Project 40 & Figuring it Out - Day 40 - Fearless Heart

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Day 40: fearless heart

As I mentioned on day 33, my intention for meditation is to tear away the armor around the heart (ego). This takes courage – the courage to be vulnerable, and really the courage to believe this is actually possible.

There is a beautiful Vedic verse (Sanskrit) that says: 
Ekam sat viprā bahudha vadanti
Truth is one, seers express it in many ways

This leaves room for Truth from seers of all traditions – so beautiful. Whatever your Truth is, may you grow your courage to live from an open heart & to follow your heart's truth.

photo: Michael showing Abhaya Hrdaya mudra that we will practice in 6pm Power Yoga tonight. We will work on opening the heart through asana and intention and end with fun work on Scorpion Handstand

Project 40 & Figuring it Out - Day 38 - Leaving Room for Unconventional Friendships

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Day 38: leaving room for unconventional friendships

Most of the time (consciously or unconsciously) we have an idea of how our potential friends look, think, talk, political party, spiritual tradition...the list goes on & on.

An unconventional friendship with an 80 year old man presented itself to me this year. This man is somewhat shy, gruff, straightforward, and set in his ways. We have learned to "make fun" of one another for being stubborn and set in our ways.

Yesterday I went to visit this friend and his wife and found out that he is a talented metalworker and for most of his adult working life came home from his suit & tie day job to explore his creative side. I was so delighted!

I have commissioned a large sculpture from him to celebrate my mama's 80th birthday this year. It's shape will be the new logo for the Eudora Senior Center.

What a joy to have this person in my life!

photos: friend's artwork on display in his home

Project 40 & Figuring it Out - Day 37 - Another attempt at "Xeriscaping"

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Day 37: another attempt at "xeriscaping"

Mike and I got rid of most of our grass last summer. The only grass we kept was a small patch for Mr. Sam's use. Hopefully he will forgive us.

Unless you like to cultivate a plot of weeds, most people will spray. This is not an option for us and it breaks my heart that we used to spray our gravel driveway. I would cry every time Mike did it and finally we decided it wasn't worth it. I will happily pull the weeds.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer did a study of herbicides & insecticides and classified them as "probably carcinogenic (cancer causing) for humans :(

https://www.iarc.fr/…/m…/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf

If you are choosing to eat organically, perhaps some thought into landscaping organically would also be important for your health. I say this out of love for you and our planet.

photo: covering last bit of grass/weeds with landscape fabric and mulch. our lavender seems to make it through the winter, but not much luck with rosemary. this is our last attempt and then we'll pot it instead

Project 40 & Figuring it Out - Day 36 - Trying to Find Our Own July 4 Tradition

Day 36: trying to find our own July 4 tradition

Mike played in a golf tournament yesterday and mama's Day Center was closed so Marie & I decided to come up with a new 4th of July tradition.

We read the Declaration of Independence together in the rose garden and talked about what we are thankful for here at home.

The Osher "Underground Railroad in Douglas County" class has sparked my interest in Kansas history. We are reading stories of abolitionists who hid strangers in their homes. This is the America I hold dear.

There have been so many atrocities endured by Natives, slaves, immigrants, women...but contemplation of this statement (below) that unites us felt good:

"...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."

photos: mulching of the "Italian-style terraced garden" might be another yearly tradition and then Marie, Mr. Sam and I sat (in the shade) in the rose garden for a good deal of the morning contemplating all that we are thankful for

Project 40 & Figuring it Out - Day 35 - Aversion to Fireworks

Day 35: aversion to firework

Mike will attest that I am not a fan of the firework tradition of the 4th of July. This holiday has been particularly difficult for me because Eudora allows fireworks from July 1-4 and it sounds and feels like a war zone.

My annoyance changes to sadness as I imagine what it is like for people who go to sleep with the reality of rockets and gun shot sounds every night.

Mike tells me I might think differently if I grew up with it. I hope this is not the case.

Can we stop and consider that the traditions we often connect to certain holidays don’t actually have much to do with what we are celebrating?

I offer no judgement if this is part of your tradition, but I hope we (including myself) will continue to open our eyes to how we can ~try to do a little better than yesterday~

http://www.compoundchem.com/2017/01/05/fireworks-environment/

Project 40 & Figuring it Out - Day 34 – Homemade Dog Food

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Day 34: homemade dog food

Soon after Marie's colostomy surgery, Mike and I started making / packing Marie's meals to send with her to the Day Center during the week. We have noticed a huge difference in her cognitive function with a low carb lifestyle and feel that it is well worth the effort to do this.

We got to thinking about our other in-home family member Mr. Sam. Although we have been feeding him high quality dog food, we often wonder if we can do better for him.

This weekend Mike decided to make the effort to make Mr. Sam's dog food from scratch: grass fed beef, sweet potatoes, carrots, rice, turmeric, ginger, pepper, freezing and putting appropriate portions in mason jars.

It came down to the question – why is Mr. Sam eating something we can barely stand to spoon out of the container?

photos: Mike and I text photos of Mr. Sam when the other is out of town. Dog / cat parents can probably understand why we do this!

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 33 – Using a Person as an Object of Meditation

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Day 33: using a person as an object of meditation

Robert Boustany was amazing, and Bryce Delbridge is following in his footsteps. Bryce is going to be the one of a few who shares this knowledge with the world once Robert's form is no longer with us.

This teaching allows us a direct line from Himalayan yogis who are just coming out of practice to start teaching in the west. They will be in Houston at Robert's studio this September.

What I admire most about Bryce is his ability to teach & live from his heart... and it is infectious!!! After his last workshop many of us talked about how we are able to live this way well after he left. How does this work?

Explaining this esoteric concept online is probably not very useful and is only understood when we are ready & there are no doubts that this is possible.

I've decided to use this concept (through Bryce's form) as an object of meditation for 2 weeks to prepare for his return this month.

photo: Robert & Bryce showing an incredible ab strengthening exercise that we will try in Power Vinyasa at 6pm tonight. Join us!

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 32 – Releasing the Armor Around the Heart

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Day 32: releasing the armor around the heart

Robert Boustany is a yoga scientist and has used his studies in physics + his own experimentation on himself to break through the armor around the heart (ego).

He has the incredible skill of being able to speak clearly about yoga with high level physiological & energetic language.

An overall theme is that yoga is not easy. Even in asana a huge amount of effort is needed in each posture to find ease and comfort (fascial release & perfect balance of the joints).

Ashtanga practioners: we are using heat and muscle fatigue to achieve fascial release, but Robert showed other ways to achieve this.

What strikes me the most about this dedicated yogi are his thoughts on taking the pressure off the heart (physical opening of the front line) to break through (fascia & more) the armor of the heart.

In Tibetan Buddhism & his lineage of yoga the mind is in the heart.

Om mani padme hum

photo: Robert demonstrating equal strength & flexibility

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 31 – Pralaya Yoga

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Day 31: pralaya yoga

PJ Martine and I decided to drive to Norman, OK for a 3 day Pralaya Yoga workshop with Robert Boustany.

Robert is a legend in the yoga world and I’ve been hearing about him for years. He has studied with yogis in the Himalayas, and is now a keeper of this great knowledge which he freely shares.

PJ and I were commenting after the first session that Robert was probably the strongest, most flexible person in a room full of dedicated yogis / yoga teachers. Robert is 70 years old. I think anyone who is on the fence about taking a yoga practice should look him up.

I will share a photo of Robert in action before the workshop is over, but am sharing a photo of PJ in front of the beautiful Ashtanga studio here in Norman. Andrew Eppler and all of the amazing teachers like Bryce Delbridge at this studio are earnestly trying to share their knowledge and I appreciate all of their efforts.

Yoga enthusiasts: If you haven’t seen the film Mysore Yoga Traditions (produced by these dedicated OK yogis) I highly suggest checking it out! 
https://www.mysoreyogatraditions.com

Project 40 & Figuring it Out - Day 30 - Music & the Brain

Day 30: music & the brain

My sweet mama was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over a decade ago and has been on a slow decline since then.

What has been the only sustaining memory is her ability to recall a handful of Christmas songs and a few other songs like Amazing Grace and Moonlight Sonata.

She started to lose these in the last couple of months and looked scared when I tried to get her to the piano.

After last night’s recital (it took some prodding) I got her to the piano and we started to sing these songs. After about 20 minutes she actually played a bit of Moonlight Sonata and I’m grateful I got it on video.

An interesting article on how music is the last thing to go in those suffering with Alzheimer’s. I’m so thankful she has a deep connection to music and that she shared this love with me.

https://www.alzheimers.net/why-music-boosts-brain-activity…/

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 28 – अहिंसा (ahimsā) Nonviolence

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Day 28: अहिंसा (ahimsā) nonviolence

Without diving to deep into yoga philosophy, ahimsā is part of the first limb of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga from Patañjali's Yoga Sutras. As everything in life, nothing is black and white and we can spend our lives pointing fingers at what is "violent" or "nonviolent" or we make a sincere effort to look into the eye of this important concept – in our own lives – from moment to moment.

Swami Satchidananda on ahimsā:
Ahimsā is not causing pain. Some authors translate it as non-killing but it is not that. Himsā means to cause pain; ahimsā, not to cause pain. Killing is different from causing pain. Causing pain can be even more harmful than killing. Even by your words, even by your thoughts, you can cause pain.

Now for an extremely difficult and sensitive topic in my world / the yoga world:

In my heart I am a vegetarian. It my practical householder life with a meat-loving husband I am not a vegetarian. This has been a huge struggle for me and I have flip-flopped back and forth, each time saying this was the last time I would waver from my decision. All I can say right now is that we owe it to ourselves and these important topics to not sweep them under the rug.

I love my husband for his strong effort to support farmers who are trying to do what they deem is nonviolent or less violent for these animals.

photo: last night Mike made homemade ravioli stuffed with goat cheese smothered in homemade pesto with basil from our garden.

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 27 – Lifelong Learning

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Day 27: lifelong learning

As I was setting up the chairs for our Senior Center “Underground Railroad” (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) class I contemplated the beauty of continuing education.

So much of our education consists of required classes we often begrudgingly take in order to get a piece of paper that signifies we are competent enough to get a job in our desired field.

That doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as continuing to learn (for fun!) in our older adult years. We will be at max capacity for our first class this afternoon!

It’s not that learning has to happen in a "classroom" setting, but it is interesting how many of us are drawn back - I know I am!

photo: getting the Hammert Building ready for our first class. we will offer 3 per year.

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 26 – La Dolce Vita

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Day 26: la dolce vita ~ the sweet life

Later this week Mike and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. What a wild ride this has been growing into adulthood with another human.

I would say that this photo is a good representation of my husband – taking in life by the mouthfuls. He is a great balance for me and keeps me grounded in this life we have both chosen.

This next summer we will also celebrate the 10th year of his music festival in Italy. What a huge milestone for this brilliant and adventurous soul. I plan to be there cheering him on.

We hope lots of friends (old & new) will us for this 10th anniversary: music, yoga, delicious food & vino...and best of all – exploring what the Italians cultivate so easily ~ la dolce vita.

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 25 – Dust in the Wind

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Day 25: dust in the wind

Driving home from Christy's house last night the Kansas song "Dust in the Wind" came on the radio. I had a serious dude moment in the car with the windows open, wind flowing through my hair, Kansas playing, and me nodding "duuude" with the lyrics 'all we are is dust in the wind' sinking in. 

I looked up the lyrics when I got home and found out the title of the song is a Biblical reference paraphrasing Ecclesiastes: "I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth, and I concluded – Everything he has accomplished is futile, like chasing the wind"

Some people get this a little sooner than others. It's difficult in our money making accomplishment body years to see past this stage and I'm always looking to people who do. What is really important in this life? It is helpful for me to reflect on this daily.

photo: capturing a beautiful family photo of 6 people making the effort to be home together

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 24 – Lifetime of Teaching

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I am ever inspired by Zen Master Stanley Lombardo & his wife Zen Master Judy Roitman for committing much of their lives to opening / teaching at the Kansas Zen Center in Lawrence, KS. They are in the process of building a new Zen Center in Lawrence and are still spending so much of their energy creating a space for others to practice. 

I have spent quite a bit of time with Stan as we formed Dhyana (Meditation) Yoga at EYC. I knew he would be an important teacher for me when I told him so and he shook his head and didn't take on this label. That moment (he probably doesn't remember!) inspired me to follow suit and encourage others to be their own teachers with me cheering them on from the sidelines.

photo: sweet Anzu caught us studying the Yoga Sutras at Decade and captured this beautiful moment of excitement and bewilderment 

Project 40 & Figuring It Out: Day 23 – Making Fitness a Priority

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Like I said yesterday, without naming names I would like to focus on celebrating other's efforts to do better for themselves and mankind.

A question for all of us: 
How many times do we get in our cars to run an errand 3 blocks away?

This friend (pictured below) has committed to getting stronger and incorporating fitness into every part of his life – including transportation. He rides his bike to work and to play, and has inspired my hubby to follow his lead. This is an A+ friend. They even rode in a downpour from Lawrence back to our home in Eudora (10 miles) for dinner yesterday.

I'm truly inspired by his efforts to use his bike for transportation, and his continued push to make fitness a priority.

photo: bike & friend covered in mud from the gravel roads & Mr. Sam enjoying the cooler temp

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 22 – Celebrating Other’s Efforts

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Although people shared with me that they enjoyed the honesty in my post yesterday with my experiences with scorpion handstand, I want to spend some time celebrating other’s efforts to do a little better so my head can fit through the door. This Project is challeging that way and I appreciate that.

I won’t name names bc that’s not the point, but this friend gave me 5 rolls of compostable doggie poop bags and then decided to continue sharing this gift with his neighborhood by putting them in a dispenser on his fence for others. I love it!!!

Project 40 & Figuring it Out – Day 21 – Scorpion Handstand

Day 21: scorpion handstand

I don’t want this challenge to be a platform for me to show off fancy tricks, but I have been working on this variation of handstand for at least a couple of years now. For me it is the pinnacle of balance, strength & flexibility.

When I first started, I so desperately wanted to get my feet to my head that I compressed my low back and shoulders. Perhaps that poor form would look more impressive in a photo, but i was not cultivating shoulder strength or proper back flexibility. I am now focused on opening through the chest and keeping my shoulders strong. It feels great!

Perhaps there is something to the phrase “older and wiser”. I’m in!