Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A work constantly in progress- a woman constantly in motion….

When we moved into our house in Atlanta I was determined to unpack and settle in as much as possible before the kids arrived. My thought process was that when the kids showed up in Atlanta they wouldn't feel as displaced if the house wasn't in total chaos. At least that is what I told myself. And to be fair (to me) it was true. However, to be honest, it was just as important for me. I just didn't realize how manic I would get at certain points.

To explain the schedule we were on during "the summer that wasn't" I have to explain our timing. It went something like this:

Kids get out of school.
Kids and Courtney go to Vineyard to settle in with Grandparents for a month.
Courtney leaves Vineyard for CT to pack up house and tie up loose ends.
Courtney and Alex drive uHaul full of artwork and frozen meat (don't ask) to Atlanta from CT in one day. (I don't recommend it)
Courtney and Alex live in hotel until they close.
Courtney and Alex feverishly unpack for three days.
Courtney flies back to Vineyard.
Courtney packs up kids and drives to Atlanta from Martha's Vineyard.
Courtney and kids arrive- school starts.

This all happened in one month. Now if the process had been drawn out I think it probably would have been harder in a way. I was motivated in a way I don't think I would have been if there weren't time constraints. It reminded me of working as a cook. The thinking is, "What do I have to do in the next minute?" Then get it done and move on.

Now let me be clear- I LOVE my new house. I love the layout. I love the energy and flow. I love that we live on a quiet cul de sac with wonderful people. The house is awesome. It also had not been re-decorated in quite some time. So when the kids went off to school, all of a sudden I found some time on  my hands. And I was still in go mode. And I wasn't working yet. hmmmmmmmm.

The house came with this ornate crystal chandelier. It was sparkly and HUGE. I don't begrudge anyone their bling, but it wasn't our taste. So. I was going to sell that sucker. Alex told me that I could do anything I wanted with the money I made from the chandelier. I asked to get that in writing. The chandelier went up for sale on Ebay, the Buckhead Exchange and Craigslist. I called every consignment store or retailer I could find to see if there was any way I could get what I wanted for it. In the meantime there were consignment stores to hit- warehouse sales to check out and ebay deals to be had. Alex was completely exasperated with me. "We JUST moved in!" he would yell- "I'M NESTING!" I would yell back. I wanted the house to be the way it was in my mind.

The problem with decorating a house is that when you do one thing- you step back and look and think, Well THAT looks awesome, but you know what would look ever BETTER? you are screwed. Poor Alex kept venturing opinions which I wasn't really listening to- because I had all these images in my brain of how I wanted things to be. Creating perfection in my mind's eye.

I went out to lunch with my friend Renee and was ranting on and on about how I had to sell the chandelier because I NEEDED to paint the wood paneled room that looked like a dark "wood cave" because it was driving me absolutely crazy. She looked at me and said,

"Girl- you are in the South now, you need to SLOW DOWN."

Um, what? What do you mean? Alex had said this to me, but it didn't really register. Well, why the hell am I getting so worked up? Didn't I used to say in class ALL THE TIME that the beauty was in the effort- not the end result? If I'm not taking pleasure in doing this- why am I doing it? Am I wanting the image in my head- the perfection- because I can't stop and look at the good things already in place? When I look around, the only things I see are what I want to change? Oh man, this is not good. My need to be "settled" had transformed itself into something else. Something not healthy.

So, what to do when I need to stop and become present? Get on the mat. Breathe. Soften. And with that softening I started to appreciate how much had been done. And the things that "needed" to be done, didn't need to be done RIGHT AWAY. Motivation is great as long as you know what, is in fact, truly motivating you. My need for the feeling of security in where I was was reflecting itself in my need to make my house a home- immediately. But it is a home. Because we are all here together on this new adventure in this wonderful city living in it.

I have calmed down. I probably need to chill a bit more. I am working on it. Grace in motion hopefully. I did sell the chandelier to a lovely Russian woman in Brooklyn on Ebay and now our eighties wood paneled room is a wonderful light gray. I sit in it and am quite blissful- I just won't look at the green marble surrounding the fireplace. That's a project for another day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Getting back in the Saddle….

I just re-read my last post from WAAAAAY back in September 2012. It is now almost exactly two years later and life has changed for me and my family in ways I never expected. It all goes back to one of the things I say all of the time, How do you make God laugh? Tell God your plans.

In my last post I was still, frankly, reeling from having the rug pulled out from under me in terms of what I thought was going to me my yoga community for the rest of my life exploding. Friendships were broken, people were hurt and there was a LOT of processing to be done. Hopefully lessons were learned by all (myself included) and everyone is stronger, wiser and better for it.  (except the person who caused it all- but, svāhā)

As of my last post, I was working six days a week teaching as well as being a mom, part-time cook and  wife. I'm still a mom and a wife, but not currently working as we have picked up and moved 1000 miles away from Connecticut to Atlanta, GA. Quite the change for all of us.

I find that you learn a lot about yourself when you change environments. Never has this been more true for me than in the last few months. I have learned that I am a very impatient, dare I say it, aggressive driver. I have learned that I am not good at having too much free time. I have learned that I worry more than I should about things I cannot control. I have learned that I am a control freak, because I want to fix the things I cannot control. I have learned that I like to know where I stand at all times (with friendships, work, etc) and when I don't, the uncertainty of it shakes me to the core of my being. I have learned that I own way too many pairs of inappropriate shoes.

I moved around a lot as a child. When we finally landed in CT I was determined to stay there forever. In my mind I had my entire life mapped out. I would get married to the love of my life (still am) have kids (check) buy a house (check) be friends with the same peeps forever (in some cases- check- some- not so much) go on vacations to certain places, belong to certain clubs,  and on and on and on. Clinging to things that are familiar. Clinging to patterns and a lifestyle that was comfortable BECAUSE it was familiar. Did it serve? Sometimes yes- sometimes no.

So now having the chance after the whirlwind of the last few months to stop and look around, I have decided it's time for me to start writing again. I have some re-inventing to do, some examining to do and some yoga to practice. I hope if you are reading this that you will enjoy it and perhaps to relate to it in some small way. This first post is short, but sweet; touching on many subjects to come.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

So THAT happened....

If you are connected to the yoga world and haven't been living in a cave somewhere, you probably know about the Anusara/John Friend scandal. I am not going to revisit the original story which broke in February because A. I don't want to. B. Anyone who has anything to do with Anusara has pretty much made up their mind to resign or stay. C. I don't want to. Let's just say a lot of people's worlds were rocked, friendships affected or even ended and a whole system of yoga was called into question and put under a microscope.

Is this a bad thing? In my humble opinion, no. 

A lot of people in the Western Yoga world want everyone to be nice. They want everyone to be forgiving. Isn't that what yoga is all about? Where was all of this anger and resentment coming from?Yes, JF (John Friend) royally screwed up, but isn't it yogic to forgive and move on? There were a lot of hurt, angry, confused people and total silence from the man who was the catalyst. 

This has happened before in the yoga world. Amrit Desai and the whole Kripalu scandal, Siddha Yoga, pretty much anything that comes out of Bikram's mouth, and various others which you can find dotted all throughout the last hundred years plus. As my friend Annie says, it's going to KEEP happening. We are so determined to put someone on a pedestal and then ask or even BEG for validation so that we feel secure with our own place in the world, hierarchy, WHATEVER- that we just can't help ourselves. And I truly believe that when you put someone in this position, no matter what how good their intentions were in the beginning, it is almost next to impossible for them not to eventually believe in their own hype. And without doing any work to stay on a path that keeps them grounded in the real world, dangerous things can happen. People get hurt. 

I had decided two weeks before the story broke not to go for full certification. My style of yoga is born out of many different traditions. I am a happy mutt and did not wish to commit fully to one school of yoga. I had already searched for validation in the eyes of a former teacher and it did not end well. It took me a while to get over that experience, so I was very sympathetic when others who had done the same thing with JF were initially processing what had happened. I had always been a lokel yokel, if you will. Rarely traveling to JF's events as time, children and expenses did not allow me to do so. I had talked to him personally all of twice. He was a very charismatic guy. I can totally understand why it was easy to get swept up in this tide. 

In my mind, however, the problem is when you dress everything up in "grace" and if you don't see things this way, well something is wrong with YOU. And when the dam broke, people were either enraged or clinging to some semblance of anything to which they had dedicated a big portion of their lives. The Emperor had no clothes and it wasn't pretty. It turns out he was a regular guy who couldn't understand why those people who had supported him for so long and in some cases done some pretty unethical things FOR him would turn on him. 

People process things in different ways. Real emotions and conversations started to happen and it wan't always pretty. There is anger, regret, passive aggression disguised as kindness (but was in fact- just another form of aggression and anger) a lot of holier than thou attitudes and posturing, etc....

I didn't write the blog for awhile. I couldn't. When I started writing, it would come out wrong. Some people don't want to talk about this situation with the greater public, but in my heart I think that this story is important because it doesn't just happen in the yoga world.

So here goes: Yoga is not full of perfect enlightened beings. There are a lot of complicated people in the yoga world, just as there are in any group. If we don't process how we honestly feel, we are denying ourselves the chance to grow and transform. We do not need someone to validate us. If we put someone on a pedestal, eventually that person will disappoint. We cannot change how others think, but we can put information out there that needs to be heard, especially if we feel there is potential for someone to get hurt. The opportunity to learn from others is wonderful, but in doing so it doesn't give us license to give that person "power" over us. Each and every voice matters. Words and actions have power, PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. Freedom might be scary, but it's a good thing. 

The King is dead....long live the King? Up to us. 

That pretty much sums up how I feel right now. So that happened, now back to work.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why I EFFING HATE 50 Shades of Grey

I know I'm going to be vilified for this one, and to be honest, I don't care. I hated this book. I hated it with a passion I disguised as sarcasm. Being too "well-read" and snobbish I made fun of it relentlessly at every dinner party, lunch, cocktail do, etc where people were talking about the books. I made fun of the horrific writing, the obstreperous malapert of a lead character (look that one up EL) and ridiculous sex scenes.

As one person said to me, it's just a fantasy Courtney, what is wrong with that? Nothing, if you are talking about the sex or the "romance" aspect of it. (retch) Certain friends argued with me that it was about a woman finding herself, to which I thought, did we read the same book? And don't even get me started on the inner goddess crap. I'm a yoga teacher and I can't stand that term. 

But I digress....

The reason I hated this book SOOOOOOOOOOO much is because it perpetuates a fantasy that people (especially women) have been deluding themselves with for far too long. Ready? It's simple:

If I love him enough - he will change.


When I finally read the book I was in bed next to my husband. He was all excited until I kept bursting out laughing. It was not the reaction he was looking for. I love my husband and we have been through very deep waters together. One of the reasons we are still able to navigate our lives together, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully is that we continue to do the work. It is not always easy, in fact sometimes it downright sucks, but I have tried the alternative and it doesn't work.

I can save him.

You cannot change someone, through love, threats, placation, ignoring the problem- WHATEVER. This is the truth. Maybe not as sexy, but the truth. If you think you can, you have a long unhappy road ahead. This is not love. I know because I have tried all of the above techniques at some point. Definition of insanity? Trying the same thing over and over in a different guise and expecting a different result. 

I hate that these books embody this. I hate that we buy into it. It reminds me of those shows where pregnant teens just know that everything will be ok when the baby is born. Or the woman with reservations about getting married, but knows everything will be ok after the wedding. Or the person who puts up with abuse and starts to think that they deserve it. In my mind it all comes back to this crazy destructive fantasy.

If I change, the person I love will want to change too.

My favorite book of all time is Pride and Prejudice. The heroine does not try to win the hero, in fact she thanks he is an ass. She has everything to lose, yet tells him to his face that he is an ass. She comes face to face with her own shortcomings and resolves to change HERSELF. In the meantime the hero does the same work on his end and when they finally come together it is a meeting of the hearts and minds with an acknowledgment that both will have continue to do some work in the future. Pretty revolutionary when you think about when it was written. Also, in my mind, very erotic as well as romantic and not a single kiss exchanged.

Ok- so maybe I reacted a little strongly. Perhaps I am a didactic prig (for you again EL)  But in the end- yes- it is how I feel. In my mind the reasons why we like these types of fantasies are worth examining. 

Unless you were just reading it for the sex, in which case, please disregard the above post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

music to listen to when you are pretending to be dead.

To me Savasana (corpse pose) is the hardest pose in yoga. For the last sixty-plus minutes I have been weaving breath and movement, creating a moving meditation and now I have to let all of that go? I have to let everything go? I have to still my mind? No problem. I will just lie here and relax. Here I am, relaxing. Hmmmm, what time was I supposed to pick up the kids? No wait- screw that- I'm relaxing.....right now. Yes, relaxation is good. After I pick them up I'm going to have to figure out dinner, what does everyone want? What does anyone what? What do I want? I would like ice cream- that salted caramel flavor we had the other night...did they add the caramel in at the....WAIT I'm not supposed to be thinking about anything. Okay, clear the mind, or at least deep thoughts.....deep on Saturday Night Live....with Jack Handy....who was Jack Handy? STOP THINKING. I bet that woman next to me has a clear head, she's a teacher too, she's probably better at clearing her head, because I obviously can't seem to....ok....stop...really...NOW I'm going to relax....I REALLY need to do laundry....

The above is a sample of an internal conversation I might be having with myself during savasana.

So what does this have to do with music?

One of my students, Miss Suzie Q- loves a song I play in savasana sometimes. The first time I played it she came up to me after class and wanted to know what the song was. I asked her if she liked it. "Liked it? I was running through a field with my kids! It was joyous!" It transported her somewhere. Out of her head and away from her laundry lists.

Some yogis want silence in savasana. And I don't always play music, sometimes silence is golden. But when I do like to play music in rest pose- here are some of my favorites:

With this Love- Peter Gabriel
Memory Gospel- Moby
First Light- Adam Hurst
Devi Prayer- Craig Pruess and Ananda
Hallelujah- Jeff Buckley
Quartet in C-Sharp Minor- Michael Kamen
An Ending- Brian Eno
Building the Barn-Maurice Jarre (Suzy's song)
Resolution- Windy and Carl
A Light Change- Grouper
balloons- Todd Banks
Spiegel im Spiegel- Alexander Malter

These are just a few of the songs I sometimes play while people are resting in savasana. These songs also happen to be the ones most asked about after class. Enjoy.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Company You Keep....

I was cooking last weekend for friends at my home. I LOVE to cook and cooking for friends is absolutely one of my most favorite things to do. I used to cook for a living, but once I started having babies, working weekends and evenings was no longer in the cards. So now I am content to cook at home for family and friends. I have a dear friend Maria who trained and worked as a chef and occasionally she and I will plan an extravagant dinner just to dust off old skills and play ideas off of each other.

At this particular dinner party I had two of my dear friends Brian Lewis and his lovely wife Dana.  My friend Melissa (who was coming to dinner) asked me if I was nervous to cook for Brian. The reason being...Brian is a world- class, well known chef about to open his own restaurant. My answer: "No." I then stated, "It's Brian."

Now the reason I say this is because Brian is in a word, gracious. He has more talent in his little finger than I do in my entire body and he has work experience that is in a word...amazing. (Seriously, look up the dude's bio.) Brian walked into my home thrilled to be there, eager to eat and happy to help.  He loved everything I made, was very complimentary and let me say this, if you are doing a dinner party, it is nice to have a high caliber sous-chef at your side. After we ate, he even helped my husband do the dishes.

When you surround yourself with those who are coming from a place of grace, your life will be much more full. I am not talking about surrounding yourself with sycophants who will agree with everything you say (or compliment everything you cook). I am talking about people who see the beauty and flavor in things rather than looking to criticize.

Whether I am cooking for a top chef or teaching an amazing teacher, I have to realize that their own experience will be colored not just by what I bring to the table (or the mat), but by what their own attitude is towards the offering. Passion for what we love and experience should come from a heartfelt place.

If you you walk in expecting grace, you usually won't be disappointed. If you surround yourself with others who feel the same way, that grace radiates. Brian sent me a text the next day telling me that I shined. I have carried that compliment with me for days and even talked about it in meditation. That compliment came from an authentic heartfelt place and I felt it. I have been more conscious of complimenting others from a heartfelt place because of it.

Chef Brian Lewis will be opening his restaurant Elm in New Canaan. The website is here: I am lucky to have Brian's friendship (and Dana's xxoo) not only because he is an amazing chef, but because, he is a gracious friend.

You are the company you keep, so keep good company.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Blessing in the Conversation (on AND off of the mat)

Since the article which started the firestorm of emotion within the western yoga community, I have been asked quite a bit for my opinion. I think I covered that in the last post, but I have been thinking about the practice OFF of the mat. One of the things I say in class is that we practice embodying heart qualities in HERE so we can take the same qualities out THERE...into the big bad world where life gets messy.

It often happens when someone will come up to me after a class and tell me that the theme I had chosen for that day's class was exactly what they needed to hear. It has certainly happened to me enough times when a teacher has said something that resonated with me so strongly I walked away chewing on it for several days. I think when you come to practice with an open heart, you are more apt to listen and take things in from a place of softness. I listen better, basically to receive whatever is offered in the "Great Conversation" as my friend Loren calls it.

Before I wrote my last post I received a letter from a friend of my Mom's, Abby. Abby is a yoga teacher in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  She also went through what I consider the absolute worst thing in the world a human being can experience. Abby lost a child.

I am lucky to spend a week every year visiting my parents and taking classes with the Ponte Vedra Beach Kula. I had known about the accident and was so deeply saddened. I wanted to do something, but felt that it would be presumptuous to reach out to someone I did not know very well. I have a small book with reflections on Grace. I asked my mother to please give it to Abby and tell her that I was thinking of her and her family.

I received this email a few days ago. I was deeply touched and I asked her permission to post it.


Happy New Year! I heard you and the boys had a wonderful time with your parents over the holidays. I wanted to tell you a story about the opening up to grace book you gave me a while back. 

I went to synagogue this week-end with my husband. I was raised Jewish, he Catholic, though we regularly go to synagogue in PV because of our close relationship with the Rabbi there. It is custom during every service that you say a prayer for the deceased. It is called Kaddish and it comes at the end of the service. Another tradition is to say aloud the names of those dear that have passed on. This is relative to the Holocaust, when people no longer were recognized and acknowledged by their names, but by a number. There is no sweeter word, believe me, than to hear the name of your loved one that is no longer here.

Well, before the Kaddish prayer, our Rabbi asks us if anyone would like to read a passage from the prayer book that we use. There are about 12 prayers reflecting on passing, love lost, etc...
I ALWAYS carry my book with me from you, so I asked to read one of the passages. It was the following:

None of us is exempt from sorrow, hardships, and storms of living. Not the amassing of fortune or friends, or even good deeds exempt us. The most we can wish for is the abundance of grace, the possession of faith in the fundamental goodness of the world, the healing presence and power of love, and the strength of heart and character to handle what will inevitably arrive from time to time to try us.....

Courtney, thank you for the book. There was a family there with a very fresh grief and they came to me after to tell me how much that passage meant. My Rabbi came and told me how moving it was. I was glad to bring some peace to those that are desperately in need of it.
Blessings and love,


Yoga means yoke, or union. We are all here to listen better, support one another from a place of grace and loving kindness. We continue this great conversation, giving and receiving authentically and it grows. How you live your life and participate in the conversation, both sharing AND listening is part of the practice. You might fall in class. Hopefully you pick yourself up and continue without letting your ego or fear get in the way and listen to your body and inhale and exhale and move forward. When we fall in life, hopefully yoga helps us do the same off of the mat. Hopefully we are more empowered to support others, in and out of the Kula, when they might need it. 

Thank you, Abby, for allowing me to share this. Thank you for sharing your blessings and contributions to the "conversation" with those in and out of class. You remind me why I practice.