Yoga

When You Can’t Stand (On) Your Own Two Feet

On December 31, 2012, I woke up in my own bed, put my feet on the floor, stood up, and sat right back down again. I thought I was imagining things, but it hurt to stand. And not just a little bit. A lot.

I stood up again on my hard wood floor and walked to the bathroom. Each step was more painful than the previous one. What the hell was going on? It wasn’t just one foot. It was both. Every time I rocked forward on the balls of my feet to propel into the next step, it felt like I was stepping on sharp objects.

I couldn’t imagine what I did to my feet or why I was experiencing this pain. I had been on the road with my son for months and just arrived home the night before (mind you, after a snow storm delayed our trip home by 24 hours. We had to stay at yet another hotel). Maybe it was the stress of the storm or having to walk on ice to get from the hotel to the diner across the street? Maybe it was from wearing bad shoes to walk all over Baltimore the week before in icy conditions?

All I know is that I was experiencing searing pain every time I stood up and walked. That day I bought cushy insoles for my running shoes but that didn’t help. I took Motrin. That didn’t help. I just hoped it would get better. I couldn’t teach yoga, let alone practice standing asanas as it was just too painful. Meanwhile, my week home was spent stressing about what to do with my studio (keep it going, close it, etc. – see my last post here). I chose to ignore making any major decisions….again.

The next week took me to Montreal. The pain in the balls of my feet intensified. The next week took me to East Lansing, Michigan. The pain was yet worse AND I caught the flu. I dragged myself fever and all to a podiatrist,  who diagnosed me with severely inflamed metatarsal joints. He made me special inserts for my shoes, I bought super expensive “nurse” shoes at an orthopedic shoe store, and I started taking heavy duty doses of Aleve. Meanwhile, a standing yoga practice was out of the question as was walking more than a couple of blocks.

I spent the week in East Lansing sick and depressed.

The next month took me to mainly warmer climates. My feet were nowhere near made for walking, but at least I could drive around in a convertible and catch some rays while sporting my nurse shoes.

In February, I went home again for a few days and this time I went to see a recommended podiatrist in the Boston area. He diagnosed me with nerve damage AND severely inflamed metatarsal joints. He crafted another round of inserts and I continued the Aleve.

Still, no one could figure out why this odd injury occurred in the first place. I mean, of all people…to me? I live much of my life barefoot teaching and practicing yoga on hard wood floors. I almost NEVER wear high heels. I’ve NEVER had a foot problem or foot injury in my life.

y2But something happened while I was home last February, moaning about my feet. I REALIZED why I couldn’t stand (on) my own two feet! And that was the beginning of the end of this injury.

As strange as this injury is, it happened to me for a reason. It was sort of like a wake-up call. I was saddled with indecision. Indecision about what to do with my yoga studio. This was causing stress. And, emotional stress manifests itself as physical pain.

Backing up, let’s take a look at the location of the pain: MY FEET. The soles of my feet. The balls of my feet to be more specific. The EXACT area where weight bears down when you need to stand and walk forward. The pain was immobilizing. I couldn’t practice standing asana or teach. I was stuck. The universe was sending me a very strong message to the exact spot where it knew I would eventually need to stand up (ironically) and take notice.

My first chakra (root chakra) was completely stagnant. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking that this post was interesting until I went and got all New Age on you. But let’s be real here. The first chakra has everything to do with security and stability. It’s about feeling grounded, centered, safe, comfortable in your surroundings and with your decisions. It’s about being financially secure and rooted in family and community. Deciding whether to close my business – my sense of financial security AND community for almost a decade – was throwing my root chakra out of whack. I finally knew how to heal myself. It was time to close down.

I picked a date: April 1. I would close on April 1. Now I knew my feet would start to feel better but I also knew that they would not heal completely until the studio actually closed.

In that transition phase, my feet had their good days and bad days. I started practicing yoga again – slow, modified poses. I gave up worrying about fashionable footwear (not that it was ever something I thought much about anyway). I wore my “nurse shoes” everywhere. Slowly, walking became easier.

In March, I went home again and dealt with closing the studio head on. We arranged to move some classes to the community center and I worked on a transition strategy.

On April 1, we closed the doors. One day in mid-April, not too long after the closure, I woke up in California, put both feet on the ground and walked pain-free for the first time in 2013. I began to roll out my mat regularly. I took the inserts out of my running shoes.

I sent my “nurse shoes” home.

I can stand on my own two feet (even one) once again.

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Categories: Etcetera, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Breaking Up is Hard to Do………….

But so is hanging on. Trust me on this one. It’s sort of like standing in quick sand, not that I have ever actually done this. Nonetheless, I imagine this is what it feels like. You want to leave or set yourself free. In some instances, you want to run, fast. But you can’t. You’re stuck. Every time you try to free yourself, you seem to sink in even deeper.

Hypothetically, if you are in this type of situation, what do you do? You either stay stuck and keep sinking OR you find some way to break free. Sometimes it’s easier to remain stuck. You know the environment and your little spot is familiar and comfy. What’s the alternative? The unknown. Yet somehow, you KNOW you need to cut yourself loose. But this takes courage and it’s scary to venture beyond your comfort zone.

Still with me? I’m going somewhere here, I promise. Let’s back up a bit. You haven’t heard a peep from me in oh, almost three months. You could say I’ve been stuck in the quick sand and it’s not too far from the truth, metaphorically speaking. I’ve had some big decisions to make and opted to simply not make them for months. All the while, I sunk in deeper and while this was going on, my life became more and more stressful. I knew what I needed to do, yet I couldn’t do it.

I needed to close a door — at least for a while — in order for others to open. To simplify: I needed to stop running Breathe Joy Yoga, the business I opened nine years ago and have been operating from the road for almost a year. It was becoming insurmountable. What seemed like a simple business to outsiders was way more complicated than it looked.

Here I am, traveling full-time with my son AND trying to balance the books, schedule classes, manage a staff, communicate with customers, handle payroll, send out marketing e-blasts, keep up our social media sites and more. I wanted to give it a try. I thought I could do it all. But I couldn’t. It was exhausting me. Stressing me out. Stressing my family out. Stressing my manager out. Not only that but I started to resent the studio and yoga in general. I wanted to devote my time to my son and the show but there was always something else that I had to handle. It was just too much. But yet I could not let go. Not for six months. I knew in September that I needed to give it up. But it took me six months to do it. Tomorrow (April 1) is our last class at Breathe Joy Yoga. At least for a while. Ironically, I will be home this summer. So why couldn’t I  keep the doors open for another few months until I return?

It was time. Time to let go. Period.

It’s hard to let go of anything you care about. We’ve all been there. How many of you have held onto something or someone for way too long? When you finally make the decision to break away, you instantly feel relief — if for no other reason than you simply made a decision despite how difficult it was. Tomorrow I will be free. It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad. It took me nine years to build my business from the ground up. But I feel good about this decision. I have no regrets because it was the right choice.

So now, when I get home this summer, I won’t have a yoga studio anymore. Maybe I will teach yoga classes elsewhere. Maybe I will teach in my studio once again. Maybe I won’t teach at all. Maybe I will sell my studio, my business, my house. Maybe I will tour again (I know, my tour friends are laughing now!) Maybe I will write a blog post every day. Maybe I will do nothing for a while. Maybe I will relish in spending more time with my kids, husband and dog. Maybe I will travel. Maybe I will move to another city or state or country. Maybe I will learn to bask in the complete unknown. Maybe — no, certainly — I will feel grateful that I can make choices and have the complete support of my family.

There is one thing, however, that I know for sure. Doors that had been shut tight will now open because I was brave enough to set myself free. This is how it works. I’m ready to see what’s on the other side.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Reality Check

Yoga Sutra 1.8: “Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.”

As Sri Swami Satchidananda explains it: “In the twilight you see a coiled rope and mistake it for a snake. You get frightened. There is no snake there in reality; there is a false understanding. But still it created a terror in your mind. It is not only valid knowledge that creates thought waves, but erroneous impressions also.”

We all have things we think to be real or true. Our relationships, our careers, whatever it may be that defines us. But what happens when your truth isn’t quite as you thought it was or should be. What then is the truth? What is real?

I’m going out on a limb here and I will probably piss off some yogis and yoga teachers in the process. But I don’t care. Gotta speak my truth.

And I know, I’ve probably already lost about half of you already…..but stick with me here. It will all make sense in a moment.

I left home in April 2012 and have been touring the US (soon Canada) ever since. Pretty much the only thing that’s kept me somewhat grounded in this tour de force is my yoga practice. Not the sweating, twist-yourself-in-knots type of practice that many Americans consider yoga, but the breathing and simplicity of the practice. Sometimes I just stand in mountain pose so that I can truly feel my feet on the ground. Other times I roll out my mat and do what feels good. And still other times I go to a yoga class. That’s where the truth starts to become fuzzy.

In every city I go to, I search for a yoga class that isn’t hot or power or rock ‘n roll or in a sling shot. I look for the studio that’s been in town the longest or has a teacher older than 19. I’ve been to studios from Los Angeles to New York City and many places in-between including, in no particular order: Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Vermont, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Some of the studios have been chains, others just small spaces. I can tell you this for sure: yoga ain’t what it used to be. Everyone has a gimmick and everything is FAST. Yup, that’s right: FAST. In all but a couple instances, the classes have been crammed with as many poses as the teacher can think up in an hour, regardless of whether he or she knows how to safely get students from one posture to the next. Music is usually blaring (not that I have anything against loud music, but sometimes it hinders the ability to quiet the mind). The students look like they are competing in a yoga fashion contest hosted by lululemon (sorry, it’s true). Teachers talk incessantly even when they have nothing to say. Most classes have next to no warm-ups or cool-downs. They usually don’t mention the breath or the mind. One had no savasana at all.

Here’s the thing: This is what people want or at least think they want. This is how teachers are learning to practice and instruct.

It’s a sad but honest reflection of our culture. As a society, we don’t know how to slow down but yet we want to do things that are good for us. So we do yoga. Even if we don’t know what that is. We also teach yoga even if we don’t know how or even have an inkling of an idea of the centuries old healing practice that we are passing down.

Let me back up here for a moment. I opened my yoga studio nine years ago. At the time, I was pretty much the only Hatha studio around. Since then, there are now studios within 10 minutes of mine IN EVERY DIRECTION. All but one offer strictly hot, power yoga classes. I’m not even counting the gyms and YMCAs which all also offer yoga. In order for all these studios and classes to serve all those students, there have to be enough teachers. So almost all studios now offer training courses, many of which are franchised or canned (but the students don’t know this). I am not saying these programs are bad or that all teachers don’t know what they are doing. I am just trying to lay it all out there. Teachers are being pumped out faster than you can say Patanjali and students are coming to classes in droves regardless of whether the class is good or bad. They hang on the teacher’s every word even if the teacher has no idea what he is doing or saying. Students think that if they do enough chaturangas, they are doing yoga. Heck, they might even think that 20 chaturanga push-ups will quiet the mind. Skip it, they probably don’t know that stilling the mind and yoga are one and the same.

It’s not just happening in studios. Look at yoga conferences and festivals. Students flock to these big events where the classes are taught by those I now call rock star yoga teachers. These are teachers who have become “famous” in the yoga world and have large followings of students. Some of these teachers are actually very good at teaching yoga. But most are just overwhelmed with their own egos and the large base of students who seek them out in a convention center packed with 150 other adoring students. Most of these teachers are under 35 years old and many have been teaching this ancient healing art for less than eight years (that’s my unscientific poll but I betcha I’m right on the money here). I’ll admit it: there was a time when I aspired to teach at these big conferences. When people pay money to come to your classes or workshops, even if the money goes to charity, it feeds the ego. No getting around it. But after witnessing what I have over the past eight months, I want none of this.

Wanderlust Austin

Wanderlust Austin

DSCN0733

Me and my gal Michelle

It all hit home in Austin, Texas. Michelle, one of my closest friends, lives there. We did our yoga teacher training together at Maha Yoga Center with a gifted and wise teacher. For the past four years Michelle has been whining about the yoga scene in Austin. I keep encouraging her to teach because, well, she’s the real deal. She has tried but can’t seem to find a studio to teach at — somewhere she can keep it real. She said all the studios are hot or power or fast or gimmicky. She said all the studio directors and teachers don’t know a thing about anatomy and sure as heck can’t teach a breathing technique. I didn’t believe her. I mean, really, Austin? It’s a pretty progressive city with lots of yogis. Since I try to take a class in every city I visit, I was determined to hit a studio in Austin with my yogini friend Michelle. We picked a studio named after its famous circuit of yoga festivals: Wanderlust. It looked hip and fun. Let’s just stop there….We walked into a noontime class and had to restrain ourselves from laughing out loud. The skinny teacher in perfect yoga clothes had us rolling on the floor, literally. We rolled and then jumped up. Rolled and jumped up. Rolled and jumped up. We did a few fast poses in-between the rolling and jumping and then she bid us adieu. No rest for the weary. No savasana.”That wasn’t even on the top five worst classes in Austin,” said Michelle as we walked out. I raced back to my hotel to roll out my yoga mat. My nervous system was completely out of whack.

I know, I know. To each their own. But really, call that what you want, but don’t call it yoga. To me (and you are welcome to disagree) yoga was and is about quieting the mind, breathing, finding stillness, feeling grounded and balanced. It’s about moving in a way that makes sense and is rooted in anatomy and yogic science. It’s about being honest with yourself and your students. It’s about knowing your limitations. It’s about slowing down so that you can listen and hear your own inner voice: the voice of intuition. It’s about finding stillness amid the activity. Try doing 20 poses on both sides in an hour. There’s simply no time for stillness. Police give fast drivers speeding tickets. Who is going to slow you down in life? Just you.

Witnessing the yoga scene around the country has caused me to consider closing my studio on several occasions. I’ve become skeptical of myself. I mean, what is my purpose for being here when I’m losing the battle to hot yoga studios, fast classes, and DVDs/podcasts that promise results in 20 minutes? I have often wondered if perhaps I’ve got it all wrong. But then I come home and realize that what we are doing here is worth it. Regardless of whether we’ve got five students or 500.

This is real.

Categories: Etcetera, humor, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

2012 in review: Thanks everyone for reading!!!!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, humor, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have” — Anna Quindlen

It’s been an interesting ride, these past six months. As I sit here — taking a break from organizing our suitcases once again — I am contemplating where do we go from here? Not just Noah or Noah and I, but our family and my yoga studio?

But first, let me backtrack for a moment…..we arrived home on Monday, Nov. 19 and turned around the very next day to head into New York City. That was a whirlwind, albeit a successful day. We hit Massachusetts again on Wednesday at 1 am and I spent that day preparing to host 20 people at our house for Thanksgiving. It was a fabulous day but I’m glad I can check that one off the list. I taught a post-Thanksgiving detox flow yoga class on Friday morning. We hit the Nutcracker opening night on Friday night and spent the weekend organizing our lives to hit the road again — for six months!

Packing for long trips can tell you a lot about yourself. I’m serious here. For me, I’ve discovered that I don’t need much to live comfortably. Which brings me to my life as I used to know it. Coming home to my big house in the suburbs (never felt big before but after living for months in one hotel room, it sure feels big now), on a couple of acres of land with a yoga studio on the property was my dream. I guess the operative word here is “was”. I’m not sure it “is” anymore. I thought this was going to be my life. Living in this beautiful place with my incredible family. Running a yoga studio. Teaching classes. Being a mom to my children and having the flexibility to be available when they needed me.

But my oldest son is a junior in high school with only about 18 months left living here, I am living on the road with Noah, my husband works in Boston and my step-son lives closer to the city as well. Nobody’s life seems to be here or will be here anymore. The reality of all of this hit home this week, this Thanksgiving week. I can’t see Noah going back to Sharon High School after Billy Elliot. Not sure where he’ll go but it likely won’t be here. And what about me? Do I want to try to go back to my old life? And therein lies the struggle.

Should I stay or should I go? Being on tour could give me a good excuse not to think about this pressing question. But this would be just a temporary escape in just about every way. I’d rather deal with it head on as it just won’t leave my head otherwise.

You see, it’s not just a matter of whether or not to stay in this physical place. It’s a matter of moving on emotionally and spiritually.  We’ve all experienced this in some way or another. Even if you don’t think you have — trust me, you have. More often than not, we opt not to deal with the fork in the road. It’s easier to stay stuck. Why? It’s familiar, it’s routine. It’s simply easier than moving in a completely new direction. But the signs are usually there. In fact, they are ALWAYS there. It’s just a matter of being open to seeing them. It’s a matter of listening when the noise seems way too loud. As one of my yoga students said in class Friday, “no matter what decision you make, you need to be at perfect peace.” You need to listen first in order to arrive at this peace.

I keep seeing the signs. I know where peace lies. The universe also knows and it always shows us the way. I am thankful for that.

The signs were loud and clear a couple of weeks ago.  In early November — before we went to Indianapolis for the Billy Elliot run — Noah, Joel and I spent three days in Los Angeles. We had some meetings there, Joel was going to work out of his law firm’s L.A. office, and we were going to see family (ironically both my 1st and 2nd husbands are from Southern California so about 2/3 of Noah’s extended family lives there). I also lived in L.A. for 14 years and went to college at U.S.C. (before Noah was born) so it always feels like a homecoming to me. But this time felt different from every other time I’ve been there to visit over the past decade. We stayed in Studio City, where I used to live. It felt eerily like home, like my “current” home. About 14 years ago, when Ethan was two years old, I convinced my ex-husband to leave this place. I didn’t want to raise my kids in this showbiz bubble. Yet, somehow we ended up in this showbiz bubble. I even married Joel, whose family works in the entertainment industry in L.A. Somehow this felt uncannily comfortable to me.

The signs have been loud and clear this week too although I’ve had to fight not to muffle those loud signs. After a week in Indianapolis and coming home to the Boston area for a week, the only thing that really feels like home to me here is my family. All of them, quirks and all. Yet the place, this place, doesn’t seem to matter to me anymore. My career, my studio, my house…..they all feel like paperweights. They no longer define me (in fact they never did, I just thought they did).

Which brings me back to that question: Should I stay or should I go? And if I go, where to? I guess the important thing for me is……the place doesn’t really matter. I know the answer and there’s no looking back.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

“So goodbye yellow brick road

Where the dogs of society howl

You can’t plant me in your penthouse

I’m going back to my plough” – Elton John and Bernie Taupin

My yoga teacher crush blasted “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” during Savasana the other night. It was my last yoga class in New York City before taking off for Iowa farm country. How apropos.

After we emerged from Savasana and bowed in Namaste, my yoga crush smiled and said something like this to the class, “I hope you like Elton John. I don’t usually play songs with lyrics in Savasana but I found this fitting today for some reason.” Just another

At Central Park Zoo

synchronicity that told me I had discovered the right yoga teacher. Noah and I may be leaving our yellow brick road here on Broadway to head to the heartland, but we have just begun our magical journey and we’re not quite ready to go home yet.Flash back to four weeks ago.

After dropping into numerous yoga classes with multiple teachers, I found myself in class with Mike. Now, I don’t know if any of you have had a yoga crush before but this is my first (and the first my husband is hearing about it too. Sorry Joel, it was only a yoga crush, no biggie.) Here’s how it went down: his cues were fabulous, his sequence was intelligent and creative, he was quick to make one-on-one adjustments, he challenged me, taught me a thing or two I didn’t already know, made me laugh out loud, and knew his anatomy down pat. He didn’t practice with the class (a pet peeve of mine.) Rather, he skillfully guided people into poses and watched his students with an eagle eye, making sure to point out things like the direction of my right big toe. He made mistakes and laughed at himself. He had no ego, or, if he did, it wasn’t visible to the class.

He isn’t the type of guy who would turn heads on the street. He has a shock of graying hair, an adorable smile, and is cute in an ordinary guy sort of way. Oh, he looked about my age. So no, it wasn’t a cougar sort of crush. Besides, I hadn’t spoken a word to him.

I’m pretty finicky about yoga teachers. I think I’m allowed to be as I teach yoga for a living when not traveling the country. After a bunch of dud classes, this time I picked a winner. I left class and grabbed a schedule, scanning it to see when Mike taught next. I was at his very next class. It was just as good. No, even better. Apart from the awesome sequence, I liked his off-beat sense of humor and the way he swore in class (he said ass like three or four times at least.) I’m not kidding: if you teach yoga and don’t have a sense of humor, you may as well hang up your lululemon short shorts, at least in my opinion. Sure, you gotta know your stuff but please, don’t make me fall asleep in Warrior 1 with a fake sing-song voice, boring cues and the same old, same old stuff. This class was everything but boring. My crush deepened. I quickly left after the class ended, still without saying a word to the teacher.

The next week, I was back. Class was awesome yet, all through practice, I kept wondering if I somehow had met Mike before. I know…. not very yogic when I was supposed to be stilling my mind. Anyway, he seemed familiar to me. Ok, I admit it. I stared at him a lot, trying to make it not so obvious. But it was more than this.

As luck would have it, we rode the elevator down together after class. He looked at me and asked me where I was from as he hadn’t seen me much before. Here it was….my big chance. Don’t screw it up Robyn (huh, screw what up?) Don’t say something stupid, Robyn. Don’t tell him too much. OMG, talk about monkey mind!!! For Christ sakes, we were in an elevator. I had to say something! So I told him I really enjoyed his class and that I wasn’t from New York. I was just here for about a month. Ok, I opened the door and he stepped right in. “What are you doing in New York?” he asked. By this time we were standing out on the street and he was strapping on his in-line skates (yes, it’s pretty dreamy: he skates to class.) So I gave him the three-minute synopsis: I was in Manhattan with my son while he rehearsed to be in a touring Broadway musical. “What show?” he asked. So I told him about Noah and Billy Elliot. Then he surprised me by saying that he knows all about the sacrifices a mother makes when her child is in a Broadway show because his mom did exactly what I was doing. His sister was the original Annie on Broadway.

At this point I knew exactly who his sister was. I only knew of ONE Broadway child performer by name before I was tossed into the Billy Elliot world. And it was his sister! Honest to God. She was the girl I wanted to be when I was 11. I knew every song from Annie and couldn’t wait to go see it. It was the first Broadway touring musical I ever saw in Boston and I remember it like it was yesterday. But, by the time I saw the show, Mike’s sister wasn’t in the role anymore and I actually recall being disappointed I didn’t get to see her. I thought back to his last name on the yoga schedule. I didn’t make the connection initially and why would I?

Things happen as they should. People are in our life for a purpose, or at least this is what I believe. So certainly there’s a reason I gravitated to his classes and a reason he resonates with me. I mean, really, out of all the yoga studios and teachers in New York City (and trust me there are THOUSANDS), Billy’s mom gravitates to Annie’s brother? In the divine order of life, we were supposed to connect. This is the way things happen for me. Time after time.

I just sort of nodded as he talked about his sister. I decided not to say anything back. We said goodbye and off he skated. I walked slowly back to my apartment with a smile on my face.

Flash forward to last Thursday night. My last class at the studio with Mike. Besides our one conversation, we had not spoken another word, not even at the class I attended a couple of days after that elevator ride.

He played Goodbye Yellow Brick Road loudly. So loudly it would have been annoying if he wasn’t my yoga crush. After class, I just had to say goodbye and thank him for the great classes and inspiration (I didn’t mention the ass cracks although they also kept me coming back.) I asked him if he knew that Elton John wrote the music for Billy Elliot. He had no idea. He also didn’t know I was leaving in a few days for the Midwest. He didn’t even usually play songs with lyrics. But there was a reason he played this song on this day. We were meant to meet. This much I know.

He gave me a big hug. Goodbye Annie. Goodbye yellow brick road.

EPILOGUE: ONE MORE PIECE OF THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

So I guess the universe had a couple more signs in store for me along the yellow brick road.

Tony Awards Day, Sunday June 10: This was our last full day in New York and along with errands, laundry and packing up, we decided we would try our luck and enter the lottery to buy tickets for “The Book of Mormon.” Just to set the scene — Times Square was filled with theater-goers. I mean, it was TONY SUNDAY! But since this was our ‘hood, we didn’t have to go very far to get to the theater at 12 pm. What we saw were piles of people, camped out on lawn chairs. Oh boy, odds didn’t look good for “The Book of Mormon” lottery.

I should back up here for a moment for those who have no clue what a ticket lottery is (something I just learned about upon landing in Times Square). Basically, anyone can arrive at participating theaters two hours before show time and enter a lottery to buy up to two tickets for $25 each.

After sizing up the crowd outside “The Book of Mormon,” Noah and I decided we’d try our luck elsewhere. Neither of us had seen “Wicked.” So, we walked around the corner, didn’t see any lawn chairs parked outside and tossed our names into the hat. By 1 pm, when they draw the winner’s names, the crowd had grown exponentially. Odds didn’t look good but I had a feeling we had won the second Noah threw his name in.

I was right. Noah won! We got front row seats for $50. I hadn’t given a thought to what the show was about and the connection to the yellow brick road. In fact, only a sliver of the yellow brick road even appeared in this musical, and that wasn’t until the very end. When did it appear? Right before the two witches sang “For Good,” a song I had never heard before. It was about how people come into your life for a reason whether you understand the reason or not. And, these people generally guide you in changing for the good. Crazy huh?

So, the musical was amazing and immediately afterwards we went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner for dinner. For those unfamiliar with Ellen’s, it’s a diner with a singing wait staff, most of whom are waiting out their big Broadway break. Our waitress, Maria, asked us where we were from and that, of course, started the conversation about why we were in New York. Once she found out Noah was rehearsing to be Billy, she said she wanted him to meet someone. Who? A former touring Annie! No kidding! Ten minutes later, another waitress announced that there was a performer in the house who is about to star in a Broadway tour. Next thing you know, Kristine Bogan, aka Annie, is at our table introducing Noah and the whole place is clapping for him.

Now, I still don’t quite understand all the Billy/Annie connections. But I don’t think it matters. It was a magical day and I know something happened “For Good.”

Goodbye New York. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, humor, On the Road, That's Life!, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Losing My Identity. Finding a Purpose.

I’ve been in New York for almost four weeks now. The days are running together. I’ve gone from jeans and jackets to T-shirts and shorts in a matter of weeks. And I haven’t left the West Side.

My life has revolved completely around Noah, who is in intensive rehearsals to star as Billy Elliot in Billy Elliot, the National Broadway tour. This is a new feeling, a new way of life for me. If indeed you want to call it my life. For the first time in memory, I don’t have my own “thing” anymore: the comfort of my house, a job, routine, social life, teenage son to prepare for college, dog to walk, etc. My life consists of getting Noah to and from rehearsals, making sure he eats well, ensuring that he gets enough sleep. Well, that’s about it. Sure, I did this for my kids at home along with lots of other stuff. But this is VERY different. Different because it feels as if I am sort of lost in Noah’s life. It’s as if someone plucked me out of my own life and plopped me down in someone else’s. Now, don’t get me wrong….I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As a mother, allowing all my children to live out their dreams is what I’m supposed to do. At least according to my world view. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy or comfortable for that matter. In fact, sometimes I feel like a fish out of water. I forget what day it is. ALL THE TIME. I sit in the tea shop with my iPad or meander through the streets of Chelsea and suddenly it’s pick up time again. At the end of the day, I often return emails and wonder, “What the hell did I do all day?” Sure, I picked up Noah, dropped off Noah, made sandwiches, did laundry and maybe caught a yoga class. But, come on, really?  What did I do?” And somehow the days go by.

Yoga teaches us that we are not our labels, e.g. “wife”, “yoga teacher,” “accidental stage mom.” The opposite of “human doings,” we are “human beings.” We are here on this earth to be present to all that is. Huh? Yeah, I know. Heavy stuff. But it’s true or at least I believe it’s true. We also have a purpose or sometimes more than one purpose. As Princeton says in Avenue Q (this blog would not be complete with at least one Off-Broadway reference), “What is my purpose?” Most of us think of a purpose as a job, career or role as a parent or spouse. But is that really a purpose or is that more like an identity? And if you take an identity away, what then is your purpose?

I think we all basically have the same purpose, as crazy as this sounds. And that is: To just be…be open to all that is, embrace what life throws at you, and be prepared to make changes and/or go with the flow. Be willing to drop your perceived identity in the flash of an eye. And then…here’s the hardest part: Once that identity is gone, be comfortable with who you really are which has nothing to do with your job, career, role or how much money you make.

So, who am I? A yoga teacher? A writer? A wife? An accidental stage mom? Does it matter? Let’s strip away the labels and what’s left?

This is all I know: I am here and this is where I am supposed to be. Maybe being here for Noah, being truly present, is in essence a way back to myself. Maybe I needed to drop everything I know to be able to fully embrace change and just be here now. Maybe Noah is helping me find my way home.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

What Is Real?

I’m on my way home. Wait, really?

Let’s start that again. I am sitting here on a train on my way back from Boston to NYC. Up until three weeks ago, I called Sharon, Ma. home. But this weekend things became a bit muddled. You see, I am currently living in NYC while Noah is in intensive rehearsals for “Billy Elliot.” We’re here (or maybe there?) for five weeks in total. We leave for good on June 10 when the road trip begins in Des Moines, Iowa. But for now, Noah and I are staying in a small but comfortable apartment near Times Square. It has quickly become home to us. The fridge is stocked, the closets and drawers are filled with our clothes. Even the bathroom medicine cabinet looks like people actually live here.

Last week, when I booked my bus ticket from NYC to Boston and train ticket from Boston back to NYC (yes, my husband Joel is calling me “bus” person), things got a bit confusing as I tried to review plans with Joel. Me: “I’m leaving on Thursday at 3:30 and coming home on Monday at 8:30.” Joel: “I thought you were coming home on Thursday?” Me: “No, I’m coming home on Monday. Wait – I’m coming home Thursday, you’re right. I’m returning to NYC on Monday.” Geez Louise, what’s going on here?

And so it went. What was my “real” life all about and where was it? As the Bolt bus pulled out of NYC, things started to look greener and seem clearer to me. Literally. I realized I haven’t seen much green since last summer in suburban Boston. In L.A. things tend to be on the brown side; in NYC, I’ve been living in a concrete jungle; and when I left Massachusetts in April, the trees were just beginning to bloom. Yet on Thursday, it was if I were seeing in Technicolor. All the colors of spring just popped. When I got home to Sharon, the colors got even brighter, sharper you could say. The vibrant green trees and grass, flowers of

Ah, the colors of springtime in Sharon!

all colors, and glistening blue of Lake Massapoag reminded me how much I missed nature (hawk, deer and fox sightings over the weekend didn’t hurt either).This weekend was all about Ethan, my oldest son who just turned 16. Some of you touring parents will understand the importance of shifting priorities to your other, equally special children. You will also appreciate the challenge this presents when you are not home (or back “there”) often. This weekend was certainly no vacation from the hectic nature of Noah’s rehearsal schedule in New York. It included a giant backyard birthday party for Ethan on Friday night. What am I crazy? You could say so…..Joel, Mark and I played chaperones/hosts to 60 teens who Ethan said “ate tons of food”. We ordered trays upon trays of Chinese food and by the tail end of the evening, it was quite evident that the 16-18 year-old girls had no intention of eating. I should have known but it’s been a long time since I was 16 and I have no problem chowing down in front of men.So we packaged up enough food to feed 50 and took it over to the local homeless shelter. All told, the night was a success for Ethan. The residents of the Mainspring House in Brockton were pretty happy with the food delivery too.

Saturday included two performances of Seussical The Musical (Ethan played Mr. Mayor) and the Jamnesty festival (a fundraiser for the high school’s Amnesty International chapter) at the lake to see Ethan perform 21 Guns and other cool tunes with his A Cappella group, Pitch, Please! (Click to see video) And on Sunday, we attended the annual fundraiser for the Un-Common Theatre Company, where Ethan performed with his comedy troupe, Improv Soup. I guess there was no escaping my life as an Accidental Stage Mom. Oh, and I managed to teach two yoga classes at Breathe Joy Yoga also. But even with all this activity, my real life felt like a dream state. And here I sit on the Amtrak train (I guess I’m a one-way bus person) preparing to launch back into my day-to-day New York city life. I already miss the greener pastures of Sharon, Ma.

So what is real? Not really sure. All I know is that I feel as if I am headed home.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, On the Road, That's Life!, Yoga | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Ahhh, That Hammock Has My Name On It

(Disclaimer: the names of the yoga teachers have been changed and the yoga studio remains anonymous to protect the parties from, well, not sure what.  Although this is a true story, it is in no way meant to disrespect AntiGravity yoga. There are many styles of yoga and what’s good for one, isn’t always good for all. This is written in tongue in cheek fashion so read with an open mind and a sense of humor. If not, get yourself to a hammock immediately!)

Noah may have been dancing all week but the only thing dancing in my head last Friday was a vision of me plopped down on a nice comfy hammock. Yup, after a long, hard week doing nothing (see “Pass the Epsom Salt Please), I could hardly wait to get myself to an AntiGravity restorative yoga class.

Here’s how the AntiGravity website describes it: “AntiGravity Yoga: Restorative is the gentle, healing side of AntiGravity Yoga.  This powerful method focuses the mind…as it floats the body through a series of gentle gyro kinetic motions, deeply opening the entire spine, hips, and connective tissues of the body… This therapeutic method offers accessibility to students with physical limitations, but is loved by all as a portal into deeper spinal flexibility, and mind/body connection.” Ok, I admit it: I didn’t read this until AFTER I took the class, but I do know that restorative yoga is the relaxing form of yoga, the yoga of “non-doing.” I mean, although I had never done AntiGravity before, it was restorative so how hard could it be?

This is what I had in mind

I walked the five blocks to the yoga studio and eagerly showed up for the class. I asked the woman at the front desk, “This is relaxing, right? It’s fine for someone who hasn’t done this before, right?” While I asked these questions, I thought of my husband Joel on our last vacation. He immediately staked out the hammock and there he stayed, for hours on end. Now, this is what I was looking forward to! The front desk yogini smiled, pointed in the direction of the studio door, and said, “You’ll love it.” Ok, that was the only confirmation I needed. I walked into the studio and stared at these parachute-esque bright orange hammocks hanging on large hooks from the ceiling. I was the first one there (talk about eager to relax!) and was told by the assistant teacher to select a hammock. So I did. Right near the window. Then, she came over to me (let’s call her Jane) and said, “Have you done this before?” I said no and then she asked me to move right in front of the teacher as this way the teacher could more effectively help me. So I did. As Jane was adjusting my hammock and releasing it from the large ominous-looking metal hook, she looked at my engagement and wedding rings and asked me to remove them. “Remove them?  Why?” I asked. “They will snag the hammock so you’ll have to take them off and put them on the floor in the corner,” she said matter-of-factly.

It took everything I had not to blurt out, “Are you kidding me? You might as well be asking me to stack a wad of hundred dollar bills  in the corner. Do you really think I can close my eyes and practice yoga while thinking about my wad of hundreds laying on a floor in the middle of New York City!” But I didn’t say this. Instead I politely said, “I would rather prefer to keep my rings on. I’m not comfortable taking them off. I can turn them around, plus they don’t have any prongs that will snag the hammock.” She looked at me arrogantly and bluntly said, “Well then, you will need to go ask the person at the front desk for a Band Aide to put over your rings.”

At first I could not believe she was serious. But she was. In disbelief, I walked out and got a bandage and literally bandaged up my rings. My serene evening was off to a great start. Completely agitated and stressed out, I walked back into my so-called relaxing yoga class. By this time, the hammocks had started to fill up and class was about to begin. The teacher, let’s call her Donna, was smack in front of me and I had a feeling she didn’t like me very much (I’m thinking Jane told her I was difficult while I was out bandaging up my rings). She asked if I was a beginner. I told her I practice yoga regularly but have never done hammock yoga before. “What a great way to start. This class will be wonderful for you,” said Donna, enthusiastically. Ok, that’s two confirmations. Let’s go. The ring thing is now in the past.

The one by the window was calling my name

First up: we wrap ourselves up into little alien pods and stay there for a while. I don’t know, maybe it was only a couple of minutes but it felt like forever. It was pretty claustrophobic in here and certainly not relaxing. As we emerged from these pods, Donna explained how to go upside-down but I think I was the only one who needed explanation as everyone was already hanging out there. I clumsily made it into this inverted position by looking at the position of my next-door alien’s feet, but apparently I was doing something wrong as Donna asked me to come up from upside-down. So I did. And there I sat right side up, swinging on my hammock while everyone else was still upside-down. I thought Donna or Jane would come over to me and explain how to get back into that crazy-looking position. I mean, it didn’t look relaxing but it sure looked like fun. But I just sat and sat some more, wondering why they were not helping me out (I mean I was two feet in front of Donna. I did give up my prime window seat for a little bit of help, or so I was told.). Frustrated, I jumped out of the hammock, left the room and went to the ladies’ room just to kill some time. I re-entered the land of so-called relaxation just in the nick of time for the next pose. Donna came over to me, a little too late, to ask if I was ok and I honestly responded that I left out of boredom and because I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing next. Donna apologized for not explaining that apparently my hammock was positioned wrong. She said she thought I might prefer to come out of the pose. Hmmm, not sure where she got that idea but, whatever.

I considered bolting but I knew I should stick it out. We did a few other forward folding and back-bending positions in the hammock which I would call awkward instead of calming. All I could think about now was, “Do we at least get a savasana (final relaxation pose)?” This class was stressing me out, big time. Finally, it was time for savasana. In the hammock. Except that we were huddled in fetal positions while Donna talked about visualizing being born and how it felt to be alive on your first day on earth. Now, I’m sorry but do any of YOU remember your first day on earth? And is this what you would want to be thinking about while trying to relax? All I wanted was a little time to think about nothing and de-clutter my mind. But no such luck.

Finally it was over. Hallelujah! I practically jumped out of my hammock, collected my stuff and high-tailed it outta there. Back to my apartment to de-compress. I laughed to myself the whole walk home. It may not have offered the relaxation I was looking for but it sure proved to be comic relief.

Categories: Etcetera, humor, On the Road, Yoga | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Let’s Talk About “Stuff”

Let’s talk about stuff…For a week I stared at the suitcases I brought down from the attic. I procrastinated and procrastinated until I ran out of time.

Finally, had to do it. I had to pack. You’d think this would be easy for me. I mean, I used to be a travel writer and I had this packing thing down to a science: I’d take the same few outfits and my bathroom bag was always ready to go. But, this time was different…..whatever I packed would be my “stuff” for about the next three months. So, I looked at stuff, my stuff, a little differently.

Sure, I could just toss things in a suitcase – knowing that I’m not going to the Amazon and I can always buy things that I may need or forget. Or, I could turn this into a different sort of exercise: an exercise in minimalism. I chose the latter. As I pulled things out of drawers and out of my closet, I looked at each “thing” and thought, “do I really need this?” As it turns out, I don’t really need a lot. None of us do, really. And as I packed my stuff away, I took a closer look at my messy closet. It’s not a big closet and I share it with my husband Joel. When he moved in three years ago, we considered enlarging the relatively small closet or building a new one. Instead, we took the attitude that if it gets too crammed in this here closet, we’d just make more space by giving things away. Neither of us buy much in the way of clothes and I practically live in yoga garb (digressing just a bit: I did go shopping this month as I realized I might need some more “street” clothes). Joel and I both talk about the day when we will leave this big house and take everything we need with us – in our cars.  But STILL, there is a lot of STUFF in here and STUFF I don’t need.  Let’s be honest: Most of us could fit everything we truly need into one small bag. As the Beatles say, “All You Need is Love” — and, may I add, a well-worn sweatshirt, iPod, and iPad.

I managed to quite easily fit my clothes and some other miscellaneous items into one large suitcase weighing 46.8 pounds and one small carry-on sized suitcase. For all you chicas out there: I even decided against taking the white shoes (although they are absolutely OK after Memorial Day, according to my Jewish mother), clogs and hiking shoes. Instead, I opted to take just a few pair of bare essential shoes. I must admit that I bought a pair of $85 walking sandals at REI last week because I thought I would really “need” them. I  guess the dog didn’t agree and she broke into my room last night (really, the door was closed but she can jump up and hit the door pull to open it) and stole one of these shoes right out of my suitcase! Oops, there goes part of a heel and yup, this is getting to be a trend (see the Post: Oops the Dog Ate my Tap Shoe). At 11 o’clock last night I stared at this shoe and ya know what? I deemed it “wearable” and tossed it back into the suitcase.

So, here I am…… sitting here on a plane to Los Angeles with just a backpack (no purse, I might add) containing this here laptop, some snacks and water, my phone, my iPod, my GPS (can’t live without that!), my iPad (for reading purposes), camera and a few other things. Besides not a lot of clothes and a well-heeled sandal, a few other non-negotiables in my suitcases are: my pillow, eye pillow, yoga mat, and flat-iron (OK, I know, it’s frivolous but a girl’s got to have at least one G-rated guilty pleasure that she can’t leave behind).

There you have it….I didn’t bring much stuff. And you know what? I already feel lighter! Why? Well, you guessed it and here goes – a bit of yoga philosophy for you from 30,000 miles high….

Most of you reading this live in a Westernized country where we have all of our basic needs plus some. We don’t think twice about pulling into our garages or driveways in our cars and turning on lights. We don’t think about how lucky we are to live in a home with furniture and how it easy it is to just swing open the fridge to grab a bite to eat. And in fact, we tend to go through life accumulating things and sometimes we even like accumulating stuff more than we like the stuff we have. Huh?

Paring down stuff is cleansing. Word.

With that, I am going to try a little experiment. I plan to be home for a “visit” in May and you know what I’m gonna do? Before I get home, I will think about all the things in my closet I miss. I’m thinking it will be a short list but you never know. Then, I plan to get rid of 80% of my already slim pickings of a closet. Because if it’s not in my two suitcases already, it didn’t make my “stuff” short–list and I likely don’t need it. Plus, I have enough baggage already.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, On the Road, That's Life!, Yoga | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

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