Here’s a little secret: I practiced yoga for 12 months before I finally washed my mat . . . okay, 18 months . . . um, maybe more like 24. Yep, I’m pretty sure it was over two years before I grabbed a washcloth and filled a bucket with warm soapy water. For the record, my mat wasn’t too dirty. I tend to prefer the Iyengar approach to yoga over styles that involve a heated rooms or a lot of fast movement, so I’m usually not dripping sweat during classes. But despite that, and regardless of how often I’d wash my feet before sessions, I began to notice soiled circles where my heels pressed into the mat. I should wash this, I would think to myself during Downward Facing Dog. Yep that’s definitely dirt, I’d say to myself as I gazed at grime during Plank. After class I would roll up my mat, take it home, and promptly forget my pledge. Finally one day I plunged my hand into a bucket and went to work. It’s very easy. Following these directions, I unrolled my mat on a clean tile surface, washed it with a cloth (two cups of water to four drops of dish soap), and then rinsed it by wiping it down with a damp cloth followed by a dry one. Much better. Next class, I practically felt like I was using a brand new mat. It’s funny – sometimes when I take the time to care for something external, it feels like an internal cleansing.
“Let’s take a meditation walk,” my mom suggested when she was visiting earlier this week.
That sounded neat.
“What is it?” I asked.
My mom said it’s when you take a walk in nature while meditating on a word or phrase. As you walk you don’t necessarily seek out specific things, but you do open yourself up to whatever gifts or lessons nature has to teach.
My mom, dad, and I all piled on our coats and boots and headed out into the woods. When we passed the woodshed, we discussed logs. When we passed the garden, we discussed vegetables. We talked about family and food and the gorgeous day. Before long we had finished the loop. Not exactly meditative. Oh, well. We still enjoyed each other’s company and the crisp air of nightfall. That’s priceless in itself.
Meditation walks are probably best when each individual wanders off on his or her own path. This morning I threw on sweatpants and headed outside. I was still wearing my pajama top. I had yet to comb my hair or eat. But I wanted to be outdoors first thing.
I choose to meditate on the words: “I will rejoice and be glad in this day.” The wind brushed against me with affection. The pines played a rustling tune. The sky offered colors of deep blue. The sun poured forth armfuls of warmth. I don’t know what this day will bring, but good or bad, happy or sad, easy or tough, I rejoice in its beauty.
As few weeks ago, we had a substitute teacher in yoga class. He had us do a series of poses where we moved from one warrior position to another to another then back to the first one. And so on.
The Dance of the Warrior, he called it.
The dictionary defines warrior as “one who is engaged in or experienced in battle.”
The battle in yoga, I suppose, is with the anxious, unstable, and not-so-Zen side of myself.
Can I learn to stay centered in the face of fear?
Can I find my balance when life seems to be throwing me in loops?
Can I take action with insight and compassion?
In other words, can I find the way of the peaceful warrior?
As I moved through the series, my muscles trembled, my body wobbled, and my breath labored. At least, part of the time it was like that. At other times, I was calm(er) and stead(ier) and moving in rhythm. Slowly, I’m learning the dance.
I’m debating what to do about Halloween.
I loved dressing up and collecting candy as a kid. But as an adult – and someone with a growing awareness of our country’s health crisis – I don’t want to encourage the consumption of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings…you get the idea.
I could hand out boxes of raisins, but I hated that as a child.
I could hand out toothbrushes, but again, that’s no fun.
I could bake something – treats using crispy brown rice cereal and natural peanut butter – but I know homemade goods would get thrown out by vigilant parents.
I have a friend who has her kids put their loot in a pile before bed. During the night the Great Pumpkin comes and Poof! their candy is turned into little games and trinkets from the dollar store. I also know a dentist who gives money in exchange for the kids who turn in their candy.
I was reading a recent issue of Body & Soul magazine and saw a small article on fair trade. Most chocolate, the article said, is exported from the Ivory Coast where kids aren’t going to school because they’re working on cocoa farms to help with family income. Buying fair trade products ensures that the money goes directly to the farmers and their communities instead of all the middlemen. And it just so happens that you can buy individually wrapped pieces of fair trade dark chocolate (according to some studies, dark chocolate does have a few health benefits).
Click here for a link to the article and a list of the companies.