No matter your age, race, or gender
We are all the same
No matter who we choose to live or who we love
We are all the same
No matter our job, career, or calling
We are all the same
No matter your age, race, or gender
We are all the same
No matter who we choose to live or who we love
We are all the same
No matter our job, career, or calling
We are all the same
If you don’t like the direction that things are going, change course. Step off the sidelines, stop believing you don’t have a choice, and get in the game. Sadly, to often, most are willing to stay where they are, because to step into the game means you have to believe. Believe that even one person, with action, can inspire others. That what they have to say and do matters. With action, whispers in the crowd from one singular voice becomes a galvanizing voice to loud to ignore.
This is how a movement starts. #NoSpaceForHate is a movement fueled by the passion of two women, Brooke and Jenny to remove hate and build respect in our not only the community in which they live, but beyond as well. I was honored to join those that rolled out their yoga mats to collectively breathe and connect about how to move into this new space, together. To allow the whispers, to swirl, gather, and grow.
In one of his seminal works, The Measure of a Man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stated that, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Man in this instance, is every single, living, breathing human being. No one is excluded from taking a stance. The stance we choose is driven from what we believe inside. What people see though is the action we take.
In this world, which perhaps driven by the idea to post every single moment of life, tends to lean more towards as Dr. King also wrote, ..”we know how to love, and yet we hate.” Love is difficult because love requires us to be able to stand in front of a mirror, and accept ourselves for all that we are. All the good and all the perceived bad. But to own it. To lean into it. To say emphatically, that is is who I am, and I can accept it. WIth that acknowledgement, it opens to the door for love. Love for ourself and love for others. Leaving no room, no space for hate.
So how do you choose to stand? On the field or off?
I choose to play. To be in the game. To stand in a space that says that I can’t stand for hate. With that I acknowledge, my strengths, my weaknesses, and know that I am enough. Enough of a person to know that I need to love not only myself, but others as well. That at the crossroads of challenge and controversy, that I choose to take the road less traveled. A road that allows no space for hate.
We live within the seconds that sweep in a clockwise manner. Precisely, every 60 seconds signals a minute. Every 60 minutes marks an hour. The sun rises and falls rhythmically every 24 hours. Each week there are only 168 hours. It seems though, that we never have enough time.
My daughter turned 10 this week. A decade has come and gone in the proverbial blink of an eye. 87,360 hours have made their way in a perfect circular motion. Whether I noticed or not, the clock kept ticking. How many more hours will continue to precisely tick, tock away until I wake up and notice. Notice, that there are no ordinary moments?
We measure time by a clock and the passing of seasons. Before me now, I see the passing of time, of 10 years, or 5, 241, 600 minutes in a 5 foot, confident, and funny 4th grade girl. A lover of Lego’s, soccer, cooking, and fashion. Someone who still wants to hang out with their parents, but soon will be counting the time and checking her watch to see how many more minutes or hours until her curfew.
How quickly she grew from the size of a large eggplant whom I hold carefully like an egg, to someone who is stunningly like a mini version of her mother. Time waits for no person as it has been said, so why did it take a birthday to jolt me into this realization?
Time if not paid attention to makes us late for things that we have scheduled or the feeling that we can squeeze just one more thing in on our already overloaded plates. Outside of that, how often do we pay attention? How do we know that time has passed? My hair might be a little grayer, but so subtle is the growth that I hardly notice. My daughter on the other hand, continues to grow.
Growing and changing. It’s that growth that is marked by a mark on the wall for a new height or a new seasonal hairdo. But in between those moments marking that height or a cutting of hair, that every day, and every moment exists time. Time that is often neglected but offers the most insight.
In The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, there is a sequence in the book where Dan is told to go out and sit behind the gas station on a rock and he is not to return until he has something enlightening to say. He sits, for not that long, and comes back to drop a woo woo phrase on the mystical gas attendant sage only to be shooed back out. Several times he tries this out, and several times he is sent back out to sit and think. Sitting through the night , he finally comes to the realization that had been staring him in the face all along. Excitedly, he runs into the convenience store and declares, “There are no ordinary moments.”
Those ordinary moments are the ones that exist between the highlights that people post on their favorites social media sites, and some feel the twinge of jealousy that they are missing out. However, it is is these seemingly thrown away moments that life exists. It will never be that way again, and we can never get that time back. There are no ordinary moments as the clock ticks away.
A teacher walked into my office the other day and handed me a slip of paper with a request from a student to talk to me by the end of the day.
“Any idea as to what they might want?” I inquired, typing in their name bringing up their current grades and attendance.
‘Nope.’ said the teacher as they turned and left.
Looking at the time, I saw that the student was still in the building for another hour and after locating the class they were in, I got up and took a walk down to their class.
Looking in, I could see that the student was engaged in their work and said to the teacher, when the student is done, give them a pass down to my office.
Several minutes later, there was a knock at my door and the student asked if he could see me now.
“Sure, I said, come on in. What’s up?’ I asked.
“Nothing much, ” said the student, shifting his weight back and forth standing in front of my desk, “I just wanted to check in, is all.”
“Ok,” I said. “Well, I looked at your grades and you are doing much better this semester. What has made the difference?” I inquired.
“Me.” the student said without hesitation.
“Tell me more.” I said.
“Well,” the student started, moving to sit at a chair at the round table. ‘I finally decided to make a change. I was tired of not doing the right thing. I was tired of disappointing my mom, my little brother, and not listening to you and the teachers, who were always in my corner. Believing that I could be successful. That I could graduate.”
I leaned back in my chair, taking the weight of his words in.
It is in these moments, that serving in education, I find the validation for saying and praying that the 10th 100th, or even the 1000th time that I or others repeat a message, a belief about a student comes to fruition. That they, finally see, that change doesn’t happen on the outside first, without happening on the inside first. The discovery that it was them all along that was holding them up from success.
“It was me all along. I had to stop thinking that I could just do the same things I have always been doing and expecting a different result. ” the young man continued. “Like not coming to school and thinking that I would earn credits. Or that when I got into a fight, that you weren’t going to do what you said you were going to do, and I could talk my way out of it.”
“That is very mature of you, ” I said, as I got up from around my desk and approached the young man extending my hand. “I hope you continue with that belief,” I continued, ” because I would like to offer you that transition assessment in the community and get you in on a full day in order to graduate on time.” shaking his hand and looking him square in the eyes.
“I know, ” said the young man. “I know I am ready.”
It is never to late to ‘be ready”. To realize, that it has been YOU all along that holds the key to making the difference in your life that you had envisioned.
“I hope this class is better than the last one, “ sighed a older man in a heavy blue zip up hoodie and jeans as he stepped into our practice space this evening. Another man of around same age, came in and slid himself down the wall looking in our general direction. “I might try for like 5 minutes, “ he said.
In a small corner within a local church, I moved couches and lights to create a space for our class. This yoga class was my offering to clients who were part of an up to 90 day placement for them as they sought to secure housing and employment. Technically, they were homeless.
Each week, for the past couple of months, I have followed the clients as they moved from one location to the next each week. While they had a place to stay at night and a hot meal, they have to leave each day by 8 am and be actively engaged in looking for housing and or employment.
When I started my yoga teacher training, I had two objectives. One was to deepen my own practice and two, inspired by a yoga teacher/friend/mentor of mine to take the lessons I had learned on the mat about learning how to breath, to be authentic, and serve off the mat and work with those who didn’t have readily available access to yoga.
In today’s yoga modern culture, it is very easy to get priced out of being able to practice at a studio. Sure you might get the first class free, and then they might offer you a intro class pass deal, but soon after that, it can cost north of $10 per class in order to practice. There might even be a free community class here and there, but nothing consistent. I understand that model, but I also believe that sometimes you have to meet people where they are at by stepping out into the community. Sometimes that means that your practice space isn’t a warmly, candlelit room, with the gentle sounds of a relaxation playlist in the background. Instead, it’s a cold floor in hallway, nursery, or a wherever they can simply find space.
“Would you like some help moving stuff around? “ asked the man who had slowly moved from sitting to standing.
“I am good, “ I say, “but you are going to want to take off your shoes at least before we start to practice.”
When I approached a local county homeless agency, I said that I would like to offer a yoga class and a mindfulness talk for clients and would be willing to travel around and provide mats for them. They were interested, but inquired about what would be the cost. Cost? Nothing, I said, I wanted to do this for free. My own practice and teaching my high school students had shown me the power of being able to step onto a mat. To consciously practice breathing and move in a manner that allowed me to lean into my discomfort and learn to relax. Those lessons learned on the mat, where the very ones that paid even bigger dividends when meeting real life head on off the mat. I guess the agency had a person reach out before and would do one class for free and then wanted to get paid for anything after that. Nope, I said, part of my service mindset would be that if I was offering it up for free, then that’s what it would be.
With the furniture moved around, I laid out mats that butted up against a wall, and instructed the two men and two women that eventually meandered in to start with their legs up the wall.
‘How long is the class? Is it going to be hard?” asked the man in the blue hoodie, grunting as he swung his legs up, bending them generously.
“ Probably about 30 minutes, “ I said glancing at my watch noticing that it was
nearly 8:15 pm already, well past the proposed 8 pm start. These classes never start on time. “And, my goal is to make it so that you relax and have a good night’s sleep.’ I continued. That has been the feedback from those that have showed up to practice. They have had some of their best nights of sleep after taking a class.
“Well, just so you know, it was taco night, “ chimed in the man who had said he was only going to stay for 5 minutes.
Slowly, I take them through some simple breathing exercises and guided poses that have them using the wall as support. Grunts and cracks rise from the group as muscles unwind and tension from where they are going to spend their day tomorrow, or are they going to get that loan to secure housing, slowly if even only for a few moments melts away.
It’s not an intense practice, but the ragged breaths that arise from the group cues me in that they are working hard. A cue, that it’s time, and by looking at my watch that it is time to wind the practice down.
Savasana. Final resting pose. With their legs stretched out in front of them to the wide corners of the mat, arms at their side, palms facing up, a few collective inhales and exhales through the mouth helps brings them to chance to rest for a few minutes. A few minutes with their eyes closed, and nothing to think about if they have followed the mindfulness cues I have given them then the rising and falling of their breath.
Our practice concludes with a Namaste, and the movement of furniture back to what the room originally looked like.
“Well, I said I was only going to stay for five minutes, but I guess that was pretty okay, “ said the one man as he yawned deeply rolling up his mat and putting his shoes on.
“Better than my first class, I will tell you that, “ said the man in the blue hoodie as he reached out to shake my hand with his right hand and began rooting around in his left pocket. “Well, thanks again. Off to work on my breathing technique,“ he said as he emerged with a cigarette and started to walk toward the exit door.
Follow your dreams. Sounds great, right? Where do you start? Which path should you set your feet on? Of course you can choose to follow your dreams and you can be the most courageous person in the world, but there is a key ingredient missing. Belief.
Now, I am not talking about blind belief. The kind of belief that leads one down dark paths, never having their own opinions, and becoming a bobble head for someone else. No, belief that at the very outset of the journey, even it is just the slightest sliver of belief, that it can be done. This is the sliver, that can grow to be a roaring fire when the momentum towards your dream is like a snowball falling rapidly down a steep slope, gathering speed and power. Or it can be the sliver, that on the darkest of days, it is the only thing that you can hold onto and grasp because you have failed over and over in pursuit of your dream, but know if you just give it one more shot, this will be time things will all work out.
Belief. It comes from within.
“All your dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them. ” Walt Disney
The message woven subtly through the slow flow class this morning was one of following your dreams. As I followed my breath and moved my body through the flow, the instructor went on to talk about that they were indeed following their dreams. This was the last class that they were teaching because they were moving to a tropical location to teach yoga, maybe buy some land and set up shop.
Often times in these moments, when someone declares something big, something adventurous, like this, that most of will try to summon up a smile and a nod of encouragement. The best I could muster was, “Have fun.” In reality, we feel a twinge of despair, a fleeting moment of depression, and say to ourselves when no one is looking, “Why not me?”
Why not you? What’s holding you back from following your dreams? You could hide behind the standard, well I have a job, or I have kids, etc, fill in the blank, excuse, whatever, but the fact is until you do two things you will never follow your dreams.
One, you have to choose to follow your dreams. It’s always been there, that choice. Until you feed that choice with your energy and passion, it will always remain on the sideline. Just waiting to be called into play, but never getting the chance. Two, you have to like Walt Disney said, have the courage once you have made that choice to follow your dream. Courage combined with choice to follow your dream can help you to weather the inevitable ups and downs your new journey will take you on.
Why not you? Choose. Be Courageous. Follow Your Dreams.
I crack the side door open and Dash the border collie sidewinders his way between my legs and the wall to rush outside ready to go for a run with me. Stepping out, the first thing I am hit with is the piercing sharp bitterness of the air. The kind that makes you take a sharp inhale because it is a shock to the body. As the air swirls through your nose and mouth catching at the back of your throat, warming slightly before making its way down and filling your lungs from bottom to top, it’s the first time for the day, that I am aware of my breath.
Of all the systems in our body, the only one that we truly have control over is our breath. We can’t control how fast our blood circulates throughout our body, how deeply we feel sensations that we touch, or that everything will smell like roses. We can however, control how fast or slow, how deeply or shallow, or how mindfully we breath.
In our breath, we can control our state. Are we focused on the here and now, the present moment, or are we still thinking about the words that we said the other night, knowing that we can’t change the past, but we keep thinking didn’t come out the way we think they should have? Are we focused on the here and now, the present moment, or are we thinking about things that we have to do and our need to control the outcomes when in reality, we have no control over the future?
A new year is fraught with boundless opportunities. For within each one of us the ability to create a new canvas, a new path. It is easy with all of this excitement, to lose our breath. To be consumed with so much energy, that it is like catching that first breath stepping out into the bitter cold. Stopping, pausing, inhaling deeply, noticing our breath.
Daily, our practice should be to do more of that. Stopping, pausing, inhaling deeply, noticing our breath. On our way to create our own greatness and to be of service to others, our greatest ally, it to BREATHE.
“Little strokes fell great oaks.” Benjamin Franklin
A blank canvas stares back at you. It’s name is 2017. What will you make of it? What hopes, dreams, aspirations do you envision yourself stepping into this year? Are you beginning with the end in mind?
Stepping back and looking at the vastness of a blank canvas and all the space it offers, it is easy for us to become overwhelmed with the thought of the process. That the time, the effort, the dedication, it will take is potentially more than you are able to summon right now. However, what if you adopted the mindset of just 1% better each day this year. To put it in perspective, what if you decided to step onto the path of whatever big, hairy, and audacious goals you have set for yourself for 2017 and like the old saying goes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.
1% doesn’t sound like much, however, it is if applied daily, it is a measure of continuous daily improvement. Looking to start saving money? 1% of a $100 dollars is $1. Could you set that aside? Want to start journaling, but don’t know where to start? Set a timer for 1 minute and write. Add an extra 1% to a 10 mile run because you want to run a marathon this year? That’s a .10 of a mile. You can do that right? Of course you can.
1% each day in a positive direction. Sometimes, it might feel like you are doing nothing at all. If you think about it though, 1% better today added to 1% better tomorrow, and then 1% the day after next, and suddenly you are making small changes that will lead to bigger gains. Gains that simply would not have occurred had you not moved at all. Had you remained on the sideline, or continued to create a crater on the couch from sitting.
What will be your 1%? What elephant will you choose to eat this year, one bite at a time?
A blank state. Every year starts off as such, and throughout the year, wins, learning opportunities (losses), and growth is imminent. For the last couple of years, I have found that the best way for me to start the next year off on a path for continued growth, is to go through a process of reading, writing, and reflecting on the path that I have walked that year. My guide are the journals that I have written in on a daily basis throughout the year.
Business’s at the end of the year are always interested in the year end report. What is the bottom line? Why should we not be so interested in our own bottom line? How did we fare throughout the year? What were our wins? What did we learn? Where can we grow?
To that end, I like to set aside some time toward the end of the year, gather up my journals, a few blank pieces of paper and head to my favorite local coffee shop. With a warm mug of cappuccino and some John Coltrane playing through my ear buds, I engage in a 3 step process.
Read: I go back and reread every journal entry. Sometimes it is just a quote that I wrote down that day. Others, it is a review of my progress toward goals that I had established, and other times, it is simply where my current state of being and feeling is. I don’t rush, and often times will find myself revisiting those thoughts, emotions, and situations that caused me to take pen to paper and write about it.
Write: On the blank pieces of paper, I will start to write down the big and small wins that occurred throughout the year. Losses, what I like to call learning opportunities, might also find their way on to the paper, but only if I have done something with that opportunity might also jot down words that appear frequently in my writing. This year, for example, it was INTENTION. Quickly, as the pages of the journal turn, the blank slate (paper), that I started with starts to fill. We often make far more progress than we thought we did when we write about it.
Reflect: With a blank slate (paper) now filled with wins, and maybe some learning opportunities, I ask myself these two questions: What did I learn? Where did I grow? Now for me, after spending a considerable amount of time reading, and writing about the year, reflecting is best done through movement. I might sit and think about for a bit, but looking at slate (paper) that I have filled with a year’s worth of journey, over the next couple of days, I will reread it and use the time when I am running, walking, or on my yoga mat, to “chew” on what I have learned. It is during this time, that I begin to set the foundation and roots for the year that is about to follow.
You can’t go back and change the past. You can learn from it. This process over the last couple of years has really helped me to take action towards walking a more authentic path. A path that has me leaning into my vulnerabilities and igniting a fire to simply not be content with how I serve others. To know that there is more work that I can and want to do.