Latest Posts

French Language for Children

I work with elementary and middle school students on beginner to intermediate level French language skills.  For young children, I enjoy working with small groups both through Zoom, Google Classroom and meetings, or in person in Vermont (Mad River Valley and areas that use the HUUSD School District) in living rooms and libraries.  French is an absolutely beautiful language and prepares students for the study of all Romance Languages while expanding on their ability to communicate with others all over the world. My clients benefit from my vast collection of online digital resources including interactive Flashcards, Google documents, videos, and games.

Distance Doula

Sharon is now available for Zoom or Google Meeting doula support to people all over the world who are seeking fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and infant parenting support in the English language.

Shop Handmade Ceramics and Books

I am now selling my crafts, ceramics, handmade books, zines, teas, and eBooks online.  Please take some time to browse my current inventory.  I’m always delighted to take a special order if you don’t see exactly what you are looking for.  Just click on the image below to be transported to my online shop.  

Published: Zine by Odetta Hawk

Odetta Hawk is a truth teller. Her first published zine is available as a five-page PDF download in my shop .  In addition to the PDF download, you also receive a link to a flipbook version that you can read online.

This first issue, as illustrated and told by Odetta, is about her birth and the night that her soul came to her.  That night, her soul gifted her a new name and a manifest to speak truth.  Join me in listening to Odetta holler a unique experience of motherhood, domestic abuse, and liberation from stalking and violence.

I myself have written a basic Chinese reader about the happiness of fish that is perfect for students of all ages who are studying Mandarin Chinese.  “Yu le: The Happiness of Fish” is also available for purchase in my shop.  

I’m Loving This

It’s a rainy Sunday here in the Green Mountains and I thought I would write up some gratitude for some things I am really enjoying so I can share the joy.  You know, just in case you need some.

I am loving making junk journals and altered books.  I’ve finished two and they will be posted for sale very soon in my shop: MADE BY 冯.  
I’m going to post them in a new category of “Firsts”.  Many artists sell their imperfect works as “Seconds”, but these are a new kind of project for me and I want to share new things that I am working on at low prices that reflect my lack of mastery, but allow me to share the excitement of new ideas.

I am deeply engrossed in this novel by Sanjena Sathian called “Gold Diggers”.  It is both a fascinating peak into the types of identity crisis that immigrants face and how we access agency and power, both micro and macro within our own selves and in relationship.  I finished the absolutely MUST READ for anyone who loves books, reading, and libraries “The Cat Who Saved Books” by Sosuke Natsukawa.  It is a novel with a calm and soothing cadence in which almost nothing happens and everything is questioned all at the same time.  It is a boring book, but in the best possible way.  All the spaces leave room for the reader to enter the story.  I could not help but think of all the patient teachers, librarians, and parents and relatives who slowly helped me build literacy skills and the twin gifts of comprehension and imagination.

I’m absolutely loving my ceramics students at the Mount Mansfield Ski Club and Academy right now.  Not only are they brilliant athletes and scholars, but they are open to trying new things in the studio.  I love our charming, frank, and sometimes hilarious conversations.  I am so grateful for this opportunity to be reminded each day to connect with my own beginner’s mind and explore the growing edge with courage.  In recognition of this, I seem to be opening to some bold glaze colors and working with decals.  Keep your eyes out for some fresh bursts of color and pattern SOON!

Looking for healthy houseplants?  I am so fond of Emily’s Grow Garden.
She shipped some healthy plants to me with a heat pack in Vermont in February and they not only survived, but are thriving on my window sills.  If they are healthy enough to make it on THAT adventure, then you know these are some very vivacious plants. Emily provides excellent customer service too and her plant care instructions make keeping these greens feel easy.

I have a little washi tape problem and I can’t get enough of these decorated masking tape rolls.  I use them in making books, decorating cards and letters, in my journal, lesson plans, notes………EVERYWHERE!  I’ve got two absolutely favorite shops for cute Japanese stationary supplies and washi tape.  Give these shops a try and you can develop your own washi tape problem.  Someday Someplace is a shop in Japan with adorable stationary sets, cat stickers, and beautiful washi tape.  Nancy at MechaKucha808 in Hawaii offers the best selection of washi tape, flake stickers, and cute and adorable stationary that I have ever seen.  Also, opening up a package from both Someday Someplace and MechaKucha808 is a treat in and of itself.  Both sellers package items in such a unique and creative way that the opening experience enhances your sense of well-being and joy.

I hope you have a lot of things you are loving right now. I’d love to hear from you and share in what is bringing you some sweetness these days!   Resilience is a skill we practice and finding the good is a great way to make it through hard times and periods of transition and change.  It is possible to be miserable and still enjoy a good book, have fun sketching in a new notebook, or adding a little washi tape to your next post-it note.

May you be peace,

Sharon

 

P.S. This post, and, really, all the posts on this site written by me, are a reflection of my individual thoughts and opinions.  Nothing more and nothing less.

 

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.