On their way to school

Delhi Dog

This smiling lady gifted me a chai

Delhi Cat

Sandwich guy

Stacy and I in front of Humayun's tomb

Steven and Stacy in front of Humayun's tomb

The Red Fort

Spattillomans at the Red Fort

A couple handed me their baby for a photo before I even knew what was going on!

Ha! This is the best purchase of my life!!!

Fruit stand at the Market

 

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We’re about two-thirds of the way through our second day in Delhi. We arrived yesterday afternoon. We’re staying in the home of Sikh family who Courtney connected with via couchsurfing.com.

I’ve never couch surfed. I never planned to couch surf. Given the former, I certainly did not to expect to couch surf in India. But, here we are.

I’d like to digress momentarily. Before I left on this trip, I had several discussions with a friend about the nature of life in India and how it differs from that of the U.S. Life here differs in a myriad of ways (and there are also similarities), but the context of our discussion focused specifically on a state of being rather than doing.

I’ve reflected a lot on that contrast recently, being versus doing. I think what appeals to me so greatly about these extended excursions far away from home is the very opportunity to be wholly present.

Each day moment is new and holds various opportunities, challenges and surprises. There’s not much point in giving too much thought to the future or the happenings at home, because there’s little I can do about anything. I’m in a forced state of presence. It’s powerful and it’s accompanied by perspective.

Most recently, I’ve had to call on presence, perspective and patience during this couch surfing experience. I am completely out of my comfort zone. I am sharing space with a number of other travelers, an entire family whose culture is quite foreign to me, and a cacophonous group of young street children who have, by the kindness of our host and their own good fortune, been blessed enough to go to school in the room just below our loft.

I like new experiences and I’m fairly adaptable. The other side of the coin, I’m solitary and territorial. Leave it to India to force me to face my short-comings and do some growing.

Despite my initial instinct to flee hesitations, I’m warming up to the pallet (we’re sleeping on a pallet on the floor) surfing experience. I appreciate the rare opportunity to stay in the home of an Indian family and gain some insight into their daily lives. To do so enriches the experience of India and brings me a more intimate understanding of the rhythms of life here.

My heart has been warmed and inspired  by the good work of this woman and her family.  By offering these kids an education, she is changing the course of not only their lives but the generations that follow them.  It’s also really fun to be greeted by 10+ small voices saying “Namaste!” and outreached hands eager to shake our own as we walk through their school.

This morning we were invited to meditate with our host’s brother-in-law. He shared some with us about his understanding of spirituality and bestowed upon each of us a small blessing. As luck would have it, he’s helping us arrange the next leg of our trip North.

Perhaps one of the best parts of the pallet surfing adventure is the solidifying of our Team Ashtanga Oklahoma family. We are now the Spatillomans (Spallone + Pattillo + Gilman + Engleman). Stacy is our mom, which is completely appropriate as she is always pulling us out of traffic and keeping us on schedule. Steven is the big brother , I’m the middle sister and Courtney is the baby. We’re a happy family, tight knit family!

There’s so much to share: the sights, the food (home cooked -yum!), the street dogs, etc. But, I’m outta time! Lots of love!

Jai Ramji ki!

Once again, Stacy Pattillo and I have embarked on an adventure. We’re back in India. (Stacy and I spent a month in Mysore in 2007.) This time we’re accompanied by our yogi friends Steven and Courtney. We’re on day four of a nearly month long trip through this enchanting country. Our destinations include Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, Rishikesh and then Goa or Kerala or…I guess we’ll see where the adventure takes us.

Steven is currently living in Mumbai. He’s been here since August 2011, so he’s been showing us the city for the past three days. Each morning we’ve started the day with a yoga practice on the terrace, which has been fabulous. Friday we wandered around the Colaba Causeway. Saturday we took a ferry to Elephanta Island. Yesterday we slowed down a little, again taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the Colaba Causeway and surrounding area.

Pictures of our outings are below. Today we head to Delhi. I hope to write longer posts in the coming days.

For now, Om outta here! (hee! get it?)

View from Steven's Terrace

Horse drawn carriage along the Colaba Causeway

Threshold along Colaba Causeway

Meow from Mumbai

Cricket in the park

Gateway to India

Our group at Elephanta Island. Courtney and Steven are making angry faces to symbolize Shiva the destroyer. Stacy and I apparently didn't get the memo.

Elephanta Island Greeter

The Beard and I spent several days last week in Portland. We flew out there to see Mumford and Sons, but we stayed a couple of extra days to take in the sights and enjoy a rare get-away together.

Descending into Portland

We’d heard good things about Portland, but it wasn’t high on our destinations list. We’re both oriented toward warmer climates, and Portland certainly is not warm this time of year.  Despite the cold (actually, it feels colder here with the wind) and the mostly gray skies, Portland is a heckuva fun city.

The entire trip came about as a rash decision. I had heard Mumford and Sons on Austin City Limits and liked them immediately, which was strange. It usually takes me several listens to get on board (or not) with a band, but I bought their album as soon as I heard them on ACL. The more I listened to it, the more I wanted to see them live. So, one Saturday afternoon I looked up their tour dates and saw they had two shows remaining in the US in 2011, Portland and Seattle.

On a whim, we decided to check out M&S and Portland! Let me just tell you, this kind of impromptu-adventure-rash-decision-making behavior really thrills me. Life is such a delicate combination of metered and measured, chaotic and busy; it’s my belief that an opportunity to escape the routine should always be taken.

Boo and also Yah!

Mumford and Sons were excellent, and I was on cloud nine the remainder of the night after seeing them! It was the perfect way to kick off our trip. After the concert, we traversed the Steel Bridge to explore the downtown area and indulge in falafels and an ale or two.

Crossing the Steel Bridge after Mumford and Sons

There’s so much to see and do in Portland. We didn’t come close to accomplishing it all, but I’m not of the philosophy that one should kill one’s self sightseeing. We took the “let’s wander around and see what we see approach”. We walked all over and ate and drank our way across the land of ports!

Because we did so much eating and drinking (excellent food, and it’s a city of coffee and microbreweries), I was glad we hoofed it back and forth and up and down the river so much. The Bearded Guitar Hero, on the other hand, developed shin splits the second day and whined  requested a motorized wheelchair! I teased him mercilessly until I woke up on the third day with sore legs myself!

Pizza, books, eco-hostel

Yoga is alive and well in Portland. There are studios everywhere. I wasn’t terribly discerning about where I tried out a class, I just wanted to get in some yoga. I chose a hatha class at Yoga Pearl, because we were wandering around downtown that day and it was easy to find. The instructor was warm, creative and knowledgeable, and the studio atmosphere was nice. It was fun to try out a new style in a new city. The evening of our last day in Portland, I came across an Ashtanga studio not a stone’s throw from where we were staying. It’s on the list for the next trip to Portland.

Seeing Portland by foot

While there, we had breakfast with a high school friend who’s living in Portland. She directed our attention to Portlandia, so I watched some excerpts on Youtube. Hilarious, and so true. The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland. I liked the 90s!

 

Ha! It’s day 30 of NaBloPoMo. The LAST day of blogging every day for 30 days. Yippee!

The prompt today is “What did you learn from NaBloPoMo?”  Timely, as I’ve been thinking about this very thing. So, hows about a list to wrap this up.

Ahem.

Things I learned from NaBloPoMo:

1. Finding something to write about every single day is challenging. Or, more precisely, finding something meaningful to write about every single day is challenging.

2. Crafting a well-written, thoughtful post is time consuming.

3. In consideration of items 1 and 2, you would be smart to a) keep a list of ideas for potential blog posts, b) use an outline to flesh out blog posts and c) start early in the day (rather than at 8pm with no prior thought as to what the hell you’re going to write). This item also basically sums up what I learned from writing a thesis.

3. If you want to find out how well developed your idea is or where exactly you stand on a issue, try writing about it. I started a lot of posts only to find out that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and/or I wasn’t as certain of my position as I previously thought.

4. I’m obsessed with my dog.

5. I’m obsessed with my cat.

6. I’m obsessed with my tortoise.

7. I might have a minor case of companion animal obsession disorder.

7. People are far more supportive or, on the other extreme, far less interested in what you have to say than you might think. That being said, I received some really nice, encouraging feedback from several people. It means the world to me. THANK YOU!

8. There are time zone settings on WordPress.  It took me 27 days to figure this out. I kept wondering why blogs I posted at 8pm were being attributed to the following day. Sheesh.

9. The easiest thing to be (and to write) is your authentic self.

10. My authentic self is sometimes serious, contemplative and philosophical, but she really enjoys being silly and somewhat irreverent. And, dang if she don’t like to get her dance on! *jazz hands*

11. I may need to change the title of this blog. I  love yoga. I love practicing yoga, teaching yoga, talking about yoga, etc. But, it’s not the only thing I enjoy or want to discuss. I don’t know how this blog will evolve going forward, but I’m open to many a possibility…and title suggestions.

12. I’ve learned more about myself. I’m in a period of growth. I think I’m going to be 6 feet tall.

13. Kidding. Obviously, that’s not what I meant by growth.

14. Oh yeah, I’m making a list.

15. Like anything you do consistently, it’s become easier to write and I think, overall, the quality of my writing/posts has improved. Even the days that were difficult proved to be of value, because the challenge of writing everyday made me appreciate the skill and creative energy that goes into it.

The bottom line is, I’ve enjoyed NaBloPoMo. It boosted my confidence in and desire to write.  I’m going to continue writing. I don’t know with what frequency I’ll write or what the posts will be about, but I’m going to keep on keeping on. Most of all, I’m comfortable with the idea of writing for my own pleasure, comfortable with the idea that what I write doesn’t have to pleasing to anyone else. I hope that it is. I want what I write to make someone smile, feel good or just nod their head in agreement, but I’ve realized it’s okay to do this for no other reason than I enjoy it.

You know who I admire? Activists – people who believe in a cause and work for it. I may not agree with their chosen cause, but I admire them. Their perseverance, their insistence on getting in our faces, opening our eyes and asking us to help them make a difference. It takes cojones, man. Co-jo-nes.

Activists set aside their self-interest and the comfort of anonymity to change something for the better. Forget ease. Forget comfort. Forget the status quo. They get out there in the trenches, risking their safety and dignity to insist on righting wrongs. And, sheesh! There are a lot of wrongs in the world!

I’m not really much of an activist. I don’t poke my finger in anyone’s chest, assert my opinion, tirelessly give voice to injustice. I’m more of a polite, bubbly suggestion maker. “Hi there! Great combat boots! How would you feel about removing the left one from atop my foot?”

I do occasionally make the passionate plea (complete with a somewhat threatening title), but mostly I keep my opinions, beliefs, personal crusades to myself. However, I’m about to draw on the vigorous and compelling dedication of activists to ask for your help with a project of great importance to me. I’m calling it Project Upward Puppies!

Upward Puppy

I’m collecting yoga mats for a kids yoga class at one of our local elementary schools.  A good friend of mine is the PE teacher, and she does 15-20 minutes of yoga with each of her classes on a daily basis. She’s seen not only improvements in their flexibility but also in their behavior. They love doing yoga and would really enjoy doing their daily practice on yoga mats.

So far I’ve collected 12 yoga mats, and I need about 12 more. Do you have a spare yoga mat laying around your house? An old one that you don’t use any longer? Why not donate it to Project Upward Puppies? Bring your clean, gently used mat to any of the classes I teach at the Ashtanga Yoga Studio, and in return pay only $4 for that class. If you don’t have a spare mat, you can make an $8 donation to the purchase of a mat and receive the same class discount in return.

I’d also like to thank Ghislaine Rabin, a sister yogini and friend, and the NCED for donating eight mats to Project Upward Puppies!

Goose

Yup, a picture of my cat! I warned you! Monday is a long day for me. It’s filled with things I love, but it starts early and ends late.

In the background is a totally random sampling of my CD collection. Well, what used to be my CD collection before I downloaded them to itunes and sold them to Hastings. Screeching Weasel, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Nick Cave. Jeez, is that a Black Eyed Peas? *Cringe* That did not make it into the digital collection. Oh, but that G n’ R Use Your Illusion II toward the bottom, that one definitely did.  If you’re lucky, maybe one day I’ll tell you about  my adolescent obsession and undying love for Slash.

 

 

Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho.

As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind. 

This saying is about perspective. It can be quite revealing to apply these two lenses to any aspect of one’s life. Every situation tends to lend itself more easily to one than the other, but certainly with a little determination the opposite can be found.

There are deeper applications, but I’ve been reflecting on this saying with regard to NaBloPoMo. What started out as a painful obligation (albeit one I chose) is something I’ve come to see as liberating.

During this 30 days of writing (that will be over in 3 days!), I’ve often regarded the task as bondage. Sometimes I wasn’t in the mood, was short on time or just didn’t have anything interesting to say. It felt like a giant burden pulling out my computer to post something, anything every. single. day. Especially when I hadn’t been blogging with any regularity beforehand.

Over the last three-plus weeks, it’s gotten easier to write daily for mainly two reasons: repetition and detachment. Posting everyday has become part of my daily routine, but more importantly I’ve stopped obsessing over it. I just accepted that there would be days when I had time and inspiration, and then there would be days that I posted a picture of my dog…or a dog with drawn-on eyebrows.

Ironically, some of the shortest, lamest, most poorly written posts took the longest. A lot of what I’ve written was neither planned nor interesting, but scattered among the refuse are a few posts that I feel good about. Posts that were revealing and sincere looks into my life. That’s where the liberation is, in the exposition. Regardless of profundity or lack there of, I got over a fear that kept me from writing regularly and with authenticity.

Of course, for the next three days I plan on posting pictures of my dog, cat or tortoise!

 

 

Whew, holidays take it out of me. I’ve eaten a lot of food, seen a lot of my kin folk and wrapped it all up by watching the hubs and company play at Cain’s Ballroom last night.

Turnpike Troubadours

It was a great holiday, and I have so much to be thankful for. Today, I’m mostly thankful for the opportunity to lounge around my house. Cheers!

Today Story Corp is asking people to thank a teacher that made a difference in their lives as part of their National Day of Listening.

I’ve been thinking of all the teachers I had during school, trying to think of one in particular that made a difference in my life. It’s not a teacher, however, that comes to mind. It’s my high school guidance counselor Mr. McDonald who I keep thinking of.

I believe that any situation is what you make of it, and I made high school a particularly unpleasant situation. There’s not a lot that accounts for my teenage angst, no real strife, lack or traumatic experiences to which I can attribute my rebellion. I just rebelled and acted out. Looking back, I understand it better than I did at the time, but honestly I had two loving parents and a wonderful childhood, so I don’t really know why I chose to act the way I did. Regardless, it created a lot of unhappiness, and I spent quite some time in Mr. McDonald’s office getting it off my chest.

His door was always open, he always listened and he never spoke to me in a condescending, authoritative or patronizing way. He gave me advice, brought my attention to things I’d failed to see before, and encouraged me to see many a situation in new light. One in particular stands out.

When I was in 11th grade, my mom decided to remarry. I wanted my mom to be happy, so I wasn’t upset about the impending marriage. It’d be more accurate to say that I just wasn’t very interested in it. I had grown so accustomed to a lack of family cohesion that I wasn’t keen on what I felt was forced family time.

My parents had divorced when I was 14, but years before that the family unit had become fractured. I did a lot with each of my parents but not a lot with both of them at the same time. I was accustomed to small, short spurts of family time. So as my mom and Craig got closer and decided to marry, there was suddenly an increased focus on bringing our families together. There were family dinners, family trips and big gatherings at the holidays.

I hated all the family time. I realize now that I was just uncomfortable in an unfamiliar situation, but I channeled that discomfort into anger directed right at my mother and my soon-to-be-step-dad.

One day, I sat in Mr. McDonald’s office and railed about how much I hated sitting down to a meal with people I didn’t even know and planned on never getting to know. My point was that beginning in my years of elementary school my own family had stopped sharing meals and now I was being forced into it with a family that I didn’t consider my own. I felt if my mom wanted to marry into this family that was her choice, but she couldn’t force me into as well.

Mr. McDonald listened to my tirade and then responded, “Maybe you should see this as an opportunity to have a family unit you wouldn’t have otherwise.”

I didn’t know how to respond, he’d cinched it up right there. Of course, both my parents (dad included) had urged me to see this as an opportunity, but I was sure they’d had ulterior, self-serving motives. Wouldn’t it just be easier if I’d go along to get along? Wouldn’t we all be happier if we were one big family? In the height of my most difficult years, when I was unhappy and nothing was easy, I wasn’t about to do anyone any favors, especially making things easier.

Mr. McDonald’s suggestion to see the opportunity came across to me a little differently. For the first time, I saw what I had to gain from this situation. Selfish, I know, but that one statement led to greater things in my life. Things that have made me a more loving, open, self-less person.

I didn’t open myself up to that opportunity right away. It took some time to grow into it. I had to see what could be and get more comfortable in this unfamiliar situation with a new family of strangers.  I’m an only child and while I have an extended family, it’s not particularly big or, save for a few relationships, tight-knit.

My step-family made it so easy right off the bat. They were warm and welcoming and never treated me as anything but a member of their family. Though not a large family, there were more people at holiday gatherings and family trips than I was used to, and they were very close. They brought my mom and I right into that without any hesitation. I was floored and often times overwhelmed, but in the 14 years since my mom married Craig I have come to see my step-family as just my family.

Mr. McDonald was right. He was so right! So many opportunities have come into my life on account of opening myself up to being a part of this family.

I have siblings, a brother and a sister. While I know the nature of our relationships is different than that of siblings who share DNA and grow up together, I am grateful for having the opportunity to know something of what it is like.

I am an aunt. I have two wonderful nieces whom I love and cherish. They bring so much light and joy into life, and they crack me up on a regular basis. It’s amazing to watch them grow, and nothing warms my heart more than hearing the words, “Aunt Jen!”

I have a set of grandparents who have been married for nearly 60 years. They are so sweet and generous, and their presence brings a richness into our lives that only a life long commitment can.

I have two wonderful, funny, fun-loving aunts who would do anything for anyone in our family. I have a different relationship with each of them, but both of them bring so much to our family! S is so adventurous and inspiring. A has a huge heart and is so thoughtful. She recently came to Norman to help me paint my living room and kitchen.

The next point always catches in my throat and stings my eyes a little, because I realize just how fortunate I am. I have been blessed with having three really wonderful, generous, loving parents. My mom and step-dad, and my dad who passed away nine years ago this December. These three people have touched my lives in ways that I’m not sure I fully realize or appreciate.

Finally, my experience as part of this tight-knit, loving family has helped me appreciate and cherish both my own blood family  and “adopted” family even more. It’s encouraged me to see how special and important family is, how fortunate I am to be surrounded by these people whose love is unconditional, whose hearts are so big and know no bounds.

My mom and step-dad at Hotel Coronado last summer. Cheers!

I have Mr. McDonald to thank for encouraging me to open my eyes and heart to the opportunity. Those few words he uttered certainly changed my life for the better.