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.

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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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, 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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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)

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 1st Edition

March 10, 2015 at 5:45 am

I’ve now completed two full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and twenty-two 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.

February 14, 2015

  • Don’t say “I hope that _____ will happen,” instead say “I trust that _____ will happen.”
  • When life feels too big, call on your infinity; make yourself bigger than the problem.
  • Yogi Bhajan said… smile at your mistakes because you have opened up a new neural pathway in the brain.
  • There are four cycles of Kundalini at the throat chakra… “The most important power of a person is the spoken word, both what you speak and how you speak. Ugly words are effective, and praises are effective” (from our teacher training manual).
  • For the first 40 days after birth, an infant should stay within nine feet of its mother (within the protection and peace of mother’s aura). It takes three years for the child to build an independent aura. (<—I think I could write an entire blogpost on this alone.)
  • I love all the plants at Yoga Phoenix!

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I want to be a yoga teacher when I grow up.

February 18, 2015 at 10:10 pm

When we fold our hands in prayer,
God opens His arms and gives us a hug.
Life is fulfilled with this union.
That is yoga.
-Yogi Bhajan

About three months ago I wrote a post I titled “Now what?” In it I expressed confusion about where my life was heading:

It won’t be long until all my children will be in school. I feel like I’m soon to be laid-off from my day job. What am I supposed to do now? Write more books? Get a job? Put my doula training to work? Volunteer in the community? Train in midwifery? Become a foster parent? Fight against modern day slavery/trafficking? I have no idea.

IMG_0946My friend, Felice, introduced me to Kundalini Yoga and Meditation several years ago. She attended yoga teacher training while we were writing our book, The Gift of Giving Life (in which she wrote a whole chapter about meditation). Since then she has written more books about Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, and she has taught thousands of students around the country and world, including me. But I was resistant. Boy was I resistant. And never in the years she urged me to keep up my yoga and meditation practice did I ever have a desire to attend a yoga teacher training myself.

Who do you think you are? (Part 2)

February 12, 2015 at 3:04 am

Last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. On February 3, I gave my speech. Here is part two…

You can read Part One HERE.

When Jehovah introduced Himself to Moses, of all the hundreds of names He could have chosen, the name He chose was: I AM. Peter taught, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The name of Christ not only saves us from our sins but it can also save us from our sorrows and heartaches, if we do not use it in vain. How are you using the name of Christ? Would The Great I Am approve of the words you are using with His name?

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Who do you think you are? (Part 1)

February 10, 2015 at 11:11 pm

A week ago tonight I did something very brave. I got up in front of about 100 [felt like a billion] women and gave a speech.

For years I have had this belief about myself that I am “slow of speech.” I am the daughter of a master teacher. My father has taught and trained professionally for most of his adult life. But I thought my apple had fallen quite far from the tree. For years I have believed things like this: I am a writer, not a speaker. I can be eloquent in writing, but not in speech. I am horrible at [vocally] explaining things, but give me a computer keyboard and I’m golden.

Simultaneously, I have had multiple experiences throughout my life in which I have been told or prompted (by teachers, friends, God and others) that I should open my mouth more, that speaking would be a part of my future. Me? Really? Me?

So, last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. I told her, “I think I can do that. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

booklilenginesm1I thought it was going to just be a room of maybe twenty women. I would only be speaking for twenty minutes or so. No big deal. But the truth was… it felt like a really big deal. A really, really big deal. In fact, that’s exactly how I started my speech. After a few introductory words, I said something like this:

Littering Love

December 19, 2014 at 8:24 pm

So I got this idea. It grew partly out of the widespread belief that more people commit suicide during the holidays. I did some digging, and it turns out that this is sort of a myth. In reality, suicide rates peak in the springtime, though there is a significant uptick after Christmas… “a 40 percent uptick, according to one large Danish study” (see here and here). But, whatever. It doesn’t really help to get lost in the details when it comes to suicide. Regardless of when suicides are highest, they’re always too high.

In the US, nearly 30,000 people die by suicide each year, and the rate of attempted suicide is much higher—so much so that there is an estimated one attempted suicide per minute. Worldwide, suicide claims more deaths than accidents, homicides, and war combined. And many cases of suicide, particularly in the elderly, go completely undetected and unaccounted (Neal Burton, MD, Source).

Suicide is also one of the leading causes of maternal death, as I’ve written about before.

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Now what?

November 10, 2014 at 11:11 pm

I’ve been pregnant or nursing and caring for my children full-time for more than a decade. I’ve been blogging about pregnancy, birth, and mothering for over seven of those years. As a new mom, I had been neglecting to meet my own needs for intellectual growth and fulfillment, but my blog gave me that outlet. From 2009 until 2011 I wrote a book with four co-authors about spirituality and birth. Birth has been my passion (obsession?) for most of my adult life thus far.

But I don’t expect I will ever give birth or breastfeed again (so many mixed feelings about that one). My “baby” is nearly four years old. And I can feel my brain pulling away from birth. I still yearn for all women to have empowering and beautiful birth experiences, but my mind no longer buzzes with birthy topics and blogpost ideas.

Now what?

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