St- Cloud MN yoga

Everything, and nothing.

Yesterday, snow, and today the cold.  My body doesn't do well with cold snaps.  Sudden cold seems to be the sure fire trigger to fibro flares.  So I'm tender today.  Sore and slow.  I've never been able to figure out if sadness is a symptom, same as shouting bones and sour muscles and confusion, or if it's a natural consequence.  I stub my toe and it doesn't stop that panging all day long.  All day.  I walk cautiously, which helps and doesn't.  I am teary and sad, but also not.  I am both sad, and sweetened.  Things are so beautiful, I'm made sweet. I walked the dog yesterday in the new fallen snow.  It was so quiet, so still, so detailed in it's millions of black branches and millions more snowflakes.  My pain doesn't bother me as it used to.  I'm not as afraid of it as I once was.  There are whole days I can't do asana or eat or sleep, but this doesn't seem very terrible any longer.  I've learned some things.  I've learned to breath.  I've learned that most of the time there are things I can do, squiggling on the floor and moving my spine, opening the siezing muscles, letting my weight find a not so sore spot to drop.  And somedays, I can't.  I never know which day is which, until I start.

When I walk in the new snow, it seems the sound of my walking is the most beautiful sound on earth.

And then when I stop, it seems the silence is.

Someone asked if I was angry or disappointed in yoga: wasn't it supposed to heal me?  I certainly have moments of that.  But also, no.

No: at some point my practice became a way to work with pain, rather than a fantasy about 'curing' it.  I tend to think my practice has, largely, healed my fibromylagia.  But it hasn't cured it, and that is okay.

Last night, in dharma talk, I told people this practice would make their lives harder.  They would become more aware of everything going on in themselves.  They would see and not be able to unsee.  At the same time, their lives would become much easier.  They would enjoy themselves more.  The world is a mess and they will know it; their minds and bodies are a mess and they'll know it; but they will have an equanimity in which those things don't belittle us or need to be pushed aside.

This morning, someone asked why we're doing 108 saluations for the solstice.  Why 108, in particular.  One symbolizes everything, I said.  Zero symbolizes nothing.  Eight symbolizes infinite relationship.  There are dozens of other meanings of 108, but this is my favorite.  Everything, and nothing at all.

As in, this practice is nothing.  The postures don't matter much, and you'll lose all of them in the end, anyway.  The meditation doesn't get you any cash and prizes.  And accepting the ethics and an inner awareness doesn't necessarily make you happy.  They often make life more hard.

But it is also, everything.  It is the absence of fear and the walls of fear.  It is a remedy to re-activity and expectation and chosen ignorance.  It is a way to be in our life, pained or anxious, terrorized or privileged, with an ability to work with those things rather than suffer them.  We work with our conditions, with our heart, with our bodies, and we become people able to know pain, fear, or death, without fear.  Yogis will die just like everyone else will.  But the time before might be spent, differently.  Dying itself might be a wonder.

You can't hold or quantify the gifts of this practice.  They are immaterial.  Last night I said it'd be like taking a mason jar out into the snow and gathering some up, intending to keep it.  Or bagging a breeze.  Boxing an angle of sunlight.  They aren't yours, and they don't last, and you can neither create them nor claim them.

You can only stand in wonder.

In a few weeks, I'll be leading retreat at Saint John's Abbey.  You won't really get anything out of that, either.  You may be working your way toward certification. You may be developing your capacity to teach, or to sit.  You may learn a new chant or get some insight during meditation.  You might develop.  But it's only real outcome is a quality of wonder, an experience you do or don't have intimacy with, a depth to your inner life that you could never explain to another, anyway.  I think it's everything.  Sign up here: Spine, Soul, and Breath 2016.

Other notes:

108 Sun Salutations December 20th, 7 pm

Paula is adding a 6:30 am Friday class, starting in January.

I'm opening up more time to privates - in studio or via skype - for $108.

The Deeper Practice curricula is about to launch into the feet, which is a very good time to start, indeed.  We'll meet January 9 and 10th.

The Art of Self Care 11 week online course will run again starting Feburary 1, on a new platform hosted on this site.

108 sun salutations Sunday December 20, 7 pm. $108 private sessions, Skype or in studio.

A photo posted by Karin L Burke (@coalfury) on

Asana: psalm of the flesh

"Enter eagerly into the treasure house that lies within you, and so you will see the treasure house of heaven...The ladder that leads to the Kingdom is hidden within you."  sixth century Christian mystic St. Issac the Syrian

handsI'm faced with this problem:

I teach, mostly, asana.

I tell people the asana don't really matter; yoga begins with a desire to wake up, with ethics and personal observance, with self study and commitment.

And I tell them the way is through asana.

You see the problem.  I'm contradicting myself.

We all walk into yoga knowing it has to do with postures.  A few of us figure out, along the way, that yoga has nothing to do with postures.  If we've made the commitment to a regular practice, if we keep knocking on that door of the body, if we practice when we are tired and when we've not slept well and when we don't want to, practice when we're too busy and when we're happy enough without it, eventually we feel joy come to answer the knocking.  Joy erupts as deeply as an orgasm and as incorrigibly as age.  Grace only ever happens in real time.

But those things - ethics, commitment, self study - remain abstract for most humans.  Asana offer a discipline, an opportunity, a path. Maybe a ladder.  They give a way in to meditation, to healing, and to the present moment.  Most of us wouldn't have the guts or the time to get there on our own.  Asana is the teacher, is the commitment.  Asana is the guru.

We show up and are prodded into the present moment.

The body lives in the present.  When you are aware of the body, you are connected.  To what I won't bother to say.  Maybe the global throb of life.  The on-goingness of it.  The truth of dailyness.  Eternity.  God.  An underlying okayness. The realization of how small and irreal your hang-ups are, considering reality.  How big they are, as hang-ups.  The present, via the body moving and the mind watching, will reveal the stories you tell yourself day in and day out.  If you manage to trace edges with your breath and your toes, the present will prove to you that these stories are untruths.  Half truths at best.  Signals of compromise.  Misunderstandings. vaparita dwi pada dandasana

The present, via the body, is the one place from which you can see reality.  Awareness of the body is our gateway into the truth of what is.

Pema Chodon writes "To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.  To live fully is to be always in no-man's land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.  To live is to be willing to die, over and over again."

Asana throw us directly into no-man's land.

I think that is where we need to be.


The simplest explanation for why, in the eight limbed path, there are asana is this: if you want to reach the inner self, you have to go through the self.  It is hard to feel alive, let alone awake, if you are stuck in a body that is unwell.  If you want to go the depths of who you are and what you are capable of, it helps if your most immediate and constant tool - ie flesh and blood - become resource rather than hindrance.

It is hard to find reality if you are unaware of your own heartbeat.

So the body itself becomes an object for meditation.  The body itself is medicinal, therapeutic.  Asana provide a genuine high and a refuge.  Asana gives us a place to go.  It lays out pathways and intricacies of mastery and skill.  They strengthen and sooth, open and release.

ardha padma uttanasanaBut there is something more than the simple explanations.

If we can manage to show up in the body, to drop in, we experience.  We feel something.  Something is known that wasn't known before.

Because it is body - or whatever it is that is real inside and outside the body -  it is not a thing of the mind.  Language can only approximate it.  Like love, asana is a thing that has to be experienced, rather than talked about.  Also like love, asana is expressed in metaphor and poetry.  It involves ecstatic release, profound rest, changed brainwaves.  Like love, the entirety of the experience can never be understood from the outside.

But we've touched something.  It's eerie at times.  The fact that there is something there.  To reality.  To body.  This isn't necessarily what we came looking for.


A deeper understanding reveals itself.  Our brain is everywhere the nerves go.  Heart is everywhere the blood is.  The practice of asana teaches fairly quickly that our bodies are much more complex, or perhaps more stiff, than we'd known.  What we took for granted, as reality, as limitation, proves to be conditioning or simply a  process we haven't completed, yet.  It also teaches, in little shivers of recognition, that we can know our bodies more profoundly.  Where body is, mind and heart and emotion can go.  Meditation and awareness can go deeper.  What was unconscious in us is brought closer.

If the simple reason for asana is clarification and refinement of the body, the more complex reason is the fact that bodies are our most direct route to reality and its depths.  Deep involvement and attention to asana brings us directly to (perhaps, perhaps...through...) mind and it's shadows.  You can't work physical patterns very long without banging smack up against psychological patterns.  namaste

You cannot practice asana for long without having to acknowledge that even mind and emotion, urge and insight, knowledge and clarity, are more profound and shadowy than you thought.  In the deep silence underlying your breath, you'll recognize you're facing a door.  To enter possibility, to to turn away.  The pose begins exactly as you most want to leave it.


Psalms, songs, beatitudes, and prayer are all words that come to mind when I try to write about asana.  There seems to be no more literal way to commune than to examine what it is we do with our hands, or to open our heart.  To touch gratitude, acceptance, dedication.  It is one thing to understand such concepts.  Another, deeper thing, to embody it.

sirsanaI teach asana.  Sometimes I can hear resistance and disbelief roaring out of my students bodies.  My foot, where?  The hell you say.  I practice asana, and I hear that same roar inside myself.  Here I am, lurching through no-man's land, all over again.  But it has been in asana, in that very place of disbelief and breath, that revelation comes.  There have been times I seem to break through in a pose I've done for years; the body shifts a millimeter, perception gets brighter, it seems there is bliss inside the hamstring. There have been other times, crumpled on the mat with my knee no where near where it's supposed to be, that fear has been revealed.  Or longing.  Absolute surrender and behind the surrender the sensations which are moody and pithy and cogent and altogether sweet.  There's the thought I didn't know I could feel this.  There are poses, too, that I have doggedly practiced - without success - for months and months and years on end without much believing I'll ever truly get there.  When suddenly, I am there.  The foot lifts.  The rib moves out of the way.  The heart stretches.

We have potential in our gristle.  The root truth is this: if we experience pleasure, pleasure is experienced through the body.  If we experience fear, grief, or longing, it is because our physicality has been shifted and touched in fine or blatant ways.  If we honestly desire health, wellbeing, contentment, it must involve the chemistry and patterns of hormones, digestive proteins, cellular structures.  If we have ever longed for god, or felt our heart clutch in some manner of loneliness, it has been a physical pang.  Therefore, we come closer by going through.  We bend back on our selves, attention revolved back toward itself, the body a mirror in which we can begin to see.

Asana is a dedicated form by which we turn the abuse and denial of the body back into humility, feeling, and meaningful gesture.  Asana is how we turn our bones to dancing, our wrinkles to poems.  Asana is a psalm made of flesh and bone.

Whispered Wisdom

for the upcoming Praying with our Hands, Dancing with God workshop.

Whispered Wisdom, Bhakti diary

Down through time, seekers and gurus have trespassed across the ordinary and cultivated paths to wisdom.  Across traditions, deep in our ancestry, wisdom teachings have been passed like folk cures from teacher to debutante.  Every single holy book there is is a collection and transcription of an oral tradition going back thousands of years before the things were written down.  Yoga stands there, in half lit hallways of time, where individual soldiers of life have sometimes found a thing that worked for them, throwing open the doors of perception.inquire within

We know this.  Yet, strangely, a bit wonderfully, yoga is popular. You can take classes in libraries, college gyms, retirement centers and vacation line cruises.  You can download teacher wisdom.  Yoga is a practice of books, DVDs, and the world wide web.  NBA and NFL players do it.  Sexy popstars do it.  Suddenly, practices handed down across centuries are available at WalMart.

We are, ahead of anything else, practical people.  Understanding that makes the increasing popularity of yoga an obvious thing: yoga is  a very practical endeavor. It cultivates cardiovascular health.  It builds musculoskeletal strength and flexibility without the grind and shock of high impact aerobics or sport.  It peaks every organ system  – the respiratory, digestive, reproductive, endocrine, lymphatic, and nervous.  It cultivates the capacity to relax and dramatically cuts away at the negatives of stress.  Yoga instantly makes us feel better, breathe better, sleep better.  We digest better.  Many claim easing or healing of long entrenched illness.  You do not need long years of apprenticeship or training.  The effects of yoga are immediate and profound.

Still, the physical and practical benefits of yoga may mask, or at least be a superficial version of, something more.  Hang around any yoga studio for a bit and you’ll hear stories of remarkable self transformation.  People report a profound rediscovery of self and purpose.  Some claim their capacities of concentration, creativity, and  intuition blossom strangely.  People start talking like believers or religious. “Chronic” illnesses wither.  People find focus, purpose, and meaning in their lives. Some trespass across the common world of the ordinary and find the doors of perception flung wide.

It can be hard to know what to make of this.  Is that stuff ‘yoga’? And which yoga? A basic google search turns up such a wealth of philosophies and interpretations the neophyte can be overwhelmed.  There are rumors of enlightenment, hints of change.  But the incomprehensible stew of every conceivable philosophy, psychology, and metaphysic is bewildering. The ancient and the modern, the esoteric and the practical, the magical and the scientific fuse.

Or, they don’t. The deeper, promised secrets of yoga are not easily had.

better personAs I came to yoga, I had intimations of the something else, something deeper, something profound, but very little idea if those things applied to me.  My practice involved the ‘gross physical body’: I was a hardbitten atheist, strongly attached to reason, struggling to make sense of a hurricane life.  I found that there was something in the practice that I deeply, physically, needed.  In the beginning, it was simply about hanging on and feeling better.

When I began to look into the deeper aspects of yoga, I had difficulty knowing what to make of it all.  There are a plethora of how-to books to teach the asana and breathing techniques.  And there are treasure troves of lore: mythic adventures of gods speaking to nearly godly men; fascinating accounts of levitation, knowledge of former births, bilocation, states of nirvanic bliss.  The wash and swell of Hindu texts elucidate ecstasy.  Union with the One.  Knowledge of the Absolute.  Cosmic consciousness.  Pulling back the veils of deception and the phenomena of the material world.  But it is hard to know what those things mean to me.  Are those descriptions of what’s happening during a lunch hour vinyasa class?  Where is the transformation story of a neurotic Western agnostic like me?  Is this supposed to be my story?  If so, why can't I glow?  Why are things like alarm clocks and financial fear still part of my existence?

The questions I have – and hear from others – sometimes seem quaint or simplistic.  We come to yoga hoping it will help.  It usually does.  It usually does in unexpected and stunning ways.  But it remains hard to know what that means, or to answer the questions.  ‘Can a Christian practice yoga’ sounds like a ridiculous rant out of a t.v. evangelist’s mouth, and it is, but it is also a valid question.  Where do I begin?  How much do I have to do?  What is kundalini, chakra, ayurveda?  What is supposed to happen in meditation?  If you stick with this, do you end up vegetarian, wearing mala beads, annoying your friends?  Do I have to give up french fries?

Historically, yoga is a wisdom tradition.  It is a story of journey and transformation.  Ultimately, the ‘secret’ has less to do with what is whispered than the fact of whispering: if it were just getting the answers, we could read a textbook and have done.  There would not be thousands of texts, nor millions of practitioners.  Truthfully, journeys are made with teachers and maps and guides.  We suffer from a lack of mentorship, a not quite knowing what we’re supposed to do, no clear route of initiation.  We’re not terribly sure that we even want initiation, but the wisdom is tempting.

I am coming to believe that the ‘whispered wisdom’ is a slant truth, a cunning little word play.  The texts, teachers, and mentors are helpers.  Historically they have been the lights.  In the end, though, I believe we start to hear a whispering, haunting voice inside.  The texts, the practice, and the philosophies are not the end product, not the prize: they are maps to the prize.  Maps themselves are not the terrain covered.  They are representations.  Translations.  Metaphors.

Happiness, they say, is not a thing you find one day or a constitution you are born with, even if some of us are more predisposed than others.  Happiness comes not from any specific thing, but from the building of a life in which happiness has room to come in.  Create, cultivate, the conditions, and the thing appears.  Remove obstacles.  Clear spaces.  Recognize barriers and work through them.  Give time to the things that contribute to happiness: friendships, family, intellectual expansion, spiritual growth, play. Give priority to reflection, regeneration, commitments and slow and steady growth.

Yoga is a creeping, haunting thing.  With any exposure to it, and half-assed effort, a kind of inner whispering begins.  We find there is simply more of us than we thought.  A great deal more.  More consciousness, more energy, more equanimity, more life in the body, more connection in the emotions, more fire in the depth of our emotions, good and bad.

I have always had voices in my head.  Most of my life, they have been conflicting.  There have been a number of them that echo the judgement, critique, or down right abuse I’ve taken in from elsewhere.  I began to notice a year or two ago that those voices, all that conflict and resultant paralysis, began to fade.  This in itself seemed a wonderful thing, and I was unsure exactly what had happened.

But in the last year, a different thing has begun to happen.  There is still more there – an astonishing amount of more.  More consciousness, still.  More and deeper empathy.  More energy.  More equanamity, more depth.  I continue to spy into the practices and philosophies and metaphysics.  I soak it in.  I have begun to take that happiness approach: make room, establish the conditions, let go.  The conditions mean I look for gurus and mentors.  I practice listening.  I give time and priority where it seems most appropriate.  I try to apply the ethics, restraints, observances.  I get frustrated and then I let go, go deeper.

There is suddenly a voice.  Suddenly is not the right word: I am aware that this voice was one of those earlier voices.  Some of the themes are familiar.  The songs.  There is a clarity and a surety that was never, ever there before.  An authenticity.  But it is more than just ‘my true self’, more than ‘clarity’: it’s also a tremendous and haunting reserve of beauty and wisdom.  So much wisdom, I am baffled.  Things that seemed difficult aren’t difficult any more.  I am not afraid any longer.  Situations that seemed hopeless, or hopelessly complicated, suddenly are not.  I hear voices: I am walking the dog at midnight, thinking of any random string of things, and I suddenly hear a voice ten leagues deeper than that conscious stream of thought tell me exactly what I need to do about some other thing, that I wasn’t even thinking of.  I am driving midmorning, anxious and listening to the world news on NPR, running between bank and grocery and vet, and suddenly two words sink in and everything sinks magically into perfect places.  As if magnetized.  As if tethered by strings and drawn in.  I move to a sudden understanding of world and myself.  Am changed by the understanding.

A haunting, resonant voice.  A steady knowledge that this yoga is not just practical, not purely popular.  There are strange questions and stranger answers out there.  America is suffering a crush on yoga, and like any love affair, there are ups and downs.  Any mature relationship to yoga has to acknowledge those dark places and low points.  The pushing the physical too far.  The commercialization.  The idealization of gurus.  The trade in of spiritual path for monthly membership fees.  The weird attempts to transcend realities of work, intimacy, identity.

Ultimately, the yogic path is about work, intimacy, and identity.  It goes as deep and as pithy as psychoanalysis.  It can ask questions and leave us hanging for lack of good answers.   Not transcendence, but depth.  Not overcoming, but going deeper in.

But there is that voice.  It surfaces.  It becomes more clear.  It keeps us company on the journey, through wild goose chase and moments of inner calm.  It knows why we are there.  It, too, is determined to save the only life we really can save.  When the sages say the wisdom is whispered, they mean it’s a thing you have to listen to hear.  That the listening changes who you are.


of spirit

"There isn't anything except your own life that can be used as ground for your spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is your life, twenty-four hours a day." - Pema Chodron

flyer reach"And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." -Isaiah 30:21

"Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; rather, seek what they sought."  Guatama Buddha

"The whole way to heaven is heaven itself."  Teresa of Avila

This sunday, if you haven't signed up yet, do.

If, anyway, you wonder what yoga has to say about spirituality and heartwork.

What all this body stuff might have to do with healing the soul.

Or what ancient practices have to teach you about your own life.

It isn't for everyone.

But it is for you if you are tired of arguing about religion and politics, tired of reading about spirituality, tired of talk-talk-talking about change or better or goals or happiness.  Tired of talking about things that matter without doing a single thing that matters yourself.

My hope is that a few of those who are looking for things that matter, trying to figure out what really matters to them, or are sick of living with what doesn't will find yoga to be an exercise of spirit and a path of heart.  Come.  Sunday January 27, 9-noon.

Please register here and click the workshops tab.

Healing happens in the pause between breaths

This morning - New Year's Day - broke cold and crystalline.  I walked to the studio before the sun was anywhere near up and watched my breath in the air, listened to the sound of my boots on sub-zero clots of snow and sheets of ice over the pavement, wondered at the great silence of the world that is the space before dawn.  The space before anything.breatheease It is said, sometimes, that that hour is the best hour in which to do a practice.  That the veils between the worlds are thinnest.  Or perhaps only that the interruption and blare of everyday life does not have such a purchase on us.

For whatever reason, predawn is given over to those who are suffering, those who are inspired, and those who are watching the spaces between one day and the next.

This morning, I suppose, the space between one year and the next.

I lit a candle and I waited to see: who would show up for this first practice in the new year.  What moods and movements they'd bring in the door with them.  Weather I should be silly or serious, push for hand stands or take long, deeply introspective holds with our hearts and our bodies near the floor.air

I listen to student's breathing, as I start a class.  And as I did so this morning I realized I didn't want to say anything much at all.  Nor did I get the sense they needed any directive at all.  Life its own self - this dawn of a new year, their dedication and ceremony shown in showing up at six in the morning before anything else can happen in their year...all that says more than enough.  What I wanted, instead, was to listen to that breathing and to invite them into the wordless spaces as well.

Over the holidays, I was given a singing bowl.  I have held it, asked it to sing at the end of a few classes.  But today I used the singing bell for the whole entire class.  I lead, silently.  I demonstrated a pose - nothing new or complex or workshopy, just going back to the beginning and practicing what we already know - the class followed.  I let them hold the pose for a deeply long, 20 breath or minute hold, 30 seconds for deep strength or balance poses.  Then I'd ring the singing bowl, signaling an end to the pose.  I'd demonstrate the next pose, they would follow, and we'd just breathe together until the bowl told us the pose was done.

As I write, now, reflecting, I notice not only the starting of thoughts that end up in typed sentences, but the spaces between the thoughts, the spaces between the words.  The spaces give meaning to the confusion and irresolution of everthought and nonsenseword.  Thoughts and words mean nothing, go nowhere, without a pause of meaning and understanding.

And I recall the spaces between our poses this morning, and hearing a teacher whisper at one point: healing happens in the pause between the breath.  Find the pause between the breath.

Years ago, when I was starting a practice, teachers told me so much about breathing I grew sick of hearing about it.  They reminded me to breathe, ad nauseum.  Yet I started to realize what they were doing was directing my attention back and back again onto my own self: they were teaching me to find the moment of pause.

melissasherbornThe moment before reaction, before automatic thought.  The moment before I repeat old habits for the thousandth bloody time or surrender to the self sabotage or negative thought patterns.  It was in their directives, in the occasional glimpses I caught of this 'space between' that began to teach me to SEE the patterns I was caught in, as well as to witness how fleeting thoughts and emotions were.  It was in that suspension that I started to notice edges - and to notice how teaching others about that edge, that half second of crazy time when all hell is breaking loose, the half second when anger is inhaling an explosion, when fists are raised, when chaos threatens to break apart whatever stability has been patched together during the infrequent moments of calm. The suspension interrupts moments of violence, sadness, boredom, or life as automatic.  To break the cycle of despair that gets passed from generation to generation when anger wins and calm is absent.  Or the cycles adults put them through, day after day and year after year, when we know longer remember what growth and vibrancy and passions are, when we no longer learn, when we can't really say we're still living or what we're living for.

The yogic path is to slow everything down, learn how to breathe attentively, to create space between the breaths.

There was a time, years ago, when I didn't really understand this was possible.  Not really.  Pay attention to the breath, whatever.  Remember to breathe, sure.

I didn't realize there were paths away from eruptive fears and the powerful slipping of time, gone and gone and gone again.  One breath at a time,  I was taught how to breathe with attentiveness and space.

nadishodiAs we progress through the breadth of what we experience in this moment  - the sensations, feelings, thoughts, memories- we are able to help each other sort out the chaos, and see within the maelstroms places to hold fast. From those new vantage points, we  see paths away from the anger and towards peace; paths away from judgment and towards acceptance; paths away from fear and towards Love.

We breath and find the healing between one breath and the next, the ceremony between one day and the next.  The edge of time between night and dawn.  The moments when actual change and reflection are possible.

If you can find the pause between the breath, you can heal.  You can learn to enlarge time, find choice, repair old wounds, start whole.  You make more space to live in.  You enlarge, find meaning, understand.

Without contempalation, without pausing to look, listen, and feel out the meaning of things, without purpose, we get lost.  The passing of time is just the passing of time.  All we can do is watch.

Contemplation is the lending of purpose, the finding of meaning.  The participation in being alive.

It is the space between words that makes things into phases, sentences, understanding.  It is the pause of reflection and intention that draws lines and makes sense of things.  It is the space beneath the surface of things from which we live.

Under the superficial is the more of life.  More love.  More energy.  More hope.  More health.  More breath.

If the moving of one year into another means anything to me today, it means that paused breath, the suspiration, the sacred rite of exhale.


Landing, and getting up

Arrival and change feel blustery, vulnerable, and rootless.  They say moving is one of the most stressful events in life.  After the last week, I would agree. I caught myself, all week, being confused: this is a good thing; I am starting a yoga studio in a place that really needs it, bringing what skills I have to a people who don't have other teachers around; I am, in many ways, claiming 'my own' teaching and space and time.

So why does the good feel blustery, vulnerable, and rootless?

Because even good change is hard.  It calls us out of who we have been and challenges us to be something more, to bring our best, to risk and grow.

Of course it's good, and of course it's scary, both.  As the first week of classes ends this morning I'm sitting at a desk that is still unorganized and unpacked and confused, with the window open to the first day that smells like autumn, exhausted.  And happy.  I pushed students this morning, challenging them into an arm balance.  Some are very new to yoga and had never seen it before, others have done yoga but haven't gotten themselves up into that bakasana yet, or been able to hold it very long.  Therefore, there was a lot of falling.  Wobbling, wavering, and trying over.

Every one of them got up.  Felt both the risk (you expect me to stand on my hands?!) and the lift.  If just for a second.  And then we moved on.

We're all doing yoga, always.

Return goes home. To Saint Cloud. In Minnesota.

Some already know. I've been keeping it under wraps until details like a lease and a date are finalized, but at this point I can announce: Return is opening a studio in St. Cloud in September 2012. 822 1/2 West St. Germain. Classes four times a day.  Strong classes, the sweaty ones where we learn to go upside down and challenge the very nature of our guts and endurance; but also the gentle, reverent, exploring classes that so heal and so change us and are accessible to anyone who can breathe, anyone who has a body. That's the long and the short of it... Mixed emotions, knowing that this is written half for the students I am leaving, and half for students I haven't yet met.

St. Cloud is personal; it's where I grew up, the jumping off point, the place I left in order to wander the wide world.  There is something poetic, I suppose, in going home; so many of our stories circle back that way, so many attempts to find ourselves just prove how much we need to know our own place in the world.  Still, I never thought I'd go back.

The process, the idea, is acceptance and responding to what life we do have rather than handicapping ourselves with what the ego clamors for.  If the world were to my making, I'd be opening a studio in Rio.  On a mountaintop somewhere.  Something with oceans and travel.  If the world were as I liked it, I'd never even have to open a buisness.  I'd just write poems, eat bon bons, and practice asana all day.  In between taking naps.

If yoga were how we 'expect' it to be, it'd only be romantic, esoteric, the stuff of retreats and exotic places of natural wonder.

But an honest practice isn't like that, at all.  An honest practice takes place at home, in the midst of our lives, with the stuff of our days.  Commericial, american, midwestern days. I do not do asana on beaches, and yoga is not a thing I retreat to do.  I practice where I am.  I practice in parking lots, sometimes.  Sometimes in kitchens.  On carpet, on cement.

I am not a hippy, starry eyed kinda person who believes in fates and auras and angels and strings that are pulled by forces.  But from moment I considered St. Cloud, everyone and everything has rushed to make it so.

With some of the largest social service programs in the state, and a city full of society that doesn't fall under the rubric of 'social service agencies', yoga as service couldn't be anything but a blessing, there.  With the demographic boom, the colleges, the smush of St. Cloud Sartell Waite Park Sauk Rapids St Joe all becoming one metropolis that is the metropolis of central Minnesota, it's baffling there is no studio. It's funny that I know the town so well.  There was a pretty studio space, all ready and waiting with the right time and the right price.  An apartment lease was signed, the dog is allowed.  What I thought might possibly happen someday, eventually, somehow, is happening. Happening NOW.

The moment you say yes to your life, life unfolds.

It is not what I expected.  But it makes me very happy.  It is a good.  Unexpected, out of left field, mildly confusing, and good.

I am more grateful than I know how to say.

But I am also sad to be leaving the students, classes, and teachers here behind.  Yoga has lessons for me, here, too:

The good of yoga is not something I do, I teach; I can step out of the way and students will still have the power and transformational tools that yoga gives.  There are many gifted teachers.  Students here do not need me.  I was blessed in introducing some to yoga, helping others find a way back in.  I was blessed in living and working with long time yogis and teachers who are deeply involved in their own process.  I have learned.  I have been touched.

And I will miss you.