Category Archives: Play

Looking Back

An Akan proverb, or the Sankofa tells us “We should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward.”

It is hard to believe that the close of 2013 is just weeks away. I feel like this is a good time to circle back and highlight some thoughts I’ve shared over the past 12 months. I chose past writings that speak to some of the holiday ups and downs most of us experience in hopes my words will bring you greater well being and, as always, continued growth! Enjoy…

As far as I know my father never once stepped onto a yoga mat. Yet it is through his example that I learned what living yoga off the yoga mat really means. It’s about attitudes and actions that keep you focused, calm, and non-reactive in the face of life’s challenges. It’s about doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

Lt. Colonel Frederick L. Parker, USAF

He did this throughout his military career by valiantly fighting, at his own peril, for freedoms that were not always granted to him, because it was the right thing to do. He demonstrated courage by standing up for and insisting on equal treatment for all, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. He proved that obstacles are overcome by committing to relentlessly following your purpose, no matter who or what opposes you. He demonstrated that living life heroically means living life authentically and facing your fears head on, everyday, with an open heart.

leg up framed-_MG_2724To live life fully we are called to live a life of service to others. Ask yourself each day upon awakening, what difference you want to make in someone else’s life. It doesn’t have to be a monumental difference. It could be something as simple as offering a listening ear to a friend in need, making a phone call to someone you’ve been thinking about, or running an errand for a neighbor.

web_b_MG_6940Do not let limitations or barriers keep you from pursuing your dreams. No achievement comes without obstacles. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue moving toward your goal. Remember no effort you make goes unrewarded. Keep looking for a job if you’re unemployed. Keep applying to schools until you’re admitted. Finish what you start. Don’t give up.

b-edit_MG_6892-1For many of us doing has become more important than being. Even though we long for rest and relaxation, these are needs we tend to ignore. We have to talk ourselves into the practice of slowing down and being still. A culture of doers, we have places to go, people to meet, things to do. The only thing we think we can’t do is nothing.

b_MG_8295The problem with carrying around a secret is that it can be toxic, costing you peace of mind, happiness, even your health. Keeping secrets interferes with your ability to be yourself, and to be intimate with others. It doesn’t matter what your secret is; keeping secrets is a form of dishonesty that causes harm to us physically, psychologically and spiritually, and sometimes causes harm to others.

Yoga teaches us that truthfulness is a guiding principle of our practice both on and off our yoga mat. We learn that by shining a light on the hidden places within ourselves we can safely avoid their stress-related consequences. Even though the thought of revealing a secret can seem scary, once you take that first step, it gets easier.

october blog“Go to your room!” “Sit still until I tell you to move!” “You need a time out!” For those of us who grew up hearing these words when we misbehaved, is it any wonder that as adults we have an aversion to being still, to being quiet, or to being alone? When stillness, time-out, and alone time are used as forms of punishment, how likely is it that we would look forward to, much less be able to delight, in stillness?

grayweb-edit_MG_4513Contentment should not be confused with complacency, which is a state of stagnation, or no growth. Rather, contentment is a sign that we are at peace with our circumstances, and ourselves. Being content does not mean that we have to settle for what we don’t want, whether it is a toxic relationship, unbearable living conditions, or inhumane working conditions. Contentment starts with accepting reality as it is, not as we want it to be. Accepting reality can lead us to make the necessary changes that result in an overall sense of well-being.

Contentment is not the same as happiness. We all face difficult times in our lives. But it is possible to find contentment even in painful circumstances through acceptance of the situation. In the case of a devastating illness, loss or other unwelcomed circumstance, we may go through various stages of emotional turmoil such as denial, anger, and depression before we reach acceptance. But it is possible to find contentment and inner peace, even then….No matter what your circumstance, there is always the possibility of living life more fully.

Contentment is the ability to appreciate how much you have, rather than how much you want.

b-edit516Change is risky and can be accompanied by sadness, fear, regret, anger, and disappointment. If you stepped on a nail, it would obviously be painful and you would want to remove it. But before it feels better, removing the nail hurts, sometimes more than staying on it. Truth be told, there are times when we’d rather adjust to and accept a familiar hurt than risk the discomfort of change, even if the change we face leads to something better. But you can’t “put the past behind you and move on” without saying goodbye to what you are leaving.

There is wisdom to be gained by reflecting on change, its inevitability, and how to gracefully accept it. The ability to embrace change is an essential part of living. Accepting the pain that sometimes comes with it is fundamental to the embrace of life itself. Where there is life there is change. Without change there is no growth and no life. To align with life, we must become one with change and “go with the flow.”

 The Rune of Termination and New Beginnings
“The life you have been living has outgrown its form, and must die so new energy can be released. May you undergo a death within your self. You are always free to resist, but remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old. Prepare then for opportunity disguised as loss.”


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Are We Having Fun Yet?

“Come, rest awhile, listen to my song. Summer is here the days are long and bright. Why waste the sunshine in labor and toil?”– the Grasshopper,  from the Aesop’s Fable, The Grasshopper and the Ant

“Youth is fleeting, but immaturity can last a lifetime” was the verse inside a greeting card I sent my “baby” brother on his 60th birthday.  It has become my mantra. As it turns out, there is a name for this. It’s called NEOTENY – the retention of immature qualities into adulthood. It seems that this capacity has survival value and play is an important aspect of it.

Playfulness gives us a leg up on adaptability.

Scientists have discovered that play has a biological place just like sleeping and dreaming. It is not just something you should only do in your spare time. We are designed to play over our lifetime.

This summer I spent three months playing with a gifted photographer, Shekenia Mann. Her vision is to create images that depict the beauty of Detroit, the city she loves, and to capture the beauty of the human spirit in the individuals she photographs. She invited me to be one of her models and asked me if I would be willing to be photographed doing what I love the most. It was an invitation I could not refuse.

As seriously as I take it, yoga for me is also play, something I do for the sheer pleasure of it with no particular goal in mind. I have practiced yoga all my adult life. When I first started practicing, there were no yoga studio classes available and very few people teaching it. I had to learn the practices from reading books on the subject or, when I was lucky enough to take a class from someone, by remembering the postures I had learned in class and then practicing them on my own.

When I “play” yoga, I can do things I’m unable to do when I work at it.

In my 50th year yoga went mainstream. There were a plethora of studios offering classes and teacher trainings. I fell head over heels in love with the practice all over again. I was all in.

It’s almost as if I am five years old again every time I do a back bend.

As I entered what I call the third chapter of my life, the 25 years or so after you turn 50, a decision “snuck up’ on me. I decided to re-dedicate myself to the practice of yoga – to integrate it into every aspect of my life. That meant I had to eliminate certain activities. At first I felt guilty. My activities outside of work, which included sitting on boards, chairing various committees, participating in professional and social organizations, which I bent over backwards to do, had always come first. It’s just that I no longer loved them as much as I loved yoga.

Choosing yoga was a radical departure from my duty- and obligation- driven life. The decision to make it a priority was born of an irresistable urge  to go in search of a more meaningful life.  I was tired of being involved in activities that were important, but that were no longer relevant to me. I wanted a life that gave me permission to pursue pleasurable avocations, and time to play. Yoga became the big adventure of my life’s third chapter and has turned out to be one of the most meaningful aspects of my life to date.

When I’m on my yoga mat I am transported to a place of pure creativity, fantasy, play, childhood revisited. It is my own place – a place where no one can claim me – a place of imagination, freedom, adventure, and outrageousness with no other purpose than the love and enjoyment of the experience. It is my place, my space – no one else’s and a place where I can shine, where I can soar, where I can fly, and touch the sky. It is for me one of the most important places in the world.

I loved swinging when I was a girl.

Love your life. Enjoy your life. Go back to your most playful childhood memory. Connect with that, see what possibilities it opens for you, where it takes you, and how it enriches you. And most of all, have fun.


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