Thursday, April 30, 2009

one-up one-down same-as

Noone can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Eleanor Roosevelt
How true this is. So maybe there is a person I typically feel inadequate around. If I look at this as my using that person to feel badly about myself it gets me out of the victum role and empowers me to chose how I feel about myself around this person. It also gives me the choice about whether I want to spend much time or invest much energy in the relationship or not. I used to try really hard to get certain people to like me. Now I know that the people who I most enjoy being around are the people I don't have to try hard with. I am accepted for myself warts and all. This doesn't mean relationships don't take work. They do take work. It's just that in the rewarding relationships all of that works creates resolution of issues and the deepening of intimacy. I am very grateful to have supportive people in my life with whom the experience of conflict resolution creates closeness.
I notice that when I am feeling competitive with another person and trying to prove I am better than they are or comparing myself as less than them, I am usually feeling insecure. This is a message to me to haul myself back in my circle because I have probably jumped out by being so focused on this other person. From my circle I have nothing to prove to anyone. Who I am, just being me, is OK with me. In yoga classes this issue comes up for me. Sometimes I feel envious that other people can do poses I can't and sometimes I feel pride that I am such an experienced yogi compared to another. according to Terrence Real, there are three positions you can take in relationships: One-up, one-down and same-as. One-up is acting superior to another, One-down is pretending to be less than another and same-as is coming from an equal place. Often in a relationship if one person typically goes one- up, the other typically goes one-down. If either person is willing to move to same-as there is a chance for greater connection. Both one-up and one-down are defensive positions designed to protect ourselves. They end up protecting us from closeness by keeping us separate. Either going one-up or one-down is a signal to me that I am off center. Once I can recognize my identification with my ego's ideas of better and worse, and be mindful and compassionate with myself I can use my circle and my breath to recenter. From the position of same-as, I can peer out from my center and see another person as a human being. From same-as, I can see the other people in yoga class as fellow human beings with unique bodies just like mine. From that place I can soften both about my limitations and my abilities and focus on being present in my body in the class. When I get out of my own way, the real joy of yoga can come bubbling up.
See if it would be useful to take a look at one-up, one-down and same-as in your relationships? What do you notice?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Retreat reflections

I am back from my meditation retreat.It is strange to reenter the world after four days of silence. It's daunting how much gets communicated with words and how challenging it was to be in silence at first. After a while it is an enormous relief to be freed from the social talk that permeates daily life. Being without my hearing aids in a group of people for four days was a luxury. I could feel my body relax and let go when I didn't have to strain to hear what people were saying because they weren't saying anything. Only the leaders spoke to share their teachings.
The theme of the retreat was mindfulness in the body. We practiced a meditataion called the four elements which supported us in going down into our bodies and connecting to the part of us that is elemental. We are the earth, water, fire and air. I will write in more detail about that once I have digested it enough to explain it further.We did sitting meditation and walking meditation in alternating periods from early morning to late at night. We also did gentle hatha yoga and sensory awareness exercises.All of it was designed to help us tune into and learn to trust our own direct sensory experience. The idea is that the more we trust in our inner body wisdom the easier it is to truly take care of ourselves.On the retreat were thirty four people, about half men and half women. I am grateful to be able to participate in this retreat community. Feeling the energetic support of all these other people expands my experience of meditation.
On retreat eight years ago at this same location I slept in a dormitory with ten other women and one bathroom. Several of us snored. I got very little sleep.Sleep is very important to me and when I am sleep deprived it is not pretty. I allowed my mind to be distracted with worrying and strategizing about finding an available place to pee. I remember being very self-conscious and anxious about what others thought of me.
In contrast, this retreat was fun. I enjoyed seeing how big my definition of fun has become and how much it can include. I was willing to include hiking up a mountain and taking a very bad fall and the soreness and anxiety that engendered. Also included was some worry about getting enough protein and some difficulty sleeping even though I had my own room this time. The difference was I am better at accepting what is, even if it takes me a while. When I was tired I rested. When I was hungry I got myself some food. I was kind to myself and less worried about pushing myself. I relaxed and practiced listening to myself. The first precept of the retreat was about non-harming. Applying this to myself made my experience fun.
Maybe fun is what's left when we let go of should-a would-a could-a
and tune in to what feels right to us. Allowing my actions to come from that deep knowing of what feels right and forgiving myself when I didn't created space for my well spring of joy to bubble up.
What is fun for you? Could you create a retreat in your daily life from should-a would-a could-a even if only for an hour? When might that be?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Change again

More about change.
This quote from W.H. Auden:
We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die.
When I first read this quote its power jolted through my body. How do I want to live and what will support me in opening to my life fully? What would I rather die in my dread about? How am I clinging to old ideas about myself and my life that limit my self-expression? How do my old beliefs keep me separate from other people?
I am leaving on retreat for four days in a short while. It is always daunting to sit in meditation for long periods of time. My mind is very noisy and it will also be a welcome blessing to have this time in stillness that isn't open to my whims to avoid. It feels good to be willing to change my daily routines and shake things up by quieting down.
These are challenging times for all of us and an opportunity to look squarely in the face at what is open for changing. How can we use these times of uncertainty to committ furthur to the small still voice inside guiding us home? It is times like these when we are surrounded by so much fear and urgency that being quiet is of utmost importance. I notice when I am racing around is when I want to meditate the least. When I most need to do it is when I most want to avoid it. Facing our fears with acceptance and compassion allows us to move forward toward whatever change has to offer us. Being stuck in a rut makes our energy stagnant and is draining and tiring. Would you be willing to stand at the edge of your rut and ask with curiousity, "What's next for me?" If an answer bubbles up you don't have to act on it. Just let it percolate and begin to grow in power. Brainstorm about what it might look like. Start to create a vision of what's ahead- even a vision board. Change has wings of its own. We only need to open the door of the cage and let it fly. Our job is to work with our fears as if we were a small child coming to us. When she says "I am afraid or it scares me, we can comfort ourselves and let ourselves know it is understandable to be afraid. Let yourself know you are here for yourself in your fear. My experience is that fear and excitement form a continuum that goes from abject terror to strong excitement. When I am willing to experience my fear it makes more room for the excitement to pull down the covers and peak out her head and begin to dance. What are the illusions we are carrying that are ready to die? I have been breathing in peace and letting it have a color and then breathing out stress and letting that have a color. It helps me to calm myself in the midst of it all. Have a lovely weekend. Andrea

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fear of Change

Last time I wrote about change. This time I want to write about fear of change. How does fear of change keep us in a rut? How is it that even when the familiar is very uncomfortable we sometimes choose it over change? What makes something familiar is that it is known. At least it is more known than what change would bring. There is a sense of being in control when we are holding on to what we've always done or the way we've known something to be. So, fear of change can be motivated by the anxiety that gets generated by surrendering to the unknown. Surrender is a word that used to bring shudders to my body. What was I imagining I would be surrendering to? I think it was something that would take advantage of me and leave me powerless. Now I know that surrender looks more like letting go than giving up. Surrendering to the experience of the present moment is the most empowering thing I can do. If I am afraid of change the best idea is to let myself feel the fear fully while witnessing myself doing that. The observer self can let go of identifying myself as the fear and watch while I have my fear. That is so much more effective than pretending I'm not afraid of what I am afraid of. I'm not talking about wallowing in the story of the fear and spiraling down into terror or panic. I'm talking about breathing into the experience of the fear in my body and really showing up for myself. I say to myself, "I am here for you in your fear," and breathe deeply, allowing the sensations to ripple through and pass. That doesn't mean I am no longer afraid or no longer afraid of change. It only means I am less afraid of being afraid.
I have been single for seventeen years. It has worked for me to keep the men in my life at arm's length even though what I've said I wanted is a primary partnership where I can grow spiritually. I lived with my daughter until she left home and have lived alone since 2002.
In some ways living alone has worked well. Monnya is the only person I have lived with successfully.
I can be very territorial and fiercely protective of my alone time. I can also abandon myself and what I want and need to be with a man. Gary and I have been together for four years. We see each other on the weekends at one house or another. The need for change is stirring within me. I am longing to take our love to a deeper level of intimacy although I am very scared and even more scared of change. What will having a shared life bring? What will it look like? Can we work stuff out as we always have? Fear of change. What does it look like for you? Would you be willing to let yourself be there for yourself in the midst of it. Mindfulness of fear of change is the first step toward opening to change. Acceptance of that fear is the next step and experiencing that fear is the next. As we open ourselves to what is, the possibility of what could be can take shape and grow, blossoming into a new adventure.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I didn't write last night. I have known that I need to change from writing three times a week to writing twice a week. I can tell when something needs to change because the energy shifts. There is a certain heaviness. It's as if the universe is giving me a weather report on my inner process. It goes from sunny and warm to a few wispy clouds to heavy clouds to a storm approaching to a deluge. I can chose to notice or not. I can chose to tell myself the change isn't necessary or my feelings are unnecessary or that it doesn't matter anyway. I like to catch the need for change before the deluge. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.Writing this blog twice instead of three times is a a small change. I like to keep my agreements, though. When I say I'm going to do something and I don't, it doesn't feel good not to. I would rather make a change to an agreement proactively rather than retroactively. I have a rather long thinking to doing stage. Once I know I need to do something it often takes me what I consider a very long time to move into action. Maybe it just takes as long as it does. Any way I will be writing this blog twice a week. I'm not sure yet which days. I would like to know who's reading it and if you want me to I could start a list and send you an e-mail when I write. Otherwise just check. I will write on two weekdays. This week I am leaving on a four day meditation retreat on Thursday so I will write two days before I go. That feel great. There is such a feeling of empowerment when I act on what feels right and make a change. My father used to say, " put your money where your mouth is." I would rather think of it as putting my energy behind my intention.
How do you notice when a change is in the air? Do you feel a gentle nudging? Do you often wait for the deluge when the energy is so strong it is impossible to ignore anymore? Sometimes I call that the cosmic two by four. It often starts with a cosmic toothpick and builds up. It is challenging to discern when the need for change is really the ego cagily trying to avoid being present with what is. I heard the concept of geographic obsessiveness the other day. That is when a person moves whenever they feel restless. There is nothing wrong with moving and it is important to remember that you have to take yourself with you. What is your relationship with change like? Do you tend to hold on too tightly or let go too quickly or do you feel pretty balanced? Usually it is a combination of all of them. I tend to both hold on too tightly to money and let go too quickly with primary relationships. For me balance comes from mindfulness and acceptance of what is and being open to the gifts change can bring.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Being right

Today I was reading Phillip Moffott's book Dancing with Life. The chapter I am reading is about renunciation. He says that renunciatiion is traditionally thought of as following the precepts in Buddhism. These are not killing, taking nothing that isn't freely given, practicing nonharming speech and sexuality, and not clouding the mind with intoxicants.
Phillip talks about another kind of renunciation. That is renunciating the attachments of the ego. The first one is letting go of the attachment to being right. I am aware in my relationships that a large percent of disharmony has to do with my clinging to being right. When I am open to being wrong there is a lot more room for connection. When I can say, "You might be right." in the middle of an argument something in my body relaxes. I can see that chosing to be close and letting go of being right is a viable option.
Today I thought I lost my appointment book. I was so sure that I brought it to my yoga studio when I taught and left it there. In fact I was so sure I was right I didn't even look at the options. After my PSYCH-K practice group tonight I drove down to my yoga studio to retrieve my appointment book. The teacher who had just finished was standing there on her cell phone because she had forgotten the code to the alarm. It was fortuitous that I was there at that moment to tell her the code. I thought it was fortuitous for me because she was there and I could have company at the studio when I found my book and not have to be there alone late at night. We both looked and my appointment book was nowhere in the studio. I headed home and on the way I muscle tested asking my higher self where my appointment book was. I clearly got that it was home in my office. I still clung to being right and didn't believe my results, although I hoped they were true. I was so sure that my book was at the studio that I didn't entertain the idea of even looking around my house for it. I held on to my pictures. Clinging to being right narrows the options and the mind's ability to think creatively. I was sure I left it at the studio because in the past I have left a trail behind me wherever I go. Then I have to backtrack to retrieve my belongings. However, lately I have been mindfully checking to make sure I am leaving a destination with the number of belongings I came in with. It would be good for me to let go of being right about being spacey and forgetting my belongings. I was so certain of my spaciness that I wasn't open to alternatives. When I returned home I looked around my house and then went up to my office. There was my appointment book waiting for me, as it had been since my last morning client. I could see how much clinging to being right had created feeling urgent and anxious. Now I will let go of clinging to being right about it being wrong to cling to being right. I will let myself feel grateful for finding the book that wasn't lost. I also will appreciate that when i have an idea to blog about the universe provides an opportunity to experience this idea up close and personal. How does your attachment to being right manifest? Would you be willing to look at that?

Monday, April 13, 2009


In Tama Kieves musings in Trusting the Journey Times she talks about indecision. She says that your heart knows what is right for you. The important thing is to create enough stillness and quiet in your life to be able to listen to your heart and to hear what it is saying. Your heart is not confused. Your heart is clear. It will point you toward one or two things that will allow it to sing. Your mind is confused. It is confused because of a persistance about ignoring the heart.
This rings true. When I take the time to listen to the still small voice inside of me it points the way home. What it points to isn't always an easy route. It might require setting aside what other people might think or how I imagine they might judge me. What I am learning is that other people are thinking about me way less than I imagine. Mostly they are thinking about them. When I act from my heart other people are less likely to judge me and more likely to be inspired. When I ask my heart if my long distance relationship is in my highest good I get a clear yes. I always get, "Love him with all of your heart." When I look with my heart I can feel grateful for the quality of my life. Both of us have lives we love during the week and time together on the weekend. When I get lost in thoughts of the future like," If either of us had to move to the other's house we wouldn't.
My work is here. I love the pace of my life and am passionate about my work. I have wonderful friends and activities that stimulate and satisfy me. Gary lives in the mountains in a peaceful beautiful natural place that he's lived in for thirty years. He built his house himself and is very attached to it. I have lived in my home for 24 years and I love being here. When I listen to my mind I find so many reasons why this will never work. My heart, however, is going for the opportunity to love deeply that is available to me in this relationship. When I listen to my ego, I want to run and be alone. Then I don't have to face how scary it is for me to love with all of my heart and risk the heartbreak of being abandoned. However, what is happening right now is that Gary is home and I am here and nothing needs to be decided about the future in this moment. My heart advises me to focus on this moment. In this moment I can witness my critical ego, who finds myriad ways to dis Gary, and my insistant mind, which wants to bounce me into the future and tell me all of the reasons why it can't work to be together and I am doing it wrong to even try because I am too old and have too little energy. Together they create a tightness around my heart -an armouring that keeps me from letting go and surrendering to this moment.
If I attach to what my mind is saying I block the path to my heart.
As I breathe I feel my heart. It wants my attention. It is beckoning to me like an excited passerby pointing to a rainbow. Look here she says. Notice the beautiful colors. They are inside of you. Pay attention. Come home. Be with me know. I know the way. Now I will go inside and listen.
Is there something that your heart is beckoning you to come home to? What might it be? Would you be willing to take the time to listen?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Beautifully sensitive

Each month Joyce and Barry Vissel, a nurse and doctor couple, send out a newsletter. Their foundation is called Shared Heart. They offer workshops for couples individuals and families about opening the heart. This month the newsletter was entitled, "Are you too Sensitive?" Joyce talked about what it was like for her to be a sensitive little girl growing up in the fifties in a family where noone else was.
When she would have hurt feelings and cry her father would say to her, "Don't be so sensitive. You are too sensitive. You have to learn to take a joke." Joyce learned to invalidate her own sensitivity in this way. When she felt strong feelings or was aware of someone else's anger even when they denied it, she would say to herself, "You are too sensitive." and shame herself for being upset.
During her process of self-acceptance over the last thirty years Joyce has learned that she is beautifully sensitive rather than too sensitive.
She now sees her sensitivity as a gift that is sometimes challenging.
Do you pick up on other people's feelings even before they do sometimes? Are you sensitive and easily hurt by what other people call "teasing"? Is it easy for you to feel drained by being in a public place with lots of people? Do things move you to tears that don't seen to affect other people? Do you feel silly or embarrassed or ashamed sometimes about how strongly you are affected by your own pain or other people's pain?
My father was very sarcastic. He would tease me and when I got upset he would say, "Where's your sense of humor? Can't you take a joke?" Teasing often feels angry to me. I experience the edge of the person's anger that they are not willing to come out and be direct about. I know sometimes people can be playful and warm with their teasing. I can get into that place sometimes too. I can also get edgy and nasty and say things that I wouldn't be comfortable saying directly. Afterwards it doesn't feel good to me. I work with my own urges to be sarcastic with people so I can express anger and loving feelings directly. That is always more satisfying and connecting.
Over the years I have learned to accept my own sensitivity as a gift. I judge myself about it less. When my feelings are hurt I can more easily sooth myself. I can bring , Andie, my inner child into my inner childcare center. Then I surround her with the resource team of my spiritual core, my inner nurturing parent and my inner protective parent. With my inner nurturing parent I can reassure that little girl inside me that her strong feelings are a beautiful part of her that I treasure. With my inner protective parent I can let her know that I will protect her from hurt as best I can and reset clear boundaries with people who have crossed them. From my spiritual core I let her know that all of her is OK and that it is OK to feel deeply about experiences she has. I know that my emotional vulnerability gives other people permission to experience their feelings more. With other people who are sensitive I feel more permission to be myself too. I have lots of very sensitive people in my life now. We support each other in learning to celebrate that and to work with the challenges it brings to be a sensitive person in a less sensitive world. Where are you about your own sensitivity? If you think you are too sensitive what would help you to make the shift toward seeing yourself more as beautifully sensitive?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Letting go of Mom

As I write I can see purple hyacinths peeking out of the ground outside of my window. I feel grateful for these little plants that come up every Spring and remind me of rebirth. They are little messengers of hope. I have been feeling sad and heavy-hearted since I returned from visiting my Mom. Although I enjoy being with her, it is difficult to experience her life as it is now. She lives in an Alzheimer's unit near my sister in New Mexico. From 1978 until two years ago she lived in Colorado Springs and I could see her regularly. My Mom was a teacher, an avid reader, and extremely dedicated to her Jewish community. She was politically liberal, very opinionated, and often quite critical. She could also be playful and silly and was fun to talk to. She assisted me in doing Laughter Yoga at her retirement home. I miss her.
The Mom I have now is a different person. This person is quieter and sweeter and searches to remember words when she speaks. She is warm and appreciative and only sometimes knows my name. She still knows her name. She gets anxious and scared and confused and sometimes slaps her caregivers. I just returned from spending a long weekend with her. We can have fun together. She still remembers the words to some simple songs if we sing them slowly. Singing unites the right and left side of the brain and seemed to soothe her. We sang with another resident who had a beautiful voice and remembered the words to some old songs way better than I did.
I took my Mom on a little outing to a park where we sat and watched children play on the playground. She doesn't get to see kids anymore and she really enjoyed it.
I think the hardest part was that she doesn't know how to wipe herself anymore. She doesn't remember what to do. Seeing her sit on the toilet not knowing what to do and wiping her, I thought about the full circle that is this human life. Once my Mom wiped me.
Tears are running down my cheeks for the Mom that I have lost. Even though I was sometimes afraid of her sharp tongue, she was my friend. In some ways I am grateful that I still have my mom alive and that I get to be with her. In this way I get to grieve slowly and prepare for her actual physical death. I can still see her smile and rest quietly with her. I can still look in her eyes and sometimes she is really there. We put our hands on each other's hearts and breathed love into each other. She said it was nice. My heart swelled with love for her. I could feel the blessing of the time we share together.
My sister supervises my Mom's care and does a great job. She takes my Mom to appoint- ments and handles her financial affairs. I am very grateful that my sister takes such good care of my mother. She wanted Mom to be close to her so she could spend more time with her. It's hard for me to have my Mom so far away and I feel guilty because I know it is challenging for my sister to be in charge of her care. I let her know often how much I appreciate all that she does.
There are 11 residents where my Mom lives and the caregivers have their hands full. One of the residents was running around in only his sweater and socks. Sometimes it helps to laugh. Mostly the people who work there care about my Mom and the food is fairly nutritious. My sister and I even shared in the lunch they had on Sunday. My Mom still loves dessert.
I appreciate being able to write about my feelings about my Mom. My heart feels lighter. Writing is so theraputic.Where are you in your relationship with your Mom? What is your learning about that relationship now? Would it be helpful to write about it?

Monday, April 6, 2009


Just as I was sitting down to check my e-mails and get ready to write, Gary, my boyfriend, called. He attended first day of The Conference on World Affairs at CU Boulder today. It is a yearly week long conference that has been going on for 38 years. It is free.If you feel so moved to check it out there are speakers and musical presentations all week on campus at CU. One panel Gary told me about was called, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil.
It was a panel about triumphing in the face of adversity.The see no evil presenter was a blind musician and photographer. The hear no evil presenter was a deaf author and the speak no evil presenter was Rodger Ebert. He is a well-known film critic who starred in the show At The Movies. I remember watching it and enjoying it years ago. They would rate movies as thumbs up or thumbs down. Rodger Ebert developed throat and thyroid cancer and came close to dying several times. He had many surgeries and the last one designed to try to save his voice, left him completely unable to talk. So, although he is no longer a film critic who uses his voice on television, he says that the experience has enriched his life incredibly. His wife was also on the panel and she spoke about when he first lost his voice he was so depressed and despondent that he wouldn't even watch a movie. She said that their love has deepened and grown out of their sharing in his recovery process.
Gary said the love was palpably passing between them and was so moving to him. I am so grateful to have a partner who cares so deeply about people and the power of the human spirit.
Rodger Ebert has a special computer which speaks for him. He types what he wants to say and then it speaks it.He is grateful to have the computer, even though it is slow and challenging to have a conversation. He said that not being able to talk himself has made him a much better listener and a better writer. Rodger says his wife's love helped to bring him out of depression to a place of gratefulness for being alive.The other presenters also echoed Rodger's sense of letting go of attachment to life as they had known it and opening to being present in the moment.
I appreciate hearing about Rodger Ebert's triumph over adversity. I just returned from visiting my mother who has Alzheimer's. I need some more time to digest my visit and to think about the adversity of her disease and how it has empowered my life. I know my hearing loss has made me a much better listener and more compassion toward other's adversities. How has the adversity in your life made you a stronger person. What has it taught you about yourself? Is there any way you are grateful for it?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yoga for every body

Today in my yoga class there were nine people, five of them were men. Most people think of yoga classes as being all women. Many of these guys are regulars. It is exciting to me that men are starting to warm up to yoga. Stretching and quieting the mind are big plusses in todays world. I am not your usual pretzel bodied yoga teacher. In fact, my hips and shoulders are very tight. I tailor my classes for less flexible people. I think it is less intimidating for men who tend to have tighter less flexible hips than women that My knees are high off the floor in sukasana or easy pose commonly known as crossed legs. Before I did my yoga training I thought that I couldn't teach yoga with my body. In fact I think teaching yoga with my body makes my classes more user friendly. It is important to me to incorporate meditation and breathwork into my classes. I start each class with the same ritual I begin all of my work with. Drawing a circle around yourself in the air symbolizes the creation of sacred space that's made sacred by bringing yourself your own attention.Meditation and pranayama or breathwork build the muscle of using the breath to return the mind to being present in the here and now. This skill is very useful in daily life, especially now when we are all facing the stress of a culture surrounded by fear and tougher economic times.Speaking of tough economic times, my yoga class costs only five dollars. It meets on Wednesdays from 12-1. Doing yoga at noon is a great way to relax from the morning and energize for the afternoon. Please join us at Whole Yoga 1735 E. 17th Ave (17th and Williams It is such a joy for me to teach yoga and to share it with the people who clear time away in their busy lives for a brief respite of peace and movement. Yoga means union. It is the union of body mind and breath. That combination leads to less anxiety, increased productivity and an easier aging process. I love to do yoga. My practice brings me to a more centered place. In this centered place I can more easily access the heart-felt joy that bubbles up within me. My body thanks me every day for allowing it to stretch and move in a centered challenging and calming way. Yours will too. I also do private yoga sessions in my home yoga/meditation studio customized to your body/mind and spirit. Check out yoga or if you already practice appreciate yourself for giving yourself the gift of a richer life.
I will be out of town visiting my Mom and sister and will write again on Monday.