I think that most of you know that, very soon, I am heading out to Boston to have brain surgery to attempt to remedy my epilepsy. I am very fortunate to have a talented and loving community of teachers to teach and substitute while I’m away, although classes will be more limited, so please be sure and check the schedule every week. I feel incredibly graced to have such a wonderful group of friends/teachers who have agreed to teach while I’m away, and also to have a loving community of students who have been understanding and supportive. I’m convinced that it takes a village to face up to brain surgery . . . Thanks for being my village.
I’m going to write a separate post about this, but one of the things I find myself wanting to do, as I face this surgery, is dance, and dance, and dance. I have loved having the opportunity to do Nia with many of you, and the joy and the freedom of dancing together seems to be keeping me in just the right, hope-filled space, living in the moment of now, that I need to be in to deal with what is coming up. So keep dancing with me while I’m away and send me your good energy!
Another thing I’ve learned a lot about is the incredible power of the stillness that yoga and meditation/prayer have taught me. About a month ago, I had an extensive series of brain scans at the Martinos Center, a research center of the Mass. General Hospital. Turns out I have a strong ability to make my body and mind very still for long periods of time, which makes for great brain scans. It has been interesting to “see” the images of my own meditating mind, and to discuss with researchers and doctors the power of learning stillness and how it does create a different looking brain.
So dance with me, or be still with me, in the weeks ahead. If you want to follow the details of what’s going on, I have another blog, epileptica.com, that is specifically about the surgery. My husband Jonathan as well as myself will be posting about my journey. In the meantime, I am grateful for the presence of all of you in my life, and it is an honor to teach you . . . One that I don’t take for granted.
Let’s face it . . . We all need a break sometimes. We need moment to step back, gain some perspective, recognize that we are more than the thoughts and emotions we are having in the immediate moment. We need a moment to realize that we are more than the physical pain, the grief, the fear, or the illness we are experiencing. It’s no wonder that, within the traditional path of yoga, four of it’s eight limbs are dedicated to learning to quiet and focus our minds. In yoga, it’s sometimes called “cultivating the witness.” We use our breath, our ability to focus and concentrate, our posture, and our intention to become familiar with that part of ourselves that can “witness” our thoughts, feelings, even our discomfort. We initially learn to recognize, and then gradually to be at home with, this witnessing part of ourselves. Once found, the witnessing place within us can be a powerful reminder that we are more than the sum of our immediate strong feelings, thoughts, story-lines, physical pain, even illness. Cultivation of the witness within ourselves empowers us to make choices where before we felt victim to circumstances and situations beyond our control. We meet the witness as a loving, non-judgmental place within ourselves. Spending time in this witnessing place creates a sense of sanctuary and peace.
We begin learning this process early on in yoga practice, and then we integrate it into our asana practice. Once we are able to consistently find it in yoga, it has the benefit of expanding outward into the rest of our lives.
For me, yoga and Nia often take me out of my own difficult places and into a place where I can express my pure joy. Yoga, because the combination of breath, focus, and mindfulness seem to “clear out” the stuff that accumulates between myself and my sense of bliss — I see yoga as a practice that creates a “clear channel” so that I can not only have a personal experience, but then share it through my work and life. As I dance with others through Nia, I have this sense of making a public statement about the sheer value of joy. There is something powerful about letting go of how we look, doing it “right,” and just dancing our hearts out together, in community. As we look out the windows and dance with the tree tops, the clouds, and whatever birds may be flying by, there’s a sense of first letting go, that leads into joy and finally into a sense of wholeness and peace. Here’s a great quote on why we dance, believe it or not, it’s generally attributed to Albert Einstein, although it isn’t clear: “We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.”
Let’s take another look at a fun posture, good for opening us up for spring. “The Roaring Lion Posture (whose original Indian name is Simhasana) in Yoga is suitable for people of all ages and types (including old and weak) because it is relatively easy to perform. The posture is sometimes referred to as Bhairavasana . . . The posture gets its name because the face of the person performing it resembles the face of a Roaring Lion (Simha Mudra or Lion Face Gesture) because of the open mouth and extended tongue.” Kind of fun to combine lion pose with some spring bunnies . . . Everyone is doing it!
“I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know [the Sacred], to love and serve [the Sacred], and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.” ― Anne Lamott
“I would only believe in a god who understood how to dance.” Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche
Whether we dance to laugh and play, to let go of heartache and tension, for exercise, to find ourselves, the Divine Light, or all of the above at the same time, it’s a good thing! Nia: Wednesdays 4:30 – 5:30; Thursdays 1:00 – 2:00; Nia/Yoga combined into a single class on Mondays and Thursdays from 4:30 – 5:30. And the best part is, you don’t have to actually be able to “dance” at all — just come, ready to move!
Nervous about yoga? Tight hamstrings? Want to build arm and core strength? Thursday at 5:45 is the class for you. It’s a class that meets the particular needs of men and those new to yoga. We use chairs and other “props” to move more deeply into yoga poses.
Can’t touch your toes? No problem! Can’t sit on the floor? Okay! Have no ideas what yoga pants look like? That’s just fine! All are welcome. All levels invited. No experience necessary! Wear comfortable clothing you can move in. Taught by Kristine Zakarison. THURSDAYS, 5:45 – 6:45, COME JOIN US!
I live in a place that is filled with Sri, the sanskrit word for beauty. This area is known as the “Palouse.” My family has now lived here for four generations, and I’m a part of a group of women who lovingly know ourselves as the “Daughters of the Palouse” (our self-proclaimed acronym is “D.O.P.e S.”). My love of this small corner of the world pulled me out of a forward-advancing career in Cambridge, MA, and back to the hills and fields where I have grown up and that I love. For me, my yoga practice is not only good physical exercise, but it is also a spiritual practice that allows this sense of connection to deepen. Because of yoga, I am regularly pulled off of my mat and into community. I find that my yoga practice feels “complete,” not when I get into a perfect asana, but when I find that I am able to fully integrate the lessons that I learn on the mat into the actions that I take in my community and world to make it a better place. So working toward preservation of our local eco-system, understanding food security, participating in developing more sustainable solutions to growing issues of homelessness in our community . . . These are all a part of my practice. The mat is my “launching pad,” as well as one part of my home base.
As you can see in the photo, we are now in the season of harvest around the Palouse. The native people of our area recognized this time as a separate season — the time of gathering in and taking stock, a time in which abundance was celebrated and shared, rather than horded. I feel this same need in my yoga practice. Harvest yoga is a season to take stock of the wisdom of our bodies and celebrate that abundance — however it looks — rather than focus on how we may perceive ourselves to be lacking. And then, out of that sense of abundance and spaciousness, we take it beyond ourselves and into our lives and communities. Where does your yoga lead you in the world? More about being a Palouse yoga gal, though all the seasons, to come . . .
Friend and yoga student Stephanie Crabtree who is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at WSU, read my post on the naming of KivaSpace, and added the following: “After reading your description of kivas on your webpage I would like to add that they are not just ceremonial, but functioned as multi-use spaces for not only important religious rituals, but also offered places to get out of the hot sun or the cold winter, to dance (thus many of them have footdrums, like at Aztec) and to reconnect with the ancestors. :)”
I love this. My vision of the space includes the possibilities of a multi-use space, a space to create community, and (goes without saying), a space to dance! And a bit ago, as I worked in the space, I had my own personal moment of “reconnecting with ancestors.”
Gladish Community Center used to be the high school in Pullman. Both of my parents attended high school in this building — it’s where they met and began dating. In fact, the building is named after the man who was Principal when they were students — Oscar Gladish. Mr. Gladish loved my mother (she was very bright and very socially active). He had concerns about my Dad (Also very bright, but only taking band, shop, and typing his Senior Year, and frequently found sneaking out of the band room window to go down and play pool at the City Club — Guess Gladish has always had good windows to climb in and out of!). So Mr. Gladish would lecture my mother, urging caution about dating and getting serious about that “Zakarison boy.”
Advance forward about twenty some years. Gladish was turned into one of 2 local middle schools, and it was the one I attended (I can still sing the “Fight Song” . . . just ask!). The little corner where KivaSpace is now coming to life was the P.E. teacher’s office and girl’s locker room. As I was working on the space recently, scraping off layers of paint, I hit the “red layer” that you see in the picture. Bam! I was transported to a memory I must haved buried a looong time ago. For those of you that don’t know, I have epilepsy, and it turns out I had my very first grand mal seizure in this very same space, then the P.E. teacher’s office. I had forgotten all about this until I hit the red layer of paint, which figures prominently in my memory as I hit that same paint while hitting the floor during the seizure.
I now have sympathy for that teacher. Imagine an adolescent girl, walking into your office, telling you that she feels “really weird.” The teacher suggested that maybe I was about to begin menstruating or having some sort of “personal/emotional issue.” I then dropped onto her floor and had a seizure. I remember coming back around, with her demanding that I quit “acting out for attention” and get back into the gym. I remember being really scared because I felt really strange and I didn’t know what had happened. And then I tried to walk out of her door, fell over, and got sick on her floor (Yes, the red one!). She wasn’t pleased, I felt like a freak, and my epilepsy went undiagnosed for five more years.
So now that same space becomes a place for healing. How’s that for calling up the ancestors and creating a space for loving forgiveness? Here’s to all your healing journeys. I hope that KivaSpace will be a part of them.