Sunday, July 5, 2015

How to Tame a Wild Horse . . .

Being a grandparent has been one of the wonderful benefits of growing older, hopefully a bit more wise as well.  I hope everyone has a chance to see glimpses of themselves, through their grandchildren, as young children.

When I was little I spent a lot of time in front of mirrors doing instructional "commercials" on everything from cleaning products to personal care tips.  I would have loved to have taken my talents outside the big mirror in the bathroom, to have broadened my topics, when I was five.

My granddaughter, Mica, has the same relationship with my laptop video maker as I did with my mirror.  Here is one of her cutest efforts.

Nina Pada, my favorite cowgirl, shows us how to tame a horse . . . . or wild animal.  May we all be so brave and share our talents without abandon.  Click on this link to see Nina Pada.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Yoga . . .

 Begin as often as necessary.



This was the advice given to me by Marni, a cancer patient in our clinic who introduced me to yoga in 1977.   I first met Marni as she lay on the wide table in Exam Room 3.  She came in every Wednesday for 10 weeks for a chemotherapy infusion.  Everyone in the small clinic - office staff, nurses, lab techs, and even drug reps - made a point of stopping in to say hello to her each week.  We did this because she always asked us how we were, and remembered to ask about details from our previous week's conversation. Our clinic received much more healing from her than she from us.

She was all we talked about during our shared coffee breaks each day.  "I hope Marni's doing okay," we'd say as we drank salty coffee and nibbled on pastries.  "Did you see her scarf?" we'd ask.  "I know," someone else would reply.  "She spun the wool and wove it herself!" I took up weaving, for a short while, to be more like Marni.

One day when I was checking in on her, she was sitting on the table in Sukhasana (a term I'd soon learn) using the Warrior Breath (another term I'd soon learn) to control nausea.  I just stood by her and matched her breathing for a minute or two.  When she took a cleansing breath I asked, "You okay now?" to which she nodded yes.  I continued, "that's the same thing I do when I'm nauseated." I was going to tell  her that as a child I discovered, on my own, how to avoid throwing up.  Long, deep, slow breaths.  In through the nose, out through the mouth, but I did not get the chance.

"You do Yoga?" she interrupted in a surprised shriek-ish voice that brought her assigned nurse rushing into the room.

"Ah......., no," I said to her.  Then I turned to her nurse and said, "we were just talking about deep breathing to control nausea."  Jan, her nurse smiled and nodded knowingly.  We two began to lecture Marni on the benefits of slow deep breathing to control nausea and pain.

"Yoga!" Marni insisted as loud as her weakened voice allowed.  "It's called Yoga!"  She then proceeded to tell us all about her experiences in her travels to India years earlier and her struggles to bring Yoga instruction to her students at a nearby college.  She distracted herself, while intriguing us, through the rest of her chemo session.  She left that day with Jan and I agreeing to attend her Yoga class five days later in the library of the small liberal arts college where she taught.

Jan went with me to Yoga class only twice, but I was an eager and faithful student.  Even when Marni's chemo was finished, I traveled every week to St. Peter for her class.  My daily poses became easier and my understanding of the ancient practice grew.  I filled in as a guest instructor when Marni was too ill to lead, or I was her voice when she could not speak loud enough to be heard by everyone in the room.

Our relationship continued this way until I got married and the busy-ness of that life pulled me away from Marni's classes.  Two years and a baby later, I sought out Marni to ask for her help, and honestly for her forgiveness.  When I told her I wanted to come back, if I was worthy to try Yoga again, she laughed and hugged me as she said, "You begin as often as necessary."

Because it was hard for me to travel 30 miles each week for class, Marni and I pitched the idea to the local YWCA to offer Yoga classes near my house.  We were billed as co-instructors, but she was also my mentor and guru until cancer could not be controlled by either Yoga or chemotherapy.

Moves, pregnancies, life, and distractions bought me to an on again, off again relationship with Yoga over the years. Always, though, Yoga has been a patient presence in my life.  Just like prayer, meditation, walking, and riding a bike - my muscles and mind never forget how it is done - it is a part of my DNA.  Yoga does not hold a grudge for the lapses of practice, nor does it demand that I suffer through a re-learning process when I bring out my mat or try to match my body position to the one on the Wii Fit screen.  Bidden or not, Yoga flows through and within me - in my breath, flexible muscles, strong skeleton, deep breath, and tranquil mind.

Last month I pulled out the journal I made as Marni began teaching me.  In my mind I heard her say, "Let's begin again."  I found the pages with the stick people she taught me to draw in Yoga poses and started with Lesson One.

Om and Namaste.