A Wife’s Musings on Father’s Day

SeptemberI was blessed to have two parents to love and raise me.  However, my father passed quite a while ago.  I did not have the opportunity to interact with, and understand his role as a father, from the perspective of my adult self.   So it wasn’t until I became a mother and, with my husband, lived through the adventures, celebrations and surprises of raising children, that I found a deep appreciation for the lessons a father can impart.   My husband is a wonderful father.  Watching him teach our children their important life lessons has also conveyed valuable information to me.  There are four lessons in particular that I’ve learned from watching my husband fulfill his role as a father.

1.  There’s no such thing as loving too much.  My husband wanted to be a father to our children.  Not necessarily their friend.  Sometimes looking out for the best interest of someone you love requires telling them things they do not want to hear, including but not limited to: you’re grounded; that will not work; you are not being your best self.  Loving completely can sometimes result in deep hurts and disappointments.  Fortunately, where love flows freely and without condition, the toughest moments can be endured and the greatest disappointments are softened.

2.  Your bank account is very important.  Not for how much you earn, but for how much you spend.   Generosity is a quality best taught through example.  My husband believes money is nothing more than a tool that should be used to create a positive impact and memories.  At times this philosophy meant fabulous gifts and trips, but it often translated into an active involvement in charities that help others.  He made a point of bringing our kids into these efforts from an early age.  Their participation spanned from attending black tie galas to manning ice cream booths at charity picnics.   We all learned that touching someone’s heart or easing a problem lasts much longer than a dollar.

3.  The best gift you can give to someone is the knowledge that you will always have their back.  My husband made the word “father” synonymous with “stability” and “safety”.  I don’t think we ever grow out of wanting to feel that we’re not alone in the world.  To feel that there is always a safe place, and a person, who will look out for us.  My kids and I have been given a platform that we can grow from, and take risks from, knowing there’s a net if we fall.

4.  You need less in life than you think you do.  My husband actually taught me this before we got married.  Before I became a parent.  At a point in our courtship, my husband told me the details involved in the dissolution of his first marriage.  They were young, wounded, and interested in going their separate ways as quickly as possible.  My husband believed a protracted negotiation over the division of property wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest.  “There’s only 2 things I need in life”, he told me.  His two things were his kids and his canoe.  He took them both, left the rest and started over.   Decades later he has built a life and a family.  He became a successful and happy businessman, father, and husband.

He also became a great teacher.

“Fitness for Action” & Rethink Yoga Raise Money for the Sandy Relief Fund

I have many very clear, and very happy memories of growing up on the Jersey Shore.  My extended family convened every summer weekend in a tiny bungalow at Seaside Heights. Aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and cousins would claim various corners to sleep in.  My cousins and I grew through the stages of sharing outdoor showers to sharing late night secrets and teenage worldviews.

Summer days at the Jersey shore offered the rhythm of predictability. Go to the beach, kill time with whoever was there, read a lot of books, pack up and get back to the house in time to help with dinner.  The big event of every weekend was the late night trip to the boardwalk.  My brother and I would be given a minimal amount of money with which we could buy tickets for rides and play games in pursuit of that summer’s most coveted stuffed animal.

The Jersey shore is a suitcase full of memories for the may tourists who have experienced it, but it is the lives of the people who built their homes and businesses there.  For those people, Hurricane Sandy’s damage is still being felt even as the headlines fade.   It’s generally accepted that there will be an emotional cost with the loss of your home and belongings.  However, it’s also becoming clear that the financial repercussions will be far-reaching and substantial.

It’s been months since Sandy struck and the recovery is tediously slow.  Many homeowners are still unable to enter their homes because the roads have been washed out.  Driving through neighborhoods shows orange stickers on the doors of one house after another indicating they are unsafe for occupancy.  Parents and children are still in evacuation shelters that have become infested with mice and roaches. Living in public housing means dealing with over flowing toilets, and days without hot water or food. When the electricity goes out the elderly and infirmed are marooned on upper floors of buildings.

It ’s also becoming clear that not all home and business owners will be able to afford the cost to rebuild. The current political landscape in our country, and our highly debated national debt, created a delay in approving federal aid to NJ that was only resolved last week..  This now means the businesses that are the backbone of Jersey shore commerce will not have time to rebuild before this year’s tourist season begins.  While these locals will not have their seasonal income, they will also be facing many increased expenses. New building codes will mean higher costs to rebuild homes. Insurance costs will increase due to new flood zone mapping, and taxes are going up. The effort to recover from this disaster is clearly long term.

I got involved in StudioLiveTv.com’s “Fitness for Action” campaign to help these people who are being forgotten in the press and stalled in our political process. I will always feel a connection to the Jersey shore from my childhood and I’m grateful for my memories that survive Sandy’s destruction. These people didn’t only lose their homes and their livelihoods, they lost the foundation of their life.  A yoga class can’t rebuild a neighborhood, but it can help reestablish a sense of community.

StudioLiveTv filmed my “Finding the Strength at Your Core” class and has posted it on their site at www.studiolivetv.com/sandyrelief.  You can make a donation to the Sandy Relief fund and take this class, or any of the other wonderful classes that were contributed.

Mary Poppins’ Guidelines For New Year’s Resolutions

When I was a kid, I thought I would grow up and become a nanny. This had nothing to do with wanting to care for children.  I was not a child who played house or collected baby dolls.   I also was not having a premonition about becoming a yoga teacher that would provide a service from her heart. Wanting to become a nanny had everything to do with the fact that I loved the movie Mary Poppins. What I really wanted to do was fly around with an umbrella. I used to dress up in what I thought was a precise facsimile of Mary Poppins and practice jumping off the kitchen table. In the movie the 2 children make a list of the qualities they’d like in a nanny.

As an adult, watching the Mary Poppins movie evokes a different reaction.  There are wonderful life lessons to be found in the movie. Although not a classic winter holiday movie, some of the lessons to be found in Mary Poppins can help us get through the often self destructive ritual of establishing New Year resolutions.

Much of Mary Poppin’s advice, throughout the movie, is about finding balance: taking your medicine, but adding the sugar that makes it tolerable; working hard, but making it fun. Her advice on setting goals is no different. These two guidelines for setting and achieving New Year resolutions are best approached in balance with each other.

  1. Set a positive, affirmative resolution. Ensure that your desire is coming from your soul rather than your ego. Then let the universe take care of the rest.

Early In the movie the 2 children, speaking from their souls, create a list of the qualities they’d like to have in a nanny. The list doesn’t match their father’s priorities so he tears up the paper and throws it in the fire.  At that exact moment a wind comes and picks up the pieces of paper and floats them to Mary Poppins who finds the family and becomes their nanny. Of course, she meets and exceeds everything the children had hoped for.

Setting a resolution, investing all of yourself into your desire means investing in the process of achieving what you want.  It’s then important to let go of the end result allowing the universe to pick it up and see it through will bring you to your highest potential.

2.  Thinking about what you want will only get you so far.  There comes a time when you need to take the leap.

On a cold, rainy day, Mary Poppins takes her charges to the park.  On the sidewalk they see colorful chalk drawings of a summer in the country.  The young girl stands before a drawing of a beautiful sunny and says, “I’d much rather go there.” Hand in hand they find the trust and jump into the picture.  Their leap of faith is rewarded with a summer day in the country, dancing penguins, horses and plenty of music.

Whatever your resolutions are for the coming year, make them clear. If you can picture it, and truly understand what you want, investing in the process means taking a leap of faith. When you are willing to take the leap, you can get wherever you want to be.

What I’ve Leaned As a Yogi Who Eats Meat

I’m not a very good cook.  I watch cooking shows with the same sense of amazement I have watching aerial artists.  I can’t go into the kitchen and make something fabulous with whatever is there.  I need to work from a recipe. I have some yellowed cookbooks that have served me well since college, and there are some great websites available for any style or odd ingredients that I’m trying to use.

I tend to cook vegetarian and definitely buy organic ingredients. I think eating organic, and locally grown, grown food is a responsible way to be kind to our environment. However, I am not a vegetarian.  I eat meat about twice  week.  When I eat meat, I am careful about the amount and where it comes from. I like to keep my diet as clean as possible, and as free from processed foods and chemicals as possible.  My diet mirrors my general philosophies which do not tend toward extremes, absolutes, or imposing my way as the only way.  

I was vegetarian for a long time but I found that, especially with the amount of teaching I do in hot yoga rooms, I was getting very tired, and I felt weak. My body and muscles were never fully recovering from the physical activity.  On the other hand, the quality of the meat I eat can also have a negative impact. For example, if I eat fried or fatty meat like a hamburger, I don’t digest it well.  I work with a preventive health and wellness doctor, especially since I am entering menopause, to determine what is the healthiest foods and supplements for my body and lifestyle.  In general, I feel better with higher amounts of protein, including small amounts of meat, than other people might need.  Ultimately, I think deciding how to feed and fuel your body should be based on your personal requirements, a knowledge of your body, and not what someone else tells you is right.

Within the yoga community the concept of ahimsa is often tied to vegetarianism.  Ahimsa, the practice of non-harming must start with not harming yourself.  Treating yourself well and fueling a healthy body are important pieces of ahimsa.  Any choices about how to feed your body, should be mindful and well considered, but ultimately they need to reflect compassion and care for yourself.

The practice of ahimsa is a good deal broader than not eating a hamburger.  I’ve given a lot of thought to this quote from  Autobiography of a Yogi“This world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa. Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. He is not under compulsion to feel anger or animosity.”

Violence shows up in our lives from the fear that causes humans to go to war, to physically and verbally attack each other.  Violence shows up because we are out of balance from our over scheduled lives in which we mistreat ourselves, and end up erupting at others. We feel powerless in our own lives and we cause violence to others by trying to “fix” their lives and make ourselves feel better.

If we each work to conquer our fears, create balance, and reconnect to our personal power,  we would be making greater strides toward the practice of ahimsa than eating tofu.