Thursday, June 18, 2009

100th Blog Post: Inspiration & Gratitude

"Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation and a pinch of creativity." ~ Bo Bennett

As I begin my 100th blog post, I am compelled to reflect upon how very much the Preppy Yogini has meant to me. This outlet has been a defining influence on taking the next steps on the path of my life. I have been immeasurably blessed by the love, interest and thoughts shared by readers (even those I'm related to!), and want to express my thanks to any and all who have taken an interest in my random, rambling thoughts. As I've been reading over my previous 99 posts, I'm not only thankful I've had this medium for learning to write more fluently, but for what I've learned about own history and my thought processes. Writing this blog has been a window that I'm grateful to have to gaze along my psyche. My humble gratitude aside, I would like to touch on just a few areas in which I have found my own personal growth and on which, I am continuing to discover my voice.

YOGA, it will come as no surprise, has been a defining aspect of my life. I began taking yoga classes almost 10 years ago, when a dear friend begged me to come to class with her. This invitation was given at a dinner party, over a glass of wine. She wasn't positive that Yoga was going to be 'her thing' but wanted to have me along for moral support. As fate would have it, my friend became a serious and dedicated runner, and I fell in love with Yoga. I began to study in earnest, and found extraordinary teachers to aid me in my quest to learn more. I found a confidence in myself and, for the first time in my life, began to look at my body without self-criticism and disgust at my lack of perfection, but with appreciation for all I could learn to do. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, and then again with another serious illness that landed me in intensive care in 2007, Yoga was the single most critical part of my life in helping my recovery. Not only was I in excellent physical condition to withstand the harsh demands my weakened body was making on me, but my mind knew calming, restorative and peaceful techniques to aid me in some of the most invasive time and procedures. After my initial illness 5 years ago, I began my Registered Yoga Teacher training, and I have found it to be the best decision I could have made. Not only has this enabled me to give back and teach many of the thoughts and techniques that have blessed me, but I have discovered that in teaching, in sharing what I've learned, I myself have been incredibly blessed in return by my students' own journeys.

READING WONDERFUL BOOKS has been a touchstone in my life from the time I could pick up my first Dr. Seuss book. Being able to share and review books that have inspired me, entertained me, taught me lessons or simply made an impact on me, has been a large part of this website. In my mind and heart, a book that touches my life changes me forever. I carry that story, those characters and those ideas with me, and they become a part of who I am. As a lifelong bibliophile, I believe I embody Webster's definition of "a lover of books". I am a passionate, voracious reader. Like a connoisseur of fine wines, I enjoy basking in the moment of each high quality literary novel I read. My love of books has seen me through many moves throughout my childhood, my years being away in schools far from home, as a new Army wife in a foreign country, and throughout each new phase of my life. Books have been my companions, my friends, my teachers and my inspiration. I have discovered that, just as my quest for elegance and eloquence in yoga has spurred me on to keep movitated in my learning process, so has the hunt for extroardinary novels. It has been an unbridbled pleasure to be able to share what I've learned from those I have found exceptional.

From the moment I could pick up a pencil and scribble my first thoughts onto a piece of scratch paper at my little next next to my mother's, I knew I wanted to write. I had thoughts I was compelled to commit to paper. My mother and grandmother bound my first little books themselves and started me on my quest to learn how to truly express myself WRITING. Although I have never been a professional writer, it's always been my life goal to establish a career as one. I've been fortunate to have had the chance to incorporate writing into every other position I've held. As a teacher and Director of Education, I wrote and produced plays for my students, using historical events as the jumping off point. I discovered what many good teachers know: that children learn by *doing*. By acting in plays written about a specific area of significance, these students remembered what they learned because they made the play their own. Writing has also given me a philosophical and emotional outlet during both difficult times and joyful ones. By expressing myself through the written word, I've been able to share the passion I feel for meaningful subjects in my life, and I've been able to work through painful emotions during times of great stress. To quote Arthur Polotnik, "You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke." Writing has given me a map of my life, that I'm able to read in both directions.

And, so I feel profoundly grateful for my first 100 blog posts. I look forward to writing more, to reading more, to deepening my yoga practice. I look forward to all of the wonders that await me, and am fully prepared for the tears and laughter that lie ahead. My thanks, my best wishes and my undying appreciation for being such patient readers.

What things there are to write, if one could only write them! My mind is full of gleaming thought; gay moods and mysterious, moth-like meditations hover in my imagination, fanning their painted wings. But always the rarest, those streaked with azure and the deepest crimson, flutter away beyond my reach. ~Logan Pearsall Smith

Sunday, June 14, 2009


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask oursleves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our prescence automatically liberates others...."~ Nelson Mandela, quoting Marianne Williamson

It isn't often that I use a quote, as the foundation and inspiration for my blog posts, to be as long as the one Nelson Mandela spoke at his inagural address, as the one above. And yet, a great part of me feels that I could simply leave the quote, and allow this space to be empty. The fact is there is very little I can add to such a statement, very little enlightenment I can share and very few thoughts I can pass along to bring this sentiment's meaning with further clarity. The idea of viewing ourselves in this way is both liberating and terrifying. How can we step back and view ourselves as wonderful and meaningful creatures, filled with all the potential in the universe, when we are beset with self-doubt, weighed down by years of criticism and fear of failure? Hypothetically, it is potentially life changing to release all of those chains of bondage we wear in the place of success. And yet, we find comfort in those chains, don't we?

Most of us are comfortable with the familiar. We like to know what is expected of us. We operate well within parameters. This isn't to say we don't have moments of creative inspiration or act as mindless drones all the time. But, we tend to view the world, both our own personal one as well as the wider one, in familiar terms. Over the years we build up our chains, binding our potential and keeping us thinking of ourselves in certain, 'never altering' terms. What do I mean by chains? Surely none of us are physically bound by linked metal. Still, the ways in which we keep our potential locked up can be just as limiting as those ropes of iron. After a while we fail to notice that they even exist. Like Jacob Marley, Ebenezeer Scrooge's doomed ghost of a partner, we rattle our chains and wear them for eternity. While ours may be metaphorically, they are every bit as heavy and oppressive as Jacob Marley's. Marley came back to show Scrooge a different way...a chance to redeem himself from a life of selfishness, hard heartedness and cruelty. What is fascinating about Dickens' portrayal of Scrooge's journey is not the various ghosts that visit him, but rather, the way that Scrooge releases his fears based on past hurts of his own. We learn that Scrooge did not set out in life to be an angry, bitter, greedy man. We understand that he picked up that mantle as a method of self-presevation. He came to see his chains as a way to protect himself.

Most of us pick up our chains through very little fault of our own. We are told by teachers that we're stupid, lazy or undesirable. We internalize peer pressure to conform our very thoughts to the standards currently in vogue. We suppress our talents because experience teaches that putting ourselves 'out there', we risk immense hurt, humiliation and failure. Once we have had our hearts broken and our inadequacies are exposed, we are far more likely to don figuartive bullet proof vests, shutting out even more than chains. When we have been told 'no' enough times, we stop asking. We forget that we loved to sing, or to write, or to dance. We distance ourselves from our passions because keeping them close risks exposing our desire for them. We deny ourselves the pleasure of possibility because of the chance for frustration and defeat. As Mark Twain said, over 100 years ago, "Once a cat sits on a hot stove, he won't ever do it again. But, he also won't sit on a cold one." Like cats in fear of sitting on a hot stove, we suppress our hopes and dreams. We feel deficient and remain uncompleted.

So, what do we do next? How do take that first scary step of releasing our chains? What do we need to do to feel those hints of liberation? We must simply begin with our hearts in our throats and just do it. We take chances, create new prospects and risk embarrasment. For most of us, the fear of dreading humiliation is much worse than the mortification proves to be. We begin by asking for help from people whose talents we admire. We start by taking a stab at something new. We simply aspire to do more, to be more and to experience more than our current limitations allow. As a writer, I'm opening myself up to learning from more experienced mentors. It's terrifying. I'm afraid my mentor will tell me that I am a talentless hack. And yet, even if that's what I'm told, I feel grateful that I have the chance to even try. If the worst case scenario is being unsuccessful, then I will be no worse off than I am...always wondering. My mother once told me not to be afraid: that the worst someone can say is "no". What we all need to do, myself especially included, is to be okay with the possibility of "no", but to prepare for the chance of "yes".

In my yoga classes, I will often begin with an invitation to my students. We will focus on one area in our lives that we would like to improve. We breathe and focus all of our thoughts on achieving that hope. Then, bringing our hands, palm up, to our mouths, we blow those hopes into the universe, asking God to help us find the path that makes those hopes come to fruition. This exercise is not about opening up a fortune cookie or reading a horoscope. It's giving us a mental, tangible way to release those feelings we bind to ourselves, but also embracing the proactive approach to attaining the next step. One of my own mentors has told me that sometimes I need to get out of my own way. In sharing this with my students, not only am I passing this wise life approach forward, but I'm learning to live it as I share it. I have found the best teachers are those who are, themselves, constantly learning to be more open. I hope that, as I learn to release the bonds of insecurity and doubt that plague my own journey, both personally and professionally, I can show my students that they, too, can release...and then begin to soar.

As we meditate on Nelson Mandela's words, I hope that each of you can find one area in which to let go of your apprehension and invite in assurance that all will be well. As you do so, you may find that you encourage all those around you to do the same...or even grow beyond you. To me, the mark of a life well lived isn't what we do ourselves, but what we can inspire in others.