Reflections on Smiling with Sonia

Please welcome Jen Boyce to Whole Life Yoga’s blog today.  Jen is a current student in Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training  program.  She can be reached at jpboyce@comcast.net.  How will your smile (or lack of a smile) impact your world today?

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For those of you who attend Sonia’s Friday morning class, you know she is into monthly themes. In April, when Sonia said the focus of the month was on “smiling”, I internally rolled my eyes and thought, “Oh, brother!” I have always valued being true and telling it like it is so smiling when I don’t feel the need feels inauthentic.  In general, I don’t smile unless I want to.  Not because I hate life or feel depressed, my face is just not designed that way.  I blame it on my under bite. Some people appear to have faces that rest in a slight smile.  Me, I have “mad face”, coined by my daughter when she was a toddler.  Add to that, I run on the reserved, serious side. I rarely laugh out loud and I dislike how I feel inside myself when I smile on command (i.e., for a photo).

Sonia quoted Thich Nhat Hanh who stated “…smiling is a practice, a yoga practice. Don’t say, “I have no joy, why do I have to smile?” Because when you have joy and you smile, that is not practice, that’s very natural. When you don’t have joy and you smile, that is a real practice.” The idea of a smile as “practice” resonated with me.   However, I still felt totally awkward smiling during class. It wasn’t until we were on our backs that I played with smiling without worrying about how I looked. And I did note a slight increase in energy.

The next day my family and I headed to Santa Cruz, CA for spring break. At the airport, we jokingly plastered smiles on our faces.  It helped to pass the time and though we found it interesting to note the return smiles from others, we still felt silly. Every time something went well like getting through security without a full body pat down, we jested, “Maybe it was the smiling!”

The “aha” moment came when we were in line to board the plane. A woman noticeably brightened and widened her smile when she saw us (a happy, perfect American family eagerly awaiting vacation <:). Ever the honest one, I felt compelled to explain, “We’re totally fake smiling.”  And then I laughed.  I thought it was funny. Not so.  Her face FELL.  That’s when it hit me. She was feeding off of our energy and I had just slapped her in the face.  Something to think about….

The next day I ran the Santa Cruz Half Marathon. The day was full of reasons to smile—sun, warmth, beautiful coastal views, and most of all, GRATITUDE that I was getting to run another half marathon.  Though this was my fourth half, my last one was back in 2011, shortly before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Ever since returning to running post-treatment, I had been slowly working toward this moment. There had been bumps in the road, but I had made it. It was like coming full circle.  Definitely smile worthy.  But as one can imagine, there are plenty of instances during a race that are NOT smile worthy. It can be exhausting and painful. And sometimes, meditative. I find I go into another space for periods of time and “wake up”, realizing that a half mile has gone by and I don’t remember any of it.  I am guessing that I am not smiling then. Maybe I am.  Thich Nhat Hanh stated, “To meditate well, we have to smile, a lot…. Sometimes the mind takes the initiative and sometimes you have to allow the body to take the initiative.  Sometimes the spirit leads, and sometimes the body can lead.”  I ended up finishing 10 minutes faster than my goal.  It was my first race where there were actually some decent photos of me running (smiling!).  I looked like I was having a great time. And for the most part, I was.

Jen

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.   The second book in the series, A Killer Retreat, is available at booksellers everywhere!

Posted in Guest Writers, Viniyoga, Yoga Philosophy | Leave a comment

Fifty Ways to Show Readers You Love Them

 

book pages

Today is my weekly posting for Inkspot, the blog for authors of Midnight Ink.  I’m starting a three-part series outlining over 50 ways authors can show their readers that they appreciate them.  Check it out, please share, and add to the list.  Above all else, rest assured that I love you!

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2015/06/fifty-ways-to-show-readers-some-love.html

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere!

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, Gratitude, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Does this Outfit Make Me Look Fat? A Facebook Controversy

I woke up last Monday  to a jokingly stern admonition from my husband. “You’ve created quite the drama on Facebook today. You need to learn to be more politically correct.”

Those may not have been his exact words, but then again, I was still half asleep, and frankly a little confused. What on earth had I done this time? And in my sleep?

The answer? I had posted this photo of myself before I went to bed the night before. It’s one of my favorite photos ever.

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The photo wasn’t the problem. The comment I posted with it was.  “I don’t look as fat as yesterday. Tasha looks as beautiful as ever.”

That comment referred to this photo, which I had posted the day before.

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My slouched position, the shirt tied around me, and my not-so-gravity-defying breasts had all conspired to make me feel like the model for one of my most popular blog articles, Can Yoga Reduce Belly Fat? Important to note is that I didn’t compare myself to anyone else, nor did I intend to. I could have posted “I look a lot sexier than I did yesterday.” That would undoubtedly have been better received, though it would have invited Facebook comments of an entirely different variety.  ;-)

But I’m still confused as to why my saying that I looked large in a picture seems to have personally affronted some people. One person (who is a friend that I adore) told me that as a person of influence, I needed to be more aware of the impact of my words. I don’t even disagree with that, in principle. But at some point I’ll become so worried about not offending anyone that I’ll become frozen, unable to say (or write) anything at all. Was I the one out of line saying I looked larger than I’d like in a photo, or were the people turning that phrase into a personal insult being overly sensitive?

The smart part of me tells me that I should let this whole conversation die a (hopefully quiet) death.  The yoga teacher in me can’t.  There’s an important lesson here that bears thinking about.

The yoga teachings say that we don’t have any control over what happens to us or around us; we only control how we react to it. Sometimes yogis use that as a copout. If I walk around pointing at people and telling them they look like an extra on The Walking Dead, surely I have some responsibility if they run home and slather on extra concealer. But if I look in a mirror and say those words to myself, am I equally responsible if someone else feels insulted?

I think not.

Why have I reacted so strongly to this?

Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t “thin” until my mid 20s.  I grew up significantly overweight, and I was teased about my body throughout all of my formative years.  Being told that I have no right to feel the way I do about my body or that I don’t have empathy for weight issues is hurtful on so many levels.

Perhaps it’s because I speak publicly  about being a sexual assault survivor. My message is one of hope.  Survival is, indeed, possible. You can thrive after trauma, even when that trauma is personally horrific. I’ve been criticized for that message, too. It’s not fair, some people tell me, to publicly say that I’m doing okay, because that insinuates that there’s something wrong with other survivors if they’re not.

That may not be it either. Perhaps I react because an occasional reader says that if my yoga teacher protagonist Kate were a real yoga teacher, she’d have a perfect body and even more perfect self-esteem.

Yogis, including myself, are more nuanced than that.

Here’s the yoga lesson in this. The Sutras say that when we speak, we should do so with compassion, trying not to harm others. I have, and I will continue to do so, to the best of my capability. On the other hand, they also say that when we read or hear something and have a negative reaction, it says more about us than the speaker.

Last Monday’s Facebook fiasco is a minor example of a much bigger problem. I worry about our culture these days.  A lot.  We’ve become overly sensitized, quick to judge, and ready to lash out with  minimal-to-no provocation. Maybe it’s time we all cut each other some slack.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

 

PS –Those of you who were expecting tips on partner yoga in today’s blog, my apologies.  I wrote the post below on Tuesday of last week and felt that it was important for it to post today.  The partner yoga tips will post the first Monday of July.

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere!

Posted in writing, Yoga Philosophy | 11 Comments

Why I Hate Partner Yoga

 

Stressed business woman, pulling her hair out

I rarely blog about anything controversial. I try to keep my writing and teaching as inclusive as possible, and spouting off my unsolicited opinion doesn’t help anyone. Today, however, I’m going to ignore my own policy. Please bear with me and feel free to chastise me in the comments. ;-)

A couple of months ago, I shared an article with my teacher training students about yoga adjustments.  I don’t need to write about that topic, because I agree one hundred percent with everything the Sequence Wiz folks said. So if you want to know what I think about adjustments, please read that article.

Shortly after I sent it out, however, a student asked me what I thought about partner yoga. Against my better judgment, I’m answering her publicly.

I hate it.

Hate is a strong word, but in this case, it fits. My first yoga teacher (who I adored) included partner yoga at the end of every class. I’ve tried to block the experience out of my memory, but whenever I hear the phrase, I still feel a stabbing, ice-pick-sharp pain in my groin and remember people twice my size pressing down on my knees in Baddha Konasana while exerting significantly more force than my forever-injured hips could withstand. Lest you think this was done by a teacher with more enthusiasm than training, please understand that the teacher was well regarded, very experienced, and the co-author of a book on Iyengar yoga.

The pièce de résistance of my partner yoga experience, however, occurred during one of the many end-of-class “partner yoga massages.” As usual, I hid at the back of the room, trying not to make eye contact, hoping that I’d be the odd person without a partner and could graciously sit out the experience. No such luck.  While everyone else got and received shoulder rubs, my randomly-assigned “partner” asked me to rub her gluteal muscles. For those of you not anatomy inclined, let’s just call them her butt muscles. To make matters worse, she groaned in pleasure the whole time I rubbed.

When I got home and shared the embarrassing experience with my husband, he asked a reasonable question: “If you didn’t want to do it, why didn’t you say no?”

I didn’t say no for the same reason your students won’t say no the next time you ask them to do something unwise. No one else said anything, I was intimidated, I liked the teacher, and I didn’t want to make a fuss.

I eventually stopped studying with that teacher—not specifically because of the partner aspects of her classes, but because her classes kept injuring my body. Partner yoga had no small part in my injuries.

Holding hands in tree pose, balancing on top of your classmates, and stretching with arms and legs intertwined may be entertaining. It’s often beautiful.  It may even falsely deepen the sensation of stretching. In the case of true partners, it can beautifully deepen emotional connection.

But asana performed for any of these reasons isn’t yoga.  Not in the true sense of the word.  Yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is the practice of stilling the mind. The poses we do with our bodies should be in service of that goal.  Believe me, when I’m thumbs-deep in the butt muscles of a groaning stranger, my mind is anything but still.

For the record, I do think partner asana classes may have some uses, though I don’t want to teach them. Partner asana classes can help build relationships, increase trust, prepare for artistic performances, even provide tools to support a woman in labor.

But let’s be honest and call it what it is.  Partner-assisted stretching, acrobatics, performance art—even call it partner asana, if you want.  But don’t kid yourself. It’s not yoga.  And whatever you call it, I highly doubt that for most students the benefits outweigh the risks.

Next week I’ll give some guidelines about partner yoga for those who still want to teach it.

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Posted in Asana, Student Questions, Teaching Yoga | 10 Comments

Help spread the YogaLOVE for a great cause!

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Hey, Whole Life Yogis and other awesome readers!  Today’s blog article is dedicated to the concept of Karma Yoga—the Yoga of Giving.  On Saturday, June 27th, 200 yogis will gather together to practice yoga and raise funds for Street Yoga, a nonprofit organization that helps provide yoga to at-risk youth. I hope you will join us.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

9:00-11:15AM [8:00AM Registration]

Mitchell Activity Center, Seattle Central College

Tickets: $25

Complete details of the event are at:  http://streetyoga.org/yogalove2015/.

Street Yoga’s mission is to: “build capacity in youth to overcome trauma and to create meaningful, healthy lives through yoga and mindfulness.”

Who can argue with that?

I’ve always been a fan of Street Yoga and the great work that they do, but this is the first year I’ll be actively involved in their 108 Sun Salutations fundraiser.  They are allowing me to teach my portion of the sun salutations “Viniyoga style” with pre-stabilization for the practices that follow.  Please join me and eight other Seattle yoga teachers in leading this fun and prize-filled day.

How, you ask? It’s as simple as going to this link http://www.razoo.com/story/Whole-Life-Yogis or typing in a number in the box below.

By doing so, you will join our team, the Whole Life Yogis!  Anyone can join the team by donating a minimum of $10.  If you donate $25 or more, you will be registered to take part in the actual event.  Donate (or raise) $108 or more, and be entered to win some awesome wellness packages, including copies of my books!

Anyone who attends the event gets to hang out afterwards and listen to live music with me and the rest of our Whole Life Yoga Team. To join in the fun, go to this link and donate.  Your $25 donation also registers you.  I will be the first teacher at the event. Rene de los Santos and Sarah Smith will be helping me.

Remember, even if you can’t come to the event, you can still help out.  Donations as low as $10 are gratefully accepted.  To “give one for the team” and register as part of the Whole Life Yoga family, click on this link.  http://www.razoo.com/story/Whole-Life-Yogis  I hope to see you afterwards and have a dance party with live music!

Please invite your friends.  The more the merrier!

Want to know more about Street Yoga?

Here’s some information from their website.

“Our trained volunteers work with local partners bringing their clients weekly yoga and wellness classes, serving over 1,000 individuals per year who are experiencing abuse, addiction, homelessness, and other traumatic situations. Street Yoga’s goal is to assist in building regulation and resiliency skills that create a healthy foundation for dealing with challenges in life, including:

  • Helping to develop healthy bodies by improving strength, balance, and flexibility
  • Teaching healthy tools for self-soothing in times of anger, stress and sadness
  • Teaching the skills of intention, breathing, self-awareness, focus, and perseverance
  • Inspiring self-confidence, self-reflection, and mindful, creative expression
  • Fostering spiritual awareness and connection to community
  • Healing the body and mind in the wake of trauma
  • Teaching interpersonal skills, self-management, and goal setting

Thanks, all.  I hope to see you on June 27!

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Posted in Asana, Gratitude, Yoga Philosophy | Tagged | 1 Comment

Seven Tips for a Successful Cover Reveal Contest

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Hi all!  Today’s my blogging day at InkSpot, the blog for the authors of Midnight Ink.  I’m dedicating this month’s article to helping my fellow authors learn how to host a successful cover reveal contest.  Check it out!  We’ll be back to yoga next week!

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2015/05/seven-tips-for-successful-cover-reveal.html

And what do you think of my newest cover for Karma’s a Killer?

Tracy Weber

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, writing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Gift of Self-Doubt

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This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Shelley Curtis. Shelley is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 500-hour yoga teacher training program and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. She  can be contacted at sac68@earthlink.net.

My confidence is easily shaken. This is something that has followed me from childhood, through young adulthood to where I am now. I’m closer to 50 than I care to admit and a mother of two young boys. I also teach yoga. Although I never thought I’d have children I have settled into the role with a passion I didn’t know I had. I recently read a quote that went something like this: “Making a decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” That’s exactly what it feels like. And even though I love my boys more than life and mother them with 110% of my heart and soul, I still feel like I make daily screw ups. Heck, some days it’s by the hour.

Same with yoga. My passion for it has taken me by surprise. I was totally blindsided.  I took Tracy’s 200 hour training when I was pregnant with my second son and at the outset didn’t really intend to teach. But the bug bit me and I fell hook, line and sinker. I started teaching prenatal women and then new moms and found it extremely rewarding as well as challenging – a great combination for my mushy mommy mind. Yoga had changed my life in a profound way. Then I took Tracy’s 500 hour training and my mind was really blown. My teaching changed and my own practice changed in ways that I would never have imagined. And the community of yogis that I became part of has kept me going and growing. They are amazing and inspiring.

But just as with motherhood, I still feel like I make screw ups each and every time I teach. The most challenging thing for me lately is making sure I stay present and aware of each student. Teaching is like meditation for me most of the time. I am not thinking of my grocery list or how to make our bedtime routine less stressful or whether or not my son will eat all of his lunch. I am in the moment and totally focused on teaching. But even still, I feel like I miss so much. After each class I ruminate for hours. Did I keep that pregnant woman on her back too long? Did I not notice that someone was pregnant in my all-levels class? How did I forget to something for the upper back when that student said her upper back was tight? And it goes on and on. Sometimes I feel complete panic with the thought that I could’ve caused someone discomfort – or worse yet, injury. After every class I promise myself that next class I will be even more aware, even more present. And then I do it again. I lose a student in my memory. Someone I failed to be completely aware of, someone I failed to make a connection with. Tracy says I cannot possibly be completely present and aware of every student all the time. And I shake my head and say, “ Yes, oh wise teacher, you are right.” And then I worry some more.

After almost 10 years of personal practice, more than 500 hours of training and 5 ½ years of teaching I still feel like I just stepped onto the mat. I yearn to teach with unshakable confidence and to let go of my doubts and anxieties. But I can’t help but entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, this is what will make me a better teacher. The desire to make each class for each student special and unique. To meet each student where they are and bring them to where they want to be. Perhaps instead of trying to push away the doubt and anxiety I should allow myself to lean into it, to let it be what it is. And then maybe, I could be more at peace with my teaching. Perhaps that is the lesson I am meant to learn?

Namaste

Shelley

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.   The second book in the series, A Killer Retreat, is available at booksellers everywhere!

Posted in Asana, Guest Writers, Teacher Training, Teacher Training Graduate Stories, Teaching Yoga | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Cover Reveal Contest!

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I’m so excited about the cover of my next book, Karma’s a Killer, that I’ve decided to share the fun with a cover reveal contest!  Here’s how it works:

Each day Monday through Friday of this week, I’ll post an element of the cover on my Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/TracyWeberAuthor.  Before midnight that day, leave a comment naming the object pictured and you’ll be entered into that day’s contest.  “Liking” my author page or “Friending” me on Facebook while you’re there is good Karma, but not required.

While you’re there, be sure to make a note of the object for the grand prize round.

Then, any time between when I post the final object on Friday, May 15 and Sunday, May 17 at midnight, send me an e-mail at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com with all five objects, and you’ll be entered for the grand prize “Agatha Sweepstakes” drawing for an autographed copy of all five of the Agatha Best First nominees AND an autographed advanced copy of Karma’s a Killer when it becomes available in August.

Here are the prizes! 

Monday: An autographed copy of my Agatha Nominated first book, Murder Strikes a Pose. If you already own it, remember:  books make great gifts!

Tuesday: An autographed copy of the second book in the series, A Killer Retreat. If you already own it, remember:  books make great gifts!

Wednesday: A Downward Dog Mysteries coffee mug.

Thursday:  An autographed book bag from this year’s Malice Domestic.

Friday:  An autographed advanced copy of Karma’s a Killer when it becomes available in August.

Grand Prize:  Autographed copies of each of the Agatha Best First nominees AND an advanced copy of Karma’s A Killer when it’s available.

And here’s your free example.  Today’s photo is:

cover reveal1The object is…you guessed it…the Space Needle!

Visit today’s post at https://www.facebook.com/TracyWeberAuthor and make your first entry!

NOTE:  By entering, you acknowledge that Facebook is not liable for any part of the contest.  The contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.  ;-)

 

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Posted in Downward Dog Mysteries, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Memories of Malice

As many of you know, I was nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel this year, and the convention and awards ceremony was held in Bethesda, Maryland this weekend.  I didn’t win, but I had a blast!  In case you were wondering what all the fuss was about, here are a few photos from the trip!

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The trip began with Tasha-dog begging me with her eyes not to go.

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But somehow I ventured forth anyway. This was the view from the balcony of near my room. Notice the question marks? We filled the entire hotel.

Me and three of my fellow nominees the day before the conference.  I had just arrived at the hotel.

Three of my fellow nominees greeted me when I arrived at the hotel.

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And I took my first ever selfie with my brand spanking new smart phone, which was purchased specifically for the event.

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I soon discovered that nothing beats jet lag better than a glass of free champagne–provided by the hotel!

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My fellow nominees and I looked a little more refreshed at our panel the next day.

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Then it was off to a celebration reception for the 10th anniversary of my publisher, Midnight Ink!

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Of course I signed a few books…

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And dismally failed at my next selfie. Though I looked pretty hot in my first dress in almost 20 years, if I do say so myself! ;-)

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Before I knew it, I was off to the awards banquet,

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Where some of my new friends signed up to sit at my table.

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We all ate dinner and a to-die-for dessert served in a chocolate tea cup!

I was much too road-worn to take any selfies the next day, but suffice it to say that the woman at the airline check-in desk asked (in all seriousness) if I was well enough to fly.

The whole experience was amazing, but the best part by far was meeting these other incredible ladies!

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Congratulations to all:  Annette Dashofy, Terrie Moran, Susan Obrien, and Sherry Novinger Harris.   Please, everyone, buy their books and support these fabulous, fabulous writers.

Someday I’ll be saying, “I knew them when!”

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere! 

Posted in dogs, Downward Dog Mysteries, Gratitude, writing | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Making the Most of Your Minute

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Today is my weekly posting for Inkspot, the blog for authors of Midnight Ink.  I hope the visualization practice I share in this article will help my writer friends–as well as my students–to be more comfortable when they have to speak in front of a group or do anything else that makes them nervous.  Check it out!

http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/2015/04/making-most-of-your-minute.html

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere!

Posted in Meditation, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment