Friday, August 29, 2014

"We need our needs"

When Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the huffingtonpost.com, collapsed from sleep deprivation after staying up nights working while spending her days touring colleges with her daughter, she hit her head, broke her cheekbone and cut her eye. She wrote for Reader's Digest ("The Dumbest Thing I Ever Did", September 2104), "I wish I could go back and tell my dumb, deluded self, in my thick Greek accent, 'Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit not only to working hard but also to unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.'"

Haley
My cat Haley has been trying to tell me the same thing for sixteen years. I only began to understand this last night when I was working on an article that had to be completed before I went to bed - no matter what time that turned out to be. Around 10 p.m., Haley came and sat in front of the computer. Typing around her was pointless. She had recently begun scratching her head, creating open wounds, and it was still up for debate whether an allergy or anxiety was the cause. Not knowing, I felt I needed to give her what she desired - a lap, on the couch, not at the computer desk.

I stopped working and we migrated to the couch to enjoy a little silliness with Conan O'Brien. About an hour and twenty minutes later, I returned to the computer. Before I'd stopped working, I was having trouble starting my article. When I returned to the computer, it was 11:20 p.m. I finished writing at 1:20 a.m. Had I brushed Haley off at 10 p.m., it is possible I would have completed my article an hour earlier and it is also possible that I would have spent that hour frustrated, irritated at Haley, and stressed instead of relaxed, warm, and laughing on the couch with my furry companion.

My new friend Therese says, "We need our needs." Until last night, I thought that my need to accomplish things conflicted with Haley's need for lap time. I now realize that our needs are the same.

Thank you, Haley.





Thursday, August 21, 2014

That still, small voice inside

I've spent years ignoring that still, small voice inside of me, rationalizing away its suggestions, and out-and-out despising its niggling presence. Recently, I've been listening more attentively to it. I've noticed that when I follow its suggestions, it keeps me safe, helps me navigate life more seamlessly, and helps me to grow. In practical terms, it reminds me to turn off the stove before leaving home, to remember my keys, and draws me toward opportunities I would have otherwise missed.

One small, yet meaningful example of this happened a few weeks ago. As I was walking in the rose garden near my home, I saw a beautiful white peony and felt drawn to approach it. I was in a park filled with peony and rose bushes. This particular white peony didn't look exceptionally different from its neighbors, and I could not discern any meaningful reason to change my path and walk toward it. In the past, I would have ignored the voice and gone on with my day. In the past, I would have missed what that voice meant for me to find.

When I stood in front of the peony, I looked down and saw a plaque. It contained a poem entitled 'Grateful' and it was then that I knew exactly why I was there.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NIA 5 STAGES: life changing

NIA 5 Stages is an experiential practice with innumerable, far reaching benefits. Rolling on the floor in embryonic, undulating like a salamander in creeping, crawling like a bear, squatting like a monkey, and walking upright like a human may not sound like a recipe for postural alignment and emotional well-being, but it is. NIA 5 STAGES is the practice of moving through the 5 Stages of human development: embryonic, creeping, crawling, standing, walking. I first started practicing NIA 5 Stages in 2009. Every time I practiced, I felt better: I sat straighter, I breathed more easily, and I slept more deeply. With just 5 minutes of practice each day, I felt my body healing itself, one vertebrae at a time. Over the years, I've come to refer to the 5 Stages as "Nature's Chiropractor," as my back and neck magically and effortlessly realign themselves throughout the day.

As wonderful as it was for NIA 5 Stages to heal MY body, however, it wasn't until I began teaching the 5 Stages to others that I began to understand the true power in this simple practice. Here is Holly's story, in her own words.

NIA magically changed my life in October 2013.

As a former ballet dancer with 16 years of dedicated and disciplined practice I found something special in NIA I have not found in any other practice (yoga, pilates, barre classes). I was in a severe motor vehicle crash 14 years ago in which I sustained a traumatic brain injury and could no longer dance. NIA 5 stages brought a calmness, openness, and a discipline that I had only previously found at the ballet barre. Parts of my body injured in the crash have suffered pain; that pain immediately went away during the first night of NIA. I walked out of class and immediately called my mom in shock and disbelief. I had been walking around in pain for 14 years and in one session of NIA 5 stages it was gone. Prior to my crash, I had perfect posture. After the crash I no longer did. After each NIA 5 Stages class, I walked out straight and tall. Mind you, you must continue to make a devotion and practice to NIA 5 stages in order for it to continually work.

Also, in the past year, I suffered a personal loss and the grief overwhelmed me. My grief was so great that it was sometimes hard to breathe. I felt empty, broken, and hollow. I had cried every single day prior to beginning NIA 5 Stages: for 10 months. The first day I did not cry was the first night I was introduced to NIA 5 Stages. I cannot explain it, and I have never written anything like this before, but I just have to say it because for others suffering from physical or emotional pain, NIA 5 Stages is the answer to your prayers.... At first, I thought it was just by chance, but not true. I was skeptical, for sure. However, by practicing NIA 5 Stages, my heart finally began to heal and no longer felt empty. I left every class, stress-free, pain-free, and with an open and sunny heart. NIA will change your life....give it a try! Holly

Holly took a 4-week NIA 5 Stages class that I taught through Duluth Community Education in November 2013. I am currently teaching the 5 Stages at Yoga Health, 16 1/2 N. 1st Avenue W., Duluth, through August 27 (Wednesdays; 6:30-7:30 p.m.). Watch Kevin illustrate the 5 Stages in the short video, below, and visit www.nianow.com/5Stages to find a class or training near you.

 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Miraculous Reunion

Deepali and I at the Chester Creek CafĂ©, July 6, 2014.
Twenty-six years ago, I left Bombay (now Mumbai), India after completing a one year Rotary Exchange Program. One of my closest Indian friends was my college Biology lab partner, Deepali. Her outgoing, adventurous spirit and easy laughter were a blessing as I spent each day struggling to understand the professors' thickly accented, quickly spoken English. Deepali and I worked to figure out each lab assignment in constant fear as we had no real idea of what we were supposed to be doing (well, Deepali had a much clearer idea than I did). Our professor was a no-nonsense woman, with a shrill voice who screamed readily at students in front of the class.

The assignment we both remember clearly was our rat dissection. We both cried - in class - when we opened up the rat to find eight perfect babies inside. Our professor was unimpressed - with our emotional out-poring and the demise of our pregnant rat with her eight perfect babies.

After returning to the U.S., I began college and wrote letters to Deepali. Boys were a common thread and 3 years later my dear friend married her self-described "prince charming" in an arranged marriage, as is common in India.

Deepali and I lost touch and then reconnected after she moved with her young family to California in the late-90s. Phone calls, the occasional letter, and, more recently, Facebook, kept us updated on each others lives. Although our friendship remained strong, we did not see each other in all those years.

On July 4th, that changed. On a beautiful Duluth summer day, my husband and I took our visiting friends from New York to the Maritime Museum in Canal Park, a tourist-y area of shops, hotels, and restaurants. After watching a dated, ten minute, children's film about the working of the Soo locks at the eastern-most end of Lake Superior, I stood up and there stood Deepali ... in front of me. We hugged and laughed and hugged some more. I couldn't stop staring at her in utter disbelief. She asked, "What are you doing here?" I replied, "I live here, what are YOU doing here?"

It was a miraculous alignment of circumstances that lead to our happy reunion.

But for my friends arriving later than expected and Deepali accompanying her husband on a business trip to Minneapolis with their youngest son ...

But for our decision to walk from our apartment to the Maritime Museum, instead of search endlessly for parking and Deepali and her husband's spontaneous decision to drive 3 hours North on July 4th to see the lake ...

But for our guests from NY feeling well enough to do a little sight-seeing despite feeling under-the-weather (the following day turned into a much needed resting, couch day for them) and Deepali's husband's insistence that the family watch what Deepali felt for certain was a corny movie not worth the time (except for meeting me, she was right) ...

and But for the woman with big hair sitting in front of me near the wall, which caused me move to an aisle seat in the next row back ...

But for all of these seemingly insignificant circumstances we may have been in the same city, the same building, and the same room and never have known it.

But for the Universe perfectly aligning our paths, we would still be miles apart with Facebook as our only tangible link.

We met for brunch two days later and Deepali began our conversation with, "Now tell me everything that has happened to you since I saw you last." We had last seen each other in July 1988. As we caught up on all the major events of each others lives, it was heartwarming to realize that the friendship we developed when we were 17 years old remained vital over all those miles, life changes, and the personal growth that inevitably happens over 26 years.

After hearing the story, Deepali's oldest son said that we both must have really wanted to meet to make this happen. We both agreed. And, through no intentional planning on our parts, I finally met her prince charming, whom she wrote about so many years ago. May the Universe continue to bless us all with equally miraculous happenings.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Everything IS perfect!

"Everything is perfect, all the time," so, the saying goes.  Or, at least that's how I say it when I'm trying to convince myself that it is true despite every known, concrete fact screaming otherwise as I recite these words in a panicked mantra, over and over hoping they will sink in and all WILL feel well.

Every so often, however, my best laid plans will go awry and I am relaxed enough in the moment to look for the hidden opportunity my change in circumstance provides. When I seize that opportunity magic happens and, inevitably, I later discover that my plan would not have worked out nearly as well as what actually occurred.

This is what happened yesterday.

I planned to spend the afternoon dissolving my mural work on an inside window at Yoga Health in Duluth. I discovered this past weekend that the glass enamel paint marker I'd used to begin the mural easily washed away. I thought it was partially due to the fact that I cleaned the glass with rubbing alcohol before applying the paint. So I planned to spend this morning erasing my mural from the glass so I could begin again this afternoon after washing the window with soap and water.

Prior to heading to the yoga studio, I went to pick up a few pieces of clay I'd had fired and was delayed by the salesperson. The whole time I was listening to him, I was thinking, I really don't have time for this, but it will be rude to interrupt. It would have been especially rude because he was telling me about a sermon he is giving in a few weeks and asking whether I thought it flowed well and made sense. I recognize the importance of speaking aloud prior to giving a presentation to organize the material and get feedback from others, so I listened.

He spoke about wildflowers that are planted and nourished by God. How their beauty and variety speaks to how very much He loves each of us. He said that the wildflowers remind us that we are never alone and all we need to do to remember this is to stop and appreciate their beauty and abundance. He said so much more, in far more eloquent words, but this part touched my heart and I'm glad I listened.

I had a dentist appointment at 1 p.m. and my morning delay didn't leave me enough time to get to the studio. I wasn't worried, I had the afternoon.

When I got to the studio after my appointment, however, it was locked, even though I'd made arrangements to have access all day. I wondered briefly why the door wasn't open, but it didn't matter: I couldn't get in. So I sat on the sidewalk and drew potential patterns for an upcoming class project on the only spare paper I had with me: a brown paper bag.

I discovered when I got home that I'd prepared the glass exactly as directed by the manufacturer. I was overjoyed to realize that listening to the spontaneous sermon saved my mural in the morning, and the unexpected locked door saved my mural in the afternoon, while gifting me with the time and focus necessary to plan a class I'd been nervous about all week.

I am stunned each time this sequence occurs. Roadblocks appear for seemingly no reason, my path is redirected, and in the end everything turns out better than I could have imagined. The only difference each time is whether I resist or relax; struggle or breathe; panic or trust. This experience reminded me that when my plan is changed by circumstances beyond my control, it is often (always?) because I am being saved from myself in an important way. Although I may not be able to choose what happens in any given moment, I do have the power to choose how I react to it and I know that relaxing, breathing, and trusting is a far more enjoyable way to experience these changes than the alternative. And so I relax, breathe and trust that "Everything is perfect, all the time." May you live knowing anything is possible.


My fledgling mural ...SAVED!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Language and Art: Nature by Felicia

Over the past week, it has been my great honor to share the Zentangle (R) inspired art and creative writing of fifth grade students who attend Northern Lights Elementary School in Superior, Wisconsin. I enjoyed reading each of the seventy-five wonderful stories I received and am grateful for the permission I received to post 1/3 of them. I hope you, too, have enjoyed their work. May their creativity inspire you as it has me.

 
Please see my introduction to this series, Language and Art, posted June 4, 2014 to learn how this project began, and visit www.zentangle.com to learn more about the Zentangle method of pattern drawing.

Language and Art: The Courtyard by Troy

I am honored to share the Zentangle (R) inspired art and creative writing of fifth grade students who attend Northern Lights Elementary School in Superior, Wisconsin. Please see my introduction to this series, Language and Art, posted June 4, 2014 to learn how this project began, and visit www.zentangle.com to learn more about the Zentangle method of pattern drawing.