Saturday, March 28, 2009

When a Student Dies

Last week one of my students died.

It's bigger than that really, it's not a simple situation. She committed suicide and she was in the teacher training that I'm leading. This isn't now me just dealing with my own grief about losing someone in my life, I'm now in a position to manage how other people are going to be dealing with it because it happened while our training is still underway. We graduate next weekend.

Her death is timely and thought-provoking. Besides the grief I feel for losing her and the guilt that comes with thoughts of "what if I had connected more with her, what if I had taken special care, what if, what if," I'm confronted with the teachings of yoga that deal with karma and surrender.

Someone said she felt that yoga had somehow let her down. That yoga should have helped this person. It's supposed to make you better and happy.

Yoga is not supposed to make you better and happy. There's nothing wrong with you, you're whole and complete as you are. Or are you?

The student who died was clearly going through a hard time, was clearly dealing with some big stuff. Should I have had her leave the course? I considered it for sure. But with some conversations with others, I felt it was right to have her be there and that yoga is for everyone. She ended up leaving the course on her own to deal with some of that stuff.

But then she came back. She wanted to continue the course, knowing that she wouldn't graduate. This is the place where if I were to do it again, I'd do it differently. In the future I would seriously consider not letting people who leave the course come back. In this case, after some conversations we agreed she could come back. But then she left again. And this time she left for good.

When she wasn't in class I tried to reach her. I do that with everyone who isn't in class. If you're not in class, where are you? In the future, students who don't show up without communicating with me they're not coming, will be a red flag for me that perhaps the course is bringing up stuff for them and that perhaps they'll need to deal with their therapists or friends and get some of that sorted out before taking the course again. She isn't the only one who didn't show up at times. We all do that at some point, we bail. As a yoga teacher, if you don't show up to teach your class, you won't have a class for very long.

"What if we screened people for mental health issues?" has been asked. I am not in a position to evaluate someone's mental health and if someone were to write on a health history form that they were in therapy and perhaps on anti-depressants, they would be considered quite normal by today's standards and I would keep welcoming people to the class. What I can evaluate is behaviour - are you following the agreements of the course and if not, you're not in the course.

That wouldn't have prevented the tragic loss of this particular student. It would have had the group that remained be intact instead of being disintegrated, which is kind of what's happening now. The edges have frayed.

While I was at the Police College yesterday, we had a chat about suicide, which they tell me happens much more than gets reported, especially among cops. The people I was chatting with were each angry at the person who took their own life. Life is hard, but for some people it is unbearable. The pain we all feel isn't the same pain that someone with mental illness and suicidal thoughts feels. It isn't. We can't just wish that if they did a little more meditation or breathing or worked out or whatever helps us that they wouldn't feel that way. Suicide is a symptom of stress of the kinds we are familiar with but will never feel the way someone who is driven to kill themself feels. Because if we felt the same way, we'd do the same thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

You Can't Buy a Piece of Mind

You can't buy yoga. You can't buy happiness. You can't buy a state of mind. People try. We've all tried. I remember standing in the gift shop of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, thinking I could buy something that I could take with me. Something that would stay with me and last. I could buy something that would remind me of the good times, but that wasn't quite the same things as the times themselves.

If we could buy happiness or a state of mind or even health, we would. We try. God knows we try. But the way it goes, we have to maintain health all along the road. It's not something we can get when we need it and buy it off of the shelf. When we're depressed and we want to feel better, it's not like we can just wish it away, as much as we may try.

If we could buy peace, we would. So many people wish for peace. It turns out you can't buy it.

So many people at the end of their lives try to buy health. It turns out you can't buy it. It's something that is cultivated over time.

So you can't buy happiness or peace of mind or any piece of mind. It's cultivated. Over time. Not by achieving wealth or status or anything. Sometimes it takes practice, like through Santosha or other yamas and niyamas. Ultimately happiness just is. For no reason. But we strive and try and we're busy and we're working on things and that may be fun, but at some point we're going to be very interested in what state of mind we're in. And we'll want something other than what we have. And we'll realize we can't buy it. And we'll wish we'd been chasing peace of mind instead of whatever else we've been chasing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

However You Are Will Work

I've had a long standing reputation of saying that you can come to yoga however you are - whatever you're wearing, whether you want to be there or not, however you come to class will work. Well, I've been getting more insight (literally they're messages but it's too weird to blog about and I'm such a cynic, but there you have it), and the message is, however you are in life will work. There's no winning. There's no way to screw it up. You can't get life wrong.

And when that thought came to me, it made me relax a bit. The message I was getting is that there's no "being successful" or "being unsuccessful." This realm exists in the world of dualities, but yoga is about transcending the world of dualities, of pulling back the veil and seeing what's really so, and then going back and living in the world, knowing the dualities are a trick of the mind. So I hesitate to say it because it's so kooky and new agey, but I'm getting word about how it is and the message again is relax. Or don't relax. I could relax and that would be fine. I could get upset, don't get upset, play, don't play, whatever. However I do it will work.

Where it will or won't work is in the game that I create and play. We've all created games we're playing and that's where things are right and wrong, good and bad, successful or unsuccessful. In our own games. So the info is, play whatever game you like. If you want to do what's fun, go ahead. And know that what's fun for you may not be fun for others. In fact, there's not going to be one thing that's fun for everyone. It's fun for some of us to be aware, and for others it's not. For some it's fun to be sober, for others it's not. So it's not to judge what's fun for others. You could question it, but get ready for the answer.

On top of all of that having fun, the laws of nature apply - both the laws we know about and the ones we don't know yet (that's what I heard). So don't think that you can walk around without the natural consequences. (And also, you are subject to the rules of the game you're playing. If you don't pay your debts, the collection people will call.) There are consequences, gravity works on everyone, we all die. But if you don't mind the consequences (or even if you do), you can go ahead and do what you want. Relax. Live your dream. Or don't. It won't make a difference outside of the game you're playing. However you are will work.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


About a week ago I burned my hand taking something out of the oven. It got red and it had a blister and that burst and it hurt a bit. And it kept healing. All by itself. It seems like it's healing so fast I can watch it get better. I don't have to do anything to get that sore to heal. I can feel that it's itchy and I don't touch it. I can sense that it's there, and it's a nice reminder that I can heal and how cool the body is.

Same thing with my heart. It's healing. I can feel that it's itchy and I resist the urge to scratch it. Like with my hand, I trust that time and my body will take care of things and I don't have to do anything. I can watch if I want to, but even if I don't watch, it will heal by itself.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Puffy Eyes

We were talking about the challenges yoga teachers face during our teacher training yesterday. I don't think puffy eyes from crying the night before made it to the list, but it should have. In other professions you could wear sunglasses and keep your head down while you're in your cubicle. You could go in late or call in sick.

When you're supposed to be teaching a class at 9 am on a Sunday morning after staying up late and crying for lots of good reasons, as a yoga teacher, you can't really exercise those options very often or you wouldn't have a job left. You just have to show up.

I found out yesterday evening that my grandmother is in the hospital in California. (She lives there, read about her in the archives.) I had contact with my ex-boyfriend. I was hormonal. I reflected on my life and what I'm doing and felt the pain of living alone when I don't want to. I sent late night emails. I ate a bag and a half of microwave popcorn for dinner. So naturally, when it came time to go to bed, I was bawling my eyes out. And naturally, this morning I have puffy eyes.

I actually surprised myself when I took a look in the mirror after walking into the bathroom. (Okay, I just tried taking a picture from the Mac to demonstrate how puffy they are but it's not showing up as bad as all that.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Personality Test

I was following a link from the BBC and I came across this quick test and it was kind of fun. It says I'm a "performer" out of 16 personality types, which include things like "big thinker, go-getter, leader," and like that. It wasn't surprising, and it was fun for a minute. The thing that jumped out at me was the detail that I prefer hands-on learning to reading a book. I like books too, but if I'm going to learn, I'd prefer to be in action! Reading about yoga and practising yoga are quite different things :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I did a big task today for the yoga teacher training that is something I don't like to do and it's also very satisfying at the same time. One of the requirements to complete the training is for the students to lead a class outside of the training to people and get feedback and give me the phone numbers of the people who were in the class and warn them they might be getting a call.

The reason I don't like doing it is because I'm making cold calls to people I don't know, which reminds me of being in a call centre and doing sales. Yikes.

The reason I love doing these calls is because they really aren't cold at all, they're more than warm, and what I hear back is always good news. They loved the class. Would take it again. The teacher was really good. Great voice, good directions. Excellent modifications. Etc.

That makes me feel so proud! The teachers I'm teaching are out there teaching and they're doing a really good job by the sounds of it. It feels good to hear people speak so highly of other people. What a great sound. So today was very uplifting.

As well it was my sister's birthday. I feel a bit old now that my younger sister is 39. My grandmother said a while back, "You think that's old? Think of how I feel - my daughter is 66!"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

IKEA Meditation

I'm taking a break right now from my morning meditation, which today is provided by IKEA. It started Sunday night after I had let my daughter get to work on putting together a basic stool. She got it started and seeing as how our friend Luc was coming over in a minute and had been in the Maintenance Department at Omega last summer, I told her to get it set up and that probably Luc could help her out.

In short, they didn't complete the task and I took over. I got as far as I could in the job and gave up for the night, put it aside and knew I'd tackle it the next day. That was yesterday. I got pretty far along using this wild little wrench to be used in four awkward places and was ready to put the top on the stool when it was apparent that a part had been put on upside down early in the process. I figured I'd get to it later. That ended up being this morning. I got to it and figured I'd just redo the part that was backwards and ended up undoing the part that had been screwed in fine. Breathe. Big breath.

One out of four weird screws has been reinstalled. Three more to go. Breathing. Noticing, not reacting, smiling even. Ha ha. Oh IKEA, thank you for bringing me this opportunity to see myself. Ha ha.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wrong Turn at Lungfish

I'm not sure how to begin to tell the story that was my Friday night. First of all, I'm fine, I'm intact and to be honest, I had been warned by my friends to not go to the play that John was in. I knew there would be a price to pay and I figured I had it in me to pay it, so I arranged it with him ahead of time that I'd go with my daughter, and that she'd leave at the biggest inappropriate parts and go hang out in the green room during those parts.

So there I was in the audience, and my recent ex-boyfriend, partner, whatever, was up on stage playing the role of a total ass. His character was nasty and angry and funny, and that's just what I had been dealing with at home around Christmas and the beginning of January, right as he was in rehearsal for this play I might add. His onstage girlfriend is in real life his actual major ex-girlfriend and they even had a part where they had a big stage kiss, which was hard for me to watch, I'll be honest.

Her character wants to take him back even though he's mean to her and clearly not a healthy partner for her. She's being coached to leave her boyfriend by a character in the play who in real life is that actress' current boyfriend. So she's on stage with her ex-boyfriend, who's playing her boyfriend, and her current boyfriend, who's playing a love interest who's trying to talk her out of her relationship. And I'm sitting there in the audience. It was priceless. How do you arrange that kind of thing in life? It was brilliant.

And her current boyfriend's character is talking to me - "Thrive. You can do better than that." How bizarre. In the end, she leaves her boyfriend and holds close to the new interest, who then promptly dies on her. And that was the end of the play. What a rush. You can't make this stuff up!

The next day I did feel crappy and I knew that I would be stirred up by all of that, but I didn't realize how the play was going to affect me. So it was a tough day but as Hans would say, "the good news is that it's already in the past." And it is and I'm good and in a new place and I must say that was awfully entertaining, even though there was a bit of a stirred up mental space afterwards. But it's already settled again...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lowering Stress

I just finished watching a National Geographic video about stress that I picked up at Costco last night. It was only an hour and I don't recommend you go out and buy it - just borrow mine - but it was interesting.

This guy studied baboons and discovered that their social rank made a difference in their health and another researcher backed it up with her studies showing how the arteries of the monkeys at the top of the order were open and healthy and the subordinates had clogged arteries. They found that it was true in British workers as well. People who felt they didn't have control in their lives lived shorter lives with more illness, etc., you can imagine the rest.

They measured hormones and brain cell production (or decrease as in the cause of too much stress) and all sorts of things and came to some common sense (to us now) conclusions. They found that chronic stress is bad for your health. Some stress is good. But bad stress is bad for you and can make you sick and cranky. Some of the ways they found that people could undo the effects of stress was not to do yoga and meditation (they just didn't mention any of that), was to do good things for other people. That was the main thing they concluded in this short video. I thought that was neat. Giving is less stressful than receiving!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Good Morning

It must be a good morning because here I am posting a hello picture and I haven't even had a shower yet. And even though it's minus a hundred outside, someone else got the twonie (see below), I have a weird eye twitch going on, I'm in a really good mood.

A few weeks ago I was in a really bad mood. And I was losing a lot of weight, which my trainer (okay, one of my trainers, sorry Scott) had warned me about. He said, "Jamine, be careful. Make sure you eat. If you don't eat you'll feel depressed." I was still too close to the whole "incident" to really understand what he meant, plus I was looking forward to a little lightening of my load, let's say.

Then it started happening. I was so stressed that I couldn't eat. I'd wake up and feel nauseous and not be able to eat breakfast and then lunchtime would go by and I'd pick at a few things at dinner and do that again between bouts of crying. And then I remembered what Rick had told me some weeks before and I thought, "he's right." So I got some yoghurt drinks and cereal bars one day and fed myself like a baby. And one particular morning I woke up with a huge knot in my stomach and I was thinking I was all sad and scared and "oh no I'm all alooone" and then I realized something. I was hungry. That knot in my stomach was me starving. I had that sensation associated with fear and sadness but I had things a bit mixed up.

I saw Rick a few weeks after he'd told me to keep eating and this time he mentioned that I still had too many cortisols in my system and I should drink whey powder (in addition to eating every 3 hours), that it was supposed to lower your cortisols. I didn't need to do a lot of research, I trusted the man and bought myself a jar of whey powder. Well, let me tell you, that whey powder was magic. I wake up scared, I wake up strange, (sorry, that was a lame BNL reference), and then I go, "whey powder, right, drink the whey shake," and then I'm good. To be honest, I mix it with some greens plus powder too, which alone would make me hyper, but with the whey makes me feel solid. I feel so good after a few weeks of whey powder in fact, that I'm posting a morning happy photo of myself.

I don't attribute my entire turn-about in mood to Rick's advice, but I know it helped. Time has helped, more light has helped, a good attitude, meditation and yoga of course, a great future I'm creating, pink roses on the counter, good friends. And I've turned a corner. There you go.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So Much Going On

I guess I really am a lot better because now when people say "how are you?" I reply, "fine." Or even, "I'm great." Up until recently if anyone asked me how I was, I would say, "miserable." So I'm back to just plain lying by saying "fine," without the need to really update everyone with the being "miserable" part, because I'm not miserable. I'm never going to be "fine" about what happened. I'll move on and grow and stretch and sleep well and everything, but it's never going to be okay with me what went down.

And the truth is, I'm actually feeling pretty good. I like this more-light-during-the-day thing going on. That rocks. I can feel spring in the air and that totally makes me happy. I'm living into a future of longer days and warmer air. That feels really good. Just in itself. I don't need other reasons to be happy. I'm pretty close to being able to find the twonie that was buried in the ice between my car and my steps. One of my neighbours may find it first, but it's so in my normal path that I figure it's probably really mine. Plus I drop stuff all the time (iPod, phone, ugh) in the 10 steps between my door and my car so it's quite typical.

I bought myself a big bunch of pink roses today. I'd been thinking of doing it for awhile, but I always end up deciding it's not a great way to spend my limited funds. Cut flowers, what an extravagance. But I did it. Cut them under water, put them in a nice vase with water and that little packet of stuff you're supposed to mix in, and they're there on the counter. From me, to me. Sweet.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I Saw God the Other Day

I heard this on the radio yesterday at lunch. Although I missed the interview on Tapestry, I caught the song and it was really moving. So I'm sharing it with you here.

He's basically saying, "we're all god." And the music is great. I hope you like it too.


I was thinking earlier about how what I'm trying to do now in my life is something I learned back in my training at the Young Drivers of Canada (I can still hear the ad ringing in my ears). What I learned in driving lessons is "look where you want the car to go." If you look to the side or in the rear view mirror for too long, you'll get in an accident. So you look where you want the car to go and it'll go there. (Provided you've got your foot on the gas instead of the break, etc. There's another yoga for living metaphor too - don't keep your foot on the brake while you've got your foot on the gas.)

I'm trying to keep my attention on where I want to go, not where I've been, especially recently. I want to go ahead. I may have stopped and rubbernecked a bit today, but oh well, we can't be driving all the time. So I'm back on the road, looking ahead.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Karma Yoga at Venus Envy

(I owe you a picture. Here's the updated situation. Before - if you haven't seen. So that's not too bad. I still have another balcony over a bit that doesn't have a privacy fence, but it's smaller and it's a different crowd and it's not facing me directly. So, thanks Sheps, for hearing me out and doing something about it.)

Things really are shifting. It's above freezing right now, for instance. Whoohoo. And I'm being more social.

I went to an event last night after the Yoga Teacher Training even though I would have normally gone home because part of my "recovery" is to get out of the house and Be With People. I even went in to the show without my phone. I'm making an effort to Be With People for my own sanity and it's working.

So Shelley's 8th Birthday Party of her baby, Venus Envy, was really inspiring. I don't know the whole story of how her business grew and what's really going on there, but from what I see on the outside it's much more than a business, but a real community that's been created. Sex shops tended to be icky places where women didn't feel comfortable going into.

I remember hearing an interview with someone who wrote a book or did a study about how when businesses made changes to suit women, they profited. Examples were the LCBO - it used to be awful to shop in there and now they have wine tastings and food classes and you can use the bathroom without fear - MEC - they made sure that there was a kids play area near the women's clothing - and other examples. Well Shelley turned Ye Olde Grosse Sexe Shoppe into a place that's safe for women to be and I think that may be a key to her success.

Something else I think is great is that she offers educational workshops and hosts events and supports others in the community, creating a community in the process. She serves her community. At least that's how it looks to me. In my biz, we call that karma yoga.

So even though I wouldn't have expected to find myself at a racy burlesque show on a Friday night, I was more than entertained (because the show was fantastic), I was inspired by the great work that's going on there. What I saw last night at the fundraiser was karma yoga - the yoga of action - plain and simple.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Good Old Ignorance

I read an article in the paper this morning that I totally related to. Basically the guy found yoga, became a teacher, but is reminded that ignorance is bliss. And now that the cat's out of the bag, Pandora's box is open, the can of worms is opened, you get the idea, there's no going back. Once your life has been transformed, you can't go back to being ignorant. And knowing what's going on doesn't mean you're happy about it.

I've been talking to people about this lately. I've gone through a very difficult time and I think it was even harder because I could watch it and see what was going on as it was happening. I could feel the pain in my veins as I thought certain thoughts. I am aware of the impact of taking certain actions and how reaching for pleasure will bring pain. The good news about it burning brighter is that it burned for a shorter time. And that really is good news.

Oh to be ignorant again. I don't want to suggest people take on a yogic path - it isn't necessarily fun. It in fact is necessarily not fun a lot of the time. If you can stay with your head in the sand I suggest you keep doing that. I couldn't. And some people are calling that "evolution" or the "flowering of human consciousness." It's the "choiceless choice." Whatever. It sucks. However, it's the way to go.

And I know that because I can see how my life unfolds and see that knowing is better but that doesn't make it comfortable. Witnessing doesn't take the pain away. It lends perspective so I can see that it's temporary, which again, doesn't lessen the pain of life.

I laugh when I think of myself as an early 20-something at a Buddhist retreat hearing that the Buddha said, "life is suffering," and I really thought he just had a bad attitude and if he were to shift his perspective he'd see that it's not that bad. Ha! Ah ya, good old innocence. Ignorance. Same thing.

We had a little chat about enlightenment at the hospital yesterday, god I love teaching those kids, and I explained that apparently when you're enlightened, you're exactly the same as you are before. You're just not bothered by it. And if you're bothered, then you're not bothered by the fact that you're bothered. That's all there is to it. I said even enlightened people have to eat and go to the bathroom and gravity works on them, too. And hey, we're all enlightened really. Really. There's a place inside all of us that isn't bothered that we're bothered.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Answers from the Past

I know the news is telling us that these are new times and it's like we have new problems now or something, but when I think about what the yoga sutras tell us, we've been having the same old problems for thousands of years. There's really nothing new about it all. There are going to be circumstances that we like and circumstances that we don't like. Everything's changing - all the time.

What's not changing is that still, quiet place inside. It's always there. And the breath is always there to lead you to it. To lead me to it.

What's happening around is does not have to impact our happiness. We let it and then we can realize that that's not real happiness we had. We thought we were happy, but if it can be busted up by numbers on a screen changing, or people coming and going, it wasn't really happiness in the first place. So we can be directed to where real happiness is located - anyplace, anytime, doing anything. It's not specific.

The yogis have been saying it for thousands of years. It's not outside - it's inside. Go inside, find it there, and then everything else will be different. They don't say to fix everything around us, make our bodies a certain way, find the right job, partner, home. Nothing like that. Just to go inside, meditate, and stop being disturbed by our thoughts. That doesn't mean we'll be placated, passive individuals by any means. But we may stand a chance at being present and happy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Alpha Brainwaves

More so now than ever, we need to do things that enhance relaxation, which reduces stress and keeps us healthy and able to handle all that life throws at us. Relaxation is enhanced by doing things that bring our brains into a predominantly alpha brainwave pattern.

Things that do that include being awake with our eyes closed, meditating, doing yoga, listening to some kinds of music, and things that bring us to that place where we're feeling creative and calm and where things seem inspiring, where how much money we have or where we live doesn't seem so important. It's a place we can all get to if we practise.

By spending time in a state where the alpha brainwaves are dominant, we heal, we relax, we can be strong in the face of what is happening. Some people do this naturally, and some of us need to do those things on purpose.

I want to find an EEG machine or some sort of biofeedback machine that measures when stress goes up or down, or something that would really measure the brainwaves. If you have leads on one, let me know!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm Still Here

I'm still here and things are changing slowly. I didn't take a picture to show you yet, but the Sheps put a fence up in front of the balcony I have pictures of in my last post. That was nice. The ED called me on Thursday and let me know they'd be doing it on Friday and they really did. And it makes a difference.

It's March, which means winter is almost over. Yay! I know lots of people really enjoy winter and sometimes I'm even one of those people, but this winter hasn't been one of those times for me. I look forward to walking out the door without putting on snow pants and a big, hooded coat. I want to take the snow tires off and get my cute rims back on the VW.

The nice car I'm driving is one of the best things that came out of my relationship with John. I felt really comfortable and ready to thrive instead of just survive and I went out and got that car and I still love it. Love it. I'm glad I had the courage to do that when I did because if I'd waited any longer I would have lost my nerve. Things have gone all weird with the economy and spending and there's a lot of fear and I'm not immune. So I'm grateful I did the car thing when I did!

And you know how I had a small incident where I bumped into someone on Valentine's Day? Well on Saturday morning someone did the same thing to me at an intersection. We got out, looked around at the cars, her grill actually popped off in her bump to my car, but there was nothing noticeable I could make out about my car and I considered it payback. Karma. Carma, really. I bumped someone and 2 weeks later someone bumps me. I'm not really making it mean much, I just thought it was funny that I've never had that happen either direction before and then within 2 weeks it goes both ways.