Azaleas

Flame Azaleas in my front yard

When is the last time that you changed your mind about something?

I don’t mean something trivial like changing your order at a restaurant or changing an outfit to better reflect your mood.

I mean changing your mind about something you believe to be true, something that goes deeper than the surface.

For me, my most recent change of mind had to do with azaleas. I realize that may sound weird or insignificant, but hear me out.

For as long as I can remember, I have never liked azaleas. As a child growing up in Tennessee, we had a few azalea bushes outside my home. They were the standard pink variety you see all over the place, and for some reason I disliked them intensely. 

Even when healthy and watered, the azaleas always looked dry and thirsty to me. And they seemed to be perpetually faded, even in full bloom. 

What made it worse was that those azaleas seemed to me like they had the capacity to be beautiful, but they always fell short. They just could never seem to meet their full flower potential. It would not be an exaggeration to say those azaleas made me sad, and at times even angry.

So I developed a personal “truth” that I held onto deeply: I hate azaleas.

Now if I was going to psychoanalyze why a flower elicited such strong feelings in me as a kid, I might venture to say that I saw myself in these azaleas. Never quite hitting the mark, quenching my thirst, or achieving a bright enough bloom.

But maybe that isn’t the case at all. Maybe I just really did not like them.

Recently, however, I completely changed my mind about azaleas.

When my family and I left New York City two years ago, we moved into a home previously owned by an avid gardener who had planted a large azalea bush right in the middle of the front yard.

When we moved into our new home, it was winter, and nothing was in bloom. I couldn’t even tell that the bush was an azalea until months later into spring.

As it slowly started to bud, I noticed that it seemed different from the azaleas of my youth. It was robust in a way that the ones I grew up with were not.

And when it blossomed? I was completely and utterly blown away by its beauty.

It blossomed with the brightest orange flowers I have ever seen. Before that, I didn’t even know that azaleas came in orange. That bush was the opposite of anything I had ever perceived as “azalea.”

I now know that it is a variety called a “flame azalea,” which is the perfect description. It is like fire hovering over a bed of bright green.

But why does any of this matter? It’s just a plant after all. And people’s tastes always change over time.

But this was different. 

Something I had always thought of as ugly was suddenly beautiful.

Something I had grown up despising was now something that I loved.

I had changed my mind about azaleas.

Changing your mind about long held beliefs is never an easy task nor is it a quick one.

I would venture a guess that many of us live out our entire adult lives without actually changing our minds about anything substantial. 

Many of us live in a fixed state of mind in terms of our strongly held beliefs. And sometimes that’s not entirely a bad thing. It can keep us from being pulled off-center or losing our integrity. It gives us something concrete to hold onto. 

But if it is not kept in check, it also holds us back from our own growth and self-development. Changing your mind about significant things feels too scary, like becoming untethered to something that was always there before. Like being wrong or admitting defeat. Like leaving the safety of the old for the precariousness of something new.

Of course we need to be strong in our beliefs, but we also need to be flexible.

Having the courage to change your mind about something is a skill that requires both these qualities: strength and flexibility.

In yoga, we are perpetually trying to balance strength and flexibility. In each pose, we try to stay both strong and soft simultaneously. We ground down into the floor as much as we reach for the sky. We try to keep a strong and focused mind as well as a soft and open one. We try to balance making the practice happen with letting it happen. 

And the more we practice doing this, it seeps into our daily lives. We can see what is around us with eyes that are present, not just stuck in mental patterns we developed in our past.

We can see beauty where we always thought it was lacking. 

We can be open to new ideas that propel us into becoming more and more ourselves each day.

Perhaps most importantly, we can allow ourselves the capacity to change, unafraid of losing ourselves along the way.

Changing your mind is powerful, and it is humbling.

It definitely is not an easy thing to do.

But it might lead you to incredible things.

You just might discovera type of beauty that you had no inkling of before.

You might even find that something you once hated, you now fiercely love.

What could possibly be better than that?

Second Snow

These days the only in-person group yoga classes I am teaching happen outside.

And I absolutely love it.

One of the things I love is how it has made me so much more aware of seasonal changes, weather shifts, and how each day truly is unique from any other.

Generally, when we think about the year, we do so in terms of 4 seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. But something I am keenly aware of right now is the huge number of little micro-seasons between all of them.

I love thinking of things in terms of micro-seasons because somehow it seems truer, less reductive, and more dynamic than fitting all those shifts into four neat time frames. So much happens in the transitions between seasons, and if we don’t pay attention, we miss them all together.

Often, even within a single hour-long class, there are starkly obvious micro-shifts between how brightly the sun is shining, how cool or warm it is, and how breezy or still the air may be. Sometimes those shifts are not so obvious, but we can still feel them if we pay close enough attention.

One of my personal favorite micro-seasons happens in my backyard every year about halfway through spring. I like to call it “second snow”

Second snow is when the cherry blossoms have peaked and slowly start to wilt and eventually fall from the trees all together. The wind generally speeds this up, and when the blossoms start to swirl and fall in earnest, it is like soft pink snow flurries falling from the sky.

It is absolutely beautiful.

For a brief period, the petals cover the ground so that you can’t even see the grass below. They are soft underfoot, and it feels like you are walking on rose petals.

But it is such a fleeting, transitional period that you can miss it entirely if you don’t pay attention. 

And paying attention does not always happen easily.

One of the things I love most about yoga is that it asks you to pay attention to all of it. It asks you to look at your practice (and your life) not just in terms of discrete parts, but how all those parts relate, shift, and change over time. 

In physical terms, this means that a yoga sequence is not just about the poses themselves but about the transitions between them (which themselves are made up of even smaller micro-transitions).

And the point is to experience all of it; to see the big picture as well as the details.

Stated differently, yoga asks us to hone our vision at the same time it asks us to widen it, which is something we need to do in practically every area of our lives. Yoga just gives us a nice little container in which to practice building that skill.

So the next time you practice yoga, I challenge you to pay attention to all the in-between parts, the micro-shifts, the parts we often skip over or barely see at all.

Because all of it is important. All of it is you. All of it is yoga.


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Hear what one recent student of the challenge had to say:

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Change

8 day old quail starting to feather out

I have a really hard time with change.

And I’m not talking about the kind that jingles in your pocket. I’m talking about the real deal, life-can-change-on-a-dime type of change.

Some days, it feels like that is all this last year has been. One constant adjustment after another in a seemingly endless stream of “new normals.” Some days, it feels impossible to hang on to anything.

When I’m feeling this way, I often look to my animals for some reprieve. Lately, it has been the quail we hatched in our incubator that are now all of ten days old.

Not only are they unbelievably cute, they change practically right before your eyes. The picture at the beginning of this post was taken when they were only 8 days old, and already you can see that they are losing their baby chick fuzz and are starting to feather out into the mature birds they will become. It’s like they have hit some funny version of quail puberty. It’s awkward and adorable.

We have already had to change their brooder (their little indoor home before they are old enough to live in a coop outside) because they started jumping high enough to jump completely out.

Did you know that quail jump? I didn’t. Apparently, they have a very sensitive startle reflex, and whenever they are surprised (which is often), they shoot straight up into the air. It provides great comic relief when things get too heavy around here.

But the thing I am focused on now is how quickly they change and how utterly ok with it they are.

Change is their nature. And they don’t waste one ounce of energy trying to resist it. Change is their evolutionary instinct, and it is really beautiful to behold.

It reminds me that change is really the nature of everything, including ourselves. Resisting change as it unfolds is as futile as trying to house-train a quail to be so calm that it won’t ever jump out of its brooder. You just can’t do it no matter how hard you try.

One of the things I’m trying to do in my yoga right now is to let myself soften into change. And I mean that in a very literal sense. I literally try to soften and relax my body into my yoga sequence as it changes from pose to pose. I try to soften my jaw and my face as my breath changes from inhale to exhale. I try to soften into the ground beneath me, even when it feels like the ground is falling out from under me. And then in the final resting pose of savasana, I try to imagine softening and dropping down so completely that I become totally non-resistant.

That’s not to say that it always works. But at least I’m trying. And it does help. Just like watching my quail feather out and outgrow their cozy home.

I hope that you are weathering the change of the past year in a way that works for you.

I hope that you are able to soften wherever you can, and most especially, I hope you are able stay soft towards yourself. The world needs that right now. And each on of us deserves that softness.


Want to practice with me? Sign up for the 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge! Get a short basic yoga sequence emailed to your inbox daily with links to video instruction with yours truly. It is guaranteed to help you feel calmer in mind and body. And if it does not, I will happily offer a full refund, no questions asked. Sign up here.

“What I discovered was a really comprehensive plan, chock full of tools to help get there. There was a daily yoga sequence that was so gentle anyone could do it, which I truly learned to appreciate. As a teacher, Lauren’s cues throughout were on point for me. She has an overarching peacefulness about her that just feels very honest and genuine. The program is aptly called a “challenge” because there is (at least for me) a real challenge in showing up for yourself consistently for 21 days, even for 20 minutes a day. Today I’m not only calmer, but also feeling stronger and more in-tune with myself. Great experience, totally worth it.”–Phuong S.

Hatching

the eggs after the quail had hatched

Happy spring, dear reader!

My last post showed tiny quail eggs (held in the hands of my youngest daughter) that my family was in the process of incubating in our living room.

And guess what? 9 of the eggs actually hatched!

Out of those impossibly tiny speckled eggs, the absolute cutest creatures cracked through and burst into life full force like horses out of a chute.

And they knew exactly what to do.

Almost immediately, they began running around, eating, drinking, napping. They instinctively knew how to grow, thrive, and become fully themselves.

Honestly, witnessing this was one of the most hopeful, reassuring things in the world.

Watching these quail hatch reminded me that things always continue. They move on. New life is always on the horizon.

It also reminded me that all of us hatch and grow and develop in our own unique ways. But we don’t do it nearly as effortlessly as quail do.

Personally, sometimes growth scares the crap out of me. Even when it is positive growth, it is still scary because it is different, new, and unfamiliar.

As I move forward into this new spring I am excited. But I will admit that I am also a little bit scared.

Things are so different now than they were a year ago. Last year at this time, everything was in lockdown. Going anywhere felt like a risk, and the most innocuous things suddenly felt threatening.

So much has changed in a year. There has been so much loss, so much heartache.

And here we are at the start of a new spring when we are (hopefully) emerging into a something better. To me, it really does feel like a sort of new beginning.

And that is so fantastically awesome. But also quite scary. We are moving into new terrain. And I personally am finding that I am very cautious about my footing. It’s like I don’t quite fully trust the ground beneath me. Truthfully, this is a feeling I have grappled with for much of my life, but right now it feels heightened.

But yoga helps.

One of the great things that yoga teaches is how to always connect with the ground underneath you. It reminds you to consciously feel the floor and to let your body soften into all of the things that are already there supporting you whether you recognize them or not.

Perhaps the greatest support that yoga elucidates (at least for me) is the power of a simple inhale and a simple exhale. These are especially vital for me during periods of change, even when the change is for the better.

When I feel my mind racing ahead to all the What if? scenarios that my imagination can conjure, I can consciously ask my mind to come back, and to follow the sound of my breath in, and the sound of my breath out. To feel the depth of expansion of my inhale, and the full complete release of an exhale. The breath gives my mind an anchor to return to. And I can challenge myself to do this over and over and over again whenever I need it.

Doing this helps me stay present. And I need all the help I can get with that. I have a mind that likes to run away, that lurches, and searches frantically for things to worry about.

But if I recognize when I am falling into my very own traps, I can ask myself to pause, turn back to my breath, and remind myself that I am right here, right now, one single breath at a time.

And if I can be present, beautiful things can emerge. Change can happen exactly as it needs to.

And even though it isn’t instinctive for me like it is for the tiny quail, I can consciously give myself whatever I need in order to grow, thrive, and become fully myself.

And I must do that the only way that anyone ever can: one single breath at a time.

one of the quail

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Candling

Photo of a developing quail egg. Note the veins and the dark mass.
Both photos by Zoe Biniaris
Photo of a non-developing quail egg.
Note the light shining all the way through. No veins or mass.

There are currently 17 quail eggs in an incubator in my living room. They are more than halfway through their incubation period and are due to hatch in about a week.

I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about it. 

What if they don’t make it? What if I do something wrong and a little quail chick dies? 

What if the eggs aren’t fertile?

There is actually a method of checking up on the fertility and development of chicks even while they are still nestled in the eggs. It is called candling.

Basically, it involves shining a bright light on one end of the egg while holding the light flush up against the eggshell.

For a fertilized egg that is growing correctly, first you see veins. It almost looks like a microscopic placenta.

As the egg develops you start to see growth, and sometimes movement.

And it is just astoundingly wonderful to witness.

But then in some other eggs you shine the bright light on it and see nothing. No veins, no dark mass, no movement. For whatever reason, one egg can grow nothing while the egg beside it thrives.

And there is no real accounting for the difference. Presumably they were both handled in the same way. They arrived via the same padded box in the mail. They were placed lovingly into the same cozy environment. And yet one developed while another did not.

I don’t know exactly how to make sense of this, but maybe that is the point. 

Life is mysterious. 

When given the same exact variables, two things can turn out completely differently or not turn out at all.

Watching these eggs incubate, waiting for them to hatch or not to hatch, has been eye-opening for me. I get to witness firsthand the miracle of development or the lack thereof. 

And really, both of those things are miracles. We shine the very same light on them and see completely different things. Sometimes there is mass and substance. And sometimes there is only light.

And really I can’t do very much to determine their outcomes at this point. 

All I can do is bear witness to the mystery, the ability to do which is a mystery in and of itself.

Something I love about yoga is that it is not easily defined. It, too, is mysterious in that sense.

And it is a little like an incubator. It provides a safe and cozy space to lean into the mystery that is you.

It shines a light on the mystery that is your mind, your breath, and your body.

And we honor that mystery the only way that we can: by leaning into it, by bearing witness, by continuing to show up and bring light. 

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Cowgirl Yoga

Photo of my Frye boots and me taken by Zoe Biniaris

This morning I did my daily yoga wearing a pair of cowboy boots.

This is not typical yoga behavior nor is it advised to march into your local yoga studio sporting your Frye boots and not leaving them by the door as is customary.

But I wasn’t in a yoga studio.

I was in my own home, and when I’m here, I get to make the rules.

I hadn’t planned on practicing in my boots. But the morning got busy with getting everyone ready for church and out the door. I normally do my yoga in the morning, but I figured today, it would just have to wait. I would get to it later.

But even as I made that decision in my head, I could hear myself whispering, “You know you’re not going to do this later. The day will slip by, and your yoga will fall to the wayside.”

Once I was dressed, I realized (unsurprisingly) that my daughters were nowhere near being ready. They needed more time, and now I had to wait on them.

With this small new pocket of time at my disposal I thought, “Well, might as well get some yoga in.”

One thing that I know about myself is that when I do my simple, short, daily yoga routine, I am MUCH better equipped at dealing with whatever the day throws my way. And whenever I do it, I am also more patient.

Since I was already annoyed at how slowly my kids were moving, I thought it best to try and get my yoga in to deter an anger spiral which I could feel was a distinct possibility.

But I was already fully dressed and ready to walk out the door. And because I am lazy and also didn’t know how much more time the kids would take, I didn’t even take off my boots when I began.

And you know what? It was fine.

It was better than fine in fact because it did give me more patience, and I didn’t get caught in an anger spiral.

It also reminded me that it is fine to do things differently, to shake it up, and to seize whatever moment you can steal to take care of yourself a little. Because who knows when the next opportunity will arise?

The point of this post is not to suggest that you practice yoga in cowboy boots. In fact, it’s a pretty silly thing to do.

You can’t feel the floor. Your toes are scrunched. Since boots have a small heel, you can’t possibility have the correct foot alignment which sets up literally all of the alignment in the rest of your body.

But luckily I am not a purist. And if given the choice between the boot yoga and no yoga at all? I’ll take the boot yoga.

We have to work with what we’ve got. If we wait for some ideal moment to do the things that keep us well, happy, sane, and healthy, we will most likely never get around to it.

I love my yoga. And I also love my Frye boots. Before today, I have never thought of them in the same sentence.

But life has a funny way of forcing us to deal with lots of incongruous parts in whatever way we can.

And that requires creativity.

It also requires us to be imperfect, and to let go of our own rigid perceptions about how we think things ought to be done.

I encourage you to be creative about how you meet your own needs and give yourself love and care. There is no single “right” way to do that. You get to make your own rules. It’s your party. And you can wear whatever kind of shoes you want.

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If you are interested in learning my daily yoga routine so you can incorporate it into your own life, consider signing up for my newly launched 21-Day Calm Your Mind Challenge!

The three week course includes a basic daily yoga yoga sequence that I guide you through on a new video link each day. It also includes breathing techniques, meditations, and guided self-reflections. The whole thing takes about twenty minutes a day and is delivered directly to your email so there are no new logins or passwords to remember.

The purpose of the challenge is to give participants concrete tools for increasing calm, reducing anxiety, and being able to live their lives more fully and with greater joy.

By the end of the challenge, you will feel noticeably calmer than you did on day 1.

The challenge costs less than $5 a day for the whole three weeks, and afterwards you have lifetime access to all course materials.

You don’t need to have done any yoga or meditation before. It is user-friendly, very down-to-earth, and great for all bodies, ages, and abilities. I am confident you will love it, but if you don’t for any reason, I will offer a full refund no questions asked.

Sign up at www.21DayCalmYourMindChallenge.com

A new challenge begins each Monday, and there is still time to sign up for the one that starts tomorrow!

I promise you will love it.

And you can also feel free to email me with any questions at lauren@calmyourmindchallenge.com

Curiosity

Photo by Joe Green on Unsplash. I’m not sure why exactly, but this owl looks curious to me…

A little over a year ago, I started this blog as a way of understanding my own disenchantment with yoga. Yoga was something I had loved so much for so long, and it kind of broke my heart to recognize that my feelings about it were shifting.

Of course there were still parts of it I loved, but it was starting to feel like a burden somehow; like yoga was actually causing more stress for me than it was alleviating.

But y’all. I have recently realized something quite amazing…

I don’t feel disenchanted anymore!

Maybe it’s the pandemic or maybe I’m just starting to grow up. I certainly have LOTS of feelings right now (read my last post if you need some examples), but disenchantment is no longer one of them! In fact, I’d say that I am experiencing the opposite of disenchantment.

But what is the opposite of disenchantment? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Etymologically, it seems like it should be “enchantment,” right? But that sounds so fake to me. Like some sort of Disney fabrication.

To me, the opposite of disenchantment is something else entirely. To me, the opposite of disenchantment is curiosity.

I actually feel curious about my yoga again, and that makes me so stinking happy. And this blog as well as you, dear reader, have been absolutely central to my finding my way to the other side of disenchantment. For that, I seriously cannot thank you enough.

Curiosity is such a wonderful feeling. It feels like being really alive, like being open to discovery. Curiosity feels engaging and unburdened. If there is nothing in your life that you feel curious about right now, I highly recommend finding something. And it doesn’t have to be deep or profound or earth shattering. Simply the act of allowing yourself to be open enough to experience curiosity is a big and awesome thing.

Recently, my curiosity has lead me to explore lots of things. In terms of yoga, my curiosity has lead me down the path of trying to figure out what exactly made me fall in love with yoga in the first place.

When I first asked myself this question, the answer came quickly; I fell in love with yoga because it always made me feel better. I would walk into class feeling one way, and I would leave feeling another way.

But that answer just feels so vague. What part of me was it that was “feeling better?” Was it my body? My brain? What?

Of course you can’t really separate those things, especially in yoga. It involves all aspects of yourself. Side note: that is why I absolutely hate when some yoga teachers start off class by asking students to “leave the rest of your day at the door” once you step onto your mat. Screw that. Your day is part of you, and you shouldn’t leave any part of yourself behind when you step onto your mat. Also, you don’t really need a mat. But I am getting off topic here. These are topics for future posts. Back to the post at hand…

In trying to get to the bottom of how exactly yoga made me feel better, I realized that it was one of the very first tools I had ever learned for calming myself. I would walk into class feeling one way and would emerge feeling calmer. That was what made me fall for yoga; it was the first thing that I recognized as making me feel truly calm.

As I have written about in previous posts, anxiety has always been a prominent part of my life. So feeling calm after yoga was a very big deal for me. That calm didn’t always last long, but man it felt good while it did! It wasn’t like my anxiety had been taken away completely or anything. But the volume of it got turned way down, at least temporarily.

As the years wore on, my relationship with yoga got more complicated. I started teaching it professionally, which was both a blessing and a curse. I still loved it, but it was also my job, and it had all the baggage that comes along with that.

I fell into the mindset that in order to really benefit from yoga, I had to practice it for hours a day and buy into the crap that goes along with “yoga culture” in the West. I ended up getting injured frequently, and I realized that what had been a de-stressor in my life had in fact become a stressor. It is unsurprising that disenchantment ensued.

But part of me is glad that it did. It has lead me to figure out what I value most about my own personal yoga practice. And that is its ability to add much-needed calm to my life if I practice in the way that works for me. And the way it works for me requires two things: simplicity and regularity.

I am excited to announce that I am in the final stages of creating an online yoga program that is all about an extremely simple (and short) daily yoga practice that is designed entirely for bringing more calm into your life. It will likely be officially launching in March, but I have two spots left in my pilot group for a significantly reduced price. If that is something you are interested in (or just curious about…), click here to fill out a survey that will put you on the invite list.

I’ll close by thanking all of you again for the gift of your readership. The fact that you take time out of your lives to read my words is so humbling, and I really am incredibly grateful. And even though I don’t feel disenchanted anymore, this blog ain’t going anywhere! And I’m also not changing the name because I love it.

Feel free to let me know in the comments what is piquing your curiosity these days. I’d love to hear.

Making Things

These ladies laid their first eggs this morning. Even they are creating new things.

Hello, dear readers!

So much has happened since the last post. The longest year on record (2020) finally came to an end. And this blog turned one! And I actually have no words for 2021.

But I do have lots of feelings.

They include fear, sadness, and shame. They also include anger, frustration, and disbelief. I don’t see these as “negative” emotions. I see them as the only sane response to the insanity that is the world right now.

I actually hate the term “negative emotions.” And I see it used everywhere: on T-shirts and book titles, on coffee mugs and memes. They tell us to banish negative emotions, to rise above them, to conquer them once and for all.

But emotions are emotions. They aren’t good or bad. They just are. Some feel better than others. Some make you want to run away, while others make you want to stay forever. But all of them have their place. Remember in the movie Inside Out when sadness saves the day? Good things can happen, even out of sadness.

One of the things that is helping me feel better right now is making things. As I watch so much fall down around me, it feels good to create. It allows for joy even in the midst of sadness. It adds something tiny to this great strange world.

I have thrown myself headlong into several projects this year, and I can’t wait to share them with you soon. I am determined to keep creating, and I hope you are, too. The world needs good things right now. And we are call capable of making good things.

I would love to hear about what you are creating if you care to share in the comments.

I’ll close with the best poem in the world. It is my New Year’s gift to you. We can do this, y’all. I know we can.

Love After Love by Derek Walcott (1930 – 2017)

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved

you all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror. Sit.
Feast on your life.

Fog

Fog rising off the Tennessee River

A few weeks ago, I taught my last outdoor yoga class for the season.

It was a wistful, misty morning with fog rising off the damp ground where we had placed our yoga mats. It was the kind of morning that always reminds me of Tennessee, my birthplace and home for eighteen years.

In elementary school, my mom would drive me up the winding roads of Lookout Mountain where a thick fog would sometimes form at the base. As we drove up the steep incline, we would eventually emerge above the fog line, placing us “Above the Clouds.” (I use quotation marks here because the phrase refers to the name of an actual Civil War battle that occurred on Lookout Mountain) In the span of only a few minutes, we transitioned between three different worlds: the world beneath the fog, the fog itself, and the world above.

Years later in middle school, I often started the day sitting on the banks of the Tennessee River. The school I attended abutted the river, and there was this one perfect spot with several benches that I just loved. Most mornings, I would watch the fog hover above the water before “burning off” and dissipating into clarity. It was hauntingly beautiful.

My father is fond of quoting his friend, the writer and theologian Fred Buechner, when he refers to ancient Druids as having a special interest in “in-between things.” He describes fog, or mist as one of those things which allow us “to glimpse the mystery of two worlds at once.” 

I was reminded of all of this when I set up my mat for that final class weeks ago. When we started our initial warm-ups, fog surrounded us. It was grey, and spooky, and gorgeous. As we practiced, the fog lifted, and by the end, it was a clear, bright, sunny day. That single hour had taken us through two worlds at once. The whole thing felt like one giant transition.

Here we are in another transition, hunkering down for what many predict will be a very difficult winter. But winter really isn’t here just yet. We are in the middle place, the fog, the in-between.

There are lots of in-between moments in a yoga practice as well. The way you get into a pose, the way you exit. Settling into class, and departing. That beautiful spot right between inhale and exhale. This is what I am going to focus on during this season of in-between, both in my life and my yoga.

Fog is not an easy place to be, but I will do my best to recognize it’s beauty, its mystery, and allow myself to sit right in the middle of it.

A Season For All Things

Today is October 29, 2020. Where I live in New York, we are firmly into fall with winter palpably on the horizon. The leaves are past their autumnal peak. And there is a distinct feeling that the natural world is slowing its pace even if the rest of the world is not.

One of the many unexpected by-products of COVID-time for me has been a heightened awareness of weather and the seasons. Being outdoors has felt like such a respite, such a sanity savior during all of this. The newness and opening of spring, the hot hands of summer, the earthy coolness of fall: these things have all been active players during this new epoch when so much is outdoors. They have escorted us through this terrifying time and have determined much of what is possible within the constraints of a global pandemic.

And now winter looms, and the rules will change. It will be the first time during COVID where the natural world will echo what we are being called to do for our own collective safety: move inward, seek shelter, hunker down. I can’t quite articulate how I feel about this. Part of me feels sad and anxious, like I am gearing up for a huge loss. But, surprisingly, another part of me feels okay with it, like I am better prepared now than ever before. It is, after all, what we have already been practicing (hopefully) this whole time. Those muscles are so much stronger now, even if much more fatigued.

In my last blog post, I wrote about how magical it was to get back to teaching yoga in-person. And the setting I teach in requires that in-person classes be outdoors, which has also been magical. But I know that very soon those classes will pause as the weather grows cold. And that is a loss. But even this loss makes me more acutely connected to the natural change of seasons. And that is deep and special, indeed.

During class this week, a flock of geese passed overhead. They were high up in formation, alternating between a wavy line and a fluid V. They were loud and beautiful and unapologetic as they headed into new territory, towards new terrain.

All of us are heading into new terrain. So much is shifting beneath our very feet that it feels impossible to take it in. But I have decided to take a new approach when the fear and overwhelm of all that uncertainty sets in; I am going to try and remember those geese whose very instinct compels them to lean into change and do whatever the season requires.

I have no doubt that this season and many to follow will require an inordinate amount from each one of us. But I also have no doubt that we are, all of us, capable of meeting that challenge, even when we feel we are not.

I am capable. You are capable. We are capable. Together, we can lean into change, even when we are apart.