Hey Friend Catch-You-Up-On-Me Blog

Okay, so pretend we’re meeting at Sweet Donkey; my favorite local coffee shop and stand-in office. Just you and me and a cup of chamomile or a bottle of kombucha or that wicked good turmeric-ginger latte thingy that they serve….

So I am the Queen of Oversharing, or at least I feel that I am that person (my children remind me that it’s true …). I tell people too much information about my life, but I come from a place of wanting to be honest. It’s so easy to look at the yoga teacher’s life and think we just sit around and meditate in a state of utter bliss in between classes.

Um. No.

We’re driving the carpool, going to Kroger, answering email, feeling angsty about our country and culture (maybe that’s just me) and doing all the things you do too; but within our framework of spirituality and ethic. That makes life sweeter, but not easier. Nope.

So, we’ve temporarily moved the Studio to 2020 Brambleton Ave., SW; it’s going pretty good there, thanks for asking. It’s not ideal; but ideal doesn’t exist. We’re so grateful to Ferguson Fitness for allowing us to sublet their space and run our full schedule. I know the parking has been a little tricky, but that is life running a business in Roanoke. The other options were a partial schedule; a tiny space; or closing down for a couple months. Grateful none of those lesser options had to be deployed.

And we appreciate you sticking with us. We’ve lost some students; some people have cancelled their monthly membership and told us they hope to see us once we are settled. Some have said it is too much trouble to follow us to a temporary location.

I appreciate your flexibility, my yoga friends.

We’ve signed a lease and are moving forward with our new space; it’s at 401 Highland Avenue, SE; corner of Fourth and Highland; a couple short blocks from our former space on Albemarle. It’s a hop-skip from 581; it’s a space that allows us to grow. Two yoga rooms (so we can expand our yoga teacher training schedule); two practitioner rooms to sublet for massage therapists or other related practices; a nice reception area; two big bathrooms. No one above us or below us; the whole space is ours, the rest of the building just storage for our landlord. And our landlord; a younger guy who really seems to understand our potential and wants to help us to grow and thrive.

Wow.

We are super-hopeful to land there in early May; but, you know; construction, permits, etc. I promise to keep you informed.

We are currently trying to raise some cash; get some money to contribute to the build-out. We need a good floor, some insulation; infrared heaters to control the temperature and actually offer hot yoga. It’s a big step; it’s a giant leap of transformation. And trust. Trusting….
Trusting the process. Trusting God. Trusting that we are good people trying to do good things and bring health and joy and connection and love and spirituality into the lives of people in our area. Trusting our role as a foundation to teach yoga teachers and broaden the reach of yoga, mindfulness and spirituality. Yes; all of that.

We have several times in the past offered a “yoga sampler” to raise money for other causes. And this Saturday, March 17, we’re holding a donation-based yoga sampler to benefit ourselves. I hope you can attend OR donate to the cause. We start at 1:00 pm and offer 45 minute classes on the hour every hour, ending with Kimberly’s incredible Sound Savasana at 5:00 pm. The full schedule is in the workshop section of the website.

Please know that I would not ask for money; ask for help; if I didn’t really need it. It’s a go big or go home moment. I decided to go big. I think I made the right decision. But truly, every little bit you could offer would be helpful.

And finally; since you and me; we’re having tea and hanging out and all; thanks for asking about my hip issue. I’m still hurting, but doing pretty well. I had two cortisone shots in the Fall and they helped a lot; I’m still on the wait list to have both hips replaced (which is terrifying ….). In the meantime I am applying full woo-woo to my medical issue. I’m soaking in salt water; seeking out mineral baths; getting massage and sound therapy and acupuncture. Praying hard and visualizing my body whole and healthy and pain free … that’s the dream. The past few months have been so much better; the past couple weeks … not so much.

My kids are good; my relationship is wonderful; my chickens are great; I’m getting ready to launch my astrology website; we’ve got another trip to India coming up that I would love to tell you about ….

I just need to get my business settled and then, I think, I will smile a little more.

So; tell me, friend; how are you?

Shanti,

Jill

Chickens and Choices

Hey friends, I have chickens! And, oh, yes, some stories about my chickens. Cause getting these creatures has been a bit of a process. Keeping them alive, a whole other thing.

They have taught me some things. Because everything you choose in life is your teacher.

Back story; I’ve wanted chickens for years now. At least nine years ago. The husband said NO. Okay, understandable. Keeping the children and the cats alive was difficult enough. Once he became the ex-husband, I was unsettled; renting; figuring out where to grow roots and unable to commit to chicken-raising. A couple years go by.

Eventually, I purchase a house with some land; a modest beautiful hilly 7 acres. And then there was the man I was dating; the relationship. We were serious; and he agreed with me about raising chickens.

I don’t eat chickens anymore; but I do eat eggs. And I want them to come from happy, healthy chickens. Round these parts, there are giant tractor-trailers with hundreds of sad, terrified chickens being transported; to slaughter, to somewhere, I don’t know. But I’ve driven behind them and beside them and their palpable suffering led me to becoming a vegetarian.

Seeing that made me a person who has tried to eat food that doesn’t come from torture.

So I’ve been seeking out free-range eggs from chickens fed actual food – actual food that is also organic so that it is not wheat or soy that has been soaked in Round-Up — for a loooong time.

Though even when I bought my $5.99 eggs in the groovy carton with fantastic slogans like “free-range,” “happy,” “sustainable,” or whatever-the-hell the marketing phrase of the week is; I worried. I was concerned. Cause I know big business is more about money than chickens. Were these eggs really from well-cared for chickens?

Back to the boyfriend. He builds the foundation for a chicken coop; a really BIG chicken coop; on stilts, so they have room underneath to hide from rain and still be outside. Off the ground also minimizes the invasion of predators. He puts up the four by fours, the floor; the frame. My roofer adds a sweet little tin roof to my chicken coop.

And it sits; unfinished. No walls; just the bones. Uninhabitable. For a full year. Every day, I pulled into my drive and my first view was the incomplete coop.

I imagined finishing it myself; imagined myself being so INDEPENDENT and STRONG and RESOURCEFUL; sawing and nailing and Googling it to completion. But one of the gifts of aging is that you realize what you have time and energy for and what you do not. It was NOT happening.

So I found Cameron; my neighbor’s-brother-in-law contractor. And he finished my coop. It’s so perfect! And then, as luck or love or whatever would have it, one of my incredible neighbors is a chicken guru; he’s been raising them since high school. AND he’s RELATED to my contractor. So he sets me up with six perfect, healthy, beautiful chickens.

These chickens teach me about phrases that we toss around in our culture that all relate back to chickens. “Pecking Order.” “Flew the Coop.” “Come Home to Roost.” Seriously; these terms now have context for me now.

Abigail and Amelia, the Rhode Island Reds; Loki and Thor, Hillroamers (a sweet locally raised variety of chickens with tiny blue eggs); Petunia, a Leghorn; and Nugget, a Barred Rock. (Nugget – get it? Chicken … Nugget … ) LOL.

We were so excited – until they began to pick on Loki; literally, pick/peck on Loki. Her head became a bloodied, flat terror. We couldn’t believe it was happening – how to stop it? How to protect her? I felt so responsible!

We let them out to roam, to free-range, which helped with the picking and the pecking. Yes, the tiny Hillroamers, the ill-named Loki and Thor, were clearly still bullied. But they also could fly much higher than the others and took to roosting in a tree together, adorably. Loki’s head seemed to be healing. Things improved when they had space to roam and scratch during the day. They all were laying eggs.

We had such sweet moments; chickens are damn entertaining!  Like the time that we had leftover pizza and Nugget scooped it up and did laps around the house with all the other chickens chasing after. It’s so funny that they liked the same things that we do. They fight over watermelon and cherries; pizza and bread; and cheese is their absolute favorite.

 

Whenever we came out of the house, they came running. Sitting on the porch, pecking at the door for attention (and shitting all over the porch btw ….). So social that we had to leave the front door closed lest they roll on in, looking for treats. And then there was our sweet Nugget; she loved to be petted. Who knew chickens would want to be petted?! She would walk up to you and squat down, extending her wings and trilling as you stroked her back.

And the eggs! These are delicious and incredible eggs. Homemade pasta; quiche; tiramisu; tiropita. Eggs were highly featured on our menus this Summer, and like tiny treasures, we collected them gratefully.

And then, one easy Summer morning where I was still in my pjs, drinking my coffee and working on the computer, I heard a big unusual ruckus out front. I dashed out and spotted what looked like a mid-sized dog amongst the flock. Spoiler alert; it was NOT a dog.

It was a coyote. And it recognized that I had chickens roosting in the trees and it returned to eat three of them. The two hillroamers and the sweet barred rock, Nugget.

I was so sad; I am still, so sad.

But this is nature; this is natural; this is me, ignoring the truth of the way of things as sometimes I do. What a lesson about being too much a lover, not a fighter; what a lesson in the natural order of things. I was more worried about letting them have freedom than keeping them safe until I realized how unsafe they really were. A reminder to me to honestly see the signs and act accordingly. Whether its relationships or chickens or … well, everything.

So this Winter, I still have my three resilient survivor chickens; the two Rhode Island Reds and the Leghorn. They stay “Cooped Up” mostly; I only let them out when I’m working in the yard.

And I have a new wonderful man in my life too. One who seems committed to making things built to last and not doing things half way. He, too, has always wanted chickens; I am taking this as a very good sign, indeed.

We are planning to add to our flock this Spring by raising some chicks on our own; a couple barred rocks, for sure, eyes WIDE open this time. My children already have a named selected for at least one of them — Nugget 2.0.

Shanti,

Jill

Astrology January-February 2018

Hello friends!

I have several blogs I have been working on over the past few months and hope to get posted soon. Meanwhile, as many of you know I’ve been writing the astrology column for THIS! magazine which has just recently ceased publication. I’ve got the scopes all written up for January and February, so here they are! If you would like me to continue, let me know — I have an astrology website I’ve been working on and hope to take LIVE soon! Stay tuned and keep in touch! New Year’s Blessings!

Jill

We welcome 2018 in a big way with an intense Full Moon in Cancer as Uranus stations Direct. This means a very full year for us all! Things may feel a little unsteady based on the huge cosmic shifts that were triggered in December. Remember to stay optimistic; do what you can to be a force for good in your part of the world. New Moon on January 16 in Capricorn is a powerful day for New Year’s Resolutions to be set. Eclipse season launches with the Full Moon Lunar Eclipse on January 31 in Leo followed by the February 15 New Moon Solar Eclipse in Aquarius. Valentine season could be dreamy with Venus moving into Pisces and touching Neptune – or it could be confusing and unrealistic; utilize your wisdom to decide which one! Read your Sun AND Rising Sign (Ascendant) for accuracy; for your FREE birth chart which includes this info visit www.astro.com.

Aries/Aries Rising (March 21-April 19)
Do THIS! Your career calling will be highlighted; are you doing what you love? Is your work meaningful to you? Do you have a life-purpose that you have neglected? Suddenly you can see what needs to happen to get there. Self-defeating behaviors will be spotlighted for eradication. Focus.

Taurus/Taurus Rising (April 20-May 20)
Do THIS! You’re considering trips, courses, mind-expanding experiences and new connections with people, but you can’t be casual about these things. Put in the time to make a real plan, don’t be too trusting. Research your options before making any decisions. Socialize in February, there are some people you just HAVE to meet!

Gemini/Gemini Rising (May 21-June 21)
Do THIS! Wow, Gemmi, finally some of the pressures of these past couple years should ease, you may find a new way of being in the world. Spiritual opportunities abound, meditate; also, sacred sex – YES. The end of February brings some interesting new career-related energy.

Cancer/Cancer Rising (June 22-July 22)
Do THIS! I know December was pretty bumpy, darling you need to take the time to ground down and be ready because January/February will bring you challenges that feel a little relentless starting with the Full Moon in your sign on January 1. Hone your daily routine so that it keeps you sane. Work-related stressors should ease a bit; be very careful with your committed relationship, whatever isn’t working between you can no longer be hidden; communication is key.

Leo/Leo Rising (July 23-Aug. 22)
Do THIS! Your daily work and health routines are going to be challenged and whatever isn’t really helping you MUST be re-worked. Loads of information will be coming in around the January 31 Full Moon Eclipse in Leo; something or someone has GOT to GO. You will be pushed to make hard decisions and choices; choose those things that help you to step into your power and make you want to ROAR.

Virgo/Virgo Rising (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)
Do THIS! Get those creative juices flowing, be sure to write down ideas – for best results, let your hair down a little, play and have fun! Children might be challenging or need more of your time. In February you are focused on your lover OR on finding one. Partnerships of all kinds are emphasized. Just make sure someone new is really who you think they are.

Libra/Libra Rising (Sept. 23-Oct. 23)
Do THIS! Financial opportunities are surfacing, just watch the tendency to overspend. Use the magic mantra of “no” often and well to conserve your time and energy. Home matters will come to the forefront and there will be some goodbyes. Resolve to create healthier daily habits to maintain your balance.

Scorpio/Scorpio Rising (Oct. 24-Nov. 21)
Do THIS! You’ve been prepping for this and now opportunities are flowing in. What do you really want? Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another, discern. Changes might be happening in your neighborhood or in your environment. Watch what you say and how you say it; you can be harshly truthful, and that might be even more true now.

Sagittarius/Sagittarius Rising (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)
Do THIS! Whew … it’s been hard, I know! But the hard knocks of the last couple years taught you things you needed to learn and you must take this new-found wisdom and share it with the world. Money matters and questions about how you spend your time and energy will dominate January. In February tend to home and hearth.

Capricorn/Capricorn Rising (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)
Do THIS! Sit down, my darling; take a breath. Because the Master Teacher Saturn moved into your sign in December. It is time to get your sh*t together. If you thought December was intense, wait for January. Big lessons, important decisions. Whatever isn’t working for you is going to break. Use your tenacious work ethic, and mend your life. The New Year for YOU is on the new moon January 16; launch your audacious year-plan then.

Aquarius/Aquarius Rising (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Do THIS! You cannot hide from big responsibilities during this phase; deal with unpleasant things using that classic Aquarian detachment. There will be pressure to deal with long-standing bad habits. February will bring a focus on money and what matters to you; your re-set New Moon is on February 15, and it’s an eclipse; fate will step in, notice what she is trying to tell you.

Pisces/Pisces Rising (Feb. 20-March 20)
Do THIS! January is going to feel a little like a haunted house; things will pop from the depths, old patterns re-emerging to be cleansed. So many opportunities to meet new people and be social, carve out time to ground down and conserve your energy. February is huge for you; many choices to be made, opportunity will knock. Some lovely love aspects too; just remember to love the person as they are – don’t fall in love with their potential.

Navigating the New Normal

And now. A new normal.

A world where hatred, cruelty, lying and misunderstanding bubble up from the collective and seems to be welcomed as acceptable and normal and powerful.

How do we react, those of us who are loving, kind, truthful, connected and watching these terrible patterns emerge ?

I see people who are fired up and pissed off. There is vitriol and provocation. Arguing and anger. Name calling and finger pointing.

There is also apathy and uncertainty. Confusion and fear. Ignorance and ignoring. The spinning of minds and the lashing of tongues.

When you refuse another person’s right to their opinion, how can you demand a right to your own? Agreeing to disagree – now, mind you, as long as you do not try to force your values or opinion on them – is okay. I think we’re getting lost in that process.

Dr. Seuss has a story called The Sneeches. Now the Sneeches, they all look alike; and things are grand; until a few of them get to wear a star. It makes them special; different; it separates them into factions. And the trouble begins. I am not a student of history, but I am a student of human nature. Good lord, look at any sports team rivalry; it’s human to split off into groups; to compare, to judge.

But right now doing that is dangerous; the most dangerous thing of all. If we divide, the fall is going to be more horrific than we can possibility imagine. Understand that some people have not spent any time thinking of the true consequences of certain actions. Their filter of experience has not yet permitted their mind to imagine some of the things that could go down based on their choices. And by pushing them into a corner, they become even more invested in their decision.

If all you do is mock someone; deride, call names, whatever; that slams the door on discussion. It sends everyone even further apart into their separate corners. It sends them to the place where they only hear back from others the precise things that are arising in their own minds. There’s no differing opinion or perspective. No insight or refinement of theories and concepts. No stories to share; no community to engage in.

And when things begin to go really wrong; and they will; those folks will look away. They will have no connection to those different people; to those who have this opposing point of view. Because it is happening to people they no longer have a relationship with; those suffering will have become less than human. They can rationalize things that happen to “those” people.

No one wants to live in that world.

A moment to tell you how I am feeling? My jaw drops open at a country that was founded by immigrants who now wants to exclude immigrants. My heart cannot understand a country that was founded by people who wanted the freedom to practice a religion of their own choosing and now wants to discriminate based on religion. My hand balls into a fist to think that someone thinks I am less important or intelligent or capable because I am a woman. I am frankly terrified for my friends who are transgender or whose hearts cannot help but love someone of the same gender.

These opinions I am happy to debate; to discuss; to try to understand and explain. But the moment someone tries to enforce these beliefs on me or others; that is the day and the time for conscious, intelligent action.

That is the day when you have to decide that you value the peace enough to fight for it.

Not a single one of us can control what is happening in our society. But we do have control over our actions, our words and our minds. It all boils down to trying to control the thing. To over-control life and the unfolding of the karma. Do not spend all your energy trying to grab the wheel of the ship and go against the current. Conserve your energy and be ready for the real battles which will be small and meaningful and built on the foundation of real relationships amongst real human beings.

In the meantime, maximum self-care. Set aside the distractions and confusions and information because even some of the good things are complete lies and subterfuge. There is almost no way to know what is truth and untruth unless you are seeing it with your own eyes and in person – not on the internet.

What is real? Well, some of the things you can’t actually see. The things you can feel and grow with your heart. Love; compassion; connection. Stick to your practices. Reach out to like-minded people. And yet, stay willing to listen, engage and try to understand those who are different from you. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings, living on the same planet. Like it or not, the fabric of our lives and this Universe is woven together; we have SO much free will; but always remember — there are Divine hands that cradle our fate.

Shanti,

Jill

Intention

We can intend things; we can plan, scheme, dream. I have often joked that if I went to Hell, I would be in the GOOD INTENTION section. Hey, if you end up there, come visit me!

*Joking … sort of ….*

Cause, I mean to do things; I intend; I aim; and I falter. Oh Lord, I falter. Time, circumstance; laziness. All kinds of excuses. I’m always looking for forgiveness from myself and others, or at least it seems that way.

Forgiveness for not doing what I intend to do.

Sometimes intention is complicated. It has to do with expectation, really. And we have to be able to adapt and adjust. Sometimes our intention needs to be redirected; we gain new information; insight; the winds of change blow us off course, and we have to adapt.

When my eldest baby was in the hospital as a nine-month-old, I remember sitting for hours in the PICU, rocking and nursing her; for hours that child would stay latched to my breast, little blue eyes staring up at me, making sure I wasn’t going anywhere.

I fully intended to wean her at one year; that was my pre-birth plan. Cause you know, you just don’t NEED to nurse beyond that time frame. There is no medical necessity. Cause you know, it’s easy to be the most amazing mother and have all the answers before having a child of my own.

Recall one of the nurses says to me, with a twinkle in her eye — “When are you planning to wean her?” “I’m going to wean her at one-year” I chirped, still dragging my pre-birth intentions into my current reality. “Let me know …. how …. that goes ….” she said; smiling knowingly. Some moments get frozen in time in your mind, and that is one of them. I knew she was right; in that moment, I knew my world; which was already tilted off its axis; my world as a mother wasn’t going to be the world I had imagined or intended.

I finally weaned the child when nursing her was throwing me into labor with her sister, who was six weeks away from her projected birthing day. My doctor yelling into the phone, “Wean. Her. TODAY!”

I am thinking a lot about intention. About goal setting; about what I really want to do and what really matters. And how I thought my life would unfold; the intention behind some of those choices; and how it has actually unfolded in magical, unexpected ways.  So much of the foundation of my current life was not something I intended to create.

This is a brand new decade for me.  I turn 50 this year.  It is the end of an era; which means the beginning of something new.

Looking back, my 40’s were incredible. Hard as hell, but incredible. Raising my children were my focus; my greatest challenge and greatest gift. I also raised myself this decade; an unintended consequence of nurturing my children and honoring myself.

The problems in my marriage forced me to find me. After the ups and downs; and downs and downs of my late 30’s, I enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training through the Temple of Kriya Yoga. I graduated from the program, surrounded by my new tribe, precisely on my 40th birthday. Auspicious.

The age range 42 to 44 is the classic astrological mid-life crisis, and I did mine up right. In addition to opening a yoga studio, I was mothering, trying to hold a marriage and a life together and processing a few other things.  As to Uttara, I always say – if you’re going to have a mid-life crisis, a yoga studio is not necessarily the worst path to take; but it is not the easy way out. The reality has been the deep connections to spiritual seekers; the experiences, friendships, service; I cannot even begin to describe all the goodness; it has been an unfolding of things that I could never have dreamed up, nor been brave enough to intend or expect.

This decade has also been full of heartache. My marriage split; and it mended; and it split. Tearing a marriage apart is awful; to tear a marriage apart with children, well – that is an actual hell I really hope none of you experience.  In the aftermath, I fell madly in love; it was a great four years (oh; okay, 2.5), and then that also crashed, badly. Had a more recent glimpse of happiness and love; two months; and he vanished, too.

It feels like the theme of my 40’s has been that no one wants all of me; not even me. It’s too much — all of my complicated life. It seems like the only acceptable way to handle it has to be in pieces and parts. And I get that. Most days, it’s a little too much. So if those are the lessons; if the outer world reflects the inner world, is the primary problem that I don’t want all of me?

I am thinking about how I am to set an intention for my 50’s. If the paradigm is “Maiden, Mother, Queen, Crone,” I am in the Queen phase. I’ve learned so much from raising my babies; I don’t have to be the darling girl anymore; and I don’t have to spend all my time trying to keep little ones alive. Can I simply set the intention to fully be the passionate, straight-forward woman I have become; and hopefully, everyone is ready for that? Especially, me?

The shift of the last few years has been about integration. Weaving my mothering/parenting life and my spiritual life and my work life and my love life and own personal needs along with my friendships – all those things coming together. To be whole and complete and I don’t have to be one “Jill” in one my part of my life and another “Jill” in the other. I’m just my fabulous- screwed-up-perfectly-human self in all my areas of life. No mystery, no intrigue. I just get to be me. There is an enormous amount of freedom in that.

But apparently, there is work to do. I’ll be honing my intention over the next few months. And also be open to being completely thrown down another pathway.  The astrology suggests we will all be gathering a lot of information. Huge change is coming, are you ready?

We are going to have to be enormously brave to launch this new era and protect what we value and love. What do YOU want? What is your intention?  Your desire?  Plan … dream … scheme … and stay open to all of the incredible possibilities.

Shanti,

Jill

Powerful Woman

So ladies — in case no one has yet mentioned it to you – it’s on us to save the World.

Yep.

I wish I was engaging in hyperbole or exaggerating. But I am not.

We’ve tried it the patriarchal way for a good long time now. And it is not working. Our communities, our families, our systems – they are all breaking and broken. The short-sightedness; the lack of consideration for the past or the future; ignoring the children, the elders, the natural cycle of things; the lack of care and understanding of the Earth and Her forces. The worship of money and negative uses of power. All of these things have conspired to place us where we are.

We bear responsibility as well. For too long we have stepped back; we have kept quiet and we’ve turned away. We have settled. We have allowed horrors to be wrought to our children, our sisters and our friends. We have pretended it is all okay when it is SO NOT okay. We have sacrificed our deepest needs and wishes and wants and dreams in order to maintain a fragile and illusory peace.

Part of this is because we have not come together to support each other as women.

Have you ever heard the story about the crabs in the bucket? And how when one crab begins to emerge, to claim freedom, those remaining in the bottom drag it back? That is what we women have been doing to each other for generations. When someone dares to step into their power; when another woman is smart or strong or beautiful or independent or bold or any combination of these things – that woman can rest assured that there will be another woman who wants to bring her down.

Sometimes it is unconscious; I don’t think we even know we’re doing it. I suggest it stems from generation after generation of women having to appease men in order to get their children fed; having to entertain and keep men who have no interest in commitment or responsibility. We have had to compete with one another in order to meet our most basic needs.

It is one thing to have a man leave you, but another to leave you homeless, powerless and with babies to feed. There are still places in the world where women cannot own property – they ARE property. Where girls are a commodity to be bought and sold and traded. These stories and experiences are coded into our DNA; they are a darkness within us that we cannot see unless we shine light upon them.

So here’s a question for you; what IS a powerful woman?

I will tell you what she is not – she is not an imitation of a man. And look, I’m not slamming men here – I LOVE men; a little too intensely for my own good, truth be told. And they bring us to completion and we do the same for them. I’m still looking for my match and the compliment to my strengths and challenges. I know together we will be an amazing gift for the greater World and … sheesh … I wish I could find him. United strongly together the masculine and the feminine are an incredible force that becomes more than the sum of the parts. You must recognize and uphold you part, and he’s got to figure himself out too; and even when you both stumble – and you will — you both must be willing to get back up and work really hard to weave yourselves whole and then together. So again, I ask you.

What IS a powerful woman?

My (current, could change any day) opinion? A powerful woman has a capacity for love and understanding that is vast and huge. She has a work ethic AND a play ethic; she understands the goodness that flows from joy and pleasure and creativity and yet she knows that anything worthwhile requires hard work and the commitment of time. She speaks her truth, and she does it with kindness; with empathy. She knows the power of words and language and cadence and she speaks through the filter of love and honesty and respect.

A powerful woman does not manipulate people; she embraces emotions but she does not use them as weapons. She understands them, steeps in them – has no desire to eliminate them or stuff them down. She also understands those emotions must be balanced with strength of mind and strength of heart, with the large cosmic picture in mind. She occasionally gets lost in them, these powerful energies that she is recognizing, uniting with … but they are her reminder that her essence is sensitive and tender and yet large and fierce and is deeply connected to the heartbeat of the Universe.

A powerful woman understands her own nature and her own mind; she is a student of herself and her instincts. She has learned the hard lessons of ignoring her truths; of discarding her intuition; of denying the needs of her mind and the needs of her body. She may not always listen perfectly, but she is learning and she is trying.

And speaking of bodies; she has befriended her body. Even as it ages and occasionally betrays her. She no longer scans the room to see who is more or less attractive than she is or more or less curvy than she is or has better hair or a whiter smile or whateverthehell else seems to matter in that moment in the culture (ladies, I’m calling you out on this one). When she sees a beautiful woman she thinks “Wow, look at that woman, she’s beautiful.” And if she’s really in her power, she’ll go tell that woman that she thinks she is beautiful.

She embraces the fact that her body is changing and shifting day by day. She understands the passage of time and though she may resist, she doesn’t fight. She honors that her body is an incredible gift; a body that can actually grow a human being; a body that can have many many many orgasms . She recognizes that her sweet, hard-working body deserves a lover who will take the time to unlock all her secrets and all her magic; and that she gets to choose who, and she gets to choose when.

A powerful woman nurtures the tribe; she sees what needs to happen for her own good, and for the good of her babies and beloveds; but she looks up from her own life to see the larger cycles within the cycle. She remembers that her babies will have babies and that she came from a lineage too; she honors the past as she peers into the future and she filters that information into the present as she lives each moment.

She doesn’t deny the rhythms of Nature. She no longer abhors the monthly bleeding (well, okay – sometimes she does). She follows the Moon, her guiding star, and she honors the seasons. She also gives herself permission to rebel in small ways, too — maybe she wants to color the gray in her hair or wear silk and sequins in the dead of Winter. That is okay, and she doesn’t judge or compare with her sisters and their choices.

I have been told that I am a powerful woman. even though that is a title I don’t feel I can claim, though I aspire. Often for me anything resembling power feels hot and heavy and too much.

When I feel powerless, I feel small. I feel vulnerable and too complicated or too sensitive to live in this World or to be in relationship with others. What changes that; what shifts that; what makes me feel like a powerful woman is to be helping someone else – to be tending, nurturing; to feel useful. I imagine for each person, it is a different thing. And it changes. The only constant; the changing.

I would love to hear your thoughts; your experience. What does it mean to YOU to be a powerful woman? To be in relationship to a powerful woman? To raise a girl to become a powerful woman?

Your definition, January 2017: What IS a powerful woman?

Shanti,

Jill

On Giving

Many years ago, when I was still married, one of my children was attending Fishburn Park Elementary in Roanoke, Virginia. Always try to volunteer at my children’s schools, even when working full-time makes it really hard. Usually I cook, bake … things I can do off hours. But this particular year, I volunteered to take some of the special education kids swimming at the pool located on the school campus. It seemed like a sweet, easy thing to do, and didn’t require many hours.

From what I can remember I only helped out once – the weather had to be just right, there were many variables; often the adventure was cancelled.

But the time I remember, I was assigned to a sweet boy named Jesus. His name pronounced the Spanish way, “Hey-sus.”

I don’t remember what restricted him to a wheelchair; I’m pretty sure it was cerebral palsy. What I remember was seeing this limp, somewhat meek child in his wheelchair. And then seeing this fierce, strong young man in the water. Because once he was freed of that wheelchair and was paddling; the boy was transformed. He was everywhere, his arms were so strong! The freedom, the smiles, the enthusiasm – there was no comparing the boy in the wheelchair to the boy in the pool. It was beautiful to see.

I talked to the gym teacher and he casually agreed – and said that there was a special wheelchair that would give Jesus the ability to play sports on land as well; a wheelchair that would give him the mobility and freedom that the water was giving him now. So I asked, how much? I cannot recall the exactly figure. But I remember it being a number I thought I could manage through personal donation and fundraising.

I went home and asked my husband if we could help buy the boy a wheelchair; offer matching funds, pay for part and have a bake sale, fundraising, I don’t know … something! And instead he offered to purchase one outright. I was so grateful.
So for several weeks, we emailed back and forth with the gym teacher as he researched the chair purchase and we figured out the details.

The subject line of each email read “Wheelchair for Jesus.”

That sweet boy’s name changed everything about the donation for me. And it shouldn’t have. But it did.

Cause it made me think. To see that subject line. To have my mind think “Jesus” and it was really “Jesus” and why is “Jesus” different than … “Jesus?” To realize that even though what we were doing was kind and it was and I’m not telling you this story because of that … but it made me realize. I didn’t treat everyone I met as a sacred, special person. Some people I favored and other people I tolerated and others I completely ignored.

What would it be like to live a life where I treated everyone I met like they were …. Jesus?

I tell this story today because I’m about to write my end-of-the-year donations. And now that I’m not married and it’s just my salary, my donations are small. But that doesn’t make them less important or less meaningful. Even small gestures matter.

Last year I wrote small checks to multiple organizations; and I won’t bore you with their names, but every EVERY one of them spent my fabulously tiny $25 or $50 trying to get me to give them more money.

Ugh.

So this year, I’m re-thinking my donations. Where I send my money and, therefore, my energy.

I’m going to continue my monthly donation to the United Nations refugee fund. It’s an auto-debit on my credit card. It’s like $30 a month. It’s all I can offer to the greater world at large and to the tragedies that are occurring in places I can only see on a map. It feels like nothing, but I have to believe it is something.

I’m going to make my annual contribution to an organization that one of my dear friends founded, Happy Healthy Cooks. She brings healthy foods and cooking skills into the inner city; to the poverty stricken schools in our area. It is good and worthwhile work, exposing children to actual vegetables, grains and fruits. And I know the overhead is low, most of the money goes to the babes. Worth every penny.

Gonna subscribe to my local newspaper. They sadly don’t deliver to my home because I live South of Nowhere, but I’m going to get it sent to my business. Independent news is about to be the everything; who can you trust? Actual independent research and reporting are so valuable. Truth is about to become a commodity. I’m voting with my dollars for a free press and, I pray, a free country.

And finally, to the Southern Poverty Law Center. An organization that I have some limited experience with but I have known to be authentic and true and willing to come to the aid of those without. The court system is currently intact. I vote with my money that the ability to find a fair court of justice and authentic representation will help keep things in balance as the future unfolds.

I also commit myself to abundance and generosity. I commit to prayer and meditation; to creating more light, more peace, more love in the world. Oh, 2017, you have instilled great fears in me; fears for my country, fears for myself.

Sometimes it feels lonely and scary and overwhelming. And then, I remember Jesus.

Oh, 2017; I vow to give you every chance to be amazing.

Shanti,

Jill

Sangha Sadhana

uttara_octrd1-203The word “Sangha” translates as community; tribe; a group of like-minded individuals. You know when you’ve found them. You feel safe; you feel welcome; framily. These are your friends, but not your acquaintances. These are the people who really have your back.

I feel like we’ve all been seeking our tribe more ardently the last few years. We are beings who crave community; and we live in a time when community is fragmented at best, and fractured at worst.

The word “Sadhana” means spiritual practice. The definition is fluid; it will not fit in a box. For some, it is a weekly visit to church. For some it is a daily meditation practice. For some it is a way of being and doing in the world, 24×7.

After the election many people have been asking “What can we do to help?” How do we help knit together our communities; help to heal the divisiveness and separation and unknowing and distrust? One of my dear friends decided to begin teaching English as a second language; I know others who have made financial donations to groups who are working towards lifting up those who have been left behind. But we cannot always do what we aspire to do to help; we have day jobs and families and less and less money it seems.

But I know a way to help.

It’s called meditation and it’s called prayer and if we do it together, as a collective – if we send out a heaping wave of help; I promise you – it matters.

My first experience with collective prayer occurred when my first child was born. Beautiful tiny human. All my life, I had wanted to be a mother. And here she was! Perfect and amazing! And at the very first check-up, four-weeks … the pediatrician listening to her heartbeat …. Wow, he was listening for a very long time.

Thorough is good, right?

He looks up and says he would like her to see a specialist. That there’s something a little unusual about her heartbeat. The nurse comes back in with an appointment slip for a cardiologist. And the appointment is for tomorrow.

I am thinking this is not good.

And it wasn’t good. Except it was. Yes; she had a hole in her heart; and another anomaly, too. But yet, it was a “simple” repair; as simple as open-heart surgery can be. Fifty years ago, she would have died.

And with my child barely a month old, these words, “open-heart surgery,” “easy repair,” and “keep her healthy” and “feed her on demand” were so scary and so hard.

At nine months she began losing weight. Little heart rotating so much blood through the hole that it was time to fix it. Found an amazing surgeon at Duke. Best doctors, great support, good insurance coverage. Every gift, every blessing, every bit of support.

It was still Hell on Earth.

We travel; rent a hotel room; prepare. At the time I had an amazing church community in Roanoke. My dear friend Suzanne coordinated a prayer vigil. From the minute we got up to prepare for the surgery (four-freaking am …) to the minute she came out, my friend had people committed to pray for us in half-hour segments.

I still remember the alarm going off; so little, ragged sleep; the dry-mouth, the hollow stomach. The crying, hungry, sleepy baby. I wasn’t allowed to feed her; how do you explain to the nine-month-old that no, no nursing, no milk – cause they need to crack your sternum open and … yeah.

But I also remember the feeling that someone was with me. Someone, somewhere, was on their knees praying for me and for her.

I will never forget the power of that feeling.

And throughout the day; from the preliminary blood work; from the moment when she fell asleep in my arms and they allowed me to bring her into the operating room and set her on the table. So much machinery. So damn cold in that room. And a man wearing scrubs and preparing equipment and I lay her down on that metal slab and say to him “please, take care of my baby.” And I walk out and sob into my open palms. Through it all, someone was holding me who wasn’t there at the hospital. The support felt so real and huge and it meant the absolute world. I could feel it. Every minute.

From then on, I became the person who organized prayer vigils. For so many people and so many traumas.

I left that spiritual community for many reasons. And this past Summer, the concept of the power of group prayer came up for me again. When things were feeling so chaotic; when it felt like everyone was talking and NO ONE was doing, I organized a prayer vigil for peace. Just a simple post on Facebook to organize. And it BLEW UP. I was getting calls and texts and messages and in the shortest possible period of time, I had a huge group of 50+ humans committing to 15 to 30 minute slots of praying for peace.

And it was palpable. That whole day felt so amazing. We were committed. We were together. We felt connected.

SO.

All this is to ask you to commit to a daily practice of prayer and meditation. For our people. For our Country. For everyone on the planet.

Maybe; MAYBE. If we commit to a practice and we are all sending out that vibration, we can create a shift. We can weave the fabric of our humanity together.
We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Please consider this ten-minute practice daily. Or at least occasionally. Feel free to amend, edit, and make it your own. This is very simple. If you want a more detailed practice, then email me, please – Jill@UttaraYogaStudio.com.

And I commit to you; to sit on my meditation cushion; or maybe even stand in the shower; or relax on my couch with a cup of coffee and my eyes closed; and let my mind move through this practice and send out this vibration. It doesn’t have to be perfect or rigid. It just needs to … be.

1. Begin, comfortable seated position; eyes closed; observe your breath.
2. Say any type of prayer or invocation; AUM is always beautiful.
3. Observe your breath; each breath alone is a sacred meditation; sit in silence and relax your body, your face, your tongue, and watch your breath.
4. Imagine white light coming down from the Heavens above and saturating your body; then envision white-light roots coming down from your body and connecting to the Earth. Light flowing from above; connecting through you; and sinking into the planet.
5. Send white light to spread throughout the planet and then throughout the solar system and then throughout the Universe.
6. See a symbol that represents our country; whether it is the flag or an outline of the country on a map … whatever that is for you ….
7. Wrap that symbol in bright, golden-white light.
8. Cultivate the feeling of compassion; of acceptance; of love.
9. Then see you … YOU … sitting in front of you.
10. Wrap YOU in the same light and feel the same compassion. Healing you heals everyone. Never forget, we are connected; you and me.
11. Take a moment to send light to wrap around anyone you know is struggling; don’t send it straight at them, wrap it around them and allow them to choose to receive or reject. Do not interfere with their soul’s purpose.
12. End with a moment of silent listening; and then a moment of petition or prayer.
13. Close with chant, a prayer, whatever feels like will bring the practice to completion.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t have to be ANYTHING really. It’s your intention that matters; your intention is more important than the action.

Shanti,

Jill

Meditate?

Back in September I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland with my daughter to take her to University. It was our first trip there, and we had a lot to do in the short time I could stay in town. Every day was packed with paperwork, finding our way around town, and a good deal of shopping to outfit her kitchen and flat with everything she would need for the coming school year.

Weave in the intensity of taking my first baby off to college. Off to another COUNTRY to college.

Yeah.

So one morning we’re first thing on the subway, zipping into the city center to shop for bedding and kitchen items. My mind was very busy with lists and we were both steeped in the emotionality of this big change. Sitting on the train I realized; I had not taken the time to meditate that morning.

So I closed my eyes; Resurrection Breath (a quick double exhale through the open mouth over the left shoulder; it’s a Kriya technique); and began my little inner routine. Bringing in the light through my crown; letting it fill my body; growing light roots down into the Earth. Then filling the planet with light; and sending that light out through our solar system and beyond to the entire Universe.

I have a technique for protection for my beloveds; and a regular practice of various techniques to work with energy. But that morning I didn’t have much time. So, I let my mind clear with “Hong Sau” Kriya and after a few moments I wrapped up my literally four-minute meditation by posing the question “What do I need to know today?”

Most days it is a very benign thought that arises; usually encouragement or some minor insight. On this morning, the little voice said “Watch out for the man in blue.”

Watch out for the man in blue? Huh?

Okay.

Wrapped up with my prayers of gratitude, and when I open my eyes, I mention to my daughter the warning from my meditation. She gazes around the subway car. “Mom, every man on the train is wearing blue.” Ahhhh – yes, okay. Right. The train stops and it’s time to go.

Off to our first adventure in the shopping district of downtown Glasgow. In and out of shops, someone is playing the bagpipes; we’re taking pictures, soaking up the scene. My emotions are flooding me; a hot mix of excitement and fear and awe and fear and pride and fear and fear. This town, this place I’ve never been to before – this is where I’m leaving my baby!

As we are walking down the crowded street a man with a clipboard approaches me and comments on my malas – the prayer beads I wear on my wrist. He knows what they are and begins to talk to me about a kirtan camp that he leads somewhere in Scotland. Now, anyone who knows me knows I talk to EVERYONE, something that drives my children absolutely crazy. So here I am, having a little chat about kirtan. And suddenly, I glimpse over his shoulder the face of a young girl; she looks me straight in the eye and says “run.”

Run?

And I’m looking from him to her from him and to her and again she says – “Run.” In that two second gap while I am processing what she is saying, and he is talking and my mind is racing and there are crowds of people all around us. She says it a third time, though this time she is yelling. “RUN!!!”

Suddenly my mind seizes what she is saying, and I wrap my arm around my daughter and we literally begin dashing down the street. When we coast to a stop she chastises me. “Mooommmm, you do not have to talk to EVERYONE Mooommmm!”

We continue on with our shopping trip. So many decision and things to consider; what is essential, what is frivolous. Purchase pillow, blankets, bedding, silverware, cutting board, plate, mug, peeler … it goes on and on. I want to think of everything; want my baby to have what she needs.

It isn’t until we are sitting at dinner that night when my daughter casually says to me “Did you notice what that weird guy who stopped us was wearing?” I paused and thought back …. “No – was he wearing a white shirt?” “No, Mom” she replies. “He was dressed all in blue.”

Oh wow. The man. In blue.

I still have no idea what possible danger he posed. Was he a well-known pickpocket or something? Do people native to Glasgow know him as a con-artist? And who was the angel-girl who appeared to tell us to run? I don’t know.

So why am I telling you this story?

Because I want you to meditate.

Seriously. If we’re gonna save the world, we’ve got to start working with the incredible power of our minds. We need to take the time to listen to ourselves, to our guides and to our untapped connection to all of LIFE.

Often people think you have to sit for an hour to meditate; that you must have some secret technique or live in a cave. People think that those of us who do meditate sit for long periods of time with no thoughts; no mind, as it were.

Let me dispel that myth.

Most of your meditation practice is just concentration. It’s training the mind. Think of it like a puppy; if you don’t train it to sit; if you don’t train it to do certain things at certain times and in certain places, then it just makes messes. Like a puppy, your mind gets into shit it shouldn’t get into. With the untrained puppy there will be literal shit, everywhere. With the untrained mind, we unconsciously create and gravitate towards thoughts that are precisely what we do NOT want.

Mindfulness is the current sexy lingo for a meditation practice; but really one yields the other. To be absolutely present in the moment is a form of meditation. When my dear friend talks about surfing, he talks about completely being in the moment and all else dropping away – that is a type of meditation. When you’re loving on someone and you merge together, the moment of orgasm – bam – your mind stops grasping. It’s a glimpse at perfect happiness and contentment; for even just a second. That’s meditation, too.

Sitting on your cushion thinking “sheesh, my back hurts.” Yes, that happens in meditation practice, too. Cause remember – it’s a PRACTICE. You have to do it over and over and over. For me, it’s taken years of practice to be able to slip over into a meditative state with little effort. And even now, there are days when I sit on my cushion and all I do is watch my poor little brain spin on something and there is no true meditation. Not a single gap or moment of peace.

It is still worthwhile on those days because it helps me to be compassionate with myself and my mind. Even if the only place I get to is thinking “Goddess bless Jill and her little spinning brain today. She’s doing the best she can.”

That glimmer of compassion for myself is enough.

My dear friend and Uttara instructor Wendi Wagner is holding a workshop on Mindfulness and Meditation coming up on December 10 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. If you’ve ever had an interest in learning to work with the mind; learning to harness that power and find peace and stillness within; this is a fantastic opportunity to explore.

Another option is the Guided Meditation class we have every Sunday morning at 9:15 am. It’s only $5 to drop in and take it and each week one of us is there to guide you through a half-hour meditation.

There are lots of resources online; plenty of podcasts and books and information. But one of the best ways to start is just to sit down; to close your eyes; take a couple deep breaths; and effortlessly seek out those tiny gaps between your thoughts.

They exist. I promise that they do. And those gaps of silence and space are more healing than you can imagine.

Shanti, Jill

mindfulness2016

Food for Thought

img_20160404_130730908This past Spring I attended an incredible week-long course at the Ashevillage Institute (www.ashevillage.org) in Asheville, North Carolina; it was called “Resilient Living.” The premise is this: what happens when sustainability becomes … unsustainable? That is where resiliency comes in. To be resilient means you are adaptable; how do you work with what is available to you?

Reminds me very much of what Goswami Kriyananda predicted based on astrology about this time frame in history. As the systems break down, we have to figure out what works; and do THAT.

It was like summer camp for grown-ups. And I think going back to some of the old ways, to claim a certain level of food independence and to become even more adaptable are going to be critical in the coming cycle.

So I spent a week with a diverse group of people from all over the country who had come to Asheville to learn a variety of skills that I am sure our great-grandparents took for granted. We learned garden design, permaculture and seed saving techniques. We learned about catching water and creating water systems; how to build soil and how to compost. Listened to lectures and took workshops on beekeeping, homesteading and mushroom inoculation. We studied with a master herbalist; learned about tinctures and natural medicines; and also learned all about food preservation. Canning, drying, fermenting, freezing — the works.

There were lots of written handouts and hands on experiences. A couple field trips, too. We spent a memorable day at Wild Abundance (www.wildabundance.net) with the incredible Natalie Bogwalker, work with natural building materials and see her gardens and homestead. Her fire, enthusiasm and independence were so inspiring.

We spent an afternoon with Luke “Learningdeer” Cannon (www.astoundingearth.com) learning about wild plant foraging. So much to learn from this incredible man. I can typically walk through the forest and identify a few trees and many plants and flowers. But he had befriended them all and knew their uses, habitats and how to spot them in all seasons. From him I brought home the idea of trying to eat at least one wild-growing food every day – even if it’s just the leaf from a violet. That plants that seed and grow wild have a very different vibration than plants that are farmed in neat little rows at the farmer’s discretion. One of the many fascinating concepts we were introduced to during the week.

Other inspiring teachers included Marc Williams (www.botanyeveryday.com), Asia Suler (www.onewillowapothecaries.com), and Becky Beyer (www.bloodandspicebush.com), not to mention the incredible staff at Ashevillage.

We also had a lunch lecture with Charles Eisenstein (www.charlesiesenstein.net) to discuss his book Sacred Economics. I really enjoyed listening to his viewpoints on society and the future as it relates to economics.

Interestingly enough both Charles and Asia, people I met that week in Asheville, have posted very pertinent and informative pieces on the recent election. They both offer a unique and, I think, incredibly wise ways of looking at what has happened to our society and where we can move forward from here.

Sometimes when you come across writing on the internet you are uncertain whether to trust what you are reading; you want to know the source. I feel very connected to both of these people having spent time in their presence; I really hope you will sit down and take the time to read both of these articles. They will help us through the coming days, months and years.

The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story

Your Power Can Change Everything

 

Shanti,

Jill