A holiday offer for Yoga Wisdom

A force I refer to as “The Universe” has been guiding me graciously for so many years, Lately it has been sending me little, insistent messages: Trusted friends have urged me to act. An email from two (!) fans. And this gem of a quote, recently heard in an interview with Paulo Coehlo: “When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you.”

That said, I have been trying to figure out waysto give Yoga Wisdom at Work, the second book Jamie and I wrote together in 2013, the equivalent of literary CPR.

In 2014, we were in the early, exciting stages of executing our marketing plan and incorporating the Yoga Wisdom book into our work together. Indeed, we were doing a book-related gig at a well-known health and wellness resort when a mild, two-mile hike left Jamie so physically consumed — so out of breath — that he had to get a ride back to the ranch. A few weeks later, a neurologist radically altered our course with a dreaded diagnosis: ALS.

He’s been gone more than a year now, and our little lost waif of a book has been much on my mind. My brain has been bubbling with ideas about how to re-invigorate this work. More to come.

In the meantime, as the holiday season approaches, another message from The Universe has appeared. Our publisher, the venerable Berrett-Koehler, is offering a 50 percent off sale until Dec. 8! As you compose your gift lists, I respectfully ask that you consider purchasing one or more copies of Yoga Wisdom at Work.

You don’t have to be familiar with yoga — or even know much about it — for this to be a useful book. (The amazon reviews attest to this). It’s actually a book chock full of good suggestions for helping you get clear on your intentions, and then living out who you want to be in the world, especially at work. It would be good for anyone who:

Yoga Wisdom at Work is 50 percent off! What a great gift, and free shipping, too!

Yoga Wisdom at Work is 50 percent off! What a great gift, and free shipping, too!

  • Is about to graduate
  • Is looking for a job
  • Is starting a new job
  • Has a job
  • Gets aggravated while on the job
  • Wants to be happier and more peaceful on the job
  • Doesn’t have a job but could use practical, easy-to-do help finding inner peace
  • Practices yoga but doesn’t know about its rich philosophy
  • Doesn’t practice yoga but wants to
  • Is looking for small practices for living yoga off the mat
  • Can read

If you’re reading this, you probably know about the book. Maybe you even have a copy and don’t need another. In that case, would you be willing to share this post with your friends who might be interested, either on social media or via email? And if you have read the book and haven't yet posted a review, that would be another gift I'd be thankful for.

I have been, and continue to be, truly grateful for your support.

Namaste.

p.s. Authentic Conversations is also on sale, although that might be a little harder to give as a gift. ;-)

Learning to Sing Solo

Denver in the summer of 2014, about two months after Jamie's ALS diagnosis.

Denver in the summer of 2014, about two months after Jamie's ALS diagnosis.

Soon after I arrived in Colorado, early in May, a simple song came out of my car speakers. (It was coming from the Bluetooth in my phone, but I had NO IDEA how it got there.) It’s called “Oh, Sweet Lorraine,” and it’s produced by Green Shoe Studio. The first time I heard it, I started crying. I listened to it obsessively until I could sing along.

Oh, Sweet Lorraine. I wish we could do all the good times over again.
The good times,

The good times,
The good times all over again.
Oh, Sweet Lorraine,
life only goes round once, and never again.

Among my summer activities was learning to play the ukulele, so I decided to figure out the chords and learn to sing it. As I practice, I’ve begun altering the lyrics. (I know how much songwriters love that.) I began singing to “My Sweet James.”

And the memories always linger on,
Oh my sweet James, no, I don’t want to move on.
Yes, the memories always linger on

Oh my sweet James, that’s why I’m singing this song.

The memories linger on. They are a catalyst for sad and also for happy, but mostly happy-sad, as my friend Barbara says. The Year of Firsts will be over after today. I survived all the Bigs, along with many special days less publicly celebrated: The first anniversary of what I was certain would be my last First Kiss. The first time we said: “I love you.” Moving in together, which we called “Pod Day.” Our three honeymoons. Jamie had of those all marked in our shared calendar, but I wouldn’t have forgotten.

The “Big Firsts” didn’t leave me too battered. I knew enough to wrap myself up in a tender cocoon of solitude and reflection while my family and friends, wherever they were, held me in love and support. It’s the small, unexpected stuff that pierces the cocoon and leaves me feeling breathless, exposed and bereft. Hearing “Hotel California” in the coffee shop where we met. Breathing in the smell of his signature plaid wool cap. Stumbling across the red shoe polish that he used to shine my red cowboy boots — Jamie’s first birthday gift to me. Driving through a mountain pass last traversed with Jamie at the wheel. Sitting alone in a darkened theater. Filling out forms that ask for marital status. Zip-lining through the Colorado with my 14-year-old grandson. Spying a couple holding hands on the hiking trail.

That Facebook Memories app showing up in my newsfeed. Every. Damn. Day.

And now, the August 16 triple whammy: His Birthday, the Day We Met, the First Anniversary of his Death. Today initiates the end of the Firsts, a year without Jamie in the world. Tomorrow officially marks the beginning of something else.

            But the memories always linger on,
           
Oh, my sweet James, no, I don’t want to move on.

Memories are tumbling around in my head all the time. I recognize all that grinding is knocking the edges off, making them softer, smoother, easier to hold. This is designed to make our memories about loved ones who have died easier to bear, I suppose. But I don’t want to lose those sharp edges.

The good times,
The good times,
The good times all over again.

As I began practicing with my ukulele, the lyrics felt inauthentic. Jamie was my soul mate (I admit this sheepishly, because I bullied that term big time before we met. And, I swear I am not making this up — while editing for a client today, I went to the Merriam-Webster site to look up a word. The featured “Word of the Day” was soul mate.)

Believe me, our 10-year partnership included plenty of “dark nights of the soul.” And days. They were as real as the good times and more important, I think. Life can be vexatious, and how you navigate those rubble-strewn, dangerous relationship roads matters. Difficult times demanded the most and the best of us. They reminded us that love wasn’t just about dancing in the kitchen while we cooked, it was also about finding our way out of a tense, resentful silence at dinner. We chose this commitment. The first of our six marriage vows was “to be fully responsible for the success of our life together, even in difficult times.” We had plenty of opportunities to make that vow real. Who doesn’t, really?

Jamie used to wish aloud we had found each other sooner. "We found each other exactly when we were supposed to," I would insist. I have this vague recollection of an early argument about this or something equally irrelevant and silly. The details are washed out, but I remember saying something that stopped the fight in its tracks. (This part of the memory is vivid, because that had never happened, and I don’t recall it happening again.)

“You’re always saying we found each other so late! Jamie, do we really have time for this kind of fight?” He stared at me for a moment, eyes wide, and then his expression transitioned from cloudy to clear. “You’re right. I’m sorry. We really don’t have time for this.”

I’m not going to state the obvious here.

The point is, I don’t want to start idealizing my memories now that I’m in charge of our relationship history. That feels counterfeit. We were two flawed human beings having a human experience, from the beautiful beginning until the bittersweet end. We both brought a lot of baggage to our partnership. What made us work was a willingness to help each other unpack and put things away, but it often got unpleasantly messy until we did. When I worried that the mess would obscure what really mattered, Jamie would insist that the discomfort of working it through was just as important as feeling the love and savoring the joy. He was right.

Of course I’d take the good times all over again, but I’d happily take the hard times, too. So I sing:

The good times,
The great times,
and the hard times all over again.

 Except for the ALS part. I would never want us to do that all over again.

The most insistent advice I got after Jamie died was to take it slow, not to make any big life decisions for a year. It was good advice. But now that this year is behind me, I’m reminded of a story about a little girl who had been exhilarated about the thought of being old enough for kindergarten. As the big day approached, however, she became increasingly anxious and agitated. The night before school was to begin, she hysterically insisted to her parents she couldn’t possibly go. They were mystified. “But why?” they asked. “You were so excited about kindergarten.”

“Because I can’t read yet!” the youngster sobbed. For months, her parents had been concluding their bedtime reading with comments like, “When you go to kindergarten, you’ll be able to read these books by yourself.” I get it. I still feel so unsettled, and I'm constantly dogged by questions.

It helps to remember that life is a practice. I am still the strong, smart, independent woman Jamie fell in love with, only with added experience,  more wrinkles, and white hair. I'll figure it out as I go along. This year of grief and the summer of love have given me plenty of opportunities to stay focused on the now. Gratitude reigns.

Being in Denver these past few months has spawned its fair share of happy-sad memories, and it’s also been a delightful distraction. Seeing Kadin, my little man, becoming an adult.  Watching 2-year-old Audie Rae using her words and asserting her indomitable toddler will. Welcoming a new life. When I look deep into baby Iris’ beautiful blue eyes and listen to her baby coos, I like to imagine she is telling me how she and Jamie passed each other along the way.

 “Well, Papa Jamie, I’m heading out to the world,” Iris says. “Wish me luck.”
“It will be awesome. You’ll be amazing,” Jamie replies, giving her one of his superlative hugs.
“I’m so glad I got to meet you. Give everyone my love.”

And the memories always linger on,
Oh my sweet James, I know I gotta move on
Yes, the memories will always linger on,
But my sweet James, I won’t stop singing your song.

Don’t look for me today. I’ll be in my cocoon somewhere. I’m thinking about finding a quiet, private spot on a Colorado mountain. I’ll take my ukulele, and I’ll sing what I now think of as “Jamie’s Song” (with sincere apologies and deep respect to Fred Stobaugh, who at 96 wrote the lyrics after his wife of 73 years died.)

You won’t hear me sing, but I hope you’ll feel me.

Because I couldn’t have done this without you.

Namaste.

 

 

 

G-U-R-U: WISDOM FOR GRADUATES

In the last blog, I offered young Maren the wisdom I wish had been exposed to as I graduated from university all those years ago. My career journey began with vague intentions and no map — I wish I’d known about yoga’s ancient wisdom to help me illuminate the path.

We have covered  the First Limb of Yoga, which offers a guide to universal morality. This offering is based on the Second Limb, the niyamas, which provides a guide to personal conduct.

Purity (saucha):  This precept can be practiced in all kinds of ways: physically, mentally, spiritually and environmentally. I’m suggesting you start with your body, because I happen to know that when you’re the Old Maren, you’re going to wish that you had. Eat pure, healthy whole foods, and keep moderation at the forefront when it comes to things like alcohol and sugar. Seeing your body like the temple it is and taking care of it accordingly will give you daily energy, mental acuity and long-term well-being.

Contentment (santosha): The sooner you recognize contentment is completely a matter of choice, the more established and resilient your equanimity will be. Circumstances will never be something you can control, but the way you choose to face them? That’s all on you. Aim high and put your best efforts into everything you do and then — here is the really tricky part — learn to let go of your attachment to an outcome. Attachment will derail contentment lickety-split.

Discipline (tapas): Change is hard, and learning can cause discomfort— like the friction caused by two sticks rubbing together. Tapas literally means heat — like the fire you get if you persist with the friction. Discover quickly  the importance of delayed gratification, and recognize the rewards of being in it for the long haul. Embracing change— even if it means hanging with pain a bit — fosters personal growth. When you find yourself asking “How will I go through this?” consider rephrasing the question: “How will I grow through this?"

Your brain on meditation.

Your brain on meditation.

Self-Study (svadhyaya): It’s difficult to develop self-awareness unless you make a commitment to occasionally stepping off life’s treadmill. Create regular opportunities to reflect and turn inward. (Begin a regular meditation practice right now!) You can’t fully develop your potential without awareness — of your faulty assumptions, of your contributions to difficult situations, of the habits that aren’t serving you. Surround yourself with smart, kind, giving people. Ask for their feedback and help — and then accept it.

Surrender (ishvara-pranidhana): As you enter the world of work, you’ll encounter many people who consider this word synonymous with defeat. Be willing to look at it in a different light. Learn to surrender your ego to benefit the good of the whole.  Setting ego aside will set the stage for uniting with your higher, better self and generate clarity, compassion for others and freedom. In our competitive world, this one is hard to practice, but it’s so worth the effort.

Finally, understand what guru really means by saying the letters that comprise the word out loud: G-U-R-U.  Learn to be still enough to hear your own inner wisdom. Stay present to your life. Don’t get stuck in the memories of a past you can’t change or the projections of a future you can’t predict. As you begin your career, try to internalize the words the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa wrote in the fifth century:
“… today, well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to
this day.”