Everyone’s the Hero of Their Own Story

For the past four years, my husband and I have lived in my office. It started out by necessity.  Our German shepherd, Tasha was unable to walk up and down stairs for the last three years of her life. When we got a puppy, moving two flights of stairs from her potty yard seemed, well, unwise.

Now that Ana’s almost eight months old, we’re making the move, so to speak, of living in our entire house. A house that has been a 2400-square-foot storage space for the past four years. Needless to say, I’m sorting through and discarding lots of stuff.

In the process, I came across a handwritten page. I wrote it while I was flying to be by my mother’s side during the last days of her life. It’s over a year old, and I don’t know how much wisdom it offers, but perhaps it will have meaning to some of you.

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Crime writers have a saying: “Everyone’s the hero in their own story.” By this they mean that every character we write—even the most heinous villain—believes that they had valid reasons for their actions. From their point of view (albeit sometimes a skewed one) the murderer “had” to kill. The sleuth “had” to solve the crime. It’s all in perspective.

As it is in families.

My mother and I had a fractured relationship for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if it was because we were so completely different from each other or because we were so blindingly the same. If you heard our story from her perspective, I’m sure it sounded much different than my version. In fact, I know it did. In the end, the only way we could coexist was to not tell it, at least not to each other. It worked, for the most part.

I’ve spent most of my adult life finding my own way. Healing, if you will, from the past traumas between us.

And now it is time to say goodbye.

The next few weeks will undoubtedly be hard. Well-meaning friends offer advice. Most people tell me to make sure I take care of myself. Others assert that this is a time for my mother and me to finally heal; for us to reconcile the hurts of the past. I’m not sure either is possible.

You see, the cancer she’s fought for the past year has spread to her brain. The soul inside her body is still my mother, but she’s not able to communicate. I’m not sure she fully understands, either. I have no idea what, if anything, she’ll be able to tell me. The only thing I know for sure is this:

Forgiveness has no meaning; anger no place. Hurt remains, though transformed. All I can do is be present, and I will do that with one-hundred-percent of my being.

I hope there’s an afterlife. I hope the conditions for entry are different than I was taught in childhood Sunday school classes, because my mother didn’t share my father’s and my faith. The Yoga Sutras are echoingly silent on the subject, asking instead for us to each find our own way. To be completely honest, I find this both warmly comforting, and chillingly terrifying.

So for now, the best I can say is this: May my mother’s end be graceful, her journey peaceful, her destination filled with love. That is my hope for all of us.

Namaste

Tracy

Research Proves It: Yoga Works to Reduce Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome!

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I love learning about new research into the benefits of a consistent yoga practice, so I was delighted when a Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate (and practicing Medical Doctor) sent me an article from the December 1, 2016 edition Family Practice News  outlining the benefits of yoga for individuals suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  IBS is a sometimes-incapacitating digestive disorder that impacts between twenty-five and forty-five million adults in the United States, nearly two-thirds of which are female.  IBS isn’t believed to be caused by stress, but stress can significantly worsen its symptoms.

Yoga, it would seem, is the perfect tool to help.

A review of six randomized controlled trials published in the December issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology agrees. In the 273 patients with IBS studied, practicing yoga for four to twelve weeks had a similar effect as pharmacological therapies in terms of bowel symptoms, anxiety, and quality of life. More work needs to be done, but these initial results are promising.

Go yoga!

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

The Dark Side of a Yoga Lifestyle

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Hi all!  Please welcome Hayley Maguire To the Whole Life Blog today.  I don’t personally know Hayley, but I was struck by this article and wanted to share it with you.  Those of you who have been to Whole Life Yoga know that we are no yoga fashionistas.  Yoga can benefit everyone.  You are welcome here!

In recent years, yoga has become very fashionable. It’s the little black dress of the health and well-being industry, with people around the world aspiring to bendy perfection. Instagram is full of yoga ‘celebrities’ with a cult following, and yoga is seen by many as the best way to live a healthy, balanced life. So, what is a yoga lifestyle? And why do so many people want a slice of it?

First of all, I would like to add a little disclaimer. I love yoga, I have been a regular practitioner for several years and I fully endorse the benefits of it. However, I’ve been feeling a little uninspired by the level of conformity that seems to be creeping in. Since when do we all have to dress the same, eat the same and live the same way? I thought yoga allowed us to enjoy the physical benefits of the postures while discovering more about ourselves and becoming tolerant of others. I didn’t think it involved competitiveness over who spent the most amount of money on a mat, leggings, or an eco-friendly water bottle.

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I remember the first time I tried yoga while I was living in Sydney several years ago. I didn’t think about whether my leggings were branded or if my yoga outfit matched. And neither did most of the people who were practicing in the room alongside me. The focus was on our personal development and the creation of community. That’s why I loved it. These days though, I look around and I see many women competing over who has the better body and who can outsmart the others with their knowledge of how to better live a yoga lifestyle. It makes me a little sad.

That brings me back to the question, what is a yoga lifestyle? Is it copying what we see on social media? Is it bragging about our consumption of the latest healthy food? Or is it more than that? I’m an advocate for the latter. I believe there is no perfect yoga lifestyle, it’s different for all of us. Some people may want to wear Lululemon, others may want to wear something completely different, but as long as they are comfortable, does it really matter?

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The same applies to people that are vegetarian, gluten-free, social drinkers, tea total, caffeine addicts or cake lovers. Everyone is different and people are drawn to yoga for various reasons. Some practice every day, others do yoga once a week, or just every now and then. What is important is the outcome. If people feel the benefits of their practice and are happy with it, then they are doing it right. For me, that is a yoga lifestyle. So, let’s embrace individuality and enjoy practicing yogahowever we choose to do it!

About the Author:Authors profile picture

Hayley Maguire is a writer and editor with a focus on travel and lifestyle. She has spent several years working and traveling around the world and loves learning about new cultures. She is currently based in the Austrian Alps exploring the mountains and sharing her interests and experiences on her blog Nomadic Maguire. Hayley is also a contributor at BookYogaRetreats.com.

Of Life and Birth and Mysterious Journeys

Today’s my day to blog at Inkspot, the blog for authors of Midnight Ink.  I’m discussing my experience as a birth doula (limited though it may be), how it transformed me, and why I chose to write about being a doula in my fourth Downward Dog Mystery, A Fatal Twist.

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2017/02/of-life-and-birth-and-mysterious.html

Enjoy!

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Finding Inspiration

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I’ve been feeling uninspired lately. Lots of reasons, none all that compelling.  But compelling or not, they have temporarily eclipsed my drive to write.  So today’s blog will draw from the words of two people much wiser than me.  Two people who have influenced my yoga style, my teaching, and my philosophy of life, even though I never studied with either of them directly.  Those of you who follow my yoga teacher/sleuth Kate’s adventures, these are the same people who influence her.

If you’re curious about Viniyoga and its key tenants, the words of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar (both who devoted their lives to this work) express its power better than I can ever hope to.

Teacher training students and grads, hopefully some of this sounds familiar.

Enjoy.

On the Purpose of Yoga:

  • “Anybody can breathe. Therefore anybody can practice yoga.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The success of yoga must not be measured by how flexible your body becomes, but rather by how much it opens your heart.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “Yoga, unlike dance or mime, is not an expression of form for others to watch.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The success of yoga does not like in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and relationships.” T.K.V. Desikachar.

On Teaching:

  • “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.” — Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
  • “A good teacher sees the commonality of all human beings and helps each individual find his uniqueness.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.

On Life:

  • “Whether things get better or worse depends to a considerable extent on our own actions.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “The way that we see things today does not have to be the way we saw them yesterday. This is because the situations, our relationships to them, and we ourselves have changed in the interim.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “However powerful or disturbing something may appear to be, it is our reaction to it that determines its effects.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.
  • “Let your speech be true and sweet.” — Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
  • “Meditation results in marvels.” — T.K.V. Desikachar.

May each of you find inspiration wherever you can.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Lessons from Tasha

Last week I wrote about the loss of one of the greatest loves of my life, my German shepherd, Tasha, who was the inspiration for my Downward Dog Mystery Series.  Specifically, I wrote about how through her bravery, I learned how to love again.  Today I’d like to share some of the lessons she taught me. I actually wrote this to Tasha as we lay in bed together on one of her last nights, but I waited to post it until now.  Wherever she is, I hope she doesn’t mind my sharing.

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Tasha Dog–still happy ten days before she passed. There’s a lesson in that, too.

Lessons You Taught Me.

As we lay here together, we both know our time left together is short.  Being with you now is a privilege, and it reminds me of all of the lessons you’ve taught me over our past twelve years together.

  1. I am able to love–and be loved–without condition. I know, it seems like this should be a given, and it probably is.  But somehow I needed your presence in my life to prove it to me. This will always be your greatest gift.
  2. Love is hard–but so very worth it. I feel sorry for people who experience loss and then give up on love. Nothing is more powerful. Nothing is more worth doing. Over and over and over again.
  3. We all make mistakes. Lord knows, I’ve made plenty, especially in your earlier years. Frankly, my sweet, you made some doozies. It never changed my commitment to you, or yours to me.  Not once. There’s incredible beauty in that.
  4. When you make a friend, you love them for life. You didn’t trust many people, but when you bonded with someone, you did so completely. You never forgot their names, and you recognized them years later. In your last days, those same friends came to see you, some after having not been with you for a very long time.  You see, they loved you for life, too.
  5. It’s never to late to make new lifelong friends. As you aged, you grew sweeter. Your circle of friends broadened. I met some of the best people in my life in the last two years of yours–and all because of you.  In those friendships you live on for me.
  6. You can live with chronic illness and pain and be happy. Both of us have imperfect bodies, but you never complained about yours.  You accepted it and were happy in spite of it. I’m still working on that one.
  7. The mailman is not to be trusted.  OK, Sweetie.  If you say so.  I promise, I’ll keep an eye on him. You can relax now.  Your guard dog days are over. You did your job well.

I have a few requests for you as you move on to your next journey.

  1. Don’t wait for me. I don’t know if there’s a life beyond this one, but if there is, live it. Without regret, without reservation. Enjoy it. Relish it. I will join you when it’s my time. Come get me then, but feel free to forget about me in the meantime.
  2. That said, if you want to visit, I’ll be here. Writing about you. Thinking about you. Loving you. I am here for you. Always.
  3. I will be OK without you. That doesn’t at all reduce my love for you. In fact, it shows how very strong that love is. You don’t have to worry about me anymore. You made me strong enough to survive on my own.

Goodbye Puppy Girl, my sweetheart, my love. Thank you for gifting me with almost twelve years of your presence. I will always love you; always miss you. But I am forever grateful for the gift of you in my life.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Uncertainty, Loss, and Learning to Love Again

I recently asked my Facebook followers what they’d like to read about on my blog. Not surprisingly, they wanted to hear about Ana.  She’s been a huge part of my life since I adopted her in August, and of course people want to hear more about her and her antics.  Her penchant for eating $20 bills. Her Houdini-like escape maneuvers. Her ability to outsmart me (and her trainers) at literally every turn.

A couple of people asked me to write about something that surprised me, though. They wanted me to share how I got over the death of my heart-dog, Tasha, so that I could so fully commit to Ana.

13603638_10154556966443268_8986993429120975080_o1Tasha, you see, was my life for twelve years, and anyone who spoke to me for more than ten seconds knew it. I adored her. I lived for her. I built my life around her. I didn’t think I could survive without her. Literally. I told my husband that when Tasha passed, he’d have to take time off from work to put me on a suicide watch. He believed me. He even warned his boss.

But when Tasha passed, life went on.

I spoke about it with Marc over dinner tonight, and I honestly don’t know how I healed from Tasha’s death. Maybe I didn’t. Or maybe I grieved early. I worried so much about Tasha’s passing—lived it in my head for the last years of her life—that when it actually happened, I was devastated, but not lost, at least not permanently. I fought and fought and fought and fought to keep her with me.  So hard, that when the battle was over …

It was just over.

Maybe I was saved because her death was so beautiful. At home, with those she loved, without intervention, without suffering.  The most important people in her life came to visit during her last week to say their goodbyes. She ate a meal three hours before her death and jumped up to bark at her vet—who made a weekend house call to check on her—a half hour after that. In her final ten minutes, my husband held her head while I rubbed her feet and assured her.  No one could hope for a better goodbye.

Then again, maybe it’s because I knew that I’d have to go on without Tasha someday. In spite of a savings account worth of tests, we never found out what was wrong with Tasha during those final months. But as I examined and re-examined all of those “normal” test results, I couldn’t feel reassured. I knew deep in my heart that something was wrong with my love. Absent a diagnosis, the only thing I could control was what I’d do if she left me.

So I planned for the future. I spoke with about a dozen German shepherd breeders, not feeling any more reassured than I did from Tasha’s medical tests. I had lingering concerns about all of them.

14632999_10154857647418268_4750400350699038905_n1Two days before Tasha passed, I was referred to a breeder who was perfect. Miraculously so. She normally had a long waiting list, but given my circumstances, she agreed to hold a four-week-old puppy for me, even though we knew I might not be able to take her. I sat down with Tasha that same day and told her, “I don’t want you to leave. I want you to stay with me forever. But if you’re tired—if you’re ready to go now—I’ll be OK.”

I think Tasha had held on for me until that moment. In fact, I know she did.

A few people—one quite unkindly—have told me that I didn’t adequately grieve before I got a new puppy.

They’re wrong.

After all, Tasha sacrificed so much for me. How could I not honor her? How could I not fall in love with the puppy she’d waited so long for me to find?

I hope this post doesn’t sound dismal, because I certainly don’t feel that way. I feel content. Next week, I’ll post  some of the lessons Tasha taught me. For now, let me say this: The greatest lesson of all is that love is worthwhile, in spite of the inevitability of loss. And the best way to honor the one that you’ve loved is to do it all over again.

And maybe, just maybe, you don’t have a single heart dog. Maybe you have two.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Killer Book Launches

I had so much fun during my book launch this month! Below are a few photos and highlights from early book reviewers. Thanks to those of you who joined me. If you haven’t read A Fatal Twist yet, I hope you’ll give it a try!

Edmonds Bookshop Art Walk: The Edmonds Bookshop is truly my favorite little gem of a community book store.  Be sure to check it out the next time you’re in the area.  Ask them about the book of poems by dogs.  So cute!

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Seattle Mystery Bookshop—hanging out with the awesome Gigi Pandian!  Look at all of those pretty books!

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Whole Life Yoga Book Birthday Party.  What a bunch of awesome fans and killer prizes!

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Blog Tour Reviews:  I’m so pleased with the initial reviews of my newest book.  Loving it!

…a funny story and the author does a wonderful job with the characters and scenes. ~Bab’s Book Bistro

With Tracy Weber we get an abundance of education while having fun…The action and troubles seem to never cease. ~Laura’s Interests

The author has created characters that are fun and entertaining…I highly recommend this book (and series) to all readers! ~A Date With A Book

Kate is the main character in this cozy mystery. She has a great sense of empathy for others and I loved how she was determined to make sure the right killer was charged. ~Texas Book-aholic

The characters are all well-written and have depth to them. The plot is captivating with so many different possible outcomes. ~Socrates’ Book Reviews…

I have several reasons for loving these stories, there is always a great mystery, the characters are genuine and continue to grow, relationships are fluid, there is humor in all the right places and I always learn something new. ~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

Definitely a great series for those who love yoga, babies, and puppies. I found myself unable to put this book down and don’t think you will either! ~Community Bookstop

Writing each Downward Dog Mystery takes about a year, and involves more hours than you can even imagine. I’m already looking forward to next year’s launch events!

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere

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Chair Yoga for Readers

Yoga is truly for everyone, but especially for readers, who tend to sit in slouched, hunched positions for hours at a time. I teach this class at library events and book signings, but even those of you too far away to attend my in-person events can benefit from the practice.

1.  Sit in the middle of your chair with both feet planted firmly on the floor and your head extended up to the ceiling. Notice your body. Are there any areas that feel tight or achy? How do the sensations in your body reflect the stress or relaxation of your day?

2.  Progressively lengthen your breath. As you inhale, lengthen your spine and feel the crown of your head extend up toward the ceiling. Gently contract your abdominal muscles with each exhale, which will gently flatten your low back.  Allow the abdominal muscles to relax with each inhale. Take 6 – 10 breaths in this manner.

3.  As you inhale, sweep both arms to the side and overhead, with the palms facing inward, toward the ears. As you exhale, sweep your arms back to your side and gently tilt the chin  toward the pit of your throat. Do this 4 – 6 times.

4.  Grasp the sides of the back of your chair with the palms facing inward. On inhale, gently squeeze the shoulder blades together as you lean your rib cage forward and away from the chair. This should have a gentle back bend quality.  On exhale, release back up to sitting. Do this 6 times, then stay leaning forward for 4 breaths, lifting the ribs with each inhale.

5.  Starting from your original seated position in posture 1, bring your palms to the tops of your thighs. On inhale, extend the crown of your head to the ceiling. On exhale, slide the hands down your legs and bend forward.  Each subsequent inhale, use the hands to help you lift the ribs and come through a flattened back up to sitting again. Do this 6 – 8 times.

6.  From your original seated position in posture 1, on inhale sweep both arms to the side and up to the ceiling, lacing the fingers together and pressing the palms up toward the ceiling. On exhale, lean toward the side, stretching the rib cage. Keep your belly lightly contracted and try to keep the shoulders directly in line with each other. On inhale, bring the torso back to the center and exhale to the opposite side. Do this 4 times each side, alternating sides.

7.  Repeat posture number 5, but this time on inhale, sweep both arms to the side and up to the ceiling on inhale, and sweep the arms to the side as you fold forward on exhale.  After 6 repetitions, stay folded forward for 6 breaths. Totally relax any tension in your body. On inhale, return to sitting.

8.  Come back to the comfortable seated position in posture number 1, with both feet planted firmly on the floor and the crown of your head extended up to the ceiling.   Notice your body again, without judgment.  What were the effects of these movements on your body, your breath, your emotional state, your sense of focus?

Enjoy the practice and let me know what you think!

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

A Fatal Twist launched January 8!