Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Lights

I saw this photo on facebook (I smeared the top word in case anyone gets offended easily, but I'm sure you get the point of what it is saying) and wanted to share. It is a great representation of where our mentality is at as a society.

At some point, we all have pulled out the wad-o-Christmas-lights from a box where they were packed a year ago in a non-ideal fashion. You begin to untangle them and the wires get caught on the bulbs and after a few tries you start to get irritated. We are so used to immediacy nowadays. If anything takes us longer than a moment, we begin to get impatient. Our entire mood changes and we start snapping at people ("I said hold THIS strand!"). We may set out to have a festive family day of decorating, but then whole afternoon gets ruined when the lights don't cooperate.

I was thinking about this this year as I trimmed our tree. As usual, I pulled out the lights and they looked very similar to the above photo (even though I SWEAR I put them away in a very orderly fashion last year). I started to push and pull, thread and unthread the strands. Once I saw I was making it worse I could feel the annoyance creep up. But this year I did something different. I recognized the annoyance. I didn't react on it like in previous years. I saw it coming from a mile away and chose how to react instead of blindly doing so.

I considered what I was doing - untangling Christmas lights. Plural. Hmmm.....That was my problem. I was trying to untangle the entire strand of lights at once. I was the rabbit, trying to save time in the imaginary decorating race by speeding things up. But it wasn't working. So I chose the route of the turtle - slow and steady. I began with just the first light bulb on the strand. Then the next. Then the next. Over and over I did what it took to just untangle the next bulb, not the entire strand of lights. I broke the task up into manageable parts, feeling a sense of accomplishment over every bulb I set free. Slowly, the strand became linear. When I finished there was no annoyance left, just the joy I began the decorating with.

I will remember this lesson for a long time to come. When the task at hand is a bit overwhelming and not able to be accomplished immediately, quickly, use it as an opportunity to grow. Look for ways to quell the negative emotions that come up so you can still think rationally. Break the task into smaller pieces - that gives you more opportunities to feel successful. Concentrate on just the task at hand instead of the larger picture. And most importantly, don't let a silly inanimate object dictate your mood for the rest of the day!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


2011. What a year. It amazes me how much has happened in just 12 months. My life pre-2011 is almost unrecognizable to me. It has been a year of major life changes, ones that will shape the next 100 years of my life (who knows, with all of this yoga and healthy eating I actually may live to be 135, don't want to sell myself short).

2011 packed quite a wallop:

  • I broke free from the cubicle! After 9 years at a company I truly loved, but in a 9-5 office environment that wasn't for me, I took a leap in January 2011 and turned in my notice. The result has been amazing - working in my pajamas, having control over my life, being free enough to explore and create what I want.
  • I turned vegan. Ok, so maybe my family and friends aren't a huge fan of this change, but I think it is for the better. I broke a 34 year old cycle of coughing and plugged up nose. My hands finally look female because my nails are long and strong for the first time ever. I feel amazing inside and out - everything is working like it should. Plus, I'm helping both the environment and animals. Oh, and I challenged and was victorious over my "there is no way I can give up cheese and ice cream" mentality. I learned I'm stronger than I thought. Definitely worth it!
  • I went through yoga teacher training. That experience will stick with me always. I met people I will be forever connected to. It made me think of the yoga industry as a career path rather than just a hobby. It opened my mind to possibly owning a studio one day, gave me the inspiration to start TravelingOms.com, and made me think maybe I could do more than just sit in front of a computer all day.
  • I committed to a daily yoga practice. It makes my mind more steady and productive. It has made my body stronger than I could have ever imagined it. It has shown me that I can do more than I had ever thought to expect out of myself - especially on those cold winter mornings when my bed is so warm. Pattabhi Jois once said "Practice and all is coming" and I now understand what he meant. Consistency in practice brings about changes we could have never imagined in our wildest dreams.
I wrote a blog about the number 11 a few weeks ago, about how that number lost all numerical meaning and transformed into a path right before my eyes. That pattern is reinforced here. The year 2011 has been a pathway showing me where my life could go. It has set the scene for change, and now it is up to me to continue on.

What has the year 2011 brought to you?

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I want to support small local businesses this holiday season, I truly do. I think it is important for my money to vote for my displeasure at monopolies and huge corporations controlling everything. However, that is proving to be extremely difficult, and I'm at a loss as to the best way to deal with it.

Someone on my Christmas list (keeping it vague in case they read this) wants something, we'll call it Product A. I was at a small local business a few days ago that did, indeed, sell Product A. So I had them give me a quote on it. I then checked that exact model online and found 3 stores whose price for that exact same model were less than HALF the price I was quoted. But they were all Big Box Stores. I told the small business about the other prices and he just kinda shrugged and said he can't go that low. So what to do? If I bought it from the small business I go over my budget and can't afford anything else for this person. If I get the better deal I am aiding the corporations which will eventually force the small company out of business. 

Every day we are faced with decisions such as these. Do we do the thing better for ourselves or better for what we believe in? I want to be selfless and supportive of things I believe in. But at what cost? I hate that corporations control our government which in turn control our perceptions of things ("Got Milk" anyone? Or how about the fact pizza is now a vegetable for school children?). Yet here I am contemplating supporting these bullies.

And it isn't just this one present - everything people seem to want is affordable at the larger stores but out of my reach at local businesses (if I can even find it there). Do I get people stuff they don't want, just because it was sourced locally? Or give them what they asked for from the chain stores?

Honestly, on Product A, I am probably going to go with the cheaper price because I just cannot justify getting the same product but paying twice as much. But I feel horrible and un-Christmas-y about the whole situation. What would you do in this case? How are you spending your money this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Utkatasana...Just a Pose or Mirror of Self?

Recently, I was in a wonderfully challenging Hot Vinyasa class when I found I was giving myself more permission than usual to get out of the poses when the going got tough. I started thinking about why I was doing this, why did I keep backing down? My norm was to push and push and push. That's when I noticed how closely my effort in yoga class resembled what I was going through in the outside world. I realized professionally, I was somewhat slowing down my fervent push as well. The more I thought about it the more I saw how much my yoga practice mirrored what was happening in my real life.

Take for example, Utkatasana - or chair pose. You stand with your big toes together, drop your hips like you're sitting in a chair, and raise your arms overhead. In terms of yoga poses, it is a fairly simple one (no levitating required). But there are different commitment levels. You could keep your hips fairly high saving enough juice to just wait out the teacher until they move on. Or you could get low and just keep stealing quick little leg-straightenings when it starts to get tough. Or you could give it everything you've got for as long as the teacher holds you there. Regardless of anything that comes up, you stay committed.

The first option - staying just low enough to be considered in the pose - is how many people live their lives. They glide through just waiting for something to end. Waiting for what comes next. They give effort, but save enough in reserve because they have no idea how long they will need it and don't want to come up short. So they hold back. This is often called Playing It Safe. Maybe it's not opening their entire heart in a relationship. Or not throwing out extreme ideas at work. They live in a way that keeps their life constant. There is no fear of failure because there is never a push for greater success, for growth. Instead, they coast.

Some people do put in extreme effort, but quickly back down. They sink their hips low but at the first sign of trembling, they ease up a bit. They come back into their safety zone if there is a chance of failure. At work they might throw out that crazy idea but then play it off like a joke if no one jumps on it, even if they truly believe in it. Or maybe ask someone out in a roundabout I'm-asking-you-out-but-you-totally-don't-have-to-say-yes way (recently I had a friend who asked someone out like this: "I know people get very busy around the holidays but if you are ever bored maybe we could grab coffee or something". Compare that with a direct "I would love to take you out on a date" and which would you prefer?). They step a foot outside that comfort zone but never quite plant it. It almost seems like they want to extend themselves, yet don't quite have the discipline to really commit to it, so they live their lives pretending they're going to push but never actually do.

Lastly, there are the shakers. The ones who get so low in Utkatasana their thighs almost immediately begin to tremble. But they breathe through it. They know in their heart this pose cannot last forever, so they give it everything they got. They commit to the pose for whatever length of time the teacher chooses. They know a deep dark secret: The body can take it, it's the mind that cannot. By knowing this, they get an edge because they learned the secret to success: overcome the fear of failure in the mind and you will succeed. These are the people who fight for what they believe in off the mat. They don't take no for an answer. They live whatever life they want, go out and push their own boundaries because they know failure is 100% mental. Even if they start a business that goes bankrupt, that is not failure. They still learned and grew from the experience. Knowing failure only exists where they create it in their mind gives them the courage to keep putting themselves out there. To keep pushing. To keep growing. To get those hips down one more inch and stay there.

Somehow, I woke up in the second category this month. Luckily, I recognized it and am taking steps to push my way back into the last category. I want to grow. I want to push. I want to banish failure from my vocabulary so it can't get a hold on me. Last night's intense practice (and today's intense soreness) is a good first step. What does your practice say about where you are in life right now?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Housing Bubble Burst = Good Thing?

9 (?) years ago I bought my house. It was a great little bungalow for me and my dog, Kylie, back then - 3 bedroom, 1 bath, just shy of 1,000 square feet. Perfect for my first house. Then I added another 65 lb pound dog and it began to feel a bit claustrophobic. Suddenly I was stepping over dogs at each turn. I was driving out to the country every chance I got to let the dogs run off their energy while I got my fresh-air fix. The noise of the city began to grate on my nerves. I started thinking about moving, and a new obsession was born.

Unfortunately, the thought of upgrading my house appeared to be the pin that popped the housing bubble. I could literally watch the falling value of my house on Zillow.com until my house was worth a fraction of what I owed. Failed attempts at selling over the next few years just made my obsession grow larger. 

A year and a half ago, my boyfriend and his 5 year old moved into my already bursting-at-the-seams house. Suddenly, toys were constantly underfoot because they had no where else to go. Half of my clothes went into storage to make room in the closets. Potty breaks had to be timed just right since there was only one bathroom for the three of us. Chaos reigned supreme - video game sound effects, multiple tvs going at once, battery operated toys reciting the alphabet....Calgon, take me away! 

I would spend hours just looking at houses online and dreaming about how wonderful it would be once we could get to the perfect house, in the perfect location. I could picture it all in my head - a finished basement for the boys to be as loud as they want. My home office upstairs away from the hubbub. For a year I did this - bookmarking houses to show my boyfriend even though we couldn't move until this house was sold, daydreaming about being on a lake or having enough property for horses (or both!). I researched furniture for the new house. Looked on craigslist for boats. I planned for the holidays I could finally host because there would be enough room for more than 4 people to come visit at once. 

During this year, I also went through Yoga Teacher Training and began my morning routine of heading to the studio for a sweaty hot vinyasa flow every day. One of my teacher's favorite sayings is "you're exactly where you're supposed to be." I would let that bounce off me time after time without really absorbing it. When he would say it, sometimes I would rebuttal in my head "so I'm supposed to live like a sardine?!?!" or something equally as clever.

Then, one day, it hit me. I WAS exactly where I needed to be. Had I moved when I wanted to, I never would have gone through yoga teacher training. I certainly wouldn't have made the 6:30a hot vinyasa class every morning if I had an hour drive instead of a 10 minute one. By being forced into chaos at home, I  searched out peace elsewhere. I found it in yoga. And now, yoga is changing the whole course of my future. It is getting me in the best mental and physical shape of my life. I am working towards incorporating it into my livelihood. My circumstances took yoga from being something I enjoyed every so often as a workout to an entire lifestyle. Yoga has changed my eating habits, my view on relationships, my perception of my own body. It has made me happier than I have ever though possible. And it came into my life because of where I was.

I can't say I don't still dream of the day we can afford to move, but I find myself looking less and less at houses online. When I do get the itch, I notice there isn't the intensity involved anymore. I know in my gut we will be able to move when its time. When I am supposed to. For now, I listen to the Mario Brothers theme song coming through the paper-thin wall and smile, knowing I am right where I'm supposed to be. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Today, I was reading my best friend Erica's blog detailing her gratitude list. After a somewhat crummy day, I really needed that inspiration to get myself back on track. I decided the only thing to cheer me up is to recount a few things I am grateful for as well, so here they are (in no particular order! :) ).

1. My Kylie-dog (aka "gimp dog", aka "princess", aka "pumpkin butt" :) ). For the past 15 years, it has been me and her against the world. She has been with me through relationship changes, career changes, location changes, etc. She is the constant in my ever-changing world. I know she may not be with me much longer, but I am immensely grateful for her coming into my life and accepting me, even when flawed.

2. My Oliver (aka "butter", aka "carmeldog"). I am grateful he has taught me to put stuff away instead of leaving it on the counters. And how, the first day I got him, he got out of the yard then ran up and down the fence barking when he couldn't figure out how to get back in. That was the cement that he was meant to be in my life permanently  I am so grateful for his cuddling talent and the soft fur on the very top of his head. Not so grateful for his breath.

 3. My Family. They have watched me go through many transitions and although they may tease me (and I, them), they always support me. I am grateful that my sister just rolls her eyes when I use an interaction with her as the basis of a blog post, instead of getting upset. I am so blessed that I get to be whomever I want to be and still get accepted, even if they don't always agree. I am grateful I was taught unconditional love from birth.

4. My Childhood. I am grateful to be naive. To have had such a Leave-It-To-Beaver childhood that going to downtown Detroit still makes me a little nervous, even though I'm almost 35 years old. To not be street-smart, because I never had to be. To grow up feeling safe and secure. I am also grateful my parents gave up so much to ensure we could have hobbies (especially when I chose the most expensive of them all - see #5).

5. Horses. I am grateful for horses, and that my parents encouraged and supported my passion for them growing up. Even now, living so far away, I am so grateful I can call on Carol and Tif  when I need a horse day. I am grateful for that feeling of "home" when I walk into a barn and smell the hay and the leather. Grateful I feel like I belong somewhere, no matter how long I've been away.

6. My Boyfriend. I am grateful to have met someone as unique as I am. Someone who gets me sometimes more than I get myself. I am grateful to know what a healthy relationship is and how I should be treated. I am also grateful that although he doesn't share some of the same beliefs as I do, he has an open enough mind to discuss multiple sides of a topic rather than write me off as being weird. I am grateful he will watch food documentaries before I do so he can tell me to leave the room when a graphic animal-hurting scene is coming up.

7. My Boyfriend's Son. I am grateful for the chance to ease into parenting. I have always said I don't want kids, but Alex has shown me what I would have been missing, in a way that was exactly what I needed. I am grateful that he came already potty-trained and well-behaved, so I had no choice but to adore him :) Watching him learn is teaching me more than I ever thought possible. I am grateful for him opening my heart just a little bit wider.

8. My Yoga Studio. I first typed "Yoga" here, but that isn't entirely true. I have been doing yoga on and off for many years, but it never really truly "clicked" until I found my current studio. I am grateful for the heat, the music, the creative flows, and the freedom. I am grateful for all of the friends I have met - ones who, like me, start yawning by 10p and get excited over vegan recipes. Finally I am not the odd man out! I am grateful for 6:30a Hot Vinyasa, because I start each day conquering my attachment to my warm cozy bed.

9. My Breath. I am grateful to recognize the significance of something many people take for granted. Yoga has given me a tool I can use to conquer any situation. It is always with me, I just have to remember to use it. My breath can be a distraction, a heater, a focal point, an energizer, a healer. I am grateful I am learning how to take those lessons off the meditation cushion/yoga mat and into every day life.

10. Myself. I am grateful I have allowed myself to grow. That I have given myself permission to become fully immersed in a new lifestyle instead of being scared or conforming to what is "normal." I am grateful I quit my job when it was no longer serving me.  I am grateful that I sometimes care too much about things, even though it sometimes takes it toll on me. And that everything I do comes from a good and loving place, even though some people may not understand that. I am grateful I can feel grateful every single day - that I can step back from my life and see the miracles constantly surrounding me.

There are so many more things I am grateful for, but my cramped fingers are telling me I have already written too much. So I guess this list is to be continued, until the next time I need a little bit of inspiration :) What are you grateful for?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Big Picture

So much of what is wrong with this world is the narrow view people keep. I know I lost a lot of readers right then - making such a bold and self-righteous sounding statement. Acting like I know what is wrong with billions of people I have never met. I truly don't mean it in an arrogant way. I am just trying to justify to myself why people who I know are good at heart can contribute to such cruelty without blinking an eye. It is my belief that we have been conditioned to block out everything that does not pertain directly to us. We see things as only how they impact us, and dismiss the bigger picture. That's because sometimes we may not be strong enough to handle the bigger picture. I know I often am not.

I woke up to a bunch of facebook statuses proclaiming excitement that the circus was in town. I tried to see it from their points of view - glamorous costumes, clowns, the smell of popcorn, regal animals parading around. That is what they see, those that block out the bigger picture. They see only what is immediately in front of them. I struggle because I don't want to always be Debby-Downer, but I also want to shake them until they come to their senses. I want to reach into their heads, grab both sides of that image in their brain and I want to pull until it expands beyond the 3 rings in front of them. I want to expand it until it shows the other 22 hours in the day of these "performers." I want them to acknowledge the bigger picture their money is supporting.

Circus performers choose this nomadic lifestyle, but the animals have no say. They are kept in tiny cages chained up 22 hrs per day. The only time they get out is when they are being "trained" - meaning they are having fear instilled in them. A Tiger does not jump through a hoop of fire for fun. He does it because the alternative is being beaten and starved. And yet these good-hearted people in my life - ones who have pets they love and know how amazing animals can be - they clap! They allow their children elephant rides, even though the handler has a stick with a nail sticking out of it to keep the elephant "under control." They condone this abuse, even enjoy it. They bond with their children over it, and raise a new generation who are taught to ignore The Big Picture.

Why am I the only one who sees the fear in the animals' eyes? Why am I the only one not intoxicated enough by the sparkly costumes to miss the scars on the elephants' skin?

I am starting to get it. Caring is so much harder than not caring. Seeing The Big Picture means putting a crack in the memories from your childhood where you were programmed to see only a narrow view. And that requires immense strength and commitment. Sometimes I think it would be so much easier to just close myself back up to that narrow view......to relearn how to block The Big Picture....cause this path I am choosing, one of compassion and empathy, let me tell you, it is exhausting.

Friday, November 11, 2011


It's been a while. It wasn't a conscious decision to stop blogging, but moreso it kept being pushed down the priority ladder as other things filled my list. Then it got to a point of no return. Every so often I would think of something I wanted to blog about but it wasn't "huge" enough to lead with if I were to jump back in. Silly, I know. But it kept me away. I have known this feeling in other places in my life as well - where the more time you let pass the harder it is to step back into something.

Well, today it finally IS something huge enough to break down that imaginary wall.  It's 11/11/11. I know it is just a date to most of you, but to me I truly believe there is significance. I started seeing the number 11 just recently - maybe 8 or 9 months ago. It wasn't something I noticed before in my life. But this past year, it has been very prevalent. I would look at the clock and it would be 11:11. My oven timer randomly froze at 11 minutes until I hit start again. I have have 4 grocery store trips that the final bill was $111 and some change - just try doing THAT on purpose! My website analytics, pricetags on clothes, license plates of cars I'm driving behind - pretty much anywhere there are numbers the number 11 makes itself known to me. One day I saw the time as 11:11 on my computer then I saw it again a few hours later. How could that be, you ask? My computer inexplicably changed itself to PST timezone after I saw it the first time! I would say I see the number 11 at least twice per day and most of the time more. Yes, it could be I was just noticing it more, but why just recently? Why haven't I noticed this number stalking me the past 34 years of my life?

After the first few months of novelty wore off, I began getting really frustrated. What did it mean??!??! There had to be a reason I was seeing it this often. I don't believe in coincidence - especially when my plane's takeoff time was 11:11a out of gate 11. I went to see a psychic that had given me an amazing reading before. She had nothing to offer. I wanted to scream.

So I meditated on it. Every time I wold see an 11, I would quietly close my eyes (as long as I wasn't driving!) and I would clear my mind. I would breathe. I would wait to see if any clarity would seep in. For a few months, nothing happened (except me fitting in small meditations multiple times throughout the day). Then one day, I opened my eyes and saw something I hadn't seen before. Instead of the number 11, I saw two sides to a path. Like the paths I always walk my dogs on - a dirt path with woods on either sides. I saw the 1's side by side not as an eleven but as that barrier forming a path in front of me.
1   1
1   1
1   1
1   1

With a clarity I have never known, I began to believe these 11's were reinforcing I was on the right path.  Thinking back, they started coming into my life when I quit my job. They increased during yoga teacher training. They stepped up their game even more when I was building TravelingOms.com.

The logical part of me still knows this could be completely wrong and they are just there by coincidence. But if every time I see one, I get motivated to keep moving down this path I have chosen, is there harm in believing it? I mean besides the chance the men with a straight jacket may end up at my door? I will never know the true reason (if there is one) that all numbers lead back to 11 for me. So why not go with an explanation that has positive results?

So many times we want to explain stuff away and not believe because we may get laughed at or looked down upon. But we miss out on so many opportunities that way! Who cares what someone else thinks - if I get a kick in the pants every time I see an 11 because my gut believes it is the universe telling me to keep moving down this path I have started, why does it matter if that it the "true" message or not? It is the one I am choosing to take from the experience. What is happening in your life that you are allowing the logical part of your brain to explain away as coincidence when, given the chance, your gut may think its more?

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The park I teach free yoga at is along the Huron River.  It's a beautiful river that runs mostly through wilderness between a few area parks. This weekend, I brought my kayak to have a little fun after class. 

As class ended, I dragged my boat over to the river. I decided to paddle upstream for a while so by the time I was tired I could flow with the current. The first 10 minutes or so is through the city of Milford, so I saw cars, people walking dogs, and even some horses being ridden. As the river moved away from the city, the stillness and silence overwhelmed me. 

My teacher always says: "In stillness, we feel everything". This morning, that statement extended to all of my senses. It was almost like layers began to peel off, the deeper I went into the wilderness. First was my hearing. After a half hour or so, I began to realize that deafening silence actually wasn't silence at all. There were crickets, frogs, bird - an entire symphony of sounds! How did I miss that? How could I have not noticed these sounds from the start?

Next, a layer seemed to peel from my vision. What I saw moments earlier as stillness was actually a highly choreographed dance of birds and butterflies, tall grasses swaying, leaves being carried by the river. A dragonfly challenged me to a race, flying directly beside me for probably 3 full minutes before zipping off after deciding he had won. The logs I kept passing now held turtles sunning themselves. Were there turtles on the previous logs that I had just not noticed? How could I have not seen all of the activity in the day-to-day life of the river? How could I have thought of this as "stillness"?

My sense of touch heightened as well. I felt the breeze. I felt the spray of water from my paddle. The sun hitting my cheeks. Things I hadn't noticed before now consumed me. The smell of nature filled the air. Every sense felt alert and alive in a way it hadn't been when I had started my journey. 

We go through our days so overstimulated that we have to dull down our senses just to exist. Traffic becomes background noise we no longer hear.  We listen to music so loud it actually damages our eardrums, which forces us to listen to it louder. We hear kids playing and arguing, dogs barking, people talking. We watch TVs flashing from thistothattothis so quickly it would drive anyone actually giving it their full attention insane. We smell exhaust and pollution without even acknowledging it. 

It's no wonder we are no longer in tune with ourselves and eachother. This society has forced us to dull down any sensitivity we have if we hope to survive. This kayak trip showed me how badly I needed this sensory detox. I highly recommend taking a morning yourself to just get away. Find a corner of the Earth you can unwind and let down your guard. Get back in tune with your surroundings. Be still, be silent. See what you can notice that you never have before. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, TravelingOms.com

Part of what has been taking me away from my normal life this summer was an idea. The idea started when I was at the Midwest Yoga Conference. It was the first yoga conference I had been to and I never wanted it to end. Each session I went to I got higher and higher on this yoga cloud. Everyone was so friendly. The teachers and speakers spoke such wisdom. I was inspired for 72 straight hours.

Lying in Savasana during a Seane Corn class, I began to think about how I could bring this into my life on a regular basis. I loved my studio and teachers at home, but there is a heightened sense of self when you just live and breathe yoga for days on end. What could I do to make this part of my every day life? I shifted back to focusing on my breath and let the seed take hold where I had planted it.

Later that night I was talking to one of the girls who helped organize the conference. I mentioned what an amazing time I was having, and how wonderful all of the teachers were. I then asked her where she finds them. She told me they invite mostly the same teachers back year after year because there is not really a way for her to learn about other teachers besides word of mouth. She has to know someone's name to go look for their website and see what they are all about and if they are already booked during the conference. Something inside of me clicked.

A web developer by trade, I think in databases. Pretty much everything in my world is normalized and optimized to be most efficient. Immediately, the idea took form. I could build a website where yogis could put their profile to be considered for various events and conferences. It wouldn't even need to be just yoga teachers, it could be meditation guides, musicians, motivational speakers, nutritionists - anyone that had something to share with the yoga community! If I could get enough people to post a profile, I could market to all of the industry events as well as studios looking for new talent to lead workshops and gatherings. I could travel to industry events to both spread the word and blog about all of the events to get new teachers interested for next year. Before I even left the conference I had a name for the new path I was about to embark on: TravelingOms.com

I set out building TravelingOms.com 2 months ago. In my spare time I would code and design and test and code some more.  The response I have had from the small sampling of teachers I had sent it to was overwhelmingly positive. After what seemed like forever, it finally went live yesterday! Go check it out: http://www.TravelingOms.com. Over the next few weeks some of my Bent Yoga stuff may re-brand to TravelingOms. Be not afraid - its still me:)

While I am building up the database and working out any last minute bugs, it is completely free to post a profile. So if you have ever dreamed of traveling around sharing your wisdom and broadening your yoga community, go post your profile! Maybe I can help you fulfill your dream while you can help me fulfill mine :)  See you on TravelingOms.com!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chicken ain't Nothin but a Bird

We went to a family reunion yesterday. It was held on a beautiful farm with a few horses, some fresh veggies and chickens running free all over the place. We saw Alex looking at the chickens and Kyle said "that's where your chicken nuggets comes from".

My sister's reaction really made me sad. As soon as Kyle said it, she was like "Ewww! Gross! Don't tell him that!" That right there is what is wrong with our society. It is ok to eat the animals, just not to acknowledge where your food came from? If the thought of equating a living animal with a meal is too gross to tell a 5 year old, shouldn't actually feeding them the meal be just as gross? I don't get it. It is almost like people feel if you don't think about it then the connection doesn't exist.

I feel like where my sister is coming from is where so many people come from. They get grossed out thinking that an animal may be alive and mooing one day then on their plate the next. This is because no one brought up the connection early on in their life, so they continue with the mentality that it is taboo to doso. Alex is not a vegetarian. He likes his chicken nuggets and occasionally a hamburger or fish sticks. But at every meal we discuss what it is he is eating, so he is making a conscious decision to eat something that was once living. When we see a cow or pig we make sure he knows that is the hamburger or bacon he eats. That way if he still chooses to eat it, he has that connection and maybe a little more appreciation that something gave its life for him to eat.

I wonder what sort of world we would live in if everyone took their head of out the sand. If they allowed themselves to make that connection between a living animal and food. Would they not consume quite as much meat? Would they have a little more compassion and a little more respect for the food they are eating? Maybe a little more appreciation? Try it and see. Have open discussions about where your food came from at dinnertime. And if you find it too gross or distasteful to have at the dinner table, shouldn't that tell you something?

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Sometimes I get sad I found this yoga path so late - already well into my 30s. I think about how different my life might have been if I had learned to love myself more during those vain teens and 20s years. If I had had this confidence yoga inspires in me. If I had known what the word equanimity meant earlier in life.

I just dropped something a few moments ago upstairs. From down below I heard a child's voice: "Jenn, are you ok?!" and when I answered "yes" he responded "good, I just wanted to make sure I didn't need to kiss a boo boo". That's Alex, my boyfriend's 5 year old son who lost his mom a few years ago and lives with us full time. The response made me smile because it is so typical Alex. He is easily the most compassionate kid I have ever met.

I don't try to sway him to being vegan, but I also don't hide why I don't eat animals and we talk about being kind (to animals as well as people) a lot. He came home from daycare the other day saying "we learned about fishing today. I wasn't happy because it seems mean to put a hook through a poor fish. They're so much littler than you - is that what a bully is?" I told him yes, we are being a bully when we purposefully do things to hurt others.

He was having a few weeks where he started yelling at the teachers when they made him mad. We weren't sure what to do, since he is usually very respectful at home and doesn't yell at us.
On a whim (and because we were out of ideas), I started meditating with him - just 3 minutes each night. He giggles and squirms the first minute or two but usually by the last minute he is still. I talk to him about letting go of his thoughts. About feeling his breath on his upper lip. About noticing but not reacting to whatever it in his mind. I know it is a probably a bit over his head but I can only do what I know. One day he came home and said "I was good at daycare!" I asked what he did during his day and he said "there was 1 time I got mad when the teachers asked me to put my toys away." I asked "so did you yell at them?" and he said "no, I let it go".  I was like "what did you let go?" and he said "I just (took a deep breath in and deep breath out) and let it go. I wasn't mad anymore." I was floored.

If you ask him about pretty much any toy he has gotten in the past 2 years, he can tell you who gave it to him and when. He often brings this up out of the blue: "remember when grandma got me this stuffed animal for Christmas? That was really nice of her." or "Thank you for getting me this piggy bank for my birthday (last year)". Just random. One time, we were in the store and out of nowhere Alex proclaimed "I'm the luckiest boy!" When asked why he answered "because, I am" - who can argue with that?

I don't think there is a day that goes by that Alex doesn't ask if he can help me with something. And he is more consistent than I am with his Pleases and Thank You's. And since that first time in the store, the word "lucky" has made a daily appearance (he will get a juicebox out of the fridge and say "I'm really lucky to have juiceboxes. Some kids don't have them."). At dinner he always starts off conversation like a little adult saying "Dad, how was your day?" or "Jenn, did you have fun at yoga this morning?" There is a family yoga class coming up this month and he is SO excited to be able to come do yoga with me in the "big room" - he brings it up almost every day.

Looking at how compassionate, appreciative and respectful he is, I am realizing maybe yoga came into my life at just the right time. Having Alex around and old enough to comprehend when I would come home from teacher training class and talk about what we learned with my boyfriend might have made more of an impact on Alex than I thought. Being so new to things I think I speak of them a lot more than someone who has been living this way for decades already. My boyfriend has always been the extreme opposite (loves meat, very much about his own family unit and doesn't care what is happening to anyone else, etc) and even he is now choosing to shop at Trader Joe's and roll out a mat along side of mine every once in a while. 

I am beginning to see this journey isn't for me and my own life, but rather how I can inspire others to live similarly. It was brought into my life when I could share it most. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. So blessed to have these people in my life to share in my journey.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Teaching yoga is still a daunting task for me. I don't know what it is - the public speaking, the not knowing what is going inside the heads of the students (are they bored? is it too easy? too hard?), the constant mixup between right and left sides :) I feel like I haven't yet perfected the line between talking too much and not enough. So I decided to set up a free class in a park to get some more experience. 

I got to the park about a half hour early. Laid out my mat and radio and started stretching. Almost immediately, 3 high school students came and sat right by where I was at. They were dressed all in black, one with a Mohawk, all with piercings and cigarettes hanging out of their mouth. Your typical rebellious teens. I am embarrassed to admit, I immediately judged them. My first thought was "keep an eye on my mp3 player".

Since they sat so close to where I was, I decided to extend an invite to them, letting them know a free yoga class was going to start soon and they were welcome to join. To my surprise, they were like "maybe we will", but I didn't really expect it. They kinda sauntered to the other side of the park and I figured my invitation scared them away.

I had a few people show up to class (thanks for coming, girls!) and we got started. A few minutes into class, the teens came back. To my surprise, 2 of them got down on the ground and joined in! They continued to follow my instructions. Not mocking or making fun, but really putting in an effort. I was floored. One of them only stayed about half way through class then got up to greet another teen that had wandered in. But the other one stayed the entire class. I couldn't believe how much he was trying (and actually accomplishing). 

After class, the one who had stayed came up to talk to me. He asked when I would be doing it again, because he had really enjoyed it and would like to do more yoga. Without access to a computer, he gave me his cell phone number and I promised to text him the next time I was going to teach a class in the park. I felt completely ashamed that I had judged them so harshly just 60 minutes before. After talking to him you could tell he was a good kid just being a typical teen. A few piercings, shaved sides of head and black clothes do not make a bad person.  It taught me how much further I still have to go on this journey.

Since then, I have been very conscious as to mentally note when I judge someone. I want to stop labeling people in my head. I want to have a completely open mind when I meet someone, to see who they are on the inside without any preconceived notions based on their appearance or things I have heard previously. This is a tough lesson, but one I believe will pay off immensely. Connecting with another being is the most important thing in this world. And by stopping my judgments, I increase the amount of people available for me to sincerely connect with. Can't wait to teach my next class and see if they show up again! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Separate Lives

I haven't been blogging as frequently as before, and I have really missed it. I think the reason is that I have been having a hard time balancing my 3 lives - my Work Life, my Yoga Life and my Family Life.

When I was in Teacher Training, my Yoga Life took precedence. I had so much homework, so many responsibilities related to yoga, that my brain was constantly focused on that. In the sparse free time, my brain was still dialed into yoga so I was bursting with inspiration and had to write it down before I exploded.

When I was in Teacher Training, my Family Life definitely suffered. I rarely saw my boys (my boyfriend and his 5 yr old son) even though we live together. Seems like I was always rushing out the door, holing up in my office to do homework, or coming to bed so exhausted I could barely even whisper good night.

Now that I am out of Teacher Training, it seems like my Yoga Life has taken a back seat to my Work Life. I have been putting in a gazillion hours on a project I care nothing about to pay the bills and spending any spare time working on a project I care immensely about that isn't yet paying the bills (but has potential to in the future). Again, I find myself putting my Family Life on hold - turning down invitations to spend time with people I love in exchange for the dream I have of one day taking the project I am passionate about all the way.

I justify it by telling myself and others that as soon as I can get this project off the ground I will have a multitude of time to spend with everyone, as I will no longer have to take on time consuming yet dull projects-that-pay-the-bills. This is such a conundrum for me. I know "life is what happens when you're busy making plans" but at the same time, I am the type of person who needs goals and aspirations and will never be happy just working for someone else for the next 30 years.

While Work Life has a firm grasp on me, my Yoga Life also suffers. I am keeping up my daily practice, but the inspiration and motivation I felt on such a regular basis during Teacher Training has now subsided into random spurts. I miss that feeling. My side project has the opportunity to combine my Work Life and my Yoga Life so I can get back to living that lifestyle 100% of the time - no more ridiculous client demands and unavoidable office politics.

I've been pondering this a lot lately. If I give my Family Life the attention it deserves right now, I may be passing on an opportunity to merge my Work Life and Yoga Life together which would make a ton more room for Family Life in the future. Yet, what if there is no tomorrow? What if all of the time I am spending on Work away from my family and friends is all I get?

I don't have some clear cut lesson or conclusion. I am just going in circles on how much should I prepare for the life I want to live vs how much effort should be put into the life I am actually living today? I guess only time will tell.....


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sassy Chassi

Just got a call that I wasn't prepared for. Growing up, horses were my life. Long before we were thinking about boys or clothes, my neighbor Tif and I were 'training' her pony licorice. I remember being so proud riding one of her horses Sally by myself down the road - up until she spooked and raced home with me dragging behind, foot caught in stirrup and head flopping on the ground. Tif's mom, Carol, made me hurry up and get right back, knowing if she didnt before my mom (who had witnessed the whole thing and was deathly afraid of horses) got there I would probably never ride again.

While we were in high school, Carol added another horse to her barn. Although named Chassi, she was just as often called Sassy Chassi. She was young, and full of spit and vinegar. I remember sitting for hours trying to get her take a bit. I hadn't realized there was someone more stubborn than I was! She would stick her nose so high I had to stand on the trampoline just to reach her. The day she calmly opened her mouth for the bit, tears welled up in my eyes. I hadn't ever, to this day, felt more accomplished about anything.

She stayed true to her name - dumping our trainer more than once with her bucking bronco routines. Riding her became a dance - my right heel in, her left hind leg kick out, my left heel in, her head tossing around. Round and round we would dance, her ears perked and alert, betraying the "bad horse" act she was trying to put on. There is not a doubt in my mind she enjoyed those rides as much as I did.

Depending on her rider, she would adjust her attitude. If it was a child, unsure of themselves, she would plod around the ring like a trustworthy pony, taking care to not stumble or go too fast. Then an experienced rider would get on her and she would race around crow-hopping to her hearts' content.

Chassi was smarter than any horse I had ever met. Not only would she find ways to escape her own stall at night, but she would often "free" all of her friends from their stalls as well. When new horses came into the barn, she became "mom", protecting them from the bullies. She would sit for hours while I untangled her mane, just loving the attention. Year after year she would surprise us with her depth, wisdom and awesome personality.

The call I just received was that she passed away. So many memories attached to that amazing mare. On one side, I am overwhelmed with the guilt of having moved on with my life and not being around her as much as I should have been these last few years. On the other side, she was so well loved and had such a great long life, I should feel honored just to have played a small part at all.

Chassi was an amazing soul. She will be missed by many.

Thank you, Chassi, for all of your lessons and love that you shared so generously with all of us.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Subjective Truth


  [suhb-jek-tiv] –adjective 1.existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought ( opposed to objective). (dictionary.com)
So many people believe the concept of "Truth" exists. It is one of those things we just grow up learning about - Truth versus lies. When you were growing up, how many times did your parents ask if you were telling the Truth? We never think to question what that means, it is so ingrained in us. Our entire legal system is built upon it. But does a completely True statement ever really exist?   So much of this world takes shape through the specific lens each individual looks through, that I am starting to question if there is such a thing as a global, undisputed True statement. Everything I am finding is one person's Truth, which may or may not be mine as well.
Last week we went to see some fireworks. It was a beautiful show - huge explosions coming one right after another, us ohhing and ahhing at the brightness. After that night, I could have confidently came up with some True statements about fireworks:

  1. Fireworks are loud
  2. Fireworks are bright
  3. Fireworks explode high in the air
Fast forward 4 days to me returning from a quick business trip. My flight took off about 9pm, just as it was getting dark. I was looking out the window and part way into the flight, started seeing these weird shooting star type blinking lights, close to the ground. I perked up a little, confused what I was seeing. I would see one over there, then one up there a bit, then another one back there, then again up there a bit. What was going on??!?!
Suddenly, one happened directly under my window - the closest one yet. I could see the individual pieces making up what I thought was a blinking light and I understood, I was seeing fireworks. Being the Friday before the 4th of July, it seemed like every city between Philadelphia and Detroit had their fireworks shows going on! I saw bigger displays with many going off at once, I saw what was probably backyard shows with a sporadic one here and there.  It was an amazing site - seeing so many shows at once, knowing the people on the ground were only experiencing one show. It was like I was connecting them all together by being in that plane to see them. 
Seeing these fireworks, and comparing them to the ones I had witnessed under totally different circumstances a week earlier, brought out this quandary in my brain. A statement as simple as "fireworks are bright" was negated in that plane, with the ones I was seeing much less luminous than some of the building and streetlights surrounding them. They certainly weren't loud since I couldn't hear them at all in the plane. And they weren't high up since I was much higher than they were. Everything I could have confidently stated about fireworks a week before were all falsities in this new situation I was in while viewing them. 
It got me thinking to arguments and how useless they are. My week-ago self could have argued with my plane-self about the brightness or loudness of fireworks, and they would have both been correct. They would have been each telling a True statement - with the Truth subjective to their individual experiences. How often in arguments do we believe we are correct and the other person is wrong? What if next time, you try to believe you are both correct? How would that change your way of arguing? Seeing that there might be two or more True sides to a story removes most ammo and instead leads more to a need to understand versus a need to be right, which leads to a much more well-rounded view of your existence. Try it next time. No matter how wrong you think they are, try to see their argument as if it were correct, like they see it. It is amazing how much you can learn with this simple task.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Professor Mosquito

Father's Day was perfect - spending time with my family at my sister's house. We hung out by her pool while the boys played with the 4-wheeler, go cart, and golf cart. It was an amazing day spent entirely outside with family. But there were additional guests as well - mosquitoes. I was having so much fun I didn't realize how many had crashed our party until I was in the car on the way home. Within the first mile of driving home, I realized I had a gazillion mosquito bites on my right foot. Okay, so in reality it was 4. But they were strategically placed on the bottom, top, by the heel and by my toes so that my entire foot felt inflamed and itchy. SOOOO itchy!

I would hit the gas pedal then quickly pick up my foot so I could scratch it. Then hit the gas pedal. Then itch. It made for a very bumpy ride and more than once I had to quickly correct before hitting the curb. I was thisclose to switching with my boyfriend so he could drive home and I could tear my foot apart, when I decided to make this into a challenge.

Yoga has taught me everything is impermanent, and that reaction is unnecessary. Things will change on their own, I just need to be mentally strong enough to hold on. To not give in. I issued a challenge to myself to not scratch my foot the entire rest of the way home.

Never have I had to come to my breath more than that car ride. The itching became so insistent it was painful.  I was getting shooting pains coming from my foot all of the way up my leg. My brain was BEGGING me to just give it a little scratch. I refused. My foot and leg kept tensing, which made it worse. I had to talk my brain into easing up on the muscles. I tried talking to my boyfriend to get my mind off of it, didn't help. I turned up the radio. Still there. I came to my breath over and over, focusing on that little part of my upper lip where I could feel a slight wisp of air. Nada. The pain became unbearable. I began to imagine each breath in was going straight to my foot and grabbing a little bit of the itch, then racing back up my body in my exhale to release that itch outside my body. Like someone trying to empty the ocean with a pail, my breath kept taking tiny pieces of that itch away.

The car ride was 40 minutes, and it felt like 3 times that. But I slowly got into a rhythm. Breathe in slow, send it to the foot, breathe out slow, picture some of the itch leaving my body. I acknowledged this pain was completely mental - if I could get control over my mind I could lessen my discomfort. I was more focused than I ever had been before. About 30 minutes in, miraculously, the itch began to subside. I was scared to actually think about it because I figured it would come back, but I found I wasn't tensing up as much. It became bearable. It went from something I couldn't handle to the distractions I feel in meditation and Savasana that are noticed but easily not reacted to.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, I was okay. They still itched, but it wasn't the intense, going-to-tear-my-foot-off type of itching anymore. In fact, I didn't even scratch them until later that night. Between unloading the car, letting the dogs out, etc, they had lost their hold over me. Only once I was sitting down relaxing did the sensations come back and I allowed myself a quick scratch.   

It is amazing how yoga teaches us to be in control of ourselves. This may seem like a simple example, but to me it was a huge triumph. I resisted reaction in a situation stronger than I ever had before. My yoga teacher always says "You are in training. For what, you may not know just yet. But you are in training." That statement came true during that car ride. I was a warrior. I was focused. I was strong. I had faith that things would change. I took on my brain and won. And it felt amazing. I urge everyone to start noticing when your brain has control over you, and to fight it. To breathe instead of react. We are all in training. Something as simple as triumphing over mosquito bites will train me to keep my cool when faced with an intense situation later. Just like working out your body - every rep adds minuscule benefits but together all of the reps and all of the workouts increase physical strength - so it is with mental training as well. These tiny moments where you can test your mental strength add up together to truly make a difference.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bionic Woman

I LOVED this scene while watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World a few months ago:

Little did I know how accurate it would be! Ok, so no, my eyes don't glow and my hair doesn't smoke. I doubt I could throw a person through a wall without even touching them (realistically, I couldn't do it even with touching them). But whether it is the veganism or the yoga or the combination of both, something amazing is happening to my body. 

I already wrote about my sinuses now being completely normal after 34 years of hell. There are so many other things I am noticing as well. I have had issues with my weight for years. I have always been an active person, but I have stayed on the same weight plateau since high school (20 years!). For the first time, I am crushing that barrier. Although I'm sure the exercise helps, I attribute it more to the fact that I rarely ever have cravings anymore.  I used to go into the kitchen for just anything. Out of boredom, hunger, whatever. I was a muncher. Now I have such stable bloodsugar that that urge has all but disappeared. When I'm hungry I can tell when my body now switches over to its storage instead of releasing the urge into my brain. It is pretty amazing to actually feel my body working correctly. On the occasion I do have an urge to snack, I can now recognize it as such and have the willpower to hold off until the moment passes. I will never be a skinny-minny, but feeling good in my clothes starts off my days on the right foot.

Additionally, I have always been a nail-biter. Well, nail chewer is more like it. Just recently I have realized I am having a hard time keeping up with my chewing - my nails are growing so fast! I will chew one off and two days later there's a 1/4 inch of white again. I am slowly breaking that habit because it is becoming a bit too much work - lol. I actually cut my nails for the first time yesterday - huge milestone for me. 

Then, last weekend, we went out drinking to celebrate the end of teacher training. After not having drank alcohol for 12 weeks, I was a bit worried. Even before I had quit drinking, 1 or 2 drinks would always result in at minimum a headache the next day. More than 2 and I would be bowing to the porcelain God. My body didn't take well to poison. I left the next day a bit open to nurse my hangover. I lived it up that night - having 5 or 6 mixed drinks and 2 shots. We stayed out until probably 2 or 3am (my usual bedtime: 10pm). I woke up around 7am, really scared to move. I was feeling ok just laying there, but I really really had to use the bathroom. I was scared as soon as I got up the full force of the hangover would come crashing down. I slipped out of bed....nothing. Walked down the stairs....still nothing. In fact, I felt great! I ended up putting the dogs in the car and heading to the park - where we walked 4 miles worth of mountain bike trails before 10am! I am not sure what happened, but somehow my body was able to process the alcohol and efficiently remove it, resulting in no hangover whatsoever! I truly felt like a SuperHero when I came back home and my boyfriend was still in bed moaning and groaning about how hung over he was :)

After my walk, I decided to get a jump on some chores I wanted done. I began by clearing a section of lawn for a patio. It was a fairly large section - digging up the grass, hauling the grass patches to the other side of the yard, smoothing out the ground. It took me about 4 hours of hard and heavy labor - all while my boyfriend slept off his hangover inside. I had already planned on not going to yoga the next day since I knew I would be so sore I wouldn't be able to move. However, the next morning, I jumped out of bed rearing to go. Not a sore muscle to be found. Huh?! I was doing heavy lifting for such a long time period, and I wasn't sore???!  My daily practice must have prepared my body for anything that could be thrown at it. 

These are just a few of the many side effects courtesy of my new Vegan diet and daily yoga lifestyle. I cannot believe how transformed I feel. I feel Strong. I feel Healthy. I feel Amazing. I had no clue how much my old bad habits were holding my body back. It feels like my body has now "clicked" and is working the way it was intended to. What bad habits are keeping your body from reaching its peak potential?