It’s Your Choice

Today is one of those shitty Seattle days in late fall: dark, 40-something degrees, and steady, light rain. A poster child for seasonal affective disorder, a more serious depression-like affliction than many realize.

Today is the kind of day that it’s easy to mail in early. To crawl through the day like a slug, just hoping to get through it. Here’s our chance to choose something different.

My version of that: punch that dreary, rainy, cold Seattle day in the face. Then slap it once more to say I care.

I’m tired.  A little sore. Not looking forward to my work day. Facing about $700 in expenses for my home-from-college son, between snow tires (he goes to school in Helena, Montana, home of some serious winters) and a replacement for his shattered cell phone.

These are the ingredients that could kick my ass…and have in the past.

It’s my choice to choose something different.

I’m typing this post while rolling through a cardio workout on an elliptical machine at the gym. Doing so on the heels of a splendid yoga class last night. The kind of class that was just what I needed. More thought provoking than physically challenging (but still not easy!).

On the heels of my last post about being grateful for yoga, it is probably no coincidence that class’s theme was true gratitude, in a season otherwise prone to glaring, superficial thanks. It is zero coincidence the short reading at the end of class spoke deep into my heart and soul.

In the midst of this shitty Seattle day, I am truly grateful to be emerging from a chronic injury that has been wrecking my workout routine and impeding daily life since mid-summer. To know me is to know those limitations were not easy for my personality to accept. A lesson in humility, and being present with what is, not what I hope or prefer things to be.

The cardio workout I’m doing is long. I did that yoga class last night. I tore up a a long weight room workout yesterday morning. Sunday I took my wife’s yoga athletes class, then later hit the gym for another cardio session. Saturday was a fun, ass-kicking of a hot, power vinyasa class from one of my favorite yoga teachers.

That combo would not have been available to me a couple months ago. Today it is. And I happily choose it. And I’m grateful beyond words for all of that.

What can you choose today? What can you look in the eye, punch in the face, slap it again for good measure, laugh, and choose something different?

Maybe that’s a shitty day. Maybe it’s a job you don’t really like. Maybe that’s a bad family situation you face every holiday season that is crying out for radical change.

Whatever it is for you, I hope you choose it. Boldly and with a smile on your face.

The Grateful Yogi


Being grateful is good.

Being the annoying grateful person is annoying. We’ve all seen it on social media. Some jackwagon who is often grateful for the superficial (pumpkin spice lattes!)  or conveys a sunshine and lollipops view of gratitude that papers over the human reality of negative feelings.


I find myself being grateful more these days, and expressing it, not because it’s my default. But, because being grateful has not exactly been a natural state of being for much of my life.

I woke up today anxious. That’s not been an uncommon occurrence of late. Work is too overloaded and stressful, with too many big ticket items demanding concurrent attention. That has spill over effects on the rest of my life; big ones if I’m not intentional about balancing that.

So, yes, I was anxious. I also had a comparatively lazy morning to start. Sleeping in, allowing myself to doze after I first woke up — after I quieted my mind down — rather than leaping into chores and other duties. I’m grateful for that after a long draining week.

I’m grateful too for the full-on ass kicking of a hot power vinyasa yoga class taught by fellow yogi and friend, Leslie Whitecrow this morning. I set an intention to have fun in it, which as a little optimistic given my sore body facing what is always a challenging class!

Mission accomplished. It was fun. It was hard (my body is kind of shaking afterward), but I sweated like crazy, pushed my mind, body, and soul…and got out of my fucking head.

Perfect. My kind of Saturday morning. I’m grateful for that.

Which got me thinking, when I really consider what I’m grateful for in terms of people and experiences, so much of it relates to yoga.

  • Yoga was and is a big element in the ongoing transformation my lovely bride, Stephani, and I have experienced as individuals and as a couple.
  • Bindi Yoga studio, where I began practicing seriously is where I grew as a student, learned to be a teacher, and now have the pleasure to teach (and I like teaching way more than I ever would have guessed!). Thanks, Michelle and Susan for welcoming me in all ways at Bindi. Thanks Irene Toklar for teaching me to teach. And thanks to the whole crew of employees and students at Bindi for being part of a community!
  • Twist Yoga studio, where my lovely bride earned to teach — and teaches today — has its own vibe I’m grateful to experience. Jenn Mitchell is a cool owner and together with Heather Falkin have a greater teacher training, which feeds the vibe of the studio itself (and I love taking classes with them!). I’ve also met more of my people there, like fellow swimmer and yogi, Meredith Storey.
  • Breitenbush: the retreat where Stephani (and Meredith) finished their teacher training was an awesome experience. Our daughter and fellow yogi, Sophia, joined us on that trip, which was a remarkable, totally disconnected from the rest of the world opportunity to be our authentic selves without interruption.
  • Wanderlust: a festival for yogis, and my God, if Wanderlust at Whistler, BC this summer was one of the best experiences my lovely bride have had together (see that same link as above for more!).
  • Yoga gives me balance. Physically, to balance out the rest of my workout regime and manage my injuries. Emotionally, giving me an outlet to release the bad and amplify the good. Mentally, to quiet the mind when I need it most. And spiritually, to combine the previous three into a unified mind, body, soul connection.
  • Indeed, Yoga makes connections. I’m a swimmer. I love meeting and talking to other swimmers, especially successful ones. The best conversations I’ve had separately with two local, Olympic swimmers have been about yoga and how some of its key concepts are applied to our lives. One, Ariana Kukors, is someone I met professionally and now consider a great friend. A second, Emily Silver, I’ve talked to once at length, and by the virtue of yoga, got real and deep in the conversation almost right away. That one conversation helped cement in my mind I should take teacher training (Emily was in teacher training herself at the time and is a teacher today). I’m grateful to Emily for her willingness to get real and play a role in prodding me on my own path. That’s the power of one conversation.
  • Teachers: you don’t love every yoga teacher or class you encounter, but the yoga focal points I’ve experienced all have brought me in their unique way to experience teachers I appreciate, beyond those I’ve already mentioned: Alexis Zudro and Shanah Walters at Bindi, Janell Hartman at Twist  and Breitenbush, Jackie Elliott, Ally Maz, Chelsey Korus, and Matt Giordano at Wanderlust. I didn’t even actually meet everyone I named, but they’ve all had an impact.

That very fact you can have that range of interactions, from experiencing a class (and never meeting), to having the deepest of conversations about the topic describes yoga in an anecdote. It is what you make of it, starting exactly where you’re at, and moving forward from there.

Maybe you’re reading this, and maybe you’re even aware of a little of my story, and am surprised that my gratitude for yoga runs so deep beyond just the physical practice…going deeper into the people and experiences, as well as the full quadrinity of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits one finds within the practice itself.

That’s because the power of yoga goes is truly deeper than that powerful quadrinity. It goes to the tribe you chose to be around. The tribe that brings out the best in you. The tribe that keeps you wanting to come back for more: 1 on 1, in small groups, in big classes, and in giant, hundreds-of-people-in-one-place festivals. That’s the power of yoga.

And I’m grateful for it. Namaste.



We’re Killing Ourselves…and It Doesn’t Have to Be that Way

Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans…” says a headline in the New York Times.

Wait, what?

In an age when advances in health care and rising awareness of the importance of healthier eating and fitness are extending life, middle-aged Americans are dying more frequently?

Here’s why:

…rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse:alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

The reporter says the trend is from a dynamic that has been:

puzzling demographers in recent years: the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites. In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans.

Put more bluntly:

“Wow,” said Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on mortality trends and the health of populations, who was not involved in the research. “This is a vivid indication that something is awry in these American households.”

A “vivid indication” indeed. While experts puzzle at the trend, let’s get real. We know those big killers of heart disease and diabetes lurk across our populace because as a society we eat like shit and aren’t active enough in our daily lives. That becomes more of an acute problem as you go down the socio-economic ladder as raw realities of life result in less healthy eating and less activity.

So, why are people also drinking themselves to death, wrecking their bodies with drugs, and killing themselves?

Because they hate their fucking lives.

Why do they hate their lives?

Because they’re treading water. They’re too often trapped in jobs they don’t like, travelling too long to get there (which means less time for meal prep and being active), to pay for a life they can barely keep up with…and every reader with kids has probably been through that immensely stressful phase in life. On the upper-income side, you throw in the stress of constantly connected white collar jobs. On the lower-income side, the financial stress of modern life coupled with flat or declining real wages and…BAM…it’s not an environment prone to produce strong emotional and mental health.

Thus, the vodka, heroin, and pills.

A perfect example that popped into my Facebook feed while working on this post:

Took me almost 3 hours to get to work today because of traffic. Literally as soon as I turn the ignition off, my phone rings. It’s school calling to tell me that [my daughter] has a fever and I need to pick her up. Luckily it only took me 45 minutes to get back to [her school]. Needless to say I will be working from home for the rest of the week.

I anonymized that because this person’s life might be perfectly pleasant, but it’s an example of sort of chaotic ingredients that are all too present in our constantly connected, always moving lives.

And it’s fucking killing us.

II think it’s zero coincidence I encountered this article as well on my Facebook feed recently: “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.” My friend who posted it extracted this quote:

“…while family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structure and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work.”



Is life killing you? Maybe only slowly…but definitely surely?

It’s time to do something different. Maybe radically different.

That’s scary.

But isn’t scary that better than a slow, miserable, self-inflicted death?

I read this article on things changing in society recently. It talked about increasing rejection of traditional corporate culture…and a whole slew of other paradigms that have been societal norms for decades, but aren’t serving us now. Example: my daughter is in online high school today exactly because of #8 in the article. That system wasn’t serving her, so we found a better way.

With that in mind, what could stop your life from killing you?

And what’s stopping you from taking the leap to make that happen?

UPDATE: And maybe not only taking the leap to make that happen for you, what can you do to support someone else in taking that leap? I posted this splendid Chris Christie riff on compassion for the addicted on Facebook recently. It’s a powerful reminder of the importance of compassion and support in helping people get to a better place in life.