Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cheeseburger in Paradise

There are SO many people out there grandstanding about nutrition. So many people worrying about what everyone else is doing. So many people worrying in general.

Even last night when I went to order my cheeseburger and cheese fries, the guy tried to sell me a chicken sandwich instead.

When I mentioned that I was a yoga teacher, he started going off on how he wants to start a high protein / low carb food delivery business. I even had to pull him off his soap box… just to get my side of ranch.

But here’s the thing: Why and how you eat are just as important as what. If not more so.

My grandfather was a chubby, stogie smokin’, booze swillin’, fried chicken and gravy eater.

He was self-sufficient into his ’90s, with a full head of black hair, and a full set of teeth.

Until the end, I never remember him getting “sick”. And the only “healthy” habit I know he had was that he walked 3 hours a day. And he also retired at age 50.

I’ve heard it more times than I can recall: “I can’t believe she got cancer… She’s SO healthy.”

If anything’s the enemy, it’s stress and self-loathing. Junk food is junk. No doubt. But it’s our relationship to it, not the food itself, that gets us into trouble.

By analogy: Guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people.

And guess what. Our bodies are designed to tolerate a little junk. Unless you purify it into frailty, training it only to digest a few things.

My Ayurveda teacher says that the world is ruled by the durable and adaptable.

Strength and flexibility are why many originally get into yoga. And for me, that extends past the shapes I’m able to make with my body, to all of the things it’s able to do and withstand.

It’s like hand-sanitizer. And anti-bacterial soap. We’ve been creating a culture so fearful of junk that we’re growing resistant to the world in which we live.

The world is dirty. It’s junky. And it’s also home. Everything here is an extension of ourselves. What’s out there is in here. And what’s in here is out there.

So maybe instead of spending so much time labeling things themselves as “good” and “bad”, it’s our relationship to them that bears further examination.

If you’re struggling with stress or self-acceptance this week, I’ve got several openings for coaching sessions. Just hit me up and we’ll make it happen.

Here’s to your health!

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Might As Well JUMP!

It’s 2015, people. I’ve been calling it “The Year of ACTION”, ’cause it feels like the one we’ve been waiting for. The time to turn dreams into reality. Believe it or not, you’re READY!

Intuitively, don’t you already know it? You’ve been dreaming your dreams of stepping out and doing things. Maybe you’ve already realized that the only thing holding you back is you.

You’re smart. You’re charming. You’re capable. And gosh darn it, people need what you have to offer.

Don’t believe me? Whatever it is, try giving it away. Even if it’s just a smile.

Need a little more motivation? Join me and Erin Brandao on February 8th for “Yoga is for Lovers” – an event designed to ignite your creative fire.

Snag your ticket by clicking HERE!
What are you waiting for? Might as well JUMP!

 

Samadhi Over Potty

As many of my dear readers know, I’ve got a sweet wingman named Ozzy Pawsbourne. When I bailed Mr. Pawsbourne out of the pound last summer, he was an unruly and unsocialized kindergartener with bad manners. So bad, in fact, his previous family had given up on him and left him to be adopted or euthanized.

But Oz has a heart of gold, with a wit to match. So despite his late start, he began tackling the difficult task of growing up. He overcame fears; like car, park, bath and rain.  He was taught things like sit and stay and catch and how to walk on a leash.

Still other things he seemed to pick up entirely on his own. Like lifting his leg to take a leak.

Since I don’t have a yard, me and Oz walk. A lot. And there’s a lot to be said for a street education. He’s been brutally attacked, two against one. Picked up burrs, fleas, and parasites. We’ve been witness to aerial bug warfare. Been verbally accosted by overly clingy neighbors. Kicked it with gypsy musicians and various other human and animal friends. And let’s not forget learning about traffic.

Over the course of all that life experience, Oz also managed to master the fine art of lifting his leg.

I’ll analogize this process by way of handstand practice, since handstands are so hot right now. For whatever reason, yogis have this tendency to obsess over mastering handstand. As though it’s a rite of passage. Or going to solve something. Or… I don’t know.

And the reality of the situation is that people are hurting themselves because of it. A lot.

BKS Iyengar said to focus your practice on the basics, and fuss with advanced postures only once you can hold a basic asana effortlessly for ten minutes. And that’s more towards how me and Ozzy Pawsbourne practice.

When Oz wanted to learn to lift his leg, he didn’t obsess about it. After failing to hold it in the middle of the room, he didn’t come home and thrash his leg against the wall fifty times a day. He didn’t focus on what he couldn’t do. He just acknowledged where he was today, and did what he could. Even when it meant squatting like a bitch.

He didn’t even practice every time he needed to take a leak. Some days, he wouldn’t bother trying at all. But if he found a good tree, and inspiration struck, he’d post up and try again. Meanwhile, he busied himself with all of the many wonderful things he was good at. Like play. Fetch. And running laps. Little by little, he got stronger. And his balance improved.

And Ozzy Pawsbourne didn’t feel sorry for himself. Nor did he make excuses about his long, sausagey Basset body, or short stumpy legs. So poorly designed for free-standing leg lifting practice. No wonder it was taking him forever.

He also didn’t compare himself to the Greyhound, with its sleek slender body, and long limbs – so flawlessly designed for effortless three legged pissing. They make it look SO easy.

When I first got Oz, he couldn’t hold his leg up for any time at all. He’d instantly lose his balance, and the leg would plop right back down. But after several months of practice, he began being able to hold his leg up, using a tree for support, for increasingly longer and longer periods of time. And now? After 15 months, he’s able to hold his leg high, eyes to the sky, with no support but his own.

I’ve heard it said that the practice of yoga is when the impossible becomes possible. And those moments are awesome. But I find progress a dish best served when prepared with joy, santosha and ahimsa. Party on, yoga people.

float

Live Like You Were Dying

For years I’ve said that I feel “slightly less alive” in a relationship than when I’m single. An odd dichotomy, since I also ultimately prefer being in a relationship.

At some point I realized the pattern went a little like this:

Single…
Hobbies
Friends
Passions
Interests
Charity
New experiences
Work devotion
Family
Fitness
Self-care

Single, my zest for life becomes palpable. And attracts a partner. Every time.

And then in a relationship…
Falling in love
Prioritizing that person
And the relationship
To the exclusion of other people
Places
And things
Including myself

Suddenly, we’re so happy that we get fat and lazy on the couch together, staring into the glaring tube.

And then my partner forgets how magical they thought I was. Because I no longer am. Eventually, I forget too.

Osho says: “If you love a flower, don’t pick it up. Because if you pick it up it dies and ceases to be what you love. So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. It’s about appreciation.”

I hear it all the time: “_________ is my whole life” or “I live for ________”. (Insert name of husband or child)

Life is an individual journey. You live alone in your body. Chances are, you’re also going to leave this world alone. And your dharma is yours alone. Fill your life with love, because you are love. But not the obsessive “your life is my life” sort of excuse for love. In my experience, the recipients of that type of love don’t wind up feeling loved, so much as owned, in the first place anyhow.

Me and a friend have been joking all year about the old expression “I love you to death”.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to love the life out of someone. I wanna love them to life. And want them to return the favor.

Nobody’s promised tomorrow. Eat well. Sleep well. Live well. Love well. NOW.

C is for Cookie

Last week I went to teach an 8pm yoga class. After having just taught another class, clear across town.

When I got there, I found a box of store bought chocolate chip cookies, left by a student. Ripe for the taking. I thought: YES! Cookies! I’m hungry. Thank god. And I started eating one.

A student, who’d just finished class, started shaking his head at me.

Me: What?
Him: Cookie.
Me: What?
Him: So bad.
Me: What?
Him: Cookie. So bad.
Me: WHAT?!!
Him: Flour. Sugar. Butter. Chocolate. So. Bad.
Me: It’s not the cookie that’s bad. It’s your relationship to it.

Basically, if you put a cookie in your body, thinking it’s bad, it’s bad. But for me, I was hungry. I’d been running around all day, it was 8pm, I hadn’t had dinner, and I was fixing to spend another hour moving and talking, trying to provide inspiration, exercise and relaxation. Cookie wasn’t bad. Cookie was good. Cookie was real good. So good, in fact, I had two.

You may recall the French Diet. You know, the folks who thrive on wine, meat, cheese, butter and baguette. And they get to be skinny while doing it.

Or there’s the case of my grandfather. Who lived to be 3 months short of 100. And was driving, had a full head of black hair, and all of his teeth… into his 90s. He thrived exclusively on my grandma’s Southern cooking, bourbon and giant cigars. He also walked… 3 hours a day.

I’ve tried vegan. Vegetarian. And even spent 9 insufferable days doing Paleo. I’ve juice cleansed. I’ve smoothie cleansed. I’ve “liquid food” cleansed. I’ve taken all the detox pills. I’ve salt flushed. Name it. I’ve probably tried it.

In the final assessment (to date), I can only conclude one thing: It isn’t the food. It’s your relationship to it. If you eat anything with shame, guilt and remorse… it’s bad. If you eat it with love and gratitude, to your health… it’s good.

Would I argue a steady diet of cookies, over one filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins? Hell no. Of course not. But I’d argue emphatically that the occasional cookie ain’t gonna kill ya. And to the contrary, sometimes… cookie GOOD.

Happiness, More or Less

The road to happiness is paved with letting go. Letting go of ego. Letting go of perfection. Letting go of the illusion of separation. Letting go of needing to know. Letting go of all of the things that hold you down, and prevent you from being your shiniest you.

I used to be a real miserable sack. When I did my spring cleaning this year, I found a diary from when I was eight years old. One day I wrote that I was “actually in a good mood, for once”. How sad.

We all start off a product of our environment. How could it be any other way?

When I was a kid, I was punished for crying. So I learned not to. I got picked on in grade school. So I learned to isolate and protect myself. And I was raised by a parent who was clinically depressed. So I vibed on that too.

I started off a sweet, sensitive, and boisterous kid. But you’d never have known it by my mid-twenties, when I’d turned into a hard ass mother fucker. My nickname at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office was even “bull dog”. I had black suits. Black glasses. Black hair. Black heart.

My nature had been completely thwarted by my nurture. And the result was nothing less than ICK. And felt completely authentic. A lot of people resign themselves to thinking the product of their nurture/dysfunction is actually their nature, but I disagree.

To the contrary, it was the mistaken belief that I was somehow separate, weird and different from other people that was my undoing. I now know that where it counts most, we’re all exactly the same. Love and stardust.

From my late teens through late twenties, strangers regularly thought I was a bitch. I’d hear it back from friends all the time:

“So and so said they thought you were a bitch, but I told them they just needed to get to know you, and that you were really awesome.”

For a decade, I just thought that’s “who I was”. Someone who was nice on the inside, bitchy on the outside. Except I wasn’t even bitchy. I was scared.

But then I started my own law practice in 2008. I realized instantly that my little first impression problem was going to cost me BIG in business. I NEEDED judges, court coordinators, court clerks, prosecutors and clients to like and trust me. NOW.

So what’s a bitch to do? I went to Barnes and Noble and headed to the sales section.

I thought I left the store with a sales book, but really it was a yoga book. Even though the word never appeared on the pages.

The answer, the author claimed, was to get my outsides to match my insides. Of course you’re a nice person, whose parents and friends love them. The trick, he said, was to figure out how to let that shine through… and then fake it ’till you make it.

One exercise he suggested was to find the one thing that you have in common with everyone, and then talk about that. I reasoned that all people I’d want to know would like dogs. So I started talking about mine.

I turned it into my daily sadhana (practice). I challenged myself to get uncomfortable. To talk to strangers. Everywhere. All day. Every day.

The court clerk I used to brush by. The convenience store clerk I used to rush. The person next to me I tried to ignore in yoga.

At first, it totally sucked. I used to hate small talk, because I thought it was fake. And I’m a lot of things, but a faker isn’t one of them.

Just like Arch Lustberg said would happen, the shift eventually came. After years of forcing myself to talk to strangers… I found myself naturally glad to.

I used to think “have a nice day” sounded trite from a stranger, thinking it was just some bull shit they were saying but didn’t really mean. Now, when I hear myself saying it, I know just how genuine it can be. Because I genuinely want EVERYONE to have a nice day.

Including YOU.

The Day I Tried to Live

Why do we feel the need to try so hard? I notice it when teaching yoga constantly. The frustration. The discontent. The self-judgment. The first several minutes of my class are almost exclusively devoted to dispelling precisely this energy.

“Trying” means living in expectation. And living in expectation means working towards some future happening. That may or may not ultimately happen. When all this is going down, you can be pretty sure you’re no longer living in NOW.

Naysayers of the now concept argue that to get things done, one has to be setting goals. Sure. But what’s your goal? Money? A trick yoga pose? A husband and kids? Just because you made a goal doesn’t make it a good one.

The Dalai Lama says the very meaning of life is happiness. Which is most readily found when accepting reality and living in the now. So in class, we work on that. Above all else.

There’s always a life metaphor in asana class (or as we Westerners say, “doing yoga”). Last week someone close to me insisted that I must not be happy because I’m not making enough money. And suggested that I should take a 9-5.

While we agreed completely that I’ve been happiness de-railed this summer, she was completely wrong as to the reason why. As I’ve begun to transition professionally to a path that more suits my dharma, I have peace that everyone begins a beginner. And it’s going to take time.

What’s had my goose lately has been online dating. Going into the Spring, I was in a really great place. Lookin’ fly, feelin’ fantastic, manifesting and doing my thing. Then it was suggested to me that I should get online to start looking for someone.

I thought – Sure. Why not? After all, the parents want to pay for it. I’m in a great place. And finding a killer boyfriend would be icing on the cake.

The problem was that when my focus shifted from all the wonderful things I had… to the one thing I did not, my energy shifted back to something like what I see at the beginning of class.

It was like I had a new job or hobby or something. Daily getting online to exchange emails. Subconscious interviews to determine their text worthiness. And then phone and text chats, to see if it was worth a face-to-face interview.

Then there were the dates. Face time with perfect strangers, for the purpose of determining whether or not you might mate well together.

It didn’t take long, and next thing I knew I was slipping back into bad habits. Eating out too much. Staying up too late. Focusing too much energy on dating, and not enough time on exercising and friend seeing.

In other words, I gave myself away. I failed to do the one thing I tell my students matters most. Be happy with the state of your reality. Right now. Enjoy all it has to offer. And leave everything else alone.

For me, Internet dating is simply trying way too hard. It’s like the people I see huffing and puffing and eye rolling before class has even started. My life isn’t devoted to finding a mate. It’s not the goal. Or the destination. As always, it’s about being happy first. And letting the rest unfold as it will.

Open Your Heart

Whatever you do, don’t shut down. Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun. Then, the traumas of life happened, and we built walls. Have you considered that your former best coping mechanism may now be your own worst enemy?

There is, perhaps, no loneliness lonelier than feeling alone in the company of others. How does that even happen, anyways? By shutting down, tuning out and closing off. By thwarting genuine connection with others through secrecy, privacy and a lack of trust.

In a book I’m reading for my “Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist” certification, David Frawley says that the  foundation of yogic practice is based on “right association”. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How did you pick your friends and loved ones and c0-workers and other people you choose to spend time with? What’s the connection?

Frequently, people rally over a joint interest. Or maybe just over a joint. What is it that keeps you and your friends kicking it? Can you open your heart to that person, and share on a soul level? Or do you just talk about the weather and other people and bullshit?

Many of us learned through childhood that sharing our feelings is bad. Sometimes so much so that we think even having feelings in the first place is bad. Stiff upper lip. Crying is for babies. Be a big girl.

But where do feelings go when not felt? Sometimes they sink to the bottom of a whiskey bottle. Other times they’re frittered away in journals for nobody. Or maybe all your hidden hearts and flowers get turned inside out and turn to anger.

I read once that impatience is the surface of anger. Looking back now, I can see how true that is. I used to be SO impatient. And I could totally cop to it. It was obvious to anyone who ever waited in line for a taco with me. But if you asked me if I was angry… NO! Of COURSE not!

But I was angry. Wicked angry. At the world. And most all of the people in it. In ways I wasn’t even aware of. I’d mentally created the great divide. Us and them.

I always felt like I was weird, and that people couldn’t understand or relate to me. Through the practice of life and yoga, though, I’ve come to realize that’s not the case. It’s not me who’s weird – it’s all of us. And why would we want it any other way?

We are all a little weird and life is a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love. – Dr. Seuss

Life is beautiful. So are the people in it. Your birthright is love and happiness. Open your heart to breaking. A million times. At the end of love is only more love. Remain open to receive your bounty.

Waiting on a Friend

When we’re young, we tend to run after the people we think we want running after us. The popular kids. The pretty girls. You know.

By my mid-twenties, I realized a good litmus test for friendship was someone who was willing to pick me up from the airport. Nobody wants to do it. But a real friend will. If they can.

For me, the cornerstone of friendship is caring. Friendship doesn’t need perfection to bloom. It thrives on caring.

It’s easy to tell who doesn’t care. They flake. They lie. They justify. They aren’t there when you need an ear. Or a shoulder. In short – They don’t give a shit.

A new friend and I were talking about friendship the other day. It got me wondering – what do others consider a friend? So I put it out to my magnificent social network:

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.”

“A friend is someone who you are there for when they need someone, and who will be there for you too when you need someone.”

“depth, mutual respect and empathy.”

“Someone who you’ve already had war with and still hangs out with you.”

“somebody who is nice to hang with mostly, someone who you can call, someone who calls you back. backup , when you need it. and someone you will backup when they need it.”

“Someone who knows your worst & still is willing to put up with it.”

“Some one you can confide in and they never repeat it. Someone you treat with respect and know that they believe in you. Someone you Never lie to. Some one that when they call it can make your day. I have a grown Grandson and 2 men that meet that standard. Nothing you could say they wouldn’t know out me. Oh and thank More of you than you deserve. I’m Blessed !”

“A unicorn, You!!! You should be your best friend, also me and someone who you feel that you can always be your true authentic self with and will always accept you. Also someone whom while you spend time with and even after you leave their presence you feel great not awkward or less than or any anyway inadequate. Someone you know that if you ever call on, will be there, and someone who knows how to say sorry and I forgive you. From one unicorn to another…Namaste!!!”

“Thank you Shana Stein for posing this question. It is ironically my theme for 2013 hence we dedicated the Texas Yoga Conference to friendship  LOVE IT! I will never forget meeting you at the Dallas event at Crowe. :)I learned the opposite of what a real friend can be in the last couple of years so honoring that which is real makes me vibrate only higher and make the bad so much more worth the trouble. HONOR. Friends honor.”

“Hmmm. I know one when I have one. And I definitely know how to (be) one too.”

“was thinking about that very question today! realizing/learning so much the older i get. most people are there just to pass the time. only a select few stick around for the nitty gritty, and those are the real gems.”

“Somebody who even though they aren’t your blood… You still consider them family.”

“I think a friend is someone whose company you enjoy, you feel free to share your innermost thoughts and feelings knowing that there is no judgement and what you say will go no further and they will always keep your confidence. You both feel uplifted and happy when in each others company.”

Awesome input, right?! Whether you know it yet or not – YOU are awesome. So you deserve awesome friends. And they’re out there waiting for you. Just maybe not in the packages you expect.

Cherish the ones who cherish you. And quit wasting your time chasing those who, for one reason or another, don’t pick up what you’re throwing down.

Die a Little Death

A couple of weeks ago in yoga, the teacher spoke about “savasana” (AKA: corpse pose or final relaxation) as being a practice in dying. A funny thought, to practice dying.

We’ve fostered a culture so paralyzed by fear of death that we barely even acknowledge its certainty. Yet, science, common sense and wisdom all tell us that our time will come. Along with everyone else’s.

Do we need to practice dying? In “The Power of Now”, Echkart Tolle talks about actions of the ego being an attempt to avoid facing the eventuality of death, which manifests as a feeling of not being whole or good enough. In pursuit of wholeness, we seek jobs, relationships, religion, politics, money, things, power, drugs, alcohol, etc.

But at the end of each pursuit, we find just another hole to fill. Tolle concludes by saying that “The secret of life is to “die before you die” – and find that there is no death.”

Of course he’s being flowery. But he’s speaking of a different type of death altogether, which is best saved for another entry. But clearly we have a choice – to practice moving into stillness or continue on in chaos.

Have you ever noticed what happens when you try to close your eyes and sit still while you’re awake and alert? Mayhem of the mind. When I teach yoga I can’t help but take notice of how uncomfortable most people are in their own skin when we slow down and stop moving.

They say sleep is death’s cousin. In my experience, the same people who can’t lay still on the ground for two minutes are the same ones who have trouble sleeping. Why? Because they’re prisoners of their own mind. Bound by the balls and chains of fear and self-doubt, they continually doom themselves to unconscious decision making, with frequently dastardly results.

Yesterday Robert Burns, a Criminal District Judge for Dallas County, posted the following on Facebook:

Too much heartbreaking tragedy around Frank Crowley. I’m sick about Alex. We deal with very difficult subjects and heartbreaking cases on a daily basis. It grinds us down. Crowley folks, we’ve got to treat each other with compassion and care. Please remember that depression and substance abuse are diseases that kill. Please seek out a friend or professional help. There is no shame in needing or seeking help.

The man he’s speaking of is (at least) the second criminal defense attorney in Dallas County to commit suicide in the past year. And Friday night, I found myself at an art exhibit in Deep Ellum, commemorating the lives of two local band-mates who also both committed suicide within the last year.  And about a week ago, I spoke with a friend who recently relapsed on hardcore drugs. He spoke of the same desire to “end it all”.

Suicide is so hard on everyone for so many reasons. It feels like a death game rule-breaker.  Like it was untimely, and somehow not supposed to go down that way at all. Judge Burns wisely talks about substance abuse in the same sentence as depression, perhaps recognizing their connection.

But I think far before the game changer of taking your own life, we ignore all of the routine unconscious attempted suicides that we commit on ourselves, in an attempt to feel whole. Every time you had one too many and drove home. All the times you habitually put killers (food, smokes, drugs, alcohol, etc.) into your body. When you live your life to the beat of someone elses’ drum. Whatever.

Nobody is promised tomorrow. The time is now. Take off the blinders, be happy and prepare to die.