Thursday, October 29, 2015

Author Interview - Linda Sparrowe

Today I'd like to welcome author Linda Sparrowe. She wrote the book Yoga at Home, which I featured yesterday.  If you missed that book review, please take the time to go back and read it here.  Settle back in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and enjoy the interview....

How old were you when you started Yoga and what was the reason you started?

I didn’t actually start doing physical yoga in earnest until the mid-80s, but my love affair with the philosophy, language, and the ancient teachings began in 1968 when I was a freshman in college and I went on to study all that in depth in graduate school. As a anxiety-prone freshman, I became more interested in meditating, which I’ve continued to practice ever since. By the time I joined the staff at Yoga Journal in 1992, I was practicing Iyengar yoga pretty seriously. But before that I merely dabbled, agreeing at most to do a 12-pose sequence my meditation teacher insisted on (in 1970) to get me to settle down and sit quietly. Initially the physical side of yoga helped ground me but I was way more interested in becoming enlightened!

Yoga is so much more than striking pose and holding it.  What do you feel are the biggest benefits to incorporating Yoga into your life?

Yoga helps us wake up to the whole of our experience—and helps us establish a deeper relationship with our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. It helps us move from a feeling of separation to connection. Yoga can help you learn how to notice and then listen to what your body needs at any given moment—without judgment. I think too often we come to yoga in hopes of becoming better or “more than.” You know, we want our bodies to be stronger, more flexible, have better balance. We want our minds to be calmer, our interactions with others to be kinder, more mindful. But I believe what yoga does is uncovers who we already are, what’s already true. It’s a path toward self-discovery not a self-improvement plan. Yoga, above all, is a body-based meditation practice, a way of waking up to what is. Discovering the strength of our legs in standing poses or breathing our way into the length our spines already possess. I’m less interested in becoming more than I am than in discovering the truth of who I already am. I want to see what it feels like to approach a pose with friendliness, instead of judgment; I want to experience the coming together of my mind and body through the agency of the breath. I want to step onto my yoga mat with the intention to practice loving kindness and see how that impacts the rest of my life. Hopefully, all of this helps me be a kinder, gentler, happier human being off the mat. Does that make sense?

What do you most take away with you when you leave your mat each day? 

A renewed sense of connection. An intention to bring that connection, that peaceful feeling, and even a feeling of accomplishment out into my day.

Ive heard people comment that in order to do Yoga you must study Buddhism or Hinduism.  How true or untrue is this and whats the connection? 

Totally untrue. Yoga doesn’t belong to any religion. And truly, yoga is practiced in a multitude of ways. You can bring a sense of sacred to the practice, invoke your God or Goddess, tenets of Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism into your yoga slate, but all of that is optional. Once again, yoga is a practice of self-discovery and deep connection. That can mean different things to different people.

There are many different practices of yoga.  What are the differences and how does someone choose which one to try or study?

There are so many different styles of yoga these days—it’s quite mind-boggling. I’m not certain how to answer this, or give the best advice, but I will say people need to listen to their bodies and determine what works best for them. If you go to a class and it doesn’t feel right—for whatever reason—it’s NEVER your fault! Find another class and teacher and explore that. And another, and another until you find something that works for your body, your schedule, and your challenges. Yoga is always willing to accommodate the population it serves.

What is the purpose of having a yoga altar and is it necessary?  

Creating an altar in your home practice space is a way to designate that space as special or even sacred. For many practitioners, it’s a reminder of their connection to the practice and a way to honor themselves; it helps them separate their yoga time from the rest of their day-to-day obligations. I like altars because I like to establish a beginning and an ending to my practice: Lighting incense or candles at my altar is a lovely way to begin; bowing toward my altar, which has photos of my family and my teachers on it, is the way that I end my practice, expressing gratitude and setting the intention to come back again the next day. An altar with sacred objects can also be a reminder that our practice is bigger than our own needs; we do yoga to be of service to others.
    Do we need altars in order to have a home practice? Oh gosh no. First of all, while it’s lovely to have a designated space, that’s not always possible, so carving out a place to put your mat is really all you need. Secondly, if bringing in a sense of the sacred is important to you, you can do that by simply stepping into your space and stepping on your mat. In other words, the space becomes special or even sacred by deeming it so. And finally, doing yoga wherever and whenever you can connects it to the rich fabric of your life—and keeps it real!
What I wanted more than anything to convey with the Yoga At Home book is how people really live and how they find spaces of stillness and practice within their great and messy and beautiful lives. I wanted to depict the tiny details that make people human (kids books scattered about, flowers, and other members of the family walking by) and give readers a feeling that they can create what they need out of what they have.

What is a murti? 

A murti is a sacred object. For yogis, that often is a statue of Ganesha (the remover of obstacles, in the Hindu religion), Krishna, or Shiva—most often the dancing Shiva or the Shiva lingam. Hindus believe these objects are actually imbued with the living presence of the diety him/herself.

This may sound silly, but how does one meditate?  Are you thinking about something, making your mind blank, praying? 

Meditation is both incredibly simple and profoundly difficult because, of course, it involves our minds and our minds refuse to be silenced or corralled. If you try to stop your mind from thinking, you’ll fail pretty much every time. Because that’s what the mind is designed to do! Think. There are many forms of meditation—mantra; shamatha (a form of watching the breath); concentration; mindfulness or vipassana. Some forms invite you to pay attention to the breath and when you find your mind wandering, as it is wont to do, simply invite it back into your experience and center it once again on the breath. In practices like mantra meditation you silently repeat a word or syllable to keep your focus internal.

What do you say to people who think they are too stiff, too old, too overweight or not disciplined enough to try yoga? 

While I understand why they would think that—our culture’s obsession with flexible, skinny, young bodies has permeated the yoga world, too—I just want to say you’re never too this or not enough that to try yoga. The problem with waiting until you’re flexible enough or thin enough, or have enough time to devote to doing yoga? You’ll never do it because you’ll never be enough.

Is it ever too late to start? 

Oh my goodness…NEVER! One of the most famous yoginis of all time, Vanda Scaravelli, didn’t start until she was in her late 40s; other women I’ve met didn’t begin until their late 60s. Assisted living homes and even nursing homes have yoga for residents in their 80s!

For those who are interested in beginning, what do you suggest they do first? 

Check out their local studios and see what they have to offer. Talk to friends they respect (and whose lifestyle and fitness level is similar) and see where they go and what teachers they like. And remember, once again, if a class or a teacher makes you feel uncomfortable or like a loser, take a different class, choose a different teacher. And start gently. Don’t commit to more than you think you can do. Don’t sign up for a four-day-a-week practice when you’re not even sure you have the time or inclination to do once a week! If you really feel much too self-conscious to go into a studio class, perhaps save up for a private session with a yoga teacher (recommended by someone you resonate with) or sign up for a free two-week trial on an online yoga community like yogaglo or or classes on yoga international’s site. I say this because these sites often have very beginning classes that only last 10 or 20 minutes and can give you a gentle taste of what you can expect in a longer one.

Why do a home practice and how do you start one?

Home practice is essential to gaining the most benefit from yoga. Going to a class helps you figure out what to do, allows you to benefit from a teacher’s wisdom and knowledge about the body, the practice, and the sequencing. It’s also great to practice in a community of other practitioners. But without home practice you have no idea how to digest what you’ve learned. No way of incorporating it into your own body, your own life. You don’t have to worry about what other people are doing or how you’re measuring up. You have an opportunity to ask the question: How am I doing and what do I need right now to feel good? And then in the privacy of your own space, you can listen deeply and act accordingly. Plus, if you decide you want to spend your entire practice in Savasana or begin with a Headstand or a backbend, or stop after 15 minutes and brew a cup of tea instead—you can!

 Which Yoga book would you suggest reading, other than this one of course? 

There are SO many yoga books out there, it’s hard to choose! I like Donna Farhi’s The Breathing Book and her Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit: A Return to Wholeness. Yoga: Mastering the Basics, by Rolf Sovik. My personal favorite—although it’s not really asana/posture based is BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life. It’s a beautiful treatise on the deeper teachings of yoga and how they relate to our everyday life. And, speaking of teachings that help us navigate the day-to-days, always have a Pema Chodron book or two on your bookshelf (Wisdom of No Escape; When Things Fall Apart).

Thank you Linda for coming by and sharing this with us.  I know it has given me a new insight into the world of yoga and your book has inspired me to get up out of my chair and try it.  I especially like the meditation aspect and I'm going to explore it further.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review - Yoga at Home

Yoga at Home: Inspiration for Creating Your Own Home Practice by Linda Sparrowe, Universe Publishing, 2015  Images by Sarah Keough.  Yoga at Home: Inspiration for Creating Your Own Home Practice is a beautiful hard bound, 8" x 10"  edition that contains 240 pages as well as 250 color photographs.

I am so excited to be sharing this book review with you.  Yoga at Home has introduced me to a world that I've often heard about, but never experienced.  I have certainly heard about Yoga, as well as seen other people doing it, but I never really knew much about it.  This book has really opened my eyes.

Yoga at Home can be read and enjoyed not only by Yoga students and teachers, but by novices such as myself.  It's an excellent introduction into the world of Yoga and everyone who reads it will be sure to glean something of value from between its covers.

The benefits of yoga are many...
  • strengthens the relationship between the mind, heart and the body
  • increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone
  • improved respiration and vitality
  • weight reduction
  • cardio and circulatory health
  • stress management
  • a path towards self discovery
The key to home practice is to take some classes and then go home and digest what you've learned.  Practicing at home will take you deeper into what you've learned because hopefully you will have less distractions and can focus on yourself.  You are free to take what you've learned and bend it to fit your needs.  Perhaps one day you want to work on meditation and maybe the next your body is telling you to stretch and strengthen your muscles.  At home, you can do whatever you like for whatever period of time you have available that day.

Yoga at Home combines a compilation of hints, tips and techniques from 50 of the world's most renowned yoga teachers and practitioners.  They offer a rare glimpse into their homes so we can actually see how they create their personal practice spaces.  Each space is as different and individual as the person.  You will come to realize that there is no specific way to do it.   Learn how to create a special sanctuary and you are free to pick and choose whatever props appeal to you,  Add color, light, music, incense, photographs and altars as you see fit.  Design a space as large as an entire room or as small as a corner of your living room.  Learn how to work with what you have to create something that is uniquely yours.

Home practice teaches you to be aware of your body and what it needs.  It will help you to bring balance to your life and to release tension.  You strengthen your willpower every time you get on your mat and work out, even if your inner voice is saying you're too tired.  Your routine can be simple or it can be regimented.  That's the beauty of home practice - it can be whatever you want it to be.

The thing that struck me the most with this book is the peace and harmony that yoga brings and I was truly moved and affected by this book.  I was fascinated by the photos of the poses and the meditation and I am in awe of one teacher in particular.  She is almost 70 years old and to see the strength and agility she possesses just blew me away.  How many seventy year old women do you know who can do this?

She is in fantastic shape.  If that's what yoga can do, where do I sign up?  Everyone in the book had a couple of similarities - they all look happy, peaceful and serene.  Many of them talk about simplicity.   Who wouldn't want that in their life?

The back of the book contains over 20 pages of poses and sequences for you to try.  It was helpful for me to see the poses and learn their names.  And yes, I did try a few.  My life is busy, hectic and stressful.  Yoga and meditation is something that I'd like to explore further.  I can see myself doing yoga, learning the poses, finding my way.  I actually think I could learn to do this....

And no, you do not have to be young and in perfect shape to try or start yoga and that's the beauty of it.  So come back tomorrow when author Linda Sparrowe comes by to share some words of wisdom, hints and tips to get you started.  It's attainable, believe me.

In the meantime, pick up a copy of the book.  I promise it will inspire you to get up and stretch, relax and discover more about yourself.   Namaste.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.   Get your copy here

I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Estate Sale Finds 10-26-2015

We went to 6 estate sales on Friday and only bought stuff at the first one we stopped at.  Don't ya just hate it when stuff is over priced?  Another thing I can't stand is when you walk in and they immediately say "No deals today - full price only."  Honestly, wouldn't you rather sell this stuff than have it sitting there 3 days later?  Truth be told, when they do that, I silently think to myself "I hope that's still sitting here when your stupid sale is over."   :-)

So this is what we came home with this week.  Two packages of new paint brushes.  I go thru paint brushes like crazy, so we always snap them up.  7 whole skeins of yarn and a portion of another skein.  Added bonus - I liked the colors.  I'm making another blanket so I grab nice colors at estate sales whenever I see them.

An almost full can of Minwax and a 3/4 full bottle of Mod Podge.  A utility knife and a folding ruler.  The red handled scoop has some vintage rust on it and matches a kitchen fork I picked up a couple weeks ago, so I will list them together in my shop.  The green tin is a sewing machine accessory box.  I like to fill them with sewing notions and sell them in my shop as well.

Here's another shot of the sewing box.  After I cleaned it up it looked a little better than this....

A quilt rack to re-do....

Ok, I got totally skunked on this one.  So badly in fact that I am almost embarrassed to even admit it.  I found this in a stack of picture frames and got all excited about the hand stitched picture.  It was so pretty and they only wanted $ 2.00 for it.  The glass on the frame was broken, but I didn't care because I was positive the embroidered sampler was worth something....

Then we got it home and I took it out and realized it was a photo print.  Crap - it looked so real.  What an idiot I am.  Here I was thinking I had a BIG find and I got it stuck right in my butt.  LOL.  Oh well, at least I didn't spend much on it and I can re-use the frame for something.  I sure learned a lesson on that one.

Louie picked this up for the lake house...

And I picked this up for the lake house.  Aren't they cute?  I love Precious Moments and have quite a few of them...

LOVE the patina on these brass lion's.  I have no idea what I'll do with them, but for a quarter apiece, I took them.

I grabbed this to hold the bracelets and key chains that I make.  It works perfectly for that!

Some more hangers for my shop....

Full bottles of glue and the exact size and color belt that I needed for handles for the trunk we are currently refinishing.  Louie already has them installed!

And I saved the best for last!  This flag is from the high school I went to in Chicago,  It could possibly be from around the time I went there as it looks pretty familiar.  Louie actually saw it first and held onto it for me until I caught up with him in the room he was in.  He's getting a pretty good handle on the kind of stuff I like.  Go Eagles!!

On another note - here's a new bracelet I'm selling.  It says "Go where the wind takes you" and it's available here.  Don't forget, I do custom bracelets and key chains so get your orders in before the holidays.  I'm offering all my blogger friends a 10% discount on any item from my shop that is over
$ 10.00.   Just use the coupon code blog10 at checkout.    Discount is good until 12-31-2015.  Here's a link to the store.

Ok, I have lots of stuff coming up - a book review for Rizzoli Publishing as well as an author interview, and I have lots of pictures to share from our recent trip to Colorado and Wyoming.   We had an awesome time.   So, see you later this week.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Meet Doctor Doolittle

We've recently done a bunch of great geocaches in Wisconsin that were all put together by Ron, aka, Doctor Doolittle.  They have been such fun to do that I asked Ron if he'd answer a couple of questions about his amazing geocaches.  If you missed yesterdays post about 6 of his caches, you have to go back and take a look at it here.

Let's see what Ron has to say.....

I got the idea for a Take a Deep Breath from my friend Tim Eggleston in West Virginia.  I used his idea for the internal mechanism.  The Snoopy and Woodstock idea is all mine.  When I built Geocaches I want them to have broad appeal.  I chose Peanuts characters because they are known and loved by all generations...and people in other countries to boot.  I have had people from around the world find it and comment about how much they love Peanuts.   Take a Deep Breath has well over 200 favorite points, so it's my most favorited cache by other geocachers.

My inspiration?   I like building elegant gadget caches. They must be challenging enough to provide fun but not too much so to cause stress. Sometimes I watch videos on Youtube to spark inspiration. Sometimes ideas just come to me when I'm in the hardware store.

I have about 60-70 active caches.  I have hidden more than 500 myself and as part of team efforts.

Building the caches is a relaxing diversion.  I work about 50 hours a week and working with my hands is therapy.

The Slinger Fire Department cache has been my most labor intensive and costly to build. I can only guess, but it probably took 70-80 hours over 6 months and $300 to build.  

You asked about placing caches on private property.  I ask lots of business and other places for cache placement and they decline. However, some do say yes.  I explain what it involves to the property/business owner in detail.  I also tell them it will bring more traffic to their business.

Private property is the only place large costly caches are safe from vandalism. I would never hide my gadget caches on public property.  They are also listed as Premium Member caches as an added security measure.

I have experience much vandalism over the years.  I had 25 caches stolen at one time on the Glacial Drumlin trail in Waukesha, Wisconsin. After that, I started listed my hides as premium member only so they could not be viewed by everyone on the web.

My most recent Geocache creation is always my favorite one. I like my cache hides that strike a cord in people.

I have been Geocaching since September of 2007.  I started without a GPS for my first hundred finds or so.  I used Google satellite images on my desktop at home to sketch hiding places on scratch paper and then go find the caches in the field.

My friend suggested Doctor Dolittle as my Geocaching name because I'm a veterinarian. I  couldn't think one.

I don't have a favorite cache that I have personally found.  I rarely find caches anymore since I work so much and I don't like having to drive to find caches either.  

Best regards!

I'd like to thank Ron for taking the time to chat with us today.  It's interesting to hear about his caches.  If you're in Wisconsin and anywhere near his area, I highly urge you to go do a bunch of his caches.  I promise that you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Geocaching in Wisconsin - October 2015

If it seems like we've been geocaching in Wisconsin a lot lately, well, it's because we have been!  We discovered an area that is ripe with fantastic geocaches, so we keep going back to get more.  It's so refreshing to get something that is fun and unusual, as opposed to the many lamp skirt caches we tend to find.

I think one of my favorite caches ever was Say Cheese.   A lot of work and effort went into this super creative geocache.  And it's out in plain sight in front of a cheese store.

Caches like this lead to some great photo opportunities and even my dad got in on the fun...

I mean seriously, how many times in your life can you stick your head into a mousetrap??  People walking in and out of the store were cracking up when they saw what we were doing.

The next geocache was called Rocket Man and was located only a block away from Say Cheese.

This is another cache that is hidden in plain sight.  The back of the sign had this explanation on it...

Dad did the honors and I was surprised that I was able to get a shot of the rocket flying out of the pipe...

How fun is that?  We all had a good laugh over that one...

I'm a big fan of Lending Libraries, especially when I can leave a book and pick up a geocache.   This one is called Hot Dog and is another example of fine craftsmanship....

The Slinger Fire Department  is another excellent geocache.  Check out this fire truck that is hidden behind the Slinger Fire Department...

There are all kinds of knobs and buttons that need to be pushed and pulled in order to open the trap door to expose the geocache...

We had a good time pressing everything until finally the door opened.  We still don't know what we did to open it.  LOL....

We found another Lending Library - Cotton Candy is sugar and spice and everything nice!

 Cuckoo! was  cute because you had to figure out how to open the birdhouse....

Flutter, Flutter took us to a nice little park...

 Light the Horn was fun and quick - can you find it?

Cedarburg Little Free Library was a replica of the real depot featured in the next geocache.  It was also the 3rd lending library we found that day....

Cedarburg Railway took us to a historic train depot.  I always enjoy a cache with some history behind it....

Trial and Errors was another great cache.  This one really had us scratching our heads.  We looked for this cache for over 20 minutes....  We looked high....

We looked low and precariously....

 We searched in circles....

And we sat on this natural bench and read past log sheets looking for a clue.  We were almost ready to give up when I spotted something from just the right angle and told dad how to make the grab.   Finally!!  It's such a sweet victory when you find an elusive cache.  Then it took us almost 10 minutes to get the geocache placed back into its hiding spot.

We ended up doing 18 geocaches that day and had a great time.

Now, an interesting thing about the first 6 geocaches in this post is that they were all created by the same geocacher - Doctor Doolittle.  And Doctor Doolittle kindly agreed to an interview, so be sure to come back tomorrow to hear all about some of these amazing geocaches.
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