Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Recovery Boys

"Hi. My name is Kristina and I'm a friend of Bill's."

Almost two years ago I met a student who changed my life. He wandered in aimlessly off the street not really knowing why he was there. And that's the way it is with Yoga. The saying is, "The teacher appears when the student is ready" and in his life he was ready.

I remember the evening vividly because I was giving a free demo on 'How to Use a Neti Pot' right after my class was finished. Only a few folks stayed and this student was one of them. It's hard to imagine but I met one of the most important people in my life while I was demonstrating how to pour water through your sinus canal. Welcome to my life.

It was a fast friendship, the best kind. We found we had so much in common that we were always talking after class. He immediately wanted to help me grow the studio, something that no student had ever offered before. So I went to another networking group per his request, and listened to this novice yogi's thoughts on building a yoga business. Yeah, ok.

But one day, he snuck something into our conversation that I wasn't prepared for. He mentioned that he had perused the recent Kripalu catalog and noticed interesting classes for men. I, of course, said how wonderful Kripalu was and he should definitely go for a program. But that wasn't what he meant.

In an effort to correct me, he offered in full disclosure that he was in recovery. I'm quite sure he noticed my naivete and went into further detail. Recovery from addiction. Oh.... His thought was that I should offer a class for Men in Recovery. Oh... Totally not qualified for this..... But my type A personality jumped all over this opportunity!

Next thing I knew I had several men in recovery signed up and an 8 week lesson plan completed. I was scared shitless. I was not, by any means, qualified to lead a group of men in recovery. (I mean, seriously. I'm having a cocktail while I'm writing this.) I enjoy a lot of life, and I know that addiction runs in my family, but I've never felt like I was addicted to anything. Except maybe Yoga...

That first night was a living hell. Even though I had a lesson plan all detailed out, I felt like a bug on a pin. They looked at me like I was crazy and I was sweating. But they kept showing up. Week after week. And after the 8 weeks was over, a couple of them kept coming to class, regularly.

They turned out to be some the most wonderful men in my life. They pushed me out of my comfort zone. They forced me to use what I know to help an otherwise left out population. They continue to be guiding forces in my life, whether they know it or not, and I love them with my whole heart.

One of them has become my beloved, surrogate big brother. Someone who has my back. Someone whom I can trust.

The one who 'forced' me into leading our recovery class is the reason I write this blog as well as the reason I have filmed my class for YogaVibes.

I never had people believe in me like these men. I am grateful.

And here's the kicker: we're all addicted to something. I'm admitting it here for the first time. I can't sleep without my favorite stuffed monkey. His name is Sluggo. And I'm an addict.

Goo Roo. Ben & Jerry's latest flavor!

A Course In Miracles. (part two)

Yep. I'm one of those people. One of those 'yogis'. You know, them.

I have a living Guru.

And just so you know, I absolutely despise that word. Guru.

Westerners have bastardized that word so much. I could vomit when I hear Matt Lauer introduce some idiot on The Today Show as a 'tech guru' or even worse, a 'fashion guru'. CALL. ME. HURL. Ugh.

Guru. Gu = darkness. Ru = Light. So 'guru' is the energy that transforms you from darkness into Light. And when it is used to describe an enlightened master it means 'Teacher', just like when the disciples called Jesus 'Rabbi'.

So I am one of the very few lucky people to have found my teacher, my spiritual mother, and She is in human form. I'm truly blessed and some day I will dedicate an entire chapter to Her. She is Goddess on earth. I do pranam to Her lotus feet, as weird as that sounds. And in finding Her, or She finding me, I have found salvation. It is kind of like a kid jumping to grab the string of an enormous balloon before it flies away. Once you finally manage to grab the string, the balloon takes you and you fly away with it.

But living with an enlightened master as your teacher isn't always easy, especially when you are a householder. I mean, who wouldn't, in this crazy world we live in, rather live in a monastery or cave just meditating and practicing asana all day every day? But this incarnation chose to be a mother, wife, employer, employee, etc, etc, etc.... So for the last couple of years, although I am a devoted disciple of my Guru, I have been praying in earnest for a spiritual mentor. Someone who is also a householder. Someone who can help me find balance between my spiritual lifestyle and my householding ways.

Be careful what you wish for, Kristina.


A couple of years ago a student wandered into the studio. Right from the start my partners and I all knew this man was a shaman in his own right. Here was this mysterious gentleman who only revealed parts of himself to us that he knew we were ready to have revealed. This man was Grace personified and we all fell in love with him immediately. He was healing us more that we could ever heal him. And here's the thing; he felt the same way about us as we felt about him. And from the time he wandered in til now he has been a constant presence in our lives.

More recently, since about last spring, I started to realize he was the mentor that I had been praying for. The more I listened when he spoke, the more Truth I was hearing. He had been mentoring me right along. I just didn't notice. I wasn't listening.

One day he started to tell me that he was leading a group through A Course In Miracles. The more he talked the more I knew my prayers had been answered. After a few conversations we had our own group set up. Private, of course, for us divas. What else would you expect?

We have met now twice as a group of Miracle seekers. And miracles are happening! Perceptions are shifting. Forgiveness is taking place. Weight is being lifted. Prayers are being answered.

So have faith, fellow householders! Your prayer may just be waiting to be answered but you have to listen for it. Listen closely. Sometime the Universe whispers at first. Pretend like when you were a kid and it was the middle of summer. No matter what you were doing, no matter where you were, as soon as the ice cream man rang his bell you could hear it.

Now go running.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Son of Shiva (part 1)

Elijah Louis Berano. The love of my life. My son. Primo.

He'll be ten years old in less than two months. This is really hard for me to swallow, especially since it took nearly seven years to conceive him.

He is smart, handsome, funny and clever. He is so smart that frequently he intimidates his teachers at school. He has read hundreds of books. He is not a jock, much to the dismay of his father. He is a book worm. And I love that about him.

He could speak in complete sentences at 18 months old. I knew then that we were in trouble. We weren't the kind of parents that forced that Baby Mozart crap down his throat. We just exposed him to a lot of life. My goal was and is to create a well-rounded man not a genius.

His extensive vocabulary has shocked me since he was about 22 months old. I had just bathed both kids, dressed them in jammies and put Marley in her crib. Elijah was sitting up with me for a few minutes in bed cuddling. I was relishing in how wonderful he smelled post bath when all of a sudden I heard a loud noise come from his behind. Grouchy that I might have to change this clean baby, I said, "Elijah, did you just poop?!?" He grabbed his bottom, looked at me, leaned in and whispered, "No, Momma. There's a dinosaur in my bottom!"

A short time after that, again he and I were in bed cuddling. I was watching one of the Hollywood awards shows. The show was paying a tribute to Mickey Rooney and asked him to stand up. Elijah yelled out, " I LOVE MICKEY ROONEY!" I said, "You doooo??????" And he said, "Yes! I love Mickey Rooney and cheese!"

Since then, I often have waited with baited breath to see what will come out of my son's mouth. He learned quickly that if Mom was having a bad morning the best way to turn it around was with humor. So I started to award meaningless 'points' to whomever could make me laugh on the way to school. Elijah is usually the winner.

Now that he's older, his humor has matured as well. A few weeks ago we were on the way to dropping him at school. There were hundreds of seagulls on one of the high school fields. I said aloud, "What are all those seagulls doing there?" Without missing a beat, he replied, "They're having an away game."

I love this boy. He brings out the best in me. He makes me so happy. He brings joy and laughter to our lives. But I still never know what he's going to say....


Yesterday he came home from school and said, "Mom, I wanna get one of those really cool hats Jewish people wear!"

Oy vey!

I'm in love with Shiva (aka The God of Destruction)

"Now, Shiva's like this: consciousness and bliss. But He's crazy when He's angry so don't get him pissed....."

When I first starting practicing Yoga and educating myself about Hinduism, I inadvertently fell in love with Shiva. If I meditated on His lithe form in padmasana and luxurious, long, dark locks, I would quiver in ecstasy. Just the sound of His name on my tongue was like rolling a warm liqueur around in my mouth. And it wasn't some weird perverse fascination. This was intense Love. Love for a profound energy of the Divine. But here's the thing; I had no idea of the energy behind the form. Uh oh.....

So here I was, this novice yogini, praying fervently to an energy I didn't understand. This can be dangerous. Especially with Shiva.

I would find myself in these feelings of Love and would be praying to Him all the time and during this time the shit hit the fan. It seemed as if everything in my life was literally on fire. Everything I touched disintegrated. I became so frustrated and angry that I didn't know what to do with myself or my life. I was depressed. And not just with the blues. I was clinically depressed. For a very long time. Everything I thought was true in my life came into question. Everything I worked years for fell apart. Then it finally dawned on me. It was Shiva working His magic. And there were times when I felt like He was laughing at me from the cosmos.

Ok. So I knew what had caused this destruction in my life, now what?

Well, it's taken me several years to come to terms with the fact that I kind of brought this on myself. And I have had to learn more about Shiva and have a better relationship with His energy. But here is how it boils down:

Although I sort of activated His energy in my life, it was ready and waiting for me for all my life. And even though He is the "God of Destruction", He is really the energy of TRANSFORMATION. This incarnation, known as "me", was ready to change. He would have started to work His magic whether I prayed to Him or not. Whether I even knew who Shiva was, He would have started to work when I was ready.

The most important thing to understand about this Big Guy is that he really isn't enjoying watching you suffer. It's just that He understands that we create our own suffering and that kind of amuses Him. The more we want to change for the better the more He offers us options to facilitate that change. While we want to change and develop into higher vibrational creatures, our egos fight us every step of the way. This is where Shiva just shakes His head and chuckles. He doesn't want us to suffer but He does want to destroy our egos. That's His job and He does His job quite well.

There have been times in my life when I have actually had to tell Him to put the brakes on and He listens. I can only develop so much at a time. I'm kind of like that bumper sticker: Be patient with me. God isn't finished with me yet.
Remember, when the caterpillar enters his cocoon he doesn't know that he isn't going to die. And if he doesn't suffer through opening his own cocoon he most surely will die. He must facilitate his own transformation.
And then, only then when his transformation is complete, can he fly.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

They're real and they're fabulous!

"Where is she from?" (insert awkward "Um, we're from Connecticut."

My children are mine. They are not adopted. I have the stretch marks to prove it, just in case you were wondering.

They are biracial and multi-ethnic. Their father is from the Philippines and that makes them half Pacific Islander. I am American with roots in Poland and Sicily so they are also half Caucasian.

I never gave it another thought until well after they were born. I would be out with them alone and I would catch looks from folks who just assumed they were adopted. Then every once in a while someone will say something. I know that these folks who actually have the nerve to say something are probably well-meaning but it's hard to swallow some days. Even a pediatrician, upon meeting us, made some comment that sent me into a tizzy. I assumed she was probably trying to figure us out for medical reasons, but it ruffled my feathers all the same.

I continue to struggle with this even though I know it's all ego based. I mean, after you have duplicated yourself, what's more appealing for your ego than when someone says, "Ooh! She's the spitting image of you!"? I forget that they don't look like me until I see photos of us together. When I look at my kids, I see myself. Elijah looks more like me than Marley but there are days when her hair is wild and she has a certain twinkle in her eye and she looks like me. My son has my father's head shape and has since he was about a year old. He has the classic Polish large forehead, just like me. And we are so alike on the inside that there is no mistaking he's my son. My daughter was born with a blond streak in her very dark hair, another gift from my Polish heritage. She is starting to develop a more defined nose line....sooo hoping she doesn't end up with my ski slope!

It's when I look at photos that I start to see what other's must see. Here is this fair, blue eyed woman with two dark skinned, dark haired and dark eyed children. They can't possibly be hers... It's not my business to care what other's think until they open their mouths, especially now that my daughter is starting to notice how she looks and understands when someone comments on her appearance.

We've never hidden the fact from them that they are different than most kids in their school. We live in an extremely un-diverse community and try to expose them to as much of the world as possible. For the most part, they don't feel the discrimination that I am hyper sensitive to. But there is a fine line with discrimination and most people who don't approve of our multi-racial home know how to dance on that line.

When my son was in first grade, there were a few multi-racial boys in his class. They were typically lumped together as a group and often were held back from activities and such until the rest of the class had gone first. Both kids have been called by the name of another of the few "brown" kids in school. Apparently, to us white folk, all the brown kids look alike.

And I know that I may seem overly sensitive, it's just that it's not my kids' faults that they are different. It kills me to see them on the receiving end of such callousness. The worst and one of our most memorable experiences was last summer at a gift shop near the beach where we vacation. My daughter bought herself a hat with her own money. The clerk looked at her, then at me and said, "She's beautiful! Where is she from?" I know it was meant as a compliment but on the receiving end it hurt, especially for a 7 year old girl.

I wonder when this world will catch up. It's 2010. When I had to fill out the demographic forms for school last week, I had to "Pick One" from the "Race" box for them. So what do I pick? Asian (which is easier for most people to understand)? Pacific Islander? Caucasian? There is no "multi-racial" box, even in 2010.

It helps that we are light hearted about it. The kids like to sing to their father "Secret Asian Man".... When they see a lot of kids that look like them they'll refer to it as an Asian Invasion.... And it eases the tension that they don't even care that they are different. The best was when I took them to the Polish Deli a few months back. We had a good laugh at all the Poles who couldn't help but stare at these two kids who were so excited to see all the food their great-Babci used to cook.

So we pray for Grace as a family to use these experiences as learning tools. We continually try to raise them as good citizens of the world. They make me laugh. They keep me on my toes. They are my teachers. I pranam in deference to their divine lights.

I am grateful every day that they both chose me for their earthbound mother.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Issues in my Tissues

I got beat up on the school bus by a boy in the 8th grade.

Yep. It's out there. I said it. Now you know why I'm so fucked up. I'd love to post his name but I think I'm above that. Not above by much but above nonetheless.

The reason for this incident is still unclear to me and doesn't really matter at all. It's the aftermath that has scarred me for my entire life. The physical and emotional bruising. The fact that no one, including the male bus driver, came to help me. How I was completely ostracized after the incident.....

Here's how the aftermath played out:
  • Had to go home and tell my parents that I was refusing to ride the bus to school ever again.
  • Had to tell my parents what happened and who did it to me.
  • Begged my father not to call the kid's father.
  • He called anyway.
  • The kid was popular, so after he got in trouble he managed to turn everyone else against me, including my two cousins who lived next door to me. I haven't spoken to either of them since this incident, which divided the family.
  • Someone scratched an adjective on my locker and I had to look at it everyday til graduation.
  • My mother had to adjust her work schedule so that she could take me to school which resulted in daily fights for nearly a year.
  • I lied to my parents that I was riding the bus home, when in actuality I walked home everyday, in every kind of weather, nearly 3 miles until school was over.
  • I refused to go to the brand new high school in our town; insisting that I went to the same private Catholic high school that my sisters attended. Again, the issue of much fighting.
  • Went to said Catholic high school. Our town paid for busing the first year. After that, we had to pay for busing.
  • Parents so angry over the cost of busing ($300), I was forced to get a job so that I could buy a car to drive myself to school. Mother actually combed the newspapers to find me a job, drove me to the interview on my 16th birthday and told me not to come out until I had a job.
  • Worked 40 hours per week through the rest of high school which caused my grades to suffer terribly. I was originally in all first track classes but my grades slipped much that they bumped me down to second track. This 'move down' got me labeled the dumb kid in my social group even though I was as smart as the rest of the kids I hung out with.
  • Because my grades had slipped and I got bumped down, I couldn't get into a upper echelon college. Because I was middle track there was no guidance counseling. Guidance was reserved for first and third track students.
  • I ended up at what would be considered a "trade college".....
  • And so it goes...

I could go on and on but I think I've made myself clear.

I just got back from an energy healing certification course. Sometimes when you are on a spiritual journey, past issues are brought directly to the surface. This came right to the surface this week. The very first night of our class the subject of love came up. The specific topic was allowing people to love us and how many of us don't. We pull you in with one hand and then push you away with the other hand. I can't help but reflect that this incident, at such a vulnerable time in my life as well as the years of aftermath, had such a deep impact on my developing psyche. I mean, think back to when you were 13 years old. Didn't you want to be one of the popluar kids? ("Love me!") Then I got hurt by one of these popular kids. ("Love me, but don't hurt me.") You can't hurt me if I keep you at bay......

So this is what I am working on clearing and healing. Through the Integrated Energy Therapy class I attended, we learned to energetically heal the "issues in the tissues". Cells remember. Unfortunately. The exploration of this memory has answered a lot of questions for me about why I am the way I am.

I'm going to try to let this memory heal. I know it won't be easy. I'll never forget what happened but I am praying to find grace in forgiveness. And it doesn't hurt that, shortly after we got married, my husband promised me that if he ever sees this guy he'll fucking kill him.