Sunday, May 18, 2014

Playa del Carmen; Lessons in Living in the Moment

The past week has been the first of a 3 week "quest" for me during which time I am "living" and studying spanish in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  I have vacationed here in the past, mostly for beaching and scuba diving, and it is a place where I feel particular in the moment.  Because of this, it was the perfect place for me spend my quest as I seek to return to my own Center. 

Playa is known for its beautiful beaches and all inclusive resorts that dot the coast north and south of the city from Cancun down toward Tulum. The sandy beaches are spectacular and the water is a myriad of blues and greens.  Friendly people and a tourist atmosphere abound the parts of playa visited by many Americans.  

I am staying towards the end of the tourist strip known as 5th avenue, north of the central point of the city.  The school is situated so that I am steps away from restaurants, "sellers" and  Mexican handicrafts, bars and luxury stores.  However, I am also just steps away from the city that many people call home.   One of my favorite things about living here is to walk away from 5th avenue towards 30th avenue and explore the neighborhoods between Aviendas 10 and 40, outside of the tourist center.  It's actually quite amazing that just a few blocks away a different world exists, as if the beach and the tourist did not exist.  No doubt the tourist employs most who live here in one way or another, but I enjoy simply walking as if I am not a tourist myself and watching how the people live, 

Early in the morning as I walk or jog through he neighborhoods, the people walk or ride their bikes to work.  The maids and young women who work in the Lavenderias pass by in uniforms, typically in groups, talking and gossiping.   Families walk past with children in school uniforms, fussing the hurrying to the schools.   In the evenings I watch families walking or riding bicycles to the grocery, sitting outside in the park or school children playing games of soccer.  In the park nearby a group of women meet every morning to dance together 

Ex-pats, and some locals pass me walking their dogs or running with the getting, buenos dias (good morning). There is simply a high presence of Life, walking and moving and living with a capital L. I have come to realize that one of the things that I love about the Latin American countries that I have visited is that people live outside.  From the open air patios that make up the restaurants, tacerias, apartments and schools, to the way the locals travel, life happens outside.  Perhaps this is partially by necessity, but it makes me feel happy.  Life outside is life in the moment, a quality that the Mexican people appear to have mastered. 

This week I will continue my quest as I move into another week if study with my European friends and our teacher Luis.  I'm looking forward to my daily walks, trips to yoga and learning more about living in the moment by observing my neighbors.

Buenos noches,


Monday, December 2, 2013

Exploration of "I"

The theme of this poem is based on the discovery of identity within myself .  The poem illustrates my struggle to feel seen and heard outside of the perception of others.  It also touches on how those perceptions can feel like a trap or bind,  while the absence of these perceptions can feel lifeless.  In yoga philosophy we know that "I" expands beyond a body, personality or even our individual Spirit, yet in everyday living we have a strong identification with roles, characteristics and labels. 

I can't say that I always find myself believing in the ending of this poem. It's still a path of discovery for me.  Perhaps you will see something of yourself in this writing as well.


If you do not see me do I still exist?
Or am I like a tree falling soundlessly to the floor of an empty forest

If you do not hear my voice can I still speak?
Or does my voice die out before the sound passes my lips

If you do not touch me can I still feel?
Or does sensation cease,  leaving my skin numb and unresponsive

Where did I begin?
As a cell in the womb, unseen and unheard
Or when I emerged squirming and crying as a tiny baby drawing in my first breath

Where do I end?
At my toes or fingertips, crown of my head
Or at the place where you last acknowledged my presence

Who am I?
Cells, bones, and tissue that come together to form the body
Spirit and Divine Essense contained In a shell
Thoughts and memories, experiences and feelings
Or am I who you perceive me to be, created by your definition and expectations

If I am defined only by myself where does this lead?
Am I released into sweet freedom unbound by labels
Or placed in an empty void of invisibility

Who is this "I"

I am

The one I see even when others cannot
The one that hears my voice and speaks my truth
The one who feels moist skin, soft hair, the warm embrace of holding myself
The one who was created as Spirit and embodies Divinity
The one who will never end

I am allowed, only me, the sweet luscious truth of knowing "I"

January 2012

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Practice of Loving Kindness

When I was a kid my mom used to say, "I get out of bed with my feet running".  Being very literal,  I wondered how could this be true?  I pictured my mom running on a hamster wheel careening through the house still in her nightgown.  In adulthood, I learning to understand what she meant.  Life is busy all the time, and many of us are running even before our body moves from the bed.  Keeping up with the demands of life often leads us to distraction, disconnected from ourselves and others.

When I began to practice yoga and meditation my mind was still on "run" as I moved through postures.  With practice I learned to hold my thoughts to a "jog" and finally I learned to  "walk".    I'm still working on asking the mind to "sit", but there are moments when a small space opens between thoughts.  Ahhh, this is when yoga is happening.   Even in yoga posture practice that is physical and faster paced, yoga has much more to do with quiet mind than with where to put your hands and feet.  It is inside quiet mind that we experience deeper awareness of and connect to Source.

One way to slow down and feel more grounded  is to use simple forms of meditation so that the mind can "sit".  I was introduced to Loving Kindness or Metta Meditation a number of years ago.   The Metta Meditaiton is a powerful experience of sending peace, safety and kindness to all beings, those you love and those with which you have conflict. This practice is that of connecting to all beings and recognizing that on the inside we are all the same, connected by God.  My experience with practicing Metta is that it has an intense effect on how I view others.  Once you offer Metta you may begin to view others with more kindness, so in fact, the practice brings more kindness to the world.  This is an example of Metta Meditation

May you be happy.
May you be safe.
May you be healthy and strong.
May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May you be at ease.

Om  Peace, Peace, Peace

Metta is simple to practice and can be practiced formally in a structured manner like I am describing or in an informal manner.   When leading Metta Meditation, I typically instruct students to bring to mind the person to whom they are offering Metta.   Find a quiet space and sit comfortably.  Close your eyes and bring to mind a teacher or influencial person in your life.  Offer Loving Kindness to this person using words similar to those above.  Sit for a few moments and feel the effect of the practice.  You will move through the meditation 6 times beginning with a teacher, and then offering Metta to yourself, a loved one, a neutral person (someone you do not know personally such as a store clerk or mailman), an enemy or adversary, and finally all beings.  Each time you offer Metta sit for a few moments to experience the effect of Loving Kindness.

I begin teaching Loving Kindness to my students at age 3 with simply words (may you be happy, safe, at peace).  We offer this to a loved one, ourselves and the whole world.  Every time I do this one of the children will say "but not the robbers and the bad guys".   Yet when we finish, you can see that their perspective has shifted.  After practicing Loving Kindness a young girl of 5 years looked at me and said, "If everyone did this there wouldn't be any robbers."  Indeed!

There is some interesting research being done on the power of Loving Kindness.  Check out the Kripalu Blog to learn about the many powerful effects that the Practice of Loving Kindness has on all of us.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Meditations on a Rock

Poetry has become a tool that I use to discover myself and a tool I use to explore my emotions.  I often explore feelings in the form of a poem before I identify them any other way. I use poetry to explore my reactions and emotions to difficult or intense situations or as a form of self-reflection.  It has become a means of expressing my most intense inner thoughts.  After chanting, hiking or meditating I find that poetry flows most easily.  I revisit poems over and over, reworking them or simply observing the emotion that was behind the poem when it was written and the emotion that I feel when I read it in the present.  My poems have many meanings for me.  I might have written a poem with a meaning in a particularly situation and then find that it still fits how I am feeling in a different moment years later. 

This poem below was written in the summer of 2010.  I spent a day hiking alone and meditating in the woods in Minnesota and then wrote this as a self-reflection.  I think most of it remains true to how I see myself in this moment.

Meditations on a Rock

Bores easily
Laughs frequently
Takes directions rarely
Knows what she wants
But is afraid to say so
Loves to dance
but is shy in front of others

Communes with nature
Vibrates with energy
Lives to explore
Longs to be free
Lives for the rush of the present
May distract herself from the truth

Grasps for what she wants
Wants everything at once
Dreams for the moment when it all turns out just as she planned

Is free spirited
A lover of all things.
Cares for others
Discovers herself daily
Is frightened by what she finds
Yet is afraid of nothing


She is
A breeze on a hot day
A glance at your lover
A mothers kiss
A loyal friend
A smile on the face of a stranger

Hello Susan
You are welcome here

If you enjoy poetry, check out my favorite yoga poet Danna Faulds and read some of her poems here.


In this moment
Is the anticipation
The possibility
The hope
The fear
The question
The message to myself
The only thing that exists is this moment
Don't miss it

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Great Outdoors

There’s something magical about young children and the outdoors.  Have you ever noticed that crying babies often shush when you step outside?  Or heard the laughter that comes from the playground during recess?  When I reflect on childhood memories, I recall days spend at my grandparent’s cabin by the lake, bike rides through the neighborhood and making mud pies after a rain.   My sister and I would spend spring and summer afternoons following the stream in the backyard and taking an “adventure” whiling away the daylight hours.    Exploring the outdoors not only allows children to destress and connect with nature, but it provides important opportunities for unstructured play that are so important for creativity, imagination, physical and emotional well-being.
Research tells us that outdoor play has many positive benefits for children.  Outdoor play promotes an active lifestyle and increases fitness levels.  Children may benefit in critical thinking skills as studies show that exposure to environment-based education increases student performance in problem solving.   Studies also indicate that stress levels fall within minutes of interacting with green spaces
In the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors.  According to a University of Michigan study, the average American child spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.  Family time as well as school time is more structured, leaving fewer opportunities to have an outdoor adventure.  Certainly safety factors are part of this move indoors; times have changed since I was a child in the 70’s, but increasingly family time is more scheduled and this impacts time spent outdoors. The National Wildlife Federation is working to change this trend by encouraging adults to give children a “green hour,” time for “unstructured play and interaction with the natural world,” each day.   Another grassroots organization, The Children & Nature Network has started an initiative called “Leave No Child Inside” . 
The key to promoting a “Green Hour” for your family is to keep it simple;   leave a fixed agenda behind.  A little planning may be involved, but the key here is “unstructured”.  Pack your outdoor bag with sunscreen, hats, jackets and water and you are ready to explore the great outdoors.
The simplest way to share a “green hour” is through an evening neighborhood walk.  A simple walk after work or school is a great way to reconnect with your child and commune with nature at the same time.   Whether you bring strollers, tricycles or simply wander on foot, a daily walk allows you to interact with neighbors and release the stresses of the day.  Allow your child to set the pace and stop to explore all the interesting sounds and sights of spring along the way. 
Gardening is another simple way to connect and explore the outdoors.  Children love to plant seeds and care for their garden, watching with anticipation as each seed begins to sprout.  Working with soil and water provides needed sensory stimulation and caring for growing things promotes self-esteem and responsibility.
Here are some other ideas for exploring the outdoors around Columbia:
Bike the Trail. Columbia has miles of bike trails through the MKT Trail and the Bear Creek Trail System.
Take a Hike.  Explore the many hiking trails around Rock Bridge State Park.
Visit Stephen’s Lake.  Walk alongside the lake or stroll on the paved walkway.  Enjoy the sounds of nature on a quiet bench or run laughing down the hillside.
Explore a new park.  Columbia has dozens of parks waiting to be explored.  Spend an afternoon in your favorite park or set out to find a new favorite.  Visit to find out about parks and trails within the city of Columbia.
More Ideas for Outdoor Experiences.  Visit and
I invite you to share a “green hour” with your child each day.  This simple lifestyle change can instill in your child the love of nature and precious opportunity to connect and destress. 
Susan Mathis, M.Ed., RYT teaches yoga to children and adults in Columbia, Mo.  She explores the outdoors at every opportunity hiking, walking, rock climbing or scuba diving.  Her next adventure will be backpacking the Grand Canyon in  June.