Archive for August, 2013

“Mom, you’ve got one foot in the grave. Don’t worry about the water bill!”

August 23, 2013

The world is going to pot but I’m here in The Nest, living my life. I was born questioning everything, and it looks like I’ll be headed in that direction till I’m in the grave. We don’t like to admit it, but, speaking at least for myself, our core essence seems to change very little.

Even when I was only about four or five years old, I felt a sense of outrage about the cruelty around me. I still remember coming upon a group of boys, back in Holland, who were probably a bit older than me, and the little idiots had gathered up some worms that they were impaling on the ends of a barbed wire fence, yelling with sadistic delight as they watched the worms squirm. I’d like to think I was brave enough to throw a clod of dirt at them, although this I’m not sure about. But the feeling of pity and of wanting to save those worms was there.

My father would have a different view of those worms. He’s told me many times how eating worms and grubs gave him the protein to be one of the few survivors in a concentration camp. He assures me that when Jesus returns we will all be vegetarians and the lion will lie down with the lamb, but in the meantime the buffalo burgers from the Deer Lodge give him strength.

* * *

Today, while babysitting my 92-year-old mom, I saw how little she’s changed. While we were sitting outside enjoying the late afternoon sun, I decided it was a good time to wash my dogs on their nice convenient lawn, surrounded by cement sidewalks and away from any dirt. She enjoyed watching me shampoo little Chico with the natural dog shampoo I’d brought along. But when I was midway through wetting and shampooing Honey, she decided I’d “wasted enough water” and, hanging on to the nearby railing with one hand, she managed to stoop low enough, without falling, to reach down and turn off the faucet!

So there I was, a good distance away from the faucet, with a fully soaked and shampooed Aussie dog and a dry hose.

It was actually very amusing, watching my feisty old mom assert herself. But back when I was a teenager, and would be taking a morning shower before school, my mom would turn the water heater off when she decided I’d been in the shower long enough, and getting sprayed by cold water when I wasn’t done washing my hair made me livid. We had the worst fights, yelling and screaming as I asserted my independence. I even remember once standing in front of the washing machine and slapping her face before I ran off to catch the bus.

But now it’s fifty years later. I laughingly beg her to turn the water back on, and she shows mercy. She turns the water on and off intermittently—just to be sure I know she’s still in charge. There’s no use telling her, “Mom, you’ve got one foot in the grave. Don’t worry about the water bill!”

* * *

buddy542212_685309024830274_335351423_n At the end of the day I do what I always do. I let it all go and rest in the Goddess Pose. Usually I cover my eyes with an eye bag, but the other day there was a surprise package in the mail from a far away friend. Inside was a sweet, soft brown bear—a lavender-scented cuddly buddy. The weight of the bear is perfect to rest across my eyes and forehead–to quiet the movement of my eyes so my mind can find stillness.

Thank you, Juanita Potwin and Hubiecat. The child in me loves my new buddy!

Photo Credit: Olivia Klein

A Random Act of Pig Kindness

August 20, 2013

Every time I pass the dry, barren, dirt pig pen on the corner of Rice and Oso Road, I feel a pain in my solar plexus. Once you’ve had pet pigs, once you see their unique pig personality and intelligence, and have devoured books like The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals by the great animal author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, the whole world of expanded pig consciousness opens up and you begin to see the different breeds of pigs a bit like the different breeds of dogs.

Early this morning, on my way to yoga as usual, I vowed to later on check on the condition of a pig I had begun to notice in a pen near the horse corrals. I could see from the road that it had no shade except for a board propped up on one side of the fence to block the afternoon sun. I told myself that this pig has a better life than factory farm pigs stuck in steel crates, and that maybe I’d better just mind my own business. But, today, I could no longer suppress the urge to have a closer look.

So after yoga I parked nearby, grabbed a ripe banana, and tried to make myself invisible as I walked around the pen. I could tell from her nipples that this was a girl pig. She was lying in a tiny patch of shade. Her water bowls were dry. I tossed a couple of pieces of banana through the fence. She got up to investigate—not a potbellied pig, just your standard “farm pig.” My guess is that they’re fattening her up for slaughter. (If her owners read this and I’m wrong, please set me straight.)

She had no shelter, no straw or alfalfa hay bedding, no igloo (my pigs all loved their own igloo). It was hot, and I didn’t want to get in trouble for trespassing, so I didn’t stay long. I watched her eat the banana and then went home.

The afternoon grew hotter. I felt compelled to check on her again. I first thought her pen was empty—no pig in sight. But then I realized she was pressed against the fence where the shade-providing board stood—the only shady spot there was. Her water bowls were still dry, so I walked back to the car to get a gallon of water. I distributed the water in the two bowls. With the first splash of water she immediately scrambled to her feet and started drinking and scooting the bowls with her snout.

I remembered how, when I had pigs, we put rocks in the bowls to weigh them down to keep the water from spilling. After she drank, she went over to a box-like contraption. I saw then that this was some kind of automatic feeder. Maybe the water stimulated her appetite for pig pellets. I observed a few moments longer, then went up the hill to help my dad with paperwork (another story). From there I drove to The Farmer and the Cook and scored a stash of small, pig-sized apples.

Much to my relief, when I returned two hours later in the hottest part of the afternoon, her pen had been watered. There was mud, glorious cool mud! And I could see that her sunburnt pink skin had been hosed off. As soon as she heard me approaching she started grunting—that sweet, familiar sound that my pigs always made when they heard me coming. She started pushing and pressing against the fence—just like my Rosie used to do before I opened her pen every morning.

I reached through the pen and scratched her bristly wet back. My brain went into a swirl . . . I didn’t want to give her too much hope. I couldn’t set her free to wander, to root and explore. I put two apples in her pen; what more could I do? This is a world of pig-eating carnivores . . . She has a date with destiny, just like you and I. Do you suppose if she learns “The Secret” that she can alter her fate and visualize a new future for herself?

About the photos: This lucky potbellied pig lives in a private Ojai pig sanctuary.

Related stories:  A Visit to an Ojai Pig Sanctuary



Her cousins on the factory farm are not so lucky.


Centuries have gone by, and still people are running in the streets, killing each other

August 16, 2013

Centuries have gone by, and still people are running in the streets, killing each other. You have to wonder, if life is a “school,” if there is such a thing as reincarnation—or even if there isn’t—why we haven’t learned our lessons and graduated into a more evolved condition by now.

Maybe my old dad, a survivor of the atomic bomb who is ready to fly away and meet his maker anytime now, is so right when he tells me, “Suzanne, civilization is just a veneer. Two days without food, and it’s all gone . . . the devil is real, Suzanne. People shed blood over a piece of bread.”

Some years ago when I worked as a yoga therapist at a health center, I found myself in a huge hotel ballroom filled with chiropractors and other practitioners, all getting some kind of emotional-stress-relief body work. Multiple massage tables had been set up, the lights were dimmed, and soon the room was filled with people moaning, groaning, and sobbing–noisier than the Pentecostal revival meetings I used to attend. The collective sound was like a scene from a funeral.

I vividly recall saying, “My God, listen to all these people crying! And these are the lucky ones! These are not starving refugees, or survivors of prison camps or other traumatic ordeals!”

But later, as life went on, I began see that even these “lucky ones” had been through the shocks of life.

I learned that the successful doctor I fell in love with and put on a pedestal had had an abusive, alcoholic father. He grew up in foster homes where his head was pushed face down into the toilet, to make sure he understood he was a worthless piece of shit.

Combine that with the trauma of the Vietnam war, and no wonder he was wailing on the massage table along with the rest of them.

While the world is burning, we who live in relative peace have the luxury of reflection and healing. As I write this, I laugh at the full-page ad in a yoga magazine showing a bearded, white-robed, “self-realized” Himalayan yoga master who shamelessly promises the moon. The ad says:

“Rejuvenate Body, Mind, and Soul.” “Eliminate Emotional Suffering.” “Burn Negative Karma.” “Achieve Expanded Consciousness.”

“Half a minute of Kriya Meditation brings about a year of Natural Spiritual Unfoldment.”

Even spiritual magazines need paid advertising to survive.

When you’re young, “The Lightening Path to Self-Realization” to “restore each of us to the glory of life” sounds entirely possible. If I were twenty years old again, I might have gone with my boyfriend to check out this amazing great yogi master at one of the free satsangs. God knows we went to see plenty of lesser ones!


This town is so small

August 14, 2013

This town is so small I’m thinking of calling my Ojai memoir, “No Place to Hide.” As we float through life in this beautiful fish bowl, we have to remember that what we think we know about each other is just the tip of the iceberg and no one is as they seem. I have no answers but I’ve finally learned that you have to let the story unfold—no jumping to conclusions till the last page is written—and even then there may be surprises at the funeral!












‘Why did you let her out?!’

August 13, 2013

933918_677807262247117_285741664_n It’s Monday morning, the garbage truck is here, and it feels like the stories of my rushed-right-now life are slipping through my fingers. I have only twenty minutes before I’d better jump in the shower, don my yoga garb, jump in my luxury Oldsmobile Regency Elite, 1991 edition “boat,” pick up Olivia, put on my teacher hat, and unlock the door for my wonderful, eager, early-bird students.

My account of Part Three of the trip to L.A. for the yoga and scoliosis workshop is on hold (Parts One and Two are saved on my Suzaji blog) as I wait for the teacher, Elise Miller, to send the photos.

But just now, as I was sitting outside looking up at the pine trees, listening to the nearby chickens, and sharing my spelt toast and WildWood sprouted veggie burger with Honey and Chico, I was remembering how last Sunday, around this time, after two days of being inside buildings and hardly getting any fresh air or natural light, I decided once again to leave the sleeping beauty, Olivia, and sneak out for an early-morning walk. But, just to be on the safe side, I gently nudged her awake and told her I’d be back in about an hour.

On Saturday morning we had checked out of the Marriott. On Saturday evening, in order to attend the Sunday session without the long round trip from Ojai, we stayed with Olivia’s brother (my nephew) and his wife, who live about an hour away from the L.A. Iyengar Yoga Institute.

When we arrived, I had taken careful note of the lay of the land, the parking garage underneath the apartment complex, the lobby, the long hallway leading up to the apartment, etc. Everyone was still asleep as I exited through the living room into the long hallway—and it never occurred to my country bumpkin mind that I might need a key to get back in.

So I retraced my steps down the hallway, into the lobby, and found the front door. I walked down the steps, and since it was early Sunday morning there was virtually no traffic. The first thing I noticed as I headed in the direction that I thought might lead to a coffee shop was a series of signs planted on the tiny green lawn islands in front of the rows of apartment complexes:

“CAUTION – This Lawn Has Been Chemically Treated and May Be Hazardous to Your Pets and Feet.”

“Please Keep Pets Off Lawn: Chemically Treated”

I can’t find the page in my notebook where I copied the signs with the ordinances stating that dog owners are responsible for picking up dog poo, but the message was loud and clear that if you don’t pick up after your pooch you are breaking the law. At the same time, I noticed a growing parade of people exiting the buildings with mostly little foo foo dogs but a few lovely pit bulls and other larger breeds, too.

After about a mile in one direction I gave up on finding a coffee shop, turned around, and retraced my steps. I knew I was at the right apartment building because I remembered there was a giant empty plastic slurpee cup on the ground nearby.

I was feeling very proud of myself for not getting lost. I walked up the steps leading to the entrance and turned the door knob. It was locked tight.

“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just sit on the steps and call Olivia to let me in.” But, alas, I reached a recording saying her message system wasn’t on yet—and Olivia didn’t pick up. OK. As I was thinking what to do, I noticed the door opening as a pleasant, plump older woman and her dog came out. “Aha,” I thought. “I’ll just wait, and next time the door opens I’ll explain my plight, and before the door closes I’ll get back in.”

So I did a few seated twists, tried calling Olivia again (I didn’t have my nephew’s number), and waited. Sure enough, after about ten minutes the door swung open and an elderly lady with her darling little dog stood in the wide-open doorway. Here was my chance. “Wait a moment,” I said, smiling at her. “I’m a guest here and I don’t have a key to get back in . . . so don’t close the door. . .”

Well, this wasn’t Ojai. The lady looked at me like I might be an ax murderer. She stood her ground, planting herself between me and the still slightly open door. “I don’t think so,” she said.

“Oh, please, I can tell you the name of the people I’m staying with. They’re still asleep and I don’t have their number.”

But she pulled her little dog through the door and explained that this would be “against apartment regulations.” I could easily have shoved her aside and made a mad dash into the building before the door closed, but I thought better of it.

“Now what should I do?” I asked her.

As she was walking away she pointed to the row of mailboxes by the door. I hadn’t noticed that there was a call box. I didn’t know how to operate it and had to practically pull her back to show me how. A few minutes later my nephew, still in his pajamas, rescued me.

When I got inside and told Olivia what had happened, she said, “This is so weird. I had a dream that Joel (her brother) was standing over the bed, asking me, ‘Where is Suza?’ The dream was so real. I told him you’d gone on a walk. And then he got mad and yelled at me, ‘Why did you let her out?!’

Truly, I felt like an escapee from a nursing home. All that was missing was my wrist I.D. band.

Photo credit: Olivia Klein


Tonight, as the soft summer dusk fell

August 10, 2013

Tonight, as the soft summer dusk fell, I walked the dry brown landscape, surrounded by black mountains sharply outlined against the sky. I was struck once again by how the streams of light and darkness in this world flow simultaneously, seemingly without rhyme, reason, or mercy.

What is it that gives life to that stream of unceasing atrocities and horror that flows through every segment of society? After so many centuries, so many lifetimes, so much suffering, why has this stream of cruelty not dried up?

Tonight, with Venus and the crescent moon shining high above and crickets singing away, buoyed by the boundless love of my dogs and the magic of an Ojai orange margarita made by my daughter—out there in the boonies, out in the open, out in nature—I cast all my worries to the wind, stepped into the stream of light, and quietly watched as day turned into night.


What turns the wheel of life?

August 9, 2013

Scan_Pic0018August 9, 2013
The wheel of life keeps turning. There’s nothing I can do to stop it, but I’d like to jump off, disappear, take a nature writing break, and then jump back on . . . without dying.

I don’t feel right unless I write. How many more years will it take before I fully admit this?
July 18, 2013
As life gets more expensive, it gets harder and harder to find time to write. Old cats cost more than young ones. Houses with yards for dogs cost more . . . everything costs more. But once I find a free morning, the writing gets easier and easier. . .

July 4, 2013
Writing is the road to independence–a long, strange, and bumpy road. I see myself still going ’round in circles and taking side trips. I’m tired. I want to lie down by the side of the road and rest. But then I pick myself up to clear away all the obstacles, all the road blocks — and set my writing spirit free!

May 14, 2013

Ten days till my 64th birthday. All I want for my birthday are free days to finish the first draft of my second Writing Yoga Memoir. So right now I’m setting the intention that May 20th is my last teaching day, and May 21, 22, 23, 24 (the full moon), 25 and 26 are all mine. . . .

January, 2013: The Year of Writing Yoga Memoir

On this cold tenth day of January, 2013, I am setting my intention to make this the year of Writing Yoga Memoirs.

I woke up at 3 a.m. and started writing about how sweet my life is now, and how in January, 1967, I was living in the Haight Ashbury. It was the winter before the Summer of Love, I was totally naive, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I had no idea there would be only four short seasons with only myself to take care of. I could not foresee the lessons Life had in store for me.

It’s a curious thing to sit very still, to meditate and watch how the mind works. The brain and all the cells of the body are like a computer that stores everything. You can try to delete and let it all go, but you cannot will yourself to have a clean slate, as it was on the day you were born. (Some people speculate it is not a clean slate even at birth.) Our memories travel with us until the physical body dissolves — and possibly beyond.

At 7 a.m. it is barely light out here in the river bottom. The sky is foggy white. The tall pine trees outside my window look black. It is a stark, cold winter landscape.

I don’t feel right unless I write. How many more years will it take before I fully admit this? The more I try to focus on work that pays and push aside the urge to write, the more the muse pesters me and pulls me by the hair out of bed. If I don’t grab an hour during the day, I lie awake at 2 a.m. and wonder if I should risk the lack of sleep to write. If I try to deny it and bury myself under the covers, sleep eludes me. I have no choice. I must surrender to my fate.

What turns the wheel of life?

My favorite Writing Yoga Pose: Seated Wide Angle Pose (Upavistha Konasana)

The City Yogi and the Country Yogi

August 8, 2013

Part Two of the trip to LA for the yoga and scoliosis workshop with Elise Miller.

3 a.m.

The psychic force in me to write is stronger than my need for sleep. Already the scene from last Friday night, as Olivia and I entered the yoga room full of students with twisting, turning, curvy, bendy, zigzagging spines, is fading. I can’t resist working on the story while the world is still and dark, while cool night air wafts through the wide-open windows and the sound of crickets is like a balm. No writing workshop could provide a more perfect setting.

Just as I wrote that, Honey started whining, alerting me that there are intruders outside. I muffle her barking and listen intently. Sure enough, if I stop typing and hold still I can hear nocturnal creatures moving about through the bushes and branches, chewing, gnawing, and occasionally breaking a twig.

This awareness of nature right outside my door, after only three days in sealed buildings where the windows would barely open, where the whoosh of the freeway never stops, where garish billboards urge families to dine on pizza and coke, fills me with gratitude. Like the country mouse in Aesop’s fable, after visiting the city yogis I’m utterly content to be back in my humble home, living the life of a country yogi.

Before I go further, I should mention that, when our ride from Ojai dropped us off on La Cienega Boulevard, there was the dilemma of how to get back to the Marriott Courtyard when the evening session ended at 9 p.m. In my small-town brain I was optimistically assuming that I’d surely see someone I knew, or would ask around and find that someone driving in our direction would give us a lift back to the hotel—that’s the way it would happen in Ojai.

So there we were at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in L.A., sitting cross-legged on our mats, two folded blankets under our bottom. Scanning the room, I was happy to see that there were students of all ages, including several young men. I wanted Olivia to meet other people in her age range who were doing yoga for scoliosis.

For those of you who don’t know the workshop teacher, Elise Miller is a Senior Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher from Palo Alto who teaches yoga throughout the United States and internationally. She works with a wide range of health professionals, including surgeons, chiropractors, Rolfers, and other therapists. I first met Elise in the mid ’70s while attending the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. She’s a world-renowned expert in the field of yoga and back care—professional and compassionate, plus totally fun and down to earth.

The word “scoliosis” is derived from the Greek word skol, which means twists and turns. The Friday session began with Elise running her fingers along each student’s spine, feeling the twists and turns to help everyone identify their particular scoliosis.

She gave us a handout with drawings of the four main curves. Here’s a link to an explanation of the curves:

Elise gave a PowerPoint presentation describing the anatomy of scoliosis, rib displacement, twists in the shoulders and hips, and how scoliosis shifts the body’s center of gravity. The most obvious symptoms of scoliosis are cosmetic, but pain and cardiopulmonary complications (due to compression of the heart and lungs) are also common. (This is the main reason why my niece Olivia was scheduled for surgery back in May.)

When the evening session ended, I began asking around as we made our way out of the yoga room to see if anyone was headed in the direction of the Marriott Courtyard. I soon realized what should have been obvious even to a country bumpkin like me: L.A. is not like Ojai, where almost anywhere you might live is only a few minutes out of someone’s way. One of the assisting teachers was kind enough to look at a map with us. But, as much as she wanted to help us out, our hotel was in the opposite direction from where she lived in Santa Monica.

So Olivia and I found ourselves outside near Babies R Us, which was still fully lit, with families shopping, even though it was getting close to 10 p.m. “Well,” I thought, “we have 24-hour fitness; why not 24-hour shopping?” The idea of the sun dictating one’s activities is passé.

Fortunately, as a backup plan our Ojai driver had arranged for something called Uber, which I later learned is a close cousin of the concept of car sharing, an alternative to taking a bus or taxi. I felt completely safe with savvy 18-year-old Olivia by my side. No need to freak out; with her iPhone the whole world was at our fingertips! After a brief conversation, she announced that our Uber driver would arrive in 10 minutes.

Our driver arrived promptly, as promised. It felt a little bit strange to get in a car with a stranger, but Olivia had her iPhone and our friend from Ojai had the name of the driver on his screen, too. The trip back to the hotel that earlier had taken almost an hour in peak traffic took only about fifteen minutes.

Soon we were safely inside the Marriott, where a Friday night wedding was merrily rolling along in full swing. I wanted to walk up the stairs to get an aerial view of the festivities below, but the plush carpeted stairs stopped on the second floor. So up we flew in the elevator, back to our room on the 7th floor.

Not having a TV at home, the giant flat screen next to our giant bed was a novelty. Olivia flicked on the cooking channel, and after a few minutes I begged her to find something else. Then we stumbled on the adventure channel, where we caught a rerun of the man who walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. He was praying to the Almighty to keep him from plummeting to his death. The camera zoomed in to the faces of his wife and children watching their beloved husband and father teetering on the brink of eternity. Olivia remarked, “If I were his wife or kid, I would be so angry at him for putting us through this!”

When I woke up early the next morning, I felt confident enough to venture out alone, without the still-sleeping Olivia. I took my cell phone and key card and headed for the elevator. Turning to where I thought the elevator doors would be, all I saw was the snack vending machines, signs for how to escape in case of fire, and some unfamiliar-looking doors that appeared to have a plastic shower curtain hanging over them.

So, eager for a cup of coffee and still half asleep, I decided to open the door that said “Stairs.” As I walked down, I began to feel like one of those characters in a scary movie. These were cold, barren concrete stairs that looked like no one had used them in years . . . I quickened my pace. When I saw a door that said “Fourth Floor,” I thought I had better open it and try again to find the elevator.

But that door opened to an empty room, and I didn’t want to risk getting lost. So I just kept speedwalking down the stairs until I hit the ground floor door, which led to a kitchen area that I quickly slunk through, and then I found myself deposited in the dining room. I sat down and tried to look normal while a friendly server brought me coffee. I called Olivia on my cell and told her I’d wait for her to come down for breakfast. When I told her the saga of how I couldn’t find the elevator, she thought that was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. I later learned that those doors that looked to my eyes to be covered by a plastic shower curtain had long since replaced the classic dark elevator doors. My old brain just hadn’t computed it!

Part Three and photos of the workshop to come.

Photo credit: Olivia Klein, “self portrait” of Olivia enjoying her yoga practice


The trip to LA for Elise Miller’s three-day yoga and scoliosis workshop, Part One.

August 5, 2013

The trip to LA for Elise Miller’s three-day yoga and scoliosis workshop, Part One.

Forget that line in my last story about “hurtling down the noisy freeway at 70 mph.” Even though we left Ojai for L.A. at around noon on Friday, we were soon stuck on a five-lane freeway where, if there’s an accident or if a car breaks down or runs out of gas, there’s no place to go. The river of traffic simply comes to a halt, and everyone wonders why, with all our engineering ingenuity, there’s no room on the side of the road for emergencies.

Fortunately, the friend who was driving is traffic-savvy. He assured us that this, too, would pass. And, since we had plenty of time before the yoga workshop was scheduled to start, we stopped in Venice. That’s when Olivia Klein (my niece with scoliosis) and I really started to feel we were on vacation! We lunched at a packed, enormously popular buffet-style restaurant called Lemonade, which, at first glance, seemed populated by every ethnic group and nationality on the planet—the feature of larger cities that I most enjoy.

The yummy international selection was almost overwhelming. I selected three vegan dishes (items are conveniently identified as “vegan,” “vegetarian,” “gluten-free,” etc.) and one of their signature seasonal lemonades—cucumber watermelon.

I love my Ojai tribe, but it was enormously freeing to sit where no one knew us, surrounded by people of every color and life philosophy. I absorbed my new surroundings, and the sounds of a hundred conversations.

When we finished eating, Olivia was so stuffed with macaroni that she couldn’t move, so we sat and watched the nonstop fashion parade, and Olivia taught me how to use her iPhone. (The main thing is to slide your finger across the screen with a very light touch.)

Back in the car, a woman named Siri guided us to the Marriott Courtyard. (Don’t laugh, this was my first experience with GPS. My big fear in life is getting lost . . . I must get this!) The hotel is located in a nice neighborhood, across from the California Highway Patrol and a lovely green mortuary, so we could anticipate a safe morning walk. We checked in, and the elevator lifted us to the 7th floor. Olivia opened the heavy door with the key card, we settled in, and, since it was still early, I had a chance to stretch back over the enormous king-size bed in a supported backbend.

And then it was time to head over to the Iyengar Yoga Center of Los Angeles. Again, Suri directed our every turn.

Back in the 1970s, the first wave of Iyengar Yoga workshops were hosted in private homes or multipurpose classrooms. I still remember waking up in the guest room of one of the L.A. host teachers, my body so sore from the previous day of vigorous Standing Poses that I would practically crawl to the heated swimming pool and try to work out the stiffness (lactic acid in my muscles) before the next class.

Over the years, the Institute has grown and moved to its current location, in a shopping mall above a Smart & Final, at 1835 S. La Cienega, Suite 240. The way we found it was that I spotted a tall young woman crossing the parking lot carrying a yoga mat. “Are you going to the yoga and scoliosis workshop?” I asked. When she said that she was, we followed her past Babies R Us, Toys R Us, 24-Hour Fitness . . . up several flights of wide concrete stairs that looked to my eyes like we were headed for a train station, and past all kinds of medical suites. It was a good thing I wasn’t alone, or I’d surely have gotten lost.

When we opened the doors to the Institute, we completely forgot that we were in a chain store shopping mall. It’s a beautiful, professional yoga oasis that welcomes a wide segment of the population. I breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long journey—one that actually began in May—and, thanks to the support of family and friends, Olivia and I now entered the spacious yoga room, gathered our mat and blankets, and joined the class . . .

(To be continued—time now to get ready for my Monday morning class.)

Photo Credit: Olivia Klein (taken while we were waiting for our ride to the workshop)

Note: Photos of the yoga and scoliosis workshop with Elise Miller to come.


There was a time when a trip to LA was routine, but now it feels like going to Timbuktu

August 2, 2013

There was a time when a trip to LA was routine, but now it feels like going to Timbuktu. My daughter, who flies freely out of the nest like the young bird she is, laughs at her old home bound mother who feels like she’s going to the outskirts of Africa. But the very thought of leaving the valley even for only three days makes me realize how much I love my life here.

So to fortify myself for my noontime departure, I stood waiting at 8 a.m. with another early bird customer for the doors to open at Farmer & the Cook. By 8:06 we grew impatient and I pressed my face against the glass to get a better look at the young workers bustling about inside. One finally noticed us and she opened the door–only to let it slam shut again, saying, “It’s already unlocked.” Say what? I tried turning the knob again—but from the outside it was still locked. I tapped on the glass and she let us in.

Yesterday was a watery cleansing day. Today is the opposite. I bought a savory scone, an apple date muffin, and a pumpkin seed muffin. The child in me wanted a chunk of carrot cake but I ignored her. Then the dogs and I headed for the river bed. The fog was just beginning to lift. Honey ran way up ahead, while Chico and I sat on a giant flat boulder to savor the savory scone. I gave him a crumb at a time—he never took his unblinking Chihuahua eyes off that savory scone. By the time Honey noticed what we were up to, it was almost gone.

Somehow knowing I won’t be back for three days made the early morning jaunt even sweeter. When the sun burst through I had the thought again that when my time comes to pass, I want the last thing I feel to be the sunlight on my face. The other day I had lunch with a high school friend and in the course of the conversation he mentioned how he’d recently had a heart attack. And, classic male, he ignored the symptoms. If it wasn’t for his wife’s insistence that he go get the “uncomfortable feeling” checked out, he’d likely be dead. He said something I’ve heard many people who’ve had a brush with death say. When he became aware that he might very well die, “it was no big deal.” He was surprised how calm he felt.

The dogs and I wandered a little further down the river bed and then we shared the two muffins . . . I always spoil my animals a little more before leaving town. The sun grew hotter, and we turned around. Soon I’ll be in carmageddon, hurtling 70 MPH down the noisy freeway, but the deep stillness of the river bottom, the timeless beauty of the surrounding mountains will be with me. I hope I never take for granted how lucky I am to live here in the Valley of the Moon!

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