Mo’ money, Mo’ problems

What could you let go of in life that would feel like “freedom,” one of Christina’s definitions of renunciation?

Fearful, obsessed, frustrated and angry. Money makes me feel these things. Money makes me worry about not having money. Money is more fun, more exciting, more new and more better. Money is the root of evil.

I would love to let go of my obsession about money. It creates a lot of unnecessary suffering in my life. In a world with such disparate and seemingly separate socio-economic demographics, we all seem to have this in common. I have never been without money and wouldn’t know what it is like to be without – without my shoes, clothes, jewelry, fancy face cream, sporting equipment, travel. By nature, I am not a spoiled, high-maintenance person, so I likely would adapt. But the fear of not having financial security can be so overwhelming it’s crippling.

Like many of my engrained tendencies, this obsession was inherited from my mother. She was always talking about not having enough money, or vocalizing her concern that we may lose the house or have to stop playing competitive sports. As a child this instilled such a huge fear, I prayed everyday that we would be without money problems.

Until this past couple of weeks, I had not been conscious of this obsessive tendency. I have begun questioning my motivations for achieving higher education and working for our family business. Were these choices made out of passion for the cause and love of family? Or were they made for the financial security? Or, as Christina Feldman said, I may be perpetuating my self view – the “I have, I am, I do”.

Watching my cravings and aversions and seeking the freedom from the obsession, may crack my world wide open into a whole new reality. At this point I am just noticing my relationship with money – impulsive spending, wanting more & better – and assessing what I truly need.


Recreating the Story

Creating awareness around the back of my heart, to the neglected vertebrae of my thoracic spine, to the sinking of my front chest, has made me feel scared, worried, panicky, sad and insecure. I have had flashbacks to my horrifying days in junior high, when I was ridiculed for not having any boobs. When my chest puffed up in my exercises, I remembered having to hide my chest (or lack thereof) – never a low cut top or sticking my chest out; dressing like and playing like a boy to fit the body I was given.  I will never forget the time in high school, when a boy I liked, who was also a friend, called me a lesbian. He had thought this was a funny joke, because I was an athlete.  I absolutely broke down crying – I am feminine and I like boys!! – I wanted to scream.

Eventually, I hit puberty and, until Sunday, thought I had moved on from these tumultuous teen emotions.   Yet, 15 minutes of laying on a double-tennis ball, allowing my heart to lift, cracked me open a bit, and let out some darkness.

I am postulating, that the block in my heart chakra stopped the energetic flow of my my third chakra (solar plexus), which has created the dis-ease in this region: acid reflux, burps, caffeine and sugar addiction.  If I can open my heart chakra, allow the free flow up and out of this area, not only will my third chakra simmer down, but my 5th chakra (throat chakra) can connect downward more freely, thereby, finding the Truth in my voice.

Sometimes it feels like there are so many things to work with that I don’t know where to begin. However, I am realizing that these deep seeded memories, patterns and habits that have created the story of Me, need to be seen and left in their place. They don’t need to be manipulated and obsessed over – recognize that story, cry with compassion for that young, scared, insecure girl. But, then, look in the mirror and see the Me of the present.


Go to Your Womb

After the weekend’s workshop with Mary Paffard, studying the female fluidity as it relates to an octopus, I realized that I have a limited connection with my intuitive, prehistoric self. I became easily frustrated because I could not muscle my way through movement as I have been taught. In fact, we were specifically told NOT to use the muscle to move the limbs. The process did become a bit easier as the class progressed, but I was left feeling uncertain of the sufficiency of my fluidity.

After the asana class, we discussed our experiment and, naturally, I had to speak up. I told of my initial desire to “get it” and “feel it”, and feeling aggressively disappointed that it wasn’t coming to me very easily….or fluidly. Mary spoke of the 20th century yoga that has created many of the asanas we practice regularly and diligently; of the Yoga Journal (and the like) and its tendency to create an aesthetic of yoga as fit, beautiful and luxurious; of our consumer driven culture that has fed us stories, telling of our brokenness and how their product will fix everything. Whether it is related to physical appearance, mastery of subjects and information, professional achievements, there is a constant, unavoidable barrage of cultural influence. This workshop and discussion triggered something for me as it relates to my cyclical processes.

For the past 7 years I have been working to break a mental pattern of wanting more, most and best. Much of my work was spent in an attempt to eliminate the deep-seeded hatred I harbored for my physical body. It has been several years since I have had a real nasty thought about myself, but the mean-Jean still chirps up now and again. However, by believing I had stifled the mean-Jean, I discontinued my acute awareness of this pattern, choosing to focus on the other “issues”. For example, more recently, there is this tendency to notice the superficial, obvious defaults of character and lifestyle. Mary’s class and words have caused me to pause and revisit this old nemesis – Why do I have an asana practice and what is my true intention? Is it an insidious perpetuation of the old mean-Jean? Am I honoring my body and loving it unconditionally in my practice, or am I bullying my way through?

I do not yet have an answer to these deep inquiries, but it has created an awareness, that an aim to eliminate a harmful mental pattern is not an effective method. Enter, Samtosha.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not) Mary focused a lot on the deep belly and it’s crucial role in keeping us connected to our intuitive selves. By relating the anatomical and physiological aspects of this region, with the spiritual significance, it has become more clear than ever, that this is our “Magic Spot”. My favorite take-away one-liner: Go to your Womb.

I have a lot of meditating and intuiting yet, but I am so grateful for these inspirational moments that continue to arise on our brilliant journey.

Low Belly Breath Consciousness = Intense Calm

All week I have been focusing on my diaphragm and transversus abdominis.  Lisa’s Anatomy lesson on Sunday was mind-blowing – I don’t even know where to begin!  Let’s start with the Diaphragm:  did you know that the dome-like diaphragm muscle reaches all the way to the middle-upper ribs?  Did you also know that, while the diaphragm is muscle on all sides, as it reaches the top of the dome, it morphs into a tendon?  I’m absolutely fascinated by the intelligence of our body! 

Aside from the physical structure, we were instructed about the diaphragm’s function with regard to the breath.  When inhaling you have 2 options, based on the level of exertion: 1) If relaxed in meditation, savasana or a yin posture, upon inhalation, the dome tendon moves down, thereby massaging the organs with the diaphragmatic musculature, and pressing the organs into the bowl of the low belly.  2) If there is more vigor to your movement, upon inhalation the dome tendon moves upward, bringing the breath into the chest, allowing the low belly to engage & support the vigorous movement.   This was an enlightening focal point for breath work.

While practicing my breath in Yin postures & meditation this week,  I have been so tuned into the diaphragm – it’s as if I can feel the muscle sliding down the inside of my ribs.

Now, this is where the Diaphragm and Transversus Abdominis play together. The transversus abdominis runs laterally, underneath the other abdominal musculature, and is a crucial aspect of the core muscles.  Previously, I had thought that the Transversus was automatically recruited when doing most abdominal exercises.  But, when prompted to find our transversus and actively engage the area, it was far more difficult that I could have imagined.  There is this amazing subtlety involved, requiring a gentle focus and heightened internal awareness.  While practicing my deep diaphragmatic breathing, I am relaxing the transversus, to allow the organs to move into the pelvic bowl.  The conscious relaxation and expansion of the low belly has been a huge trigger for my parasympathetic nervous system.  My state of being after a meditation or relaxed posture has become intensely calm, due to my new focus.  In fact, my bowels are thanking me too!  😀

I also notice that my low belly is often clenched throughout the day.  I am fairly certain this is a pattern developed in my younger years, when I was trying to avoid looking fat.  The conscious, minute-to-minute awareness of the release of my low belly has released other areas of holding (jaw, shoulders, breath). 

In summary, I am eternally grateful for this ever-increasing body awareness and am beginning to worship the wonder that is the human body!



Caffeine Cleanse


 I chose to cleanse my system of caffeine for 2 days.  The only caffeine I consume is in the form of coffee.  Morning of Day one, I was resentful – Why should I have to give this up?  I love my morning coffee!  It’s not that bad for me – I NEED it to get through my morning.  Once the morning was underway, I felt so calm at my desk.  I had a lot of work to do, but I didn’t feel anxious or excited about it.  I felt this sense of a rhythm and presence to my work.   I didn’t have my typical morning – peeing every 20 minutes, shaky, sweaty, burpy.  Clearly, I have been consuming more caffeine than my body can handle.  At the end of the day, driving home, I did not feel anxious behind the wheel.  I felt very pleasant.  It made me wonder why I have to be going 300 mph in order to do my job – as if I was somehow more productive.  In fact, it makes me more distracted and wanting to do 3 things at once. 


Thus, my initial morning of resentment, turned into a day of calm, ease & presence.  I loved it so much that I decided to forego caffeine for a second day!  I still “woke up”, and, again, I didn’t miss the anxiety, I felt much more able & willing to listen to people, and my thoughts weren’t as uncontrollable.


This morning I had a small cup of coffee and felt immediately cracked out – I became a complete chatterbox and felt compelled to anxiety.  I’m unsure of my relationship with coffee at this point – I still love the smell and the taste, but I am taking a good hard look at how it can invoke anxiety and an attention deficit.  Perhaps coffee becomes a treat, rather than a daily practice, so that I appreciate the power of this drug.

A Space Inside

Notice your space that you use for practice – what would help make this space more suitable for your intention in practice. If you have to practice somewhere else or change your practice time, how does that affect you?

I remember my first home practice, living in a small apartment in Minneapolis with a roommate. I had my own room, it was carpeted, and had just enough room for my mat. There was a long mirror, where I could check my alignment. I loved to listen to music while I practiced.

I always found a place for yoga where I have lived (or traveled) ever since living in Minne. Currently we have an extra bedroom, which has become an office/bike storage/guest bedroom/yoga room. Because of all the clutter i needed to make it more authentic for my practice time. I began using little statues and candles in a shrine-like formation when i set up for my practice time. I even did some candlelight meditation. It was a warming and calming way to start the practice. I no longer listen to music while I practice, but if I do, I prefer kirtan or instrumental..there are already enough voices in my head.

Practicing in diverse locations with lots of external stimuli allows me to quiet my thoughts more easily. I live on a busy street where there is constant noise from buses, motorcycles, cars, people, cats and dogs. Initially it is difficult to settle in, but eventually the sound becomes like the blurry edges of our peripheral vision. The sensation stimuli is there, but it is not a distraction nor a nuisance. Rather, it is helping me hear more clearly the stillness, calm and silence within.

With regard to the time for practice, I like to get a little practice throughout the day. Grazing, if you will. This is a recent phenomenon and has proven to be hugely beneficial. A little in the morning, a little at lunch and a little before dinner. It has helped me stay more calm and collected in a given day. Typically though, I am an evening or afternoon practitioner. I have had a Monday 6 pm practice for about 5 years, and if I do not practice at this day and time, I tend to feel a bit anxious. Not sure if it is because I’m missing yoga or if it is because it’s Monday…in any case I prefer a routine and consistency with my practice. But, I am willing to be flexible, if only to reap the reward of grazingly meditating.

Not Perfecting my Practice

Studying aparigraha, non-attachment or non-grasping, has been an ongoing experiment for several years. I say experiment because it is the most difficult action to undertake. I have attached to and grasped onto so much in my life – material goods, expectations of myself and others, emotions, coffee, marijuana, exercise – to take a hard look at them and assess them in these 2 weeks was overwhelming. To a point where I had to take a break for a couple of days because it was sending me into a tailspin. Detaching and letting go of these patterns and comforts I have known so intimately is a frightening endeavor. I felt at times like throwing in the towl on this whole idea.

Then Life happened, an argument with my mom/boss over a relatively minor work issue. I will spare you the boring details, but essentially I became a complete asshole. My Ego was challenged – I had made a mistake and my insecurity around failure flared up. I tried to create a boundary for myself by not answering my mom’s call at 7:30 pm regarding this issue – I’m not going to engage in work at home. However, because it is also my mom, I hurt her by screening her call. The next day when I was being an asshole, naturally, it made my mom become defensive and aggressive. This whole thing could have been avoided if I had just calming acknowledged my moment of neglect, without grasping onto this delusion that I am perfect and I will never make a mistake. Where in the hell was this wisdom in the moments when I was being awful to my mom?

Well, after a Friday lunch we had worked it out, acknowledging that we both have insecurities that were triggered in this spat. It actually created a stronger bond and more understanding. So, as much as I would have liked to have practiced my yamas to perfection, it’s just not reality. Life will inevitably happen and if we are aware we can hopefully avoid the worst; but we won’t avoid it all.