Category Archives: Create Space

Get Rhythm

My Lukah love in his element

My Lukah love in his element

Have I ever told you the story of how I started my morning meditation practice?

Back when I lived in Adams Morgan, right next to the dog park there, my dog Lukah and I would go down every morning where he would play with all of his puppy friends and I’d socialize with my dog park crew.

If ever we didn’t make it down one morning, well, I’d surely hear about it the next day.

“Where was Lukah?” my dog park friends would demand to know.

They would then offer to take him out if ever I wasn’t able to make it to regular morning meet up. I cherished the community.

But we couldn’t stay. We were chased out by ghosts.  You see, the place we lived in was haunted. 10176209_833991018238_7711189428905669984_n From the bones of those buried and since moved from the historic African American cemetery on which the property was built.

To spells cast by the fortune tellers who lived and operated their palmistry business out of the apartment in which we lived back in the 70s.

To the walking dead, an abusive ex-husband, haunting at our door. 1176344_841828841178_8834787348450270886_n So we moved to Shaw where I could be closer to the acupuncture clinic where I practiced at the time.

Lukah passed away very suddenly three months later.  From the minute I noticed something was wrong, to when he passed, it was 15 minutes.  I still don’t know what took him. He was such a rockstar.  He went out the way most people want to. Quickly in the arms of the person who loved him the most.

945794_668980435981_1738256748_n (3) When I woke up the morning after, and for weeks later… I didn’t know what to do.

He was my morning practice. My devotional practice. The one true constant, and source of unconditional love, in my life in DC. Every morning for 7 years I got up, no matter what was going on in my life and no matter how uncertain life could be, I got up for him.

“Well, what the fuck do I do now?!” I thought to myself…

So I tried to meditate. To show up and hold space for and with myself.  To be still.

And it was terrifying.

I committed to try 10 full breaths every morning. In the first couple of days, by the time I got my third breath, it was nothing short of a full blown panic attack. Staring into what felt like the vast emptiness of the human experience.

10494658_10204174141656431_5766129537041386271_n (1) I had been teaching yoga for almost six years at this point but never truly meditated.

And while it was terrifying I continued to show up. Consistently. Imperfectly. Every day. Just 10 full breaths. I programmed rhythm.

Eventually I was able to sit still for those 10 breaths. About a minute and half. And eventually those 10 breaths became five minutes. And 10 minutes. And 45 minutes. And sometimes, even still, it’s simply those 10 full breaths before I have to bounce out the door.

964130_766417176758_352589557_o It’s the practice of cultivating energy, as one yoga teacher friend explained, instead of expending it. Everything in our lives calls us outside of ourselves, to give at our own expense. While I can’t control what happens when I step out of the door in the morning, I can certainly create space for myself and program rhythm in how my day starts and ends.  

And I can choose to rechannel all that energy, all that care I devoted to Lukah, towards myself. I’ve intentionally kept that space open. 1040855_755502569718_1033326485_o So fast forward to present… two Sundays ago I was lucky enough to partner with Eric Schwarz, DC’s Best Yoga Teacher to lead our first Live Deliciously Day Retreat.

And it was nothing short of magical. An immersion in programming healthy rhythm. Silent hike, meditation on islands in the stream, reflection on self care rhythm, and an incredible yoga class and healthy picnic under open sky and trees.  

Eric brought his dog Lucas. 13962737_10104033512360987_7729219215510557712_n I walked participants through trails Lukah and I would venture to every weekend.

I told the story of how I began my morning meditation practice. Breathing into loss and creating space for conscious connection. And the storytelling created space for participants to probe into their own lifestyle patterns.

And the river washed over. 13912662_730292310436283_6669655829697252886_n

Rediscovering Home

Joys of Home: the newest FarMar in my hood!

Joys of Home: the newest FarMar in my hood!

I’ve been back in the District for just over a month now, settling back into the rhythms of home.

And it has been quite the journey home via the Mediterranean and South Africa, to finally be at peace establishing roots here.

You see, I’ve always been reluctant, even after 11 (!) years, to claim the District as home. I still have a Jersey driver’s license.

Like many people who first come to DC, I came as an idealist, to pursue a career in Middle East peacebuilding.

Many folks who’ve come here with their own ‘Save the World’ story have moved on. Perhaps to the thrills of the ex-pat life abroad. Or to throw down roots in their hometowns and start families with 2.5 kids. Or grad school. Or whatever.  Many friends, come and gone.

What remains at the surface is a transient town consumed with status and power, of drunk  dudes in bad suits at happy hour.  At the surface that is… but that’s not my DC.

As I’ve settled back in, I’ve not only immersed in the communities of friends, mentors, and clients who inspire and ground me, but have cultivated renewed gratitude for the intentional home of my creation. Where I can celebrate the DC Pride Parade and easily transition to a Ramadan Iftar in the same weekend.

On a recent episode of Synchronicity with Noah Lampert, one of my favorite podcasts these days, guest Mikey Kampmann posited that home is the feeling of being at ease with your own self.  To stop bracing and let your guard down.

Check it! Yoga in my Neighborhood Park on Saturdays

Check it! Yoga in my Neighborhood Park on Summer Saturdays mornings

And here I am.  Finding home in my own path and career in nutrition and yoga, working with folks to create space in their lives for their physical and emotional health amidst the DC hustle.

And I’ve rediscovered the true joy of teaching yoga and coaching nutrition clients. And simply being present.

And what a fine, blessed place to be.

Catch me on the mat and enjoy these summer days.

 

 

 

Indulgence, A Practice

A hike up Lion's Head Mountain in Cape Town

A Hike up Lion’s Head

A healthy lifestyle is a funny thing.  It is constant work- riding the ebbs and flows of life with self-respect and self-compassion.

Giving yourself permission to indulge – and fall apart at times – and pick yourself back up and return to a healthy rhythm. Without guilt. Without shame. Moving on.

I just came back from a beautiful three week trip in South Africa.

I went to see about a man and explore a life together.

We met five months prior under a full moon on an unseasonably balmy Christmas Eve in the District.  He brought the South African Christmas with him.

On our first date I tell him my spirit animal is a peacock. Without skipping a beat, he informs me that he is a snow leopard, and furnishes his phone, with a wallpaper image of the famously elusive Himalayan creature for proof.

When I visit him in his native Cape Town, I do my best to create space for myself in his world and on the road, tending to my rhythm and healthy lifestyle practices.

Even as we journeyed into AfrikaBurn, the largest regional Burning Man event in the world outside of Black Rock City, I managed to stick with my meditation, yoga, and healthy eating. I brought kale and quinoa with me into the desert.

Ultimately I discover he was not the man I thought he was. While he was a true love of mine, I would have had to shrink to fit. And lose myself to be by his side.

But no regrets. It was a tremendous experience in the practice of living and loving in earnest. If I didn’t make the trip and explore the connection, it would have haunted me for the rest of my life.

It brought me to a stunningly beautiful corner of the world where I walked down some of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever encountered and hiked up two mountains. I immersed in the creativity and generosity of the human spirit and made new friends.

And I continue to discover how strong I am.

One day, the Snow Leopard chapter of my life will make a fine short story in the Peacock Chronicles. But for now, back Stateside, I’m allowing myself to heal and restore.

I’ve reconnected with my self-care rituals and retreated into my tribe of friends, mentors and clients.

I’ve also allowed myself to unravel into the requisite comfort foods of the break up diet.  Lots of it.

On a Saturday night, I had eggrolls and a Snickers bar for dinner. And nutella sandwiches before noon the next day. And continued to indulge in unholy amounts of fried chicken, and cheeses and breads, and all of the sweets at a friend’s birthday party.

By the time I taught my Sunday evening yoga class, my belly was so bloated I could barely demonstrate a forward fold.

And it’s fine. It’s the practice of allowing ourselves to be human. In which we ebb and flow and ride the joys and disappointments of life. And pick ourselves back up again and move forward.

After all, the pursuit of perfection is ultimately rooted in shame… the inability to be human.

And so on this Monday, I am happy to start the week returning back to my healthy eating practice.  For now, it starts with buying three dark leafy greens from the market for meal planning this week.

And all is coming.

Creating Paradise

جنة بغير ناس ما تنداس

“If you encounter Paradise and no one is inside, don’t enter…”

Paradise-Wallpaper-Full-HD1-300x187

In my time in Egypt thus far, I’m learning personal space is hard to come by.. Indeed it’s a luxury afforded to few, especially women.

I’ve been truly blessed to retreat into the love and generosity of my family here. Reconnecting after eight years or more, they have offered sumptuous feasts, patience and encouragement in practicing my Arabic, and facilitation in making this journey possible. The unplanned sacred moments following them to the Sea and storytelling along the way. And protection… even when I don’t want it.

The project of negotiating space for myself – space in my belly to breath between second and third helpings of meals, space for physical exercise (certainly in the way the works best for me in walking and biking outside), space when I’m not teaching or meeting with colleagues to socialize and adventure outside out the house – has proven challenging at times.

I followed their lead, from the ablutions, to the cycles of kneeling and prostrating that are strikingly reminiscent of a yogic sun salutation.

My first day in Cairo, catching up with my aunts, we talked about my work and the practice of cultivating health and fulfillment… I thought of people who are dear to me that work towards a certain image of success- the big house and flashy cars –  but lack the relationships to fill them.

Immediately one aunt recalled an Arabic adage: “If you encounter Paradise and no one is inside, don’t enter”

An ENFP to the core, I could totally appreciate it.  Where would I be without my tribe of mystics and misfits?

The next morning, as I sat in my regular morning meditation practice, they quietly tiptoed around me… not understanding what I was doing but intuitively understanding that I was holding a sacred space.

Yoga is not a religion but the science of inviting in the presence of the divine.

When I finished, they invited me to join the family one of the five daily Muslim prayers.  I very much anchor my spiritual identity as a Muslim but I’m not traditionally observant. In that moment however, it felt comforting and familiar to be immersed the community of a ritual I hadn’t practiced for so long.

Rusty, I followed their lead, from the ablutions, to the cycles of kneeling and prostrating that are strikingly reminiscent of a yogic sun salutation.

After prayer one aunt asked why I meditated. She inquired into Hindu and Buddhist origins of yoga. Why couldn’t I just pray? I’m Muslim after all, and prayer is one of the five pillars.

Meditation and yoga, I explained, is not a religion unto itself but the science of inviting in the presence of the divine into the physical body…My meditation practice, I continued, was intensely personal for me and prayer couldn’t override and replace it.

Ramadan is a communal covenant and celebration of devotion.

Next morning, my aunt and I got into a flare of emotions when I was expected to again join them for prayer.  Truth is … I couldn’t recall all the necessary recitations for prayer and resented the expectation that I would have to.

Why, I argued, is it religiously significant for me to pray with them if the pressure is coming from outside.  What does it matter if I’m just going through the motions?

Her face betrayed legitimate confusion and heartbreak.  “Dahlia, I want to see you in Heaven” she says, pleading in earnest.

“I know…”  I know culturally for her, she truly believes she is not doing her work as a Muslim if she is not trying to steer those around her towards the path to God as she understands it. I again joined them in prayer.

For the rest of my time with them, they never asked me to join them again in prayer. Instead before breakfast, my aunts would remind me to meditate.

We need community for our path. We are social animals and meant to exist in connection with one another. It’s when we come alive. And Ramadan in the Middle East is a nothing short of a communal covenant in ritual observance and celebration of devotion.

But certainly there is space for personal devotion. Space for individual cultivation of what it means to be connected to something greater outside of ourselves… whatever its form.

There is space for all of us.  If only we insist on it.