In The Midst of Change-Again

I’ve been traveling the last few weeks and loving every second of it. I’ve seen old friends, clients and students. I’ve taught in familiar places and some new places. I’ve searched out my old haunts and just taken some time to be quiet and breathe.

The last six months has been a privilege in that I’ve had a lot of time to breathe and be quiet. To think about breathing and being quiet, even. It’s been six months of reflection and introspection. My friends call it my sabbatical from life. I’ve parented minimally, lived with friends, read, watched way too much Netflix and indulged in my yoga and meditation practices. But it started with pain. It was the privilege of healing in peace after my life flew apart. It has been six months of change, growth, respite and now in the Spring it has been a time of love, happiness and blossoming.

Yesterday in the air over the Midwest I read Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully and when she described ego clinging I was struck by how she was describing me. Now, I’ve worked on ego a lot and if you ask me I would say I’m a kind and open person. I go with the flow easily and I don’t hang on to any idea too tightly. Except when I do.

My biggest struggle is the idea of One Day. I’m not materialistic enough to believe that One Day I’ll have the perfect car/house/timeshare and life will be perfect and I’m not vain enough to believe when I hit the magic numbers on the scale One Day, life will be perfect. I do, however, hold on to the idea that One Day I will have it all together.

I’ve had this notion forever. I can’t remember not thinking it. When I was a kid, it was when I’m a teenager everything will be perfect. As a teenager I thought if I could just make it out of my parents home and on to college everything would be great. In my 20s I thought life would come together in my 30s and I would know the magic answers and when they didn’t come I just happened to see an Oprah show where famously successful women recounted how things jelled for them in their forties. So I waited. And here I am almost halfway through and I’m still not sure what together is.

So slowly I’m learning to accept that there is no One Day. There’s just now. Logically I’ve known this for years, but to feel it deeply and surely is work. Over the last few years I’ve also learned that what looks like chaos from in here probably looks together to someone out there. So I can at least enjoy the facade, but from in here there’s always going to be uncertainty. There’s always going to be doubt and second guessing and trouble with self-love and forgiveness. Because that’s who Melissa is.

This quiet time the last few months has taught me a little bit about embracing the uncertainty and slowly learning to appreciate it. Maybe even have a little gratitude for it. Cause wouldn’t life be boring if I knew for certain what the next five years looked like? Or even worse the next 20 or 40 years?  I’d just lie down right now and give up.

The toughest part for me is to be still in the moment. Outside of my meditation practice just being still mentally, physically, emotionally is tough.  So often I’m planning, planning, planning. I take a walk so I’ll feel alert later and maybe my new dress will fit better later. I’m thinking about my mental state, my health, my life in the future. I’m doing things now for later. These last six months I’ve accepted what is here right now just for the sake of this moment. It’s made me appreciate my life and also realize how delicate and precious what I have in this moment is. Six months ago I thought I knew where I stood and where I was going. It was gone in a second.

And that’s ok. Really, the universe knew so much better than I did. The universe gave me this gift of complete upheaval and the parts that I’ve put back together are wondrous in comparison. And somewhere in the dusty corners of my mind I know that’s the point. It’s the stuff of miracles. It’s not about planning and making sure and feeling in control. It’s about the magic, the surprises, the happenstance that make our lives wondrous.

Steve Jobs says that things lead you to a place, but you can’t possibly connect the dots of the events of your life until you look back. The thing that I keep seeing is a field of dots and 100s or possibly 1000s  of different connections creating different paths.

This Melissa has been here some 40 years and none of it has been static and very little of has been known in advance. I’m always, always developing, learning, changing. I sometimes hate to do it publicly and I fear that changing often makes me appear flighty. Today I can embrace that it just makes me human.

So with my new found respect for not knowing and accepting change and uncertainty I’m again changing the blog. I’m posting here very little these days because I’ve been working on the new blog. It’s my attempt at making my work, teachings, writing, ramblings more cohesive It will be about more than just yoga off the mat. This blog will stay live, but I won’t be posting from here. Please please come on over. We’re going to practice poses, cook some yummies, drink some tea, meditate, breathe and have fun doing it! Comment, share and enjoy. See you there.



Smile At Fear-Living From The Heart

Sunday night I’m checking  in with a friend and we’re talking about what we’re focusing on next. lotus3She suggests the new Thich Nhat Hanh book, Fear and my mind starts racing and I can feel my breath getting shorter. I deal with fear all the time. ALL the time, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to read comforting words about it, be told to accept it and embrace it. Cause fear has worked for me for a long time and I’m not sure that I can give it up.

Fear is my go to emotion. It’s comfortable in it’s scariness. I can feel it welling up and while it may not be pleasant with the panting and the sweating and the dizziness, it is a known. I know how fear works in my life. I know what to do about it. I know, for the most part, how to control it.

What if?

What if I learned to smile at my fear, as Buddhist nun Pema Chodron teaches. That might be living with my whole heart. In fact, it’s exactly what Pema teaches. She teaches that to be in the fearlessness is to live from the heart.

So before we get started on the fear I’m taking time to retreat. I’m taking time to renew, rejuvenate, re-energize. It might seem a lot like the hibernating so many of us have been this long long winter, but it’s different. Hibernation is resting. It’s lying loretreatspaw and being quiet. Retreating is intentionally investing my time and energy in activities that make me feel more whole
, energized and renewed. It’s the sloughing off of the old and revealing the shiny and new. Retreat is when we try new things, open our minds and find connections.
We can do this because we’ve snuggled down into ourselves over the long long long winter. We’ve spent the last few months reacquainting ourselves with ourselves. We know ourselves inside and out again and we can make that leap into the blooming Spring.

Whether you’d like to do a yoga retreat, a spa retreat, a writing retreat or a spiritual retreat look to A Yogi Kitchen over the next few weeks for retreat options. Share how you’re retreating this Spring, if it ever gets here.

An Open and Broken Heart

lotus2I opened my heart. I was vulnerable and okay with the fear and it really did take me to a different place. I was safe and it felt good to trust. There was rosiness. ROSINESS! And I didn’t feel quite so broken and my heart felt full. I cried happy tears and fell asleep with a smile on my face.

And then the next morning the universe rewarded me with breaking my open heart. In a completely different, but somewhat related area, my life shifted. An area that has been rocky and challenging for all of my adult life fell apart/shattered/exploded. It was shocking but not unexpected, and a very long time coming.

And I get the lesson, I really do, but it doesn’t make the hurt easier. Once I could be truly open and trusting it was time to let go of what was no longer serving me. And it was in that moment that I could open my heart to something new and scary that the old truly, completely, no-doubt-about-it didn’t serve me anymore. I did think I would get a little more time, though. The next morning, really?  It hadn’t served me in years, but it was comfortable and known. I knew it like a grungy bathrobe with holes and rips. It was an easy place to be in its own way.

So here I am with an open and broken heart and I’m raw and feeling like the world is a big and scary place and I’m not driving I’m just riding and I believe in sitting with the pain and I’m wishing with everything that I’ve got that I can just crawl under the covers, or under the bed and hide and maybe numb my pain. But I believe in telling my story with my whole heart and I believe that the uncomfortable place is where the growth begins and I believe in continually growing and in spiritual maturity. My pain tells me that spiritual maturity sucks and growth is hugely over-rated. But here I am and I have a choice. And then I remember that it probably doesn’t matter which branch of the twisty path I take because they’re all going to get me to the same place and then I remember that the only driving I get to do is to decide do I want the road to be bumpy and full of potholes or would I rather take the smoother, possibly more direct path. That’s it. The universe decides where I’m going, I just get to choose how I’d like to get there.

And maybe it shouldn’t be and maybe it wouldn’t have been last year, but right now in this moment it’s comforting and I feel safe again.It’s a weird place for me, but I’m going to  accept it and see what the next bend in the road looks like.

What if and the slit in the box

A few weeks ago I asked what if. What if? I was asking what it would look like to live  with my whole heart. What if I could let go of my fear and truly embrace an open heart?

A friend called me on it. Whenever I’ve been scared over the last few weeks she asks me What If? She’s a little more subtle than that, but she keeps bringing it up and she shares how that thinking has changed things for her. Be careful what you put out there, right? Cause now I have some accountability.

With these conversations the question has expanded. The question is now, not only living with a healed heart, but what would that actually look like?

And also….What if everything turns out the way I want? What if I get the life/job/love I truly desire. What if I heal my heart and live well and happy? What if I get these things and I’m still scared?

I don’t have answers and I don’t think I’m supposed to. But the question is giving me hives. It’s so exciting/scary/exhilarating that it takes my breath away.

I’ve spent a lot of my life with this interesting story running through my head that I didn’t even realize was there. That’s great for other people, not for me. I grew up in a family that was so different than everyone else’s that it was ingrained from a young age. Some things really were different like being mixed in a mostly white neighborhood/school/side of town. And some just seemed that way because of the secrets behind abuse and violence.

Living with a whole heart was part of that story.  That’s great for Christa who seems like she has a really great life, but that’s not who I’m supposed to be.  Jim seems like he’s really happy/compatible/well-matched in his love life, but that’s not in the cards for me.

And it wasn’t self-pity, not actively. I just honestly thought that other people could have true love/good lives/great jobs, but I had too much drama/trauma/brokenness. Now, at 44 that thinking is shifting.

I recently read an article by the wise Pema Chodron and she touched on the concept of being awake and likened it to being in a box with a slit. We can only see the world out of the slit.


That’s the extent of our perspective. As we become more awake  the slit becomes bigger and our perception of reality gets wider, cause we can see more. That’s how it feels with my heart opening. As I let go of the story and let my heart open a little bit more, the slit gets wider and what I perceive to be possible for my frightened open heart becomes bigger.

Get this. She calls this lighter, easier, more open space enlightenment. Who knew?

Dress it up! homemade salad dressings

Chef in disguise

For March’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan asked us to totally veg out! We made salads and dressings, letting the sky be the limit as we created new flavors and combinations that reflect our own unique tastes.

I LOVE making my own salad dressings! if you have not tried that before, believe me, you are missing out!A  few  simple ingredients and some imagination and you can turn your salads from boring to mouthwatering in a matter of minutes.

Salad dressing ingredients

The idea of making your own salad dressings may sound intimidating at first but in reality it is easier,cheaper, healthier and the taste is phenomenally better than the over-priced, preservative filled dressing you buy at the store.

For this month we chose to challenge the daring cooks to go beyond the dressings in a jar .The challenge was an invitation  to dive into the vast and wonderful world of homemade…

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A Botched Open Heart

I failed. Really failed. I was recently presented an opportunity to open my heart, to live fully, to be in the embarrassedmoment and let go of my fears. Boy, did I fail. I was full of fear, denial and if I’d been able to run I probably would have. Luckily, it was late and I didn’t have a car. It’s been a cold winter, running would have been even more stupid than being afraid.

So I failed for about ten minutes. Then I realized that everything that was happening was what I really really wanted deep in my heart. I’d love to say that for that ten minutes I didn’t do anything stupid. How I wish that I was just silent and processed, but no that’s not what happened. I was openly fearful and reacted badly. So, there’s that. I least I was honest about my first feelings.  I recovered. Slowly. And I apologized and it got examined and talked about. We’ll see the cost.

Here’s where I am a few days later, though. I am in the process, much through writing, of forgiving myself. There’s a part of me that’s been through a lot of therapy that says of course you reacted badly, you were raised to duck, hide and pretend. There’s another part of me that says, you’ve done a lot of work and you’re an adult now and that’s your past. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

My first instinct is to be in that place of fear. Getting what my heart truly desires terrifies me. As a kid getting what I really really wanted was scary because it was so often stripped from me in a second, either in anger or punishment. Punishment in my home was random and really was thinly veiled anger, not really about correcting behavior.

As an adult I still can be in that place of fear about what I really really want. Not only have I conditioned myself not to want too much and often mask it through being a mother and a partner, but I put other people’s needs in front of my own and even got to a place in life where I really didn’t know who I was.

So it’s progress. I’m willing to recognize my fear and be present with it. I’m willing to let my past be my past and most importantly I’m willing to be uncomfortable to get what I really really want. Writing that makes my heart skip a beat, but as I wrote earlier this week I’m finally in this really great place in my life with great people, liking who I am. I’m not willing to go back. I’ll be unhappy again in life, it’s bound to happen (I’m working on not attaching to being happy), but my unhappiness will come because life will shift and change not because I’m full of fear.

It’s Just Sensation Darling

I thought by the end of February I’d be done with thinking about open hearts, but it seems to pop up everywhere lately. The most recent challenge has been coming for a few months.

2013 was a tough year for most of my friends. It was tough for me. Everyone had a relationship end, lost a job, had a friend/parent/loved one die. People had big moves and big changes. Everyone had something big and ugly in 2013.

Eventually it started to trigger me. I started waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept wondering if my explosive breakup was going to be it or what the hell else could go wrong.  If my mother called unexpectedly I knew she was calling with bad news. If my kids’ father didn’t return my call immediately,

buddhaI was sure it was because my son was in the emergency room. It was hard to stay in the moment and hard to keep my heart open.

2014 has been infinitely better. There’s still stuff going on, but I’ve been less triggered, more grounded and more open.

I have to admit, though, it’s getting harder to be grounded and open.  A few weeks ago a friend I’m not close with, but am extremely fond of and have known for 20+ years had open heart surgery. Then someone I’m getting very close to had a relative die and last week a close friend had a biopsy and is fine and another friend had a biopsy and her cancer is back. And it feels like the world has gone crazy. It feels like my life as I know can slip away in a blink. And it feels like I’m not mature enough to deal with this. When did I get this to be such a grown-up?

I’m trying to stay present with what is and not let my brain go crazy. I’m sitting with the fact that I am almost 45 and there will be more and more months like this where friends are diagnosed with heartbreaking things and have dangerous surgeries and some won’t survive. And just writing that hurts my heart.

It took me so long to get here. So long to get to a place where I have a fantastic group of people who love and support me, so long to find my groove again after babies and divorce and bad relationships. So long to like my life and who I am in it.

I recently read an article about 91 year old, Ruth Denison, Buddhist teacher. She is contemplating her death, is terrified and struggling to stay balanced.  The article struck me. It hit me on the head and stayed there all week.  “It’s just sensation darling. The pain is just sensation.” she teaches a woman struggling with accepting her cancer. It stuck with me all week.

Once again I find myself in a place of fear. I want to scream. If you’ve read even two of my posts you know that fear is my go-to emotion. I did SO much work  last year and STILL fear is my go-to emotion. Granted, I’m far less triggered than I was two years ago. I don’t have panic attacks or even highly agitated states anymore. My drama is all in my head now cause I don’t let it leak out into my relationships or day to day life. But really?

“It’s just sensation darling.” And if a 91 year old master has to work to stay balanced in her fear and uncertainty than I should probably cut myself some slack.

I’m reminded that this really is just a journey. There’s never a place where I should expect the work to be done. There’s that word again, expect. I think I’m pretty good at letting go of expectations or at least recognizing quickly that I’m having one.  Yet, I’ve suffered with my own pain for weeks, my brain has been topsy turvy  since I heard that my friend was in the hospital awaiting heart surgery. I consistently think I’m so on top of this journey and then I have to remind myself to truly embrace the journey. “It’s just sensation darling.”

Expectations, The Roadblock to an Open Heart

buddhaheartAs a teacher, a mom and just being human I see it all the time. I see it in my students, my friends, my kids and most often in myself. Expectations. Expectations kill the moment, harden us and set us up for failure. But we continue to have them and hold them close to our struggling hearts.

Expectations are about waiting for the other shoe to drop, about attaching feelings to outcomes, about desire. Expectation is about the opposite of being present in the moment. It is about suffering from past regrets or anxiety about future endeavors. Expectations are about wanting life to be a certain way, instead of accepting things as they are.

I see this most clearly with my students and their practices. People come into yoga wanting certain results and sometimes they get them. Sometimes a student needs to work out the creaky/cranky/sore places and as she glides through a series the body heats up, the muscles release and alignment is restored. Sometimes a student may need to quiet her busy mind. This student is always most interesting to me. This is the student who is oftentimes twitchy and restless in the quietest part of class. Sometimes this student does get quiet and clears her mind.

But here’s the danger in getting on the mat with expectations, or getting anywhere for that matter. First, by arriving with desires these women focus on their wishes instead of opening themselves to those moments of surprise, that unasked for gift that yoga so often gives us. Instead of being with what is, they are with what they want and as much as we all like getting what we want, it’s not always what we need or even all that is good for us.

More importantly and possibly more damaging, by expecting an outcome these women set themselves up for disappointment. Because there will be times when you get on the mat and you will not get the desired affects, for lots of reasons. Sometimes your creaky/cranky/sore places have a purpose. Your body is talking to you about a larger issue and trying to work out the kinks can actually make your pain worse. Perhaps working on the core issue is really the only way to heal the creaky/cranky/sore place. We don’t need to know how or why, we just need to stay present with the practice and let the yoga do its work.

Thinking that yoga is going to calm you, even if it’s done so 1000 times before can be really disheartening, because when you’re ready for it the practice may surprise you by making you really unhappy and uncomfortable. The practice is here to serve you. Sometimes it serves us in really unexpected ways.


 Let’s say Lisa is not dealing with her grief issues. She has a busy mind, frequent headaches and a tight upper back. She comes to class twice a week and stretches at home at least once a week. At some point the practice is going to open her heart, no matter how she tries to resist. And sometimes that heart opening, especially when there is grief work to do, can be incredibly uncomfortable. If Lisa isn’t present with what is, and sometimes even if we are, she’s going to resist that uncomfortable feeling. If it’s bad enough she’ll start to resist yoga and eventually stop practicing. Three years and $5,000 later she’ll be back in that same place at her therapist’s office so full of uncomfortable grief she can barely breathe.

Let me be clear, I’ve done my fair share of therapy and I’m not suggesting it’s not good/necessary/helpful. In this case, though, Lisa was there. She was in that healing place of growth. Cause every time we’re uncomfortable, every single time, you can be absolutely- no-doubt-about-it-sure that there is growth happening. Every single time.

She was there and she resisted and it cost her three years of carrying around the heaviness of grief and put a dent in her savings. 

If I can accept what is on the mat and just let the practice be, I can heal body, mind and spirit. But I’m me and when I see that opportunity for growth, I’m the five year old with the sticky band-aid, I rip it off. Except when I don’t. Cause I’m human and I resist pain, and I like life to be light and easy and joyful. Except when I don’t.

Because I’m human I think I like light and easy, but I’m still addicted to the drama. I still like to make it difficult. Deep down I can’t believe that it’s easy to be happy. I think I need to have suffering and angst to really find happiness.

Because I’m human, I like life to be easy and fun without the work. And then time after time I find myself on the mat with terrible back pain/headache/hip pain. And time after time I’m reminded to just let the practice do the work. I’m just here to do my job. My job is yoga. When I decide that I need to practice certain poses cause that’s what my body really needs, then I’m no longer in the present and no longer practicing with an open heart.

Surely we all have days when we have ideas about how the day should go and there’s nothing wrong with that, but practicing life with an open heart brings us


delight and joy, surprise and possibility. An open heart is how we fall in love, how we get new jobs, how we follow our passions and how we heal ourselves. Regardless of how tightly we hold on to our ideas, habits, routines and relationships we’ve all had an open heart at one time or another and it’s brought us good things more than once.

For poses to help open the heart and more about staying open, go to A Yogi Kitchen where we’ll be exploring the idea for a little bit longer.

The Greatest Yoga Lesson

I came to yoga out of curiosity. I was one of those five-day-a-week step class women in the mid 90s. My gym offered a few yoga classes as a tester-to see if the community would take to yoga.

Now, this is weird. Even though I’d never taken a yoga class, I’d thought for years that being a yoga teacher would be an amazing job. Little did I know that winter day in 94 that it would only be 5 years till I taught my first class.

The first time I pressed up into downward dog felt like coming home. I was instantly at comfortable in the practice and it’s whe

re I’ve stayed for almost 20 years. To this day being on the mat is where I’m most Melissa.

I loved the way I felt while I practiced yoga. I loved the buzz of energy combined with the grounded, centered feeling that I got after class. I loved how the effects lasted and lasted. I got to a place where yoga deeply changed me. If I thought about skipping a class my husband would push me out  the door with a kiss because he liked the person I was when I practiced consistently. I did too.

Over the years the lessons deepened and expanded. The practice was about so much more than physical or even mental. I learned to be open to myself. The practice helped me quiet the self-critical loop that ran through my head. I slept better, had less worrisome thoughts, but most importantly I learned a tiny bit of acceptance. I learned to accept who Melissa really is, not who I thought she should be. I learned to accept my limitations. I learned to stay on my own mat and accept my own pace as 

acceptancebeing exactly how fast I was supposed to be progressing. I learned that it’s not all about progressing and that staying in exactly the same place is okay, even good sometimes.

My real lessons began when I became a teacher. I saw my students struggles and their humanity was beautiful to me.  I aspired to be like them; vulnerable, fearless, willing to learn and to try new things. When they relaxed into restorative poses I marveled at their beauty. I felt connected. I felt connected because I accepted them completely and wholeheartedly. And it began to open my heart just a tiny bit more to me.

Over the years I’ve watched my students with awe and love.  I notice that they consistently learn acceptance faster than any other lesson in yoga. They are okay with not being strong enough to do an arm balance the first time, they learn to celebrate a stranger’s victory, they revel in their own successes. Because it’s about being on your own mat. It’s about not comparing yourself, or even caring what’s happening in any other part of the studio. “Yoga is a gift you give yourself.” my teacher used to say as we lay in savasana heavy and empty like a corpse.

I learned that acceptance isn’t about not caring. It’s not about giving up. It’s about letting go of results. It’s about detaching from the endgame.

My practice taught me to let go. It taught me to honor my own experiences. And it taught me not to have expectations about my experience or about my healing or about anything.

And I learned to trust. If I can just be open and willing to be vulnerable the work on the mat always gets me somewhere. If I keep working on headstand, I will eventually get there. If I keep practicing my headstand it will get more solid and I will get the full benefits. If I allow myself to relax into my headstand I will learn that letting go always makes the pose more enjoyable and I will one day get to a place where I can’t imagine not being able to do a headstand.

The key is acceptance. Acceptance makes the work doable. It makes the trust reasonable. It makes the practice enjoyable no matter what happens that day.

The funniest thing about acceptance is that you never graduate. The beauty of acceptance is that it keeps growing and shifting and allowing you to be more and better. It opens you in ways that you never imagine. It’s not easy work. It’s hard to let go of our expectations and our plans and our ideas about the future.

The pay off is huge. Learning to accept puts you right here in the now. It allows you to deal with life on life terms. It allows you to live with your whole heart. Today, that’s the journey.

I’ve been writing a lot about opening the heart and focusing on living with your whole heart. A Yogi Kitchen  has more about heart opening poses and meditations and more about acceptance.

Slowly, ever slowly yoga is teaching my heart to be more whole. One day I’ll learn to use all of it.

Fennel, mint and pea salad

If you’re as tired as winter as I am this light and refreshing salad might be the antidote to the winter doldrums. Enjoy!

Chef in disguise

It is time for our secret recipe club reveal and for this month I was assigned Leigh’ s blog  Chit chat chomp.  Leigh lives in  Melbourne and she describes herself as being” in love with pots of tea, farmers markets, French jazz and fresh flowers.  Winters spent rugged up under blankets.It’s the little things in life that make me smile.”

fennel salad

I couldn’t agree with her more!The most beautiful things in life are indeed the simplest ones. Like going on a long awaited trip back home. Cutting lemons off the last few trees of your grandparents orchard , being enveloped by their enchanting smell, that transforms you back to your childhood in a heart beat. Now just looking at the pictures, makes you smile.


On her blog leigh shares beautiful French recipes,she has a cookbook challenge in which she chooses recipes from her collection of cookbooks and features them.I…

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