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The simplest truths are the hardest to accept.

Like how you were born. How the life you’ve lived up until now — well, maybe you feel like you didn’t have a choice. When you came in to this world, did you know how the arms that were holding you would treat you? But didn’t you love (or yearn to love) them all the same, despite what you may have learned later?

And how you will die. How none of us know when, how or where. How that drives millions insane or fattens the pockets of end-of-the-world champions. How —  if you really think about death (and if you happen to be flying in an airplane at the same time) — you realize every single other person in this world will return to dust. Like you.

Birth. Death. Mistakenly, we think that these things only come twice in our lives. Really, they can happen every day. And you know what? We’re never prepared.

It can happen when you get word that your friends gave birth to their first child and you look at that little face and are overwhelmed with joy for their family.

And it happens when you hear about senseless violence, like what occurred in a Connecticut elementary school this past week. And there are no words to describe that or ways to speed up the not-thinking-about-death part. The not-thinking-about What Could Have Been.

Meanwhile, our lives go on. We are living despite death. We are part of the Can Be, but we get stuck living the Could Have Been because the simple truth about life and death is that none of us have it all figured out yet.

Not even the Mayans.

Beauty in the world

At the end of 2012 (the end of the world?) and with my birthday this Wednesday, I can’t help but choose to see the beauty over the pain in the world. This doesn’t mean you ignore the pain or discount the suffering of others. It means that, by example, you can help others regain their peace.

And if there’s one thing the world needs, it’s more of that.

What follows is probably the most epic quote I’ve ever quoted here, if only because it contains the word “booty.” I found this Macy Gray song recently through a yogi friend and liked it so much that I’m going to embed it here.

I know you’re fed up
Life don’t let up for us
All they talk about is what is going down
And what’s been messed up for us

When I look around
I see blue skies
I see butterflies
For us

Listen to the sound
And lose it
In sweet music
And dance with me

‘Cause there is beauty in the world
So much beauty in the world
Always beauty in the world
So much beauty in the world

Shake your booty, boys and girls
For the beauty in the world

(C) 2010 Concord Music Group Inc.

Living through death

Did you know that you are wise? I know that you are because you care about this world. You care about your footprint in it. You practice yoga to regain your inner peace so that you can share it with others.

You are beauty in the world.

It doesn’t take age to become wise, though it helps. Growing up, I often felt older than my actual age. I read classic books long before they were assigned in high school reading lists. I dated boys who were older than me. With every birthday, I feel like I’m slowing catching up to who I felt I was all along: an old soul.

For that reason, I love birthdays. I love getting older. People either grimace or don’t believe me when I tell them that, but it’s true.

After I discovered yoga, the “old soul” expression didn’t feel so special because I realized: We are all old souls, especially those of us who practice yoga. After all, yoga was around before the Mayans: 3,000 BCE versus the ancient Mayans’ emergence in 250 BCE.

Like you, I don’t know what happens after death. But yoga gives me a glimpse of ancient wisdom that, no matter how old I get, no matter what happens in this world, everything is going to be okay.

Shake your booty, boys and girls
For the beauty in the world.

Try this: Shoulderstand, Salamba Sarvangasana

Willow’s “holding up” my booty in this photo to bring a little beauty to your day. Shoulderstand is one inversion that I can always count on to brighten my dim worldview. Something about the rush of blood to your face, the strength of your legs and the energy flood in the heart just makes everything make sense — if only for a moment.

Find your moment here, but not if you have a neck injury or have never done this pose before. Seek out a yoga instructor who can check your form. This pose can also be practiced with two folded up blankets underneath your shoulders.

  1. Lie on your back, arms alongside your body. Bend your knees, exhale and press off the floor with the toes, curling your pelvis away from the floor and hugging your knees in to the body.
  2. Hug your elbows in toward one another, then bend them and place your hands on your low back. Lift your pelvis up over your shoulders as much as is comfortable.
  3. Edge your shoulders underneath you so that your shoulder blades make good contact with the floor to support you (hence, shoulderstand!)
  4. Inhale your legs high, arching through the toes and pressing the balls of the feet upward. Reach up out of the torso with your legs, low back firmly supported with the palms. Relax the neck, forehead and mouth.
  5. For beginners, stay for five breaths. Gradually work yourself up to longer holds, up to 3 minutes. As the legs fatigue, cross your ankles and use the strength of both legs to stay lifted.
  6. To come out of the pose, exhale the knees back down to your chest. Release the support of your low back and roll your spine all the way down to the ground, extending the legs long.