Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison- Book Review

Source: via Karen on Pinterest

I felt tossed about reading Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison, mostly because I interpreted the subtitle, “One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment,” to mean the author would fall among the snotty-irreverent writers who at first I was intrigued and amused by but eventually became tired of in a jaded kind of way.

Hmm. Did you catch that? Maybe Suzanne Morrison had already reached into her bag of tricks to remind me of the yogic Yama (ethical precepts as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras) of Ahimsa, often understood as non-violence but also inclusive of non-judgment or to flip it into the affirmative language of my Tantric training: acceptance. In other words the lesson here was to accept or at least be open to what Suzanne had to say about her experience in Bali and how it quite possibly had something to teach me.

I’m a sucker for memoir and wit so I relented and opened to the first page, read a few lines and let out a noise through my nose that could easily be mistaken for a kind of breathing practiced in yoga, but is in fact a very dry, quiet and particular form of laughter. It is the kind of laughter that comes from a place of knowing. As in, “Yeah I totally get what you’re saying.” And three pages later she had me. I was in the clutches of the yoga bitch and when laughter and learning go hand in hand I’m pretty much game. So when Morrison quickly entered shadowy territory: death, which also in my Tantric training I’ve come to understand as part of a cycle, an inevitability, but still an uncomfortable and cold one and certainly typically not in the seams with laughter, I wasn’t so sure after all.  However, Morrison skillfully wove her introduction with the stuff of life which for better or worse includes the for certain uncertainty of death.  Wherein she asks meaningful questions about her spirituality, seeking enlightenment and a guru named Indra.

The reader gets to know Morrison as we follow her to Bali for a yoga retreat some nine years prior and get to know with a great amount of intimacy the daily life of a yogi on retreat or perhaps this particular retreat. The whole experience is visceral from the smells upon arrival in Bali, the sounds of the gamelan in the evening, to the sweat pouring off Morrison as she pursues hours of asana practice. The descriptions are so vivid at times I felt like I was alongside the author chanting, meditating and taking in the exotic flavors of life on retreat.

Morrison calls it like she sees it as she explores her relationship with yoga, yogis and the billion dollar industry yoga that has arisen in the west. It isn’t simple as she clearly points out, to have a powerful, profound and life changing experience with something that on the one hand has been co-opted by anyone who hopes to make a buck and on the other is a genuine spiritual practice. How to bridge the gap between the two is a big question without an easy answer. But Morrison navigates threads hoping to find one that satisfies her spiritual yearnings and desire to fit into really hot yoga pants. However the answer may lie in a quote attributed to St. Augustine: Se comprehendis, non est Deus. If you understand it, it’s not God.” Perhaps there are some things we’re not meant to fully understand, but the gain comes from the experience of seeking itself.

Once deep into Yoga Bitch I realize Morrison is not a bitch at all, perhaps a bit inquisitive, not accepting things at face value, at times cynical, though in my opinion it has much to do with her generation, my generation, which is perhaps why I understand it so well. It isn’t that she doesn’t care. She/we care a lot, so much so at times it is heartbreaking and a well-crafted veil of sarcasm, suspicion and acerbity cuts the blow. Morrison cares deeply for her family, her home, the friends she meets on her journey and has something to teach us about caring for ourselves by being open and honest.

Being drawn out of the cloudy East Coast spring and into the colorful world of Bali as Morrison downward-dogged her way through leaving what was familiar and into the world of unknown both internally and tangibly was a journey I was glad to take with a clever, insightful and bold woman, bitch or not.



Hanging onto Summer

With all the talk about back-to-school preparations, thoughts of packing lunches, early mornings, after school activities and saying farewell to the lazy, spontaneous and sun-filled days spent outside, free, free, free makes me want to press pause, rewind and try, try, try to get a few moments back. But alas, I'm still working on my time machine. So for now, I will hang onto summer with everything I've got, make these last weeks count and create more lasting memories with my kids.

Summer is...

Source: via Hester on Pinterest

And we'll hang on until that last bit of sunshine disappears over the horizon.


Minted Girls: Hybrid Her Article

Another installment of Minted Girls on Minted Magazine by yours truly. These women are an amazing pair...check out what they have to say about entrepreneurship, teamwork and how they relax...when there is time. Click here.

The Marvelous Martha Beck

It would be easy for me to insist that you read anything by Martha Beck on the grounds that she is a life changer and leave it at that. And if you’re short on time, just take my word for it and read no further. But if you’d like to know why I hitch my wagon to the brilliance that somehow translates from Martha’s (yes, I’m going with her first name because I feel fairly sure she’s cool like that) mind and experience onto paper or in the case of her blog updates the virtual world of the Internet then please, read on.

One dark and snowy winter I was in need of some reassurance, some guidance and that kind of firm clasp on the shoulder partnered with a knowing look that says, “Everything is going to be alright. We’re connected, all of us in this world, and together we’ll see that sun rise once again.” I can’t exactly recall the chain of events that led me to Martha Beck, it could have been that she was mentioned by another author or perhaps some anonymous shopper on Amazon bought one of her books along with whatever I was browsing. But I do know that I stumbled into her becoming a part of my life, either as a coincidence or something greater that was simply meant to be at exactly the right time.

I have since read, listened, watched and read: books, audiobooks, videos and magazine articles, respectively, anything and everything I’ve been able to get my hands on. Her catalogue of achievements is extensive including several New York Times Best sellers, a few Harvard degrees, professor-hood, Life Coach, speaker, catalyst for global change and from what I can tell a stellar mother. Oh and she occasionally hangs out with leopards, elephants and rhinos. You know all in a day’s work. But I’m not listing this to impress, but more to illustrate that she has quite a bit of living, achieving and at times, I’m sure, failing to draw upon.

Martha’s most recent work of non-fiction Finding your Way in a Wild New World:Reclaim your True Nature to Create the Life You Want took hold of me one evening as I sat down to read and didn’t let go. Suddenly Africa, the Karoo in particular, was EVERYWHERE. White lions, leopards and elephants appeared in my life just as I took the first step toward awakening my true nature by dropping into wordlessness. I am sure they’d be there all along, I just didn’t notice.

As Martha outlines four main steps, starting with wordlessness, toward uncovering your true nature, she weaves in various trips to Africa where she works with Life Coaching Clients and others as they safari, track, meditate and otherwise discover the magic of Africa and the magic within.

“Menders of all times and places have taught that silencing the thoughts in our heads and opening to the experience of the body and emotions is the basis of all healing. It’s the only means by which we can reclaim our true nature or feel the subtle cues telling us how to find our way through life.” Martha recommends the practice of dropping into this space of wordlessness, similar to meditating, which I have found incredibly, what’s the right word? Therapeutic?  Calming? Ah yes, healing. The constant dialog, stream of thought, story that our minds reel on and on act as a sort of din that distracts us from dropping into a deeper more meaningful way of being, our true nature by involving us in all kinds of stories, especially about our past, our faults, how inadequate and inept we are and on and on, day and night. I’m not saying our minds are at all “bad,” see those are just more words, more incessant and unnecessary chatter. The solution? Sure hear it out, give your mind some time to drone on and on and then it is quiet time be with the breath, be in the body, and just be. It is irresistibly soothing.

Martha also says that, “Clients can’t think their way out of problems caused by thinking.” So dropping by into wordlessness that place silent of thought, solutions might naturally arise. This takes work, trust and more work, but if everything we've tried has failed, caused more problems or simply doesn’t feel right, giving it a try isn’t such an odd venture. I like to ask myself, when I find myself getting particularly irritated by a nagging problem that isn’t being resolved by thinking it through, repeatedly, “How’s that working out for you?” The answer is most usually, “It isn’t.” So I go 180 degrees in the opposite direction…in other words, silence, meditation, wordlessness.

Martha also weaves in poetry by the notable Mary Oliver and cites studies, her own experiences with clients and her time spent in Africa at a game preserve called Londolozi, a Zulu word meaning, “protector of all things” and I am coming to think of Martha as the title holder of that moniker. By way of the practices and skills she offers readers to unearth our own true nature, she’s instructing us to protect ourselves, our true nature from ever being hidden, buried or otherwise lost again.

Source: via Karen on Pinterest

As I was reading this book I got ahold of the June edition of O Magazine where I’d forgotten Martha Beck was a regular contributor. As I happily turned pages enjoying articles about the notion of home (one of my subjects of study) women who surf (another favorite- see the animals of the safari are everywhere, even within) I arrived at a sort of map outlining a tangible way to “Charting your Life,” written by none other than Ms. Beck herself. Joy! It seemed to dovetail very nicely with the Finding your Way in a Wild New World as it described an activity similar to creating a vision board or in this case a series of vision boards that very distinctly help you map out your life. I got started and seem to have some physical navigational tools to add to the more internal practices outlined in Finding your Way in a Wild World. How convenient Martha- thanks!

A few days later, it appears the universe gives me a period of time between Martha doses to assimilate what I’ve learned, a friendly blog update arrived in my inbox. In this post she gently reminded us self-improvement types (and I don’t use that term disparagingly, I think we owe it to ourselves to be the best person we can be and however you do that, kudos. You’re helping to make the world, not just yourself a better place) that just as we are the author of our story it is almost equally important how we actually tell our story. That is, how we describe our lives either with negative or positive language translates to what we believe about ourselves. Powerful stuff.

And then…if that weren’t enough Martha (I’m not sure you can have too much Martha) I got another email (if you do subscribe, don’t worry she doesn’t litter your inbox, but rather sends emeralds and rubies.) She is matching funds for educational efforts in rural Africa through the Good Work Foundation. Check it out here and make a pledge!

Oh and the other thing you should know about Martha Beck, she is funny as h***.  I mean it, as seriously as I find myself focusing on attaining my highest self, bringing light to the shadows, redistributing my mental energy, she brings me back to planet earth with a kind of levity that leaves me laughing out loud.

Virtual Martha Beck which will lead you to tangible Martha Beck items like speaking events, life coaching, teleseminars, articles, books and more:
Source: via Pat on Pinterest

Another Reminder

Note to self:

A Gouter A Day

There has been a lot of talk about the book, Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman in the blogosphere. I'm not interested in critique. I read it, enjoyed it, took what I wanted, and left the rest. One thing that stuck with me was the idea of "Gouter" French for the afternoon snack time.

When my kids return home from school they're groaning with hunger as if the hearty lunches I packed earlier that morning did not provide adequate sustenance for their mortal forms.

Gathering around the table, talking about the day and having a snack is a nice transition between school and home life. We've always done this, but I like that I now get to call it "Gouter." It makes an ordinary snack sound sophisticated and important.

The following are 5 easy, healthy and fun snacks to enjoy at your next Gouter.

1. Banana Split on a stick courtesy of "Peas and Thank You." I tell ya that Mama Pea is a creative firecracker, always coming up with our latest favorites from breakfast to dinner.

2. Puffin Muffins. I named them that because puffins are cute and I wanted to distract from the fact that these things are super-charged with quinoa. My kids are usually down with all the wackiest (and best) eats, but in true kid fashion they will sometimes randomly rebel so when my spidey-senses are telling me to keep mum on the ingredients I wait until after they gush over how delish it is, then go in for the big reveal.

The recipe is originally from Yoga Journal, but with some changes because I mess with chemistry like that:
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour (I used 1/2 unbleached AP & 1/2 WW Pastry)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa - allow to cool
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or alternately use another liquid sweetener-honey, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup hemp milk + I added more until it made a muffin batter consistency. Eyeball it dudes
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 banana - mashed
  • 1 cup blueberries

1.  Preheat oven to 375 and line muffin tins with your cutest wrappers.
2.  In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together cooked quinoa, maple syrup, hemp milk,   applesauce, banana and oil.
4.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet adding hemp or other milk as you go until it is batter consistency. If you've never made muffins before and don't know what this is go back to home ec. or a more straightforward recipe and then fold in blueberries.
5.  Spoon batter into tins and bake for 20 minutes...I had to cook mine longer, but maybe my oven is wonky. Cool and enjoy those Puffin Muffins!

3. Pumpkin Bread adapted to the form of a fancy ring from Kim Barnouin's Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook. For this recipe you'll have to get ahold of the book itself and I promise you won't be sorry. Some people are personally affronted by the title, but the content is smart, funny and yummy.

4. Smoothies are always a refreshing and satisfying treat and are so forgiving. It's hard to mess this up. I let my kids get creative and toss in whatever strikes their fancy (within reason) and then blitz away. Click here for an assortment of recipes.

5. Although I don't have an photos of this one, we call it a smorgasbord and Pinterest won't mind if I borrow a shot or two to give you an idea of what this simple and straight forward snack can be...

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