Why I Wake Early

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Sun Salutations

I awake today and sit enjoying the silence of a beautiful morning. Even as I sit, I'm watching the bright morning sun dance its procession around my front room. It is playing with the crystal hung in my eastern window and splattering rainbow prisms across each wall.

Even as I look, the color changes and fades, showing me that the earth is revolving around this sun. Things are changing. As I look out the window the sun is celebrating these early autumn trees with its light, making the yellow leaves explode with color against a cloudless and pale-blue sky. I see a small bird sitting in a shadow who decides to leap up higher and rest in the bright sun's warmth. And then it begins to sing.

Aren't we all like this bird, eager for the creature comforts of warmth on our skin, eager to leave the shadows for the sun and the opportunity to feel life pulsing through our veins, eager to feel how we may reflect that same brightness and joy through our song?

And perhaps this is why in yoga we practice celebrating the sun with Surya Namaskar, or sun salutations. Surya means "sun" and Namaskar means "a deep honoring." You might notice the same root word Namas as the base of the word Namaste, another Sanskrit word meaning to honor the True Nature or heart of hearts, the most sacred element and potential of another. Surya Namaskar is like offering a Namaste to our source, the sun, as it brings life to us and everything on this planet and we're dependent on it for all aspects of our well-being. Sun salutations are also a physical practice, a ritual, for acknowledging and honoring anything else you feel is your source (God, Creation, the Universe, Buddha nature, or whatever). But just as important, this practice reveals that we are part of that source and reflect a bit of that same light within ourselves. By acknowledging this similarity between ourselves and our source we empower ourselves with the memory of our True Nature. We are not dark creatures in a dark world, and where there is shadow, we can choose to leave it for the sun or shine light into it. We are beings of light, filled with life and love. And we are here to celebrate that, to learn from it, and to shine our light everywhere.

Mary Oliver.jpg

Uinta Mountain Yoga Retreat October 5–7, 2018

Mary Oliver says in her poem Why I Wake Early:

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Please join me this week as we practice Surya Namaskar and other poses to remind ourselves of this bigger picture. We show gratitude, rekindle our fire, and celebrate our own light.

Scott

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How To Meditate: A 30-Day Meditation Challenge

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How to Meditate.jpg

I love to teach yoga and meditation because I feel it's my calling to help people become the best versions of themselves so that they can go and bless the world in best ways they know how. 

The world needs people who are present, living their lives mindfully, and growing into their True Nature with a regular, dedicated meditation practice. The world needs YOU to be operating at your highest potential. 

Regular meditation is perhaps the most effective way to evolve into your highest self. Presence is the key to experiencing your birthright of magnificence. A group of meditators benefits the world in vast ways, bringing magnificence into the world like expanding ripples in a pond.
Some of the most common personal benefits of regular mediation are:

  • Spiritual awakening
  • Reduced stress
  • Greater focus
  • Understanding your purpose for the world
  • Greater compassion
  • Being less reactive more responsive
  • Greater happiness


Like any worthwhile endeavor, meditation takes practice. So let's do it together!

Join me in a meditation challenge, a group that will meditate every day for 30 days. This challenge will benefit you personally and will make the world a better place. 
 

The Challenge:

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You will meditate every day for 30 days for 15 minutes or more. That's it. With the support of the group, you will have the encouragement and connection to tap into the power that happens when a collective of people are meditating together. Even if you meditate at different times, the power of intention that connects us will empower you and enable your greatest benefit.  

If you are new to meditation, this is a perfect way to start a new life-long practice. You will receive in-depth explanations, teachings, and follow up to demystify the art and science of meditation, and establish yourself firmly in your practice. 

If you are an experienced meditator, this is also a perfect way to join this powerful collective to bring new heights to your practice and open new doors and awarenesses. 

While I will be sending out guided meditations, you can also choose any style of meditation you'd like. We will each be tracking our meditations every day using Insight Timer, a mobile app designed to help you time and track your meditations.

Once you register, you'll receive emails and resources to encourage you and support you along the way, including teachings and explanations about the why and how of meditation. Plus, you'll receive an invitation to some live group meditations via Zoom or in person depending on where you live. Live sessions will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah. You'll be able to see and comment to the others in our group who are also doing this 30-day challenge. 

This next 30 days will change your life as well as the lives of everyone around you! 

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Once you Register


Once you register, you'll receive a welcome email with information about:

  • Specifics of the challenge
  • Live meditations
  • Many forms of meditation you might choose to do
  • Downloading the app
  • Live group meditations, virtually via Zoom, an online meeting platform or in person
  • A catalogue of guided meditations, both my catalogue of recordings as well as literally thousands on Insight Timer, which you can keep to help support you on your medative journey.
  • Receiving supportive emails 

What does this cost?


I'm more interested in you succeeding and the world becoming more mindful than I am making money, so here's what I'm offering:
The 30-Day Meditation Challenge costs $30, so that you'll commit to it. And everyone who completes the challenge, meditates everyday using the app for 15 minutes or more, can opt to get a FULL refund of their tuition. No hassle. No questions. So, essentially this is free! My deepest desire is that I don't make a dime on this project!


I invite you to commit to your own wellbeing. I know you can do it and I'll support you every step of the way. Join me!

Register

Fill out the form and press submit, then click on the PayPal button.

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After the Fire

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I closed two yoga studios about 4 years ago. Running and closing those studios has been two of the most challenging things I've ever done.

It's really difficult to run a small business. I fought every day just to keep the doors open. Eventually, we had to close our doors; the studios weren’t sustainable. I wish I knew then what I know now about running a business. Ironically, I learned volumes about running a business by closing my business. One of the most important things I learned was how to rebuild my life when things don’t turn out the way you hoped they would.

At the time of my businesses closing, I wished there were a manual for how to rebuild your life after you’ve just suffered a massive blow. During that difficult time, I received some divine guidance during a meditation, instruction that seemed absolutely perfect for me in my life, like a manual to start to rebuild. 

Step 1. Put out any fires that are still burning.

Step 2. Practice forgiveness as the key to allow forward movement.

Step 3. Allow for new possibilities without the story of the past to jade the future.

In order to get some clear perspective, I had to get out of town for a few weeks to clear my head. I closed my studios and literally one week later got married to the love of my life. Yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My wife and I went on a honeymoon to Europe coupled with me teaching a yoga retreat and getting out of town really helped me to gain perspective. I felt reinvented as I came home from Europe, ready to tackle some of the challenges that were still looming as the result of closing my studios.

The situation still felt raw, like was just coming to, sitting on a neighbor’s lawn, my face black with smoke and soot, my old house just burned down. And in a real way, many things about my old business were still smoldering and smoking but that old thing, that old life, old bachlorness, that old business, was razed. To. The. Ground. There was only one, exciting thing left to do and that is build a new life forward. And while this situation was scary, it feel freeing to look forward into the future. 

The Shivanataraj is the statue you often seen in a yoga context. It’s a depiction of the Dancing Shiva and represents the male/female creator of the universe in the dance of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and ultimate rebirth . . . over and over and over again. This statue teaches me that I’m involved in a process, one that will probably happen several times in my lifetime.

This understanding of moving in cycles made me feel better, like all of this was expected somehow. The Shivanataraj statue shows Shiva’s many arms and legs gesturing in the dance of all this continuous change while wreathed in flames. And despite all the craziness, despite the all the change, despite the fact that Shiva’s hair is on fire, Shiva’s gaze is calm, steady, forward. Shiva even has a calm little smile on his face like this is just another day in the burning universe.  

We are all somewhere in this process of birth, sustaining, death, disillusion, and rebirth. What are the things you need to do, need to avoid, need to plan for in this life that is burning in this moment.?

And finally, while our universe is spinning and we are all dancing around with our hair on fire, may we keep our steady gaze forward, centered in our most divine Self and the Divine, whatever form that may take for you.  

Here’s a poem I love that speaks to discovering the new chapter in your life.

The Layers

BY STANLEY KUNITZ

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

Hawaii Yoga

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

The Magic of Going with The Flow

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It’s been almost two weeks since I finished my yoga retreat along the Amalfi Coast in Italy, just enough time to come home, get settled a bit, and fly to Ireland to support my dear friend, Kim Dastrup on her retreat along the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

 

All the heavy work for the retreat happens the months prior to the retreat through bookings and emails and such but once we are all there, I can lean back and settle into that thing I truly love to do which is to teach yoga and meditation. There’s so much planning involved for every little detail of the experience. I really want everyone to feel nurtured for the entire event and provide the right conditions for them to touch that deep part of themselves that only yoga and meditation can. However, one thing I’ve had to develop is the skill in being able to learn to read the energy that is coming toward you and to go with the flow rather than trying to push the current. It was a lesson to learn to be spontaneous despite all of the planning and wanting to control things to be perfect. Somethings you simply can’t control and to try to do so will diminish the opportunity.

 

Every day on the retreat was excellent but one day was impossibly perfect mostly because of our ability to just go with the flow and accept everything that came our way.

 

Amalfi Coast yoga

We woke up for our early morning sun salutations, pranayama, and meditation session, had breakfast, and then did our mid-morning flow practice. I had a set plan for each practice but based on how people were moving, what everyone was feeling, I altered each practice despite my plans. For example, I intended for a long meditation in the morning practice but I could really feel the groups need to move. Still, I knew we’d be hiking later that day so I didn’t teach too many poses that cooked the legs.

 

After, our morning practice, we ate lunch then embarked on a hike for the afternoon with the possibility of a swim in the cerulean blue ocean of the Amalfi Coast.

 

Before we left for the hike, Franz, one of our Italian hosts, pulled me aside and quickly informed me that his cousin (he seems to have an entire country of cousins) was planning a “sunset concert and pizza party” and that it would cost about €15 per person but if we wanted to we could do that for dinner rather than having our regularly planned dinner at the retreat center. He gave me no other details.

 

This was certainly a deviation from our plan but something told me despite the relative lack of details, this was going to be really cool. So on a whim I made the executive decision that this is what we’d all do for the evening, despite the lack of details.

 

Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga

Molly, our other Italian host, left with us do drive a to where we would begin the hike. Again, we didn’t have all the details of the trip but knew it would be cool. People wondered how strenuous the hike would be, how deep the water would be, what the temperature would be, and honestly I didn’t know. Even with our host with us who had hiked this trail many times, we simply couldn’t plan for all the details of the rigor and temperature etc. but then again, nor could we plan  for or expect the stunning beauty we experienced along the way.

 

We parked the van and began our long hike which we learned was a pretty steep downhill. It finished up at a tower overlooking the ocean, something which looked straight out of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. To the side of the tower was a slightly sketchy path leading down to the ocean and some of our group decided that the hike was enough and hedged their bets and didn’t hike down to the ocean. For those of us who did, we found a 20-ft. cliff and further down a slight ledge from which to jump into the swelling, lapis currents of the ocean.

 

Each ocean has its own personality and this one was deep and blue and welcoming. Soon several of us were in the water and a lightness and gaiety took over the attitude of the group. People were laughing and jumping from the cliff. Even after a small jellyfish stung two of the swimmers there was a bit of hilarity examining the sting marks on one of the retreater’s butt.

 

After a good long swim, we got out, dried off, and made the ascent back up the hill. It felt much steeper on the way back, especially carrying my now sleeping toddler.

 

Panting, hot, and sweating (and some of us taking turns carrying a sleeping child) we crested the hill feeling exhilarated by the ocean and the hike. At the top of the hill, not far from where we had parked the vans, a few men, in typical Italian restaurant owner fashion, gestured for us to sit at an outdoor table, nothing more than a plastic folding table and some chairs, for a glass of water, limoncello, or beer. It took exactly no coercion for us to sit at their table and order their food and drink and we cooled off, laughing about the hike, the swim, and jellyfish.

Amalfi Coast Yoga
 
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga
 
Amalfi Coast Yoga

Once we got home and showered up, we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon practice, with a much needed dose of Yoga Nida (guided guided meditation). Again, I’d planned a bit of movement for the afternoon practice but feeling the energy of the group, I kept it very chilled out and focused largely on the Yoga Nidra.

 

After practice we got dressed up for our sunset concert. I was expecting a garage band in noisy town square with pizza from a nearby mom ’n pops. But instead the van wound its way up the steep hills near Sorrento, latticed with vineyards and lemon orchards, only to stop at an majestic, private villa. We got out of the van and marveled at the stunning villa and walked its immaculate grounds overlooking the bay of Naples. The villa was hundreds of years old and restored to a stunning rustic elegance. We sat outside under a gazebo, sipping prosecco and watching the sun dip into the bay. Meanwhile my little guy instantly made friends with a few older Italian kids whose parents had brought them.

 

 

After a about a half an hour of settling in, happy to be resting our legs, sore from our hike, to our great pleasure, two musicians in tuxedos came out, took a graceful bow, and sat down and began effortlessly and flawlessly plucking away at the most sublime classical music for mandolin and guitar.

Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga

 

A collective smile spread across our faces as their music stirred our hearts, their perfectly harmonizing notes echoing off the hills. It all felt so perfect and impossible. After each song we erupted with applause and bursting with joy and happiness over the perfection of the moment.

 

After a few numbers, another man in a tuxedo came out and began singing Italian and Spanish opera selections with a powerful but smooth tenor’s bravato. Not only was the music enchanting, but the joy of the musicians as they played and sang that was positively contagious. After each number, we offered a genuine smiles gushing applause and the musicians beamed with smiles and laughter and the joy of it all.

 
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga
Amalfi Coast Yoga

Eventually, with the sun set and music done, we stood around and marveled at the surprise and beauty of such a fantastic evening. Soon, a beautiful old woman began bringing homemade pizzas from the kitchen, baked in its original wood burning oven. The pizzas were unbelievable and we all stood around sharing stories and laughing while night deepened.

 

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Periodically, I’d meet up with Elio who had spent the entire night thrilled at running around with his new buddies. At one moment, Elio took me by the hand and led me away from the party to the dark edge of the property, intent on showing me something very important. He led me by the hand to the dark edge of the spacious property and pointed into a grove of lemon trees lit up by hundreds of miniature shooting stars, the fairy-glow of fireflies. “Can you see the monster eyes, Papa?” Elio said in wonder.

 

 

New York Yoga Teacher

After the party wound down, we were still on a high and forced the van driver to stop off for some gelato in the nearby town next to the retreat center. We came home with our faces sore from smiling and laughing and marveling over the unforgettable day, everything from the yoga, the hiking and swimming, and then the unforgettable concert and party we had at the villa. None of it could have been expected or planned for. It all just happened and was beautiful and magical.

 

This experience clearly taught me how when you go with the flow rather than trying to control every aspect of every detail, you open yourself to things otherwise magical and unknown.

 

Tell me a story about when you were surprised by going with the flow.

(GTA) Grand Theft Auto: A Study in Mindfulness pt. 2

Part 2: Chubby Hula Dancer Rides Again!

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This post won't make sense unless you read pt. 1 so go back and read the previous post and then come back to read this one. 

GTA

(Grand Theft Auto)

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When my truck, Nina, was literally stolen from out of my hands, being very nearly killed in the process, it gave me a lot of time for reflection if only for the simple fact that it takes longer to walk places instead of drive. And despite being "mindfully pissed off" about the whole thing, I also had time to reflect on the many family members, friends, and acquaintances who had stepped up to help me,  whether that was to loan me their car, offer to take me somewhere, or simply share space, laugh, and swap stories. 

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After telling the yoga community about getting my truck stolen, many people said that they would also like to have a 1" sticker on the back of their car because it reminded them of the Wendell Berry poem that states that the greatest journey we will ever travel is the journey of 1" "by which  we arrive at the ground at our feet and learn to be at home."

I made more stickers and sold them to anyone who wanted them for $5. If I could only sell a couple thousand of those stickers, I could buy myself a nice reliable car and enjoy the metaphor of the ground at my feet rather than the cold, hard truth of it.

One woman, Penny, who bought a sticker also gave me a bag of Four Barrel coffee, the brand of coffee the sell at The Rose Establishment, (the coffee shop I went to directly after getting my truck stolen) and attached a note to it that said, "Because anyone who just got their ride stolen deserves a good cup of coffee." I was touched that she'd not only remembered my story but would also go out of her way to give me such a special, and heart-felt gift. Plus, it was damn fine coffee. 

My friend Nan let me drive her car for a few days.

My dad is awesome. He's retired and during my transportation crisis he allowed me to borrow his car for a few weeks.

Then, my good friends Christy and Brian called me and said that they owned two cars and were looking to get rid of one, the one parked in an auto-cocoon in the driveway which needed some repairs on the clutch. It was a 2001 Subaru Forester. We agreed that we'd tow it to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance, and if the repairs weren't too extensive, I could pay for the repairs and $500 for the car. Fortunately, the repairs were only $300 and so for $800, I scored a car that ran better than my previous ride.

She's had low miles, clean interior, AC, cruise control—the whole bit. Getting that car felt like a big win. My dad also helped me get the Subaru to the shop and even sat with me at the DMV while I registered it (I know, right?). Then we went the Red Iguana for Mexican food, because everyone who just got a new ride deserves "killer Mexican food."

I had wheels again! And as I rolled down the street, I was overcome with the generosity of my friends and family. 

I brought the Subaru home and parked her in the driveway and what really made the experience complete is when I put another 1" sticker on the back. Then, she really felt like part of the family. 

Then, just two day after I started rolling around in my sweet, sweet Forester, I received a phone call from the police department informing me that they had found my truck! They asked me if I could come right then and pick it up. It wasn't far away, stashed in the parking lot of an apartment complex about 5 miles away.

I told the SLCPD that I was literally about 5 minutes from jumping in and teaching my Thursday morning 10:15 am Restore Yoga class and that there was no way I could come right then, but that I'd be free in about an hour and a half. They informed me that they had called the fingerprinting team who needed to dust the truck before they could release it to me anyway and that if I called back as soon as I was done with my class, there was a possibility that I'd avoid having to pay tow and impound fees.

See, in order to protect my vehicle from whomever stole it, the police have to tow it from where they found it and impound it so Truck Thief can't come and move it somewhere else. The down side is that this isn't a service the city offers for free. I'm the one who has to pay for tow and impound, usually runs around $200.

So, as I'm teaching my Restore Yoga class, questions like, "What kind of shape is my Nina in? What did they take and does it even run?" were swimming through my head and making it difficult to concentrate. After class, I wasted no time calling the police department and told them that I was on my way. They informed me that they had already called the tow truck but if I got to Nina before the tow truck did, I could avoid her from getting hoisted away.

I was off and soon learned just how speedy my new Subaru could be as I broke a few land speed records to get there. Just as I showed up, the tow truck operator was at that moment hoisting Nina onto the back of his truck. She looked frightened and battered but generally ok. I approached him and explained the situation. He told me flatly that he'd been given orders by the cops to tow my truck and that nothing but the OK from the cops could stop him from taking it. I tried fruitlessly to explain and even tried calling the officer to have him explain the situation but my phone at the time was in its palliative care stage of its life. Like many in this state, was about  to go to cell phone heaven and the battery just wasn't working well. Every time I connected to the SLCPD my phone decided to spontaneously power down and preventing me from getting the OK not to tow my car.  So, exacerbated, I told the guy, "Fine,  tow it and I'll meet you at the impound yard so I can talk to your boss."

I zipped over to the impound yard, a lovely place that looked like a parking lot for zombies. I entered the make-shift office, a long narrow room with dirty carpet, a couch that looked like it had been towed from off on the side of the road, and an obscenely large television blaring loud day-time TV commercials.

Behind the desk sat someone who upon first sight clearly displayed a super power—apathy.  I pled my case to Apathyman. I told him that I didn't want to have to pay $200 to impound and tow my car when the police said I didn't have to pay. He began using his super power immediately and mumbled something about being powerless, other than his obvious super power for Apathy, of course. Defiantly, I asked to talk to his boss.  Apathyman gave me a number to call to Bossman, who must have taught Apathyman everything he knew. He only said, "Let me make a phone call." Five seconds later the phone in the office where I was standing rang. It was Bossman talking again to Apathyman. In mere seconds, Apathyman hung up the phone and informed me that they were going to impound my car. To see them work together was almost inspiring, they were like the Stokton to Malone duo of shittiness.

To add insult to injury, Apathyman also told me that I couldn't just pay the fee and roll away. I didn't even know if my car rolled. He told me that in order to get my truck back, I'd need to go to the DMV to get an impound release form then bring it back to the impound yard, pay the fee and then I could take the car. It's easier to adopt a baby from Russia than it is to get your car outta hock. 

I left my truck at the impound yard and rolled away fuming mad. I had another yoga class to teach and I wondered how I was going to try to teach being centered when things were so crazy in my own head. 

I made arrangements with my good friend John to pick me up after my class. We went to the DMV and then back to the Zombie Parking Lot and the House of Hopelessness, home of Apathy Man, to get my truck back. We spend all afternoon running around and attending to the minutia. Finally, I'd retrieved the necessary forms, paid the fees, and Apathyman reluctantly gave me back the keys to my truck.

Just then it dawned on me that I hadn't even seen the inside of my truck. I wasn't sure what they'd stolen, what condition it was in, or if the truck would even start. So with reticence, I approached Nina. As I opened the door, I saw the front console was torn up a bit, the result of stealing my car stereo that wasn't working anyway. I think there's a special pawn shop for car stereos that don't work, very valuable in certain markets. Truck Thief had ransacked everything leaving it a total mess. I opened the shell and looked in the bed and saw that they had stolen my and my wife's yoga mats, cuz even truck thieves need to get centered and loosen up the muscles that tighten up during dramatic heists. I hoped that one day I would see him in class reevaluating the direction of his life. 

Then it dawned on me—something important was missing. More important than my stereo, more important than my yoga mat. Oh, no! Where was Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer! She wasn't on the dash! They kidnapped her, NOOOOOOOOO, those bastards!

Feeling broken hearted, abused, and completely frustrated, I tried my best to put my dashboard back together the best I could. Then I sat in the seat and put the key in the ignition and prayed she would start. Can you fuel a car on anger and despair?

Even before she was stolen, Nina sounded pretty hard thanks to her rusted out muffler and non-existent tail pipe. To my great surprise she did fire up however, now she sounded more like Howlin' Wolf than Nina Simome. But at least she ran.

I rolled out of the Zombie Parking Lot and waved a thank you to my friend John who sped away. I drove straight to my trusty mechanic, Peak Performance. They kindly looked Nina over and informed me that she was basically fine but that Truck Thief had stolen the catalytic converter, part of the exhaust system, because there is some precious metals in there, like palladium, the same stuff my wedding ring is made of. I would have to get that fixed if I wanted to drive the Truck. I drove directly to the muffler shop and asked them to please hook me up with another catalytic converter and while you were at it, fix the tailpipe, all of which was going to cost me around another $450.

I took the bus home feeling sorry for myself after such an emotional and harrying day. But as I was walking home from the bus stop I couldn't help but think of all the people who had helped me out. I thought of everyone who had wished me well and offered condolences and an understanding moment of bewilderment after seeing my ride stolen. I thought of Nan who loaned me her car for a few days, and my dad,  who let me tool around in his truck for almost two weeks. I thought of Brian and Christy who gave me a screaming deal on a new ride. I thought of how nice it was to ride my bike places. I thought of how nice, accommodating and professional, Peak Performance had been to have fixed my new ride and advise me on my old one. I thought of John who helped me out by running me all over town, who had shown up on my door steep the day Nina had been stolen asking if there were anything he could do, like run errands or just offer a listening ear. I thought of the cops who'd found it and who despite everything really had an air of generosity in their tone. All of that. My pity party didn't last long in the face of all that generosity and good will.

So, the next day, I rode my bike a few miles to pick up my truck from the muffler shop. I put my bike in the back of Nina and drove away, quieter than ever I can remember her sounding, feeling like this truck hadn't run that well and sounded that good in several years. And even though I knew it would add to the rust, I decided to go against protocol to give Nina a wash. I took her to a car wash and spent the better part of an hour cleaning her inside and out. I wanted to get the kidnaped feeling scrubbed off of her. It was a little traumatizing to see my fingerprints still smeared on the dirty window on the driver-side from where I'd tried to hold on as the guy was literally stealing my truck from my own hands. You see, I caught him in the act but not fast enough to stop him from bolting off and almost running me over in the process. I reassembled the dash, the result of ripping off my stereo. Then, other than the hole where my stereo used to be, everything was back to normal. Better than normal, really.

chubby hula dancer.jpg

And then to my immense surprise and pleasure as I was vacuuming under the seat, guess who was hiding? Yes, Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer!  From what I can deduce, sometime during her kidnapping, she used all her hula-power strength  to unstick herself from the dash and jumped down to hide under the seat to wait for the storm of car thieving to pass. I picked her up, brushed the dust off of her blue plastic grass skirt and placed her redemptively back on the center stage of the dash.

As I dove away from the carwash, without a song on the radio (without a radio), just the satisfaction of a clean car and my Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer swaying to the smooth purr of a well-exhausted engine, I felt that everything was right in the world.  Watching Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer's happy dance reminded me that somehow, every moment is an opportunity for celebration.

Whoever stole my truck, my stereo, my catalytic converter, and my yoga mats also gave me something in return. Something very small but unspeakably valuable. Resting in the seat next to the dismantled dash and various trash, was a blue rubber bracelet honoring the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Fascinating, right? This bracelet is a symbol of people coming together in the time of such tragedy and horror.

Boston Bracelet.jpg

And that's exactly what this bracelet did for me. This bracelet reminded me that despite any tragedy or fiasco, ranging from a bombing to getting your ride stolen, human beings have an amazing power to come together and to show up, love, and support to one another in the face of hardship. I roll more smoothly and with more ease after all this truck stealing business.

For a few years,  I kept that blue bracelet in the hole in the dashboard where my stereo used to be. I rarely think of the guy who stole from me but often think of those who gave to me, so generously and lovingly from their hearts at a time of trouble. That bracelet reminds me how good people can be.

Despite everything, getting my car stolen has shown me that yes, there are some careless, rude, and probably desperate people who might steal your ride simply for the low-hanging fruit of its parts and almost worthless stuff inside, but that there are dozens more people who will freely give of their love, help, and support quicker than you can say "hotwire my ride." This experience of getting my truck stolen has reinforced my faith in people more than tarnished it. And even though the whole thing experience me around $1500, I'm the richer for it. I'm rich in the form of friendships, love, and support. I'm rich in the mere experience. The story itself makes me rich. 

It's my prayer that as we practice yoga and meditation, we look inside and see is a being filled with love and light. May we understand our own brightness and then spend our energy shining our light into the dark corners of the world. My invitation to you is to choose some way to shine your light to others today. Send a text and let someone know you're thinking about them. Offer to help someone out on the side of the road. Understand your light and use it to brighten everything around you. Maybe this good will is what really makes Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer move. Not jazz organ. 

The way to steal someone's heart is by giving your own. 

Who knows, maybe one day while teaching a yoga class, I'll recognize my yoga mat under someone else's feet. I'll know that the person on that mat is on their way to finding the light that is within them, regardless if they stole a ride to get there. We are all on this journey together, though some of us tend to take the long and hard road to get there. 

Namaste, everyone, including you, Truck Thief. I honor the light that shines inside of me and shines inside of you . . . somewhere. Thank you for ripping off my ride to show me the meaning of generosity, love, and kindness. 


Grand Theft Auto: A Study in Mindfulness

Yoga Amalfi Coast

Yoga Retreat Along the Amalfi Coast

May 26–June 2 2018. Only 3 Spots Left!

Part 1: Chubby Hula Dancer's Last Ride

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Ever feel like life is all some absurd cartoon? Let me fill you in. This story is how my truck got stolen and how it helped me be more mindful. 

See, I used to drive a wonderful old truck ('93 Nissan) which was very generously given to me in February 2006 when crisis came to visit for a winter. Different story, different day. 

chubby hula dancer.jpg

My truck's name was Nina cuz she was red and sultry like Nina Simone and sounded like she'd been smoking without a filter and drinking gasoline her entire life. Over the years, I'd put a little money into her to keep her running, but largely she was a wonderfully reliable part of my life.

Nina was a great old lady. She was missing a tailpipe, her radio was broken, sun visors missing, driver's side mirror broken, and one of the windows on her shell was shattered, but she started up almost every time. It was a stark moment when I realized that the exterior had reached such a point of dereliction that washing her would only harm her more. 

I had a constant companion riding shotgun in this rusty ride. Affixed to the dash was Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer. Over the years I'd learned that we share a love for jazz organ music. I know this because that's when did her best dancing. I mean she REALLY got into it. I'd often car-dance along with her but I couldn't compare to the sweet moves of Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer.

1"

Another fun feature of my ride was the sticker on the back window which read 1". You know those stickers people post on the back of their cars that simply say 26.2? They are bragging rights for those who have trod the distance of a marathon. Well, I made a sticker in the same style that simply read 1". And yes, in a hyper-masculine world of lift kits and truck nuts it takes someone very secure in his manhood to roll around town with a 1" sticker on the back of his truck.

The sticker is a references to one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry called "A Spiritual Journey." 

"A Spiritual Journey"

26.2.jpg

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,

no matter how long,

but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch,

very arduous and humbling and joyful,

by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet,

Nina 1 inch.jpg

and learn to be at home.

To me, this poem reminds me that the greatest journey I will ever travel or the greatest place I might ever hope to arrive is the distance of 1", to the ground at my own feet, the awareness of my True Self, the real, Divine me, and to feel at home in my own heart, and to know whatever lives there.

Honeymoon is Over

So, in August of  2014 my wife and I were living in Salt Lake City. We'd only been married for a few months and already we had been through tremendous highs and lows. Literally one week prior to getting married, I'd closed the doors on the two yoga studios I owned, both of which had been limping along for years. But getting married was bliss and we'd just come home from our honeymoon to Greece and Spain where we lay on the beach, ate pastries with abandon, and fell deeper in love with each other.

Before getting married, I had been under enormous stress and now, back from our honeymoon, I was eager to move forward in my life with more bliss, happiness and stability.

Not long after coming home from our honeymoon, Seneca's car, received a terminal diagnosis from the auto shop and we decided to sell it—I posted it online and it sold in 14 minutes for cash. So, for a few weeks were sharing my truck. Sharing a car made getting around a little tricky but we managed. Compared to the stress I'd already had that summer, the stress of sharing a car was nothing.  

Super-human Core Strength

One Saturday we decided to drive my truck down to the Farmers Market. We parked and walked the few blocks over to buy our produce. 

On our way back, we returned to the place I'd parked my truck and it wasn't there. Instead, it was parked about 100 feet away in a different spot. Confused, I started to think through the possibilities: Had I left the truck out of gear? Maybe it started to roll and someone had kindly parked it on flat ground for me? Was I parked illegally and law enforcement had moved it? Was there a free valet service at the Farmers Market? I hadn't given anybody my keys.

 

None of these options made sense and as I got closer to my truck I saw someone milling about it and it dawned on me what was happening—someone was stealing my truck at that moment!

I broke into a dead sprint toward my truck and the Truck Thief. Truck Thief saw that his heist's owner was bearing down toward him and panicked. He immediately jumped into the cab and started the engine. I saw that he had parked in front of a large concrete barrier and couldn't move forward and I soon arrived arrived to the back of the truck before he could back up preventing him from getting away. I began to scream at him to stop stealing my truck. 

At that moment, Truck Thief and I had the exact same thought: There's no way to steal this truck with someone standing behind it. Truck Thief soon thought of a different option, one I had not considered up to that point, which was to run over the lesser of the two obstacles blocking his way (read the crazy dude standing with his hands on the back, screaming).  Without a hesitation, Truck Thief threw Nina into reverse and floored it. Fortunately the tires we pretty bald, giving me a warning screech and a half of a second delay to jumped out of the way. 

As the truck whizzed past me,  I did the first thing that came to mind which was to grab onto the half-rolled window on the driver's side and proceeded to run with him as he was backing at an incredible speed. I don't know what I was hoping for with that desperate action. I'm a yoga teacher and I know that with enough core strength you can do anything. Perhaps I thought that if I could just lift the car up, immobilizing all four wheels, I could hold it there until the cops came. For a brief second we were our faces were mere inches apart. And though I was so close, I honestly can't say what his face looked like because it wildly distorted with a look that said, "Holy shit! That dude's running next to me and holding onto the window while I'm stealing his ride!" 

He then popped the truck into gear and shot off, ripping my hands from the window and tearing out of the parking lot then down the road like a fugitive, leaving me standing there like an idiot—but an idiot who didn't get ran over. Seneca stood 50 feet away and watched the entire event transpire in complete horror.

After it was all done, we stood there staring at each other with a look like, "Well, that just happened." It was over in 10 seconds or less.

We called the police. They filed a report.

Then we walked a half block to one of Salt Lake City's best coffee shops, The Rose Establishment, to have some coffee and wait for someone to come and give us a ride. While waiting for our ride, I posted on social media, "Because when someone has just stolen your truck, you deserve a really nice cup of coffee." While waiting for the baristas to make our brew, it dawned on me that in a matter of two weeks, we had gone from having two cars, to one, to none. And while we don't mind walking, it feels differently when you gotta walk cuz someone ripped off your ride.

Mindfully Pissed

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Here's where this get's a little deep. This might sound out there but, even while my truck was being stolen and then directly after, I felt a strange sense of grand awareness about the whole thing. Even while it was happening, I could see that in the big picture, what's true is that getting your truck stolen really isn't that big a deal. In fact, in some ways it feels completely absurd, like I'm staring in my own cartoon, as my friend Nan puts it. I'm sure I'd feel differently if the guy had ran over me. 

Yet with the very same awareness that getting your truck stolen is ultimately inconsequential, came the realization that what is also true is that my smaller self has real and intense feelings about getting my truck stolen. Despite my intermittent "grand awareness," the stoic and bland "it-is-what-it-is" mindset doesn't cut it with me. Not entirely. "What it is" sucks! And to deny that is to deny the part of me that despite not having the grand awareness, still exists, at least to some degree.

Yoga and meditation has taught me not to deny my feelings but rather to drink them in and thereby use them to illuminate the True Self, tools for practicing being aware. 

Awareness of the True Self is actually about freedom. The freedom , for example, is to be absolutely present with emotions, not to deny them. So with that in mind, I felt free to choose to be mindfully pissed off and honored my primal need to shout loudly through my clenched teeth every four letter word I know . . . besides love . . . and hope . . . and nice.

I wonder if Truck Thief was thinking to himself, "I'm very mindfully pinching this dude's ride. Vrrr-Ommmmmm."?

As I saw my truck reseed into the distance, my 1" sticker reminded me that the crucial step along the journey toward the True Self is to be at home in my heart and to learn to be comfortable with everything as just it is. This spiritual journey of 1", like Wendell Berry says,  is "arduous, humbling and joyful by which I arrive at the ground at my feel and learn to be at home." And at that moment I was forced into learning this lesson which lay at my feet because for the unforeseeable future, I would be walking. 

Driving It Home

May our practice, whether on or off the mat, be to strive to always experience this "arduous, humbling and joyful" journey of the human experience to the fullest, and use the events which befall us as tools to become ever more aware of our True Self. Be the small self of emotions and the True Self with the grand perspective. Practice this and be responsible and kind to other people. 

 GIF at https://tenor.com/

GIF at https://tenor.com/

Sometimes this life really does feel like some wild Sponge Bob Square Pants episode that the Divine is Netflixing alone on some late night while drinking a beer and eating some non-GMO corn chips and salsa.

In the big picture getting my truck stolen wasn't very important. I actually enjoyed riding my bike for a while, burning off some of the pastries I ate while on my honeymoon, and simultaneously burning off some of the anger resulting from getting my ride pinched. 

I'm sure Chubby Hula Dashboard Dancer never danced for Truck Thief as wildly as she did for me. 

And while I pedaled around Salt Lake City,  I hoped that Truck Thief would return my truck with a full tank of gas.

The story continues . . . 


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    Selfie Conscious

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     https://9gag.com/gag/ag3Pe1K/mona-lisa-selfie

    https://9gag.com/gag/ag3Pe1K/mona-lisa-selfie

    The following is a rewrite of a piece I did a few years ago and which was recently published on Medium  under the title Selfie Awareness. It outlines and experience I had which taught me more about being conscious with trying to capture the moment with photos and selfies. 

    A few years ago, I was in Paris for the first time, visiting the Louvre, perhaps the finest art museum in the world. While there were many paintings I’d been waiting my entire life to see, and I know I’m cliché here, the Mona Lisa was primo on my list.

    I mean, almost 60 years ago, they tried to insure the Mona Lisa for 100 million dollars* but had problems because many felt that the sum was much too low, and that was 1960s dollars. Today, they value the painting at closer to 800 million!

    Fun fact: Napoleon used to have the Mona Lisa hanging on his bedroom wall and would spend hours in rapture starting at it.

    So finally here, and giddy with anticipation, I stepped into the spacious, well-lit gallery, dying to get a glimpse of the most (in)valuable painting in the world. There she was at last! At a distance, I could see the renaissance rockstar enshrined on her own dedicated wall, protected behind a guardrail and bulletproof glass, and flanked by two bouncers.

    Suddenly, the hallowed hush of the Louvre was irreverently replaced by the din of excitable tourists. As I approached her, I felt pressed in a hot vice of adoring fans, all craning to ogle the most mysterious woman on canvas. The venue felt transformed into an arena at a rock concert where I was squeezing through hordes of fans, desperately hoping to making eye contact with that infamous seductrice and her inimitable half-smile.

    As I jockeyed my way forward, I began to notice something very peculiar. Nobody was looking at the paining. Not really. Rather, everyone was looking at the viewfinder on their smartphones, tablets, and cameras. More than taking a moment to drink in this priceless work of art, most people were worried about getting the perfect photo of it.

     http://catnapsintransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1382338_10151797344753183_1393716417_n.jpg

    http://catnapsintransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/1382338_10151797344753183_1393716417_n.jpg

     http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-35031568/does-mona-lisa-have-a-hidden-personality

    http://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-35031568/does-mona-lisa-have-a-hidden-personality

    And as I looked around at the crowd, I noticed a distinct pattern. People would fire off several photos, including a few selfies with the Mona Lisa, then without so much as a pause, would scurry off to some other masterpiece to do likewise. For what? To brag to their friends that they were in the same room as the Mona Lisa but never took a second to actually see it?

    Something about this phenomenon is natural human behavior. Hasn’t everyone been guilty of experiencing something extraordinary, a resplendent sunset, an aromatic cup of coffee, or a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa, and we’re afraid the moment will end, so we try to capture it with a photo because doing so and posting it to social media will somehow make it permanent?

    And have you ever tried to show some innocent, unsuspecting person the photos of that moment? It goes like this, “Here’s the great hotel I stayed at, only it’s so much nicer than the photo suggests, you should really see it. Oh, and here’s the most amazing latte I had at the perfect café, but you had to be there, this photo doesn’t do it justice. Here’s the Mona Lisa but she’s much smaller than you’d expect. . . ”

    This is when you look up to see your friend’s eyes gloss over or start to check their watch. The photos don’t translate because the optics of the picture represents only the smallest part of what you hopefully experienced in the moment. Or which perhaps you didn’t experience . . .

    Trying to capture any moment ironically prevents you from having it in the first place. It’s because you’re thinking about the future rather than experiencing the present. To really experience a moment requires a practiced presence with all of your senses. Your senses are an incredible tool for presence.

     Photo permission by John Cottrell

    Photo permission by John Cottrell

    Without being present to the experience, when you’re back at home, looking at your dozen or so selfies with the Mona Lisa, you’ll have no connection to that moment. The photos will mean about as much to you as they would to your friend whom you abused with photos of your latte The photos won’t recall an experience you thought you had because you never really had the experience to begin with.

    And this is getting a little Zen here, but since our identity is the product of our ability to pay attention, if you weren’t present with all of your senses, there was really no “you” to have the experience in the first place.

    I’m just as guilty as the next guy of trying to capture the moment with a photo. But by bringing my unconscious actions to consciousness, I can deliberately make a choice to do something different.

    So never take photos, right? Never post anything on social media? No, let’s not be luddites. But maybe try having the moment first, then if you want to, take a photo to remember a moment you truly experienced.

    And sometimes, try allowing yourself to simply experience a moment without a camera. Soak it up and be 100% there by consciously involving all of your senses, raw and unfiltered.

    Before there were cameras or smartphones, people had to use memories to recall experiences. Go old-school and create a real mental repository of experienced events. What did the light look like in the gallery? What does the smell of paint of canvas evoke to your imagination? What sounds did you hear in the gallery? What were the textures and temperatures you felt on your skin? How did it taste? And remember that if you try to taste the Mona Lisa you better be prepared to lose a tongue.

    I realize that it’s a little glib to simply say simply, “be present.” But practices like yoga and meditation help us to establish presence as our default when we are having any experience, whether mundane or extraordinary. And with presence, even an otherwise mundane experience can prove to be extraordinary once your come senses alive.

    Without presence, even the miraculous or priceless moments (read experiencing the Mona Lisa) will pass you by without leaving an impression. I’m thinking about those simple but perfect moments like hanging with our kids, focusing on good work, or experiencing live music, dance, or poetry. To receive the gift of these moments truly requires presence.

     

    The immortal poet Rainer Maria Rilke speaks to being existentially destitute as the result of lack of presence in his rather stark poem, "Already The Ripening Barberries Are Red."

    Rilke.jpg
    Already the ripening barberries are red,
    and the old asters hardly breathe in their beds.
    Those who are not rich now as summer goes
    will wait and wait and never be themselves.
    Those who cannot quietly close their eyes,
    certain that there is vision after vision
    inside, simply waiting until nighttime
    to rise all around them in the darkness
    it’s all over for them, they feel old and tired.
    Nothing else will come;
    no more days will open,
    and everything that does happen
    will cheat them.
    Even you, my God. And you are like a stone
    that draws them daily deeper into the depths.

    He’s saying that without presence, without any poetic imagination for things as they are or could be, you’ll never experience the heaven which is here. Indeed, he suggests that even the notion of God offering you a future heaven is itself like a stone drawing you deeper into the depths of hell, the product of unconsciousness.

    I teach yoga for a living and sometimes in a yoga class, I see the fidgets, the distant stares, and the vacancy of someone whose mind is somewhere else. It happens to all of us sometime or other. Still, I want to say, “Come back. We’ve missed you. Be here now. Be there later.”

     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Miyagi

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Miyagi

    When you sense you’re having an extraordinary moment, or hell in any moment, try closing your eyes and run through all of your senses for a minute or two. Then open your eyes and add the most dominant sense. Ask yourself, how does this make me feel? Truly involve all your senses to practice being completely present to the experience.

    This might all sound like a Mr. Miyagi mantra and probably is. But hey, that dude could break boards with his forehead so that’s gotta count for something. Plus you can’t break boards with your forehead if your head is somewhere else.

    This week, I invite you to practice being fully present in all your experiences whether mundane or extraordinary. Be completely present by using all your senses and truly experience the moment.

    When that’s done, then you can take your selfie.

     

    Have you had an experience like this? Have you ever tried to capture the moment and realized that by doing so, you actually lost the moment? Leave your comments below. 

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