No, I am not Muslim and I do not practice Islam, but I do not believe that to matter. I am human, as are you - who finds yourself reading my words in this moment. I maintain the belief that we are spiritual beings experiencing human existence. I hold onto the truth that there is more than brings us together, than divides us. Societies have created labels to define, categorize and separate us. Perhaps, in our human state, we did this originally as a means of survival -- I do not know -- but I do know that definitions placed on one person or another seem to have increased, not only in number of definitions, but also in importance (to me this is silly and not based on love, which is the foundation that I chose for my journey now). So, I fasted in solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters. My dad and I both participated in fasting from sunrise to sundown -- this is something that a large majority of Muslims do during the entire month of Ramadan.
Now, I have a confession to make. I did not fast properly, as I drank two glasses of water throughout the day and chewed gum. I did not know that chewing gum was not allowed while fasting, but must confess that I did know that drinking water was something to abstain from. -- I found myself developing quite the headache come mid afternoon and as a nanny at work, I felt it best to drink water. I read an article after fasting, written by a Muslim gentleman titled -- Ramadan 2017: 9 questions about the Muslim holy month you were too embarrassed to ask -- It was in this article that I learned that gum is not to be chewed even or the fast is broken. I also learned from those that lead EnjoinGood Inc. that the act of fasting, which begins at sunrise, begins much earlier than I first thought - it begins at 3:30 a.m. when prayers begin. It is during the time when prayers are said that people fast. I did do this correctly, but not in the same way, as I learned after participating in a solidarity fast, that those who fast for Ramadan do. When fasting for Ramadan, persons begin their day before the sun is up, before the act of fasting is to begin with a large, protein-filled meal. After this, many return to bed for a couple more hours of sleep. My father and I had our last meal before fasting at 6 pm the night prior, so perhaps our pains of hunger were a bit more than others - I do not know - but that is not what it is about.
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast, without it I find myself feeling lethargic and a bit impatient sometimes (if I am to be completely honest!). So, when I awoke on the day that I fasted, I felt a tinge of grumpiness creeping up on me, as I thought about how I could not eat breakfast or indulge in my morning coffee that day. When I became aware of this thought, I realized that I was being a genuine participant in the act of fasting if I was going to be bitter about what I could not have, but wanted. I thought even, well it's just coffee - I can get away with that, but I knew that would break the fast, so I withheld. I found that my energy levels were lower that day and that my thoughts were less hectic. As the day continued, I just felt that my whole Being, my body, mind and spirit fell into a sense of calm. I thought much of those who fast for the entire month of Ramadan and the spirit of community that must come from this shared experience - the article above, speaks to this, in a way that I did not completely expect - as the author wrote that many look forward to the act of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
We live indulgent lives, many of us, whether we feel that way or not -- that is the main reflection that I left that day with. I woke up thinking "I need a cup of coffee". I can attest to the fact that I did not and do not need the morning cup of coffee, sorry Dunks, but I can make it without the stop. We need water, we need sustenance to survive, all of this is true. Much of what I find myself and others defining as a need, is in fact, a want. There is nothing wrong with wants, that is not what I am saying here -- but it is important for us to be able to distinguish between our needs and wants. Humans need connection for developmental, emotional and spiritual growth. Humans need water and sustenance for physical development and well being. Humans need rest so the body may restore from the day's activities... much past this, the things we need are more so wants than anything else.
To go without for a period of time, especially by choice is a humbling experience. It provides space for reflection. Whenever something we are used to having in our routine is cut out for a moment, space for all else that is there is created so that more attention may be given to it. To go without, without a choice in the matter, is what millions do each day. I have not had to do this in my life, so I cannot speak to the experience, but I can only imagine that a greater appreciation for all that is there is created. When I traveled to India in 2010, a country that I miss dearly, I found myself immersed in a village of people who lived off the Earth. Their homes were made from tarps found around in trash piles or donated to the village. Many of the children were bare, except for a colorful piece of string wrapped around their midsection so that they were not completely nude. The majority went without shoes . All ate food sparingly, when it was available. And yet, despite all this, I was immersed in the most giving village of persons that I have met in my entire life! Each day when we arrived to build homes, alongside the villagers, they greeted us with coconuts they cut from the trees and necklaces they made from local flowers. It was humbling, emotional and nothing short of incredibly beautiful. They are who I hope to someday be -- a person who is appreciative for all I have, who wants what I have, who needs no more than what is necessary, who gives without reservation. I will admit, I do not find it easy, always. I worry about finances at times, I wonder how I can give, when I am striving to earn more... and yet, I remember those who had what appeared to be nothing in a material sense and yet had more than I may ever have in regard to their level of appreciation and willingness to give to others. Fasting for Ramadan reminded me of this colorful, love-filled village in Pondicherry, India, it reminded me of just how much I do have, of how much more I have to give etc...
I believe it can do us all a bit of good, to give without from time to time, to let go of the comforts of life to help those less fortunate than ourselves, to sit in reflection, to just Be present more with the journey we are on and less connected to the journey of earning and buying. Peace and Blessings to all and to my Muslim brothers and sisters, thank you - participating in the tradition of fasting opened my eyes and heart.
I typically love to wake up early and never found myself to be someone who hits snooze on the alarm, until I started to make that a habit a couple years ago. Once I hit snooze, my sleep is not as meditative and rejuvenating, my thoughts begin to stir up and I wonder why it is that I feel the need for a few more moments of rest. Then I begin to think about what time it was when I actually turned off the light for the night and began to rest. It almost always is hours later than when I first decided that it was time to rest for the day.
Today, on the sunniest day that we central Massachusetts has seen in what feels like weeks, I hit snooze. I hit the snooze button for a complete hour. My body needed the additional rest, so I was appreciative for my willingness to simply hit snooze again and again, without shame. When I finally decided that I had hit snooze enough and I woke up - I felt the beautiful shine of the morning sun coming in through the window. I heard the spring time songs of the birds and yet again found myself remembering what it is that I love so much about the morning. I love the peaceful way that it unfolds. I love the moments of quiet, quiet from the emails and phone calls and traffic that will come later in the day. For the beginning moments of my day, especially those where I do not hit snooze - the only thoughts on my mind are of the sounds that surround me, the energy of the new day unfolding.
I have felt tired most of the time lately, number of hours asleep aside and have wondered why. What is it that I am missing or getting too much of? For starters, I know that for myself I am overwhelmed by stimuli at times, which quickens my thoughts, making it a bit harder for me to calm down at night and to awake in the morning when the first alarm goes off.
When I step on the mat though and move through the physical practice of yoga, the meditative, inward journey of yoga begins. My thoughts calm, until the only thought on my mind is that of my breath. The inhale and the exhale. The journey of each breath through my body and out into the world. The breath-movement connection as I link one breath with one movement, flowing through the practice with mindfulness. The mind-body connection moves to the forefront of my awareness when I am on the mat and this is a practice that I strive to take off the mat with me too so that I may walk through this work with a deeper connection to myself, my actions, others and the environment around me. Through this deepened connection, questions such as what am I missing or what do I have too much of are easier to answer, even if the answer if one that we may wish was not the case.
So, what is missing? Well, sleep. Falling asleep at an earlier hour if I am to wake up as early as I intend - that is what is missing. Taking the meditative practice of yoga off the mat and into the world with me is sometimes missing too, as I allow my mind to be distracted by the superficialities of life. It is important for us to notice what is "missing" without placing judgement on it or ourselves. While we are spiritual beings on a human journey, our humanness will shine through - each day - and that is more than OK, let it be there, explore it and live to be the best version of yourself that you can be with each new day - that is what I strive to do and I invite you to do the same.
Wherever you are today, I wish you sunshine along the way, the beautiful songs of birds and the stillness of mind that comes when the focus is placed solely on the breath and its incredible journey through your body. Peace, now and always.
I believe in love at first sight, because I have loved my mom since I first opened up my eyes. - author unknown.
This photo was taken about 6 years ago in one of my favorite places in the whole world -- Upper Wilson Pond, Greenville, Maine. My mom to left and I on the right, have changed in many ways in the years that have followed this photo, I have moved in and out and back in to my parent's home throughout the years since when this picture was taken and now. One thing that has not changed though is my unending and unconditional love for my mom. Well, I suppose that has changed a bit too, as it has grown with the years -- my mom really did show me that love at first sight is possible - when I read the above quote I felt moved by its words and it has been on my mind since.
As I led a yoga class yesterday for my mom, dad, sister and dear friend Michele - I found the words of that quote coming to mind throughout my teaching -
I believe in love at first sight, because I have loved my mom since I first opened up my eyes. - author unknown
I listened to the way that those there spoke of their expectations for the class ... they were excited and happy that they had taken the time out of their day to be there, one person wondered if my teaching would differ from a week and a half ago before I was officially 200 hour certified through Yoga Alliance, another questioned their strength and ability to make it through the practice, another still mentioned falling at some point, as they do not practice yoga much... I noted that the words spoken of Self and to one's Self were not always kind, they did not reflect the love at first sight - that our mother, that our father can teach us and did teach me.
While all were in Shavasana, I briefly spoke about this. I shared the words that touched me -- I believe in love at first sight, because I have loved my mom since I opened my eyes -- I thought of how these words also reflected the love that my mom and many other parents I know spoke of immediately feeling for their little one. I had the beautiful opportunity in that moment to look at out at those that practiced with me yesterday morning, such beautiful people from the inside out, and I thought "why is it that we do not afford ourselves that same love at first sight?". I shared my thoughts on that -- at birth we learned about love at first sight, but as we grew up, we did not extend that love at first sight notion to our own Beings -- why not!? -- when we are each radiant. So, I offered a challenge -- Stand in front of the mirror and allow your Self to fall in love at first sight, again and again, with each new day, with the one looking back at you -- your beautiful Self, your radiant Being.
It is a challenge that I accept.
As we work at being forces of Light in this world in desperate need of light, it is important to not forget that we must be that light for ourselves, now and always.
If we do not love ourselves and do not shine light for our own Being, then we cannot truly be a shining force of light for others... it begins within and moves outward.
Love your Self, your Being at first sight with the dawn of each new day -- what a beautiful gift that can be. Peace, everyone.
The world of thanks to my mentors who led us through the 200 ryt training - I am inspired & humbled by all of you - this journey and your guidance throughout it have left me energized, excited and feeling ready for all that lies ahead. The past 8 months have been the biggest gift that I have ever given myself - I cannot wait to share this gift and the beautiful energy that it radiates with everyone - my 200 hour training is complete! The learning is life long though... so much more to learn always as this life journey continues 🕉 Now a certified teacher, always a student.
Today I participated in Yoga Reaches Out at Empower Field House, Gillette Stadium along with more than 1,000 other yogis. The money raised today went to support Off the Mat, Into the World and Boston Children's Hospital. What I experienced today moved me greatly, even to tears. As I sit here now, typing these words, I can still feel the energy of today resonating through me.
Imagine sitting on your mat, taking a breath in - in unison with more than 1,000 others and a deep breath out - again, in unison with more than 1,000 others. Now imagine, your eyes, closed, hands at heart center in prayer position, you inhale deeply and on the exhale you and more than 1,000 other beautiful yogis join in the sound of the universe, the sound of peace, the sound of Om. Can you hear it?! Can you feel it!? The energy of love, of unity, of respect ... sent out from you and all those around you into the world. This is where the tears come from, from an energy, an energy of love - so strong and true that it cannot be ignored, it must be felt and acknowledged.
And so these tears came ... these pure tears, that I allowed to flow forth without judgement, gave way for a release of tension in my shoulder that I had been experiencing. I could feel the release of pain wash over me, as I lowered into child's pose and allowed the tears to quietly fall. With another deep, conscious breath in and a cleansing sigh out, I felt the pain dissipate.
What brought on the tears?
Love did. Gratitude for all the love that I am surrounded by and filled with did. Sean Corn - our mentor and yoga instructor for the event told us - while we stood tall in mountain pose - to bring someone to mind, a person in need of someone extra love perhaps, one near and dear to our hearts, who has impacted us in a tremendous way, helping us to be the person we are today and then to dedicate the next flow sequence in our practice to that individual. And so it began, the tears and the joy as I thought of
ૐ my boyfriend who is preparing to journey out West to live next
ૐ my mom, standing next to me, strong and vulnerable, as she has and continues to live in truth and love
ૐ my Pepe, who is in a nursing home, living with dementia
ૐ my Mimi, his wife, and her strength and unconditional love
ૐ my sister, that I have the utmost respect for, always living true to her Being - one of the most Beautiful and radiant people I know
ૐ my brothers, whose antics bring such light, love and laughter with them wherever they are
ૐ my great-grandfather, Gramp/Bumpa, who passed away years ago, but impacted my life forever
ૐ ... and the list continues, as people's faces and names kept coming up before my closed eyes. How to pick just one?! - I simply could not and so the tears came. I thought, "this is such a beautiful "problem" to have - to be loved by so many and to love so many that picking one is not possible". Just as they all have love for me, I have an unending amount of love for them. And so I shed tears of pure, unadulterated joy, thanks giving, and love. I inhaled love and exhaled love until love was all I felt, radiating through me and out of me into the world. The physical tension-filled pain that I began practice with was no more. The happy in my heart, bursted through, as soft tears rolling down my cheeks that soon transformed into a smile so big it made my cheeks hurt in the best of ways.
Sean Corne said that as yoga students and yoga teachers it is important to remember that
We are here to eradicate the tension so that we can show up and love.
If we all did this, if we lived out of love, solely and truly, instead of partially love and partially fear - which is natural, as it is part of the human condition, but imagine for a second that we lived only out of love and in a state of love - how truly wonderful the world would be. How be-you-tiful the transformation of self and society would be and I believe it can be, it all starts with you and with me - with each of us, individually and together. I am not alone in this belief, as Sean Corne spoke about a revolution being underway - a revolution starting from within - a revolution from the inside out - where we honor the divine light within ourselves and within all those around us, even those we do not yet know.
Just imagine, sitting down, being able to feel yourself supported by (the) mother Earth, bringing one hand over your heart and the other hand gently over the one placed atop your heart, now imagine breathing in the energy of love and breathing out the energy of love into the world. I invite you to try it and if you have a chance to attend Yoga Reaches Out or any other radiant event where you breathe, move and connect with a sea of other yogis. -- I promise you that it is an experience that you will not soon forget ૐ Peace, Love and Light, Namaste.
I went to church this morning to listen to my Dad's sermon, only to find that I had forgotten ... that of course, my dad would not be giving the sermon since he was on vacation this past week. I truthfully may not have attended church if I had remembered this. I do not mean this in any negative light to anyone that delivers the sermon when my dad is away... the truth is - I do not attend service that often as is and so when I do I try to be there when my dad is preaching, as I find the experience of listening to my father give the sermon and leading worship to be yet another beautiful way that I am able to connect with him. I find that there are times, when I am listening to my Dad speak at church, that I feel that I am being gifted with the opportunity to come to my know my Dad at a deeper level and this I love.
Today though, was a wonderful surprise for me - it gave me the chance to hear another's understanding of the words of the Bible and the teachings of God.
I believe that we are all entitled to our own interpretation of the Bible, in the name of good and love. The man who spoke today, receives the words of the Bible more closely and literally than I do, but in the end, we see them in the same light - we see them as words of Love. We see the words as a call to live out our lives in the name of Love, Light and in service to others.
While he spoke today, I found myself thinking about what I would say if I were asked to deliver the sermon someday... I want to share some of my thoughts with you now. Spoiler alert if I ever do deliver a sermon at my father's church - some of the words may be familiar... but I think they are worth reading or hearing more than once.
I believe that God, Allah, Abhor (Hebrew), The Lord -- however it is that you know him -- the higher power -- is in each of us. I subscribe to the belief, that pieces of the higher power reside in each of us. The words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin came to me here --
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. "
As I sat in the pew today, next to my parents and two of the most compassionate people and parents I know, I found it impossible to be filled with anything but the feeling of love and faith that the higher power within us all will prevail over all that comes our way. Sitting there, looking up at the man delivering the sermon, I found myself viewing him separate of his human existence - instead seeing him as the spiritual being that he is, full of the love and light of the higher power that is within us all.
Some may argue that we are mere mortals and the Lord is called the higher power for a reason, as he is greater than us. I want to be clear here, I am not saying that anyone else's view is incorrect. What I am saying, is that I believe, that deep down within us the love and light of the higher power resides within us -- whether or not we ever tap into it is a discussion for another time. And a question that I foresee coming up here is, "if the higher power is within us, than why is there so much "evil" and pain in the world"?. This is not an easy question to answer and I will admit that I do not have all the answers. I have my beliefs and faith though and I believe in the goodness of humanity and of our spiritual beings shining forth in the name of Love and Light. There is an incredible amount of good being done in the world today and everyday. It can easily seem as though there is not because acts of kindness, acts of selfless love and of forgiveness are rarely given attention in the news, but they are there - moments of grace, moments that can allow for one's faith in humanity to be restored. If we give into the thought that darkness reigns over light and love, than the thought of effecting change and being the change may seem too great a task to take on, which can allow for fear to stop us in our tracks - keeping us from acknowledging the greatness of Love within us. The words of Marianne Williamson came to me here as she said --
"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 most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 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 other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. 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 everyone. And as 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 presence automatically liberates others."
"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others" -Marianne Williamson. I would argue that being a child of God, of the higher power, means that you, yourself are a piece of the higher power, here on this Earth to make a positive impact in the name of Love and Light. When we see this greatness in others, we inevitably come to see it in ourselves -- transforming our view of those around us, into one that sees the beautiful soul living within them, instead of only seeing the "physical shell"/the body of the human self that the soul, the higher power lives within. This transformed way of looking at the world and those around us makes it nearly impossible to see the good in all and to keep a smile from your face and who doesn't love smiling.
My sharing of thoughts here may seem a bit disjointed and this is because it kind of is. My moments of thinking were mixed in with my listening to the words of the one giving the sermon today. And at this point in my train of thought, I remember looking up, so that I was not only hearing the words said, but also observing the way in which they were delivered and the person saying them... here is what I saw -- I saw a man who I have known for the greater part of my life, speaking passionately, from his heart and from a space of a higher calling. I saw love in his eyes, as he looked out upon everyone seated in front of him this morning. I saw someone who I would easily describe as a big teddy bear... standing at over 6 feet tall, he makes my height feel very small, but he never once has made my Being - the higher power within me feel small... instead he is one of those people, who believes so strongly in honoring the uniqueness in each and everyone of us - that he has always provided space for the light, the higher power and energy within me to shine bright in his presence and what a beautiful gift that is.
Whatever your belief is, whether you believe in the existence of God or not, regardless of the label placed on your belief - you are a beautiful Being -- never forget that. Peace, Namaste.
I discovered this song, Follow the Sun, by Xavier Rudd a few weeks back now and have listened to it each morning since. The lyrics are a beautiful reminder to cherish each moment that we have, a beautiful reminder to come back to the breath, breathing in the air and cherishing the sun (-Xavier Rudd). I believe there to be great power in music. Listening to music or singing along to a song can calm my mind, bring me to tears, get me into a silly dancing mood, or can generate wonderful conversation. Whatever it is, I am so appreciative for it. This particular song brings me to a place of peace, calming my mind and centering my spirit, as it reminds me to cherish this moment, cherish this breath. As I continue on this path of living with intention, living in a peaceful and mindful way, I still find that there are times when I can easily become caught up in the busyness of the chaos of society as we know it. In those moments, the reminder to come back to the breath and to see all that is around me as a blessing is truly peaceful. I encourage everyone to take a moment and listen to this song. Perhaps, even allowing your eyes to close and the lyrics fill the air of the space you are in. Peace, love and light. ૐ
Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.
This photo, while a few years "old" now captures the smiles of some of the most important people in the world to me -- my family. The transformative power of a smile may never cease to amaze me and to think that this beautiful gift costs nothing to give, except perhaps the experience of shared happiness, which to me sounds like the perfect price to pay.
Your smile is beautiful, an external presentation of the light radiating from the inside out (of you), so smile big and let the light shine bright. Peace, ૐ.
A spiritual being on a physical journey, striving to make a positive impact on this world through my actions and loving intention. I believe that we are all capable of greatness, it is how we channel this great energy that matters... I choose to express it in the name of -- peace and love.