IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

IndiGlow - The Ordinary Illuminated

Summer Time Teachings

Monday, June 01, 2015


In the words of the great Alice Cooper, "School's out for summer."  For most of us that is now true. 


But, not for me.  I'll be getting those recent high school grads in just a couple of days.


A few of my colleagues and non-teacher friends moan when I say I am going back quickly after finishing up my yearly semester to begin summer semester.


But really, I don't mind.  I actually dig it.  In the summer, I usually only amass a dozen or less students, compared to the 25 I have to wrangle in the Fall.  In the Fall I teach all the Composition classes you knew and loved, a few literature classes, but mostly writingwritingwriting.


I teach more than English though.  I teach (and study) human nature.  And that nature, although the human does not, changes with every single semester.  Quite possibly, daily.  They would like to tell you that people's behaviors, outlooks, opinions can't possibly change that often or that quickly, but, oh, my friend, they do.


Think about it.  We are constantly globally connected.  We can't go a day without some mention of a political statement, or what some family has been hiding, or even to what extent Kanye smiled.  We are constantly connected to our smart phones, and that is not very smart.


When I was in college (and in grad school), I had a TV but it wasn't connected to anything but an old VCR.  In the mornings, I put on a CD (usually Tori Amos) and drank some coffee (usually French).  If I had down-time at night, I watched a favorite movie.  Smart phones did not exist.  If I needed to research something, I went to the library, the one with paper books, and shelves, and card catalogs, and librarians with an  extensive knowledge on the history of everything.


Smart phones are nice, but so is human interaction, which brings me back to teaching summer school.  Right now I have 6 students signed up to take my Introduction to Literature class.  I will spend 3 hours twice a week with 6 people.  Tell me we won't get to know each other in all the uncomfortable ways.  We're going to talk about words and why someone a hundred years ago needed to write them.  We are going to talk about words and why we need to choose them wisely. We are going to talk about trees and why a tree is never just a tree!  We are going to sit with our metaphors and look at the leaves and the sky.  We are going to listen to birds and probably traffic.  We are going to talk to each other.


If you happen to need Introduction to Literature, or maybe you just want to talk about trees that aren't trees, look me up. I'll be in Room 504.  I have a view of the river, the bridge, and the Farmer's Market.  I have 6  people talking to each other.



A Life Examined

Thursday, July 31, 2014


"It's about being alive and feisty and not sitting down and shutting up,

even if people would like you to."

                                                                ~Pink

On road trips, I to listen to NPR.  The ear can only handle so much pop star.  It needs a little information and intelligence, even if hidden in a silly radio trivia game.  Anyway, between here and wherever, I learned (or I guess I was reminded) from a former astronaut (who would indeed know) what fear is.  Apparently, fear is an archaic response from our lizard brain keeping us wary of lions and marauders alike.


Which got me thinking:  I, as a rule, am not greatly daring around or within tall, wavering buildings.  I would feel braver swimming through barracuda than managing across a floating bridge over a flowing river.  Gondolas suspended by cables.  Heavy, ton-weighted gondolas suspended over verdant Vermont hills by whip-thin cables.  Don’t even get me started.  Those things.  I made my friends walk a 4,000 foot mountain because of my fear of the gondola.


But really, I am not afraid of the gondola.  Nope.  I’d sleep, eat, and hold a proper tea party in one as long as it was grounded.  It’s really a fear of falling, that someone didn’t wrench the thing right, and I would go careening through space to my death.  What I am afraid of is an under-paid summer technician with a monkey wrench.


We all have a fear, and I bet we all have a friend who carries a fear around that we just don’t get.  Me, I have a friend who is afraid of his own shadow, which is a hyperbole, but you know what I mean.  He doesn’t like speaking publicly, even to small groups of friends, opening up, standing near pretty women, sitting near pretty women.  He is afraid to make noise, to drum his damn drum.


I asked him: what exactly are you scared of, and he said I am scared that people will think I am stupid.


Stupid?  That’s the least of my concerns.  I live for stupid.  I am the band leader with the fuzzy hat and the scepter.  I was awarded Best Turkey at the Annual Thanksgiving Family Dinner Charade.  I am Phyllis Diller and Carol Burnett. 


It isn’t about making ‘em laugh, though.  It is about a commitment to a life examined.  


When my husband and I were on our very first date, we went for ice cream and wandered through some antique shops in the town square.  I put on one of those old lady hats with the birdcage netting, turned around to him, and said “daaahling, coffee, tea, or me?”  The man married me, and in our vows asked that I never lose my quirky.


Maybe you’ve noticed that there are a whole lot of selfies out there on social media, and the yoga community has transferred this pop culture empowerment into full-on yoga poses.  There are #publicdisplayofasana #urbanbadasses #yogaposeweekley #yogaofplace, and our own #indigogingerschallenge. 


In fact, when I went on vacation, I knew I wanted to post pictures in front of city monuments in a more attention-grabbing way than with Bob Fosse-meets-vacation- hands.  As a result, I rocked head stands all over the South: The Waving Girl in Savannah, Bathtub Mary’s in Atlanta, a walking bridge in Chattanooga, a million dollar house in Charleston.


If you’re going to do this, and you should, you will have to bridge a certain element of what will people think of me?  Because, trust me, I got a lot of those looks.


But, as Deepak Chopra said, What other people think of you is not your business. 


That may be the truest and most helpful statement I have seen in a while.  People can think whatever they want of me, even if it is wrong, embellished, fictional, or one-sided.  I know who I am. 


On a good day, I am compassionate with a side of quick anger.  I am petite, but think I am 6 feet tall.  I love chocolate and vegetables, but don’t care for fruit very much.  I like naps and strong narratives.  I like sloths, hedgehogs, platypuses, and bats.  I think washing dishes is a form of meditation, but I cannot sit still and meditate.  I like tulle, sparkly things, and a good cold beer.  I am complicated and quirky.  And it’s none of my business how you interpret my quirky.  I just am.


I have my fears.  I have my scared ofs.  Stupid is not one of them.  Would I go back to that lovely mountain in Vermont and take the gondola up?  Probably not.  Not because of fear though.  We picked wild strawberries and blueberries along the way. We communed with yellow butterflies and prickly grasses at our ankles.  That day was a life examined. 


I am currently a few days shy of going home to New Orleans, and I plan to do brave and stupid things, like an inversion on Bourbon St., maybe a crow pose on police horse, maybe horse pose in Jackson Square.  I will drink cold beer and slip down an oyster or two. 


Be stupid.  Be daring.  Create a life worth examining.  Be your own weird self.  Don’t let your fears make your decisions.  If people look at you, remember, it is none of your business.  They are simply unexamined.

Be Kind, Guest Editor Michelle Ladwig

Monday, June 02, 2014
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
                                               - Plato

I work in an environment where I see the same people at the same time every day.  It is the life of a teacher.  For 16 weeks at a time we, college professors and students alike, move like clockwork, quite consistent in our where and when.  All together we consist of about 2,000 worker bees with many queen bees holding down one ever-buzzing hive.  


Because of this time-aligned movement, I see people through seasons, through colds and sniffles, through accomplishments, mild injuries, really anything the average human can get themself into.  At the beginning of the year I ran into a young man as I was exchanging classrooms with a colleague. This young man is tall as a wildflower, thin as a rail, and has a soft and effeminate voice. 


During this 2 minute classroom exchange with limited dialogue, I watched and listened as my colleague (with more clout that I have) refer to this young man as a female.    


My heart was broken.  My eyes went from my colleague to the kid and back again.  I tried to gently interject and correct.  His expression was one of dejection and sad acceptance, like a puppy accepting his corner of the den.  Everything about my colleague was bluster and position.          


I was angry.  I couldn't call out my colleague, and I really just wanted to hug that poor kid who didn't have to seem the voice to correct him.  I guess what really bugged me is that my colleague had so much ego he couldn't get out of his own way to recognize the delicacies of another human being.        


But really, are we any more superior?  Don’t we make judgments daily?  Think about our average grocery store. There’s the fat lady with a buggy filled with poor choices; the teenager with tattoos and gauges; the dad using his food-stamps, holding up the line.  


I do.  You know you do.

      

But, the more I think about it, my colleague didn't pass judgment.  That isn't the case.  He didn't think, I’m guessing, oh, what a homely girl or some such.  He made an assumption and that isn't the same as judgment. Right?  Please someone explain this to me.

     

He assumed that kid was one thing because he didn't look a certain way.  He didn't ask questions. He didn't take the time to know each singular person in the classroom.  He just barreled through them, focusing on his agenda.       


Speaking of the dad in the grocery line, this happened to me.  Dad was trying to pay for his groceries with his food stamps.  It was taking a while.  I leaned in and chatted with his toddler girl about colors and the shapes of balloons.  The clerk apologized for the wait.  The dad apologized for the wait, but really I felt he was apologizing for being poor.  I don’t care if you’re poor.  I don’t care if you are overweight and like Little Debbie’s.      


I certainly don’t care if you want to dress outside the social construct of your gender.   Our kid has now begun cross-dressing.   And it isn't dressing for attention.  He isn't dressing in drag.  I had a kid in my high school class who dressed in drag: all kinds of wrong gathered from Grandma’s and Goodwill.    

This kid is dressed like a stylish teenage girl.

      

If I didn't know him before, I would sincerely think she is the tallest girl I have ever seen. And the prettiest. Quite pretty.  Lovely mid-west, corn silk blonde hair, blue eyes, and thin lips like a pulled bow.

I don’t know what’s in her head.  I am not in a position to ask.  My only option is to open doors when we cross paths, which happens twice a week at 10:20, and smile.  I hope my smile is thing that keeps her alive and happy and healthy and positive.  I hope a smile walks her to her future.

I love that kid with no name.  She is everyone I ever walked past.

Finding My Center After the Storm

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I'm watching Turkey Buzzards circling over my backyard as I sit and work in my office on this peaceful Saturday morning.  Through the other window I see an intricate spider web attached to the eaves of the roof swaying in the gentle breeze.  My 3 children have spent the morning playing, disagreeing, making-up, and playing some more.  There is such peace and fullness in my heart/mind at this moment.  I'm reminded of the word purnam, or "perfection," which, in this context, does not mean what we might think.  I am full...I am whole...I am perfectly content in my spirit as I observe the fluctuations of the world around me.   


After the longest Winter of my life (which bled into the Spring and even early Summer), I am refreshed to find the ground beneath my feet again.  It felt like a metaphorical hurricane swept through my life and left me completely demolished internally.  

After a month of testing in January, my son was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism.  While I had suspected this for the 5 years prior to his diagnosis, there was still a part of me wishing they would tell me I was wrong on that emotional day.  

The day before I drove to Chicago for this news, I learned that my father was diagnosed with another form of cancer (he had beat Prostate Cancer years before).  My relationship with my Dad has not been a close one, and so I was left with a mixture of feelings, including grief and fear.  

It was a hell-of-a week, and I took a few days to try to assimilate all of this news.  And then...that following Friday as I was waiting in the pick-up line at school I received a terrifying call from my mother.  She was having a stroke!  I spent the next week in and out of the hospital with her...trading shifts with my brother as we worried what would happen next.  Once released, she came to live with me for a few weeks so I could care for her, which included sorting out all of her new meds, helping her learn to give herself insulin shots 4 times a day (for her out of control diabetes), cooking heart-healthy meals, and more.  I was happy to do it, but I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.

By the grace of God, her stroke did not leave her completely handicapped.  While it certainly affected her, with time & rehab she regained most of her speech, balance, and abilities.  It was life-changing for her (and for all of us who love her), and she made incredible lifestyle changes in an effort to avoid another stroke.


Now, months later, we're all doing pretty damn well!  My father & I have become closer than we've been in years, and his cancer is under control at the moment.  My mother lives independently with a helper now who comes twice a week, and she continues to be stronger everyday.  My son, well...of course there is no cure for Autism, but we've been able to get him a 504 at school, which means he is protected for the rest of his educational days.  I've finally been able to talk to him about his diagnosis, and together we are learning how to navigate this unique path God has blessed us with. 


Everyday there are new challenges to face, but this is the nature of human existence for all of us.  For everyone of us life is going to be full of heartache, scary moments, and metaphorical hurricanes that make us feel defeated.  But, the beauty is that there are also moments of deep joy, moments to celebrate, and remarkable miracles which build us up again.  All moments pass, change, ebb & flow.  

I'm eternally grateful for the skills my yoga practice has given me.  Because of these tools I am able to find my center...remember to breathe...and accept that I am not in control of the world around me, but I can control how I react to it.  With a very glad and grateful heart, I am thankful for this moment.  


Namaste

<3 IndigoGrrl

"Buildings and bridges are made to bend...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
in the wind, to withstand the world that's what it takes.
All that steel and stone
is no match for the air, my friend
what doesn't bend breaks
what doesn't bend breaks...."

Ok, so you might not call it "current," but I still love this Ani DiFranco song from her 1994 album, "Out of Range."  You can listen to the rest of it here on YouTube, but I wish there was a good live performance to share.

What I love about this Righteous Babe is that she's been a champion of speaking her truth.  She's challenged conformity and embraced who she is.  Much of her music is political, but my favorite tunes are the personal songs that pull at my soul and push me to really look at those feelings.  She doesn't hide or shirk or become a prisoner to forum.  And now...she's a mommy, like me.  Suddenly she's all the more relatable.  

I needed to hear her song today...to remind myself that even the strongest & tallest structures are made to bend in the wind.  To withstand the world it really is what it takes.

Peace,
IndigoGrrl

I haven't felt the Earth move

Monday, January 28, 2013
under my feet nearly enough this winter.  I spent so much time and effort building up a running practice last year from April all the way until the end of November.  I even ran my first races...two different 5k's which I found to be exhilarating experiences! 
 
It wasn't easy...I never was a runner and could never get past that first mile.  I started with alternating 3 minutes of jogging with several minutes of walking early last Spring.  It wasn't pretty, but I'd make myself go for 45-minutes...even though I couldn't run half of that at the time.  
I just kept at it...and then I got the best advice yet on how to approach my cardio, "The first 5 minutes are going to suck.  Know that & do whatever you can to make it fun,"  advised my friend who frequents our Wellness Studios who is also a doctor (Dr. Margaret Millar).  She encouraged me to keep at it...to get past those first 5-10 minutes, and to make it FUN!  
Hello, technology!  It hadn't occurred to me before, but once she filled me in on these simple pointers I loaded my iPhone with all kinds of crazy club music (which I don't normally listen to at ALL), invested in some good supportive shoes from the experts at Running Wild, and accepted the "suck" of the first 5 minutes.  And then...magic!  I love the stress-relief and weight-management that comes from a dedicated practice.  It doesn't hurt a bit that it makes my husband notice my legs.
  
But, OH MY GOD it has been a crazy winter.  December hit and those running shoes haven't been on my feet once (well, maybe a couple of times but it wasn't to actually RUN, sadly.)  I can't even blame the weather...especially since I love the cold & snow!  Between purchasing a 2nd business, battling the flu season with 3 kids, the holidays, and a mile-long list that even bores ME (so I'll spare YOU), this mama has lost her steam (and found her beer belly.)

Well, guess what?  Screw YOU crazy/busy schedule!  I'm getting my ass back in the saddle..er, running tights and I'm going to burn off that stress.  It's gonna suck for more than a minute, but not nearly as badly as it sucks to feel defeated & pudgy.  Help me out, Carole King...mama's finding her groove today!

Happy trails, friends!
~IndigoGrrl



Who's Howling

Saturday, January 26, 2013



...at the Full Wolf Moon tonight?


I love a Winters Full Moon more than any other, I think.  It could be that I was born in February in the snowy midwest, but when I really search my heart I know.

The moon is Yin energy:  quiet, cold, still, silver.  It is the opposite of its Yang counter-part, the Sun (which is roaring, hot, active, and golden.)  Winter herself is the energy of the Yin Goddess, so a Full Moon on a Winters Night is as Yin as it gets.  I want to be silenced by the peace of the cold, bright, beauty of her.  I want to dive into a silent retreat, immersed in introspection so that I can emerge in the Spring ready for personal growth and abundance.  

But within the very heart of Yin, is Yang. While she is shrouded in her quiet power her very heart burns with wild fire.  She looks out upon the attractive, fiery dance of Yang, but within his heart is Yin...dark & cold.  This eternal dance between the night and day, fire and ice, hot and cold preserves and sustains all of creation...of nature...what the yogis would call, Prakriti (and what we would refer to as "nature.")


How do we find that balance of these two energies within ourselves?  How do we acknowledge and accept both aspects instead of falling into the temptation to grasp to one way of being or the other?  We could just howl in agony over the pain this dilemma creates, or we could tune into the Wisdom of the Full Winters Moon, travel deeply within our own hearts, and through introspection explore the answers to these ancient questions.  

Wherever your path leads, may the light of the Full Wolf Moon shine brightly upon you tonight.  May you find the peace, wisdom, and compassion to unite both the Sun and the Moon within your heart.  May all beings be happy and free from Suffering.


Namaste,

IndigoGrrl

"God is in the Roses...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

...the petals and the thorns.

Storms out on the oceans; 

souls who will be born.  

And every drop of rain that falls, 

falls for those who mourn. 

God is in the roses and the thorns."


I heard this Roseanna Cash song for the first time about a year ago as I was driving to our Yoga Teacher Training program at Indigo on a Sunday morning.  I was listening to NPR and hadn't been paying much attention as my mind was busy and my heart was heavy...I don't remember what internal battle I was fighting on that particular day.  I have battled chronic depression my entire life...and while I have overcome so much of this disease there are days & moments when the weight of the world and the suffering of humanity (especially of my own loved ones) swallow me up whole.


But when this simple yet powerful song started to play,

I was instantly hushed -- suddenly I was fully present...alive...aware...surrendered...accepting...at peace in the moment.  Tears of release streamed down my face and as I took deep breaths in and out I found myself absorbing the essence of God and letting go of the hurt.  

It was a moment that made a lasting impression.  It didn't erase my struggles.  It reminded me that my struggles are part of the process.  God is with me in the easy moments and in the difficult moments.  When I remember to let go of my firm grasp on those thorns my pain is so much less severe.  A rose can rest in my palm...thorns and all and when I just give it space (not casting it aside nor grasping firmly...just allowing it to BE) I can become aware of the complete beauty of God.  


Awareness.  Discernment.  Surrender.  There's that Kriya Yoga theme popping up in my life again.  Hmm...


**Just a sidenote to clarify my points of view:  when I refer to God, I do not see a separate God between cultures.  I do not believe there is MY God & then there is YOUR God, and I don't even really assign or assume gender here, as I believe God is bigger than those human labels & understandings.

Whatever way in which you personally connect with this Divine Creative Source, I believe it is the same energy for all of us.  Part of our human experience is finding our own personal connection with God (or the Gods, or the Goddess...or the Sun, or the Universe) ...these are all aspects of that one Infinite Source, in my humble opinion.   





Practice, and Surrender?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

We talk a lot about "surrender" in yoga.  Next time you're in class count how many times one of us instructs you to "let go."  (Just don't tell any of my instructors that I said so...ok?)
Does it ever feel more like the picture above (from a scene in the classic, "The Wizard of Oz") than the picture below when you really TRY to let go of something?  We're supposed to feel serenity...like being on the white sands near the ocean without any heavy thoughts holding us down.  Yet, living in our modern world with everyday demands and stressors can leave us feeling more like we should run and hide.  

I know.  I have those moments and those days too. 

But, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali give some direction in the principles of Kriya Yoga:

"Within this practice we orient our attitudes toward the discernment (swadhyaya) to distinguish the things we can change (tapah) from the things we cannot change (isvara pranidhana.)"  -excerpt from the Introduction of "Yoga Anatomy, 2nd Edition," written by Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews.

Sounds a lot like The Serenity Prayer, doesn't it?  
That's something most of us are more familiar with, which makes it easier to relate to.  
The short version goes something like, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  In essence, we are to give it to God...that which we cannot change or control we can release ourselves from by simply giving it to the Universe (Creative Source, the Divine...however you relate to that energy, no matter what you call it...it's all the same.)

Still, the white beaches WOULD be nice...but January here in the Midwest can serve as a backdrop to my inner bliss.  It just takes practice.  (lots, and lots, and lots and LOTS of daily practice)
Hmm...now where is my broomstick? 

Oh, thank goodness! I needed this reminder today...

Saturday, January 05, 2013

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