Archive for the ‘Musings & Contemplations’ Category

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

‘Woulda, coulda, shoulda’ the lament of lost or missed opportunity, the cry when life and or circumstances don’t seem fair, a good place to place the blame when all else fails.  Most of us know the famous scene with Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront where he tells with such pathos how his friend Charley has failed him and cheated him from becoming somebody.

Sometimes, even when we know better, we just want to complain.  We want to tell the story of how we were cheated of what was rightfully ours, or how if we’d only followed our intuition, or took action rather than waited.  How about this perpetual favorite: if I only knew then what I know now.  Makes your heart flutter, doesn’t it?  Lately I’ve felt like bemoaning some missed opportunities.  Here are a few I dredge up from time to time.

I went to San Francisco State in 1965.  In 1966 I had an early morning class on Friday.  My first stop upon arriving at school was to go to the Student Union.  Standing in front of the doors was a woman handing out original posters for The Fillmore Auditorium for free.  I always took one.  Since wall decoration was in short supply for poor college students they were my art.  I hung them on my walls, stuck with thumbtacks.  The first poster I collected was called ‘The Laugh In’.  It had a face of four different people in each corner.  It didn’t have the psychedelic art of the ones that came after but it was the first poster.  I had one of Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane before Grace Slick, and several others.  But my lifestyle in those days was mobile and light, and after a few years and many moves I threw the posters away.  It never dawn on me that they might be valuable one day.  I ‘shoulda‘ known.   If I had those posters now they would be worth a lot of money.  I could use some extra money right now.

When my daughter was about one my mother decided to move permanently to Australia to live with her daughter, my sister, Marsha.  Anything she wasn’t taking would go into storage.  If there were items my brother and I wanted we should make plans to get them.  There were a few chairs and a love seat that I wanted.  The chairs had belonged to my birth mother and had sentimental value for me.  The love seat was just a fine antique.  My brother upon returning to Texas rented a U Haul and soon returned to San Diego to get the things he wanted.  I, on the other hand, was overwhelmed with an infant, a teenager, a house guest from Tibet and life in general.  I thought I had time.  A year or so later I was ready.  What I learned was that my mom had not continued paying for the storage space and anything left in it had gone for auction.  I was devastated.  Why hadn’t anyone told me this was happening and an auction was imminent?  It took me years to get over the loss, the anger and betrayal I felt.  I’d been cheated!  If I ‘woulda‘ known I ‘coulda‘ got it.  I ‘shoulda‘ acted rather than wait.  What a scenario for beating myself up.  Here’s an opportunity for self empathy.  I could use some self empathy right now.

In 2003 my dad’s estate dispersed and I inherited some money.  It wasn’t gobs but enough that I knew I should make a wise investment.  I talked to several people but nothing seemed like a good idea.  I wanted to buy gold with part of it but didn’t really pursue how to do this.  I invested the money in other ways.  Gold has gone up a bunch since then.  That would have been a smart decision.  ‘If I’d only know then what I know now‘.  I’d like to think I might retire in the next 10 years but life seems to eat up my savings.  Sometimes I imagine I’ll work so long that one day I’ll just fall over.  I could use a retirement fund right now.

There you have it, my ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda‘.  I find this an interesting contemplation.  What triggers these thoughts?  Is it just an indulgence, self pity?  Someone I know hurt their lower back and a friend asked them to think about what that might mean.  Upon reflection she said,”Oh, I’d like some support”.  I’m going to do the same.  I’m going to think about what my ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ means.  I suspect I would like some support now too.

Want to share your ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’?


Do You Have a Yoga Butt?

I recently saw an ad for Old Navy.  The question was, “Do you have a yoga butt?”.  The answer – buy the pants and then you would.

If I take the ad as a reflection of what’s in, then I need to ask myself:  Do I have a yoga butt?  Do I want one?

Its no news to anyone that we are a culture obsessed with our appearance.  The ads that surround us testify to that fact.  Though having a yoga butt may not be my personal issue I am not immune to the wish to look good.

I can laugh at this ad but at the same time know I’m part of this culture that wants to stay youthful.  But the question arises: is that enough?  If it is, then buy the pants or do enough yoga to have the desired objective – a yoga butt.

Still the question persists and I ask: Am I missing something?  Is it enough to have an attractive body?  Is this why I practice yoga?  For me the answer is no, this is not enough.  This last week I read a short work from Rachel Naomi RemenEverything Has a Deep Dream.  You can read the full text at the end.

She says “There is a hidden seed of greater wholeness in everyone and everything.”  She encourages us to befriend life and to “uncover something that is already happening in us and around us and create conditions that enable it.

I like this reading.  She says in her few words truths that I hold dear. For me, she speaks to the deepest meaning of Yoga.

When I come to my yoga practice I am a friend to myself seeking this seed of greater wholeness.  I am coming with the intent to create the conditions for ‘what already is’ to unfold.  In moments of stillness,  I know deep in my bones that all is with me right now, there is nothing else to get.  I say this last statement not out of a hubris of self aggrandizement, but from a place I have touched occasionally that knows without thought that I am complete, fully realized, and that I could not be anything else.

Do I live in this state of awareness, enlightenment?  No.  The Tibetan Buddhist teachings tell me that complete enlightenment is my natural state, that I am already enlightened.  The fact that I don’t experience this are the veils that cloud my vision.  My “avidya”, ignorance and misperception, that fool me into thinking I’m separate, a part of the whole, not wholeness itself.  So I walk the gradual path.  I come to my yoga each day, I carry it with me, and I pick it up when I have dropped it and lost my way.

Do I want a yoga butt?  Do I want enlightenment? Absolutely, I want it all (I’m a baby boomer)!  The joke is, if I’m ever in the experience of enlightenment, there won’t be a Linda to know if she has a yoga butt.

Everything Has a Deep Dream

I’ve spent many years learning
how to fix life, only to discover
at the end of the day
that life is not broken.

There is a hidden seed of greater wholeness
in everyone and everything.
We serve life best
when we water it and befriend it.
When we listen before we act.

In befriending life,
we do not make things happen
according to our own design.
We uncover something that is already happening
in us and around us and
create conditions that enable it.

Everything is moving toward its place of wholeness,
always struggling against odds.

Everything has a deep dream of itself and its fulfillment.

Rachel Naomi Remen

When A Pose Falls Apart

If you practice yoga long enough you may have the experience of a pose that falls apart.  One day the pose in question is accessible, solid in your knowing, and then it begins to disintegrate.  To say this is disconcerting hardly covers the canvas of this experience.

At first you believe it is an abnormality, something you’re sure you can fix.  Perhaps another strategy is all that is needed.  You focus on a different place as you execute the pose.  When this fails to bring confidence back you start to look at other parts of your body.  A small investigation ensues – shoulders, pelvis, abdominal muscles, limb alignment?

If your lucky all this fails and the pose disintegrates to dust.  You begin to dislike it where previously it was a favorite.  Why would I say this?  I’ll tell you what happened to me as a way to shed some light.

The first time I did a handstand I went right up to the wall.  From that moment on I was hooked.  I would kick up wherever I was.  I once did this at a door which opened as I made contact.  The body generally knows how to fall out of a pose and so mine did.  What happened after was a bit surprising.  I couldn’t get up for what seemed like weeks.  What was happening?

Getting up into an inversion is more a matter of confidence than absolute skill.  There are basic requirements for handstand: core strength, shoulders open, hamstring length.  I’ve assisted students in coming up into handstand who were fairly limited in these areas.  Their shoulders were tight, they would forget to engage their strength in the excitement of the pose, and their hamstring length wasn’t well developed.  Don’t get the wrong impression, I work up to this pose over many months with my students.  Everyone must be able to do a half handstand and we partner in the pose.  But the bridge between a half handstand and kicking up is not just the next step.  There is a leap of faith that you’ll get there.  When the door opened, my faith was shaken.  That is what I had to rebuild.

This was a partial disintegration of my pose but not the one that demanded real growth.  That experience came years later.  I was in an inversion class.  After basic warm-ups the remaining class time was in a series of inversions.  Over the weeks of the class I was clarifying my poses and exploring my edges.  One edge began to creep into the limelight.  When I kicked up into handstand or other inversions I used momentum and my shoulders rocked slightly forward.  When I denied myself these methods I couldn’t get up.  What was a beloved pose dissolved into a mess.

I was back to the drawing table.  My pose had worked using habits of compensations to give me what I wanted – handstand.  You may have already guessed that I have tight shoulders and I over work my lower back to compensate.  (See post: The Horse Ride) Now my goal had changed: I no longer was willing to just have the form of the pose, I wanted the teaching of the pose.  This meant committing anew to the deepest meaning of yoga – liberation.  I don’t always see a gift when it first presents itself.  As in this case, I had to hit bottom before I could start on a fresh path. I wasn’t working just on handstand and the aspects of my body that needed strength and openness, I was working with myself.

My experience with handstand was a gift to look again at my habits and how they limit growth.  I’d like to think of my habits as pesky little things I will drop next Wednesday or when I have the time.  In truth they are ten headed monsters.  When I hold this view, I give them the respect they demand.  If I am sincere, my habit is a life lesson.  To tease apart the threads of action, belief, association, compensation (physical, emotional, or mental), and desire (see excerpt below from Lovingkindness) takes patience with a good mix of self empathy.  Help from friends is good too.

I have been back at handstand for many a year now but it is still a pose that offers opportunities of refinement.  It’s my pose to illuminate how experiences on the mat mirror life off the mat.  I can use handstand to observe my willingness to be present, my ability to deal with frustration, fear, disappointment, and success.  All of life can show up in this pose.

So if you’re lucky something in your life will fall apart.  You’ll have an opportunity to explore what has been stuck and how to grow.  If you find some resistance don’t feel alone, I’m right here with you.

Anytime you’d like to share your story, I’d like to listen.

excerpt from Lovingkindness  by Sharon Salzberg

“When we become lost in desire, we are put firmly into the framework of linear time.  We become focused on getting what we do not yet have, or on keeping what we do have.  We become oriented toward the future.  To be caught in this concept of linear time brings us to what in Buddhist teachings is called bhava, or becoming, always falling into the next moment.  It is as if before each breath ends, we are leaning forward to grasp at the next breath.”

When You Meet a Hummer

Awhile back I wrote about Foods That HUM. If you met a hummer in that context it would be a food you chose that really spoke to you. A food that when you ate it you were satisfied. But what if you met a hummer and it isn’t food, or a car, or a small fast moving bird? What if you met a hummer but it’s an experience. An experience that goes right into you and without much thought you say YES. It HUMS. Let me tell you about my friend Lani.

Lani recently met a hummer. I first heard about it on a Thursday. We take a yoga class together. I like to place my mat next to hers as we don’t often see each other and this is a time to catch up before class starts. After hellos she told me she was on her way to Nepal with Habitat for Humanity. That in its self was wonderful and surprising news. Then she said it was because she read my blog on Foods That HUM. Now my curiosity was in full swing. How could ‘humming foods’ have anything to do with going to Nepal.

In Lani’s words this is how it happened…

One of my yoga students mentioned a Habitat for Humanity project in Pokhara, Nepal. This might sound like an exotic place to someone else that they might visit someday, but for me it is a place of memories.

When I was 15 my family lived in Nepal for two years. My father worked with USAID out of Albany, Oregon and he was hired to help improve the mining operations in Nepal. He traveled all over Nepal. I spent most of my time in boarding school in India but on vacations I would join my family in Nepal. On one vacation my mother, sisters, and I went to Pokhara.

Pokhara was so beautiful. I felt joyful and free. Free of school and home constrictions. We went on long walks everyday and bought local produce to munch on. I had the best oranges I have ever tasted in my entire life. I recall my mother as so adventurous. She made us three course meals on a little one burner hot plate type of thing. It was incredible the way she made such fabulous, tasty meals with so little to work with. I don’t know where she got the food, or how she figured it out. I only remember it was delicious. It was a wonderful vacation.

When I heard my student say Pokhara the memories flashed. I wanted to be there again. I imagined standing in the spot where my father took pictures of Fewa lake with Machapuchare in the background. I felt such a leap of heart and excitement to even think about it. I went right home and looked it up and applied. I didn’t think “this is HUMMING”, it was just that the feeling was so right. Then I remembered the HUM of food and it seemed like the same idea. This was what I wanted to do. Nothing else would be as good.

I think the knowing lies in my heart. There was a zing in my heart when she said Pokhara and the belief that this could happen. I don’t really know how I will do this at this point, I’m just going with it. I’ve always wanted to do a HFHumanity project. It would be more practical to do in Portland. but it doesn’t HUM like Pokhara. This is a different kind of adventure. I do admit that every now and then I get a little freaked out and worry about all kinds of things. Then I just bring myself back to that HUMMING feeling… and I am off in excitement again.

This is Lani’s story about when she met a hummer. What’s yours? Leave a comment and share what hums for you.

Zoning or How I Fell in Love with my iPhone

Zoning Zoning Zoning. Now sing this to the tune of “Rawhide” and you’ll get the vibe. This is what my husband, Neil, sings when he see me playing games on my iPhone.

I want to give all the credit/blame to my husband. Neil is an early adopter as the lingo goes. This means that Neil is likely to buy something as soon as it’s released. When he bought the $600.00 iPhone I really rolled my eyes. I couldn’t image why anyone would need such an expensive phone. I think mine at the time was a $50.00 model. No one much called me anyway so why would I want anything more? When he bought my daughter, Jenni, one too I was almost up-in-arms. The two of them do love Apple products. Jenni is on her second or third iteration of iPod and Neil may be ahead of her. I get all the hand-me-downs. This computer I’m writing on.. Neil’s first MacBook. Jenni has his second one. The hard drive on mine has died three times but it works fine for me. I’m glad most things are on the cloud now, I don’t lose as much stuff. My back-ups are not routine.

The winter of 08 is when it happened for me. The iPhone I mean. It was just the first day of the big snow storm. The stores at Washington Square, the mall near our house, were starting to close faster than Venus Fly Traps. We called and found that the ATT store was still open and had an iPhone. The Apple store had already closed. We walked over as our cars don’t have chains and we wouldn’t have made it. It was a great walk. The falling snow was beautiful. I got my iPhone. I spent some time picking out a hard case as Neil and I agreed we didn’t want the same one. The store closed as we left. The walk home wasn’t so much fun. By then the snow was flying horizontal and it was biting as it hit our face.

When we got home, I built a fire and that is where I sat for the next 10 days. Occasionally I looked out the window to see my car being buried from the ground up and the top down. After a week all I could see were a few inches about the wheel base. I did go in the kitchen and I slept in my bedroom. The rest of the time, I sat by the fire with the new iPhone. I fell in love with iPhone apps. I bought a few. Isn’t it wonderful how one can shop from home. Spend money without even touching the greenback. I didn’t go crazy. I know some people who have quite a bill at the iPhone Store each month. It’s music that takes them down.

My favorite application was ‘Trism’. I played that game day after day. You nest the same colored triangle into three or more to win points. There are bombs that blow up (game over) and locks that force different moves. Some special triangles let you move pieces without making a match. I have put some of my scores online. My highest score is 223 million.

It’s over a year later and I still like that game. I can’t have the volume loud as Neil has developed an aversion to the sound. I turn it up when no one’s around. I have other favorites now: Peggle, Global, Wurdle. DoodleJump and Bejeweled2 are my latest. I find playing really relaxing. That’s not entirely true. When I first played DoodleJump I would clench my stomach when I thought I was going to fall. I’ve calmed down. I didn’t think I was that addicted until my granddaughter showed me my stats on DoddleJump. When had I played a 1000 games? I still think it’s wrong.

I like my iPhone for other reasons. The GPS has saved me many a time. Neil and I used it when we were in Europe this last summer. It’s not helpful unless you know which way is north. In Amsterdam that took quite a while. I’m used to water being in one place, going one direction. The canals in Amsterdam don’t follow that model. We used an app to route the metro when we were in Paris. When we lost the camera, the iPhone took its place. There’s an app for everything the ad boasts. They’re right!

I store poems and writings I like in Evernote. My yoga students are used to me reading from the iPhone. It’s also how I listen to podcasts and audio books. I love being read to. I have some favorite yoga routines on the iPhone, as well as my calendar. How did I ever live without this phone???

I even text now. Not a lot as I’m fairly clumsy. I marvel at my daughter and her friends. They are fast. It’s helpful when I want to tell her something and I know she’s in class or at work. I have the Twitter app as well but haven’t used it.

Neil has his original music on one application. This is way cool! The original one is called AmbiSci PMP (pure meditation premium). There are other apps that have followed this one. Check it out if you have an iPod or iPhone. It’s an application for meditation and sleep.

Why am I telling you all this? I’ve been thinking about my image as a blogger. Especially to those who don’t know me or know me well. I worry that I give a false impression. Therefore the piece on I Wish I Was Funny. In that one I confessed that I do tend towards the weighty. So if you were wondering how do I lighten up? Get an iPhone and we’ll talk.

I Wish I Was Funny

Some people are just funny. It doesn’t seem to matter what they talk about, I find myself laughing. Sometimes I’m like that.  One night my friend, Susan, and I cracked up every time one of us said Costa Rica. David Sedaris is a funny person. He tickles my funny bone and I am laughing at situations that might otherwise find me crying. I don’t laugh at everything he writes, but almost.

I wish I was funny like David Sedaris. When he writes about his family, his life, he has me laughing. These are poignant moments, painful events, and I’m laughing. He is definitely not ‘politically correct’, but I rarely take offense. In a piece I heard recently he noted that he leaves the price tag on some Christmas gifts. His thought, “ They should know how much he’s spending on them.” I laughed and then wondered: when I see a price tag on a gift, is that what the giver wanted me to know as well?

I often listen to him at night with headphones. I love hearing him tell his own stories. The way he phrases his words and uses his voice adds so much to my experience. I love when he says his own name in a piece.  It’s so rich with meaning.

One night I was listening to When You’re Engulfed in Flames. It was the part about the music in Japanese Department stores. I won’t give any spoilers here. I was trying not to wake my husband so I laughed silently. The problem was I was vibrating so hard with my silent guffaws I woke him anyway. He wasn’t sure if we were having an earthquake or I was sick.

I would like to be funny like David, but I’m not. It isn’t that I don’t have a sense of humor, though at times my husband has claimed I lack this quality when I don’t laugh at what he thinks is funny. Here’s what it is: I don’t like slapstick or what I call stupid adult/adolescent movies. You won’t find me laughing at Adam Sandler, Chevy Chase, or other actors like that in their comedic genre.  Most of the time I don’t like jokes or comedy scenes that are funny at someone’s expense.  This is just cruel to me.

I do have humor, it’s just very dry. I’m sure I was English in another life. Billy Crystal in City Slickers had me rolling. Do you remember the coffee grinder scene? I thought I’d wet my pants I laughed so hard. I like the humor in Pixar movies and recently I laughed my way through season five of The Office. So I’m not hopeless.

I laugh at my own jokes. Does that count? I must admit though, I tend toward the serious and weighty side of things. My astrologer says I don’t do small talk. I’m not so sure I want to buy that…yet. I’m happy to talk about composting – turning garbage into soil, impact of global warming, what will happen when the oceans rise. Or my latest interest, Kombucha tea. I’m going to start making my own. I’m sure I’ll have lots to say on this subject. Do these count as small talk?

I think I’m probably tipping my hand. It’s true, I‘m drawn to subjects that ask me to be conscious. So that leads me to think about the subjects I’ve blogged about. I wonder? Would they draw more readers if I were funny?

New Year’s Resolutions – it’s not too late


The sun has begun it’s journey towards the northern hemisphere and still it’s dark in the morning when I arise.   My intellect knows the light is growing and spring and summer are on their way, but still, it’s dark and I wonder: where is that sun?  As I question the growing light of each day I also question the growing light or growth within my own journey.  Sometimes it isn’t easy to experience inner growth.  The familiar habits that impede still appear to take center stage.  So though we sense change is happening we may not have a tangible experience of progress.

I believe it is our wish for change that encourages us to make New Year’s resolutions, whether we acknowledge them or not.  There is something about the beginning of a year that calls us to think of a new start, a change we wish for, a longing to strengthen or cultivate a new perspective, skill, attitude or way of being in our life.  Then the question arises, “How can I really make this resolution come to fruition?  Where is my resolve to face the hurdles that have daunted or stopped me before?”

Most of us have tried the ‘grit your teeth and insist that this time will be different than the last‘ approach to New Year’s resolutions.  I admit I’m in this category.  Each year I secretly intend to make more time for yoga practice, lose 10 pounds, be nicer to myself and others, and find more courage. These are some of my recycled plans that I bring forth this time of year.

A few years ago I did lose 25 pounds and I have made yoga practice more of my daily routine.  As I grow older I find many of my doubts and fears on the wane so I am nicer to myself and others.   Still, there are many resolutions that have gone by the wayside as the march of months goes by.  So what will make this year different?

In recent months I have found books on my shelf that, once dusted off, have given me insights to address this question:  Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron, A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield, and No Boundary by Ken Wilber.  In my reading I have once again remembered that everything is here now, there isn’t anything outside myself that I must get.  But not to be naive, I know saying this doesn’t necessarily make it so.  What to do?  I offer this simple practice to you and myself:

  • Choose a New Year’s resolution and identify three (or more) qualities required to realize your intention.
  • Pick the one(s) you experience having right now.  Then identify the one(s) you feel are lacking.
  • Explore what you need to cultivate in order to bridge the gap between what you have in hand and what you believe is lacking or in short supply. In other words, what you don’t believe you have now that would make your resolution come true.
  • It is helpful to identify where in your body you experience the feelings, attributes, beliefs etc. in your list.  Both the ones you have now and the ones you feel are absent or diminished.  If it is one you don’t have now, where would it be if you did?
  • Write your discoveries down, make a poster that represents your resolution, or use another medium to affirm your discoveries.

A few examples:

My friend wanted to experience more generosity in his life.  He saw he currently had a strong sense of curiosity about people but felt he lacked empathy.  Upon looking he realized that when he was judgmental he couldn’t feel empathy.  Without empathy he was cut off from any sense of being with or in communion with the other.  They were an “it” rather than a”thou” in the words of Martin Buber.  In this scenario he didn’t have the experience of generosity that he wanted.  So watching for the judgmental moments would be a strategy for success, even if he couldn’t resist in the moment.  Change begins with awareness.  (see post:  Moralistic Judgements)

Sometimes our resolution focuses on something more tangible e.g. time, money, friendships.  For myself, I would like more time to spend on the things that make a difference in my life.(see post:  Stepping Out of the Stream) I have energy and enthusiasm.  They reside in my heart center when I check in with myself.  I lack consistent courage and perseverance,  These are in my low belly.   When I lose touch with my courage and perseverance I tend to fritter away my time in procrastination, and therefore, don’t have the time I long for.

To work with this, I noticed that when I practice asana (yoga poses), though I have strong deep abdominal muscles, I don’t consistently engage my pelvic floor.  This observation gives me a clue of where to look and how to find my inner connection between my energy and perseverance, my enthusiasm and courage.  I can use this insight both on and off the mat.  On a physical level, this strengthens and grounds my asana practice.  As a metaphor, it reminds me to stay connected to my experience.

Through this simple yet challenging work we begin to experience that everything we want is already present.  The work is to discover what cuts us off from realizing this understanding and make that our practice.  Our resolutions will arrive in their own time.

If you live in Portland, OR, come to my class, we’ll be working with the pelvic floor.  Happy New Year.

More information on the pelvic floor and its importance: