IMG_4106

These are some of the things I saw yesterday:

The ocean. Calm, hardly any waves.

A motor boat with an American flag on top, zipping past across the water.

A man asleep on a bench. His belly big and round in a too tight, dirty, light blue t-shirt.

A mural on a wall with bright colors featuring the round and joyful faces of children.

I saw a couple in wedding attire, at 7AM. Posing for photos. Her dress white, she wore flats. Her two attendants wore red. She walked into the dirty public rest room at the beach in her wedding dress. I worried. For her dress. For her future. And I wondered, are they just starting their day? It’s awfully early. Or did they get married yesterday, party all night, and this is why she’s lackadaisical about dragging that dress into a filthy, bathroom? (If you know these bathrooms, the floors are usually covered in a combo of wet dirt and sand). I’ll never know.

I saw a group of about a dozen black bicyclists. They were men and women, so beautiful, and fit, and friendly. A few of them bid me good morning as they sped past and over the intracoastal waterway.

I saw boats in the water. They looked dreamy from far away, but from above on a bridge I could see that was fantasy. They were rusty and beaten up and did not look romantic. There was an industrial feel to them.

I saw a bunch of women taking a Zumba class in the park. A middle-aged man (my age)walked by and referring to the class across the way did a little Zumba dance with a twinkle in his eye as a nod and hello to me as he kept going.

I saw a group of homeless people hanging out, having what seemed like a party. Sitting on a public wall, they were loud, greeting each other. Hugging. One man, or was it a woman? In a tank top, he/she/they released huge plumes of cigarette smoke into the air, social distancing the least of his/her/their concerns.

This was all before 8AM.

As writers we tend to notice things. We hang back and observe. We catch the flicker of sunlight through the tree leaves. We notice the timber of a person’s voice. Many of us keep an active notebook going of little tidbits, gems we pick up on the road to save for later. Writing requires mindfulness.

This act of observation is true of yogis as well, but it is more of an inward focus. When we practice, when we meditate, we do our best to stay in the moment. We tune into our bodies, so we can notice our feelings, our emotions, and not let them have their way with us so much. We practice and practice and we fall down and we blow it, and we get back up and keep coming back to the mat, back to our breath. Noticing. Breathing. Falling. Feeling. Practicing mindfulness, trying to be present.

Where does this emotion land in my body?
What does this scene evoke in me? How can I bring the visceral feeling it gives me to the page so a reader might feel it too?

Writing and yoga both help me process being alive. If I go too long without either, I feel out of sorts.

Both help me find more compassion for myself and for others. For me, they go hand in hand.

This breath in.
IMG_4093

This breath out.

IMG_4091

If you are inspired to, I hope you will join me in a 4-part Flow Writer series at The Sattva Wisdom Center, starting July 12. Early bird discount ends July 6th. Sign up here.

Screen Shot 2020-06-26 at 9.17.53 AM

One of the benefits of teaching online during this time of Covid-19 is I get to connect with people from all over. Those I would normally never be able to teach due to geographical distance are now in my classes and I love it. I am in South Florida but since the shut down, people from North Carolina, NY, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, California, Washington, (I hope I’m not forgetting anyone), have come to my classes, and it has been amazing. Zoom classes have proven to be quite accessible for most. I still have a few clients that are hesitant to try it this way but they are really missing out. Even the sense of community that forms in a studio is starting to happen. My students from all over are recognizing each other, greeting each other before classes. I love it. Of course it is okay to pop into the Zoom room at the last minute if what you are looking for is a more inward experience and you don’t feel like talking. Maybe you have not yet had your coffee, lol. You are the boss of your yoga experience. Always.

I offer private, semi-private, and group classes. I offer small private classes for families or groups of friends. I will work with you to give you the experience you are looking for.

I love my 55+ clients. I love beginners.

I am in love with helping people get in touch with their true selves, via yoga.

It is a great blessing to me that I can continue to teach during this pandemic.

Hope you join me!

 

 

KJHS

Teaching yoga online has been an opportunity to learn and grow. My style of teaching is not demo centered. I prefer not to do the whole class in front of a camera, but to observe my students so that I might be truly present with them, hold space for them, and guide them. I want to see them.

Rather than relying on using my body to show, (which I’ve never done too much of, it’s not how I learned) I am relying on my ability to cue more clearly. If I am doing the practice with my students, I am not really there for them 100%. Example, I can’t see their down dogs, if I’m in down dog too.

This is just personal preference. There is no right or wrong way to do yoga, or to teach yoga. There are those that might argue demo is the way to go.

Teaching online was really confusing at first. Each person in their own little Zoom box is facing a different direction. Some of the cameras flip the screen so it is mirrored. Everyone isn’t moving in unison. Ack!

There are usually one or two yoga teachers in each class I teach. At first, I attempted to cheat and watch them, to get my bearings, my lefts and my rights correct. I figured they knew what they were doing. But here’s the thing about yoga teachers. They do their own thing. They are the least likely ones in class to be doing what you tell them. So that backfired. lol

Better to watch the students more closely as you find your way.

About two weeks into online teaching I realized I was getting really anxious after classes. Really doubtful about whether the class was good. Whether the students were happy. Had I done something wrong? Said something wrong? I didn’t understand, because I never feel like that after teaching live classes.

The next day, I told a joke, and the dead silence of my students (who are on mute to avoid clashing background noises) hit me. That’s it! I am not getting feedback from the students. It is hard to read the room when you can’t hear them. When you can’t necessarily see all their faces.

I’d been teaching this group for years, and I knew they’d think what I’d said was funny. (Trust me, I’m hilarious). So I did a pivot in my mind, and decided to think,

“They laughed. They totally laughed.”

And it really helped.

This incident gave me insight into what it must be like for my daughter who is on the autism spectrum, to never know how what you said landed. To not be able to rely on social cues for feedback. It cracked my heart open a little more.

A couple of months in, I’ve got the hang of it now. I am enjoying teaching from my bedroom, seeing all the dogs and cats, the living rooms and guests rooms and patios of my students. It’s strangely intimate, at a distance.

We un-mute at the beginning and at the end of classes for that real-time, if not in-person connection.

I look forward to the day we can all be in the same physical room. I look forward to a day when it is okay to hug again.

This world has gone mad, but we have the yoga practice to sustain us. We find our way back to ourselves on our mats, over and over again. It is my great honor to be able to guide students in this way, and I’m so glad that for now we can do it online.

Mercy to the humans.

This breath in.
This breath out.

 

My current online schedule:

Tuesday: Gentle Flow 4PM EST
Thursday: Full-Soul-Ahead, prayer infused Vinyasa (more vigorous) 9:30AM EST
Sunday: 1PM EST Flow Writer, Self-expression through yoga & writing

Register here.

*Photo is my of my sister, in her Zoom box. She was practicing with me from her attic loft. I’d mentioned our late grandmother in the class, and how she always said,

“Go in the Light that is given you.”

And then…this.

 

 

 
man in red shirt holding blue book

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Not reacting, but assessing a situation and then… making a measured response. Or choosing not to respond at all.

We don’t need to take the bait.
We don’t need to attend every argument we are invited to.

We don’t need to finish everything we started if it no longer resonates with our soul’s intention.

We don’t need to people please.

We don’t need to explain ourselves.

You know in your gut when someone is inauthentic. Don’t talk yourself out of knowing it. 

In yoga, if what the teacher is suggesting doesn’t make sense for your body, you don’t have to do it. Maybe you make an adjustment.

Variations of each pose exist. One is not better than another.

Moving the hips higher, or the feet back a smidge might make it better. Might make it worse. Take some pressure off the wrists. Activate your thighs. It’s okay to explore. To be present and discerning in each pose. And in each transition. 

Your teacher will guide you, but you are the boss.

What feels right? In this moment.

What do I need right now? More? Less? 

What about now?

Stillness is the key.

Calm down. 

You know what to do.

You do.

Discern. 

This breath in. 
This breath out. 

 

My schedule this week: 

Tuesday: Gentle Flow 4PM EST
Thursday: Full-Soul-Ahead, prayer infused Vinyasa (more vigorous) 9:30AM EST
Sunday: 1PM EST Flow Writer, Self-expression through yoga & writing

Register here.

 

 

 

 

Karma

Ilonka Michelle O'Neil

“And now I’m serving time for mistakes

made by another, in another life time.

How long til’ my soul gets it right?”

-Galileo, Indigo Girls

The theme this week at Sattva Wisdom Center is Karma. And boy is it a loaded one! Diving into it there are so many directions one could take, but I will be keeping it simple in my classes. Karma is action and reaction. The more conscious we are in our lives, the more we will reap what we want to sow.

This week, I enjoyed listening to a podcast on Karma with Vinny Ferraro. I’d never heard of him before, but he is a Dharma teacher who sounds a bit like Andrew Dice Clay. (Lots of F’s, which happens to be my first language, so I felt right at home, though I never curse in the classes I teach).

Some things I gleaned from listening to his talk:

We can use the concept of Karma as a way to judge or blame ourselves and others. Or we can use it to empower ourselves and take responsibility for our actions, past and present.

We cannot go back and change the past, (and forget it with previous lifetimes?) but we would do well to make amends where we can, right now, and to never underestimate the healing power of a heartfelt apology, both for the giver and the receiver.

We can, as my grandmother used to say, “Go in the light that is given us.” We know what is right and what is wrong. We can do what is right in this moment, which will absolutely affect the future.

Collectively we cannot expect to plunder the earth’s resources, to take more than our share, and have no consequences for it. Nor should we use the concept of Karma as a way to dismiss the suffering of others.

The concept of Karma is so vast, but at its most basic and manageable we can tune into our hearts and move through our days practicing Ahimsa, making every effort to do no harm.

That will put us in good stead.

We don’t have to make it so big, and so complicated. We are all works in progress, and can do the next right thing, on the way to becoming more of who we want to be.

 

My schedule this week: Eastern Standard Time.

Tuesday & Thursday: 4PM Gentle Yoga
Thursday: 9:30, Prayer Infused Vinyasa Flow
Sunday: 12PM (note time change for this week only) Flow Writer, Self-Expression through yoga & writing

Register here.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6390

In 2016, I was rear ended when I stopped for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. The car behind me didn’t break. My car was totaled. My neck injured. It’s been a long road.

While lucky I wasn’t more severely injured, the accident did result in me being in a lot of pain, for a long time. I’d never lived with chronic pain before, and it really opened my eyes to what people who have it feel like. For me, it was as if there were a leak in my life force, I was being drained of my energy…this pain that wouldn’t let up. It made me less patient. More cranky. More reactive. That went on for a couple of years.

I tried a lot of different things. Injections. Procedures. PT. Everything helped a little, and I got to the point where I wasn’t in pain all the time. But if I did Vinyasa yoga, I would be in quite a bit of pain for at least three days after. Finally my wonderful physical therapist told it to me straight. With my injuries, which were permanent, (skeletal stuff) that kind of practice was no longer a good idea. It would likely always cause me pain.

It was a blow. It’s what I loved. It’s what I taught. Something really important was taken from me. My identity and my “winning personality” took a hit for a while.

Over time, I have found other ways to move and breathe and even flow, but I wasn’t able to take a vigorous yoga class. Not without a lot of pain after. I’ve been practicing and teaching really gentle classes for a few years now. I’ve learned a lot. It’s been good for me as a student and as a teacher. I no longer have chronic pain every day, though it still comes and goes, depending on what I’ve been doing.

But recently, via classes with Francesca Cervero, I have learned a new way to flow that doesn’t hurt me. I’m excited to share it. Starting Thursday I am going to be teaching a more vigorous (prayer infused) Vinyasa flow, minus the chatarangas, and with a lot less forward folds. Maybe your body will like it too.

If you have shoulder or neck pain, if you’re sick to death of chatarangas but you love to flow, I hope you come try my new Full-Soul-Ahead! class on Thursday AM’s at 9:30EST at Sattva Wisdom Center. Starts this week!

I love Vinyasa.
Love shouldn’t hurt.

This breath in.
This breath out.

See you in your little Zoom square. Can’t wait!

Full-Soul-Ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 9.20.53 PM

The photo above is of a group of writers whom I adore in Cleveland, Ohio. We would get together once a month and read what we had written from a prompt assigned the month prior. The group was modeled after another local writing group that had been together for over a dozen years. Prior to forming our group, I asked one of their members, a dear friend of mine, what the secret to their cohesiveness was, and she said,

“No critiques.”

If you’ve ever been in a writing critique group, you might know how brutal they can be. Those who argue the virtue of critique groups say, “You’ll never get better if you can’t take criticism.”

I say, you’ll never get to the heart of what you’re needing to write if you do not feel safe.

So, the rule was no critiques. BUT, if you wanted to have your piece workshopped by one or more members of the group, you could do that outside the monthly circle. The circle would be sacred.

The writing that came out of this group was exquisite. I remember feeling buzzy, just surrounded by incredible talent, and held in sacred space. That writing group counted as one of my biggest losses when we moved from Cleveland. I’ve missed it/them dreadfully.

Very shortly after moving to Florida in 2013, I became a yoga teacher. Like writing, it was a practice I’d loved for a long time and the transition point in my life made it possible to take the plunge into teacher training. I absolutely love teaching yoga and count it as one of my greatest blessings.

This week, I am THRILLED to begin a new adventure combining writing and yoga. I honestly don’t know why I have not done this sooner. When a friend recently suggested it, I felt my heart do a happy leap. It was a “Hell, yes!”

With the COVID-19 “great pause” upon us, there could not be a better time. We all have a lot to process right now, and what better way to do that than through yoga and writing?

Flow Writer, Self-Discovery Through Yoga and Writing will begin with a gentle yoga practice, suitable for beginners. We will move some physical energy through for about 45-minutes. Then we will write to a prompt. Students will have the opportunity to read their work out loud, (if they choose to) which can be a profound and healing experience. Feedback will be very specific, directed, and short. No critique.

This is an ongoing class. People can drop in any week. You do not need prior yoga or writing experience. All are welcome. You are cordially invited.

It starts Sunday, May 3, at 1:00PM EST on Zoom, sign up via Sattva Wisdom Center.

I cannot wait.

* A portion of the proceeds from every offering at Sattva Wisdom Center goes to the Palm Beach Food Bank. So, while you fill your own cup, you are also giving to those who truly need it at this time. It is a very special center, and I am honored to be part of it. Check out   the many offerings, including two free Wisdom Lounge sessions here.

** First week was a great success! The students who showed up were open and brave.

 

 

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 4.26.08 PM

The other night there was a worldwide meditation. People from all over the globe visualized an end to the corona virus. It was so late on the east coast, I had a hard time staying awake, but I did it. The teens were pulled from their bedrooms, and our whole family flopped on the sectional sofa at the designated time and closed our eyes and imagined a better world for all.

Prior to the meditation, Todd and I listened to spiritual teacher Matt Kahn who was giving a FB live talk. The one thing I remember from it was the question he suggested we ask ourselves, “With this choice, whose life am I improving?”

It reminds me of the often cited teaching, which suggests before we speak, asking ourselves four questions:

Is it helpful? Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

With this choice, whose life am I improving? 

With this choice to stay home, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to call and check in with friends/relatives, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to criticize my spouse, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to continue to pay, if we can swing it, those who work for us with no benefits and no income right now, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to let the teenagers sleep til’ noon, whose life am I improving? (Mine. Yes, today I will allow it. Quiet time alone is improving MY life today and that is good for all involved). lol

With this choice to post whatever I am posting to social media, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to consume (food, media, whatever, _________ fill in the blank), whose life am I improving?

It is about mindfulness. About making conscious choices. About doing no harm, if we can.

I look out the window behind my desk, and see a blue-jay, flitting about. I see the tree branches sway in the wind, while the trunk is solid and unyielding. I note the overcast sky with the sun peeking through.

I make a choice to hold the suffering of the world in my heart. To not look away. I make a choice not to sink. Most of the time.

“I do not know what I am looking at, so I must not judge what I see.”

This line from A Course in Miracles buoys me.

I make a choice to be “willing to consider” there is a bigger picture here, one I am not yet capable of understanding.

Just the “willingness to consider” burns off an outer layer of despair.

This breath in.
This breath out.

Choice, by choice, by choice.

 

*I am teaching gentle yoga ONLINE at Sattva Wisdom Center, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4PM. During this time of crises, a portion of of the proceeds from each class will go to a local food bank. If you are inspired to, I would love for you to come take a breath with me, from the comfort of your own home.

 

Trust

Ilonka Michelle O'Neil

IMG_2927

This week’s theme at Sattva Wisdom Center is trust. Is there someone in your life you trust? Someone that loves you no matter what? Someone you can lean on and feel supported by even at your most ugly, most vulnerable? If you don’t have that now, is there someone you’ve ever had that with? Someone that has perhaps passed on? Or maybe someone you otherwise can’t physically get to right now? Can you bring them to mind and feel their essence all around you?

Do you trust in unseen forces? Are you a believer in something bigger than yourself? Do you believe you were Divinely created?

Perhaps you trust that the moon will come out this evening, and the sun will come out in the morning. That gravity will continue to hold you to the earth. Those are forms of trust as well.

When the world suddenly comes to a screeching halt, but at the same time information is flooding into our brains faster than ever before, it is disorienting. It feels a little like whiplash. Am I really slowing down? Or am I being asked to take in more information in a day than my ancestors did in decades?

How can our human bodies cope?

We come back to the breath, back to our hearts, but even one day those will stop. All of us will eventually cease breathing. Our hearts will one day beat their final tha-dump.

All we can do is trust. Trust that the force that brought us into existence is a loving force, and is carrying us. It made your eyes so beautiful. It made the ocean, and the mountains and the sunsets. It made babies, and puppies, and trees, and laughter and music. Love, made that heart beating in your chest.

Trust that Love is the thing holding the planets and the stars in place. Trust that there is a reason each one of us is here, right now, at this time in history. Trust that even now, especially now, when there is so much uncertainty, we are expanding. Unfolding.

Trust that even if when we and/or those we love get to the very end of this life, we don’t know the end of the story.

Trust in the mystery that is everything.

Hands on heart.

This breath in.
This breath out.

We can consider the possibility of finding, something to trust.

* I will be teaching gentle ONLINE yoga Tuesday and Thursday at 4PM EST this week at Sattva Wisdom Center.  I welcome you from the comfort of your own space, wherever you are in the world.

Please visit the schedule. We have many seasoned teachers holding space for you during this time, a portion of the proceeds from each class will go to local charities during the corona virus shut down. We raised over $1000 for the Palm Beach Food Bank last week.