Affogato: The Dessert of the Year

Personally, it’s been one helluva year! This is the year I discovered the affogato. For those who have not heard of this perfect Italian dessert, let me explain. An affogato is espresso—aromatic, rich, and earthy—in a cup large enough to accompany a dollop of delicious, sweet, and creamy gelato. Buenísimo!  That’s affogato. I love affogato because it celebrates the bitter and the sweet, the hot and the cold, in a way that is balanced and deliciously satisfying.

My biggest affogato moment in my life happened this this year when I closed two yoga studios exactly one week before I married the love of my life. Ever noticed how kick-ass and ass-kicking have two totally different meanings? That’s affogato. While I was going through this roller coaster of events in my life, I could almost hear a voice from above saying, “Please keep your arms and legs in the ride at all times.” One afternoon, earlier this year when I was driving home from teaching, I was heavy hearted, worried, and stressed about the business. I looked up into the sky and swear I saw a cloud that looked exactly like God’s hand was offering me a fist-bump. Serious! It was a message like, “Bro! I know, wild ride. But don’t worry, I ga-chew.” And you know what? Despite the bitter worry and heart-break of closing my studios, I’m doing better than ever, moving forward in my career with a sweet stride, and thriving in a way that I could never have imagined. And what’s more important than business is that I’m completely thrilled to be exploring this amazing new marriage with a truly incredible woman. I’m setting off on this adventure expecting both the kick-ass and the ass-kicking moments, the sublime and the struggle. It’s with the woman I adore, the woman with whom I expect to spend the rest of my many years, right up until the day we decide to roll our motorized wheelchairs into an active volcano together. Now THAT’S affogato!

Holding two extremes together has really been my overall lesson this year. Moments like when my truck got stolen along with my Chubby Hula Dancer adhered to the dash and tons of people came together to help me out and offer me their support. Now, my truck and Chubby Hula Dancer are celebrities. Kind people I don’t even know stop me in the store and tell me that they are happy that I got my truck back. The struggle of getting my truck stolen and finally returned reminded me not about how selfish people can be that they would steal my ride, but how good, generous, and loving people are in the face of a personal fiasco.

Another affogato moment this year was fulfilling the dream I’d had for several years to host one of my most influential teachers, Dr. Richard Miller, for a weekend of incredible practices and teachings about yoga nidra. Practices like yoga nidra teach me that life is neither all bitter nor all sweet but something bigger than both. More poignantly, yoga nidra teaches me that my true identity is both the bitter and the sweet and therefore fundamentally large enough to hold either and both when they come. After Richard Miller’s final session, I stuck around the studio to conduct a meeting so I could inform all the studio’s teachers and staff that we were going out of business. Later that evening, I was attending a special good-bye dinner with Richard. He asked me why I had gathered all my teachers after his last session. I told him that I’d just announced to all my teachers and staff that we were closing the studio. He paused for a moment as a big smile spread across his face. He leaned into me and said, almost in a whisper, “congratulations!”  He understood that my struggle of closing the studio was inconsequential compared to an exciting new journey of personal growth and expansion without it. It reminds me of Matsuo Basho who said, “The moon is brighter since the barn burned.” Yoga and mindfulness has taught me that the beauty of life comprises the largeness of the entire experience, good and bad. Just enjoying the sweet isn’t large enough. Ananda means beyond joy. It means seeing the whole mind-blowing experience as complete and perfect. Balanced.

Warrior II poses helps remind me of the affogato nature of life. To me, Warrior II represents the warrior pulling back the bow string and focusing forward at what you want, where you’re going, and how you’re getting there. Hitting your target is a matter of balancing opposites. A master archer will unify their mind with the target. To find the still-point to release their arrow, they must ride the dance of the breath so as to release the arrow in that fleeting moment of stillness after the exhale. If the archer is too rigid, they’ll shake and won’t have a clear vision of the target. If the archer is too loose they’ll not have the stability to keep the bow steady. The balance is found somewhere between effort and ease. Affogato!

As you’re summing up 2014 and preparing for 2015, remember that just like in Warrior II, you must keep your focus on what you want, where you’re going, and how you’re getting there. Find the rhythm of your breath and balance effort and ease and you’ve got the winning chemistry that is ensure that you hit your mark. Remember that life is the beautiful balance of opposites.

What were your affogato moments this year? How do you think appreciating this truth can help you prepare for the next year? Please add your voice by leaving a comment below.

And if ever life feels like an official ass-kicker, try a kick-ass affogato at my favorite family-owned Italian restaurant, Cannella’s, at 204 East 500 South in Salt Lake City. Their veggie lasagna is also out of this world.

So I raise this affogato cup to you all and toast to the death of 2014 and the birth of 2015. To the bitter and the sweet!