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Five years ago on this day, I woke up at 7 a.m. for my second free Saturday at Kripalu. There are so many R+R people here, so many workshop attendees. The place is supposedly booked this weekend. Dinner last night was maddening, so loud. But it’s good to have this outside energy here every now and then–a little taste of culture shock in bits and pieces.

Angela Farmer is here now. She is so regal, so graceful. She has perfect posture and perfect grace. I almost feel like bowing in her presence.

The beautiful Ms. Farmer

***

M. and I talked about how deep the conversations are here, that we’ll be in the cafe and overhear discussions about addictions, recovery, therapy issues, relationship crises, Kripalu breakdowns–intense, emotional stuff. There’s no talk here about Paris Hilton’s latest shenanigans, Britney’s babies, the weather, no talk about superficial junk. Everything happens on a different level here. It’s a different planet, this Planet K.

***

DansKinetics today with Toni Bergens is another round of Awesome. It’s the live drumming, man, KDZ. I could just dance and dance on my own, even without a teacher. At one point I whipped out my hair band and claw and just let my mane flow like a wild woman, whipping it around like I was on drugs. I’m surprised I didn’t hurt my neck. We gradually sunk into the floor, and I moved gracefully into the ground, lullabied by the musicians and their natural chiming, tinkling sounds. DansKinetics is the true cultivator of prana.

***

J. and I go into town in her Prius. We drive into a shopping center, find Chocolate Springs. I inhale a cappuccino (woah, caffeine!) and chocolate chip cookie. One of the first things I did upon walking into the place was look for people’s nametags where there were none. I feel slightly awkward being in the Real World and appreciate arriving home again. I felt very vulnerable and fragile “out there.” It’s a beautiful, full moon evening.

Me and Mama J., my Chocolate Springs companion

***

I call my mom. She tells me everyone is nice here because it’s not the real world and just wait till I get home. And that is why I waited 2 weeks to call home.

My workplace has a plate of leftover Halloween candy sitting out for all to grab at, and I was super-excited to see that it contained Reese’s Pieces, one of my all-time favorite candies (thanks to the Conehead sundaes from Friendly’s that defined my childhood dessert experiences).

Just as I keep returning to the plate to grab an extra piece of candy or two, November (what with Thanksgiving and all) is a good month to remember that life is like a box of chocolates leftover Halloween goody bag, and each day has something amazing to grab at and devour.

What am I thankful for right now?

• That Monday being Halloween meant all the local youth were out trick-or-treating, so the gym pool was completely child-free during my lap time. I could actually use my ear plugs for their primary purpose–to keep out water–rather than as a means to block out the sounds of high-pitched squealing and excessive splashy-splashy.

The sound of silence.

• For using my sister’s birthday as an excuse to carb-load during the most amazing brunch buffet of crepes, French toast, potatoes, waffles, and made-your-way omelettes.

• The mutual love of breakfast sandwiches I share with my husband, and the fact that he does not mind having “brinner” once per week. Related: That Bryan won’t eat his sandwich until I give it my trademark little sandwich hand press. Also related: The amazing parmesan/spinach/roasted red pepper (“Popeye”) bread from Great Harvest Bakery that I use on either side of my egg whites and turkey bacon and that melts ever-so-wonderfully in the toaster oven.

• That my mother has taken a sudden interest in proper footwear and is encouraging me/providing financial assistance to purchase foot-friendly shoes. However, I’ve been doing this for years; “Old Lady Orthopedic Shoes” is practically my middle name.

Dolled up weirdo in orthopedic walking sandals

• The magical $20 bill I found in my wallet this morning that prevented me from having to buy overpriced “credit card” gas. “Twenty bucks regular…CASH.” Yeah, you better give me the $3.15 rate. Related: OK, the $20 wasn’t actually magical. It was the “Here, treat yourself to something nice” grandma-secretly-shoves-a-$20 bill-in-your-palm money I had totally forgotten about receiving during the aforementioned family brunch. Ahhh, adulthood. Where “something nice” = paying cash for gas to avoid an extra 10 cents per gallon.

• Even after digging into all that leftover Halloween candy, a dentist check-up that ended with the relieving “No cavities!” exclamation from the doctor. Related: The hygienist’s comment on the marked improvement she noticed from me finally taking her advice and getting an electric toothbrush already.

What’s something you’re thankful for today?

Five years ago on this day, I wake up early in my dorm room at Kripalu, fascinated with the sun that, thanks to Daylight Saving being over, is beginning to rise as we do, too. I see it the minute I wake up, a fine line of orange outlining the mountain tops to the east. It grows deeper and stronger as I get dressed, like a fire is burning just beyond the hilltops. It looks like an oven, hot to the touch. It’s hard not to hum “Circle of Life” in your head as the sky grows pinker, shafts of light hues injecting the dark blue sky. Over the lake, the clouds hang low. Thin, wispy clouds so low that it feels like you could touch them if you were out boating.

After Roger’s delicious spinal-soaking morning sadhana, I step out between the great glass doors. It is bright, blinding, and…warm?! October 31, and I can stand in my flip-flops at 8 a.m. I face the east and do three sun salutations, being nourished by the divine light. I feel like the sun and my breath refuel me, like a car going to the gas pump.

Oh, and it’s Halloween. I only know this because some people dress in costume and there are jack-o-lanterns on the front steps.

***

Stephen Cope, one of Kripalu’s main men, talks to us during our morning session. We discuss dukha (ill at ease, suffering, pervasive unsatisfactoriness), the roots of dukha (craving, aversion, delusion), and raga (greed, craving). My notes include things like:

3 Characteristics of Afflicted States: (a) Disturbance (restless, distracted, mind heated up); (b) Obscuration (capacity to see things is obscured); and (c) Separation (the mind separates subject/object).

Wanting/pleasure = OK. Craving/attachment = not. Craving increases dopamine levels in the brain, and thus we need more and more to be satisfied.

To overcome craving/aversion/delusion, we must engage in meditative absorption. The mind is no longer caught in the afflicted state. Burns the roots of the affliction. Mind becomes profoundly one-pointed. Kripalu yoga focuses on subtleties–breath, prana, etc, in order to make the mind razor-sharp.

Investigate dukha. If your practice is not softening craving and aversion/delusion, you need to look at your practice.

***

We are prompted to fill in the blank: My passion (right now, currently, not yesterday and not three years from today) is _____.

Movement! Shadowbrook and Shiva taught me again, brought me back to my roots.

The nature of today’s lecture has me struggling so much, trying to find “me.” Who am I? What brought me here? What has yoga done for me and how can I spread that beyond Kripalu’s walls? What is my passion? What kind of passion can I bring to my yoga, my classes? Who do I look to for inspiration? Do I look to anyone for inspiration?

I am obsessed by and with movement. Dance. Yoga has refueled my passion for movement and dance, the singing of the physical body. I have never danced as passionately as I have after practicing yoga.

I feel so crappy today. I ate so much, I felt like I was going to burst with emotion and confusion. Who the hell am I? Why am I here? Why Kripalu, this mega-huge institution, with so much weight and importance attached to its name? So.much.responsibility. These people here are phenomenal. How can I even think of striving to be like them? But I want to be like them. I want their passion/compassion, dedication and bursting, overflowing love. But how?

***

I eat like a demon here. I am obsessed with food. I think about our meals all the time. One morning during savasana I saw everyone’s heads as hard-boiled eggs. The day before, I saw a vision of me scooping up lasagna.  I think I have become more obsessed with chocolate here than I did in China.

***

The teachers take our afternoon session outside for an anatomy/physiology lesson. What troopers–they all dressed up for Halloween and put on a “play” about the different systems of the body. We sat on the east lawn and watched Helga play the circulatory system, Jurian the nervous system, Leila the respiratory, Megha the digestive, Rudy the lymphatic, and Roger (dressed in wooly fur pants) the endocrine. How these people got Helga to wear wings is beyond me.

Rudy, the lymphatic system. Photo courtesy of Krista.

Roger, the endocrine system. Photo courtesy of Krista.

Helga has wings! Photo courtesy of Krista.

So there we were, spread out on blankets, avoiding dog poop (which J got on her pants), dodging worms, and lying on our backs very vulnerably in supta baddha konasana. Megha got us chanting one of the “forgotten” sutras (“I digest, I absorb, I eliminate!”) and talked about poop and farting in class. Roger talked about gonads, and Rudy allowed us to stand up, face the mountains and lake, and soak it all in. Visually. Audibly. Sensually. It was just absolutely stunning, our whole group standing there, staring at the scenery, awed and amazed. It must have been in the mid-60s out there in the sun. We each ate one raisin and cherished it, contemplated it. One raisin, under the perfectly blue sky.

Photo courtesy of Krista.

***

I just noticed that my toes have separated and spread out more. I guess walking around barefoot and not having my feet constricted in shoes all day helps. My right piriformis/glute/whatever pain has been steadily going away. I can kick without that usual twinge of pain.

***

Afternoon sadhana was with Micah. He was intense. We started with shoulderstand, bridge, and utkatasana. Nadi shodhana, kapalabhati, and bhastrika. I was exhausted. We ended with supta matsyendrasana, and I started to cry. I cried during savasana. And then some. I stayed after class to curl up in a fetal position and cry some more. At that point, I didn’t even know why I was crying.

***

I stuffed my face during my silent dinner, ate a second rice cake with jam, and then bought and ate a whole package of those fake M&Ms. [Made a voice post on my old blog] and vented. Left a message for [yoga teacher from home], because she is great and could be a Kripalu teacher without even coming here. I admire her, love her.

I got my period, and that made me feel better. The hunger, the emotions, the pimples.

***

I knew I needed to dance tonight. Movement was calling for me. Even though I wanted to go to bed after my 8:15 shower, I put on my headphones and went to Shadowbrook. The doors were still open into the lobby, so I sat in the corner and slid around on the floor to Indian music. I stayed planted on the bamboo floor until prana spoke to me, and then I leaped up without warning and was soon dancing in front of Shiva.

Janitors poked in, but I kept moving, especially when “Beating Drums” from Winged Migration came on. I flew. I soared. I danced like I was in my living room at home, in private. But I was not alone. I was at Kripalu, with passersby and custodians. I knew this. This is why I love yoga. It gave me passion again, in dance. I dance more soulfully than I ever have. Yoga shows us our true passions. Yoga doesn’t change us; it re-connects us with our true selves. I have to remember that within the postures; there is movement, liberation. I trust that. Now I have to express that to others.

***

Everyone talks about yoga here. You’ll see people on the couch, in a deep conversation about yoga, asana, pranayama, whatever. There are always conversation about yoga going on here, even from people you’d never expect.

***

I try not to think about the future, about post-Kripalu life, but it’s hard. These people–these faces–these smells and sounds and songs…how can I study aparigraha with such sweetness surrounding me?

***

It’s 9:50 p.m. and I am dead tired. I am so old, so exhausted.

Five years ago on this day, the first week of my Kripalu YTT ended. Week 2 begins.

I am tired today. Emotionally, mentally not with it. My head feels stuffed with clouds and cotton balls. Slightly irritable. Morning sadhana with Kimberly. I do Warrior III for the first time in weeks and feel kind of heavy.

***

I eat a lot at lunch, trying to fill myself with food, since I’m not full otherwise. Baked squash. Salad. Mac and cheese. Soup, bread, rice cake and jam, coffee. Still hungry.

***

Our nametags are used constantly. One day I came into the cafeteria and I hear, “Here you go, Jennifer.” One of the volunteers hands me a tray. I walk to the front desk and the woman says, “How can I help you, Jennifer?” I feel known. Special. Acknowledged. It’s kooky but nice. Like the Seinfeld episode.

***

The effects of yoga mudra in a forward bend are intense after coming back up. My arms feel as though they have a life of their own; they want to swirl, dance, undulate, sway. There is a magic propulsion under and around them. The effects of belly-down postures are, um, titillating. Yoga practice has definitely ignited my fire, and pressing my pelvis in the floor causes quite an energy. My Locusts and Boats are getting much higher, due to that mula bandha fire.

***

I came into the afternoon session very, very sluggish. So tired. Confused. Spacey. When they tell us we’d be doing pranayama for the afternoon, I cringed. Blah. But after 90 minutes of dirgha, ujayii, kapalabhati, and nadi shodhana breathing…wow. Instant revitalization. I resisted and silently protested pranayama so much, but I left that room floating on air. My bowels even moved a little. I started Jurian’s sadhana on an ecstatic note. I entered Stage 3 several times, floating back into Warrior I, twisting into Triangle, dancing into Half Moon, sinking into janu sirsanana and coming up from Plough without even thinking. During savasana, I see the cafeteria buffet–lasagna. Me scooping up lasagna. Near the end of savasana, I see all of my classmates and teaches get sucked into my heart center, like a reverse parting of the Red Sea. So many faces and personalities getting sucked into my core. All this wonderful energy.

Five years ago on this day, I slept in till 7:30. It was Saturday, our day off during YTT, and I was woken by the howling wind and pounding rain, a Nor’easter banging on our windows. Breakfast was a massive indulgence–no aparigraha whatsoever: cereal, stratta, a scone, yogurt. I eat the entire scone even though I can feel my stomach getting full. I do some weights in the gym, feeling fat. My legs are huge. My pants are sticking to me. M and I complain about our weight and eating habits. Tonight happens to be dessert night. Aparigraha. ::sigh::

***

Ironically, I talk with S later in the morning. She is leaving. “I’m sick,” she tells me. “I have an eating disorder.” What a wonderful, bold young woman. She came to Kripalu to get away from her sickness, another distraction, but here she came to terms with her illness. She knows she needs help. Psychologically, she is ready–she now knows she needs the physical help. What an intelligent, beautiful 18-year-old. To admit, to share, to stand up and leave and get help. M, S, and I have a deep 30-minute heart-to-heart. I know S will make a great niche teacher once she is certified.

***

This day is our first “gloomy” day, but it’s so romantic too. The clouds are swirling low over the mountains, like stage effects for a Halloween show. Briefly, the sun emerges, casting a brilliant glow on the oranges and yellows. People flock outside and just stand there, amazed. They stand there like God himself just came off the mountain to say hello. “It rained so much that it erased the mountains!” a woman in the lobby says. “You just couldn’t see them.”

***

We all hug here. We talk very softly. We are supportive and nurturing. We nod and gently blink and offer love and compassion.

***

My Stage 3 in Grace’s class is incredible. After some standing postures, I sink into Plough, immersed, encased. I flow into Fish, my heart on fire. I stay, linger. My chest swells. I roll up into sukhasana and sink down into a forward bend. I melt. The energy is intense–through my closed eyes I see vibrating colors and shapes, like a visual boombox, pictorial soundwaves. I find myself in janu sirsasana, falling down and down. I allow my non-extended leg to sink into the mat; my bend deepens. No glute pain. Elongated. Free.

***

I take my first DansKinetics class at noon. Fantastic, Fabulous, Freeing, I write in my journal, followed by exclamation points, stars, question marks, and other random symbols of frenzy.

Live drumming, percussion madness. A gazillion people in our Shadowbrook room, so sweaty, so close, so alive. Megha is fiery, crazy, looney, bouncy, all smiles and compassionate intensity. She wears blue stretch pants, pink socks, and sneakers. We follow her movements, hoot and holler, pound the floor, do the ischial tuberosity dance (with lyrics!) in both dandasana and baddha konasana. We do choo-choo train “follow-the-leader” dances out into the hallway. The sound is maddening. Tribal. Primal. I become an animal. I am the music. I sweat, sweat, sweat. Glistening, then dripping. Have I ever sweated harder than this? The musicians get in the center  of the floor and I move to the center, jam along with the drummers, allow their music to surge through me. I feed off their enthusiasm and vitality. I am the music. At the close of the jam session, I get the urge to run around the room, darting in and out of traffic jams, using people’s energy not to bump into them. I gather everyone else’s energy, I scoop it up like a skipping idiot and drink it in. We fall to the floor to relax, and my slimy skin picks up particles of dirt, fuzz, hair. I lie in savasana with my hands in anjali mudra, over my forehead. Ecstasy. Megha calls the YTT group over afterward to see how we were doing. “Are you in the right training program,” she asks me.

Post DansKinetics bliss.

Five years ago on this day, I felt something that I haven’t felt for the past five days during my YTT: anger, impatience, and a hearty helping of STFU.

It all began with our morning sadhana, led by “R”. You either love this guy or hate him. His style is this: S……..L………..O………W. Everything is aahhhhhhh. How do you feel in thissssss?

It is not good. You know what? I am tired. I had five hours of sleep for the past four nights after moving from 6:30 a.m. to 9 at night. I close my eyes, I sleep. Why do you do a savasana-based practice at 6:30 in the morning? You have put me back to sleep. I don’t want to listen to your aaahhs over and over and over again. I don’t want to listen to your stereotypical Kripalu-isms like How and Why and Feel and See and Realize and Notice. I am lying on my back, falling asleep again. That’s how I FEEL. Tired. Pooped. Cold. We lie still for 15 minutes, lift our legs. There is a Cobra, Boat, and then, oh! It’s bedtime again. You make me so angry. I am tired, I need to MOVE and WAKE the [bleep] up. I want to take the microphone out of your hand, Mr. High and Mighty Kripalu, and beat you. Stop talking like a freaking hypnotherapist. You are trapping me, suffocating me. I want to break off this mat and do sun salutations, downdog…anything! I make faces, I grit my teeth, I make fists. I keep my eyes open during savasana because I’m a rebel and I need to WAKE UP. I don’t Om very loud or enthusiastically, and the room is weak, our Oms are pathetic and tired. Good. No swelling, sensual Om for you, Mr. Every Kripalu-ism in the book. Feeeeel that. Notice that. How does that feel?!?!?!?!?!

MoMA, not Kripalu, but how I felt that morning during "R's" class.

I realize this is the first time here at Kripalu I am angry and pissed. At Kripalu, the land of peace and harmony and happiness, I had been tired, sad, scared, happy, nervous, but never MAD. These emotions feel new to me, strange. Out of place here. Thank gosh the morning lesson begins with some harmonium and chanting. We chant So Hum So Hum, So Hum Shivo Hum, which translates to “I am that I am.” It is a pleasant melody and calms me down. During our anatomy lesson, we learn about moving with the spine in mind, the four types of tissue (connective, muscle, nervous, epithelial), and the importance of moving (inactivity shrink-wraps the muscles).

***

Later in the day, we have a chance to partner up and practice teach Cobra, Sphinx, Child’s Pose, Half Locust, and Boat. I pair with M and forget how to talk. I make up words like “clitch.” I have no idea how to get someone up in Cobra. When I did my mini-practice teach with M, I somehow lead her through tadasana–mountain–using all tree analogies. It was stressful but still good; M is already a teacher, and I liked working with someone who could give me tips.

***

THE FIRST WEEK (dah-dah-DUM!) is wrapping up. It’s Friday night, our off night. Some people did a yoga and art workshop; I opted to test my aparigraha at the Kripalu Shop but ended up getting two Kripalu shirts and a chocolate chip cookie. I have suddenly developed one hell of an appetite. I think I’m actually gaining weight, a mix of constipation, delicious buffet meals 3x per day, no intense cardio, no 3x/week strength training, and me constantly stuffing my face. For example, after dinner tonight, I indulged in a Kripalu cookie but then scarfed down leftover pretzels in our dorm room. I have a few bites of a protein bar before morning sadhana, breakfast, lunch, after-lunch pretzel stuffing, etc, etc. I have no energy to go to the gym anymore before lunch; today, I napped instead.

***

Roger’s class tonight was hyped-out fun. We danced around like it was dance night at Adelphia and then made fun of Jane Fonda workouts. Lots of downdog variations, killer utkatasanas, and some exhilarating spinal twists. Yoga is great with Moby and dance music.

***

Everyone in this program looks so amazingly young. I am delighted at how youthful the group is. L is 31 but looks 27 or 28. We are all yoga youth. I bet Megha is 85. Helga is actually 120.

***

R&R people are here for the weekend. It’s so weird. Suddenly our little nest of peace, love, and happiness is broken as these new people stop in. Well-dressed people with make-up and designer yoga gear. People who got just a little too pushy in the buffet line. They’re roaming the lobby, planning out their activities and hikes and massages. It’s reverse culture shock, new things coming into MY world.

There are new presenters here, too. Yoganand’s pranayama class is over, and now Cameron Shayne is in the corner room. There’s a Women of Color conference going on. It’s like living in the Hollywood of yoga.

After dinner, I plod around, eventually talking to Bryan and then calling my Kripalu “sponsor,” Yogamama (Kath). We share “Planet K” stories, and she makes me feel so much better. We talked Kripalian and discussed our intense dislike of s-l-o-w R–ugh! And crazy Roger and amazing Megha. BRFWA. Our little language.

***

My language has changed. I say things like, “I haven’t had a hot water experience with that faucet yet.” My words are slowly changing, my speech becoming more deliberate. I hear myself talk to Bryan and notice I sound different. How long will this last once I get home?

Five years ago on this day, I woke up for a 6:30 a.m. yoga class led by one of our Kripalu YTT assistants, Roger.

Silly Roger, with the braids

He’s on the silly side, and during spinal rocks along the floor, he tells us, “[This movement] is only called ‘advanced’ because you have to have the mentality of a 5-year-old.” Another quote that makes us chuckle: “Lift your front toes…(pauses)…as opposed to your back toes, that is.” Roger shares some yoga wisdom with us:

• “We tend to tell ourselves that standing on one leg is natural, the easiest thing to do…. When you fall out of a balance posture, explore. Go into a different pose before coming back into balance.”

• Instead of hold utkatasana in its normal form, we do the “utkatasana dance,” holding the intense leg posture but being free in the upper body, moving freely, dancing the arms. It gives the pose a paradoxical feel: the intense, demanding base, but liquid, flowing upper body.

• “Blossom the buttocks” during downdog.

***

Morning. Outside is gorgeous. I feel like I’m in another country. How can I go back home, to light pollution, suburban sprawl, theft, crime, hatred, paranoia? Kripalu is starting the reversal of the mental asylum. The people here aren’t mental–we’re sharing, kind, conservative, conscious, honest, compassionate, yet we’re the ones locked inside this former monastery. The NEW mental asylum is the one OUTSIDE, on the streets, the people outside our enclosed little world. Yes, we’re shuffling around in slippers and wearing our little nametags, but we’re not insane. We’re sane, lucid, in touch with ourselves and others.

Breakfast, to the sounds of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Cereal with walnuts, raisins, and banana; frittata with broccoli, spinach, cheese, egg, potato. Brown rice. Raspberry gluten-free cake.

***

We chant Ganesha Sharanam, “I bow to the remover of obstacles.”

Ganesh, remover of obstacles

We move from slow to fast to hyper to slower to slow and then to profound. After the smiling and laughing, we put on blindfolds and explore our “sacred space,” walking through the room, using only touch to lead us past our classmates. We reach out for the first person we feel, and then we talk with our hands. So intimate, such an experiment in touch as a tool, learning when to touch longer and deeper, when to withdrawal and pull back, determining whether the person responds with “invitation or aversion.”

***

At night, we do japa meditation with our mala beads. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya. I honor/make myself receptive to light/great spirit. 108 times.

***

Our teachers demonstrate a Stage 3 posture flow. It is too intimate for words. At times, I feel like I am invading someone’s privacy. It’s sensual, sexual, almost. I watch the loss of control into ecstasy. I cannot write. I cannot sit here like a news reporter and take notes on such a sacred and profane moment. I watched Megha, Rudy, Jurian, and Roger in their posture flow and was nearly moved to tears. It was like watching someone make love. At times I had to look away because I didn’t want to intrude on such a private moment.

When I do the posture flow, I am somewhat inhibited. I allow myself to listen to my body, but I know there is still resistance, the need for others’ approval. Before I even started my own posture flow, I had the intention of pleasing the teachers. So I ended up doing the flow at 98%, doing what my body prompted me to do, but also 2% aware that others were watching and that I had to be conscious of performing for them in the process. However, my experience was exhilarating. I remember lunging into a low warrior–very deep–and doing something cool with my arms. I remember forgetting.

When I finish the flow and become still, something hits me. I feel alone, like a spotlight is shining only on me.

A bit of a background first: Ever since I came here, I’ve had very vivid images dance in my head when I close my eyes. For example, when in a flowing posture, like standing forward bend or bridge, I’d close my eyes and see random snapshots of people–all Kripalu people. I’ll close my eyes at night or during savasana and see quick flashes of people in bandanas, people with shawls, smiling, happy, introspective, compassionate Kripalu people, like I’m looking in a photo album (in fast forward) of all the residents here. However, there are times (usually during chanting, centering, pranayama, and sometimes during certain poses) that I close my eyes and see us all as a unified group. Amazingly synchronized. Holding hands, or arms raised, our mouths open in Om. I see our group, our tribe, together. So tight, as One.

So, that said, at the conclusion of the posture flow, I was aware that I had cheated myself out of the full experience. But my wisdom reminded me of my mistake, because as I rolled up into thunderbolt pose and sat to integrate the moment, a new image came to my head. I didn’t see the group so beautiful as a whole. I didn’t see random Kripalu faces. I suddenly saw (mostly felt, though) ME and only me. My vision was this:

Me in the Shadowbrook studio, under a harsh spotlight, everyone else lost in the shadows, not even there. The perimeter was dark, shadows, cold, and then me, under this judging light. I tried to push it away at first (I wanted my group!), but I Watched and Allowed and explored. The image stayed with me, and suddenly the feeling hit me: You need to work for yourself. You need to stop performing, being on stage. Stop working for approval.

I started to cry lightly. I put my hands to my face and cried more. I went into child’s pose and sobbed. The group chanted Om three times and I sobbed more and more, audible now. Tissue-needing crying. The sound comforted me; it helped me. I saw warm light, a pulsing “movement”in my head. It felt very warm and nice. I felt like everyone was Om’ing just for me. Stop performing. Start being, Jen.

***

J and I were co-listening partners. We were both moved and crying. J talked first about her experiences, and I was not a very neutral listener. I kept crying and wanted to reach out and hug her. When I spoke to J, although internally my feelings were muddled, I spoke very clearly about my experiences. So cathartic. We shared a long, deep hug afterward. (However, now I’m wondering whether the vision I had was a positive one, maybe affirming that my posture flow was for myself and not a group act. Is that why the group vanished? Was my flow an act/show, or a breakthrough?)

***

We all observe that we smell like food all the time. The cafeteria is everywhere, in our hair, on our shirts, in our pants. We are frittatas, we are miso soup and tofu. We are bloated and gassy. Whole grains and roughage and legumes have made us heavy and uncomfortable. We hurt during twists. We are afraid to fart when our classmates faces’ are inches from out butts.

This past week has been a little dizzying, and Bryan and I have been trying to ho-ho-ha-ha-ha our way through a testy George Foreman Grill, a cracked kitchen sink and the installation of a new one (shout-out to my dad, who spent about 2.5 hours squeezed into the bowels of our kitchen cabinetry), and the demise of Bryan’s 10-year-old Hyundai and subsequent purchase of a new (used) car, complete with test-driving vehicles on a windy, rainy Wednesday night in rush-hour traffic.

Whee!

As such, I’ve neglected to pay tribute to the honest-to-gosh things that have recently put a smile on my face. Of note:

Late-Season Tomatoes

As usual, our tomato plants showed promise at the beginning of the season, produced a few good ones (the rest were devoured by squirrels and rabbits), and then withered into nothingness somewhere around late August. We went on vacation in early September, completely neglecting the plants and never once looking back. Yet abandonment makes the vines grow stronger (or perhaps it was the 279 gallons of rain we got this summer), because earlier this month these guys made an appearance on the sagging, droopy plants:

And they were amazing! Firm, red, with very few seeds, and not the least bit watery. Bonus: We got to them before those darn squirrels.

Toddler Time

As I’ve already mentioned, I am in love with my friends Emma and Peter’s daughter, Bella. She is a one-person show, and she is so entertaining that I could see people paying to witness her side-splitting expressions, silly dances, and toddler babble. I recently got to hang out with her all afternoon during her 2nd birthday party, which featured almost zen-like gift unwrapping (surely to turn into monster shreddage-unwrapping by next year), train rides on Thomas the Tank Engine, and the requisite cake time!

(Not pictured: Bella’s grandfather leaning a little too far back in his chair and falling to the garage floor in slow-mo. We all held our breath…and then busted up laughing as he gave the thumbs-up from the ground.) 🙂

Our gift to Bella was Disney related, of course: a baby doll version of Ariel. I brainwashed Bella into acknowledging that it was her most favorite present of the bunch, and it was a success.

Two-year-olds don't quite grasp the concept of "Say Cheese!"

My impression of Bella

She played with the doll all evening, much better than the time as a newborn she broke out into tears when her momma placed the Mickey Mouse plush I purchased in her arms.

She even crafted a seasonally appropriate thank-you card for us:

Indian Summer

The same weekend as Bella’s birthday, Bryan and I went down the shore for the day. The forecast called for temps in the mid-80s at home, so we took the opportunity to experience Ocean City in October. It was surprisingly warm (what ocean breeze?!), so much that Bryan had to buy a pair of shorts on the boardwalk and ditch his jeans.

I was excited to walk on the sand without a beach tag and, since lifeguard season is over, pose contemplatively on the algae-covered jetty.

We intentionally parked several blocks away from the main boardwalk so we could get in plenty of walking time, making us feel a little less guilty for indulging in super-huge slices of pizza and frozen desserts. (It also balanced out all the time we spent sitting in traffic on the drive home, since the rest of the world had the same idea about going to the shore.)

Where one slice is enough!

We played a round of miniature golf and took note of all the migrating monarch butterflies fluttering over the boardwalk wildflowers. I wish I had a picture of the butterflies—they were all over the place!

Ego Boosters

I don’t toot my own horn much, but two personal accomplishments last week really made me beam: (a) I found out that I passed a super-hard exam I took last month that officially makes me an Editor in the Life Sciences (complete with credentials that no one but our little circle of nerdy editors will understand), and (b) a triathlon coach at my gym praised my swimming skills. I told her that I was interested in taking her freestyle swim lessons (intended to improve your technique), and she looked at me and said, “Nah, you don’t need that.” I went on to explain that other than childhood lessons at the Y, I’ve had no other training and was looking to improve my form. Again, she said, “I’ve seen you swim. You’re fine.” Maybe it’s because I feel like my hip slows me down and that it compromises my kick, but few times when I swim do I feel confident about how I’m putting it all (kick, arms, breathing) together. My little pseuo-panic attack back in June wasn’t really boosting my self-esteem either.

But apparently I’m just a smidge above OK when it comes to editing and swimming. It feels awkward, but I guess I’ll give my ego horn a little ::toot toot::

Nature Walks

Every morning during my walks through the park, I see the changing leaves, curious deer, and sometimes even a wild turkey or four. This will be a separate post to come, though. Too much excitement to cover in this already overloaded post!

I’m a serial cereal eater.

Need proof? Here’s a photo of our cereal cabinet at its peak, taken last summer.

As my husband stated when he posted this photo on Facebook, it’s the “cereal equivalent of the Death Star.”

I start every day with a bowl of Kashi Go Lean, a sprinkle of Kashi Go Lean Crunch (yes, I top cereal with cereal), almond slivers, walnuts, raisins, and (while they’re still relatively cheap) organic strawberries. Every Sunday, I throw together five Ziploc baggies containing all of the above ingredients so they are grab-ready for the upcoming work week.

The cereal junkie's equivalent of a meth lab

Some days, I am not able to eat my beloved bowl of cereal for breakfast because I have to work one-on-one with our department intern, and I don’t think she’d appreciate me spewing almondmilk and fiber twigs all over her computer monitor. Instead, I’ll eat a ProBar or Clif bar, and as much as I love those snacks as well, they are not cereal, and that makes me sad.

Cereal is a big part of my day. When I wake up at 5:30 a.m., one of the first things that goes through my mind is “Can’t wait for breakfast!” Even my afternoon yogurt break involves cereal, because I cannot eat yogurt alone and require a crunchy texture to placate my teeth. They like a workout, I suppose. Currently, Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Multibran serves as my yogurt mix-in. I used to keep a box of Kashi Heart-to-Heart at my desk as the yogurt accompaniment, but I had a tendency to just shove handfuls of it in mouth during stressful times, so I had to opt for something less grabb-y that would fall through my fingers or break apart in my grip. Something packed with a lot of bran (fiber) is also good, because I know better than to binge on that. :-/

Cereal is also a potential dinner option. Some people resort to cereal for dinner when they are pressed for time or cash; for me, it’s because I love it! However, my version of “making a bowl of cereal” is a bit more complicated than it is for most people. If my husband and I both agree to have cereal for dinner, he’s usually done eating his by the time I sit down to start mine. There’s a lot of prep work for a hearty dinnertime bowl of cereal!

Base cereal with two "toppings" of cereal, strawberries, banana, nuts, raisins, and milk!

And who says cereal can’t make for a good dessert? Just last night, after Kashi Go Lean for dinner, I moved on to Go Lean Crunch for dessert. To make it more “desserty,” I added some Reese’s Pieces to the mix. Why not? Remember being 5 and pleading with your mom to eat candy for breakfast and when she said no, you’re all like, “I can’t wait to be a grown up so I can put Reese’s Pieces in my cereal!”? This is what adulthood is about, man.

I love cereal so much that it frequently comes along with me on vacation. Doesn’t your Disney World-bound suitcase include shorts, t-shirts, socks, underwear, a box of Go Lean, baggies of raisins and nuts, a bowl and spoon, and individual packs of rice milk? Up until our most recent trip (at which point I reluctantly switched to transportable protein bars for breakfast), I’d bring all of the above so I could make myself a lovely little bowl of cereal before heading out to the parks. Disney must’ve known I was coming when they installed these handy little cereal nooks into the rooms at the All-Star resorts!

I may or may not have brought my own coffee maker, too

What food/meal are you absolutely nutso about? Also, tell me your favorite cereal toppings! I’m determined to make a grand “Thanksgiving dinner” bowl of cereal that will put traditional holiday meals to shame.

My dinner.

Eh, healthier than a pint of Chunky Monkey!

What’s the craziest / laziest dinner you’ve eaten recently?

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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