Hello and Happy Monday,
I hope everyone is staying dry this morning. We are in week two of Ishvara Pranidhara, devotion to the supreme, the fifth and last Niyama, personal practices.
What are you devoted to? Are there conditions with your devotions? How much time do you spend on these people or things you are devoted to?
I am devoted to my children. My children are my greatest teachers and have opened up so many doors for me. Before having my children I was shy and riddled with anxiety, I was full of so much fear of not doing something right, or even worse, doing something wrong, that I avoided most things. When Michael was born I couldn't live in that space anymore. And being new to Old Town Alexandria, I thought this could be my chance to start new. I wasn't alone anymore, I literally had a baby I carried around everywhere with me. Michael brought me out of my shell, he quelled my anxiety and lessened my fears. I had already found yoga, so I found a mommy and me yoga class that helped me meet other moms and remember my love for practicing yoga with a group. Having Michael reminded me to slow down, to smell the flowers, to remember how incredible this Earth is, this life is, and what is truly important. Michael and all he encompassed was the final inspiration for me becoming a Yoga Teacher. And Melissa, she's been with me from day 1 of teacher training. Both my children have taught me to be braver than I think I am, stronger than I believe and more capable than I ever imagined.
As difficult as separating and divorcing my ex-husband was, I couldn't have done it without them. I knew I wanted to create a better life, to have them not live with miserable parents, but instead to be in a thriving environment. I knew it would be difficult on my own, but I also knew it would be better for everyone. (we all know how that story evolved)
During my Yoga Teacher Training, I missed one day because of a previous commitment. As homework for missing the day, I had to meet with one of the trainees and go over notes. I remember my friend going over what I missed and telling me that during the lecture we received there was mention of devotion and love and how the lecturer stated there was no such thing as unconditional love. That all love came with conditions. I remember thinking about that one statement for a long long time, I still think about it today. I cannot see the future, so I cannot tell you if I will change, but so far, my love, my devotion has been unconditional for Michael and Melissa.
Maybe some of you are thinking, this is too easy. Of course she loves her children unconditionally. Sadly, I know of a lot of parents that give up on their children, that leave their children, that have many conditions for loving those children.
Unfortunately, I do not get to see my children every single day. There are some benefits of having "time off", but truly I am never not parenting. There is always something to be done or planned for. I spend a lot of my time thinking about them, their next adventure, what they eat and the list goes on.
I ask you again, what are you devoted to? Are there conditions with your devotions? How much time do you spend on these people or things you are devoted to?
P.S. I am also devoted to you! Offering fun classes, researching new theories and ways to move the body to share with you to create a unique experience on and off the mat.
P.S.S. RETREATS!! 1 private room with private bath opened up for my Labor Day Goddess Retreat - registration closes this week, so let me know ASAP if you want in. Tomorrow Hawaii information goes out on Social Media - there are still spots so let me know if you are coming!!
Hello and Happy Monday,
It is so great to be back home! We walked through the doors and I immediately felt peace. It's great to be back and know that we don't have any place to be any time soon.
It's a new month and the last of the Niyamas, personal practices, Ishvara Pranidhana. Ishvara can be translated to mean supreme, or personal, God. Pranidhana translates to dedicate, devote, or surrender. One of the first meanings of Ishvara Pranidhana explained to me was surrender to God. This was tough for me to grasp. I wasn't raised to believe in God, and while I do believe in a higher power, I also believe God is within all of us.
This past week in Florida was wonderful. This was not really a relaxing vacation, but one where we did have a ton of fun and got closer as an official family. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was definitely a highlight of the trip. Universal did a fantastic job creating this realistic world for Harry Potter fans. Michael, my almost 11-year-old, was introduced to Harry Potter last year when a good friend of mine gave him the entire set of books. Michael read the entire series (7 books) in 2 weeks and was hooked. He has re-read them several times since then and we have watched every movie as well. He was even Harry for Halloween last year. Michael is a bookworm, a scholarly kid, and can sometimes be lost in his creative mind on some Ancient Greek, Roman or Norse Mythology adventure. Michael can come across as quiet unless you ask him about one of the realms he's studying or Harry Potter. When we walked into the Wizardly World of Harry Potter and saw Diagon Alley, I saw in his eyes that magic is possible, that dreams do come true, and what happened next was pure joy. Michael exuded confidence, he knew exactly where he wanted to go, in which order, and exactly what he was looking for. He took charge, asking salespeople questions and talking with other kids on what items were in the stores. We commented on how proud we were of him and he shrugged his shoulders, like it was nothing, and said, "I'm with my people."
I know that feeling, being with "my people". It's a feeling of accepted connectedness. I feel that way with Yoga. It doesn't matter what kind of yoga, even if it's a studio I've never been too, I would hardly call my asana advanced, but I feel that same way when I walk into a studio to take a yoga class, a peaceful, sighing exhale, connectedness of being home. I felt that way today when I came home. Knowing I have more uninterrupted time with my children and Joe in our home gives me all the feels.
The feeling of belonging is something I have always wanted to convey in my classes. There are no subgroups in my classes, everyone is part of the joke, everyone is invited to "Last Tuesday", everyone belongs. That feeling, the connectedness, the belonging has kept me devoted to yoga for over 20 years. It's pushed and pulled me in ways I didn't think were possible. As some of you know, the fear of getting in front of a group was terrifying to me, but this feeling was something I couldn't keep to myself.
Where do you feel like you belong? Who are "your people"?
Hello and Happy Monday,
It's summer! My favorite time of year. I am so happy school is out, the sun is shining and the pace of life seems to slow down a bit for us.
This weekend, the day before heading out to Disney World and Universal Studios, as our official family of four, our "Family Moon", I attended a four-hour silent retreat. Now, I can imagine what is going through your minds, some of you might be thinking that four hours is just tip of the iceberg as far as being silent goes, that I will not reap any benefits in that short amount of time, some of you might think four hours is a very long time to go silent, no electronics, no communication, barely any eye contact, and some of you might be thinking why would you ever want to be quiet! I think I fall somewhere in the middle of all of that. I knew this, four hours should be enough time for my mind to settle and give me the opportunity to retreat from who I think I am.
The time was broken down into half-hour segments starting with guided meditation and then free form silence. We had rules, no electronics, no talking, no distracting ourselves from simply being. I thought this would be the perfect chance for me to continue to study Dr. Stephen Porges polyvagal theory and then write about it for Svadhyaya (self-study) since this is our last week focusing on it. The polyvagal theory is based on the vagus nerve, the 10th of 12 cranial nerves in our brain, the nerve that connects to all of our organs. I am studying this because I know not only will it benefit me greatly, but it supports all that I do as a yoga teacher. I also wanted to continue to research information because my Labor Day Weekend Goddess Getaway Retreat will be focused on this theory and how we can all learn from it. Very exciting content that I know the participants will love.
However, as I embarked on this silence and I picked up my book to read and take notes I realized that is not what the retreat was about and in order for me to really tap into my vagus nerve and this silent retreat, I needed to surrender to relaxation. I needed to surrender my mind. That, in order to embrace the moment, I needed to surrender from working, from doing, from trying and just be. It turns out that while this is very difficult for me, I realized so much during those four hours, I meditated, I moved, I sat in the sun, I realized that this silence might just be the key to surrender, to the divine within all of us, and the biggest realization was that four hours of silence was not enough time for me to settle my ever running mind, that I couldn't wait to do it again. I thought I would learn more about polyvagal theory by reading, but I wound up connecting more dots to the theory by being. As always, proof that there are so many ways to learn and the answers usually do reside inside of us.
Have you ever attended a silent retreat? What was your experience? Let me know if you know of any wonderful silent opportunities coming up and hopefully, I can attend.
Hello and Happy Monday,
What a week! Thank you all for your good wishes and congratulations. It’s exciting when there is great news to share. We had a wonderful weekend as an official family.
The day before our wedding ceremony, I found myself distraught and upset. When I was growing up, the message that was repeated often to me and my friends had always been to find a man that can take care of you financially, marry him, and live happily ever after - three very easy steps and that was it. Once you were married, it was easy breezy. This was always the narrative, in just about every movie and tv show we watched, in magazine articles we read, and the tons of quizzes we took in Cosmopolitan. In my twenties, it came from the older adults I knew, asking when I'd meet someone to take care of me (eye roll). Even with that being the message, I didn’t follow it because somewhere in that message it always displayed the female (ME) being submissive and I knew I didn’t want a life like that. Cue, 1950's Housewife, Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver.
In the past, I made more money than my boyfriends and even my ex-husband, I knew how to take care of myself, I knew that happily ever after required work; work within and work with each other, and I knew that I wanted a partnership one in which we shared responsibility of our relationship and all things in it. Yet, on Tuesday, I found myself struggling.
When I met Joe, I was hand making a mermaid tail Halloween costume for Melissa and I made a joke that the mice in my attic were making my costume, just like in Cinderella. This led us in a discussion about Prince Charming and if he existed. It became a funny joke, but all kidding aside, Joe has been my Prince Charming. And that is the issue for me because Prince Charming is a fairy tale character who comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress and must engage in a quest to liberate her from an evil spell. In some ways, I could argue that I was in a lot of distress. I was barely making ends meet, working against the current to get a divorce I had so desperately wanted for years, and taking care of my two children on my own. I was in an uphill battle to regain peace in my life. I was making strides and then Joe came along and I accelerated to where I wanted to be. Our relationship has always been easy, we both have done a lot of work to be where we are and our conversations are always deep and meaningful. We know what it takes for a partnership to be successful and are continually growing and learning and working together. If there really was a Prince Charming, perhaps I really have met him.
So, on Tuesday when I came from running some errands, I sat down in front of Joe and started crying. Let me back up. When Joe and I met, we agreed we didn’t want to get married again. We don’t believe that once you are married it makes your relationship stronger or better. Eventually, we changed our minds due to family dynamics but agreed to get married on our own terms. And on Tuesday, the old message of marriage and “Happily Ever After” was causing anxiety in me. Even though our relationship has been amazing, like a fairy tale, there was a piece of me holding onto those childish beliefs that once we got married, the work was done and poof, “Happily Ever After.” As I sat and cried and explained this to Joe, Joe did what he always does, dropped everything and listened. He doesn’t offer to advise unless I ask, he doesn’t try to put words in my mouth or cut me off. And as we talked, my anxiety lessened. We talked about all the work we do to keep our partnership strong, how we are always communicating about everything. And in those moments, I realized, once again (because somehow, I forget this!) I already had my “Happily Ever After”, that our wedding ceremony was just another day for us to express love for each other. Then I was crying, as my kids call it, "happy tears".
The practice of Svadhyaya, self-study, is much more than just learning something new about ourselves. Sometimes it relearning the same things over and over, sometimes it’s redefining what we had once believed as the truth, and sometimes it’s having someone to listen to you figure out what is going on to gain some clarity.
I’m curious, what beliefs from your past have you redefined? Are there ideas that keep coming up for you? I’d love to know how you work through your outdated thoughts.
Hello and Happy Monday,
I spent the weekend at Wanderlust in Snowshoe, WV. Wanderlust is a yoga and music festival. I love yoga so to pack up and go away for the weekend to practice and learn is a no-brainer. I love learning about the yoga practice, about yoga philosophy, the stories, the deities, the perspectives of other teachers. Going away and immersing in yoga for a day or two is a great way for me to learn. And as expected, I learned so much this weekend.
Svadhyaya, self-study, is our focus and spending a weekend with a bunch of yoga teachers is just another way to do that. One thing I have learned, a long time ago, was managing expectations. This is something I am constantly working on and reminding myself to manage. One of the main reasons we choose to go to Wanderlust was because one of our favorite bands, Nahko and Medicine for the People were going to be there. I was also happy that MC Yogi and his wife, Amanda Giacomini were going to be there, as we have practiced with them before and it’s always fun. With that said, I wasn’t expecting a transformational weekend, I honestly was just looking to have some fun. And I did, Nahko put on a great performance and played some of my very favorite songs, which I hadn’t heard him sing live before, and MC Yogi and Amanda taught fun, light classes.
Everything is through our own lens. Everything. Amanda shared a Jataka Tale, which is a story about the many lives of Buddha before he was Buddha. There are over 500 of these short, cute stories about the Buddha's lives as animals and they all have a moral. I love these stories, and I also think Amanda is a good storyteller. After class as we were walking out, I overheard the conversation from the people in front of me. I heard one of them say, “that was over the top” and when her friend asked what was over the top, she responded, whispering, “Amanda’s story.” And I was fascinated. I don’t know why I was, because I experience this all the time, two people having opposite experiences in the same room. Also, two people hearing different things from the same thing said.
We all have a story, a narrative that affects all that we take in and give out and it was amazing to have played out in front of me to serve as a reminder. A reminder that we all open to things differently, there is no you are ahead of me, or I am in the lead, we all are on our own path and it's all perfect. I was proud of myself in that moment, I didn't judge those women for not liking the Jataka Tale, I was instead understanding of how they could have that reaction.
What are you learning? Are you taking time to reflect, to let things simmer before you make your judgments?
Hello and Happy Monday,
June is here! We spent the weekend at our neighborhood pool, swimming, eating and catching lightning bugs. I am counting down the days until school ends. I can’t wait for sleeping in, swimming, playing in the backyard. (for the kids, not me – although, for me too).
June’s focus is one of my favorite personal practices (Niyama) called Svadhyaya, which means “Self-Study” or “one’s own reading”. This Niyama has the potential to really move our yoga practice off the yoga mat.
One of the questions I ask often at the beginning of class is, “Why are you here?”. I think this is an important inquiry, not just on the yoga mat but in all things we choose to do. Sometimes we may think we know the answer, but when we ask this question we may discover it’s something else. All of it is good, because the more we inquire, the more we become aware and the more we are aware, the more we can be present in our lives.
Discovering you are not where you want to be, or perhaps make ill choices, means making changes. Making changes is never an easy task and sometimes the steps to get where you want to go can be daunting. In the age of social media, where everyone looks like they have all their shit together, the perfect spouse, the perfect children, the perfect house, the perfect vacation, it can be hard to measure up to. Our happiness, our confidence, our self-worth all has to come from a place within. What I have found is just one key, and it's if I surrender, what I had been wanting happens. We all know this concept, it’s the last place you look for your keys after you have said, “I give up”.
There is a story I have told in some of my classes about my daughter, Melissa. She didn’t sleep when she was a baby, let me re-state, she slept, just not at night. Melissa would cry and cry and cry and with Michael as a toddler, I did everything to keep her quiet, mostly to not wake him, but also in hopes that we both could sleep. It wouldn’t be until I was at the end of my rope, I would fold over her crying, exhausted, defeated, that she would close her eyes and go to sleep. It was like she waited for me to surrender before she would. I remember this happening and taking note of it. So the next night, I faked exhaustion, I faked surrendering to speed up the process and get a good night’s sleep. But she could see right through me. It had to be a real surrender. Just like when you think you have given up looking for your keys but still don't find them, it's not until we really let go that things happen.
Don’t worry though, eventually she grew out of that stage and we all started getting better sleep. How does this equate to the perfect social media life? Well, it wasn’t until I surrendered to the fact that I deserved all that I ever wanted. That despite being told I wanted too much, I was worth all I ever wanted. When that happened, my fairy tale perfect life happened. Even as a single mom (at the time), to me, my life was perfect. It was perfect for me, it didn't matter what it looked like on social media.
A favorite way I like to practice Svadhyaya, besides self-inquiry, is reading. One of my favorite books is called “The Surrender Experiment”, by Michael A. Singer. It’s a memoir of Michael A. Singers life and I found it quite profound. The title says it all.
So, why are you here? And what is here? Do you have a perfect social media life? When was the last time you surrendered?
Hello and Happy Monday,
Today is Memorial Day and I am so thankful for those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. To all of you that have served and are serving, thank you!
This is the last week of Tapas, austerity. This week I want to focus on having courage. During my yoga teacher training and all the trainings I have been a part of or led, the term “holding space” and “holding a safe space” always comes up. I consider myself one that can hold space, but I wouldn’t say it’s a safe space. The more I learn about trauma, the more I am aware of cultural appropriation, the more I immerse myself in the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, the more I realize there are no safe spaces. Someone will always be triggered, by something, a touch, a song, a word, a movement, and while that can sometimes feel like a deterrent to what I do, it doesn’t mean I am going to stop teaching yoga and pilates. It means we have to change our language. Part of this discipline, part of building consistency, showing up again and again and being aware, means we get to be courageous.
The definition of courage is, "the ability to do something that frightens one" and "strength in the face of pain or grief". Sometimes just showing up to class means being courageous, sometimes it’s leaving in the middle of class, sometimes it’s staying through the whole class, sometimes it’s crying in savasana. There is not one example of being courageous because it's different for everyone.
Courage does not come easy for most. There are many times I would like to take the easy road, no discomfort, no pain, but I also know I don’t grow there. My hope is that from my experiences I am able to hold a space for you to be courageous, a space to fall, mess-up, let your guard down, and fail in. A space where you walk away with more than you entered with. A space where you feel supported and encouraged to be your best.
We are in this together.
Hello and Happy Monday,
It feels like summer! I love it!! This weekend we celebrated Melissa’s 8thBirthday! I cannot believe it. When my parents would say that my siblings and I are growing up too fast it was annoying, but I totally understand it now.
We are still focusing on Tapas this month; not tapa, the small plated Spanish appetizer, but discipline. But since I brought up food, I made a cake for Melissa’s birthday. I started making a special cake for my kids when Michael turned 3. I made him a dinosaur cake and used fondant for the first time. Each birthday I have made them the cake that they have requested and it’s been special, Spiderman, Superman, Robin (from Batman), Cinderella's carriage, Avengers, Lego Ninjago, Minecraft, Little Mermaid, so many different kinds of cake. The cakes take a while and sometimes I think of instead of spending all the time making and decorating the cake, if I should instead, be spending time with them. We’ve been through a lot of changes in the last few years and this birthday I thought, maybe I could switch it up and not make a special cake anymore. I’ve been leaning into myself lately and trying to figure out what I need, my answer has been more rest. So the thought of not doing the cake had me feeling relieved with one thing “off my plate”. However, after lunch with a friend last week, we got to talking about our challenges as parents and how being consistent is so important. She reminded me how the cakes were part of that consistency. That it’s not just part of a tradition that I am creating, but in the scheme of life, the few hours on the cake is nothing compared to the memory I am helping create. So I made a cake! And because I had changed my mindset to have this cake be about keeping consistency, I didn’t get frustrated when I made it. I get frustrated because I am not a baker, and because I only make two of these kinds of cake a year so it's not something I am working on improving or even maintaining. Also maybe I was more at ease because Michael is getting older and he helped a lot more than in previous years with Melissa’s cake.
This is Tapas! The consistency of showing up for something. It’s not just showing up for your mat, or writing a lunch note every school day, or making a birthday cake, or hand making a Halloween custom, or whatever tradition you have, it’s also HOW you show up. My mindset, my attitude, was about keeping the tradition, being consistent for my children, and in turn, making that cake was light and easy. Showing up is important, it’s about creating that consistency, but how you show up also matters. And showing up in a bad mood, angry, annoyed, whatever you are feeling is also ok. It’s all ok – it’s about paying attention.
Do you know what you are consistent with? Do you have something for every day, every week, every Tuesday, every month, every year, or every anniversary date? How do you show up?
I’d love to know what special things you do for yourself and your family or important people in your life.
Keep showing up!
Hello and Happy Monday,
Wishing you a very Happy Mother’s Day! I taught my annual class at Lululemon Old Town with my kids and every year seems to get better. This year my kids didn’t climb all over me, run and hide in the big dressing room, or ask me to take them to the bathroom. In some ways, I missed that part of teaching the class. The thing is, everything is changing all around us whether we want it to or not, and we will miss it if we aren’t paying attention. As annoying as those interruptions are, that’s what I wind up missing the most when they don't happen.
This week the focus is still on Tapas (discipline), the third Niyama (personal observance), and this week I want to talk about the breath. Specifically, Ujjāyi Prānāyāma. First, Prānāyāma – Prana, life force or energy, Yama – control. Yet, in Sanskrit when there is an “a” in front of a word, it changes it to be the opposite. So Pranayama could be defined as “Free Life Force”, or one I like better, “direction of the force”. Ujjaya means victorious. “The prefix ud attached to verbs and nouns means upwards or superiority in rank. It also means blowing and power. Jaya means conquest, victory, triumph, or success. Looked at from another viewpoint it implies restraint or curbing. Ujjāyi is the process in which the lungs are fully expanded and the chest puffed out like that of a proud conqueror.” – Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar Ujjāyi Prānāyāma - victorious breath!
Ujjāyi Prānāyāma is used in most flow classes. It’s used for many reasons. Some of the reasons I use it and was taught to use it was for help in calming the nervous system and for building heat in the body, stoking the fire (agni) with the tapas. Ujjāyi is that Darth Vader breath, it’s the ocean like sound breath we make when we constrict the back of our throats. It’s the breath I was taught to try to maintain throughout the class, or at least keep coming back to it. To help me stay focused and aware.
Our breath is powerful, on average we take about 25,000 breaths a day, most of those are involuntary – meaning, we are not even aware that we are breathing or even the quality of our breath. Yoga is a path to awareness and it starts and ends, with the breath.
The questions I ask myself as I practice the postures are, “How does this feel?”, “Where do I feel it?”, “What am I feeling?”, “Can I change it with my breath?”. This allows me to not only slow down but to really pay attention. When we are aware of what is happening on the inside we can be aware of what is happening on the outside.
Take the next few moments – notice how you are sitting or standing.
This is a simple practice that can be done multiple times a day. It’s not only a great way to create discipline and focus, but it can help to re-direct you and keep you calm where you might not have been.
Try it and let me know,
Hello and Happy Monday,
We are on to the third Niyama (personal observance) and it’s one of my favorites, not just because it is the first Sanskrit word I remember learning. Tapas. Tapas comes from the Sanskrit verb Tap meaning to “to burn”, and the traditional interpretation is discipline and intense commitment constantly focused in order to burn off the obstructions holding us back from our true self.
When I started yoga in the late-1990s my teacher graciously suggested that if we wanted yoga mats we could put in a big order together through Hugger Mugger and get a sticky mat for $25 each. I remember when that purple sticky mat arrived. We all showed up to class and collected our individual mat and when I rolled it out it said at the top “Tapas Mat”. I had no clue what that meant. My teacher did not teach us about tapas that night in the sense that she used that word, but later after I found out what it meant, I realized she had always been teaching us about tapas, and all the other niyamas and yamas for that matter, every time we met her on the mat. For the next 9 years, I continued to learn from Maureen Murry and Theresa Rowland. I practiced Iyengar yoga, it was an exhilarating and quite humbling experience.
In many forms of yoga, there is discipline involved. Most of the time, just showing up to take a class takes discipline. In the style that I was learning in (still learning in), we worked on one pose at a time for a long time until we put the postures together. This took tons of focus and strength and stamina. Quite honestly, those were and are three things I still struggle with today. I was a serious student, eager to learn, practicing at home so I could show up prepared. After about one year of practicing regularly, I asked my teacher what the level II class was like. I had overheard people talking about it and thought I could try it. My teachers told me I wasn’t ready that I couldn’t do most of the requirements needed to enter a level II Iyengar class. Which included but were not limited to, a freestanding head stand for 8 minutes, full wheel pose with straight arms, and a handful of other inversions. (the requirements might have changed slightly, but not much) This was so disappointing and humbling. Here I was showing up a few times a week, practicing at home, basically, every single day consisted of my yoga practice and I wasn't ready for the next level.
I had a fire inside of me, I wanted to progress, I wanted to do more yoga postures, get better at the ones I was learning, and I wanted to obtain this “bliss state” my teachers spoke about regularly. I worked hard. I had now learned what Tapas meant and every time I rolled out my mat at my home I sat and stared at that word. It became my first mantra. Theresa and Maureen told us that Tapas meant austerity. They also told us that tapas was the first step of transformation. At that time, I was working at Prudential Financial. I was the Director of Long-Term Compensation Benefits, single, and desperately wanting a family of my own. I even had this thought that I could maybe be a yoga teacher but was worried that that was just silly and not reality. I was looking for a change, for transformation. I worked for months on headstand, falling so many times. I worked on full wheel, splits, shoulder stand, chatarunga, so many poses, so many tears, so many breakthroughs. When I finally was invited to attend a Level II class, I was almost jumping up and down. When I attended, I almost immediately wanted to go back to Level I. All that hard work, and I had more work ahead of me. Turns out the work never ends. Turns out, you need the discipline always, not just to level up.
I learned a lot in those years with Maureen and Theresa. When I moved to Virginia from New Jersey, I practiced on my own until I found a studio to call home. Each time I rolled out my yoga mat, which was in great condition even after all those years of diligent, consistent, intense commitment to this practice, I sat and stared at "Tapas Mat". Sadly, in 2010 I retired that mat, 11 years after I got it. But I’ll never forget the lessons I learned on it.