Breathe, Breathe in the Air

(If you could, please take 3 or 4 minutes and do this with me.  I promise you will feel something.  Maybe you can share what you feel after. I would really like to hear about it.)

Sit in a comfortable position.
Place your left hand on the center of your upper chest, and press your right hand down on top of it.
Softly close your mouth and take a deep breath in through your nose, and a deep breath out of your nose.
As you breathe in follow the energy of the breath down through your body, as you breathe out, follow the breath up and out.

Notice the feeling of your breath flowing in and out of your nose. Take your attention to the place just outside of your nose.
Focus all of your concentration on the air just outside of your nostrils. Focus your attention on that space right in front of your nose where the air is.
Focus on the place where the outside air is waiting to become your breath.

Feel yourself take that outside air into your nose.
Feel that outside air as it moves inside.
Feel those external molecules as they enter your nose and begin moving through your body.
Feel the air from the outside world that is now inside of you.

Feel the energy of the air as it flows through your entire body and becomes a part of you.
Feel the elements moving through you, the nitrogen and the oxygen.
Feel the energy. Feel the force of the air.
This is the force of life, the life-force, the prana.
The breath.
Feel the breath that gives you life.

Press your hands down on your chest as you feel the breath moving through you.
Feel the energy of your breath as it lifts and lowers your chest.
Feel the energy as your lungs rise and fall.
Feel the energy swirling inside your ribcage, and surrounding your heart. Feel your heart filling with the energy.

Feel your heart energized by the oxygen in your blood stream.
Allow your heart to fill with this energy.
Allow your heart to fill with gratitude for this energy, for this life force.   Feel your heart as it fills with gratitude for the breath that flows to it.
Feel your heart fill with gratitude for the air outside of your nose that flows in to your heart.

Release your hands down and relax.

Continue to breathe deeply.

Inhale deeply, hold your breath for 1 second, then release it.
Inhale deeply, hold your breath for 1 second, then release it.

As you do this, bring your attention to the inside of your nose. Focus on the air that is in your nose just before you exhale.

Focus on that energy, that life force, those elements that have been inside you, that are now a part of you.
This part of you will now go out into the air in front of you.
Focus on that moment just before the air is expelled.

A part of you is about to be being released into the universe.

Return to that feeling of gratitude. This time expressing gratitude for your role in bringing energy to the outside the outside world with your breath.

You are releasing nitrogen, oxygen, carbon monoxide into the world.

You are releasing energy into the world, breathing life back out to the world.

You are sending something that was inside of you,
a part of your self,
out into the air, out into the world to be shared,
to be breathed in by the people around you,
to become a part of the universal energy right outside of your nose.

The molecules that were once inside of you will swirl around with the outside molecules.
These molecules that were once your breath will make their way into someone else’s nose,
Your breath will flow through someone else’s lungs,
It will energize someone else’s heart.

One breath at a time,
one person at a time,
the elements, the energy, the life-force.
The breath, that we all share.

As you inhale be aware of the energy you are taking in.
Allow that energy to turn into gratitude when it finds your heart.
Release that positively charged life-force back out into the world,
for someone else to use.

We breathe the life-force in,
and we breathe the life-force out.

Be grateful for the breath that gives you life.
Be grateful for the breath that binds us all together.




The music in my head while I wrote this…

“Breathe, breathe in the air. Don’t be afraid to care.” Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”

“Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe…”













Posted in It's All Yoga | Leave a comment

Hospital Beds

Yesterday, John (aka the Big Man) had an unexpected, unplanned gall bladder and hernia surgery.

It’s a routine surgery. No big deal. They do hundreds of these a week. The odds were in his favor that it would be 100% successful, so I did my very best to keep things in perspective, and to stay away from What-If-Land.

I was not entertaining questions like, what if they go in there and find something else? something worse? What if he has a bad reaction to the anesthesia? What if he… No! I wasn’t having any of that.

There was an underlying tension, and I may or may not have been holding my breath, as I calmly waited at home with my girls.  The simple, easy, routine, everyday surgery would take about an hour or so. My plan was to get to the hospital when he got to recovery, so the girls could see him. So they could know everything was all right.

When we got there he was lying in the bed on his back, with tubes in his nose and an IV in his arm. He was clearly under the influence of lingering anesthesia and pain meds. We stood around the bed in silence, because he looked like he was sleeping. But the nurse said, “Go ahead. Talk to him. He’s conscious”. And so I said “Hi Johnny”, and his eyes fluttered open and then closed again.

In a scratchy voice, as dry as sandpaper he said “Owwwww. It hurts. It’s like an 8. Maybe a 9.” And the nurse immediately upped his drip. (I think he smiled on the inside then).

I leaned over and kissed him on his forehead. “I love you, Johnny.”

I looked at my girls. Shannon was standing there, looking right at him, as always stoic and strong. I turned my head to Maggie and I saw that she was bawling her eyes out. Her face was red as a beet, her chest heaving. I could feel the anguish. I wrapped my arms around her and said something. I don’t remember what exactly, but something like, “It’s okay, Mags. He’ll be fine.”

Images flashed through my mind of every hospital visit I ever made. My great-grandmother. I was 8 years old and “Nanny” was one of my favorite people. She was a heroic figure in my eyes, but when I saw her there in the hospital bed, in a coma, it was the first time I really saw her as human. It was the first time I was confronted with mortality. I remember thinking, “She could die”, and she did.

My mind filled with visions of my father, right here in this very hospital, so many times. The first time I walked in to see him lying there, I thought, “He looks so small and helpless”. And then with each visit, he seemed to get smaller and smaller.

Then my mind rested on images of my mother-in-law; taking the girls to visit her, first in the hospital bed and then in the nursing home. We watched her shrink before our eyes, less and less of her there every time, until she finally disappeared.

I thought of Maggie standing there crying, looking down at her father. Her larger than life father, all 6 feet ten inches and 300 pounds of him, lying there below her. There is nothing like a hospital bed to cut things down to size, to put things in perspective. Even though his feet hang off the bottom of the bed, from this angle he is really just one tiny little human being.

I could see it on Maggie’s face. I could hear it in the rhythm of her breaths. I think she saw it too. I think she caught a glimpse of the real size of things, the mortality of it all.

I could still feel it when we were leaving. We walked down the hall and I put my arm around her and said “He’s gonna be just fine, kiddo. Don’t worry.” She told me to stop. She told me I was just making it worse.

We walked out of the stuffy fluorescent hospital into the crisp dark night.  I could feel the fresh air wrap around me and cling to my face. I took the deepest breath. He’s going to be just fine, I thought to myself, as I exhaled.

(He is going to be fine, by the way. He’s just a tiny bit smaller.)

Posted in It's All Yoga | 1 Comment

The Long Fall

If I should lose my sense of sight,
Please remind me of the leaves.
All the colors in the world, converging here upon these trees.

If I ever lose my hope,
remind me of the days like these,
The clear blue sky, the smell of dirt, the almost cold November breeze.

If I lose my sense of sound,
Please tap the rhythm on my sleeves.
Sing the song onto my skin, and fill me with a sense of ease.

If ever I should lose my mind,
Lock me up and take the keys.
Walk away and don’t look back. Go and find more days like these.

But if I lose my sense of sight
Walk me out beneath the trees,
Hold my hands and help me as
I lower down onto my knees,
Describe to me the colors
of the slowly changing leaves,
The bittersweet, the beauty, of the dying autumn leaves.

If I should lose sight of them,
Remind me of them, please.

Posted in It's All Yoga | Leave a comment

“You Haven’t Changed a Bit!”

Tonight, there is a small reunion of my high school class.  It was a tiny class to begin with, somewhere around 50 women. So maybe 20 or so will show up tonight.   It’s been a while since I’ve seen some of these women. A good long while.

Okay, I’ll say it.  It has been 30 (THIRTY) years. Where has the time gone?

I am not one for looking back, and I’m not much for small talk, and I dread those obligatory conversations. Someone will walk up to me and say:

“Soooo…. What have been up to for the last (THIRTY) years?”

Ugh.  What will I say?

“Well, let’s see…
I went off to college and I found my tribe.
I acquired a taste for ramen and beer.  (Mmm, beer)
There was music, so much music.
I danced away nights and slept away days.
I decided to save the world.
I stared mental illness in the face.
I read countless volumes, and wrote countless pages.
I wrestled with demons and muses and elephants.
I gained 30 pounds, lost 20, gained 80, lost 40, gained 10, lost 20, and I threw away my scale.
I saw friends marry, and I watched friends die.
I climbed up a corporate ladder and stepped off onto a yoga mat.
I developed ailments and cured my soul.
I lost a few lovers and found my true passion.
I sunk into a valley, and clawed my way back up the mountain.
I found a perfect partner, and was wise enough to keep him.
I birthed a couple of human beings who have grown into teenage aliens.

My father died.
My heart broke, and I decided to leave it open.
I’ve learned to fall in love with everyone and everything.
I have laughed out loud a million times.
I’ve let go of more than I’ve taken on.
I’ve breathed out more than I’ve breathed in.
I’ve had flashes of inspired brilliance,
moments of pure enlightenment,
hours of utter joy.
I have lived. Oh, how I have lived.

And you? How about you?”

Posted in It's All Yoga | 3 Comments

Clarity      (‘I think that I shall never see…’)

  I want to tell you what happened 

 It was a clear day

I was driving in my car

I was listening to the Velvet Underground

The window was rolled down 

The air was crisp 

The sky was blue and the sun was shining 

Up ahead I saw a tree 

An amazing tree whose colors danced in the breeze as if they were on fire

Red, orange, gold and greens

The shear beauty of it all took my breath away

I pulled to the side of the road

I turned off the radio and sat there 

In silence 

Lost in the leaves

Lost in the wonder of it all…
That’s when it happened

As if a veil was lifted 

Everything became as crisp and clear as the day itself

Everything became clear 

There in the leaves

In the burning blowing leaves

I saw 


And for one moment 
One fragile



I understood it all 

I understood it all. 


Posted in It's All Yoga | 2 Comments

Roadblocks and Detours and Trains, (oh my)


If I ever start to think that I am an enlightened being, a “15 minute” drive in New Jersey will set me straight.

The yoga studio is only six miles from my house. 15 minutes. But they are 15 Jersey minutes, so for my 9:30 class I leave at 8:50, giving me a full 40 minutes to get there. Because, you never know.

The other day I got caught up with something at home and when I looked at the clock it was 8:55. I started off behind schedule, but I have such a cushion built in that I wasn’t in a huge hurry. I still had 35 minutes to travel 6 miles. I grabbed my keys, slipped on my sandals and headed out the door.

Just as I started to pull out of the driveway, our usually sleepy street woke right up! There were cars coming in both directions. I waited for them to pass and glanced down at the clock.
Come on, come on. I have to get on the road.
I drove down the street and turned onto a more major road. At the first traffic light, the left turn arrow turned green and the nice elderly man in the hat sitting in the car in front of me didn’t move.
He didn’t move at all.
So I tapped the horn. Just a gentle little tap, to nudge him, hoping that he would hit the gas. But he was obviously in no hurry. He gently began rolling to the left.
Aw, come on now, Grampa. Can’t you drive any faster? Some of us are trying to get to work, here!
I was behind him for the next few blocks. Inching my way forward for half of a mile or so, my foot anxious to press down on the gas pedal, my hand itching to beep the horn, the frustration building up inside of me.
Please turn here! Please turn! Turrrrn!
He didn’t turn. I could feel it churning in my gut.
Please pull over so I can pass you. Pull over. Pull. Over. Pull. Over. Pulloverpulloverpullover.
No chance.
At the next traffic light he pulled into the left turn lane behind a line of cars. I sped up in the right lane. Finally a chance to pass him! Now I was first in line at the red light. I was in the lead! No one ahead of me! As soon as the light turned green I took off- 10, 20, 30 miles per hour.
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! Here we go!
Up ahead I saw some flashing lights. There was a police car in the right lane.
No problem. I’ll just have to slow down and pass him.
And the big orange detour sign.
And the giant arrow pointing to the left.
So I followed the detour and went a few blocks out of my way.
As I made my way back to that main road I found myself behind a large landscaping outfit; a pickup truck that was pulling a trailer filled with lawn equipment and bags of leaves. And they were moving so very very very slowly.
Oh, Mother Fletcher! Really?
Raising my hand up off of the steering wheel and cursing at the hardworking men in front of me.
Move faster people! Don’t you know I have to get to YOGA!

(Right! Yoga. The first thing you’re going to do when you start teaching is tell everyone to relax, to get comfortable, to connect with their breath, to find some peace. And here you are screaming at the landscapers. Hypocrite, much?)

You’re right. I’m good. I’ll just breathe. I’m okay.

And after a few blocks they finally turned off the street and the way was clear. I was first in the line again.
Yes! Here I go.
Then up ahead I saw some yellow lights.
And a bucket truck.
And a man in a safety vest standing in the middle of the street waving his arms and pointing to the left. Another detour.
What the frig! Are you friggin kidding me? You must be friggin kidding!
I screamed up at the Elephant.
Another friggin obstacle?! Really?!

Big sigh.
What could I do? It was there. I had to deal with it. And so I circled around the hospital, and then sat at a red light I shouldn’t have had to sit through with my hand hovering over the horn, ready to lay on it if the person in front of me didn’t jump that damn-stupid-damn light as soon as it turned green.

(Don’t do it. Don’t beep that horn. You’re right outside of the hospital. This is a quiet zone.).
9:12. UGH!

Just breathe. Deep breaths.
The light changed, and we were moving again. I turned the corner and saw a long line of cars. Just sitting there.
Not moving. Just sitting.
Ah, Geezus. What the hell is this here now? With two hands raised in the air, in my best Archie Bunker voice.
And I saw the red lights flashing.
And I heard the ‘ding, ding, ding’.
Train! The friggin train, now.
The railroad gates were down, but there was no train in sight.
Where the hell is the train? What the hell is happening. Where is the friggin train, people!?

Moments that felt like hours passed. The train came, the gates lifted and the cars began to move. I rode right up on the bumper of the guy in front of me for a few blocks, and pressed through a couple of yellow lights. When he turned, it was clear sailing again. An uninterrupted mile. 10, 20, 30 miles per hour.

And then there it was again.
Up ahead.
Another damn detour.

What the hell is happening? How is this even possible? How many times can this happen on one 6 mile ride?
It’s 9:22.
Unbelievable! I couldn’t even make this shit up if I tried!

And that’s when it happened. The release. I started to laugh out loud. I followed the detour. I turned up the radio, and I laughed for the next 2 miles. I arrived at 9:27 with a smile on my face.

At almost every turn I hit an obstacle. I had so many opportunities to be frustrated, to be angry, to curse under my breath or to yell out the window. So many occasions to slap my hands down onto the steering wheel, to repeatedly beep the horn, to slam my fists on the dashboard.
I took those opportunities. Thank you very much.

At every turn I also had the opportunity to soften, to take a deep breath, to release my need for control, to let go, to laugh it off.
(The better option, in the end.)

At every turn, the choice was mine. I had no control over the outside circumstances, but I did have the opportunity to choose a reaction.

When we practice yoga, every pose offers us that same opportunity. When we reach for our toes in a forward fold, we feel the pull in our hamstrings. We can get frustrated, we can strain ourselves, or we can pull back a little, relax, and wait for it to soften, to open, to release. Or maybe it won’t release. Maybe we will come back to the pose a few minutes later and meet another roadblock. Maybe we will continue to hit roadblocks over and over and over again. Maybe we will never touch our toes, ever.

Shins it is, then! Let it be shins! Sometimes we have to change our direction completely.

Every time we meditate, we have the same opportunities. Sometimes we try to sit still for just 1 minute, 1 measly little minute, and we end up feeling fidgety, uncomfortable, frustrated, bored, disappointed, sad, angry, panicky. Sometimes we have to take a detour through these feelings to get to the stillness.

Meditation is just like a Jersey drive.  Maybe we’ll get 1/10 of a mile of clear open road, in between miles and miles of traffic and detours.

We have the same opportunities every single time we interact with other people. We have to realize we are not in control of any interaction. Their reactions, opinions, ideas, beliefs will often act as roadblocks. But we always have the opportunity to decide how we will react. Moment by moment, sentence by sentence word by word. We can always decide if we will react with anger, resentment, frustration, sarcasm, or with kindness, compassion, understanding, surrender.

So many opportunities for surrender. So many roadblocks. So many detours on the road to enlightenment.

Are we there yet?


Posted in It's All Yoga, Me and My Monkey | Leave a comment

Mags at 15


My child! My love! A birthday!
15!? How can that be?
My sun. My moon. My stardust.
You are everything to me.

You are empathy and justice.
You are ukulele strings.
Fullest joy and deepest sadness,
Yes, to me you’re all those things.

Smoothest jazz and watercolors,
Punk rock songs and poetry,
Non-stop words and painful silence,
You are all those things to me.

You are tuba-bass-flute-guitar,
(But you’re tone deaf when you sing)
Polished, eloquent, and awkward,
And to me you’re everything.

You are strength and you are sweetness.
You’re my shiva and shakti.
Always both and never either,
You are everything to me.

You’re the sunshine of the summer,
And the darkness winter brings,
Changeable as wind and weather,
Yes, to me you’re all these things.

You’re the dock I tie my ship to.
You’re the ship I’ve sent to sea.
My home. My hope. My sails. My beacon.
You are everything to me.

You are blossoms, you are bird-songs.
You have roots and you have wings.
Take them with you through this next year,
Go and do. Be all the things.

Happy birthday, Mags!


Posted in It's All Yoga | Leave a comment