4 Questions to Ask about Our Children’s Futures

February 19, 2017 at 6:10 pm

A friend of mine has been dealing with some intense challenges with her son’s school. Her sweet but very active 5-year-old son has been suspended three times in the past three weeks. I’m tempted to say he was suspended for rule infractions that could fit under the umbrella of “being a 5-year-old.” Most American kindergarteners are expected to sit still, stand still, be quiet, stay in line, and generally avoid typical 5-year-old behavior at all times. So sad.

While American kindergarteners are denied their one short recess for small infractions, kindergarteners in Finland are given as many as four free-play breaks between classes because “educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves . . . executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too” (Source). Professor Howard Gardner, from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, gave this advice for improving American schools: “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States” (Source).

All of this has me thinking a lot about what really matters and what will really prepare my children for the actual future they will be living in. My research and my gut agree that what is being taught in most American schools is insufficient for and even opposed to what our children will actually need in the future. For what it’s worth, here are some questions I feel we should be thinking about.

Keeping Up

February 15, 2016 at 5:21 am

One year ago today I started yoga teacher training! It seems sort of surreal… did that really happen? I was a totally different person then. And a new person again by the time I graduated. And then I birthed yet another version of myself when I brought my fifth baby earthside on Christmas day. I wonder who I will be next Valentine’s Day?

As I reminisced about my first weekend of yoga teacher training, looking over my notes and recalling so many beautiful epiphanies and experiences, I thought… gosh I miss this. It has been several months since I had a daily yoga/meditation practice (a casualty of the third trimester, I suppose). Given a choice between doing yoga or relaxing/sleeping/taking a bath, well… yoga lost just about every time.

I think maybe I need this beautiful watercolor painting created by one of my yogi friends Siri Kirti Kaur. Yogi Bhajan always urged his yoga students: “Keep up and you will be kept up.”

keepup

Meltdown and Misgiving

November 17, 2015 at 6:04 am

So I had a total meltdown this afternoon. Lately I seem to crumble into tears at least once every week or two. I know this is common for many pregnant women, but I’m not generally a weepy pregnant woman. Usually it happens more when I’m sleep-deprived, but I’ve actually been getting plenty of sleep lately thanks to our lax homeschooling schedule. Today it was triggered by a midwife appointment.

It’s kind of a long story, but I’ll just summarize by saying that my glucose levels have become a bit of a concern. So I’ll be doing the 3-hour glucose test on Wednesday morning. At my appointment, my levels (tested via finger-prick and diabetic test strips) were nerve-racking. My midwife is recommending that I reduce my carb intake even if my 3-hour results come back OK, just to work on eating healthier in general for myself and my baby. She also recommended taking more walks since exercise is one good way to reduce high blood-sugar levels.

I was so relieved that my husband’s car was in the driveway when I arrived home. I was feeling panicky, and I knew having him there would help. Almost as soon as I walked in the door, tears were welling-up in my eyes. I spent the next hour or so texting my sister with tears streaming down my face almost the whole time, and intermittently crying on my husband’s shoulder.

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Snarky School Spiel

September 10, 2015 at 1:25 am

Kids are at school 7 or 8 hours a day. That’s a full working day, and why should they have to take work home? -Etta Kralovec, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Arizona South

So we moved over the summer. Not because we wanted to, but circumstances required it. Despite our sadness at leaving a house and neighborhood we loved, we do really like our new living situation. Here’s the view from our kitchen table…

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Unfortunately, we don’t really like our new schooling situation. We were really pleased with our former school. The kids were doing really well, their teachers were great, the principal was great, they had plenty of time after school to relax and play and do chores. Now they are attending a new school, and it has become a significant source of stress in my life. <—That’s a diplomatic way of saying they are seriously pissing me off.

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.

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

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.

One Foot in Front of the Other

July 4, 2014 at 4:09 pm

This morning we got up extra early. I hadn’t slept well, and I didn’t really want to get up, but I did.

Every year for several years my husband and occasionally myself and other family members have run a race called the Freedom Run for the 4th of July. This was the first year that my oldest daughter had signed up for the 5k with her dad. My second-oldest daughter wanted to do the one-mile, so (several months ago) I agreed to do it with her.

But last night I was dreading it. Sleep is precious to me these days, and I wasn’t sure if I even had the strength to go that one mile. But I knew how excited my daughter was. And I knew I couldn’t let her down.

So I got up. And we got ready. And we went to the race.

We arrived just as the one-mile race was beginning, so we rushed to the start. And for a mile, I ran (very slowly) with my daughter out ahead of me, saying, “Come on, Mom. You can do it!” Over and over.

I couldn’t help thinking how fitting it was. It was hard, and I didn’t really want to do it, but it was the light and strength of my daughter that kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

My Prescription for Happiness

October 9, 2013 at 12:32 am

About six months ago I wrote a post called “Becoming Whole Again” where I gave an update about my recovery from anxiety and depression. Yesterday I received a comment from Nicole on that post:

I am really interested in the new “prescription” to replace the drugs. What are the variety of spiritual and physical things you were encouraged to make habits in order to protect yourself from darkness and fear?

I’ve been thinking about sharing that prescription for awhile. So Nicole’s comment was the nudge I needed. I wrote this list in my journal on March 16, 2013. I feel it was a joint-effort between God and me, that we made the list together. At the time I wasn’t doing any of the things consistently and some not at all.

My daughter pretending to meditate

1) Go to bed by 10:00 p.m. and wake up early.
2) Meditate.
3) Read my scriptures.
4) Exercise.
5) Sing and play the piano.
6) Hold each child in my arms.
7) Have sex at least once a week.

Back in July I started meditating (kundalini yoga meditation) and singing every day. I haven’t missed a day since. I’m approaching 80 days. After I started this daily meditation practice, I felt so amazing that I cut my medication dose in half again. So now I’m down to 1/4 of my prescribed dose every other day. There were a few discouraging days while my body adjusted, but now that I’ve stabilized, the bad days are few and far between.

Healthy Curves

October 4, 2013 at 7:20 pm

A year ago, I had lost so much weight that all of my clothes were baggy and falling off of me. My breasts were virtually non-existent. People asked me, “Are you eating?” I had lost my appetite completely. Nothing tasted good to me. Even foods I had always loved. But I ate anyway. I forced myself to eat because I knew I had to. I felt like I ate all day every day. But it didn’t do any good. I just kept dropping pounds. I’ve always been “skinny,” but this was a new extreme low.

Now people are asking, “Are you pregnant?” I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. I don’t blame them. I have gained weight. A considerable amount since my lowest point last year. I have curves. My pant size has moved into the double-digits. My belly is popping out in a suspicious way.

But I’m not pregnant.

I have immediate family members who have experienced similar weight-gain while taking meds like mine. One of them believes the meds permanently altered his body chemistry. Not that long ago he was very overweight, and it has taken extreme measures for him to slim down to where he is today. As I watched the number on the scale getting higher and higher and the clothes in my closet getting tighter and tighter, I got nervous. I knew the pattern my family members had experienced. Was I headed in that direction too?

Natural Solutions for PMS

June 10, 2013 at 5:02 am

“Every month, not just once or twice a year, [the moon] retreats into darkness before returning to the her fullest brilliance. As a woman, I need a similar reprieve every month to access the most brilliant parts of myself, spiritually, physically and mentally.”  -Monna (Organic Mama Cafe)

962944104391438_a-4a2a3642_uDAZUw_pmFor several decades of a woman’s life, a magnificent monthly hormonal symphony occurs within her body. Each cycle demonstrates her body’s deep investment in the continuation of life. Sometimes that investment continues for nine months. Sometimes that potential for life passes away, and her body cradles that fallen egg in a brief embrace before letting it go to make way for new life again.

The aches and pains associated with menstrual cycles vary from woman to woman and over time. For me, the hardest part of my cycle is typically the few days before my period begins. If I’m going to have PMS, this is when it strikes. And there have been times in my life when it has struck with a vengeance. Over the years, I’ve found some natural remedies that seem to help. Based on my experience and research (this is not medical advice), here are my PMS tips:

Happy Sleep

March 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I’ve been fluctuating between severely-sleep-deprived and mildly-sleep-deprived for most of my life. Before having children, I had my own night-owl tendencies to blame. After having children, I wished I could go back in time and yell at my former self, “Sleep while you can!!!!!” I was utterly unprepared for the whiplash of new-parent sleep-loss. Honestly, I think last year’s craziness was partially just nine years of chronic sleep-deprivation pushing me to my breaking point. Sleep is so important, but its usually in short supply when you’re a mom, especially if you’ve chosen “night-time parenting” as your side-job.

I want you to get more sleep. I want your babies (small and large) to get more sleep. Here are some things you might want to try, if that’s what you want as well.

 

1) Music

I’ve been really interested in sound lately. I’m reading a book called Healing at the Speed of Sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Lives. I love these words from the preface, “When we speak of being of ‘sound mind and body,’ we seldom realize that sound itself is the root of being. That sound itself is the route to acquire those things we want so much, a sound mind and body.” And these words from the introduction, “We may choose organic good at the supermarket and avoid inhaling others’ cigarette smoke, yet we rarely pay attention to the equally positive or negative health impacts of sound, the other thing we put in our bodies.” I am loving thinking about the concept of “sound nutrition.” Great stuff.

Four centimeters

May 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

For months I had been writing things like this in my journal…

“Right now I just feel so drained. I feel like I give and give and give until there’s nothing left.”

“I am exhausted. I want to sleep for two weeks. I so need a break.”

“I am so run down, so overwhelmed, so out of reserves. But what can I do except just keep swimming?”

“I need a break. Big time. So much.”

Little red flags were waving in front of my face for quite some time. And then Mama Birth posted this:

I think that selflessness and sacrifice are beautiful things- and I think they can purify us and teach us. But I also know now that a woman needs balance. . . . Babies need a mother who takes care of herself and the other people she loves and who herself is nurtured in her relationships.

And it was another little red flag, another messenger saying, “Girl, you need help. You need a break. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.” (Thank you, Sarah). But, unfortunately, those little red flags just kept on waving, and I just kept on running myself into the ground. I could feel myself sliding into depression, and it scared me. I have been in that dark place before, and I did not want to visit it again. Looking back, I can say that the damage was already done. A body chronically depleted of sleep and sapped of vital nutrients through chronic stress is going to have a very difficult time functioning, let alone functioning cheerfully.

Enduring a mile (or a centimeter)

March 26, 2012 at 6:00 am

My husband ran the Boston Marathon back in April of 2008, and I was so inspired by it that I (very briefly… ha!) decided I want to run it as well. So a week or two later, my husband and I decided to see how fast I could run a mile. We ran a warm-up mile at a medium-effort pace, and then I threw myself like crazy into the second mile. It was misery. It was horrid. It was an intense mental tug-of-war between “I can do this! Keep going!” and “What was I thinking?! I have to stop!” But somehow I kept going.

After finishing that run, I thought a lot about the experience. I speculated that it was probably like a mini-marathon—a condensed version of the marathon experience. And I also recognized that the same things that helped me to navigate the journey of childbirth also helped me to get through that mile (and would probably help me get through a marathon as well, if I ever actually get around to running one). Here’s a play-by-play:

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