Inside Out

I’m sitting here in my kitchen, feeling my home as an energy system.  It breathes with me.  It holds me.  It holds anyone who is invited to enter it.  26 Beston Street or Rosehip26 – that’s its name.

I asked my real estate friend to keep an eye out for me – in town – so Frances could walk to school.  It came fast – too soon really.  It was our home – no question.  Built in 1860 by Irish immigrants who came for a better life, on a quiet dead end street, in town.   With low ceilings, painted floors and a sagging front porch, it had its own story. It was loved.  I bought the fixer-upper in summer 2014, with big life changes underway.   Selling a house, buying a house, swinging loans and payments and lawyers, while working, being a mom and grieving the end of my life as I had known it – uncomfortable. I operated on instinct, from the gut.  Everything fell into place.  The earth came up to meet my bare foot with each step. 

I’ve lived here since January 2015, after a six month renovation.  Frances and I lived in someone else’s home during that time – a rental down the street – surrounded by their things, their pictures, their artifacts, their books on healing and contemplation.  I felt like I was supposed to read those books.  I saw them on the shelves but didn’t touch them.  I peeked into the meditation room, with butterflies and a walking stick, but didn’t meditate.  All our things were in storage.  It was a waiting period – like our lives were in suspension.  We couldn’t move from one life to the next without a period of pause – almost like a suspended inhale.   

During the renovation, the craftsmen discovered artifacts in the walls – two short canes, ice skate blades, a tiny book of the New Testament, a photograph of a gentleman, a glass half pint bottle.  History held in bones.  Held in cell structure.  Artifacts capturing an experience - An image.  Recreation.  A support.  Nourishment. Spiritual guidance.

 Artifacts in walls, bones and cells

Artifacts in walls, bones and cells

As emotions and pains are shed, the movement becomes literal and shows itself in some way – The house takes on what I release and physically manifests it before it is released.   The house makes sure I catch the drift -- making sure the lesson is learned.  It’s showing me my progress as if it were cinema or a narrative.  This summer the house got infested with fleas.  It needed clearing out – a daily removal of dust, debris, fleas and their eggs.  It needed professional support.  All Air BnB reservations were cancelled.  No visitors.  It was gross.  It gave us the shivers.   An empty house that needed space clearing and focused attention.  No one wanted to be there. 

Pondering the house as a living organism with its energy system, we start with the root chakra – Muladhara – the base chakra. Its element is earth and color red. The foundation.  I go down to the basement and see the root chakra, smell the root chakra.  The floor is literally earth – a dirt floor.  There is a french drain and when water rises up from the earth, a pump flushes it outside into the neighboring wetland.  It’s wet down there and dark and scary.  When I made the house renovation photo album, I had a photo down the dark stairs with the caption “Never going down there.”  Haha – how untrue those words were.  “Down there” was exactly where I needed to go and I needed to spend some time down there – precisely because it was dark and wet and scary.  But when you walk back to shut off the hose for the winter or to bring up an old paint can, there really isn’t anything to be afraid of down there.  The old foundation is made of stones and brick.  It’s solid.   It’s earth.  This past month, each week I brought up one old can of dried-up paint – slowly moving what is no longer needed from the darkness below.  Clearing out the root cellar chakra a little bit at a time.  There are several cans still down there. They aren’t all empty. They aren’t ready to be discarded.   Chakra clearing was also physically manifested this summer, when buzzing yellow hornets built a nest by the outdoor shower in a crack in the foundation.  When the shower water naturally and peacefully ran into the crack, where the nest was, the hornets buzzed angrily and aggressively dove at anyone out there.  They went on attack.   I had the foundation cracks filled in so the angry hornets would move on to the flowers, the trees, the grasses and earth.  And they did.  Firming up the foundation helped them dissipate.  Free and on their way, without dive-bombing unsuspecting, innocent people.

The second chakra is the Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana.  The element is water and the color orange.  This chakra is about sexuality and pleasure but also materialism and overindulgence.   Frances invited me to be vegan with her for a school project in this house, bonding over missing cheese and butter – and it stuck – going on three years.  Alcohol left two years ago.  Using food as medication has moved to food as meditation but will always be one of my harder edges.  I feel the emotional fluctuations.  Waters ebb and flow, the power of tides and their connection to the moon.   Darkness comes in, I retreat and rest and then return outside to the stars, our healing garden, for nourishment and strength, when the moon pulls me back out.   I’m a Pisces – a water person.  My photographs are shifting shapes of water, depending on time, tide and weather.   It represents power and depth, the subconscious. It changes right before our eyes.  I love swimming in water and in emotions.  As a child, I would dream that I could breathe underwater and explore its depths.  The houses’ physical manifestation appeared as dark, black spots of mold on the downstairs bathroom ceiling where the water vapor couldn’t escape.  It hung there, suspended in space, like a cloud or a fog.   They represented blockage, no movement and shallow breath.  The inhale of an exhaust fan and an open window did the trick, learning how to breathe deeply and regularly.   

The solar plexus chakra, navel center is Manipura – Fire.  The color is yellow.  I can hear my teacher’s voice - “Manipura!” He says it with enthusiasm – that’s the power of the navel center.  Manipura!  That’s where we get our conviction, our “keep up” spirit and drive.  This is the fire in the belly – passion.  The Manipura can link with the ego and impact the state of mind – anxiety, worry and fear. I’m careful to protect my energy field, hosting so many visitors and inviting energies into the home.  Smudging with sage frequently and clearing energy in the rooms calms my own nerves and helps move any lingering energy that the house doesn’t need and that we might confuse with our own.

Yellow, as it turns out relates to the mind.  It carries positive currents. I’ve pondered why different colors attract me at varying times in my life.  I’ve been drawn to yellow ever since starting the new chapter.  My friend helped me pick out the perfect yellow egg yolk color for the doors to our dark gray house.  It makes sense – the yellow doors – the entry way to our home.  Positive, happy, uplifting – for anyone invited to enter. 

Worrying at night when in bed has manifested as squirrels in the attic – imitating the chatter in my mind.  I hear a nut rolling around and a shuffling above me.  The house makes sure I have this literal experience as a reminder to be present.  To give thanks for what was and to let go.  To love, forgive and love again.  To allow the earth to rise up and meet my bare foot.  With reiki hands on the heart, a focus on the breath, the squirrels in the attic calm down, gather their nuts and go on their way, diffused in the trees where they belong. 

The kitchen is the Heart Chakra - Anahata – Air and green.  The heart – it has its own rhythm – its balance. Photographs of my kids, family, friends, homemade pottery, a view to the garden and avocado toast with hot pepper flakes.   It’s where we nourish and create.  The heart center combined with the manipura – navel center – is where we want to come from in life.  We have conviction and passion – and act from a place of love.  That’s the balance I seek.  That’s what’s in the kitchen.

I look up to the heavens, to the clouds, to the sky above for guidance. Clear communication is associated with the throat chakra - Vishuddha – Ether – Blue.   When it’s warm outside, the energetic vibration of a morning mantra chant is set free from my porch to the stars, the moon and the lavender dawn.  When it’s cold, the vibration is absorbed and bounced in the floors, walls, ceiling – it travels room to room and up the stairs. It explores.  It’s like sweeping and it vibrates to the outside and beyond.   While I find my voice in chanting, I’m learning to use my daily voice more gently.  Less energy, less power, less force.  Allowing quiet, allowing softness, sweet tones or no tones at all. 

The third eye is the Brow Chakra or Ajna.  The element is ether and the color is Indigo.  This is wisdom, intuition, a knowingness.  The Ajna has led me to great adventures like biking up Haleakala, creating our healing home, deciding on a whim to take Kundalini Yoga teacher training or to go to New Mexico for a month next year.  Decisions are made quickly and in retrospect, I can’t remember where the idea came from.  When the earth raised up to meet my step, finding the right contractor – that’s Ajna.  I told him I felt I could trust him and he told me that I could.  I let the garden develop organically.  I plant. I move things, create pathways with wild flowers, rocks and wood, without a plan.  The house spills out into the yard – it breathes out, into the surrounding neighborhood.  And connects with neighbors, like the new neighbors across the street, with a young girl, who reminds me how to play. 

The crown chakra or Sahasrara is violet and the opening to the infinite.  It’s a rainbow after a summer rain.  A late afternoon light.  A fox trotting down the street, at predawn hours, unaware that I’m awake too.  A fresh raspberry plucked from my garden.  The smell of mint.  Bare feet on soil. A dreamy state, just falling asleep or waking up, when angels are heard.  Voices in dreams, spirit visitors.  Ideas when exercising or thinking about nothing. 

And in Kundalini Yoga – there is an 8th chakra – the Aura, with no element – it’s white.  It’s the combination of all the others and how we connect to the universe.  It’s the energy that surrounds the whole, the electromagnetic field – And that’s literally our house – the 8th chakra.  My friend did a Feng shui and akashic record for our home.  She saw the home like a cat with its paws curled underneath - resting comfortably on the land, the indoors connected to the outside.  She describes, “26 Beston Street was built many years ago as a container for a new life. A place to land after a tough voyage to a sweet calm. The renovations “whooshed’ it to a fuller flower - a renewed and refreshed sense of purpose and a re-setting as a place to rest. It’s almost like an echo of the original - a place to be safe in the turning of a page, a vantage point to remember the past and its purpose - to bring hope. The house supports abundance - a place to feel the fullness of life.”  And she was right.  The pulsating energy of Rosehip26.

Living alone, my favorite time of day is post yoga and pre work – from 6:30 to 8:00 am or so.  It’s quiet.  It’s prayer, intention, introspection.  Petting a cat.  Contemplating an oracle card.  Lighting candles and sage. Reading a poem.  Making oatmeal.  Giving Nico cream in a ceramic dish.  Digging in the dirt or cutting some flowers.  Sweeping the floor.   Strong coffee. 

The house expands and contracts with our breath.  The front porch faces east – breathing in new beginnings.  In my bed, I face the west and close my eyes as the sun goes down.   And in between, artifacts are revealed from walls, cells and bones.  Some are treasured and put on a shelf.  Others are released out the window.  

 
 26 Beston street project

26 Beston street project

I started doing Air BnB when Frances went to college, to help with expenses.  Initially, it was a sacrifice.  Renting a room off the kitchen, people entered our sacred space.  Two years later, I have increased clarity of who I am and who I am not and what my house is and what it is not.    Spirit travelers are meant to come here.  I have something to learn from them, to teach them or both.  Or the house can help them in some way.  I get a snapshot of someone’s life. Young love; found love again; recovering; long-distant travelers missing their family; healing; college visiting, re-visiting, studying, teaching; fans of Emily Dickinson, of changing leaves, marching band, theater, astronomy, art, homeopathy and weddings.  They like the fat cat, the wise cat and the cuddly cat very much. They feel the warmth and love in our home.  They sleep well.   

The house holds me.  As I heal, it absorbs and facilitates the energetic movement and release to the outside, where it diffuses with nature.  The house has its own chakras – its own spinning circles of energy – that mirror my own.  The house works with me to sort it all out, getting out of sync and then together again.  Like in waves, like reverberations.  In tune and then off tune and then in again.  Energy within energy.  A breath within a breath. 

 
 “never going down there (went down there)

“never going down there (went down there)

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Relinquish

re·lin·quish (verb): Voluntarily cease to keep or claim; give up

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My morning sadhana, a disciplined pre-dawn kundalini yoga practice, is over a year old now.  I was getting somewhere.  Learning to let go, calm myself down, breathe, process pain, let emotions flow, grieve losses, feel strength, find hope and hit refresh each morning.  But there is an intensity in me that I bring to the practice.  I work hard at yoga.  I push through at yoga – just like life.  Kundalini yoga strengthens the nervous system, helping us stay calm during stressful times.  It turns out, that’s not my biggest challenge with yoga or with life.  I know how to push through.  I know how to keep it up.  I know how to be strong.  It’s the other side of that equation where I am learning.  How to slow down.  How to loosen the grip.  How to sit. How to be.  How to not think.

This weekend I had planned a yoga weekend retreat -- a reunion with other yoga students. But the Monday before the retreat, I felt weak.  I woke up with a sore throat.   I tried to push through it.  I worked.  I took extra vitamin C. Had tea, got plenty of rest and figured it would be left in the dust, like most of my obstacles.

I couldn’t play the usual card this time. Instead of force, I relinquished.  Even the sound of that word embodies what it felt like.  Re-link-quishhhh – say it soft and slow and you can feel time slowing down.  Re-link-quisshhhhh - It feels like a mantra.  Like a healing mantra.  I cancelled my travel.

I didn’t give up my morning sadhana – I’m committed to it and it’s happening regardless of how I feel.   I slowly moved towards my yoga mat.  I was exhausted in every way – physically, emotionally and spiritually.  And the result was a shift in the yoga experience.  I moved in slow motion.   My breathing was deeper than usual and I could hear my breath.  I couldn’t rush.  I couldn’t think anymore – I didn’t have the energy to figure out solutions to all my challenges.  I conceded.   I felt like I was wrestled to the ground and forced to be still.  I visualized the cowboy who ropes a powerful steer, jumps off the horse and twists the intense energetic being to the ground and the powerful animal has no choice but to come to a restful state.  My mind was wrestled to the ground by a force greater than myself and I gave up.  I stopped fighting.  It took great power to stop me.  The power of exhaustion.

I didn’t realize that I push through emotions too.  I thought I was feeling my feelings – I cry regularly – I have bad days.  But in this state of relinquishing my power and endurance, my emotional state dropped down into deep sadness.  A sadness took over my whole self and I let it happen.  I opened up and let it in.  I had no fight left in me. I took the day off, had cough drops, watched movies, slept and let my emotions sink to the ocean floor, where they rested and settled. 

When I woke up the next morning, I recalled the sadness from the day before.  I had coughed a lot during the night.  The weakness and emotional state felt the same.  I pondered – should I push through this or do I allow myself be sad and weak for another day?  What is the balance?  When does “allowing” turn into “wallowing”? I never pondered those two words together – allow and wallow – interesting.  One letter shifts the vibration.   

My routine continued – hair knotted, dog let out and in, cats fed, ginger tea -- to my mat in the darkness.  I had no intention of pushing through it – I would experience slow motion predawn yoga again.  But something interesting happened.  I had no expectation of feeling better – no expectation that my strength or emotional state would rise up – fully accepting that I was sad and weak.  I noticed my power filling back up, my peace replenishing; my calm – coming back into focus.  And my acceptance of things being the way they are.  That I lack nothing.  That all is as it’s meant to be.  Quiet and slow could be an alternate way of existing – with practice.  The weakness of mind, body and spirit, helped crack open the window and let a little bit more energy in and out.

We don’t know what we don’t know about ourselves – my intensity is all I have ever known – so to get to know anything else – is a mystery.  Spending time with the sad part wasn’t as scary as I thought.  Sitting with sad and letting sad in, showed me that it’s not a permanent state.  I was scared that if I let sad in, if I opened the window, she would whoosh in with such power that she would knock me down and never leave.  It would be too much for me to handle.  I have too many responsibilities to be knocked down for more than a day or two.  But when I allowed sad in – she came in with intensity, but evened out.  With a released grip and softened control – she floated around and then slipped away.  She wasn’t that bad.   Letting sadness in, opening up the window, relinquishing control, wasn’t giving up.  I thought that allowing or conceding, was a sign of weakness, but now I see it as the opposite – it takes courage and trust (or a bad cold).  With practice, it could be by choice -- strength - inverted.  Sadness and pain will come and go along with all my other emotions that I’ve pushed through but by opening up the windows, and letting the breezes in, maybe I can learn to put my face to the breeze – to take it in, open my arms to it – not put my head down and march through it with a grimace. 

My cold offered me a gift this week.  It wrestled me to the ground.  I conceded, panting under its force.  It cracked the window and let the elements in.  It let sadness in.  She came.  She stayed.  She floated around.  She left. 

When I whisper relinquish – slowly – re-link-quissshhhh --the healing mantra travels around my body.  I feel it in my heart and in my aura. Relinquish.  Such a pretty sound.  Such a beautiful feeling.  Such a powerful action.

 

 

Lessons from the Banyan Tree

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Secure roots go deep
A strength and resilience passed on from ancestors.
Roots connected to tough skin and long branches – extending, reaching.
Stretching up for dreams.
Spreading out – holding knowledge, creativity.
Turning back to the earth – becoming roots.
Securely grounded – solid, calm, quiet.
Nourishment from the upper, lower and middle worlds – sun, air, water, soil.
Its energy emanates – do you feel it?
I bow to you wise tree.
I am humble to your greatness.
Tell me your stories. Show me your visions.  Let me breath in your wisdom.
I’ll receive it with eyes glistening.
I hold you sacred.
I feel your strength as I gently touch your bark.

Kundalini Yoga - Sadhana (Morning Practice)

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
I bow to the lessons of the day – from the world around me.

Extreme weather, political chaos, hate, an anxious child, lower energy at work, a mending heart, a friend having surgery, death of a loved one, relationships changing, a future unknown.

Morning sadhana - my time - for my self.
Almond oil, the shock of cold water.
Warmth in my bark, wrapped in cotton fabric, leaves knotted on top of my crown.
Summer mugginess in the air, alone on my porch.
A navy blue sky with star patterns and a moon looking down.
My straight trunk sends roots down – bringing in nourishment, releasing what is no longer needed – diffused into the earth.
My branches are up and out, releasing sadness, pain, hurt, fear and loneliness.
Breath of fire, ego eradicator, the vulnerable bow pose – that leads me to tears some of the time (used to be all the time).
Arching, pressing, twisting, bending.
Then stillness – a letting go.

And then I chant – which it turns out, is a beckoning for my cat Nico.
Who has loved me through it all – and finds his place in the curve of my lap.  I scratch that spot, on the neck, he leans in, with a purr.

I find my voice – joining voices from my phone – voices that lift me up from the community.  They slowly teach me to project.  They slowly teach me to feel lovely.  And they slowly help me find my quiet power.

The sky lightens. The air feels lavender.  The peepers fade to quiet and the birds start their own mantra.  The natural world’s disciplined practice. Go within, emanate out.  Breath up - Chant up.

– Every morning resets my intention -- to flow with positivity.  And to rise up and be the banyan tree. 

A daily Kundalini yoga practice is called a Sadhana. Sadhana is before the sun comes up, before the energy of the day. It starts off with almond oil on the skin and a cold shower, followed by a Kriya. A Kriya is a specific sequence and timing of breathing, postures, meditation and mantra as taught by Yoga Bhajan. Learn more. Join me for Kundalini Yoga each week at Ananda Yoga in Hadley - Thursdays from 6:45 -- 8:00 p.m. Find peace in a chaotic world. Learn more about the class on the Ananda Yoga Website. You are welcome as you are. Bring your self.

Falling to Earth

 Camping by Lady Tree and Secret Beach

Camping by Lady Tree and Secret Beach

 Lady tree - elegant and wise. photo courtesy of emily snyder :)

Lady tree - elegant and wise. photo courtesy of emily snyder :)

 My sister calls these my "have a story to tell" shoes -

My sister calls these my "have a story to tell" shoes -

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Jackie and me on solid sand - we never saw a candy house and no one tempted us with treats.

I keep it moving.  Get it done.   Onto the next thing.  In Kundalini yoga and meditation, I’m learning the power of stillness.  In stillness, the message finds us. The path is revealed.  It doesn’t feel natural to me.  I want to search for, run to and push through for the answers, for the path, for the next thing in my journey.  I’m impatient.  But lately, it isn’t working.  I push, I run, I take control of forward movement and I feel lost – I can’t find my way.  I give up. Sit down. Cry.  And when all my tears are cried out and there aren’t anymore.  I look up – tired and quiet.  I have to concede.  I have to relinquish control and let it be.  It’s counter intuitive to me – as a doer all my life – to wait, be still and let the next thing be revealed.  It feels lazy. It feels passive.  It feels unproductive.  

This summer, I camped out in my solo orange tent on an island in Maine, where my family has a cabin.  I love my tent.  I love creating quiet spaces for myself.  I chose the perfect spot and learned from others that it’s a favorite  spot of many – lady tree and secret beach.  Lady tree has intertwining branches and roots that twist like a serpent off of the earth and onto the sand.  She feels wise, solid and ancient.  She connects the magical forest to the sandy beach and water.  Some of her branches are dead and brittle but she is still very much alive and her roots hold her securely while she reaches up to the light.  She’s elegant – lady tree.  The site is protected and close to water sounds and views.

I woke up before my alarm sounded and decided to get up.  It was 3:30 am, my alarm sounds at 3:50 am for my 4:00 am daily sadhana – my kundalini yoga practice.  It was dark.  I changed into leggings, t-shirt and a hoody.  I slipped on my red “they have a story to tell” keen, rubber toe sneakers, zipped out of the tent, peed and turned on the light from my iPhone to get me about a mile away to a little cabin for my practice.   It’s cool in the mornings in August and often dewy on the earth – so the empty little cabin destination for yoga had been working well all week.  I headed towards a path that led through the woods, across a little bridge and to a field and up to the “Hilton” – the cabin.   

After about twenty paces, I realized that Jack, our toy poodle, was not by my side.  I called for him – nothing.  I retraced my steps all the way back to the tent and found him.  Why did I think Jack could navigate a trail in the darkness?  At first I tried to use my phone light to help both Jack and myself navigate but Jack was very slow, carefully picking his way.  I scooped him up in one arm and held the light with the other.  There was a narrow path to follow and off to the right, through trees was eventually rocky shore and ocean.  Further to the left was a larger path that a jeep could navigate. 

I lost the path very quickly.  Sometimes I would retrace my steps and try again but mostly I would just forge ahead, ignoring that I had lost the path.  I knew the general direction and had the ocean to my right and the destination straight ahead – how bad could it be?  I became entangled in sharp pine branches, moss, rocks and no path in site.  It got too thick and I was forced to back up and try again.  Sometimes I would see a buoy, like a cairn, to let me know I was on the trail but then I would lose it again.  I started sweating.  My glasses fogged up and my arm was tired from holding Jack.  I stepped over rocks, scooched under sharp branches and barreled forward with my unabashed motivation to reach my destination.  My frustration mounted “Are you Serious!” I put Jack down and cried a few tears of utter frustration.  I looked at the clock.  It was 4:30 am – I had been wandering for almost an hour.  Getting nowhere, going in circles.  I completely lost my sense of direction.  I decided to head to the rocks on the shoreline which I could follow around and lead to the bridge – I heard a lobster boat and headed towards the sound.   I made it to the big granite shore but it was too hard to navigate.  The rocks were cliff-like and with the tide as high as it was, couldn’t be passed.  It was very dark and I might hurt myself.  Sometimes I put myself in unsafe situations so I knew enough to retreat. So back into the trees I went – beep beep beep – back it up.  But I was stuck.  Where to go.  Tired, frustrated and sweating, I took off my foggy glasses and put them on the ground.  I put Jack down, took off my sweatshirt, sat on the mossy rock and cried again.  I felt like Hansel and Gretel, lost in the woods – like in a fairy tale.  I wasn’t scared.  I was frustrated. I wanted to get out – to find the path.  But I couldn’t. 

My routine strategy of sheer force did not work this time.  I gave up and decided to do my yoga right there – right where I was.  I put on my phone recording of the Magnetic Field and Heart Center Kriya.  I was on about day ten of a 40 day commitment – for nervous system repair and balance of the psycho-electromagnetic field.  I tuned in with the Adi Mantra, started with the Heart Center Opener with the breath of fire and went from there.  The set takes about 55 minutes.  After I finished the set, I always do the navel adjustment kriya – only four asana of one minute each – stretch pose to bow pose to wheel pose to fish pose.  Then I set myself up for chanting the seven mantras of the Aquarian sadhana for 62 minutes.  Rooted in the earth, spine straight, hands in gyan mudra, eyes closed – at peace.  In the middle of the mantra, my phone died.  I continued on my own, estimating the proper timing for each.  It was nice hearing my sole voice in the quiet woods – it helped me focus on the sounds with no musical accompaniment.  It felt good that the only voice was my voice.  I ended with the “Long time Sun” – inhale, exhale and done.  Calm.  The sky was lighter.  I could see the green moss, the brown trees, the branches, sky.  I stood up to get back on the path and started thinking about a cup of coffee - but where were my glasses?  I had taken them off – sweaty and then for yoga.  Where did I put them in the darkness?  I looked and felt the ground for the familiar plastic frames.  I was feeling the earth--  searching the ground with touch.  No luck.  I took off my sweaty t-shirt and put it on the ground, like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs – so I could come look for it later.  I put on my hoody over my nakedness, slipped into my “story to tell” red sneakers and started off again, with our fuzzy view metaphor still in place.    “My yoga studio” that morning turned out to be right by the path itself. I was where I intended to be.   I was literally where I was trying to be.  I just didn't know it. I headed to the main cabin to make coffee.  My sister already had the kettle on.  I told her what had happened.

Couldn’t find my way

Couldn’t see the path.

Pushed through the darkness.

Was tired and frustrated and going in circles.

Stopped.

Cried.

Dropped to the earth.

Slow down.  Wait.  Breathe.  The path will be revealed. 

I needed the literal experience to get it. 

Pine needles in my hair, dirt in my leggings and fuzzy view.  I spent my time rolling around,  stretching, chanting and singing --  grounded in Maine dirt., trees, moss and pine needles.  

For the rest of the week, I kayaked from the tent to the  field – more light on the water – still a little touch and go (!) but an adventure.  Never found my bread-crumb-of-a-t-shirt and never found my glasses.  I decided the spirit animals in the magic forest by lady tree are playing dress-up with them.  Maybe they were giggling at me –  watching me trying to find my way and finally, falling to earth.

 

 

Haleakala - Taking Yoga to the Summit

 Above the clouds

Above the clouds

Early in the morning, either with friends or alone, biking has become one of my favorite ways to move through our world.  Biking gets me out of my regular grind - out of my head.  It connects me with views, vistas and quiet.  It creates space for sharing with bike friends.  It makes a space for conversation and connection.  Biking is life - hills and valleys.  When a big hill is in front of me, I lower my gaze, focus on the moment, focus on the breath and pedal.  Looking up and ahead at big challenges can be overwhelming and scary.  And biking isn't without its fear.  Having an accident makes one vulnerable and aware of danger and risk.  Staying alert and careful is part of its experience.  

I started training for my biggest biking goal ever - to bike up Haleakala volcano in Maui - a 10,000 foot elevation.  I like to share that it's taller than Mt. Everest, however, 20,000 feet of it is under water.  I hired Maui Cyclery for support and guidance.  They had a truck to refill water bottles, replenish energy bars and to carry warmer clothing until needed - it can be freezing up top.  Donnie Arnoult, the owner and ex pro, kept me laughing with stories of his life on Maui.  Ed, who drove the truck, picked up a Jackson Chameleon on one of our breaks and kept me hydrated - it was a special day.  

 Jackson chameleon

Jackson chameleon

But I started getting tired around 5,000 feet, only half way.  A dull headache set in from the altitude.  I kept hydrating and took it slow.  I stopped talking and listened.  Donnie instructed me to breathe through my nose for maximum efficiency and oxygenation.  While the ride to the summit was only 38 miles, I had to train for 100, due to the elevation and averaged 4 miles per hour.  At about mile 28, Ed and Donnie bid me farewell - what?  Somehow I had missed the memo that guides were not permitted into the park.  Donnie stuffed my leggings and jacket into my jersey pocket, filled up my water bottles one last time, replenished my energy bars and bid me farewell.  I didn't like the idea of finishing up solo but as I pedaled on it felt right.  Now it was the volcano and me.  Only ten more miles anyway - but the punchline there is that I was only going four miles per hour - so ten miles is over 2 1/2 hours.  Off I went.  Head down, breathing through the nose - long and deep.  Focus on the breath - "You got this Janet."  I couldn't tell how much ground I was covering.  I wasn't keeping track of time or distance traveled.  I was in the clouds on a seemingly endless winding incline.

I got to a "7,000 feet" sign - only 3,000 more! My headache continued and nausea set in. As a student of Kundalini Yoga teacher training since October, we have been exploring strength - the strength of our nervous system.  We are stronger than we think we are and can accomplish more than we think we can.  When I asked Donnie if I would make it to the top he said, "Maybe.  We'll see."  This wasn't what I wanted to hear.  He told me it was hard to predict.  Those that seemed okay would stop and those that didn't - sometimes they made it.  It didn't come down to physical strength - it was the strength of one's own will.  In Kundalini yoga, some of the asanas (postures) and mudras (hand positions) are challenging,  where my mind starts dancing around to a melody of "I can do this - I can't do this." And round and round it goes.  But with discipline and strengthening - we can do it.  Through the headache and nausea, I focused on the breath.  I chanted in my mind.  This was an important strategy.  Taking yoga to the summit.  Sat Nam, Sat Nam - Breathe in Sat and exhale Nam - Truth is my identity.  

I coached myself in the third person.  For the first time that day, I thought I might not be able to do it.  I felt sick and my right foot was throbbing.  I got off my bike and sat on a rock.  I took off my shoes and rubbed my feet.  I hydrated and ate an energy bar.  "You got this Janny.  You are fine.  You can do this.  Take your time.  It's okay."  I loved myself up.  I spoke to myself kindly.  My mantra became, "You got this" for a while.  I said the words out loud so that I heard them.  My own voice assured me in a kind way.  

Why did I do this bike ride? I've asked myself this question.  If it stops being fun - then why?

The last several years have been tough.  Big life changes, introspection, turning a page and healing.  A physical challenge like climbing a hill is an illustration of life challenges.  It makes a struggle literal.  As I heal, as I see life as an adventure again, I can imagine reaching the summit, which brings me back to Kundalini Yoga.  I've always been athletic - always kept my body moving.  But about two years ago, I needed a new strategy - a way to quiet my mind, find peace and connect with something bigger than my daily life.  I tried yoga and it was Kundalini that helped me feel peace, opened my heart-center - to forgive others and myself.  I spontaneously and impulsively signed up for Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga at the Ashram in Millis, MA and spent one weekend there each month, graduating in June 2018.  It's hard to find words about the training.  I was scared - i didn't know what I was getting myself into.  I stayed with the same group of women in our A2 apartment each month.  Kundalini teacher training was a way to scratch the surface of my self and go deep.  It's hard to pick one word for what it meant to me because it was so many things - it was hard, emotional, tiring, intense, healing and empowering.  I feel grateful that I impulsively signed up.  I had no idea what I was in for and it's probably better that way.  I'm so thankful to know of the healing potential for myself and others and know that it changed my life forever.  Kundalini includes a daily personal practice - a Sadhana - preferably before the energy of the day, before the sun rises. I've been committed ever since.  It's a commitment to the self - to our true spirit - our center.   Kundalini Yoga helped me in my own life and helped me get up that volcano. 

IMG_5956.JPG

I saw a sign that the summit was two miles away - only a half an hour more.  I got this.  And I wasn't alone.  In Kundalini, we are taught about the power of community - how we balance out each other's energy - high with low, happy with sad.  Even when practicing alone we are taught to imagine our community with us.  We are never alone because we are all connected and connected to the infinite.  This is comforting to me and comforting on the ascent up the volcano.  .

I biked up that volcano for many parts of myself - the shy girl who was bullied and scared; the divorced 55-year-old, finding power and independence; the mom of three beautiful children; for my "self" which is not defined by others.

Life is an adventure again.  When it gets hard we step off the road, coach our self, cuddle our self and then get back on the road, breathe and go slow and feel the support of friends.  We love our self the most.  We fall.  We get hurt.  We make mistakes.  We get in our own way.  We cry.  With a soothing voice, a breath, a chant - we center, focus and start again.  And we give thanks.  Thanks to my biking group for training with me and all the words of encouragement and support from yoga friends, Amherst friends, old friends, college friends, family........ :)

 

Fear

What does fear feel like in your body?  Being held down and tickled.   A bike accident – that moment when you know it’s happening and nothing can be done.  A crick in the neck. A shallow breath.  A populated mind.  A sick loved one. A tummy ache.

This year – I chose fear.  That’s what being out of my comfort zone brought on at age 55.  I can push myself in my career – that’s not too scary.  But taking on Kundalini yoga teacher training and a biking challenge simultaneously – that was by choice.  I dove into the deep end on both fronts – however –at times it feels more like diving into freezing water – shocking, breathless.  And then liberating.

This Saturday as part of the yoga Kundalini Level One Teacher training certification, we have an all-day white tantric event in Worcester, MA, where over 200 people will be participating in a variety of meditations from 13 to 62 minutes each.   My neck is tight and stiff.  Will I be able to hold the position?  Will I get enough air?  I can’t say too much about it because I haven’t done it yet but last weekend was Mind and Meditation weekend in our training at the Ashram and we got a bit of practice.  One of the meditations was 13 minutes, called “Sodarshan Chakra Kriya” which brought out fear in me.  The Kriya involves chanting in one breath before an exhale through one nostril and inhale through the other and repeat.  The fear it brought on reminded me of being held down by bullies - not enough air. Two times, I took big gulps, rather than breathing through the single nostril, as guided.   “Your Capacity for Infinity Meditation” was a very different experience.  The fast pace of the mantra, accompanied by our instructor Dr. Sham-Rang Khalsa’s uplifting commentary during the group inhale helped me relax.  I felt a smile emerge on my intense expression.  I had trouble with the proper pronunciation, due to the speed of the mantra.  This forced my mind to let go and stop trying so hard.  When I relaxed and smiled, it was like allowing myself to coast on my bike down a hill – with no brakes – which is something I don’t do.  It created a safe space to virtually withhold brakes and trust the words to come from my mouth.  When I did this – and let go – the words flowed and it was a more satisfying experience.  A reached a new place through this meditation – to let go, not worry about it and trust that the words would come.

On the biking front – I love biking and I love exercise.  I don’t remember when I decided that I wanted to bike up a volcano in Maui called Haleakala.  I don’t recall when that came into my mind.  It is about 38 miles and a 10,000 foot elevation.  It takes about 5 or 6 hours and it’s comparable to a 100 mile ride on a regular road.  (I’ve only biked 50.) But the goal has been set and I’ve been spinning all winter and going to the gym and trying to prepare myself.  I need to get out on the real roads but that’s not happening just yet, due to New England weather.  I have a guide, I’ve plotted my course.  It’s definitely doable – people do it every day.  But now that it’s the month after next – I’m asking myself why I chose to bite into fear like that.  I think I know the answer, though.  I’ve been road biking for about 5 years now and find that the physical experience of pushing up a hill, imitates life.  Slow and steady – keep the head down – find the pacing – this leads to success.  But the opposite also holds true – going too fast – looking too far ahead – this can lead to fear and doubt. 

Since I started the yoga training last October, I’ve been rising each morning at 3:50 am for my short splash of a cold shower (as instructed, not by choice haha) and morning sadhana or practice.  After practice I have been training for the bike ride.  I’ve been fine – I’m an empty nester, single – I like it.  Others get a puppy – I do yoga and biking.   It’s fine.  I’m breathing.  I’m going to bed early.  I’m taking it slow -- focusing on the day and trying not to look out too far. 

But now I’m getting scared. I haven’t picked this big a challenge yet.  I’m 55 years old – I have to be careful. I know what it feels like to fall off my bike.  I don’t think it’s by chance that I have taken on Kundalini training and this bike challenge at this time in my life – a time of healing, pushing through past pain, finding renewed strength and adventure – and tackling discomfort.   Doing something by myself and for myself. 

Wendy, my therapist and my friends wonder why I’m so hung up on getting to the top when it’s the effort that counts.  I used to tell my daughter that trying out for a play was the cake and getting a part was only the frosting.  And I meant it.   Why did I believe that for her and not for myself?   If the hill imitates life, then I guess that’s it – fear of failure – of losing momentum, and running the risk of heading backwards and down.  But it doesn’t have to be losing momentum.  It doesn’t have to be falling back.  It could be getting off the bike.  Looking at the view and then cruising down the hill – with brakes.  Or getting off the bike and slowly walking to the top.

Pushing through fear is important right now.  Chewing it up and digesting it.  Diving into it.  Because it’s been sitting in my belly for a long time.  It perches on my neck.  It startles me.  Maybe these experiences can help me engage with it in a new way.  It’s cold. It’s shocking.  But it’s freeing.  And could be joyful.  I’ll let you know in May after the bike ride and June – when I receive certification as a Level 1 Kundalini Yoga Teacher.

What does fear feel like in your body?  When did you last choose fear?

Welcome to Rosehip26

When I bought my Amherst, MA fixer-upper and moved in 2015 – I was ending a chapter of my life and starting anew – turning a page.  I set out to create my notion of a healing home.  The gray house with the yellow door is small, simple, and calming with quiet spaces for relaxation, creativity and peace --  with my water-photographs, artifacts, reading nooks and natural light.  With porches, flowers and butterflies in the summer.   I work out of a home-office on health care environmental stewardship, and started renting rooms through Airbnb.  In 2017, I kicked off a side offering of Reiki and Integrative Body Work.  It took a few comments from Airbnb visitors to realize that my idea of a healing space felt calm and peaceful for them, as well and that visitors were curious about Reiki.  I like that idea.  A space for rest.  

I decided that all of these things combined wanted a name - a name that could hold what is now and what could be -- Rosehip26.   I've always liked the word Rosehip.  I love the smell of Rosehip flowers, the colors, the bees buzzing, the sound of the word, the shape and 26 is my address - a number that represents abundance.  Rosehip26.

Five years ago, I started practicing Reiki as a hospice volunteer at the Fisher Home and in 2014 became a Reiki master under Haleya Priest from Sanctuary Healing Arts.  Reiki supports relaxation, pain reduction, a sense of calm and can benefit anyone – regardless of age - including children and teens with sensitive spirits.   I continue to take other classes from Sanctuary Healing Arts, always wanting to learn more.   I'm currently in Kundalini Yoga Teacher training at an Ashram in Massachusetts, where I travel monthly.  I'm studying, writing, reading and practicing every day. 

Over Thanksgiving Holiday I was making pies from a dessert cookbook I made a few years ago – and I read the introduction that I wrote back in 2011. 

Pie is a simple offering in a complex world.

I’m a messy, imprecise cook and I like it that way.

The cake may be lopsided or the pie patched,

But its imperfection makes it real – not manufactured – hand made.

I was writing about pie – but upon reflection, I now realize I was also writing about myself and of people I admire and people I want to know.   I used to feel burdened by my imperfections – my mistakes -- my pain -- my shoulders sore, my brow worried.  I was weighted by stones in my pockets.  But over time, I’ve dropped those stones one by one.   They sit by streams, under a fern and on a window sill.   I still have one or two in my pocket and in my palm - for comfort.  To hold onto.

For anyone turning a page, consider a Reiki visit  to feel its benefits -- to complement your health routine. Follow us (my cats, stones, artifacts and me) on Instagram at Rosehip26 and help spread the word by liking Rosehip26 on Facebook.  Thank you for visiting my website.  Janet Howard