantly be a student of yoga and rid yourself of the ego.   Try to constantly read, study, and practice the roots of the philosophy as much as you can.  Set a brief intention before class concerning why you are about to teach and what you hope to convey.  Create and environment where your students are comfortable and safe.  Now and then I let them know my intentions!  I want to establish an environment wherein they should feel comfortable asking any question, questioning what I am teaching, and giving me feedback so I also can constantly learn.  We are simply teachers.  We are not rock stars or celebrities.  We are not doctors.  We do not always know what is best or have all the answers.

I believe that what truly separates some teachers from others is the intention.   Knowledge and experience mean little when tag teamed with the wrong intentions.

Hope this finds everyone well and happy!  Love what you do and do what you love!

-Love you all.-m

 

A bit more on Green Thumbs!

February 6, 2009

Adi Shankara was a yogi philosopher and scholar, born approx. 509 B.C., who was responsible for starting the Advaita Vedanta school of yogic thought.  He was an infamously fantastic debater who traveled across India spreading his particular ideas based deeply in the Upanishads and various Vedic texts.  Apparently after his father died he was initiated into a student life of yoga and mastered/memorized the Vedas by the age of 8!  (I  cant even remember what I had for breakfast!)  His works are available and are pretty interesting stuff to crack into!

I bring him up because he has a fantastic list of “suggestions” for successful Sadhna (daily work or effort to foster change i.e. prayer, asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra), which fall right in line with my previous piece concerning meditating on the seeds we have within us and how we choose to care for them.  Here you go…

1. Viveka- discernment- the process of finding out what is important and what you can get rid of.

2. Vairagya-detachment-becoming “ok” with getting rid of some elements in your life or behavior to foster personal growth.

3. The 6 Treasures     -tranquility of mind      -poise

-self control                     -burning faith

-patience                          -self surrender

*Burning faith is my favorite to ponder on.  This does not mean faith in a higher power necessarily.  It means a faith in yourself!  If you don’t firmly believe you can change and/or get better, you will not get much further!

4. Thirst for liberation.  ”You can get it if you really want it”-Jimmy Cliff

All of this information is really only useful if you truly want to become the best you that you can be.  There are those that go through life thinking they are the way they are and thats the end of it.  I feel like one element that truly separates us as human from animal is our capacity to view inward and make changes as we see fit.  Is liberation or enlightenment attainable?  Im not sure, but I am doing my best to find out!

Green Thumb for the Soul

February 5, 2009

“The gentle spring rain permeates the soil of my soul.  A seed that has lain deeply in the earth for many years just smiles.”  -Thich Nhat Hanh

I have absolutely loved this quote since first reading it and come back to it pretty often.  I am of the mind that within all of us there lies a seed for every reaction and emotion we could have.  We also plant new seeds along the way that we have bought through experience be they positive or negative.  We all have seeds of love, compassion, anger, jealousy, etc.  Through introspection, meditation, and constant observation we can begin to notice how we are caring for these seeds and then hopefully change our behavior to improve our “green thumbs”!

More often than not, we even define ourselves with our negative quirks and behavioral traits than we do with the positive ones;  ”Oh, Im just an impatient person.” , or “Im just very type A.”.  The beauty of any yogic or meditative practice is that you begin to learn that it is possible to change anything in your life you would like to with the proper care!  I liken this level of awareness to step One of A.A., “I have a problem.”  We all have many things we could change if we chose to, to become happier, healthier, and more effective humans.  The work (sadhna) is observing and deciding which seeds to water more, and which of those you can begin to stop watering.  (Step 2 can only come after step one!)

I find also that looking at behavior this way makes the behavior of others much more understandable.  You can begin to realize that we truly do all have many of the same seeds of behavior, but simply have different gardening skills!

What seeds are you overwatering and which ones need more attention?  What are you ingesting mentally and physically to create as soil for these concepts to grow?  Placing yourself in the best environment is the best preventative medicine.  Surround yourself with the best support system you can to foster the changes you are working on.  It is a hard and emotional task to realize that certain surroundings or people are in fact detrimental to your personal growth.   I have noticed often that as i evolve into what I believe is a better “me” and leave different practices behind, various friends have come and gone and some have even held a grudge.  When I quit drinking and going out so much I had friends that would actually give me a hard time about trying to become healthier.  Its an interesting study that others get as attached to your behavior as you do and find it hard to let you change and grow.  There is certainly a lot to ponder on here.  So put on some gloves and a floppy hat and get your hands dirty!

Happy 2009!

January 2, 2009

Just got back to Austin yesterday and am sooo happy to be home!  I flew out to LA on the 23rd to see Hannah and visit with her family for a couple days.  We got there just in time to see the end of the carol singing at her grandparents house that happens every year.  Immediately began gorging on cookies and had some yummy stouts to wash em down with!  Hannah had made gingerbreads in our likeness and they were tasty.  She also had made me a stocking with a silhouette of tree posture on it, then hung it on the fireplace with the others.  Three days of eating and lounging followed!  The weather was nice and even a bit rainy.  Christmas Eve we hung out with lots of family and I ended up playing some jazz standards on drums with her family.  Many of them are into music and her grandfather has a dixieland style jazz band that has been together since 1975!  There is a link to it on my site here.

On the 26th we hopped in the car, drove to El Paso, and spent the evening in our friend Jennie and Andrews Airstream.  Got up nice and early, had coffee and breakfast, and then headed to Hueco Tanks park to rock climb for about 7 or so hours.  The plan was to climb every other day as to not tear up the skin so much.  Lots of Austin friends started to roll in and it was a great first day of climbing.  Had dinner and crashed in my fancy new tent for a super cold evening of restless sleep… mmmm.  The next day we lounged quite a bit, ran errands, watched 3 movies in the Airstream and I cooked dinner, grilled chicken and rosemary n parm cheese potatoes!  Ended up having a bonfire and all our Austin buddies showed up and we passed around the Woodford Reserve bourbon! The second day climbing was a bit warmer and a bit more successful climbing-wise.  After another cold night of sleep in the desert we decided to head into El Paso, get a hotel room, and get the first shower in days!  Sooo good.  Our friend Ellen came in that evening and we all met for dinner at a brewpub in El Paso and had a blast.  Third day of climbing was fun and relaxed.  It was packed with people climbing and gearing up for New Years.  Had dinner with about 30 other climbers at El Rancho Escondido, which we found out the hard way is the home of the $54 margarita pitcher.  Seriously… a $54 pitcher of house margarita.  It ended up being an enormous fiasco and Jennie and Ellen ganged up on the manager to give him whatfor.  As drunken berating only got us %20 off the bill, I cornered him myself, used my Jedi mind tricks (ME:  waves hands mysteriously, “There ARE no margarita pitchers on our bill.”)and we ended up drinking for free!  It was a great start actually to the evening as we were laughing about it all the way back to the park.

Every year there is a huge bonfire at the Rock Ranch and all the climbers camping out there show up.  To make a long story short here, margaritas, Beast cans, and champagne make for a pretty entertaining evening out in the desert!  Too many hilarious moments to even get into.  We crashed in Ellens trailer and were honored to be her first overnight guests!  The next morning we again packed up and headed to Austin.   It was a nice easy drive in which Hannah at one point came up with her porn name… Tickle Moorwood, based on her first pets name and a derivative of our apartment name.  Much laughter!  I feel like I am leaving a lot out, but all in all it was a blast and we are happy to be home and have a week together!

Looking forward to 2009 and what it shall bring.  My personal goal is to of course practice and study more yoga, but also to manifest becoming a better business.  Time to take my yoga teaching as a business to a different level I think.  We shall see!  Hope all of you are fantastic and happy new year!  Pictures to follow!

 

Dating Oneself?

December 22, 2008

So in the car yesterday on the way to Rogers Park in Belton TX we were chatting it up.  I was driving and Ellen, Caroline, and dog Bean were carpooling to go climbing for the day in the bitter bitter cold!  It turned out to be a bit shorter day than usual due to it being just too darn cold.  On the way back I mentioned a concept that I am a fan of and everyone was into it including Bean and I was told to mention it here…

This concept basically stems from a phrase I came up with… Dating Yourself!  This has nothing to do with the touching of oneself, although it may be a related item for some. Ahem. Anyways.  It also has nada to do with dating yourself as in, “I loved the band Twisted Sister back in the day.”  Ahem… Anyways again…

Basically I believe that you should at least once a week totally treat yourself right, or even every day!  Like my boy Agent Dale Cooper says, “Everyday, once a day, give yourself a little present.  Dont plan it, dont wait for it, just let it happen.”  (enter: two cups of hot black coffee and some cherry pie) However, my philosophy is a bit different.  I feel that one (1), you cannot truly learn to “hook up” another human being properly if you can’t do it for yourself first.  This can be said for another formentioned topic that we need not go into here, again.   Two; I feel like we dont treat ourselves with the respect and awe that we should!  Especially in a profession like teaching where all of your mental and physical energy is directed outward, we need to refuel and re-energize!  I feel like I personally do not get burnt out as long as I keep refilling the vessel that I am constantly pouring outwards from.

Tips on dating yourself:

1.Go Overboard.  Go big!  Take yourself to that favorite expensive restaurant and hook it up!   Dont worry about time, money, etc.  Treat it like a date with a significant other and impress yourself!

2.Spa Time.  On a night alone trap yourself in the bathroom.  Hot bath with salts, music, glass of wine, and possibly a favorite book you have read already many times!  I personally do this pretty often and its soooo good.

3. No Fear.  Go out and do your favorite things that you normally reserve for doing with another.  Get over fear of eating alone, movie alone, or favorite outdoor activity alone.

Nobody can ever truly know what you want at any given moment as well as yourself.  Take advantage of knowing who you are and what you want and hook yourself up!  Its not selfish!  It will only make you happier and healthier which can only effect your local environment in a positive manner!   Life is good, revel in it.  Roll in it like a dog in a pile of leaves!

 

 

A beautiful Sunday afternoon.

December 15, 2008

Got up early and had some incredibly yummy coffee.  (my coffee can be eaten with chopstix)  Taught my Sunday AM Ashtanga class which is always a great one!  After coming home and doing what I can describe best as “putsing around” for a bit ( a skill I learned from my pops), I headed back out to have some brunch at Hyde Park Grill!  From Hyde Park to watch a bit of The NFL and see the Buffalo Bills lose… again, and take my Fantasy Football dreams with them.  ”Buffalo!”, he yells to the sky shaking a fist.  Then received a call to go climbing again, this time out at McKinney Falls Park.  Enjoyed some beautiful weather with friends, a dog named Bean, and a fair amount of salamanders, hawks, daddy long legs, and cardinals.   Made me a bit of dinner and then drew me a bath with my favorite tension/muscle relaxing cocktail which is as follows and I highly recommend to all …Dr. Singhas Mustard Bath combined with Eucalyptus bath salts both of which can be found at Central Market among other places Im sure.  Trust me, try a super hot bath and hot box in your bathroom.  You will want a bed soon after!About to talk to wifey for a bit, who spent her weekend climbing and camping at Joshua Tree!  Then end the night re-reading The Silmarillion for the many hundredth time.  I have a Tolkien problem! 

Oh, the decisions we make!

December 14, 2008

So this piece constitutes the last of the yoga related writings that I have had in the bank.  Time to get crackin on more new material!  Enjoy!

About five years ago my brother was visiting me in Washington DC.  He lives in Japan and we get to see each other only once or twice a year.  When we do get to see each other we often have to catch up on almost a years worth of information over the course of a few days.  There was a conversation that we had on this occasion that I remember quite clearly and have thought about many times.  A conversation that I have since found echoed in the experience of both my students and some of the very ancient Vedic texts!  A conversation about choices.

We were having a family dinner at a favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in DC and catching up a bit.  As we began to order, my brother was somewhat astonished to hear me order an entirely vegetarian option from the menu.  As a side note, I grew up and ate mostly steak, potatoes, chips and salsa, and little else.  I hated veggies and have always loved a big juicy steak.  My being mainly vegetarian came as a huge shock to him as it was something that just hadn’t come up before.  I remember him asking, “You don’t eat steak anymore?  How can you not eat steak?  It was your favorite!  It’s my favorite!”.  I answered by stating that  I was practicing Ashtanga every morning six days a week.  If I ate steak, it felt like I was practicing with a brick in my stomach in the morning.  We all know the practice is hard enough without a meat brick in the stomach!  It was his next comment that has been the inspiration of this piece.  Perplexed, he looked at me and said, “Well why the heck would you do a practice (yoga) that makes you so sensitive that you give up something you love?”  Wow.  I have to admit, the logic of his question stopped me for a moment.  I hadn’t really thought about it from that direction.  I was beginning to make conscious and unconscious choices that revolved around my practice.  Even shedding things I loved!

I come back to this experience due to a recent rereading of both the Uppanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.  There is a sanskrit term found in these texts that I think is a brilliant concept, Prajnaparadha.  This term is commonly translated as a mistake or improper use of the intellect (buddhi)–having just enough knowledge to make a conscious or unconscious poor decision!  For example, knowing the effects of smoking but still deciding to smoke; driving without a seatbelt because accidents happen to other people; eating all those yummy hot peppers that you know will give you indigestion; drinking that first, second, and maybe third martini!  In the practice of Ayurveda, Prajnaparadha is seen as one of the three causes of disease in the mental, physical, and spiritual bodies.  The good news is that this imbalance is correctable with self observation and better decision making.  In my yoga practice I was becoming aware of things in my life that I could change and thus feel better as a result.  The notion that we, as yogis, can make the powerful choice to give up even the things we enjoy is stunning to me.  It is a concept very much at odds with a world caught up in the practice of indulgence, a world that often prizes quantity over quality and appearances over substance.

As our yoga practice becomes more and more dear to us we begin to make  decisions.  Only with the fire of knowledge (jnana agni) can we begin to burn off the things in our lives we no longer need.  In the Gita wisdom is called the “greatest purifier on earth.”   In asking any of my students who have been practicing for a few years, I find that they have all changed parts of their behavior due to their practice and are happier and healthier for it!  With practice and observance comes this wisdom.  With the heat and movement of the Ashtanga system we multiply this purification process, building tapas (physical and/or spiritual heat) and burning off that which we don’t need.

What in you life resembles prajnaparadha?  What in your life have you already changed?  Endear yourself to the the work of the practice and enjoy observing the changes you’ve made over time!

Matt’s Disclaimer:  By no means do I mean to tell anyone to go veg or not drink.  These are only meant as examples from my own personal experience!  Seatbelts, though…

 

Ahhhh, Thailand.

December 12, 2008

Just reminiscing on practicing in Koha Samet, Thailand.  The Tsunami that devastated the area occurred only days after I left and I always wonder about the state of those beaches and the great locals and tourists I met there.  Wishing the best for the Thai government and its people and hoping to someday return to enjoy one of the most beautiful places and peoples on Earth.  Really want to get back there and get my hands on some of the incredible rock climbing there in the Western islands.

Took a lot of Thai massage there and picked up a bit more at the Old Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai.  We spent three days on elephants trekking through rain forest and sleeping in villages with less than 20 residents.  Unbelievable stuff.  Of course my camera died the morning we got on the elephants… I think it was jammed full of sand!  Cant wait to get back and see Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia as well.  So many places to go!

Next international travel plans?  World Cup soccer in South Africa/climbing trip (The Rocklands).  Taking a posse there in 2010!  You in?

 

Ahimsa

December 10, 2008

Here is a little something I wrote a while ago…

Ahimsa!

In Sanskrit there is a term…Ahimsa…which translated means non-harming.  A beautiful concept for a word!  I don’t know of many other words that symbolize this concept.  There are millions of words for the opposite though…destroy, harm, hurt, wreck,  ruin, break, crush, beat, smash, etc.  Kind of an odd phenomenon don’t you think?  There are plenty of words that mean to care for something.  However, that is a very different concept from that of non-harming…  For example ,the statement, “I will care for this flower.”, is quite different from “I will not harm this flower.”  To not harm seems to imply a choice to leave something in a natural and positive state as opposed to changing/harming it or choosing to make it your responsibility to care for it.   Non-harming can range from the macro to the micro, the physical to the mental or spiritual, and from the external to the internal.  Not only to not harm the world around you, but often first and foremost to not harm the world within you.  Using every breath of everyday as your workspace to get rid of negativity we easily fall pray to.  “I am not good enough.””I will never be like that.”; “This is just the way I am.”  Its not…that is just the way you WERE!  Make every breath a more positive and productive place to be for YOU.  Only from a center of strength and love can you then radiate the same to those around you without harming the self!  Hope this finds everyone having a beautiful day.  Ahimsa for all my people!

As a side note, Ahimsa is in fact the first concept mentioned in the Ashtanga, or 8 limbed path in the Yoga Sutras.  It is the first of the Yamas; 8 ways in which to deal with our environment.  Although each step becomes a grander step.  One can really not move to the next without dealing with the first, which leads to the conclusion of the immense import of beginning your practice with this simple concept!

On creating a home yoga practice and the making of ones bed.

December 9, 2008

 

Now and then we offer a piece of advice to a friend in passing.  Often we have little  idea of the implications of this advice or the residual effects of it that are often greater than we could imagine.  Sometimes it’s just something that pops into your head in mid conversation like a hit and run clarity bullet!  Years ago I was conversing with a then roommate of mine about simply cleaning up his room.  Mine was always quite clean and his was a mine field of dirty laundry, half empty coffees, and rock climbing gear that quite safely guarded the area from anyone entering!  He was asking me how I kept mine clean constantly as he was really frustrated but just didn’t know where to begin.

My living space was not always thus.  I used to be a super cluttered dude back in the day.  I believe it was due to a harsh combination of college freedom, being an artist/musician, and substances that need not be mentioned.  Oh, and a bad case of the laziness.   Anyhow, in passing i just blurted out, “Just start by making your bed.”, and walked away.

Years later we were chatting and he reminded me of that conversation of which I had totally forgotten.  He said it was some of the best advice he had ever gotten and it had changed his life!  I was baffled.  He proceeded to tell me that consistently making his bed led to him consistently cleaning more and more until his space was clean.  It didn’t stop there!  His life was becoming more and more organized as well, one little bit at a time!  Incredible!

During a class teaching for a Teacher Training program here in Austin, that story came back to me as i was answering some questions about starting a home practice, be it asana, pranayama, or meditation.  Most new yoga students have an extremely tough time developing some kind of home practice if ever developing one at all!   I realized in that instant that a huge part of the problem was simply our dristi, our focal point.  To return to my bed making analogy, if we look at the messy room as a whole it seems like a somewhat hopeless and daunting task to deal with.  However, if we look at just the bed that seems pretty docile in comparison.

What I am suggesting is that you not look at your practice as a whole initially.  Instead of trying to fit in an hour plus somewhere into you daily schedule, start out simply with a fifteen minute consistent practice.  The beauty of this is that you will often find that once you begin you may say to yourself, “Well this feels so fantastic I am going to just keep going!”  Your fifteen minutes turns out to be longer than expected!  Simple.  Think about it as a consistent brief and simple practice and see what it turns into!

All this being said there are a couple of other hints that will help immensely.  The beauty of having a yoga studio to go to lies much in the luxury of walking into an open room, throwing down your mat, and sitting down in a calm space that you have no responsibility for.  There are no pets, kids, dishes, computers, or any other distractions that often make us weigh practicing yoga against them.  Yoga will most likely always lose that battle.  So make a space!  It can be the size of your yoga mat if need be, but just have it there and ready.  If you need to move a bunch of furniture around every time, it aint’ gonna happen.

Try and be consistent with time and day as much as possible!

A book, CD, or DVD may be useful as inspiration.

A practice partner may be useful as well… a wingman!

Get advice from any of your teachers!

Hope some of this helps those of you trying to develop you home practice.

Thoughts on Yoga for Life with David Williams.

December 8, 2008

There was certainly a lot of great information and advice to ruminate on after Davids wonderful workshop here at the YogaYoga.  So much of his viewpoint was new an refreshing to hear, and much of it simply  reinforced thought processes that I have been harboring for quite some time.  The major one of these thought processes is that your yoga practice should be an enjoyable, elevating, healing practice that should be approached with an eye toward simplicity!  Seems like an obvious statement, but when I tell many students to RELAX to deepen their practice and that it shouldn’t be a frustrating goal oriented process, they sometimes look shocked!  “You mean I can just relax and not push constantly?”  Indeed!  For two weeks after his workshop I tried to get students to create a silent verbal contract both with themselves and I.  Something to the effect of…

Student:

“I am giving myself the freedom to not compete with myself or others.  I am giving myself the freedom to alter, modify, or skip postures I intuitively know are not making me feel better.  If i come out of an asana feeling worse, than I am doing it wrong!  I have the freedom to verbally question any teacher concerning what they are asking of me and how they are physically assisting me.  I am here to feel better in every breath!  I will settle for nothing less than this!”

Teacher:

“I will do everything in my power to give you a healthy, compassionate, and comfortable environment in which you can let your practice grow in the directions it needs to.   Anything I ever suggest in a class is entirely negotiable.  You have the power to NOT do anything you know is a bad idea for your body or mind.  I will never physically assist you in any way in which you could possibly become injured.  (If you are injuring yourself in yoga, you need to approach it differently or find another teacher that understands and has compassion for human anatomy.  Seriously, question your teachers actions, motives, and methods.  Injury is %100 unacceptable!)   As teachers we are not always in the right.  I am open to any questions, ideas, suggestions, and changes out there.  I am still learning constantly as well!”

The best quote I got from David over this weekend relating to this is, “We are doing cave man exercises.”  I love it.  Think about it.

Caveman:

“What can I do with the tools that I have to make me feel better and give me a longer, happier, healthier life.”

Before the advent of any modern medicine, besides the practice of  eating random things and waiting to see what happens, we had only breathing and movement to experiment with.  How can we make ourselves feel better using just the tools of movement and breath?  Stop making it so complicated!

Wether you are pointing a foot or flexing it,  wether we are rolling around 9 times or 5 in Garba,  wether we are doing the invocation together or call and answer, what’s the difference?  The questions to be asked are so much simpler.  Does this teacher have my best welfare in mind?  Do I feel better after each breath? Do I WANT to practice as opposed to HAVING to practice?

I understand and respect tradition, but if the tradition is not making you better than you need to question it.  There are certainly a lot of traditions that we no longer take part in that some crazy person came up with and then some “bad” person thankfully questioned.

The bottom line for much of this for me is that it was so good to finally hear a senior instructor lay this out plainly.   I have often felt to be in a minority and jokingly called myself an “anti-ashtangi”.  I have in fact had my wrists slapped by other teachers telling me that this line of thinking is not Ashtanga and that I need to go to Mysore to “fix” it.  Well if injuring people and putting asana in a box so it cannot grow according to peoples needs is Ashtanga… than Ashtanga is not yoga and needs to be put into its rightful place in the gym.   Ouch.  Might have gone a bit far there, almost offended myself!  To truly understand yoga, its origins, and its theory we should all read and re-read in order of their creation, The Upanishads, The Gita, Yoga Sutras, and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, or in my line of keeping things simpler, just experience your practice and constantly question it!

“This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga.” -Upanishads

“Even as a burning fire burns all fuel into ashes, the fire of wisdom burns into ashes all works.” -Bhagavad Gita

“The practice of Yoga…must develop our capacity for self-examination…” -Yoga Sutras

“Hatha yoga is the greatest secret of the yogis who wish to attain perfection. Indeed, to be fruitful, it must be kept secret; revealed it becomes powerless.” -Hatha Yoga Pradipika    =   this blog is for your eyes only and will self destruct in 15 seconds.

Disclaimer:  All of the above is truly just personal thought and inspiration from Davids workshop meant to create thought and discussion.  Nothing is meant in the least to offend or judge others who believe or feel differently.   We all learn and are inspired by different approaches toward the same ends!  Practice inspired, simply, and compassionately!

“How can I practice today so I can still do this when Im 100 yrs old?” -David Williams

 

My parents began practicing hatha yoga a number of years ago.  I believe that I talked about it so much that they figured there must be something to it!  They have been practicing now twice a week ever since.  About two years into practicing, I asked my Dad how it was going, to which he responded, “My back and body feel much better, but I am not sure if this yoga thing is really working.”  I was astonished and curious with this comment and asked him to elaborate.  He basically answered that although he was physically feeling a bit better, he was getting more and more frustrated with daily living.  “It’s just making me realize all the things I don’t like about my own behavior.”  I was blown away at the power and brilliance of this observation.  He was in THE most important stage of a yogic journey beyond asana!  I liken it to step one of A.A., “I have a problem.”.  We do, we have hundreds of imperfections and poor behavioral traits from tiny to immense!  This  at first can seem daunting and even depressing, however a  great power comes from this realization!  “In any given breath I can change who I want to be and how I want to be.”   However the path to becoming a better you can only begin with the discovery of the things that need to change.

So how does this happen?  How does asana practice lead me from the realm of physical concern to something more?  We all most likely can look back at our yoga history and wonder how we got from just doing asana to sleeping better, walking better, feeling better, acting better, etc.  I have seen students become entirely different human beings over the course of their practice.  I have meditated a lot on the above questions and these are my thoughts thus far.

To me, asana practice is simply dealing with all the emotions and reactions of your daily life on a microscopic level and in a safe environment.  The beauty is that you may never even be aware of it!  What does this mean exactly?  I believe that the end result is that asana practice has very little to do with your physical ability or prowess.  Don’t get me wrong, there are fantastic physical benefits and its just plain fun to play with the body and get it to do fantastic things.  Eka Pada Sirsana is not about how great it is to get a leg behind the head.  Its not the most useful skill I have ever had.  To me it’s all about how to be in a posture that is that challenging and possibly uncomfortable, and still be just as calm and relaxed as I would be in Savasana!  Here is the heart of my thinking.  Each breath in each asana I am forced to deal with dozens of emotions and reactions on a small and inconsequential  scale.  “I hate it. I love it.  I’m bad at it.  I’m great at it.  That guy is great at it.  Too slow.  Too fast.  It hurts but I’ll do it anyway.  I need to try harder.  Ill just sit here and hang out.”  All of these classics and more coming to a brain near you soon!   This is where Ashtanga becomes a great modality in my opinion for moving beyond asana.  We are learning to deal with all of that turmoil, not by ignoring it and perpetuating what Buddhist thought calls “conditioned existence” or sleepwalking, but by peeling it away bit at a time.  The use of Ujjayi breath, Dristi, and Bandhas are a very direct way in which to begin relaxing and focusing within each challenging asana,  observing these thoughts and allowing yourself the freedom to respond accordingly.   This is practice and this is hard!  Constantly observing and altering to make the hardest asana you can imagine, the most comfortable place to be.  This constant process of dealing with these thoughts and emotions is one of the biggest benefits we can take  off of the mat.  In any challenging situation or asana you can choose to make it harder or easier, but it takes awareness and constant practice.

My feeling is that from the skin out, the world is basically out of our control.  You will always stub your toe and it will hurt,  there are things you will be good and bad at,  there are things you may never get to do, it will rain for better or worse, etc.  However, from the skin in you have the power to harness complete control!  We can breath easy and focus with a leg behind our head, we can also breath easy and focus in the middle of ecstasy or tragedy!   I love this idea that from the skin in I can have a choice of who I want to be, how I want to react,  and how I want to treat others.  Read this line again… In any given breath I can choose who I want to be and how I want to be.  This is the power of the yogi!  To become more compassionate, understanding, relaxed, and effective in the face of any situation beyond our control.   This evolution is happening in every breath of every asana and you may not even notice!   Enjoy your practice.  Take it both seriously and with humor.  These are simply silly postures to put yourself into, but the effects can be life changing.