There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Little Bars of Bliss

Stepped into Starbucks after my successful tv interview for my fav vanilla soy latte when to my unexpected delight a cranberry bliss bar practically levitated in the case calling my name.  I love cranberry bliss bars!!! ...but had no idea they were in season yet.  Oh, the wonders of sweet, creamy, crunchy, white chocolately bliss bars. Yum! Love when the universe sneaks in those little wonders. Perfect moment of bliss indeed :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Preventing Sexual Abuse

Being the mom of two young boys and having previously been employed as a child protection caseworker on team specializing in cases of sexual abuse has led the prevention and reporting of sexual abuse to a hot button issue for me. Consequently, I, along with millions of others, was saddened and sickened by the news of the sexual abuse perpetrated at Penn State by a man claiming to be an advocate for at-risk children.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to address this issue with 9News anchor TaRhonda Thomas and on the Mile High Mamas website yesterday. My hope is that this information will help parents, caregivers, and ordinary citizens become more vigilant about talking with, protecting, and standing up for children to provide a safer world for them.  Click here to watch the clip and here to read the column.

Namaste

Friday, November 4, 2011

Foiling the Halloween Candy Frenzy

I've been reflecting this week on the lack of frenzy happening around the boys' Halloween candy. I've decided that consistency in limit setting might be the key - either that or they've been taken over by aliens, but then I don't get to take any credit. ;)

Typically, on Halloween night the boys sort their loot, trade allergy for allergy free items, eat one piece and head off to bed with little to no fussing about wanting more. In the following days we let them have a piece in their lunch box and after school or dinner. After awhile the candy gets moved out of the way as we straighten up and decorate for the holidays and then we usually forget about most of it.

On the weekends they probably have another piece or two during the day and I've found evidence of sneaking on occasion, but for the most part they stick with the plan because we stick with the plan.

We don't say none and we don't say gorge yourself, we practice moderation. Not too much, not too little, just enough. We are usually pretty consistent, certainly not perfect, about this practice when it comes to treats and sweets throughout the year. Consequently, they know what to expect when the big sugar feast arrives in October.

My boys may read this when they are adults and have a completely different view of it than I do - "Mom was sooooo stingy with the candy, OMG!!" - but I hope the practice of moderation will be such a part of them that they will see it from the same perspective. However, if the aliens really have taken them over then I'll be in for quite a shock when they depart - unless I can train them as well. ;)

How do you handle the frenzy?

Namaste

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Finding the Lessons Offered

A teaching from Pema Chodron has been rumbling around in my head and conversations over the past few days. It says, to paraphrase, that if we are somewhere we think we don't want to be, there must be lessons there we haven't learned yet. This teaching helps me when I'm feeling stuck, but certainly frustrates me when I really want out, now!

It's been on my mind because I've been using it with walkingstick in regards to his soccer team. Walkingstick is a natural athlete who picks up new sports skills quite easily and invests a great deal of energy into learning the rules and skills of any sport he tries. He is also very competitive, strives to do his best, and wants to win. Having never played soccer before, we put him in a rec league thinking it would be a good place to learn some skills and have some fun. Perhaps it was a good idea, but not with this unfortunate team.

To put it bluntly, the team he plays on does not have a chance of winning any game, EVER! Thus, fun has been hard to come by for our very competitive boy. As I discussed the fiasco with my dear friend yesterday we decided this is a perfect storm of kids with limited abilities, even more limited investment in the game, and a coach who means well but can't seem to find the spark to unite and motivate this team.

On several occasions walkingstick has wanted to throw in the towel and quit the team - and I totally understand. He's frustrated on so many levels it would take a dozen blogs to cover them. I've empathized and strategized with him and given him space to vent. Then, I've guided him to find the lessons available to him in this difficult situation.

One of the most important lessons we've discovered is that he has to set aside his original goal of winning. By letting go of this expectation he is less frustrated when they continually lose...by huge amounts. It also gives him a little glimpse into noticing that there can be fun in the journey, not just the outcome.

He's shifted his focus to learning what he can from this coach, observing his opponents to find new skills, and enjoying the endless running - which is one of the things he loves most about soccer.

He's also learned that he can be compassionate towards kids who don't have his athletic ease and enjoy who they are rather than what they can do.

Pretty big lessons for an eleven-year-old.

When he looks back at this experience in the years to come I hope he will see his growth, perseverance, and courage in the face of adversity. It's not easy for any of us to hang in there when the going gets tough, but remembering that there is something to learn from every challenge can help to shift our perspective and bring optimism and openness to how we face it.

Take a moment to look at your own challenges...can you change your perspective and see what lessons you are being offered?

Namaste

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lightness into Darkness into Lightness

I had the pleasure this evening of practicing yoga with and listening to the teachings of Yogi Amrit Desai, Gurudev. As he spoke I frequently thought of my boys and how I can live my life in way that will impart some of these teachings to them.

As Gurudev spoke this evening he reminded us that light wouldn't be light without darkness and vice versa. He noted that light and dark do not fight and resist at sunrise and sunset, they simple shift from one to the other.

Within ourselves we fight darkness, our fears and weaknesses, by judging, comparing, and belittling ourselves - fighting darkness with more darkness. Instead we need to release our fears and be in the darkness in order to let in the light through our breath and being present in our bodies fully accepting where we are without judgment. When we practice this on the mat, we can take it out into the world.

I find that we often fight against being where we are by wanting to have more, be different, feel better, etc. Gurudev taught tonight that the more we seek and grasp, the less we are connected to ourselves.

As they continue to grow and face the ups and downs of life, I hope to support my boys in being where they are as they are, trusting in themselves, listening to their inner voice, and staying connected with their true selves.  The best way I can do this is to honor them where they are in each moment and to practice honoring myself as well. Easier said than done many days. :)

These teachings reminded me of the quote from the Buddha which has been in the forefront of my mind recently, "Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal truth." To paraphrase this in the teachings of Gurudev tonight, darkness never ceases by darkness, but by light alone is healed.

Be where you are, accept the darkness and open to the light.
Namaste

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gifts of Hope

I have been surprised by my reactions to this tenth anniversary of 9-11. Today I burst into tears looking at the picture of the three fireman hoisting the American flag at ground zero. I am amazed at how raw and overwhelming my emotions are...and I'm much farther removed from it than the people who lost loved ones or were part of the rescue efforts.

It has been important to me this week to talk with the boys about the events of that day. I wrote a column on how to do just that and had the opportunity to share that on CBS4 as well.

As we talked together as a family, I found it hard to convey more than just the facts. Walkingstick asked where I was that day. I told him my story and explained how unreal it all seemed. How it wasn't just that moment, but that it went on for days and weeks as we watched the news, heard the stories, and mourned as a nation.

Each time I tried to talk about my personal experience, my eyes welled up and I could hardly speak. I tried to maintain my composure as they both seemed unnerved by my grief at something they don't really understand. In order to keep moving forward, we do not always understand how deeply these events have affected us.

Then Gigglebox noted, having been born that following summer, that he was "a gift of hope" after 9-11. He was exactly that. Conceived shortly after the attacks, his presence changed our lives and brought hope in ways we could never have imagined. How does he know that at the age of nine? He truly amazes me.

Today I want to honor the courage, compassion, and generosity of the millions of people who were affected by the events of 9-11. Their responses are also gifts of hope that remind us of the inherent good in people and give us hope for the future.

Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. We are all one, Peace, Peace, Peace.
Namaste

Monday, April 25, 2011

Perfect Moment Monday: Finding Bliss

I've been reading Fire of Love which has beautiful direction for yoga teachers to add a deeper level into teaching. I have found it inspiring and added one aspect to my class Saturday morning with lovely results.

After our pranayama (breathwork) practice I asked my students to place the fingers of their right hand at their heart center and turn inward finding their inner smile. Once connected, I instructed them to allow the sense of joy to radiate through their chest and upward to their faces.

After a few breaths I peeked my eyes open and scanned the room. Every student had the most lovely, relaxed, blissful smile upon their face. Mine radiated even bigger, both inside and on my face, seeing how this small gesture brought peace and ananda (bliss) to my students with such ease.

Try it yourself ~ find your inner smile and little moment of bliss.

Namaste

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gratitude for the simple things

After more than a week of being in the hospital my aunt is getting a bit tired of the cuisine. You can only eat so many servings of mashed potatoes and al dente does not seem to be an option in vegetables.

So, as I was heading for a visit this afternoon and stopped at Target to see what I could scrounge up. Bread and cheese are an absolute favorite of hers, so that's what I went for. The bread was not as crusty as I'd like and I had to settle for Havarti instead of Jarlsburg, but by the look on my aunt's face it definitely hit the spot. =)

We had lots of laughs and a lovely talk from the basics of medical issues to the meaning of life. Wonderful! If we had the time we could talk for days on end.

I came home to boys nearly ready for bed and tired husband. He'd made fabulous enchiladas which I promptly gobbled up. Walkingstick climbed behind me and sweetly rubbed my back and shoulders then we all read a chapter of the hilarious book we are reading - Another Whole Nother Story - and yes it's as absurd and delightful as it sounds.

The small comforts of life...good food and time spent together. So much to be grateful for.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Expectations

(photo credit)
Expectations can get us into hot water quickly. When we expect someone to behave in a certain manner and they don't, we feel confused, disappointed, and often hurt. Even when the change in behavior is positive, the unexpected divergence from the norm can throw us off.

I begin each of my yoga classes with a moment of brushing away our worries and expectations. I began to wonder today what expectations my yoga students may hold onto, what ones I hold onto, and how this impacts our experiences. Each class I teach evolves on its own as I integrate ideas I bring with the needs expressed by my students. For me it is a lovely dance of balance, trust, and inspiration.  I can only offer who I am, I have no control over (nor any desire to have) how anyone incorporates what I say and do into their lives.

There is a strange dichotomy in my life related to this. In yoga I simply offer the class for people to take whatever they need with no strings attached. But in my parenting and the trainings I offer as a school social worker, I expect my children and my staff to take away what I am specifically teaching them.

When I offer what I have without being attached to the outcome as in yoga, I feel at peace. When those offerings are made with attachment to the outcome, I so often feel frustrated and discouraged.

Hmmmmm...

Can I parent and teach in other realms as I do in yoga? Practicing aparigraha, non-attachment, non-clinging, allowing my children and staff to take what they need without being attached to the outcome. Honoring where they are rather than expecting them to be somewhere they are not. Allowing them to integrate the information as it makes sense for them.

I read weekly from Pema Chodron's Start Where You Are during mediation class and have just realized while writing this that I have compartmentalized the teaching of that title to my yoga life and forgotten to carry it into the rest of my life. Yoga is more than our time on the mat, it is how we live our lives united our minds and bodies, being present and honoring where we are and others are at any given moment.


So with gentleness and lovingkindness, as I always tell my students, I notice this. I will strive to keep it in the forefront of my perceptions, being more aware of my expectations and how they impact my interactions and reactions. May you as well.

Namaste

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Perfect Moment Monday: Hospital Humor

I took Walkingstick and Gigglebox to visit my aunt yesterday in the hospital as she recovers from brain surgery and continues her epic journey through ovarian cancer and its many incarnations in her body.

My aunt lit up upon seeing the boys and we all hugged and giggled together. We talked a little about the day and the next steps she was expecting. Then Walkingstick stepped up to the bed with a sly grin on his face. "A pan of muffins was in the oven," he began. "One muffin turned to the other and said, 'It sure is hot in here.' The other muffin turned and screamed, "Ahhh! A talking muffin!'"

We all busted up laughing at his silly eleven-year-old joke. His eyes twinkled with the thrill of making her, and the rest of us, laugh. Mine twinkled with the wonder of my sweet boy and his ability to bring joy and humor into this surreal and difficult situation.

His humor allowed us to be fully present in that moment. Not sick, worried, exhausted...just family loving and being there for each other in one perfect moment. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Facing Challenges

It's amazing how we all handle the challenges life throws at us in different ways. For the most part I am constantly amazed at the strength and perseverence I am honored to witness from the people in my life.

My dear aunt was thrown another curve ball in her journey through ovarian cancer. Her doctors unexpectedly diagnosed her with three brain tumors and whooshed her off for brain surgery the next day. In the brief in between time she said to me, "I guess I have another lesson to learn." An unbelievably optimistic and courageous response in the face of such daunting news. I suggested neon signs were a more effective means of communicating what we need to learn, but the universe apparently thought otherwise.

The thing about her perspective is that is a good reminder that we all have lessons to learn in this process. We also have choices about how we will respond to this new challenge before us. Choices about how we support her and each other, whether we hold hope or give up, whether we view the struggle as part of the journey or as an unbearable burden, and whether we remember to treasure each moment with the ones we love valuing them for who they truly are or buy into the roles and stories we have created for ourselves and each other. Our responses impact how we will come through this crisis as well as how she will.

Sharing all of this with my sons has been both difficult and beautiful. Telling them what was happening seemed brutal and scary when everything was so up in the air. Yet they responded with tears and hope and an immediate desire to see her and support her. They have been able to go on with their days while still offering love, support, and understanding to each other and to me when one of us was struggling. They have shown me that they can be as strong and courageous in the face of adversity as my dear aunt has been.

For everyone facing adversity, no matter how big or small:
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you have peace.
May you awaken to the light of their true nature.
May you be free.

Namaste



 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stealing

Stealing is one of those things I have always thought of as clear cut and simple. Then, this week Michelle used Asteya - sanskrit for non-stealing - as our meditation focus. One of the affirmations she shared related to asteya was "I am whole and complete." As I contemplated this, I realized that stealing does not always related to a concrete item being taken.

We steal confidence from ourselves when we call ourselves stupid, judge ourselves harshly, or decide something about us is not good enough. When we dissect ourselves, accepting only what we see as good or attractive, we cannot be whole and complete. When we rely on others to provide approval for who we are, we steal from our sense of self-worth. We all have strengths and weaknesses and together they make us who we are.

As parents we unwittingly steal from our children when we fail to acknowledge the many things they do well and criticize their mistakes too harshly. We teach them to steal confidence from themselves as well by creating those negative messages that live in their minds and hearts.

Of course we will be critical and will need to redirect, reteach, and determine consequences for negative behavior at times. But when I look through the lens of asteya, I am encouraged even more to take those extra seconds to think about my words with care, to keep mistakes in perspective, and to acknowledge and apologize when I am wrong.

I want my children to lift up themselves and those with whom they interact. Therefore, I must model this for them at every opportunity. Whether it is showing gentleness with myself, with them, or with others, modeling lovingkindness and understanding teaches them not to steal someone else's confidence and self-worth as well as to value and nurture their own.

May we all awaken to the light of our true nature, fill our hearts with lovingkindness for ourselves, and spread it in all that we do.
Namaste

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Life Lessons


The opportunity to learn and grow is ever present in our lives. From miniscule to massive, joy to pain, health to illness, life lessons abound.  The opportunity to learn and grow is ever present.

Gigglebox recently had a lovely opportunity presented to him with so many lessons available in the process – honesty, patience, responsibility, kindness, and gratitude to name a few. He had received a long coveted iPod for Christmas and had been very thoughtful about keeping track of it (they are sooooo tiny now) and using it appropriately. Then last week at school he put it in his pocket with a bit of haste and it ended up falling out unbeknownst to him at the time.

Later in the day he noticed it was missing. He searched his classroom, backpack, and locker to no avail. Within a short time of coming home, Gigglebox told me he had lost his iPod. We problem solved a bit about where it could be and how he might find it, but also discussed that there was a chance he wouldn’t. He was very sad and I was sad for him. I was also frustrated, but working hard to keep my compassion out ahead of that.

As it was Friday afternoon he was going to have to wait the entire weekend before he could look for it again at school. This was difficult.

He was also charged with telling his dad, who bought the iPod for him, that he had lost it. This was also difficult.

A bit later in the evening I realized that I had totally forgotten to acknowledge the courage it took for him to be honest and tell me right away about the missing iPod. When I praised him for this he beamed with pride and shared how much he had really not wanted to tell me. Honesty.

Gigglebox was very patient throughout the weekend, not fussing when his brother was using his own iPod and not asking to use anyone else’s. He was patient on Monday when the gym at his school (where it most likely fell out of his pocket) was not accessible. He was patient on Tuesday when he again could not get into the gym. Then at last on Wednesday he was there. Patience.

Kindness. This lesson came from his teachers. First a teacher saw it on the floor that Friday afternoon and put it into the lost and found box in the gym. Then another teacher who had seen him with the iPod on the day he lost it recognized it as his and put it in her desk for safekeeping. She returned it to him when he came to class and he was quite relieved to say the least. He told her how much he appreciated her kindness and asked her to also tell the other teacher thank you. Gratitude.

He made a plan to make sure in the future the iPod was attached to him instead of stuffed somewhere.  Responsibility. He also decided not to take it with him on a field trip. Great learning!

While there were many lessons for my little Gigglebox on this journey, the lessons were clearly there for the rest of us as well.

The opportunity to learn and grow is ever present.
Namaste