This past weekend, I once again spent every waking hour on my yoga mat in Advanced Teacher Training
(aka, Most Exhausting Yet Inspiring Weekend Ever). As always, we touched on many amazing topics, but one workshop that truly struck me was our closing session on Sunday, when two of our ATT teachers (and fellow TS
teachers and mentors), Melissa and Dave
, presented their thesis from last year, "The Science and Scripture of Change." During this presentation they spoke a lot about the science behind what is involved in making changes in one's life, and in turn, how yoga plays a role in peoples' ability to make life changes.
As they discussed the many ways in which yoga can allow people to see their lives and their true selves more clearly, we touched on all the ways that people often change once the begin to practice yoga regularly. Although this doesn't happen overnight and doesn't happen for everyone, many times when people begin to practice consistently, they begin to tweak their lives in small ways so that they can lead healthier lives overall. These changes can be smaller changes like beginning to eat healthier or drink less, working to get more sleep, or working to manage stress in a better way, or bigger changes like quitting their jobs, leaving unhealthy relationships, quitting smoking, or pursuing lifelong dreams or goals that before seemed unattainable. As teachers it's pretty exciting for us to see this transformation take place within our students, especially because so many of us have been through a similar transformation and know how exciting (and also scary!) it can be. The more and more that we talked about this, the more and more I began to think about the profound ways in which yoga has acted as a catalyst for change in my life. Thinking back on the past few years, I have no idea where I would be had yoga not come into my life and allowed me to experience things in a different way--and really tune inward and figure out what brings truly brings me happiness. Not sure what I mean by this? Here's a short list of the changes that I've made in my life due to the heightened clarity and awareness brought on by my practice:
- Gave up running because I realized it was causing my body too much pain and I now had a new outlet for movement and stress relief.
- Finally began to pay attention to my body--to really pay attention to it--and to treat it with respect (includes the following smaller changes: started getting more sleep, started "partying" less, started paying attention to my posture when sitting at my desk all day, started stretching more off of my yoga mat, etc.).
- For the first time since my early teens, I started to actually care about and appreciate my body. After struggling with body-image and self-esteem issues for most of my adolescent and adult life, yoga finally got me in touch with my body in a new way. It allowed me to gain strength, confidence, and a connection with my body, and to truly begin to break away from these issues and love my body (cheesy yoga talk, I know, but this has been one of the biggest shifts in my life since practicing yoga).
- Enrolled in Teacher Training (and completed the program/graduated, obviously :).
- Gave up daily caffeine/coffee (a big one!).
- Quit my full-time job to pursue teaching yoga full-time (and in turn, opportunities just opened up and I was also able to start working at Tranquil Space as a Studio Manager).
- Started this blog to share my love of yoga with the blogosphere :)
- Enrolled in Advanced Teacher Training.
Photo via creatingspaceyoga.ca
Yes, these are the big changes that yoga incited in my life, but there are also tons of little changes--things like being more mindful throughout my day, becoming more aware of my impact on the world and the environment, taking more time for self-care, and encouraging those in my life to find more balance through the practice. Pretty exciting, huh?
How has yoga inspired change in your life? How has your practice allowed you to get in touch with the parts of your body, your personality, or your life to which you had become disconnected? I found making this list, of the ways in which yoga has acted as a catalyst for change in my own life, to be a great exercise, and definitely encourage you to do the same. If it's not a yoga practice that is your refuge, but something else, how has your passion for this activity or purpose inspired you to be a"better," or truer version of yourself?
To paraphrase a Judith Lasater quote that was shared with us during the presentation yesterday, you don't use yoga to change into something else, yoga takes you back to your true self. And I'll leave you with that thought ;)
Happy Halloween, everyone! I've always TOTALLY adored this holiday, but sadly, due to a crazy busy month and a weekend of Advanced Teacher Training, I didn't get a chance to dress up this year :( Such a tragedy!!! Next year will have to be epic.
Anyways, to celebrate I thought I would just break out two pictures of my favorite costumes from the past decade to share...
Ben and I as Hipsters last year. If you can't read his shirt, it says "stupid raisins, stay out of my cookies!" I found it at goodwill and it was amazing (although I think it was a little girl's tee brand...). This was our second year in a row of being hipsters, but trust me, it was much better this time around (although I think our dance moves were better the year before ;)
My friend Jessica and I as a "pumpkin patch" in college. We would intertwine our tendrils around each other so that we would stay connected ;) We thought we were "sexy pumpkins" because we wore heels, but looking back on it I'm not quite so sure. I still have the costume though, so if anyone wants to borrow it for tonight, it's not too late!
What's your favorite costume that you've ever worn? So. much. fun.
Have a great day!
Ben in Snowmageddon in DC ('09).
Although it's incredibly hard to believe, it's supposed to snow here in DC today. In October! Totally crazy.
But, this forecast got me thinking about snow, and winter, and how much I love the first real
snow of the season (not what today is going to be)...which then got me thinking about how much I love all of Robert Frost's
poems about walking in the snowy woods. One of his shortest, most subtle poems that mentions snow, "Dust of Snow," is below. It's a perfect example of one of my favorite topics--how the simple things in life can bring us joy! Dust of Snow
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.And sometimes, that's all it takes to turn things around. So take a moment to stop and take in your surroundings today--no matter where you are
or what you're doing. It just may bring you a bit of happiness that you wouldn't have found, otherwise...Namaste!Mary Catherine
Hello, Halloween weekend and almost-November! Um, yeah. Crazy! Before I go on and on about how fast life goes by (I have a tendency to dwell on this each Friday), I'm just going to share my simple joys of the week. This week, they're very simple, as I was basically just focused on getting well and getting back into normal life. But sometimes, isn't normal life just the best?
What brought happiness into your life this past week? Pour moi, it was the following:
"This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas
SoundtrackLast night I took a yoga class with the lovely Lisa at Tranquil Space, and she played this wonderfully amusing Halloween playlist--including lots of throwbacks--and
this song! I had COMPLETELY forgotten about this song (and even about this movie!), but it's from a movie that I totally loved when I was younger. We went through this phase where my brothers and I watched it almost every weekend for a couple of months. Isn't that funny when we do that as kids? Anyways, it's very appropriate for the season and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing it. Get in the holiday mood by listening below! And beware, it's a weird one ;)
My new studio!Look at my new studio! It's in my apartment! I could take 10 steps right now and be there
, ready to paint! Now, I just have to make more time in my schedule for painting. But it's happening--one step at a time! I got the approval from Ben when he got home (...and I quote, "like." That's all he said. Nothing else, just "like."), and now all we have to do is find a new home for his kettlebell
collection and we're good to go. I can't wait to actually use it on my painting day next week! And maybe, just maybe, I can now get started on some long-overdue projects that have been building in my mind :)
Tea from my new Electric Tea Kettle
OMG. This $20 appliance has changed my life. I bought it on Tuesday, and I'll never go back!!!
With nothing else to stand in my way, I've become a tea-drinking machine and there's no end in sight. Why stop, when all you have to do to boil the water is flip a switch and it happens immediately?! I know, I sound like an infomercial for these things, but I really think it's quite amazing. And sure, there is a wonderful simplicity and beauty in using an old-fashioned tea kettle, but for a girl on-the-run, sometimes you just need to flip a switch. Ya know? So this winter, I'll be drinking nothing but tea. Join me?
Photo via willowhousechronicles.wordpress.com
McIntosh Apples (aka FALL!)Tis the season! With fall comes delicious apples, and one of my favorite fall varieties is McIntosh--but here's a general warning: you have to get the right ones, fresh off of a tree from a local orchard. If not, they can be a bit grainy or mushy. And trust me on this (because I am an apple connoisseur and know what I'm talking about); you don't want a mushy McIntosh apple. But yes, the real, delicious ones are a bit sweet, a bit tart, and totally crisp. Plus, they have an amazing apple smell. Heaven! For more on my apple picks, read here. And btw, how great is this picture of a random apple on a brick? Haha, I love it.
Me and my friend practicing :) Photo by Tomasz Gudzowaty and Judit Berekai
Getting back to YOGA!After taking over a week off from regular classes due to a number of weird physical issues, I finally got back to practicing on Wednesday and Thursday of this week--it was amazing! It felt so, so, so good to move my body through a vinyasa again, and sure, I felt week and my muscles fatigued a lot earlier than they usually do in each pose, but it still felt like coming home :) Ujjayi breathing with a cough drop in my mouth? No promblemo. And
the touch part? I'm celebrating how my body felt in each pose and how it felt to receive assists again. Ahhhhhh. Can I get a "yay" for yoga??
And that's it, folks! Sometimes it's just the simple things in life (actually, often, or most of the time, for me)...
I'm back in Advanced Teacher Training all weekend, so I'm sure I'll have all sorts of amazing new yoga tidbits to share on Monday. Nothing like jumping back in for one long weekend each month!
Have a great day--and if you can, take a moment to reflect on the little things that brought a smile to your face over the last 7 days.
I know, not an inspiring pic, but this is where I am today. Unpacking my in-home studio space...
Today, I moved out of my painting studio. Sigh. But, today I am also (in the process of) moving my painting studio INTO our apartment. Cheer!
Although I'm really sad to be giving up my amazing communal studio space--a roomy space surrounded by wonderful female artists--I know it's the best decision for my overall sanity. I moved into the studio because it was right around the corner from our old, tiny apartment in DC, but since we moved to VA in July it has been harder and harder for me to get there. Plus, I've been working on some new acrylic and watercolor paintings (!), which you can actually do in your home without choking on the fumes, so it's much more doable these days. Double cheer! Sure, it will take a while to convert our second bedroom, or "den," into a studio, and Ben may have some complaints at first, but I have faith that once I've found the perfect set-up, it will be super-convenient and make painting even easier...at least that's the hope :)
So here's to a new creative space! And it's ALL about the space, isn't it? Less time driving = more time creating; that's my new motto!
How can you create more space in your life to create? Can you make some changes physically, mentally, emotionally, or within your packed schedule, to make time to nurture the creative part of your being? Definitely something worth pondering...
Now I'm off to finish unpacking!
Me and my caretaker :) Photo via flickriver.com
Phew. The past 3-4 days have been rough. I came down with a whirlwind case of Bronchitis and Sinusitis, and after a 3am trip to the local Urgent Care Center on Sunday (woohoo! every girl's dream of a late Saturday night out!), finally got some antibiotics that have been working their magic--but not as quickly as I would like, of course. As I am often reminded when I get sick, we are SO lucky when our bodies actually do function optimally. With my freak accident wrist injury
last week (which is now better, yay!) and my sickness over the weekend, it's been over a week since I've been able to do a normal (non-restorative or modified) yoga practice. And my body is crying out. I'm so excited to return to my practice today that I can hardly stand it!
But, as always, I feel that the past week of being out of commission has been a beautiful reminder of a few important lessons in life and in yoga. Some may be cliche or cheesy, some may be completely obvious, but I think that they're oh, so very true
, that they're worth reiterating (or at least cataloging in a hodge-podge manner for myself, so that I can return to them the next time I'm sick!). If you've been sick or injured recently, I think you'll be able to identify...
- We often take our healthy bodies for granted. Every time that I come to my mat and am strong enough to practice, I should feel thankful.
- If you're going too fast and not giving yourself a break or enough rest, your body will find a way to make you slow down (whether you want to or not!).
- Work--no matter what the work--can always wait. It can. I know, it's hard to believe, but it can wait. If it absolutely has to get done, someone else will do it. It's amazing.
- Health is #1. Without it, everything else disappears. As Karen Maezen Miller writes in Momma Zen, "By the end, you really will know something. You'll know that well-being is all that matters, and that you can handle even less than that." Sure, she's talking about the process of giving birth and raising a child, but I think it applies to life, as well.
- Sleep heals! Do whatever you can to fall asleep (if you're coughing uncontrollably and can't sleep, that may mean heading to the urgent care center and getting some meds that allow you to sleep ;)
- Tea, also heals. Lots and lots of tea. And chicken noodle soup. And a good book or two.
- If you need help, or nurturing, or someone to care for you, ask. Learn to ask for help (although I know it is quite tempting to do everything on your own and go around feeling sorry for yourself, instead!).
- Stress makes you sick. Too much stress = sick. Your body cannot function optimally when you put it under too much stress. We know this, yet we never quite remember...
- Being sick is the worst. That's it.
So wise, right? Haha, I know, I've listed so many lessons here that we've heard dozens of times, but personally, I know that they still haven't quite sunk in, so for me, repetition is key. The good news on my end? I'm almost better. The antibiotics, cough drops, and tea have been doing their jobs, and I'm on my way to functioning optimally again soon...If you're down (as many are right now, with the change in weather and all of the bugs going around!), maybe read over a few of these lessons that I was humbly reminded of this time around, and try to remind yourself that it will get better in time. Until then, curl up and enjoy as much sleep as you can get. You'll be missing that sleep the second that you're better...Namaste!Mary Catherine
This past weekend, when I came across an article about Ray Villafane, The Picasso of Pumpkin Carving
in The Wall Street Journal
, I was super-impressed. If you visit my blog often, you know that I love artists and creatives who think outside of the box and create unique works of art in unexpected ways. Thus, my complete enjoyment of Ray Villafane's work. Granted, the spooky, Halloween-inspired faces aren't really my cup of tea, but I'm still wholly impressed by his talent and ability to create such life-like images in a pumpkin.
So, in celebration of October and of one of my favorite holidays, check out the images below and prepare to be amazed!
I know, incredible! He says that he is often inspired by the shape of the pumpkins--and that he goes from there, taking cues from any bumps, lumps, or odd growths in the plant. I, for one, am impressed.
Now I'm going to head back to bed to sleep off my Bronchitis. Super fun!
P.S. Ben and I still haven't decided what to be for Halloween this year! It's a travesty! Although we want to, we just can't be hipsters for the third year in a row...any ideas for us?
Illustration by Shel Silverstein
Since I'm still feeling a bit under the weather, I thought it would be appropriate to post one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets from childhood--"Sick" by Shel Silverstein
. I adore this poem because it's so fun and whimsical, as many of Shel Silverstein's poems are, and it totally captures the exaggeration and creativity of a child's mind. Silverstein was such a playful, interesting poet and artist (he did all his own illustrations!) and I also adore his hysterically funky and simple line drawings. Enjoy!Sick
"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more--that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut--my eyes are blue--
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke--
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"Isn't it perfect? Reading this poem brings back so many memories from childhood...Have a wonderful Saturday and don't forget to "press pause" and soak it all in!Namaste,Mary Catherine
As another week draws to a close, I'm utterly shocked that we're nearing the end of October. Where, oh where, did this month go?
Although this week has been a tough one for me (with a wrist injury and now a yucky cough and sinus infection!), I'm happy to say that I've still been able to enjoy a number of simple, sensory joys throughout the week :) Read on for the details!
"Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois" by Sufjan StevensSufjan Stevens has always been one of my favorite artists to listen to while painting, and yest
erday I had Illinoise
(from 2005!) on repeat. This particular song, "Concerning the UFO Sighting...," has always been one of my favorites because I think that it truly captures Sufjan's unique voice--he sounds completely pure, vulnerable, and beautiful on this track. Listen below!
Throat Comfort Tea with HoneyMy team of doctors this week? Throat Comfort Yogi Tea, honey, cough drops, and my neti pot. Last night my pal Nyquil joined us for a bit, but I've been trying to work with my holistic doctors as much as possible ;) This week I was reminded that there's nothing better than tea with honey when you have a cough or sore throat, and sometimes if you just keep putting it back, you forget that you're even sick! P.S. Check out my favorite mug to the right--a Centre mug! I tried to go buy another this past weekend, but the bookstore was closed. Sigh.
Close-up of "The Palm" by Pierre Bonnard, 1926
Paintings at The Phillips Collection As I already shared on Wednesday, I had an absolute blast at The Phillips Collection on Tuesday. Although we were mostly there to check out the Degas Exhibition, we did get to peak into the permanent collection, too, and took some time looking at the painting on the left by Pierre Bonnard--I loved it! I took a detail picture of the part of the painting that I liked best (I adore the palm frond!), but the entire painting was very magical.
Smell: Pumpkin Muffins Baking
I baked yesterday! I know, it's crazy! But, before you get too excited and proud of me, I have to admit that it was a Trader Joes Pumpkin Bread mix. However, I did add eggs, oil, and water, mixed it all together, and spooned the batter into each little muffin tin, so that's a start! And it was still hard!! But, although I'm slightly embarrassed about using a mix, I have to say that they taste wonderful and the smell of them baking in the oven was heavenly. I love anything and everything pumpkin, and am excited to munch on these muffins for the next week or so. Yum!
After what felt like a super-long hiatus, it was great to get back to painting yesterday. Yes, I was popping cough drops and sipping tea for the entire 5 hours that I sat painting, but it was still completely wonderful--and the time just flew by without my even realizing it! I have another 1-2 days worth of painting for the book that I've been illustrating for the past few months, and then I can start on a fun new acrylic painting commission of a gorgeous landscape! There's just nothing like getting back to creating after taking time away...
See? Even busy, sick, injured weeks can be filled with many joyous moments :)
What brought a smile to your face this past week?
Have a gorgeous fall weekend!
I took this picture on our flight last week, and although I know it's quite simple, I still found it really beautiful. I'm not someone who loves flying (travel, I like, but flying, not so much...), but I think there is something very magical about getting in a big machine and flying through the sky in order to visit a new place. And, although I've completely enjoyed our numerous adventures out of town over the past few months, I'm really looking forward to keeping my feet on the ground for a little while.
Ben and I keep going back and forth on whether we want to stay in town for Thanksgiving, and I think we're caught up in that very typical struggle between staying home/saving time and money/relaxing vs. traveling/spending money/visiting with friends and family and coming home utterly exhausted but happy. When did it become so hard to visit friends and family? Just another difficulty of the modern yuppie couple's life, I guess...sigh ;)
Anyways, today I'm just enjoying settling back in. I taught an early morning yoga class, did a little work, took a hot bath and treated myself to a big cup of "cold season" tea with honey (for the sore throat I brought home!). Now I'm off to set-up for an afternoon of painting, and if I feel up to it--baking. Nothing like home, sweet home and a cool fall day spent creating in your sweats!
Have you made time to nurture your body, mind, or soul yet this week? If not, pencil it into your schedule ASAP.