Winter’s Gift

Winter scene

“When we are attentive to our actions we are not prisoners to our habits; we do not need to do something today simply because we did it yesterday. Instead there is the possibility of considering our actions fresh and so avoiding thoughtless repetition.”

    …TKV Desikachar

Winter scene

As we move toward the winter solstice, we can bring our awareness to the messages of the coming season. The deciduous trees have let go of their leaves so they can husband their life-sustaining resources. Most perennial plants have died back to the ground in a time of dormancy. Ground hogs, rabbits, and chipmunks hibernate or reduce activity to conserve their heat, food, and water. We, humans, dress warmly to go outside, heat our homes, nourish ourselves with warming, heavier foods, and perhaps rest and sleep longer encouraged by the increasing hours of darkness. Warmth and energy are to be conserved this time of year, whether you are a maple, a lily, a groundhog, or a person.

Along with the cold that all life must pay attention to in winter, there is also a stillness that can feel quiet and reflective. This quiet energy calls to that same energy within each of us. That is why I look forward to winter. It is a time of reflection.

As TKV Desikachar’s quote above reminds us, it is easy to slide into activities that we perform out of habit. They may be things we think about as “being what I have always done.” Or we may think that they are things expected of us, so we just do them. Yet, our days can become filled with activities whose usefulness and appropriateness to our time of life has faded. Or, they may be activities that have become so habitual that we do them mindlessly, so at the end of a day, it may be hard to recall where we have spent out time.

The quiet space winter offers can be a call to reflect upon “our actions.” We can examine what may have become part of our life just out of habit. We can ask ourselves what activities or commitments may no longer serve us or fit our stage of life? What changes might we make to live more intentionally and in keeping with what is most important to us?

Dharma is a concept in yoga that refers to personal responsibilities. Thinking about our dharma means to be aware of our own unique nature, our roles, duties and responsibilities to ourselves and society. For example, I have the dharma of a teacher. I also have the dharma of a wife, a mother, and grandmother. In terms of societal dharma, I have the dharma of a citizen in a representative democracy. For me, I need to look at what these mean in my life as a woman of 70 years. What are my responsibilities, and what are the actions/activities I want to have in my life? How do I balance these responsibilities?

The answer, according to my teacher Fran Ubertini, to whether we are on the right track is how we feel. We know we are in the right dharma because our “heart is content.” We are acting from a calm and focused mind.

Yes, I look forward to winter. I see it as a gift, providing space to reflect on the choices I am making. It is an opportunity to apply Desikachar’s advice to my actions and activities “fresh” and consider whether they are in keeping with my dharma. Winter may look like a fallow time, but it also may be an opportunity to plant seeds that will grow and blossom.

Winter Solstice Yoga

Winter Solstice image

Friday, December 21, 2018
5:45 pm – 7:30 pm
TMC Wellness through Movement
2134 N. 2nd St.
Harrisburg, PA

Event by donation to support the Harrisburg Peace Garden

December, more than most any month, can go one of two ways. One is all tangled, all covered with bramble. You can get lost, what with all of the noise and all of the bright colored lights. But December, if you choose, if you allow it, can be the trail through the woods that leads to light, far off in the distance.

Join us to celebrate the winter solstice with yoga by candlelight in a practice of movement, breath, chant and meditation.
Class taught by Elizabeth Terry

Please reserve your spot by June 20th:
Elizabeth Terry or (717) 645-0067


Event Flyer
The Movement Center website


February 15

Outdoor scene

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 Beautiful Garden

Art by the river

Art by the river

All of us have been touched by the acts of terrorism in the world, the shootings in our city, drug use and violence that reaches into all our neighborhoods. The images and vivid reporting of these events weigh heavily on the minds and emotions of many of us, creating fear, sadness, anger, and often despair.

Both last year and this year, I have designated the donations given by those participating in the Yoga for the Winter Solstice class I teach to go to the Harrisburg Peace Garden Foundation. It seems especially appropriate this year to make this contribution.

If you have walked along Riverfront Park north of Maclay Street, you are familiar with the Harrisburg Peace Garden. You have seen the beauty of its flowers, the inspiring words of world figures carved into the stones resting among the plantings, the poignant sculptures along the beautiful Susquehanna. The garden was created in 1990 by the Harrisburg/Hershey Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the City of Harrisburg. The Peace Garden Fund was established to make sure the garden is preserved and maintained for future generations. The garden truly is a living monument honoring our interconnectedness with nature, with other cultures, with one another, and with generations to come.

Visually it moves us away from the images and soundbites that can draw us toward hopelessness. Instead it garners our attention, moving our focus to its colors, textures, and messages, and renews a sense of faith that we can live in harmony with the earth, other nations, and one another. It assures us that as we have peaceful hearts we bring greater peace into the world.

Yoga teaches that when we are suffering, we need to move our focus away from what causes our discomfort and towards its opposite. The opposite of violence is peace. In the candlelight of our Yoga for the Winter Solstice class we have the opportunity to pause in the midst of the holiday season’s busyness and honor both the quiet aspect of the winter season and the lighter energy it promises will come. As we seek lives of harmony and peace through yoga practice, it also seems right to let the visual reminder of the Peace Garden stand as a metaphor for what we wish to bring into our hearts.

I invite you to join me for Yoga for the Winter Solstice on Wednesday, December 16 at 5:45 pm at TMC wellness through movement, 2134 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg.

Learn more about Harrisburg’s Peace Garden