Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day One, again

I recently made a commitment to 40 days of sadhana, or spiritual practice.  I made it 5.  Things got in the way, I had my friends' kiddos for a weekend, then I was sick, then, and then, and then.  I could tell you all of the reasons why I cut my 40 days short, but instead, I will tell you all of the reasons, I am making that same dedication, again.

During my off time, I tried to stay focused on what I needed to stay grounded.  It worked for the first few days, but then it didn't anymore.  It was less and less easy to stay grounded without that daily practice.  I could feel it in my actions, my thoughts, my feelings, my being.

Part of the reason I was so easily able to abandon this practice was because I hadn't found a video of the exact practice that I wanted.  The videos I found either didn't start with tuning in (which I feel is very important) or they didn't end with a shavasana (which is equally important).  I think the plan was to eliminate these components in order to shorten the amount of time needed, but they are very necessary, especially for beginners.  Other videos had these components, but didn't have as many prana (breath) exercises or physical exercises to conserve time.

The video I did for those 5 days (and staggered various days before) was a 30 minute video that started with tuning in, proceeded to the prana and physical poses and ended with shavasana.  Every time I did it I felt energized, relaxed and grounded, but there was this feeling that something was missing.  After much thought and introspection, I decided the video wasn't long enough.  I wasn't really sure what was missing, but I knew I needed a full hour to get what I needed from the practice.

This morning I tried a different video and it was much more physically demanding that I'm used to, but I found some valuable lessons in it.  It was an hour long and began with tuning in.  It went on to physical yoga poses (I have no idea what they are called) that focused on squatting, bending, and laying all while visualizing each chakra connected to the earth.  This video ended with shavasana and meditation on staying grounded.  It was perfect and I plan to complete it again tomorrow.

One thing I learned in today's video is about being able to ground myself quickly when needed.  I struggle with this and know it is a learning curve that will hopefully come with time.  In today's video she had us walk around the room, imagining a mirror image of ourselves connected to our feet and penetrating the earth while using your toes to grip the ground as you walk.  I imagined myself in a grassy meadow, walking barefoot, gripping the earth with my toes while a golden string tethered my root chakra to the earth and the same golden string tethered my crown chakra to the heavens. It felt amazing and I know it will be useful for a quick grounding when needed.

I left today's session feeling grounded, connected, open and energized.  I plan to repeat the same video tomorrow.  Once I am seasoned enough I will be able to create my own sessions or use those more established in Kundalini.  But right now, this baby needs to have someone guide her along and until I'm more versed in kundalini, I will need to follow someone with more experience than me.  I would one day like to create a video of myself, merely for me to follow along, doing the kyrias for each of the chakras so I can include what I needed for these to be effective.  However, for now, I will focus on seeing this 40 days to fruition.

A spiritual journey is not about all of the times you fall off, it is about all of the times that you get back up!

Sat nam!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Here goes nothing...

For a while now, I have been feeling like I needed to be grounded.  Not, punished by your parents, or in my case your littler, big sister, but in a feel your feet in the soil, feel your soul tied to the Earth, feel your spirit pulling you towards a finish line kind of way.  In a way that can be expressed as a that primal feeling of needing security, safety, stability, and love of self that I feel everyone needs at the core of your soul.

After I left roller derby, that feeling got stronger.  The roller derby rink was the only place in the world that I could feel everything and nothing in the world all at one time.  I felt empowered, strong, special, part of a team, while also feeling weak, unimportant, and all alone at the same time.  I also didn't feel the outside stress, pain, chaos of the world when I was on the rink.  I was mostly focused on surviving because it was so physically demanding, that my brain couldn't think of anything else while I was out there.

While at the time I thought that blocking out the stress and pain was cathartic, having all of those feelings that I never really dealt with come rushing back, is overwhelming.  I feel the need to process at least 6 years of feelings that I put on hold while I was on the track.

The more and more I have thought about it, I have realized that the problem is that my past patterns are not working for me.  I lived the first 30 years of my life on full-tilt, type A personality, expecting nothing less than perfection from everyone around me, being prepared for (or at least expecting) the next tragedy, being the voice of calm in family crisis after family crisis.  While this served me for the first 30 years, it is no longer working for me.  I have realized that I have no plan.  No plan for my future.  No plan for my children's future.  No plan for what I want my life to look like.  I have simply been existing and dealing with life as it comes with no real focus on what I want that life to look like.
Over the past year, I have been truly focusing on how to solve this lack of grounding in my life.  I feel like you have to be truly grounded before you can begin to think about what your path, plan and life will become.  I believe that we are all spiritual beings that require connection to something to feel powerful enough to make a difference in the world around us.  For some people, this is a connection to Mother Earth, for some people is is a connection to a traditional trinity, while others feel a pull towards the Divine (God, Buddha, Allah, however that translates for you).  Regardless of what you call it, anyone with this deep longing can tell you it is very powerful feeling.  And I truly believe that it is needed for everyone.

Some people are capable of surviving without this spiritual connection, but I would argue that they are not their highest selves and are not in tune with what their soul was put here to be.  While I would argue that others that do not have this grounding stability use alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping or any other "addiction" to fill this need.  At different points in my life I have used one or more of these "addictions" to fill this void in my soul.  I would further hypothesize that even OCD tendencies comes from a place where your soul does not feel stable in your body or on this Earth and therefore manifests itself as obsessive/compulsive tendencies in order to provide stability and security (rituals that give you a false sense of control).

On my quest to find this stability for myself throughout my life, I have explored many religions, ways of life, paths, etc.  Over the past year, I have come back time and time again to Kundalini Yoga.  For those that are unfamiliar, Kundalini yoga is called the "yoga of awareness."  Kundalini yoga is said to be the original yoga that all other forms of yoga originated.  Kundalini yoga is comprised of the physical poses (asana) many have come to expect and enjoy in Western yoga coupled with meditation needed to clear your mind and spiritual awareness needed to soothe our souls.  Kundalini has hundreds of kyrias (pattern of specific asanas) used for varying and specific reasons.  Kundalini is also the source of sitting with your hands on your knees, first finger and thumb together (gyan mudra) that many mock when thinking of meditation.  This mudra (hand placement) is so ancient that it has infiltrated Western culture.  Kundalini has been practiced longer than any organized religion including Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism.  This sacred Indian yoga was reserved for the most elite as it was felt that most people were not able to handle the powerful nature of it.  That was until Yogi Bhajan brought this teaching to California in 1969.

Now that you have a little background on Kundalini, I'm going to share my own practice.  I have read everything I can get my hands on about Kundalini and followed along with many a youtube video Kundalini class.  I have come to understand and focus on the seven chakras in our body and how the opening and blocking of these energy centers affect our lives. I am in no way and expert and understand that I have still have much to learn and experience.

On Saturday, I attended my first, live, in person Kundalini yoga class at the Sat Tirath Ashrum in Kansas City.  I was very intimidated and scared prior to going.  After talking to Troy about all of it at length, many times, he encouraged me to go.  He assured me that everyone would be welcoming and no one would judge me.  It finally hit home when he related it to derby.  He said, remember how excited you were to share derby with the newbies and teach them everything you knew?!  That's how they will feel and you will experience that.  He was right, like usual.

I felt at ease and welcomed upon arrival.  People greeted me, smiled at me, and introduced themselves.  It was an amazingly comforting experience.  In the past, I have been the new person many times (church, derby, jobs, etc.), but I have never felt that at ease, lacking self-conscience feelings, welcomed and home, like I did there.  Kundalini is something that, in the grand scheme of things, I know very little about.  I might know more than a friend, but I know a microscopic portion of the guru sitting at the charge of the class and an even smaller amount of the vast amount of information there is to know.

I have come to realize that the direction my soul has been pulling me is once again exactly where I need to be. The kryia we practiced was called the nabhi kriya.  This kriya is composed of serval asanas to open the third (navel) chakra.  This is a lot of abdominal exercises, leg lifts, pressure on the abdomen, etc.  I'm not saying that I experienced anything profound, spiritually enlightening, etc., but I did feel comfort and ease and I faced my fear and did it anyway and now I am being rewarded.

Today I tried a kriya for my root chakra.  I enjoyed the practice of it.  I'm not sure I feel any different than I did yesterday.  I don't suddenly feel grounded, or have all the answers, but I do feel like I'm on to something and I am starting down the right path.  Believe me, it wasn't pretty.  My postures are not perfect.  My breath is not perfect.  My mind is not completely focused.  It's messy both in appearance and in feeling.  But, I did it and that's what matters.  I can thank roller derby for this ability to go through the motions until I get it right.  Prior to roller derby, if I wasn't perfect at something the very first time I tried it, I would give up.  I wanted to be successful at roller derby so badly that I kept on...failing, trying, skating, pushing.  Now, I feel that way about kundalini and I don't think it would be possible to continue down this path of unknown circumstances without my derby experience.

And for these reasons, today begins 40 days of Kundalini practice of the same kriya.  Kundalini practitioners believe that 40 days of practicing the same kriya will break any negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through that kriya.  Therefore, my hope is to break the bad habits of my life in such a way that I am ready to focus on my future.  I'm ready to make a plan for my future.  I'm ready to visualize how I want that future to look and make plans to make it happen.  I don't know what the next 40 days will look like or what they will bring, but I am excited to begin the next step in this journey.  Here goes nothing...

Sat nam!

Friday, January 27, 2012

That's How I Roll


One of the most important parts of your skates are your bearings. They help your wheels turn faster and smoother. Have you ever had a bearing that is loud? Have you ever felt like your skates are suddenly slower than the last few times you used them? The solution is probably that you need to clean your bearings and you need to follow these steps!

These are the items you will need:

Brake Cleaner

Empty and washed Parmesan cheese container

Skate tool


Adult Beverage of your choice (to numb the monotony)

Not pictured: Rubbing alcohol, lint-less rag or paper towel, and Fast and Orange

First things first, clear your area and remove your nuts. Ha ha! I said nuts! Remember, lefty loosey, righty tighty!

Some people use a bearing puller, but I do not. Instead of using a bearing puller, after you have removed the nut, remove the wheel from the axle and allow the inside bearing grip the thread of the post. Wiggle the wheel back and forth while allowing the post to grip the bearing. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle!

It will pop out! Like this!

Some skates have a washer under the bearing. If it does, it will look like this! Now is the time to remove the washer and clean the post and your wheel with rubbing alcohol.

Take the wheel, turn it over, insert your skate tool and pop out the other bearing. (Ignore the rusty tool. It still works!)

Take each bearing and remove the shield. I have Bones Redz bearings. They have a red rubber shield on the front. You will need to remove the shield with a needle. It is the best instrument I have found. You will insert it under the edge and pop off the shield.

The back of the bearing has a clear guard. The guard holds the ball bearings in place. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES remove the guard. You will be chasing loose bearings all over the world.

As you remove the guard, insert the guards and the bearings in an empty, washed Parmesan cheese shaker. Yes, that is my invention!

Spray the bearings and shields with brake or carburetor cleaner. This step is best done outside. I had to do it inside for picture/light purposes followed by an attic fan. Brake cleaner will not melt plastic or hurt your rubber shields like some other solvents can. It also does not leave a nasty residue behind like some cleaners can.

Shake the bearings in the brake cleaner for about a minute. Once you are done, the liquid will be gray. If it is dark gray or black, you need to strain and re-spray.

If the liquid is light gray, you can strain it and lay them out to dry on a lint less rag or paper towel. The liquid evaporates quickly so they only need to dry about 10 minutes. Make sure you place them open side down so the guard is up and any extra liquid can drain out onto the paper towel.

After they dry, you will need to add lube to each bearing. I usually use Bones Speed Cream, but I couldn't find mine (which one of you has it?) so Pay-Pay saved the day and gave me 3 in 1 oil.

Regardless of what kind of lube you use, only put two drops per bearing on each. Too much lube and your bearings will just collect dust more easily and need to be cleaned sooner.

After applying the lube, grab the bearing by the inner circle and spin it several times to equally distribute the lube.

After you have lubed them up, replace the guards. If they do not pop on, you will need to use your thumb nail to replace the rubber guard underneath the edge of the bearing.

Once all of the shields are in place, insert two bearings into each wheel with the colored shield toward the outside and the clear guard towards each other. They should simply pop back into the wheel with no issues or tools required.

After inserting the bearings into all of the wheels, slide them on the post and screw on the nut. You will want your nut tight enough that there is no too much wiggle room, but loose enough that the wheels spin freely. Repeat for each wheel, post and nut.

TA DA! Your skates are fully assembled and ready to rock and roll! If you notice something different on my skates it's because I also changed the bushings from white and soft to purple and firm! I might do a blog about that another time.

After completing your project your hands will smell like grease and be dirty. The best way I have found to get rid of all of the smell and grease is using Fast Orange hand cleaner.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Men of Roller Derby

Let me be clear, I'm not here to talk about Merby (Men's Roller Derby), I'm here to talk about the men that help make REAL Roller Derby possible. Sorry, Merby fans, had to say it! :)

I'm not sure those that do not participate in roller derby realize what all it takes to maintain a league, put on games, and fund all of it. The league I skate for, Dead Girl Derby, is a skater owned and operated league. What this means is, we make the decisions, we dot the i's and cross the t's and we pay for all of it or raise the money to pay for it through our hard work, sweat and tears. Our league participates in at least two events per month that raise money for non-profit organizations and charities around the Metro as well as several larger fundraisers that stretch over several days and/or weeks. We also practice 3 times a week, host a game once a month from February through August and participate in other events and fundraisers as required.

All of this being said, Roller Derby would not be possible without the men of roller derby. The women of roller derby get all the spotlight and credit, but I will fight to the death with anyone that discounts the need for men in the world of roller derby. There are things that are required in roller derby that we just can't do. The obvious contributor is our refs. Most leagues have predominately male referees because, let's face it, women involved in roller derby want to skate in games and knock people around, not worry about calling penalties and keeping the game on track. That doesn't mean we don't have female referees for any number of reasons, but predominately in our league and most others, the refs are male. Additionally, it is impossible to announce our own games and skate them at the same time. Also, most of the coaches on our league and others are men. Again, we have some female coaches, but are predominately male. Another example is on game day when we are skating or getting ready to skate, we don't and can't worry about where people are parking, who is taking tickets and the many other aspects of game day operations. We call these people Horde members that help make game day run smoothly.

All of our Horde members, referees, announcers, and coaches are very imperative to the smooth operation of our league. However, in my opinion, the MOST important men of roller derby are the men that hold down the fort at home, care for the children, buy their significant others roller derby gifts and constantly take a back seat to the independent, strong, roller derby playing women they love. Without my QDP (qualified domestic partner; boyfriend just doesn't do him justice), Troy, I could not do derby. I have very few family members and even fewer that live close enough to help with all of the things that are required of Troy. I cannot imagine my life without him. Not only does he help hold the house and kids together when I have to be gone for derby, he loves me unconditionally and makes me laugh harder than anyone I have ever known. I am grateful every day for the love and support he shows me. He never gets resentful of the time I spend away from the family for derby. We try really hard to balance it out. Even on weeks that I have practice on Monday, an event on Tuesday, another practice on Wednesday and team practice on Thursday, he stands by me 100% and supports my decision to play roller derby. Those of us that are moms have to have a strong support system to be able to play roller derby. Mine happens to be wrapped up into one person that I could not live without and am so happy to share my life with.

When you see a roller derby girl and realize she is also a mom, don't forget about those men behind the scenes that help with the home and kids to make it possible for her to practice, attend events and skate her heart out in games.

On this Thanksgiving eve, I am thankful for the men of roller derby, but most importantly Troy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hitting all of the hot button issues today!

I have had this blog sitting in draft form for quite some time. I decided today was the day to hit all of the hot button issues, so here goes...

Democrat v. Republican; young v. old; black v. white; poor v. rich; educated v. seems like our society always tries to polarize issues and people to simplify very complicated issues. A lot of the time there is not a right or wrong answer to a question and to formulate a proper answer the issue has to be looked at much deeper.

The specific issue I would like to discuss is illegal immigration. I know this is a very polarizing issue, but I want to be really clear before starting this post, I do not want this post to become a chance to bash certain political views or ethnic groups. I would simply like to encourage you to think outside of the box when thinking about this issue and many others. Regardless of your opinion of illegal immigration, there are several facts I would like to point out:

1. According to the Department of Homeland Security we currently employ 20,000 border patrol agents, which is double that of 2004. There are a total of 1,954 miles and the U.S. has "effective control" of approximately 700 miles with an ability to prevent or stop illegal entry along ONLY 129 miles of that border.

2. According to a 2010 study completed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the U.S. government spends $113 billion annually harboring illegal immigrants.

3. To build a wall and/or fence along the border has been conservatively estimated at $2.2 billion dollars.

So, here's the deal...why do we fight so hard to prevent people from coming to our country? Guess what?! We are all immigrants! Unless you are 100% Native American, your ancestors came from another country. You can claim that your ancestors came here "legally" and they jumped through the hoops they were supposed to, but the truth is, our ancestors KILLED Native Americans to claim THEIR land. There is no way around that. It is 100% fact. So, that argument doesn't work for me.

Remove yourself from who should and shouldn't be in the United States, and think about a solution. I gave you some statistics on the cost of illegal immigrants on our country. Here is my suggestion, why doesn't our country use half of the money they currently spend FIGHTING illegal immigration and improve the infrastructure of Mexico so they won't feel the need to leave and come to our country? It is a win/win situation.

Not to mention, what happened to NAFTA?! It was called the North American Free Trade Agreement for a reason. Why don't we send our outsourced jobs to Mexico instead of India? If they had greater opportunity in their own country, they wouldn't want to come to the United States.

Think about it, if Mexican citizens had access to proper infrastructure and good paying jobs, they would not risk life and limb to migrate to a country that is not their own, is away from their families and treats them inferiorly. Therefore, I think we need to cut our immigration prevention budget in half and use it to help our neighbors. If there is a concern about giving such a large amount of money to another country set up a repayment plan. Our country has done the same thing in a lot of countries, Iraq and Afghanistan being the two glaring examples.

I mean, seriously!! We are all hear because our ancestors brought us here, we were born here, our parents brought us here, we brought ourselves here. Whatever your story is, you are here. So, we need to make it work.

When are you getting married?

This blog originally began as an attempt to debate the issue of gay marriage. I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to change anyone's mind about the issue if they had already made their decision. I then began thinking of all of the times I have been asked "When are you getting married?" In my opinion these two issues go hand in hand. A same sex couples' right to marry is just as important as my choice not to get married. So, I'm keeping this post short and sweet. When this beautiful, completely in love couple can legally get married in all 50 states, Troy and I will get married. There's your answer, so stop asking me.

*Picture used with permission of Mary Harmon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When did I become OLD?

I don't mean in a chronological way. That's very subjective. If you ask my sister she thought she was old at 25. I think she even spent that day in bed. I, on the other hand, have never really cared about numbers. To me, they were just that. I have been told most of my life I was an old soul. Maybe that's why the age thing never bothered me. However, I have recently noticed that I am starting to do things that when I was younger I thought only old people did.

This all started to ring true for me a few weeks ago when I had to confront an older kid in my neighborhood for picking on my young children. After the confrontation, I came back inside and thought, wow, that is something my mom would have done. I never really viewed my mom as old (she died when she was 43), but she was my mom so therefore, must have been old! The fact that I am on the PTA and help out with things at my daughter's school make me feel old. I remember not too long ago walking into her school and thinking, I'm not old enough to be volunteering for a school party of a 1st grader. It's almost like it snuck up on me. It was happening all around me and I didn't even notice.

In the past couple of years, I have begun gardening. That's another thing that makes me feel old. I love it, but when I think about it, I remember my retired neighbor growing up working in his garden a lot. I also have a bird feeder that I worry about if it has food in it or not. I also a hummingbird feeder that I check constantly. The fact that I have tried for 3 days to get a picture of the oriole that is eating out of it, makes me feel old.

I care more about politics and recycling than TMZ and the latest styles. I care more about spending time with my family, than I do about going out to the bar. I care more about making sure my kids have fun than I do about what band is coming to town. I care more about what the weather is going to do so I know how to dress my kids than I do about how late I can stay up.

Things change. People change. Times change. We all evolve and grow. If these things make me old then so be it. I'm happier with my life right now than I have ever been. It's like my life has finally caught up with my soul and all is well with my soul.