What’s Next?

I started this post last September had originally titled it “Harvest of Love.” But now, we are on the eve of the Spring Equinox, so I’m thinking about a new planting season and the intentions for growth I am going to take into it. And I think, no matter what the season is, this video speaks to the direction I am working toward.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16_YaQMu20o

Watching the video will be the best 5 minutes of your day. Promise.

Resurrection?

Blogging is a funny thing isn’t it? The ebbs and flows…

I haven’t written since August and although I have had many intentions to do so, and started several posts, I just couldn’t finish them. I even (sort of) trained for and ran the Big Sur Half Marathon in November and it didn’t elicit one blog peep out of me! Weird! (The race went well, by the way. My body started falling apart at mile 9, but it was gorgeous and fun. I haven’t run since.)

Many changes have occurred in the last six months. In September I loaded my belongings in a storage unit, packed my car and took a long trip. The travels have only recently slowed down (as in, like, this week), and I would like to write about my journeys, but then again there’s something savory about the privacy of them. But to give a top view, I drove all over Oregon and California, flew back and forth across the country a few times for work and play, and drove across through Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and finally stopped in North Carolina in December. Now I’m staying with my parents, figuring out the next step (I still have my fabulous job, just need to figure out where to live). Meantime, I’ve been reconnecting with family and friends, visiting West Virginia and New England, and feeling a level of peace and “at home-ness” I haven’t felt in many years. I live 15 minutes from the beach and Susan loves taking walks there. So many fresh smells!

Susan at beach

Who knows where this blog will go–travel stories? home renovation? running and playing on the east coast? just pictures of my dog? all of the above? Although this started as a space to facilitate a transformation of my relationship with my body (and it played an important positive role in achieving that), I always intended it to be something bigger, capturing my steps down the path to truly find my heart’s center, my ch’i. Now, in the next phase of this journey, I can’t promise anything, but stay tuned…

Finding My Center

The other day in yoga class my teacher had us stand in Mountain Pose.

She asked us to close our eyes and move from right to left, front to back, left to right, back to front. Shifting our weight from leg to leg, wobbling around in tiny circles, slowly centering our movement, becoming rooted.

I envisioned myself as a spinning top, reaching balanced movement. As my movement slowed I felt centered and grounded in a more profound way than I had felt in a long time. I felt the four corners of my feet rooted to the ground, my body humming, and my breath deep and cleansing.

As I stood there with my eyes closed, hands in prayer, I realized that my journey of health and wellness, of becoming whole and myself, has mimicked a spinning top. At times wobbly to the point of crashing to the ground. At other times spinning perfectly balanced, moving along in random patterns but remaining in equilibrium. Tops don’t spin perfectly forever. Crashes are inevitable. But once you get better at spinning them, they reach the balance faster and stay spinning longer.

And I realized that, in the long view (I started this journey at the beginning of 2012, after all) my crash frequency has decreased. I’m falling down less and, when I do, I’m beating myself up less and picking myself up faster. I’m finding my equilibrium and balancing longer. I’m more at peace. And that is worth all the falls.

So even though I took a running break this summer, and an inadvertent blogging break, I’m still chugging along–learning, making progress, and shifting energies. I am fine with where I am in this journey. Especially since seeing the long view.

Reno is Artown

Please tell me I’m not the only one for whom July flew by?! While I can’t believe it’s already August, I have no regrets about having enjoyed a fabulous July. This is quite possibly the best time of the year in Reno. The air is hot, the waters are cold, and there is so much to do. I have two priorities in July in Reno: 1. Go to Lake Tahoe or some other body of water as much as possible, and 2: Go to Artown.

What is Artown? Well, Reno is Artown. More specifically, Artown is a month long summer arts festival that hosts 500 events across 100 organizations in Reno. It’s an amazing feat of coordination, and I love it. Every day I opened the calendar and thought to myself, “Hmm, what would I like to do today?” Almost all of the events are free and range from kid friendly painting classes to dance lessons, philharmonic performances, improv comedy, book making, gallery shows, art walks, movies in the park, plays, and, my favorite, concerts in the park.

This year we took advantage of quite a few events. Every Wednesday was World Music Series, a concert in the park downtown beside the river. The first week we saw Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, an (apparently) legendary mariachi band from LA. They did not disappoint and we had a blast. Amazing musicians, a dose of a different culture, and a lot of fun.

Los Mariachis

The next week we had a picnic dinner with friends and saw Yemen Blues perform a blend of West African and Yemeni music. It was a pretty amazing show and such an interesting mix of musical styles. The lead singer was incredible charismatic and we all left feeling like we had just seen something special.

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The World Music Series concert that took the cake, though, was Red Baraat, a band hailing from Brooklyn playing Bhangra Funk Dohn ‘n’ Brass. It was far and away the best show I have seen in a long, long time and it was so much fun. We had another picnic dinner (delicious takeout from Bowl) and then danced and danced. It was incredible. The band mixes jazz, go-go, brass funk, and hip-hop with North Indian bhangra drums and it was amazing. I know I’m gushing but I would seriously become a Red Baraat groupie if I could. After their encore hundreds of people stayed in the park, in a daze, cheering and the band came out to do a second round. They weren’t allowed to plug in again so they brought their instruments out into the grass and did an acoustic song surrounded by the crowd. It was incredible and everyone was having so much fun. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of it, I was too busy dancing. But here are some pics from early in the show, before the crowd lost its mind.

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Another Artown event we enjoyed was the Midtown Art Walk, a super fun walk through Reno’s up and coming Midtown district. Local businesses offered food, drink, music and local art for sale and we saw live bands, ate from food trucks, purchased some art, painted some art, and marveled at how awesome Reno is becoming. This neighborhood in particular has undergone a lot of changes even in the 4 years I’ve lived here. There was a cool coffee shop and second hand store and one restaurant when I first moved to Reno, and now there are bars, restaurants, boutiques, speciality stores and other businesses opening all the time. There were more than 50 local businesses on the art walk!

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Speaking of food trucks, but not necessarily Artown, D and I have spent many Fridays this summer at Food Truck Fridays, a pretty self explanatory way to eat dinner. More than a dozen food trucks and food vendors gather in a park and it is a really fun way to spend an evening.

food truck friday 1

All this is to say, Yay Reno! A lot of people don’t know much about Reno and think that it’s just some suburb of Vegas (which is 8 hours to the south) or think that the show “Reno 911″ is really what it’s all about. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some crazy crazies in Reno, and to a certain degree the show wasn’t far off, depending on where you are in the city. But there is so much more to the Biggest Little City than casinos and the underbelly of any city. It is beautiful and has a growing, vibrant community. And if you’re going to visit, do it in July so you can enjoy all that is has to offer, because Reno is Artown.

Reno Archreno arch at night

Homeless in Boston

In my early 20s I lived in Boston for almost 2 years and worked as a case manager for older adults experiencing homelessness. It was my second job out of college and I had no social work training, no preparation. I learned so much as I went–the job really colored everything that has come after it. However, I never really learned how to separate myself from my clients’ outcomes, to not take it all so personally. It was an extremely difficult yet profoundly rewarding experience.

I wrote a few essays from that time, and I’ll share them here someday, but going through an old flash drive I found an unpolished piece. I don’t remember writing it, and really didn’t even recognize my voice in it. I can tell I wrote it as I was grappling with leaving my job and moving to this part of the country. That would put it in early 2008. I’ve cleaned it up a bit:

You Look the Old Man in the Wetness of his Blue Eyes

After you hug the old man goodbye you look into his eyes. You see the corners fill wet and you realize how much you are both needed.

A load to bear for both. The joys narrowly miss the explosion of your heart from the pressure of the morbidity. I will steal this from them, I will go away and leave them. Again. Another human gone, one more in a long line of abandonment.

They tell me their stories.

A Cuban in New Puerto Rico, America working the race track, living with the horses.

Southern man in the North, hustling the music scene, an epileptic trying to stay sober.

Woman ruined by crack and prostitution, pulling her life together for public housing.

They tell me what I want to hear. Silk-mind screens. Oh, great! Oh, that’s tough. Yes, I know.

Like I know.

Schizophrenic Black Panther, sixty two and pregnant.

Caucasian male, 56, Yale educated, delusion disorder.

Alcoholic Greek, kicking his girlfriend out of his room at the Y.

White curls of hair, cut smartly. You would never know, how maddeningly, torturously mad. Breast cancer patient, would like for her chiropractor to stop stealing her socks.

Homeless, divorced vets, navigating the system, suffering, wanting, getting what they want, wanting something else.

Downtown Crossing hot dogs with obese women content to wait for the first thing to come along.

Homeless woman goes to work and helps others find employment.

Appointments, current income verification, cash assistance and Social Security. Departments of Vital Records, courts, sign in, sign in, always sign in, lobbies and management offices.

Bad knees and back pain. Migraines, vertigo, fainting spells, blood. Seizures, relapses, degenerative eye diseases, neuropathy, chronic pain, high blood pressure. Diabetes, cancer, surgeries, CAT scans.

PTSD, stress, crisis, waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and working and working and working and working and THEN!  Hope you saved your money, apartment opens next week.

These are not exaggerations, or stereotypes. They are simply the facts of the cases.

As the years take me away from that reality, I am glad that I took some notes.

The artwork was made by one of my former clients, Peter. He came to Boston at 80 years old to participate in experimental cancer treatment and ended up homeless. He beat cancer in a shelter and moved into housing after a year of homelessness. Once he had a place, he set up his studio and was a prolific artist. He had a number of shows and donated the proceeds to Hearth, the organization I worked for. Peter passed away this year. I have a few of his pieces in my home and am so glad I broke the rules and accepted them. He was and is an inspiration.

Just Do Yoga

I’ve been taking a break from running for quite a few weeks now and it has been really great. I was starting to get training burn out and frankly I was tired of dedicating so much of my time to running when what I really wanted to be doing was building my yoga practice. So, after the RTO in early June, and a few weeks of not doing anything (which was also really nice), I bought a 3 month unlimited yoga pass to my studio (Yoga Loka) that was on sale. And after travelling back east for a week and a half to visit my parents, I started my practice again.

I approached this renewed commitment with a beginner’s mind; I eased back into my practice with some recovery, yin, and slow moving vinyasa. For two weeks I focused on waking up my body, working on my breath and re-learning my limits. I savored falling into my ujjayi breath, feeling grounded, and giving my body a well deserved present. I went to 4 classes a week and after the 2 weeks of slow I was ready for more a more vigorous, sweaty practice.

So in my 3rd week of only doing yoga–this past week–I started easing back into my old routine, with a little extra thrown in. Monday was Ashtanga day, which was an intense detox from the weekend. Tuesday I went to Hot Fudge Practice, which was a fun mixture of compound circuits (think squat jumps, push ups, lunges) for the first 30 minutes and then 45 minutes of a cooling vinyasa practice. Wednesday I danced and danced to Red Barrat, an amazing band from Brooklyn (full post on that coming soon). Funkmeister Thursday was an intense, sweaty practice but I felt strong and alive. AND, my half flying pigeon is coming along. I can balance in the arm pose for 4 breaths on each side now, and I WILL get into the full pose by the end of the year. I will. Finally I capped the week off on Friday with a restorative class that had a mixture of qi gong/yin/vinyasa to keep it interesting.

All in all, I am very happy that I am only focusing on yoga for now. I am finally starting to see progress with my flexibility because I am not counterbalancing yoga’s effects with running. I feel better in my body each day, my mental state is improved–I am more focused and productive at work, I feel happier and more grounded, and in generally more stimulated because of my practice. Every day on the mat brings challenges, frustrations, breakthroughs, laughter, peace, and joy. What wonderful opportunities to practice acceptance, patience, and perseverance, both in body and mind. The layers are starting to peel away…it’s only the beginning.

Three cheers for yoga!

Do you practice yoga? What is your favorite style?