Oh Yeah, Life Goes On

As I sit here reading the Sunday paper — the one hard copy periodical I still read regularly — I begin thinking about when my kids were little. Things weren’t always easy for them, for us.

When my oldest son Ethan was two, we moved across the country, from Los Angeles to Boston. Soon after that, I got ill with a neurological disorder. Noah, my youngest, was only 5 months old when this happened. I was in bed for two years and missed his first steps and many other firsts. Then, when they were in 2nd and 5th grade, their father and I got separated, then divorced. I got remarried a few years later and my sons got a new step-brother out of the deal too. In the middle of all this, I changed careers – went from a journalist to a yoga studio owner.  A lot of changes and I worked a gazillion hours a week. When things were finally starting to settle down, Noah got cast in a Broadway touring show. I was running  two yoga businesses at the time but I knew what I had to do: leave it all behind and go on tour with Noah. But, I also left behind my husband, two other sons, my businesses and my dog.

3 Boys

My big boys

When I came home five months ago and 15 months later, I had a lot of decisions to make and catching up to do. Should I build my businesses back up to where they once were? Should we move out of this house if I no longer need the yoga studio that is on the property? At the same time, I had a lot of catch-up work to do with Ethan on his college applications and visits. Then it hit me: Where did life go and where is it headed?

Honestly, it feels like a blur. Next year this time, Ethan will be out of the house, living at college and starting his adult life. Noah will be a sophomore in high school while pursuing his dreams of a dance and theater career. Yes, I was there for my boys, always encouraging them and supporting them. But yet, I don’t remember a lot of details. Life changed and moved too fast.

Lake Massapoag

when things get quiet, you see clearly

So I decided to put the brakes on – at least in the best way I knew how in this ever moving forward swirl of life. For the past five months I have committed to making no major decisions for myself. That’s right: None. Rebuilding Breathe Joy Yoga was just too big of a decision so I decided against it. Been there, done that. I just wanted to spend some time “being.”

Not rushing, not racing, not having to do a million things at once. For the first three months, this felt, well, weird. I woke up every morning thinking I had to be somewhere, but I didn’t. I raced to my computer to open my email fully expecting messages from yoga students wanting information on classes and workshops. Nothing.  In my new experiment of “nothingness”, I didn’t even practice asana every day or even 4 days a week like I used to. Sure, I exercised BUT I made sure I didn’t take myself too seriously or put pressure on myself to do any one kind of exercise. And, I will admit this openly now: I let my meditation practice go by the wayside. You see, when I meditate and get quiet, I hear what I need to hear and do. I just didn’t want to listen to advice, not even my own. I was afraid of what I’d hear, like “You are spending too much time doing nothing. You should be running a business. You should be making more money. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

This little experiment has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I’m a “doer” by nature, not a “be-er.” I had no idea how hard this would be and it doesn’t help when even my kids say: “Mom, what are you going to do next? Are you going to get a job, start a new business, go back to the studio? What do you do every day?” They aren’t used to this new me.

Ironically, this little experiment was not intended to actually be an experiment. I just wanted to slow down. And, in doing so, opportunities have come into my life for myself, my family and my children. Amazing how that happens when you commit to nothingness.  You actually become more receptive to positive change AND you leave room for new opportunities to come into your life. Imagine that?  And, by the way, isn’t this a form of meditation of sorts? Isn’t this being present?

In this moment, this is my yoga – sans asana and all. Seeing life as it is: right here, right now.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Billy Elliot, business, business of yoga, get real, letting go, Philosophy, That's Life!, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Wake Up and Smell the Incense

By Robyn Parets

Holy savasana!

It’s time for yogis to wake up from resting pose — the English translation for the Sanskrit word pronounced shiv-asana — and smell the incense.  In the latest salvo proving big business is here to stay in the yoga world, a company received a patent last week for its technique of filming yoga classes for online distribution.

On December 10, Santa Monica, Ca.-based YogaGlo, Inc. was issued a patent claiming that its technique for YogaGlo class renderingfilming a yoga class is novel. In a nutshell, the patent gives YogaGlo exclusive rights to film yoga classes from the back of a room with a camera about three feet off the ground. It also requires that there be a “no mat zone” or “corridor” from the camera to the teacher whereby students are situated on mats on either side of the corridor. This enables a clear view from the camera to the instructor.

Yogis aren’t the only ones wondering why a patent this general and certainly not novel was granted in the first place.

Joel Lehrer, a partner at Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston, said it didn’t appear as if there was any legitimate invention in the way YogaGlo films its classes. Filming from the back of a class with an unobstructed view of the teacher is commonplace. Yet, YogaGlo managed to get the patent probably because the patent examiner didn’t quite understand the dynamics of a yoga class and that filming a teacher down a center aisle from a specified height is not unusual, he said.

“This patent (US serial number 8,605,152) gives YogaGlo the right to restrict others from doing what their patent covers and gives them a government-granted limited monopoly if they choose to enforce it,” said Lehrer, who specializes in patent and intellectual property law.

Oftentimes vague patents in other businesses do get approved. The software industry has been grappling with this for years, said Lehrer. In fact, even software companies with valid inventions are sometimes hesitant to file patents for fear of alienating their customer base. He explained that there is a stigma surrounding what some consider “inhibiting the advancement of technology.”

“Some companies in the software space choose not to pursue patents for fear of the backlash. They are afraid people won’t want to work for them or do business with them for ethical reasons.”

This industry backlash, said Lehrer, is something a company like YogaGlo could face if it chooses to enforce its patent.  In fact, while waiting to see if its patent would be approved, YogaGlo did send companies cease and desist letters, including the non-profit organization Yoga International.  Now, however, YogaGlo also has the right to charge licensing fees to companies that want to continue filming videos in a way consistent with the patent.

YogaGlo, which did not respond to inquiries for an interview, has been radio silent on this issue since last week’s news. But Lehrer said the company could also decide not to police the patent at all. “They are under no legal obligation to enforce it,” said Lehrer.

Todd Wolfenberg, executive director at Yoga International, said his organization removed 14 videos from its website in response to YogaGlo’s cease and desist letter.  “They were filmed in a similar way (to YogaGlo’s classes). Our cameras were about five feet off the ground but we also had aisles with students on both sides and a teacher in front.  Many people have filmed using this orientation before. Without an aisle, you can’t see the teacher,” said Wolfenberg, who said his organization, part of the 400-acre Himalayan Institute, does not want to get embroiled in a court battle.

Yoga International, said Wolfenberg, has the means and ability to film classes from different angles and is in the process of doing just that.  Visitors to the site usually have to pay for video content. Yet, while Yoga International is re-shooting certain classes, all video content is free.

“We think it serves you better in the long-term to take the high road. It’s better than lashing out and getting angry,” he said.

Yoga International is not the only one that this patent may affect. Companies in the business of filming yoga classes are plentiful and include Gaiam Inc., a publicly traded corporation that recently purchased My Yoga Online (MYT); YogaVibes; Yoga Download; and Yoga Today.  All of these companies charge fees for viewing content. There are also plenty of yoga teachers and companies that provide their streaming classes for free or by donation, such as DoYogaWithMe.com.  Still other large studio chains, like YogaWorks, now offer their own online system for viewing classes taught by their instructors.

Jamie Kent, president and founder of Denver-based Yoga Download, couldn’t believe a yoga company received a patent of this nature.

“This is far-reaching and goes beyond the yoga world. It has implications in the film industry, fitness business and other markets as well,” said Kent. “If one company can patent a camera angle, what’s to stop others from doing the same thing?” she said.

Yoga Download, with 9,000 monthly members, both creates its own content with a group of teachers and works with content partners who wish to stream videos on the Yoga Download platform.  About fifty percent of its business comes from membership and the other half is generated through single downloads or other non-member purchases. Kent said the company will now diligently convey new filming guidelines to its content providers.

Kent, as well as others in the yoga video streaming field agree that as the industry grows, smaller studios and yoga teachers will need to be aware of this patent and its ramifications.

Tania Neild, founder of StudioLiveTV, works with yoga studios to create a platform, or channel, to deliver online classes.  Since StudioLiveTV handles the technology end for its partners, it will ensure that classes are filmed in a way that doesn’t infringe on the patent, said Neild.

So far, the YogaGlo patent has only affected a couple of classes on the company’s Fitness for Action channel. The fundraising channel was launched to raise money for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines and other charities. YogaGlo, as well as other yoga content providers, donated classes. YogaGlo asked StudioLiveTV to remove a couple of the classes that infringed the pending patent and StudioLiveTV obliged, said Neild.

“They were very polite and were also generous in donating to our channel,” she said.

Nonetheless, it was a wake-up call that expertise from companies like StudioLiveTV and Yoga Download will be in high demand. Neild and others also note that the patent flies in the face of what many consider yoga to be all about: a healing art meant to help people on their path to wellness. Despite this, yoga is emerging as a business, not unlike any other industry. And with that comes potential lawsuits. In fact, the only way to challenge this patent entails going to court or a filing at the Patent Office, said Lehrer.

One way to invalidate a patent in court is by proving the existence of “prior art.” Essentially this would mean others, or even YogaGlo, used the same filming technique before August 2009, at least one year before YogaGlo initially filed for its patent in August 2010, said Lehrer. Yet, simply challenging the validity of a patent, regardless of its merit, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. The only other legal alternative, also costly, entails going to court as a defendant if YogaGlo threatens a lawsuit, he said.

The buzz in the yoga community is that perhaps Yoga Alliance, a non-profit association representing yoga teachers, will step up to the plate. Yet, YA isn’t sure what it will do next.  Although YA opposes the patent, President Richard Karpel stated, “I can’t provide more details about our plans because they haven’t been determined yet.”

As ugly as all this may sound in a business built upon peace, love and flowers, this may not be the last patent for yoga related businesses. ”Sadly, exclusive feels good to some. It’s contradictory to yoga, but it happens,” said Neild at StudioLiveTV.

According to Wolfenberg at Yoga International, it’s important for those involved in the yoga and business community at large to educate themselves. “It’s a very strange type of situation and I don’t know where Pandora’s box is going to open up next,” he said.

There’s one thing Wolfenberg knows for sure: “Yoga is changing.”

Robyn Parets is a journalist, editor, yoga teacher, and owner of two yoga-related businesses: Breathe Joy Yoga studio (www.breathejoyyoga.com) and Pretzel Kids, a trademarked children’s yoga brand (www.pretzelkids.com). She also blogs about yoga, business and life in general and can be found at www.awayfromom.net.

Categories: business, business of yoga, Etcetera, filming, get real, journalism, patents, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How I Got My Groove Back

Once upon I time I wanted to be Lois Lane. Or so I thought.Lois Laneclipboard

That was almost 30 years ago when I had pie in the sky ideas of exposing truth through telling stories. I wanted to make a difference. This was back in the day when there was no Internet or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. People got their news from broadcast television, radio, and newspapers. That was it.

I studied journalism in college, where we used electric typewriters to write our stories. Without the simplicity of editing on computers, I learned to choose words wisely the first time around. Upon graduation, I went right to work at the Ventura County Star-Free Press, a large daily newspaper in Southern California. I wrote about crimes and court cases. I covered political events. I reviewed movies and concerts. I interviewed all sorts of people with all sorts of stories. I drank lots of coffee. I never smoked a cigarette. I worked hard and slept erratically.

Occasionally, I wrote a story that made a difference, but usually not. One of my rare articles that did just that still sits in a weathered box in storage somewhere. It was a story I picked up off the police radio while I was working in the newsroom one late night. A man working for the gas company was putting a pipeline down near a riverbank and stumbled upon a homeless man who resembled someone he saw on a recent broadcast of “America’s Most Wanted.” The police were hot on the trail and so was I. I told my editor I was going down to the riverbank. He didn’t think there was anything to the story but said I could certainly go check it out.

When I got there, the police had taken the homeless man away to question him. As it turned out, he was formerly a teacher who had been accused of molesting several children. He fled and had been hiding among the bushes for years – unnoticed, under the radar. He lived among other homeless people, many of whom I interviewed for my article. They loved him and thought of him as a close friend. I talked to these people after they learned about the true identity of the man they thought was their friend. They trusted him. They cared about him. Their children spent time with him. It rocked their world. I was about 22 years old and it rocked my world too.

The next day, my breaking story appeared on the front page. It cracked wide open a case that police and the judicial system had all but dismissed.

I never wrote anything like this again. I soon changed jobs. I wrote for trade magazines, business newspapers and eventually became a freelance journalist. I wrote about everything from travel to hotels to business to entertainment. I interviewed celebrities like Gregory Peck and chefs like Wolfgang Puck. Every day was different. For about 10 years, I traveled all over the world filing stories. It seemed way more glamorous than it was. I missed my children, my home, the monotony of daily life.

My stories became vapid and meaningless. Writing became a chore – something I no longer loved to do. At around the same time, I got sick with an autoimmune disorder (another blog post for another day). I quit writing.

Not sure what was to come next, I fell into yoga. I never thought I’d teach or run a studio, but that’s what I ended up doing. I started teaching for the same reason I began writing: to make a difference. But then the cycle started all over again. I started to burn out on running my business. So, before waiting until I was completely fried and had no desire left to teach, I pulled back. No need to risk my sanity and health. Wise decision.

I started blogging when I stopped running my studio full-time – about 18 months ago. And two fortuitous things happened: Not only do I love teaching again but I love writing again. Imagine that? I began writing from the heart, writing about things that mattered to me, writing about topics many can relate to, writing for the sheer love of it. Eventually people started reading my words. My yoga students enjoyed the stories and my readers enjoyed learning about this thing called yoga. Imagine that?

I was lost and now found. Twice already.

But, it’s a new world out there when it comes to publishing stories. The internet and social media make it easy to share information but these mediums also create a lot of clutter for people to wade through. Back in the day, hundreds of thousands of people read my stories daily over a cup of coffee in the morning. But now, where do I begin to find readers in an information ocean? How do I entice people to open my story instead of the thousands of others crowding their Facebook stream? How do my simple stories compete in feeds clogged with sensationalistic videos?

I decided to try something new. On Friday, one of my articles ran on website with thousands of readers. A few hours later, a couple hundred people had read my story. By the next day, 10,000 people had read my story. By the next day, that number had ticked up to 20,000. It is now at about 27,000 and still rising.
So, thank you for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for helping me get my groove back.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, get real, journalism, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Witnessing the Yoga Scene

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/11/witnessing-the-yoga-scene-around-the-country-makes-me-consider-closing-my-studio-robyn-parets/

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, humor, letting go, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Discriminate and Eliminate: Walk On…….

I’ve been home for two months now. For the first time in a VERY long time, I have space to reflect. Life feels peaceful and calm – a major contrast to the whirlwind of a lifestyle I had for the past 15 years. Between having kids, working full-time as a journalist, running a yoga studio (open seven days a week), and then going on tour with Noah, I felt like I didn’t ever have a break. Oh, and I almost forgot: I was sick for two years with a neurological disorder (that I am blessed to have recovered from) and I got divorced, re-married and acquired a step-son along the way. Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I had two successful careers, have an incredible husband, a supportive ex-husband, three wonderful sons, and my health. My future is sprawled out in front of me. I am blessed.

field with a path

follow your path

But in order to get to a place where I can look across this huge, spacious field of opportunity, I needed to walk away. Walk away from people, jobs, houses, sticky situations and more. Just walk away. There have been times when I have tried to walk away while others kept trying to drag me back in. There have been times when I have found myself knee-deep in a situation I desperately wanted out of and the only way to break free was to make a choice: walk away and not look back. There have been situations where I know I was right YET my happiness was being sacrificed. So I walked away. There have been times when I wished I had told people my side of a story or situation. Yet, I knew this would cause controversy and instead kept quiet. In those instances, I walked away. I know this is very vague, but there are just too many situations that come to mind. I somehow know that you can all relate.

It all boils down to this: Sometimes the path to peace and happiness in your own life is to pick another path and change your direction. Now, everyone has their own opinions and surely for some, walking away is a cowardly route. Yet, look at the alternative: staying in a toxic situation, place, relationship or job (just to name a few) is simply unhealthy – emotionally and physically.

When leaving a difficult place, you will notice a lot of commotion around you. This makes it even harder to walk away. Some people will support you without asking questions. Others will demand explanations, as if your choice to let go is somehow their business. Others will ignore you because they don’t know what to say. Still others will talk about your decisions and tear you down as a person, leading to rumors and gossip which can become not just untrue, but ugly. These types of people are usually the ones who have nothing better to do then gossip about others rather than deal with their own lives head-on. The truth is: your life is your life and your choices are uniquely yours. No one else, except those you invite in, need to know what led to your decisions. If they insist on knowing or opt to start rumors, they were probably not worth having in your life to begin with. Hmmm – maybe time to walk away.

Walking away is the same as letting go. And this is not easy. How many of you have struggled with leaving behind a love relationship, even when you know it’s a bad one? What about friends? This can be challenging too. Have you ever grappled with ending a friendship because you’re afraid of the ramifications such as mutual other friends walking away from YOU or this so-called friend starting negative rumors? Not all relationships are meant to go on forever. Surround yourself with good, kind people. People that lift you up, not pull you down. When people no longer do this for you, maybe it’s time move on. Ultimately, letting go is very personal. Some of us hang on for way too long and others don’t give things enough time. There is no right or wrong choice. There is only your choice.

field of flowers

create your field of dreams

A wise yoga teacher once said (and it has stayed with me): Discriminate and eliminate. Plain and simple.

If we all spent more time figuring this out and walking our path instead of involving ourselves in situations which are none of our business, the world would be a more peaceful place.

So here I am in the now. I’m doing the work. Simplifying and letting go. Looking ahead at the vast field and not knowing what’s on the other side. I’m ok with that.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, letting go, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Listen to Your Inner GPS

After 15 months away from home, I got in my own car in my own garage and turned on my GPS. As I went to plug in an address, I saw this across the screen:

“A Lot Has Changed. Please Load New Maps.” What? For real? It was as if the past year was flashing before my eyes. I had never seen this message before and this was the same GPS that traveled North America with me. I shut it off and turned it back on. No message. The next day……no message.

For the past several weeks since I’ve been home, I still can’t kick the feeling that the universe was sending me a blatant message: Look around at all that’s changed. Look within at all that’s changed. Look forward and don’t look back. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of the unknown path.

At Central Park Zoo

At Central Park Zoo

When looking for answers in your life (or even not looking) all you need to do is open your eyes and tune in. Be aware. You will see, you will know. The answers are there. And so it goes with my GPS. I know, some of you may still be thinking: did my GPS really TELL me that things have changed?  Well, yes. Did I already know this? Well, yes. BUT, it did help me understand the importance of paying attention to the signs and listening within.

I told my husband about the message. He had never seen this on his Garmin GPS before. I saw it as a metaphor for my life in the moment: A lot HAD changed. A lot IS changing. I need to load new maps, that’s for sure. The answers aren’t always THIS black and while, at least not for most people. Maybe it’s because I am tuned in, but typically my signs are pretty darned blatant. You see, we all have an inner GPS — something that helps us to determine our direction in life. It’s usually a gut feeling, an inner voice. Sometimes someone might even suggest something in conversation that you have been ruminating for a while and suddenly you have clarity. Or, maybe you are trying to figure something out when a song comes on the radio, and the lyrics pretty much offer a solution. Whatever it is: Listen. More often than not, we ignore it and keep barreling down the same road we’ve always traveled. But if we ignore that inner GPS, that road will become more and more difficult to travel. Road blocks will appear and you will have to either knock yourself out to jump over them OR you can plug in and turn around now.

I am happily settling back into life at home in Massachusetts yet nothing is the same. I’m not talking about things that have changed around us, on the surface – things like new restaurants in town, new neighbors etc. (although that makes you really realize that time doesn’t stand still). The Billy Elliot experience transformed all of our lives from the inside, not just Noah’s. There were good times, there were bad. It wasn’t just about a show. It was about growing, changing and learning. I learned how to handle some pretty tough situations. I made choices I never thought I’d have to make and then had to accept those choices (I listened to the signs, by the way). My family banded together so that we could have this experience. Everyone helped and I mean everyone: my husband, my ex-husband, my parents, my in-laws, my other children. I had been married for less than two years when we left to go on tour. But I feel closer to my husband now than ever before.

Today has been a day of deep reflection, perhaps in part because the tour ends for good tonight and I know many of our friends will have to turn on their inner GPS’ starting now. When you’ve traveled one particular road for a long time, it’s not easy to find a new path. I’m still loading maps myself.

Talking about new maps, I’m not sure which direction I will take in the next couple of months. I have some different roads before me. Some choices to make. But something tells me things will keep changing and moving and I’ll have to travel right along as well. I know one thing for sure: I am about to embark on a new path. I’m listening for the signs. I’m following my inner GPS.

Oh, and, see ya Billy! Thanks for the journey!

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Billy Elliot, Etcetera, get real, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Looking Back to Look Forward……

Hello all,

Noah had to write a “memoir” essay for school back in September 2012. He chose to write about his audition for “Billy Elliot the Musical.” As we are heading into our final week with the Billy Elliot tour, I felt it was appropriate to publish this essay now. I will still be blogging, in fact maybe more frequently when we are off this tour. Yet, the future is unknown, vast and exciting for both of us. Looking back over this past 14 months (we joined the tour for in Los Angeles for training back in mid April 2012!) so much has happened that has changed both of our perspectives on the world and humanity. We are both blessed to have had this experience and I am so proud that Noah has remained the same sweet, kind and humble boy that he was when this whole journey began.

As I write this today, I am home and just returned from a college campus visit with my older son, who performed last night with his Improv Comedy troupe, ImprovSoup. As a mother, I couldn’t be more proud of my boys: Ethan, Noah and Jacob. They are growing up to be caring, considerate human beings. And no amount of talent can hold a candle to that! Until I write again, here’s Noah in his own words……..feel free to share this post. It’s a good one!

                                                                          MY FIRST AUDITION

There we were, dad and I, on a rainy Friday morning in mid-September trucking along into the Big Apple for my audition for “Billy Elliot the Musical”.  This also happened to be my first audition ever. I was a dancer, and I had never sung or acted in front of anyone. Scared and nervous were both words that I could say were understatements. I had non-stop butterflies in my stomach.

First costume fitting in LA

My first costume fitting

Walking into the street, an umbrella overhead, we search for the correct towering skyscraper, the one at 500 8th Avenue. However, I’m not really a veteran of finding my way around this city, so I was panicking, thinking we would never find it.

“What number is it again?” I said in a rushed tone.

“It’s 500. It’s just up ahead on the right”, Dad said, making sure I’m calm.

Then, there it was — seeming to stand taller than any other building in New York City as I looked up at it, 500 8th Avenue. We walked through the big glass doors that were almost too heavy for me to open and the receptionist asked who we were and where we were headed in the building. Then, slowly but surely, the elevator went up too many floors for me to count. We stepped out of the elevator and I turned to my dad and said “Wow, well this is it”. That’s all that I could get out of my mouth. I marveled at the great big dance rooms and knew that all the huge auditions happened in this building. I thought that a Broadway star would walk out of any of these rooms any second.

Dad and I walked up to the receptionist and asked where we should go for the Billy Elliot audition and it turned out we were super early. They hadn’t even set up the holding room yet. It was only 12 o’clock and the audition didn’t start until 2. The waiting began…

So, the staff of the studios gave us two chairs to sit in and wait. I stretched, sat, talked a bit, stretched more, and saw George Hamilton.

“That’s George Hamilton!” my dad said.

“Who’s that?” I said, as I had never heard of him before.

Soon after that, the holding room was prepared for us. There were chairs and mirrors lining the walls, a registration table at the front of the room, and a piano in the corner. Then, I slipped my ballet shoes on and started jumping and turning to get warmed up. My dad also gave the woman behind the registration table my photo, information, and resumé (which my mom just wrote).  Soon, each of the other boys trickled into the holding room one by one. Each boy had a different background, look, and came from somewhere different.

Then a lady came into the room. Her presence was almost daunting as she was much taller than I. I was nervous. She had all of the boys follow her into a separate room, leaving all of our parents behind. She also took our resumés and headshots with her.

We ended up in a room identical to the one we left behind. We started with hip-hop and we learned a short combination in that style. We did it over and over again until we felt comfortable with the steps, but hip-hop has never been something I’m completely confident about.

Two at a time we performed this combination for the panel of three “judges”.Although they never introduced themselves as judges, we knew that was what they were. They were three intimidating people that I hoped liked my dancing. We did it over and over again for what seemed like an hour or two.

Next, we did ballet. I put on my ballet shoes and immediately I was slipping and sliding all over the place and then they told us that we could wear jazz shoes for a bit more traction. I was surprised by the small amount of ballet we did. At the most we did twenty minutes of ballet. We did a few basic exercises, including turning and jumping. We went across the floor one at a time doing jumps and turns, but out of the corner of my eye all I saw were the “judges” observing me super closely, never taking their eyes off of me.

After that, it was time for tap. We did very simple tap exercises like shuffles and flaps and not much else because of the slippery floor. I was caught off guard that many of the boys in the audition had never tapped before.

Before we finished up the dancing, they told us we could improvise a dance. We did just that two at a time. I did some turns and jumps that I thought I had remembered from seeing the show. Also, I tried to throw in the limited acrobatics I knew because I knew Billy had to do that in the show as well.

Noah Thanksgiving

So Thankful!

We also did one acting exercise. The casting woman brought us over to the window in the room and said, while pointing to the floor below, “Imagine there was a fire on the floor below us. I want you to warn the three of us (judges) that there is a fire in the building only using the words ‘There’s a fire in the building’”. That is exactly what we did: we would run one at a time from the window up to the judges table and warn them that there is a fire in the building, but only using that one sentence. They explained that we could only use that one sentence because, like in a play, we can only use the lines that were given. Therefore we couldn’t stray from those few words.

Lastly, we sang for the casting people. The pianist in the room quickly taught us the first verse of the big dance/song in act two of the show which is called “Electricity”. It’s also the climax of the musical. We had maybe two or three minutes to practice and then they went around having us sing the song, two lines each. For this section of the audition however, there was somebody recording our singing, which made it more nerve-wracking for me.

After that, the “judges” said thank you for coming and that was it. The boys and I walked back to the waiting room where our parents were waiting and packed up and left.

“How’d it go?”my dad asked.

“Good, I think.” I said, although I wasn’t really sure how it went or if I did a good job.

Overall, I believe my first ever audition was a success and definitely a huge learning experience as it was my first one ever. And here I am with Billy Elliot — all because of that one, first audition.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Billy Elliot, Etcetera, get real, Noah's posts, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Think Inside the Box

Yeah, I know. The saying is “Think Outside the Box.” But sometimes, you need to turn things inside out and take a look inside because what you think is going on around you isn’t what it appears to be. Huh?

Let’s back up a bit. I am now home. This marked my biggest stretch of time away from home since going out on tour with Noah. I was gone for two solid months, a bit more. The last time I was home was for only a few days in mid-March when we came back for Noah’s state exams. He was in testing and I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get a months’ worth of appointments crammed into four days’ time.

So now we are home for a couple of weeks. Although I still have tons of appointments and organizing to do (including opening mail, sorting files, paying bills, etc.) this time at home also includes time for introspection. It’s necessary. It’s about time. You see, living on the road leaves little time for contemplation of any kind. My meditation practice has been kicked to the curb, I hardly have time for an asana practice anymore and I feel lost in the shuffle of an odd sort of reality show.

It’s like living in a traveling college dorm. You live, eat, travel, work, exercise, and socialize with the same people for months on end. You grow to understand each other and know each other – sometimes a bit too well and sometimes not really at all. The “not really at all” part is when things tend to go awry in a social experiment like a touring musical. You see, rumors can run rampant and people often get sucked into believing things about their travel mates that can be, well, let’s say not nice and untrue. Usually I just try to be the best mother I can be to my son and stay away from the fray. It can be isolating at times but mostly, it feels safe. Most of the people I live with do not know me very well. With this said, I can say I have some tried and true tour friends – some people I hope will be my friends for life. They are good, kind and honest people – people I know I could go to for any kind of help. But in order to really know me, or anyone you live with, you have to look inside the box and not just at what’s going on outside. This means forming your own opinions of people and not listening to what others may say. It seems easy but it isn’t. It’s hard enough in the “real world” when you go to work every day and come home to the sanctity of your own home and family. It’s even harder on tour.

Yesterday I enjoyed something I haven’t had time for in a while: reflection. I delved into my Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, an ancient and brilliant sage. For those of you unfamiliar with the Sutras, they are a collection (sutra can be translated to mean “thread”) of kick-ass advice on how to live a more compassionate and fulfilling life. I immediately gravitated to Sutra 1:33:

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness” – Sutra translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda.

The first three parts of this all-important sutra come easy to me but the last part is where I struggle. I’m going to paraphrase a couple of pages from Satchidananda’s book so you all can understand what I’m talking about here. After that, we’ll discuss and hopefully you will all weigh in as well.

           “Whether you are interested in reaching Samadhi (enlightenment) or plan to ignore yoga entirely, I would advise you to remember at least this one Sutra. In my own experience, this Sutra became my guiding light to keep my mind serene always. 

            Who would not like serenity of mind always? Who would not like to be happy always? Everyone wants that. So Patanjali gives four keys: friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard. There are only four kinds of locks in the world. Keep these four keys with you and when you come across any one of these four locks you will have the proper key to open it. What are these four locks? Sukha, duhka, punya and apunya – the happy people, unhappy people, the virtuous and the wicked. At any given moment, you can fit any person into one of these four categories.

            When you see a happy person, use the friendliness key. Why would Patanjali say this? Because even four thousand years ago there must have been people who were not happy at seeing others happy. It is still the same way. Suppose somebody drives up in a big car, parks in front of her huge palatial home and gets out. Some other people are standing on the pavement in the hot sun getting tired. How many of those people will be happy. Not many. They will be saying, “See that big car? She is sucking the blood of the laborers.” We come across people like that: they are always jealous. When a person gets name, fame or a higher position, they try to criticize that person. They will never admit that she might have gone up by her own merit. By that jealousy, you will not disturb her but you disturb your own serenity. She simply got out of her car and walked into the house, but you are burning up inside. Instead, think, “Oh, such a fortunate person. If everybody were like that how happy the world would be. May God bless everybody to have such comfort. I will also get that one day.” Make that person your friend. That response is missed in many cases, not only between individuals but even among nations.

            And what of the next lock, the unhappy people? We should have compassion. If you can lend a helping hand, do it. If you can share half of your loaf, share it. Be merciful always. Remember, our goal is to keep the serenity of our minds. Whether our mercy is going to help that person or not, by our feeling of mercy, at least we are helped.

            Then comes the third kind, the virtuous people. When you see a virtuous man, feel delighted. “Oh, how great he is.” Don’t envy him; don’t try to pull him down. Appreciate the virtuous qualities in him and try to cultivate them in your own life.

            And, lastly, the wicked. We come across wicked people sometimes. We can’t deny that. So what should be our attitude? Indifference. Don’t try to advise wicked people because wicked people seldom take advice. If you try to advise them you will lose your peace. I remember a small story from the Pancha Tantra which I was told as a small child.

            One rainy day, a monkey was sitting on a tree branch getting completely drenched. Right opposite on another branch of the same tree there was a small sparrow sitting in its hanging nest. Normally a sparrow builds its nest on the edge of a branch so it can hang down and swing around gently in the breeze…it was warm and cozy inside its nest and the sparrow just peeped out and, seeing the poor monkey, said ‘Oh, my dear friend, I am so small; I don’t even have hands like you, only a small beak. But with only that I built a nice house, expecting this rainy day. Even if the rain continues for days and days, I will be warm inside. I heard Darwin saying that you are the forefather of the human beings, so why don’t you use your brain? Build a nice, small hut somewhere to protect yourself during the rain.’ You should have seen the face of that monkey. It was terrible! ‘Oh, you little devil! How dare you try to advise me? Because you are warm and cozy in your nest you are teasing me. Wait, you will see where you are!’ The monkey proceeded to tear the nest to pieces, and the poor bird had to fly out and get drenched like the monkey.

            This is a story I was told when I was quite young and I still remember it. Sometimes we come across such monkeys, and if you advise them they take it as an insult. They think you are proud of your position. If you sense even a little of that tendency in somebody, stay away.

            So have these four attitudes: friendliness, compassion, gladness and indifference. These four keys should always be with you in your pocket. If you use the right key with the right person you will retain your peace. Nothing in the world can upset you then.

Okay, discuss or think…but take it all in.

I am sure that some of you who know me personally might be thinking, she wrote this about me. If so, check the egos with your baggage and get real. I am writing about me and you and everyone who is human. And remember, the sage Patanjali said the words above, oh, about 4,000 years ago. This means that WE, as human beings, have not changed much in thousands of years. We have the same issues, the same problems, the same struggles that our ancestors had. The reason I brought up my current situation (being on tour) is because living in a bubble gives me a unique perspective. Once I stepped out of the bubble, it became much clearer to see where my own struggles lie. It’s also evident that Sutra 1:33 can be applied to everybody and every life circumstance in some way, shape or form. It’s like taking a good, hard look in the mirror and then placing the same mirror in front of everyone you live and associate with. Most of us can relate to one or more of the four character types outlined in Sutra 1:33. Maybe you’ve even associated with all of them at some point or another in your life, as life is constantly changing.

We have ALL also encountered happy, unhappy, virtuous and wicked people and have probably handled these folks quite differently depending on our world views and life experiences. Again, for me, the toughest type to deal with is the fourth. Wicked is a pretty strong word, I know. But it was not my word choice, it was Satchidananda’s. And, wicked, as I interpreted it through my readings of various Sutra translations over the years, doesn’t have to mean wicked as in “Wicked Witch of the East.” Sometimes it’s difficult to see “wicked” on the surface and again, this is why we need to look “inside” the box.

Patanjali says there are four keys. My struggle, again, lies in finding and accessing the key to number four. You see, it’s hard for me to be “indifferent.” Usually I internalize things for a while and take everything personally. Slowly, I am learning to let go and go about my own business. I know I need to try harder still just to disregard and ignore these types of people. If I can do this successfully, anyone with a wicked nature can’t affect or hurt me. Again, this fuels my resolve to work towards letting go through yoga, meditation, breath work and whatever other means are useful to me.

What keys are challenging for you? Have you taken a good hard look in the mirror lately? What type of person do you see: happy, unhappy, virtuous or wicked or a combination of more than one? How do you best deal with each of these types of people? Do you hold the keys?

Life is not easy. The best we can do is be friendly to the happy, compassionate to the unhappy, delighted for the virtuous and indifferent to the wicked. Amen Patanjali.

Categories: Etcetera, get real, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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.

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

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