Sunday, March 19, 2017

sunday (equinox) grace: how to spring detox

how to detox•mixed media on wood•lisa parks

i'm already seeing them:  the inevitable reminders that now is the time to detox our bodies with three-day juice fasts and foregoing coffee (um, no way).  i understand there are good intentions here and that some humans may benefit from these measures, but when i am inundated with these reminders, i often start to buy into the myth that there is something very dirty about me.

i'm wondering if you are like me and get really excited about the idea of a clean slate.  you may also be like me and get very motivated on "official start days" like january first, any given monday, or the first day of the season (tomorrow is a double:  a monday and the beginning of spring!).  you may also be like me and notice a rapid decline in said motivation about four days in...

i have to figure out ways to stay present with my "improvement projects".  i prefer to greet the change of seasons with a transitional approach, rather than the burn-it-all-down-and-start-anew tactic.  (plus, for many people, radical nutritional plans and even mainstream juice fasts are not designed for or are healthy for their particular body.)

for me, this softer transitional approach is needed.  here are some possibilities:
  • the most critical poison to eliminate from your body, heart, spirit, mind, and life is the toxic human. you likely know who they are, but sometimes it's hard to tell.  pay attention to that inner whisper of "that feels weird"/"hmm, they said that, but did this..."/"well, now i just need to take a big ol' nap and never talk to another person ever again"/"maybe it's me....."   there is no better time than now to set the boundaries.
  • write a farewell haiku to winter.  or write a story about something beautiful that happened this winter.
  • unhibernate.  unfurl limbs.  move the body.  scrub the skin.  breathe the air.  see the light.  dip your toes in a running stream of melting snow.  find the blossoms.

  • turn hope into action:  plant wildflower seeds, collect or purchase books for a children's club in an underserved neighborhood (here are some great recommendations), donate useful and beautiful things to your local domestic violence shelter.
  • ask yourself, how can i be more awake?  the spring equinox heralds physical awakenings, but what about the awakening of the mind and spirit?   explore limiting beliefs.  conduct a values inventory (if that sounds weird to you, hit me up in person, facebook, etc. and i'll share a simple way to clarify personal values that i teach in workshops).  are there areas of knowledge and discernment that could use fine-tuning?  how do you value and respect and love and express in this sea of humanity?
  • consume the foods of spring that celebrate where you live.  if you live in an area without a year-round farmers market, attend opening day.  i'm inspired to make a grilled flatbread pizza topped with arugula and kale pesto, appalachian cheese, garlic scapes and morels.  or maybe roasted radishes.

  • ponder the ways you can bring more lightness to your life.  that may mean switching out flannel sheets for cotton.  that may mean giving all the windows in the house a good cleaning. that may mean wearing clothing that is lighter in both texture and color.  that may mean transforming that mass of heavy long hair into a pixie cut or coloring your hair robin's egg blue. that may mean losing five pounds.  that may mean beginning a process of releasing a pattern of thought or being that keeps you heavy and dark.
  • make space.  this could done be in your physical environments such as your home or yard or office by editing out stuff and curating a more open space. or it could mean opening up your body; you might have the tendency to curl in and hug tight during colder weather so your body wants to expand.  warm up your body and try some yoga postures: pigeon to open the hips, ardha chandrasana to give your body that amazing wide open feeling, supported supta baddha konasana to open the heart and the hips.  

have a magical spring moonbeams.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

the art of self-care

i learned the hard way to make self-care a non-negotiable in my life.

now, more than ever, we must take the time and make the effort to cultivate a sense of release, rest, and restoration. we must become practitioners of stepping out momentarily in order to step back in with authentic presence.

i encourage you to make a list of ten activities that are easy and accessible for you to do on a daily basis.

here are my go-to saving graces:

  1. sit down on the ground.  breathe.
  2. do a little (or a lot of) yoga.
  3. go outside, whether it is to touch bare feet to grass or gaze at the stars.
  4. pet my dogs.
  5. make something nourishing and beautiful.
  6. smush some paint around.
  7. silence.
  8. take a bath.
  9. write or read something.
  10. get good sleep.

what are yours?

Monday, February 27, 2017

some things i'm learning

"i'd rather learn from one bird how to sing 
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance."
-e.e. cummings

i'm a lifelong learner.  how about you?

i'm currently learning:

  • how to be a yoga teacher (currently working on my 500-hr teaching certification and it's gloriously intense)
  • how to hold space and build resilience for humans affected by trauma (by this time next week, i'll be fully certified to teach trauma-informed yoga)
  • how to house-train our newest canine love, kiki, with extra patience and love.  we adopted her and she has an unknown history, but we are suspecting some abuse or neglect history as she is super smart but is inexplicably resistant to peeing outside and chews power cords and she startles, cowers and hides when we try to address it.  
  • how to navigate the differences between co-creation, collaboration and competition in my community, while maintaining authentic connection.  
  • how to build a geo-dome.
  • how to refinish wood floors.
  • how to read tarot cards (i've been intuitively reading them for years, but now i'm getting some official training).
  • how to build resilience in communities within a context of collaboration rather than using and/or falling into the trap of the savior/hero model.
  • how to keep bees.
  • how to let go and move on with grace and good will.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

the winter of slow liberation

buried, 36"x36", mixed media on wood, by lisa parks

i started this post with the intention to check in.  because this entire winter has felt a lot like checking out.

i'm still working on my 500-hr yoga teacher training, still working on soul studio curriculum, still painting, still puttering around my house, creating and dismantling tiny altars here and there.  tiny altars for rest, for protection, for healing, for the right words, for courage, for liberation.  still sitting before those tiny altars, face dimly lit by the little flames, staring at the gathered goddesses and creatures, willing x-ray vision to animate their myths so that they inform my own story or so i can recognize my human self in them, heart slowly blooming with insight and inspiration and ideas.

still softening and opening to what my role is in this brand new world.  liberating all the seeds that were buried.

.  .  .  .  .

in other news, artist liz kalloch's tools and talismans series is featured in issue no.4 of amy butler's blossom magazine.  the entire issue is stunning.  my own tools and talismans, beautifully rendered by liz, are shown on pages 150-151.  see the entire issue here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

a thousand different ways

i'm fond of saying, "there are a thousand different ways to raise a healthy, safe child" in the child protection classes i teach. (we have this discussion in the context of balancing legal and governmental intervention with the cultural values, personal rights, temperament and level of capacity of the parents we serve.)

in the past few months, i find myself muttering a different version to myself as i scroll through my social media: "there are a thousand different ways to be a social justice activist."

there are members of the human race for whom social justice activism is not a choice. it is required for their survival, to save the lives of their children. for the rest of us, who are at any level of awakening that is short of forced awakening due to discrimination and fear of death, we must remember that our activism is the privilege of our lifetimes. (i saw a perfect protest poster that read, 'if you have been scared since 2016, that is a privilege'.)

and we show up to activism differently.

i worry when i see posts either explicitly preaching to or softly shaming others for the type and level of engagement they can do. or for taking a break from the action, to soak up some lightness for a moment. i worry when activism carries a hint of trendiness. stating opinions is encouraged, but silencing those who are feeling their way through this newness is not okay. i worry that i have unintentionally done these things myself. these things threaten the sustainability of the movement.

so many of us are learning to use voice and power, even if we have had the privilege of it our entire lives.

we are learning to move from the outdated and harmful notions of charity and the savior/hero complex.

we are learning to listen to voices different from our own. really listen. with mouths shut and hearts open, in a state of full-on humility.

this is the process of consciousness raising, a recognized stage of activism.

we need to listen for and guard against divisiveness in the cause; divisiveness can halt the process of consciousness raising.

today, some are stunned into silence. we must remember that this may be due to a trauma being triggered. shame and judgement merely entrench the trauma.

other voices have hints of paranoia and/or feel really angry. this may also be trauma triggered.

some are naturally quiet and lend support to those who aren't.

some move fast and hit hard, their words carry immediate power and cut through the fog of overwhelm.

some have the ability to engage in calm, intelligent conversation with the opposition.

some have to cull their facebook friends (and maybe even their real-life friends) to feel safe and able to focus on the work ahead.

some feel overwhelmed by the abundance of BIG THINGS TO DO, so instead they collect needed items for homeless folks in their neighborhood.

some curate and screen credible news and literature to share with the rest of us.

some people are idea people. others are action people.

some teach fifth graders tolerance and mindfulness, ways to self-regulate all the hard emotions.

some make art and write poetry to raise the consciousness of others.

some wear a safety pin because they want to let others know they will not harm them.

some quietly take care of those returning from the front lines of action.

some have day-upon-day when every waking hour is consumed with working two jobs or tending to sexual assault victims, child abuse victims, an immigrant family, or the wounds in their own homes, their own marriages, their own children.

there are a thousand different ways.

all of these things are needed, necessary. thank you for showing up.

some people experience some or all of these things within their own lives, depending on the day. i get this. some days i have superhuman energy and motivation to fix this shit. some days i am overwhelmed by the hatred and lack of thinking and i want to do yoga and eat soup and maybe read a little. some days my words are smart and quick and powerful, flaming arrows landing in just the right spots to burn through hatred or ignite change. some days i am afraid to say anything, to push post or publish, not because of the opposition, but because i worry i will be publicly mocked by the white mean girls at the popular activism table in the high school cafeteria for not wearing the right jeans. some days they silence me. other days they make me want to scream, "you are not the fucking queen of activism."

some days i have to sit with my feelings of anger, and it is really uncomfortable.

some days i have to sit with my feelings of vulnerability and fear, and it is really uncomfortable.

some days i worry i offended someone i did not intend to offend, and it is really uncomfortable.

wherever we are on the spectrum of activism, we can ask ourselves each day:

was my contribution genuine and effective?

did i check in with my privilege, my voice, the words i am using?

how can i leverage my privilege for the cause?

am i ready to take the next step into more/different action?

how can i cultivate more courage to openly listen/speak up/walk out?

what are some other strategies i can learn about and try?

how can i do better tomorrow?

this shit is messy. we keep moving boldly/quietly/softly forward.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

sunday grace: this border is not hospitable to hatred

souvenir shop, nyc, c.2013

yesterday was a dark day (in a months-long parade of dark days) in my country.  that man, person, whatever he is who occupies the white house signed an order effectively starting a border ban based on race, ethnicity and religion.

yesterday i initiated my own border ban.  unlike his, my decision was thoughtful and purposeful and specific, intended to nurture values, rather than destroy them, while maintaining a commitment to the greater good. it was a personal boundary to keep out the hatred in certain circumstances. for months i have felt a strong desire to protect my personal spaces from the vile racism and hatred spewing forth from those who support the direction our country is heading.  my home is already a sanctuary, an environment of serenity, empathy, joy, learning, intelligent discourse and compassionate (sometimes uncomfortable) debate.  yesterday i felt a strong need to extend the border of protection to my social media space.

being inclusive and navigating diversity of thought are values i hold dear, so decisions to establish boundaries need to be based in (real, lived, truth-based) evidence and purpose, not just feeling.  i did a good deal of soul-searching and values clarification before i landed on a decision to secure my border.  i admit that i am struggling with some "all _____ are _____"  beliefs that got our nation here in the first place.  unlike others, i recognize that in myself and it disturbs me.  in order to change and prevent these biases from going further, i must set some boundaries.
  • my facebook, twitter, instagram are not my citizenship or my work, they are personal spaces.  
  • the energy it takes to internally manage others' entrenched beliefs and hatred distracts me from the work necessary to fix this shit, to stand with others for social justice and stand against racism, bigotry, human rights violations and so many other areas of hatred that are commonplace right now. 
  • i do not believe that peace, love, understanding, and prayer will solve these problems.  they have important places for many of us, but this is a fight against violence.  violence doesn't give a flying fuck about those things.
  • i do not hold the delusion that the example of my life or some kind of magical words will shift another's heart or worldview if they haven't already, especially if others are firmly grounded in fear and hatred.  
  • personal boundaries are required in life.  sometimes they hurt people's feelings.  they absolutely hurt people's feelings when they are loosely and arbitrarily established on the down-low, when one is afraid to state a boundary clearly and unequivocally.  
  • i fully understand that this level of boundary-setting, this seeking balance between the work and the rest, this component of self-care is a privilege.  and i will leverage that privilege in order to focus on getting the work done in my public spaces.
i will continue to engage in meaningful discourse with others who hold views different from my own in those face-to-face spaces where we can see each other and can begin to explore our vast and varied views on what it means to have a human heart.  this engagement is necessary for good citizenship.

and mostly, i continue my work helping others gain access to safe quiet spaces where they can rest their minds and souls from the work of being human in this world.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

sunday grace: the beauty and mess of the process

process, by lisa parks

i met a young woman this week who was strong and vibrant and creative.  she told me, "i like to do art, but i'm not very good at it."  after spending some time with her and observing the vast imaginative way she walked through her world, i told her i thought she was quite amazing at art. together we unpacked how the world judges us by our product over our process.  while she may not yet be producing (what the world defines as) art (paintings, music, literature, etc.), her life and relationships and work and the way she is in the world are absolutely art.

i once again recognized my glaring love for process over product; how i appreciate the time and effort of the planning and development and evolution, rather than the end result.

take art, for instance.  if i was attached to the product, i would have given up years ago.  because so much of what i've artistically produced can be objectively judged as crap.  but my love of fingers in paint, the scratch of the pencil on paper, and expression of layered emotion on the canvas bring me back over and over and over again.  staying present for and trusting the hard parts of art, the learning, the risk, the starting over, these are the ways we become art.  the life and love of the final product is always in the process.

and yoga?  the popular western culture of yoga is almost entirely about the product, the perfected pose.  we completely miss the purpose of yoga when we struggle and contort to nail the instagrammable crow.  we bypass the beauty and the pain of the measured process of yoga, we miss that yoga teaches us how to be in the world, how to fly and how to fall.

and this morning, i'm mostly thinking about social justice activism.  yesterday our world lit up with millions of humans marching in or in solidarity with the women's march on washington.  it was an absolutely magnificent product to witness.  but the richness, the messiness, the excruciatingly slow process of true social justice is a long game.  how can we sustain this commitment over time?  how do we keep people interested when "being a part of history" is more about dealing with our own bias and privilege (uncomfortable), calling out injustice publicly (risky), and showing up as allies when the revolution isn't being televised?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

sunday grace: the grace of the gita

yesterday i filmed a three minute dharma talk on the overall message of the bhagavad gita for a yoga teacher training assignment.  while that might sound like a moderately remarkable achievement which could take your average bear a few days to do, for me, it was a months-long challenge.

you see, once i cracked open and delved into the gita and began soaking in its history. metaphor, and meaning, i found it nearly impossible to distill its centuries-old vastness into one-hundred-eighty seconds.   so i continued to study.  i read and listened and read more.  i noticed moments in my real life when the lessons were applicable.   i wrote notes here and there, key words i wanted to communicate through the lens of the gita:  awareness, curiosity, service, presence, authenticity, integration.  i tried to choose just one as a focus in order to pare down the talk but discovered that the unpacking of one depended on all the others to stand along side it. one by itself felt incomplete and hollow.

weeks went by and still i could not imagine how i was going to deliver the assignment in a meaningful way.  and then yesterday, i tired of the struggle.  i tired of my insistence on being the slow and steady tortoise, of trusting she would always be more valuable than the race-to-finish-first hare. i tired of my need to avoid half-assness, or the ghastly fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality.

and i sat down and i did it.

and it wasn't half-ass.  or fake.  or choppy or incomplete.  it was pretty good.

it was as if krishna himself whispered to my inner arjuna, "both parts are necessary, the knowing and the doing.  and because you know, because you didn't skimp on learning or attempt to hotwire expertise, because the knowing was lived and is part of you, the doing flowed from your heart with ease.  you only had to decide to do it and sit your ass in the chair."

Sunday, December 4, 2016

sunday grace: the hard season

bleeding heart liberal (work in progress)

the hard season
split you through.
do not worry.
you will bleed water.
do not worry.
this is grief. 
your face will fall out and down your skin
there will be scorching.
but do not worry.
keep speaking the years from their hiding places.
keep coughing up smoke from all the deaths you
have died
keep the rage tender.
because the soft season will come.
it will come.
both hands in your chest.
up all night.
up all of the nights.
to drink all damage into love.
– therapy

{nayyirah waheedsalt}

i've got work to do.

recent events (the election, the murder of black americans, standing rock, to name a few) have left me angry with and ashamed of my country, my race, my gender, the religion i was raised with.  

angry with and ashamed of my self.

i'm unpacking the painful discovery that knowing and caring are not enough.  

i want to be a true and effective ally. 

i want to see and know the whole awful truth.

i want to come out of the soft denial of my own experience, privilege, responsibility, and responses to that whole awful truth.

i want to stand and speak and act against that whole awful truth.

grace will help, but it is not the whole story here.

i've got work to do.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

sunday grace: thank you

hopeful me, circa 2008

on tuesday, november 8, 2008, i voted for the america i believe in.

the next day my friend meggan told me the story of how she fell asleep before the results were final, but left her radio on.  she woke hours later, in the dark, the voice of her next president, a kind, smart, dignified human being, in the near distance, graciously accepting his charge.  and she was filled with peace.

i've thought of meggan's story many times in the eight years since.  when i'm feeling half-asleep or in the dark or disoriented, and when i disagree with that very same president, i hear the voice of calm, the voice of kindness, the voice of humanity.

i've thought of meggan's story so much this week.

and i can hear the voice.

thank you, president obama, for your voice.

thank you, president obama, for your leadership.

thank you, president obama, for your dignified diplomacy, for reminding us that we all have a higher self and we need to use it.

thank you, president obama, for the way you laugh, the way you look at children, the way you father, husband, friend, and president.

thank you.

we are in the dark.  but we hear your voice.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

sunday grace: wild awake

yesterday a wee group of us gathered under the unusually bright and warm october sun to picnic.  we are yoga teachers and practitioners, teachers, social workers, artists.  but more importantly, we are humans who love other humans.  we gathered together to talk and share and explore and start something.  we are not quite sure what that something is yet, but we know we want to serve, connect, share, give, support, advocate and ally.

we know that our practice has power.  and we want to share that with those who do not have access to or feel comfortable going to a traditional yoga studio.

so we explored our intentions and our privilege and did some inner work and then softly committed to keep moving forward.

when everyone had left to go about their individual weekends, i stood still in the silence and peace of the space (sacred space really, i just learned of the civil rights history of the grounds where we gathered, and that martin luther king, jr himself had once come here to connect with and pay respects to its keepers) and just knew that this is what i am here to do.    you think that when you have a "this is what i am here to do" moment, it would be momentous, the emotional equivalent of a confetti cannon and exuberant marching band.  instead, it felt quietly normal and certain and resonant with full-body luminosity.

i hope they felt this too.

wild awake.

"if you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
-lilla watson

Sunday, October 2, 2016

sunday grace: the magical month

{bits of october, 2009-2016}

october.  let it transform you.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

sunday grace: just be true

"the privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are."  -carl jung

i used to have a favorite t-shirt designed by my friend jen lee that read, "just be true."  i really miss that shirt.  i lost it at a yoga festival a few years ago.

but even though i no longer wear the words on my body, i carry them in my soul.

a few weeks ago, i worked through a values exercise with a class i was teaching to clarify our most important personal values.  top of the list for me:  authenticity.

i work really hard at showing up as my genuine self.  i don't pretend to be anything i'm not.  i enjoy being a beginner, living in the learning stages.  i also enjoy developing expertise, but i understand there is no quick road to that.  i'm not a fan of fake or imitation.  i even cringe a bit when people say, "fake it 'til you make it."  (for many valid, spiritual reasons, but that is another post.)

i am very sensitive, as i'm certain most people are, when my ideas, art, work or projects randomly show up, presented and claimed by someone who is not me.

i blogged about this very thing a few years ago:  stealing buddha.  (holy moly, nearly FIVE years ago!)  i reread that blog before i started writing this one.  because the message i keep getting is to just let it go.

but in the years since that post, casually using others' work has become even more commonplace in our culture.  it is often just called inspiration.  i see it as a spectrum of intentions and behavior that we must check in with on a regular basis.  if we operate from a place of replicating someone else's work, we are not using the time to truly discover our own unique thing.

. . . . .

inspiration:  when you are drawn to a piece, practice, project or person and there is an energetic flash of connection and you think, "i want to do something like that."  amazing.  i am endlessly inspired by so many artists and thinkers, i can't imagine what my life and work would be without them.  i honor their influence and the work they have done by connecting with them, learning from them, and publicly recognizing the source.

practicing:  this happens a lot in creative fields, when someone practices the work of another to learn the technique in their own practice, trying it on to see how it moves within and relates to their own style and body of work.

duplication:  when you put out the same work or ideas as another, without doing the foundational work or having a depth of understanding and meaning about the process.  the end result is often accompanied by a sense of secrecy, hollowness and desperation.  there is an overwhelming feeling that it is not connected to who you are.  your intended audience feels that, even if you don't.

race-to-finish-first:  this is the person who sees others working hard and putting in time for a future release of something that looks like it's going to be fantastic.  they quickly throw together what they perceive to be the elements of the work so that they can be the first to release a quick, fake copy.

impostor:  this is a little more involved than copying.  it is when someone takes on characteristics and practices of another and presents as a particular kind of person with specific knowledge, experience and skills, when they haven't developed those things.  this is not to be confused with impostor syndrome. (although sometimes people say they struggle with having impostor syndrome, when they might want to consider that are actually engaging in impostor behavior.)

stealing:  if you use or copy another's idea, art or work to make money or to gain popularity/publicity/attention, it is stealing.  this is doubly true if the person you stole from earns a living from their work.  your stealing cuts into their livelihood.

. . . . .

we are all influenced by the work of others.  but it seems we are losing touch with discerning the range of influence. dabbling anywhere but the inspiration-practicing end of the spectrum prevents us from discovering our own true gifts.

it prevents us from discovering and being our own true selves.

let's be true.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

sunday grace: things about summer

"you do not have to be a fire for every mountain blocking you.
you could be a water and soft river your way to freedom too."
                                                                                                                              -nayyirah waheed

Sunday, July 17, 2016

sunday grace

i dream a lot about flying, flying like a bird and metaphorically flying (accomplishment).

it's often the steps that are required to take flight that keep me grounded.

this poem reminds me to keep trying, be patient, do the work.

Friday, July 1, 2016

trauma-informed yoga


some friends have asked me, "what exactly is trauma-informed yoga?"  this conversation is so important, so i thought i would write about it here.

the answer is complex.  so complex that i had to edit down this post because the original was a mile long and i still hadn't begun to capture the breadth and depth of the topic.  i whittled it down to a few fundamentals that are critical when offering trauma-informed yoga.

trauma occurs when our ability to cope is overwhelmed.  trauma exists across a spectrum and is defined by how events are experienced and internalized, rather than by the event itself.  this means that anything could be experienced as a trauma.  when something overwhelms our ability to cope, our nervous system provides the cues to the physical body to mount a response to the danger--fight, flight, or freeze.  when our system restores to a sense of safety (regulation) after the threat has ended, trauma can be experienced without long-term or debilitating effects.  it is when our nervous system does not return to a sense of safety and we are unable to return to a place of healthy regulation that we remain stuck in survival response even though the actual threat no longer exists.

the practice of yoga is uniquely suited to people who have experienced trauma, allowing them to experience safety and learn and practice very effective self-regulation techniques. yoga brings our awareness to what is happening in the body (over and over again),  this act of focusing on sensation grounds our experience in the here and now, rather than the past.  when we practice regulating the body in this present state using sensation, grounding, orientation, breath and other resources, the door is opened for our brains to step out of the stuckness and construct more hopeful possibilities in the face of perceived threat.  this is the process of cultivating resilience.

ahimsa, the first yama in the yogi's ethical code, means non-violence or do no harm.  first and foremost, we have the obligation to ensure that we are not causing harm, triggering, or in any way re-traumatizing yoga students (to the best of our ability).  with trauma, this can be tricky.  we start by not taking this responsibility lightly.

some things to consider about offering trauma-informed yoga:

  • understanding the complexity of trauma is key.  i wholeheartedly support that each and every yoga teacher know the basics of trauma and the many ways it can show up in a class.  however, i worry about oversimplification and that the concept is becoming a bit of a flavor-of-the-month in the yoga world.  we must ensure our behavior remains true to its original intention to be of service.
  • there is a difference between a yoga teacher being informed about trauma and taking measures to promote emotional safety in a general studio class and a yoga class or program that is held specifically for a known traumatized or marginalized population.  a good rule is that the teacher's experience with and knowledge of trauma is congruent with the known level of trauma in the room.
  • when working with trauma, a high level of self-awareness is critical.  we have to know our own privilege, tendencies, blindspots and triggers.  a behavior, personality trait, words or teaching approach we have and use could unintentionally cause harm to someone with trauma.   unfortunately, so many people are operating from a place of unconsciousness and have no idea how they harm or trigger.  yes, even yogis.
  • we must know and manage our own trauma histories.  there are not that many humans in the world (if any) who are have not experienced trauma to one degree or another.  if you are operating from a place of unaddressed trauma, you are unlikely to adequately gauge when you are doing harm. 
  • when a student has experienced trauma, they are also not likely to adequately gauge when harm is being done to them or when things are dangerous.  this is one of the explanations for re-victimization. this makes the ethical obligation of the trauma-informed yoga teacher even more imperative.
  • consider your preparation to be trauma-informed.  there is an abundance of fantastic information about trauma-informed yoga.  self-study and online courses with reliable professionals are appropriate for trauma-informed teachers of general studio classes, however, due to its complexity, trauma isn't really a topic you can unpack and understand in a few sessions.
  • there are more in-depth, lengthy and in-person programs for those who teach classes and programs intentionally designed for students with trauma.  other professional experience working with trauma (i.e. as a therapist, social worker, first responder, etc.) is sensible here too.  
  • we must check our motivation to teach trauma-informed yoga.  we are motivated to be of service, to create and maintain emotional safety for others, to offer effective tools for self-regulation and embodiment.  we don't teach trauma-informed yoga to be heroes or because it feels important or we're working out our own shit or because all the popular yoga teachers are doing it.  

teaching trauma-informed yoga or being a part of a class or program intended to teach yoga as a resource for cultivating resilience is a tremendous gift and a huge responsibility.  it is not for everyone.  each of us has our own unique gifts and areas where we can best be of service.   

trauma-informed yoga is a never-ending journey of study, reflection, self-awareness, empathy, presence and selflessness.  it feels so big to me and i worry when i see or hear about others treating it so casually.  titration is intentionally used in the practice of trauma-informed yoga and the same cautious, deliberate and gradual exploration approach should be mirrored in the preparation to teach it.  

follow along as i continue to grow soul studio in an intentional, meaningful way.  we will be providing trauma-informed yoga and trauma-informed expressive arts and writing programs soon.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

sunday grace: grounded and oriented

orient.  10"x10" acrylic, ink, paper, pencil on wood.

i'm studying how to teach trauma-informed yoga and the material is rocking me to the core.

so many times here, i start to write that i can't wait to begin teaching yoga and art to teenage girls, but that is not true.  i can wait.  because the material is complex and important.  the girls are complex and important.  it's going to take some time to process and integrate and practice.  i want to offer something authentic and meaningful.

for so many people, feeling safe in the body doesn't come naturally.  it requires consciously becoming grounded, orienting to the space, and cultivating resources for emotional safety.  one of the many cues i learned for orienting that really resonated with me is, "look around the room and find four blue things."  i practice this myself when i am overwhelmed or frustrated or feel sad and to start my yoga practice.  it's simple and effective.

i woke up this morning wanting to create a piece inspired by four blue things.  because, you know, i process in color. i love that the abstract shape in the center unintentionally formed into a compass.  it also resembles my favorite yoga posture, ardha chandrasana, balancing fear, strength, lightness and beauty.

these things are my grace today:  learning, orienting, seeing the path more clearly, patience.

four things that just might be blue.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

sunday grace: these four unlikely friends

{clockwise from top left:  the artist, frida kahlo; the mystic, anandamayi ma; the activist, angela davis,
and the believer, anne frank.  acrylic paint and image transfer on wood.}

yesterday i completed the fourth piece in an ongoing series of mixed-media work dedicated to my own personal archetypes.  i began a month ago just wanting to pay homage to frida kahlo after i daydreamed about us being friends and the kinds of things we would do together and talk about.  how would she listen to me?  what wisdom would she impart?  how could i make her proud?  i realized pretty quickly that i was actually exploring my archetypes, those women who hold particular resonance for me and who are the ideal personifications of qualities i wish to cultivate and maintain in my self and life.

i allowed the selection of the friends and the creative process to be informed by a current mood, need or memory.  i love the unlikely and powerful gang of heroes that emerged and who comprise the first four. even though they lived in different times and are of different cultures and have such a diverse treasure box of gifts, they all share a courageous and dreamy spirit with which i deeply connect.

. . . . .

i met my husband ken while we were both acting in the play the diary of anne frank.  the play was being produced in my hometown in california and the proceeds were dedicated to the agency i worked for at the time, to create a secure and confidential park where children in foster care could visit outdoors with their biological parents.  as both an actor in the play and a social worker at the agency, i was asked to give a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

i remember writing and speaking about the commonalities among children, the things that both the foster children and anne frank shared:  resilience, a connection to their parents no matter what, and a deep love of the freedom and light of the outdoors.  anne wrote in her diary, "the best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside."  it moved me deeply that we were building this space where children and their families could share time outside when that was the very thing that anne longed for while she was hidden in the annex.

i intentionally let her sit and write and smile in the open glorious outdoors in this piece.

friends, i am loving doing this series.  the physical time spent with the paint, photographs, scissors and glue gives space and time for me to ponder my own embodiment of the qualities of these extraordinary women.  i encourage you to spend time thinking about the remarkable humans who inform your life.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

sunday grace

moments of grace this week:

  • this wee patch of wildflowers at sunset, its beauty magnified by the fact that it is bordered by a busy highway to the east, a no-nonsense holiday inn to the south, applebee's to the north, a large government complex to the west.  it quietly stood its ground and whispered, "i'm still magnificent nature, even here in this bland chaos.  p.s. you too."
  • my meditation practice that saved me on a whirlwind tour of the state working closely with the most extroverted and energetic person i know.  
  • a mama raccoon and her two wee babes in a hollow tree behind the house.
  • homemade aqua de horchata over shaved ice in a newly-discovered hole-in-the-wall mexican joint in the middle of nowhere.
  • checking out the class schedule on the front window of a yoga studio, glancing inside to see a class in progress and a mother doing mommy-and-me yoga with two brand new babies, one lovingly held in each hand.
  • participating in two amazing yoga teacher trainings at the same time, one for yoga inclusivity and the other to teach trauma-informed yoga to youth in high-risk or marginalized settings.
  • reading poetry, perched on the edge of the blue ridge mountains.
  • receiving sas' my mindful year email for may.  this month's focus is cultivating mindful friendships.  these words:  "telling myself the truth is the foundation for every connection in my life." (you can sign up to receive the monthly emails here.) 
  • creating six little motivational notes for a fifth-grader as she breezes through her end-of-year tests this week.

    what were your moments?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

sunday grace: imaginary friends

imaginary friend {№4}:  the artist.  mixed media and image transfer on wood.  photo by leo matiz.

hello loves.

i'm deep into exploring my own personal archetypes over here.  i tend to think of them not in the traditional sense, but as muses:  badass gentle spirits whose lives, hearts and minds guide my own and spark curiosity and inspiration just when needed.

i like to call them my imaginary friends.

meet my artist friend, frida.

when we are lying around on the grass in the bright sunshine, exhausted after hours of talking and laughing, here are the things she whispers to me:

  • color is everything.
  • passion is everything.
  • justice is everything.
  • don't ever stop painting.
  • people will let you down, don't stop loving them.
  • animals will never let you down.
  • see it and say it.
  • be weird like me.
  • find other weird ones.
  • being a misfit is the most glorious gift.
  • visit the wilderness often.
  • visit the city often.
  • be well-read and never stop cultivating your intelligence.
  • be comfortable with silence and aloneness.
  • you must tend a garden and a home, they are the beautiful containers of your life.
  • scream when you need to scream.
  • dance when you need to dance.
  • paint.
  • paint.
  • paint.

(my spring|summer art project is to create a series of paintings of my imaginary friends.  i can't wait for you to meet them.)