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Missives from the Mat 13 — Children and the Adults Who Still Are

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I’ve been inordinately blessed. I used to think it was luck but then I realized that it was not quite that simple, it has been more than me showing up at the right places at the right times. I don’t know who came up with the phrase, “make your own luck” but I like it.

When I roll back to look at the groundwork that has been laid out to bring me to this moment it’s a little astounding.

I harken back to my first yoga teacher, Vicki, whom I’ve always respected and admired. After being in her level 3 class for a year or so, I asked her, “Do you think I’m ready for vinyasa [flowing yoga, more aerobic]?” I didn’t want to leave her class, but she didn’t teach a vinyasa. She was honest and kind and said, “Yes. I do.”

I garnered the guts to attend one on a lark; I intentionally missed one of my Vicki classes at the studio to squeeze in a vinyasa class as a make-up on a Saturday morning. The standard teacher for that class was one Vicki had used as a sub for her class, and I really enjoyed her, so I was excited to see her again.

When I opened the door to the studio and stepped in, I saw that the teacher I expected to be there was not there, but rather another teacher.

I was confused. I almost considered leaving. People don’t like surprises I’ve found, and I’m a people.

But I carried on and took down a mat from the shelves, reached for a strap, grabbed a couple felt blankets and a pair of blocks. I didn’t know what I was in for, and with this new person, I really didn’t know what I was in for.

I loved it. I instantly loved the teacher and the class, as soon as it began. I loved the challenge of the flow which demanded both concentration and meditation, the marriage of breath and movement in a more fluid and contemplative way — there was no getting attached to any one pose in vinyasa, that was the best part. This substitute teacher had an impishness, kindness and an energy about her that I was so pleased to encounter.

So I was hooked. I returned to my Level 3 classes with Vicki, and dreamed of adding the vinyasa to my life. But then the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008 and $240 for 12 weeks of once-a-week yoga was a luxury; it was time / I had no choice but to buy some DVDs and learn on my own.

“I like you better when you practice yoga,” my husband has come perilously close to saying. What he’s actually said instead is, “I can tell when you’ve not practiced…”

It was also around this time of year when I first taught the sixth graders at the elementary school for eight weeks as a volunteer, so I was definitely feeling stressed because, natch, sixth graders totally know more about yoga and breath than I did at that point in my life after practicing yoga for ten years. (I sit here eyerolling with contempt at my inadequacy issues… how they cripple me…)

As spring grew longer, the pool season was opening and I procrastinated on getting out ducks in a row for the early bird prices (I swear I don’t know how this family would function without me sometimes). Usually I mailed it all in early but that year I didn’t. On the last day, I went to our neighborhood central office to submit my family’s pool registration and as I was leaving, there on a table beside the door was a flyer, “Spring Yoga with Kelly…” held in a location that was in walking distance of my home, and not in a studio in a creepy parking lot between a 7-11 and a loud restaurant. The classes were half the price, offered during the day when the kids were at school and then… THEN … I saw the picture of the yoga vixen on the sheet and I just about flipped, “THAT’S THE VINYASA SUB!!!”

OOOOOOOOH I was thrilled.

I dashed home and sat down to tap out an email to her to learn more about her classes and to also ask her if she was indeed the vinyasa sub.

Yes! The classes were ongoing and she was the sub!

OOOOOOOOH I was so excited.

But I was sad too. I loved Vicki. But I needed to save money. But I loved Vicki. But she was the sub… I needed to make a change.

I changed. I wrapped up the classes with Vicki and then jumped ship like a coward and started going to yoga TWICE a week near my home (I even walk[ed] to class every now and then!) and was still saving money. I was like velvet. My husband was so pleased.

Fast forward several years, a blossomed friendship with Kelly, a maintained friendship with Vicki, a mentorship with both of them, and too many downward facing dogs to count and I’m now a bona fide certified yoga instructor who put forth an intention, made a few shifts and have become the manifestation of what happens when you get out of your own way. (If I could just get that writing a book thing to feel better…)

So what have I learned? With teaching little kids:

1) they will point at you and then burst out in unmitigable laughter at you when you make the mistake of wearing a shirt that reveals your belly-button during tree pose. And there’s nothing you can do about it. They absolutely will not stop and eventually, you get over your self-consciousness, you figure out that it’s pretty funny, and keep things moving along.

2) they will tell you that they hate a pose and instead of trying it, they will opt for child’s pose on their mat. They don’t care, they are pure and real: if they think your proposal of cobra is a stupid idea, they’ll tell you that it’s a “dumb pose” and just curl up and wait.

2a) they will also learn to say, “it’s not my favorite pose, I’ll sit this one out” when they call poses “dumb” after a few instances.

3) they will start giggling when you say to them (when finding a scowl upon their faces) “Don’t smiiiiiiiiile. Donnnnnnnn’t smiiiiiiiiiile….” it works every time.

3a) they will also test you by frowning just to get the “don’t smile” challenge going.

4) they love to be sniffed out of svasana by a chocolate Labrador puppet named “Teddy Dog” and if you request that they not make a peep when they rise, to respect their friends, they will keep their sweet mouths zipped.

5) they like to partner pose. They have absolutely no issues or social bullshit on their minds; they’re all about the fun.

they are building a tent for their carnival.

they are building a tent for their carnival.

6) they seem to make no connection whatsoever to breath and calmness at first. They look at you like you’re speaking crazy talk and then a few weeks later will tell a classmate who’s having a hard time because he didn’t get the mat color he wanted to “breathe deep and slow… you will feel better and then you can have the mat next time…” and you will find yourself blown away and they will have to fetch Teddy Dog to rouse you from your unintended svasana.

7) they will completely lose their minds if you forget Teddy Dog.

8) they “love to play musical mats because only the poses get eliminated, not the kids!” When the last mat is “safe” they all have to squeeze on to it or at least touch it. When this happens, it’s all about making room and fitting on instead of squeezing out and “fitting in.”

Making room for all during "take-off" for airplane pose after a game of "musical mats."

Making room for all during “take-off” for airplane pose after a game of “musical mats.”

9) they will come to the rescue with their stuffed animal in their backpack when you forget Teddy Dog. Then all of them will dash off to forage in their own gear to show you their each respective special buddies they have in their backpacks and you will smile so deeply inside with the memory of your own long-lost buddy you brought with you everywhere. It seems so far ago…

10) they get it. When classes end, they bum out because they really enjoy them, and when the session ends, they cry because they love you. They give you pictures of yourself with them that they drew because they wanted you to remember them. “Because you helped me learn how to feel good when I am feeling all spazzy or want to punch my brother.”

Teaching kids keeps me grounded. I love teaching both sets of ages, and each presents its challenges. Adults won’t necessarily pout if they don’t get the mat they want (they bring their own) or if I instruct tree pose. But some adults pose their own challenges and that’s mostly where boundaries are involved. I would be absolutely leading you astray if I said that some adult practitioners don’t confuse the “kumbaya / namaste” vibe of a yoga instructor with loose structure or lack of policies.

Also, some peoples’ appreciation of yoga (“whatever, it’s a social thing for me”) might not be mine (“can be life changing, I’ve learned so much about myself on the mat”); regardless, i will always prefer mine.

Case in point: I had a student who’s missed a few classes them decide to “gift” a class (that would be missed due to a conflict) to friend based on the premise that the classes were already paid for. I had no such policy nor had I ever heard of the concept. If I were a dentist, and a patient came in for a scheduled root canal but decided to bring along a friend who needed a cleaning “seeing as how the visit is already paid for” I think I’d consider giving the wrong tooth a root canal. I wasn’t thrilled with this “gifting a class” proposal either (and SINCE WHEN is “gift” a VERB?!), but to keep things kumbaya, I let it slide, along with the shot across the bow, “this class only; I won’t do this again.”

And would you believe it: the student ARGUED with me, “I already paid for the class… what do you care? You’ve got the money…” and so then there was this part of me that was “Yeah, I see that…” but the other part of me that said, “No, that’s not how it works. Your tuition is for you; there is no ‘sharing’ of tuition… ”

It got worse. The student triangulated and went to the guest who then was so moved by my reaction (calm, professional yet firm with the scofflaw) that she apologized for coming to class… (Yeah, because that was what I definitely saw coming…) But this triangulation didn’t happen until after the student sent me an email starting with “I didn’t mean to upset you” and closing with “I won’t bother bringing any friends to the new teacher in town…” so you tell me, which was the dig?

It got worse. I basically wrote back to the student and offered her a refund, but not until I told her that her tactics were offensive and her triangulation dysfunctional; that things had reached a whole new level of weird because of what she did.

Then, only then, she wrote back telling me “this is awkward now.”

Now.

Not when she basically pooped on the drop-in fee, and me professionally by treating a guest “on her” (me) without asking about it first.

Not when she decided to triangulate and spew her self-embarrassment and project it all over me and her friend (nice) by trying to justify what she’d done by telling me I’m unreasonable.

Not when she closed her note with a non-smear of my classes.

Only when I called her out on her deplorable behavior and her non-smear. Then. Then it was awkward. Awkward as ass.

We agreed to part ways. I offered to refund her fully, but she said I could keep the money. Ok. She owed me $15 of it anyway for the drop-in of her guest.

She should come to my children’s classes, she’d feel more at home. They can act like children and not feel weird about it; and then when she acts like them, they can call her on it.

So that’s what I’ve witnessed and I’ve learned. That children are children and some adults are still children.

Last weekend, I went on a glorious retreat with Kelly. It was really nice. I noticed a few things about myself: that I go inward with lots of new people around me in an intense environment; that I used to be really codependent and I’d feel awful if I stood up for myself, I’d be afraid that by asserting myself that I’d offend someone else and I’m thrilled to report that I’m not codependent anymore; that I bond with lots of women a lot faster than I thought I would, and it’s a subtle and deep bond; and that I’m grateful for all the bumps, cracks, detours, pitfalls, traps, and more I’ve endured because it’s all part of my story, and that story has made me who I am. I waver on this, it’s still pretty new, but I think I’m finally there.

Thank you.

Missives From the Mat #10 — Yoga with Children

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My mind is relaxing today; it’s trying to catch up with all the yoga I’ve practiced and taught recently.

I have been teaching children yoga and I have been teaching adults yoga.

The teaching of little kids, k-2, which I thought would be harder because kids are so wiggly and everything, is turning out to be not only easier but terrifically rewarding.

I enjoy teaching adults too, of course, because they have a reason to be there; they are choosing to be there. They are on a journey to something, and that’s private to them and I dig that.

The kids? Their parents signed them up. Their parents thought it would be good for them. The kids let it all hang out. They are just ON. They are open, nonjudgmental, true, totally in the moment, curious and delightfully spontaneous. They hug you because they feel like it. They squeal with enthusiasm because they feel like it. They giggle when you say “butt.” I can’t imagine what they’ll do if I say “fanny.”

What am I noticing? My journey thus in teaching both adults and children is teaching me.

With adults, it’s all about connecting the feeling of the breath with and within the movement. That is what we say is yoga; that when we notice the connection of the feeling of the breath within the movement, we are noticing something about ourselves… what we allow ourselves to notice and what we save for later because we’re just not there yet. And of that allowing? It is a conscious allowance, meaning we are aware of the choice to allow or is it more subtle? (Is your brain spinning yet? Shake it off. Come back to me….)

With kids, I don’t bother with the concepts and esoterica of “what are you feeling?” or “connect that movement with your breath.” They look at me as they should: like I’m nuts: What do you mean connect my breath with my movement? “If I couldn’t breathe, I wouldn’t move,” one of them wisely said to me.

Yeah.

Lesson plans. Teaching. Imparting. Leading. Following.

I am a creative person; I can create a lesson on the fly. Teaching the children reminds me that doing so is as natural to me as sipping water from a cup.

I will readily admit I have been/am petrified when I teach adults. In the beginning, I was all Adam Sandler, “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” about it. That was a confluence of ego, fear, ego, ego, ego annnnnnnd ego. I wanted to be NEW! I wanted to be EXCITING! I wanted to be SPECIAL! I focused on being Not The Previous Teacher! instead of just being me. It’s getting better. I’m finding my groove.

With the kids, I thought, “How can I make this interesting?” I devised a strategy of the most amazing concept ever: remember what it’s like to be a little kid. Everything is awesome (one way or another) when you’re a kid.

“What does exhale mean?” one of them asked on day one. NnnnNnnnnn. She was totally right. What the what does a little kid know from exhale? I went back to my early days as a mother with my first son when he had croup and how my cousin, a doctor, whom I’d called eight states away in almost the middle of the night with total fear and panic in my voice said to me, in possibly the calmest voice ever, “sssssstaaaaay caalllllllllmmm, Mollllll and heeeeee WILL callllllm with yooooooou. Get him to breathe in through his nose and out his mouth. Eventually, he will relax and his throat will calm too. …”

I visualized my instruction and “smell the flowers, blow the bubbles” instantly came to mind. That was our mantra, before I even knew it, I had a mantra for life.

My cousin continued, “Get him into the heated shower mist and then out in the cool night air or open your freezer for him to inhale after you both calm down.”

I did as my calm cousin instructed and Thing 1 did as I told him, and we all got through six or seven years and bouts of croup thanks to that mantra.

“When in doubt, breathe it out.” -Me

Subtly teaching kids the gorgeous gift of conscious breath

So I bought a Hoberman Sphere. Have you seen one of those? They’re fantastic and the kids and I use it to demonstrate breath and breathing. I haven’t asked them yet, “have you noticed how calm we all are when we concentrate on breathing along with the growth and the shrinkage of the sphere?” I want them to enjoy the sensation they create in themselves without preaching yet. It will come, but not yet. We have about six more weeks before we depart for summer.

So right now, these days, these lessons, we are sharing the sphere. First I show them. I demonstrate the expansion and the contraction. I ask them to do their best to follow the growth and diminishment of the sphere. They’re little kids. They have little lungs. They watch — Ooooo! How they watch! They are intense, and competitive and SO eager to learn. I expand the sphere, I see their eyes get big and their chests expand. I hold the sphere expanded and they wait. I slowly close the sphere and they mimic it. I pause, they pause. When I release the sphere, they take in a few breaths and smile or just stay neutral.

So we all take turns. Each child opens and closes the sphere at his or her pace and design. We all participate, we all follow along and each time, each breath, each experience we all get a little calmer. But I say nothing. I don’t need to. Not yet. Body memory is so much smarter than the brain. Don’t sully this somatic experience with intellect, I tell myself. Don’t “teach.” Don’t need to impart. Let your ego ride this out. Learn from them, from all of it, instead. I hear my parents growling impatiently (yet understandingly) at one another while listening to Wagner or Rachmaninoff or Brahms when the other one couldn’t help but impart some observation during a crescendo or other rapturous moment in the music.

Man plans; kids laugh

While I have organization and an overall plan, I do let the kids run the show a little bit. I remind myself and if I don’t, they will remind me that kids at this age, appropriately, are very self-absorbed. Yesterday, several of them were all about their upcoming spring break trips to see grandparents in Florida. So, as we did last week, we boarded a “flight” to see family. (Last week we went to NYC. Landing at LaGuardia was a real pain.)

It’s such a kick in the pants. I used to do this when my kids were very young when we would wait in the car for someone else.

I was the control tower; I cupped my hand over my mouth and announced the runway clear for take-off. Their eyes LIT UP. They COULDN’T believe what was going on. I was ACTUALLY sounding like I was coming out of a speaker. I watched and smiled deeply inside and outside. We all giggled a little. I continued, prompting “Captain Bipsy” (fake name) to fly us out.

Bipsy was a pilot. She cupped her mouth as I did, giggled a bit and then she flew that plane over the rest of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and then landed somewhere near Disneyland, of course. She beamed like a lighthouse. Full of shine and confidence.

The children who were visiting the Sunshine State asked us to close our eyes and they each shared three things they saw when they landed. Another kiddo flew us back home and we had a bumpy but very safe landing as we flew in to our respective airports. During all this the children were either in and out of locust pose or balancing on one leg with their arms outstretched or in child’s pose because they don’t like to fly. (Who can blame them, really?) We chartered our flights because we don’t want to mess with all that TSA nonsense. 😉

I do other things with them, we play “red-light / green-light” and I call a pose. Or sometimes an animal puppet I have calls a pose. They love the puppets I bring. They, as we all do, love to be heard and to be seen. Their positive behavior is affirmed with a little “peck” on the cheek or forehead by the puppet-me at the end of svasana; the special guest puppet can’t “wake” them if they’re not still and resting; so they naturally settle down, no matter how difficult and exciting because of the building, intense and absolutely comical anticipation waiting for that peck. When they do settle,they are rewarded by a loving and gentle contact with the puppet.

I still do this with my kids. My almost 16-year-old physically crinkles up with anticipation when I have a puppet or teddy bear who’s determined to say hello and crack his cool, teenage exterior. I recall my mother doing that with my 6’5″ brother when he was 40. It worked even then… My mom was like that: a child at heart. I think on the other hand, I was born at 42 sometimes because we were so often at odds. I regret that I was that way; I feel I’m recapturing it, my youth, as I work with these beautiful children who allow me to share an hour with them each week.

I don’t normally dedicate posts. But I want to dedicate this post to my beautiful Children’s Yoga teachers Shakta Khalsa, Kartar Khalsa, Lisa Brodrick, Jyoti Bajaj, Mary Beth Quick; and my grown-up yoga teachers Kelly J, Vicki C, Annette H, and Dianne F who passed the adult classes torch to me; those people out there who told me to keep going, keep at it and just do this thing: Shana E, Terri L M, Terri S-M, Laura L, my husband and my kids and to my dogs, who show me how to do the best Down Dogs ever. This whole thing happened to me because I attracted it; I wanted to be of service to people who were ready to receive it. I put it out there, that I was ready to give it… and I am humbled by the answer.

Thank you.

Check-Writing Angels & Growing Up

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So a few days ago, I shared with you the amazing and transformative experience I had when I shared the gift of yoga and mindful meditation with Survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

What has happened to me in the four short days since that experience has resulted in only the most amazing gift, and thus explains my absence and lack of posts since. I’ve been a little overwhelmed.

. . . . . . . . . .

One of the participants asked me why I wasn’t certified yet. I hemmed and hawed and moaned about the expenses and how it all seems like a racket, that all the classes (there must’ve been some Steve Jobsian-edict from the Yoga Alliance) cost a minimum $3,000 for Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) 200-hour certification. I felt like there was a “system” in place; a mafia, so to speak and I considered the whole thing rather unyogic.

Truth be told, because yoga has become so “hot” lately, some people believe the practice has become diluted; that the essence of the discipline has been taken over, and focused more on “yoga bodies” and “long, lean muscles.” Gone are the covers on Yoga Journal of regular people sitting in meditation or in a traditional pose; now everyone is doing King of the Dancers (a very advanced pose) and has 14% body fat. I tend to agree with the concept that yoga has been somewhat corrupted by commerce. The whole point of yoga is not $135 transparent yoga pant recalls but rather: to build balance and flow in poses to prepare for sitting for long periods in meditation and to build a lasting relationship with equanimity.

So much for equanimity:

I teach sixth graders for 8 weeks every spring, free, at the school. When I first started 6 years ago, the focus from the kids, and it was a good ratio of boys to girls then, was all about relaxation, stress relief and becoming quiet. The kids knew this. They were into it. They were scared and nervous about the transition to middle school and they welcomed the opportunity to stretch their muscles, touch their toes and fall asleep for 10 minutes in the dark before dismissal.

The number one question then: “Can I do yoga anywhere?” The answer: Yes.

This year, the NUMBER ONE question was “will I get abs from this?” and “how do I get a six-pack?” My answers, respectively and invariably, have been: “If you didn’t have abs, you wouldn’t be able to walk,” and “You get a six-pack when you turn 21.”

They hate those answers. They want, at 12 years of age, “perfect” bodies. They’re so stressed out about getting “perfect” bodies, that they are completely obsessed with it.

I digress. Be it known, however, that I am working on changing those kids’ attitudes.

Where was I? Oh, yes: complaining about the price-fixing -esque nature of the yoga certification industry. I complained about that to my friend when she asked about my training.

She was not impressed with that answer. She has known me for quite some time. She and I have talked about this before. Apparently, whatever I did with her that day rocked her world because she took it upon herself to blow my mind the next day.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, she dropped off a check. A check for $3,500. $3,500 which will cover my registration, lessons, travel and testing for becoming a “Registered Children & Family Yoga” instructor by my 46th birthday, this year.

I am floored.

My husband accepted the check, he thought it was for $35 for a Pampered Chef order. He thought it was for a pan, or spices or the crank ‘n’ maul (my brand) manual food processor. When she dropped it off, she said, “This is for Molly’s yoga certification,” and practically skipped away toward her car. He was in a haze; it was likely the cooking and cleaning and dealing with the children that he had to do for the previous few hours in preparation for my awesome breakfast in bed:

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Upon further examination of the check, when he confirmed that it wasn’t for $35.00, he sort of lost it. He looked out the window and she was >poof!< goneski.

He came up to me and said, “Bipsy McFarlandberger just dropped this off, it’s for your ‘certification‘?”

My heart sank. It also swelled.

Then it sank again.

Then it leapt. Then it sat.

I squinched my face. “She did? Hrmmmm… I was afraid of that,” I took a sip from my Wonder Woman mug.

“You were ‘afraid of that‘? What’s up?”

“I forgot to tell you. She gave me a loving, but firm hard time yesterday for not being certified to teach yoga yet.”

“She did?”

“Yeah. And Helga VonFranklesmith, told me that Bipsy is a force of nature and that just because I said no earlier to her first proposal, it doesn’t mean I can really mean it.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because Bipsy is a force of nature. She’s tenacious. C’mon…. you know, she’s… BIPSY…”

And he nodded and said, “Yeah, I know Bipsy. So, what’re you gonna do?”

“I can’t TAKE it…”

“Right. You don’t have to. But it’s Bipsy we’re talking about.”

“Yeah, and she kindly said that she’s tired of hearing my story and she knows this is a dream of mine and that she has this money and she wants to give it to me and I told her not to and well… you see how far that got me,” I said, as I began to chew on my inner lip. On one hand, it’s freakin’ awesome: I’ve NEVER had anyone I’m not related to or had exchanged a marriage vow with (that’s only one guy so far) believe in me that much; you know: just hand me cash. In fact, NO ONE has done that. On the other hand, would I be morally beholden, obligated, is this a transaction? I didn’t want to be “owned.”

Well, no one more than Bipsy knows that no one is ever “owned.”

So I called her Monday. We talked; she’s so funny. She said this, “I’m taking a very safe bet on you. You’re so good for this… ” she doesn’t want repayment. Of course she will get repayment. “This is a gift,” she said. She… who thinks she has the last word on this. But there is an air of yogic responsibility and universal (woo-woo alert) flow to this. She expertly argued that if I don’t take the gift, that I am stopping the chi, the prana, the flow of good energy back into the universe.

She had me there.

She told me that instead of repaying her, I will pay for someone else; pay it forward. Ok. It’s hard to argue with that logic.

I talked to my husband about it.

“A lot of men would feel emasculated by this,” he said. “I don’t. Here’s why: she’s right. I could give you $10,000 cash RIGHT now, and you wouldn’t do it. Why? Because you think I don’t mean it; that I support you because I’m supposed to; in sickness and in health, and all that. But she’s right: you’ve been giving yourself away for so long, it’s time you were certified so you can become ‘legit’, y’know, earn income and give back, which you always and already do, on so many fronts, so why not take this gift, as you’ve tirelessly and selflessly given to others, to this community and to the school, in return?”

So I shrugged my shoulders. I had no answer, no good point. She didn’t need the money. He wasn’t threatened by it. I had no reason to say no. No good reason. The bad reasons: I’m not worthy of it; I can never repay her; I think she’s a good kind of crazy; I’m not ready for the certification; I’m unable to do it; it’s logistically impossible I’m … I’m … I’m … all of it, every single reason was prohibitive or critical. That’s not good.

I’ve stopped people from giving me gifts. For our 10th anniversary I made my husband take back a pair of diamond stud earrings. They were princess cut, like my engagement ring; they were fantastic and happy and gorgeous. They were not prudent, so I made him take them back. I feel a pit in my stomach now at that memory and how I must’ve shot him down. When he presented them to me, he said the kindest things. That I make him smile. That he loves me like no one else ever; that I have given him miraculous children, that I am the reason he lives. Shit Stuff like that. I rejected them. It was an imprudent gift; we were in no position financially to do it; we’d just renovated our kitchen, literally, on our 10th anniversary; I was happy with that. But I shot it down angrily nonetheless; I had the temerity to blame him.

Another time, when Bruce Springsteen came to town, he wanted to surprise me. So he bought tickets. They were financially out of sight, in an outdoor stadium, in the middle, excellent seats. I made him sell them on Stub Hub. We made a nice profit, actually, but the point is that I rejected them again.

The other point is, that I have a problem, a serious problem, with accepting sincere and loving kindness and gifts. I am afraid to open my heart. I am shielding it.

If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.” – Pema Chodron

I have to grow up. I have to accept the fact that not all gifts are “loaded” that people like to give for the pleasure of giving and accepting the gift is not a sign of weakness. That graciously accepting the gift means that I see value in myself and that the giver is not an idiot for giving it. I also have to grow up and realize that “hand-outs” are nothing compared to a hand-up. My upcoming yogi, who apparently knows a lot more about energy exchanges than I thought I did, said that my continual hand-outs of my own talents and gifts for nothing in exchange sends two messages: 1) that I believe I have no value (which has been established) and 2) that my giving my talent away makes the recipient feel like charity.

“What if your current yoga teacher or offered you classes free but charged everyone else? What would you do? What what you think?” she asked.

“I would insist on paying her. I would feel that she didn’t value herself,” I answered, as I kicked a rock and shoved my hands into my pockets. “I would feel like she felt sorry for me.”

The fact that Bipsy is a friend, but not a super-lifetime, known-me-since-I-was-in-diapers friend helps. There is that level of detachment, that level of our knowing each other only as adults, and that she knows me as an active community member and trusted friend and as a healer (or attempting healer) and so it was with great gratitude and cheer that I accepted her gift. Monday I inquired. Tuesday, I applied. Yesterday I was interviewed and accepted into the program and today I registered for the program.

So, for 16 days, I will be on an intensive, yoga certification retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia to learn how to teach Kundalini yoga to children, children with autism, anxiety, differing abilities and all the other kaleidoscopic ways that makes them unique and also to men and women and seniors. Meditations will start at 6am and lessons will go until 6pm ever day. I will learn how to cook vegan-ally (is that a word?) and I am so excited. It will be the first time I’ve ever been away from my team for more than five days. I’m ready.

Mind officially blown.

Thank you, Bipsy. I don’t know if I will have ability to send dispatches from retreat, I hope not… I’ll just bring a pen and paper. Remember those?

xoxoxoxoxo

Update UnGifting.