A Wonderful Gift

Cat
 

No matter what happens in the world “…faith is embedded in our heart and nobody can take it from us.”

– TKV Desikachar, “What Are We Seeking?” (165)

On May 24 my husband, Jim, and I held our dear kitty Bagheera in our arms as the veterinarian injected a drug into his vein, and he drew his last breath. I know we are not alone in having to make hard decisions that determine how the last days of a beloved animal companion will pass. But when you are actually in that position, indecision, uncertainty, fear, and grief may all surface making clear thinking impossible.

Bagheera was 18 years old. He had a mass on his bladder, diagnosed only a week or so before it led to his failing. That was among the many health issues he faced all his life. The numerous bottles of pills that sat on our kitchen counter over the years testified to that. And, in spite of the fact that I was the daily dispenser of pills, occasional liquid medications and shots – all of which he hated – he still treated me like a buddy.

He came into our lives when he was about nine months old from a PAWS rescue site. He was skinny, had a thin coat, and a nervous demeanor. But it didn’t take long until his little belly grew round and his black fur grew thick and shiny. Bagheeera loved to be petted and brushed, which of course we indulged. But he indulged me, as well, as he folded himself into a meatloaf and lay on my belly purring while I lay in bed at night. In the winter he slept on the back of the chair where I sat in front of the wood stove, his tail draped over my shoulder. I know many of you will know exactly what I mean when I say we had a very close relationship, and I loved this cat just as much as if he were human. I was not alone, as people who knew him loved his sweetness too.

When it became clear that Bagheera was not going to survive the tumor, I grieved. Mornings I didn’t want to get out of bed. My first thought was that I couldn’t deal with watching him die, with losing him. Jim and I struggled to figure out what the best choice was for him – to let him pass peacefully at home or to intervene and have him put to sleep – a euphemism that hardly speaks to what it really is. To pass peacefully at home was a wonderful thought, but what about pain?, What if his death was the furthest thing from peaceful? What path was the kindest? What was most respectful of his life? The conversation in my head flipped anxiously from my suffering and loss to Bagheera’s. I felt immobilized.

And, then I prayed. I asked for help, for guidance, for strength, to just be relieved of my self-centered concerns and to be able to be a source of comfort to this kitty who needed comfort now.

What I received was “faith.” I don’t mean faith, like religious faith, I mean what the Yoga Sutra calls sraddha. Sraddha is translated as conviction, courage, confidence. It has been described as “a deep, positive, unshakeable conviction that reveals and nourishes strength.” And, the teaching is that sraddha is present within each one of us. We just have to tap into it. For me, sraddha was the certainty that I would be able to care lovingly for Bagheera as he needed, and that Jim and I would know the kindest choice for Bagheera’s end of life.

This sraddha allowed me to hear the feedback of others. A friend who was a nurse told me that now we were dealing with “kitty hospice,” helping me to see this time was really about Bagheera and making him as comfortable as possible. The veterinarian who had been caring for Bagheera said there was nothing more that could be done, and with the mass he had, he would most likely suffer greatly.

Faith is sometimes knowing what the next right thing is to do and having the courage to do it. But it doesn’t mean there is no loss or sadness. Some days the heaviness of the air and quietness of our house can feel great.

But I ask myself, how do I want to remember Bagheera and our life together? Do I want it to be the images of his last days when he could no longer even walk, or eat, or drink? Those images grow less vivid as I work instead to see him as he was when he was well. When I do, I can almost smell the sweet smell of his fur, feel its softness, hear his loud “meow” as he carried his stuffed bear, and the exquisite joy of looking into his big green eyes. When my mind goes there, so goes my heart. He was ever faithful. Ever a blessing in my life.

Choosing Wisely

Choosing Wisely

Blog image, 5/16/18
 

Exercising clear judgment, taking into account what is helpful versus harmful…
can help us avoid future suffering.

– Nicolai Bachman, The Path of the Yoga Sutras

When I opened the email and read its first few paragraphs, I was hooked – heart and mind. The email described a program called the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership.

This training – which combines forest bathing, yoga, Ayurveda, outdoor skills, and an overview of relevant research on nature’s health benefits…”

And it goes on to explain that the program is designed for those who are called to share nature’s gifts by integrating their love of the outdoors with mindfulness.

How perfect this would be for me, I thought. Isn’t this what I do in my yoga classes and meditations – use images from nature to help students connect to qualities that support them, or give them a sense of calm, or energy, or joy, or peace? The coolness of the full moon to calm them, or the movement of a stream to bring energy, or the light of the sun to encourage clarity, or the mountain for stability? Just the idea of sharing “nature’s gifts” excites me and brings joy.

I tried to convince my dear friend that the program would be perfect for us. We could become nature and mindfulness guides. I tried to convince my husband that he and I could do this program together, sharing the adventure of nine days of training in the Berkshires in late October, early November. After all, we have loved adventures in the past, like the month we spent in India studying at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, and our time in Japan on a yoga retreat, as well as driving Route 50 wherever it went across the U.S.

He was cautiously interested. More cautious as he thought about spending 10 hours a day for nine days outside, which the program required. He was even more cautious as he looked up the temperature highs of 52 and lows of 32 at the time of the year the program is offered.

After my conversation with my husband, I sat quietly in contemplation. My intent was not to reflect on the program or anything in particular, but to be open to the wisdom of a source beyond myself. This kind of self-reflection or svadhyaya, one of the three components of kriya yoga, has kept me more than once from going down a road that wasn’t right for me.

So, as I sat, I came to realize that my enthusiasm for this program was not really training to be a nature guide. What I wanted was to spend time walking in a forest or on a hiking trail. To have more time to be outside. I wanted the peace I feel in nature.

I also reflected upon who I am and where I am in my life. As a yoga teacher and vedic chanter committed to sharing the teachings so generously given to me, why would I disrespect this wisdom, my years of study and experience to take up a different path. As a woman of sixty-nine, with a husband, children, grandchildren, relatives and friends I love, do I really want to commit my energy to this program? Would it bring me joy?

My mind can trick me into responding as if I am thirty-nine instead of my real age. In yoga, this is called asmita. Asmita is a misidentification with who we really are and is one of what Patangali, in the Yoga Sutra, calls the klesas. We are all subject to the klesas, and things generally do not go well for us when they are dictating our actions.

Rather than allowing this misidentification to lead me astray, I found checking in with my friend and my husband helped me to recognize that more reflection might be needed before signing up for this training. My reflection allowed me to have the discernment to see more clearly and choose more wisely what I was going to do. Lastly, after sharing my initial writing on this experience with my teacher, I realized how yoga’s teachings have guided this process of discernment and reassured me that what I am doing, and who I am, is truly enough.

Yoga 4 Summer Solstice

Sunflower image

 
5th Annual
On the green, under the tree!
Yoga for the Summer Solstice
Led by Elizabeth Terry

 
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Loaves and Fishes Farm
1810 York Road, Dover PA 17315

Yoga from 10:00-11:30am. Light lunch and fun to follow!

Bring your own yoga mat, walking shoes and “farm friendly” clothes for playing with the goats. A free will offering will be accepted to support the work of Loaves and Fishes Farms.

Please reserve your spot by June 20th:
Elizabeth Terry eterryyoga@gmail.com or (717) 645-0067

 
For more info on the farm, check out their Facebook page – Facebook.com/LoavesAndFishesFarm or contact:
Farmer Jen Briggs jenbriggs@comcast.net or (717) 774-0794
Farmer Bonnie McCann bonniejmccann@comcast.net or (717) 319-7721

 
Directions (from Harrisburg area)

Interstate 83 south to the Yocumtown Exit. At Light make a left and then an immediate Right on to Taylor Road. Follow that road for about 3.5 miles. You will cross over Rt. 382 (Lewisberry Road) which then becomes York Road, this is curvy and you will pass the Susquehanna Speedway and the farmer market on your left and you will pass a church and school on your right. The Loaves and Fishes Farm is on the corner of Red Bank and York Road. It is a white house with green shutters – the kitchen is in the garage (doesn’t everyone have a kitchen in the garage?)

1810 York Road
Dover, Pa 17315

Event Flyer

 

Spring Yoga at Loaves & Fishes Farm

Spring Yoga at Loaves & Fishes Farm

Spring Yoga Farm imageCome Celebrate Spring’s Beauty
Led by Elizabeth Terry

Saturday, April 14, 2018
Loaves and Fishes Farm
1810 York Road, Dover PA 17315

Yoga from 10:00-11:30am. Light lunch and fun to follow!

If the weather cooperates, we will be outside for yoga, if not, inside. Bring your yoga mat, walking shoes and farm friendly clothes so you can visit the newest members of the Farm. A free will offering will be accepted to support the work of Loaves and Fishes.

Please reserve your spot by April 11th:
Elizabeth Terry eterryyoga@gmail.com or (717) 645-0067

For more info on the farm, check out their Facebook page – Facebook.com/LoavesAndFishesFarm or contact:
Farmer Jen Briggs jenbriggs@comcast.net or (717) 774-0794
Farmer Bonnie McCann bonniejmccann@comcast.net or (717) 319-7721

When you become part of the Loaves and Fishes Farms’ family, you join us in our commitment to grow and eat healthy food that replenishes the soil and protects air and water.”

 
Directions (from Harrisburg area)

Interstate 83 south to the Yocumtown Exit. At Light make a left and then an immediate Right on to Taylor Road. Follow that road for about 3.5 miles. You will cross over Rt. 382 (Lewisberry Road) which then becomes York Road, this is curvy and you will pass the Susquehanna Speedway and the farmer market on your left and you will pass a church and school on your right. The Loaves and Fishes Farm is on the corner of Red Bank and York Road. It is a white house with green shutters – the kitchen is in the garage (doesn’t everyone have a kitchen in the garage?)

1810 York Road
Dover, PA 17315

Event Flyer

February 15

February 15

Outdoor imageToday I walked up the lane behind our house and climbed three stone steps placed by our neighbors to easily reach a walking path. When I left the house, the thermometer read 59 degrees. While I walked, great patches of blue among the clouds opened. The sunlight warmed my face and body to the point I unzipped the light jacket I had worn.

Now, as I sit at my desk, clouds have started to roll in, dimming the sunlight. Still, I think the hackberry, maple and sycamore trees behind the house, bare as they are, must be relishing this light and warmth. Perhaps the buds at the tip of each branch might swell just infinitesimally with hope.

February is taking pity on us, I believe, offering up a taste of spring, reminding us that even though cold and snowy days may come, days like this will follow, sooner or later.

This day filled me with joy. My yoga teacher tells me that this stage of life – you know the wise woman and man stage – is about joy, doing the things that bring us joy. It has taken me a long time to embrace this notion without feeling guilty. But more and more I find moments that offer me this gift.

Frequently birds are involved. Like the morning a flock – yes – an entire flock of bluebirds landed in the front yard to eat suet. And, another morning when a pileated woodpecker landed on the suet feeder to eat breakfast. Usually, like the bird examples, it is something simple that evokes that feeling of joy for me. Simple things like teaching my wise women yoga class; making a salad that looks beautiful as well as tasting delicious; having tea with my husband and cats (they don’t drink tea) as we sit in front of a fire in our wood stove. AND, being able to get up in the morning to do my yoga practice.

Doing my practice over many years has set me up to be open to the moments in which I find joy. Yoga practice is time set apart on a regular basis to develop attention and focus, to see myself, my priorities, and relationships more clearly, and to grow in my spiritual life. My yoga practice inspires me to enter my daily activities with greater awareness, care, patience, and joy.

Perhaps we are given winter here in the north just to remind us to pay attention and to relish spring.

A Season of Change

In seasons of deep transformation, silence will be your greatest guide.”
      …Shauna Niequist in Present Over Perfect

Change of Season imageWe clearly see the physical transformation of living things around us in the fall. Deciduous trees are among the most visible of autumn’s shapeshifters. Their cloaks of green transform to yellow or orange or red or burgundys and russets. And when the trees are ready, sensing the shortening hours of light and feeling the cooler temperatures, the transfer of water to each leaf and food from the leaves ceases. The trees surrender their leaves to the earth.

We notice too a change in the air. Coolness descends in the late afternoon and lingers into the next morning. Squirrels work diligently to fill their larders for winter. The insect voices so characteristic of hot August evenings diminish. The evening is quieter here along the Conodoguinet now.

I, too, find myself thinking I am in a time of transition. Over the years I have seen how my yoga practices have helped me to open to risk and change. I tried new things: teaching a new class and workshops as well as letting go of classes; taking on the study of Vedic Chant; attending church; trying a different strategy to deal with anxiety and depression; deciding I needed to live more completely in sync with my values. For all of this, yoga and the support of my teacher have given me guidance and courage.

Now, I feel again in a place of change, hoping to be more fully present in my relationships, to deepen my learning and teaching of yoga, to work on what I can do to live in harmony with Mother Earth, and to find joy in living each day. Focusing on these priorities requires paring back some activities and maintaining more white space on my calendar. Simply, but not simple, is the need to give myself more space. Like the trees in this fall season, I have to let go of some things to nourish other things, including myself and those closest to me.

What will sustain me in this time of transformation will be my yoga practice, my communities of support, and the quiet in which I can hear the leanings of the spirit.

I wonder how many others of you are feeling the same draw to transition in your lives. If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to email or call me. You may find, as I did, that this is a journey that needs a community of support.

Autumn Notes

Path

Each year as we make the transition from the warmth and bright sun of summer to the waning light of autumn, I feel changes in my system that require changes in my yoga practice, diet, and lifestyle.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, gives us a non-Western lens through which we might understand the effects of the seasons. We are told in the teachings of ayurveda that each person has a “birth constitution,” which consists of a unique arrangement of three different doshas or energies. The vata dosha controls body movement and is concerned with the nervous system. The kapha dosha controls body stability and lubrication and is concerned with the tissues and wastes of the body. Pitta dosha involves digestion and concerns the body’s endocrine and enzymatic systems. Our particular arrangement of these energies, along with our diet and lifestyle, affects how we respond to life and seasonal changes.

Each season also has a dominant dosha, with its own characteristics. Autumn’s dosha is vata. As vata is about the energy of movement, fall is characterized by the movement of air and wind, which has the effect of drying things. Wind, too, stirs things up. Think about the reds, yellows, oranges of autumn leaves, that eventually dry and brown and roil and rustle in an October wind.

We are affected by autumn’s energies and may be vulnerable to imbalances in our own systems. When vata is out of balance within us, we may experience creaky joints, constipation, dry eyes, hair, and nails, difficulty sleeping, nervousness, forgetfulness, and mental distractedness. If we are in a vata stage of life, mid-50s and up, we are even more vulnerable to such an imbalance, particularly in autumn.

If you find yourself feeling out of sorts with some of the symptoms of autumn’s vata dosha, you can explore some of suggestions that follow:

  • Allow your approach to yoga practice to be attentive and meditative. Keep your focus on cultivating a feeling of groundedness, staying one or two breaths in your postures.
  • Choose activities that support a calm mind and heart.
  • Include soups and stews in your diet, using vegetables and fruits from our local bountiful harvests.
  • Hydrate your body by drinking water throughout the day.
  • Add good oils to your diet, olive and sunflower, as the weather cools, and in winter some sesame or fish oil.
  • Oil your skin before you take a warm shower, using sunflower oil or sunflower mixed with sesame.

Much information exists on the subject of the ayurvedic constitution, and you also can work with an ayurvedic practitioner to learn about your birth constitution. But we all can begin by paying attention to how we are affected by the seasons, our diets, and our lifestyle choices. Then, we can adopt strategies to maintain a sense of comfort, stability, and balance.

If you would like to have me teach you a personal yoga practice you can do at home, as well as receive diet, and lifestyle recommendations to address your needs this autumn, you can reach me at 717-645-0067 or eterryyoga@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.