From the (he)Art of a young woman

About once a month I teach a free yoga class for the instructors and staff of a local arts organization called Say Sí. Say Sí’s mission:

SAY Sí ignites the creative power of young people as forces of positive change. We value artists, empower marginalized communities and advance culture.

Every year they do an exhibit of their seniors’ work, and put those works up for sale. I often purchase works from this annual show. The money goes to the students who are now off to college or art school, or adventuring into adulthood with other endeavors.

This year, I was struck by the work of Lee Ortiz. Lee is a mixed media artist born in Harlingen and moved to San Antonio to pursue art further within North East School of the Arts and SAY Sí. As she says in her bio, her “work expands on feelings, ideas, and troubles that she feels are not addressed enough in our daily lives, tackling topics such as eating disorders, self image, mental illness, fatphobia, friendships, relationships, family and how to deal with these issues in a social and political way.”

This tender heart is doing all she can to fight the hurtful messages — both implicit and explicit — about what it means to have a certain kind of body… what it MEANS about our value as a human being. She screams in her work: I am not gross! 

Let’s support this powerful young artist as she launches herself out into the world. She is a brave fighter! Lee will be attending Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design as an Illustration major, and I’m sure buying her work will help her a lot. If you are interested in purchasing anything, let me know. I can buy it and ship it to you. We can venmo. 

I am not gross (above) $150

They’re not Gross $150

Things I see online (Skip Dinner) $150

The Calorie Count Grows $200 (SOLD)

You can find Lee for further questions and commissions through these: Instagram: @eeelbee Email: aleahlouiseortiz@gmail.com Artstation: eelbee.artstation.com

 

What could we have done instead?

Ladies, what else could we have done with all the mental energy we’ve spent:

Counting calories? Counting carbs? Reading labels?

Craving and denying a simple pleasure?

Hating ourselves for giving in to a simple pleasure?

Dissecting ourselves into body parts we hate?

“Hating” other women?

Staring sideways in the mirror and hating what we see?

Staring at our own (and each others’) faces too closely, examining every detail of an eyebrow, a lip line, the size of our pores, and feeling somehow that those things actually MEANT something about our SELVES?

It’s complicated, I know. And I’m not blaming us, or each other, or even “society.”

I’m not blaming, but I AM going to try to do something about it.

MBS Yoga, with the support of Trinity Healing Foundation, are working to expand women’s and girls’ horizons, to pay more attention to how they FEEL than how they LOOK, and to value themselves for all they can DO and BE.

Learn about the transformative Embody Love Movement workshops we are offering at our information session Sunday, August 4, 5 pm at MBS Yoga.

On the matter of birthday donations

Many years ago (in the last century)—1992—I got to meet one of my childhood sheroes, Gloria Steinem. Mom and I went to the Brazos Bookstore in Houston and she signed our books. During her talk, Gloria gave a piece of advice that has always stuck with me. She said your checkbook (remember, 20th century) should reflect your values. Ever since then, I have always given MONEY to causes I care about, regularly.

I really appreciate that Facebook encourages people to give, bundle and promote their favorite causes and charities for their birthdays. However… and please educate me if I am wrong… I gave to one this morning for a friend’s fundraiser, and I got my receipt from Facebook, not from the organization I gave to. I believe the money we give that way gets to the groups. BUT, what it means (or might mean) is 1) the group doesn’t get my contact info and I lose the opportunity to be more involved in that group, and 2) Facebook gets the tax deduction.

I’m not opposed to tax deductions… but with all the millions of donations Facebook is bundling, IF they are getting the credit, they are getting ONE HELL OF A TAX DEDUCTION.

And… I kinda think Facebook actually owes our country a little, after 2016.

So… I’m not doing a birthday fundraiser through Facebook.

If you are in the spirit of giving, though, here are some Texas groups I endorse for your ongoing (or one time) support (with links to their donation pages:

 

On Immigrant Rights: Angry Tias and Abuelas of the RGV,  RAICES

On SO MANY things: ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network

Environmental Justice: Sierra Club Lonestar Chapter, t.e.j.a.s., Texas Campaign for the Environment

Reproductive Justice, Rights, Access: Lilith Fund, NARAL Prochoice Texas

Quality Nonprofit Journalism: Texas Observer, Texas Tribune

Worker Rights: Workers Defense Project, Equal Justice Center

 

There are so many… Please give to someone if you can! If you want to tell me you, great! 🙂

I really can’t believe the news today…

We now have a pretty solid deadline for turning things around on climate change… and we’ve passed it. Private corporations are making millions, as immigrant children are dying in US detention centers and we warehouse a third of African American men in prisons. The states have begun unilaterally striking down essential rights and freedoms. We have a president that lies, whines and rants and despite it all, may still win re-election.

The problems feel insurmountable—but we MUST face them. We must not look away.

I have always felt compelled to respond to the crises of the day, to do something with my life that made a difference on a broader scale. Even as a little child, I had a keen sense of injustice and wanted to fight to right the wrongs I could see all around me. I wore a button that said “Be Nice To Each Other.” I thought that would be a start. As an adult, I made a pretty good run as a professional organizer and policy advocate, working at many levels to secure basic health care for low income women, adequate and equitable public school funding, worker protections, environmental protections, voter protections, safe schools, streets and homes.

I gotta admit sometimes I feel a little conflicted about not doing more now, about my turn to the “Be” category of activism, while there is so much still to Block and Build (see Block Build and Be). But, “Be” it shall be! BeCause it is necessary. And BeCause it is intimately connected to the Building and Blocking. As Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” And, as the estimable Mavis Staples said, “who’s gonna do it if I don’t do it?”

Yoga has become pretty comfortably nestled in within the lucrative (for some) markets of Fitness, Wellness, and Self Care. And that is fine, depending on how you want to define being well, and being a self. I believe — and the teachings of yoga (as well as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam) affirm — that we must be well within communities; that we can only be well within communities that are well; and that we are indeed, each in some way implicated in the injustices and inequities we see in our communities. That’s what Karma is all about. We have work to do here in this life that is about more than feeling good about our “little s” selves.

Inspiration abounds. Here is one of my godsons, Climate Justice Warrior Zayne Cowie, as featured in The New York Times, doing what he can. And he is 9!

Here are some groups doing great Build and Block work in S A N  A N T O N I O,   T E X A S  and   B E Y O N D  if you want to get involved on climate change and environmental sustainability.

If, for now, you’re keeping your yoga on the mat, that’s a great place to Be! You can always catch me Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, 6 am for Rise Strong, or Tuesday and Thursdays at 9 am for Yoga-ahhh Yin Yoga and fascial release at MBS Yoga.

If you’re interested in learning more about the karma path of yoga, check out my 6-week summer series, Foundations of Yoga: The Karma Yoga Path, which also comes as a 3-month mentorship version in the fall for yoga teachers who want to earn even more Yoga Alliance continuing education credits.

Hope to see you soon — on or off the mat!

 

 

Excerpted from my newsletter! See the whole thing here.

Why is yoga politics?

Because politics is about change. And yoga is about peeling back the layers of illusion, even if for just one hour, to experience the most radical power on earth: the power of CLARITY that is the wisdom of your heart; clarity, the heart of this practice and the IMPETUS for all change.

If only for this one hour out of your day, you can FEEL what YOU feel, KNOW what YOU know, you touch the power to act on that foundation of strength whenever you need to. Yoga opens you to possibility and empowers you to see beyond the agreements we are living under, agreements we may never have consciously chosen to accept.

I mean the agreements that constitute the assumption that things just are the way they are. The ways in which we unquestioningly proceed through life. I first questioned these agreements when I was 16 and became a vegetarian. Who said I have to eat meat, just because “everybody” does?

Yoga can be a personal practice of checking in with yourself — what feels right for you? What does your body tells you it needs? Paying attention to that for yourself can be an act of radical resilience and self care.

But we end each class saying “Namaste,” acknowledging our sameness, our connection—this in the context of a culture that prizes individualism and competition, both of which require us NOT to see our sameness, our connection. For me, that’s one of those unspoken agreements that needs to be challenged. Our lives, and our fates, are intricately connected.

Yoga creates personal transformation that makes action in the world possible. Politics is one way we make change happen collectively.

Do what you can today.

I didn’t die yesterday

I saw the most beautiful sun rise as they carried me to the car to take me to the hospital.

It was the first morning of my retreat. I had gotten up early to write morning pages and drink coffee before morning yoga practice. My alarm went off at 6. It was still dark and my roommate was asleep, so I tiptoed through our room to go to the bathroom without turning on any lights. Feeling my way along the walls for the bathroom doorway, apparently I missed it, walked right past it and stepped into a void that was the stairwell to the first floor.

WHAT’S HAPPENING?!?!?!

It was pitch black.

There was no floor, there were no walls that I could find.

Completely disoriented, I lurched in the dark, reaching out for something to hold onto, but wasn’t finding anything. By the time I realized I was falling, I had dived to the right, past the landing halfway down and tumbled over the steep edge to the lower stairs below. I banged my head on the stone stairs, and then just kept going. I have never hit my head so hard. I felt my teeth break.

HOW FAR DOWN DOES THIS GO?

Finally, sometime before I stopped I told myself to make a sound, to yell while I still could so someone could help me. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to yell when I hit the bottom. I yelled once and then finally hit the bottom and called for my roommate and next door neighbor.

They both came quickly, probably as terrified as I was. They got me to a bed and ran to the kitchen for ice and help.

I burst into tears when my teacher came and held me. All these beautiful women in their nightgowns, ferocious in calling for help and calm in taking care of me, reassuring me. FULL ON mama bear mode… for me. And I cried harder for their tenderness.

My dear retreat-mate accompanied me to the hospital, interpreting from Spanish to English and back again, filled out all my paperwork for me, asked all the questions and stayed with me for hours while a parade of on-call doctors SLOWLY made their way to the hospital to check me out. The hospital’s dentist-on-call refused to come in on a Sunday. I saw an orthopedist, an neurologist and a maxillofascial specialist. I got x-rays and a CT scan. And once they assured my by brain was ok, I let them give me some anti-inflammatory drugs and started to feel better. They checked me out of the hospital and the myofascial doctor came back to get me and take me to her clinic so her dentist and orthodontist could fix my teeth.

Just nine hours later I was back in my bed at the hotel.

I’m ok.

I’m observing the yoga classes rather than taking them. I’m surrounded by heart strong women doing their own deep work while taking care of me. I’ve only ever felt this kind of collective nurturing when my mama died. As as they came out of shivasana yesterday, I thought to myself, “I didn’t die yesterday.” I might have. But I didn’t.

 

 

Revisit your resolutions this spring

Pay Attention lotusSpring is bursting out all over! It’s hard NOT to notice all the new growth—purple mountain laurel that smells like grape kool-aid, red bud trees, yellow jasmine and orange trumpet vine. Next will come the open fields of Texas bluebonnets and Indian paint brush.

Last December I led a workshop on setting resolutions that stick. Spring is a great time to return to those forgotten intentions of the new year. What have you been paying attention to? What ideas or beliefs have been germinating underground without your conscious attention? Those grow, too, just like the bluebonnets you forgot all about on the side of the road.

Attention has a lot to do with intention. Buddhists often use the metaphor of watering seeds to describe the process by which ideas come to take root and blossom into reality. What you pay attention to, what you feed with the energy of your thoughts, whether conscious or unconscious, will grow. Vision-boarding or dream boarding can be a fun way to unearth or remind yourself of forgotten or neglected dreams. I’m starting my own dream board online at www.DreamItAlive.com. I’m just getting started, but you can track my progress and start a dream board of your own there!

Also, stay tuned for a vision boarding workshop this spring!