Posts tagged art
No Other Way

People ask why I am so intense about my yoga practice.

Well honestly, it’s a freekin mental spiritual and physical workout for some of us to be here, on this planet, in a body. I am one of those people.

The effort on my mat directly translates to the presence of my daily life. The thing is, I experience God every time I practice. Even if its a little glimmer of starlight for a second or two. I have to go into my body to experience the star from where I came. Which frankly, is a whole lot safer for everybody than me astral projecting somewhere else to find that connection. The strange paradox is that the more I am in my body--the more I am in my physical practice--the more I see god around me when I walk down the street. I see the other realms of being dancing about in plain site. When I do not practice, I miss it. I do not see.

The mystical is there, right inside.  

Many of us are longing to be reconnected to our star. This cosmic diaspora is an epidemic--its hole being filled by drugs, raves, false teachings of manipulative self-proclaimed gurus and the belief that we must leave our body to feel that connection.

I am so uninterested in transcendence nowadays. I am only interested in descendence. What I can see touch and feel in my body is the truth. It is real. I am real. I am only interested in being in THIS house of a body. And when the time comes, I will give back this body to the earth. I will send her back to the mountains, valleys and oceans.

Practice makes me live as if my insides were my outsides--my sensitivities alert and in plain site. But with physical sadhana I have the body strength to support this way of walking on the earth.

There is just no other way for me. 


Beads on a String

Our lives are a constant interweaving of the wounds and the resources, the sufferings and victories that when strung together with devotion to ones esteemed path becomes a work of art to be prayed with, beautified with and through which we adorn ourselves and the lives of whom our work touches.  It is easy, too easy really, in cultures priding or privileging the wounded healer to focus too entirely on the moments in which we were missed, abused, hurt, or dealt an unlucky hand of sorts.  Looking to these places of scathing helps to cultivate interest in how to heal both ourselves and others which is an invaluable contribution. The shadow of this searching for healing out of our wound is that too much time focusing on all the painful beads stringing our lives together is simply only half the picture. We can become fixated in how much we have overcome. I can assure you it is not a contest. The person fixated on how much hurt their family bestowed is as much an emotional sinner as the person in complete denial of any madness they encountered.

Sitting at dinner the other night, my husband said to me “Well your parents must have done plenty of somethings right because you turned out really fine.” Well in fact, my beloved is correct. If I reflect, if I really look back at the truth, I can see not only the bloody gore of emotional upheaval, but I see many beads of both matter-of-fact rightness and easy rhythm as well as sparkling moments of positivity. My parents did a whole lot of things right actually. They took me to the opera from the time I was a little girl. I was raised going to theater and museums. The first snow of every winter my mother and I baked chocolate chip cookies. My father played catch with me in our yard. We had a garden. My mother read to me every night. My dad proofread my papers. I was allowed to apply to any college I wanted. We ate dinner together almost every night.

There are of course plenty of memories that lay in mind far from ideal that have left scar marks on my heart. But lest I forget the many more moments of health and true love my parents bestowed to me in my life. In the face of our very human family flaws there were many more moments of family rhythm, normalcy, congruency, and freedom and love. Enough of these moments got strung together like beads to create a space in which frankly, I really ended up totally fine.

I did not leave unscathed, but then again who does. Frankly, leaving home not hurt is unlikely and I might even guess unnecessary even. For how else do we then feel the call to make things better? How else do we learn to tolerate the pain of being hurt by the things and people we love? The way in which we learn this and the how in which we continue on from those places becomes our medicine, our teachings, our lessons for other down the road. No bead on the string of our life is arbitrarily placed--not when you are endowed to a life of devotion.


Think of a string of mala beads. All one hundred and seven of them plus the last one making one hundred and eight, are strung together with a prayer.  Each bead is unto itself individual, but it is connected to all the others for the entirety of the strand. Each bead is momentarily focused on during meditation to keep pace and rhythm, which focuses our attentional muscle toward greater awareness of both higher and deeper states of consciousness. If each bead on the mala of your life is a moment or memory then how will you choose the beads that make the strand? For me, coming out of a school where the culture is to privilege the wound, it is easy to string a slew of disfigured beads together. I could ruminate on those all day. This however feels inaccurate, and it focuses my awareness to encapsulate an energy only in the pattern of get wounded, get healed, repeat. A strand of only the most glamorous memory beads feels equally as inauthentic. It skips some of the essence of why I am meditating and praying anyway.  It skips the cuts and scrapes that inspired me to sit down in the first place. The most accurate mala I can fashion from the memory beads of my life are a rich and diverse combination. I must fashion a mala that holds within it beads of memory filled with inherent resource, health, comedy and love.

These strands of beads hold tremendous power for focusing and broadening our awareness. So why then should we focus our life work only out of the instances and memories of the times there was less than (fill in the blank). Let us weave bead after bead with prayer and devotion in such a way that all the health of the things that went just right and all the things that went good enough and all the things that went better than expected are woven into the fabric of our consciousness. The wounded healer has tremendous power--I know this to be true. But the compassionate sees the goodness and wellness right in front of their eyes. If we do not hold this for ourselves the people with whom we work will not learn to hold those moments either. 

The mala is the garland of a life we wear made memory-by-memory, moment-by-moment, that is strung together with a devotion to the privileging of life in all its forms. Its beauty does not rest on the glow of each bead individually, but rather the potency of the collected pieces strung together. This is good enough.

Health Food For The Soul

Bubbie is the Yiddish word for Grandmother. It is a term of endearment and to this day I know not a soul who embodies the old school Bubbie tradition quite like mine. But then again, I think everyone believes their Bubbie is the cutest. Mine though people, is really cute. And if you sit with her long enough to really start talking she is a wealth of wisdom, comedy, and unmatched strength.

Bubbie was quite the cook in her day and she called all of us in the family her best costumers. In fact her food was so good that my uncle used to sell some of her items like chopped liver, kugel, and gifilte fish in his Jewish deli. People all around Baltmore used to look for Minnies chopped liver. The item was so epic it was considered a poetic symphony of Jewish eating delight, much like the chef herself. 

When I was young and before it was trendy to be gluten free, dairy free, soy free and the like, I would eat all the food she made. I ate all her cooking because I loved it and I loved her. I always felt nourished by her without thinking twice. As I grew into my teens and began to see my family in more of a stark broad daylight, I was less able to tolerate some of her foods. I became more controlling over what I chose to consume and I believe accepting and rejecting food was one of the ways I did that.

I became vegan, watched my sugar intake, stopped eating carbs and in general became the one in the family rejecting the foods of our family. But rejecting the family cooking was synonymous with rejecting the family. I think I had to do this for my own sanity and growth. But that time did not come trouble and pain free. In fact quite the opposite. I was heart broken that I felt that in order to find myself I had to reject my family and of all people Bubbie.

People have a whole vast array of relationships with their grandparents. I certainly was not close with my Grandfather the way I was with Bubbie. I never had a nanny so if my parents couldn’t take care of me I got sent to Bubbie’s. So basically she helped raise me as much as my parents, but of course she never reprimanded me. She only every fed me delights and told my I had a shena punim (which means pretty face). Her support was unending but I felt like as I grew into my later teens and twenties she started to loose me because I was changing. I was defiant because that’s what you do at 18. It was  hard to move to college and be away from her and the guilt was consuming.

Bubbie could never quite understand why it was that I wouldn’t eat her food anymore. I think on some level she felt disappointed she could not connect with me in the same way as we once had. After all, when I moved to college our relationship drastically changed. I used to talk to her almost everyday and see her at least once if not twice a week. This then became weekly phone calls, which became monthly phone calls, which became bimonthly phone calls, which became three visits a year. More recently I have been trying to call her more, even if she only stays on the phone for a few minutes.

Bubby is hard of hearing, and refused to get a hearing aid after all these years and she is pretty good at reading lips. But it is hard to read lips through the telephone. She sort of just asks me if the weather is good, if I feel okay, if I am done with school, and if still teach people to bend in half. (which is her understanding of yoga which is of course partly true).  I have come to earn that even thought the three to five minute conversation might not be that satisfying for me, it is for her.

For her to hear my voice and have me tell her I am alright and happy and for her to know I am thinking of her, is enough. She always ends the call with profusely thanking me for calling her.

"thank you, Livia. Thank you dear for calling. Thank you so much for calling sweetheart."

This without fail brings tears to my eyes every time we say goodbye. My parents tell me when I call her it makes her day.

For many years I felt a tremendous weight and guilt for moving away from Bubbie. I felt like she would never understand how and why I couldn’t live in Baltimore anymore. Still when we end our brief phone conversations I feel that twinge in my side of wishing I could live there for her. She gave me so much I wish there was something I could give her.

One day when I was visiting a while ago, I expressed how I felt badly I lived so far away. She looked me in the eye and said in her distinctive polish accent “Vell, I only want you to be happy. You have to do what makes you happy. Then I am happy.” So it is hard to be so far away. I know she wishes sometimes it was like the old days and we could all be together. But Bubbie was never one to stop me from following a dream and so she has smiled and sent me on my way for a long time now.

What brings me closer to her in our distance nowadays is when I cook in her vein. I have perfected the art of the kugel and although I still am gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free. Whenever I make it, I always have a little piece. Guess what? The allergic responses I have to those food items doesn’t really come into play as intensely when I eat the food that was made with such love, care and devotion.


Kugel might not be good for your waistline or your cholesterol, but it is health food for the soul.