Category Archives: The Gratitude Stash

Here’s where I collect my morsels of gratitude to save for when I’m feeling blue.

My Thoughts After Reading “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed

tiny beautiful things

My recent few days have been full as is to be expected.  But there is something of a theme running through them, that has to do with pain and perspective and the role of tiny beautiful things.  A while back Tara recommended this book to me and boy am I grateful for that!  It is full of so many heart-moving insights that I could not possibly sum it all up other than to say that it’s a worthwhile read.

My biggest take-away so far comes from what Sugar had to say about entitlement and ambition.  She gave me some good thoughts to marinate on and I feel that I may have been able to turn around my thinking on a few topics that my mind is prone to torturing me with.  The sum of it is this, sometimes the way to change perspective is to alter the scale of thinking.  When the unproductive and obstructive thoughts are grandiose, then it can be useful to get engaged with something on a very small scale.  Likewise when the thoughts that paralyze us in a negative holding pattern are minuscule, then it may well serve us to think big.

These days it’s the big thoughts that drive me crazy.  The past couple weeks have made it clear to me that there is no point thinking about why these thoughts enter my head, rather I have to shift my perspective:  spend time with a friend, work on an intricate crochet project, admire tiny little pebbles collected by my husband and son on the beach, focus on very small gentle movements in one very specific area of my body, talk through the details of someone else’s current life experience.  All of those things have been a welcome salve in recent days.  And it was Cheryl Strayed’s words that helped me put it all together to understand what was happening.

When I’m four days into a painful episode that relates to my decades-old injury as I am today, I am prone to angry thoughts about the lack of help that I received when I originally knocked my tailbone to the side.  I happened to be complaining to my mom about my frustrations when by some grace, I was granted a perfect opportunity to redirect those thoughts.  Probably because it was related to the topic at hand, she mentioned that a co-worker had to leave early because her teenage daughter called from school with back pain so extreme that she wanted to go home.  It occurred to me that my mom and I could do a little something with all the regret that we shared over the failings that we experienced back then.  I suggested that she make good on our unfortunate history by telling her coworker that there was most likely some relief in her daughter’s future if they were to seek the appropriate support in the form of a healing practitioner outside the western medical model.  Had I been told even this as a teen, the search would have begun.

It’s not that any problems were solved in that moment.  But a mental shift occurred because I was given the opportunity to shift my perspective.  The big and unalterable history of my current situation melted away as I considered the plight of another and one tiny little thing that I could do to offer my help.  Who knows what will come of it, but in that moment despair gave way to hope.

In the course of a full day, that’s a beautiful moment worth appreciating.

Thoughts on Being a Citizen of Humanity with Thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Here we are again!  Another year has passed and the day to honor my first and enduring hero has arrived.  Is our little area unique in all the events dedicated to honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?  I hope not, but I must admit that it seems I hear more about this special day with each passing year.  For that I am grateful.  As my way of honoring Dr. King has primarily been a private affair for as many years as I can remember, and as I am seeing all sorts of banners and hearing of events happening I’m noticing the contrast.  That brought me back to the years of my youth, when our group of friends would head to northern Michigan for a weekend nothing more than some skiing thanks to the long holiday weekend.  So it would seem that I’ve made some improvement on my practice of paying respects as I’ve gotten older (it bears noting that the person who organized the trip every year was a long time employee of Detroit’s Department of Civil Rights so it could be said that she dedicated each of her working days to the betterment of society.)

I heard an enlightening interview on our favorite radio station back on Thursday January 16 with one of the artists behind one of the afore-mentioned events.  He talked about having seen Dr. King in person as a child and remembered how quiet and unassuming he was offstage, a stark contrast from his speaking persona.  Just another reminder of Susan Cain’s well-made point, and a reminder that it takes time and reflection to generate as much insight as Dr. King did in his too-short life.

I was in the usual balancing act of talking to my son while listening while driving and so I didn’t hear everything that was said, but I was lucky to tune back in to hear a basic rule of citizenship:  all you have to do in your lifetime is get us all one rung higher – that’s it.  That’s why I’m thinking about civil service today and feeling guilty for not being more “on show” with my service.  The truth is that thanks to Dr. King’s teachings I’ve always kept an eye on what positive contributions I make and while what I do is small scale stuff, it is always with a love for the whole of us.  In my years of contemplation on the topic, I have come to believe that there are as many ways to make a positive contribution as there are people on this planet, that we are designed to contribute to our collective advancement.  Some of us get the limelight and the accolades, some of us get the shame and the condemnation and most of us get something far more mundane, but in the final analysis we are each and every one of us important to the whole of us.  Dr. King taught us all that in his quiet and deliberate way.  And among a peaceful army, he fought to bring that truth into our conscious awareness.

In my nostalgia for the civil rights movement, something that I have only learned about since I was born in the mid-seventies, I think of the honor and pride with which the freedom fighters embraced their hard-won citizenship.  I may not have my facts straight here, I probably don’t, and for the purposes of what I’m writing it’s okay.  Since learning about the idea of citizenship classes, I’ve often wished that we as a whole would have learned more from that fabulous idea.  To be a citizen is to carry responsibility, always.  I tend to take the notion of citizenship beyond our invented social boundaries which is why I tend toward the term citizen of humanity (even if I did learn it by purchasing a pair of pricey jeans).

In my last post about Dr. King, I was thinking about personal responsibility and as my thoughts have turned toward social responsibility I cannot help but see how closely the two are related, how we cannot do one without the other.  I’ve heard many criticisms about the high levels of narcissism and self-interest in our contemporary US society, but I think that sometimes it can be difficult to discern between truly attending to oneself and to being purely self-interested.  I think that on a collective level we are rather confused about these things and the only way to really get clear is to pay more attention at the most personal level and to engage in heartfelt relationships.  As we open to ourselves and to being close to others we open up to our true place as a citizen of humanity.

Today and every day, here’s to finding and embracing our place in the collective whole, where all our goodness can fully express itself!

Happy Birthday MLK!

mlk and washington memorial

I raise a special thanks to Anu Garg for reminding me that today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday.  If you’ve been visiting this space for a while you know that Dr. King is one of my personal heros and I like to pay my respects periodically with whatever thoughts his words have sparked in my own mind.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about MLK, but I am always inspired and impressed by his words.  And I am so grateful to live in a place where I am frequently reminded of his many insights.

My favorite part of the A.Word.A.Day emails is the thought for today.  I don’t have the kind of mind that takes in new words for their own sake, but thoughts are another matter.  Here was today’s thought and I must say that it strikes such a chord with me (as MLK’s quotations always do).
Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. -Martin Luther King Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968)
There is something to be said for truly honoring oneself by considering our higher self when making choices of how we act in this bewildering world of ours.  Indeed, such thoughts are often on my mind these days as I review the choices that I’ve made and my consequent frustrations.  Knowing why I do what I do keeps me on track even when it seems like a different course would be easier in the short term.  And I must say that the words of strangers in cyberspace have been a salve to those frustrations too.  It’s comforting to be encouraged in whatever form.

For today, here’s to honoring the ancestors by remembering that we are more than flesh and bone.  (I do still have some new years thoughts to type out, but 2014 is currently having its way with me.  I’ll be back soon….)

Three Christmas Gifts


It’s tough to narrow down my list of gifts received in recent days for life itself offers us such a bounty.  But there have been a few moments of note and I thought that it would be nice to share.  What I’m writing here, is about as close to my heart as I can get in words, and yet I post this on a day and in a place where few are likely to ever read what I write.  So I guess it could be said that I write to remind myself.

I am finally working my way through the first chapter of a long awaited book by a favorite professor from my university days.  I don’t know much about the project only that he has chosen to begin with Africa and the program that he had the wisdom to set up a while back.  As a lead in to my initial thoughts upon reading, I’d like to remember a salve for my soul that came by way of NPR a while back.  I was listening to the reports of the celebration of Nelson Mandela and the African correspondent made the point that in Africa, it is universally acknowledged that what we in the west call death is a transition from our material world to the spirit world.  It is a lonely life to hold such truths in solitude and that has been my lot so far.  To hear even a little sentence or two of a place where what I know to be true is the universal knowing feels like a great relief.  Now, back to the book…I read exclusively while nursing and so it was during a side-switch that I was struck by a thought, that in my heart of hearts I am African and yet in this material world I’m pretty far from it.  And then I read this:
Flying a world away, little did I know that Ghana would return me to a welcoming world of childlike curiosity; nor did I “pre-imagine” that daily encounters with its incredible citizenry would remind me, over, and over, and over again of who I am at my core – a person who loves people.
Each day, new introductions and yet another occasion for handshakes.  But no one mechanically shakes my hand; rather, each Ghanaian “stranger” holds my hand compassionately, while making eye contact as though we were old friends.  Many would call me “sister”, opening their hearts to me in a moment – an act seemingly so profound to many, but for me, so beautifully human.  With deep trust, each gave full expression to their belief that, “caring is not just for those in one’s immediate circle of family” – but for every person, “strangers” included.
Retracing my steps…flying a world away, yet again, how can I ever fully describe such incredible showings of trust and trustworthiness to others, back home?  I can’t.  Instead I am left with a grateful heart and the hope that others will get to meet the beautiful Ghanaians who so deeply changed the way I now see the world.  Initially, I feared that I would never experience people so genuine, so caring, so trusting, and so full of faith again.  But then I quietly realized that all of us have these qualities at our core.
All I needed was a little reminding.
-Laura Sewall, Studio ’12

With that passage, I shed a tear, felt my gratitude, and had a renewed sense of knowing and courage.  These places of our individual lives are but constructed stages.  The real and enduring place is deep within ourselves and I would dare to say that Africa is the vast place on this planet of ours that holds that place of true connection sacred.  Indeed, we ought each to be very grateful to that continent and what it holds for “each of us” in holding the knowledge that there is only the “all of us”.

Every word in this chapter could serve as the beginning of a lengthy and interesting conversation.  I will say this much more, that Africa is indeed the place to start and I thank my professor for acting rightfully on his knowledge of that.  It is the essential place on this planet, the place where we can each return to the basic truths of our existence and from that point of departure, survey the vastness of possibilities that is life in every moment.

I have NPR to thank once again because last night during my 7 minute drive to my chiropractor I was (atypically) tuned in (these days our classical station is our music of choice since I a doing my best to cultivate a certain knowing of musicality in my young son).  It was a very productive 7 minutes because I also realized that my husband had less than 24 hours to initiate his health insurance research.  And while we are grateful to have been clued in, what followed wasn’t exactly fun and this post is pretty much about things that make me so grateful I cry, so the great rush for health insurance doesn’t apply.  What does is the news story about a Federal Judge in Utah who has enabled thousands of couples in that state to apply for a marriage license.  In hearing that piece of news I felt a swell of joy, perhaps a taste of the feeling that those who are finally permitted to express their love and commitment in a public way feel.  In any event, I am grateful to bear witness to the  the opening of the love-floodgates even if while making a quick drive.  I personally believe that marriage is an important rite of passage and I can’t imagine a good reason to prevent any two people who wish to cross through that passage from doing so.  The timing seems all the more special for the folks who stand to benefit the most from the judgement of one person – what a Christmas gift!

Last Saturday, just after the hour of its closing, I made a fast and frenzied trip to our farmer’s market to pick up veggies and Swedish Bitters.  Although my basket was heavy with purchases upon departure, I was was walking lighter with the joy that I have discovered a little place of community at that weekly market.  Rupam Henry is such a force of love and kindness, I am always comforted in her presence even when I pay her booth a very brief visit.  Each visit proves that I am not the only person who is nurtured by Rupam and I have enjoyed discovering  the community that surrounds our local healer.  Beyond her small space is the market at large.  Because I work on the weekends, and because I am a working mom, it is rare if not never that I have the time to visit a marketplace leisurely, and we are blessed with many such marketplaces here, but this one has something special.  Even popping in and out, I am grateful to be a resident of Oakland.  This city of ours that is full of so many cultures, and much grist for our collective mill, always gives me something to think about, a way to open my heart a little wider, and all the comforts of home.

And now, I must begin the final preparations for our family’s Christmas celebration.  We must prepare ourselves for Santa’s brief but oh so momentous visit!
I Send A Very Merry Christmas Wish to All!


Face Down

Face Down

I’m not going to mince words.  Aside from spending most of my spare waking hours crafting, I’ve been in something of a funk.  A FUNK.  It’s been pretty unpleasant for me and those who spend a fair amount of time in my company.  But I learned something last week thanks to an interaction which I think it’s best to keep private but to say that I saw myself and the other person clearly in that little span of time.  It took a while to sort it all out, but with the help of my trusted bodyworker and MFT, I eventually did.  (I have some amazing support people in my life and I am very grateful to them all!)  Here’s what I learned.  I learned what my anxieties look and feel like.  I learned a little bit more about what another person’s anxieties look like.  And I stayed with myself enough to catch a glimpse of what it might feel like to operate apart from my anxieties in a stressful moment.  Sort of like the first break in a great big wall of glass.  And now I’m more eager than ever for the wall to fall.

The thing about this all is that I was able to flip my viewpoint on what happened just enough to entertain another possible approach.  Generally when my buttons get pushed, I get upset and then I sort of stick my head down and just hope that the situation or the person will disappear.  But of course it, or (s)he eventually comes around again and then I repeat my reactionary response.  In sorting through the details of what happened I was able to see the precise points when our personal anxieties were expressed and those moments were the exact opposite of what I’d thought!  Somehow that realization granted me enough space to view the entire situation differently and what a relief that was.  I still have my anxieties, and no guarantee that if the exact situation replicated itself I would act differently.  But I’ve had an insight that jives with all the little aphorisms that I’m always repeating to myself.  And so I have some hope that perhaps I’ve made a little shift.

Perhaps today’s insight is an example of this shift.  Given my funk of late, I’ve been decidedly unenthusiastic about the upcoming holiday celebrations.  I know that I’m not alone in experiencing a lot of button pushing with holiday time.  And yet in the past my enjoyment of the season always eclipsed my frustrations.  This year is different, and I have been fantasizing about all sorts of ways to escape the reality of the holidays.  Which is a pretty big indicator that I’m facing down a big mountain of personal anxieties.  Which would explain my funk.  Okay, we’re clear on that point moving on…

My point is that I’ve always been a “yes” person and while I see that plenty of people extol the virtues of becoming a “no” person, I have to say that I’m not convinced.  For me being a “no” person would mean shutting the door on my anxieties and while that may offer me some short term relief, I’m pretty sure that they’ll be back.  With a vengeance.  No, I’d like to stay a “yes” person, but I’d like to be a yes person who actually enjoys it.  And that means I’ve got to get crystal clear on when and where my anxieties are expressed.  And then I’ve got to face them down and usher them out, in a kindly fashion of course.

Who knows what all this will do for me?  But I do know one thing thanks to my realization earlier today:  I’m approaching the once dreaded holiday events on my calendar with a new sense of purpose, namely having an express opportunity to face down what keeps me bound.  That and I’ve finally gotten enough space inside my head to write something.  Those two things together have made for a much merrier season already.

Giving Thanks for Being a Parent

I’m nearly two and a half years into being a mom.  But come to think of it, I count pregnancy, because that is when my mindset began to shift.  It’s been interesting for me to see how my thoughts about parenting in general have grown more open-ended since I’m now a parent myself.

Living with a very young person every hour of every day has taught me something about respect for others that I don’t believe I would have learned otherwise.  I have always intended to have respect for others.  But let’s be honest, it’s easy to create unrealistic expectations for people when we don’t know them too well and then be disappointed when they don’t live up to those expectations – and ultimately, that’s not very respectful.  Understanding that we each are indeed a complex combination of traits, preferences, and needs; has dramatically eased my invention of expectations with respect to other people.  I’m grateful for that.

When it comes to analyzing a relationship between two people, this need for respect is increased exponentially because now that I’m living it myself, I see how a relationship between a parent and child is a continuous and never-ending stream of moments of intimate interaction between two complicated people.  The complication factor is therefore huge.  To pick out one moment, or even a few, and arrive at some concrete conclusion about the people involved would be truly impossible.  So I don’t nearly as often as I used to and I anticipate eventually wiping that thought process off my slate completely.  I’m grateful for that too.

There are certainly aspects to the past three years that I wish had played out differently.  There is support that I would have loved to have had but did not and so I figured out my own way to create it for myself.  Honestly, those disappointments do sometimes weigh heavily on my mind when I permit.  But I’m quicker to recover from such lulls in mental vigilance, because I’ve got important work to do.  Motherhood has helped me to be more disciplined mentally.  I’m grateful for that.

Now that I’m parenting, and doing it my way.  I can see more clearly why certain things didn’t sit well with me – things from my own youth, things that I’ve witnessed.  Now I realize it’s simply a matter of preference in most cases.  I believe that this is a factor of spending more years as an adult, that we have the opportunity to see things from enough angles to really understand them.  I appreciate the insights that I have now that I’ve logged some years as a parent.  And I think that I’m building the maturity to form more respectful and compassionate conclusions.  I am so grateful for that opportunity.

Being a parent has taught me the necessity of caring for myself first.  When I have neglected myself, the results have been clear.  Aside from helping me within our little immediate family, this helps me in every other relationship that I have.  I’m more aware of where I end and others begin.  More often than not, it’s become obvious that the best I can offer is my compassionate presence.  Whether it’s somebody practicing Pilates, watching the wheels of a toy car with ear pressed to the floor, or picking out curtain rods, just bearing witness is enough (well okay, a bit of instruction with respect to concepts in the Pilates studio – but mostly I’m observing).  Anything more requires a crossing of a boundary which I simply cannot manage while staying true to myself.  If that’s not a gift of being a mom, I don’t know what is.  For me, it’s been a game-changer for which I’m grateful.

I realize that there is plenty of judgement-free interaction in this world, the sort that reflects people taking simple enjoyment in sharing company with others rather than constantly over-exercising their minds to create mini-theories about other people and their behavior.  But there is a lot of the latter and since empty barrels do indeed make a lot of noise, I’m inclined to comment on the topic.  And say that I’ve been relieved of a fair portion of my judging tendencies since becoming a parent.  For the relief that comes from setting down that heavy burden, I’m grateful.

Today I will revel in gratitude and open my heart to all the goodness that there is to receive.  I wish the same to you, dear reader.

Paula Scher Makes a Good Case for Being Serious

A while back my husband mentioned a TED talk that he thought might capture my interest.  He was correct.  One of the many pearls of wisdom that reading Joseph Hubertus Pilates:  The Biography left me with was the description of the atmosphere of the Pilates’s studio.  It was apparently a serious place with a singular focus:  exercising the body.  I believe that it was Joe and Clara’s passionate enthusiasm for their work that created this environment of intense and singular focus.  As I was considering this idea, I thought about Jay Grimes’s stories of trembling his way out of a lesson with Joe and / or Clara, and of my similar experience in working with Romana.  While I believe that much of our common experience can be attributed to the people involved, my recent read has me thinking that the environment is due some credit as well.  And so it seems that I’ve stumbled upon yet another reason to hold my tongue in my Pilates studio:  we can each put our best effort toward creating an environment infused with focus and passion in which to practice Pilates by refraining from speaking anything but the most essential information pertaining to the work at hand.  I’m pretty sure that we’ll make some interesting discoveries in doing so.  And I admit that it will be a big challenge for me, a person blessed with the gift of the gab.

There are some other aspects of Scher’s talk that I think bear mentioning.  Starting with some thoughts on the joy of work for work’s sake.  Back in my twenties, I had a brief stint of sewing for money.  I quickly discovered that I would never be adequately compensated for my efforts.  Sewing for me is a pleasure and I must preserve that aspect of my hobby by keeping money out of the equation.  (Back then I managed this by naming a price and not worrying about how that related to how much time I spent on any given project.)  There is something to be said for engaging in a creative endeavor for the pure joy that the work brings us.  For those of us that do something creative for money, I believe that it is all the more important to have some other creative outlet for its own sake.

Lastly, rolling around in my head is the notion that consistently cultivating serious engagement is something of a fountain of youth.  There is a particular benefit to ignorance and I believe that Scher has done a fine job of identifying it.  With a practice such as Pilates that only deepens with time and therefore requires years of investment to experience all the potential returns, I believe that her insight bears frequent consideration.  I’ve noticed that with Pilates and with teaching Pilates, remaining curious leaves me open to new possibilities.  The more sure I am of what I know, the less likely I am to be curious.  And so it would seem that cultivating a lifelong sense of being a student is a good strategy for remaining serious in what I do.  The alternative, being all-knowing and having no sense of my own ignorance, is nearly impossible anyway.  So I’ve got that going for me.

Today I say thanks to Paula Scher for the reminder:  there’s a good case to be made for being serious.


Recently, I enjoyed something of a revelation within my body which relates in no small part to some other shafts of light that have been making way into my life these days.  I celebrate my joy and relief by sharing them here.

With my tailbone injury comes a fair amount of tension along my spine that radiates out to the rest of my body.  I keep that tension in check with the deliberate movements that make up my regular Pilates practice.  And I get support from various practitioners to slowly whittle away at the underlying tension patterns that have a hold on me.  It would seem that I’m making headway because recently I was able to feel something entirely new and gratifying.  In sitting and nursing, I often feel discomfort across my upper back.  I’ve known for years that this is indicative of my seated posture, I’ve even known how to change my posture.  But my body was under too much load to integrate the change.  In short, the pain remained no matter what adjustments I made.  (Movement has been the saving grace, I just keep moving and that has kept much of the pain at bay.)  But on this occasion, I was able to make the appropriate change, which is to sit upon my hips rather than slumping into them.  Instantly, my upper back pain disappeared!  This brought about a sense of relief that has been years in the making.

In a completely different area of my life, I’m enjoying a whole now sense of happiness and self-empowerment.  My son is nearly two and a half years old now and he’s entering a new phase of independent play.  One of the gals who has helped us with caring for him while I work, is leaving us because she found a full-time position that better suits her needs.  For a while I was struggling with how to re-organize our childcare arrangements and it finally dawned on me that it’s time for me to have less help and more time with my boy.  I can’t exactly describe the cascading benefits of this choice that I made other than to say that it was clearly the best scenario for both of us.  I partly attribute this to having passed through a rough place in my own personal healing process that becoming a mother initiated for me.  I share this because it is my belief that parenting presents us each with opportunities for healing old and long forgotten wounds.  The experience of tending to those wounds is not fun and not commonly embraced or even acknowledged in our collective conversations, which makes the challenge of it that much more than some of us would like to bear.   But coming through to the other side, has been such a clearing that it almost makes me eager for the next challenge that will inevitably come my way.

These two experiences put together bring to my mind another idea that’s been brewing since I put Rupam’s suggestion into practice.  If I think of my body as a vessel, then it makes the most sense to fill that vessel with love and light.  In doing so I expose the feelings and emotions that the dark thoughts in the recesses of my mind have embodied within my physical form.  The more that I fill my body with love, gratitude, forgiveness, and acknowledgement of that which hasn’t best served me, the more I clear out the dark places and complete myself.  In the physical sense I have noticed a spaciousness that comes with this clearing process.  That makes room for the constant expansion that drives so much of what I do.  I applied this idea to my Pilates practice one day when I was feeling particularly stiff and sluggish.  The result was immediate:  the entirety of my body opened and released.  I was longer, lighter, and more supple instantly.

We cannot always bypass the challenges that face us.  Often the only way is through.  And I’d argue that going through, rather than over or under, affords us the best opportunities for growth and empowerment.  In the face of adversity, we can honor ourselves.  We can focus on love and light.  We can give ourselves the best possible support for making the hard journey.  And we can assure ourselves, that we will eventually arrive at a clearing.

My thoughts upon reading “Joseph Hubertus Pilates: The Biography” by Javier Pérez Pont and Esperanza Aparicio-Romero

I have gobbled up every word, even the ones that are arranged on the pages with a Spanish syntax, even the ones that I didn’t completely understand (I think because the translation didn’t account for idioms).

I enjoyed revelation after revelation thanks to the thorough work of the Spanish team that put this book together.  And I’m so heartened to know that this book marks only the beginning of another lengthy and equally thorough inquiry into the work of Joe Pilates.  I admire Javier and Esperanza for completing the tremendous task of discovering and sorting out the facts and myths that make up what we in present day can learn about Joe Pilates.  And I admire Javier for the inquiry into the method via the apparatus that he is now in the midst of.

The opportunity that they had to do this work is enviable, but the task of doing it surely involved countless hours of toil.  Anybody who loves Pilates owes them a debt of gratitude for taking on the enormity of the task, and completing it!  Which is to say that if you care about Pilates, read this book!  Think of it as the cost of a lesson – a very important, game changing lesson.

I appreciate the respect that they expressed for all people involved in the story of Joe Pilates’ life.  The book itself is at some points rather dry, although I daresay not for a Pilates enthusiast.  The authors chose to present the information directly, based on what they learned.  Which leaves each reader to fill in the elements of story.  While the story-lover in me loves a good yarn, I applaud their restraint.  Indeed, the whole of the life that the book chronicles is so much bigger than anyone could attempt to encapsulate in a series of stories, that it seems that the authors made the most respectful choice that they could have made at this stage in the inquiry.

I am grateful that there are others who are grappling with the question of how to keep the full method that Joe developed alive and thriving.  For me this is a daily challenge.  Honestly, I often feel that I’m engaged in an exercise of futility, but I realize that by simply setting my intention upon the goal of honoring Joe, I’m setting myself up for some measure of success.  And I have experienced an increasing clarity with the work that surely indicates some measure of progress.  All that creates a platform on which I am relieved to know that others are engaged with this challenge, and they are armed with much more information than I, as well as having each other.  When I am not bound by my duties of motherhood, I know that I have a place to go and learn that which interests me most about Pilates:  It will be a nice carrot to munch on someday.

This task of honoring the original work over 50 years after Joe left this material world, is no easy feat.  As the authors point out, we are working with incomplete information on the topic.  But with a fair amount of sleuthing and an intention of respect, I have faith that their efforts will yield good results and that we will all have access to a fuller picture of the Pilates Method than ever before.  This team of Pilates enthusiasts is well on their way to building a new course of study within the Pilates Method.

My introduction to Pilates came by way of people who were enthusiastic and knowledgeable, but not well versed in the original method.  The more I learned, the more I realized that the only way I’d feel that I knew Pilates was to learn from Romana.  Learning from Romana and many of the people who worked with her through the decades, was everything that I wanted it to be, and more.  Along the way, though, I realized that I could not stop there.  There is still more to the story.  More to uncover within the method.  And more to discover within myself.

Romana, among so many other things, kept Pilates alive.  The authors have shown us how this occurred.  In the initial decades after Joe’s death that meant doing the work of the method day in and day out.  But there was another, and perhaps greater, task that she took on which was the dissemination of the work.  In that process, choices had to be made.  She chose well and did an admirable job of doing what Joe could not manage to do in his lifetime.  Joe created and left us the work.  In a very real way, Romana kept it alive and gave us a blueprint for doing the same.  In doing that, she gave us a jumping board from which to delve deeper, to realize the fullness of the method and the richness that a complete and thorough study offers each and every student who accepts Pilates into his / her life.  (I know it sounds a little religious, what can I say?)

With this biography, this European team is building the foundation of that phase of redevelopment.  I guess I’ll have to move to Europe someday….

Reclaiming the Youth that I Never Had With Pilates

As I’ve mentioned many times here, I have been navigating injuries since I was a teenager.  My mother, in a misguided attempt to be helpful, would often say that I was too young to be in such pain.  Yet pain was a daily reality for me, for over a decade.  Even now, the majority of my days include some degree of physical discomfort, but nothing compared to what I experienced in my twenties.   Because of this, it has taken me many years to realize just how uncommon my experience of pain and discomfort was vis a vis my age.  I’m grateful to Pilates because as I continue to build my Pilates Body, I see the layers of pain dissolve and the body that I never had as a young person is revealed.

Many people bemoan the loss of youth with the aging process.  I can never relate to such lamentations because as I get older, I get better, not worse.  Yes, I have Pilates to thank for that in two parts.  Firstly because it helps me manage and diminish my pain.  And secondly because it gives me a format for continual improvement.  Pilates is at once corrective, restorative, and enhancing.

When I was an apprentice with Romana’s Pilates, I benefited from many conversations with Pamela Pardi.  She is one of my favorite teachers because she is so thoughtful.  Pam brought home the point that Pilates minimizes age.  It means so much to hear things in-person and in-context.  I’ve taken what she said on the topic to heart.  Because now I that I am officially aging, and I don’t have a picture-perfect-pain-free youth about which to reminisce, I have something of a double imperative to remain young by the standards of Joe Pilates:  “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old.  If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”

Since I’m reading the JHP biography right now, it bears mentioning that Joe himself enjoyed something of a renaissance in his life once he was firmly entrenched in adulthood because the “Golden Era” of Pilates was when he in his forties.  For many of us, this simple truth adds yet another layer of inspiration to the method that he developed.

Today for my small part, I’m grateful to enjoy the miracle of Pilates in my daily life and to be able to share its many wonders.  It is truly a gift that keeps on giving.