My first taste of volunteer work came when I was 12 years old. It was 1976, and McDonald’s restaurants were encouraging kids to host carnivals to raise funds for muscular dystrophy. Though I had little understanding of muscular dystrophy, I loved a backyard party. My philanthropic mother had planted a deep seed in me regarding helping others. “To whom much is given, much is expected” was our motto.
I received my carnival kit and recruited the neighborhood kids to help. We had a fortune teller, sno-cone table, games of chance and more, raising about $70. But the major payoff was that I fell in love with good causes.
Since then, I’ve volunteered as a swim buddy for kids with spina bifida and worked with various organizations that focus on environmental issues, homelessness, poverty and AIDS. These days, I volunteer weekly at a soup kitchen, washing dishes and passing out fruit (when we have enough) to the down-on-their-luck men and women who come inside for soup and community. I also chair an eco-committee at my kids’ school. And though it seems counter-intuitive — after all, I’m a busy mom of three — I find myself with more energy to tackle my other commitments.
We’re almost midway through the first month of the new year, and if you’re like the majority of resolution makers, you’re likely already starting to falter. According to a recent New York Times article, “By the end of January, a third will have broken their resolutions, and by July more than half will have lapsed.”
That’s why now is a great time to recommit to those oh-so-noble goals. Two ways to do that? Checking in with your resolutions often and rewarding yourself for your progress. Sure, losing weight, saving money and getting more sleep are their own rewards, but a little extra motivation never hurt, right?
It’s the holiday season … a time of dark, cold mornings, short days and busy nights, tending to the hustle and bustle of getting things done for various holiday celebrations, all the while gorging ourselves on delicious — but often calorie-laden — holiday foods. The average day passes quickly, and you usually find yourself collapsing into bed at the end of it feeling completely exhausted.
I will begin with the admission that in this life, I have been extremely blessed. In the course of my work in the natural foods industry, I have been present at nearly every major yoga + music festival around the country. Wanderlusts, Bhakti Fests, Tadasana, Yoga Journal, you name it, I’ve been there distributing snacks, squeezing in some classes and generally reveling in the vibe.
April 2013 marks the beginning of the tenth year of Spiritual Cinema Circle! This month, we celebrate the way that great stories can connect us to the world.
The Last Brickmaker in America, our feature for April, stars the legendary actor Sidney Poitier as a man who has been making bricks by hand for more than 50 years and who proves to be a profound example of how to build life “brick by brick.”
Jill Miller met fellow yogi Elena Brower this past October when they both presented at the Ojai Yoga Crib, and the two immediately struck up a friendship. When Jill found out Elena was about to publish a yoga workbook called Art of Attention (co-authored by Erica Jago), she knew she wanted to have a heart-to-heart interview: teacher-to-teacher, innovator-to-innovator and woman-to-woman. Here is Part Two of her interview. To read Part One, click here.
For over five years, my yoga practice brought me joy and fulfillment, but solely from my studentship. Teachers had always intrigued me with their beauty, strength, confidence and presence, but to actually become a yoga teacher seemed like entering a different realm — one that I thought could not possibly be as blissful as the space on my favorite coral-colored yoga mat.
But every now and then I would think about what it would be like to lead a class, spreading pieces of possibility and shining smiles to all the students. I would cue and they would flow, moving with ease to the perfect music I was playing that matched all the perfect words I was saying.
But then my daydreams would subside, and I would find myself happy to only be responsible for my own moves, my own mind. Why would I want to teach anyway? It would take up so much time. When would I get to do my practice? If I was teaching, I wouldn’t be learning.
But are the two job descriptions — writer and yoga teacher — really that dissimilar? As a writer, my true calling has always been found in the power of connection and inspiration, traits any good yoga teacher should possess. I like to set my own schedule, travel a lot, wear comfy clothes and work in bare feet. I love sharing my insights and experiences, spreading words of wisdom wherever I go.
So, yes, now I am not only a writer. My career of word crafting has united with my passion for movement.
I was reminded this weekend, whilst walking through town, about the magic of staying open. Two strangers openly greeted me with big smiles, and I am ashamed to say I was consciously taken aback. But once I acknowledged it was me they were smiling at, I responded by grinning with appreciation at them (possibly scaring them, apols about that!).
See, after I moved here, I often found myself talking (or rather, trying to talk) to strangers in the street, or at bus stops, or as I queued to pay for groceries. Despite my best efforts, the funny looks I often received in return took their toll, as I assumed they were a negative reaction towards my behavior. This eventually led to me becoming more shy and reserved, and less likely to try to connect with those I met.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
That statement has been moving through my mind for the past several weeks as I read comments on social media and hear so many people feeling helpless and disillusioned. It’s clear to me that we are living in a time of extreme opposites. There are people doing extraordinary work to bring peace and consciousness to the planet, while at the same time there are also people committed to war and violence.
The real question for me is “How do I want to respond and live?” I believe that we are either part of the problem or we are part of the solution. I also believe that our words have power and that what we put out in the universe eventually returns to us in some form.
So instead of being upset about the state of the world, I have decided to do something, and I would like you to join me.
Still, I find that once I’ve gotten into the habit of driving someplace — my daughter’s preschool, the Trader Joe’s on the other side of the highway, the garden store — I tend to keep on driving there, deeming it too far to reach on foot. The funny thing is, once I decide to test walking to a destination once, I realize not only how doable it is but also how satisfying running that errand becomes.
So now I’m on a quest of sorts: to debunk the myth that certain places in my everyday life are too far to reach on foot.