Happy Fall from Kate, Bella, Tracy, and Ana at Green Lake!

Hi everyone and happy fall!  I’m taking a week off from writing a new Whole Life Blog article, but that doesn’t mean I’m silent.  I’m blogging  this week at Killer Characters, a group blog for mystery writers.  You Seattleites might appreciate all of the fall photos of Green Lake.  Everyone might want to check it out for a contest!

Here’s the contest:

Mention your favorite fall location on the Killer Characters blog, and you’ll be entered to win an advanced copy of my next Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder!  Check out the article at the link below, and good luck!

http://www.killercharacters.com/2017/10/happy-fall-from-seattle.html

Tracy Weber and her sidekick, crazy Pup Ana!

 

 

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

 

Softening the Belly Meditation

Welcome to Week 5 of my Meditations to Change Your Life series.  I love this meditation because it helps you be present in your mind–and your body.  Enjoy!

Flachwinkelige Ganzkörper-Ansicht einer auf dem Rücken liegenden jungen Frau in einer Variante der Yogaposition "glückliches Baby" (anada balasana) auf weißem Hintergrund.

Softening the Belly Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable and your spine is in “neutral”.   This meditation may also be done lying on the floor, if desired.
  2. Allow your eyes to close or keep your eyes at “half mast” gazing quietly at a place below and in front of you.
  3. Allow your awareness to gradually settle into your body, by noticing the breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils, then your chest, then finally down to your belly
  4. Allow your belly to soften, and imagine the breath moving gently in and out of it.   With each successive breath, allow the belly to soften a bit more, as if you were letting go of anything you’re holding in that area, be it tension, sadness, fear, or anything else.
  5. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of softness in your belly. Try not to criticize yourself. Instead congratulate yourself for bringing the attention back to the point of focus.
  6. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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

Say Nothing

The yoga teachings on communication are simple but clear:

Say less.
Say only the truth.
When the truth will cause harm, say nothing.

I was reminded of that on my walk with Ana Pup last Tuesday.

I wasn’t on Facebook when my German Shepherd Tasha was young. I didn’t have a blog or a mystery series at that time, either. So very few people, other than my yoga teacher training students, know about her first years. When Tasha turned a little over a year, she started losing weight. I took her to multiple vets, none of whom could find figure out why she was ill, much less how to help her. Experimental surgeries were recommended. I stayed awake nights worrying about her. I prayed that if she were suffering, God would take her from me. I didn’t want to send her to her next life too soon, but I didn’t want to allow her to suffer in this one, either.

In spite of the weight loss, Tasha loved our daily walks, and I couldn’t take them away from her. I walked her around our neighborhood sometimes, but mostly she and I strolled around Green Lake. In those final few weeks before diagnosis, Tasha’s ribs started showing, and she needed to rest frequently. She’d lost twenty-five pounds, and she looked it.

People stared at Tasha and made assumptions about me, none of them good. I never understood why people believed a woman who was purposefully starving her dog would walk her around Green Lake, but think that, they did. People stopped me multiple times each walk. Some firmly told me that my dog was too skinny, as if I’d been too oblivious to notice. Others asserted that I obviously wasn’t feeding her or that I was feeding her garbage. Still others angrily threatened to call the Humane Society. I explained over and over and over again that I wasn’t abusing my dog, but many of them never believed me. Still, the walks were important to Tasha, so we kept walking.

Finally one day, a kind man stopped to tell me that my dog was gorgeous. While we were talking he jokingly asked, “Is she working on being a supermodel?” I knew he was hinting at her weight, but the way that he said it was so much kinder than anyone else. So I told him that she was sick, that we hadn’t found a diagnosis yet, and that I was afraid I would lose her.

He replied with a single sentence. “I was afraid of that.”

He then told me that his dog, the gorgeous husky that was walking next to him, had almost starved to death too, and that he had worked with a wonderful vet who had diagnosed his dog’s issue when no other vet could. He gave me her name, and I called her the instant I got home. That’s how I met the wonderful doctors Marta Norbrega and Jackie Sehn at Mercy Vet. I will always be grateful to this man, though I never saw him again. He and the vets at Mercy Vet saved Tasha’s life.

Once we got a diagnosis, (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) we immediately started treatment, but the path to weight gain for Tasha was slow. The comments about how I was obviously abusing her continued. My vet even offered to write a letter that I could show to the strangers who accosted me.

My experience wasn’t unique. Other owners of dogs with EPI face similar challenges. I know some who don’t walk their dogs in public at all anymore. Some dress them in T-shirts. Some do what Jackie recommended and carry signed notes from their veterinarians. All because people are so ready to make assumptions. Our society has become mean. We don’t ask questions, we make judgments. I find that tragic.

Over twelve years later, I was reminded of my experience when I spoke with a man walking a tiny poodle mix wearing bright yellow dog boots. He volunteered to me that his dog has severe allergies to grass, and without the boots she becomes lame. I congratulated him on how well he had trained her, and he told me that she was his medic alert dog. I don’t know everything the dog does for him, but one of her jobs is to wake him up at night when he stops breathing. This dog keeps him alive. To say that he loves her and takes excellent care of her would be an understatement.

At the end of our conversation, he sighed and said that on his way home, he would have to talk to the “Phinney People.” I didn’t know what he was referring to at first, but he explained that he meant people on Phinney Avenue North, a busy thoroughfare a block away from where we were speaking.

He then added, “People always accuse me of abusing my dog because she wears dog boots. I used to stop and explain to them why she needed them, but now I just keep walking. I tell myself that it’s great to live in a place where everyone cares for all living things, but…”

My heart broke for this man. He’s doing the best that he can, with love, with the resources available to him. And yet rather than ask questions, people choose to judge him.

Which brings me back to the yoga teachings.

We see the world through filters, which are often darker than reality. We make attributions about others’ motivations. We judge people, often harshly. Yoga is about clarifying our filters. Yoga is about learning to be kinder. Yoga teaches us that the only people we’re meant to change are ourselves.

When it comes to communications, I think these teachings have great applicability to our society today. As the teachings assert, sometimes the most important thing we can say is nothing.

Thanks for listening.

Tracy Weber

PS: If you’re interested in learning more about Whole Life Yoga’s Teacher Training Program, you can check it out at this link.

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

Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?

As a novelist, I’ve been blessed to meet many generous writers who have mentored me on the bumpy path to publication. Pretty much every seasoned writer I’ve met so far has given me one sage piece of advice: never read reviews.

I have to admit, I read them anyway.

Maybe it’s curiosity; maybe it’s excitement; maybe it’s simply my need to look for that ever-elusive stamp of approval, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I dig and I search and I devour every new review I can find. Most of the time, they make me smile. Occasionally, I learn something from a reader’s comments that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, however, a review leaves me shaking my head.

Some time ago, I came across one such review. I don’t even remember now if the reader liked my book. Something tells me it wasn’t her favorite. But one criticism stuck in my memory. She said that my protagonist wasn’t a realistic yoga teacher. If Kate were a real yoga teacher, the reader asserted, she’d be much thinner, more flexible, and less likely to lose her temper.

My protagonist is 5’3” tall and weighs 130 pounds, which is normal by most standards. Like many women, Kate has body image issues and hates her “chunky” thighs. All in all, she’s not a heck of a lot different than me, and she can do significantly more challenging yoga poses than I can. I’ve made my living teaching yoga for over seventeen years.

Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lithe and can do amazing things with their bodies. Some are overweight. Some suffer from chronic illnesses and perpetually tight hamstrings. Some even start their yoga teaching career after retirement. The best yoga teachers know how to teach the students in front of them, in spite of their own personal limitations—or lack thereof. In fact, many of the best yoga teachers have imperfect bodies. If you can’t do a pose, learning how to observe your students and describe that pose becomes even more important.

Why do I care about this enough to write a blog article about it? The comment in the review highlights the very misperception of yoga that I’m trying to destroy: that yoga is only for the fit, the flexible, and the young. I have certified over three hundred teachers in the past fifteen years through Whole Life Yoga’s yoga teacher training, and I have met privately to discuss teacher training with at least three times that many. My heart always breaks a little when an otherwise wonderful candidate decides not to pursue teaching yoga because they can’t do all of the poses, they don’t have a size-four body, or they think they are too old. The world loses a lot of great yoga teachers that way.

Is the protagonist in my book likely to grace the cover of Yoga Journal? Probably not. But perhaps it’s time we let go of the yoga stereotypes. If yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.

What do you think?

Tracy Weber

PS: If you’re interested in Whole Life Yoga’s Teacher Training Program, you can check it out at this link.

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

Arriving Home Meditation

Welcome to week 4 of my Meditations to Change Your Life series.  We all have special places–places we call home.  The great news is that we don’t have to travel to find them.  This meditation will take you there.  Enjoy!

happy Young romantic couple sitting on sofa in front of fireplace at winter season in home

Arriving Home Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling.
  2. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, bring to mind a real or imaginary place that has all the best qualities of “home” to you. A place where you feel safe, secure, where you really belong and can truly be yourself. Hold the qualities of this place in your heart as you continue the meditation.
  4. Then begin a mantra meditation with subsequent breaths. Each time you inhale, mentally think the word “arriving”, and as you exhale, mentally think the word “home.”   Continue this mental repetition with every breath. Each breath, “arriving home.” When your attention wanders, just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose.   Then return to reciting the phrase “arriving home” with every breath.
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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

A Meditation for Finding Peace (Or Anything Else You Might Want!)

Welcome to Week 3 of my series on meditations to help create–whatever you want!  Know that whatever you want to invite into your life, you can have it!  This meditation will help.

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Mantra Meditation:

  1. Begin with one of the breath focused meditations we learned in Weeks 1 and 2. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling
  2. Notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils or to the feeling of softness in the belly with the breath.
  3. When you feel ready, bring to mind a quality you’d like to have more of your life. It could be greater balance, joy, health, forgiveness, or any other positive quality. “Name” that quality with a word or short phrase.
  4. Then begin a mantra meditation with subsequent breaths. Each time you exhale, mentally recite your work or phrase, and feel the energy of that quality pour through your awareness.   When your attention wanders, just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensations of the breath.   Then return to reciting your word or phrase on every exhale
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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

A Meditation of Hope and Light

Hi all!  Today is week two of my series of posts on Meditations to help you stay balanced in turbulent times.  Be well and happy!

Free happy woman enjoying nature sunset. Freedom, happiness and enjoyment concept of beautiful multiracial Asian Caucasian girl in her 20s. Image from Grand Canyon, United States.

Light visualization meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable.
  2. Focus your mind on the sensations of the breath just inside your nostrils.   When you feel ready, think of a quality you’d like to bring into your life. Imagine that quality is a bright white light entering your body through your heart center and spreading throughout your entire body—from the top of your head to the tips of your fingers and toes. This light can represent any positive quality you wish it to–love, joy, health, healing, etc. Imagine that each cell of your body is illuminated by this light, and that the quality you’ve attributed to it flows into every cell.
  3. Imagine that this quality is replacing everything that clutters your life–anger, impatience, stress, desire, greed. As the light grows brighter in your mind, visualize its pure radiance washing those negative qualities away.
  4. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose. Then begin to focus on the white, healing light once again.
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Tracy Weber

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

Staying Centered in Turbulent Times

Meditation: An Effective Tool for Promoting Inner Peace

No matter where you land on the political spectrum, I think most people would agree that the energy of our world seems more divisive lately.  The yoga teachings never promised us a peaceful world–they provided us tools to have more personal peace, in spite of what happens to or around us.  According to the teachings, the most powerful tool for developing inner peace is meditation.  Over the next few weeks, I will share some of my favorites.

The meditation below is simple yet powerful. Enjoy!

Simple Counting Meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up to the ceiling.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it. Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. After 2 – 3 minutes, or whenever you are ready, start counting each exhalation. For example, when you exhale the first time, think “one”. The next time you exhale, count “two”.  Keep counting silently to yourself like that, until you get to ten. After you reach ten, then start over again from “one”.
  4. You’ll know your mind has wandered because you’ll lose count or notice that you’re thinking about something else. When that happens, (and it will!) try not to get frustrated. Instead, simply start over again by counting from “one”.   Notice how often you need to restart counting without judgment or frustration.   The goal isn’t to get to 10, but to keep refocusing whenever your mind wanders.
  5. Continue this meditation for 10 minutes or longer if you’d like.

Please visit us soon at Whole Life Yoga!

Tracy Weber

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

Change, Challenges and Uncertainty

Welcome Radhika Vachani to the Whole Life Yoga blog today. Those of you who’ve taken yoga teacher training with me know how powerful The Yoga Sutras are. They help you find stability in an inherently unstable world. Radhika shares how in an excerpt from her new book below!

By Radhika Vachani

Excerpt from Just Breathe: The Most Powerful Tool for Personal Transformation and Happiness

How many of us spend our entire lives trying to avoid change because we fear the uncertainty, pain and difficulty involved? We might hope that our challenges will simply disappear. To cope, some might resort to drugs and alcohol, overeating, TV, social media or other distractions. While others put up emotional walls, live with insecurities and bitterness, or in a fantasy world embedded in memories, or dream of a more hopeful future.

When we do not confront problems, and make the necessary changes to enable growth, we risk perpetuating the issues. Over time this can cause our energy to stagnate and make us feel dull and listless, as it accumulates through repetitive, restrictive behaviors and thought patterns, such as fear, anger, doubt, blame, insecurity, disappointment and jealousy. Stagnant energy is decaying energy, which then becomes a far greater challenge to overcome than the original issue itself, and can lead to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual deterioration. Confronting the challenge and allowing change to occur naturally restores our vitality and releases all that is not supportive of us—be it our thoughts, emotions, actions or experiences.

Life encompasses an amazing diversity of experiences— happiness and pain, hope and despair, confidence and insecurity; and a variety of sights, sounds, tastes, thoughts and feelings. These are neither good nor bad but simply represent a journey that propels our human evolution and spiritual growth. It is overcoming our challenges that gives life meaning, as our obstacles then become opportunities for growth. Challenges bridge the gap between success and failure, mediocrity and excellence, shallowness and depth. Once we accept this great truth, we can learn to approach life with a fresh, broader perspective.

For thousands of years the Yoga Sutras have taught us that life is filled with trials and tribulations, and that nothing ever remains the same; that the nature of the external world is challenging, impermanent and uncertain. Sometimes life is calm and peaceful, but it can also be a rocky ride. In spite of this, the mind keeps seeking permanence, happiness and certainty from this very environment. Once we develop this understanding, the natural question arises: Who are we in context of this complex environment, and how do we find peace, happiness and stability, given the nature of the physical world?

The answer lies in our relationship with our environment, our perception of it and how we maneuver within it. Only by taking the first step—fully accepting the dichotomy of the world—will we be able to change the experiences we have with it.

Our physical world represents a stormy ocean. We are ships on these choppy waters, trying to seek calm. To be able to anchor and stabilize, the ship must return to harbor, and so the Yoga Sutras help us to move inwards to the discovery of ourselves and our true nature, and to the only place where we can experience any calm.

When we are willing to go on a journey within and to try something new, we come into our own power and access the consciousness within. We no longer need to rely on the outside world for fulfilment, as we do when living an unexamined and mediocre life.

Living life is an art. It involves techniques that we must learn and master, as we would any other skill. When we lack the essential knowledge to thrive, we become absorbed in fear-based conditioning, such as stress, anxiety, doubt and insecurity.

It is only when we truly know ourselves, free from a cluttered mind and fluctuating emotions, that we are able to see life for what it is, with new-born freshness. We then develop the capability to solve all our problems, to stand in our truth and to evolve into the best version of ourselves. But first we must develop resilience, strength and clarity so that we can live life fully, despite trying circumstances.

RADHIKA VACHANI is the author of Just Breathe: The Most Powerful Tool for Personal Transformation and Happiness. She is also a motivational speaker, yoga and holistic wellness expert, and the Founder of Yogacara Healing Arts in Mumbai, India (www.yogacara.in). Radhika also runs life-transforming retreats all over the world, in the Himalayas, Ladakh and at her Retreat Center outside of Mumbai in Alibaug. To learn more, visit www.yogacara.in  or connect with Radhika at radhika.vachani@yogacara.in and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Happy Double-Five Birthday to Hubby, Marc Martin!

Put your hands together and cheer for the wonderful man who had the poor judgment to marry me over twenty years ago.  Yesterday was his fifty-fifth birthday!  Those of you who know my better half realize how totally lost I’d be without him.  Not only is he my best friend and the love of my life, but he helps with both my yoga studio and my writing efforts while still providing most of the income for our family from his forty-hour-a-week job.

On top of that, he has enough of a sense of humor to have agreed to buy me this magnet for my car:

Is that the perfect man for me, or what?

Honey, I don’t tell you often enough, but I love you.  I hope I’ll be next to you, driving you crazy for the next fifty five years of you life.

Tracy

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