Synchronicity, Superstitions, and Signs

“Signs and symbols rule the world, not rules nor laws.”-Confucius

Since I have begun the process of the artist way, I have reignited my interest in signs. A homework exercise given each week is to look for moments of synchronicity. This is something I did with ease as a teenager, but my busy mind has kept me from seeing and experiencing what is in front of me.

Recently, while waiting to enter a yoga class as an attendee, I opened my yoga bag to find a glass Frappuccino bottle. I quietly tried to shift it to my purse, and upon doing so glass shattered everywhere. Since the class was about to begin, all other classmates witnessed this embarrassing event. Superstitions tell me breaking a mirror is bad luck, but don’t Greeks slam plates and glasses on the floor as they dance in celebration? As I researched this online, breaking a glass bottle in public indicates success (as long as nobody gets hurt).

Last week at 4:00 am before work, I walked the dogs. For some reason they extended their morning walk to twenty minutes. As I waked under the trees of the darkened morning, I felt a splatter on my hair. I touched the back of my head, and smelled my fingers. Yes, it was pure bird poop. This is only the second time this has happened in my life. Those that I shared this with reminded me that this equates with good luck, perhaps financial wealth entering my life. I will take that perception, versus viewing the dire consequences of cleaning out excrement from my hair.

Upon finishing our meal at an Asian restaurant last week, I was given this fortune in the image above. Intuition remained in the forefront of my mind. It seemed to be the theme in the yoga class I attended, as the teacher at the end of class placed her fingertips on my 6th chakra. This is also known as the third eye, the seed of intuition.

As I continue to delve deeper into the ending of this book, my awareness to the moment is deepening. I am trying to observe the signs that are arising, instead of simply looking at my phone. Am I making out these signs to force synchronicity to arise in my life or is it really there?

There are so many ways to look at the daily happenings that arise in our lives. We can choose to take everything that happens to us on face value, without any analysis or reflection. Bird poop is bird poop. I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or we can try to start to look at the events that unravel in our monotonous lives with wonder. Perhaps we can dissect it as we would an independent film. What is the meaning that underlies this? What is the theme that is being threaded through the narrative? Who are the characters that appear? What is being foreshadowed?

I chose to believe that there is a higher power in this world that slowly reveals the magic in our lives. I will leave you with an awe inspiring quote from Joseph Campbell from his interview with Bill Moyers on the Power of Myth:

“Schopenhauer suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will within you. And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others. The whole thing gears together like one big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring everything else. And Schopenhauer concludes that it is as though our lives were the features of the one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters dream, too; so that everything links to everything else, moved by the one will to life which is the universal will in nature.”

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Mishaps of dance recitals

Last week was my first ever formal dance recital at the age of 39! I have done talent shows, taken dance classes, and gone to dances but never performed on a stage in front of a paid audience. And I must say it is more about the journey than the end result.

For weeks we have practiced our alegrias flamenco routine. Some had more discipline than others, attending 2-3 rehearsals per week. This is for a 70 second dance! I am amazed by all the time spent dissecting the moves and facial expressions. We tried to perfect how to slow moves down, to speed it up, simplify the steps for those who were new to the class.

We were told to be at rehearsal today at 3pm for a 730 on show start. My beginners flamenco group didn’t go on until 9pm. There were 100 flamenco dancers, from young children to older women. My fellow flamenco cohort realised moves weren’t sharp enough. We practiced again and again, without music and numerous distractions. We finally moved as one entity. We were ready for the performance.

Show time came. Some were nervous , others were ready to get it over with. We all drank some type of alcohol two hours before to bond and prepare for the evening. The dance initially started off so well. We were in sync and moving as one as rehearsed. But then the unexpected happened. The live musicians accompanying us decided to freestyle a little too much and cut out several counts of our song, completely confusing us. We were doing so well. But we had no choice but to go with it.

The performance was over before we could process it. What just happened? All those hours of rehearsal and waiting around were for what? The musicians shifted it and this is what our performance was. There was no second performance scheduled. This was it, and now it was over. We could be embarrassed and ashamed with ourselves for looking like fools for the audience. Another option was to get mad at the musicians who truly seemed to mess that song up. We could quickly forget about it, and move on to the rest of the night’s adventures. Or we could take pride in what was just accomplished. I settled on a combination of all four emotions.

Our teacher, who was performing herself throughout the evening, reminded us that this is what happens during live performances. Certain things are out of your control. You may mess up, and it’s okay.

For many of us it was our first ever dance performance. But flamenco is a style of dance you don’t comprehend quickly. It takes years of experience to master this complicated dance look

simple. It has the percussions of tap dance, the gentle hand movements of hula, serious face of a soap opera actor, hip movements of belly dancers, rhythm at times of salsa, and the beauty in posing as ballerinas. Throw in singers, guitar players, and percussionists and this is a complex moving symphony.

I could give up on flamenco. This would be easy. But there is too much longing to want to improve. I watched those with years of experience rehearsing, and I could feel their passion in my body. I remembered how Elizabeth Gilbert once said that when people shout “ole” it stems from “allah”, meaning I see God in you.

The evening of our disappointing performance, I had a beautiful dream where dance was center stage. It was as if it was a wedding, but the host was dance. I woke up feeling joyous, moved, and awestruck. The excitement of performing lingered in my bones and unconscious. I vow to continue to have dance be a central part of my life on some capacity. We are never too old to harness a call to “ole.”

Meandering the yogic path

“A photographer gets people to pose for him. A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves.”

T. Guillemets

I have been teaching yoga for five years at my place of employment. It’s not a full time job, or something I make in addition to my income. I have incorporated it into my regular 40 hour work week. I feel so grateful to be able to share yoga with hundreds of people over the years, many of them for the first time. I have never wanted to become a full time yoga teacher, but feel it’s an amazing supplement to being a psychologist.

Earlier this week, someone who has attended my classes on and off over the years, mentioned it’s become harder. I wondered aloud has her body changed, has her workouts changed? Am I teaching differently? We agreed that I am. With assisting a wide variety of people, bodies, and limitations, I can’t help but think I have shifted in how I instruct. In the beginning I was quite earnest to ensure my classes were overly creative with themes, doing elaborate poses, or putting together an intriguing sequence. But what I have been doing is trying to simplify. Hold the poses longer. Utilize yin postures and principles. I will physically adjust with a more keen eye. I have let go of the script, and observed who is in the room more frequently. I’ve stopped trying to replicate bring other instructors I love, and have embraced being myself.

I also have attempted teaching chautaranga in the class finally this week. I had done this once, but only with someone available to demonstrate for me. Although I have taught crow pose and cannot completely conquer it yet, I know many of my students can do it. First time yogis who are strong young men may struggle with flexibility but love when I add crow to the class. They surprise themselves with this pose. I will instruct people to do a “push up” to the floor, but this week I challenged myself to demonstrate (even though I tend to fall to the ground). This strength came from was being a student this past week. The instructor encouraged me to continue to try chautaranga , “you can do it,” she said. I fell down and laughed at myself. She nudged me to keep trying despite the fact I may fall. How else will I learn?

Today with this one particular group who solely want the class for stretching, I added a small “namaste” at the end of our class. This person mentioned he liked the physical aspect of yoga more than the spiritual. They teased me that I may enjoy the spiritual too much. I am careful with this weekly group to not add talk on chakras, have an altar, or discuss other words in Sanskrit. I did tell them that many people today come to yoga for the physical aspect, but are eventually drawn to the spiritual. I noticed when I had done a namaste with hands to the forehead and then ground, one particular person lingered there. I feel it was appreciated more than it was verbally expressed.

My classes vary in attendance and attendees over the years, with the constant fluctuation of the population I work with. Therefore I have learned to not teach more than what they are ready for. But how can one not integrate yoga with spirituality ? From an instructor’s perspective, even if one does not voice a word about this domain, it can exude in a classroom setting.

First, there is intentionality. Whether the class sets a sankalpa (intention), or the instructor does, it remains a focal point. Secondly, all participants must be physically and mentally present in the class to stay in the poses. In reality, yoga was created to prepare the body for meditation. One needs of flow and transition mindfully throughout the postures to ensure self care. The yogic principles of honoring where your body is today is always highlighted, reminding ourselves to remove judgement and comparison from our minds. Additionally, the entire class is moving and breathing together. We are creating the moment, no class is exactly the same. What is being worshipped is this moment and breath. Finally, a sense of community and trust is silently built to respect each other and what is shared in the class. Trust is heightened as students allow physical adjustments to be made by the instructor.

We may have differing opinions of what spirituality consists of, but I cannot separate yoga from a form of spiritual practice. I have observed my yogic journey (parallel to my spiritual journey) is not something that has a peak or ending point. It’s constantly morphing. There are periods where I may be more devoted and disciplined than others. Moments exist where I am the student or facilitator. Sometimes I may be both. There is always more to learn and ways to grow. Spiritual practice and yoga is not something you learned and practiced before, it’s in the present moment. Jack Kornfield quotes a lama in his book After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, “I realized I couldn’t live in some enlightened memory. What became clear is that spiritual practice is only what you’re doing now. Anything else is fantasy.”

Dare to Travel

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

As I dropped off my dogs the other day to their sitter, she asked me how long my holiday to the Canary Islands was for . I told her five days, which for me is longer than usual. She was astonished I would travel this far for a brief amount of time. I informed her Americans allotted vacation time is generally quite shorter than Europeans. We average 2-3 weeks per year, which sometimes include sick days. They easily get at minimum five weeks plus unlimited sick days.

There are so many ways to vacation. Overly plan and be touristy. Sleep in an air conditioned hotel (this is a luxury because it is not always standard in the UK). Adventure to old ruins. You can tan , work out, try new sports, retreat and read. Cross off countries from your bucket list. When the word vacation is said, different images come to our heads. There’s beauty in that. We need different vacations at various times in our lives.

I have been so lucky to have lived in Europe the past five years. At this point, Each time I return to Spain, I feel more at home. Perhaps because I can pass as a Spaniard , or even speak a little of the language. Regardless where in the country I am or what island I am on, it just feels right. This is my 16th time in Spain. I just counted. It’s probably past the point of counting. It should be my second home.

We vacation in a myriad of ways, but sometimes you want to travel to a place that is comforting. Spain is familiar , but offers adventure. It’s like a dream, I have been here before but I am a stranger. Servers don’t know if they should offer me menus in the native language or English. I blend into the background, but still take selfies.

I have travelled to 43 countries, but keep returning to one. Why? Is the Spanish way in my genes? I admit as I take flamenco class , the songs we rehearse to dance to are reminiscent of the songs my great grandmother used to play on the piano. It’s as if the country exudes nostalgia that I can’t place.

And so this is why we must travel…to make new memories, experience lands we never dreamed of, walk on terrain our forefathers came from, and somehow start to see that the world is our home.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta