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Taking Back Sunday: Eckhart Tolle Video, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

4 Nov

I have a love/hate relationship with Sundays. Growing up Catholic, this day will be forever linked with church whether I like it or not. I have not been to mass since somewhere around 1992. I used to always just feel ooky and weird on Sundays in the decades after I escaped Catholic Church. The entire day felt like a miserable black hole– like a psychic funeral where there was no corpse, but there should have been. I was usually hideously hung over and remorseful and desperately seeking not Susan, but Smirnoff and Advil. My roommate and I used to refer to the “metaphysical hangover” (thank you, Kingsley and Martin Amis)–the feeling of utterly hopeless sucking dark doom that would come over us some mornings after a particularly insane drinking rampage.

These days I’ve realized that I can take back Sunday. I can explore new, spiritual ideas and practices—no one is going to force me to go to Church ever again. On Sundays, I engage in other spiritual activities. I read spiritual books, I go to my afternoon meditation 12 step group, I practice yoga and sometimes I watch spiritual videos or attend a virtual satsang with Mooji (more on another Sunday about that).

I love Eckhart Tolle—he’s like a magical library gnome. There’s something so lovely, spiritual and impish about him—almost mischievous while simultaneously kind. These are qualities I always look for in spiritual teachers. I did not want to love The Power of Now or A New Earth (ewww, Oprah!), but I did. Many people in my 12 step programs of recovery highly recommended The Power of Now, and I’ve read it several times. I always find something new upon re-reading it. Today’s little gem that I received when I just randomly opened the book is:

“Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet…if you cannot feel your emotions, if you are cut off from them, you will eventually experience them on a purely physical level as a physical problem or symptom…a strong unconsious emotional pattern may manifest as an external event that appears to just happen to you…if you have difficulty feeling your emotions, start by focusing attention on the inner energy field of your body. Feel the body from within. This will also put you in touch with your emotions.”  (pages 25-26, The Power of Now).

This is something I have directly experienced because of the powerful practice of Ashtanga yoga. All of my injuries and stiff, painful areas are linked to strong emotions that I was not consciously aware of. Many of the “accidents” that have “happened” to me took place during times of great unconscious emotional turmoil. My hips are an emotional battlefield—I am still clearing the debris of decades of repressed emotions. This has been brought up during practice over and over again, and I have begun to experience this in a completely new way as a result of Ashtanga practice. Drishti, bandhas and breath make so much sense—go within and focus on the inner energy field. That is where healing takes place.

Today’s Taking Back Sunday post is a lovely video courtesy of the miracle of youtube. I got so much out of it, especially the gem that takes place around 27:00:

“Love nothing but what comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more actually fit your needs?” —Marcus Aurelius

Eckhart Tolle on this: “The pattern of your destiny is the totality in which you move, and whatever you encounter…in this moment, the only moment that there is, must be part of this web of the pattern of your destiny where everything is connected with everything else…I speak of the inevitability of the form of the present moment…the entire history of the world has brought about the form of this moment obviously…it has produced the form that this moment takes and that is the web, that is the pattern, that is part…and to go against that is insane, to not accept it…so one theme that runs through it (the book) is to live in a state of non-resistance of what is.”

I immediately thought of my resistance to the difficult asanas, to the pain and stiffness and injuries, to the surrender of where I am today in the asana as opposed to where my ego thinks I should be, to the humbling nature of Asthanga practice itself.


A is for August

18 Aug



…and Ashtanga, and Ass. Sweaty, sweaty ass. My little Slayer Shala is not air conditioned and I have been sweating like a beast in the mornings—even at 5:30 am. Back into a somewhat “normal” practice for me post-surgery, post-sickness and post the death of my little dog. Life goes on, albeit slowly and painfully. Trying to work up the courage to go to the level one Ashtanga class on Tuesday at Yoga Sanctuary. Oooooh it gives me the willies!!
Interestingly, I have no desire to look at asanas beyond where I currently am in the Primary Series. All I care about is whatever moment I am in on the mat, period. Thinking about asanas I haven’t learned yet is just playing with fire. I get discouraged and overwhelmed and my ego gets involved and I just want to give up. I just keep plugging away and practicing. This week, I have been learning Purvattanasana. Oh, there is a love hate relationship going on. Mostly hate. During a google search, I discovered that allegedly Shiva Rea hates this asana. Yes! I am not the only one. I hurt myself in this asana when I was doing Baptiste yoga last year and it was no bueno, man. The first time trying it out this week I almost had a panic attack. I have been feeling all of this fear and tightness, even in the super modified David Swenson Practice Manual version. I went hunting for a picture of the modification and I can’t even find it online. Yeah, I am bringing the Ashtanga “D” game, baby!

This is NOT me. From


I bought myself a bamboo seiza bench for zazen after wanting one for a couple of years now. I was sitting last night and it suddenly dawned upon me why I love seiza benches so much—they’re like the Zen version of  the kneelers in Catholic churches! Man, you can take the girl out of 13 years of Catholic School, but you apparently can’t take hundreds of years of Catholic genetics out of the girl.  I feel a lot safer with the seiza bench than I do Purvattanasana.

Off With Their Heads! Heavy Metta Link Round Up

8 Aug

Today I noticed on my wordpress blog stats analyzer thingie that apparently if you search for “yoga made me skinny”, my blog pops up. Not sure how I feel about that! I do not practice yoga to “get skinny”. I practice yoga as part of my spiritual, emotional and physical recovery from alcohol, drugs and a raging eating disorder.

Do I think that every single person who is overweight or morbidly obese has an eating disorder? No, just like I don’t think every single underweight person is anorexic. I don’t think that every person who “wants to get skinny” has an eating disorder, either. The difference, for me, was that I had an insane mental compulsion to binge eat and then “compensate”/punish myself through compulsive exercise, starvation, diuretics, laxatives, diet pills and sometimes even vomiting. It went way beyond “watching what you eat” or “trying to lose weight” into being The Mayor of Crazy Town. At some point, I crossed the line and things just got ugly. It resulted in surgery and me being in a wheelchair for six months because I pushed myself to such an extreme with my binging and compulsive exercising. It resulted in me being pre-diabetic, exhausted, injured, severely asthmatic and suicidal. I began having liver problems and PCOS/hormonal problems and existed in a general state of incredible unhealthiness. I also have a sneaking suspicion that my years of abusing diet pills that contained ephedra could have possibly contributed to the thyroid condition that I now have.

No yoga = no prana. No sanity. No serenity. I need a spiritual connection today or I cannot live a sane and serene life. Yoga gives me that. Yoga keeps me honest. I cannot engage in my compulsive exercise behavior within the scope of my Ashtanga practice. My body can only do what I can do at that particular moment, and pushing will result in injury pretty quickly. The bandhas, drishti and breath keep me spiritually connected as well.

I have been avoiding the news lately because it makes me feel like a crazy person. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s some special sound bite on The War On Obesity with headless pictures of fat folk. Trust me, I have fought my own War On My Obesity and I was a casualty. Waging war is a losing battle. Ironically, I wrote this before I found the Christina Sell video that I linked to above. If you haven’t read her books, do yourself a favor and get them.

The yoga world doesn’t exactly embrace plus sized brothers and sisters, either. “Core Strengthening Yoga”? I know what your shorthand means! And vegans? Fuggadabbout it! If you are a “fat vegan”, let the shame and blame begin. And often if you are overweight even by a little bit, no one thinks that you have an “eating disorder”. They feel free to say the most triggering and fucked up comments imaginable that quite frequently send me into a total tailspin. I have to guard my recovery and sobriety very carefully. I spend a lot of time on my yoga mat and a lot of time meditating. I go to 12 step meetings, surround myself with positive and loving people and read lots of spiritually uplifting books.

Yoga is so much more than a workout or a weight loss strategy.

Here’s some links that got me thinking recently:

Fat “papping”—how do they get those annoying Headless photos of us fat people anyway??

“Assana” my fat ass! Who makes a line of yoga pants called “Assana” and then sizes them only in SMALL and MEDIUM? Seriously? I call shenanigans! Things like this really grind my gears, thus proving I need to avoid most media lately.

Natala Constantine is one of my vegan heroines; this is another post from her. She now is an Engine 2 team member.  A post on being vegan, still being 100 pounds overweight and how she feels about that. As to whether you agree with the dietary suggestions part, take it with a grain of salt:

Laura Dunn on what happens when yoga becomes 100% practice and 0% theory. It’s a fine line between “healthy” and “restricting”:

Peter Hurley’s Ashtanga Videos

2 Jul

I love it when I stumble across great Ashtanga tools online. At least all of this downtime from the surgery has been educational! From what I could find online, Peter Hurley is an Ashtanga teacher in Encinitas, CA and a student of Tim Miller…thereby proving to me once again that San Diego is the Promised Land! Very clear and concise instruction with emphasis on breath and alignment, definitely great if you are a beginner like me:

Opening chant, Sun Salutations and Standing Postures:


Seated and finishing:


Here’s a link to his website:

As well as his spirituality website—lots of interesting videos all in one place:

What Are Your Priorities?

2 Jun

A friend at work asked me if I was interested in walking a half-marathon in LA to benefit the ASPCA. My immediate response was, “Hells yeah!”.  I’m always looking for any excuse to:  a. do more intense exercise (bad Maria),  b.  help animals, c. go to LA or d. socialize excessively. That’s how I roll.

The next thing I thought was, “Hmm, there’s a lot of places to do Ashtanga in LA…”. And then the thought that came a little later: “Wait a second, what if this marathon training screws up or interrupts my Ashtanga practice somehow? What if I get injured because of it? I don’t want to commit to anything that takes away from yoga and meditation”. Whoa, whoa, say what?! I can’t believe I just thought that! Yoga has never been so at the forefront of my mind and at the top of my priorities as it has been since I started the Ashtanga “Experiment” in March. Meditation has always been there since I got sober, but now it has kind of merged into my yoga practice in a new way. Hmmm, I just remembered that getting sober was also an “Experiment” and now it is almost 5 years later…! Recovery and my daily Ashtanga deal are the two things that I organize my days around now.

I’ve been chewing on this for about a week now and I think that it would, at this stage of the game, make practice a lot harder in terms of the increased physical demands I’d be placing on my beat up, 42-year-old body. I also think it would totally spin me out and make me crazier. It will put me right back into the gym, AKA my exercise bulimia comfort zone.

What are my priorities? Not beating myself up, that’s for sure. Ashtanga is like a 6 day a week, out-patient rehab program, but sweatier. I want to pay attention to my breath, what is happening in my body and what happens when I am meditating after my practice. That’s taking up a lot of time right now and I think I need it much more than I need to walk a half marathon.

With that being said, I think I will put on some Judas Priest and go clean my little yoga room right now! It’s seva for the Slayer Shala time…

Sharon Gannon and David Life Origin Magazine Interview

23 May

I have a real soft spot for the Jivamukti Yoga crew, although I was laughing my ass off at Neal Pollack’s description in Stretch of his experience at one of their classes in NYC. Sharon Gannon’s book Yoga and Vegetarianism made me look at what I was eating in a completely new way. I’m a little scared of David, but boy do I love Sharon. She’s like Anais Nin, Kirtan, a ballerina and your cool hippie aunt all rolled into one person, with some vegan ice cream on the side. I have a few of their DVD’s, which I like a lot because of all of the chanting and cool music. For such a salty dog (who claims to NOT be a hippie), I sure do freaking love the woo woo chanting stuff. You should see how many Ana and Ravi Kundalini DVD’s I own. Scary! We do have some Jivamukti classes here in Vegas at Blue Sky Yoga, and I am still working up the courage to go.

Origin magazine is a relatively new, really bright and delicious yoga magazine. I wanted to hate it because it looked so slick and pretty, but the bougie secretly upscale bitch inside of me loooooves it. I have it on my kitchen table and I read it a little bit at a time. I stumbled across this interview on the Girlie Girl Army website (another guilty pleasure), and it’s quite enjoyable. And I do enjoy any convergence of yoga and Alice and Wonderland whatsoever:





Here’s the link to the interview:


Still Not A Morning Person

23 May

I stumbled across this little video on Youtube talking about a study that analyzed the differences between the personalities of morning people and “evening” people. Apparently I am independent, non-conformist, creative, and have problems with authority. No, really? You don’t say? You know what else I am—really freaking tired out of my skull when it’s 5 am and I am staring at my yoga mat.

I’ve been plugging away at the early morning Ashtanga  practice, and man—I’m sorry to say it, but it’s wretched! I need to get up at 4:30am if I want to have enough time to practice, eat breakfast, meditate and shower before work.  Not only am I stiff as heck that early in the morning, I am just half dead no matter what time I go to bed the night before. It takes me like 3 or 4 hours to really wake up in the morning: classic kapha dosha, baby. I also have horrific allergies at this time of year, so half of my morning practice is spent sneezing, blowing my nose and choking on my own phlegm (more kapha). Sexy! My ego likes the discipline of getting up every morning at 4:30am and being “hardcore” and “dedicated” to my practice; my body loathes and despises it. Last time I checked, yoga was not about waging an internal war with myself. Although I want to practice the traditional Ashtanga method as much as possible, I think my body may not be along for that ride despite my new-found strong desire to respect and honor the teachings of Guruji. I went back to afternoon Ashtanga practice this week and I am having fun with my practice again. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still really hard but I can breathe, so I am happy. I only sneezed once today, which was awesome. My little Slayer Shala is on the first floor of my house, and we don’t use the air on the first floor during the summer. It was 104 today here in Vegas, so I am enjoying the extra heat quite a bit since I am perpetually cold.

Learning to love and be kind to myself–practicing ahimsa in all of my affairs–means being willing to do what’s best for me.  Sometimes, that may mean going against the grain. Our whole society is set up for morning people. I have had it drilled into me for my entire life by my mother that I am lazy and undisciplined because I am not a morning person. I am not a lazy person, period. When my parents started going through financial difficulties when I was 15, I worked two jobs in high school and paid my own private school high school tuition so that I could go to a good school. I would sleep a maximum of three hours a night so I could study and still work and take care of my baby brother after school. I was the first person to graduate from college in my family, and I paid for it through scholarship money, loans and working three jobs. Then I worked two jobs once I got out of school. Later, I worked full-time while putting myself through nursing school (we were actually not supposed to work, period). I used to run 3 miles a day and then turn around and go straight to a Bikram class…while in nursing school! Currently I have not one, not two, but four different positions at the small company I work for. So yeah, I think I’m not so lazy. But I am NOT a morning person, and it’s OK. I’m a phlegmy, sleepy, anti-authoritarian, rebellious, independent, hardworking, very cold, night person. Maybe someday I will wake up and suddenly be a morning person, but somehow I doubt it, just like I doubt that I will wake up and suddenly be blonde and blue-eyed. Hey, I think I deserve a cookie for managing to drag myself out of bed at 6 or 7am most days.

I keep thinking of something I read on David Williams’ website:

“First, and foremost, I hope you can learn from me that in your practice, “If it hurts, you are doing it wrong.” Through the years, I have observed that too many people are hurting themselves and hurting others. Yoga practice can be (and should be) pleasant from the beginning to the end. What is important is the mulabandha and deep breathing. With daily practice, it is inevitable that one will become more flexible…I want to show each of you how you can do the Ashtanga Yoga series in a lifelong practice that is a totally pleasant experience. I suspect that when you first saw the practice, you said to yourself, “If I did this, it would be great for me!” So, here you are–you have observed the practice, and you want to continue it. The key is being able to continue practicing Yoga for the rest of your life. From over 30 years of observing thousands of people practicing Yoga, I have realized that those who continue are the ones who are able to figure out how to make it enjoyable. They look forward to their daily practice and nothing can keep them from finding the time to do it. It becomes one of the most pleasant parts of their day. The others, consciously, subconsciously, or unconsciously, quit practicing. It is my goal to do everything I can to inspire you to establish your Yoga practice not just for the few days we are together, but for the rest of your life.”



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