Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Posture metaphors and Handstand

One of my favorite metaphors that many yoga teachers offer during Warrior 2 relates to not only obtaining balance through good alignment in the posture, but likening that balance to how we position ourselves in our lives. So, if you can picture warrior 2: front leg with your knee offering a right angle between the thigh and calf, thigh bone parallel to the earth, back leg with the pinky toe side of your foot offering your anchor into the mat; head, neck, and torso perpendicular to the horizon, creating a plum line from the crown of your head down through your groins dropping into a spot just about equidistant between your feet. Arms are at shoulder height spread out with the front arm in line with the front leg, back arm in line with your back leg. Warrior’s gaze is forward, looking out over the front arm, while your torso is in the side plane of your body. Hmmmm…. I should figure out how to import a drawing of it. It sounds much more complicated than it is. Warrior two is a very solid stable posture. The language that I love that teachers use refers to the back leg representing our past, and all that is behind us, our memories, all of what we carry with us, good and bad; it brings us to where we are today. The front leg represents where we are heading, our goals, the future. And the torso, where the balance of the posture is kept is the immediate present moment. The dynamic of this posture is held by the solidity of the core, being totally present while at the same time there is no escaping the attention that must be given to past and future, because the stance holds it’s foundational footing in both of these, while the core reminds us that to be balanced, we must keep our core, our center, focused and centered, very present. It is a beautiful metaphor. Especially as a teacher, as you bring your gaze around to a room full of yogis and yoginis taking the posture, and observe how people find their “balance” in various gestures of imbalance. Understanding the metaphor, and watching people leaning into their past or future, I get a tender feeling, that I am in a room full of sacred beings mindfully accessing themselves. Watching a class as each of the participants focuses and draws themselves into the posture, witnessing the introspection as it finds it’s perfectly imperfect solid stance, holding sacred lives in the balance is extraordinary and humbling.

What does all of this have to do with handstand? Handstand is one of my challenge postures. It frequently feels like I have a love hate relationship with it. Though, I will generally speak of handstand very fondly. And yet, as I think of the Warrior 2 metaphor, I begin to have an even deeper appreciation of why handstand offers the challenge that it does. There’s no back leg or arm, no front leg or arm, just straight up pure and solid. And, Upside down. And then we balance on what? The smallest flat surface available…. our hands! All yoga postures bring us to challenge by finding balance through some combination of strength and flexibility. If there is not enough flexibility, the necessary alignment in order to create balance will not be found. If there is not enough strength, we will not be able to hold or sustain our balance in the posture. So yes, even handstand which is a very powerful posture requiring a lot of strength, must keep it’s delicate balance through a stance of being totally present in the here and now. The power of understanding that and the contrast that handstand offers in comparison to any of the warrior postures has been very striking to me recently. So when I take the three elements that are required to achieve a posture: balance, strength, and flexibility, and then I humbly observe myself as I fumble intermittently with something that I know I basically have what it takes to kick myself up into (at a wall mind you, you will not see me doing handstand in the middle of a room without another human being spotting me in this life time!) again, I witness myself and draw the metaphor into my present life, and realize: Yes, I should be practicing a little more deeply, and a little more diligently. The ah-ha comes however, from realizing, that despite the growth I have achieved over the years in my practice, I can still easily slip out of being able to access a posture that I know is a lot stronger than what it was the first time I kicked up into it. And, it doesn’t have anything to do with how strong or how flexible I am. It has everything to do with my getting purely balanced and keeping my focus present. Maybe, just maybe if I brought some more due diligence to meditation, I would have the presence needed to balance the strength and flexibility that I know are available to me.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Preferences, No?

Those of us who live and wander in the yoga world, I think sometimes get so full of ourselves that we begin to think that we should or could actually become enlightened! We go to yoga class regularly, have our own home practice, meditate, never judge other people or ourselves, and we have no preferences. Ok, Ok, maybe I sound a little full of myself right now. But seriously, what would it be to have no preferences, or to be an enlightened being? No preferences, quite possibly is offered as a direction rather than something to actually achieve. However, even as a direction, it is so unattainable, it seems that it may serve us better as a reminder that we live here on this physical plane in material form so that we can learn something about how to live an earthly life with ego and personality actually intact, from the place of our individual differences. Balance, everything always comes back to Balance. Those beautiful yoga poses that challenge, always seem to throw us off balance, reminding us that that is the reason we found our way to a yoga studio in the first place. A life skillfully lived finds the balance between resisting the temptations the ego dangles in front of us while, allowing all of our very unique imperfections. It is when we can offer ourselves the truth of temptations, imperfections, and yes, even our desire to judge; see these, embrace them, and not feel threatened by them that the balancing act, on and off the mat becomes so much more attainable. When we awaken to the truth of what makes and creates us the mortal imperfect beings that we are, it is then that the desperate need to control falls back, and we can enjoy a life floating from one balancing act to another from a stance of easeful contentment, even if we sometimes trip and fall. Donna

Monday, September 5, 2011

Update to my last post

The memorial concert of Mozart's Requiem, after having to get picked up off the floor heroically by our director, Chuck Schneider, is still happening, but with a change or two due to the financial distresses of the times: Instead of taking place at the historic Stanley Theater in Utica, NY, it will now be taking place at the historic Grace Church, also in Downtown Utica, NY. Grace Church is equally as beautiful, but not nearly as large, so arrive early to guarantee yourself seating! Also, the time has been moved up to 3:00 PM, on Sunday September 11, not 4:30, as posted below. And, instead of being accompanied by Chuck's select orchestra from the various local orchestra's in upstate NY, we will now be accompanied by renowned pianist, Andrew Russo, also an incredibly talented musician from the Central New York area. We have down scaled and down sized, but it will still be a beautiful event worth your while. Please Come!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A couple of Announcements

KIRTAN! In my home yoga studio on Saturday July 30th 7:30 PM with Michelle Angel. I understand that part of what she will bring to this event will be a trio of large gongs to create a "gong bath"!! If you find yourself in the greater Syracuse area, and are interested in attending, contact me and I'll help you get there. You can go to my web page at www.changeinmotionhealingarts.com to contact me.

Laughter Yoga: I am now leading the 8:00 laughter yoga line at 8:00 AM Eastern Time on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday mornings, while Rebecca Foster takes a smiling breather from doing this every single day for something well over 2 years. If you would like to laugh with me dial into the line at: 712-432-3900; when prompted touch in: 6071292# If you want to laugh at other than 8:00 in the morning, you can dial into this line every single day at the top of 14 out of 24 hours every day and laugh with lots of different laughter leaders for anywhere from 12-20 minutes: Go to www.laughteryogaamerica.com for more information.

9-11 10th year Anniversary Memorial concert at the Stanley Theater in Utica, NY on Sunday September 11, at 4:30 PM, under the direction of Charles Schneider. We will be singing Mozart's Requiem. Several choral groups from the greater Utica area are joining voices for this event. You will see me in the alto section standing (singing!) with my mother and my aunt!!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lessons in Buying a Used Car!

A lot of energy has been spent in the last month or more in finding and acquiring a used car for my daughter, who has been living in Africa for the last six months. She will be coming back State side soon, about to enter graduate school at Cornell. Ithaca is a very cool small city, that caters well to it’s large college population, but is still enough of a small city, that having a car will be quite useful for little things, like finding ones way down the hill to the other side of town to shop at the “Green Star”, local food co-op, and making the hour long trip home every now and again.

Many lessons learned in the process of purchasing this car. First and foremost, just because the car sales man who happens to be representing a private seller, isn’t selling the car through his dealership, doesn’t mean he isn’t still basically a car sales man. Second: If you are going to buy a car long distance, make sure that the third party mechanic you hire sees the car a minimum of two weeks before you fly so that you won’t be stuck with a non-refundable plane ticket the day before you travel to pick up the car! Third: Remember the first lesson, and don’t be fooled into thinking that guy that is still basically a car sales man is a nice guy just because he has a friendly sounding, almost southern drawl. Fourth: Recognize that even if you get a good deal, which is difficult to truly do when you are buying a used car, NY State will make sure to worsen the deal when you go to register the car and end up paying an additional 8% to NY State in sales tax! Can’t touch all the corporate and wealthy America tax breaks and loop-holes, but let’s tax everyone who finds themselves buying a used car; at 8%. Fifth: If you happen to find yourself in the Dept. of Motor Vehicles on the Tuesday after a long holiday weekend to register your used car, bring a small novel to read, and expect to finish it!

All’s well that ends well. It is a nice little Gulf TDI, a perfect grad student car. And will blend well with all the throw back hippies still living in Ithaca!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Justine's Version

More descriptive, and with a couple of pictures thrown in.... definitely worth the read.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dakar, and then Home!

We got home at about 3:00AM on Tuesday, just yesterday that is! To conclude the rest of what we did: As predicted we ate good Palestinian family cooking, and were entertained by the family for the duration of the last 2-3 days in Amman. Then, on the evening of the 17th we flew to Dakar, Senegal, arriving on Wednesday afternoon, the 18th, meeting up with Justine (older daughter), who flew into Dakar from Bamako, Mali, arriving about 30 minutes after we did.

Justine served as our tour guide in Dakar, and thank goodness, because her French is basically fluent, and if you do not speak French or the native Wolof, you will mostly not be understood. Dakar was my first Africa experience, and it was quite an eye opener. I have traveled in the Middle East a handful of times in my life, both as a child and as an adult, so I am not unfamiliar with what it means to stand out and look like an American tourist, or what it is like to speak to someone who speaks broken English, and then feel stupid for expecting the native of another country to understand my imperialist language, or what it means to go to an open air market, and have the vendors pester you until you pay attention to them, and hassle over the price until you feel both ripped off, and again like an ugly American for not just letting them get the excessive price they were asking for….. After all as a basically middle class American, I have far more privilege and access than the average flea market (“Souk” in the Middle East) vendors; their goods, even at a somewhat inflated price, are still lots cheaper than I could get them for in the States, and so what if I overpay. I am visiting briefly, and if I can boost their economy even just a tiny bit, maybe that is a good thing; my small tourists gifts at inflated prices are not going to break my bank. Excess baggage fees are much more likely to do that, and you won’t see me, or anyone else, haggling over those! All of these experiences that I have had many times before were true again in Africa, the difference being that it was all many times more intense.

Instead of being only mostly obvious as an American tourist, and sometimes being able to blend in because I basically look like an Arab, until I don’t dress or speak like an Arab; in Senegal we stuck out like sore thumbs. Instead of being able to count on someone speaking the Western language that I speak, I had to either fumble with 30+ years old bad high school French, or hope that they might speak better English than my bad French, or (what was usually the case) count on Justine to translate or just speak for us. Instead of the vendors being a little pushy, they were persistent in a way that you cannot even imagine. As we were walking along the street at any given time, someone who has something to sell, which seemed to be almost everyone, would begin to walk next to us, and then speak to us, telling us that they had something for a good price, and would hold whatever it is that they are selling in front of our path, making it very difficult to ignore them. If you were to try to ignore them, they keep speaking, and walking along side or in front of you. If you continue to ignore them, they might try speaking to you in English (generally they would try French first); they might go back and forth between their good French, and broken English. If you begin to speak to them to tell them you are not interested, they then know that they have your attention, and have won round one. Now they begin to tell you that what ever it is they are selling is beautiful, is a good price, etc. Please come to my shop. Over and over, I was truly impressed. Despite themselves, the street vendors, as unrelenting and pushy as they were, were generally very friendly and likeable, making it that much harder to ignore them.

There is more to Dakar, however, than just pushy street vendors. Again, as we did everywhere on this trip, we ate very well, including a meal offered at the home of Justine’s Senegalese family from her college study abroad experience. We took in some historical sites, found our way to 3 different beeches, and to the open market (as opposed the random street vendors, sprinkled throughout the streets), and enjoyed breathing in the colors of Senegal. Indeed the colors of Senegal are truly spectacular. I bought a post card or two that showed off the colors, but it was not difficult to take a picture at any given moment and create a spontaneous post card. Wherever we went where there might have been a crowd of people, the show of color was always bright, vibrant, and truly beautiful. The cloth that is used for clothing for anyone, anytime, dressing up or not, is always vibrant, bold, and colorful. Senegal was truly breathtaking. We took in the tiniest taste of a tiny slice of this very grand continent. I hope to be blessed with more African adventures before I get too old to want to deal anymore with airports and airlines!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Had a beautiful three days in Turkey with Ruth, especially because the sun decided to come out in time for her portion of my stay.

We are now in Jordan. Arrived in Amman Monday evening, and we are now deeply appreciating the hospitality of the family. It is a true luxury to be fed, housed and toured by family who live here and can offer a very significant safety net. We are in Aqaba today, a beautiful port city in the very southern tip of Jordan on the Red Sea. A full day of sun and salt water today, and tomorrow we will drive to Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum is a section of desert in Jordan surrounded by rocky mountains, a favorite destination for nature lovers and geologists! The last couple of days in Jordan will be spent being entertained and dined in the homes of several different family members. A very serious treat to indulge in the family cooking and generosity. It is a dining experience that is truly not to be matched anywhere.

Our hotel in Aqaba.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Ruth arrives today!

I'm definitely ready to have a partner to help me stumble along in this big city where I don't speak the language. I keep wishing that the few words I know in Arabic would be helpful, but even that is very minimal. It keeps occurring to me that there are some basic questions that I would know how to ask in Arabic, but if someone tried to answer them for me I would not understand their answer!! This is when I join my children in feeling the deep frustration that the language was not passed on from father/grandfather.

Noon: Blue Mosque, the interior anyhow, still awaits. Arrived, yet again in time for prayers. And just in time also to see swarms of children lined up to go inside and pray! Oh that I could go in to observe the faithful, young and old!

Almost 3:30 now. Had light "mezze" for lunch, which is decidedly different from mezze in a Lebanese or Palestinian restaurant. The difference being more in presentation. In Arabic style, you would likely get a very large spread of a variety of different appetizers, lots of pocket bread to dip into and serve them with, and maybe an olive condiment plate to go with it. Yesterday and today when I ordered mezze it came on a single plate with cucumbers tomatoes and carrots underneath a circle of about 4 different dips, a couple of cheeses, and a small basket of white bread that was nothing to write home about. The dips and veggies were good, but the whole thing was pretty understated compared to how I have come to think of mezze.

And then I proceeded to the Blue Mosque, which was anything but understated!! These pictures of the Blue Mosque via Google images are much better than the ones I can take.

Now I wait for a little leas than an hour to pass, and my ride will take me to the airport to pick up my daughter Ruth, and then take us to a different hotel, not so far from this one. Depending on how tired she is we may go out for dinner with a roof top view that is supposed to be about the best in the city, along with some Turkish dancing entertainment.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Today's meandering

Well, I never got to the blue mosque yesterday, but discovered that it is literally about a 5 minute walk from my hotel. So, as I strolled in the rain in the direction of the Blue Mosque, I discovered crowds of tourist looking people getting in line, and a sign for "Basilica Cistern", so I stood in line, slightly protected from the rain, then headed inside to see this most unusual underground Basilica. Dark, damp, water, and beautiful columns. Lonely Planet tells that it was built by Justinian in 532. The feature to find in this underground relic are the carved heads of Medusa at the bottom of a couple of columns in one of the back corners of the cistern. Found them, read an interesting story about the myth of Medusa, and enjoyed seeing her carved head once upside down (my favorite!) and once sideways.

After the dark and damp of the cistern, I emerged, and stepped into the, too much like Syracuse damp of the outdoors, and promptly found a vendor who could sell me an umbrella. I continue my walk towards the Blue Mosque, and quickly make my first, and hopefully my last, single American woman traveling alone mistake. A man approaches me and begins to speak to me in broken English; I hesitantly reply, but don't shoo him off. Before all is said and done he has my first name, tells me the Blue Mosque is closed for prayers, and escorts me to the head of the line for the Aya Sophia museum, then tells me that maybe he will see me again, and leaves as I head into Aya Sophia. I think to myself, thankfully he's gone, and what is the likelihood of seeing this guy again??

I enter Aya Sophia, and literally spend a couple of hours drinking in the awe and beauty of the place. The ancient sacred art of Islam juxtaposed with Christian art offers an honest perspective on the history of peoples who share a common beginning. The holy building is grand with a very high domed ceiling with all kinds of beautiful mosaic. The walls, columns, and flooring are all marble. As I walk, I both crane my head to see what is above in the ceiling art, and I look down and sideways marveling at the sheer volume of incredibly beautiful marble. I enjoy playing with my camera, wondering if I will be able to capture the magnificence with my cameras eye. As I emerge from this "museum"/holy building, I realize that the sun has come out, and I have a skype text from Justine! At which point, I find a park bench and sit in the sun and chat from my iPhone in Istanbul with my daughter in Bamako, Mali, about my son who was in Syria, and who has now landed safely with family in Amman, Jordan! The wonders of technology!!

I then begin to head back to my hotel and low and behold creepy guy calls out to me, "Donna! Would you like to come into my shop?" At which point I do shoo the guy off. He is obviously agitated, tells me that I have "broken his heart" and says some awful thing about what will happen when I die. Like I say, inshah'allah (look it up in Wikipedia) I will not see this guy again, and lesson learned.

Off to the Grand Bazar, or possibly Istiklal Jedeci today, and Blue Mosque probably tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Yesterday I arrived in Istanbul after an unexpected hiccup at the outset of my trip. I had purchased a ticket that would allow me to visit my son who has been studying Arabic in Aleppo, Syria since October, flying through Istanbul. Because he is leaving Syria early, due to recent events of the "Arab Spring", and there is no getting a refund on my ticket, I decided to take the first leg of my trip and vacation for a few days in Istanbul.

As I arrived in the Syracuse airport for my departure, I discovered that just getting off of an already existing itinerary without continuing to ones stated destination is much more complicated than I anticipated. My initiating flight had mechanical difficulties as well grounding me in the Syracuse airport the night I was supposed to be making my trans-Atlantic flight!

All that initial nonsense resolved itself, and I arrived yesterday afternoon in Istanbul, tired, but ready to begin my vacation. I enjoyed a lovely Turkish meal last night. Today I am hoping to get to the Blue Mosque, in between raindrops, and then to a Turkish bath!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

What the World Needs Now...

So often my theme seems to come back to something having to do with Love. Well, I guess as I am yet again pondering Love in our lives, my life, I am realizing that my timing couldn’t be better! It is a word that stirs up all kinds of feelings for most of us, and in an unacknowledged way is a word that many of us avoid, and are even afraid of. At the risk of coming off as too gender biased and political so close to Valentines Day, I will not go to the place of Love being feared because we have been so well trained to shun our more feminine side, and that from the time that boys can speak, one of the worst insults you could offer any boy would be to call him a girl, and it is the boys that grow up to become men that still have far more influence and power in shaping the world we live in. I will not go there. Sorry, I digress.

Love as an idea is generally exalted. However, when it comes right down to exercising those Love muscles, and speaking openly and frankly about what would be the most Loving way to handle any given situation, why do so many people recoil? I find myself coming to this topic because of a recent incident where I took a fall, and the person I was with had trouble offering me the appropriate care and concern in the moment. There is not a doubt in my mind that this person cared and was concerned, but (he) had trouble making an offering. The fall was hurtful. It hurt my ego; it scared me, though the physical insult was mild at worst, and then there was this added layer of my friend’s awkward clumsiness. In my efforts to be true to my most honest self, which is generally something I try very hard to honor, I decided to have the conversation about the awkward clumsiness of my friend, with him. The conversation was slightly more skillful than the fall incident, but it still felt withheld, guarded, and like maybe it was not such a safe place to go. The more I tried to get words of caring and concern to spill forth from his lips, the more he stayed in his safe place of, “Thank you for sharing what it was for you.” or, “I am sorry you did not feel my compassion, I thought I was…” etc. In the end, I indeed did feel his efforts, and in knowing the effort was there, and creating greater hurt for me was absolutely not his intention, all was better…. Somewhat. The somewhat comes, not from this specific incident, but from the realization that this issue is much bigger than my inconsequential fall.

I do understand that the difficulty that came from my fall incident has two parts. In most simplistic terms one part is my own sensitivity to not being well enough cared for by others; the second part is (likely) my friends difficulty in feeling either safe enough, or worthy enough to make the appropriate offering. Typically, these two parts will rule the situation, and end up developing into bigger and stronger parts for each person involved. Over time these “parts” more and more rule who we are and how we re-act to even the simplest of situations. So, my challenge to you, any fond reader of my Love muse this season of Valentines, is to explore the part of you that gets in the way of your being the truest expression of the Love that is all yours, all the time. Whether it is Valentines Day, or a Grumpy Monday, whether it is with your truest Love, or with a co-worker that you secretly cannot stand, challenge yourself to Love unabashedly! It really is what the world needs.

Love, Donna

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hibernating for the Holidays!

Another Christmas season comes and, oh so quickly goes. We spend weeks, and sometimes months preparing, and are given 12 days to celebrate, and yet, well before we are even half way through the 12 days, many are already bringing their trees down, ready to dispose of all the Holiday trimmings. I am not one to make a big fuss about trimming the house in a major way for the holidays. Just ask my kids. We are lucky to get a tree up and decorated at all, and maybe a wreath, and that is about it. But the metaphor of the rush to trim, the rush to take down, and the busy-ness of the season seems an apt metaphor for the general eagerness of a culture that can’t quite figure out what it means to slow down.

This year winter came early in Central New York. We had barely gotten through the first week of December when a major snow storm whipped up, dumping more than 4 feet of snow in as many days. As a local in this the Snow Belt region, I was out there shoveling my way out and my clients’ way in every day, early in the morning, before the sun was fully up, making certain that life did not skip a beat on account of a silly thing like snow! Winter is upon us, the days are getting shorter, the nights are colder and longer; it is the beginning of the season that includes many hours of darkness. Bears, and other wise creatures who know that many hours of darkness means a suitable shift in their day to day living, begin months of hibernation. We, as intelligent humans who are innovative and able to problem solve, heat our homes, snow blow, plow, or shovel our driveways, and miss out on this wonderful opportunity to shift from a faster pace of living to something that more resembles hibernation.

As I was shoveling my driveway many times this December in the days before Solstice, I began to contemplate the irony of the act of shoveling, and the wisdom of the bear’s hibernation. Mother Nature is offering us this opportunity to hunker down, get snowed in, have short days and long sleeps, and we are madly shoveling so we can continue our busy lives. Not only are we continuing our busy lives, but we also need to hurry up and prepare for the Holidays!! And just as the calm and quiet of the shortest day of the year arrives the madness reaches it’s peak. Maybe we are ready, and if not we stay up long nights to make sure we are. And then to celebrate finally we have large gatherings and do the massive work of food preparation, table setting, and clean up that exhausts us while we “vacation” from the “work” that we are usually paid for and likely behind on.

Before I begin to sound like Scrooge, I will say that I love family gatherings and the opportunity to gift and make offerings to my loved ones as much as the next person. I cannot help however, but observe and marvel at the contrast that we create as we enter into natures’ season of slowing down that might otherwise give us an opportunity to turn inwards. I make a point of offering myself at least a few hours of quiet alone time during the holiday season; over the years I have come to deeply appreciate this part of my holiday. I sometimes fantasize about what the world would feel like if there were such a “Holiday” where many hours, or even days(!!) of quiet reflection were expected and placed on the world calendar with the same degree of importance as the consuming holidays that we are so accustomed to. I cannot help but think that this is something that could go a long way towards creating space for the healing our world so badly needs.

May the Peace of the season be with you and all of your Loved ones.

Happy New Year!