In Memoriam

Today I walked among the dead,
While images swam through my head,
Of movies I have watched my whole life long.

Of boys in trenches and in tanks
And officers of higher ranks
And acts of bravery set to powerful song.

Today I walked among the dead,
While images swam through my head,
Of camaraderie and brotherhood .

Of men who heeded freedom’s call,
Of ‘All for one and one for all!’,
Of boys whose hearts were strong and brave and good.

Today I walked among the dead,
While images swam through my head,
Of all the stories on the nightly news.

Of terrorism, oil and greed,
Of poverty, starvation, need,
democrats, christians, atheists, muslims, jews.

Today I walked among the dead,
And tried so hard to wrap my head
Around the way things were, and still remain.

It seems that it’s the same old story,
We fight for gold and gods and glory,
The enemies just have a different name.

Today I walked among the dead
to make some peace in my own head.
Peace for these men that I have never met.

(The world is so.)

The world is so, and so we must
Have those who fight and die for us
Because there is no other way, of yet.

And though I hate the thought of war,
And all the things we’re fighting for,
I walk among the dead,
lest I forget.

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The Elephant in the Room

When most people think of a modern day yoga teacher, they probably think of someone who is thin, wiry, bendy, flexible, thin, vegan, tree hugging, thin, peace loving, Buddhist… 
Did I mention thin?

I’m a yoga teacher, and I don’t fit into the typical yoga teacher mold, just like I don’t fit into Abercrombie & Fitch. 

When I first started taking yoga classes I was looking for a way to shed some pounds.  By the time I finished teacher training I was fit, strong, and at my ideal weight. 

Four years later, I am a joyfully experienced yoga teacher, and I am 25 pounds heavier. When I stepped on the scale at the doctors’s office, he told me I was technically obese.  

So there it is, I am a technically obese yoga teacher.  I am the elephant in the room

 

Although I’m a lot thicker than most yoga teachers I know. I’m not the thickest.  I’ve seen much curvier ladies online teaching classes. I love them all for encouraging people of all shapes and sizes to try yoga.  But I still hear stories about people who won’t try because they think they’re too big.  

Believe me, it really is true (in the case of yoga) that size doesn’t matter. If it did, I wouldn’t be able to do my job every day. If it really mattered I would allow it to keep me from doing things that I love, I would allow it to get in the way of living. But I don’t! So it must not matter.

I don’t wake up every single day thinking I need to lose 20 pounds. Because of yoga, I simply wake up grateful and I think, this is my body today.   I will make the best choices that I can make today when it comes to food and drink and exercise. I will be the best me I can be today, with this body of mine. 

I try every day to make peace with what is, to accept the truth of this present moment in time and move forward from there.

I do have have fleeting moments of wondering what students are thinking? 

Is SHE the teacher? Really?    

I imagine the thin fit power yogis thinking: this class is going to be boring. We’re not even going to work up a sweat.

I have also had moments of assuming that the older or thicker ladies are thinking; Ohhhh Good! SHE is the yoga teacher!  If she can do it, maybe I can do it too…

Then there are the moments when my waistband rolls down and my shirt rides up, exposing my soft white underbelly. Some days this invokes a brief sense of terror, and other days I breathe and know that no one is watching or caring. 

As an instructor I look right past a student’s size. I see hearts and lungs and skeletons. I want their hearts to be open. I want their breath to be deep. I want firmly planted feet, straight spines, safe postures. 

I encourage them to suspend self-judgment for just a little while;  to stop thinking of themselves as a body, a size, a weight, to be in the moment, to feel the breath and the movement, to be grateful for what they can do. I encourage them to reap all of the benefits of yoga they can reap. 

The benefits I have reaped from yoga are immeasurable. I am stronger. I am more flexible. I am calmer and more focused. I haven’t had a depressive episode or a moment of hopelessness in years. I sleep like a baby, and the panic attacks are under control. I am kinder. I have a real sense of personal peace. I am happy with what is.

Sure,  I have packed on some pounds, for many reasons, none of which really matter. 

What matters is how I am, not how I appear to be. I’m not my ideal weight, but I am my ideal self.

If you come to my yoga class please know that I don’t care if you’re fat. I don’t even care why you’re fat. I’ll just be happy to see you on the mat.  If you keep coming, you may shed some pounds along the way. Or you may not.

I don’t know which of yoga’s benefits you will reap, but I do know this: you don’t have to be your ideal weight to be your ideal self.

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Admitting That You Are Powerful (Step 1) 

There are not too many things in this world that you can control, try as you might. You must’ve learned by now that you can’t control other people. You can’t control outside circumstances. You’ll never control the weather or the flow of traffic. 

There are so many things that are beyond your control, but that does not make you powerless. 

 
Freedom of choice dictates that you can control every reaction you have to every situation. You can make the choice to control every thought, idea, and emotion in your own head. In turn you can make the choice to control every word, idea, emotion and thought you put out into the world. 

You are free to control all of your choices. The power comes when you take personal responsibility for the choices you make. 

Personal responsibility can be frighteningly empowering. It is scary as hell to take responsibility for every single choice we make all day long.

Imagine taking personal responsibility for every aspect of your life. What would it be like? Imagine living a completely mindful life, always acting from personal responsibility. Imagine taking ownership of every single decision all day long.  What would that be like? 
Imagine…

You are personally responsible for every single word that you let out. 

You are personally responsible for every bite of food that goes into your mouth. 

You are personally responsible for every silly slip that your tongue makes.  

You are personally responsible for every sip of every drink you ever take. 

You are personally responsible for every thought you choose to entertain. 

You are personally responsible for every needling thought you ignore again and again. 

You are personally responsible for following every rule you choose to abide.

You are personally responsible for breaking all the rules you choose to brush aside.

You are personally responsible for the production of every product you choose to buy.

You are personally responsible for the success of each corporation you choose to patronize.

You are personally responsible for every creature you choose to domesticate and tame.

You are personally responsible for every being whose life you deem fair game.

You are personally responsible for every feeling you choose to engage and express. 

You are personally responsible for every emotion you choose to rein in and suppress.

You are personally responsible for every conversation you initiate, ignore, or engage.

You are personally responsible for every argument you join, every battle you wage.

You are personally responsible for your own reaction to every person, thing, circumstance.

You, and you alone, are responsible, it’s not random chaos and happenstance.

Every time you make a choice,

Every time you speak your voice,
Personally, responsibly decide,

Take a breath and look inside. 

You are personally, powerfully responsible. 

You are responsibly, personally powerful.

********
(Watch that first step, it’s a doozy.)
Freedom of Choice by Devo

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Inconsistent Illogical Unreasonable Parenting 

Have you ever had a hickey? Do you remember your first hickey? 

I remember mine. One summer day Unnamed Boy and I snuck off behind A neighbor’s house to make out. When I got home my father took one look at me and said something like “What the hell is that on your neck? Get over here.’ I didn’t know what he was talking about because I hadn’t even realized it was there. Unnamed Boy hadn’t warned me. (Thanks a lot Billy. I mean… Unnamed.)

My dad proceeded to give me a lecture about society and propriety. He said it didn’t look right. He said it looked trashy. He said there was no reason for anyone to put his mark on me. He was just the right amount of disappointed to keep me from ever having a (visible) hickey again. 

Have your kids ever come home with hickeys on their necks? How did you handle it? What did you say to them? 

Before my first child was born I made a conscious decision to do my best to parent in a reasonable, logical, consistent way.  

I vowed to never say ‘Because I said so!’ I vowed to never say things like ‘when you’re older you’ll understand’.  I would always attempt to explain my reasoning so that they would understand.  I vowed to raise strong, independent, logical thinkers who questioned everything, took nothing for granted and forged their own paths.  

Unfortunately, I also verbalized these vows to my children. 

So last night, when we walked into our house and I saw the marks on my oldest child’s neck I broke a vow or two. 

Following is a brief dramatization. 

Me: ‘Your neck looks disgusting.’ 

Teenager: ‘Is that a judgment?’ 

Me: (Damnit. She’s using my words!) Yes. Yes it is. It is my judgment that it looks disgusting. 

Teen: You tell me never to care what anyone else thinks. You’ve been telling me that since the day I was born.  

Me: (Damnit! More of my own words! They are flying at me left and right!). It looks like someone is marking you as their property!  

Teen: (calmly, collectively) You are assuming that was the intention when it isn’t at all the intention. It’s just your perception. 

Me: (Intention? Mother Fletcher. This kid really listens to me when I talk.)   Yes, but.. But… But… You can give a shit what I think! Don’t you give a shit what I think? (Ugh. She doesn’t give a shit what I think! I taught her not to!)

Teen: ‘Because I said so should never be the reason’, remember? You say it all the time. 

Silence. Sighs on both ends. It’s a draw. 

So now I’m left wondering if I really do want strong independent free thinking children who forge their own paths and don’t give a shit about societal judgment!? Do I, really?  

And I’m also wondering why the hickey bothers me so much.  

Is it because I was an early bloomer who was slut-shamed all through grammar school? Is it my own 12-year-old fear of judgment and name-calling resurfacing? Am I afraid of what people will think of my parenting skills? Am I afraid of disappointing my dead father? Do I actually care what other people (both living and dead) think?  

I write a lot about letting go of judgment, and my words are constantly being tested by teenagers! 

Why do these marks on her neck bother me so much? What is my reasonable, logical, consistent objection? 

It can’t be about other people’s judgment, can it? Will someone please help me win this argument without making it about other people’s judgment! Please?

…………

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Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3)

Some people may think that what I do here is over sharing.  But that’s what writers do. We over share the things in our head, and sometimes it makes people uncomfortable. 

Sometimes when I share things, people write to me and tell me that I’m brave.  I don’t think there’s anything brave about it. 

Why should it take bravery for me to talk about something that happened to me, or something I think? Why should it take courage to be open and honest? 

Why are people considered brave when they simply speak and live their truth? What are we all so afraid of, really? Why do we have to summon up courage to be authentic?

I guess it does take courage to be open and honest when we live in a closed off, dishonest world.  

We have each closed ourself off behind a wall of our own building.  The foundation was laid by our families, as a means of protection at first.  With each passing experience we add another brick and it builds up. 

The mortar is made of concern for and fear of other people’s judgment. It is fear of what someone else might think, of the discomfort we will feel when we are judged, of losing their acceptance, friendship, love, respect. It is fear of our own self-judgment;  feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment.

It’s not easy to tear down the wall and step out into the world. We have to work through inner conflict. We have to find the line between the way we portray ourselves and the way we really are. We have to stop judging ourselves from the point of view of ‘others’. Stop wondering what will they think? How will they treat me?  

We cannot try to live up to other people’s standards. They are coming to us from behind their own wall. If we worry about what they think our entire life can become a lie that we tell ourselves in order to hide from judgment.  

The longer we do it, the dimmer our own personal light becomes. We lose a little bit more of our light each time we compromise in order to be accepted, to be respected, to be seen in a certain way, in order to fit into some ridiculous social construct.

Every time we judge ourselves, every time we prejudge the reactions of others around us, we add another brick to the wall.   

We can tear down that wall one brick at a time by releasing judgment. Stop judging others. Stop judging yourself based on other people’s standards. 

When you release judgment and you release the need to judge others, you destroy the power that other people’s judgments have over you. 

Sure, you might make some people uncomfortable, but you can get on with being authentic and shining your light.

Getting there requires that you put yourself in a vulnerable state. It will be difficult at first, but it gets easier. 

Each time you make yourself vulnerable you remove another section of the wall. At some point you will work through that feeling, and you will no longer judge yourself as vulnerable. You will begin to view yourself as open, honest, forthcoming, and FREE.    

Once you embrace that vulnerability, once you let go of the need for control, the need for acceptance, the need to please anyone other than your own self, nothing anyone says or thinks can hurt you. 

Eventually the pure acceptance of that state of vulnerability will wrap itself around you.  You won’t need the wall anymore.  You’ll be bulletproof.  

******

All in it it was all just bricks in the Wall‘ Pink Floyd

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Sounds Like a Whisper

When did you have your last alcoholic drink? What was it, and why did you drink it? 

Mine was a Guinness. I had it because I was drinking with friends.

When did you have your first taste of alcohol? What was it, and why did you have it?

I don’t know when I had mine, or what it was. Whiskey on the gums when I was teething? A shot of Fernet when I felt sick? A little splash of red wine in my Brookdale soda at dinner? A few sips of Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante on New Year’s Eve? I can’t remember. 

I also can’t remember my first full alcoholic beverage. Can you? 

When did sips and tastes turn into actual drinks? When did ‘having a drink’ become an activity, and when did ‘drinking’ become a pastime? Do you remember when? 

The last time I got together with friends ‘for drinks’ was on January 31st. We were toasting the coming month of sobriety.  
For the 3rd February in a row I was giving up beer. This year, just as in the previous two, somewhere in the middle of ‘ the challenge’ I started to hear the whisper.  
Whenever someone (usually someone with a drink in their hand) would ask me how long I planned on doing this I’d say ‘Just for the month.’

And then I would hear this faint whisper… Maybe you won’t ever drink again.




For two years, I dismissed that whisper.  But this year I started saying it out loud, half-jokingly.  

‘Maybe I’ll never go back to it!’ I replied. 

My words were greeted by drunken laughter.  No one believed that, not even me.  Or did I?

I think the daily meditation practice I actively pursued in February allowed me just the right amount of quiet time to hear the whisper clearly.  In my moments of clarity I started to question everything.  One of the questions that kept arising was what would my life be like without alcohol?   
Besides the fact that I love (and I mean LOVE) the taste of a good beer or a really great glass of wine, there was also the fact that my entire social life was built around let’s go grab a drink, or meet me for a drink, or I’ll grab a 6 pack and come over,  or the cooler is full come hang on the deck…
I’m not an alcoholic, but I’ve certainly been an alcohol user for most of my life. After all, I was created by the convergence of 2 very long lines of alcohol use and abuse. It’s in my DNA. 

I learned at a young age that alcohol was a social lubricant.  It helped me through the awkward years and carried me into adulthood.  Give me two beers and I could make friends and broker business deals.  It was definitely my go to OTC medication. Feeling a little stressed? anxious? aggravated?  Just have a glass of wine. Ease the tension.  Breathe easier.

Heredity and overuse allowed me to build up a strong tolerance. On more than one occasion I heard people saying things about me like ‘She can really hold her liquor’ and ‘She’ll drink you under the table’. Those things were definitely true. I could maintain a buzz like nobody’s business.
So when I said ‘Maybe I’ll never drink again’ no one really believed me.  Everyone knew I’d be raising a glass on March 1st. 
But this year I didn’t plan a Fast-Breaking Binge Party.   I just figured, I’ll have a drink when I want one. But I heard the whisper saying ‘Maybe I won’t ever want one again.’ 

April 1st came and went. And then May 1st.  And tomorrow it will be 100 days. 100 days without even the slightest desire to enjoy a beer.  It’s really weird what a little whisper can do.    

Maybe I should raise a toast or two tomorrow! 

  

Or maybe not. 
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What have you been whispering in you quietest moments?

That’s how it starts.  

Listen to Tracy. She knows what whispers can do.
 

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Blow Your House Down

Happy Birthday Sigmund Freud.  Way back when I was a Psych/English Major in college Freudian analysis was one my favorite things.  I was not a big fan of the man, but his id ego superego model is a neat and tidy way to explain all human behavior and it lends itself so completely to simile, metaphor, hyperbole.

The id is our animal instinct, the system that allows us to fulfill our most basic needs and our basest desires. It operates on comfort and pleasure.   The ego is conscious and aware of reality, and tries to satisfy the id by making seemingly rational decisions.   The superego is organized and has a lot of rules. It is discerning and judgmental.  It is at odds with the id most of the time, so the ego is like the poor middle child who has to mediate his siblings’ arguments all day long.

In order to keep itself safe, the ego builds up a wall of defenses such as; denial, rationalization, compartmentalization, repression, projection.  Often, especially when one of the defenses breaks down,  the ego’s attempts to protect itself manifest physically; dry mouth, sweaty palms, stomach aches, tension headaches, panic attacks.   Stress, anxiety and worry are ego driven.  They come from the ego’s fear.

Real fear is one thing. We need it to protect ourselves in actual dangerous situations. It puts our body into fight or flight mode when necessary.  Real fear is productive. It protects us and it serves us.

Ego fear is unproductive.  It sends us into fight or flight mode when we are not in any real danger. It makes us think we really need to be afraid by rehashing stories of the past and imagining things that might happen in the future.  None of that is real fear, because none of that is happening in this moment.  Only what is happening in this moment is real.

The way to overcome anxiety and worry is to keep coming back to this moment.  Whenever you realize that you are stressed or anxious, notice your thoughts.   If you are rehashing a past event, stop yourself, and come back to this moment.  If you are imagining something that hasn’t happened yet, and may never happen, stop yourself and come back to this moment.

Your ego is trying to bring you somewhere else, it is trying to take you away from this moment.  Don’t let it. Bring yourself back to the present moment, and take a breath.

Over time, this gets easier and easier.  If you practice bringing yourself back to your breath in your quiet calm moments, it becomes a habit that you can invoke when you are stressed or anxious.  Whenever you are in a situation that would normally invoke stress, come back to the breath, and the present moment.  When you find yourself getting a dry mouth, or sweaty palms, or panicky stomach, come back to the breath, and the present moment.  When you find you are in a situation that would send you reaching for a cigarette or a glass of wine, or into a rage or a panic, come back to the breath, and the present moment.

The id and ego and superego are like the three little pigs.  They keep trying to build themselves a house of defenses; straws of desire, sticks of anxiety, bricks of rationalization.  But you are the big bad-ass wolf. You can take them all down with your breath.

Get those little pigs under control. Come back to the moment. Come back to what is real. Fill up your lungs. Exhale.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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