Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Only one of us still has red hair!
This photograph dates from just a couple of days after Lucy was born.  A wild time, no doubt, because not only did I have two children under the age of two, we purchased and moved house just a couple of weeks later.  I guess if you are going to play, play.

I am only posting it because it is sitting on my desktop and it is pretty darn cute.  Also, I have been mostly caught up in shredding old tax forms from this same era and other various, visually boring enterprises.  But if super cute, red-headed baby pictures are not your speed, may I offer you this, which a school teacher friend of mine placed before my eyes.  All three of us whom you see above laughed til we cried.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Noticing, Aging, Resistance and Dick Cheney

At the end of my yoga practice this morning, I was chatting with a friend and fellow yoga teacher about whether or not there is a time when you reach your peak of flexibility and/or strength as you age.  She is just a little older than me and has been feeling particularly stiff lately.  As always, I struggle with building strength, or as one of our teachers likes to say, Robyn you have no es-strength!  (She is from Colombia).  This teacher walked back in the room and joined the discussion.  While we were feeling like, yes, there is a time when you start to naturally decline in those areas, she was pretty adamant that everyone, everyday, must adapt and accept their practice to suit the reality of their current physical state - age makes no difference.  When you fail to do that, whether you are 20 or 80, that is when you suffer, feel anxious and experience disappointment about expectations not being met.  I would only add that it might actually be that everyone, every minute, needs to do that since how the practice is going can change radically from moment to moment.

So what of that?  A little humility can be an excellent thing in *cough, cough* some people's practices (no names, please).  Yet there is a difference between my saying (you know, just as an example) that I may never be able to come back up from a drop-back and I will never be able to come back up from a drop-back.  Accepting how things are right now isn't the same as solidifying it into a thing that will remain unchanging into the future.  As I experience this in my yoga practice, I sometimes even remember it in the rest of my life too.

A couple of weeks ago, I substitute taught a class where I essentially made this the theme of the class - I asked the students to look at the sensation of resistance (in their mind mostly) as we moved through asana.  I deliberately chose asana that I find annoying and difficult and I have noticed others also feel irritated by.  My premise was that, by noticing that sensation,  they would be able to better recognize it in other areas of life and learn some ways of not getting all done in by it.

Let's just say that it wasn't one of my more popular classes.  No one actually walked out but I could tell a few wanted to and almost no one would meet my eye at the end.  I am laughing about it now (laughing at myself, mind you!) but it was pretty rough to feel the hostility in the room growing and growing as the class progressed.  They felt resistance alright - towards me!  It is safe to say that most people who come to yoga class for a bit of sweaty vinyasa flow to some rockin' tunes are not really up for turning the light around and examining their mind. Ok, ok - lesson learned!

Yet even as I feel badly about disappointing those people in that class, I also feel like I don't practice yoga to just feel good about myself and I certainly don't teach yoga to spoon feed people more of what they already get everywhere else.  That is selling yoga short.  Big time, as Dick Cheney would say.  So, perhaps as I had to face, and accept, the silent but searing disapproval of that roomful of unhappy yogis, it actually gave me some good tools for learning how to stand by what I believe, to notice and adapt according to the present conditions, and to not solidify that experience into absolutes - "I am a terrible yoga teacher" comes to mind.

It is such a funny thing, this putting ourselves into various physical postures.  As we do it, we create and recreate the world - our world - over and over in its entirety.  What a gift!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning includes washing the front windows, weeding and replanting the back garden, weeding and replanting certain areas of my social life, and downloading the pictures on my phone camera.  

Thus, I present these images for your viewing pleasure....

Phoenix by Xu Bing at St. John the Divine
Met up with Patti and her daughter on their whirlwind tour of universities of the Northeast on the Upper West Side one lovely evening recently.  We took in this incredible installation at St. John the Divine - titled Phoenix by Xu Bing.  If you find yourself in the general area, I highly recommend wandering in and having a look.  Quite a story surrounding the work and the installation itself is spectacular.

The view from here...
Getting back in the studio after all my projects has been a challenge.  Enlivened as I was by the experience of presenting both those bodies of work, it is hard to settle into a clear direction for the next step.  At the same time, I appreciate how it is exactly this kind of moment where good opportunities exist.  One idea that keeps coming up is about how it is impossible to actually repeat anything.  As someone who makes things (sometimes) that, in theory, are completely reproducible by anyone with basic crochet or knitting skills, I should be able to repeat my projects if I want.  In theory, I could even make editions of my work.  But every time I have been asked to do that or desired to do that, I have never, ever been able to actually do it.  Is it because the exact conditions that allowed for the original creation have passed and the new set of conditions are simply different?  I don't know but I have some ideas of how to possibly play with this notion...stay tuned.

Men taking up too much space on the train.
One of my new favourite blogs is called "Men taking up too much space on the train".  It is a collection of photographs submitted by train riders who have noticed, well, men taking up too much space on the train.  It is a simple, visual exploration of how men unconsciously display their privilege in this world of ours.  In my experience, you don't have to look too hard to find it, especially on the train.  Here is a recent picture I took on the 7 train one evening.  He is taking up three - count 'em 3! - seats at evening rush hour.  Also highly recommend this short piece on McSweeney's, An Open Letter to Men on the Subway Specifically During Morning Rush Hour on the A Train Between Jay Street and Canal.  You know who you are...

To end on a more upbeat note - some beautiful tulips celebrating not just spring but Lucy's theatre debut as Sam the Janitor in the world premiere production of Expresso, written and directed by Leo Lion, who is a 14 year old homeschooler.  Don't let that fool you - every bit of it was amazing.  Congratulations Leo, Lucy et al.  Bravo!