Stitch by Stitch

I grew up watching my mom quilt. And I admired her for it. I still do. Her tenacity, patience, and love for a dying art was something she enjoyed and lost herself in. She quilted a Raggedy Anne Doll for me when I was about eight, she sewed

countless buttons back on, repaired hems, poured hours into wedding quilts for my sister and myself, and made baby blankets for all five of my babies. My favorite however, was her attempt at Skidz pants when I was in eighth grade. The fashionable pants were expensive and though I did own one pair, and wore them tirelessly, she put her motherly talents to work to produce a home-made pair!  She even took great care when embroidering the little emblem on the back pocket. I don’t think I ever wore them to middle school, but good job Mom! Even then I saw the intention in the gesture of your hands.

Though quilting produces different outcomes in its ability to create or repair, and though it can take many forms, it does hold one consistent theme and that theme is time. Things of beauty and art need time. They need time to formulate in one’s mind, they need time for the sake of planning, they need time to grow, and they need time for one to admire the final outcome. Without time, the end product is a result of haste and the hours spent clearly do not reflect one’s dedication to the craft. None of my mom’s projects reflected this. Each stitch of my Wedding Ring quilt was done by hand, stitch after stitch. Occasionally stitches were pulled out and re-done in order to keep the integrity in tact and to ensure that the final result was something to be proud of. I continue to admire these tapestries of love and will forever be grateful to my mom’s diligence and time sacrifice as she crafted these treasures for our family.

I’ve been thinking about the idea of quilting and the piecing together of fabrics; the whole concept of bringing together and making new, the blending of art, the development of ideas and how this somehow all relates to the process of discovering new channels of the self. As we know, Yoga is a tool in our back pockets that encourages us to travel the new paths we know we should. The problem is that these are often the ones we don’t want to travel. We walk blissfully along our life journey with no intention of finding trouble, but we do find it sometimes. We constantly face channels of decisions and opportunities for growth, but also potential pit-falls to set us paces back. Still, the possibilities of the world are always there to support the leaps that deep down the self wants to take. A chance to piece another colorful tapestry to our quilt; to stitch it together; to realize step by step that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Just as every stone thrown into a pond ripples differently, so do the choices we make. And the stones stored in the cupboards of our being remind us to ponder the past choices of victory, disappointment, and change.

And though the concept of embracing the forks in the road and exploring ideas is motivating, there is a substantial speed bump that works effectively to delay us, sometimes even stopping us in our tracks. This is attachment.  We cling to the same ways of thinking, to our possessions, to the past and present voices in our heads that say “you’re not good enough.” Attachment is an endless battle and ultimately one of the driving forces that keep us from supplying stitches of color and uniqueness to our personal “life quilts.” If we cling to the same-ness of us, we will never understand the beauty that could await us ahead.  Attachment is safe and one can certainly float through life in this way, but wouldn’t you rather de-tach and ride the rapids, take the bumps with joy and the turns with anticipation?  Start by letting go in simple ways. Change your routine. Let go of that not-so-fulfilling friendship in your life. Turn away from needing that next new thing. Try something entirely new! Take out a few stitches that were loose anyway and see what happens when some previously separate fabrics are blended.

Detachment is not easy. It doesn’t come naturally, and as humans who are often guided by fear and doubt (whether we let anyone see it or not) we must learn not to allow these two evils to take over. It takes courage and strength to learn that it’s okay and necessary to let go of the old ways, particularly when they are unhealthy. Understand that detachment only allows for new growth to take place. It makes room for the self to explore small caverns of opportunity. And just as a quilt is planned ahead with pieces that are cut and prepared, so are the choices we make to move forward in the creative process of us!  Be it a small or large brush-stroke, we can step out of the painting and recognize how unfinished it seems. It may not be apparent at first, but over-time as new strokes are added, that one stroke is still needed for the full completion of the project.

You are a unique work of art and not only are you the piece to be admired, but you are the artist with many mediums to choose from. You alone have the ability to undo what’s been done, to re-craft and recycle the old, and most importantly to empower and discover the colors and texture of how amazing the journey ahead can be. Don’t stop working on you. You’re worth it and the world needs every stitch of your beautiful being!

Blessings,

Sarah

Step Off The Line

FullSizeRenderI have a 10 year old who sincerely lives her truth. She lives these truths in the best way she knows how: by being full and complete in who she is. She’s strong willed and powerful; graceful, yet fierce. She embraces challenges head-on and walks with a strength and knowing-ness that I wish I had a dose of when I was her age. When you’re a child, living your truth is available and it’s free. There are less strings attached, less that gets in the way, and it’s natural to be you in a world that often feels like it’s against you as an adult.  My Molly believes in unicorns. It’s not something you challenge her on, because in her mind, that one belief serves as a truth. Something that she needs to believe in order to nurture the fierce joy and imagination she holds. In fact, while in church a few months ago she went as far as to submit a prayer card to our Pastor. The prayer card requested that people would begin to believe in unicorns. I smiled, and almost instantly felt a bit of envy. Her truth was pure. Her belief was entirely her. Her ability to live that fantastical truth was unashamed. I admire her.

So what does it mean to live our truth as adults in a world where asking Google can replace human interaction?   Where we find our relationships with others a mile wide and an inch deep?  And where we can barely find room to breath, to quiet, to still the infinity of moving parts that Just. Keeps. Going?

Living your truth is living who you are. It’s your passion, it’s the simmering desire deep within the caves of your soul that (if allowed) would burst forth with trumpets declaring its song. Your truth is a part of you that makes you unique in this world. It unconsciously opens up opportunities for those around you to live their best selves. It’s part of your complete and whole design. We have all heard the phrase, “for every action, there’s a reaction.” So think about that as it applies to your role in the world—your town, your home, your closest relationships. Your actions, words, vibrations, and TRUTH send out a ripple affect that connects you to others and creates pathways to greater things. It can also be destructive depending on how you use it.

So if a unique truth is in all of us, why do we have such a hard time tapping into it? My natural response to this question is two-fold. First, we aren’t willing to step away from the internal chatter and the whispers of inadequacy that we all (whether we admit it or not) deal with. Secondly, declaring our truth takes more than a bit of vulnerability on the part of our adult selves. The child enters the world vulnerable, speaking her mind, saying what we wish we could blurt out in the midst of a church service or boring award ceremony or extra long restroom line. As adults we are conditioned to move with the masses, conform to social norms, and not rock the boat, firmly walking the line. The thing is…change through truth doesn’t happen unless you step off the line a little bit. Now I don’t mean this as a suggestion to break the rules or cause disrespect. Instead, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions and challenge the ways things are done so that maybe you can find your own unique path—what makes the most sense to you.

You live your truth by living the dream you tucked away since you were 12; live it by researching what makes you happy; live it by going back to school even if it’s one course in something you are passionate about; live it by taking a huge step of faith—one that’s often scary. It’s not supposed to be easy. Regular people live easy. Don’t be regular. Come up with what makes you unique and watch how your willingness to surrender to truth begins to cause reactions in every facet of your life. It’s not a switch, it won’t happen over night. It’s a process, and it’s allowing yourself to stand firm in the center of your truth circle as you watch all other responses swirl around you making connections.

Ultimately, allow your mat, that safe place where you can explore your depths be the place that reveals truth to you. On our mat is where vulnerability is practiced and always allowed. Yoga in all its mystery holds great truth, a firm pillar next to love. Keep working on building those pillars and never stop believing in unicorns.

 

Autism and Yoga

 

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Most of you who know me know the one thing that drives my need to bring yoga to children. That one thing this is my son, my teacher of patience, sympathy and acceptance toward something I never imagined having to navigate when signing up for parenting 13 years ago. Autism is a word we as a culture throw around so loosely without a real understanding of its depth unless you are the parent or the educator to one of these beautifully gifted children.
The acceptance thing for me wasn’t so hard primarily because I already knew a bit about my son’s diagnosis. The fact that I wrote a college thesis paper on Asperger’s Syndrome way back in 1999 when little was known concerning it seemed to somehow be God’s way of preparing me for such a time as this. I embraced the task of Asperger’s Syndrome, and even though I sometimes grieved the moments I wished were easier, I learned quickly that I was chosen for him, and even more profoundly he was chosen for me!
As we venture into April— Autism Awareness Month— I am grateful for the cultural acceptance and recognition that seems to be growing. And with this growth comes the understanding that we must continue to seek any tools we need to support these children in their gifts and talents. What tools can equip them to come down more effectively from a rage, a transition, an anxiety filled moment, or a socially related fear? In this never ending search is where I discovered the powerful connection between yoga and the energy system of the child dealing with the differences of autism. You must understand: Autism chose them, they didn’t choose autism and we need to choose to assist them as they navigate a sensory world not set up to support them.
Though I have been given many opportunities to work with children handling ADHD, OCD, ASD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through my children’s Yoga Classes at the studio, it wasn’t until recently that a student who wasn’t my son confirmed my role as a mentor to one of these wonderful children. When Jenna first came to my studio, she explored, walking the perimeter of my wooden floors, taking in the details of the walls, asking questions, and undoubtedly seeking to connect with me if only for the briefest of moments. We eventually moved through poses, some activating, some grounding, but all driven by her need, her spirit, and how she in that moment needed nurturing. She craved sensory pressure and was willing to negotiate with me during the more difficult breathing techniques so we could move into massage and rest. I was fascinated by who she was, and soon realized that her presence enriched me by simply allowing me to enter her world. What was this channel that allowed me to walk so easily into her thought and self? The answer: yoga; the poses, the breath, the use of bolsters, blankets, blocks, and most recently, color.
One of Jenna’s outstanding gifts is her ability to draw pictures from memory. At the close of our first session, she promised me she would bring a drawing for me at our next meeting. I knew she would keep her promise as these kids are wonderful rule followers! Not only was it a drawing from memory, it was captivating and emotionally stirring within my own soul. I couldn’t stop looking at this drawing and I can only attribute that to the connection and thought put into it. Our spirits somehow connected and I was beyond grateful. (See the drawing above)
With my new-found understanding of Jenna’s love for all things art, I decided to incorporate this into our next yoga session. The deal was this: she must hold a pose for 5 breaths, but during that pose she must think primarily of one color that she felt resonate through her body while in the pose. She quickly understood and what followed brought genuine tears to my eyes. We practiced 8 poses and for 7 of those 8 poses, Jenna associated each pose with the appropriate Chakra energy system. This was not something taught, but felt; a sensory based human living in an energy-based world. She connected so easily with something most of us have to learn via written text and practice. I watched in awe as pose after pose she took a felt tip marker and drew a simple symbol directly related to the energy system evoked in her body. If I wasn’t sold yet on the need for yoga in children, I had nothing to argue with at this point.
Here’s the thing about Yoga: it’s mysterious but simple. It’s there to hold our space and guide us as long as we’re willing to keep our heads out of it. A child who naturally navigates primarily through energy and sensory driven action doesn’t need to learn the proper technique or steps in order to attain the benefits. Their bodies already know what they need and yoga simply feeds the desire and satisfies the thirst. What if we start taking lessons from these beautiful ones? What if we close our eyes and feel rather than compare and strive while on the mat? The only thing involved in that process is ego and that’s something most of these gifted children don’t need to battle against. They simply are, and they know what they need because they are naturally intuitive enough to feel it.
I genuinely believe that these children were sent to us. They are here to teach us patience, deeper love and understanding. If we are willing, we can adjust to their world, rather than forcing them to fit into ours. Be aware this month and days to follow that Autism is a gift, a treasure not to be taken for granted. Believe that you can learn wisdom from a soul already wise beyond its years. Combine that with your mat and you have something astounding. You will simply be one more step closer to understanding your true, authentic self.

Blessings,
Sarah

The Crack in the Door

 

imagesWhether or not you attend yoga classes at your gym, are a devoted member to a particular studio, or know nothing at all about yoga, it’s still likely you know of someone who has spent 6 months or several intensive weeks to complete their 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. You envision 200 hours of poses—complicated ones—those things real yogis call “asanas.”  It’s likely you also suspect there’s meditation sprinkled in there along with a scholarly way to approach the language of actually teaching yoga. These were my impressions when I sent in my application for Yoga Teacher Training at One Yoga and Wellness Center in East Windsor, NJ. My intention at the time was to enrich my personal training business and to learn more about something that just kept finding its way back to me. As I’ve said before on so many occasions…yoga will find you; it’s rare you have to seek it out. But, be sure to respond to the call when it does find you. In this case I did respond and as cliche as it sounds, it really was life-changing. In this month’s blog post, I would like to give you personal perspective, but also a perspective from a teaching stand-point concerning what to expect if you ever find yourself considering Yoga Teacher Training.

On January 13th, 2012, my life stopped and then re-started. I was well into my 4th pregnancy (a boy) when it was discovered that I would have to do the unthinkable. Deliver my very pre-term baby and head home without him. After three months of what I refer to as my “darkest days” which included not-the-best parenting, pathetic family meals, and days combining sad movies and too much exercise in order to escape the pain, I finally discovered that this hard and awful loss could lead somewhere beautiful. By God’s grace alone my breaths became deeper and I realized that the foot-prints I would stare at on Max’s birth certificate were my little boy’s and always will be whether or not he was in my arms. But still, how can his loss somehow be a gain or eve
n beautiful? Here was where the opportunity of yoga teacher training presented itself. It’s always something I was interested in doing, but easily found excuses to push it aside, convincing myself that it was selfish and not the right time. Because of an  incredibly supportive husband who loved me through my pain and wanted to see me whole again, he encouraged me to dive into the training. With three young children at home and the time commitment involved, it made me realize the depth of his love for me. That self-sacrifice thing in marriage that we have to work at? For Kyle, it came easy. I am forever grateful.

What followed was six months of study not only in asana, meditation, history, mudra, prana, teaching methodologies, philosophy,  and anatomy, but most importantly, myself. The study of me, the good, the bad, the places I wanted to hide from. I was in too deep to run from it, my tuition checks were written, I couldn’t back out, but what had I gotten myself into? This was certainly not what I was expecting! And though, every yoga teacher training program is different, I felt a deep gratitude that I found training that could not only equip me to become a proficient yoga teacher according to the standards of Yoga Alliance, but that I could peel back layers of who I was, who I’m working to become, and learn how I can make one small mark of love at a time and m
ke a difference in the world around me.

I share this with all my students on the first day of Yoga Teacher Training: “It’s a journey that continues beyond the six months of schooling.” It’s also a humble calling; a gift to first yourself, and then to be shared and lived with others. It transforms how you view relationships and the nuances of everyday life that take place. It brings to mind that we need the mat to catch
us when we feel like falling and not just in crow pose. I don’t have to list the pressures of our world. You have your own, the ones that are known and the ones you keep hidden. They pile up like ragged beach sand after a storm with a heavy surf. Isn’t it like that sometimes? Wave after wave, we are hit with decisions, financial burdens, temptations, every day difficulties that remind us we need to keep coming back to the mat, our Faith, and ultimately our self.

As a seasoned yoga teacher, I understand that I will never arrive. There is no final destination in yoga, or special award once you’ve mastered every single variation, of every single pose, in every single style, with every ounce of efforts belonging to breath and meditation that makes you supreme. It’s simple, it’s a practice, it’s daily reflection and living. It’s believing that you are a vessel and the Powers that Be are channeled through you to bless, guide and encourage those who you have a conversation with or who become students of yours. And for you, yoga is a way of life. It’s the decision to live your life a little bit differently. In a world fueled by hate and unrest, yoga provides a necessary retreat and balance to the chaos we confront everyday.

I encourage you to be open to the small crack in the door which could open and someday invite you into yoga teacher training. For me, it was the sacrifice of my dear Max William. Out of ashes there came beauty and he handed me an opportunity for a life I had no idea I would be living. Doing what I love and getting paid for it. And “love” is really all it boils down to. Love towards self and family, but also love toward the ones who are challenging to love, and a love devoted to an ancient practice that heals, restores, and never disappoints. I think of my sweet baby every day envisioning the four year old who would have been, and my heart overflows knowing that we will be re-united again. In the meantime, I’ll keep living the calling that he gave me.

Blessings,

Sarah

Be Love.

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I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day; never have been and I’m not entirely sure why. I can’t blame it on a dissatisfying experience as a child or a college boyfriend who forgot to surprise me with a white teddy bear holding three roses. I had a mom who never failed to surprise me and my siblings with candy and trinkets in cute, heart-shaped baskets in the morning.  Maybe my aversion to the day of red and pink is related to  the fact that there wasn’t one boy in the entire 7th grade to buy me a $.50 carnation, but I doubt it. Valentine’s Day for kids is like Christmas in tiny little candy hearts and scratch-n-sniff packages. Hologram Valentines always trumped the home-made ones. Those poor moms who spent so much time and effort, and yet cooler Valentines were the easy ones. That’s the thing, we over-think it, over do-it, over-sell it. It’s just another day, highlighting “love,” which is something we should highlight and embrace every day. Hallmark and Target marketers cackle with glee at our overindulgence of such things. Pushing us to embrace love as some kind of one-time celebration. Not true. And as far as I’m concerned this is part of the problem with the breakdown of self, families, and our children.

Love, a word we use when describing our favorite coffee, movie, band, or book should be a respected word. A word placed in a category where we stop and think, digest, and apply to our daily living. The problem is that we don’t know how to love. We know how to love our families, that’s easy, it comes naturally, it’s born in them and us. It’s the self-sacrificing and protective love as a dad and the fierce and sometimes wild nature that unexpectedly is unveiled in a mom. But how do we love beyond what’s easy? And how do I equate yoga in this entire equation?

Yoga, as  I understand it, is a path to self-love. It’s returning to your mat feeling empty, unappreciated, drained, and tired to find at the end of the practice that it was love which brought you there in the first place. You chose, your body knew (your mind not so sure), but love prevailed as you surrendered to taking care of self. That’s self-love. You take self-love with you, the affirmation of the act and carry your mat to your car feeling lighter, a smile forming at the corners of your mouth, an appreciation for family and those you hold closest. You’re happier, sweeter, not quick to anger, but more apt to respond in love. That’s self-love and its by-products are endless.

Here’s the thing: self-love is the center of the wheel. The spokes are varied and many. Your ability to accept self amidst the obvious flaws and self doubt, negative thinking, and over-analyzing changes and you see things differently. Once glimmers of acceptance emerge you are better equipped to continue the chain of love through giving, listening, hugging consciously, or sending a card to the person on your mind for no other reason besides, “I’ve been thinking of you.” And once your surrender to this way of living, you notice is comes back ten-fold. People are attracted to love, and whether or not they can voice it, that attraction is something they crave because it’s guaranteed that they are not getting enough of it in their own life.

During the past several weeks as our nation has absorbed a new shift in power, we have experienced the full spectrum of what love looks like in a country that knows what hate feels like. The posts and opinions are endless; some divisive, and some trying to pull a divided nation together. I don’t read them,  I scroll past them and find safety in accepting that my one small but powerful contribution to this national disaster of division is that I’m practicing how to love. I may not always love myself well enough, but that will come with time. I try to live love daily through my actions. People crave it, they want to be heard, they need to feel important and taken care of. More than anything, love will cure this and it starts with your response to surrender to self. Give a little more—tip the gas attendant. Listen a little more—even to the lady at the ShopRite check out who’s complaining about her longer than usual work day. You don’t know her story; show compassion. Give of your time, offer to help the person whose car broke down on the parkway. Make a meal for the new mom feeling completely inadequate to take care of the tiny human in her arms. Call your mother. Send a thank you card.

Yoga, just one way to nurture self-love, can go a long way if allowed. It’s a conscious way of living and yes, it’s sacrifice, but the return to your investment is great. Love your families because they will remember; love the person who’s difficult because they can’t argue with that; love the teenager in your home who’s gone cold and distant. Be love. And just as simple as hologram valentines were back in the day, keep it simple. There was a lot more effort put into the Valentines that were homemade, but there was very little return on that investment.  Invest into the expressions of love at people will see and appreciate.  The store-bought ones were the Valentines I kept in my nightstand drawer all year. Be that kind of love, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, just be. It’s as simple as that.

In Peace and Love,

Sarah

As Iron Sharpens Iron

 

I’m not a resolution girl; never have been. Always felt like they were a bit pointless and passive aggressive. The mechanism in my head tends to be the more I resolve to do something, the more I don’t want to. Plus, when one commits to something new, there’s pressure iimagesnvolved—a sense of waiting to feel like a failure when we can’t come through with our self-declared promises. I do agree that a New Year brings a feeling of starting fresh, repairing broken relationships, being a bit more co
mitted to regular self-care. And that’s a good thing. But why do we need to use January 1st as the launching pad for 365 day ahead? Why can’t we simply intend to live our truths, healths and goodnesses daily, one baby step at a time. Back when I was marathoning regularly, I never viewed my races as a whole 26.2 miles. They were broken down in tiny chunks; split times written in black sharpie pen on my left forearm.  Every 1/2 mile was a quick glance down to make sure I was on track for that particular mark. Things didn’t always go as planned, but that reference guide was my security blanket and served as a reset button as each passing mile became just a bit more challenging. It gave me a short term goal for a long term result.

In yoga, we teach our students to set intentions at the beginning of their practice. These intentions fuel the energy around the practice and they are the center point we can refocus on to think and feel through the process. What is an intention? It’s a positive, self-affirming statement, often the first thing that comes to mind after quiet introspection. Examples are, “I intend to speak softer”, “I intend to forgive”, “I intend to smile more”, “ I intend to listen more than speak”. Intentions can run deeply on a personal level or they can be smaller sighted, yet both approaches are still very effective.

I might not be the best New Years resolution girl, but I try my best to live daily with intentions, thou
gh some days are better than others. Life gets busy with kids, running a business, getting food on the table, and managing the ins and outs of all involved, but it takes a 20 second moment in the morning, mid-day, or whenever to craft some room for a personal intention. It’s a one-day-at-a-time thing, a daily mind-set that over time can re-wire your inner being and re-craft your view and outlook on the world. And living in a world swamped in hate, jealousy and competition, our minds could use a break and retreat to come back to. I tell my students that just as yoga finds you, intentions do also. Your body knows what it needs to either let go, embrace, or change on a daily basis.

The bottom line is, keep the New Year’s Resolution if that works for you. But if not, go the intention route. Each day, or every other day, set an intention (something simple) and apply it. Don’t try to look for ways to apply it, just be open. They will manifest themselves when you need them the most. There’s a well known verse from the book of Proverbs that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17). How beautiful our close relationships and general interaction with the world would be if we spent a little more time sharpening one another through our daily set of intentions.

Blessings this New Year,

Sarah

The Best Gift

My memories of Christmas morning as a child are that of joyful anticipation and heart-flutturig light-ness as I stumbled over my Strawberry Shortcake nightgown to beat my sister down the stairs. This race to the finish of course was not allowed until we heard the coffee pot brewing and my dad’s excited yet restrained voice, “Okay, girls!” The tree, loaded with color and a ridiculous amount of tinsel, welcomed us, offering surprises and 20 min. of completely chaotic unwrapping and giggles. My parents were proud, sitting up straight, unwrapping the presents with their eyes right along side of us. They worked hard and it made them happy to see us happy. It was easy for me to feel that as a child and it brought me ease that they felt accomplished as parents. Gifts for them and for my family in general were acts of love; a way of showing in a physical sense how that love could be offered beyond a hug or a conversation. Christmas was a the perfect celebration of that love. And almost always, every year, my dad “forgot” about one important gift or even better…one fell off the sleigh and was in the backyard. In the midst of stuffing paper and crumpled boxes into a big garbage bag in the middle of our living room, my dad would make the announcement. Sometimes the gift was hidden behind the tree, in the backyard, or in their closet. That final surprise gift came in the form of scooters one year, the coveted Cabbage Patch Kid the next, A VCR (which was the most AMAZING Christmas morning ever), and a snowmobile my dad proudly drove down the driveway as a grand presentation. Later that snowmobile carried me miles and miles away from home, exploring woods and roads unseen. Hard to think I was only 10! Yikes! How much things have changed. I can still smell the thick cloud of gasoline fumes embedded in my hair, clothes, and skin after a day of exploration.

The one thing that all of these Christmas mornings had in common was anticipation, combined with love, with full embrace of the moment and the gift. Rarely did I know what I would be unwrapping and that’s what made it so exciting. And once unwrapped, the ideas flowed, the joy spread and that gift now served as a representation of me and became a small part of me. But just like any material thing, over time, and with days passing into the next year, that one gift that held such sparkle on the morning of December 25th was now settling into it’s space in a closet, on a shelf or possibly already used up. That’s the funny thing about gifts. It almost doesn’t matter what you give; it’s more about the moment it creates and the relationships built because of it.

This idea led me to thinking more deeply into the gifts that impact and impart change. Obviously, nothing material has this capacity. Instead it’s who we are as people and how we are designed and woven together in careful ways in order to offer change to add goodness to the world. This comes in the form of the gift you have to offer. How can this gift, so different than someone else’s, be used in such a way that it will leave lasting beauty towards another or a mission bigger than yourself? Too often we discount what we are good at. At least I do. Recently, I had a dear friend look me in the eye and blatantly tell me to embrace my gift and walk confidently in the fact and know that I’m really good at teaching yoga. Was she right? Was it okay to feel that sense of confidence? Yes. Just yes. And I thanked her the next day for bringing this to my attention. It is my gift, and one of my purposes in this life is to be used as a vessel to teach not only the form of yoga, but it’s truths in faith, relationships, parenting the differently-abled child, and teaching one to simply learn how to listen. I’m still working on embracing and realizing how good I am at this. But to be completely honest I’ve ignored it for too long. This humble studio was 12 years in the making. Doors would have been opened sooner if I had believed powerfully in my gift.

Take a full scan of your own life. Look back at years ago, or even just the last few months. Where are you the most confident? Where is your love or your go-to hobby? What makes you simply you!? That’s the energy you need to cling to. Whether it’s a fantastic ability to teach and connect with the awkward 7th grader, a knack for baking, an understanding of how to organize a home, or the awareness of the inner-workings of an engine. Somewhere there is a gift that needs to be unwrapped with as much excitement and anticipation as the hot-pink scooter I received in 1987. But unlike that scooter, if cultivated your gift will add something to this world. You may not understand how, but you don’t have to. This is the mind-set of a yogi. Let things come to you (don’t force them!), keep being you, and you will be amazed at the doors that will continue to fly open. So many of us hold back, not believing our gift is worth anything to anyone else. Not true. YOU were perfectly made and designed to do what you do and to love your passions in life with a purpose. Don’t settle for the go-to flow of life day in and day out. Time is short and your energy is needed to keep moving a broken world forward. When you listen to that still, small voice inside your heart encouraging you to move toward your passion (or gift), only beauty emerges. Why? Because you listen and you don’t block that free-flow of energy and momentum. Great things await you. Take the jump, unwrap fiercely and marvel at the uniqueness of all that YOU have to offer!

Merry Christmas and abundant blessings,
Sarah

November Healing

November was a blur; a summer storm bringing with it flashes of lightening, cracks of thunder, and waves of emotion as unpredictable as the associated patters of rain. With the anticipation of something great, we wait and support one another holding onto the same belief system, supporting what we feel is right and good. Most of us are confident and unmoved, trusting that the country we live in will make the best decision out of a not-so-best set of circumstances.

imagesAs a small business owner, I keep my political opinions at home. My studio members and those who seek solace and peace once they walk through my doors do not come for me to teach them how things should be. That’s not my job, my right, or my responsibility. Instead, I am an instrument of faith and guidance, trusting that the process of feeling and connecting would come naturally for all who come to their mat. Having said that, I felt a sense of heaviness wondering how my studio and the classes I taught in the days post election would unfold. My energy was weak rather than elevated and bright. For the first time in my adult life I recognized how penetrating division can go amidst friendship and family. This wasn’t a time we could all just put aside our differences and meet in the middle. There was no middle. And it wasn’t necessarily pride that got in the way—too often that’s the go-to excuse. Instead, it was an individual’s entire identity and belief system.

I looked at the faces laying down their mats for my Thursday night class. Typically, smiles came brightly, small talk exchanged, and sighs of relief followed by those coming down from an 8 hour work day. This night, however, it was silent. The air was thick with emotion and people quietly placed bolsters, blankets, and blocks around their mat as if they represented something that was real and true. Something they could physically cling to during the next 60 minutes as a means of escape and healing. Like so many classes I teach, I try not to come in with a plan. I’ve learned that I am simply an instrument to the energy systems at work. I try to lock up my ego; there’s no place for it with this job. As soon as it shows signs of appearing I have failed those who trust an unbiased guide to their practice. Like no other class I have ever taught, I felt inadequate and not prepared for this kind of raw and divided emotion. I knew it wasn’t my job to repair or bring together, but still I wanted to. What followed was one of the most beautiful practices I have ever been a part of—a deep restorative practice doing exactly what those bolsters, blankets and blocks were designed to do. Individuals rested and asanas unlocked coils of emotion that entangled with differences amongst co-workers, friends and family. A realization that we are only responsible for our contribution of peace and well-being to this world became visible again. The energy that came in heavy and dark shifted to enlightenment and better understanding. Savasana produced gentle tears allowing for release and quiet awareness. This brought me assurance that things would be okay and that our nation would repair and connect one breath at a time

Ironically, November ends with gratitude and thanks as it always does. A sudden shift to the angst and division among us. It was needed and certainly wanted. Thanksgiving served as a re-set button for so many of us. And where political discussion should have come up, we put aside differences and hopefully found comfort in the simple blessings among us: our health, our warmth, and the simple that makes life worth living. So, in some ways I find myself appreciating the black and white opinions, the anger, the relief for some, the disappointment for others. Because if it wasn’t for this conflict, we wouldn’t wholly realize how perfectly blessed we all really are this Thanksgiving. Our country will continue to be great and Yoga will continue to be a treasure of solace and healing. And just like any summer rainstorm, a rainbow will emerge and we’ll realize that without the storm we would never have a chance to experience Life’s beauty.

Allowing Wrong, Produces Right

5575It’s inevitable that as humans and because of our naturally flawed tendencies and selfish desires that we will fall into the categories of wrong choices, wrong decisions, wrong relationships, wrong desires and wrong jobs. It’s not a shameful place to be, it’s a human place to be. It’s what makes us who we are in all of our perfectly imperfect selves. We are taught young to do well, strive for the best in order to receive the reward. Behave well enough so that you fall in line with the fluidity of the world and all of the moving parts involved. If good and right choices are made all of the time, things will be okay.

But will it? Why is this the go-to message? Why aren’t we encouraged to challenge the tasks and pit-falls of life? And why is it that every kid gets a soccer trophy at the end of a season? My kids’ closets are full of them, not one meaning any more than the other. And for what…a “good” season of getting along with others, showing up to practice, participating?

There’s this mis-representation to the generation following us that life always has rewards and gold stars as long as we do what we’re told. But understand, there’s always that one kid who goes against the grain; the child who really doesn’t care about the trophy or the behavior chart on the fridge which will promise a pack of gum if all goes as planned. These are the kids who are just one step ahead of all the others and some day will lead, while others follow. They see the chink in the armor and they are unsatisfied with moving through the motions and pushing down their true and authentic strong-willed selves. Yes, these are the ones who make wrong decisions, and I wonder sometimes if they knowingly make these wrong decisions because they crave the lesson to be learned from them. These are the little firecrackers who don’t want to be tamed in the process, but ignited with experience. These are the ones that teach us that wrong choices lead to right, which then leads us to understand ourselves on a much deeper level.

How in the world does this relate to your practice—the mat—walking into a yoga studio if you have never been there before? It’s simple: be authentic in every real, ugly, shameful, and wrong way. Your mat and your practice allows you to think about the mishaps and the slips. It opens up windows of opportunity and internal awareness of how the darkness can transform to light and the wrong naturally made right.  I sincerely believe that the valleys and darkest moments I’ve experienced have produced more character, strength and love than I have ever imagined. So much so that the next trial, temptation and heart-ache I face will in some twisted way be looked forward to because the end result will be a “right” lesson to be learned. I was that kid who was the rule follower but more out of fear than anything else. If the rule was broken, I was wrong, no reward, not much growth, and I learned quick that I was bad. The truth is that we all need to break the rules a little bit, otherwise the rules break us!  And we need to embrace the fact that we’re human and wonderfully, perfectly, imperfect!

What challenge are you facing right now?  What wrong do you feel is going on internally within?  Can you be okay with accepting that wrong and not running from it? Don’t be ashamed, it’s who you are and maybe, just maybe, that wrong was brought to you for a very specific reason. Sure, self growth is always a by-product, but what about the power of your story in the lives of others? I am a firm believer that nothing—absolutely nothing!—is wasted in this life. I would even go as far as to say that all experiences, all paths crossed, all friendships made are pre-destined in order to fully refine a broken world and an inner child constantly seeking that next gold star.

The next time you come to your mat, put aside your own agenda. Don’t judge who you are based on your flaws and wrong choices. Be content knowing that eventually, if allowed, the wrong produces the right.

Blessings,
Sarah

Stay In the Center

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It always surprises me how each season, each month, each next shift in our yearly calendar comes with it’s highs and lows. We innately anticipate the to-do lists of November and December, June planning as we prepare for vacations and kids’ activities, the awakening of spring with yard work and house cleaning. These shifts are part of our world, our life and we can’t help but to be guided by them and feel assurance that life is proceeding as normal. The problem is when we get so caught up in what’s coming next and what’s going on around us that we miss experiencing the moments all together.

I’m prompted to write this blog post at the close of September because frankly I’m glad September is over. A month often associated with fresh starts (which is true), renewed vision, and reestablished routine, it also comes with it’s fair share of racing to comply rather than rolling with those lazy summer days. As a mom to five kids, I’m not ashamed to say that when August comes to a close I’m joyfully purchasing school supplies at Target. I’m ready for routine and I believe my kids are too. But this September, sheer craziness. What happened? I happened. I failed to show up grounded and present. Life went on as normal, soccer practices and nightly homework seeped back into our world, but I lost my grip and allowed the tidal wave of to-dos to run my life and spill over into overly short-responses to friends and those I love the most. It was only upon reflection that I was able to assess my short-comings. In the moment, life was running the show and the script was a train-wreck.

There’s a well-known quote written by Lao Tzu, “Stay in the center of the circle and let all things take their course.” What a perfect image for one to hold onto. A picture of strength amidst life’s demands encouraging one to mindfully root down and be present. Yoga brings us to this place and as a teacher to 35 classes per month, it is rare that I bring myself to the mat, to re-set and remind myself how important it is to be grounded especially when my children rely heavily on my sense of peace and assurance. They are little energy absorbers. They know, they feel, and others do too.

Use Yoga and your practice as a safe haven of quiet, allowing your body to connect with what it is you need at that very moment. Allow yourself to be placed perfectly in the center of that circle and create a vision in your mind of standing tall, unmoved, allowing NOTHING to rock the strength you have created that comes with your personal faith and mindful awareness. The next time you find yourself in Tadasana or Standing Mountain Pose, hold onto this vision and feeling of power. Life will always continue (chaotically sometimes) but it’s how we respond to it that matter’s most. Refuse to be fueled by stress and worry. It produces nothing but more negative. Stay rooted, stay confidant, and trust the process. Somehow all things work together for good even when it’s hard to see the final outcome. You don’t need to predict the outcome or organize the storm around you. Your energy, your calm, your strength will quiet the mayhem. The key is to be open to it.

Blessings,

Sarah