The Nourishing Opposite

Yogic psychology says there’s more. Encountering these stuck and painful knots is the path. This perspective teaches us that we aren’t stuck, we’re only identifying with less satisfying “things.” One remedy, Patanjali tells us, is to look for the opposite (II:33). I think of it as the Nourishing Opposite (Fay, 2010) not just any opposite, but something that will actually invite more nourishment into our experience. Pain, then, is a process of pointing out the way to remember and return ourselves to our true nature. In integrating opposites, holding these opposites simultaneously (Bryant, 2009; Miller, 2014), a third higher synthesis occurs (Patanjali 2.48), in which suffering is eased.

Fay, Deirdre. Attachment-Based Yoga & Meditation for Trauma Recovery: Simple, Safe, and Effective Practices for Therapy (pp. 16-17). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

The prescription to nourish the opposite when feeling stuck is the same process as identifying presenting issues and corresponding client goals. In seeking the opposite of what pains us, we seek joy. Treatment plans that include objectives, interventions and modalities chart the path of the nourishing opposite. Together we seek ease for the anxious, joy for the grieving, elevation for the depressed, reality for the delusional, focus for the inattentive. Therapy invites the nourishing opposite.

What pains you? What is this pain’s opposite? Can you invite the nourishing opposite?

As a therapist-intern, I find myself sometimes wobbly having absorbed client anxieties, fears, angers, sadness and confusion. Why am I angry? Is this anger even mine? Is this pain mine? Am I mirroring client feelings? Or maybe my feelings are responding, like a song?

I have been feeling irritable this weekend. What is the nourishing opposite? Feeling agreeable? How do I feel agreeable? Accept what is, accept that for now I’m feeling irritable, sensitive, overwhelmed, cranky without shame.

Writing helps me. Sharing with you nourishes me. I already feel a bit more relaxed, allowing myself to feel irritable and agreeable at the same time.

Now you try it. What feeling is bothering you? What is the opposite? How do you invite the nourishing opposite? How can you sit with the contradiction?

This takes practice, doesn’t it…

May we return to our own nature by listening to our discomfort (over and over again),


Photography by Nate Dale – New Adventure Production

Sing The Black Sheep Gospel

The following is dedicated to all my artists, poet, philosopher, weirdo friends who like me often feel like they don’t belong. Here’s to you!

I particularly like number 5 🙂

1. Give up your vows of silence which only serve to protect the old and the stale.

2. Unwind your vigilance, soften your belly, open your jaw and speak the truth you long to hear.

3. Be the champion of your right to be here.

4. Know that it is you who must first accept your rejected qualities, adopting them with the totality of your love and commitment. Aspire to let them never feel outside of love again

5. Venerate your too-muchness with an ever-renewing vow to become increasingly weird and eccentric.

6. Send out your signals of originality with frequency and constancy, honouring whatever small trickle of response you may get until you reach a momentum.

7. Notice your helpers and not your unbelievers.

8. Remember that your offering needs no explanation. It is its own explanation. Go it alone until you are alone with others. Support each other without hesitation.

9. Become a crack in the network that undermines the great towers of establishment.

10. Make your life a wayfinding, proof that we can live outside the usual grooves.

11. Brag about your escape.

12. Send your missives into the network to be reproduced. Let your symbols be adopted and adapted and transmitted broadly into the new culture we’re building together.

Turner, Toko-pa. Belonging: Remembering Ourselves home (Kindle Locations 1106-1109). Her Own Room Press. Kindle Edition.


How to Eat Like a Yogi

A long time ago there was a yogini, Giri Bala who lived without food – Yogananda tells us in the in the Autobiography of a Yogi. At age 12 responding to her mothers-in-law taunts that she eats too much, Giri Bala with the help of her Guru stopped eating in order to prove that humans are sustained by spirit not matter.

To me, Ayurveda, as a holistic medicine practice, is related to yoga as another practice of cultivating connection with the universe, others and within. I am drawn to the view of eating as a cosmic event where elements collide.

There are too many conflicting accounts of yoga principles to account for here. The details are less important or interesting. The idea that I am a location where streams of cosmic energies like earth, water, fire and air whip up into a special climate is fascinating. My encounters with others shape my physical, emotional and spiritual environment, my personal reformed and reflected universe.  For example, spicy food can fuel my anger, yet energize another.

This is certainly not a medical prescription, for weight loss, Ayurveda is a way to use food as a spiritual practice.

Here are the principles worth considering:

  1. The principle of Power: Everything has qualities and powers.
  2. The principle of Balance: Like qualities increases like qualities and balancing requires inviting the opposite quality.
  3. The principle of Doshas: Eat things with qualities and powers that balance your constitution (inside)
  4. The principle of Seasons: Eat things according to the season (outside)

When we pay attention, we know when we’ve eaten too much or too little, we recognize that something is fighting us in our stomachs resulting in gas or heartburn, we know when something smells or feels wrong in our mouth. If we mindfully eat and digest, we feel when we need something heavy and grounding and when we need something light and soothing. Usually, we don’t eat mindfully or pay attention to our bodies, we eat with our eyes, our memories, our expectations and worse, our stress.

Your stomach is your internal universe that transforms matter into energy. What is it craving now?

Advice from a Recovering Academic

It was Valentine’s Day, 2013. I had waited all day in fear, as fellow tenure-bound colleagues celebrated with online posts conveying relief and joy. When I finally got the evening call from the dean of liberal arts, “I’m sorry, there just wasn’t enough,” he said. That was it, a quick and sudden death of my academic career. And, then came the tsunami of self-judgment that ripped through my soul. “I was not enough,” it viciously screamed.

During the previous fall semester, the school of visual and performing arts and the college of liberal arts had approved my petition for tenure. I had lulled myself into false confidence. And, so the university committee’s decision was a shocking end to my academic aspirations. Throughout the difficult year of 2014, I had applied for jobs, interviewed and been rejected. Multiple times. I was still not enough.

The following year, I was in a fog debating my commitment to academia. If only I published a book, I would be enough. But it didn’t feel right. I would present at conferences as an independent scholar. I felt like a player without a team, without a home-base. These foggy days were also full of possibility. I started a blog to help me find my non-academic voice. I volunteered widely. I explored whether I’d like to go to culinary school or high school teaching, all the while wondering whether I could ever find my way back to an academic post. Thanks to my husband, I wasn’t starving during this period of anxious self-exploration, a luxury I’m lucky to enjoy.

At one point, my goal was to become a food writer. So I blogged more regularly, wrote short pieces for a magazine and as an afterthought to soothe my wrung out academic heart I worked through a yoga teacher certification program.

I stopped asking what could I have done more. Instead, I relaxed into the thought that I had done the best I could. I had done enough. But there was still anger and hurt.

It was a month into teaching yoga that my heart’s grip on that lead-heavy pebble of hurt began to loosen. I was thinking and reading about the power of narrative, of being able to notice without attachment or judgment, of being able to cultivate a witness consciousness. I wasn’t trying to apply these thoughts to my tenure hurt that in my mind I had already addressed and contained. But somehow, as I slept, these perspectives traveled through my mind and heart to find and envelope that hard pebble of hurt. I woke up with a new thought. A thought I can’t believe I hadn’t seen before.

There were clues all along. I had been hired to the new position of Design Historian. I was not trained in design history. I came to the post with a Ph.D. in philosophy and an undergraduate in architecture. I taught and developed my curriculum from the perspective of material philosophy. I was an outsider in every way.

Clue #1: The US government, in my application for a work visa, asked for clarification regarding my academic background as it related to design history. To this request, my Ph.D. advisors replied with a defense of philosophical analysis in creative pursuits and my new supervisors reassured them of my ability to teach the classes. Here was my first missed clue from the universe. I was to first defend philosophy, not expand the critical parameters of design history. I had dismissed my commitment to philosophy all too quickly to find a home in design history and in the U.S.

Clue #2: Quite a few years into the position, my department head warned, that I was investing too much time in curriculum development. Focus on research and publishing he encouraged. How was I to split my energy in two different directions? Here was my second missed clue: my teaching and research agendas were already fueling each other if only I had noticed my internal narrative instead of trying to adjust to a misperceived outside agenda.

Clue#3: An editor was interested in my book project comparing the philosophies of two early twentieth-century immigrant designers. It was about difference at the heart of American design. Because much had already been written about one of the two, the editor asked that I focus the book on the one, less discussed designer. Again, instead of listening to my inner narrative, I complied. Ironically, once I had done so, the book was categorized under a different editor, who no longer found the book publishable. My third clue offered by the publishing world exposed the commercial limits of my philosophical pursuits.

There were many other moments, besides political citizenship, academic bureaucracy and commercial demands, when the universe was nudging me to notice my internal narrative. Finally, the unexpected shove, that spun me out of my orbit. As I floated unanchored, searching for a spot to land, I began to notice my own emotional, intellectual and physical landscape. I had told an imaginary other’s story, instead of my own. This change in perspective was the beginning of healing. I was beginning to recover my own narrative beyond the dreaded tenure document.

Here is my advice as a recovering academic, find ways to ruthlessly and courageously defend your inner narrative. Yoga, prayer, meditation, walking, whatever helps you hear the inner voice that leads you to question everything. Do it. Listen to the clues, sit with the anxieties, be slow to react, watch your own responses, notice, notice and notice. Academic, research thyself.

I am still stung by the question, “What do you do?”

“I’m a recovering academic,” I mumble under my breath, as I say, “aspiring social worker with a side of yoga.”

It is enough.

I am Dr. Enuf 🙂 and so are you.


An Architect, a Philosopher, and a Social Worker walk into…

An OSCE (Objective structured clinical exam). For, “social work?” you might be asking. Indiana University uses the OSCE exam to assess student’s clinical assessment ability. It is a way to document and measure how responsive, intentional, empathetic and helpful, I can be as a social worker.  Of my first four classes in the MSWD program, this was my most challenging. And, in beautiful irony, one where I learned the most.

Throughout the semester we were given scenarios to practice and play out with our peers. The contexts (after all social work is all about context) varied, for example ranged from client escaping domestic violence arrives at a homeless shelter, to diabetic client admitted into the ER or woman gives birth to a baby with marijuana in her system. The final exam involved serving a homeless veteran suffering from PTSD.

In learning how to listen to others, I learned so much about my own strengths and resistances. I learned how I think and how I might think differently. Here is an example:

In responding to the interviewed veterans statement “I feel overwhelmed and unable to do anything…..” I had three minds working at the same time………

My architect, beautiful problem solver mind wanted to fix it as soon as possible, as uniquely as possible for the client. Where and when do you feel overwhlemed? What do you need to not feel overwhelmed? What makes you feel better? What does being overwhelmed look like?

My philosopher, existential examiner mind, wanted to understand the condition as shared human struggles of alienation and dread. Why do you feel overwhelmed? What kind of overwhelming sensation is it? Why are you unable to do anything? What stops you?

My budding social worker, empowering listener mind, needed to wait for the specific, unique and individual experience of ‘being overwhelmed’ without assuming that the experience needed to be fixed, or that it was universally shared. In either case, I am reducing the person to a problem needing to be solved or a diminished example of a larger event. I needed to hear the expression ‘ being overwhelmed’ as if for the first time, with the curiosity to ask, how do YOU feel overwhelmed? How does it feel for you to be unable to do anything? Tell me more. It required the humility to drop all assumptions about the word “overwhelmed” and its meaning. This is hard for a recovering academic. I want the security of knowing things!

Certainly, these three disciplinary perspectives can overlap and reinforce each other. In best circumstances it should, I should work to find the client a home, I should work to connect the client with help related to PTSD but first and foremost I should be the client’s advocate, holistically, contextually. As a social worker, I am tasked to understand and intervene in a particular context in which this human being, here and now in front of me, is not fully self-realized.  I sigh as I type this. This seems an impossible task. Who among us can claim such completion. As long as we feel we are moving, even if slowly, in the positive direction, all is well. Case-work is not to just designing the shoes or giving directions but walking a few steps with. As an architect and philosopher, I designed and analyzed. I haven’t been trained to be with others.

This practice-based education pushes me in ways I hadn’t imagined. In a way teaching yoga better prepared me. In learning how to teach yoga, I learned to move with others, to sequence sensations and feelings, to encourage each person to find their own pose, to notice what their body needs regardless of what I am proposing.

So I suppose the title of this blog post should be: an architect, a philosopher, a yogi and a social worker walk into an interview……. to support human dignity and individuality.

Hmmmm….how does the hungry philosopher, eating and cooking fit into this? I’m quite sure it does, just haven’t thought about it yet 🙂

I learned a lot. I’m both afraid of and looking forward to semester 2. Sometimes this disciplinary dependence on others feels overwhelming and confusing to me. Muddy.

I’ll take yoga teacher Susan Lasater’s words to heart……………… may I be like “the lotus at home in muddy waters.”

May you be too!



Attending, listening Yoga-style

“The art of listening is the marriage of ear and space.” – Remski interpretation of Patanjali’s sutra 3.41

In my Theory and Practice Course for Social Work, we are learning the art of interviewing. Step one involves achieving a compassionate and empowering balance between attending and reflecting. Here is an ancient yogic way to develop the super power of deep listening by being mindful of our tendency towards “automatic self-referral” as explained by Matthew Remski,

Internal space is also utilized to broaden the gap between “your story” and “my story”. This space is most commonly disrupted by communication habits that fail to nurture the gap of otherness. For instance, if one friend begins to tell another friend of her marriage problems, the second friend can begin to “hold space” for the first by simply reflecting the feelings she hears. This allows the first objective of communication — being heard — to be fulfilled. But if the second friend begins to “false-empathize” with the first by immediately saying, “Oh I know what you mean: let me tell you what my partner did”, she has blocked the space of otherness through a pattern that Miles Sherts (2009) calls “automatic self-referral”. The first friend will not feel heard, and her feelings will become more isolated and compressed, a combination that invites suppression.

Remski, Matthew. Threads of Yoga: A Remix of Patanjali-s Sutra-s, with Commentary and Reverie (p. 180). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.

I’m still working on this super power. Maybe you are too.

Happy listening to “the gap of otherness,”



Yoga for Grief 4 (Off the Mat) – Insomnia

Haven’t we all suffered nights of restless sleep? I still do sometimes, but now without the added anxiety and self-judgment. I don’t feel like a victim of my restless thoughts, emotions, and imagination.

Knowing a few relaxation techniques gives us tools to try while lying in bed, eyes wide open, instead of stirring up anxiety with questions like, “Why am I awake? What is wrong with me? If I don’t sleep I’ll be tired tomorrow, ……I can proactively relax. Hmmm, sounds like a contradiction.

You have to find what works for your specific form of insomnia. Try everything. What have you got to lose, except for feeling like a helpless victim of your exhausted and spinning spirit?

Here is what we practiced this week at the hospice sponsored Yoga for Grief session. Join us.

“Yoga nidra is a form of meditative self-inquiry that, while relaxing the body, opens the mind to greater discernment and self-awareness, and the heart to love and acceptance of what is. It is a powerful tool for clearing away our limiting beliefs and emotions and for living from a more balanced state of mind.”

Weintraub, Amy. Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood Management (Norton Professional Books (Hardcover)) (p. 160). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Today we’ll practice 7 techniques:

Technique 1: Body scan, Mindful Breathing and Crocodile breath from Yoga as Medicine, What keeps you from resting?

Technique 2: Chest Expansion Breathing from Yoga and Mindfulness Therapy

Technique 3: Turn off electronics, same bedtime, stretches before bed, nutrition, dark room, warm bath, prepare your body to rest.

Technique 4: 3 poses. If you find yourself awake, supported forward bend, or legs up the wall pose may help lull you back to sleep.

Supta Padangusthasana I Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose Benefits and How It Works: By stretching the golgi tendon organs within the hamstrings’ tendons, these muscles are induced to relax. The pose brings a sense of floating to the legs and definitely signals “relax” to the entire central nervous system.

Fishman, Loren. Healing Yoga: Proven Postures to Treat Twenty Common Ailments—from Backache to Bone Loss, Shoulder Pain to Bunions, and More (p. 170). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Technique 5: Lengthening exhale, Left Nostril Breathing, sleep on your right side allowing your left nostril to dominate from Yoga Skills for Therapists

Technique 6: Meditation “good-bye to the day, affirmations and calling back your energy

Technique 7: Yoga Nidra- Body part awareness. Or imagining body as a house, “turn off lights”

Technique 8: Sense awareness essential oils: Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium

Wishing all of you restful sleep and sweet dreams,


Non-Judgemental Judgement?

The practices of yoga and social work both encourage maintaining an attitude of non-judgemental judgment. This requirement feels like Kant’s demand for an “disinterested interest” in the judgments of beauty. Suffering, care, and beauty all depend on our ability to notice what is happening without forcing theoretical preconceptions. Practicing this attitude of noticing without prejudice (i.e. pre-judgment) about how a pose or human well-being or a painting ought to look, is difficult. One suggestion, according to Prof. Ogden Rogers, is to go with the defense, to run with a running a man instead of trying to stop him. To stay “with” before trying to yoga terms…stay with your breath, notice what is happening for you, stay with the discomfort…………stay with…stay with….stay with…….

Going With the Defense

Whatever a client brings to you, accept it as a gift. There are thoughts, feelings, and behavior, seen and unseen, and whatever emerges is something to be tracked, followed, and used to help the relationship. Never stop a running man. Run with him and wave others off who might stop him. Slowly slow your pace, travel to a place where the running no longer serves a purpose, and perhaps sitting and talking will emerge. Some wise workers call this “exhausting the resistance” or “going with the defense.”6 I like to think of it as simply unwrapping a gift and using it.


Rogers, Ogden W.. Beginnings, Middles, & Ends: Sideways Stories on the Art & Soul of Social Work (p. 40). White Hat Communications. Kindle Edition.

In the Middle of a Middle

We need nonjudgmental judges. We need those who can enter respectfully into the middle of our private muddles and echo the outside of our public rule. We need those who can understand the craziness that keeps us sane, and yet interpret the taboos that glue us together. We need advocates of the infinite diversities individuality provokes…and speak it to the Leviathan, and make it understand.

Rogers, Ogden W.. Beginnings, Middles, & Ends: Sideways Stories on the Art & Soul of Social Work (p. 83). White Hat Communications. Kindle Edition.


Meditative Monday: Lessons from a Labyrinth


At first glance, this patch of grass looks like a creative mowing project. Like anything, how you approach it makes it either a frustrating walk in circles going nowhere or a transformative inner journey of self-awareness. For most of us, it may be both.

I crossed paths with this labyrinth courtesy of a recent Community Yoga Retreat. This was my first time. If you have never meditatively walked along a labyrinth let me try to describe my first experience.

We, about 16 of us, were asked to walk slowly in silent meditation through the labyrinth. As we walk in we were to consider all the things we are grateful for, after we reach the center indicated by a bowl of floating flowers and as we walk out of the labyrinth, we were to mindfully shed all the things we want to be free of.  This walk, warned the retreat center director could last 45 minutes.  Simple enough. Right?

I was the last to enter the labyrinth. I watched as everyone entered the labyrinth and walk slowly along the curves. My feet were bare. I could feel the cool grass below my feet. As I first entered the walk, I noticed my arms shivering and tingling. Maybe I was just cold, maybe I was feeling something. I don’t know. I felt calm and quiet. I also felt like I was walking with many others, in front and behind me (there was no one behind me). The labyrinth felt full. The first few moments of reverie soon dissolved into…why is it so hard to step slowly? is this ground uneven? Am I making the right turns? am I walking too closely behind? am I going to fast? oh, there’s a branch, gosh I’m cold….you get the point. It was a flood of how long is this going to take and am I lost? I can’t be if I can look up and step out at any time. My mind was playing weird games.

As I felt like I was spinning in circles becoming myself a labyrinth of confusion, I decided to enjoy the experience, to find a way to savor each step, each thought of gratitude, to send love to my friends walking with me. Magically, the craziness eased. I began to notice the journey, my unsteady steps, my worries, my fellow walkers, the sun, the warmth, the shadows, the trees. I began to move in and out of the labyrinth to find my horizon, feeling both lost and located at the same time. By the time I reached the bowl of floating flowers at the center, it felt like a long-delayed accomplishment. Joy and relief. Walking out of the circle as I allowed self-doubt drip down my fingertips I began to feel lighter. When I crossed paths with another, I felt a rise of self-judgment, am I going the right direction? Should we be crossing paths? Again, I reminded myself, it doesn’t matter, just walk, breathe and enjoy this morning.

Like life, there were rough patches, beautiful views, isolation, company, obstructive twigs, comforting sunshine, confusion, and clarity, ground and sky, turns and curves, crazy mind, calm mind, grateful heart, irritated heart. Maybe we are always in a labyrinth, either imprisoned and trapped or liberated and exploring.

There was a sense of relief after completing what felt like a long journey. As I stepped out, following a lady in front of me, also named Lisa, she said “Thanks for keeping me company.” I returned my gratitude for her company as well.

It was a trip, best, shared.

Last to exit, I joined the others, some resumed their conversations, some sat quietly, some shared their confusion about the labyrinth. We all survived and learned something about ourselves. I learned that I can make walking in circles bearable and even enjoyable, if I want. Maybe I can make anything bearable…….almost, with fellow walkers.

Happy Monday, everyone. Happy walking the week.





Wobblyogi Wednesday: True Yoga

Dear Yoga Friends,

Meet my favorite book of the week!


The book introduces Pantanjali’s yoga sutras without being pedantic or self-righteous AND offers practical strategies and contexts for application.  The author, Jennie Lee, is creative in presenting the philosophy as well as corresponding affirmations and self-inquiring questions to journal.

Finally a book that presents yoga as SO much more than asana!

Here is an excerpt emphasizing the willing and rational devotion to kindness, happiness and peace. As such, yoga becomes the practice of choosing to not to suffer particularly when we acknowledge pain.

To be truly happy is to be successful at life and, like anything worth accomplishing, these practices require dedication. We must choose a peaceful response in times of conflict. We must choose a grateful thought when we feel negative and down. We must choose to tell the truth even when it is not convenient. These are not always easy choices, but if we are ready to claim true happiness and security that can sustain us through all the ups and downs of life, then these choices become a small price for the serenity, power, and wisdom they bring.

Lee, Jennie. True Yoga: Practicing With the Yoga Sutras for Happiness & Spiritual Fulfillment (Kindle Locations 132-136). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

This may even make the list of my favorite yoga books for all time.

Hope you enjoy it too.

Wishing you happy self-discovery,

the Wobblyogi