Navigating Cultural Appropriation and Yoga

At the ripe old age of 55, I have discovered TikTok.  Although I am rarely on the cutting edge of anything and am never an ‘early adopter’ of new social media, I feel right at home amongst the Native American TikTok, the LGBQT TikTok, the Bad Parents of TikTok, the Aunties of TikTok, the Crazy Grandmas of TikTok, etc. (you get the picture).  There is head space on this platform to move about – to learn and laugh.  Then, a fellow Yoga Teacher just had to give a speech about Namaste and using Sanskrit words in general.  He says…it’s disrespectful and culturally ‘inappropriate’ yet he will place his hands in prayer at the end of a practice and bow to his students.

Ugh. Can we step back a moment and take a breath?  What is cultural appropriation? 

The act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.


At first, I felt this was just another example of Yoga Snobs who want to somehow show their superiority in the practice-  ‘Oh…thee heathens of the West…here you go again…stealing Yoga and its language.’   

Yet, as I began to research many sources…I found much to consider (below are links for two opposing views from two respected sources):

In Yoga Class, The Meaning Of ‘Namaste’ Is Being Exaggerated : Code Switch : NPR

What Is The Meaning Of Namasté? (

Unfortunately, I found that the word has become watered-down, overused and yes, appropriated to ‘sell’ stuff. Sigh.

As the practice of Yoga expands and evolves, we are going to bump up against some uncomfortable truths and some will misunderstand Yoga.  Yes, some people still believe that Yoga is just a bunch of postures or poses.  Yes, some people still believe it is a religion.  With the doors of Yoga now open to ALL, how do we as Yoga teachers or everyday people who practice help others to join us? 

Once you begin the practice, you really can’t help but spread it around.  We really don’t know EXACTLY where the first Yoga was practiced.  However, there have been various forms of Yoga in all parts of the world for thousands of years.  Perhaps, the Native Americans of the West did not call their singing and dancing Yoga…but it is a form of Mantra chanting in a different language.

Perhaps, Tai Chi is not called Yoga..but the breath and movement are combined to create a meditative state.

Perhaps, Christians praying or singing hymns as a group do not call it Yoga but the folding of hands at your heart and quietly showing reverence or lifting voices together in a sacred place creates a calm mind and a kind heart.

(Please note..that the comparisons above are not meant to disrespect any religion or practice…I want to point out the universality of the idea of Yoga which is simply a state where the mind is calm)

When we are at our best…we are practicing Yoga.  How we arrive at the state of Yoga (a calm mind and open heart) can vary depending on our culture and personal experience.  The names or words are just ways to share the experience with others.

So, I do say ‘Namaste’. I say it to my fellow Yoga teachers and to my students.  In context, I use it when the recipient UNDERSTANDS what I am saying and I use it only when I really MEAN it.  I can see that it would be a bit ridiculous to say it to everyone I meet as they would not respect or truly ‘get’ what I mean.  I also use the Sanskrit words for the postures as I was taught that the language is full of sacred power when we pronounce them properly.  I practice the language sparingly and I study Yoga with humility.

We are at an important time in history where many humans are opening their minds to past wrongs as well as how modern people are unknowingly reinforcing outdated and harmful stereotypes.  Yes, cultural appropriation exists.  We can take a step back…and open our minds and hearts to what we call ‘compassionate self-observation’ in Yoga.  Here, we can see the whole story.

Now afraid to say Namaste,


Aspiring Yogi

Lover of Goats

No, I didn’t try to tell you the meaning of Namaste … but if you come to a Yoga class or two…the subject might come up 🙂

This and That

What happens when we still the mind?

Many things and No-thing my friends.

The mind is not stilled, it grows less important, less influential.  It fades.

Then, the truth waltzes in as if We all suddenly knew what We forgot.

And, it all made sense somehow in the End because We were just confused and distraught.  We were too busy-minded to notice and remember that ‘This’ is not the reason.  ‘That’ – unfortunately, isn’t either.

The reason is to find contentment despite all of ‘This’ and ‘That’.

We remember the true lesson is the experience of existence itself.  ‘This’ and ‘That’ are merely distractions along the way to the Light.


A blog is a curious thing.  It’s meant for the world to see but it seems to be a form of personal growth for the writer in the end.   I can only write when inspired and the process cannot be forced, it must flow.  Of course, the focus of my life for a time has been the science and spirituality of Yoga so it naturally fuels my writing and is the well spring of my inspiration.

A few weeks ago, I began to read the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Vedic text that is required reading for Yoga teachers.  This is my second attempt at delving into this deepest study of the forms of Yoga and Eastern spirituality.   It’s way over my head but part of the Yogic path is to study with a ‘Beginner’s mind’ and take the lessons you are prepared to comprehend as they arrive.  I find myself studying the same concepts over and over and only when I am ‘ready’, do they suddenly make sense.

The ‘Gita’ is the story of the battle for your soul.  The ‘battle’ of living to your highest potential- your greatest self.  Full of allegory and symbolism, the story is both an esoteric examination of self-realization as well as a simple tale of a ‘hero’ caught between his family ties and his life path.  Then, life happened and the words began to jump off the page into my heart.   My grandson became critically ill.   In my mind, the world began to move in slow motion and it was like the heartbeat of my life slowed.  Life…showing me who is boss…kicking me in the ‘jimmy’ (as a co-worker likes to say)…reminding me that I am not enlightened…I am what they call a ‘householder’.  Householders are Yogi’s that continue to live a ‘regular’ life.  We don’t live in an ashram and practice meditation and yoga from sunrise to sunset.  We have responsibilities and ‘attachments’ to others.  We serve.  We earn.  I am a worker, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend..and I occupy the role most cherished to me – I am a Grandmother.

The story of Arjuna (the ‘hero’) comes down to how he will interpret the scriptures and his place in the universe.  Will he act? Will he choose inaction?  Will he fight his loved ones?  Will he defend what is righteous?

Will he follow his Dharma (life path)?

In Yoga, we have a series of postures, we call Warriors (Virabhadrasasana).  We say they are ‘peaceful’ warriors and when you are in these poses, it can evoke many emotions but often, they bring a sense of grounded strength.  Life can feel like a battle at times.  We fight for survival and we fight for love.  We fight to be heard.  We fight to find our voice.   We even fight for the ‘best’ place in line at the grocery store or the best parking spot.  During this scary time, I found myself in Warrior …moving into the pose without thought.  When I was still, I could visualize myself in the pose or the flow of poses I teach so often.

A small lesson from the Bhagavad Gita became clear to me.  I must follow my life path and embrace my Dharma.  I must leave the old life behind and be The Peaceful Warrior.  This doesn’t stop the world from turning in the never ending cycle of births and and losses…dark and light…movement and stillness.  As long as the breath of life flows in me, I will embody The Peaceful Warrior, my place in the universe.

I’ll close with a  poem for my grandson, Samuel: 

One Little Boy

One little boy brings a smile to the face of the world

His laughter is the honey of voices carried on bee’s wings

His bright eyes are the clear flowing milk of the sun

We see in his smile, the lotus flower that gently unfolds a thousand petals…a thousand rays of light.. revealing the brilliance of love within us all.

Melting the coldest of hearts and igniting the flame of unity in each soul with his Buddha spirit,

He’s one little boy

And that’s all the world needs to find its soul again.





We Forget

Another icy stare

with thin, dark eyes

surveys the masses

looking out with judgment and hate.

The shooter proclaims


and blood flows from the victims

slowly blending with the tears of those who loved them.

As another newsfeed crawls by,

in disbelief we sigh

and share and ‘like’

and even give of ourselves

for one shining hour, one day or some other temporary way.

Then, we scurry and hurry

to the next moment

the next post

the next shiny, viral something.

We proclaim, WE WILL NOT FORGET!

yet we do, we did and sadly,

we will again, until the next time

those terrible eyes glaze over

narrowed with anger and evil intent,

the loaded weapon of ignorant insanity

fires again and again

with a terrible sound


We hear the sound, but we do not listen to its vibration.

Our shoulders permanently shrugged

Our eyes glaze over.

We forgot; we forget.

By: Renee Howerton

Originally inspired by the shooting at the Pulse in Orlando and I found it today, September 6th, 2020. It still rings so true and my heart hurts.

The Unemployed

I don’t want to be any of the things I was before.

Shedding the skin and dropping the mask

and breathe just as I am.

Possibly nothing and probably a failure

in someone’s thoughts.

Yet, not sure if all that doing and being has value to me now.

Just unsure and stepping back to observe reactions

when I am still

not just mine but other’s too.

Encountering disappointment that I do not own.

Encountering anger that does not arise from me.

Yet it is present and blowing in my face

with gentle fury of one who wants me to be

doing something

always doing something.

The Metaphor of The Mask

Nobody told me there’d be days like these.  Strange days indeed.”

John Lennon

Reeling from a pandemic and its effect on our society, economy and personal lives, we are all living in strange days…indeed.  While some remain untouched in their glass houses, most of us will not come out of this unscathed.  With an unemployment rate that rivals the Great Depression, our country is in the midst of a new kind of depression.  It’s a virus of not only body, but hearts and souls are also becoming sick.  Worry, stress and anxiety can overtake us as we navigate isolation, job loss and fear of the future.

Now, we wear masks when we venture out in public.  The masks prevent the spread of the virus between our bodies but an important human connection is being interrupted.  I find myself smiling under my mask yet no one can see it.  I cannot see the facial cues from others…are you a threat or a friend? “Are you smiling under your mask?”, I wonder as I observe the changing landscape of human interaction.  After my job loss, I ventured to my old office to pick up my ‘stuff’ and say goodbye to the people I spent the larger part of fifteen years working beside.  We all wore our masks and there were no goodbye hugs.  I could see their eyes but this didn’t tell me much.  There were no tears and I was left with an odd numb feeling.  I have been on the other side of this situation. I was the survivor and now, I am the loser.  I know they felt a sense of relief that they were on the ‘right’ side of the situation (better you than me).  I felt immeasurably smaller and my role in the world suddenly diminished.  A younger person who I trained now occupies my ‘space’ there.

The ‘mask’ I wore in that job role has fallen away.  My ego is bruised and I am angry and hurt.  The irony is that I didn’t want to be there any longer but couldn’t seem to dislodge myself from the perception that I ‘needed’ the money.  I know it’s right for me and it will allow me to attempt to make a living at teaching Yoga.  I guess I wanted to choose the time and place of my exit but that wasn’t what the universe planned.  I am being ‘paid’ to leave so it couldn’t be more ‘ideal’.  I will do without A LOT of material things and I will be living on a strict budget.  We all know that those material things don’t make us happier yet the fear of losing the ability to buy stuff is real.  In reality, we are being conditioned to believe that we need all this ‘stuff’ to be happy and acceptable to society.

I keep hoping that the isolation…the quiet places we find when we are alone will help us to lift the masks that hide our true selves.  We are not the roles we play at work, we are not our possessions and we are not the ‘identity’ that we have built around all the stuff we accumulate.  However, many people are going to go right back to identifying with all the junk clouding the perception of the truth.  They will even somehow believe that if they are the ‘lucky’ ones who still have a job that this makes them superior and more deserving than those of us who were freed from those chains.  We need to wake up and not be afraid to have fewer possessions.  Many in the spiritual community feel this is the time to wake up but truthfully, I don’t believe most of us will.  Those superior people still buying up toilet paper and disinfectant and clinging desperately to their identity will look down on those who cannot or choose not to continue to consume everything in sight like locusts.

Even when literal masks can come off, many will still have their metaphoric mask firmly in place.   They will not see that fear rules every aspect of their lives.  They will not see their true potential and will continue to believe that they are what they can buy or where they stand in the ‘pecking order’ of the workplace.

While walking with my grandson in the park, we saw a man sitting by the pond.  Sam pointed to him and whispered, “Nay Nay, does he have the virus?”.  I had no other answer than, “Sam, we just don’t know”.

We don’t know do we?  Who has the virus?  Who will come out of this alive or ‘on top’?  Who will wake up?  Who will remain asleep?  If enough people take off their masks, can we make the world a better place?

I don’t know.  Strange Days Indeed.



A full-time Yoga teacher

Taking the Long Road Home

Fear, Anxiety and the Evolution of Global Consciousness

Unless you are blissfully living under a rock, I am sure you are aware that right now, the world is in the midst of a global pandemic.  The effects of this are widespread.  We practice ‘social distancing’, working from home or not leaving our house at all.  We order our groceries for delivery.  Some of us are soothing our anxiety and fear by purchasing comfort food, stocking up on an enormous amount of toilet paper and compulsively checking social media.  The less fortunate are suddenly without a paycheck and no safety net to stave off homelessness or hunger.  The inequities in our economic, health care and political systems are being exposed while the rich sell off stocks and governments fight over who deserves help and who should languish.

As a Yoga teacher, I have radically changed the way I teach. My classes are on-line, streaming from Facebook and YouTube.  Teaching to a camera is strange, disorienting and it feels cold.   I am so used to watching my students and laughing through the inevitable snafus (knocking things over, falling out of a pose, getting my left and right mixed up) and moving on.  However, now, my ‘boo boo’s’ are on display for strangers, trolls and will be out there for infinity.  This is a small sacrifice to pay and my ego will survive.

But…what about humanity? How does this change us?  Obviously, it will make its mark on each individual.  However, some believe this is a much bigger wake-up call…much more…‘spiritual’ in nature.

Yep, that’s right.  I am saying humanity is waking up – not just some of us, but hopefully, every single one of us.  After the dust settles, some will still ignore the true nature of consciousness and our ‘reality’ but many millions will be forever changed for the better.  Don’t mistake what I am saying- what we are experiencing is not great right now.  People are sick. Some are dying.  I am not making light of that.  Loss and death are painful.  We all know in our heart that we are not making it out of this ‘state of mind’ and physical body alive (in a way we understand with this limited brain). I am full of fear and anxiety myself. My only relief is Yoga, chanting and meditation (and a good dose of humor now and then).

On my personal path, I have struggled with the spinning of my own mind, the likes and dislikes of my ego and my ever-changing emotions.  I have tried to force my brain to wrap around complex subjects like consciousness and enlightenment.  The only time I make any ‘progress’ is when I let go of all conceptualizing and look within.  I can credit Eckhart Tolle for my ideas here.  He was asked about reincarnation and just ‘who’ is it that keeps coming in and out of physical forms to become a being ‘having a human experience’. The great thing is..he didn’t explain ‘who’ this is in his answer. He simply said to look within and find all the answers you need.

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not is irrelevant.  We all ‘know’ there is more to everything than this limited scope of bodily senses, spinning thoughts and experiences.  When we step back from all the buzzing and noise and activity and become still, something magical happens.  There’s something more and words can’t even come close to describing it or explaining it.  It just IS.  Some call it a ‘witness’ or a ‘soul’ or ‘God’.

So, how does a pandemic of epic proportions help us wake up?

This physical disconnection between us as human beings (we are social creatures after all) is showing us just how connected we are!  I miss hugging people…all kinds of people!  I am hugger although I know everyone is not, but most people need to be in the physical presence of other human beings at times.

People are going outside and appreciating nature!  Watching TV and surfing around on social media can become quite tedious.  Reconnecting with the natural world is key to raising our consciousness.

The better angels of our nature as humans is expressing itself during this crisis. The majority of us are being kinder, more patient and willing to help others.

The earth is healing a bit – and getting a breather from pollution!

The pace of our daily lives is slowing down as we are required to ‘shelter in place’.  While there is stress and chaos, there are more moments available to pause and reflect on what’s truly important.  For those of us who are ‘tuned in’ and meditating or chanting or doing Yoga, we are more and more aware of the effects of our practice and how important it is to us.

There is power in global consciousness to lift us all up above the turnings of our individual minds.  Eckhart said…Consciousness is turning to look at itself, its own creation- like a mirror.  After eons of creation, it’s time to step back and breathe in the beauty of life and know that inside each of us is the same thread.  ‘We’ forgot where we came from, but ‘we’ can wake up and remember.

I know I probably didn’t answer the question.  Perhaps, if I meditate, it will come to me.



Aspiring Yogi

Human who has none of the answers to life’s big questions but keeps on asking anyway.

Lover of goats (who just realized there are no photos of goats in this post and this must be remedied immediately)

white goat in grass field
Photo by Nandhu Kumar on

A Story of the Cosmos

No one is illegitimate
No one is inferior

All are imbued with divinity
All are coming to the light
In their own way
In their own time.

All judgments are a way to delay wisdom
When we pay attention
We already know the divine

Because divinity already lies here, there and everywhere
This is too simple for us
As we want it to be
Out of reach
For those who do not appear to be seeking.

Yet, there it is
Floating just within our grasp
And we want it to be special
As if, special is not common.

No, you are not special.
You are only the divine.

Truth – why does it seem elusive?
It seems to be within the grasp of anyone who chooses.
Yet, to the last, it flows through the fingertips
Like wisps of smoke on ether.

What if
We are rejecting the truth that
Begs to be born in thought, speech or deed?
Falling back to the depths of ignorance
We passively float on the wings of the wind of fate.

We feel the pull towards the nape of the neck
Lifted and saved by the brace of gravity
Afraid again to be lifted to what is real
Fear embedded so deeply in our consciousness
It has swarmed and taken over like bees
Building and evolving
Into a hive of unrelenting stickiness.

Stuck, we accept our fate
Marching along in the tasty muck
Barely tasting our karmic creation
Yet we may not see it is the honey of knowledge
And the milk of wisdom.

Many, many, many times
We have journeyed here.
Exploding worlds and burning skies
Are not foreign or familiar.
Destruction and rebirth are
The Story of the Cosmos


Renee Howerton
Aspiring Yogi
Lover of Goats
Potential Poet

Level Up Your Life!

It’s no secret that I believe in the power of Yoga to transform your life, your relationships and your health.  As a Yoga teacher, I have witnessed the magic of Yoga through my students as well as my own ongoing personal journey and Yoga practice.  Before I start to sound preachy or condescending, I still struggle to live a balanced life, relax when needed, eat and sleep properly, meditate daily and practice Yoga daily.  Old habits die hard….and I have 50 years of poor habits under my belt to overcome.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at how becoming a Yoga teacher (or attending the 200 hour Yoga Teacher training to simply deepen your practice) can help you improve your physical and mental health and infuse your life with new purpose.

What is Yoga? 

Good question, right?  Do not be fooled by Instagram photos, magazine covers or Youtube videos!  You do not need to be hyper flexible, ridiculously thin or own fancy pants to practice or teach Yoga.

Are you alive? Check.

Do you have a body? Check.

Can you breathe? Check.

Do you want to live your best life? Check.

There! You already have everything you need to get started.   The Yoga Sutras (one of the most important ancient texts on Yoga) states: Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodha which means: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

Yoga can include poses or postures (known as asanas), meditation, breathing exercises, chanting, mudras (hand gestures), prayer, study…ANY action (or stillness) that calms you.  There are thousands of ‘styles’ of Yoga.  I happen to practice and teach Kripalu Yoga- an accessible, gentle form that can be modified to suit almost any ‘body’.

Am I ready?

Have you have practiced Yoga in any form for any length of time and has it changed your life in a positive way? Check.

Do you feel that you found a missing piece of your life when you began the practice of Yoga? Check.

Have friends, family members or other important people in your life noticed the positive changes in you? Check.

Are you telling your friends, family and anyone who will listen that they should come to a class? Check.

When I began teacher training, I had been practicing Yoga for a whole 6 months.  The inspiration came during Savasana (the deep relaxation at the end of any good yoga class).  A single thought popped in my head: “I should teach Yoga”.  With the encouragement of my mentor and first Yoga teacher, Amy Andrews (owner of the famous Yoga Hut in Belleview, FL), I enrolled in training with Jennifer McCracken (of the equally famous Blissful Life Corporation in Ocala, FL) and my journey began.  It wasn’t easy! I dedicated 2 months of my weekends and many evenings of practice, reading and study to the training.  I was out of shape in both body and mind. I struggled to keep up with my classmates physically.  I struggled with my spiritual beliefs (or lack of any belief).  It was the best challenge I ever accepted.

What will I learn in Teacher training?

Most initial training programs are 200 hours in length and include philosophy of Yoga, Asana (yoga poses or postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Meditation, Anatomy, Sequencing, Ethics and more. You’ll do A LOT of Yoga (duh) and you’ll do A LOT of ‘practice teaching’ (cringe!).  You’ll have homework and be required to take Yoga classes each week outside of your training time.  You will spend time on spiritual subject matter but Yoga is not a religion.  You’ll begin to explore the meaning of consciousness and how your mind and body work together to bring bliss…or distress.  In order to graduate, you will be required to teach a class and pass a written final exam.

Yoga: Side Hustle or Career?

Once you have completed your training AND make the commitment to teach, Yoga can bring financial rewards.  Local studios, fitness centers, and spas are always looking for qualified, trained teachers.  Opportunities are available at senior centers or nursing homes, large planned unit housing developments (HOA’s-Homeowner Associations) as well as schools or churches.  Employers are also adding Yoga as a benefit with classes offered during the work day at larger corporations.  By leveraging your social media presence, you can find opportunities to teach private lessons.  During your training, you will learn more about how to promote yourself as a Yoga Teacher.

Teaching Yoga is a rewarding part time job.  You choose when and where you want to teach!  However, whether you make this a full time endeavor or a side hustle, it is vital that you do not flake out.  Just like any other job, your reputation is crucial to your success.

Get ready to LEVEL UP!

Once you are ready to dive in, do some research.  Currently, there is no shortage of Yoga Teacher Training opportunities.  A quick search on Facebook or Google will reveal several area Yoga Teacher Schools.  However, not all training programs are suited for everyone.  Find YOUR style. Talk to your Yoga teacher.  Attend a class at the school to get a feel for their style of Yoga.

The best resource for more information about Kripalu Yoga is linked below (you can learn benefits of Yoga as well as how Kripalu Yoga compares to other styles):

If you are ready to take this leap of faith in yourself OR if you know someone who may be interested, follow this link to learn more:

Or, you can email me directly at:

It’s never too late to find your passion.  It’s never too late to reboot your life.   Yoga has healed people for thousands of years.  We (the world and all of humanity) need that healing more than ever before.  Whether you decide to teach Yoga after the training or evolve your practice to the next level, you’ll be practicing Seva (service) to the world.



Aspiring Yogi

Lover of Goats

Will shamelessly use gamer lingo although I am totally not a gamer

Will also shamelessly and relentlessly promote Yoga, Teaching of Yoga and Better Living Through Deep Breathing at any given opportunity

The Inner Brat

bratty goat

Pursuing the practice of Yoga as a lifestyle (not fitness, not fancy leggings or mats, and definitely NOT how much you sweat or the tone of your ass) is at once life-affirming and disconcerting.  There are days when it brings me great joy and other days where I am frustrated with my lack of progress and irritated by my own thoughts.  As I familiarize myself with the role of ego, the constant flow of random thoughts and my own fixed beliefs about myself and the world, I am confronted with aspects of myself that I really do not like very much.

The style of Yoga that I teach and practice, Kripalu Yoga, is known for its accessibility (anyone can do it!) as well as its focus on the mind/body connection.  There are three stages to this form of Yoga: Willful practice (physical poses and alignment), Surrender and self-observation (holding poses longer, release of emotional blocks, meditation) and Meditation-In-Motion.  The stages are not necessarily practiced in ‘order’ and you may flow back and forth between them as you grow.

As meditation has become an important part of my Yoga practice, I’ve been introduced to My Inner Brat.  She’s always been there but now, I notice ‘her reactions’, ‘her desires’ and ‘her anger’ when she doesn’t get things her way.  She occupies a big part of the workings of my mind and ego.  Her voice is pretty darn loud in my head.  She screams inside when I keep quiet on the outside.  She stomps around like a child when I practice self-control in the world of Adults.  By the way, she HATES meditation…and makes sure to distract me as much as possible when I am practicing.

My inner brat is my shadow self.  These are the darker aspects of any personality: selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, bitterness and other ‘less than desirable’ human traits – traits we ALL possess in one degree or another.  Ranging from the benign (geez, this is boring) to the profane (I hate everyone!), these traits are like spices in the human soup of the mind.  The soup wouldn’t have any taste without the spices.  The sky doesn’t have stars without the backdrop of dark matter to put them on full display.  We need the sun and the moon to light the sky just as we need the rain and sunshine to balance all life on earth.  Negative emotions or thoughts can propel us to change and transform or to simply see truth.  In fact, I am beginning to see that when I embrace the negative thoughts or emotions or even negative ‘stuff’ happening, it’s an opportunity to clear the way and make room for more productive ways of being.

So, what have I learned from my Inner Brat?  She’s impatient. She’s angry …OFTEN.  She yells.  She’s SO inappropriate and immature.  As I practice this self-study, I dig in and find out what’s underneath these feelings.  If I totally reject these feelings, then I learn nothing.  First, I accept them as valid.  Second, I seek to understand their true meaning, so they don’t take up SO much space in the real estate of my mind.

Impatience:  I relate impatience to a need to be more mindful.  If I am in such a hurry to get to the next ‘thing’, I am missing a BIG part of real living.

Anger: Deeply embedded in anger is actual emotional pain.  When we push away pain, it doesn’t go away.  It sits and waits.  When we are triggered by rejection or frustration, it will jump out in unexpected ways.

Judgment: Judgment is like a mirror- we hold it up to show what is ‘wrong’ with someone else.  Yet, when we gaze into the mirror, we can see that it is really a reflection of something we do not like about ourselves.  We project into the world what we reject within ourselves.    When I am strongly repelled by someone’s behavior, I know I need to look at myself to see why I feel this way.

At the heart of it all, I find my whole self.  I work on acceptance and compassion for where I am on the ‘path’ at any given moment and know that while I do not ‘like’ my Inner Brat, she’s an important part of me.  Without her, I wouldn’t speak up when I am being mistreated.  I wouldn’t understand what I really want and boldly insist on going for it!  I laugh with her when she’s being ridiculous and I cry with her when she’s feeling alone and unappreciated.

Without her, meditation WOULD be boring!

Now, I sit silently and watch as her teachings unfold…grateful for the inner wisdom that allows me to listen and learn.



Aspiring Yogi

STILL loves goats

Still a bit of a brat

bonus photo of the early stages of the Inner Brat…

bratty person





Beautiful Struggle

So far, my efforts to write a blog on a regular basis have failed in a spectacular fashion!   Despite my procrastination, here I am once again to share random thoughts about Yoga and Life accompanied by photographs of goats and terrible attempts at humor.

Lately, life has been handing me some challenges which have humbled me greatly.  However, the most painful times in our lives can be a catalyst for personal growth and we don’t realize it until much later after the dust has settled.  There are NO guarantees that we can avoid suffering.  In fact, we will experience suffering at many points in our lives.  Buddhist teachings state: ‘Suffering is Universal’, the first of the Four Noble Truths in this tradition.  A great portion of our life energy is spent trying to avoid suffering (Dukkha).  We may try to eat a healthy diet or exercise to avoid the suffering of illness or we may try to bury ourselves in work to climb the corporate ladder to avoid the suffering of poverty.  We go to great lengths to avoid discomforts- both physical and mental.

Our efforts to avoid suffering can even cause us to suffer MORE!!  We injure ourselves exercising too much or we never take enough time away from our job to enjoy our personal time.  We can become ‘stuck’ in this way of being until we can no longer enjoy simple pleasures as our life becomes a constant struggle to avoid pain and chase after pleasure (or material ‘stuff’).   Our resistance to the truth of life (it can really be a pain in the ass and it will end when our body gives out!) does not allow us to see clearly that we are trying to swim against the natural current flowing along the river of our existence.   This current may push and pull us into weeds, over rocks but eventually, we do come to calmer waters.

The ‘best-laid plans’ will often go awry.  Our savings can be depleted by a single catastrophic event.  We can get sick or injured due to an accident or the lottery of our genetic make-up.  Our loved ones will be taken away from us and we will also take our very own final exhalation.  This uncomfortable truth is one we really don’t like to think about and even talking about death is one sure way to clear a room.  Tragedy, comedy, truth and beauty are constantly unfolding around us.

In Yoga, part of the path taught by Swami Kripalu is to practice ‘compassionate self-observation’.  He says: “Self observation brings us closer to the truth”.  When we step back and observe our reactions (even after the fact), we can potentially see the root of our struggle could be fear of suffering.  Perhaps, we can even see that we suffer because we worry about things to come….stuff that hasn’t even happened yet.  The ‘bad thing’ isn’t even real but our mind (and our body) is reacting as if it is real and happening right now!  It’s like walking into a dimly lit room and we see something coiled up in the corner and our brain shouts SNAKE!!  Our heart beats wildly and we feel true fear…but when we turn on the lights, we see nothing but a harmless rope.  If we pay attention in this moment, we know that our fight or flight response kicked in and flooded our body and brain with adrenaline.  It will take hours for our system to return to normal.

Swami Kripalu also says: “The truth is that unmitigated pleasure, devoid of any pain, only tastes stale.  When one gets tired of sitting, one loves to be asked to stand.  Likewise, after a long session of uninterrupted standing, one greatly relishes the chance to sit down.  Pain is the sweetness experienced in pleasure.  Sorrow is nothing but unripened joy, and joy is the ripening fruit of sorrow.”

We can try to embrace the whole of our experience.   Since we are wired for survival, we often try to avoid perceived dangers.  In the past, we were running from tigers but now, we run from the fear of loss, pain or discomfort.  When we practice Yoga, we learn how to breathe through discomfort in our postures and move from ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest’.  Most of all, we know that in this moment, nothing is wrong.  Once I turn on the lights, I see there is no snake and there is no tiger.  It’s just me and my beautiful struggle to see truth and beauty and embrace the comedy and the tragedy.



Aspiring Yogi*

*still sees snakes in the corners of a dark room and will definitely run from anything that looks like a tiger but there are cute goats in the world so I know it’s gonna be okay in the end.  Did I mention there will be cake in this lifetime?