Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Goldilocks Was On To Something

First published by a British poet in 1837, the story of Goldilocks is over 175 years old! Easy to dismiss because of its age as well as its status as a children's fairytale, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears has a lot to offer. Did you know that the Goldilocks Principle is a metaphor used by astro-biologists to explain the narrow margins of acceptable climatology required to sustain life as we know it? Cognitive scientist and developmental psychologists use it to explain the cognitive capacity of infants. Even economists use this principle to explain economic growth patterns of moderation and inflation. Yes, all of these situations require a climate that is "just right" for optimal, sustainable results.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Goldilocks perplexity is that we are not privy to the experience of her choice (or anyone else's for that matter!). We know that she found a bowl of porridge that was not too hot and not too cold. She found a bowl of porridge that was just right...for her. We know the bed she chose was not too hard and not too soft. She found a bed that was just right...for her. I'd say Goldilocks was a self-actualized woman who knew what she wanted! And this is the heart of the story for me.

Imagine a yoga class filled with different shapes, sizes and abilities. It is an evening class and all participants have come to class carrying various aspects of their day and their life with them onto their mats. The woman in the corner has a shoulder injury from playing a sport in high school. The shoulder healed well enough, but still bothers her in certain positions. The man in the front of the room is a runner with a self-limiting knee problem that only hurts when he kneels for too long, which he is willing to do to maintain the perfect pose. And the student on the mat by the door walked in late because she stayed a few minutes later at work trying to tie up loose ends and then decided to try to make yoga class instead and then sat at an extra long light on her way to the studio. Distracted and flustered, she tries to become present. She usually takes advanced positions in every pose but today she feels tired, overworked and preoccupied.

The instructor invites the class into triangle pose. What does this pose look like with a shoulder injury? What does this pose mean for a knee issue? How does this pose feel for an overworked and distracted student? This is the moment when Goldilocks guides the way.

The instructor guides your practice but is not privy to your experience as you flow into and out of each pose. You must decide on the expression of a pose that is just right...for you.  Not too much effort, yet not too little effort, either. We are searching for what feels just right physically, mentally and emotionally. This changes from day to day and from pose to pose. What felt good yesterday or last year may not be the answer for today's practice. We are dynamic individuals. We flow in and out of circumstances just like our practice flows in and out of poses. Each position offers an opportunity to realize what we need right now as opposed to what we "usually do" or what we "should do."

If we are too rigid in our practice we become rigid with ourselves or with others. If we are too flexible in our practice we may become too flexible with ourselves or with others. Neither of these situations is optimal or sustainable. Both can lead to injury. There is a middle ground - that sweet spot that is "just right." The practice is to find what is just right for you, in  your practice and in your life.


Friday, March 7, 2014

The Blame Game

You know those  people? The ones that bug you with their…habits? The ones that really get under your skin? The ones that you just wish would go away? Would the world be a better place without them? Would your blood pressure be lower if they weren't around? Would your day be brighter without having to deal with that other guy? If everyone else wasn't in your way?


When you point your finger away from yourself, you'd better be looking in a mirror.

What we see surrounding us, what we see in the actions of others is a direct reflection of what we see and feel about ourselves. This can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes. How can the rude woman on her phone in the checkout line reflect how I feel about myself? Well, we could begin by looking at the assumptions we are making as to why she is using her phone. Perhaps her child is sick. Maybe her dog just got hit by a car. This call could be urgent.

"No,"comes your retort,"I've just heard her talking about what happened last night on the latest episode of (insert reality tv show here)." Again, question your assumptions. How are you judging her choice of entertainment? Why does it matter to you how a complete stranger spends their free time? And why are you listening to her conversation so closely? What do the answers to these questions say about you? Growth happens one question at a time.

Are you getting the hang of this? Let's look at another common scenario; well, common to me: dinner time.

You've planned all of the meals for the week. You've made a list of the needed ingredients. You've inconveniently hiked the kids through the grocery store on a weekday evening out of necessity to fill an empty fridge. You've had to promise them to look at toys or purchase treats to reward their good behavior as you trudge under glaring fluorescent lights, amongst rows of sugary, salty snacks that leave your kids begging for their purchase. Your "No, honey. Lets keep going" grows sharper and less accommodating with each plea for Go-Gurt and Goldfish crackers. And you haven't even gotten to the milk. Or the bread. Or the eggs. Stuck in the middle somewhere, you head towards the toy aisle early because the hour is getting late. And the subsequent meal - tacos again because they are a family favorite - is the result of this previous drudgery.

Planned, prepared and placed on the table. Getting cold. Waiting for your partner to get home. Even though your agreed-upon schedule suggests an ETA around 5pm, even though this tardiness is commonplace in your home, even though you've planned dinner for 5:30 "just in case," you are still surprised, shocked and hurt when he arrives at 5:40.

How can a partner's inconsiderate attitude towards timeliness be a fault of your own?

The situations in which we find ourselves are the result of the choices we've made up to this moment. Have you set aside time to tell your partner about your struggle with their lack of time management skills? Or have you only expressed your animosity with a sharp look and a sharp tongue? Do they know that behind your resentful stare is a well of tears? And digging deeper still, we find the strength to ask why we accept this treatment from the one we love. What does this say about our compassion and understanding for ourselves and for what we need? Why have you placed yourself in the center of someone else's life rather than at the center of your own?

I stuggle with this oscillation of looking out in order to look within. When I stare into the mirror I come face to face with all that I am. The reflections are a compass pointing to a road map for growth. Those who I meet along the way are reminders of where I am going, where I have been and where I find myself now. We truly are one.

So the question is, "where do you want to go?" and "how are your experiences affecting your journey to get there?"

 Happy hiking.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Yoga Class in Grand Forks!

It is always exciting when more yoga is offered. Here is information about a new yoga class to begin in March. It is a FREE event with a good will offering encouraged. Here is what you need to know:

Blue Door Gallery Presents: 

Vinyasa Yoga Levels 1 & 2

Instructed by Shylah Schauer 

March 9, 2014

| Blue Door Gallery Presents: Vinyasa Yoga | Levels 1 & 2 | Instructed by Shylah Schauer | 
We're proud to announce a series of yoga classes to be taking place at the Blue Door Gallery and Studio, instructed by Shylah Schauer.

There is no charge for this event, although a donation is encouraged. Session size is limited to a maximum size of 12, so please RSVP on the Blue Door Gallery Facebook page or email esc.artist.collective@gmail.com 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sankalpa

Ahhh, the new year - a time for change. As we usher in the first day of the new calendar year the slate is clean and opportunities abound. A fresh start with resolve. What resolutions are you making at the start of this new year? Join a gym (and use it)? Drink less alcohol? Lose some weight? Eat less fast food? Here is another question: What do these resolutions say about you? What is the focus of each one?

If you are like most people who are making resolutions, the focus is on what is wrong and, hence, what you resolve to "fix" about yourself over the next 12 months. How is that for a fresh start? It is like saying,"Hello fresh, clean slate! Here is a list of all of the things that are wrong with me that I intend to change." Hmmm…lets think about that for a moment.

One of the mantras that I hold dear goes like this:

Begin as you intend to go on.

When we make a list of resolutions that point out what is wrong with us we begin negatively. The negativity placed behind a list of resolutions starts us on an uphill battle with ourselves. No wonder we are crabby when we finally make it to the gym. What if we began by believing that there is nothing wrong with us? What if rather than making a list of things that we want to change because they are wrong, we recognized the excellent qualities that we already possess? Then we can intend to use these qualities by setting a positive intention. It goes something like this:

"I possess the strength and discipline to go to the gym." 
"I love myself enough to let go of what is unnecessary in my life."
"I have the support of others who will help to soothe my sorrows."

We begin our new year with positive intentions that recognize the strength in ourselves. Could we be stronger? Perhaps. But reminding yourself of your weaknesses will not strengthen you. We grow stronger by using what we have with the best intentions. We practice being positive, intending to help ourselves grow in order for our strength to be in service to others. Sankalpa.

So to start the new year, here is a practice to set positive intentions:

1. Ask yourself what you want more of and write it down.
2. Ask yourself what you are willing to relinquish and write it down.
3. Ask yourself what you have to offer towards this intention and write it down. 

Then, practice. On your mat and off of your mat. Move your energy in the direction of these intentions. With each step, intention. With each breath, intention. There is nothing more powerful than moving your energy in a specific direction with intention.

Breathe in what you want more of. 
Breathe out what your wish to relinquish - what is not in service to your intention. 
Breath in what you want more of.
Breath out what you have to offer towards this intention. 

Breath by breath, we grow in our intention. We grow in our strengths. We grow in our service to ourselves. We grow in service to others.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Tree


May joy and abundance light your life and shine upon all those that surround you.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Telling Stories

My husband is a race director. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill 5k or 10k races. I'm not even talking about half marathons or the coveted full marathon distances. No, the races that he directs are even more elusive goals (for most) than any of those. He directs extreme races. A sampling of the options from 2013 include an ultra-distance run across the snowy plains of the Sheyenne National Grasslands, a 27-mile swim in the Red River, a 24 hour adventure race in the Pembina Gorge and, most recently, a double-hitter: 12 hour mountain bike race on Saturday followed by a 12-hour trail running race on Sunday. These are the things that make up "crazy" for many people.

These races bring in an interesting mix of people, from those driven by ego and consequently doomed to fail to the supportive spectators who wonder how these athletes live beyond the finish line (the answer is "painfully"). I commonly hear comments like, "I could never do that" or "How do they do that?" from spectators. This last race was no exception. The woman beside me busied herself by berating her own abilities and then asked both of these questions. As we watched athletes suffer through a grueling 12 hours of running on their second day on the trail, I answered her.

My teacher tells me to try to "understand what is actually happening." Many times, what is actually happening is that we are telling stories about ourselves. Fictional stories. We convince ourselves that we are someone that we are not. And we continue to believe these stories until we become the Alice in a wonderland created by yours truly. I've seen this time and again in my own life, from convincing myself that I wanted my Ph.D. to believing that I am no good at endurance sports. I've told myself I can't navigate. I've told myself that I can't dance. I tell myself daily that I don't have enough time (as I queue up the next online episode of my favorite television show).

I regularly listen to these stories when I teach yoga. "I'm not good at this pose." "I'm not good at that pose." "I can't do backbends." "I have terrible balance." With a bit of alignment and some gentle encouragement, these stories dissolve into thin air. Students begin realizing what they are actually doing relative to what they've spent countless hours on their mats believing they are doing. Aha! And a new awareness is born.

So when the woman next to me so boldly stated that she could never bike for 12 hours and follow that by running 12 more the next day, I took it upon myself to offer her a bit of alignment and some gentle encouragement.

Her first question was,"How do they do that?" My answer was,"They take one step at a time. Literally." When we get further than the step that we are presently taking we tend to lose our footing and trip, sometimes falling flat on our face. This happened several times to many of the runners. Talking to them later, I found that the times when they fell the hardest were the times when they were imagining future laps or thinking several hours ahead of where they were. Rather than paying attention to what was actually happening, they focused on what they'd planned on at some future point. The result was tripping over a fallen branch, a tree root or even their own feet! Some runners got days ahead of themselves, overwhelming their present with things they needed to do later on in the week! So engulfed were they in their future fantasy land that some simply quit! Stopped stepping. Stopped running. Stopped racing. Defeated by a future fiction that didn't even exist.

I've learned through several years of endurance events that if I take one step at a time and ONLY one step, that I CAN. When I am tired. When I am suffering. When I am wishing to be finished, I ask myself one question,"Can I take one more step? One more pedal stroke?" The answer is resoundingly,"Yes." And then I ask the question again. And again. And again. I don't get bogged down by the overwhelming thought of how far I have left to go or how many more hours of suffering that remain. I only have to take one step at any given moment! And step by step, I finish the race.

Her second comment is one that I hear often. "I can't _____" or "I could never do _____." I answered her with a question,"Can you take one step?" Of course, her answer was yes. Again I asked,"Can you take another step after that?" Again, she replied,"Yes." She was well on her way already!

This is good news! And bad.

The bad news is that with our thoughts we make the world. As we are what we eat, we are what we think. If we think that we can't, then we simply won't. We spread these lies when we tell others that we can't. When we speak in this way we are perpetuating an awful rumor at the expense of our Self. Our world becomes a list of things that we can't do. We become limited. Sometimes we even shrink.

The good news is that with our thoughts we make the world. Change your thoughts, change your world. It is as simple as thinking "I can." It is as simple as saying "I can." When we think positively about ourselves, when we realize that what was actually happening was a limited way of thinking, we can do a complete 180 degree switch. "I can _______" is a limitless thought. It begs you to fill in the blank with whatever you want to do. And then it encourages you to do it! You can go anywhere with this thought. You can do anything with this thought. You are limitless with this type of thinking.

And when you say "I can", well that is simply your voice giving a sound to the breath, the energy and the life that is your Self.

Thought by thought, word by word, breath by beautiful breath, we are limitless. And we realize what is actually happening.