Energy Exchange

DSC_9336.jpgLet’s Stretch our limits 16×40 Oil

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”~Buddha

If you have been practicing yoga at Moksha Yoga Calgary North, you may have noticed the changing art on the walls. I am the Artist and also a fellow yogini. Since the studio opened I have been doing an energy exchange- art for yoga.  The perfect trade!

My love of art and yoga has always had a way of overlapping in my life. I knew from the first day of my 200 hour yoga teacher training that even though both activities are very different, they have many similar philosophies.

Coming from a fitness background… somewhere along the line I decided that teaching yoga would be more sustainable to teach while I continued to pursue my art career.  I thought I would not be so tired.  WOW- I was in for a rude awakening.   I had only a few downward dogs under my belt and barely knew what a sun salutation was…let alone teach it to someone else. My poor teacher, he had his work cut out for him and truth be known, so did I!

I remember very clearly that exact moment in time, sitting on my mat, writing in my journal…it was my big “AHA” moment.  I realized why I was in the training. It was not about the perfect downward dog.  It was not to save the world, heal others, share my dimming light…it was to save me, heal me and make my light shine brighter.

In my heart, I felt like I was home.…The practice has a perfect way of meeting us where we are at…

A year later, I finished my training and that day I began my practice. I practiced everyday for 40 days. It changed my world. I surrounded myself in community and was blessed to have many great teachers. There was never a day that I did not walk out of a yoga class feeling lighter and more whole. Over 10 years later, many trainings and a lifelong commitment, I still feel the same way.

I admit that many times I fall off the train. But just like falling out of a tree pose, or being too busy to paint, I remember why I made the commitment and that I can make the choice to step back on the train at any time.

I began my yoga practice with intention to help others.   I now realize that finding the practice of yoga was a gift to me.   The gift of community, with the bonus of keeping my body strong, my breath flowing and my mind clear.   The beauty is, with the clarity and strength I gained from the practice, I can help other by sharing what I have learned.

Whether I am doing a headstand or holding a brush at my easel, I am very aware that both are rare opportunities to really be awake.  Present moment awareness – was the common feeling for me.  The feeling I wish to share.

“Yoga is the art work of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul.” ― Amit Ray

Present moment awareness-I know this feeling intimately. It happens when I paint well, listen intently and practice with grace.  To me… ‘Waking up’ means being present enough to feel, be authentic and to gain the capacity of responding rather than reacting.

It is what I love and why I have made both painting and yoga a consistent practice in my life. It is where I get to feel most alive.  My career as an artist is growing and these days I spend my days painting, teaching art and sharing my yoga practice in my art camps and retreats.

I am honored and grateful to share my art in such a sacred beautiful space where it can be seen and felt.  It is the perfect energy exchange.

Namaste,

Michelle

http://www.michelleausten.ca

 “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”~Walt Disney

 

 

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I am not the Bionic Women

“A Break from technology can help us to feel human again. And I am pretty sure there’s still no App for that.”~ Micheal J. Chase.

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Morning Dew

Technology is a gift.  One I appreciate.  However, with the stream of technology coming at us humans so quickly, it is no wonder we are all feeling overwhelmed. Seriously, what human can possibly keep up to waves of emails, texts, phone calls, not to mention Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc. Even my very efficient super human-almost Bionic friends are having a hard time keeping up. The fact that my daughter snap chats herself every 10 sec, reminds me that moments are fleeting and many of them are eaten up with a relationship to our phone/computer/iPad screen.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel social media is amazing, I can reach people I have never met. Create this blog, document my thoughts, share things, keep in contact with family while on vacation, share photo’s etc. These things I love. Yet I yearn…
I yearn for a good face to face-eye contact-heartfelt conversation. I miss seeing my friends and hate the fact that birthday are celebrated via a typed message. I love to share what I am up to and being visual person, I can easily spend hours on Pinterest-building my virtual life. However, nothing beats a good old catch up coffee session with a dear friend at a local coffee shop.image
I feel the pressure technology brings. I also feel inadequate. I can’t possibly keep up. No one is as fast as a computer. Certainly Canada Post can not possibly keep up.   I still welcome and appreciate a good hand written note or a postcard from a friend on an adventure.  Something colourful and bright, that makes me excited enough to smile.

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Taking time for yourself

Retreat, like a coffee session, must be scheduled into our lives, so we take the time to feel. Feeling takes time and space. When we move too quickly we can’t feel the tiny bits of tension gripping in our bodies, reminding us that we are working too hard. The gentle tension eventually becomes a pull or a tear. Not paying attention, a fall will result in a broken bone. Not an ideal rest. I prefer to Laugh, Cry or Wail-These are welcome natural releases.

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A day of painting in the country

Or better yet, Schedule in a Retreat. Retreats help release the build up that we are unconsciously collecting through our busy daily activities.

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Alberta Skies

A retreat could be a spa in a tropical place, an art retreat or a yoga class. If you live in the city, a drive on a country road can be enough of a break to feel spaciousness, especially in Alberta with the wide open skies. It can be as simple as the warmth of a bubble bath enjoying a good old fashion paperback.
However you choose to retreat.   Be kind to yourself and make it a priority.  You deserve it.

I am currently on a train in Ireland going to an art retreat. Taking my own advice. Feeling the spaciousness, filling myself up.

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Co Mayo, Ireland

To live a super human life, one must take time to retreat.

In creative spirit,

Michelle

Beneath a Coat of Snow

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“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am officially calling a sick day. My head is full of cold and my feet feel like they are full of cement.

As I sit on my couch in my fuzzy red comfortable robe at 2pm, I am watching the snow fall gently onto the earth. I am not feeling at all guilty to be taking a sick day. There is a lightness in the air, objects are slightly blurry and the colors I see are mostly soft and covered in white snow. It is quiet and I am grateful to have a day of rest and reflection.

Almost a year ago, I planned a trip to Virginia to see my cousin and her family. The trip was perfectly planned around the famous Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.   I packed my sketchbook and paints and was set out to have an art adventure, to be inspired by new sites, especially of the beautiful spring cherry blossoms that I have heard so much about.   I LOVE to travel-it is eye-candy for the senses. There is also the unexpected. Many times things do not go as planned yet when you learn to embrace the present moment, they can still go perfectly as intended…   Don’t fight the process.

On my first day in Virginia, I awoke to a similar scene as I am looking at today. Snow was gently falling and there was a chill in the air.

My cousin, Alexis and I are 7 years apart and really had only met each other less than a dozen times in our life. Yet, I felt like I was home, we shared the same grandmother, pictures in her home and stories we shared were familiar to me. We also both loved going for coffee and eating similar things. It was easy and fun to be with her.

She was a gracious host and showed me all the sites.

Despite the cold, cool temperatures we bundled up and headed out to see the memorials in Washington, DC. It was apparent that I needed a history lesson (or to watch more TV) when I pointed to a large pencil like structure and asked “What is that?” With huge eyes and a sly smile she replied “The Washington Monument.”

And so began my tour…

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Disclaimer: Just to make me feel better – I did recognize the White House immediately. I am also happy to say I can name all the memorials now when I see them in the movies. The bonus of travel for a visual person is education.  Did I mention that I am Canadian?

National World War II Memorial

National World War II Memorial

Korean Monument

Korean Monument 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

We made our way through the memorials one by one. Alexis was being an amazing tour guide. Explaining to me that the Korean memorial was her favorite. as it touched her and her family. They really are amazing to see in person. There was a shallow pool approximately 2 ft deep surrounded by granite with engraving that said how many soldiers were killed, captured, missing or wounded. I was looking all around taking pictures, feeling somber and reflective, when the energy changed.

I hear someone shouting- Lady in the pool!! I take a deep breath, turned around to see that my dear cousin had taken one wrong step backwards and over she went, catching her foot in granite that actually said “wounded.” Weird coincidence? Hmm, not sure. The world seemed to stop for a moment. As I pulled her out of the pool , others were most concerned about the fact that her brand new I-phone was laying peacefully face down on the bottom of the pool. “The phone!” strangers screamed. I looked at the pretty salmon colored case face down in the pool and thought, “I need a stick”. I look up and a woman is waving her cane. We make eye contact – A little miracle- an angel sent her- I am sure. I borrowed the cane and pulled the phone close enough for a kind boy with long arms to reach in and retrieve her phone, complete with instructions on what to do to recover the phone.   The concern for the phone was a little alarming actually…I was more concerned about my cousin.

I look over at her, she is dripping wet, shivering and totally in shock. We walk over to sit down and reassess the situation.   Breathe….

We broke out into laughter. I had learned in yoga, The vibration of laughing and crying is almost the same, the release of energy in the body is what is important. We chose laughter.

Did that just happen? Was that for real? Was that a bad dream? Gut rolling laughter was what emerged right before survival skills kicked in.  A cab ride, extra layers of clothes, a cold pack, motrin and a few bloody mary’s later. We had reflected, laughed and ended up with a free desert at the restaurant in honor of the Best story of the Day. She was my hero that day.

She's a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

She’s a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

The next day while icing her elevated ankle , we wondered, “What was the purpose of that? “

Maybe we needed some comic relief in our somber moment? Not sure. We both agreed the spirits got a good giggle. (about the present moment awareness, not about her injured ankle.)

Maybe we needed to feel the kindness of others?     Not sure.

Maybe we needed to be here right now!    

That is for sure!

With Lightness and Love and Gratitude for family and travel,

Michelle

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial. I HAVE A DREAM!

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial.
I HAVE A DREAM!

Ps/ And for those concerned about the phone- it worked perfectly- Magic!

Are Goblins eating up your Creativity?

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Without fear and illness, I could never have accomplished all I have.~Edvard Munch

Question:  What keeps me from creating?

Answer: The Goblins.   They are the thoughts that run around and around in my mind causing all kinds of FEAR and DRAMA.

I recognize the demons of anxiety that scream all my faults at me LOUD and CLEAR!

They are not the truth of who I am. This I know for sure.

They just yell really loud… Like annoying music… it grates on your nerves.

The Goblins lure you to play with them. They are masters at persuasion.

I can choose to participate or sit on the sidelines and watch the show.

It is similar to watching a painfully bad movie…worse because it is harder to turn off the big screen in my mind…it is even harder to detach from the reactive emotions that raise my blood pressure and make me short of breath.

The Goblins and I are closely related. We know each other well.

On good days. I choose not to play.  On a bad day, the game is harder to say NO to.

The pressure takes its toll- like any good pressure cooker – this can result in the top blowing off at some poor passer by or worse yet someone you love.

If you can catch it early, just as it starts to boil, you can make a change.

CHANGE YOUR STATE.

Play better music or cool down in an Epson salt bath (throw in some Lavender for extra spice)

Make a better choice.

Choose to stay out of the fire. I prefer to sit on the sidelines and roast marshmallows.

This takes lots of patience.

It is not easy. The Goblins are very quick and efficient.

Invite them in. Get to know them intimately.

Tell them to have a rest and then turn up the good music and go CREATE!

Happy Halloween.

Michelle

PS/ sharing one of my favorite poems http://www.gratefulness.org/poetry/guest_house.htm

A Breathe of Fresh Air

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 Sometimes I question what I say-Or worse yet- someone questions it for me.

 My words could perhaps use a better filter. 

After years of not speaking my truth- I have learned to speak it-even if it comes out harshly. 

I am passionate about things I believe in.  I am passionate about people I care about…Sometimes words flow out of my mouth without a lot of thought.  My elbows are sharp.  I’ll admit I have work to do. 

I am working on the PAUSE between the INHALES and EXHALES.   Make them longer—more lingering.  This sometimes would help in the delivery of my message.  OK- all the time this would help, but it is so HARD to remember in times of PASSION.  EMOTION FLOODS and my mouth resembles a fast running river. 

I respect the quiet observer.  I know a slim few of them.  I love to watch how they interact.  They LISTEN more, process more and proceed with COMPASSION and WISDOM.

This is what I wish to cultivate more of.

So I practice Breathing.   Yup we do it all day!  What I mean is I need to practice “Conscious breathing.”  Such a simple concept- yet so easy to forget as I shake, rattle and roll throughout the day.

        INHALE, EXHALE.  Inhale, exhale…in, out.

How often do I notice the little break in between the breath?  Hmmm.  Silence.

 INHALE-find the pause              EXHALE-find the pause

Over time the PAUSE grows…

The thoughts settle

The dreams percolate.

The imagination soars, things become a little clearer.

There is sweetness in this space.   

The sweet spot.   I have arrived.  Breathing in fresh air…     

Meet you here!

With softer elbows and a full spirit,

Michelle

“Notice a breathe a day-try for 2.  Try in an elevator for 1 Breathe- Instead of thinking about the other persons shoes.”~Eckardt Tolle