Latest Posts

Loose Chickens

My eyes adjusted quickly to the hazy light of early morning in my bedroom as I woke with a start at 6:23 am to the sound of wood splitting and the insistent sound of annoyed chickens coming from our chicken coop.  A chicken in danger makes an unmistakable scream that is both a plea for help and a likely final expression of life.  Like a mortar shell or banjo, by the time you hear this kind of chicken scream, it’s usually too late.  This is not the kind of chicken sound I was hearing.  Imagine if a chicken could yodel.  That’s what I heard.  I threw on my glasses and went running down the stairs and out the door onto the deck.  Clapping my hands and yelling “whoop! WHooooop!” I saw the bear run back into the woods and away from the coop.  I didn’t hear any chickens screaming or even irritated yodeling, so I figured they had either survived the bear visit or were all dead.  Either way, I was going back to sleep.  Climbing back into bed, I had just softened into the remaining warmth of my sheets and pillow when I started to hear the chickens again.  The unmistakable sound of joyful chickens.  I kept my eyes closed hoping that I could still fall back asleep, but something made me wonder why those chickens were so blooming happy.  Hadn’t they had their own morning peace disturbed by a visiting bear?  Not only did the chickens sound happy, but they also sounded close.  Too close.  Giving up on sleep, I put my glasses on and turned to look out the window.  There, scattered through the yard and the woods were our 18 chickens frolicking free and pecking at insects.

You see, the bears, I’ve been told, aren’t as interested in the chickens as they are in the chicken feed.  The Ursus Americanus have no interest in killing the bird and dealing with all that chasing around,  blood,  and feathers.  Why work that hard when all you have to do is tear the coop door off the hinges and feast on the buffet of chicken feed?  To a bear, tearing a coop door open is like opening an envelope to us.  Having very little experience with chicken herding, before I put on my hiking boots, I grabbed some grapes from the refrigerator.  No, not for me.  The grapes were intended to entice the chickens to, on their own volition, enter back into the captivity of the chicken run.  For a moment, I considered that it might be a good idea to actually get dressed.  What if I had a run-in with the bear?  Do I want my children, the neighbor they find for help, or first responder to find me in my paisley elastic waisted pants, old Penn t-shirt, and bright coral pink sweatshirt?  Never a slave to fashion, I decided that I wasn’t about to start in this moment when our sweet and vulnerable chickens were out on the loose.  The chickens, apparently oblivious to the dangers of their liberation, may have wished for me to take the time to freshen up so they could free range a while longer.

So, there I was, in my pajamas, hiking boots,  and armed with an old bagel and a bag of mostly moldy grapes from the way back of the fridge, moseying down to the coop to survey the damage and herd our brood.  Having clapped and whoop-ed my way to the coop, it was determined that the bear was no longer on site.  She was likely sitting somewhere nearby, chewing on chicken feed, licking her fingers, and enjoying the show.  I inspected the coop to find that the side door had been torn off one of the hinges and the latch had been destroyed and tossed aside.  There were three ladies still in the coop and I let them out into the run, tossed them some grapes, and opened the door to the run.  I had hoped that these three chickens would make such loud clucks of pleasure over their morning candy treat that all the other girls would come running through the open door to share in the sugar.  Instead, two chickens ran under the coop for safety in fear of the grapes I had tossed and the third ran out the door into the woods herself.  Calling sweetly to the brood, I clucked with what I had hoped was an encouraging warmth and walked towards the wandering hens.  Unfortunately, all this did was cause the brood to split into smaller groups and disperse further away from the coop and into the woods towards the road.  That’s when I put down the grapes and picked up the stick.

All this without even a sip of coffee, never mind the full cup that I need to consume before my kids know it is safe to even approach me in the morning!  I’m not thinking about the bear anymore.  Instead, I’m carefully walking around the perimeter of the area where the chickens are pecking away at the beetles and small things that thought they were safe under damp brown leaves and the underside of dew covered twigs.  Once I got to what I assumed was the front of the caravan, I started to wave my herding stick and guided the chickens back to the door to the run.  My idea was that, with the door open, they would run towards the coop and see that they could get back in just by waddling right through the open door.  Instead, the chickens fled from me in terror and circled the chicken wire around the base of the coop and run pressing their frazzled wings into the wire and yelping for help.  I put down the stick and grabbed one of the ladies, gently stroking her throat and trying to communicate with her that my intentions were good.  I gently tossed her into the door and, turning around after picking up my herding stick, watched her waddle right back out the door.  Now what?  I opened the door even wider and tried the chase with the stick one more time.  Just because it didn’t work the first time didn’t mean it wouldn’t ever work.  Right?  Wrong.  Although, the second time around the brood ran in a group all around the coop.  They ran right past the open door doing a full lap before returning to their desperate attempts to squeeze through the chicken wire.

That’s when I started to work to retrieve the chickens one by one.  I closed the coop door so that it was open just enough for me to be able to elbow it enough to get a chicken through.  Then, as the chickens cornered themselves and pressed into the chicken wire, I would grab them, open the door enough with my elbow or foot to have room to toss the chicken into the now mostly closed door.  Then, I’d close the door again and throw in a couple grapes to keep the chickens that I managed to get in the run all there.  All these partial quotes from Rumi raced to my mind.  Wasn’t there something about how long are you going to bang on the door when it is already open?  Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? I was sure there was a lesson in all this, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  I wonder how much time I spend in my own life circling the sweet treats that are out, ready and waiting for me, when all I have to do is just walk down the open path to have them.  When I feel stuck, am I blind to the open doors available to me?  Am I pressing myself into the corners and making myself small in fear rather than walking proudly through the widest door to success possible? Without coffee, the lesson in all this was elusive.  Maybe it wasn’t Rumi, but Kabir?

We have two Plymouth Rock chickens that stick together and one is quite small compared to the others.  The larger one is Miss Jackson (if you’re NASTY) and her petite sidekick is named Glorious.  Miss Jackson and Glorious are always together.  Miss Jackson has confidence and Glorious is downright cheeky.  I was able to grab Miss Jackson first and Glorious decided to make her entrance into the run on her own two feet.  Miss Jackson was soothed when Glorious allowed her to select her grape first.  Perhaps this is what we also do for our friends that get somewhere the hard way?  We soothe them for all the fear and time they spent pressing up against the tight spaces until they found their way.  We say, “Hey, welcome to the run friend!  Here, you take the first delicious grape.  It’s all ok now.”.  We all need a Glorious.  Or, am I? Are YOU?  the other type of “friend”?  You know the one. The one that struggles and finally makes it to where you are and you say, as you pop the last grape into your mouth, “Too bad it took you so long to get here Miss Jackson!  You missed the grapes.”  If you happen to be the one who finds the open door first, I hope you are more like Glorious.  Share the sweetness.

After a few cups of coffee, I’ll have to figure out how to fix the door.  There are far more dangerous predators that might take advantage of the opening. Weasels, raccoons, fisher cats, fox………For now, I leave you to ponder all the open doors you aren’t noticing in your own life.  Are you running in circles?  Trapped in a corner?  Did a bear wake you and tear the gates of you prison up and now you are too scared to enjoy the freedom you now have? Stop running.  Look around.  See the delicious treats?   Be like the petite and fabulous Glorious and walk right through that open door and enjoy all the treasures just waiting for you.  Then, share.  And, if a bear comes along and destroys the walls you built around yourself, go ahead and wander with joy in the open woods.  Why not?

Sharon Fennimore
Vermont*
Sunday, August 3, 2019

*Yes, Vermont.  I moved  from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to rural Central Vermont, near Camel’s Hump Mountain, in the fall of 2018.  You could call me, but I don’t get very good cell service here in the mountains.  I continue to offer distance meditation and relaxation sessions.  And, I’m probably out herding chickens and chasing bears.  I’d love to hear from you and welcome you to send me an email that I can read after I fix the coop door.  

Mommy Belly: A Physical Therapist’s View

This is a guest post written by Dr. Kailee Venzin, Women’s Health Physical Therapist, specializing in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum services.  She is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Did you bounce back easily after your pregnancies? Or does your belly seem to just “bounce” instead? Many new and not-so-new moms find themselves tucking the soft mound that used to be their baby into their high-waisted yoga pants and still get asked at the grocery store if they’re pregnant. Many feel like their bellies are “unstable” or like “jello” and try countless ab exercises to try to feel more “pulled in” or get back their pre-pregnancy bodies, egged on by the various Instagram models and trainers. Many of these women, too, try exercise programs that claim to “heal your core” or “only do one exercise, 10 minutes a day”.  Most of these women eventually find their way to me.

After 9 months of stretching to accommodate a growing baby, your abdominals have to quickly adapt to new tasks and skills of picking up your baby, breastfeeding, and stabilizing as you walk and move. If you are not taught how to use your muscles again properly, your body may devise a new way of moving that isn’t optimal. These non-optimal strategies can cause problems like Diastasis Recti, urinary incontinence (leaking urine), pain, or organ prolapse to persist months and years into postpartum.

How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti?

Your stomach is made up of 4 muscles that all connect into a band of connective tissue that runs from your breast bone to pubic bone (called the linea alba). When Diastasis Recti occurs, the linea alba becomes stretched out and you may feel a gap in the middle of your abs.

Your 4 ab muscles:

  1. Rectus abdominis—the “six pack muscle”—it runs from your breast bone and ribs to your pubic bone
  2. External and internal obliques—these muscles are the side abs and connect into your back
  3. The Transverse abdominis—the “corset” muscle. This muscle lies underneath all the above muscles, so you can’t see it from the surface. This muscle hugs your organs.

Here is How to Check Yourself:

STEP 1:
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your fingers deep in your belly button. Then, lift your head and shoulders off the floor or bed.

STEP 2:
What do you feel? What do you see?

If you feel your fingers sink into your belly button, you may have Diastasis Recti. If instead you feel a taught band, you may not. Compare the feeling under your fingers to the tendon right beneath your knee cap. If it feels the same, you probably don’t have Diastasis Recti. If it feels softer than the band below your knee cap, you may have Diastasis Recti.

STEP 3:

Now, try the curl up one more time and place your hands behind your head instead. Does the middle of your stomach rise more than the sides? If so, this is called doming. It’s another compensation your body may do when your deep abs (transverse abdominis) is out to lunch. If you don’t see a hill rise up in the mid belly, you may just have some abdominal loosening.

Okay, so just say you saw some doming or felt a gap. Now what? The best thing to do is to make an appointment with a Women’s Health/Pelvic Physical Therapist. Physical Therapists (PT)are the experts in muscle and movement. He or she will be able to tell you how severe of a gap or doming you have, which muscles need to be re-trained, and get you on the right path to fixing it.

In the meantime, your best bet is to avoid the following to prevent making it worse. Your PT will be able to get you back into these things down the road, but it’s a good idea to avoid them for now, as they may make your doming or gap worse:

  1. Abdominal exercises like sit ups, jack knives, crunches, double leg lifts
  2. All fours and planking exercises
  3. Breath holding with lifting or any other activity
  4. Deep back bends

So, what else can you do you prevent it from getting worse? And an even better question…how do you fix it?!

MEET YOUR DEEP CORE TEAM

Fixing this problem does a lot deeper than just doing the right exercises. There’s actually no such thing as the right or wrong exercise for diastasis or doming.  In order to fix it, you first have to learn how to activate your “deep core team” and then bring these team members into every exercise and everything you do. Teaching this team to work well will allow you to get back into the “avoid for now” activities above, bring your gap closer together, strengthen the abs and the linea alba, and even resolve leaking with coughing and sneezing.

Your deep core team is the foundation of your house. If the foundation of your house is not strong, your house will topple over. Your Transverse Abdominis, your Diaphragm, and your pelvic floor muscles are all vital members of your deep core team. These muscles should be turning on before you pick up your coffee cup, roll out of bed in the middle of the night to pee, or before you begin your plank, but in pregnancy and childbirth these muscles go through huge changes and often are still sleeping (unlike you) into the first few years of your child’s life.

So how do you know if your “deep core team” is working properly? If you have doming or Diastasis, I can almost guarantee, one of those team members is on vacation. But even if you do not have doming or diastasis, you deep core team could still be slacking. And if it’s slacking, you won’t be able to safely tone your pelvic floor or abdomen. Try these with me:

Stand tall with your shoulder back and try the following:

  1. Deep breathing—here’s where my clients will say, “I’ve been breathing wrong all my life!” Take a deep breath in. If your shoulders move first, your diaphragm is in Punta Cana. If your diaphragm is working properly, your ribs will expand like an umbrella and then your belly will expand slightly as you breathe in. If your belly or shoulders are the only parts that move, your diaphragm could use some re-training.
  2. Pelvic Floor contraction or Kegel—Did you know that most women don’t do a Kegel correctly? I’ll give you one of my best tips—imagine you have a ruby inside your vagina. Squeeze your muscles around the ruby. Do you feel a tightening around where you would insert a tampon? If you cannot feel much, or notice your bum or stomach tightening, you’re probably not doing it properly and need some guidance. Most women will know how to tighten the pelvic floor around the bum, but most have trouble tightening the front part of it. If you had trouble with this, your pelvic floor muscles probably need to be trained properly.

When should you seek help?

If you had trouble with the exercises above—breathing properly or tightening the front of the pelvic floor, or noticed doming or gapping with the self-check, you should make an appointment with a Pelvic PT. It may be as simple as a one or two visit tune up to get the team back on board or it may involve some more training. Letting these problems go untreated can lead to even bigger problems. Problems like urine leaking with coughing and sneezing (incontinence), back pain, or organ prolapse can arise or get worse if your muscles aren’t working and coordinating properly. Problems like incontinence, back pain, and heaviness in the vagina (prolapse) are very common, but never “normal”. Just because you had a baby, doesn’t mean you have to just live with these problems forever.

This post was written especially for Yoga Matrika students and blog readers by Dr. Kailee Venzin.  This post is not meant to replace medical diagnosis and treatment and you should seek guidance from your doctor if you suspect that you have a medical problem.  You can book an appointment online and find more information about Dr. Venzin online.  

Satya as a Form of Grace

Satya is one of the most complicated of the yogic ethical principles.  It is translated as “truth” in many texts, but truth is, in and of itself, a construct of culture.  For example, I may hold as “truth” in my Quaker faith that everyone has the light of God in them (no matter behavior or evidence that seems to prove otherwise), while others may have very different ways of looking at the concept of Holy Spirit or the concept of the divine.  Am I telling the truth when I pray in this way?  Are the other understandings of the relationship between humans and the divine the NOT-truth?  And, how can we relate this use of the word “truth” when describing a commitment of faith to asking a person we work with if they are the ones who ate our yogurt in the shared refrigerator?  In the case of the yogurt, it could be seen that this is completely different.  Our colleague either ate our yogurt or they didn’t.  But, maybe when they answer us it turns out that they, in fact, had brought the same brand and flavor of yogurt to work and assumed the one they ate was theirs?  Maybe your yogurt got pushed to some dark corner of the refrigerator and you just assumed someone else ate it? Maybe this colleague was hungry and didn’t have any food, forgot their wallet at home, and in desperation chose to eat a yogurt in the refrigerator and since your name wasn’t on it they had no way to ask for permission or to know who it belonged to?  Do their personal circumstances change the “truth” of the stealing?

I am in a situation right now in which there is a great deal of confusion and a story is being told about me that does not resonate with me as true–at all.  It seems so fantastical that it’s almost impossible to defend myself.  I don’t think that this is a rare experience and that most humans have found themselves at one point or another feeling a profound dissonance between what is true for them and how another person is perceiving the situation.  It seems clear to me that the root of this concern can’t be solved by discovering THE truth because each person involved is secure in what they believe to be true.  Just as I can’t be shaken from my version of the story, my role in it, and my intentions, neither can the other people involved.

In this way, I invite myself to practice and see “satya” as a form of grace.  How can I stand in my own satya with confidence AND compassion?  Unless I can soften the edges of my narrative, then resolution remains near impossible.  And, I must remain anchored in my personal commitment to peace and non-violence above all else.  If I truly believe in the infinite nature of the life of spirit, then I must accept that a resolution may not be possible in this lifetime, but I can always choose peace in any moment.  The ethics of yoga are part of the practice.  Therefore, I challenge myself even in this most difficult of moments to practice “satya” as a way to extend grace into my life and the lives of others.

When I did my first yoga teacher training program, it was at a studio called “Satya” in Brooklyn that was sold before I even finished the program and became some other yoga studio and now it is even some other yoga studio (or maybe a falafel stand…..things change!).  In a 200-hour teacher training program that is registered with Yoga Alliance, the curriculum must include a certain number of hours studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  I dutifully memorized the yamas and the niyamas and promised as a teacher and student of yoga to bring satya into my work and my life.  But, truth isn’t just the opposite of telling lies.  The pursuit of truth is a process and a yoga practice of its own.  It turns out that satya is one of the most challenging aspect of practice and to bring into life off the cushion or mat.

A term that has come into use in the past few years is “fake news”.  When the truth is inconvenient, then the person who wishes it wasn’t the truth can point at it and declare it to be “fake”.  All the people who agree that if it really was true then it would be a terribly inconvenient and damaging situation can then get behind that person and say, “Yep, it’s fake all right.  FAKE!” (It turns out that exclamations and the confidence behind them make the statement even more powerful.).  But, there are all these other people who are hurt by the negation of what they feel is the obvious.  Uh….we all saw the video/heard the tape/saw the picture of the body of the dead baby washed onto the shore……what do you mean FAKE?  Someone had to clean that blood up, someone had to spend years healing their body and spirit after having their body grabbed in an unwelcome way, someone lost their retirement, someone’s child is irreparably hurt by lead poisoning because they drank the water that flowed through their kitchen tap, and someone had to wrap that baby’s body in a sheet and bury him.  In these situations, all these someone’s have had their lives completely altered by a truth that other someones are convinced is completely fake.  And, we can feel however we feel and get behind whatever truth resonates with us, but we can’t get justice for the victims this way.  There is no justice without grace.

In his book “Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy” by Sadhguru, he instructs us to consider the yogic path as one of experiment.

“The yogic path is not a path of inherited belief; it is the path of experiment (page 69).”

As a spiritual scientist, I would suggest that in our commitment to practice as experiment that whenever we find ourselves feeling committed to a certain satya that we ask questions as an expression of curiosity:

  1. Where do I feel this “truth” in my body?  What emotions and state of mind are inspired by this “truth”?  As Rachel Carson suggested in The Sense of Wonder, “It is not half so important to know as to feel.”  Does this truth resonate in my spine?  Does this truth inspire me?  Does this truth make me feel angry or fill me with regret? Does this truth open my throat or give me a pain in my neck?  Is this truth opening my heart or making me feel tight and restricted?
  2. How does this truth impact others?  Since we are all “one” and interconnected in both the obvious and many unknown ways, it is important to explore with curiosity how this truth is working in our daily lives.  Does this truth improve the quality of my relationships with my co-workers?  Does this truth hurt anyone in their body or on an emotional/spirit level?  Try to ask questions without judgement.  Just because a truth hurts other people doesn’t make it false, but it creates some space around the fact of it just to ask questions and to explore the entire picture.  Therefore, in questioning this impact on others, allow all the answers to be felt in your body and known to your heart-mind.
  3. Have you ever felt in a different way about this truth?  Allow yourself to acknowledge if there have been times that something different may have be true for you or just to see that this truth has evolved over time.  If there has been change over time, what has inspired the change?  For example, maybe you have never trusted doctors….they are just out to get your money, they prescribe medications unnecessarily, they don’t really care about their patients, etc.  But, in the past year, your parent became very ill and you found their physician to be a healing force for good.  Your parent’s condition improved and you had excellent communication with the doctor and felt cared for and listened to.  Well, it doesn’t mean that their aren’t bad doctors out there, but now you have had an experience that has shifted your truth to allow for a truth where SOME doctors are honest and compassionate and worthy of your trust.  Don’t feel ashamed if you find that the truth has shifted over time.  It is important to explore and be curious without judgment.
  4. Is there a version of this truth that is an expression of grace in my life and the lives of others?  Is there a version of this truth that allows for the humanity to be honored or dignity extended?  If there isn’t a version of this truth that expresses grace, then I suggest that you question if it truly is “satya”.  For, any spiritual truth must also be grace. If a truth diminishes a person or group of people and strips them of their integrity, their spirit, their heart, or their ability to move freely and express their karma and dharma in this lifetime, then it is unlikely to be true.  If you are holding a “truth” about yourself that holds you back from your full expression, then it is unlikely to be “satya”.  Sometimes, the least honest truths we hold are the ones we hold about ourselves and then project onto others.

In the forward to the second edition (1989) of M.C. Richards’ “Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person”, Matthew Fox refers to centering as “the process of righting things, of making justice happen (xiii).”  In our meditation and mindful movement practices, we center and calm ourselves.  The more centered we are, the more likely that we can explore a truth to come to a place of genuine satya.  Standing in mountain pose, we can take a deep breath and feel the soles of our feet reach infinitely through space and time into the ground beneath us (Is it really solid?  Who is holding who up?) and the crown of our heads expanding infinitely into space on our out breath (Where do we end and begin?  What am I expanding out into?).  In that moment, the truth is the breath.  The satya of breath is always there for us to ground in, until, it isn’t.  It seems important, while we have breath, to keep taking this opportunity to find grace and extend it to as many other people as possible.  Everything else can just fall through our open fingers, but an investment in satya will always provide high return.

 

Embodied Childbirth Preparation

I am SO EXCITED and truly honored to have the opportunity to facilitate a Dynamic Childbirth workshop in Vermont at ZenBarn on June 24th.  And, how amazing was it for Shaina Levee of Birth Love Family to write such a wonderful blog post to introduce me to the community there?  Amazing!

While everyone learns in different ways, labor and childbirth is most definitely a physical experience.  Therefore, I designed Dynamic Childbirth so that you could prepare your body-mind for labor and birth.  You can read about birth all you like, listen to lectures, watch videos, and look at pictures of a cervix dilating.  But, when it’s time to give birth, labor takes us deep inside and we act, breathe, visualize, and communicate from our bodies and not from our logic brain.  I’m not suggesting that a woman in labor isn’t logical.  Quite the opposite!  I’m saying that, in my experience, it is important to actually practice movements, breathing, sounding, and communication tools with your body before you need to draw upon this knowledge.

Plus, the real bonus is that you get to hear me sound like a moose.  One of the first few times I facilitated Dynamic Childbirth, one of the partners suggested that the sound I was making as I pretended to work with the energy of a deep contraction was that of a moose.  We all got a good laugh and it was a great way for everyone to relax around how ridiculous it felt to be in a room full of strangers making deep moaning sounds.  As a doula, it takes a lot more than that to make ME uncomfortable, but the whole thing is very new and unique for those who are not familiar with the natural sounds of birthing.  Then, about a year later, I had a participant who was from Alaska and he had actually heard a moose.  He confirmed that, in fact, I DO sound like a moose when I make that birthing sound.

Come and move, laugh, sound, talk, touch, and breathe!  I am really looking forward to meeting you all.

Online Matrika Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training and Certification

Register TODAY!
I’m so excited to have opened enrollment again in my online Matrika Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training and Certification course.  My course is unique in that it brings Tibetan Buddhist subtle body anatomy, meditation, and cultural anthropology into the training.  Included in the course is a section on yoga to promote optimum fertility for women, yoga during pregnancy, a teaching practicum, a unit on yoga and meditation for labor and birth, and an entire section on the postpartum period including yoga with mom and baby.

While online courses aren’t for everyone, there are a lot of yoga teachers, doulas, and medical professionals who are dedicated to learning new techniques to support pregnant students and clients who simply don’t have the time or ability to travel for trainings.  In my experience, a lot of yoga instructors who are mothers and birth doulas would love to do this training and have this information.  But, mothers with young children and doulas have something in common…..they tend to work all night and have unpredictable changes and shifts in their schedules.  My online prenatal yoga teacher training course is completely flexible and allows for both planned and unplanned schedule changes in your lifestyle.

Yoga instructors all need high quality continuing education and there is something in this course for everyone.  Whether or not you ever use the information and techniques in teaching a prenatal yoga class, this unique training will enhance and inspire your personal practice, increase your knowledge of the physical and subtle body, and also challenge what you understand about the connection between culture and the practice of yoga and birth.  This is a very cost effective and flexible way for all yoga instructors to obtain up to 25 CEU credits towards the required credits for maintaining Yoga Alliance membership at all levels.

If you are interested and have questions, please do not hesitate to send me an email or contact me.  I’d love to schedule some time to talk or just respond to your email inquiry in detail.  Enrollment in open and rolling until maximum enrollment has been met.  You can start anytime and get immediate course access upon payment.

 

This is a self-guided online training program based on my 20-years of experience teaching prenatal yoga, training yoga teachers,  and being a birth and postpartum doula.  The training requires significant dedication to completing assigned readings, participating in online discussions, practice, and submission of written work.  You can start at any time and take up to six-months to finish.  There are 25 CEU credits available to Yoga Alliance registered teachers.
Not only is being a prenatal yoga specialist a rewarding career, but considering the fact that over 80% of American yoga practitioners are women, it is imperative that all yoga instructors explore ways to support optimal reproductive health for all their students. The skills you learn in this training program will inform all of your teaching and the program itself is rigorous and demands personal and professional transformation.
What Makes Matrika Prenatal Yoga Special?
    • Emphasis on Tantric subtle body anatomy
    • Focus on how culture and reproductive politics impact fertility and pregnancy
    • Learn how to support optimum fertility with yoga
    • Use of Buddhist philosophy applied to teaching prenatal yoga
    • Learn how to teach visualization and meditation specific to pregnancy
    • Includes the use of yoga and meditation to prepare for labor and birth
    • Postpartum care and Mom and Baby Yoga

Register TODAY!

Work at your own pace! This amazing online training offers complete flexibility and personalized instruction through three private mentoring sessions (included in your tuition). Distance learning is ideal for busy professionals trying to juggle career and family while also moving in the direction of your dreams.  Perfect for expats or English speakers all over the world who do not have access to a training school, but wish to work towards their certification while traveling or living abroad. The training is designed to take around 100-hours to complete and students generally finish within 4-5 months, but you have 6-months of enrollment in the course with your tuition payment.

$350 Full Tuition

[headline_border]Course Curriculum[/headline_border]

This intellectual approach to yoga as a science requires self-study and an investigation of the cultural, social and economic values that we hold around fertility, women’s health and specifically reproduction so that we can teach from our hearts.
  Informed by contemporary social theory and medical anthropology, Matrika Prenatal Yoga nourishes and empowers students physically, emotionally and spiritually.  This method, philosophy and approach has been refined over almost 20-years by Sharon Fennimore , MA and DONA Trained Birth Doula and enjoyed by thousands of women.

In this online course, you will explore:

  • Culture and Reproduction (Including Yoga for Fertility)
  • Yoga During Pregnancy
  • Common Pregnancy Complaints
  • Teaching Matrika Prenatal Yoga (INCLUDING Tibetan Subtle Body)
  • Practice and Professionalization
  • Postpartum Continuity and Care (including Mom & Baby Yoga)

matrika-084The online course includes: instructional videos, readings, discussion boards, audio and articles and readings, and three private mentoring sessions with Sharon Fennimore.  Interaction and participation in online discussion boards is required and we all learn from one another.  Due to the nature of the course, your fellow students are located all around the world! In this way, we all share diverse practices, experiences and ideas.  All trainees can download the Matrika Prenatal Yoga eBook and audio guide at no additional cost.  Most of the practicum assignments require significant practice, planning classes and engaging in your community as you create a supportive professional network that is meaningful to you wherever you are in the world.  Therefore, this isn’t just about sitting in front of your computer watching training videos!  This is a dynamic, interactive and experiential program. 

Your tuition also includes webinars and events scheduled during your enrollmentmatrika-012Online “events” such as webinars and teleseminars are scheduled regularly.  These events can be attended live by joining online or by phone and are recorded and available for you to download and experience at your convenience if you can’t make it as scheduled.  These events are all included in your course tuition.

TESTIMONIALS

“Sharon of Matrika Yoga offered an insightful, thought provoking training program that far exceeded my expectations. I was challenged to examine my ideas and beliefs about pregnancy and culture, and I now have a much better understanding of pregnancy and the obstacles a pregnant woman faces. I feel that I am now much better equipped to lead prenatal yoga, and I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone looking to learn more about pregnancy or prenatal yoga.” ~Nicole

“I maintain nothing but absolute gratitude to you and Matrika Prenatal Yoga.  At the outset of training, I yearned for a missing link, in between 42 years of obstetrical nursing experience and 51 of yoga practice!  How I found your program and that “link” was nothing short of miraculous!  Your insight into the wonder and miracle of birthing is in itself a spiritual gift.  Your compassion and love for the pregnant client is apparent as well as intuitive empathy for the pregnant psyche. The reading list was comprehensive and the webinars fun and informative.  I respect your genius fully.” ~Ambika

“Sharon was an excellent instructor and an amazing sounding board. I loved that she so clearly articulated her personal opinions and beliefs without forcing them on us, her students. This is a unique skill and, from my experience, one many instructors struggle with. Sharon did a great job at sharing information, offering feedback and discussing alternative/contrary thoughts/experiences/beliefs without ever seeming critical or offended. She offered a ton of excellent information and I left the program prepared to lead others through a prenatal sequence.”~Megan

“The training was very in depth and challenging. I feel that after completing the program, I am well prepared for teaching prenatal yoga.” ~Kate

“I really enjoyed the option of online learning as well as personal time. Sharon’s approach is a flexible alternative for trainees looking to expand their learning while continuing with their responsibilities. The pranayama and meditations were my favorite part.”~Natalie

“Yoga Matrika provides more than just a great educational journey on the basics of Hatha Yoga, Yoga Matrika expands on the typical 200 Hour course offerings by ensuring that the course material is delivered and received in a way that is most beneficial and valuable to the student and the path they are on for their life, teachings, and personal yoga journey. Yoga Matrika shares their unique insights and personal mentorship on every topic and does so for every student so that no one is felt left out or passed over. Yoga Matrika truly helps each student tap into their true potential and identify with what they want to offer the world as a person, a continuing yoga student, and a yoga teacher.” ~Brandi
[headline_border]How Does a Distance Training Work?[/headline_border]

matrika-007

STEP ONE: Pay Tuition and Enroll

As soon as you pay tuition, you will have immediate access to the online course.  The first section of the course is an ORIENTATION and you will be introduced to the main topics in the course, the graduation requirements, the assigned textbooks and start your studies.

STEP TWO: Participation

It is important that all students engage with the course materials and assigned readings through online discussions.  There are prompts given for most online discussions, but students are encouraged to ask questions and be active participants and leaders in the conversations.  Watch all the videos, use the practice suggestions in your home practice and try out the techniques in your yoga classes.

STEP THREE: Connect with the Trainer

Regularly email your questions or problems in your training to Sharon and stay connected.  Your trainer has over twenty-years of experience teaching prenatal yoga and you are encouraged to communicate with Sharon regularly through the course.  Unlimited email communications are included in your tuition.  Your tuition also includes THREE, 30-minute mentoring sessions with Sharon that you can schedule at your convenience.  We meet using SKYPE, FaceTime, or WhatsApp so we can connect no matter where you are in the world.

STEP FOUR: Make the Program Your Own

You can get “lost in the crowd” at an in-person training and online, but this program inspires you to consider yourself a professional and act like it too.  You are given assignments that ask you to be curious about pregnancy and birth, to explore what options are available in your area and to start to create professional support and referral networks.  The more time and energy you invest in the practical and professionalization assignments, the more confident you will feel.

If you want more personal guidance or mentoring, Sharon includes three private mentoring sessions that can be scheduled at your convenience. These sessions are not required for graduation, but many students have found that these have helped them complete the training and feel more confident in their ability to teach the highest quality prenatal yoga class possible—even with little experience.  matrika-023The tuition does NOT include the required textbooks for the course.  The books required for the course, when ordered new from Amazon cost approximately $80 USD.  Most of these books will be excellent reference volumes as you plan prenatal classes for the rest of your career.  You are under no obligation to purchase the books, so feel free to borrow from the library, colleagues or buy electronic versions or used copies.  Depending on your location in the world, if you are having a hard time finding any of the assigned books, I can usually work with you on locating alternative titles that you can obtain.  IMG_3861

Who facilitates the course?

Your lead trainer is Sharon Fennimore, MA.  She designed this course and has almost 20-years of experience teaching prenatal yoga and meditation.  Sharon personally responds to all email, conducts all private sessions and facilitates all online discussions.  Sharon is a DONA trained birth doula and holds two Masters Degrees in East Asian Studies and Cultural Anthropology.  She has worked with thousands ofSharon Profile expectant women and their families over the past 15-years and has been offering prenatal yoga teacher training courses for over seven-years.
Full Tuition $350

[headline_border]Commonly Asked Questions[/headline_border]

When Can I Start the Training?

You can start at ANY time.  Enrollment is on a rolling basis.  As soon as you pay tuition, you have immediate course access.

Can I finish the program faster than 6-Months?

Sure!  Due to the nature of the practicum assignments that are required for graduation, it is impossible to complete the course in less than three-months.  But, you work through the course and the requirements at your own pace and can schedule your final exam whenever you wish.  Most participants complete the course in five-months.

I’m not an RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher).  Can I Still Take This Training?

There are no pre-requisites for this training program.  Anyone can enroll.

What if I don’t like the course?  Can I get a refund?

There are no refunds.  It is recommended that you sign up for the FREE course Yoga During Pregnancy just to get a feel for the online course platform.  Send an email to Sharon with any questions BEFORE you pay tuition: sharon@yogamatrika.com.  Once you are enrolled, if you are unhappy for any reason, Sharon will do everything possible to fix the problems and make an individual plan for you that works for what you need.

Despite being motivated and my best intentions, I need longer than 6-months to complete the course!  Can I extend my program?

Yes!  Every student has a single opportunity to extend their program by 12-months with a $100 payment.  You don’t need to grovel, beg, ask for extension or get permission.  There is a section in the online course with a link to make the extension payment, make it, and the program is automatically extended for six-months.  Only one extension per student no matter what.  No exceptions.

Does this online training allow me to register with Yoga Alliance as a RPYT?

No. Yoga Alliance standards do not permit distance learning for the Prenatal Yoga Specialist designation. Sharon does have a 200-hour Registered Yoga School (RYS) , but this prenatal yoga certification is not associated in any way with that RYS or Yoga Alliance.  You will receive a 25 CEU credit certificate for Yoga Alliance continuing education credits upon graduation as Sharon is a YACEP (Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider).  This is the maximum number of  distance learning CEU credits that Yoga Alliance will permit to count towards the required 30 CEU credits to maintain your registration.

Technical Skills Required

In order for you to get the most out of this course, you need a minimum of technical skills including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Being able to sign-in to the online course and create a password
  • Ability to follow links, download PDF files, audio files (mp3) and video files (mp4)
  • Ability to open WORD files, type into the document and then “save as” a PDF
  • Must have consistent internet access
  • Must know how to use SKYPE or FaceTime and have the electronic devices and/or accounts set up so you can use this technology for private sessions

Do you wonder if you have these skills or not?  Are you concerned about your ability to use your skills in an online course environment?  I suggest that you try out this free course.  This course is the EXACT same format (but obviously a very basic content that is different from the training content) as the teacher training and if you learn how to navigate this course, comment, and download the eBook, then you will know for certain that you can take the training course too.  If you have a hard time with this free course, then send an email to Sharon and discuss your concerns.  Because this course includes personal attention, we can usually find ways to work around any technical concerns, but since there are NO REFUNDS for any reason, let’s try to make sure you feel confident about taking an online course BEFORE you enroll.  Just send an email to Sharon: sharon@yogamatrika.com

Requirements for GRADUATION

This is a 100-hour distance learning program, that leads to certification in yoga for fertility, pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period.  Upon program completion, you will be certified to teach Matrika Prenatal Yoga and any other classes, workshops and retreats of your own design that you create based on this training.  You will receive a graduation certificate and personalized letter from Sharon Fennimore explaining the curriculum and your special skills.  You are NOT guaranteed certification based on enrollment or tuition payment alone! Choosing this track is a significant commitment to becoming a specialist in working with women and supporting optimal fertility, nourishing pregnant women, their infants and their families and support system.  There is significant reading, writing and practicum requirements and certification requires your active participation in the online course discussion boards.  The reading level of many of the articles is graduate level academic work.

Enroll NOW
MATRIKA PRENATAL PROGRAM Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate from the Matrika Prenatal Yoga teacher training program and obtain certification to teach Matrika Prenatal Yoga, within 6-months of enrollment* you need to have:

#1: Actively participated in ALL of the discussion boards of this online course with these minimum guidelines:

  • Provide meaningful initiation of a minimum of two discussions for each section of the course.
  • Provide meaningful responses to the discussions started by other participants in the course that show you are doing the readings, watching the webinars and engaging deeply with the material for a minimum of three discussions in each section of the course.

Please do not comment just to fulfill this requirement.  I’d rather you not participate in a particular discussion if it is not an area of interest to you or you don’t genuinely have a question.  I will be monitoring all discussion boards and generally just want to see active participation and ongoing dialogue.

#2: Work through the entire course including watching ALL videos:   As the course facilitator, I can “see” all of your activity in the online course including what activities you open, the videos you watch and how long you take for each item.  We are all professionals and adults and you have made a significant investment in this training.  If I have concerns about your participation in the online course, I will send you a private email.  It’s up to you to take the time and really do the work of the online course.

#3: Send written practicum assignments for review to Sharon:   Sharon personally reviews all submitted work and will produce a graduation and CEU certificate within 2-4 weeks from the date of submission.  All work must be submitted typed and as PDF files.  All assignments are due within 6-months* of date of enrollment in the course.

*Oops!  Taking longer than six-months?  No problem!  You can extend your program another six-months for $100.  Every student is entitled to one extension.  You don’t have to request it, just make the extension payment in the STUDENT RESOURCES section of the course prior to your 6th month of enrollment and you will automatically be given six-additional months to finish the program.

 

Is This the Right Program for YOU?

Online learning is not right for everyone.  This program works best for 200+ hour trained yoga teachers (or equivalent training and experience) with a minimum of one year of teaching experience who either live outside of the United States and have little to no access to in-person training programs OR teachers who have full time jobs and/or young children that make attending a training program in-person impossible.  You must be highly motivated, organized and committed in order to complete this significant online course.  There is a lot of college-level reading of articles written for academic audiences, participation and personal and professional practicum work and assignments that must be completed in order for you to graduate.  Only students who complete all of the graduation requirements will be given a graduation certificate.  Your enrollment does NOT in any way guarantee your graduation or that you will receive a certificate.  There are NO REFUNDS for any reason, including if you decide that this course is too much work, fail to do the work or meet the graduation guidelines.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that an online course is “easier” to manage because of the flexibility when, actually, the opposite is generally true.  Before you enroll, take a look at your calendar and see if you can block off a minimum of 4-hours a week for the next five-months.  If there is a week when, say, your sister is getting married and you know you won’t be able to get any work done, or you have weeks when you single-parent because your partner is traveling for work, then you have to find another week when you could put 8-hours into the course.  What tends to happen is that many students lose their momentum and then start to procrastinate when they feel that they have been gone from the course for so long that they can’t possibly “catch up”.  If this happens, it’s best to send an email to Sharon and make a specific plan for moving forward.

Enroll NOW for ($350): Sign-up here for immediate course access!

 

Fine Print
  1. No refunds for tuition for online programs, mentoring packages or training retreats for ANY reason.  If you are unhappy with the program, at any time, for any reason, please remain calm and contact Sharon as soon as possible (LONG before you get so frustrated you think you are just going to quit!): sharon@yogamatrika.com.  Although there aren’t any refunds, we can usually work out an alternative plan so you get the training you need at no additional cost.  This is a program with a lot of personal attention and all problems are solvable.
  2. There is absolutely no guarantee of graduation or certification.  Your work and training portfolio will be evaluated and your ability to complete the program and obtain certification documents will be based on the merits of your participation and quality of the portfolio that you submit.
  3. Online programs are not for everyone.  With flexibility comes extraordinary personal responsibility.  You must also have the technical skills to register for the online program, upload documents and submit work as PDF files.  Consistent access to a computer and the internet are imperative.
  4. You should be able to set aside 15-20 hours for each month of your program for working online, reading, practice, and writing assignments.  It is important that you put these hours in your calendar and stick to a schedule.  Otherwise, it is unlikely that you will complete your program in time.  If something “comes up” then you must re-schedule your time.
  5. The cost of required textbooks is not included in any of the above fees.
  6. The cost of any additional mentoring hours with Sharon Fennimore beyond the three, 30-minute mentoring sessions included in tuition, are NOT included in any of the above fees. These sessions are entirely optional and not required for graduation, certification, or CEU credits.  More private sessions and mentoring time can be arranged for additional fees.
  7. These programs provide an esoteric and intellectual approach to the science and practice of yoga.  This may challenge your current practice or ideas about yoga and meditation.  Personal mentoring sessions are designed to help you incorporate this information into your own practice and unique teaching voice.  Be prepared to be challenged and inspired!

Beautiful and Sensual

I have been using essential oils in my practice and for self-care for many years.  It all started when I participated in some classes and workshops taught by Amy Galper and Schuyler Grant around yoga, acupressure, and aromatherapy about sixteen or so years ago.

A couple weeks ago, I received an offer from Utama Spice.  They very generously sent me a complimentary nebulizing essential oil diffuser with a bottle of their own Cajeput essential oil in exchange for my honest review of their products on my blog.  How could I say no?  Also, I very much appreciated the genuinely personal communication I received from Utama.  I made it clear that I would only write a completely honest review and they were in agreement with the conditions I presented to them.  As soon as I opened the package from Utama, I knew I was in for a treat.  The Danau Satu diffuser came in the most tasteful packaging with a floral decoration.  As soon as I pulled it out of the box I was amazed at how beautiful it was.  There is a wood base and a glass bowl and diffuser nozel.  While it is small enough that it can blend into any environment, it is also classy and ornamental in its sensual shape and design.  The instructions for putting it together were easy to follow and included just a few steps.  It is glass and needs to be cared for and maintained.  Replacement glass parts can be easily purchased on the Utama Spice website.

For me, like many parents, bedtime can be stressful as my children seem to resist putting the day down and their own exhaustion can be a barrier to welcoming nourishing sleep.  I decided to give diffusing some relaxing lavender essential oil into their rooms as we put on pajamas and started the bedtime routine a try.  The diffuser has a mellow LED light that provides almost perfect sleep light for children who may be afraid of the dark or resistant to complete darkness while they are falling asleep.  It’s a really pleasant light.  As soon as I turned on the diffuser, I noticed a very light “hum” of the motor, but it is a very quiet machine.  At even the lowest level of diffusion, my daughter’s room was almost immediately filled with the lavender oil scent.  This is very clearly explained in the instructions, but I must have missed it the first read through, so I thought that maybe the diffuser wasn’t working well when it just kind of stopped diffusing after the first minute.  I kept turning it on and off again when this would happen.  It turns out that it has an automatic cycle of diffusing for a while and then resting for a minute, then diffusing again.  And then, a miracle happened……..this was the calmest and most peaceful night we have ever had!  My daughter and I have been enjoying Kate Coombs mindfulness poems that are accompanied by the most magical of illustrations by Anna Emilia Latinen in the book, “Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems”.  So, we enjoyed this scented air and lovely poems and…..she just fell asleep.  No fighting, no complaints, no problems.  And, I woke up alone in my bed in the morning having found that my daughter had a most peaceful night of sleep where she remained in her own bed the entire night without waking me up or asking to get into bed with me—not even once!  After my daughter had fallen asleep, I unplugged the diffuser and put it in my son’s room and he immediately said that he liked the scent.  He also fell asleep without problems and as soon as he was sleeping deeply, I snuck into his room and took the diffuser back to my own space.

I added about 15-drops of an essential oil blend by Aura Cacia called “Meditation” that includes sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, and myrtle to the remaining lavender oil and diffused for 10-minutes into my practice space.  This is a really perfect diffuser for use in a meditation and yoga practice because it scents the air very quickly.  I felt that my space was energetically clear and peaceful before I even started.  I chose to turn the diffuser off during my practice, but depending on your personal preferences and choice of oils, there is no reason why you couldn’t leave it on for your entire practice.  The motor is so quiet that I didn’t even notice it and the glow of the light in the glass bulb would have made for a very calming way to light a night practice.

The next morning, I decided to give the oil that was provided with the diffuser by Utama Spice a try.  The cajeput essential oil is a very light herbal scent that has a hint of eucalyptus and tea tree oil refreshment, but is much less astringent or medicinal.  I found it invigorating for the morning, but it also created a very peaceful energy in my space.  I complimented this scented environment by drinking a cup of jasmine green tea and the floral and light green notes of the tea felt so joyful in that light and peaceful feeling space.  The scent of cajeput is very clean and bright and I am so delighted to have been given this opportunity to try it.

As much as I have enjoyed using essential oils for many years, this is the first time I have used a diffuser like this.  I am absolutely amazed with what a big difference it makes to use this Danau Satu diffuser!  Using a diffuser allows me to bring a significant scent into the environment in a short period of time and to either continue that level of diffusion or enjoy that shift in energy for a shorter period of time.  Also, it truly is a beautiful object that complements my meditation and yoga space and home.  In order to be thorough in my review, I did follow the instructions for a quick cleaning with alcohol that is recommended in the instructions.  It was easy to do and since this is such a lovely and useful machine, it is absolutely worth it to take a few minutes a week to care for it so that it will last for a long, long, time.  This diffuser was perfect for shifting energy in my home to promote restful sleep for my children, but was also ideal for scenting my practice space to prepare for a relaxing seated meditation with mindful movement.  I also use insense for this purpose, but that can be smoky and I liked being able to scent the air and then turn the diffuser off so that there wasn’t any smoke or oils in the air while I was practicing pranayama (breathing exercises).  It’s nice that I could choose to keep the diffuser on for up to two-hours so that I could also keep it on for an extended restorative yoga practice or yoga nidra practice.

I am so grateful to Utama Spice for this beautiful gift that has genuinely improved my quality of life.  If you are looking to buy a diffuser, while I have never used any others and can’t “compare”, I can assure you that this one is lovely, works incredibly well, and has features like a low motor hum and graceful light that make it ideal for using to create peaceful sleep and practice space.  I’m so pleased with this product that I’m hoping to try some of Utama Spice’s yoga mat sprays and other products very soon.  To buy your very own Danau Satu nebulizing diffuser, please follow the links in this review or head right on over to : https://utamaspice.com/danau-satu-nebulizing-diffuser/

Imaginary Tea Party

In my memory, a significant part of my childhood was spent in imaginary play.  From a quick review of photographs, I spent a lot of time in a leotard with a tutu.  I was either dressing for the job I wanted or I just liked the fancy feeling that comes along with wearing anything tulle.  Since it is also itchy, my guess is that I REALLY wanted to be a ballerina.  I also liked to have tea parties.  This week, for bibliotherapy Friday (if you read my blog regularly, you will soon realize that there is never just one day of the week to enjoy book therapy), I’d like to invoke both my imagination and the spirit of planning parties I will likely never host.  Will you be my guest?  Better yet, I highly recommend checking out these cookbooks and planning your own imaginary feast.

The ultimate tea party cake is most definitely the Coconut Princess Birthday Cake with Almond Filling, a 3-layer cake that looks like something I’d LOVE for you to bring over for tea at my place.  We would need plates and forks and, lucky for us, I have those.  In addition, I would provide some Earl Grey tea as I believe the bergamot scent would complement the almond filling.  You can’t buy this cake, but you can make it by following the three-page recipe starting on page 107 of “Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes for Cozy Days and Nights” by Leela Cyd.  I have to be honest with you that just the idea of trying to make this cake causes a bit of anxiety to arise in me…..especially the little “note” on page 109 about making my own marzipan.  But, in my heart, I feel how delightful this cake is.  In my mouth, I can feel how the soft white frosting would shock my mouth with sweetness on the first bite.  Then, I can feel the flavor develop as the almond enveloped the initial sugary sweetness and I know I’m going to giggle.  I’m going to sit back and enjoy that bite.  Sip some tea.  If  frosted three-layer cakes aren’t your thing, then delight in all the other treats in this fabulous book that is perfect for your next tea party—-real OR imagined.  Some of the other recipes that caught my attention were the Swedish Tea Ring with Berries and Crushed Cardamom (pg. 60), Pea Dumplings with Mint Sour Cream (pg. 26), and Avocado Yogurt Dip with Vegetables (pg. 75).  So, put on your tutu, gather the fairies, sit down with this sweet little cookbook, and have the best little tea party your mind can imagine in the most beautiful garden you can conjure.

Tea party not your thing?  No problem!  Meet me at the Chinese night market of our dreams where the scent of five spice and curries mingle with noodles and mysterious meats (don’t ask, don’t tell).  There isn’t much I don’t want to learn to make and nothing I wouldn’t love to eat right now in Danielle Chang’s “Lucky Rice: Stories and Recipes from Night Markets, Feasts and Family Tables”.  As if the food and sweet treats weren’t enough, Chang also has some very unique alcoholic drink ideas including the “Afternoon Gin Tea” which includes anise, Kaffir lime leaf, peppercorns, smoky Lapsang Souchong tea, ginger, honey, and gin.  So, I guess I’ve come back around to the tea party theme after all.  But, how can you resist the Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice, page 157), Chicken Tikka Masala (page 135), Zha Jiang Mian (Spicy Pork Noodles, page 104), or Chanko Nabe (Sumo Wrestlers’ Stew, page 86)?  For some reason, many of us lose our ability to imagine or dream as adults, or it makes us feel foolish or silly—-what a waste of time!  But, a cookbook like this offers eye candy and I can smell the deep aromatics of these delicious meals.  In my mind’s eye, I can wander the night market, alone or with other adventurous friends and experience a wonderful evening under the stars with a belly full of my favorite Asian comfort foods.

The soups and stews are what appeal to me in “The Easy Vegan Cookbook” by Kathy Hester……but, I have to admit that the only reason I pulled this one off the shelf is that the title made me think of my best childhood friend from Brooklyn, Jen……because, as pre-teens, we both enjoyed and were perplexed by a pop song at the time called “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins.  Memory can be an important part of imagination because we can pull from the remembered to make a collage of an experience in our mind that brings the best of the past into this present imagined moment.  Now imagine Mr. Collins singing about his “Easy Vegan” and then think of being 11-years old and hanging out with your bestie listening to the radio and trying to figure out song lyrics.  There is a lot of giggling.  In this cookbook by Hester, there are also some variations on common vegetarian favorites that are worth a glance and likely worth eating too if you are inclined to take these imagined parties out of the mind and into your kitchen.  For example, check out the Pumpkin Hummus (pg. 152), Black Eyed Pea Quesadillas (pg. 143), or the simple, yet flavorful Cauliflower and Rice Soup (pg. 50).

If you need a bit of help with your imagination muscle when it comes to tea, dinner, or other gatherings, then look no further than that fantastic “Salad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists” by Julia Sherman.  Sherman travels the world to have delicious salads crafted by amazing artists that we can only imagine having meals with.  Have a leftover salad breakfast taco with Alice Water, Persimmon Caprese with Master ceramicist Yui Tsujimura in Nara Japan, and enjoy dipping fresh garden herbs into Laurie Anderson’s Roasted Eggplant Dip……It’s easy to imagine because these fantastical gatherings actually happened and Sherman provides the pictures to prove it.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself there, with the people in the picture.  It’s not cheating, it’s like using a block when you practice yoga….just a visual tool for sparking your imaginative power.

Meet me in the woods at never o’clock for some pea dumplings with mint sour cream and a hundred bites of frosted almond cake….I’ll be the one in the turquoise tulle tutu with a flower crown and the fairy entourage.  Just follow the song birds.  You can’t miss me!

Unicorn in the Sky and Other Magic

Hello there dear!  It’s Bibliotherapy Saturday  and I decided to start today’s exploration with a magazine I don’t usually read.  Ever.  I decided to start with February 2018 issue of Astronomy magazine.  Why you might ask?  Good question!  It’s because there was a hook on the cover that suggested that I could “TOUR Monoceros the Unicorn” on page 60.  I love unicorns.  How could I resist?  Monoceros the Unicorn is the 35th largest constellation out of the 88 constellations and the figure lies within the “Winter Triangle: the stars Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Procyon.”  The short article then has some pictures of and features of the area around the constellation and notes what is special that you can see either with the naked eye under a dark sky or what kind of telescopic enlargement is required.  This kind of night sky exploration is what I had been hoping for when I signed up for a basic astronomy class in college.  Instead, I got a whole lot of physics and math that I didn’t have the background to do and wasn’t sure what any of it meant.  I don’t know about you, but I feel kind of excited about this Unicorn dancing around the Winter Triangle of our night sky!   Recently, I have also come across a number of books and articles that refer to star bathing, which is just like sun bathing, but under the night sky.  While it may be difficult, or even impossible, in urban areas to isolate from other light sources, I have to believe that, with intention, one can go outside in the night to absorb the light of the stars and receive some of the benefits.  And, if those stars happen to be in the shape of a unicorn……..that HAS to be some extra special and nourishing star bathing.

When I was designing the curriculum for my new Buddhist meditation and nature focused yoga teacher training program, I felt called to pull ecospirituality into my yoga and meditation practice and work.  I also read an article in the November 2017-January 2018 Womankind magazine today called, “The Gardening Effect” by Lucy Treloar that quotes a biologist by the name of E.O. Wilson:

“…nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.”

Wow!  Go ahead and read that a few times and think about how much time you spend outdoors, about the quality of water and food that you consume and make a part of your body. I love an essay/memoir in this magazine by Katherine Scholes about her time as a child following her father, a physician, on his travels through Tanzania before independence when it was called Tanganyika.  The memoir is called “Home in the Open Savannah” and there are fabulous pictures of the author and her siblings as children.  In many of the pictures they are holding up dead birds with huge smiles on their faces.  I think of my children all stressed out about school schedules and homework packets and spending too much time on their iPads and how different their lives will be for not having had this kind of adventure in childhood that the author describes, but also how different they will be for having the ones that they are having.  Because, it’s all an adventure.

Also in this magazine, Womankind (11/17-01/18) on page 93, there is a Tanzanian proverb:

“A wise person will always find a way.”

This proverb is interesting to me, especially completely out of context, as it brings to mind my knowledge of the Tao….which is a certain kind of “way”.  Perhaps a wise person always finds a path to the flow of spirit?  Finds a way to a path, any path that will accept their feet and they walk it until the path unfolds and things seem more clear.  Or, maybe it is an invitation to the power of intention, that once we are determined, we relax around that determination so that we can be creative about how to manifest our desire?  It would be interesting to use this as a positive affirmation when I feel like something is impossible to remind myself that there is, in fact, a way.  There is always a way.

Here are some other books that made it to the reading pile:

Attracting Songbirds to Your Backyard
By Sally Roth

Did you know that some songbirds won’t ever consider a bird feeder, no matter how well-stocked, to be a food source?  This book is filled with interesting projects for making and providing food sources for song birds to diversify the birds that come and serenade you in your yard.  I also learned a lot about birds that are native to other places other than the Eastern parts of the USA where I am most familiar with bird populations.  Invite the birds to sing to you this spring and summer!

The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People
By Pedram Shojai

I like this meditation book a lot. There are lots of little tricks and exercises for finding ways to be mindful through your day.  I especially appreciated the suggestions on learning how to relax your neck, learning animal tracks, and taking five deep breaths every thirty-minutes throughout the day.  Sometimes, a little shift in attention can make a huge difference in your quality of life.  This book offers a lot of suggestions on how to make little shifts.

The State of Mind Called Beautiful
By Sayadaw U Pandita

Well, this is a vipassana meditation book with a very interesting name.  But, the perspectives and techniques offered are inspiring and a great way to either begin a personal meditation practice or to inspire and enhance an existing practice.  I find that this book has a very unique discussion on the challenges that come up during practice, such as pain in the body and a wandering mind.  The suggestions offered for working with obstacles within and around practice are very helpful and creative.

Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense
By Bob Holmes

Just fascinating!  I’ve always thought that flavor and taste were synonyms, but, it turns out, they are not the same thing at all.  This is a very easy to read book and I found the discussion on what gives vegetables their flavor, or makes us believe them to have flavor, especially interesting.  It turns out that sometimes, what we taste as being a very sweet tomato isn’t sweet because of sugar content necessarily—its the hundreds of volatile aroma molecules.  And, cheap wine tastes better when people are told it is expensive even when, in a blind taste test, most will think the cheaper wines taste better anyway.  So, pour that $10 bottle of wine into a carafe and tell your guests it’s a $90 bottle of wine…..to enhance their enjoyment!

What’s in your reading pile this weekend?  Please comment below.

 

Opening to Enchantment

“Do not weep, life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we do not want to know it, and if we did want to know it, tomorrow there would be paradise the world over.”

― Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Brothers Karamazov

en·chant·ment

inˈCHantmənt,enˈCHantmənt/

noun

  1. 1.a feeling of great pleasure; delight.

    “the enchantment of the mountains”
    synonyms: magic, witchcraft, sorcery, wizardry, necromancy

  2. 2.the state of being under a spell; magic.

    “a world of mystery and enchantment”

Enchantment in Yoga and Meditation

A few years ago, I purchased a copy of Rose Taylor Goldfield’s book, “Training the Wisdom Body: Buddhist Yogic Exercise”.  I’m delighted with the book, but the best part was that a card fell out of the book printed with the Foreward  by Khenpo Tsultrum Gyamtso Rinpoche in poem form and it starts like this:

HA HA HA! HEE HEE HEE! HO HO HO!

When you practice yogic exercise,
Know your body is not solidly real—
It is appearance-emptiness.
Your body is like a dream body.

Wow!  Think on this for a moment……the foreward to this book of yogic exercises starts with laughter and the suggestion that your body is “like a dream body”.

I know that this is true for myself and I imagine that it is true for you, no matter how advanced you are in your practice, that it is easy to sink into the heaviness of a practice.  This heaviness can be a result of a desire to do it right, to have a certain outcome like losing weight or getting stronger or becoming more flexible, or to try to work with serious problems in body, mind, or spirit through practice.  There is the heaviness of our lives that creeps around the edges of even the brightest yoga mats.  While I sometimes feel the weight of my body lighten as I release long held physical tension towards the end of a practice, the truth is that I am very aware of my relationship to gravity during asana.  As I become more committed to my practice, I feel that the commitment itself can seem a little heavy with burden.

But, clearly, this is not necessarily the design of the practice and this laughing mentor pushes us to consider how hilarious all this is.  Dream body!  Ha ha ha! So I thought about what it might be like to practice in a way that invites us to lighten up, to create space for magic, and to open to inspiration that might be lurking at our door that we could open if we weren’t feeling too heavy to get up and see about all that knocking.

A Feeling of Great Pleasure

We put ourselves through a lot that has nothing to do with pleasure…….we wake up before we are fully rested and put on clothes that may not fit comfortably, throw down a cup of mediocre coffee without even really tasting it before running to catch the bus where we squease into the aisle and hang on for dear life as someone who doesn’t smell all that “fresh” presses into our exposed back.  At work, we have a cubicle and it is piled with papers and reports with post-it notes accenting the hopeless piles of to do and should have dones.  And, ok, maybe you love your clothes and have a fabulous office covered in pink peonies and tropical birds……but, admit it, feelings of great pleasure aren’t what you have come to expect from your daily  life.

But, why not?

Suggested Readings for Enchantment

Books for Adults 

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
By: John O’Donohue

Finding the Blue Sky: A Mindful Approach to Choosing Happiness Here and Now
By: Joseph Emet

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire
By: Deepak Chopra

The Heart of the World: A Journey to Tibet’s Lost Paradise
By: Ian Baker

Nineteen Hats, Ten Teacups, and Empty Birdcage & The Art of Longing
By: Cooper Edens

Letters to Anyone and Everyone
By: Toon Tellegen

Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes for Cozy Days and Nights
By: Leela Cyd

For Sharing with Children or Adults who Are Open to Such Adventures

Wishtree
By: Katherine Applegate

Starbright: Meditations for Children
By: Maureen Garth

Hiding in Public

It is only recently that I have learned that I am an introvert.  More precisely, I am an extroverted introvert.  I don’t not like being around other people and do not have trouble in crowds or social situations.  I can introduce myself to strangers and make friends with relative ease.  But, being with other people doesn’t nourish me the way that being alone is soothing and refreshing.  I don’t just LIKE being by myself……I NEED to be by myself, probably a lot more than many other people do.  I have no fear of loneliness as the idea of being all by myself is rather enticing.  But, as an extroverted introvert (or is it introverted extrovert?), my favorite place to be all by myself is the library.  It’s how I go and be all alone with others.  Perhaps it is because I grew up in an urban environment, but I like to have people “around”, but not engaging with them.  Combine being alone in public with unlimited access to books?  Heaven.  Perfection!  And so,  every Tuesday I give myself the gift of bibliotherapy in heaven…..the Carnegie Public Library in Oakland.  I’m here to meet Chinese students in Oakland who might want some help with language and culture issues, so don’t be shy if you see me and want to chat…….but in between, I’m enjoying all the nourishment that hiding in public has to offer a book lover like me.

So, what’s on the bibliotherapy pile today?

Crochet Taxidermy: 30 Quirky Animal Projects, from Mouse to Moose
By Taylor Hart

Ok, how could I resist this cutie pie of a book?  While I may never actually crochet the sweet cuttlefish, adorable crocodile head, or magnificent hen and rooster duo, it kind of made my day to look at these little projects.  Because, it’s just too easy to get too serious about things sometimes.  This book reminded me today that it’s good to play, that having a crocheted squid dangling from your wall might not be such a bad thing, and that taking the time to imagine the possibilities is as good an investment of time as anything.  Don’t take my word for it.  The next time you are feeling like a stuck in the mud cranky pants, go ahead and browse in the craft section of your library and either find this lovely little book or grab another and just allow yourself to enjoy the colors, the silly things you can make, and imagine what it would be like to have your living room walls transformed into a collection of colorful crocheted animal heads.  Sure, your kids would come home from school and know for certain that you had finally truly lost your marbles, but…..uhmmm….so what?  Sure beats coming home to find you in your cranky pants (another word for yoga pants that you’ve never actually done yoga in) with that crease across your brow and bad attitude.  Make a purple elephant head and staple it to a board and hang it on your wall instead!  Then, invite some other people over to have chips and salsa and enjoy your elephant.  That sounds like fun!

Cats I’ve Known: On Love, Loss, and Being Graciously Ignored
By Katie Haegele

If you’ve known me from the years when I was, oh, say, 23-43, then you know that I had two cats that I “rescued” in Philadelphia that were my constant companions—Mushuk and Guzel.  If you can do math and know anything about cats, you know that 20-years is a long time to be blessed with two magical and unique cats and you also know that they are no longer alive.  Through some strange twists of fate, having lived in Philly, Seattle, and Brooklyn….they are both burried in a backyard in Pittsburgh, PA.  Knowing this about me, then you know that I couldn’t NOT read this book by Haegele about the Philadelphia cats that she has known and cared for.  If you are a cat lover, then you will appreciate how these stories highlight the different personalities, behaviors, and presence of the many cats that Haegele has related to in her life.  I especially like the story of the cat that belonged to the nun that was the librarian at Haegele’s elementary school.  But, all the stories are a reflection on how we are inspired and connected to many living beings and that we can allow ourselves to be enriched and nourished by the animals that we come to know in surprising and significant ways.  If you like cats, then this is a gem that will bring you into the world of another cat loving kindred spirit.

I Hate Everyone Except You
By Clinton Kelly

I scooped this one up because it has a colorful bird on the cover and the title made me laugh when I read it.  I had no idea who Clinton Kelly was, but it turns out that he is the former cohost of the makeover show What Not to Wear.  His bio says that the show is “wildly popular”, but I’ve never heard of it.  This likely says more about me than it does about this television program, but maybe not. For the most part, I didn’t find anything particularly unique here and thought for the first 100-pages or so that the best part of this book was the title and cover image.  But, there was one part that was so insightful, almost painfully so, that I did read the whole book and it seems my initial feeling that it wasn’t unique diminished the view of life that Kelly quite artfully reveals in his personal stories.  It happens on page 103, at the start of a chapter called “The Switch”.  In this chapter, Kelly talks about how there are times in our lives when we recognize that nothing is the same, that something significant has changed, but that it is impossible to put our finger on exactly when the switch happened.

“…click–the track you’ve been traveling on is no longer your track.  The old track just disappears behind you, as irrelevant as yesterday’s train schedule.  Click.  You’re going somewhere else now.  Click.  There’s no reverse. Click.  Your reality will never be the same.”

On page 104, Kelly talks about the “switch” in his life when his parents divorced and he became a new kid in a new school.

“My track had changed.  My parents changed it, obviously, but when?  I can’t pinpoint the precise moment–and the moment had to be precise because one person can’t ride on two tracks simultaneously.  At one point, I was a ten-year-old boy in a two-parent family.  At another point, I was not.  The switch occurred, but I missed it.  Perhaps if I had been a little older, more attuned, less sad, less frightened, I would have felt it.  But I didn’t.  I had felt no switch, but I knew I was headed in a different direction.”

This really made me think about transformation in relationship to a yoga breathing practice that has always been my most successful way of bringing complete focus to the in and out quality of my breathing.  Go ahead and try it, it’s impossible, which is why it is such a great technique for full focus.  The idea is that you become aware of the precise moment when an in-breath becomes an out breath and an out breath becomes an in-breath.  It’s not hard to know whether or not you are breathing in (inhale) or breathing out (exhale), but it is very difficult to identify the exact moment when the switch occurs.  Maybe it is because the exhale is inherent in the inhale?  And perhaps this is what is missing from Kelly’s concept of the “switch”….that being a child in a two-parent household is inherent in being a child in a single parent household.  It was there all the time.  His parent’s divorce was there in the marriage, the whole time.

Rants from the Hill: On Packrats, Bobcats, Wildfires, Curmudgeons, A Drunken Mary Kay Lady & Other Encounters with the Wild in the High Desert
By Michael P. Branch

As someone interested in nature, the environment, and who would like to believe I have a relatively good sense of humour on most days, this collection of essays provides some creative reflections on the relationship between humans and their environment.  This includes the complex relationship between humans and other humans in their shared environment.  I randomly opened to a chapter called “Lawn Guilt” (starts on page 63), which I loved because, in my estimation, lawn care related noise polution is pretty much the worst thing about living in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  From spring to late fall, the sound of blowers makes it impossible to enjoy any time with the windows open.  Each person, with their postage stamp sized lawn, hires a landscape company that arrives with enough equipment to manage the lawn at Versailles—and they arrive every week.  The blowers, weed whackers, the lawn mowers made for acres create sound polution so profound that we might as well be living in the New York City Subway  station at 42nd Street at rush hour when the Peruvian wood flute bands compete with the plastic can whacking percussionists as the subway roars in and out of the station and thousands of people yapping on their phones whiz up and down the corridors.  It drives me so crazy that I consider it a good reason not to live in Pittsburgh, even with all the other amazing things about this City.  In this essay, Branch quotes an 1862 essay by Henry David Thoreau that he wrote on his deathbed, called “Walking” and, apparently, in this essay, Thoreau refers to the American lawn as “…a poor apology for a Nature and Art.”  I like these essays.  I like them more for what they aren’t than what they are.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  Actually, it’s an amazing skill on the part of the author……he finds a way to tell a relatively short story, but pulls in quotes or references or personal introspection that makes the idea big and dynamic even if he doesn’t use a lot of words to explore it.  Most of the exploration happens in the reader after being “sparked” by the essay.  It’s really a thought-inspiring book and while I’m glad I don’t live in a place where mud season occurs, or I don’t have to worry about my kiddos finding scorpions and rattle snakes while doing cartwheels in the yard……I do see the value in becoming aware of how all the small things and events of our lives are genuinely the big things that make up the quality of our lives.

Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, & Tomfoolery
by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal

These guys are “YouTubers”, which is a profession that was developed while I had my back turned and I’m not really sure what it is.  My son wants to be one.  So, I picked up this book because I thought it might help me understand, but I’m still confused.  It does seem that these two men spend their lives coming up with ideas of things to do on camera, or do off camera and talk about it later, or do on a live web feed and then they wrote a book about their “process”.  I guess the truth is that I don’t find much of what they are doing or thinking amusing or entertaining or even very thought provoking.  I guess you could make the argument that it is art because it has caused me to have a reaction.  All this to say, maybe if you are a twelve year old boy, then this book would be amusing to you or help you understand more about how to become a YouTuber when you grow up, if, in six-years when you are “all grown up” this profession still exists and hasn’t gone the way of Laser Discs.  But, you know, there is something very endearing about these guys…..there is a whole section on how they met their wives, which they did a long time ago, and they did some very sweet things to seal those deals.  The name of this chapter, which is hands down, my favorite in the book (or, the only thing I really liked about this book), is “Say ‘I Love You’ Like It’s Never Been Said”.  Cute.  It’s really CUTE!  It’s so adorable and sweet that it makes me really glad that this otherwise confusing book made it into the bibliotherapy pile today.  I just hope it didn’t give me a cavity.

Checking Out

If I’m not careful, I’ll check out hundreds of books at a time from the library and then no one will ever see me again.  Part of the genuinely therapuetic process for me on library hiding days is that I just enjoy all that I can read while I am there and leave everything at the library.  I allow myself ONE, singular book to check-out each Tuesday.  Lately, they have been science leaning non-fiction that comes home with me, or a cookbook or global fiction gem.  Keep reading to find out what book made the “check-out” cut this week……..

What did I end up checking out?  I checked-out a book titled “Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean” (2017) by Jonathan White.  I started to think more about “waves” while lightly reading through a book about the discovery of “SuperWaves” by Irv Dardik.  Also, I’ve been pulling the “Ocean” oracle card out of my angel deck quite often in the recent past and it seems that my guides would like me to be thinking about water, the ocean, and waves.  I intend to read these books side by side to think about waves, in general, from a physics perspective and tides, of the ocean, specifically.  What I come to understand, I will share with you in a future blog post.  Until then, I will share with you a small tidbit of information that I randomly opened to in White’s “Tides” book (page 152) that was all that I needed to read in order to know that this book was THE ONE I was going to take home from the library for Bibliotherapy Tuesday.

The bottom of the page talks briefly about Pierre-Simon Laplace who called the tides “the throniest problem in astronomy” (White 152):

“In Laplace’s five-volume masterpiece, Mécanique Céleste, he introduced equations to address the complicated interactions of tide waves on the real earth.  He recognized that there was more to the ocean tides than a simple wave progressing around the planet.  Instead, he described how each ocean might have its own response to the tide-generating forces and that that response might be defined by many factors, including the size and shape of the basin, the depth of the water, the ruggedness of the bottom, temperature, and so forth.  Using calculus and trigonometry, he developed several highly sophisticated equations to account for this, equations that turned out to be nearly impossible to solve without modern-day computers, which wouldn’t be in use for another 150 years.  He never fully solved them himself.”

It is nice to be reminded that having questions can be just as important as having answers.  When we think about how our lives can have infinite inspiration into the future, long after our physical bodies have gone to dust and even if no one knows our name, it is interesting to think that it may not be the conclusions we arrived at in this lifetime, but the questions we asked that are our most lasting contribution to humanity.

Written by Sharon Fennimore, MA, E-RYT, RPYT, YACEP
Please note that I am not a therapist of any kind and my  reference to “bibliotherapy” is a  cheeky reference to open stack browsing at the library that I do on a weekly basis as a way to choose joy, relax, and expand my creative boundaries.  If we do work together, I’m likely to suggest that you read a book, because I am constantly reading and can’t help but make recommendations to my clients and friends.  There IS such a thing as Bibliotherapy and I find it fascinating!  

Happy (?) Holidaze!

Whether you feel like this is the most wonderful time of year or you’d prefer to go into hiding until it’s all over, I’m offering some services unique to the season that can help you find some relief or just create more time and space for you to truly enjoy all that this magic season has to offer.

Guided Relaxation

I am offering a package of twelve recorded audio guided relaxations that can be downloaded through this online course that also includes three 45-minute online workshops (webinars) that you can watch live or at your convenience that will include breathing, meditation, and gentle movement that can be practiced while sitting in a chair.  The cost for this package of twelve relaxation sessions is: $35.  If you wish to give one as a gift, please contact me and I can easily arrange for this.

If you are in Pittsburgh, I am offering a special holiday package of three private relaxation sessions for  $180 (this is a $45 discount on my regular private session rate).  Each relaxation session is 45-minutes.  All sessions must be scheduled by March 2018.  You can buy a package for yourself or as a gift for someone who lives in Pittsburgh.  Please contact me directly to purchase and schedule.  

Clutter Busting and Cleaning

Sink over flowing with dishes?  Guests coming and you need someone to clear out the guest room, put on clean sheets, put out clean towels, clean your bathrooms, deal with THAT closet……..whatever it is, just let me take care of it.  I am a NO JUDGMENT cleaning service. I will just come in, do what needs to be done, and leave.  No lectures, no guilt, no shame and then, it’s just done.  I have a four-hour minimum and charge $30 per hour for work scheduled between 9:30 am and 3:00 pm on Mondays through Fridays and $50 for work scheduled at any other time or weekends.  I bring my own natural cleaning supplies that are safe for all the living beings in your house and a mop.  You provide the vacuum cleaner.  Please call to schedule as my week fills up FAST: 412-855-5692.  If you know you are having a party or guests or if you have multiple-days of work you need to have done before an event, please call as soon as possible to reserve your time.  For all reservations, I require a 50% non-refundable payment of the hours reserved.

Personal Assistance

You buy the gift cards, and I’ll do the shopping!  I’ll gladly head to the store of your choice for groceries, gifts, dry cleaning pick-up or whatever you need.  Do you need me to make appointments for the hair salon, massage, restaurant reservations or other event planning?  I’m happy to do it!  Meal planning?  I’m here for you.  All of my errand running, shopping, scheduling, and other personal assistant work is $30 an hour with a three-hour minimum.  Just think about how happy you are going to be when you get home from work and everything you needed from Target is right there in your dining room and you didn’t have to deal with the crowds, the lines, or the hassle!  I do gift wrapping, thank you card writing, invitations, post-office runs………Please call to schedule: 412-855-5692.  A non-refundable 50% payment of all reserved time is required upon reservation with the balance due at the time services have been completed.

Clutter Busting, Seasonal Clothes Swapping, Laundromat

Is your family room or kid’s play room a wreck?  What are you going to do with all the new toys that are about to arrive?  I am hapy to clean your family room, living room, play room or child’s room and organize all the toys, clothes, and other items that will make that space more usable and pleasant.  Are you trying to deal with putting the summer things away and take out the winter things and feeling overwhelmed?  Let me take your summer items to the laundromat and fold everything so it is clean and safe until the sun comes out again next summer.  I can also take coats to be cleaned and help sort out what still fits and what needs to be donated.  I take everything that is to be donated out of the house when I leave and then take it to Goodwill for you.  I provide a receipt for your tax donation records after I drop off the goods.  Please call to schedule: 412-855-5692.  A non-refundable 50% payment of all reserved time is required upon reservation with the balance due at the time services have been completed.

Pets, Parties, and Infants

Do you need someone to pop in and feed your cat, give the dog an extra walk, or take care of your infant while you host your guests?  I take care of all living beings and am delighted to help you out this season with the little extras that you usually manage yourself just fine, but are the hair that is breaking the camel’s back this season.  Rates depend on the service, so just call and let me know what you need: 412-855-5692.

SERVICE AREA

I prefer to work with individuals and families that are in the East End of the City of Pittsburgh.  My online courses and audio and video downloads are available to anyone who has an internet connection all over the world.  Payment balances and payments for “regulars” can be made by personal check, but all reservation deposits and other payments can be made by credit card.  I use Square invoices or PayPal.  If this doesn’t work for you, just let me know how you like to make payments and I’ll work with you.

 

Tibetan Yoga Classes

Tibetan Yoga on Wednesday Mornings 10:00 am

In my personal practice of yoga, in the past five-years, I have started to bring more and more of my meditation into my yoga and more of my yoga into my meditation.  Essentially, it is now one practice.  This is possible because the type of somatic meditation that I practice (somatic meaning “of the body”) is rooted in Vajrayana Buddhism.  This is one of the major schools of Buddhist practice and thought that is based on the idea that we all already possess Buddha-nature in ourselves and that enlightenment is just the recognition of our true nature.  The practice has more to do with learning techniques that access much more than the physical body and bring us into a state of open awareness to things as they are.  It is in this “space” where all potential and opportunity exists.  We don’t need to make anything, improve on anything, get more flexible or strong or change anything.  Rather, we use our tools of somatic awareness to enter into an open space.  It’s the difference between being shown a seat at a table where there are bins of colored markers, feathers, glitter, paints and multicolored paper and being shown a seat at a table where you see some used lined paper and a worn down pencil.  It isn’t that you couldn’t make something happen with that lined paper and pencil, but when you get seated there, you have to really work to think of the possibilities.  At the other table, you see all those supplies and your energy is uplifted and you feel like there are endless things you could create.  These tantric practices are about entering a space that feels like you just got a seat at the table with all the colorful art supplies.

I don’t know, but I guess it is possible that you might become more flexible over time or that you might get stronger or lose weight.  But, really, what kind of “goals” are these in the face of the idea that you could live every moment of your life like you just won the creative supply lottery?  No matter how much yoga you do, you are going to get older (We hope! Right?), sometimes you may get sick or be tired or get an injury or disease.  What I am realizing more and more is that you can’t get better at yoga or meditation, but you can find your way into this delicious state of awareness and find yourself able to stay there for longer and longer periods of time.  It isn’t some fantasy location or a vacation place that you have to, eventually, leave.  The more you practice, the more life feels like a seat at the table of infinite glitter and less like you are stuck trying to make magic with a worn down pencil.  We use the body, but it isn’t ABOUT the body.

This being said, the movements and physical exercises of Tibetan yogas are very much like the asana you are already familiar with from Hatha or Indian yoga traditions.  I start these classes with a very simple energy sequence that you can do at any time if you feel like you need to get your energy moving in the right direction. Then, we set an intention of metta (compassion, or loving-kindness).  Whatever your own intention is for making your practice a priority, that is up to you.  But, as we join together, we recognize that our practice is for something outside of ourselves.  We practice to improve the quality of life for all living beings.  Again, maybe you will feel better in your own body after practice, but we don’t practice just for this purpose.  Then, we take nine cleansing breaths to clear the major energy channels of “drip” (low energy or blocks).  Starting out with free flowing energy and clear of any drip, we loosen the joints, practice some asana (physical postures), use techniques such as sound, visualization and hand postures to build our life-force and then we meditate and relax.  While some of this may seem familiar, the effect is profound.  I personally feel liberated, grounded, and inspired after I use these practices.  I love this open feeling-place and the fact that I can access it no matter what is going on in my life or whether I have an injury or physical challenge to practice.  When I mostly practiced flow-style yoga, if I had a hurt wrist or ankle, I felt like I couldn’t “do my whole practice” or practice for “real” until the injury healed and I could go back to it.  Now, I feel like I can do my whole practice and get the full benefit even if I have to do the whole thing lying down.

I’m happy to share these techniques as I understand and practice them and hope that you will use them to enhance your own home practice.  No matter what other kinds of yoga you like to practice, learning these simple techniques can add more options to your tool box for whenever you need to create space around a problem or concern or just find a sweet spot to relax that you know is yours to enter into whenever you like.

Wednesday mornings at Samira Yoga from 10:00-11:15 am.  I’m starting with a six-week series (February 1-March 8, 2017) and we will see if there is a group that would like to continue.  

Professional Development for Yoga Teachers

In April 2013, I closed my brick and mortar yoga studio, Yoga Matrika, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and pioneered yoga and meditation studies through distance learning.  In the process, I tried a number of different platforms for holding classes and teleseminars and worked with hundreds of very patient yoga teachers who agreed to work with me to provide constructive feedback while also getting high quality continuing education.

yacepI am really delighted that Yoga Alliance has recognized the potential of distance learning for professional continuing education for Yoga Teachers. They permit up to 25 of your 30 required CEU credits to maintain registration to be earned with non-contact hours.  I am honored to be a YACEP (Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider) and have a number of online courses just for yoga instructors.  These courses allow teachers all over the world to learn more about Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan yoga practices, meditation skills, subtle body anatomy, women’s health and yoga, and prenatal yoga and meditation. I have put over 25-years of practice, teaching, and research into all of my training courses.  Most of the courses have rolling enrollment and you can join at anytime.  The video and audio resources are yours to download and use forever.

Follow this link for my CEU Course Listings and more information

 

Rejected Miracles

I’m a doula—a woman who nurtures other women during pregnancy, pregnancy loss, labor, delivery, and all the transformations after birth that sometimes feel like magic, but other times just feel like poop.  A lot of poop.  So, it seems appropriate to me that I feel very drawn this time of year to the idea of Mary, in labor, looking for a safe place to give birth to baby Jesus.  Except, there were no ultrasounds, so we didn’t know it was Jesus and she was rather adamant that the father was God.  Let’s be honest here, there was a lot of Mary’s story that was unlikely to be believed by most.  I imagine that Mary was making some noise and no one wanted her in their hotel—this single Mom in labor accompanied by some guy who wasn’t even the father and likely to be releasing all kinds of mucus, blood, and groans long into the night.  Let’s face it, Mary was a hot mess.  She was going to keep other guests awake and it’s not like they could just allow her to sit in the lobby because she was, uhmmm, having a baby!  In my heart though, while I wish so much when I think of this narrative that someone would have given Mary and Joseph a warm and safe place to welcome their baby, it’s not Mary and Joseph that I feel grief for.  The real sadness in this story are all the people that rejected the potential of being a part of the miracle of the birth of Jesus.  This laboring woman made them uncomfortable and the owners of the hostels used logic to reject the miracle.  We have no space.  We are not able to accommodate you.  We have other guests that were here first.  In the story, the people who got creative were the people that had the least amount of resources to work with.  Can you imagine the profound faith that gave Joseph the courage to stay by Mary, to help her labor and deliver her baby, while all the while knowing that he was not the father?  In this story, Joseph said yes to the miracle.  Never mind Mary who allowed her body to be the vehicle for the birth of Christ!  It just doesn’t get any more courageous than THAT!

We all say no to potential miracles each and every day.  I’m not a hypocrite.  I’ll be honest that I get uncomfortable.  I get really scared and I can feel myself fade away and then I get very logical about all the “reasons” why I can’t be open to whatever it is that has challenged me.  As soon as I start making mental lists of “reasons”, that’s when I know that I have closed a door on something that may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.  Some of you who know me know that I also say “yes” to things.  I say yes to a lot of things.  This has, on a number of occasions, gotten me into some hot water.  But, on many more occasions, it has changed the trajectory of my life in the most beautiful and fantastic ways.  The week of Freshman orientation at Penn, I was assigned to a nuclear arms specialist, Dr. Deudney, as my initial advisor.  He had never met me before and I would have never picked a nuclear arms specialist as my advisor, so we were even.  He looked at my schedule and saw that I was taking Level 1 French.  He said, “Have you ever taken French before?”.  I nodded my little hung over noggin and explained that I had taken French in both middle school and high school.  He replied, “And you still don’t know any French?”.  I replied, “No, after seven years of French classes, I tested into level one French.”  He said, “Well, you know, if you ever really needed to know French, you could learn it in a month, but right now is the last four-years of your life that you will ever have to just focus on something and I suggest you focus on learning an Asian language.”  Just typing this gives me CHILLS!  I had no intention of studying an Asian language.  None. At. All.  He made the suggestion, looked at the class guide and said, “Chinese works with your other classes.” And, I said, “YES! I’ll sign up for Chinese.”  I had no reason to believe I could learn Chinese and, just a mere five minutes prior to this stranger making the suggestion, I wasn’t going to be learning Chinese.  Then, my life changed.  My life changed because I said YES to the suggestion of a nuclear arms specialist.  What has followed has been the most soul-full adventure that I would not trade for anything.  Without Dr. Deudney, I would not have purchased a Shanghai Flyer bicycle in Beijing, or met and fallen in love with Mike while dancing at the Kunlun Hotel to The Cure, or spent the night talking with Rick along the waterfront on Shamian Island, or met my lifetime soul friend Clara who was the best friend I ever had for everything from jumping fences to drinking caipirinha’s in New York at the Coffee Shop while flirting with Germans (They WERE German….right?).

This isn’t a post about all the wonderful things that happened in my life, or the handful of really difficult things, that happened because I said “yes” to what turned out to be some excellent advice from a stranger.  This is about encouraging us at this time of year to think about how much we say “no” to.  It’s a perfect time to think not just about the light and hope that comes from remembering the miracles of this season, but also holding some compassion for the darkness of the season—for all the people who said no to Mary and Joseph and, in doing so, also said no to hosting the miracle of the birth of a savior.  They didn’t STOP the miracle from taking place, but they turned their hearts closed to the potential of being a PART of the miracle.  In what ways are you, dear reader, rejecting miracles due to discomfort, fear, or a list of logic that even Judge Judy couldn’t argue with?

A little less than a month ago, I received an email from my landlord in which she informed me that all but one of the other tenants in the building that I live in had complained about noise that my children and I make in the building.  She asked us to leave.  She said that she didn’t want people with our “lifestyle” (i.e. single mother with two children kind of lifestyle) in her building.  She said that she didn’t want people like us ruining her relationship with “good tenants” and possibly causing her to lose these “good tenants”.  The “good” (i.e. adult) tenants of my building were frustrated with the sound of my children’s feet on the stairs.  Not only that, but the tenants of my building didn’t like my “yelling”.  My “yelling” is me asking my kids to put away their iPads, to come to eat dinner, to do their homework, to take baths….but the walls are thin and my neighbors, apparently, could hear me.  Hearing us, it seems, was not tolerable to my neighbors who felt entitled to using the space as they wished and they had no desire for the sounds of children or families.  I’m no Virgin Mary, but I pretty much got turned away from the inn.  I know, your blood is boiling when you read this because you know that it isn’t legal to discriminate in housing against single moms with young children.  Maybe you know and care about me and my children, so you feel sad or even concerned for us?  Maybe you don’t know us at all, but you are a regular reader of my blog and you feel a sadness knowing that this type of thing happens every day to women all over the United States.  We are going to leave.  I’m lucky because I was able to secure housing with family where we will not be so easily dismissed or rejected.  But, what about my neighbors?  For them, of course, there is no guarantee that the new tenant will be silent.  I assure you that my neighbors are not silent.  I hear their dog barking, kitten crying and scratching at the wall and door, the podcasts, movies, dinner parties, coming and going at all hours of the night, their sex, their middle of the night showers after their sex, their fans and air conditioners, their conversations and their snoring.  Yes, the SNORING.  I was woken up one night by your SNORING.  Did I call the landlord and suggest that you were not respectful because I was woken out of a perfectly good sleep because of your snoring?  No, no I did not.  And, I’m not the Dalai Lama, so, yes, yes I’m angry.  But, at the same time, there is a missed miracle here.  Imagine if any of my neighbors had heard my children coming down the stairs to catch the school bus and instead of seething in anger over the sounds of their little feet on the stairs, opened their doors and said, “Have a great day kiddos!”.  What would have happened if they had a cookie or a kind word for us when we came up the stairs after a long day?  We could have been friends, maybe I could have watered your plants when you went away on business or perhaps we could have shared a drink or a conversation or a meal?  Maybe we would have become good friends?  Maybe you would have drawings from my children on your fridge?  Instead, you called the landlord and complained.  We will leave, but there is no guarantee.  Trust me neighbors—-I hear when you pee.  The problem isn’t my kids, it is the paper thin walls and your inability to open to the possibility of friendship and relationship with the people you live with.  Instead of sitting with the discomfort of the noise of children and a family and leaving open a space for the miracle to happen, these individuals closed off to the potential.

This holiday season, as we approach the darkest and longest night of the year, I invite you to examine the places where you feel most challenged and see if there is a small space that you might be able to create for miracles to happen.  Is there someone at work that frustrates the bajeebus out of you?  Do they love Star Wars movies?  Just go out and get them a Star Wars mug and tell them that you know how excited they must be about the moving coming out next week.  Just do it.  Just reach out and do something nice for that challenging person.  Yes, yes please, you can have my room to labor and birth your child.  Yes, yes please, you take the cubicle closest to the window because it seems to mean a great deal to you.  Yes, yes please, hold my hand as we walk down the street because I want to make space for love.  Please touch my face when we kiss and say my name—often. Make cookies for someone.  Reach out and make a date to have coffee, to listen, to be present for someone that you don’t know all that well.  Make eye contact and say hello.  Go buy some crayons so the next time your co-worker has to bring her child to the office because her childcare fell through you can make a kind connection with a child instead of complaining that there really isn’t enough room for three chairs. Help a mom trying to get a screaming toddler into a stroller while balancing a coffee in one hand and an infant across her chest–without judgment.  Reach out, offer to hold her coffee and tell her that you think she is doing an AMAZING job.  Ask if there is anything else you can do.  Listen to a story told even if you kind of wanted to be doing something else.  Tell someone how much you love their glossy hair, red coat, Christmas pin, or the sound of their voice.  Say out loud that your life wouldn’t be the same if you couldn’t smell their hair or press your face into their neck. Spoon your love at night and be grateful for company when you dream. They won’t always be there, so don’t wait until they are gone to say so.  Hold the door, let it be OK that they kind of cut in front of you in line, forgive your friend for being human, let someone know that they did something that changed your life for the better. If anyone says, “Let’s go dancing!”, JUMP at the chance even if you now that you have two left feet and you will look like a fool!   Say I love you, even if it makes you feel small because it is the only way you will ever be big.

A Special Note to My Neighbors

To my neighbors, who will never read this because you don’t even know my last name and I don’t know yours because we never even met and so you don’t know that I write a blog and I have no idea what you do for fun or for money.  But, just in case you do one day accidentally read this and realize that you personally caused housing instability for a single mom and two very young children, please know that I forgive you.  Know that many days I would gladly sell my children to gypsies because they drive me crazy too and I am sure that the noises we made were, at times, truly unpleasant and disruptive.  I understand.  Really.  I also hope that the next person to move into my apartment is a circus professional who gets drunk daily and practices juggling with glass dishes all night long while listening to ACDC and misses catching the dishes every time and then has screaming arguments with their mother in Hungarian over SKYPE so you can hear both sides of the arguments and not understand a word of either.  But really, I forgive you.  I’m going to take my miracles and go somewhere else and maybe next time you will see the possibilities in your challenges. Maybe. Maybe you’ll get free circus tickets?  You just never know people—-you just never know.

 

 

Attitude of Gratitude? Not so much.

While we all know that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a part of living our most joyful life, how can we authentically do this when we are less than grateful?  Feeling ashamed or guilty about the “real” nature of our feelings, or pretending to be thankful for what we would have very much preferred to say “NO thank you” to in our lives gets in the way of happiness and creativity.  What if your heart is broken?  What if you are in terrible pain without relief in sight?  What if you have received terrifying news that has changed your life in an even more awful way?  Even with all the joyful self-help gurus and happy, shiny, advanced yogi specialists beaming at you from their glossy magazines promising peace and abundance for all your expressions of gratitude, and even as much as you wish to crawl into their tie-dyed yoga pants and bask in the bliss of all that they proclaim and stand for, the truth is that when your life is going to Hades in a hand basket…….well, no matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.

But, if you are reading this, you DO have something to be grateful for.  This something does not, in any way, diminish however awful things are for you right now.  As the Buddha taught us, suffering is a part of the human existence.  We suffer because we desire things to be anything other than what they are right now.  We suffer because we are afraid, when things are wonderful, that we will lose that fabulous feeling.  Therefore, we know that our suffering can exist at the same time as our one thing that we always have to be grateful for.  What is this one thing that is ever-present?  Breath.  Yes, if you are reading this or even aware enough to listen to someone else who can read it to you, then you have this one thing that you can be grateful for in this moment.

You don’t have to pretend that all the suffering isn’t there.  Well, at least, don’t pretend on my account!  I don’t even own a single pair of tie-dyed yoga pants for you to covet or crawl into. (Although, if anyone reading this is inclined, I would absolutely LOVE a pair!)  I’m suggesting that there is a way to cultivate gratitude even when all hope is lost.  The beauty of observing the breath and being genuinely thankful that it is with you, of you, and through you, is that you create a little hope and space where there just didn’t seem like any could be found or made.  No, all your problems aren’t solved.  But, the subtle shift may be just the little miracle you need.  If not, you were taking those breaths anyway and so nothing gets lost through your effort.

I was recently reading a book about the subtle body by Tias Little.  I randomly opened it to a page with a breathing exercise that described the lungs as an upside down tree with the branches (lung tissue) towards the earth and the roots in the upper palate/roof of the mouth. I love this visualization because, in Chinese subtle body mapping, the color of the liver energy is green.  In Hatha yoga chakras, green is the color of the heart-chakra.  Therefore, when we breathe in, we can grow green leaves and fill the branches of our respiratory tree making it more and more lush with each in-breath.  As you exhale, you can feel those roots reach towards the crown of your head and pull up on the roof of your mouth.  There is actually a pleasure center of the brain that is located right above the upper palate of the mouth.  When you exhale, the palate lifts and stimulates this center.  Thinking about this tree helped me stay focused on the breath in a very powerful way.  When I am very upset, using a strong visual tool like this helps me stay present with the breath.  Otherwise, my mind tends to wander and feed my sadness, fear, or pain.  Sure, when times are calm and good we can be aware of the in-breath, breathing in, and aware of the out-breath, breathing out. But, in times of chaos and confusion, using visualization can mean the difference between a nourishing and a frustrating practice.

Please do not feel that accessing these few moments of peace require that you deny the reality of your sufferings.  Feel all your feelings, know what is true for you, and be authentic in your expression and communication!  All the while, know that you can also create a sanctuary of peace and beauty through the practice of breath awareness.  Although the in and out nature of the breath happens without your explicit effort, you can still find some gratitude in the presence of breath.  How lovely to feel and hear the breath coming in!  How amazing to be able to feel the release of the breath and all that is no longer needed!  It is happening right now.

Posted by Sharon Fennimore, a yogini, teacher, and writer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Find out more here.

 

 

The Truth About Parenting and Sleep

When I was pregnant with my first child, who is now ten years old, I was unable to sleep well through most of my pregnancy for a variety of reasons from nausea, insomnia, heartburn, a painfully itchy rash, and other reasons.  Complete strangers, friends, and relatives would say things to me like, “You better sleep now, because you are never going to sleep again once that baby is born!”.  This caused me a lot of anxiety because, if this was true, then I was blowing my last chance at sleep.  Also, this is simply a terrifying thing to hear.  Why does anyone say this to pregnant women?  While I have some ideas on why people say scary things to pregnant women, it seems most important here to share the realities of parenting and sleep.

The Truth

The truth is that, as a parent, you are a parent all day and all night.   This reality changes your relationship to the type of activities you engage in both during the day and night.  This may seem obvious, but it also isn’t clear how this will change your life.  Part of the reason why you don’t know is because you haven’t met your baby yet!  You have no idea what their nighttime needs are until you know.  Some of the daytime needs seem more predictable because they ARE more predictable.  Many expectant and adopting parents think a great deal about how they are going to adjust their daytime lifestyle to adapt to the addition of an infant.  Everything from finding daycare so you can work outside the home, to car seats, and child proofing your environment at home are adjustments that need to be made regardless of your child’s personality or sensitivities. Night parenting requires just as much of an adjustment, but the adjustments must be made more in the moment and will constantly shift and change.  It isn’t that you aren’t ever going to sleep again!  The shift is going to be how you plan to care for your infant’s needs at night and also take care of your own needs.

Newborns

Newborns must have absolutely all of their needs taken care of by others.  They are, at any given moment, eating, wetting or pooping in a diaper, or sleeping.  At many moments, they will be doing more than one of these things.  These three activities occur around the clock.  Please don’t let this scare you.  The key to working with adjustments during this time is planning for everything else as much as possible.  Creating a comprehensive postpartum plan for your household is the best way for you to prepare for this time.  The effort that it takes to feed a baby 24/7 means that you don’t have the energy or time to feed yourself for the most part for about 4-6 weeks.  While there is a person in your household that may be creating a significant amount of additional laundry, the adults that do laundry have significantly less time to do it.  Again, don’t let this scare you.  There are some things that you can plan for and some that you can’t.  If you can plan for how you will keep your household running and meet your most basic needs in the 4-6 weeks after you bring your baby home, then the sleep adjustments won’t seem as stressful.

Sleeping Through the Night

What a tin of poppycock!  As your baby grows and your child develops, they will start to sleep for longer periods of time without waking and needing to be parented.  This will happen.  How much parenting your child needs at night depends on their personality, temperament, and how you and your parenting partners adjust to changing night parenting needs over time.  While many people focus on this mythical moment in time when your baby “sleeps through the night”, it’s really the unicorn in the room.  The reason why it is mythical is that everyone defines “sleeping through the night” in a different way.  Your pediatrician will likely consider your infant sleeping four-hour or longer stretches of time during the night to be “sleeping through the night”, but this is likely very different from what your “sleeping through the night” looked like before you had a baby in your care.  And, just when your baby sleeps for four or five hours straight, they start to teethe, or they get a cold, or the seasons change and they fuss to fall asleep while it is still light out.  Your eight year old might get nightmares or your five year old might throw up at 3:00 am.  Your four year old might be scared to go to the bathroom by themselves in the middle of the night.  Basically, it just keeps changing, but the evolution over time certainly is towards going longer periods of time without needing parenting.  Rather than focus on sleeping through the night, see the changes over time, and enjoy each night for what it was—-one night.

Parenting a Baby Can Be Physically Exhausting

It can be near impossible to maintain a state of equanimity when you are exhausted.  It’s not just the parenting all night, it is the actual physical work of parenting a baby that can be challenging to your energy.  All that laundry, feeding, diaper changes (seriously—the poop!), appointments, heavy car seats, strollers, infant carriers, groceries, changing your sheets, and, uhmmm……did I mention poop?  Rather than focus on trying to get your baby to sleep more, it can be more effective to think about ways you can get some nourishment.  While I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying different methods for helping your baby sleep as much as possible, in this moment, it is easier to get yourself some rest than it is to control whether or not your baby sleeps.  If you find yourself feeling exhausted, I recommend the following:

#1: Figure out a way to get an uninterrupted nap today: sometimes this means hiring a babysitter, calling a friend to take your baby out for a walk for an hour, sleeping when your baby sleeps and not trying to do all the things that need to get done (email, dishwasher, laundry, change sheets, etc.—whatever it is, make sleep during the day a priority above all else).  Don’t try to solve all the problems!  Table all issues and errands and just do whatever it takes to get some sleep today.

#2: Hire a postpartum doula: When it is time to bring in a professional, hire a postpartum doula.  This is a special family assistant who can help you with tasks around the house, make you a meal, take care of your baby, listen to your concerns and help with some common problems that new parents have, and give you some nourishment for mind, body, and spirit.  A postpartum doula can hold your baby while you take a shower so you know that your baby who will not tolerate being “put down” is in warm and loving arms while you bathe.  Don’t feel like having to hire help is some failure on your part! Women all over the world have support for the period of time after they give birth.  Healing from the adoption process, pregnancy, birth, and developing a relationship with your new family member is a lot and all at the same time.  As parenting is 24/7, you should expect to need an extra set of hands.

#3: Needs vs. Wants List: Sit down with your parenting partner(s) and make a list of what absolutely must get done and a list of things that you would like to do.  For example, maybe you wanted to make birth announcements this week, but you are so exhausted that you don’t even know what day of the week it is.  At the same time, all you have in the refrigerator is a jar of olives, there was a menacing note from a utility company on the door and you can’t find your checkbook……….At this time, your exhaustion might lead you to focus on the fact that the birth announcements aren’t done.  If you are reading this and have never parented a newborn before, you might think I’m crazy right now.  I’m not.  This scenario will happen to you.  But, writing things down can help you prioritize with the little energy you have and also work together as a team to get what has to get done, done.  Everything else can wait.

#4: Unless it is an emergency, don’t make any major life decisions for the first year after you have a baby or ever have a conversation with your partner after 9:00 pm: Try not to sell or buy a house, change jobs, move to a different city, decide to go to graduate school, join the circus (unless you were already in the circus before having a baby), start a business, etc. for one year after adopting or giving birth.  As much as possible, keep the big life decisions to a minimum.  Additionally, try not to have any conversations with your partner after 9:00 pm that aren’t absolutely necessary.  Absolutely, never, ever, engage in an argument after 9:00 pm.  Trust me, you are both exhausted, frustrated, irritated and more.  If someone snaps, don’t take the bait!  For example:

Shouting from the couch, “Honey, why don’t you come over here and give me a foot rub?”.

Yelling from the kitchen, “How can I possibly rub your feet when the sink is piled with dishes and the garbage is overflowing like this?  Was there really no time for you to do some of this today? I had a really stressful day at work and all you have to do is hang out here with the baby!”.

Uh OH!  This evening is about to take a turn for the way worse.  Already, there were two really tired adults, presumably at least one child (maybe sleeping already?), and a kitchen that could use some serious attention.  Now we have two tired adults all set to compete in the “Who Had the Most Difficult Day Award”.  There are a lot of options for how this situation can be redeemed, but the most important thing to recognize is that being home with a newborn baby all day is not a day off by any stretch of the imagination.  And, it is near impossible to night parent, go to work and handle the stresses of those responsibilities, and come home to an insurmountable number of tasks and an exhausted co-parent to boot.  Whatever solution you come to, this is not worth the energy of an argument.  It is important for both parents to recognize that both adults are maxed out.

What IS Her Secret?

You know who I’m talking about!  It’s that mom with the mascara on whose shoes match her purse that matches her outfit.  The one who said, “Oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about!  My baby sleeps the whole night.”  Or, the rested one who says, “I got that book, “Bubbles and Blueberries: The New B Plan to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night”.  It really works!”.  This makes you mad because you become convinced that if only you followed the right sleep training program or were a better Mom that you too could get a decent night’s sleep.  I hate to tell you this, but there is no magic answer.

My Mother (I personally believe “Mother” should ALWAYS be capitalized.) always likes to say that if there actually was a cream on earth that could keep your skin looking young, then Jackie Kennedy Onasis would have not had any wrinkles.  But, she did.  Therefore, there is no such thing as a cream that removes or prevents wrinkles.  I feel this way about sleep training.  Let’s be honest, if there was any plan that worked consistently for even a significant percentage of families, then you would know about it.  Your midwife would have given you the pamphlet.  Your friends would have given you the book.  But, instead, there are as many sleep training programs as there are people who are willing to believe that there is some kind of program that would work.  The reality is that most of us just have to try, and try again, and work to adapt to the personalities and needs of our children and families over time.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t ask for advice or try new strategies?  Absolutely not!  If you feel like your routine could use a tune-up, then by all means, ask around.  But, it is important to accept that your baby will change over time and what works for someone else may also work for you, but it also might not.  Advice from experienced moms can be extraordinarily helpful.  For example, I never let my son cry at bedtime.  When he was about eight-months old, he started doing this thing where he would fall asleep nursing with me and then, when I put him in his crib, he would wake a bit and start to “whine”.  It wasn’t really a cry, per se, but it was not the sound of a happy baby.  My response was to quickly whisk him up out of the crib, but then it could take an hour or more for him to fall back asleep and, sometimes, he woke up completely and it would be hours of struggling after that.  So, I started asking around and a friend of mine said, “Just let him whine a bit.”  Revolutionary idea!  It turns out that he was kind of whining himself to sleep because within 5-10 minutes, he was OUT.  Picking him up was just interrupting his unique falling asleep process.

Is This a Baby Concern or a Parent Concern?

In some cases, parents are concerned about the amount of hours or way that their baby sleeps.  Maybe you worry if your baby sleeps too many consecutive hours in a row that they aren’t eating enough or maybe your baby falls asleep when they start to nurse and you are concerned they aren’t sucking long enough to build an adequate supply?  Absent of these specific baby-centered concerns, most of our sleep concerns are personal—they are about us, parents, feeling exhausted and like we aren’t getting enough sleep.  This is a very important distinction for how you approach solving your sleep concerns.  In order to make a plan to solve a problem, you need to identify who has the problem.

Just because you are exhausted doesn’t mean that your baby has a sleep problem, needs to be trained, or is a “bad baby” (whatever THAT is).  It means that YOU are having trouble getting as much sleep as you need.  Whatever solution you find, it’s of great importance that you are solving the problem of how you can get more sleep first.  Many parents make the mistake of thinking first about how to get the baby to sleep more, but since it is impossible to control another person’s sleep, I suggest that you work on the part of the problem that you have 100% control over first—-YOU.  Here are some things you can consider as you brainstorm this issue for yourself if you find that you aren’t getting enough sleep:

1: Environment

Is there something about your sleep environment that would make it more possible for you to get quality sleep?  Do you need black out curtains so you can take a quality nap with the baby during the day? Is there noise pollution that keeps you or the baby up?  Where is the baby’s sleep area?  Could you get a Pack N’ Play or a Rock N’ Play type sleeper and keep the baby closer to you?  Do you have everything you need for night parenting in a convenient place?  For example, would it be helpful to keep more diapering supplies right next to your bed?  Are you co-sleeping and find yourself having to get up to deal with wet sheets?  If so, maybe keep a pile of towels nearby and just cover up the wet spots.

2: Expectations

Do you have realistic expectations?  How can you make sleep a priority during the day or at times when your baby is sleeping?  Who can complete the tasks you have been trying to do when your baby sleeps during the day?  Are you over-programmed with mommy and me classes or events during the day that your baby sleeps through but rob you of much needed rest time?  Keep in mind that your baby changes very fast in the first year.  Match your expectations to reality and let go of anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

3: Co-Parenting as Partners

If this was a business and the goal was to make sure that both parents got the most sleep possible, how would you run your business?  Take all the blame and emotion out of the conversation and create a game plan.  Try things out and get flexible.  I remember at one point that I slept from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm because this was a time when my son didn’t nurse very much and his father could care for him.  Then, I could take the 11:00 to 3:00 am shift, fully rested, with five consecutive hours of sleep under my belt.  Forget about sleeping just being a night activity.  Work together to create a unique infant care and sleep schedule that makes sure that every adult gets as much sleep as possible while also meeting the baby’s needs.  Use that plan until it stops working and then adjust as necessary.  Some people find that changing sleep arrangements is an important part of the plan.

4: Once you Learn What Works, Do It!

This seems obvious, but it can be really challenging.  Let’s say that you discover that your four-month old sleeps from 10:00 am to noon each and every day, but if you try to move them at all during this time, not only do they wake up, but it ruins the quality of their afternoon nap too.  You have a dear friend visiting from out of town on business and the only time she can meet with you for coffee is at 11:00 am.  The choice is yours, but if you want to get some rest for that time and meeting with your friend will destroy the whole day, then you have to say, “I’d love to meet, but the baby sleeps until noon.  Any way we can meet at 12:30 instead?”.  If the answer is “no”, then why should your friend’s schedule take priority over your schedule?  You may think, oh, she is here on BUSINESS and has no flexibility—–my problem is just a sleeping baby that I can move around if I choose to.  NO!  This is not true.  Your routine and sleep schedule is just as, arguably more, important as someone’s “business” schedule.  Feel confident in your ability to create healthy boundaries around your routine.  If anyone thinks that you should be more flexible because you are “just taking care of the baby these days”,  you can either educate them on what works for you or just let it go.

The main thing to remember is that parenting an infant is very much a full day and a full night job.  Although this is true, over time, the shift is towards your child being able to self-soothe more and more and for you to be able to return to your desired bedtime and night routine.  As this evolution happens over time, the main thing to keep in mind is that you can, and should, make your self-care a priority.  You and your parenting partner(s) can work together to support one another in making this possible.

Written by Sharon Fennimore, MA a doula and women’s health coach based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  If you are in the City of Pittsburgh and need some postpartum doula care, please give me a call (412) 855-5692.  I’d be happy to come over, make a meal, and care for your baby while you take a nice long nap.

 

Monkey Legs

I remember the day that I learned there was something ugly and wrong with me like it happened yesterday.

The summer after third grade, when I was nine, I was invited for a day trip to the beach in Brooklyn, NY.  It wasn’t hot enough for a bathing suit, but we were all in shorts and t-shirts.  It was such a beautiful day and I remember being joyful in body and mind.  We ran up and down the beach chasing waves and I can still feel the quality of light as it danced on the water and reflected back up to my face from the sand.  I have always had thick and beautiful hair and it was pulled back into a braid so the end of it rhythmically thumped on my back between my shoulders as I ran.

We finally stopped for a moment to take a break and all of us girls sat in a circle and chatted about the things that nine year old girls chat about.  There was laughing.  After a rest and Twinkies—-it was the early 80’s so you could still give your children baked goods that would never go bad and drive a whole bunch of kids around without seatbelts—-we were back up to run and play.  We were loosely playing tag and I was the “it”. All the girls scattered and there was more laughter and light bouncing off the ocean, on our ponytails, and glistening on the waves of the thumping sea.  That is when my friend’s mother looked at me standing there, deciding who to attempt to tag first, and said, “Sharon!  You have hairy legs like a monkey! Little monkey legs!”.  She went back to smoking a cigarette and talking with the other woman who was there with her.  I, on the other hand, was changed forever.

They were my legs, so this wasn’t the first time I had seen them.  But, it was the first time I had seen them as “hairy”.  It was the day I discovered that there was something ugly about me.  I had monkey legs.  Once home, I immediately took a shower and used a razor to shave my legs.  It was a useless attempt to set things right again.  But, even with my smooth and hair free legs, I was to remain “Monkey Legs” in my mind’s eye.  There was something ugly about me that couldn’t be erased by laser, wax, or razor.  My mother was livid.  She was not livid that my friend’s mother had called me monkey legs.  She was enraged that I used her razor and that I shaved.  Now, it appears, I was stupid too because, apparently, shaving only temporarily removes the offending evidence of my being a mammal.  I remember my mother yelling, “The hair will grow back Sharon and once you shave you have to shave for the rest of your life!”.  The rest of my life seemed, at that moment, to be an awful long time to both shave and suffer the affliction of Monkey Legs.

It turns out that you don’t have to shave for the rest of your life.  For the most part, I have, but there have been a few times when I haven’t.  One of the most memorable was a summer that I spent living in a tent in Michigan and leading outdoor adventure trips for children. You see, without warm running water and a razor and when you are camping with fifteen, eleven year old children for ten days and caring for their every need, meal, and emotion, you simply don’t have the time to worry about your monkey legs.  Monkey legs be damned because I have to set up tents for fifteen kids and make sandwiches.  When I visited my boyfriend in the middle of the summer, he became physically ill at my touch.  Even in the dark, he said, “Your body feels like a man’s body.”  I didn’t bother to ask how he knew that.  Why didn’t my body just feel like my woman’s body, but with more hair than usual?  He begged me to shave, but I had to go back to camping in the woods and it wasn’t worth the time.  Actually, it was so much hair that shaving wasn’t going to be an option for hair removal.  At the end of the summer, I went home and heard my sister and mother giggling and whispering as they looked upon me asleep with my legs sticking out from the sheet covering me.  “It looks like a man’s legs!”

Before I went back to college that fall, I had my legs waxed of the offending hair, but I kept my hairy pits for a longer time as a nod to the rising tension in my heart around this thing about me that was so ugly and betrayed my gender.  Truly, I didn’t like the way my legs looked so hairy, but none of the men that I worked with on those camping trips had treated me in a different way.  Maybe there wasn’t something so wrong with me after all?  Did being myself make me look like a man? Like a monkey?  Was it ever going to be possible to be myself and be feminine and beautiful?  If only I could turn back time and go back to that version of me that didn’t think twice before wearing shorts to the beach without shaving and that only felt the power to run and dance in my strong legs.  What if my boyfriend had embraced me and my hairy legs?  What if being natural had turned him on instead of making him sick?  The ugly thing about me actually nauseated a man who loved me.  Now that I am older, I understand more about the dance of attraction in long term monogamous relationships. I know that open communication about how to nourish attraction is important. But,  actual nausea?  That’s pretty harsh.

When my mustache started to darken in middle school, I discussed my options with my mother and friends.  The consensus was that shaving would just create more thick and dark stubble, so it seemed that bleaching the fuzz was my best option.  In the movie, Reality Bites, Winona Ryder’s character used cream hair remover on her upper lip when preparing for a date.  I tried that once and ended up hairless, but with a bright red strip above my lip that would break out in hives when I washed my face. Some of the hives got scabs and took weeks to heal.  Not attractive. My mother and father joked that there were men who liked women with mustaches, but that we didn’t like those types of men.  So, not only was there something ugly and wrong with me, but the only men that might like me anyway, or like me as I was, had something wrong with them.  And, the wrong that was wrong with those men wasn’t something that could be solved with a pot of melted hard wax.

Over the years, I’ve waxed, plucked, electrocuted, cut back, tweezed, bleached and battled with the hair on my body.  Thousands of dollars have been spent managing my body hair.  There have been times when I couldn’t be as vigilant as others and usually no one noticed.  I never let body hair stop me from doing something I want to do these days.  If I haven’t shaved in a few days and someone asks me if I want to meet them at the pool, I’ll go anyway.  If I am newly intimate with someone or I think there might be a chance, I will shave before a date.  It’s short-lived though because the hair on my body is hearty, thick and simply grows too fast to keep on top of it for any length of time.  And by “length of time” I mean anything over 12-hours.  Go to bed with me smooth and wake up with me fuzzy.  Like it? Great, because this is the way it is.  Makes you kind of sick to your stomach?  Grab a Nutrigrain bar on your way out my dear and don’t bother coming back because this is the best it is ever going to be.

When I was living in China I had many experiences where my body hair was not considered ugly or manly, but was a significant point of interest.  Once, when I was first in China (this was in the early 90’s and not so long after China opened to visitors after the Cultural Revolution), I was on a crowded bus and felt pinches on my arm.  I looked over at my arm, which was gripping a central pole for balance, and there was an elderly man on the other side of the pole pulling at the hair on my arms.  When we made eye contact, he smiled at me. It was one of the most genuine and beautiful smiles I have ever seen in my whole life.  I relaxed and smiled back.  He said, “Gende Ma?” (Is it REAL?) as he pulled a little bit more gingerly on the hair. I laughed and replied that yes, yes the hair on my arms was real.  This wasn’t a criticism, but a genuine curiosity regarding my body hair.  I enjoyed the playful interaction and it didn’t make me feel bad about myself at all.  A few years ago I was having a coffee with my sister in New York.  If you know my sister and I, while we were both living in New York as adults, you know that we were pretty much always having coffee, or going to get coffee, or on our way back from having had coffee.  When you have this much coffee talk, there is no topic too small for sharing.  I confided in her that I really hated the hair on my arms and she said, “Why don’t you just wax it off then?”.  It was so liberating to realize that I could solve my current body image problem with a quick trip to the Red Door Salon.  But, also kind of sad because had I not had hairy arms, then I never would have been on the receiving end of one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen.  I did discover that I have some really cute freckles on my arms.

Today, I dropped my daughter off at school and it was dress up day for school pictures.  As I walked away from the school, the most gorgeous and bright young girl ran towards me in a red dress, with shiny red shoes.  I complemented her shoes because, as a stranger, it was something neutral that I could say to a child without it seeming creepy.  But, I saw a woman facing me who was watching her with “mother eyes” and I said to her, “Are you her mother?”.  The woman said yes and I said, “Your daughter is so incredibly beautiful and obviously bright.”  It was true.  It was so true that it needed to be said out loud.  The woman said to me, “She is really upset about her hair.  It’s not how she wanted it to look.”  The young girl was African American and had this gorgeous, full head of beautiful dark and thick hair.  She really was absolutely gorgeous.  I replied, “How had she wanted it to look?”.  The mother said, “Oh, she wanted me to straighten it. But I told her that even if I had, it would be looking like it does right now by the end of the day.  I only wish that my hair was still so soft and thick, but I ruined mine by straightening it.”  I replied with another compliment and walked away to my car, but my throat got tight and I just wanted to run after the little girl and find her and tell her that her natural hair was amazing and complementary for her and that she should love it and love herself.

I was brought back to one of my first memories of laughing until I cried as a child.  I think I heard the audio of Whoopi Goldberg doing her “luxurious long hair” routine on an airplane on my way to Florida to visit my grandparents.  (Here is an academic look at this issue in Children’s literature.) Why I thought it was so funny, I’m not even sure.  Perhaps I could connect with the issue of having non-ideal hair due to my personal struggle with having so much body hair?  I’m not sure, but clearly, “hair” is a big issue for women from a very, very young age.  This is not so in every place and time.  Some years ago I was traveling in Western China and a young man who spoke some English sang a Uighur folk song and when I asked what it was about he said, “The beauty of women with bushy eyebrows and thick arm hair.”  I had finally found my people!  I went on to study Uighur language and culture for years.  I actually dated a man once (yes, one of those men who must have something wrong with them because they like hairy women) who explained to me that it was a big turn-on for him to be with a woman with a lot of body hair.  Apparently, according to his experience, hairy women were better lovers because they had more free-floating testosterone and were more likely to get turned on and really enjoy sex.  While his research methods may have been questionable, perhaps this is what inspired the Uighur folk songs in awe of the hairy women?

It would be easy to dismiss my struggle with body image around my hair as a problem that only someone privileged with not having to figure out how to find food or safe water or shelter can give service to.  But, as I consider the challenges that we have with consent and the pervasive sexual assault of girls and women, I have to wonder about how girls and women start to feel that there is something deeply “wrong” with them.  Many of the personal narratives of assault that have been shared on social media lately that I have had the honor of reading and witnessing have happened when women were just young girls, before puberty and the arrival of darker body hair and pubic hair.  If what is “attractive” about a 9-11 year old girl is that she is still hairless and therefore not ugly, then we need to consider the root of this social concern.  We also need to consider how to help girls and women feel that they are lovable and attractive as they are because this would help us reject partners who reflect back our self-hatred to us through their disrespect.  These men become a mirror where we can see and feel that ugly thing about us, whatever our personal bit of “ugly” is.  This does not excuse sexual assault, but I want to at least consider that this lifetime struggle I have had is more than just a matter of being comfortable with my body.

I stopped dying my hair two-years ago this November.  I was dating a man who insisted he preferred my gray hair.  Insisted!  When I let the last bit of temporary brown gloss wash out, I found that I also preferred it natural.  I liked the way the more textured gray hairs kind of popped out and it was kind of wild and bold. Sure, I appear “older” than I do when I have it dyed.  But, how much older?  And, is older less beautiful?  I doubt it.  When I was at work the other day, where I interact with the public in my role in “Guest Services”, a man said to me, “You have the most interesting hair.  I bet everyone says that to you.”  I replied, “Yes, and it is all natural.” He smiled at me and replied, “That’s the way it should be.”.

Written by Sharon Fennimore, a global doula, writer, and yogini, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

How to Claim Your Mammauthority

Many of my clients have experiences where their authority as a mother to make decisions for their infants and parenting, or lifestyle around parenting are not only questioned, but threatened.  No matter how many children you have, the time when you have a newborn and for their first year of life seems to be when mothers are most vulnerable to the opinions of others.  How to find good sources of information for decision-making around parenting is a whole other topic for consideration.  This post is about ways to claim your authority without alienating members of your community, friends, and family when offered unsolicited advice or your ability to care for your child is questioned.

Here is my tried and true method for claiming your “Mammauthority” in all situations.  Please comment below with your experiences and let me know how this has worked or not worked for you.

Foundations of the Method

#1: The underlying principle in this method is that you are the mother and you have the right and responsibility to care for your child in the way you feel is most appropriate.  This is not a democracy and no one else gets a vote.  I’m not suggesting that you do not work together with your parenting partner to make parenting decisions.  I am specifically speaking to times when mothers’ authority is questioned from someone outside of the parenting partnership.

#2: You may be triggered by words, especially when spoken by someone who you may already have a tense power dynamic with, but they are just words.  So, I don’t want to demonize anyone, but I have to give some examples here, so, let’s just say that your brother and his wife have eight kids and you just had your first and the whole time you were pregnant your sister-in-law was telling you how unprepared you were, how you were never going to sleep again, how it was a joke that you were even thinking about using cloth diapers, blah blah blah.  Then, after you have the baby, when your sister-in-law criticizes how you are caring for the baby, it’s not just that particular critique, it’s everything she has ever said to question your ability to mother that really upsets you.  In this method it is important to remember that words are just words.  Just because someone SAYS something to you doesn’t make it true, right, or even something you need to consider.  Strip the words of their emotional strain or perceived meaning and they are just words.

#3: Human nature is that we want to be important, listened to, heard, and treated as though we are special and intelligent.  Assume that someone who is offering unsolicited advice or is being critical really just wants to be seen as a person who knows more than you.  Sure, you can let yourself be triggered and try to argue with them, but the truth is that they will likely fight you to the death and never agree with you or change their mind to agree with you simply because they only wanted to be seen as superior in the first place.  I know, this is a hard truth, but it is important to know and understand this in order for the method to truly work for you.

THE METHOD

In the method, regardless of situation (and I will give some examples), basically, you follow this dialogue pattern:

OTHER PERSON: Some type of criticism, advice, direction which is sometimes followed by “research” that supports their criticism.

MOTHER: Agree with the other person no matter what they have said.  This agreement is followed up by either changing the topic if this person is someone you wish to maintain a relationship with (like a family member) or walking away (like if it is a stranger in the grocery store).

EXAMPLE 1

OTHER PERSON: I read that babies will sleep through the night faster if you give them a bottle of formula right before bed.  You are starving your baby and that is why they are crying so much.  Maybe you don’t have enough milk?

MOTHER: Wow!  That is very interesting idea.  I’m going to have to consider that.  I heard that you and Bob are taking a gambling cruise next week!  How fun is that?  When exactly do you leave?

Now, listen, I know that this person questioning your choices regarding how you feed your baby and then suggesting that your baby is crying because it is starving is like a punch in the gut.  You are vulnerable and there is a tiny voice in the back of your head that wonders—-“What if she is right?  What if my baby is hungry and that is why they are crying?”.  Your ego wants to respond from that little voice and argue with this person.  You want to tell her that your baby is growing just fine and couldn’t possibly be hungry and then give her all the facts about how wonderful exclusive breastfeeding is.  But, I can promise you that you could be a Board Certified Lactation Consultant and have written 15 peer-reviewed articles for medical journals on the topic and your arguments are going to fall on deaf ears.  Really.  This woman has no idea what she is talking about and she just wants to let you know that she knows more than you.  I don’t know why, but she does.  So, your only way to truly escape is to agree with her.  Remember, words are just words.  And, once you agree with someone, it ends the conversation because they can’t continue to argue with you.  The wonderful thing about this method is that you haven’t agreed to change the way you care for your baby, you have only agreed to accept the words that came out of their mouth and to consider them further.

EXAMPLE 2

OTHER PERSON: (Walks up to you in the grocery store.) You better put socks on that baby or it is going to get pneumonia!

MOTHER: Oh, will you look at that?  Thanks so much for caring. (Now, keep on walking Mamma!)

Now, this example may seem like a no brainer.  But, trust me, that little voice will creep up and you will want to explain to this complete stranger how you had socks on the baby, but they fell off in the car seat and you have no idea where they go or that your baby screams when you try to put socks on them or maybe you are a barefoot kind of mamma and it never dawned on you to put socks on a baby.  Whatever it is, you don’t owe a stranger an explanation.  Actually, you don’t owe ANYONE an explanation.

Also, a little smile and acknowledgement goes a long way with most people.  It doesn’t hurt to smile. And, maybe you are reading this example and thinking that this kind of thing doesn’t even bother you.  Well, maybe it doesn’t, but in my experience, it is good to have a strategy because it all starts to add up.  By the time the fifth person of the day has made an unsolicited suggestion, the little voice in your head might have become a roar and your confidence buried under the chronic questioning of your “Mammauthority”.

Example 3

Other Mother at Baby Sit and Sing Program at Library (Yep, we mothers do this to one another too!): Oh, you are using the Bimba style carrier?  I considered that, but then I read all those studies that showed that infants carried in Bimba carriers learned to read two hours later than those in Eeeko carriers.  Who wants to risk their infant’s future literacy?

Mother: Wow! That’s some interesting research.  Amazing how many ways there are to carry a baby! (Now, walk away because this other mother is not good friend material.)

I know Mamma, I know what you REALLY want to say, “Oh, that’s OK because my baby can already read.”  The challenge with other mother challenges to our Mammauthority is that any response other than agreement just challenges THEIR Mammauthority and that is a power struggle I just don’t want to engage in.  That fight is not worth your energy.  Also, any mother that behaves in this way is actually showing you that she has the least confidence of anyone in the room.  This is a mother who, at her core, is terrified that she will make some mistake that will impact her child’s life in ways that can not be healed or rectified.  That is an anxious mother at best and, maybe she is also just not a very nice person.  Either way, you need to “PEACE OUT” of that conversation as quickly as possible and walk away.  In her desperation to prove to you that she knows more, that she has done more research, or has superior mothering skills, she isn’t going to stop until she has you questioning your every decision.

How to find nourishing Mamma Friends will be the subject of another article, but suffice to say, anyone who demands that you qualify yourself and your decisions in casual conversation between strangers is simply not nourishing friend material.

In Summary

With practice, you can learn to maintain your Mammauthority without frustration, anger, or diminished confidence.  Trust me Mamma, if I could protect your wisdom and make sure that no one questioned your authority as a mother, then I would.  But, since this is not possible, I offer you this very simple, yet effective method for deflecting and diffusing unsolicited advice as quickly and compassionately as possible.

Remember, your baby chose YOU to be its mother.  You are the perfect mother for your baby.  You will make some mistakes, you will change your mind—sure—but you are NEVER “wrong”.  A mother and her baby are in relationship.  As with any relationship, it takes a lot of work, communication, and experience to figure out how to make it work.  Theory is interesting, but you are on the ground and you have to do what works for you.  Sometimes, someone offers us advice that we haven’t considered and a little positive voice sounds in our head, “Hey, that sounds pretty good and worth trying!” and I encourage you to explore ideas, methods, and products that may improve the quality of your life and your relationship with your baby. This isn’t about dogma or sticking to ideas that aren’t working for you because you decided while you were pregnant that this was how you were going to parent your baby.  The bottom line is that YOU know best and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your mothering decisions.

Please let me know your experience with this method, if you have a way of maintaining your authority as a mother that is different, or if you have any questions in the comments below.  I think you are brilliant and I would love to hear how you have maintained your Mammauthority in the face of unsolicited advice.

This “Ask Sharon” column was written by Sharon Fennimore, a mother of two and global doula helping women and their families all over the world enjoy optimum reproductive health, have great pregnancies and live with new babies in peace.

Online Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training

Get certified to teach Matrika Prenatal Yoga in this unique, self-guided online study program facilitated by Sharon Fennimore, MA.  Yoga teachers who are registered with Yoga Alliance can earn up to 25 CEU credits for completing this course.

Not only is being a prenatal yoga specialist a rewarding career, but considering the fact that over 80% of American yoga practitioners are women, it is imperative that all yoga instructors explore ways to support optimal reproductive health for all their students. The skills you learn in this training program will inform all of your teaching and the program itself is rigorous and demands personal and professional transformation.
What Makes Matrika Prenatal Yoga Special?
    • Emphasis on Tantric subtle body anatomy
    • Focus on how culture and reproductive politics impact fertility and pregnancy
    • Learn how to support optimum fertility with yoga
    • Use of Buddhist philosophy applied to teaching prenatal yoga
    • Learn how to teach visualization and meditation specific to pregnancy
    • Includes the use of yoga and meditation to prepare for labor and birth
    • Postpartum care and Mom and Baby Yoga

Register TODAY!

Work at your own pace! This amazing online training offers complete flexibility and personalized instruction through optional private sessions (cost of private sessions NOT included in tuition). Distance learning is ideal for busy professionals trying to juggle career and family while also moving in the direction of your dreams.  Perfect for expats or English speakers all over the world who do not have access to a training school, but wish to work towards their certification while traveling or living abroad. The training is designed to take around 100-hours to complete and students generally finish within 4-5 months, but you have 6-months of enrollment in the course with your tuition payment.

$278 Full Tuition

[headline_border]Course Curriculum[/headline_border]

This intellectual approach to yoga as a science requires self-study and an investigation of the cultural, social and economic values that we hold around fertility, women’s health and specifically reproduction so that we can teach from our hearts.
  Informed by contemporary social theory and medical anthropology, Matrika Prenatal Yoga nourishes and empowers students physically, emotionally and spiritually.  This method, philosophy and approach has been refined over almost 20-years by Sharon Fennimore , MA and DONA Trained Birth Doula and enjoyed by thousands of women.

In this online course, you will explore:

  • Culture and Reproduction (Including Yoga for Fertility)
  • Yoga During Pregnancy
  • Common Pregnancy Complaints
  • Teaching Matrika Prenatal Yoga (INCLUDING Tibetan Subtle Body)
  • Practice and Professionalization
  • Postpartum Continuity and Care (including Mom & Baby Yoga)

matrika-084The online course includes: instructional videos, readings, discussion boards, audio and articles and readings.  Interaction and participation in online discussion boards is required and we all learn from one another.  Due to the nature of the course, your fellow students are located all around the world! In this way, we all share diverse practices, experiences and ideas.  All trainees can download the Matrika Prenatal Yoga eBook and audio guide at no additional cost.  Most of the practicum assignments require significant practice, planning classes and engaging in your community as you create a supportive professional network that is meaningful to you wherever you are in the world.  Therefore, this isn’t just about sitting in front of your computer watching training videos!  This is a dynamic, interactive and experiential program. 

Your tuition also includes webinars and events scheduled during your enrollmentmatrika-012Online “events” such as webinars and teleseminars are scheduled regularly.  These events can be attended live by joining online or by phone and are recorded and available for you to download and experience at your convenience if you can’t make it as scheduled.  These events are all included in your course tuition.

TESTIMONIALS

“Sharon of Matrika Yoga offered an insightful, thought provoking training program that far exceeded my expectations. I was challenged to examine my ideas and beliefs about pregnancy and culture, and I now have a much better understanding of pregnancy and the obstacles a pregnant woman faces. I feel that I am now much better equipped to lead prenatal yoga, and I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone looking to learn more about pregnancy or prenatal yoga.” ~Nicole

“I maintain nothing but absolute gratitude to you and Matrika Prenatal Yoga.  At the outset of training, I yearned for a missing link, in between 42 years of obstetrical nursing experience and 51 of yoga practice!  How I found your program and that “link” was nothing short of miraculous!  Your insight into the wonder and miracle of birthing is in itself a spiritual gift.  Your compassion and love for the pregnant client is apparent as well as intuitive empathy for the pregnant psyche. The reading list was comprehensive and the webinars fun and informative.  I respect your genius fully.” ~Ambika

“Sharon was an excellent instructor and an amazing sounding board. I loved that she so clearly articulated her personal opinions and beliefs without forcing them on us, her students. This is a unique skill and, from my experience, one many instructors struggle with. Sharon did a great job at sharing information, offering feedback and discussing alternative/contrary thoughts/experiences/beliefs without ever seeming critical or offended. She offered a ton of excellent information and I left the program prepared to lead others through a prenatal sequence.”~Megan

“The training was very in depth and challenging. I feel that after completing the program, I am well prepared for teaching prenatal yoga.” ~Kate

“I really enjoyed the option of online learning as well as personal time. Sharon’s approach is a flexible alternative for trainees looking to expand their learning while continuing with their responsibilities. The pranayama and meditations were my favorite part.”~Natalie

“Yoga Matrika provides more than just a great educational journey on the basics of Hatha Yoga, Yoga Matrika expands on the typical 200 Hour course offerings by ensuring that the course material is delivered and received in a way that is most beneficial and valuable to the student and the path they are on for their life, teachings, and personal yoga journey. Yoga Matrika shares their unique insights and personal mentorship on every topic and does so for every student so that no one is felt left out or passed over. Yoga Matrika truly helps each student tap into their true potential and identify with what they want to offer the world as a person, a continuing yoga student, and a yoga teacher.” ~Brandi
[headline_border]How Does a Distance Training Work?[/headline_border]

matrika-007

STEP ONE: Pay Tuition and Enroll

As soon as you pay tuition, you will have immediate access to the online course.  The first section of the course is an ORIENTATION and you will be introduced to the main topics in the course, the graduation requirements, the assigned textbooks and start your studies.

STEP TWO: Participation

It is important that all students engage with the course materials and assigned readings through online discussions.  There are prompts given for most online discussions, but students are encouraged to ask questions and be active participants and leaders in the conversations.  Watch all the videos, use the practice suggestions in your home practice and try out the techniques in your yoga classes.

STEP THREE: Connect with the Trainer

Regularly email your questions or problems in your training to Sharon and stay connected.  Your trainer has over twenty-years of experience teaching prenatal yoga and you are encouraged to communicate with Sharon regularly through the course.  Unlimited email communications are included in your tuition.

STEP FOUR: Make the Program Your Own

You can get “lost in the crowd” at an in-person training and online, but this program inspires you to consider yourself a professional and act like it too.  You are given assignments that ask you to be curious about pregnancy and birth, to explore what options are available in your area and to start to create professional support and referral networks.  The more time and energy you invest in the practical and professionalization assignments, the more confident you will feel.

If you want more personal guidance or mentoring, Sharon also offers, at an additional cost, packages of four private mentoring sessions that can be scheduled at your convenience and never expire.  These are not included in the cost of tuition, but many students have found that this extra investment helped them complete the training and feel more confident in their ability to teach the highest quality prenatal yoga class possible—even with little experience.  You are not obligated in any way to purchase mentoring sessions, but matrika-023just know that Sharon is personally available to mentor you if you wish for that kind of attention and professional coaching and guidance.

The tuition does NOT include the required textbooks for the course.  The books required for the course, when ordered new from Amazon cost approximately $80 USD.  Most of these books will be excellent reference volumes as you plan prenatal classes for the rest of your career.  You are under no obligation to purchase the books, so feel free to borrow from the library, colleagues or buy electronic versions or used copies.  Depending on your location in the world, if you are having a hard time finding any of the assigned books, I can usually work with you on locating alternative titles that you can obtain.  IMG_3861

Who facilitates the course?

Your lead trainer is Sharon Fennimore, MA.  She designed this course and has almost 20-years of experience teaching prenatal yoga and meditation.  Sharon personally responds to all email, conducts all private sessions and facilitates all online discussions.  Sharon is a DONA trained birth doula and holds two Masters Degrees in East Asian Studies and Cultural Anthropology.  She has worked with thousands ofSharon Profile expectant women and their families over the past 15-years and has been offering prenatal yoga teacher training courses for over seven-years.
Full Tuition $278

[headline_border]Commonly Asked Questions[/headline_border]

When Can I Start the Training?

You can start at ANY time.  Enrollment is on a rolling basis.  As soon as you pay tuition, you have immediate course access.

Can I finish the program faster than 6-Months?

Sure!  Due to the nature of the practicum assignments that are required for graduation, it is impossible to complete the course in less than three-months.  But, you work through the course and the requirements at your own pace and can schedule your final exam whenever you wish.  Most participants complete the course in five-months.

I’m not an RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher).  Can I Still Take This Training?

There are no pre-requisites for this training program.  Anyone can enroll.

What if I don’t like the course?  Can I get a refund?

There are no refunds.  It is recommended that you sign up for the FREE course Yoga During Pregnancy just to get a feel for the online course platform.  Send an email to Sharon with any questions BEFORE you pay tuition: sharon@yogamatrika.com.  Once you are enrolled, if you are unhappy for any reason, Sharon will do everything possible to fix the problems and make an individual plan for you that works for what you need.

Despite being motivated and my best intentions, I need longer than 6-months to complete the course!  Can I extend my program?

Yes!  Every student has a single opportunity to extend their program by 6-months with a $100 payment.  You don’t need to grovel, beg, ask for extension or get permission.  There is a section in the online course with a link to make the extension payment, make it, and the program is automatically extended for six-months.  Only one extension per student no matter what.  No exceptions.

Does this online training allow me to register with Yoga Alliance as a RPYT?

No. Yoga Alliance standards do not permit distance learning for the Prenatal Yoga Specialist designation. Yoga Matrika used to have a Registered Yoga School (RYS) and Registered Prenatal Yoga School (RPYS), but these programs are no longer registered and Yoga Matrika’s teacher training programs are no longer associated with Yoga Alliance.  You will receive a 25 CEU credit certificate for Yoga Alliance continuing education credits upon graduation.  This is the maximum number of  distance learning CEU credits that Yoga Alliance will permit to count towards the required 30 CEU credits.

Technical Skills Required

In order for you to get the most out of this course, you need a minimum of technical skills including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Being able to sign-in to the online course and create a password
  • Ability to follow links, download PDF files, audio files (mp3) and video files (mp4)
  • Ability to open WORD files, type into the document and then “save as” a PDF
  • Must have consistent internet access
  • Must know how to use SKYPE or FaceTime and have the electronic devices and/or accounts set up so you can use this technology for private sessions

Do you wonder if you have these skills or not?  Are you concerned about your ability to use your skills in an online course environment?  I suggest that you try out this free course.  This course is the EXACT same format as the teacher training and if you learn how to navigate this course, comment, and download the eBook, then you will know for certain that you can take the training course too.  If you have a hard time with this free course, then send an email to Sharon and discuss your concerns.  Because this course includes personal attention, we can usually find ways to work around any technical concerns, but since there are NO REFUNDS for any reason, let’s try to make sure you feel confident about taking an online course BEFORE you enroll.  Just send an email to Sharon: sharon@yogamatrika.com

Requirements for GRADUATION

This is a 100-hour distance learning program, that leads to certification in yoga for fertility, pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period.  Upon program completion, you will be certified to teach Matrika Prenatal Yoga and any other classes, workshops and retreats of your own design that you create based on this training.  You will receive a graduation certificate and personalized letter from Sharon Fennimore explaining the curriculum and your special skills.  You are NOT guaranteed certification based on enrollment or tuition payment alone! Choosing this track is a significant commitment to becoming a specialist in working with women and supporting optimal fertility, nourishing pregnant women, their infants and their families and support system.  There is significant reading, writing and practicum requirements and certification requires your active participation in the online course discussion boards.  The reading level of many of the articles is graduate level academic work.

Enroll NOW
MATRIKA PRENATAL PROGRAM Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate from the Matrika Prenatal Yoga teacher training program and obtain certification to teach Matrika Prenatal Yoga, within 6-months of enrollment* you need to have:

#1: Actively participated in ALL of the discussion boards of this online course with these minimum guidelines:

  • Provide meaningful initiation of a minimum of two discussions for each section of the course.
  • Provide meaningful responses to the discussions started by other participants in the course that show you are doing the readings, watching the webinars and engaging deeply with the material for a minimum of three discussions in each section of the course.

Please do not comment just to fulfill this requirement.  I’d rather you not participate in a particular discussion if it is not an area of interest to you or you don’t genuinely have a question.  I will be monitoring all discussion boards and generally just want to see active participation and ongoing dialogue.

#2: Work through the entire course including watching ALL videos:   As the course facilitator, I can “see” all of your activity in the online course including what activities you open, the videos you watch and how long you take for each item.  We are all professionals and adults and you have made a significant investment in this training.  If I have concerns about your participation in the online course, I will send you a private email.  It’s up to you to take the time and really do the work of the online course.

#3: Send written practicum assignments for review to Sharon:   Sharon personally reviews all submitted work and will produce a graduation and CEU certificate within 2-4 weeks from the date of submission.  All work must be submitted typed and as PDF files.  All assignments are due within 6-months* of date of enrollment in the course.

*Oops!  Taking longer than six-months?  No problem!  You can extend your program another six-months for $100.  Every student is entitled to one extension.  You don’t have to request it, just make the extension payment in the STUDENT RESOURCES section of the course prior to your 6th month of enrollment and you will automatically be given six-additional months to finish the program.

 

Is This the Right Program for YOU?

Online learning is not right for everyone.  This program works best for 200+ hour trained yoga teachers (or equivalent training and experience) with a minimum of one year of teaching experience who either live outside of the United States and have little to no access to in-person training programs OR teachers who have full time jobs and/or young children that make attending a training program in-person impossible.  You must be highly motivated, organized and committed in order to complete this significant online course.  There is a lot of college-level reading of articles written for academic audiences, participation and personal and professional practicum work and assignments that must be completed in order for you to graduate.  Only students who complete all of the graduation requirements will be given a graduation certificate.  Your enrollment does NOT in any way guarantee your graduation or that you will receive a certificate.  There are NO REFUNDS for any reason, including if you decide that this course is too much work, fail to do the work or meet the graduation guidelines.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that an online course is “easier” to manage because of the flexibility when, actually, the opposite is generally true.  Before you enroll, take a look at your calendar and see if you can block off a minimum of 4-hours a week for the next five-months.  If there is a week when, say, your sister is getting married and you know you won’t be able to get any work done, or you have weeks when you single-parent because your partner is traveling for work, then you have to find another week when you could put 8-hours into the course.  What tends to happen is that many students lose their momentum and then start to procrastinate when they feel that they have been gone from the course for so long that they can’t possibly “catch up”.  If this happens, it’s best to send an email to Sharon and make a specific plan for moving forward.

Enroll NOW for ($278): Sign-up here for immediate course access!

 

Fine Print
  1. No refunds for tuition for online programs, mentoring packages or training retreats for ANY reason.  If you are unhappy with the program, at any time, for any reason, please remain calm and contact Sharon as soon as possible (LONG before you get so frustrated you think you are just going to quit!): sharon@yogamatrika.com.  Although there aren’t any refunds, we can usually work out an alternative plan so you get the training you need at no additional cost.  This is a program with a lot of personal attention and all problems are solvable.
  2. There is absolutely no guarantee of graduation or certification.  Your work and training portfolio will be evaluated and your ability to complete the program and obtain certification documents will be based on the merits of your participation and quality of the portfolio that you submit.
  3. Online programs are not for everyone.  With flexibility comes extraordinary personal responsibility.  You must also have the technical skills to register for the online program, upload documents and submit work as PDF files.  Consistent access to a computer and the internet are imperative.
  4. You should be able to set aside 15-20 hours for each month of your program for working online, reading, practice, and writing assignments.  It is important that you put these hours in your calendar and stick to a schedule.  Otherwise, it is unlikely that you will complete your program in time.  If something “comes up” then you must re-schedule your time.
  5. The cost of required textbooks is not included in any of the above fees.
  6. The cost of additional contact hours with Sharon Fennimore are NOT included in any of the above fees.  An additional mentoring program of four SKYPE sessions can be purchased for $400. These sessions are entirely optional and not required for graduation, certification, or CEU credits.
  7. These programs provide an esoteric and intellectual approach to the science and practice of yoga.  This may challenge your current practice or ideas about yoga and meditation.  Personal mentoring sessions are designed to help you incorporate this information into your own practice and unique teaching voice.  Be prepared to be challenged and inspired!

For the past 20-years, I have refined an approach to yoga during pregnancy that is inspired by Tibetan yoga subtle body anatomy and informed by contemporary reproductive science.  Using this unique style, I have worked with thousands of expectant women and their families to help them feel empowered, vital and filled with joy–not fear–during their pregnancies.  I have also trained yoga teachers and professionals all over the world who work with pregnant women so that this nourishing practice can be shared with as many people as possible.

WHAT MAKES MATRIKA PRENATAL YOGA SPECIAL?
      • Emphasis on Tantric subtle body anatomy
      • Focus on how culture impacts the experience of pregnancy
      • Use of Buddhist philosophy applied to  yoga
      • Visualization and meditation specific to pregnancy
      • Gentle, yet incredibly powerful practice for strength and grace

Course Details

For more than ten-years, I offered this training in-person through my school, registered with Yoga Alliance, to develop the most comprehensive curriculum possible.  This past summer I decided to close my yoga school that was registered with Yoga Alliance and I am now in the process of revising my online programs to meet my own standards and goals. In the meantime, I am offering the full course online as a self-study program at a significant discount.  If you are a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance, you can earn a 25 CEU credit certificate for your participation in this course.  All participants who complete the course will receive a PDF of a signed graduation certificate that you can use as part of your teaching and training portfolio.

Work at your own pace! This amazing online training offers complete flexibility and personalized instruction through private sessions if you would like to work personally with the facilitator (private sessions are NOT included in the tuition). Distance learning is ideal for busy professionals trying to juggle career and family while also moving in the direction of your dreams.  Perfect for expats or English speakers all over the world who do not have access to a training school, but wish to work towards their certification while traveling or living abroad. The training is designed to take around 100-hours to complete and students generally finish within 4-5 months, but you have 6-months of enrollment in the course with your tuition payment.

This course is intellectually challenging and requires a great deal of significant personal reflection, reading, discussion, writing and research as well as observing and practicing.  Whether you are taking this course for professional development or because you need the certification to continue teaching, this experience will expand your teaching skills and deepen your practice. The online course module is really a way for you to organize your self-study.  It is also the way that you will document your time spent on the course.

Tuition and Schedule

The full-cost is $278 (USD) and you can start the program at any time.  It is designed to take approximately 4-months to complete and you have six-months of enrollment included in this tuition.  This tuition does not cover the costs of any of the required textbooks.  The total price for brand new textbooks from Amazon has been around $80 USD for most of my students.  Many of the books can be borrowed from friends or local libraries and you can likely obtain used copies from Amazon or other sources at a significant discount.  There are no private sessions included in this tuition.  If you would like to invest in private SKYPE or FaceTime sessions with Sharon Fennimore, you are able to purchase a special mentoring package of four-sessions for $400 once you are enrolled in the course.

Graduation and Continuing Education Credits

Upon graduation, you will receive two certificates:

  • 25 CEU Certificate to Use for Continuing Education Credits with Yoga Alliance*
  • Graduation Certificate and Certification as a MPYT (Matrika Prenatal Yoga Teacher)
*Please note that this training course is NOT a Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance.  You CAN earn CEU credits for Yoga Alliance, but you will not be able to register in their Prenatal Yoga Specialist directory.

Barbarians and Blockheads

It’s always the same.
Barbarians and blockheads, rival queens and kings,
The drama rolls on and on.
When people honor you,
You are supposed to feel honored.
When you don’t get respect, they expect
You to sulk in indignation.
One minute you are cruising on a throne in the sky,
The next you are standing on some bleak patch of dirt.

~Yukti Verses #102, Radiance Sutras

This verse, part of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra translated by Lorin Roche in his book, The Radiance Sutras, has helped me to put into perspective the characters and actions that grace American politics and the local and global violence, destruction, hatred and greed that unfolds before me on the news, in my social media feeds and in discussion boards where my neighbors complain about a 2% increase in some tax or another.  It is, quite frankly, why I don’t belong to any “mommy groups”.  Quite frankly, I don’t care how you potty trained your little genius and I certainly don’t want to waste time watching an argument between strangers regarding the appropriate techniques to unfold before my eyes in varrying degrees of aggression, shame, and self-absorbed righteousness.  But, I digress!

It is important to recognize that we are not special.  This time is not particularly special either.  The first written version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra appeared in Kashmir around AD 800.  The drama rolled on and on then and it continues to roll now.  I recently read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “Inside the Now: Meditations on Time” and he introduces the book with a very matter of fact listing of all of his little brother and older brother monks who were killed during the colonial war with France in Vietnam.  Young, un-armed monks, shot to death at temples and on the street.  What do we have now?  We have little children gunned down in their elementary schools, the victims of a storm of mental illness and a culture that accepts violence as quality entertainment.  We have marathon runners losing life and limbs and a heroin and opiate addiction problem and college students inebriated and using sex like a weapon against themselves and one another. We do nothing to help new mothers and families with young children, yet we are quick to judge and “click clack” our tongues when we see on the news that some napping mother’s two-year old toddled out the front door in a wet diaper—again.  We are asleep with our eyes open.

The verse ends with a great instruction in how to release ourselves from this cycle of ups and downs and the drama that rolls on and on:

I say, the Sun regards all with a steady eye.
The force sustaining Earth and Sky
Calls everyone to awaken from this trance.
This whole world revolves around an axis, and I am that.

When you are friends with the Friend to All Beings
Nothing is the same.
Rich beyond measure, abundant beyond counting,
You can move through this life laughing.
Opinions of others have no rulership over you.

The Sun Regards All With A Steady Eye

Sometimes, I like to use a visualization with the sun for a sort of quick cleanse.  I invite you to try it too.  No matter what is happening, while sitting or standing somewhere safe and somewhat quiet, feel the soles of your feet growing roots down into the earth.  Feel these strong roots as cool, wide, and deep.  Then, picture a sun, a glowing orb of yellow light, sparkling right above the crown of your head.  Feel the sparkly yellow light cover the whole outside of your body like a sparkle poncho.

Don’t roll your eyes at me!  Give this a real try, then, whether it works or not, start a band named “Sparkle Poncho” and give me a little shout out when you play your first Super Bowl half-time entertainment gig.  Better yet, why not send me a small percentage of the check in gratitude with a little note about how I changed your life and you can’t believe you rolled your eyes at first.  Now, back to the visualization…….

Let your skin soften and relax and feel the boundaries of your body ease into the safety of this bright light of covering.  You may find that all this relaxation has caused all the tension in your body to travel to a specific spot.  For example, you are all blissed out, but your jaw is clenched and mouth tense.  Or, maybe you are wearing your shoulders like earings. Try to let that go too.

Now, allow a gentle warmth to spread into the cellular body, filling your bones with this sparkly yellow light and then your organs and all the fluid of your body.  We are mostly water and you can see yourself like a glistening ocean in the sparkly sunlight.  Feel all of your opinions, identifications, ideas, commitments, priorities, attachments soften with each exhalation until all you are is sparkly light.  Know that this is the same sun that warmed the faces of your ancestors and shines upon all living beings.  Share in this light that is beyond time and space.  In this knowing and sharing, we can access our friendship to the “friend to all beings”.  We don’t have to like everyone or be friendly to everyone or act like someone we aren’t, but we can use this shared light from the sun to enjoy a moment of connection to the “friend to all beings”.

Finally, re-connect to the cool roots through the soles of your feet and feel that earthy energy as it moves up through your legs, hips, belly, spine, middle back, heart, shoulders, arms, hands, throat, neck and face. Enjoy this grounded feeling into your skull and whole head.  You have been cleansed of all negativity and fear by the sparkly yellow light of the infinite sun that shines upon us all equally.  You can not be swayed by winds of this time that attempt to yank you around in swift contradictions.  You are grounded in the truth of the timeless sun that shines equally upon us all.

Here is an MP3 recording of this visualization for you to listen to or download and play whenever you need it.  It is less than four-minutes long.  Just don’t play while you are driving, operating heavy machinery or trying to change a poopy diaper because all those activities require your full attention.

Barbarians and Blockheads

If you ask me to name some people that I think fall into the “barbarians and blockheads” category, I can answer you quickly.  Actually, the list is long and ranges from people I have known intimately to people I just see on television or read about in the Atlantic Monthly.  Recently there has been a video traveling the interwebs of a little five year old Syrian boy who is covered in dust and bleeding from a head and face wound and he is alone in an ambulance. He was in a building that was bombed.  We see this suffering and we don’t know what to do with it.  Even worse, it pulls our own history of suffering out of whatever cave it might have been resting in and chokes us.  We shout out in genuine compassion for this young child who is a victim of circumstances he certainly isn’t to blame for.  But, we also cry from this wounded place inside of us where we have held on to experiences that left us “standing on some bleak patch of dirt”.

Whenever we find ourselves “standing on some bleak patch of dirt” we have options.  I believe we have infinite options.  Sometimes I like to just stand there and sob and then send text messages to anyone I think might read them about how bleak my little patch of dirt is at the moment.  Many times these good friends take a moment to remind me of times when I empowered myself jump off that bleak patch and used that leap of opportunity to shift my enegetic geography.  Many times these good friends stand with me in solidarity and let me know that they see me there in that patch of dirt and, for what it is worth, I’m not alone.  I’m grateful for this message too.  But, Thich Nhat Hanh has a message that releases us from that geographic location of the bleak patch of dirt and provides the instruction that:

Each moment can be all the moments; each moment is an opportunity waiting to be seized.

If you feel that you have been wasting time trying to garden in a bleak patch of dirt or you know you are guilty of engaging with the barbarians and blockheads du jour, Thich Nhat Hanh says that this is ok because you can re-connect with the now.  In this moment, there is an opportunity.  Right now.  Each moment can be all the moments.  The Sun regards all with a steady eye.  Make friends with the Friend to All Beings.

REFERENCES

The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight.  By Lorin Roche, PhD. Sounds True Press 2014.   The verse used in this blog post can be found on page 137.

Inside the Now: Meditations on Time. By Thich Nhat Hanh.  Parallax Press 2015.

This was written by Sharon Fennimore.  Please join me for an online course or a class or workshop.  Share this post and guided visualization with all your friends.  Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss a new post and get FREE access to my online course designed to help you clear emotional and physical clutter.