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Exhale

June 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Take a deep breath.

This was my go-to stress-coping strategy for decades. We hear it all the time, right? Take a deep breath.

So when, after having four kids, I felt like I was drowning every day, when the weight of the world was just too much, I opened my mouth, and I took a deep breath. And another. And another. And I kept taking deep breaths because I didn’t know what else to do. And when I started feeling like I couldn’t get enough air, I just tried harder… more deep breaths… more gasping for air… more forcefully. And then the panic set in. And still I opened my mouth, sucked in my belly, and gasped for air.

It was a long time before I finally realized what my body was trying to tell me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t get enough air. That’s not why my deep breaths never seemed to satisfy. The problem wasn’t that I needed more air. The problem was that I needed to exhale.

When we are under stress, our nervous systems cannot distinguish between a financial crisis or a bear attack. The response is the same: fight-or-flight mode. When the threat is more abstract, as most modern crises are, rather than actually life-threatening, we need a way to tell our nervous systems that the fight-or-flight response isn’t necessary.

The Witch in My Family Tree

June 24, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. -James 1:27

When I was about ten years old, my stepmom, eager to share her love of literature, gave me a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1959 Newbery Medal winner). It has remained one of my favorite books ever since. Something about the story and its characters has always called to me on a deep level.

witchofblackbirdpondHannah Tupper, one of the book’s main characters, is an elderly Quaker widow who has been ostracized and rumored to be a witch by the Puritan community she lives among. Toward the end of the book, the townspeople, looking for someone to blame for a fever outbreak, come after Hannah, intent on harm. I won’t spoil any more details, but it’s a beautiful book that I highly recommend.

Around the same time I received the book, we went with my stepmom and dad to visit the Salem Witch Museum. I remember standing in a dark room with period-costumed mannequins where a loud speaker told the stories of some of the women and girls who had been killed for supposed witchcraft. All of this talk about “real” witches was new to me.

Several weeks ago I learned something about my family history that helped me understand perhaps why The Witch of Blackbird Pond had struck a chord in my soul. I am a direct descendant of Margaret Stephenson Scott, hanged as a witch in the Salem Witch Trials on September 22, 1692. Margaret Scott was my 9th great-grandmother on my mother’s side.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 8th Edition

June 21, 2015 at 12:24 am

Several weeks later, I am finally getting around to posting this. I’ve now completed Kundalini Yoga Teacher training! We graduated the first Sunday in June, but I will have to wait awhile for my certificate to arrive. I sort of can’t believe the past five months really happened. Hallelujah we made it!

I loved an exchange that happened between our instructor, Sevak, and one of my classmates our second-to-last weekend. Sevak had been talking about how rare a “true kundalini rising” experience is. One of my classmates was seeking clarification. His response to her was: “Do you have any idea how rare you are?” Tears began falling down her face. She truly is one of the most beautiful souls I have ever had the privilege to meet. I think what I will miss the most is the opportunity to spend every other weekend with a group of such pure, genuine, kind, spiritually sensitive, compassionate, beautiful souls. Truly, these people are the cream of the crop.

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In Transition

May 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I should be working on my Yoga Teacher Training exam and certification packet, but instead I’ve been looking at homes online. And now here I am blogging. We found out that we’ll have to move this summer. 2015 just keeps getting more and more interesting. I feel like everything about my world right now is “in transition.”

2013-06-12 03.49.40 pmI’m finishing up teacher training. Hallelujah. I’m adjusting to a surprise pregnancy. I’m transitioning through some unwelcome anxiety flare-ups and medication dosage adaptations. I’m remembering to take my own advice about minimizing morning sickness (thank you, cucumbers and magnesium). We’re getting geared-up to move. And I’m transitioning to a new prenatal care provider.

Yeah… switching to a new midwife. With my anxiety struggles and the minor chance of difficulties for the baby because of my medication, I had a strong feeling that I couldn’t do another home birth. If only for my anxiety’s sake, I felt it was best to know I would be much closer to a hospital. Instead, I have chosen to give birth at Blossom Birth Center, located across the street from Phoenix Children’s Hospital and five minutes down the street from St. Joseph’s Hospital. In addition, one of the care providers on staff is an OB, and hospital transfers are smooth and seamless because of their strong relationships with doctors and hospital staff. Also, I’ve done hospital births and home births, but I’ve never done a birth center… might as well give it a try.

Surrender, part 6

May 14, 2015 at 12:38 am

“It’s OK, Mommy.  You’ll grow another one.” -My second daughter (after I pushed out my fourth baby’s placenta)

Nearly four years ago, three months after my fourth birth, I wrote the last installment of my “birth story” in a post titled “Surrender, part 5.” In it I shared my somewhat graphic discovery that my youngest daughter was likely originally sharing my womb with a twin who stopped growing very early in the pregnancy. I finished the post with these words:

We can’t know for certain whether there was, in fact, a vanished twin. But my heart feels it’s true, especially when I’m in a room with my family and keep looking around for the one who’s missing, only to realize we’re all already in the room. Or when my baby girl’s face lights up in a huge grin, as though she’s looking at an invisible someone she adores, sitting or standing next to me.

Thinking and writing about it all, I can feel that bit of sadness and loss fading away, leaving peace and understanding in its place. And, even now, my eyes well up with tears of knowing… Yes, I know it now. I can feel it in my bones. I can see it in my tears and in the burning, overwhelming love and joy filling me and surrounding me. Yes, there is another child who loves me deeply and intensely, waiting… and hoping that I will have the courage to surrender again.

P.S. I gave birth to a baby boy in my dreams two nights ago.

Over the past four years I have become more and more intimately acquainted with this unborn child. He has visited my dreams, appeared in visions, made his presence palpable occasionally at family dinners or gatherings, and all along the way I have told him, “I don’t know if I can do it.” His response has always been a kind, patient, loving, “Whatever you decide is OK. I’ll find my way into your family somehow.” But all the while, he was persistent in his determination to make me aware that he was still there, still waiting, still full of love for me, still hoping to come to this earth through my body.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 7th Edition

May 12, 2015 at 8:29 pm

I’ve now completed seven full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and sixteen of my twenty required yoga classes. I’m about halfway through my take-home essay exam, hoping to do one question a day to finish before the May 24 deadline. In addition, I still need to create two yoga course curricula. One is for beginners, and I think I’ll do a pregnancy yoga curriculum for the other. I got the Conscious Pregnancy Yoga Manual last week, so it should be really helpful!

IMG_20150502_162014570Between teacher training weekends, on May 2, I was able to attend a gong workshop with Sevak Singh. In Kundalini Yoga, we use the gong quite a lot. It is said that the sound of the gong is like the sound of creation. The gong will always neutralize the mind and force it to a place a stillness. For this reason it is a very powerful tool for deep relaxation. During the workshop we were able to play five different symphonic gongs of varying sizes. And… now I want one. A big one. :-) Gong can kind of be an acquired taste. I wasn’t sure I liked it the first time I heard a gong, but now I love it. If you’ve never heard a gong played well, Don Conreaux has some good recordings. And Khushbir’s video is good too. Also, the gong sounds a lot like the planet Jupiter. Do you know what Jupiter means? Dyeu-peter=“god the father.” Interesting, no?

On Saturday at teacher training we had four students present their practicums. So that basically translated to four complete yoga classes in one day. Whew! It was kind of exhausting, but I love seeing my classmates teach. It’s a joy. We also talked about teaching specialized groups… corporate settings, pregnant women, children, teenagers, addiction recovery groups, elderly, etc. And we discussed some ethical considerations and the various Kundalini and yoga organizations: IKYTA, 3HO, KRI, Library of Teachings, Yoga Alliance, etc.

Dear Midwives

May 5, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Today, on International Day of the Midwife, I want to pay tribute to the midwives of the world, past, present, and future. I will begin with two of my favorite midwives of all time. Puah and Shiphrah.

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Here is their story as told in the Bible in the first chapter of Exodus (KJV):

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, Practicum Edition

April 30, 2015 at 7:07 am

I’ve now completed six full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and nine of my twenty yoga classes. Our certification packages are due May 24, and we’re scheduled to graduate on June 7. So basically I will be spending all of May either in yoga classes or writing essays for our final exam questions. I seriously feel like I’m in college again, cramming at the end of a semester. Good thing I’m a writer, so essays are my thing. Deep breaths (through the nose, of course). I can do this!

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The highlight of last weekend was teaching my practicum! I knew I wanted to sign up for one of the first slots, and I knew I wanted it to be early in the day. I was the third student to present, and the first person on Sunday morning. Before I go into detail about the practicum, here are some highlights from my class notes the rest of the weekend.

Experimental Hairiness

April 17, 2015 at 5:03 am

A couple of months ago I got a text from a friend. She said something like, “I stopped shaving my armpits as an experiment.” I laughed and texted her right back, “Me too.” Literally. We both, individually and without discussing in advance with each other, started the same experiment at the same time. Over the past month+ we have had quite a few conversations about our hairy glory, and eventually both of us expanded our experiments to include our legs as well. I died laughing when she texted me this gem: “An Open Letter to My Beloved Woolly Armpits.”

Last night I finally mustered the courage to talk about the elephant in the room with my husband. I ventured into this experiment without consulting him, and I didn’t need anyone’s permission, but I was slightly curious to know how he felt about it. This man has been my devoted, compassionate, and stalwart partner through some really tough stuff. Given all that I’ve put him through, I was confident that a little hair wasn’t going to send him packing. But I guess I just needed to hear him say the words out loud: “I will still love you, even if you never shave again.” I haven’t decided whether I will make my experiment permanent.

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The lighting here makes it look blonde, but it’s actually not as blonde as I wish it was.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 5th Edition

April 15, 2015 at 6:04 am

I’ve now completed five full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, my full 40-day sadhana, three of my early-morning group sadhanas (I need two more, but 3:30 is so early), eight of my twenty yoga classes, and four of my take-home exam essay questions. Our certification packages are due May 24, and we’re scheduled to graduate on June 7.

The highlight of last weekend for me was practicing teaching each other. We divided into three groups of five and took turns teaching various breathing exercises, mudras, and postures. I’ll admit I was really drowsy and preoccupied in class most of Saturday and Sunday morning, but I was alert and having a blast on Sunday afternoon when we began teaching each other.

I loved seeing my classmates shine in their own unique ways as teachers, and I loved having the opportunity to work on my own skills and learn how to better ground and center myself in preparation for teaching. I am on this journey with some really wonderful human beings and feel honored to know them. Here is everyone relaxing during a guided meditation:

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The Power of a Mother’s Shield

April 3, 2015 at 1:12 am

The purest thing in the world is the heart of the mother. . . . It can move God. It can move the Universe. It can cause an effect beyond limitation. The heart of the mother is the greatest power of Infinity ever given to any finite being. -Yogi Bhajan, Women’s Camp 1977

Imagine you have an invisible shield surrounding your body, protecting you. And imagine that your newborn baby doesn’t have a shield of her own. Your shield is, in fact, your baby’s shield. Imagine that being within your “bubble of peace” can regulate your baby’s heart rate, temperature, breathing, and keep her immune system functioning optimally. Imagine that you have that kind of power… because you do.

Last month I shared something “new” I learned at my first yoga teacher training class. I put new in quotation marks because the truth is that I already knew it on some level. I felt compelled to keep my babies very close to me for the first years of their lives, and now I’m more grateful than ever that I did. Here’s the “news” I’m referring to:

40 days

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 4th Edition

April 1, 2015 at 4:32 am

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Rumi

I’ve now completed four full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and all forty days of my assigned 40-day sadhana. Yippee!  Last weekend for yoga teacher training we had an “Ashram-style” retreat in the mountains two hours northeast of Phoenix. It was such a beautiful place to be.

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Mattress Wrapping and SIDS

March 24, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Almost four years ago, I wrote a post called Healing Your Home in which I shared my passion for air-purifying house plants. I also shared info about how poor air quality during the prenatal and neonatal period has been linked to preterm birth, reduced fetal growth, preeclampsia, respiratory problems in infants, reduced intelligence, mood and behavior problems, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). House plants can do a great job of removing toxins from the air. I have plants in almost every room of my house partially for this reason.

Book Cover (16)One source of toxins in indoor air is often overlooked: mattresses. I know I never considered the possibility that our mattresses could be harming us until I learned some valuable information about SIDS. I shared this in my house plant post:

Their research demonstrates that SIDS is the result of accidental poisoning due to toxic gases released from baby mattresses. These gases are produced by the interaction of common household fungi with phosphorus, arsenic and antimony, chemicals which are either present naturally in the mattresses or which have been added as flame retardant chemicals (Source).

Since then I have learned more about the toxic gas theory. Here’s an explanation from Prevent SIDS, quoting Lendon H. Smith, MD:

Before World War II, unexplained infant deaths were unusual. But after 1950, the governments of nearly all the rich industrialized countries required treatment of baby and child mattresses with flame retardant chemicals. Phosphorus and antimony were most commonly used; arsenic was sometimes added later as a preservative.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 3rd Edition

March 18, 2015 at 3:45 am

I’ve now completed three full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and thirty days of my assigned 40-day sadhana. This stuff is tough! I had to laugh at the end of our weekend training while we watched a Yogi Bhajan video. He said (about the Warrior Exercise he was about to teach):

I’m not willing to let you misunderstand this. If we start doing it, we’re going to reach a stage called ‘The Twilight Zone,” and then there’ll be humongous pain; pain so much that you do not know. . . . Set yourself, folks. You asked for it. I forgive myself and wash my hands of it.

It reminded me of something I had read online in which a critic of Kundalini Yoga called its practices masochistic. Sometimes it can feel like torture, to be honest. But, as we often talk about in class, the practice of Kundalini Yoga is about training your mind-body to serve your spirit, and if you can command your mind and body to endure a difficult yoga exercise, it becomes easier and easier to command your mind and body to endure anything. It’s like a fire-drill.

Conquer

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 2nd Edition

March 11, 2015 at 4:57 am

I’ve now completed two full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and twenty-three days of my assigned 40-day sadhana. There is so much I could say, but I think for the sake of time I will just share snip-its of my class notes in bullet-point form.

See “Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 1st Edition” HERE.

potty training

February 28, 2015 (with Gurumeher Singh)

  • Purpose of yoga= to become one with the infinite.
    • yoga= union, yoke
  • Purpose of yoga= to control the thought waves of the mind.
  • When not in a state of yoga, we identify with our thoughts, reactions, and habitual patterns: “I am angry.”
  • Yoga is potty training your mind
    • need a place to “dump”
    • once a day go to your dumping station (yoga/meditation)
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