Archive for February, 2013

The New Yoga for People Over 50, fifteen years later, still going strong

February 26, 2013
This week a reader posted the 50th review of The New Yoga for People Over 50, a milestone of sorts. This book was published in 1997 and (I’m grateful to say) is still going strong. All told, it took about 20 years to pull this baby together. I wrote the first chapters in a small hut in the river bottom, not far from where I live now. The hut had a shower, and I discovered that the steam from the shower affected the big bulky computer I was working on. So I had to arrange my writing time around people’s showers, to make sure the atmosphere was not too damp.After many years of interviewing older teachers and other inspiring elders from all over the world (including Indra Devi at age 94 and Beatrice Wood at 100), getting photo permission from B.K.S. Iyengar, organizing photo shoots, etc., the book grew more and more out of control—way beyond the size of an encyclopedia.The whole concept of getting an editor never occurred to me. I didn’t know enough about writing to realize I needed one!Finally, after years of rejection letters, one of my students introduced me to an agent who had just moved to Ojai: Barbara Neighbors Deal. Barbara succeeded in getting me a bona fide book contract with Health Communications, Inc., famous for their best-selling self-help books. It was a match made in heaven.I excitedly signed the book contract. A month or so later, they actually sent meenough money to cut back on teaching for a few months. I chained myself to the computer and sweated away. I chopped away at the manuscript and selected the most suitable photographs. Twelve-page interviews were cut to two-page vignettes.
I optimistically submitted all the material. The publisher’s editors and layout people got to work. A few months later, the galleys arrived. Except for a few upside-down images, it looked perfectly fine to me. During this time a new student, Karen McAuley, started coming to my classes.  She heard me talking about my book and asked to see the galleys. And then, to my utter dismay, she announced, “This book isn’t ready! It doesn’t have a spine!” A spine? My yoga book doesn’t have a spine? Turns out Karen was a seasoned New York editor. She called the publisher, stopped the presses, and took matters into her own hands.I still marvel at the synchronicity of Karen entering my life just in the nick of time. Due to her merciless, rigorous, unrelenting editing efforts, I ended up with a baby that has a spine and, consequently, a long shelf life.298812_10150423623539703_535391470_n
To Look Inside the Book click The New Yoga for People Over 50
Photo credit: Suza and her student, Sandy Yost, by Ron Seba
Photo Credit: Cover photo of Iyengar Yoga teacher Betty Eiler by Jim Jacobs

February full moon musing

February 26, 2013

Silent, steady, the full moon rises, higher and higher above the Valley of the Moon. From my perch at the top of North Signal, I watch in awe. She is so still, so brimming with light, brighter and brighter each time I glance up. The mountains too stand steady in their strength and abiding solitude. All I can do is root my feet, take a deep breath, and allow myself to feel the moment.


The full moon casts a spell of enchantment on the valley. You can wander the trails and streets by the light of the moon and see—but not be seen, except by wild animals. For just a little window of time, you can shed the years and wander carefree, letting your dogs take the lead. You pass houses where you lived long ago . . . you walk a trail that you once followed, on a moonlit night like this, wearing a flowing, white, hippie wedding dress, when you were young and slender and had no idea how beautiful you were . . . when you poured your hopes and dreams into a man who later confessed he was drawn to you like a moth to a flame. But even making love by the light of the moon couldn’t cast out his memories of Vietnam . . .

I’m lucky to still be alive to tell the tale.

February 20, 2013
suz10All I can do this morning when I browse the news and ponder on all the people who have left the planet in recent days, ranging from self-help author Debbie Ford, who faced her shadow, to the troubled music star Mindy McCready, whose shadow overpowered her, to the many people from my own life drama who have passed on . . . all I can do is shake my head and wonder what really happens in the great beyond. I also say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
I’ve only minimally tasted the pain of life, and that was painful enough. I once hit a man in the head with a glass bottle while he was driving . . . it was just lucky there wasn’t a gun in the car. I can only imagine the pain in the heart and solar plexus that would cause a beautiful 37-year-old singer to end it all. How incomprehensible it all is, even if we find a logical reason.Yesterday I came across a very interesting piece about Larry Hagman’s mind-altering psychedelic trip. It described how the actor suffered a nervous breakdown while filming a TV show and how the film crew carted him off to a psychiatrist who suggested he ease his anxiety by taking LSD. Hagman claimed that he saw his body’s molecular structure during his first trip. “Some cells were dying, some cells were being reborn . . . I realized we don’t disappear when we die. We’re always part of a curtain of energy.”A 70-year-old friend suggested to me that there should be a gentle, legal form of LSD for senior citizens. He says it’s not fair that we kick the bucket without ever really knowing what this whole trip of being in a body was all about.

It’s been 45 years since I took my last trip, high in the mountains of Ojai, in Matilija Canyon or Rose Valley. It was August or September of 1967, a few days after I returned from Haight-Ashbury. I don’t recall the exact location, only that we drove up Maricopa Highway, parked, and hiked to a place that was absolutely still and quiet, far away from the noise of civilization. I was 18 years old and didn’t have the language to articulate what happened. But I remember that my consciousness shifted from the world of time to timelessness. Maybe it was a taste of cosmic consciousness, maybe it wasn’t. I do distinctly remember saying over and over again, “I’ve waited so many lifetimes for this moment.”

The impression this experience made on my consciousness has never left me. At the same time, I know that the human mind is capable of inventing all kinds of realities, whether born of mind-altering drugs, religious conditioning, or the effects of alternative belief systems, some of which I was briefly “processed” in before I jumped ship.

So here I am in beautiful Ojai, in my messy writing hovel, surrounded by books, journals, yoga props, and cats and dogs sprawled across my bed. I’m still sleeping on a mattress on the floor, just like in my hippie days. The sun is shining through the trees, and I feel blessed to wake up happy. If the world doesn’t end, then this day, like all the others, will be eaten up by endless ADLs (activities of daily living): money reckonings, kitty litter cleaning, dog walking (the highlight of the day), and eating food—both for nourishment and for consolation.

All human beings suffer, no matter what props they accrue on the stage of life. Some overdose on drugs, some put a bullet in their head, and all succumb to accidents, disease, or age. This awareness alone helps move me into the present moment, where I can laugh and realize I’m lucky to still be alive to tell the tale.

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The Road to Singledom

February 15, 2013

Last night, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I made a list of all the men in my life, going all the way back to my first boyfriend at age 15, the Catholic one up the street who set me on fire. That fire was promptly extinguished when my fanatical Pentecostal father told his Catholic father in no uncertain terms that I could not date a Catholic. My old dad confessed his part in this out of the blue a few years ago, adding remorsefully, “I should have let you go out with that young man. He was much better than the ones that came afterwards.”

It’s a long list—almost 50 years’ worth of relationships, including my first marriage at age 18 followed by two more . . . all the living-together arrangements—an endless stream of boyfriends, one after the other, with no real alone space in between. It’s total poetic justice that, after all that obsessing, the shocks, the crying, the heartbreak, the horrible suffering, after all the years of marriage counseling, couple retreats, untold books on relationship as a spiritual path, after all that incredible agony and awesome ecstasy, that I should now find myself not applying the wisdom I’ve gained to a relationship but to finally standing psychologically solid on my own two feet.

I sit here in my kitchen, sunlight streaming through the sliding glass door, ignoring yesterday’s dirty dishes, reveling in being alone. The writer in me remembers the thrill of hearing a delivery boy knock on the door to hand me a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a glass vase or pretty wicker basket, always with a festive ribbon and a little white envelope with a sweet message inside. Then later getting picked up in a red convertible and driving off full of hope and anticipation with a handsome-devil boyfriend, going off for the weekend to a romantic bed and breakfast . . .

I feel no need to burn the journals where I scribbled furiously in my efforts to make sense of it all. Once in a while I look at the love letters, photo albums, and romantic cards I’ve saved through the years . . . all these material reminders of past Valentine’s Days. If I had not had all these experiences, would I be this content alone? Everything that ever happened was a hard-won lesson on the road to peaceful singledom.


45 Years Ago in the Haight Ashbury

February 8, 2013

I originally wrote the Post below on April 24, 2007. Today’s Post is a reminder to myself to finish the story mid February, 2013

Turn On. Tune In. Drop Out!
Scan_Pic0018I got a little jolt last night as I sat in Seated Wide Angle Pose, Upavistha Konasana (the pose in the photo) watching a PBS documentary on Hippies and the Summer of Love.

It dawned on me that it was 40 years ago (1967) [now 45 years] that I took the Greyhound bus from Ventura to San Francisco and rented a room on the third story of a house on Haight Street.

I was 17 years old. I had enough credits to graduate early from Nordhoff high school. While my classmates were still in prison, for the first time in my life, I was free to draw around the clock with Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkle in the background. I could sit for hours on the window ledge, in my painted jeans, watching the unfolding hippy invasion below. From my third story perch I could spot Janis Joplin in the crowd and hear Country Joe and the Fish playing nearby.

Imagine growing up in the small town of Ojai and suddenly finding yourself transported amongst 20,000 people dancing in Golden Gate Park! The documentary showed the Human Be-In, a Gathering of the Tribes, and all the great counterculture gurus.

I remembered how I made money selling my psychedelic drawings ($5 to as high as $25 each), babysitting the young children who lived in the first story apartment below, and peddling the Berkeley Barb.

You could buy a ten pound bag of brown rice for $1 and get clothes, shoes, and other essentials at the Free Store. When I ran out of rice I fasted to protest the Vietnam War. My AWOL boyfriend was picked up by the military police in the dead of night and locked up in the Presidio.

Did anyone else see the PBS special last night? Did you see yourself? As I stretched forward in Seated Wide Angle Pose  I had this great cosmic insight that we’re all still trying to turn on, tune in and drop out… Is that what growing older is all about?

To be continued

suz10    Part Two: 1967, The Summer of Love in Ojai:

45 years ago the Beatles went to India:

Can you build a bridge and burn it at the same time?

February 7, 2013

Scan_Pic0018Last night I finally opened the boxes of journals that I’ve been schlepping around for three years, and OMG, it’s like opening Pandora’s box!

My cats are so excited, hopping into and around the boxes; they can feel the erratic energy flying around. It’s all there—except for the early journals from the 60s that, in an attempt to free me from the past, a boyfriend had me burn. (So these journals go back to the 70s and 80s)

It remains to be seen why I feel compelled to turn my kitchen into an office so that I can arrange all these crazy life stories into the form of a book; it may just be for my own integration. I only know that, unless I do this, I cannot sleep. I have this idea that, if I spread everything out in the open, then when I wake up at 2 a.m. I can go right to my writing table and in nine months birth my next book.

I’ve already laughed in the face of all the obstacles. It is so blatantly obvious that money is not always a true measure of success. Nor is lack of money always a true measure of failure. (I have a stack of books by authors who died in poverty and were buried in unmarked graves. I hope that doesn’t happen to me.)

When I see rock star yoga teachers teaching mega classes with hundreds of students, I remind myself that this phenomenon occurs in every belief system. In the religious world there are wildly successful charismatic ministers with mega services that, in their size, leave mega yoga classes in the dust.

When I visit my parents, I’m reminded that there is no end to the belief systems in this world and no lack of evidence to substantiate just about any belief, from far left to far right to heaven above and hell below. My dad is so looking forward to seeing his mother, who died decades ago, in heaven—he mentions her every time I visit. He is surrounded by books on the afterlife—a far different afterlife than the one described in metaphysical books, but equally compelling.

My journals reflect the mind of a mad woman who has possibly thrown out the baby with the bathwater. But at least I’m aware that I’m insane. I recall some years ago challenging the reality of a longtime friend with dementia. She looked me square in the eye and told me in no uncertain terms, “Don’t you think that if I’d lost my mind I’d be the first to know it?” (Found this gem in my journals, too.)

I don’t mind if the whole world subscribes to the Law of Attraction that says like attracts like, you attract what you need, and you create your own reality. It doesn’t matter to me what people believe, so long as they don’t mind if I don’t believe it!

Yes, there is karma and there are laws of nature, but I cannot in good conscience pretend that I know how it all works. That North Korean sociopath dictator who sits in his palace while his starving people reportedly turn to cannibalism is not rich because of good karma. The young woman killed yesterday by the Taliban was caught up in circumstances beyond her control. I don’t believe she attracted being tortured and shot.

My own life has not been a life-and-death drama, but my journals reveal the heavy religious conditioning, the brainwashing from birth, the deeply embedded patriarchal belief system I was born into.

On March 3, 1996, I wrote these words on the road to freedom: “Over and over I see that, for me, my relationship with the man in my life is the core of my life . . . it is either cultural conditioning or my female nature. Maybe when I’m 50, after men-o-pause, I won’t be like this, but today [and all the years prior] I am in this [incomplete] state . . . ”

Underneath this telling entry I wrote down my horoscope for the week of March 7-14, which asked: “Can you build a bridge and burn it at the same time?”

Fifteen years later I can unequivocally say, “Yes!”

As if life itself isn’t strange enough, then there’s the dream world. . .

February 5, 2013

As if life itself isn’t strange enough, then there’s the dream world. Last night I was in a hotel room with a man from my past. In real life he was a healer—a successful, movie-star-handsome doctor. But he was also a wounded child, addicted to sex and drugs, with posttraumatic stress syndrome from his years in Vietnam. Our ten years together eventually woke me up to the shadow side of relationships.

In the dream, many years had passed since I’d seen him. He was claiming that he was now rehabilitated, and I was supposed to trust him. He was still young, lying nearly naked on the bed, smiling with need and beckoning me to come to him with that same “I want you” look on his face as when we were together. But I felt nothing, no sexual pull . . . just a sense of obligation.

I said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve had sex. It’s going to take time for me to trust you.” And just as I said that I noticed an insect crawling on his pillow—a scorpion. I looked again and saw another one, and another one, and then I realized that they were everywhere, all over the floor, and that I had already been stung on the leg but hadn’t noticed it. I shouted, “We’ve got to get out of here!” and ran out and closed the door.

When I woke up, I scribbled all this down in my journal. And, as I wrote, I saw how each man in my life was like a symbol, representing a world I thought I couldn’t touch on my own.


[My editor says, “Develop/expand on this last thought, Suza!” And I say, “I will!”]

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