Labor Day usually signals the end of summer fun. The lifeguards disappear, kids go back to school, commuter traffic gets heavier and college students merge back into their study halls.
The end of the summer season is a big shift for many of us. For me it means my schedule will get heavier and there will be new workshops to set up. It also means I lose my partner in television watching, thrift store shopping, silly dancing and pasta making as my daughter will leave very soon to go back to school.
I used to have a ritual with my kids when we would come back from summer traveling, or when I would pick them up from school. I would ask "What did you learn?" It didn't have to be a life lesson or anything groundbreaking. "I learned that I liked the blueberry muffins at the hotel breakfast better than the cinnamon rolls" was a valid response. I still ask this question when have a chance. Picking my son up from college became increasingly harder for me because when he told me what he learned I usually didn't understand what he was talking about. To show I was listening I would ask "What class did you learn that in?" and usually he would answer “I watched a YouTube video". I asked him the same question when he came back from a business trip and I got a combo answer which was about food (that I understood!) and techy stuff (which, no, I didn't understand), The ride to get my daughter is longer and I usually have a few months to catch up on. Her answers revolve around how she learned to throw a frisbee into the wind, that the vegetarian soup in the cafeteria sometimes has chunks of chicken in it, and what the etymology is for the word "stepfather". I also get caught up on the current use of pronouns and gender equality, which is a big part of my learning.
This summer was the most un-restricted one we have had since the pandemic lockdowns started in March 2020, and that is a pretty big deal.This has inspired me to ask everyone "What did you learn this summer?"
Here is my quick list:
Pandemic-wise I have learned I don't miss going to bars or crowded restaurants or music venues. I tried- I left.
I don't miss being with huge amounts of people and that my family is really good company!
I learned what it feels like to be stared at for the way you look and the choices you make at the times I am the only one in a store or restaurant wearing a mask.(Actually, that was something learned when I was young child walking just about anywhere with my disabled parents.What I really learned now as an adult is that it doesn't hurt anymore.)
Practice wise I learned more about what it is like doing yoga asana in an aging body. (This of course is ongoing).
I learned so much from the meditation intensive that we had this summer. One big thing I learned was how to witness (and not try to change) the many different ways the evolution of the practice can look. (A big thank you to everyone who participated! Thank you for teaching me all that you did.)
I learned the benefit of rest and doing nothing, whether it is during meditation or sitting and watching the beauty of the world unfold. And I learned how hard it is to do just that.
Business wise I learned that I am increasingly uncomfortable with the western marketing and branding of yoga practice. This summer I really saw what has been happening with yoga as a business model and this has made me much more careful and thoughtful about what messages I am putting out and why I am putting them out there.
In preparing for the opening of Eco Loka I learned what it was like working with a team which is a great experience and a great relief after having worked as a sole proprietor for the last 30 years. And I am also learning to let go of my old ways and habits of beginning something new.
I also learned how to sit on the beach and not get sunburned, hang out in the waves without getting pummeled and how to properly express when I am going to Asbury Park ("I am going down the shore" rather than "I am going to the shore". After more than 25 years of being a NJ resident, I think I finally got it!
On a more serious note I learned from a variety of experiences this summer that I have a lot more work to do in understanding humility, patience, and surrender. This too, I am sure, will be ongoing.
These are the first things that come to mind- how about you all? What did you learn this summer? Share what you can! Writing it out, or just thinking about it in your head will help to solidify the experience. And it will be fun to see how what you learned this summer will shepherd you into the fall and winter for many years to come.
I am so very happy and excited to announce that Yoga Loka has a sister! Eco Loka is a refill store that will be opening in the front boutique section at 23 Race Street. What is a refill store? Click here and here for some good articles about refill stores. Yoga will still be happening as it always has in the back room.
Why open a refill store? Whenever it came time to toss my shampoo or cleaning product bottles into the recycling bin I would say outoud, or to myself, " I wish there was a refill store around here". I said it a lot, and nothing happened, so I decided to step in to fill the void.
For many years I was would look at our garbage dumpster with satisfaction because it is a small container and was rarely full. I was proud of the fact that we were composting just about all of our food scraps and recycling like crazy. Then the little voice in my head began to ask this question much louder until I could no longer ignore it; "What really happens to all of this stuff I put in the recycling"?
While our garbage was mostly empty, our recycling was full to overflowing. I recently heard the term "Wish Cycling" and realized that is what I have been doing! (Wishful Recycling, or Wish Cycling is the act of tossing something in your recycling bin with the hope that it is recyclable). My yoga practice has taught me to look for truth in an action and to constantly observe if the action fulfills the truth of the intention. Wish Cycling, and even recycling does not fully satisfy my desire to be a steward for the environment and cause as little violence to the ecosystem as possible. Converting recycled materials into new products still consumes energy and impacts the environment in not so great ways. And no matter how hard we hope and wish that something can be reused or recycled, it wont always be so.
The phrase "reduce, reuse, recycle " can be traced back to the growing environmental movement in the 1970’s . I used to think the phrase was "recycle, reduce, reuse." Now I hear it correctly, and the message is getting harder to ignore, especially with the evidence of global warming all around us. I am no longer comfortable relying on the recycling industry and big corporations to reduce packaging and pollution, mostly because that plan doesn't seem to be working. It is time to take things into our own hands as individuals, and see what we can reuse and how we can reduce. This will also let large companies and corporations know we do care and we do have a choice how to spend our money and our future. One of my favorite phrases comes from a refridgerator magnet a friend sent me after I blogged about my frustration about something many years ago, and I have used it over and over again to balance apathy with overwork, and frustration with accomplishment- "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something".
Our annual clothing swap and occasional mending circles have been fun ways of reducing waste and repurposing things that would otherwise end up in landfills. Now with Eco Loka right in the studio you will have access to more ways of reducing the burden we place on the environment.
In addition to a refilling station we will be selling sustainable self-care and cleaning items, and offering fun things we think will delight you. Yoga will still be happening just as it has been for the past 19 years. Our schedule remains the same and your practice space also remains the same. There might be some shuffling around of where things are stored, but everything will be clear, convenient and comfortable. And now when you come to the studio you can also do a bit of shopping to help fulfill whatever personal promise you might make to the environment, whether it is to buy less single use plastic, give up large detergent bottles, or attempt to go zero waste. Remember, everyone can do something, and every little bit will help.
Eco Loka will open early in the fall. We will selling some products at Frenchtown's RiverFest on September 4th. Come on down to Sunbeam Park and see what we have! We will also be introducing some of the fall yoga workshops and selling off some current boutique items. Until then you can visit the website at Ecoloka.shop
I have been spending a lot of time on the beach lately, much more than I can ever remember doing as an adult. Probably like most people who went to the beach early in their lives, I have a host of childhood memories that make the idea of a day at the beach really exciting- flying the batman kite, the tar smell of the shampoo my grandfather would scrub our heads with to wash out the sand, the promise of fried calms, the smell and feel of noxema on sunburnt skin, even sandy gritty cantaloupe holds a special place in my heart.
I don't eat clams anymore, I have no idea what that tar shampoo was so that is gone forever, I am too lazy to run enough to launch a kite, and I use SPF 50 so no more sunburn (do they still make noxzema anyway?). The cantaloupe is still sandy, at least I have that!
There is a bit of sadness without those things that made a beach trip special when I was young. My adult body now recognizes the beach as hot, crowded, noisy, itchy, sticky and windy. However, I am still going, and I this weekend while walking on the boardwalk I began to understand my grown-up delight of the beach, and it gelled into some thoughts that I wanted to share.
I have been experiencing the beach as a great equalizer, and when something is equalized it becomes unified. Here is how I see the equalization- people are, for the most part, joyful when they come to the beach. Adults get to play like children and children get to play like crazy! People like to be with other people that are joyful! Beachgoers are hanging out with the birds, crabs, solps (look it up), fish, dolphins, mussels and the clams that have yet to be breaded and fried. We are all sharing this open space and can contact all of the elements (earth, water, fire, air, space). You can witness the way families walk alike, marvel at the people who are starting to look like their dogs, and the dogs excited to hanging out with the humans. We get to engage in many levels of vulnerability which helps cut through our seperateness. For example, when was the last time you fell asleep in a public place, or took most of your clothing off and walked around with other people looking? There are lovers loving each other for the variety of reasons that they do. In witnessingthese connections, we observe the force of attraction in action which does not follow logic and reason. You get to see so many different kinds of bodies, and how people are inhabiting their bodies with their extraordinarily uniqueness in a way that I don't think happens in regualar street clothes. Despite all the differences one can observe I feel we are sharing something that is the same in all of our bodies- our humaness is very present and our light shines out. Not inspite of the obvious differences, but because of them.
It is possible not everyone is experiencing this great equalization power of the beach, and that is ok. My experience makes me feel like I have been mashed into a unified soup and so I am a part of this moving pulsing organism of beachyness. Its nice to be in that kind of soup for a bit and not have to maintain my individuality and defend my positions and separateness. Wherever and whenever we can find that kind of soupy experience, even if it is fleeting, we should soak it up and try to find our way back to it whenever we are able. In the moment you are there, part of the organism, the world appears kinder- mostly because you will be kinder- and resting in that kindness is immensely healing. I have been on much visually nicer beaches in my life. The landscape in NJ is not as picturesque as some, but this unity can be found anywhere if we go looking for it. We don't need to travel far and pay a lot of money to experience the essence of beauty even in a less than perfect backdrop. Just like we can be in the most talked about, written about and most expensive locale and still feel our usual excluded and seperate self.
The beach may not be your place. Maybe you already know where your place is! Go visit it. It doenst' have to be the exact place of course. My childhood was spent on Rockaway and Jones beach. It wasn't until I was an adult that I visited the Jersey Shore. The fried clams and tar shampoo may no longer be a part of the experience so many years later, but you may just find that the kind of location that holds your sweet childhood memories can offer you an adult perspective that, combined with your wiser gaze will serve the place in you that longs for joy and healing.