Writing


The Beauty Of Being An ‘Okay’ Parent, And Five Ways To Get There

(Washington Post, March 2017)

Let’s be honest: Parenting in the 21st century — the age of the curated childhood — is daunting. Parents constantly feel like they should be doing more.

I grew up in South Dakota and Nebraska, the second of four kids, where my parents — a Lutheran pastor and a music teacher — were too busy working and keeping us fed and clothed to hover. We had PBS, a house full of books and music, a big garden, church on Sundays and room to roam. They instilled simple values I’ll always be grateful for and I strive to emulate as a parent. My husband and I moved to Portland, Ore., last year from San Francisco, where parenting felt like an elite competitive sport. I adore the Bay Area, but as a new mother, I wanted to escape the suffocating pressure to produce a privileged champion specimen.

I’m a recovering Type-A perfectionist. As a kid, I was always the best at everything I did. I was anxious about having children because I knew I was at risk of pressuring myself to have perfect little high-achievers. I didn’t want to raise the kind of child who felt like he had to be the best at everything, or start prepping him for college in third grade.

One of my greatest accomplishments as an adult has been chilling the heck out and letting myself be okay with being average. I see no need for personal chauffeurs, overpriced tutors or hardcore chess tournaments. As a child of the heartland, it’s important to me that my son realize that not everybody’s family flies a private plane or uses “summers” as a verb.

Read More



Washing The Dishes, Waiting For Death

(Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, August 2016)

The first time I really “got” meditation, I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes.

My father was dying. Cancer.

Hospice bed in the living room-style cancer.

I’d flown back to Nebraska to see him one last time, to hold his hand, say goodbye.

Now, the haunting question of when.

I was 26, living in a 100-year-old flat in San Francisco, bartending my way through grad school, subsisting on coffee and cocktails. Standing there at the sink, I could hear the young couple upstairs vacuuming, the Chinese family across the alley clattering pans, and the cable car clanging one block over on California Street.

My mind was obsessively circling the drain.

Read More



A Zen Yoga Teacher Gets Real About Postpartum Depression

(Washington Post, April 2016)

My son was born on my birthday.

February 22: George Washington’s birthday. Drew Barrymore’s birthday. And mine.

My phone pinged with Facebook notifications as I stood over the hospital trash bin and retched. Three times I emptied my stomach of the apples and peanut butter my husband had lovingly sliced a few hours before. Once into the trash can. Again. And then again into the birthing tub laced with lavender essential oils.

Fiercely feminist, I’d always been ambivalent about having children. I’d watched my peers spawn with nary a twinge of jealousy, content with my books and my yoga. I told myself, “If it happens: great. If it doesn’t: great.”

On our first date, I teased my future husband, Robb, that I’d likely go the way of Sylvia Plath, making the kids sandwiches and sticking my head in the oven.

Six months later, drinking champagne on a pier overlooking Tomales Bay, we were engaged.

A year later, I was pregnant. Robb promised parenthood would make me a better yoga teacher. I rolled my eyes and took a swig of my chai, wishing it were vodka. He was right. Motherhood has made me a much better yoga teacher.

But I was unprepared for the shattering.

 

Read More



What Masculinity Looks Like

(On Being, July 2015)

In the yoga world, we use the Sanskrit phrase “Sthira Sukham Asanam” to describe the complementary balance of effort and ease, strength and softness necessary in every pose. Sutra 2.46 lays out the way in which each asana (literally, “seat”) should be a kind of relationship, an ongoing conversation between steady, active presence and yielding, relaxed stillness. The combination of the two qualities creates a yin-yang kind of wholeness that is strongly rooted, firm in foundation, confident and stable — and at the same time malleable, easy to adapt, gentle in spirit and undeniable in the face of transition. …

When I met my husband (unsuspecting, in a yoga class), I fell in love with his finely-tuned practice of Sthira Sukham Asanam. A longtime yogi, he was capable of being at once resolute and confident, tender and gentle. He could throw back a beer in one breath and quote Hafiz in the next. …

The most challenging practice has been finding center, grasping at sattva in the moments of sleeplessness, of relentless, bone-breaking parenting. Fumbling to stay calm at the changing table when the little man wriggles off. Struggling not to yell when he refuses to get into his high chair for the fiftieth time. Trying to be tender with one another when we’re both rundown and under-slept and haven’t showered in four days.

The idea is, of course, not to nail every posture (or every diaper change), but to let go and roll with the punches, to allow the sensations — the fear, the anger, the exhaustion — to move through you and to just get out of the way, exhaling into the quiet that’s always there under the chaos, paying attention to how everything is perpetually changing from day to day, moment to moment, breath to breath.

And then it passes.

 

Read More



HomeBody: Movement Meets Buddha Nature

(InDance, October 2015)

PICTURE A BUDDHIST. What comes to mind? A red-robed monk or nun sitting patiently on a cushion, lips gently smiling, eyes closed, legs crossed in Lotus Pose?

Or perhaps you picture Tina Turner, or Richard Gere, or another famous pop culture Buddhist?

For most of us, it’s definitely not an athletic, barefoot, nude-leotard-clad dancer bounding elegantly across the floor on a brightly-lit stage.

San Francisco-based choreographer and dance filmmaker Claudia Anata Hubiak’s contemporary dance company, The Anata Project, suggests an unconventional new Buddhist prototype. Since 2011, inspired by the Tibetan Buddhist concept of anata (“egolessness,” or the notion that there is no such thing as a permanent, unchanging self), The Anata Project has produced dances and dance films that take a genuine and unflinching look into the unguarded mind and heart. Its interdisciplinary conceptual foundation stands at the cutting edge of the meditative melding of body and spirit, seeking to break new ground in the worlds of modern dance, mindful embodiment, and Buddhist art.

 

read more



Hot Yoga Isn’t Punishment: 10 Ways to Make Friends with Your Body During a Hot Yoga Class

(HuffPost, January 2017)

Friends, friends: it’s that time of year.

Every January folks roll into my yoga class class ready to sweat out all the canapes and martinis they half-drunkenly inhaled during the holiday season. Sometimes they’re wearing six layers of clothing in a 99-degree room so as to “detox” all the pinot and the feta and the gingerbread, armed with liters of coconut water and a couple of big towels for mopping up the evidence.

This always makes me a little bit sad.

I mean, I totally get it. I remember countless hazy, hungover twentysomething mornings spent rolling into Bikram classes feeling like I needed to do the same thing. Too many yoga practices that felt like atonement for the night (or the week) before.

A decade later, as a heated vinyasa teacher myself, I cringe to think that my class could ever be complicit in my students’ self-abasement.

So here I am to remind you: hot yoga is not a punishment.

Read More



9 Yoga & Mindfulness Podcasts That Will Feed Your Soul

(Yoga Trade, February 2017)

Have you heard of “beginner’s mind?”

It’s the Zen Buddhist notion that we should approach the world as novices, childlike, open to learning, no matter how much we know about a certain subject. Beginner’s mind means stepping into our lives with a brand-new, wide-open mind, eager to receive, ready to evolve.

This is how we stay young.

This is how we stay open.

As teachers, one of our most important responsibilities is to keep learning.

In yoga philosophy, we call this svadhyaya, or self-study.

These days, for me, svadhaya means a couple of things: home practice, and podcasts.

For wellness professionals and yogis who are teaching or working overseas, or living in isolated rural areas, these are two essential tools to keep in your self-study toolkit.

Read More



How To Survive Snow Days As An Introvert Parent

(HuffPost, January 2017)

We moved to the Pacific Northwest last year, and for the first time in my adult (read: parenting) life, I’m dealing with snow days.

Snow days were so fun as a kid, right? Growing up on the Great Plains, they were such a rare treat. We were hardcore, man. Fierce pioneers braving the prairie blizzards. I remember going out to recess in South Dakota even when the wind chill was below zero: you just wore your snow pants and hung on for dear life.

But this, friends: this is a different beast. Folks around here aren’t used to snow and ice. Cities don’t have the same kind of infrastructure for dealing. So this winter, when we’ve had an unusual amount of ice and snow (climate change, whaaa?), the school systems are buckling. Buses are stuck and delayed; roads are too icy to get kids home from school. Days off right and left. Which are rad when you’re a kid who can hang out and play all day, or a solo adult who can chill on the sofa in front of the TV. Not so cool when you’re an introverted work-from-home mama trying to figure out what the heck to do with tiny energetic humans all day long.

A few reasons snow days are introvert-parent hell:

Read More



Why Colin Kaepernick Is The Yoga Teacher We Need Right Now

(YogaDork, November 2016)

Colin Kaepernick is a stealth yoga teacher. And it’s got nothing to do with his tight pants.

Kaepernick first declined to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the 49ers’ August 26th preseason game against the Green Bay Packers because, as he put it, he couldn’t “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick’s move has sparked outrage across the country, eliciting nationalist critiques, burned jerseys, and even death threats. Earlier this month, just prior to the election, Kaepernick quietly launched a Black Panthers-inspired “Know Your Rights” camp empowering black and Latino students in Oakland, CA to combat oppression.

A few weeks after Kaepernick kicked off his peaceful protest, I led a yoga philosophy training for current teachers. We covered philosophy basics from old school yoga texts like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, and revisited the often-murky history of yoga. Then we dragged yoga philosophy into the 21st century, brainstorming about where to find alternative texts—the kind of postmodern yoga teachers that hide out in unexpected places, like Ferdinand The Bull or Fight Club or (gasp) even Donald Trump.

One student raised her hand. She brought up Colin Kaepernick.

Brilliant, I thought. Yes; this is what yoga looks like in the real world.

Read More



5 Things Fight Club — Yes, Fight Club — Taught Me About Yoga

(Yoga International, May 2016)

Take a look at any mainstream yoga rag, and you might think “yoga” means skinny white ladies lounging around in stretchy pants, talking about probiotics. But yoga is so much more.

Yoga’s smart. Yoga’s radical. Yoga’s counter-cultural.

Yes, really.

The modern yoga scene is at a tipping point. Commodification and “Instagramification” have transformed this profound meditative practice into a trendy, upper-middle-class fitness craze.

It’s time for populist, philosophy-loving yogis to reclaim yoga from its widespread assimilation as a sanitized, fashion-driven workout. Believe it or not, the philosophical tradition’s got much wisdom to offer regarding the messy, sweaty, sacred/profane reality of being alive. Which brings us to…Fight Club. Yep, you heard me right.

read more