Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grandmother's Rainbow

Once upon a time, on a rainy day, Grandmother Spider found the end of the rainbow. She pulled a length of twine from her pocket and quickly wrapped the rainbow's end in a half hitch sinnet. Then she began to tug. With each pull the rainbow became smaller, until it was small enough to fit into Grandmother's pocket.

Grandmother Spider carried the rainbow home. Later that night, she divided each band of color into a colorful piece of hemp. She crushed the leftovers with her pestal and rolled the shards in her palm until they were round and bright like beads. Finally she pierced each bead with a sewing needle, and slipped them onto the rainbow twine. She left the findings on her table with a teapot sitting on top. Rainbows, she knew, had a way of slipping away over night. Then she went to bed. In the morning, Grandmother Spider knotted the pieces of the rainbow into a luminous crown.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mandala Monday - A Memorial Flower

"Within every seed a flower sleeps. Within every mind lingers a dream."

I’d like to take a moment this Memorial Day to dedicate a mandala to the dreamers, laborers, parents, and soldiers who have given their lives in service. Memorial Day traditionally honors veterans, but I believe there is something equally noble in the sacrifices of everyday men and women. This mandala honors the father who surrenders his personal aspirations and works two jobs to buy his children a foothold in the American dream. This mandala celebrates the environmental activist sowing seeds in abandoned parking lots. May their spirit of generosity and perseverance inform the future of our nation. Blessed be. 


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reach for the sky....wait! Not that high!

For the second time this week I looked up from my garden and spotted my daughter perched high in the branches of a tree. For the second time this week I struggled between worry and pride. On one hand, all my modern parenting instincts scream, “DANGER!” On the other hand, I marvel at her bravery and her wild whims. I have never been the girl who climbs trees. I’ve always been too scared to scale the branches. Or perhaps my mother was too scared to let me scale branches, so I evolved into a creature that lingers among roots, gazing upward. The facts are lost deep in my memory.

Meanwhile, Abby grins and hurls handfuls of leaves down at her brother. I hope my daughter will grown into a young woman who dares to climb. I hope she ascends toward happiness, financial stability, and knowledge. I want her to smile down at the world and breathe the bright breezes. But those are all metaphors.

Climbing a tree is real. Climbing a tree--or rather, falling from one--can break a pre-schooler’s neck. So part of me demands that I summon her back to earth, while the other part argues that tree climbing is the cornerstone of a joyous childhood. My mind cannot convince itself either way. I wander over to the tree. I take my customary spot among the roots, gazing up with a two-part plan in mind: to share this moment with my pixie child and catch her if she falls.

From Birches by Robert Frost
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Interview: Lindsay Love

The half-stated purpose of this blog is to share ideas for embracing an inspired, happy, and creative life. On my own journey I've met a host of brilliant people who create 'the good life' through their art and community service. This week's interview with Lindsay Love is the first in a series of profiles that showcase artists living their dream.
Lindsay and her inspiring daughter, Baila
Lindsay Love is also a certified children’s yoga and meditation instructor and is a member of multiple local community organizations. Lindsay is joined in her journey by her daughter and inspiration, Baila (3 years) and their dog, Bea.

When and how did you discover hoop dance?
Lindsay: I was introduced to hoop dancing in 2006, as it was becoming increasingly popular among the summer music festival scene. I was always intrigued but it wasn't until I watched Spiral's Earth Dance video in the Spring of 2008 that I felt inspired to pick up a hoop myself.

Spiral's Earthdance video is a hooping classic! What about that  video changed your intrigue into inspiration?

Lindsay: Spiral wasn't just hooping, she was DANCING! I was spotting chaine turns, deep grande plies in second position, sustained spins, etc. much different than I've ever seen before.

You studied modern, ballet, and tap dance for 13 years before discovering hoop-dance. What are some of the similarities and differences between hoop-dance and more 'traditional' schools of dance?

Lindsay: Studio dance and hoop dance share many similarities in the art of expression through movement, performance and flow. In the fall of 2006, I walked away from studio dance with little inspiration and motivation remaining. With the hoop came a new challenge, less boundaries and infinite possibilities in discovering how to utilize this prop to ignite my desire to dance again. Hoop dance has allowed me to tap into my unique free flow, without direction or limitation.

How has your extensive dance background informed/impacted your hooping?

Lindsay: My background in dance has served as great preparation as I now spin in my ultimate joy in the flow arts community. I was a very shy child and am grateful to my mother and dance teacher for all they contributed to my experience in dance. That opportunity gave me confidence, built incredible self-esteem and sparked the creative fire within at a very young age. I still enjoy creating choreography, only now with props and tools (generally on fire!) and love sharing my art through performance, both of which I learned during my years in the studio.

Do you have any suggestions for hoopers who want to incorporate more dance into their spinning?

I strongly believe that the hoop has a way of finding

 you  and when that connection between yourself and
 the hoop is recognized, you will begin experiencing
 your unique flow.
Lindsay: My advice to hoopers who wish to incorporate more dance into their practice at home would be to JUST LET GO! I strongly believe that the hoop has a way of finding you and when that connection between yourself and the hoop is recognized, you will begin experiencing your unique flow. If it is technique that is desired, utilize resources such as dance tutorials on YouTube and discover the multiple ways to integrate your hoop with specific moves and combinations. Do not limit yourself as your body will intuitively guide you through your expression!

I think the freedom to just let go and dance draws many people into  hooping. It's so liberating. At the same time hooping draws a lot of  attention --though it may be different in Lawrence than here in  rural MO. Most of its very supportive, but there's sense of being on  display. How do you balance the pull of performance with the desire  to just experience the dance?

Lindsay: I feel like experiencing the dance in your highest excitement is what draws people in. To see someone having fun and being playful brings a lot of smiles, my advice is to dance as if no one is watching, even if you are on display. Be in tune with yourself and it will be radiant.

That's a great way to look at it! So tell me about your yoga-practice. When and how did you discover yoga?

Lindsay: I began practicing yoga in 2006. Stretching was a huge part of my dance practice growing up but I like to refer to yoga as "conscious stretching". I began setting intention, focusing on breath and listening to my body during these stretch sessions. Deepak Chopra's "Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga" is a book that found me early on in my yoga journey. This book has accelerated my practice over the years by opening doors to healing, meditation, compassion and Love.

What styles/schools of yoga do you study? 

Lindsay: The majority of my yoga practice consists of Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. Hatha Yoga includes the basic poses that contribute to flexibility and strength. Kundalini provides for a more intense spiritual connection, navigating through your chakras and finding balance within. I find Intuitive Yoga very refreshing also as it's very much like my hoop sessions--naturally flowing from pose to pose without a predetermined agenda.

What is Angel Bear Yoga?

Lindsay: Angel Bear Yoga is the curriculum used at my practice, Love~Joy~Harmony: Children's Yoga and Meditation. The program was founded by Christi Eley, a certified children's yoga instructor who wanted to make yoga more creative for children. Angel Bear Yoga teaches children to embody positive character traits through a story-based practice of poses, heart affirmations and active meditations, while discussing nature facts, endangered animals and tips on how to contribute to a healthy, sustainable environment. An overall connection to the Source, the Earth and it's creatures!

I feel that all children are born with the natural 

love of the practice and hope to act as a guide for
many who wish to continue to cherish that tool 
throughout their lives.
How is teaching children different than teaching adults?

Lindsay: Teaching children is my biggest joy as it is constantly a learning experience for myself! I enjoyed the opportunity teaching adults while instructing dance, but the children help me tap into my inner child and I am constantly pushing to be more creative and interactive to make a more positive, lasting impression.

How do children benefit from yoga?

Lindsay: Yoga Journal has a great article outlining the benefits of children's yoga that I have found to be very inspiring. In it, Marsha Wenig states, "Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface." I feel that all children are born with the natural love of the practice and hope to act as a guide for many who wish to continue to cherish that tool throughout their lives.

Is yoga accessible to all children? My pre-school age son, for example, is very high-energy and easily distracted. How do you teach to a child like him? 

Lindsay: Yoga is accessible to all children! Whether setting aside time to do stretches at home with mom or dad before bed time or joining a classroom setting, there is generally little to no cost involved, as yoga is something that is already within us all. Children who are high-energy and easily distracted generally benefit most from the program. Love~Joy~Harmony bases each yoga session around character traits such as Patience, Listening, Imagination and Respect, which I feel will be extremely beneficial if presented effectively. The classes are kept between 30-45 minutes (depending on the age group) and are very interactive to help motivate the children to stay involved in a fun environment.

What teaching/performance events (yoga and hoop) do you have lined up this summer?

Lindsay: I will be hosting free children's yoga workshops in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas throughout the summer and will begin teaching semester-based classes beginning in August. For information on these events as they are announced, you can visit my website or follow Love~Joy~Harmony on Facebook.I will be performing and instructing workshops as part of Helios Fire Tribe at local events in Lawrence throughout the summer, while we are also preparing our piece to perform at the annual Fringe Festival in Kansas City this July.

That's an impressive list of events, plus you also organize monthly Goddess Gatherings. What is the KCL Goddess Gathering? Are men allowed? What are your gatherings like and what sort of volunteer work do you do?

Gatherings are also intended to celebrate our 
unique gift of femininity.
Lindsay: The KCL Goddess Gathering is an organization I created after acknowledging the unity among so many strong, influential and positive women in our community. It serves as an opportunity for us to unite on a monthly basis and share inspiration, bring awareness to the needs of ur community and motivate each other to continually play a part in giving back while still taking the time to nurture ourselves and our spirit. While we hope to inspire and serve everyone, regardless of gender, our Gatherings are also intended to celebrate our unique gift of femininity. Our volunteer work is open to anything that needs attention in our community--from the Boys & Girls clubs to food drives and working with other non-profit organizations to assist where they may need volunteers.

Why are gatherings like these important?

Lindsay: I feel as though gatherings such as ours act as a way to inspire and set example through action. It allows us to serve a purpose in unity and open doors for more people to become involved. Most importantly, a lot of our members are mothers. We have crafts and activities prepared for children of all ages and encourage them to take part in this supportive, productive environment at an early age.

How can folks get involved in KCL Goddess Gathering? 

Lindsay: For information on the KCL Goddess Gathering, you can visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/goddessgathering or email: KCLGoddessGathering@gmail.com. All Goddesses Welcome!

Service and volunteer projects, like the KCL Goddess Gathering, are often described as dharma in the yoga-community, but you also refer to dance as your dharma. What is dharma? How does it relate to creative-work?

Lindsay: I first became aware of the term "dharma" in my yoga practice a few years ago. This refers to your purpose, your reason for being born. We all have a unique gift to contribute to our environment. I do consider dance (in all forms) to serve as my primary purpose, while continually seeking more possibilities. I have found purpose in motherhood, community involvement, serving as a mentor, being a student, etc. Dharma is often the subject of my conversations and blogs and the source of motivation for my practice as my it continues to reveal itself more and more each day.

So is dharma fixed--like everyone is born with a purpose--or is it fluid?

Lindsay: As a person, you are constantly evolving with every experience and with that, one could assume your dharma is constantly evolving as well.

How can people embrace/discover their dharma?

Lindsay: You can attempt to recognize it on a large scale (your ultimate purpose) or in the moment. We are all born to contribute talents, compassion, and ideas (just to name a few). Everyone is full of purpose, trust in yourself and focus on finding those outlets within.

How do you balance your creative and mundane (work, for example) obligations?

Lindsay: Balancing priorities and "playorities" comes with much practice and dedication. As a sole parent with my family being hours away, I am blessed to have the opportunities to be involved, as many in my situation otherwise would not. I have gained the most incredible support system over the years because of hooping and the community events I participate in. Together, we can accomplish anything and set a great example for generations to come. Behind every motivation and creation is my highest purpose, my daughter, Baila. She serves as my partner in all that I do, my teacher in life. Live in Love!

Thank you for making time between your priorities and "playorities" for this interview. You're an inspiration, Lindsay!

Lindsay: Thanks for the interview, it helped me reflect and find more gratitude in so much! Thank you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gardening is an Act of Faith

"The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there." 
~George Bernard Shaw, 
The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God

Gardening is an act of faith.

Undoubtedly, gardening is also a science with two rather sprawling and well-devloped branches called horticulture and agriculture. Nonetheless, for the novice, for the hands-off hippie (that's me) who presses a handful of seeds into the soil, gardening requires faith.

When I first decided to garden, I recieved a monthy copy of Mother Earth News. They taught me about organic gardening and heirloom seeds. I priced organic potting soil and heirloom tomatoes. I ran out of money. I planted some greens and two tomato plants...then watched the weeds conquer their space.
Next year, I bought a gardening book. One of those polished, magazine-style guides with long lists of garden designs and infastructure purchases. I got scared again. I dropped a row of okra into the mud behind my shed along with a couple clusters of daisies from the Farmer's Market. They all died. Like the tomatoes. Like last year's greens.

This year, however, something amazing happened. I wandered out behind my shed and noticed wild clumps of lace-leafed plants that looked suspiciously like daisies. I took heart. I called up my friend Rose for gardening advice. After all, she grew whole bucketloads of tomatoes and cucumbers outside her duplex last year. "Teach me!" I cried. "Well," she replied, "You put some plants in the ground and they either grow or they don't." I could have kissed her lotus-annointed, garden-guru feet.

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and
 freedom of the forest and the outlaw.
 ~Henry David Thoreau
So I tilled. I started seeds inside: zuccini, canalope, basil, and sunflowers. My neighbor gave me tomatoes. My husband took me to a plant sale where I adopted green peppers, watermelon, broccoli, herbs, and bedding flowers. I watched the zuccini flourish. I watched a dozen bright canalope seedlings wither into oblivion over night. I created a garden.

One day I hope to learn more about the science of growing things. I'd like to figure out why the canalope died. Maybe I'll Google 'canalope'. Maybe I'll study my seedling more carefully next year. In the meantime, I garden intuitively with advice from the backs of seedpackets and the green stems themselves. Because knowlege can be a guide, but it can also paralyze. Confronted with the facts, it often seems that success hinges on a host of perfect tools and techniques.

I'd rather play the Fool and step blindly, faithfully into the garden of possibility. A family of half-wild daisies lifted their faces to greet me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A World Divided - The Commidification of Water in Bolivia

Welcome guest-writer Tim Dieker. Tim is a father, fire spinner, and student of history. He's also a hermit with no website or e-mail, so leave your comments here! ;-)

From "The People United: The 1999-2000 Cochabamba “Water Wars” and Their Continuing Impact" by guest-author Tim Dieker. 

Global water consumption is rising more than
 twice as fast as the population explosion.
“The wars of the next century will be about water” (qtd. In Barlow 1).  With those chilling words Ismail Seregeldin, Vice-President of the World Bank in 1999, offered people a glimpse into the 21st century.  Water scarcity is a growing global issue, and many world leaders (both elected and otherwise) believe the answer to concerns such as these lie in the free market system, arguing that a privatized water system ensures superior conservation, higher quality and expanded service, especially in the Global South.

Water is a vital resource, and is becoming increasingly scarce. Over a billion people in the world have no access to clean water, and twice that number lack sanitation services. The majority of these people live in the global South.  At the same time global water consumption is rising more than twice as fast as the population explosion (Barlow 2), while in many areas of the world, freshwater supplies are beginning to run low.  Because of this, there has been a growing movement to turn water into a commodity, and move away from idea of water as a necessity to the World Bank’s conceptualization of water as an “economic good” (Grusky 15).  Thus, global markets have taken an interest in water supply and distribution.  Since the 1980’s, global institutions like the World Bank, along with a handful of multinational corporations, have increasingly pushed to commidify the remainder of the world’s water.

Many consumers in Cochabamba saw their water bills go
 up 200-300% to prepare for the company’s arrival even
 before any kind of improvements to the system.
The number of large multinationals that have leapt into the water market have enjoyed dramatic growth, as well as massive profits.  In the early 1990’s the three largest private water firms worked in twelve countries, and served roughly 50 million people.  By 2004, they were established in well over a hundred countries serving 300 million people (Barlow and Clark 16).  Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux and Vivendi, the two largest firms, are both in the top one hundred corporations in the world, and control over 2/3 of the private water market (Bakker 330).  Interestingly, although conservation is often touted as a reason to privatize, most of the industry’s expansion has occurred in the global South, not in the first-world nations where most water waste occurs.  Maude Barlow, author and Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of United Nations General Assembly in 2008-2009, notes “. . . a mere 12% of the world’s population uses 85% of its water, and the 12% do not live in the third world” (54). Thus privatization in the developing world addresses only a fraction of the world’s water usage and ignores waste in wealthy nations with already privatized systems.

Another oft-cited reason for privatization is that it will bring increased investment in water services to areas in need.  However, most of this investment comes not from foreign companies, but from the users themselves.  Prices have to rise in order to, as noted activist Vandana Shiva noted, “support a commercial operation” (Shiva 12).  Or in the words of an executive for Suez, “People are to pay regarding what they consume” (qtd. in Flow:  For the Love of Water), and of course, enough to make a healthy profit for the company involved.

This move proved so unpopular that residents
began what has come to be know as the "Water
Wars," a massive protest movement against
In perhaps the worst case example of corporate mismanagement and national exploitation, the water systems of Cochabamba, Bolivia were privatized in 1999 and sold to a water consortium named Aguas del Tunari, in which American firm Bechtel held a majority stake.  This move proved so unpopular that residents began what has come to be known as the “Water Wars,” a massive protest movement against privatization.  The 1999-2000 “Water Wars” in Cochabamba radically altered Bolivian and, indeed, global politics.

Almost 75% of Bolivians live below the poverty line, making it the poorest of the poor nations of South America (Foshee et al. 10).  In spite of this abject poverty, the World Bank, and its Director, James Wolfensohn, “. . . argued that giving public services away inevitably leads to waste, and said that countries like Bolivia need to have a ‘proper system of charging’” (Schultz 29).  This was the firm, contradictory stance from organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, who’ve previously said water is a common resource of the people.  The World Bank’s stance that private markets were the quickest and best way to provide and expand water services was reflected in the fact that for many nations, like Bolivia, debt relief loans from the Bank and the IMF were granted on the condition that water systems be privatized.  In Bolivia the Bank demanded that the systems of Cochabamba and the municipal area of El Alto/La Paz both be taken over by private industry (Bakker 330).

As a result, many consumers in Cochabamba saw their water bills go up 200-300% to prepare for the company’s arrival even before any kind of improvements to the system.  For the poor, this meant often choosing between water and other necessities.  Indeed, as Sara Grusky, co-director of the Globalization Challenge Initiative noted, “Although the minimum wage stood at less than $65, many of the poor had water bills of $20 or more” (19).  In spite of only having access to water a couple hours a day at best, and even then with almost no pressure, the citizens of Cochabamba were paying water bills that roughly equal to water bills for a small home in some parts of the United States.  Meanwhile Aguas del Tunari projected profits for the year of $58 million dollars (Barlow and Clark 17).

Ashwin Desai explains, "By telling a woman who's got nothing," 
that she must give up her "meager amount of money, what is she
going to do but go to the river and take that dirty water and die of
cholera? And then you say people don't know how to practice 
hygiene. "
The contracts the government of Bolivia signed were implemented through Law #2029, passed in October of 1999.  It was a law that came to represent all that was wrong with “global free trade” to the Bolivian people.  Indeed, when one examines the details of the law and the contract, free trade doesn’t seem to be as big of a concern as monopolistic control of the resource. For example, Law #2029 stated that “. . . the private companies are the only ones who can distribute water.  All of the autonomous water systems are handed over to them without paying anything to the people who invested in having their own systems” (Olivera 16).  Meters were installed on people’s hand-dug wells, and collection agents were sent to people with cisterns and other traditional water collecting systems, ordering villagers to get a permits to collect the rainwater--now legal property of Aguas del Tunari.

Continued next Tuesday as the people of Bolivia rise up in protest...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Polypro Hoops

Polypro hoop from synergyfirehoops.com
When the word polypro began to wander across the Hoop City  forums last year, I knew these hoops were going to be big. After all, they were promoted by Rich Porter whose name is synonymous with hoop-pioneer. Secondly, the name. If you clicked into an Etsy shop and saw listings for a HDPE hoop and a polypro hoop, which one would you look at first? I bet most folks would look at the polyPRO. Advertising repeatedly proves that names sell--especially names that suggest something desirable. Pro is positive. Pro is professional. Pro promises to transform every hooper into a bad-ass.

Polypro hoops are marketed as ‘professional hoops’ and hoops for advanced hooper. We’ve all seen jaw-dropping videos of Rich and Spiral rocking their tiny, ephemeral polypro hoops. We’ve all wondered how this potentially revolutionary tool can reshape our dance.

Well last weekend, I picked up a pair of 35” polypro twins. My regular hoop is a 36” PE (classic black) cut from ½” 125psi tubing. It is light and very springy. After an afternoon in the sun, I can feel my regular hoop squish during fast reversals.

My new polypro hoops are even lighter. They don’t give like the PE hoop during reversals. Their light weight, combined their rigidity explains why Rich Porter reports, “I’m up to 200+ shoulder reverses per/minute with my PPE hoop. This just wouldn’t have been possible with Polyethylene. At this speed you literally are pushing the physical limitations of the material.” 

I can’t pull off anywhere near that many reversals, but in one week I’ve noticed a host of differences between polypro and classic hoops. Here’s the break-down:
  • Polypro hoops soar during tosses. They fly higher and descend slower. 
  • Polypro hoops require precision. If your regular chest-rolls bounce a bit, expect your polypro hoop to catapult. Similarly, during chest rolls, you have to make sure the polypro hoop makes solid contact with your first forearm, or you’ll be tossing the hoop, rather than rolling it, across your chest.
  • Polypro hoops are fantastic for isolations. Light and responsive is key in isolation-based hooping. Plus, the current tradition is to leave polypro hoops untapped, so they reinforce the “floating bubble” illusion behind many isolations. They are, however, more difficult to keep from wobbling forward and backward out of their planes. 
  • Polypro hoops are perfect for poi-style, off-body doubles. They’re light and they’re fast, so their perfect for poi-inspired tricks. They also make moves more accessible with larger hoops. For example, with ½” PE tubing I could only link a three-beat-weave to an under-the-shoulder toss with my 30” doubles. Bigger hoops were just to cumbersome. Now I can nail the combination with my 35” polypro doubles.
  • Polypro hoops are kind to sensitive wrists, ankles, and feet. I’ve gone back to working on the kick-start, because the polypro are far gentler on my ankles. 
  • Polypro hoops love clean planes. They wobble when I’m sloppy.
  • Core hooping is harder with polypro hoops. The hoops are so light I miss the very kinetic experience of the hoop whirling around my body. They lack momentum, so I have to push more with less sensory feedback from the hoop. I’m still working to reclaim my sky-angle hooping. 

I’m not sure if this is a recipe for bad-ass hooping….especially if you’re a body-rocker. However, I recommend polypro hoops for anyone who wants to explore poi-style and isolation-based hooping, for hoopers who need a lighter hoop to protect their wrists and feet, and for any dancer who wants to delve into a faster and more precise flow within their hoop.

Shakti Sunfire dances with a polypro fire hoop at Wanderlust 2010

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sweet Centering, Sublime Savasana

Like many solitary, rural yogis, I fulfill my yoga-fix online.  Other than a handful of classes at local colleges, I’ve predominantly studied asana at the feet of a digital guru. You might call me a Youtube Yogini. Most days I’m contented with my practice. Feedback would be nice, but the flexible scheduling, almost limitless choice of sequences, and absence of witnesses suit my needs perfectly. The best videos combine accessible but challenging poses in creative sequences. The instruction is clear with a focus on anatomy and transitions… with a bit of Sanskrit scattered in between.

One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that most videos cut straight to the asana sequences. When they do focus on breathing and setting an intention, I find myself distracted. I struggle to breathe naturally when someone instructs me to breathe naturally. I can’t find my center when someone asks me to find my center.

So rather than following the instructor’s centering exercises, I find my mental comfy spot before I begin the video, and then I skip ahead to the asana sequence. This simple change has deepened my practice considerably, and I hope it can deepen your practice too.

Tips for sweet centering:

Rest your hands open on your knees. Palms turn up to welcome energy. Palms turn down to ground energy.

Breathe a few rounds of Ujjayi, then ignite your lungs with a round of  Kapalabhati. Breathing, ironically, is my biggest struggle in yoga. I tend to over think it, and then loose my rhythm. When I take a moment to breathe slowly, then quickly, I somehow sidestep that mental barrier. Kapalabhati just sounds, and feels, so crazy, my mind can’t help but relax.

Stretch out your neck, shoulders, hands, and feet.

Sing a mantra, chant, or healing song.

On the final round of your mantra, bring your hands, folded in prayer, to your heart. Open your eyes. Speak your intention, exhale, and begin your asana sequences.

It also helps to pause the videos occasionally. For example, I adore yogayak’s Grounding Afternoon Sequence, but that gal flies through her sun salutations. I need a minute or two to center after each salutation and I take it….with a click of the pause button.

Tips for a sublime savasana

Some videos include savasana at the end of their videos. Others encourage the viewer to take it on their own. Either way, turn off the video. If you’re impatient like me, dash into the kitchen and set the oven timer. It’s oddly liberating to sink into relaxation without having to guess when my time’s up or without listening to a digital guru breathing across the computer speakers.

If my mind’s still wild, I tame it with more singing. I know technically savasana is a self-contained pose, but I’d rather have a mindful, energetic experience than no experience at all.

The heart of yoga is a personal, moment-to-moment practice. When we rely on videos or pod casts to guide our practice, we must take time to modify them. Singing Tool in savasana may not be traditional, but it heals my mind, so I create space for the song. I create space for my own sublime experience instead of accepting a pre-packaged substitute.

Technology is the tool. The practice is individual. How do you modify your yoga? What other healing paths and sources of inspiration do you incorporate? How does your unique approach inform your practice?

Also: A wonderful take on the difference between savasana and meditation.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Welcome the divine, creative spirit of Shakti


Another version with better vocals, but no embedding allowed. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

9 Ways to Welcome Spring with Very Little Green

Last month the gals at Hoop Dance Freak Flow shared 9 Ways to Clean-Up for the 2011 Hoop Season . The first couple suggestions included creating a rainbow hoop with left-over tape and donating beater hoops to neighborhood kids. Great ideas, for sure. Spring encourages us to unclutter, give, and breathe new life into winter's left-overs. The rest of the article, however, focused on new clothes, earrings, and hoops. While I love (and often covet) new hoop gear, the list struck me as kind of a bummer for folks in the broke-hooper camp. So here’s Tangled Macrame’s 9 Ways to Welcome Spring with Very Little Green.

1. Organize a free hoop-day in the park or find one near-by. If everyone contributes a little (snacks, hand-made prizes, ect), no one has to contribute a lot.

2. Practice tosses. There’s something sublime about a hoop hovering against blue sky.

3. Gather your hoop friends for a photo shoot.

4. Explore nearby state parks for a new space to play.

5. Hoop near or in the creek.

6. Organize a costume swap at your local hoop-jam. This might be fun before the photo-shoot!

7. Volunteer to teach hoop-dance at the Boys and Girls Club or another children’s summer program.

8. Visit your neighborhood Farmer’s Market…with hoops. Nothing refreshes the soul like fresh strawberries and hooping with Mennonite children.

9. Drink water!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Seeking "Real" Holidays

Ana Jarvis
Mother's Day. Easter. Independence Day. Christmas. Every year the blog-sphere echoes with the shrill voices of pundits lamenting the loss of "real" holiday spirit. Mother's Day, they warn has been co-opted by Hallmark. Ostara is about spring, not chocolate. Christmas celebrates Christ, not Santa.

On one hand, these objections rise out of a very real fear of consumerism. Mother's Day is, after all, one of the biggest spending holidays, and the holiday's founder, Ana Jarvis was was arrested for protesting an overly commercial Mother's Day Celebration in New York.

On the other hand, the desire to protect the "real" meaning of holidays arises from the same elitism that fuel debates about the "real" meaning of words. Language purists argue that people do not "share" on Facebook because sharing traditionally/technically "implies that one as the original holder grants to another the partial use, enjoyment, or possession of a thing." Sharing a slice of pie and distributing a video link, they argue, are two very different actions. I've heard a class of English majors explode with contempt for Alanis Morissette’s "Ironic." Nothing, they howl, in that song is ironic! They measure the song  by a single, literary definition of irony. Undoubtedly "Ironic" is not ironic like Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is ironic. Morissette does not the "use . . . words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning." She uses ironic like most folks use ironic in daily conversation: to describe "incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result." **

Purists, defending both holidays and words, attempt to institutionalize an academic, traditional, or personal meaning at the expense of common usage. Yet if an idea isn't made "real" by every-day practice, what makes it real? Do people really want to surrender their traditions and language to an outside authority? The pundits and purists do holidays a disservice by implying that the ways well-meaning people celebrate is wrong. They characterize the loving daughter as a brain-washed, compulsive spender. They berate the chocolate bunny-eater as a heretic.

Holidays, like language, evolve. They change and grow with the people who celebrate them. Mother's Day emerges from the memories and experiences of people honoring their mothers, from a million tiny, personal traditions. Cards. Candy. Breakfast in bed. A white carnation. It's all good. It's all real.

Mary Cassatt's "Breakfast in Bed"

** Definitions from Merriam-Webster On-line

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mandala Monday - Hooping Mandala

We dance round a ring and suppose,
but the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
-Robert Frost

In mandala mythology, the circle represents the universe. A single dot in the circle's center symbolizes the stillness at the heart of Creation. Hoopdance is a beautiful, moving mandala. When a hooper whirls a hoop around her body, she becomes the axis of the cosmos. The circle  of the hoop forms rings that mirror the levels of consciousness that pull the dancer toward or away from the sacred center. Hooping on the core, for example, draws the circle in. Off-body passes and moves like the helicopter expand the circle to embrace the outer-world. The dancer's hands and legs form smaller circles as he whirls, steps, and dances. These mandala-patterns become tangible in LED and fire-hoop photography. The steams of light map the journey of the hoop through space and the dancer through the act of creation.

Even when not in motion, hoops create sacred space. Their circles promise protection, unity, and evolution. I hang my hoops on my wall as living works of art. Each day they form different patterns in response to my dance. The curious thing is that their design reflects what I leave behind. While my pet-hoop rests, forgotten in the yard, the remainders are a reminder of my un-danced potential. They hold, ground, and nurture the whiling energy at the heart of the dance.

Twirling round with this familiar parable
spinning, weaving round each new experience.
Recognize this as a holy gift
and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

John Muir, Environmentalist

"The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains - mountain dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature's workshops." - John Muir

John Muir was born in Scotland to a harsh, orthodox father who forbid his children from reading anything but religious or practical books. Hard work, Muir's father believed, trumped childish curiosity. Nonetheless the irrepressible young Muir expanded his horizons with long rambles along the lakeside and books borrowed from friends. According to Mark R. Stoll , "Muir's intellectual horizons suddenly opened up at age fifteen when two neighbor boys with whom he was working recited to him their favorite poets--Byron, Poe, Wordsworth, Milton." Muir identified with the Romantic conceptualization of nature as a sublime reflection of humankind's moods and imagination. Years later at the University of Wisconsin, Muir discovered the American Transcendentalists Thoreau and Emerson. He followed Thoreau's advice to keep a journal and described traveling into the wilderness with "only a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, and a copy of Emerson."

Deep in the heart of the mountains that became Yosemite National Park Muir fused naturalism and theology.  He wrote, "In God's wildness lies the hope of the world - the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware." Muir saw the wilderness as a temple and believed it should be preserved for the people, not exploited for short-term profit.

Muir became a champion for wilderness preservation, writing countless articles and co-founding the Sierra Club in 1892. In 1903 Muir and Theodore Roosevelt escaped the president's entourage and spent two nights camping in the Yosemite Valley. Muir hoped to "to do some forest good in talking freely around the campfire," with the president. As a result Roosevelt signed the Yosemite Recession Bill to bring Yosemite Park under national protection along with the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Muir continued his work as an environmental advocate until his death in 1914. Today Muir is celebrated as the grandfather of the conservation movement. His work and writings are a reminder to "keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."

"The Ballad of John Muir" by The Black Irish Band 

"Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter." 
-  John Muir 1924.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Beads Antique

Behold! The first piece of Tangled Macrame's summer collection: Beads Antique. Inspired by the crunchy, sexy sounds of Beats Antique, these tribal macramés are perfect for the dance floor. Embrace your dancing spirit with luscious copper charms and a carved tiger's eye pendant. They're yummy...I promise.

The whole set includes an anklet, necklace, armband, and earrings. They'll be available at Tangled Macramé on Monday.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beads, Hoops, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Over 150 years ago Henry David Thoreau observed the frantic pace of an emerging industrial society and asked, “But if we stay at home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man….they are sound sleepers.” Thoreau’s America communicated via telegraph and traveled at thirty miles per hour. Yet his image holds true. Modern society is a hectic swirl of people bound to the bottoms of cars and the tops of satellite towers.  The obligations of work, family, and school, joined by the incessant demands of advertising and corporate media create a disjointed lifestyle in which people struggle to find time to breathe, much less live happily.

Philosophers and writers, observing the lack of happiness in an otherwise prosperous society, offer various solutions. The exact details change from author to author, but for the most part, the solution boils down to a change in perspective. The Dalai Lama, for example, encourages readers to cultivate contentment, because “If you have a strong sense of contentment, it doesn’t matter whether you obtain the object or not; either way, you are still content” (1002). Bertrand Russell, on the other hand, reminds readers that, “The happy man is the man…whose personality is neither divided against itself nor pitted against the world. Such a man feels himself a citizen of the universe, enjoying the spectacle that it offers” (999). Both writers encourage people to find a new perspective and to exchange a consumer-mentality for a world-view that embraces gratitude and harmony. Their advice makes sense and echoes the truth of the human heart. On a deep intuitive level most people realize wholeness and contentment lead to happiness. The challenge, however, is reconciling knowledge with living.

A stack of dog-eared self-help novels on the bottom row of my bookshelf offer mute testimony to the disjunction between what I read and how I live. Each time I delve into an insightful book I nod and think it sounds so simple. Happiness is, after all, a perspective, and I can change my perspective at will. All I need to do is induce a radical paradigm shift. Perhaps I’ll have time while I wait for the noodles to boil… In the meantime, I spend a few days reflecting on the wisdom on the Dalai Lama, but the ideas quickly drift out of my consciousness. The trouble is that while it is easy to agree with a theoretical guide to happiness, but it is far harder to incorporate a new perspective into the grind of daily life. Human beings are, for better or for worse, creatures of habit.

Therefore, for most people the path to happiness does not begin with an epiphany or a complete over-haul of their world-view. While various writers and philosophers offer true and insightful suggestions for creating  a happier world-view, most people cannot make that transition in a single step. A more practical approach begins with small, concrete changes in people’s daily routines. Everyone’s situation, motivation, and passions are different, but, nonetheless, I believe hobbies are a great place to start. Hobbies create a moment of self-nurturing stillness amid the din of modern society. Hobbies connect people to their passions, foster creativity, and build communities. In short, hobbies fulfill the psychological and social needs that make people happy.

Modern Americans suffer from a chronic shortage of time. Caffeine-fueled college students and over-scheduled parents whirl through their days in a rush of endless obligations. The hours are cluttered with work, school, doctor’s appointment, meetings, and opportunities. Media exuberates the problem by promising a perpetual stream of stimuli that can be enjoyed indirectly through television or purchased with a small down-payment. Happiness drifts out of reach on the far side of a crowded to-do list. When the long anticipated weekend arrives, many people find themselves too exhausted to enjoy their hard-earned moments of relaxation. The exhausted mind often retreats back into the bright but empty satisfactions marketed by the American consumer culture.

Happiness, in the meantime, lingers in the small moments when obligation transforms into pleasure and worry dissolves into contentment. Being busy isn’t necessarily the source of unhappiness. On the contrary, productive, satisfying work creates a sense of accomplishment and competence. Discontent creeps into people’s lives when their hours are filled with time and energy consuming activities instead of activities that nurture their lives. Therefore, the path of happiness begins when people create time for pursuits that nurture their creativity and talents.

Hobbies like knitting or macramé, for example, allow a person to create something tangible and beautiful in a short amount of time. These types of hobbies can be carried into the waiting room at the doctor’s office or keep a person’s hands busy while watching television. I learned to macramé while confined to the sofa nursing a new-born child. I snuggled with my baby, and then instead of drifting off to sleep or slipping away to scrub dishes, I pulled out my bead box. My craft time became a moment of solace in otherwise hectic days. It was satisfying to create make art from a tangle of twine and a scattering of beads. The happiness of crafting arises from a deep need to bring order to the chaotic world. Macramé, like life, weaves tiny, fragmented pieces into a coherent whole. Macramé became a kind of therapy, except instead of using my mind to solve my problems, I used my hands. My world was still hectic, but I found happiness as I took the time to nurture my creativity.

While the hectic pace of modern life often cuts people off from their creative selves, it also separates them from one another. Isolation and loneliness run rampant, despite the claim that technology brings distant friends and family together. Though Facebook undoubtedly helps people reconnect with high school friends, and Skype allows families living across the country to talk to one another, people still feel lonely. Instant messaging simply can’t replace a hug. Furthermore, technology often ties people to their phones or computer rather than making real-world connections with people near by. One image stands out in my mind as the embodiment of technological isolation: four teenagers sat silently at a restaurant table with their heads bent over their cell phones.

Human beings are social creatures. Our ancestors depended on their communities for survival. Today’s safe and prosperous society makes community less of a life or death issue. However, people are still hardwired to seek out others for security and a sense of belonging. People continue to identify themselves in relation to communities. For example, a man may identify himself as a member of a local Baptist church, or a teenager may identify herself as part of the school choir. Communities also give people purpose, nurture self-esteem, and provide emotional support. These are the building blocks of happiness. Without community, people drift on a sea of solitude where happiness becomes a personal, rather than communal construction. While people undoubtedly are the final arbitrators of their state of mind, there’s truth behind the proverb that no man is an island. In times of stress, crisis, and doubt communities shelter, comfort, and heal their members. The solitary, self-reliant modern American is left alone to navigate a wilderness of troubles as lethal to happiness as any danger our ancestors faced.

Hobbies help people in their quest for happiness because hobbies create communities. Yoga classes, book clubs, and craft shows bring together people with similar interests. People share their passions and their skills, and work together to overcome challenges both in their craft and in their lives. When I took up hoop-dance, I discovered an amazing community of dancers and performers. I learned hoop dance on-line through video tutorials people posted on You-tube. After a couple months practicing in my dinning room, I worked up the courage to haul my huge, sparkling hoop to a local Earthday celebration. Much to my surprise, I was greeted by a small tribe of women hooping near the stage. They encouraged me to haul my gear over to their space where we spent the rest of the afternoon dancing, talking, and teaching each other new tricks. Now I carry my hoop with me almost everywhere and am continually blessed to meet other dancers. Though we live very different lives in very different places, we meet as members of a supportive, welcoming community. I have worked with local hoop-dancers to teach dance to children at the Boys and Girls Club and have helped raise money for an uninsured hoop-dancer battling cancer. Hoop-dance may be an unusual hobby, but it illustrates the power of hobbies to make people happy by identifying with a community and working with that community for a greater good.

John Stuart Mills argued that “Those only are happy…who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others; on the improvement of mankind, even on some art of pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end” (qtd. McMahon 9994). I didn’t begin macramé or hoop dance as part of a conscious attempt to live a happier life. I simply chose to invest my time in activities that caught my interest and brought me pleasure. That pleasure rippled outward, so that years later I look back and see the dramatic changes they made in my mood, daily life, and conceptualization of the world. My journey shows that happiness emerges organically from new habits and the soul-sustaining creativity and communities that hobbies create.