Filling the Empty Space in my Bookshelf…Visionaries Wanted

I have a special shelf dedicated to books written by important people in my life. Some were written by mentors, like Dr. Stan Lemons’ collection and Dr. Brenda Meehan Waters, both among of the best of academics, and others by close friends.

They have all impacted me.

One of Dr. Lemon’s books afforded me the opportunity to first see my name in print. I was given the great honor of doing what turned out to be my first editing job, and he credited me in the acknowledgments.  It was the nearest thing to getting a Pulitzer and feeling like a professional historian at the same time.

I also have a book Holy Women of Russia by Professor Brenda Meehan, not only one of the best scholars of Russian history, but a holy person herself. She has passed, but our time together taught me so much more than Russian history. She was one of those people who radiated goodness and spirituality–she made everyone around her feel a little closer to God–like they wanted to live out that experience in their own lives.

Larry Hudson, another historian extraordinaire was my faculty in residence freshman year. I didn’t actually read his books or pay attention to him as a historian until I emerged years later as a graduate student. I discovered he was the authority in his field. Undergrads aren’t very sophisticated about these things.

I went back and apologized. I devoured his books. Larry taught me two lessons–one, the existence of the field of historiography. He was a British scholar of the American Civil War who happened to be of African descent. He discussed the American Revolution very differently than I’d heard before.  I didn’t know what historiography was, but I knew that what he was saying about perspective mattered. These are lessons I use every day in teaching and in life–lessons that resonate in everything I do in the classroom.

Through these experiences with my historian mentors, I learned to pay attention to people more–some of the most understated people in my life have been the biggest visionaries. We’re not equipped to appreciate this at 18, but I’m humbled by it now.

This has been a year of blessings. I have met and reconnected with some true thought leaders and visionaries that have become good friends. I have rediscovered my own vision in the process.

I started to notice my “Friends’ Bookshelf” expanding this year. My college friend Kamal Ravikant finished his first book, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. It’s helped a lot of people. I had read it on Kindle, but he sent me a signed paperback. It went on my “Friends'” shelf.

Then, I went to Claudia and James Altucher’s retreat at Kripalu after being assured yoga would survive my ineptitude. Claudia gave me a copy of her book, 21 Things to Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice and James included his I Was Blind and Now I See, both of which I had read and loved on Kindle as well, but now had a physical presence on the Friends’ Bookshelf.

But I noticed something…

There’s a space on that shelf.  There’s a space where the skinny books tip against the historical epics, leaving a pyramid of space that can only be filled with a book or two more.

I noticed the one book that was missing on my Friends’ Bookshelf.


I never thought I could write a book like Larry Hudson or Stan Lemons. These scholarly narratives take years of research, funding, and the letters “Ph.D” after a name. But what about the rest–Kamal, Claudia, and James write about experiences, about truth.  They write from the heart about their passions and experiences. They’re not 500 page epics–they’re shorter, simpler–the truth as they see it and share it with me.

So, as I see my “Friends’ Bookshelf” and I notice the space where the historical epics keep the tipping books on truth at bay, I see the space for my own truth. Maybe it’s half-finished, in disarray, sitting on a desktop calling out. But it is what it is. The truth is never perfect. It does not always set us free, and it’s not always a shining beacon of hope–but it’s the truth.

The difference between great thinkers–visionaries–and the rest of us, is that they share their simple truth and execute on ideas. Some are great ideas, others–not so great. And they learn from those. They share their truths with the universe.

And so I’m considering, as I look at the empty space on my shelf, the one big enough to support one more truth, that we should all share our truth.  That perhaps it’s time to share mine.


How Technology is Changing the World–No Oxford Comma???

I’m drinking coffee and reviewing social media. I love when there’s an honest to goodness conversation unfolding on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t get those deep conversations in person as much anymore–the “college type” where we sat all night putting off papers some grad assistant from another country would be forced to read while we discussed the deeper meaning of life–talking about things that mattered, building relationships that still remain. The types of conversations I have with my lifelong friend, who suffers from the same “mental chaos” that I have, where seven conversations swirl around at once, no one single thread emerging, all mysteries until each of them resolve like a manuscript of short stories which got tossed on the floor and then reordered.

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 5.42.48 AMThis morning’s social media had two excellent conversations. The first one was about grammar. I posted an article by way of apology to my famous sister (she is the Mary Casey of this brief) on the issue of spacing after a period. She has repeatedly reminded me to use only one space typing at the end of a sentence. Am I that big a nerd that I can bring out ten or so of the biggest grammar guns on two coasts to discuss whether we should have one or two spaces after a period, and whether the Oxford comma should still be in use? I believe that I am. Writers, Ivy Leaguers and innovators all discussing a space at the end of the sentence. That’s deep. Cliff Clavin just called to congratulate me.

The second conversation was my friend’s “Should I change my Twitter handle?” I never cared about such things before–I came into the Twittersphere late, but now that I’m here nothing impresses me more than someone whose handle is their initials. Or better yet, one letter.  Wow, you really are a “g.” Or @G to be more precise.  Amazing.

That’s almost like the fight over license plates in the State of Rhode Island. The first time I went to the RI DMV, the person said, “Honey, what initials would you like?” What plate would I like? The one you give me, I guess.  Turns out in Rhode Islanders must have their initials. People pass down low-numbered and initialed plates in their wills. No joke. There were no “DC’s” available. She was waiting for my panic. Because she was the only DMV person who ever cared about my feelings, I gave her an answer. “I’ll take OM.”  Ohm wasn’t in my name, but I figured I’d at least get some good driving karma.

I bet Rhode Islanders would be good on Twitter. It’s a small state; we can fit it in 140 characters or less.

Technology has changed so much of what I do and the process in which I do it.  I can’t even make a phone call anymore. I was needed on a phone call one day. “I’ll put you in his calendar.” I counter-offered. “How about you tell him to call me, and when he calls…I’ll answer.”  Laughter on the other end. Hysterical laughter. Watching Louis CK after a couple of beers laughter.

The world is changing. No Oxford comma? No double space? No simple phone call? I am a history person by trade–Maybe the world of education really is that far behind. I sought out my college friend Heather to investigate. When you’re friends with someone for so long, they’ll tell you the truth. “Oh, Dawn…you are so, not…corporate.  Of course you need to calendar in a phone call.”

But I was “corporate.” I used to call attorneys on a regular basis and negotiate stuff. If I didn’t like the person, I’d wait till I knew they were out and info-bomb their voicemail. That’s what email does for us today–cuts out the pleasantries, I guess.

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 5.45.45 AMAnd so, I’ve gone to the Other Side.  I just calendared in a phone call for later today, filed emails in several boxes in accordance with their importance, and am resolving two tasks from my pop-up reminder list. I guess it’s nice that Google and my iPhone combine forces to deal with my “mental chaos” and chime me into a state of obedient productivity.

And it’s definitely good that the world of education is catching up–tomorrow, I’m going to go on a site visit to a really progressive school to get some inspiration. I know this, because my calendar just chimed in to remind me.

But I will not, I repeat, will not–give up my Oxford comma.

[Image: and]

I Was Born in the Ice Age: Conversation While Walking Into the Library

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 4.09.47 PM“Mommy, you forgot your phone. ” I left it plugged in resting on the center console.

“Thank you, Declan.”I said, turning off the streaming Pandora and unplugging it from the cord. “Do you know, when I was your age, they didn’t have phones like this.”

“What did they have?” It was a fair question.

“They had phones that were hung on the wall like pictures. They had chords on them. You had to stand near the wall and talk on the phone. You had to dial numbers in a circle.” I said.

“Oh,” he said, crinkling his face trying to imagine talking on a picture attached to the wall. Maybe it was like an iPod or that fake flat-screen fish tank at the hairdressers.

“And they didn’t have email.” I added

“How did you get your email, Mommy?” he inquired.

“There was no email. We had letters on paper. With stamps. The mailman brought them.” Today, our mailman brings boxes from Sometimes they even contain something cool for him.

“Wo!” he said, stopping in his tracks. I pulled his arm toward the library. You can’t just stand in the middle of the parking lot contemplating cave men.

“But the biggest thing – we didn’t have computers, or DVDs, or video games.”Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 4.14.15 PM

“WHAT?” he said. “Who took your video games?”

“No one. They weren’t invented.” He looked at me like my students do when I tell them the only video gaming system I have ever personally owned is Pong, and in my day we only had one pair of sneakers.

“No! Now I think you’re lying – that’s just crazy!!” he said.

He paused. I never lie. I was telling the truth. “What did you play then, Mommy?”

“Games,” I said. “Board games.”

“You were bored?” he asked.

“No, we played board games. With boards and pieces, like Candy Land.”  We play a lot of Candy Land. I hustle him on a regular basis. I don’t let him win just because he’s five unless I need the game to end sooner than expected.

“Games? Like chess and Sorry?” We started chess about six months ago after he watched Mike the Knight.  I hustle him in chess, too.

“Games. Like chess and Sorry  and checkers.” I didn’t want to leave any out.

“And sometimes, if it was really boring, I had to play with uncle Dan.”

“You played with Uncle Dan?” Uncle Dan’s a hero. I must have been really, really lucky to have been able to play with Uncle Dan on a regular basis. Like having a rock star for your dad.

“I played with Uncle Dan. But I didn’t like to play with Uncle Dan, because he only wanted to play trucks. And he bit me.” Sometimes you have to dispel the hero myth.

“What about Aunt Mary?”

“She wasn’t born yet. And then she was a baby. She couldn’t play. Besides, I only liked to read books.” Babies don’t read books. And they don’t like to hear books without pictures. They rip them.

“Wo!! I don’t think I would like that at all.” Reading books. Phones stuck to walls. Uncle Dan biting. No video games–a nightmare.

“Did you tell me the truth or did you see that in a movie?”

All this is beyond the comprehension of a five-year old much like understanding the inner workings of Stephen Hawking’s mind is beyond mine. I am old.

I may be old, but I’m amazed. I feel young–it seems like yesterday that we saw our first computer. We went to my friend Jen’s house and programmed, “My brother is a moron,” in endless DOS loops that extended from the first line into infinity. Now I complain if it takes a full second for a website to load when the reality is I have the Library of Congress at my fingertips. I’m going to a site visit at a school next week, and while I’m gone I’ve arranged to have a hologram of me teaching my class. Before, I’d have needed to request a real flesh and blood substitute teacher. Technology is a miracle indeed.

It only takes the face of an incredulous five-year old for whom any of this is way beyond comprehension to make me see how miraculous all of this is.


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Being a Stepmom: The Largest Challenge of Life

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 10.11.20 PM

[Note: I wrote this for a friend, may she have some peace, and got permission from The Girl to post. Thank you for your kind permission:) ] 

There’s no support group for stepmoms. There should be—society hates us. We are always the bad guy.  We are the evil witch. Disney hates us, cartoons hate us, and the world sees us as inferior to real moms. Even in cases where the “real mom” makes the choice not to do what real moms are supposed to do and we step in and get the job done.

You never see a Hollywood blockbuster where the stepmom’s the hero—where the real mom doesn’t show and the stepmom goes to all the school meetings, picks up from sports, makes sure there is food, birthday parties, checks the homework and wipes up the tears because mom isn’t there. Or where the stepmom covers for the mom who kept promising to visit—telling the child mom has complications in her life—that adults have complications, too. That mom loves her, but just isn’t ready to be a mom. And that you are very, very sorry, but would it be okay to have some ice cream together instead?

No one wants ice cream with stepmoms at times like this.

There is no right answer to tell a child when her mom is not tucking her into bed—when it has to be you instead. The stepmom. The Woman Who Can Never Be Mom.

Sometimes the Real Mom is great, but things just weren’t so great when she was married to Dad. And so the splitting of weeks and days and holidays begins. The splitting of Dad with the stepmom. And it’s all…her…fault.

Stepmoms know that. The best ones try so very hard to fill both voids. They make a happy marriage, create a blended family and run backup for Mom. They fight the ghosts of marriage one with the best smile they can muster. Only they never get credit. They get anger that the void was there in the first place, and that things didn’t work out in that fairy tale way that they are supposed to unfold.

And so the stepmom gets the poison apple. The poison apples of resentment, of arguments, of fights, and cold shoulders. We, who have been busy baking cookies, tying shoes and finishing school projects, get punished for crimes we don’t commit.

How does a stepmom survive?

The answer is simple. Love. Forgiveness. Understanding. Nothing less. Nothing more. It can’t be demanded, it can’t be bought. It may not come right away. You are watering a seed that divorce has thrown on hostile ground. In weeds. In a crack in the sidewalk. In the shade. You continue to water this seed. Someday it will grow. And you hope it will bloom while you’re there to see it.

And one day…maybe…you might get a “thank you.” Or you will be told first of an important event. You will be invited to a function. You will overhear nice things being said about you to The Friends. You will be called in to pick up the pieces during the first breakup before Real Mom or Dad. Or, maybe in casual conversation, you will be—accidentally—called, “Mom.”

The secret though, is to learn not to take it personally. This is the hardest part of all. Because it’s all extremely personal.

Society will always paint us with the image of evil. But the truth is, it should do the opposite. We have these children because we chose them. Many people walk away. We could have walked away—we didn’t choose the simplest route. We chose a man and married a family. And we do the best we can to make that family as joyful as we can, despite the trauma of divorce or even death or departure of a beloved parent.

And that is all we can do.  We take solace in the fact that we are doing it right, even if no one quite agrees….today.


Fighting Bad Guys Saves The World

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.26.47 AMI’m sitting here trying to clean off my desk so I won’t be tempted to bring this computer on my yoga retreat. But The Boy Who Doesn’t Sleep got up early. That’s what he does. He zeroes in on my productive energy using it as a beacon to show up by my side.  I wouldn’t mind this so much if he disturbed me when I was disturbing myself–like when I am browsing nonsense failing to get any work done, but today, I organized and cleaned out my inbox, wrote two articles, banged out a chunk of a project and thought about finishing up what I’m doing for quarter three, because midterm exams at school are almost over.

That is an expansive chunk of productivity for my mind.

“Mommy, come on.  Sit on the couch with me.” Here’s where the good parent fights the bad parent for supremacy. I want to cuddle, but I need to finish this pile.  And technically, I’ve gotten up early to do so–he’s invading my space.

“Can I work while we sit together?” Chances are good that I don’t want to watch any of his cartoons, but perhaps I can appear interested in them. Kill two birds with one monitor.

“You can bring your little computer. You have to sit with me.” Sounds like a compromise the UN could learn from.

Now…to choose a show…Invariably, there will be nothing he wants to watch when I am trying to work. He rejected the usual lineup.

“What’s that word?” he said as I paged through the listings. He must now read every word.  This slows down progress anytime we pass road signs, walk down an aisle in a grocery store, and it’s killing my ability to censor TV.  He can now read the letters which unite to form the greatest evil, “Sponge Bob,” and he finds all the other shows I either personally despise or do not think are developmentally appropriate for a kindergartener. I used to skip by them. Now…”Not so fast!”

Today, he found Power Rangers.

“We don’t need to watch these–how about Max and Ruby?” Max and Ruby are two bunnies who solve little problems without parental supervision. That’s exciting.

“No, Mommy, I like Power Rangers.”  Well, since I don’t put them on, that’s a mystery. “What about Power Rangers do you like?” I inquired.

“Well, they fight to save the world. Just like Po fights to save China.”  Kung Fu Panda does indeed fight to save China, but also results in a hefty dose of me getting punched in the gut or kicked in the knee. I am not so amused by that.

But alas, it’s time…

Time to have this discussion–Declan has just started to attend karate class. His sister is his primary instructor now–teaching martial arts has been our business for years, and is, in fact, the way I met my husband. We have handed down the instruction to the next generation of teachers while my husband works on adult fitness and kickboxing and I work on teaching and not being the suckiest mom in the world.

I believe in the lessons of martial arts, from the self-confidence and physical fitness, to the actual history and development of the arts themselves. I love the great philosophers, and Zen masters. And I can rationalize fighting to save the world. The job of every great martial artist in history was to kill–that’s what warriors do. They weren’t always the best men. When I apply the strategies of Sun Tsu or Musashi to my life I realize that they developed these thoughts to avoid being wiped off the planet. Sun Tsu was perhaps the greatest strategic general and Musashi the best swordsman that ever lived. Generals and swordsmen fight and kill.

I’m using them for peace and strategy–that’s my problem. Their job was to avoid being killed. End of story.  Musashi never would have said, “Now, here’s how you deal with corporate raiders on Wall Street.” It is we who bastardize the history to make those connections. In truth, I sort of like the Zen connections. They inspire me.

Being a Gandhi-loving pacifist and a martial artist must seem like a paradox. This is deep philosophy. And it now time to discuss the intersection of peace with crusading for justice with Declan because he is done with little kid TV and trying to sneak in the superheroes and action ‘toons at every opportunity.

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.28.28 AMSo, right now, at this moment, I’m busy relearning my Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, and how Po saves China from bad guys.  I am being told that it’s okay to fight to save the world from bad guys, and I’m trying to get a handle on what a bad guy is in the mind of a kindergartener.  I’ve learned that you can always tell a bad guy because they’re like monsters, sometimes they eat your brains and they are ugly. I’ll remember this if I’m walking down the street. I’ve met bad guys before, and they always took me off guard because I didn’t know these critical facts.

Maybe now that I’m taking the time to watch these shows and listen to my resident expert on bad guys, I’ll have an easier time keeping peace and order in my life–staying away from evil and all. I’d much rather think that this is what I’m doing right now rather than caving in to my hatred of the TV so I can get some work done.

[images: and hipsterdad’]

Kletzmer Music, The Farmer’s Market, and Rebuilding Rhode Island

photoI love the farmer’s market. I feel comfortable. There are people like me at farmer’s markets. There are people with canvas bags, no doubt tons of vegetarians, and older parents.  That makes me smile because though I feel young at heart, and I hate it when I’m the only parent around that remembers the Reagan administration.  I love sitting with people who dress their children in colors from the 70’s, including stripes, dots, and patterns in one outfit. I feel at home.

This weekend at the farmer’s market, we were lucky. We got a front row bench to the band playing in the corner–usually it’s a bluegrass trio or Celtic music, both of which I love, but this time we got somewhat of a treat–Kletzmer music. A group called Ezekiel’s Wheels out of Boston, some of whom, I learned, were financing grad school, and a couple of whom were full-time professional musicians.

I love Kletzmer music. It’s entrancing. It makes me feel a combination of emotions all in the space of one song that few other types of music evoke. It’s the only music that can sound joyful even in the minor key.

I think Declan thought so, too.  Irish music holds his attention for a little while, within limits, probably because you are supposed to get a beer. It’s in the Irish Rulebook. Kletzmer kept him hypnotized and dancing for an hour and a half–a world’s record for a kid who flits around faster than the thoughts in my brain.

As soon as the first song ended, he said, “THAT IS THE UGLIEST GUITAR!” I bent down to shush him as soon as I heard the word “ugly,” because I didn’t want a repeat of past public incidents like the “Why is your nose so big?” scandal or the more horrific “Why are you so fat?”  But it was too late–he bolted away toward the quartet. He stopped in front of the bass player with wonder in his eyes.  “That’s a funny guitar.”

“It’s a stand-up bass,” the musician informed him.

I thought that was a good answer. There was another parent there. An older parent.  His little person was dancing too. “Ahhhh!” she shrieked.

“What’s that?” He said, “Right, it is a stand up bass.”  I didn’t want to argue, but there is no way that “Ahhhh!” coming from a pre-verbal child translates to “Daddy, that’s a stand up bass,” any more than Declan’s original applause at the scales played by the fiddle player and clarinetist meant, “Mommy! I love those arpeggios!” But alas, we older parents are ever so hopeful our child will be the next Einstein or Yo Yo Ma. In this economy, it’s our only retirement plan.

By the third song, Declan had forged a solid relationship with the fiddle player, Jonathan, a grad student at BU who Declan apparently booked for his bar mitzvah. Then, being informed he is not Jewish he converted on the spot, reciting half the Torah so that in just seven or eight short years he can have a bar mitzvah and get a fiddle of his own.

The amazing part to watch both as a smiling parent and a failed musician was that the boy really got the emotion of the music–during the slow pieces, he stomped around like a dinosaur, and said, “Mommy, this is sad.” During the fast songs, he was a five-year old whirling dervish spinning toward the heavens reminding me that music truly touches the soul at all ages.

photo copy 3By the end of the farmer’s market, I’d scored ten pounds of B-grade apples and a nice cup of New Harvest Roaster’s “Steamroller Blend,” which, I might add, though delicious, certainly required a “you will move faster today” warning label.  I enjoyed a spinach-feta crepe from The Creperie, a fantastic local restaurant that can turn anything into a flat pancake and have you asking for more.

Declan stuck with the standard fare–kettle corn and a cupcake, both of which had the nutrition police lurking, I’m sure, but a kid needs to keep up his energy to dance and contemplate a career in Kletzmer. He confirmed that he still wants to be a paleontologist, but he does like “this music.” Maybe if Kletzmer had been around, the dinosaurs would have been happier, and a few would have made it–who knows. That will be his job to find out.

There are a couple more weekends of indoor Winter Farmer’s Market, and then we move outdoors for the season of mud and planting. This year, I’ll be busy planting my own large sustainable enterprise. But moments like these will bring me back to the farmer’s market, not just for the musicians, but for the sense of adventure and community–to support the people who made their products for me, who came out to play for me, who fished for me, and grew vegetables for me.  It’s the sense of community in a world where we sometimes forget about such things that keeps me coming back for more.

It’s nice to see Rhode Island building that community once again–it’s definitely gaining momentum here–the small businesses growing, the family farms gaining prestige, the entrepreneurs coming into the state;  I’m glad we’re putting Rhode Island back on the map. I can see it more and more clearly every day–Startup Weekends, storefronts filling, and businesses like my husband’s expanding. It will be nice to see this trend continue. It’s even nicer seeing Rhode Islanders support it with such enthusiasm.

My ultimate goal is that we can sustain this sense of community–where everyone supports each other and takes a moment to chat and smile at places like the farmer’s market, and we all stop and enjoy the music. That is what I find at these markets. And it truly is magic.

Why I Will Turn Myself into a Human Pretzel

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 6.58.57 AMI’m going on a yoga retreat.

First off I don’t “do yoga.”  At first, I declined–this isn’t just yoga, it’s a weekend of yoga–a weekend of quietly turning my energies inward, getting rid of the clutter in my brain, and getting in touch with myself. Or at least getting my leg in touch with the backside of my head and turning myself into a human pretzel while I practice shutting up.

I was speaking with a friend.  “I’m thinking of going to this.”

“You should go.” I had a hundred excuses to avoid going at all costs, but I was honored by the invitation, and so I considered it.

“What about Declan?” My husband promptly agreed that he could care for The Boy–he didn’t have any traveling that weekend, and there would be no problem–my husband’s a big fan of anything that will sort the clutter in my brain and/or promote my inner or outer quiet.

“It’s a whole weekend away. It’ll be expensive.” The next day, I got my check in the mail from work, and an email followed, “I paid you for an extra couple hours, because you did all this extra work.” Excuse two down the drain.

“I don’t have yoga stuff.”  I don’t really know what “yoga stuff” is, but whatever it was, I didn’t have it. My sister called. She’s a yogi. The only other yogi I know other than her is “The Bear” and I knew I didn’t need a picnic basket.

“Oh, I’m bringing you up my other yoga mat and some stuff.”  And she did–she gave me her second favorite yoga mat because I “wouldn’t know the difference anyway,” and didn’t deserve the favorite one. She also gave me a pair of yoga pants. Running pants, I’m told, aren’t the same.

So, I threw my last objection out there in vain, all my silly excuses having been promptly dispelled. “Will they have any food for me?”

That was the granddaddy of the dumb questions–I’m a firm believer that there is such a thing as a stupid question and I had just asked one.  A retreat full of vegetarians at the Kripalu Yoga Center must have vegetarian food. I looked it up. Yes, indeed–a veritable feast of vegetables waiting for reincarnation onto my plate.  They had vegetables on the menu that only I and the yoga people have heard of–those are some serious vegetables. They also had “restorative food,” too, but there’s no need to go that far.  And they even had dessert. I’m not exactly how exactly “Kripalu’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie” made it to the menu–It’s probably made of chick peas and carob or something, but at least it’s there.

And so, yoga it is.  I was honored to have been included in the invitation–to have been thought of highly enough of to receive a few emails cajoling me to go, even after I stated my initial concerns, because friends know when you need a bit of a drop kick to get you moving.  One assured me the yoga wouldn’t kill me–if he could do yoga, so could I.  The second said simply, “I wish I could go.  You should go. Money’s not important, having experiences–that’s the most valuable thing.”

He was right. I’ve spent much of my life having excuses to not have experiences–to avoid taking risks and chances. I can think of ten right now–not taking jobs overseas, failing to following through on joining the Marine Corps, failing to travel, keeping safe jobs even when I realized I didn’t love them. There are a ton more. This past year has been a year of analyzing that trait, a quality that far too many of us use as a crutch, and getting out there having new experiences and building new, positive relationships.

Experiences and relationships are the most valuable things. This is about both.

Truth be told, the reason I resisted going was because I was playing it safe.  How often do we all do that–it wasn’t that I felt I couldn’t do yoga. I am sure I can. I’ve studied years of martial arts, and healing arts which included similar philosophies and movements. Martial arts originated from India, and many of the overlapping healing arts I have studied involving internal energy, meridians, and other deep concepts superimpose themselves nicely into the thinking of yoga, because that is, in fact, either directly or indirectly depending on the art, their origin.

I’ve read many great Indian thinkers, read the sacred texts, and even know a few words in Sanskrit from these texts or from watching Bollywood movies–I’m not sure which.  I can do yoga, and I’m not afraid of failure. I have patience to learn new things. That wasn’t my sticking point.

It was the initial objection the inner self makes when we try to do anything new. It happens every day. It’s what holds us back in all areas of our lives if we stop to think about it.

Additionally, I was afraid I’d like yoga, and then what would I do? In my new house in the forest there is most certainly no yoga.

So, I set about preparing.  I read the book, “21 Things to Know Before Starting an Asthanga Yoga Practice” written by the retreat’s instructor, Claudia Altucher. It was meant for people considering the study of Astanga Yoga. I suspected that might be me–my mind had opened itself to the possibility that I might not be going to say hello, kill vegetables, reflect and relax, and regain my mental balance before I self-immolate, but that the yoga part would actually be something of interest to me.  I might like it.  What if I liked it?

The book actually addressed that. “You can study on your own.” Claudia compiled a list of resources for people studying on their own advising to, “Find a good teacher as soon as you can.” She went on to say something to the effect that this is an internal practice, and we must practice on our own anyway, and that touring instructors make it possible to get correction and inspiration when we need it.

Okay, so I have yoga stuff, I have been invited, I got the Friday off from work to go, and I am very much looking forward to the trip. I’m trying to get ahead on work now so I can leave this computer at home where it belongs, on my desk, not at a yoga retreat, and I will drive off away from the sunrise into the Berkshires on Friday morning.

I mentioned this to my partner in crime with whom I am doing some projects, “Yoga retreat? You should go to a place called Kripalu. My wife and I used to go all the time, then we had kids.” he said.

Apparently everyone is a secret yogi. Maybe I will become one too.