From Jenine Durland

Peaceful warriors

You Say You Want a Revolution

Driving down Martin Luther King Way on my way to downtown Oakland today I passed a mile of fresh graffiti under the highway. One pillar had “All cops are bastards,” sprayed on it. Windows on two businesses were boarded up, their fronts painted with “Forgive yourself,” and I still cannot tell who wrote those words, the shop owners or the people wrecking it. I showed my support by walking into an all-local shop downtown and buying a hoodie with the city’s namesake scribed across it.

Yoga Tree Telegraph is at the intersection of the #Blacklivesmatter protests that turned violent in downtown Berkeley last night and the entrance to Highway 24 in Oakland, where, just a couple minutes ago, I drove past a horde of Highway Patrol officers in full riot gear, lights flashing on their SUV’s, ears bent toward shoulders with fingers cupping headsets. Protests over the Ferguson verdict have taken the form of mass highway blockades, and at this moment here in the studio I can hear the heavy bellow of a semi-truck’s horn—like a dying animal—undoubtedly stuck on the highway, and I’m overcome with emotion.

My teacher Pete begins class. “There’s no way we can ignore the helicopters,” he says, “so we might as well bring them in,” and we close our eyes.

“Revolution,” my teacher says, “starts with tenderness.”

We act out when we don’t feel heard, when our community, our loved ones, and our lives feel threatened. What the verdict regarding Mike Brown and these protests here at home have brought to the forefront of our attention is that we as a culture must work on our abilities to speak truth and, most importantly, to make space for listening.

At this very moment, my chest is ablaze, my stomach is churning, and my eyes are streaming. I was born and raised in Berkeley and Oakland. This is my home and I care deeply about my community. I am both proud of a country that can take to the streets, and saddened to my core at the form this protest has taken here. We are meeting violence with violence, and I can feel our collective fear and anxiety as potently as the helicopters who’ve been circling our neighborhoods for the last two weeks.

I respect and honor the men and women who put their lives on the line to be our first responders, who brave the alarm page to extricate an accident victim from a car, to go after the bad guys if something happens to us, to uphold a system of right and wrong. With the verdict in Ferguson, I understand—I see—the hypocrisy of putting my trust in such a statement, but I also believe in our people’s ability to bring change through peaceful protest, and I believe in our justice system to make change. And I believe in protest.

I also cannot pretend to be a black person. I am a relatively privileged white woman living in a white man’s corporate society. I feel stifled, repressed, and locked in by a system I don’t agree with on a daily basis. My student loan debt could feed a small country. My community, my yoga and my writing practices are how I get through. On #BlackLivesMatter, the organizers ask people not to dilute their message by changing the message to #AllLivesMatter. And so I won’t. I’ll talk about what I know

In yoga training, we are learning to lead through non-violence and compassion, to push our bodies into poses where we can see the situation clearly, and to take action, to activate our bodies, when necessary, but only then. We learn how to listen to all that is inside us, how to release what we don’t need, how to voice what we do. We are doing the work of becoming healers, and part of my work is here on the page, the rest is out there in the world. And so I say to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, speak up in solidarity and listen to the voices around you. Open yourself and let your voice be seen and heard. Share your story so that others can share theirs.

From Eckhart Tolle:

” No one chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough light to dispel the darkness.”

Be the light.

jenine durland quote, illustration by jenny williams, authentic

HuffPo| Secrets of Yoga Teacher Training: Speaking Our Truths

Read the full piece by Jenine Durland on the Huffington Post here.

Excerpt:

It is day three of Pete Guinosso’s Lighting the Path Yoga Teacher Training, and already my entire idea of what a teacher training entails has been flipped on its head and expanded into every recess of the heart. After exercises around intentions, ethics, and sharing our own stories, I want to rename this “human being training.”

Illustrations by Jenny D Williams

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenine-durland/secrets-of-yoga-teacher-t_b_6045046.html

jenine durland how to love elephant journal

How to Love: Have the Courage to Break Your Own Heart

Read the full article by Jenine Durland on Elephant Journal here.

Excerpt: “There are moments in life when, sitting still, you feel the whole universe flow through you, when you recognize that we are indeed oceans and rivers and the channels of starts.

You see, too, that the path to healing is an inward one, and that there is wonder and beauty and adventure there.”

Full article:

This morning as I sit with the magnitude of a romantic relationship changing course, receding and reshaping itself into what, we do not know, I’m struck mostly by how we associate our hearts with this romantic love—love for one another.

How we can feel so abandoned when we forget to feed ourselves.

In the namesake essay for her collection of amazing advice columns, “Tiny Beautiful Things”, Cheryl Strayed writes a letter to her younger self. She says:

You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.

This morning I am brave enough. Just barely.

I sit with the knowledge that this is all a part of our unfolding, of our becoming, and I smile looking at the painting he made here beside me. It is so beautiful, not so much for the art itself, but for what it represents: our ability to create beauty from a blank page.

Cheryl continues, You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.

But how we linger at every dam, each impasse and braid in the river, waiting for our lover to catch up or slow down, wondering what will be. We must let the current carry us. No one quite knows what the journey will be, only that eventually we return to where we came from. And we must sit with the discomfort, shine our light on it fully.

In her book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about soul mates:

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.

But to live with you soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful.

Then Cheryl: Acceptance is a small, quiet room.

That night after we talked and cried and said words of love with our goodbyes, we went to Kirtan. The woman led the handful of us through chants with two guitars and we sat crosslegged next to one another as we made music. For the last song, the woman gathered us into a circle and asked us all to hold hands. She showed us the sidestep we’d use and how we’d spin around at each chorus. The chant was simple: “The ocean refuses no river. Hallelujah!”

There are moments in life when, sitting still, you feel the whole universe flow through you, when you recognize that we are indeed oceans and rivers and the channels of stars.

You see, too, that the path to healing is an inward one, and that there is wonder and beauty and adventure there.

Like me, you will find that there is also sadness. Sit with that too. Honor everything and open to it all. As the poet Galway Kinnell once wrote:

…angels shiver to know down here we mortals make love with our bones.

We are lucky to know pleasure and pain, to know in our bones what love feels like—to give love, to receive love, to let go of those we loveThis is what we humans do, even when it hurts, even when we’re breaking our own hearts, we must have the courage to go on, the courage to feel the love that will light our way.

Galway knows this too. He is a poet, afterall. He closes his ode to the heart and the “music of grace that we hear, sometimes, playing from the other side of happiness” with these words:

But when I hear

coming through the walls

those grace-notes…

that the two hearts drummed

out of their ribs together,

the hearts that know everything (and even

the little knowledge they can leave

stays, to be the light of this house),

 

then it is not so difficult

to go out, to turn and face

the spaces which gather into one sound the singing

of mortal lives, waves of spent existence

which flow toward, and toward, and on which we flow

and grow drowsy and become fearless again.

 

Bon voyage—may our ships be the brightest stars in the sky.

huffington post free hugs

This Coupon Entitles You to One Free Hug

huffington post free hugsRead the full article by Jenine Durland here on the Huffington Post.

Excerpt:

With a great deal of bipolar disorder in my immediate family, I’ve watched depression’s dark tentacles wrap themselves around our hearts in the most insipid and life-altering ways. I’ve seen and felt the shame of mental illness as it rises up to challenge the American creed of one’s right to the pursuit of happiness.

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HuffPo: Healing Anxiety or a Broken Heart, the Tools are the Same

 

huffpo-womenwendy yalom screenshot_94Read the article on the Huffington Post here.

Excerpt:

We are lying in savasana — corpse pose — legs splayed wide, arms flopped down, palms facing the sky, and I close my eyes. My friend is beside me; my yoga teacher has come to crouch at my head.

“Do something for me,” Pete says, pausing with his hands on my shoulders, “Do this for yourself,” and I nod, eyes still closed.

“Bring one hand to your heart and one to your belly,” and I do, slipping my left hand onto my chest and resting the thumb of my right hand in the hollow of my belly button. I take a deep breath and feel my stomach rise, willing my body to relax.

Elephant Journal anxiety

Elephant Journal: Healing Anxiety or a Broken Heart, the Tools are the Same

elephant journal logo

Elephant Journal anxiety

ele-anxiety-views

To read article on Elephant Journal, click here.

We are lying in savasana—corpse pose—legs splayed wide, arms flopped down, palms facing the sky, and I close my eyes.

My friend is beside me; my yoga teacher has come to crouch at my head.

“Do something for me,” Pete says, pausing with his hands on my shoulders, “do this for yourself,” and I nod, eyes still closed.

“Bring one hand to your heart and one to your belly,“ and I do, slipping my left hand onto my chest and resting the thumb of my right hand in the hollow of my belly button.

I take a deep breath and feel my stomach rise, willing my body to relax.

The thing about anxiety attacks, I’ve come to learn in the last couple days, is that you can’t reason through them. And they can leave you, out of nowhere, fainting out of mountain pose or crawling across your floor.

You tell yourself it’s all in your head, but then you put your head down on the pillow alone in your apartment, and feel this tingling sensation spread out across your skin and every siren in your body goes off, telling you that there is a problem, an actual physical problem requiring god-knows-what emergency-care.

And then you laugh and cry all at once, seeing the absurdity, scared shitless of trusting your body, even your breath.

And so, it took a lot to get me to come back to class. Even as I rolled out my mat, I feared passing out, had vivid images of blackouts in my head, but my friend, who is also a nurse, promised to practice beside me, and when I told my teacher what was going on before class, Pete gave me a rolled up yoga mat to place under my belly.

I spent most of the class in the corner lying on my stomach while everyone rose up and down in warrior poses around me, feeling the rolled up mat push into my body every time I exhaled a breath, comforted to be held in community.

Now in this final pose, the one where we practice for our ultimate surrender, Pete is holding my head.
“Whether healing anxiety or a broken heart,” he says quietly, running his thumb and forefinger from my third eye down to my temple, “the tools are the same.”

I open my eyes just long enough to catch his eyes, full of compassion, and there is that moment of feeling really, truly seen: All of me acknowledged, accepted, okay.

“We hold our anxiety between our stomach and our chest,” Pete says, “and I’ve often found that we have some shame wrapped up there, a sense of not being enough. Breathe into that.”

And then the tears come, warm and sort of glorious, like sweat running down my cheeks while Pete rubs the back of my neck, and laughs. It’s the kind of laugh that comes out when you’re holding a baby and they curl their tiny fingers around your pinky. It’s the moment I knew, because I had gotten myself here to this mat and this teacher and this community, that I would be alright.

It’s also the moment I truly understood the power of a healer. There is yoga, yes; there is meditation, yes; but there is something profound and deeply human in seeking wise counsel in the overlap there between, in matters of the heart and soul.

After almost a year of practicing with Pete, of accepting his invitations to shine light into our dark places, of feeling awe at his capacity for love that seems to grow exponentially with each hug he gives his students, I have come to recognize how important it is to find teachers we connect with—those special people genuinely invested in helping others heal, the ones who can hold that kind of sacred space.

As the great Sufi poet Hafiz once wrote, “That is what greatness does: kindly leaves a shelter for us to gather under, where more nourishment can be offered to all things.”

And so, in just over a month, I’ve accepted yet another invitation from my teacher, and will be heading out on a new journey, one that takes this place of love and light and suffering—the heart center—as a starting point, and charts the course of movement, breath, and awareness into a realm of unknowing.

Most people call this “Teacher Training,” but Pete calls it “Lighting the Path,” and I can think of no better words…except perhaps those, again, of Hafiz, who writes,

“Strange the way my shadow began to fall. I
was standing in a field helping the dawn

appear, and when its body, the sun, was fully
lifted into the sky

I was amazed to see my shadow in front of
me as I faced that luminous candle we all know.”

photo 1

Write What You Love #1

The ask: Can you write about what you love?

#1
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral…

photo 2

Planting

I am in love with this crazy beautiful thing called life. This spring I started my first vegetable garden. I was lucky to have a planter box ready, full of loose earth and weeds that offered so little resistance. In my hands I held small paper packets of mesculin, baby lettuce, Siberian kale, and Swiss chard. I’d also bought an Early Girl tomato starter, its single stalk about a foot tall, and a 4 pack of baby spinach, their tender-looking leaves each about the size of a child’s mouth, open in awe.

Growing my own food these last 3 months has already brought so much joy into my life. There may be nothing more startling than scattering a palm-full of seeds, covering them up with a thin layer of soil, watering and watering for days and weeks with no change, until that one day when you go to wet the earth and see a tiny shoot curling up and away. When mine first came up, I wanted to name them. You there on the outskirts, you’re Allen, and you here with the double-leaf-tip, you are Esmeralda!
There is no substitute for wonder.

Thinning

Each day I’d bring water and I’d smile, looking at all the green stalks poking up, a small army of sprouts. I felt proud, the closest I imagine to how a mother would feel, seeing all these fresh, young starts, feeling the potential for so much bounty.

The first time I grew cilantro and chard at my old house, I did nothing besides water. Soon, the small plastic containers were thick like grass with the seedlings. As the leaves grew bigger, I noticed dark splotches forming all over their surfaces. They were crowded, but I figured the plants themselves would work it out—grow tall, grow sideways, something, and then I could transplant them. But the splotches got worse, soon covering all the plants, so I did what we do—I posted to Facebook. A friend linked to the scientific explanation, telling me in simple language, “You must thin your plants.”

You’d think such a step would be easy—the plants are so small, their slim green bodies not even an inch tall, smaller than a blade of grass…they have no feelings or physical sensations that we know of, but man. I put it off for days.
Each morning I’d come down with the water and see if any of the sprouts looked unhealthy—the leaves eaten by insects or some defect, but they all looked the same, green and lively, and, to my detriment, I actually thought they looked cute. I’d find myself greeting them in that high-pitched voice we mostly reserve for babies.

But as memories of my failed cilantro and chard settled in, I began to wonder at my irresponsibility. Maybe I shouldn’t have sprinkled quite so many in the first place? I thought of the Native Americans and even though I have no actual proof of this, I imagined some woman wrapping up individual seeds at the end of the harvest, storing them somewhere safe and dry. I’ll admit that the image I played in my head was more like the logo for some seed company: two palms cupping a single seed above a perfect little hole in the ground. The seed in this picture is roughly the size of an almond, though, not the reality of the sesame-like seeds I was dealing with.

After letting my mind have its last fun, I took a breath, and began to pinch and pull. At first I tried to transplant some of the shoots, but after a day in the new location, I’d come back to find them shriveled up and collapsed back into the soil. They were too young, their roots not yet ready for the shock. Meanwhile, the other plants grew taller, their leaves doubling in width and diameter in only a few short days. I was in awe.

The tomato, which I’d bought as a seedling, needed stakes within a week, and a huge-circular trellis for its thick green arms a couple weeks after that. The spinach, which I’d also planted as seedlings, was leafing out in ever-growing circles, the smaller leaves vying for sunlight. I soon realized it was time to make my first harvest.

Harvesting

Cutting spinach and baby chard leaves, individually and discriminately the way I do, is a different feeling entirely than the thinning. Here there is no dramatic plant death. Instead there is a sense of teamwork, culling leaves so others might get the sun they need, thanking the plants for a job well done. I recently planted carrots and expect that when those are ready to be pulled from the earth, I’ll do so with a sense of satisfaction.

I realize that these plants have grown into the fullest expression of themselves. As far as their DNA is concerned, they have led a rich and full life—they have been successful in carrying out their master genetic plan. At this point early in the harvest, they’ve done everything except ensured their offspring, and some, like the tomato, has even done that.

As I cut and pick the vegetables I’ve watered and watched grow, mixing lettuce and kale, mustard greens and spinach, adding spearmint, I’ve come to see these plants as a model for our own lives. I wonder at how we might live each day as the fullest expression of our nature, even or especially with the absence of a guarantee for more.

Washing and rinsing, dressing the salad and topping with seeds—pine nuts and almonds, a bit of blue cheese, it’s hard not to feel my own true nature bubble up. There is a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction that comes from growing your own food, even if it’s just enough to make lunch. As I feed myself with a bowl of ingredients I’ve just harvested, there’s a sensation of joy, of connection, of my place in the world being clear. Human. Animal. Alive…and fully capable of sustaining myself with water and sunshine.

Regenerating

The beauty of letting our plants go to seed and pruning back the perennials comes, for me, from a sense of balance and empathy. In my body, I understand the need for rest. The garden helps remind me of the acts of creation we are capable of with enough regeneration.

We are, at the end of the day, just organisms. We will die and have our ashes scattered or our bodies buried. In these ways, our carbon will live on in the plants and animals that continue in our absence, our fluids watering the world. We know this. Death is no secret to our species, despite our efforts to deny it, draw it out, live each moment devoid of its presence.

Out here in California, our growing seasons stretch out and confuse even her natives like me. When I used to plant bulbs in the fall in Colorado, we knew that they’d come up as soon as the snow melted in late spring. Here, there is no such logic. You’ll find yourself walking through a tropical paradise in the middle of February. And we humans, too, lose our hibernation.

Growing up in Berkeley in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, it used to rain. A lot. Come December, our bedrooms would carry the rank sent of mildew and our towels always seemed a little bit damp. You wore more sweaters and you stayed inside. This new California—the one paralleling the frenetic tech boom in San Francisco—is entirely new to me. And somewhat overwhelming.

For spring equinox this year, I went to a yoga class where our teacher dedicated the practice to grounding, focusing on drawing energy out of the earth and into our feet. She talked about the seasons, how she felt like she’d missed all the hibernation and energy storage of the winter. Now that spring was here, she said, she just felt exhausted.
The class was spent drawing out restorative poses, with lots of slow movements and floor work. I, too, was feeling overwhelmed by the go-go-go energy of spring, and had just begun experiencing my first anxiety attacks. Every time I rose up into mountain pose in class, I grew lightheaded and had to drop to the ground.

The climate of California allows her inhabitants to live in a bit of a la-la land: to eat strawberries in the dead of winter, to wear shorts year-round, and to work at companies that encourage employees to eat, play, and even sleep at work. And don’t get me wrong, I do love California, but our resources are running thin; we must encourage rest.
“When you don’t have a winter,” my yoga teacher said, “you can’t open up and grow in the same way. And without more water, the plants will all die.”

Each time I lose a plant to slugs, or have to cut one back to make room for another, I think about this cycle. I try to accept and even welcome the beginnings and the ends. I eat my artichokes, enjoying the flesh of each thick leaf in full knowledge that this is it—that they won’t come back till next year, and for this, for this period of absence I am grateful. I dare say, I love those artichokes even more.

heart

The Holes in Our Hearts

ie. what happens after the ‘happily ever after’

The rain is falling for the second time this week, the air just beginning to feel like February, thick with fog and wet enough to carry the whistles of the trains up here into the hills. This morning, out in my pyjamas and a raincoat with the dog, I thought about the evening my new man and I spent last night. How easy it is to be around each other, how lovely.

There was the conversation that neither one of us knows how to have. The one that floats in theoretical abstractions and ‘I feel’ statements that never seem to find their way to the ground. It is a conversation that boils down to: I care; I’m freaked out because I care; I’m happy; I’m scared of being hurt. It’s one of those moments in a new relationship where you acknowledge your connection– a tightrope you’re not yet sure how to walk.

Earlier on the couch I’d told him that I was happy and content, that whatever was going on with our connection was something new and special, that I didn’t have any of the insecurities and jealousy and fears I’ve had in all my other relationships. When I asked him how he felt, he said that our connection was unlike anything he’d experienced. That he felt really good. It seemed hard for him to say; he’d changed the subject halfway through the first line before eventually returning to finish the thought.

When I’d first arrived, scooching up to sit on his kitchen counter while he fried garlic from his lauded freeze-dried Trader Joes cubes, he’d told me about an awkward phonecall with his landlord. I’d listened to the story–how the landlord had agreed to do a reference letter but had said no to compensating him for his Ikea improvements–watching as he looked at the racks he’d installed, then said, “So I guess I’ll be taking those with me.” Then he asked if I thought he’d get dinged for the holes in the walls.

In my head, I went over all the stuff I knew he was dealing with…

“Well,” I said, “to be honest, it seems like you’re getting caught up in things that won’t really matter in the long run. Once the big picture gets sorted,” I went on, my wine glass raised in one hand as we danced around each other and the splattering salmon, “once you have some security and know where you’ll be moving and when and for how much, things like this won’t be a big deal. You’ll be able to patch up those holes in a second.” And he’d looked at me and then the wall and said, “Yah, you’re right.”

Later, back on the couch, my head on his knee facing him, he’d said that intimacy was still so hard. That he felt actual recoil, though he didn’t tell me when. He told me he was worried about boundaries and attachment and being able to keep up his connections with friends, and even though my belly told me just to say, “thank you for sharing” and go back to resting my head on his chest, acknowledging that all of this is a process, a journey, and that we are ok in this moment, the rest of me dove right into worrying about those holes.

I told him a lot, and then I told him I trusted him. And then there it was, all of our insecurities and anxieties and unanswerables out on the table.

I think of that Buddhist teaching, “You must learn to sit with the questions themselves.”

He reached for me when I came out of the bathroom, after explaining how I’d need to jiggle the handle and I’d bent myself over the toilet bowl, attempting to stop the flow. When I turned back around, commenting on the night light, he was there looking at me with a face that beckoned me in, with arms that wrapped around. We hugged, squeezing each other so tight that I could feel the hollow of his sternum and the bone of his pelvis, and we looked at each other and, briefly, softly kissed.

The honest truth is that we do not know. And we never will. I’ve come to realize that the closest I’ll ever come to peace is found in the six inches between my heart and my belly. When I walk from that place, when I trust myself, my body is balanced and my feet are steady; I find the reassurance of rope.

He made a sound after that hug. It was after we released, after he’d asked if I wanted to hear him play guitar and we’d turned, me in front, him behind with his hands on my shoulders. It was like a sigh, a whoosh of air that seemed to say all at once we are good and we don’t know, and then his hands there on my shoulders, and mine on top of his, guiding us forward.

There’s a poem that sits on my desk, its pages folded accordion-style so all you can know is that first page. It reads, “The only true thing is”