CHANGES

“Let’s plant a new tree, make a change
Need it for you and me, brighter days
Will come and you’ll see, make the change
Necessary for ordinary people”
–Ziggy Marley


I am in the mood to keep it simple and sweet. If there’s one take-away for me so far this year, it’s in the art of surrender and letting go. Has it been challenging? You bet. Surrendering is a continuous practice, and just like Mother Nature we shed, we grow, we shed, we grow. 

One of the best ways I know of to help in the process of surrendering is to meditate. The simple act of witnessing all that is happening inside, without judgement, is like seeing each leaf on a tree and watching it drop. Thoughts are simply thoughts. Feelings are just that. See them, feel them, witness them falling away.  

“An untroubled mind, no longer seeking
to consider what is right and what is wrong,
a mind beyond judgements,
watches and understands.”
–Buddha


The second session in My Morning Meditation Series is up and ready for you.  Find the link here: https://vimeo.com/477811884.  And, then join me on the meditation cushion!

OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI

Musings on wash tubs, chaos, and change…

I have a very early memory of my grandmother’s basement.  She still had one of those old-school wash tubs with a manual hand-cranked ringer on it.  The world of modern appliances had moved on considerably, but for some reason my grandmother still had a manual wash tub in her basement. What I remember is the darkness of the basement, and the strange wonder I was feeling as I watched the wet clothes being squished, flattened, and pulled into unrecognizable shapes.  

This year feels a little bit (make that a lot) like being put through that ringer.  Here we are in September, and many changes have happened in my life.  Landslide shifts in what my work-life looks like, my mom needing personal assistance as she navigates another health scare, and an out-of-state move (goodbye California, hello Oregon!)–all while living with a global pandemic, political and social upheaval, and wildly insane climate-change driven wildfires and heatwaves (can we call it apocalyptic yet?).  These are huge, stress inducing changes.  I keep trying to clean, straighten, find some order, some normality, anything to keep the chaos at bay.  But, maybe what is needed is to lean into that chaos.  What if rather than turning away from all of the feelings of worry, frustration, anger, or fear, I really sat down with them and had a conversation?  Not in a let me wallow in them kind of way, but in a curious, interested, and compassionate kind of way.

While I can’t control the world, or the politics that run it, or the fear generated by it all–what I can control is how I respond.  I am sure that most of us have heard the Chaos Theory concerning the wings of a butterfly.  What it’s really trying to say is that tiny changes in a big system can affect everything.  How does this work for me?  I work on the one thing I can change–myself.  What are the roots of my triggers?  Why do I think/feel/react certain ways when x, y, or z happen?  Once I know, I have the power to choose a different, and better, response.  It can be very interesting, very revealing work.  This is radical self-care. 

“In chaos, there is fertility.” –Anais Nin

Some of 2020 has been undeniably bad, but some has been outstandingly good also–like purchasing a home. Another gift has been re-connecting with creative source.  For a while during my teens, I nurtured a macrame jewelry making passion.  It was tiny, intricate work that I loved very much.  A broken mala that I wanted to continue to use, put me back on the path of jewelry and mala making.  It’s both a meditation and a creative hobby that brings peace and joy.  

My new office/video/zoom/yoga space is a blank canvas that I am in the process of envisioning–from choosing a new desk and shelf set, to what color to paint the walls, to how to organize it all (the Virgo me LOVES this).  In this space, I will be creating programs, meditations, and videos–some live, some pre-recorded.  I can truly say I am excited for what is yet to come.  Please do stay tuned!

In closing, I invite you to connect with what brings you peace and joy.  It’s there, waiting to be discovered.  And, like a bee that harvests nectar from a sunflower to make golden honey, you too will create peace, joy, and be part of the tapestry of change that will spread throughout the world.

Know Better. Do Better.

Let me begin by saying right now–this newsletter is heavy. It is a reflection of my heart, which at the moment is feeling very, very heavy. By nature, I am a very private and contained person. But, right here, right now, there are voices calling (shouting really) for me to open up, to listen deeply to friends and to strangers who are BIPOC. Their voices are utterly valid, and they are in pain. It’s past time for me to sit with that pain, theirs and mine. Because, yes, I am feeling discomfort, guilt, shame–many, many things. There can be no turning away from it. It’s real, and it’s lived. 

This is THE yoga.  The yoga of ahimsa–non-violence in thought, word, or deed against another human being, or myself.  The yoga of svadhyaya–self-study, in what ways are my actions, my perceptions, my belief systems both conscious and unconscious causing harm to others and myself. And, the yoga of tapas–self-discipline, to transform myself by sitting in the fiery discomfort of breaking habitual thought and behavioral patterns. It’s necessary, and absolutely essential work.

We are all human beings, but we are not all free. This is my yoga. I invite you to contemplate yours. And, as we sit with what is happening internally, and externally, be kind with yourselves, and with others. We have all walked different paths, and find ourselves in different places. As one of my teachers said, “model truth and compassion.” Let’s all be the change we wish to see in thought, word, and deed.

LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And, may the thoughts, words, and actions of my life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom.”
Find the prayer here:  https://vimeo.com/400370987

Live Like It’s Spring

“Despite the forecast, live like it’s Spring.”
–Lily Pulitzer

I have been having recurring dreams about emerging from a cave, holding up a shielding hand as I squint against the ultra-bright light and warmth of the sun.  My steps tentative.  My head tilting back subtly, as I take slow, deep breaths.  I feel my lungs expanding, my spine lengthening, as I release my arm beside me and simply stand. Time seems to slow down, as I feel the ground beneath the soles of my feet, the heat of the sun, and the caress of a soft breeze against my skin. This is, perhaps, what it feels like to be free.  Aware of the earth that supports me, the sun that warms and strengthens me, and the air that sustains me.  

 “You and I possess within ourselves at every moment of our lives, under all circumstances, the power to transform the quality of our lives.”
–Werner Erhard

These past weeks–months, really–have been an incredible shift in how we all live.  What will we find when we eventually and slowly begin to re-enter the group life stream?  What have we uncovered–discovered–about ourselves during this very special time?  What have we let go of, and what do we take with us?

Now is the perfect time, if you haven’t already, to let things drop away that no longer support you.  Keep only that which is fulfilling and produces joy for you.  Modern life has a way of inserting extraneous and energy draining activities (think about how much time is spent on, say, social media).  These current times of SIP offer rich opportunities to observe “tapas.”  Tapas has been traditionally defined as practicing a “fiery discipline” (the root word ‘tap’ means ‘to burn’).  I like the definition given by one of my teachers: “It is a necessary, fiercely focused, constant, intense commitment to burn off the impediments that prevent us from being fully present.” [Jennifer Prugh]

For the past seven weeks, my tapas practice has been to sit with how I feel about LIVE virtual streaming.  So much about virtual streaming makes me very uncomfortable.  Part of me is amused by this.  Teaching live group fitness classes used to be a large element of my business.  The energy of that was very fulfilling for me.  Doing it in front of a camera (and seeing myself)–not so much.  But, I am committed to finding my voice in this new world.  And, so it goes.  I sit with the discomfort, I do different camera/lighting set-ups, I observe the reactions it brings up, and I practice some more.  

In the meantime, I have added a couple more videos to my Vimeo platform.  Find the videos here:

  • 20 Minute Standing Mobility Flow:  Elevate the mobility, flexibility, and strength of your neck, shoulders, hips, and legs. No equipment needed.  Bring your curiosity and willingness to explore moving in spirals and circles, up, down, side to side, and all around. https://vimeo.com/401159397
  • Warming & Balancing Flow: This session is designed to link your breath to movement, finding energetic balance between not too much and not too little. Flow from one shape to the next, connected to your in breath and out breath like water from one shape to the next shape. Open your hips, invite mobility in your spine, and create some length in your hamstrings and hip flexors.  Finally, you will have an opportunity to check-in with your breath and feeling self as we finish with a short meditation.  https://vimeo.com/403516615

In closing, I also want to offer you links to a few things that have been very supportive for me, creatively and energetically:

Stay well my friends!  Stay well.

Self-Care Tools

“When the storms of life come, if they come to me personally, to my family, or to the world, I want to be strong enough to stand and be a strength to somebody else, be shelter for somebody else.”
–Anne Graham Lotz

Self-care in these turbulent times are essential, not just for ourselves, but also for our loved-ones, our neighbors, our fellow human beings sharing this beautiful planet we call Earth.

I have had many moments over the last three weeks where thoughts, fears, and feelings have overcome me.  I know I am not alone in this.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by emotions, reach out and talk to someone, write it out, dance it out, get some sunshine, pet your beloved dog or cat, do yoga, do any positive activity that helps to balance/level out the intensity of the energy you are feeling.

Some of my self-care go to’s are:

  • Limiting my daily news exposure to once, maybe twice, a day–like a status check-in.
  • Keeping a daily routine of showering and dressing like I would if it were a normal day (e.g., no pajamas, wearing my AppleWatch–the activity tracker is a great motivator, putting on mascara–yep!).
  • Making a healthy, yummy smoothie every morning.
  • Getting out for a walk, or a bicycle ride, in the neighborhood every single day.
  • Meditation.  Every morning, first thing when I wake up.

Other resources:

And finally, I have been slowly (and quietly) creating a Vimeo video channel for a while now.  There you will find my past videos, and new ones.  Some are guided meditations that are useful for reducing stress (Yoga Nidra, Leaf Meditation, and 4-7-8 Breath).  The newest videos are active sequences designed to get the body open and moving.  Find the videos here:   Claudia on Vimeo

Stay well my friends.  Stay well.

Online Offerings

As we continue to navigate the waters of these strange times we are in, I am slowly working on adding more online video offerings.  Some are guided meditations that help you to ground and find peace.  Others are short sessions on improving active ROM.  My newest one is 20 minutes of standing leg strengthening and stretching.  My hope is that they are useful and helpful!

Please find the videos here:  Claudia Fountain on Vimeo

Stay well my friends!

Regeneration. Growth. Evolution.

Right now you are changing.  Skin cells, red blood cells, white blood cells, colon cells are shifting, either growing or dying, and this change is essential to life.  On average, a skin cell lives about two to three weeks, red blood cells for about four months, colon cells for a mere four days, while white blood cells live for more than a year.  There are between 50 and 75 trillion cells in the human body, each with their own life span!

As one of my teachers has said, “Life is the ultimate educational experience.”  We are designed to change and evolve, down to the cellular level, until the day we die.   Evolution is the opposite of stagnation:

Stagnant (adj.):  1) not flowing or running; 2) stale or foul; 3) lack of development, advancement, or progressive movement

To evolve and change, means we take the time to sit with what is, and to parse out where we are making assumptions about our experiences.

For the past few weeks, I have been sitting with my anxiety.  This rising tide of anxious feelings is being fed by many things–not least of which are global health concerns.  But, a large life-change is also imminent for me–picking up and moving a household out of state is huge.  Looking for the right home has proven to be challenging.  And, my work has been to sit with my ideas of what home should feel or look like.

Change brings with it many unknowns, and learning to be comfortable with not knowing everything isn’t always easy!  Structure, everything in its place, a place for everything, feels good, safe, secure.  The truth is loss of structure, or massive changes in our safety nets, can make us feel very ungrounded, as though we are in free-fall.  But, what if we flipped our perspective about ground?

“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute.  The good news is, there’s no ground.”
–Chögyam Trungpa

What if no ground meant we could relax?  Without fear of a hard landing, we are free to find our authentic selves, beyond the rules, walls, and attachments we have built to keep us ‘safe.’  For me–right now–no ground means shifting from the urgent driving need to already be there in my new home (trying to shortcut the process), to living in the moment, relaxing into the frustration, and sitting with and loving all the questions.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke

In between who we were and who we are going to be, we find out exactly who we are.  What does lack of growth look like in your life?  Where do you resist change?  What might you discover if you dug down into the hard-packed ground of your garden?  Till the soil, plant seeds, and watch what emerges…..

See you on the mat!

When was the last time you really just chilled?

Here I am in August, and I’m dreaming of a vacation!  There is no small irony in that statement.  I am just finishing my seventh week of being home bound as I heal a fracture in my left foot.  I can see the end goal right around the corner.  And, I know it will feel so wonderful to be able to move more normally again.  These past weeks have been a true lesson on learning to let go of  “doing.”  Healing became the priority, and no amount of frustration over the things I could not (temporarily) do was going to speed the healing process.   Simple things like showering, getting dressed, making something to eat, all have taken longer to do.  It quite often feels a bit like a moving meditation as I pay attention to the nuances of maneuvering my body and foot through space with care.  This entire experience has been like a (large) nudge (bonk over the head) by the Universe telling me to    s  l  o  w     d   o   w   n.

Which circles me back around to my opening question–when was the last time you really just chilled?  Pulled up the lounge chair, sprayed on sun screen, and read a good book?  Taken a stroll down to the end of the pier, sat on the edge, and just dangled your feet?  There is immense value to be found in slowing down, giving the body and mind space and time to rest.  Physiologically, rest gives the body time to repair and grow, and come back stronger.  Mentally, silence–which is rest for the brain–has been shown to lead to the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key region in the brain associated with learning, memory, and emotion (for some of the research, see:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259110014_Is_silence_golden_Effects_of_auditory_stimuli_and_their_absence_on_adult_hippocampal_neurogenesis).

So, as we enter the final weeks of summer, consider how you might add more rest into your day (naps!), or week (an afternoon at the beach).  Next month, I will be off on a two week road trip with family from Europe, to introduce them to the wonders of our National Parks (Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier).  I will be giving my foot some hiking physical therapy, and my spirit some much needed communion with nature.

See you on the mat!

P.S., I am very happy to be returning to my regular teaching schedule, beginning this Sunday (8/11)!  We will be exploring conservation of energy, consistency, and stability.

Change is the One Constant

“Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.”
–Susan Gale

It is said that change is the only constant.  June has certainly proven that for me!  An unfortunate slip on my stairs sent me to Urgent Care.  I am now in a boot for the next six weeks as I heal a bone fracture.   My asana practice has entirely changed in order to accommodate a foot that is non-weight bearing.  My regular cardio sessions are on hold.  So many aspects of my personal and professional life are now in stasis.  It has been frustrating, to say the least.

But!  This isn’t about what has gone wrong.  Rather, it is about shifts in circumstances.  How we deal with any one thing, is how we deal with all things.  One hand is now empty, but in my other hand is something else.  Time.  Time to write.  Time to read (I can finally make a dent on my stack of yoga-related books).  More time to meditate (this is pure GOLD).  More time with new kittens.  Yes, kittens!  Let me tell you, chasing down a tiny, wee kitten on crutches is challenging.

My personal goal for the next six weeks is adaptation.  There is always more than one way to approach something.  Before my injury, I had begun the annual summer Instagram challenge that my yoga studio (Breathe Together Yoga, Los Gatos) holds.  It is running for 84 days, and I was only a week into it.  Rather than not finishing (I am not a fan of “incomplete”), I decided to keep on playing, adapting the poses to fit my circumstances.  It has been fun and challenging.  If you would like to follow what my adaptations are, please follow the link: http://https://www.instagram.com/cmjfountain/
The hashtags are #BTY84 and #worksinprogress.  I would love to see you there!

I will be returning back to my regularly scheduled teaching program on 7/29.

Namaste!  And, carry on!