Rachel

Light

 

 

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At the library I found a book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson. It’s a very short book and easy read. I found it quite comforting, the idea of preparing for your own death and not leaving things behind that will become a burden for your loved ones. It seems so important to prepare for death, both in terms of wills and instructions for how you want to go, and also in terms of leaving things easy to manage. The author talks about how this kind of preparation will help you live better. It’s funny how by realizing that you want to leave little behind makes you realize you want to live lightly too. You have to really think about and accept (if not embrace) your own non-existence before you can gain the stability and clarity you need for your life.

*

Along the river today  I saw bunches of these purple flowers. I don’t know what they’re called. I wanted to capture a picture of the of them, but there were always either in shade or the timing was bad (too many people in the way or sometimes construction). Finally, when I was almost at my street—about to turn inland and go home—I saw this one lone flower. It seemed just as cheerful by itself, perfectly content.

 

—Rachel

 

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Joy · Rachel · writing

Words on Paper

 

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I’m so happy to be featured in the upcoming (summer) issue of Bella Grace. Do you know this magazine? If you dream of reading in a lavender bath—this is the magazine you’d want to have with you. It is so gorgeously designed and inspiring and alive but also so very quiet. Reading it you feel your breathing slow down, your attention come to the present moment. You don’t think about all the things you should be doing, you don’t wonder “What else?” is out there or going on or being talked about and Liked and re-Tweeted at this moment. You feel totally content where you are. The piece they published of mine was called “Imagine Tonight” but they’ve renamed it simply, “Imagine.” It was inspired by reading the magazine and reconnecting to how much I loved evenings spent at home by myself but still in the real world.Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 10.07.50 PM.png

Hope you are able to spend some time there tonight.

—Rachel

Rachel

Tulips – past their prime

I am going to try to return to my commitment to posting here Mondays and Wednesdays. Part of yoga is gentleness, with others and with ourselves, as well. In that spirit, I won’t berate myself for all the missed posts on this blog. I’ll accept that those days were full to overflowing and that I had/have not built a true habit of writing here yet. I have found it easier to find my way to the mat many mornings than to the page. This is a reversal of most of my previous life.

Spring is here in New York—pink trees, the enchanting perfume of lilac trees transforming the air, orange tulips radiant to bursting with color along the path by the river. That was the scene just days ago, but today the pink petals have all fallen, the lilac flowers faded to white, mostly lost their scent, and the tulips, you can see them here in this photograph from this morning. I had wanted to capture the world when everything was in bloom, but this is what I have instead. I feel like this little scene was trying to tell me something today, but I’m not sure what.

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—Rachel

Rachel

Resistance

It is sort of quiet at this moment. As quiet as this apartment ever is. Sounds of laughter every now and then from the bar nearby. A horn. The news channel playing in another room. Usually I have music playing, especially if I’m trying to write, but I don’t have anything on right now and there is a calmness to that I like. Sometimes the music feels like I’m trying to block something out. Trying to block a sound gives power to what that sound, just like with thoughts. The more we fight against a certain thought, the more power it has over us. Let the sounds float through the night. Let the thoughts come and go.

Right now I’m enjoying the sounds of the city, the sounds of life, of community, activity.  I don’t feel the need to resist them.

In yoga, we move away from resistance. In my writing, I’m moving toward it.

I wrote a short piece that will be included in the Writers Resist anthology.

It is yoga that has given me the space to figure out what it is I want to do with my writing.

 

—Rachel

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Rachel

Pillow Fort Dreams

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I wanted a picture of rain to start this post. First the picture, then the words. Lately that is my “practice.” (Somehow “practice” feels like too big a word to apply to the habit of blogging, and yet given the nature of this blog—the commitment to writing and yoga and seeking the places where they overlap—it seems fitting, too.) All the rainy day pictures I found I would contemplate for a moment, and then reject.

A girl playing in a pond with an umbrella and rainboots—too happy!

A woman in a city—Paris maybe, or London—with an umbrella, ducking under an awning—too romantic!

A hiker contemplating a glorious, rainy vista—too inspiring.

No, I was looking for a picture of the monsoon of this morning, the dirty rivers of trash we had to continually jump over, the thunder and lightning that seemed to be hounding us, the flipped-up umbrellas that offer no protection, the soaking-wet pants, the wet backpack doing a poor job of protecting my laptop, the kids huddled with a friend waiting for the subway dreaming about about staying home drinking hot chocolate and lounge around in pillow forts, the cranky commuters. forgoing the bike or the walk to work that would have lifted their moods, instead dripping and shoving off and onto the trains smelling like wet dogs.

I fight against the urge to check something, anything—news, another blog, Twitter, email, text messages. I resist but also try to be flexible in that resistance. I tell myself it is not about fighting off the urge to check something, which comes when I am unsure of what I next want to say, or can’t find the photograph I think I need, but more about giving my attention to this little piece of writing, to this little space on the computer screen, to this moment I’m luck enough to have. I know the focused attention I give today it won’t necessarily make this post any better, but over time, the attention I give this practice will improve it, if only by improving my ability to attend to the task at hand, to quiet other voices, to give myself space to not necessarily be witty or clever or wise, to smile at the critic’s voice that rushes in: If the post isn’t witty or clever or wise, why are you posting it? Why should someone else read something you don’t think is particularly worthwhile? Shouldn’t you wait until you have something better? To that critic, I will reply that it is good advice for an essay, short story, novel, poem or song. But the nature of the blog is an open-ness to the everydayness of who we are.

One thing occurs to me, as I think of my need to offer photographic proof of the hectic, rainy morning—why is that important? Everyone around me is experiencing the same hectic, rainy morning, and if that is the major obstacle of the day, we are lucky indeed. When I think of the cozy longed-for scene of hot chocolate in pillow forts, I know it is coziest of all when dreamed of from a cold, wet subway platform. The rainy, hectic morning gave the image of cozy abundance it is often hard to replicate on the most perfect spring day.

 

—Rachel

Rachel

Spring? (Finally)

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As I ran Wednesday morning, I felt that first little hint of spring, that relief, that clarity in the air. I reveled in the splendor of it. (God, doesn’t that sound cheesy? Sometimes when I try to write without too much metaphor, without too much critical distance, I’m stunned at the sentimental/cliche/unoriginal sound of the language. I have to think more about this.) Anyway it felt so amazing not to be pushing myself forward, not to be fighting against the elements.

I listened to the birds chirp, saw the daffodils, couldn’t help smiling as I ran up along the river with that joy contained in the early days of spring. That lightness in the air, the sky, the sweatshirt instead of a jacket. Light, finally.

But then I thought that just because that first hint of spring can make us feel that all is right with the world, global warming is still real, worse than predicted, impossible to reverse—all we can do is try to minimize the effects. So that made me think—maybe you shouldn’t feel so happy about this spring day, because that doesn’t erase the erratic weather of all the other days, the disordered seasons, and all the danger they signal. Maybe I should brace myself against the pleasure of the day. Too much #blessed Instagram* photos on days like this might lure us into what Marx would have called a kind of false consciousness.

And a related thought, less severe, but somehow equally insistent: it wasn’t a particularly cold winter (though it felt like a truly punishing one here in NYC), so therefore I hadn’t earned this day. I had not put in my dues, fully, and therefore wasn’t entitled to a wholehearted embrace of its beauty.

Yes, we need to continue to work to preserve the beauty of spring for many more centuries, need to listen to Rachel Carson’s words so that they will never go silent. But when it comes to earning the beauty of the morning or not, perhaps a lovely beginning of a lovely spring day perhaps simply be what it was and is: a gift.

—Rachel

 

*I didn’t think I was on Instagram, but somebody recently told me I am, and that I have 34 followers. Maybe lack of content is a way to gain attention!

Guest Post

Make “Room” for the Spring!

I was so happy to get this essay from Sharyn.  It felt like the exact advice I needed—encouragement to declutter (inside & out) but also permission to keep certain things. I too feel a greater lightness now with items I’ve chosen (for now) to keep even if they’re not all totally useful. Not everything is a “have-to” on our list of To Dos. So happy clearing out but happy holding onto what makes you happy. It doesn’t feel like it outside in NYC, but spring has sprung! xo, Rachel

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“Just as nature enters a cycle of renewal, growth and expansion in spring-so does the energy within us. Embrace the opportunity to shed old unwanted layers and make a conscious effort to begin again.”

—Danielle Marchmay

I had an epiphany not too long ago about clutter. I am surrounded by my “stuff” and I love it. It is a very important part of my life and I am ok with that. Things are connected to the people that I cherish and meaningful places that I have been. I have been told that being with my loved ones and remembering the memories of my travels should be enough. And I couldn’t understand why I was not able to agree with them until I went through a yoga trauma training and realized that my life is enriched by the memorabilia that tie me to my “clutter.” That was a big relief…and a weight was lifted when I was able to finally accept this part myself.

However, I also became aware that I don’t need to keep every little thing that my children made in pre-school or every pen that I collected at each hotel on my special trip with my fiancé! I became more focused on what served me and that which did not; this is an inventory that I try to do every year now. I also do not feel stressed out about the items that I want to keep, which makes the process more enjoyable and meaningful. Some people prefer to do this in the beginning of the new year. I choose the springtime because it is the season for renewal and growth. Look around you and you will see the flowering buds on the trees, the baby crocuses peeking out, and the leaves unfurling and ready to receive the energy from the sun. For us, it is the perfect to time to unclutter both our inner and our outer spaces.

We have huddled up in our bodies to stay warm and surrounded ourselves with things and food and drink since the beginning of the holiday season in November! I invite you to inhale, spread your arms wide, and take a mental scan of your body’s edges and inner self. Exhale anything that is not serving you: tightness, unhealthy cravings, habits that you hope to break. Can you visualize breathing into those spaces and making room for the renewal of this season? Clearing out the stale energy from our “winter body” is reinvigorating. The same is true for our mental space; allowing ourselves to let go of old patterns and anxieties can be replaced with the setting of new intentions and visualizations that will encourage growth and expansion of our place in the universe. I invite you to do a short exercise that you can embrace daily to help you to begin this process.

Sit comfortable and close your eyes. Visualize in your mind’s eye a favorite place that either exists already that you only visit occasionally or that you wish to create. Imagine the details, including the colors, the furniture or open space, and the items that are present. What are the scents associated with this space? Next, imagine yourself IN that place. See yourself being relaxed, comfortable and happy, and feel the emotions that embrace you in this space. Inhale and exhale, physically feeling your inner space expanding, making room for newness and fresh air. Exhale and watch the energy spread throughout your body and fill this imagined place. Hold this visualization for as long as you would like to during this session. You can come back to it whenever you want!

Once you have done this exercise several times, you will be ready to move to your physical space and tackle the uncluttering of your living areas. Clear out unnecessary papers, take pictures of gifts that were given to you this past year that you have never used but that you want to remember, and then donate them to people who need them, discard expired food or donate cans and boxes that you have duplicates of in your pantry. Tackling your closet is a huge project, so if it too much to do all at once, set an intention that is more focused, such as going through your shoes or your jackets and seeing what you may be inspired to clear out.

Fill your renewed open space with flowers, purchase one of the visualized items in your “ideal place”, and feel the lightness that is the result of uncluttering both mentally and physically. Look around you and experience the earth’s renewal. Breathe in the scent of spring and align it with your intentions that you set for your own personal “Springtime.” Namaste.

—Sharyn

Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.