Mindfulness Magic

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When my elementary students walk into class they find their spots, close their eyes, place their thumb and pointer finger together, and breathe quietly for a few breaths together.  This beginning routine gives me a chance to catch my breath, but it also gives the kids a chance to get ready and get centered for our time together.  Those beginning moments are peaceful, but the best is when I see a student fall into that shape and breath without my instruction.  I see it working, and I want to offer more.  So I went on Amazon and gathered all I could, and have been on a major mindful kick lately.

Kirpalu Yoga – by Richard Faults
Origin Magazine
Planting Seeds – Thich Nhat Hanh
Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The Mindful Child – By Susan Kaiser Greenland

I have been devouring any and every resource about mindfulness.  Being mindful is something that seems obvious, simple, and accessible, but how often throughout the day do we really focus on our breath and the thoughts in our mind?  Mindfulness is being present – and with all the to do lists, replays of past events in our brains, and constant internal dialogues – it takes practice to know when and how to press the      p a u s e  b u t t o n  &  b r e a t h e.

I notice a big shift when I am able to slow down and bring my awareness to my breath – no matter what I am doing, my mind slows down, even if for only a moment.  I become more clear, calm, and grounded.  I have experienced the actual benefits of being mindful and I am  thrilled to share these lessons of mindfulness to my students as they begin to navigate through life.  More practical and age appropriate activities to come.

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Fluid Transitions

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I’d like to know who makes smooth transitions into the next phase of their life, because I certainly do not.  I never have.  My history runs long and deep of tumultuous transitions.   Tears accompanied every change I have ever made – whether it was moving to a new town in in middle school, going to college, being a teacher for the first time, moving to Italy, getting married, moving to DC, or now moving back to NYC – I become an emotional wreck.


While I am a sensitive and emotional being, I also consider myself to be relatively grounded.  But when one phase of my life begins to fade away and another is ready to take its place I melt down, I fumble, I cry.  Now this isn’t because I don’t want to embrace whatever is coming next, I just freak out because it feels overwhelming, uncertain, and unclear.

The rest of my world can feel this shaky energy too, since everything has been breaking down around me: the car, my bike, and schedule mishaps – you name it.  My outer world reflects the inner world of my mind– so instead of doing less yoga because I am so busy packing and running around (which is what has happened) I actually have to do more.   My next week will be filled to the brim with as many downward dogs and warriors that I can squeeze in.

Don’t get me wrong, my goal isn’t to eliminate tears, because I think it is healthy to let those lips tremble and tears flow freely every once in a while.  That is my current expression of letting go and processing one stage of my life in order to make room for the next one.  However, I’d just like to keep the melt downs to a minimum, and I am sure my husband would agree, and celebrate what is to come.  One more week and one day until I am on my way to back to NYC!

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Hang Time

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Yesterday’s yoga class was the first time that I ever ‘stuck’ my handstand while in the middle of the room.

…all for about a second or two, before I freaked and I didn’t know where to go or what to do.  At that point my body was moving faster than my mind, so my feet fell all the way over head and I landed in wheel.  It was awesome.  I had no idea I could pull off that signature move that the 8-year-old version of myself loved to do so often.

I have been practicing handstand for about 6 months now.  Every time I practiced kicking up without the support of a wall, I would hold back a little because of the narrative in my head.  ‘You are going to fall and land on your neck, you will knock over your computer, you will fall into something, someone.’  It generally ended up with a big old – ‘BAD IDEA LEAH, STOP!’  So I did practice kicking up, but not with all of my heart and soul.  I let that narrative rule me for a while.  What I learned from arriving into handstand for those brief moments was that all of my fears that were dictating my actions were way worse than what actually ended up happening.

I also realized that practicing with space surrounding me is key, so that there would be nothing that would be in my line of falling.  With that said – new apartment will come with a spacious yoga sanctuary!

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Giving Myself Credit

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As I drove to one of my last days of school last Thursday, I was quite sad, crying behind my sunglasses.  They weren’t  tears of sadness – or even joy, but rather tears of dissatisfaction with how I played my year as a dance teacher in DC.  I find the kids’ reaction at the end of the year is a clear way to gauge the impact I have made, and the entire week of goodbyes was extremely underwhelming.  I wondered if I had really taught anything.

The school year was complete, there were no do-overs, and I got out of it exactly what I put into it.  Of course, I could give you a list of excuses based on the very non-ideal circumstances I was in, but I won’t.  If there is one thing that I learned from my friend Raul it is that circumstances  don’t rule me, I rule them. :)

But you know, it is so easy to be so hard on yourself, find your faults and forget the good stuff.  When I sat back and thought of all the things I took on this year (in addition to teaching at school) I realize it is the first year I:

-Taught yoga at a studio (at least 3 times a week)

-Taught yoga to an older generation during their lunch break

-Taught pre-school and pre-K (and LOVED it!)

-Taught pre-ballet after school (which was a success)

-Had a husband!

-Taught tap dance to middle school and high schoolers

That’s a lot, and it’s important to give myself credit for those new ways I branched out and learned from them.  And if I look at how I taught dance from a different angle, I can find many moments of success as a dance teacher in the schools.  I was a bright spot for most of those kids many of those days, I provided an opportunity for them to explore, create, and move!  Although there weren’t any huge performances, or any real tangible evidence – I did make a difference, and maybe it was just smaller than I would have liked.

So now I get to have a second chance.  I will be teaching a camp for three weeks that I am prepared to kick butt in and give it as much as I can.  So I can leave those three weeks with an extreme sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  When I give it my all, that is when I find the most value in my work and in myself.  

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I once had a blog that I told six people about and lasted all of four entries, and a little over a month.  I am approaching this blog in a different way – in a bigger way – even if I am a little scared of what it will look like, what it will be like, and if anyone will even read it.  I realize that as wondrous as I want this blog to be – beautifully crafted, with stunning photos and original artwork – I may just  have to jump in with what I have, or else a blog may be something that lingers on my “wouldn’t it be nice if…” lists.  Just have to make it happen.

My intention for this online space is for it to be a place where musings on the art of living come into existence, gathering ideas and resources that help to create a super healthy and satisfying life.  My interests in mindfulness, personal growth, yoga, dance, kids, healthy food, teaching, and dreaming big, will certainly shine through.  Beautiful photos, powerful quotes, awesome videos, and funny jokes will also make an appearance … whatever I can find to inspire and motivate myself and then be able to serve others.

So this is me jumping in, and although its appearance is not as refined as I would have liked, I am happy that this now exists.  Like anything else, it will evolve and grow into its complete form with time and care.

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