Thursday, May 22, 2014

Scratching the Unscratchable

I've been thinking lately about how my brain will attach to fucking anything (not that kind of fucking, ahem). When I was single, I attached to the thought pattern of finding a man, because my brain told me that the lack of one was the reason I was in a fairly constant state of woe-is-me. Then I found a man, and that thought pattern dissolved. No longer was the dominant narrative in my head one of wondering if I was destined to be alone FOREVER. Hooray! My brain said. Now I can finally be happy!

And then a new pattern sprang up, around career, and needing to do what it takes to create work that satisfies me. My days at work were filled with thoughts along the lines of: "But this isn't MEEEEEEEEEE! /I'm wasting away my life!/ if only I were doing something meaningful!" -you know, super productive, helpful stuff. Then the wheels were set in motion to make those career dreams a reality and the angst subsided. Hooray! My brain said. Now I can finally be happy!

You guessed it, my brain went and did it again! Now I've fixated on my body, and the fact that it is not the same size and shape that it was in high school. My brain is doing all sorts of crazy things to keep me on the hamster wheel of doom, things like comparing my body to other women who have completely different body types, or making me feel like a complete failure when a pair of jeans no longer pulls over my ass with ease. If only you lost 15 pounds! My brain says. THEN you will finally be happy.

It's taken me some time but I'm finally starting to figure out that this is a load of bullshit. Not cool, brain, ye who will latch onto anything possible to rustle up some turmoil. These experiences show me that even if I were to attain some ideal physical form, my brain would still find something to obsess over on the other side. This is not happiness!

Learning these lessons the hard way is no walk in the park, but I'm grateful too-because this shows me very clearly what so many spiritual teachings point to: outer forms/other people do not create happiness--that shit has got to come from within. I'm starting to really grok this stuff instead of just paying it lip service. It's kind of exciting.

I'm reading a book called "Women, Food & God" by Geneen Roth (she's really good, I highly recommend her work) and she writes, "When you inquire, you begin with whatever is happening now-from wanting to eat an entire pizza to wanting to crawl into bed and stay there for the next fifty years. You don't assume that you know what you need to do or where you need to go. You become curious about feelings and sensations. You listen to your body. You stop bossing yourself around."

She nailed it. This is exactly what I do to myself--some days I'd even take it a step further and call it bullying. And when I'm in that loop, that bossy, mean, you're life sucks loop, there is no love. Of course my body and soul do not comply when I try to hate them different, hate them into change.

I'm interested in a particular kind of life; a walking the talk, a doing the deep, inner work, bringing light to the darkness type life. And if I'm going to keep working with people around these same things, I've got to practice them myself. I talk about radical self love, and maybe I've experienced hits and glimmers of it here and there-but honestly I think I've barely scratched the surface of what that actually menas, what that acutally feels like in my body. I think it's much deeper and more abiding than how I feel on the regular. Because the daily nitty gritty of city life still feels pretty slippery, like a magic fish I'm trying to squeeze tight but the tighter I get the easier it slips away.

So what to do: take my own advice, which goes like this:

1. Gratitude every night-get a small journal that I keep by my bed, and write down three things I'm grateful for before I go to sleep.

2. Exercise every day without fail, all good if I can only manage 20 minutes.

3. Cook most of my food at home, going out to restaurants 2-3x/week instead of 5-7.

4. Practice something creative/right brained every week.

5. Self care--which is basically outlined in 1-4.

One last thing: in a recent weekend training with my teacher Katchie, she repeated the same line a few times: "The brain makes a good servant but a poor master." I'm looking forward to this experiment. I feel ready.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Worst Thing

This October, in the span of three weeks, my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer and my grandmother died. For a moment there, I fell down a deep well, the light becoming smaller and smaller in the distance.

It took these pieces of news for me to finally understand the familiar adages "be grateful for what you have," "live each day like it was your last," and, as I'd ride my bike home from work with tears in my eyes after learning about the imminent mastectomy, "you never know what other people are going through."

I'd of course heard these platitudes hundreds, if not thousands of times before. I am, after all, in the business of self help, the land where little sayings like these abound endlessly-but it took this experience of having the wind knocked out of my sails to grok these dichos down in my bones. Every time someone cut me off on my bicycle or bumped into me on the subway, where my response typically would be more of the silent rage variety, now, there I was bursting into tears: maybe this person is an asshole because their mother has cancer!

Cancer is the worst thing.

When I found out about my mom, I cleared my afternoon, pulled the blinds, and watched reality TV. I ate some ice cream. And cried. Wailed, actually. Just that morning I wrote in my journal, and I quote: "I'm so lucky there aren't any crazy illnesses in my family." So I guess it was appropriate to get a little love (?) slap from the Universe.

I told myself I would give myself the afternoon to wallow. The thoughts in my head were insane! Between projecting morbid worst case scenarios out into the future, and whining about my poor luck (how could something like this happen to MEEEEEE!?!?!?!?), I threw myself a pretty amazing pity party. I realized this was a familiar space--anxious, morbid, wallowing, small--and while this experience was the worst thing, it was comfortable. I'd been there before. I've disappeared countless times, alienated myself from reality more times than I can count. This time was different, because I knew I had to be stronger for someone else, in a new way. I got present to how much I still, even at 29 years old, still depend on my mom. And I knew that I could not effectively support and take care of her if I was still in that smelly old pity well.

Here is what I learned (am learning):

1. In those moments when all I want to do is hole up and hide, the best thing I can do is pick up the phone, call someone, and authentically share what is going on with me. In this space of connection, something new always opens up, and I'm left with a shifted perspective. I am not alone.

2. It's possible to experience something really shitty and heavy and awful and not end up at the bottom of the sad well. I could deal with the experience with a sense of lightness. And I don't mean a cheesy "love and light!" borderline denial of reality--but a spaciousness, an expansion that I'd never known before. Instead of following the familiar patterns, or running from sensation, it really helped to let whatever came up simply be without making it mean anything, good or bad. When I stayed connected to a sense of lightness, I found more ways of being open up almost effortlessly. I didn't lose myself.

3. This is LIFE! Beautiful things happen: babies are born, epic sunsets happen, love grows, opportunities arise, flowers bloom and milestones are marked; and all the while, people grow old and die, cells mutate for no good reason, jobs are lost, folks get sick. To deny any part of this, good or bad, is simply foolish. As much as I wanted (still want) to run away from this news, to do so would be to run away from life. And that is the last thing I want to do.

I'm sure there are more things I will probably add to this list eventually--but these are the top three that have most impacted the last two months. My tendency if I'm not incredibly vigilant every day is to isolate and disappear--something I'm committed to transforming, one day at a time.

My friends and family have been a great help in making this transformation possible-not only in allowing me to share myself, but also in sharing with me what is currently true for them. Another is writing this post: organizing my thoughts, taking stock of all the 'stuff' so that I may actually learn something. My hope is that these words might be of benefit for you.

So today! these here last few weeks of this slippery snake of a year, I am committed to turning inward, writing as much as possible, cooking lots of yummy food, and busting out the pastels.

I'll keep y'all posted about my mom :) 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Grow a Home Practice! Basic Yoga Sequence (20-30 min)

Hey guys!

I created this sequence for those of you who are either interested in growing a consistent home practice, and/or need something short and sweet to help ground you during your busy days. This sequence is simple; depending on how much time you have, it's about 20 minutes--longer if you hold the poses or add in meditation. 

I know what it's like: you are so inspired during yoga class, and you have the best intentions of keeping up a consistent practice at home, but in reality, the farthest you get is rolling out your yoga mat and staring at it longingly. Or, your schedule fills up, and you start to run out of time, and the first thing to go is the thing that keeps you most sane: yoga class (I know I'm not alone in experiencing this). You can do this. Just a little each day, and before you know it, these sweet little practices are just as much a part of your day to day as brushing your teeth or tying your shoes. 

Ideally, you have a mat, a couple of blocks, and a strap; however, a thick hardback book and a scarf work just as fine. If you don't have a mat, you can practice on carpet--if you don't have carpet, you are going to want to find some kind of cushion between you and the hard floor. 

Hold each pose for a minimum of 5-10 breaths unless otherwise noted; you can most certainly hold them for longer if you like.

Enjoy! And please post feedback/questions in the comments!

Como se hace: Picadillo (Traditional Cuban Recipe)


I'm excited to share with you the recipe for Picadillo, a traditional Cuban meal that was my favorite dish growing up. It is versatile, and difficult to mess up, so I encourage even you newer cooks out there to give it a go. Traditionally, it is served over rice, but I make a ton and sometimes mix it in with an egg and avocado for a hearty breakfast, or throw it into some corn tortillas for tacos. This is the recipe I use, and feel free to get creative if there is a certain spice you really like, or another vegetable you would like to add (hopefully I'm not being too sacrilegious here).

I always make a large batch so that it lasts a few days worth of meals. So; if you don't want to make a full two pounds of this, buy less beef and halve the recipe. This is an awesome dish if you are on a budget, because the ingredients are cheap and a little goes a long way. It's also quick to make, unless you don't have a food processor, in which case you'll be a-choppin for a while.

  • 2 pounds grass fed/finished ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced (I LOVE GARLIC)
  • 2 small tomatoes or one large one, chopped
  • 1 small potato, peeled and cut into tiny cubes
  • 1 teaspoon of capers
  • 2 tablespoons Cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter, or coconut oil
  • White rice. We use Mahatma (you can find this anywhere).

  1. Grab a large skillet and heat up enough butter or coconut oil to cover the bottom of the pan
  2. Add the onions and green bell pepper. Saute on medium heat until it softens and the onions get translucent.
  3. Turn the heat down to it's lowest setting. Add the garlic and stir.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes. 
  5. Add the spices. Now you have the sofrito, which is the base for many Cuban dishes.
  6. Now it's time to add the beef. Mix the beef into the sofrito, cover the pan, and let simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. 
  7. Before the beef is fully cooked, stir in the potatoes, cover the pan, and let simmer until the beef is completely cooked. If you add the potatoes too early, the will get soggy, so make sure that's your final step.
  8. While your beef is cooking, make the rice by following the instructions on the bag. 
  9. Serve the picadillo over rice and be happy. If you really want to get authentic, pair with a simple side salad and fried or sauteed plantains. Best served around at a table full of friends and plenty of laughter, stories, and good wine. ALABAO! Que disfruten~

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thinking about Yoga Teacher Training? Read this first

It's late summer, and I've been seeing lots and lots of advertisements for Fall 200 hour Yoga Teacher Trainings. Maybe you are considering signing up for one. I know the feeling--you've been practicing yoga for a while, maybe it's even changed your life, and now you want to bump your commitment up a notch. The time feels right to commit and immerse yourself more than is possible in 90 minute classes and the occasional workshop, and teacher training appears to be the logical next step. Maybe for you, it is! I'll be the first to admit TT was one of the most growth filled, healing, positive experiences of my life. I just wish I'd been prepared for what happened after I got my certificate. If you don't ever have the intention of actually teaching, you can probably skip over this post; however, if you are like me and your yoga-colored glasses are at a nice day-glo shade of rose, you might want to take heed.

Here is my list of things I wish I'd known when I made the choice to become a yoga teacher, as well as a few tips if you are still gung ho:
  1. Have some experience practicing yoga (pro tip: yoga is more than asana). I thought this was obvious, and then recently attended an informational meeting for a training I am considering. A person signed up who had only taken a handful of classes. Again--if you are taking the training with no intention to teach right away, this doesn't apply to you. All I know is this: $18 is a lot of money to spend on a drop-in class, so you can bet I'm going to make sure I'm getting my money's worth.
  2. Find a teacher you actually like and respect, and who has a life outside of yoga. Ideally, this teacher shows you their faults every now and again, and can actually speak from experience. Even more importantly, this person can own up when they make a mistake. Be very weary of falling prey to a cult of personality or lifting someone onto a pedestal: you will eventually be disappointed. Just because someone can stand on their hands for ten minutes or throw their leg behind their head like it ain't no thang does not actually mean anything other than that they are flexible.
  3. Perhaps you've found *your* teacher and they start talking about the upcoming training. Let's incorporate some critical thinking, yes? YTT is yoga teachers' bread and butter. I'd be willing to wager that often, the instructors are not actually invested in whether or not you ever become a teacher. This is another reason it is important to have an actual relationship with a teacher before you sign up. You want to study with someone who sees the value you will bring as a teacher and  uncover that value with the proper tools. Otherwise you run the risk of being a walking dollar sign.
  4. Yoga is many things; if you choose to teach, one of the things yoga will become is business. Find out how much of the training is devoted to teaching you how to navigate the business aspect of teaching yoga. There is a lot more to teaching yoga for a living than waltzing in and teaching class a few times per week. Which leads me to my next tip:
  5. Make sure there are systems in place to support new teachers. That might be mentoring with an experienced teacher. It might mean opportunities to practice-teach and get feedback.  If there is no indication that you will be supported after you graduate, I say run. 
  6. Don't quit your day job. Ever. I hate to break it to you, but you probably won't start teaching right away. Scratch that-you DEFINITELY won't start teaching right away. The day might come where you are able to survive off teaching, but until that happens you will probably need something at least part time to cover your butt. The burrito budget only goes so far before you start fantasizing about the stability of your previous cubicle life.
  7. When you do start teaching, don't get attached to teaching at a studio. Volunteer. Teach at gyms. Grow your skill in an environment where the expectations are lower and you can close the gap on the learning curve without any unnecessary pressure. 
  8. Yoga teachers are not doctors, nutritionists, therapists, etc. I repeat, THINK CRITICALLY. If your yoga teacher says something weird that raises those little hairs on the back of your neck or makes you feel queasy in your gut, LISTEN to those messages. 
  9. Supplement your knowledge. 200 hours does not make you an expert at anything. Read, take trainings and workshops across different disciplines, and be curious about different methods outside your chosen style of yoga. 
  10. Most importantly! Feed your own practice. Continue to study and learn. Get support if you feel stuck. So many teachers start teaching, and stop practicing. Now that you are teaching, people will look to you as a source of knowledge and it's important that you stay connected to your center. Otherwise, you will forget why you ever set out to teach in the first place, or worse, you'll let it go to your head.
If you are SERIOUS about becoming a yoga teacher, please do yourself a favor and approach finding a teacher training the way you would approach going to graduate school. Would you enroll at a university where all the teachers had nothing but weekend certifications? Didn't think so. Do your research. Read testimonials--and not just the ones the studio uses to market the damn thing.  Enjoy the experience, and, keep your feet on the earth. I learned the hard way, so hopefully you won't have to.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What I learned from The August Break

For the entire month of August I participated in the August Break, a daily photography project hosted by Susanna Conway, where we took a photo each day based off a one or two word prompt. I jumped in last minute and had a fantastic time engaging with my surroundings in a completely new way. Here are some of the interesting insights I had along the way:

  • The way I do one thing is the way I do everything. At the beginning of the month, I felt excitement and motivation, the project was on my mind at the start of every day, and I was actively looking ahead and searching my environments for inspiration. I noticed my thrill waned by the end of the third and beginning of the fourth week, to the point that I even posted a day late a couple times, or didn't even think about or look at the prompt until the sun had gone down and I didn't have much time left, or even posted photos I'd taken months ago but still fit the parameters. This is how I typically approach every new undertaking in my life: I start out strong, unwavering in my commitment; and then the halfway point passes and my motivation drops significantly. It made me see that even for things that I am choosing to do, and that light me up, I need to find a way to stay connected lest my creative juices become one more thing to muscle through or cross off the to-do list.
  • I had a ton of fun. Ever since I've started giving myself more permission to explore my creative side, I have been enjoying my life so much more. From an outsiders' perspective, nothing has changed; I still have my routines, and my day job; I still have to cook all the food and wash all the dishes and clean all the clothes at the laundromat; I'm still on a tight budget and have to be very deliberate with my purchases; yet incorporating creative practices throughout my day has brought so much joy to all of that. It's fun to approach the mundane with fresh eyes; to create the extraordinary within the structure of everyday ordinary living.
  • The work doesn't have to be "perfect" for me to share it. I can share things I create without being an expert, without knowing everything (in this case, about photography), without it even being good, at all--that's not really the point. Right now, the point is self expression; sharing my point of view; finding new ways to deliver my message with fresh eyes and perspective. This knowledge inspires me to be curious about other modes of self expression, something I probably would not have considered before. I'm thinking ceramics.
Here's a glimpse from tonight's sunset--this magical magical time in Northern California, where we finally get proper summer, just as Autumn is about to start. Incredible:

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The August Break Day 31: Smile

Here I am, 31 days later! August 1st feels like a lifetime ago...

Stay tuned for what I learned from this project.

Thank you everyone for keeping up with me this past month! I'll see you next year :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The August Break Day 29: Your (My) Fave Thing

My fave thing? There are a couple of practices I keep every day that keep my feet on the ground. The first are morning pages, which you can read about here; the second is a movement practice, which typically means rolling out my mat and practicing yoga (although, more recently, I've incorporated dance to the mix).

Settling in at Laughing Lotus

These are my favorite things--the moments in the day when I get to be with myself. After so many years spent spinning my energy outward, this daily reconnecting to my guts is my biggest priority. As a person who tends toward extremes, I have to cultivate moderation like my life depended on it--which, in some ways, it absolutely does.

Here's an extra photo from yesterday:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The August Break Day 27: Number

I danced ballet from age 3 or 4 until I was 15. At about 12 or so, I started dancing on pointe and for years after I stopped my toes were crumpled together. Ten plus years of yoga, and they are all nice and spread out again:

10 little yogi toes. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The August Break Day 26: Yes

I looked forward to today's prompt for a few days, and then when the time came I felt stumped. "Yes?" How does one capture yes? I kept looking around for what physical things in my life or environment symbolized this. I thought of posting a photo of Dave, and how I say "yes" to our commitment every day, but I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea (that I was saying yes to a certain type of question). So I am posting my business cards, to symbolize the greater and ongoing YES of my current life, that being, the YES of entrepreneurship, of being my own boss, of stepping fully into my place as business owner. It's exciting, exhilarating, and a great challenge all at the same time; I am practicing gratitude at every moment, even the overwhelming ones.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The August Break Day 25: Sunday Morning

Sunday morning view out of my friend Rebecca's third floor apartment on Dolores street. This is such a quintessentially Mission scene: beautiful Victorian homes, the fog barely poking out over Twin Peaks, and, if you squint, the J Muni line cruising south.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The August Break Day 24: Hear

Dave and I met up with some friends at the 20th Street Block Party. I managed not to have a panic attack while being surrounded by so many people (I'm only slightly exagerrating) and we found a nice spot stage right to watch Two Gallants, who I'd never heard of but ended up liking a lot. Here they are covering Nirvana's "Aneurism." 


Friday, August 23, 2013

The August Break Day 23: Sacred

Here you see an image of my home altar. I've kept one for the past 5 or 6 years. I guess I need an entire arsenal of goddesses to watch over me: You see Kali, Durga, Frida Kahlo, The Virgin of Guadalupe, and a photo of my mom when she was 19. There's Royal Violets perfume, used by all the women on my mom's side of the family; various shells (and one vial of sand) from various oceans and seas all around the world; found hawk feathers; tarot cards; stones; messages from loved ones; a wallet sized photo of myself as a baby...little reminders from all of my lives, past, present, and future.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The August Break Day 22: Midday

I set an alarm for noon today. This is the photo I took:

Out the window of Fix Studios

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The August Break Day 21: Something Old

There are so many amazing, pimped out rides in the Mission--I caught this one showing off on 24th Street:

My favorite street

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The August Break Day 20: Sight

So the prompt read "taste," however; I think it was an accidental redundancy because we already did that on the ninth. So, I chose "Sight" instead.

And how could I not! The moon was HUGE. I usually think it's silly to take photos of the moon because they always come out fuzzy, never doing her justice--but I think I found a way to capture her tonight:

Can you guess which one is the moon??? 

This is the field on Golden Gate where we play softball every week. We got our asses handed to us--but it was super fun anyway!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The August Break Day 17: Touch

My photo of the day, plus a couple extras:

Me and Zoie 

Melvin and Dave--Pony pals


Friday, August 16, 2013

The August Break Day 16: Floral

I get caught up in city life sometimes. Often, it's not positive. I start to get small, and bitch about little things, like waiting in line, or crowds, or how much I hate doing laundry. And then on a bike ride to AT&T park to watch a Giants game with my boo, we stop to grab lunch from a taco truck and as I lean up on the metal fence I glance up only to see I am surrounded by this:

Swoon City USA, aka passiflora, aka passionflower

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The August Break Day 15: Books

I read Cheryl Strayed's Wild in three days. There were dozens of passages that felt expressly written for me. This book felt like a dear friend, and ever since I finished, I feel like a piece of me is missing.