Monday, April 30, 2012

Pachem & Community #LoveLansing

Rina Risper has invited you to Keep the P.E.A.C.E. & Stop the Silence March - Saturday - April 28, 2012, said the little red flag on my Facebook account. Hm. What's that?

P.E.A.C.E. Police enforcement and community engagement. Dona nobis pachem. Latin for "give us peace". I sang that song acapella so many times in my Catholic church choir. The song sweetly demands peace.

On Saturday, I demanded peace along with almost 300 others.

I admit, at first, I ignored this simple electronic invitation to join my community in a walk against violence on Lansing's streets. I wasn't sure if it was "my kind of event." What does a walk truly do? Are we really changing anything? Who would go? Would I be the only person like me? AKA someone who has barely seen violence and might not be able to understand or to identify? Would I be judged for being some silly middle class white girl from the countryside who thinks she knows something about any of this?

Then, Belinda created a rallying cry for the community to truly be and act as community, with her blog post (excerpt below),

"Our children are being shot and killed. Our elderly are being abused. Our neighborhoods held hostage. Even as that is true, Lansing is also a victim of the PERCEPTION of being OVERRUN with crime. Across Twitter and Facebook the criticism and jokes about the degradation of our city is troubling. We can’t turn our backs and run. Don’t leave and turn around and criticize from outside. What did you do when you were here? 

What voice did you speak with?

What did you do to be heard?

What did you do to change the PERCEPTION and display another side of our community? The creative and innovative side? The generous and supportive side? The resilient and brave side?"

With this, I realized that while I may not be the 100% perfect fit to blend in at this event...this is my community. This is my home. I live in Lansing. I am Lansing. I have an obligation to support, to show compassion, to activate change. Community. Compassion. This was an opportunity to be and to live my yoga. I was in.

I showed up to the rally and quickly made friends with Diane, a mom in Lansing who was also simply invited via the Facebook event. Her 20 year old daughter questioned why she was going. She thought it was "being fake" to march in some demonstration. Her mom took the time to explain that this was important to her, and she came to the march. Her daughter didn't join her...but Diane made a statement and took a stance to support her community. That conversation happened. Diane took action.

I struck up a conversation with the all-weather-prepared Marvin, who had a long coat, a furry hat and a huge umbrella. Marvin is a former MSU administrator who is working on his second Master's degree and looking for a new job in policy and/or helping people to achieve their potential. He realized he saw me speak at a job fair downtown. He told me that seeing someone like me at this kind of event humanizes me. I didn't realize I had been dehumanized. Solid reality check. Thank you, Marvin. Community. We are one.

I walked with my neighbors. I introduced myself to my community. Was I the minority? Yep. I wasn't an elder or young adult related to or friends with someone who was shot on our Lansing streets. I don't live in a particularly bad area of town. But I felt at home. I was invited. I came. I supported.

Take the invitation. Support your community. We are one. Rina says it best, love people.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mostly Vegan Bunny Food Cake

This is the first Easter with little fanfare. Dinner was comprised of poached salmon, kale and potatoes. Dessert, I decided, needed to be a bit special. I made a carrot cake - vegan - but with cream cheese frosting.

My mind and body needed today. Power Yoga - 1.5 hours. Bicycling - 1.5 hours. Meditation - 1.5 hours. Next up? Baking and wine.

Vegan Carrot Cake - adapted from multiple recipes
2 cups flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup sugar
3 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup coconut
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1/2 t vanilla

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine mixtures. Pour into 2 pie or cake pans. Bake 40-45 mins. Let cool.

Beat cream cheese with milk and add powdered sugar to desired thickness. Mix until desired consistency. To stay vegan, try tofutti, soy milk and powdered sugar.

Frost one layer. Add next on top. Frost. Devour. Add another glass of wine. Breathe. Have a fabulous day.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spiders and Yoginis

Today, one of my incredible teachers shared a quote that turned into a beautiful metaphor. Spiders. Yoga.

"A single spider is silent. They cultivate silence. Even the ones that do make noises will normally remain as still as they can, waiting. So much of what spiders do is waiting." ~ Neil Gaiman, "Anansi Boys"

Sitting; holding still; just being...are huge pieces of a yoga practice. The last four limbs of the eight limbs of yoga focus on simply being - pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (devotion) and samadhi (union with the divine). Meditation is not easy. Silencing the mind clutter is not easy.

Being present, aware and in this moment from breath to breath is not easy. It is easier to run, to move, to stop being uncomfortable and to continue to clutter the mind. It takes effort to breathe through tough spaces. It is hard to sit in it, whatever that it may be at that particular time and place.

As another great teacher told me this weekend - breathe in it and through it, don't just breathe around it. 

Back to the spider.

A spider spins a web with a purpose. The architecture and placement varies from species to species. A corner of the garage, between blades of grass, on a tree branch or in a blueberry bush. Once spun, the spider sits on the web and waits. It positions it's body and legs in particular places on the web so that it can observe the entire web. It feels, looks and listens. It rides the wind, weather and all outside influences. The spider waits for good things to come. It does not actively reach and search and exhaust itself trying. It simply exists.

We can learn many lessons from all of the creatures in this world. But today, I'll accept the gift of focusing on the spider, and do my best to sit and breathe and be. Move with the wind and with the river, instead of against it.