Saying Goodbye

Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future.

Daphne Rose Kingma

It seems like the older I get, the more I find myself saying goodbye. This includes to people, things, and places. I am realizing that in this stage of my life the goodbyes outnumber the hellos. It makes sense that this is happening, I have less life ahead of me than ever before. Yet it still comes as a surprise.

Recently, I was given the news that my long-time Illinois studio, Prairie Yoga, is closing. I had already said my goodbyes on one level, having left Illinois four years ago. When COVID hit, I was asked to teach my class online and have been doing so for almost three years now. It’s been a real gift to continue to connect with students from this community.

However, the actual closing of the studio feels different. When I left I knew that I could always come back to visit. I would be greeted with open arms by my long time yoga community. I would see my beloved teacher and take her class in person. I would lunch with some delightful peers and friends and that sense of connection would remain. Now it feels as if a very important part of my yoga life has come to an end.

The business of yoga has changed post-COVID. There are now so many options online that allow students to practice at home. I, myself, have been taking and teaching classes exclusively online. While there are times that I miss the in-person connection, the convenience of being at home cannot be denied. So it makes sense to me that to run an in-person studio has become more of a burden than a joy.

So now comes the letting go. Not easy to do. I have felt blessed by the opportunity to not only deepen my knowledge of yoga through Prairie Yoga, but have made wonderful life-long friends. The community of Prairie Yoga is large and deep and spans the midwest. It’s a tribute to Lori Gaspar, owner and teacher, that her wisdom and love of yoga has spread across the country. She is warm hearted, intelligent and inclusive. She is a wonderful cheerleader to all fledgling teachers and lifts up those around her. Her semi-retirement is well-earned after many years of mentoring and supporting not only her teacher training students, but also the students of the studio. Lori is truly a gift to all who know her.

There is a connection that is difficult to describe when one talks about a yoga community. Those that have never taken a yoga class will certainly have trouble understanding what I will attempt to write about here. To those unfamiliar with yoga, it is a form of physical exercise that often makes people bend into pretzel-like shapes, called poses. But yoga is so much more than poses. Yes, there is the great library of positions and their multiple levels of variations. But there is also the accompanying philosophy, the breath work, the meditation, and mindfulness that could be a part of any given class. When people come together and are open to all of these aspects of yoga, there is a communion that arises. Students share not only the physical benefits of yoga poses, but also the connection with the spiritual aspects of the practice. To be in one room and share the air, the space and the beauty of yoga is indeed special.

So now, this sense of communion and community is coming to an end. Years and years of shared poses, breath work, meditation and laughs. It cannot be replaced. It was perfect and complete. It can however be remembered in the mind, and hold space in the heart as well. The friendships will remain, maybe taking on a different form. We can take what Prairie and Lori gave us and carry it’s torch forward. It may never look the same, but it can continue to be felt and cherished. As the wise Dr. Suess said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

A Heart-Centered Life

Photo by Michelle Leman on

The heart is considered to be the seat of the mind. Yoga Sutra 3.35

The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali are considered the companion text to the practice of yoga asana (poses). There are 196 sutras, which translates from Sanskrit to mean threads or discourses. They have been passed down through the generations, at first orally and then at some point committed to written word. There are many interpretations available today and I have four in my own personal library.

As Valentine’s day approaches, I have been pondering what it is like to live a heart-centered life. My definition of what this looks like may be completely different from yours. But I think we can all agree that a life that has love at its core is one worth striving for. I decided to take a deep dive into Patanjali’s wisdom for some advice.

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. Yoga Sutra 1.33

Here is Patanjali’s wisdom on how to live a life that is heart-centered. He believed that living this way creates a mind that is more calm. As I mentioned above, these translations from ancient texts can be interpreted many ways. In general, this sutra describes four keys or attitudes to help us deal with others in a compassionate way.

The first is “attitudes of friendliness to the happy.” Is it a challenge for you to be happy when you see others leading a happy life? In this day of social media, it seems that everyone is happy. It’s human nature to want to show the world that life is good. We love to post pictures of brunch with girlfriends and pretty new shoes. We are less likely to post about the coffee that got spilled at that brunch or how you left your shoes out and the dog chewed them up. It’s easy to become jealous of all that is going right for those that are happy. Patanjali asks us to take a step back and notice how hard someone worked to have their success. Or how much sorrow that person went through earlier in life that they have now worked through. Happy people in general make other people happy. Make these happy people your friends.

The second key is “compassion for the unhappy.” Most of us encounter unhappy people, hopefully only occasionally. Rather than react to them with anger or ambivalence, is it possible to react with kindness? You never know what a kind word or two can do for someone else.

The third key is “delighting in the virtuous.” These are people that we should try to emulate rather than take down. What are they doing in their daily lives that you could emulate? Try to learn from their wisdom. Then do your best to celebrate the people that live an admirable life.

The fourth key is “disregard for the wicked.” There are going to be those that are beyond our help or compassion. The trick is to not allow their negative energy to bring you down to their level. And don’t bother trying to advise these people, they are not open to hearing you at this point in their lives. By not allowing them to disturb you, you are able to maintain your own peace.

So there it is, a heart-centered life broken down into four steps. Friendliness, compassion, delight and disregard. It seems simple enough. And amazing that it still holds true all these thousands of years later. Putting this into practice is not easy, and could actually be the challenge of a lifetime. The next time you find yourself reacting in your old pattern of criticism or negativity, I hope you catch yourself and remember these heart-centered keys.

Your Gifts

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I played my best for him and he smiled at me.

The Little Drummer Boy

When one thinks of The Little Drummer Boy under a literal lens, it’s a bit far-fetched to think that a new mother would allow a little boy to play his drum around a new born baby. Mary truly was a saint. It is, however, a great lesson for all of us to remember. Each of us has unique gifts. Do we take the time to truly understand what they are? It’s quite easy to see talent in others. We are quick to compliment someone’s singing voice or their flair for fashion. But when the spotlight is reflected back toward us, it’s often hard to accept those compliments and lean into what truly makes us special.

I was raised to be humble and not a braggart, and I don’t think I really thought about what my gifts were until my forties. I remember during my yoga teacher training, my instructor taught me the valuable, and necessary, lesson of projecting my voice so that all students could hear me. That powerful lesson taught me that I had something valuable to share with others. Kind of my own drummer boy moment.

As this year comes to an end and a fresh new year approaches, think about your own unique talents and gifts. Write them down, say them out loud to a trusted friend and own what makes you, You. Time is too precious to not step into your power. So, to get us started, I will now list what I believe to be my gifts. It still makes me cringe a bit to put it out there like this, but here goes. I would love for this to be the start of a dialogue amongst us, each of us owning who we are.

  • I am a great yoga teacher
  • I am a good writer
  • I am a great listener
  • I am good at finding humor in any given situation
  • I am good at nurturing others
  • I am mindful and organized

You and I are gifts to this weary world. Give of yourself just as you would give a present to a loved one at the holidays. It is with humble gratitude that I thank you for reading this blog and supporting my online teaching. May this special time of year fill your heart with love and joy and sustain you into the new year.