Coaching, Solstice, Strengths and Gifts, Teaching, Yoga
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Eclipsing Habitual Ways

It’s almost a White Christmas in the U.S. Northeast, with fat flurries falling, but not sticking, to empty streets. The city is quiet. Last night on a brisk after-dinner walk, I passed less than a handful of people in four miles. In fact, the most traffic I got was after-midnight texts — from a Muslim and Sikh friend respectively, both sending out Christmas wishes. (Not to go all bah humbug on you, but maybe folks should only text at hours they would consider calling?)

Christmas and I don’t exactly mix. Instead, I think of it metaphorically as when the sun is born from the darkest phase of our secular solar calendar, creating the potential for increasing light.

This week, we celebrated an extra special solstice, which coincided with a full moon lunar eclipse.

The eclipse, as captured by NASA

On the longest night of the year, we should have gotten added light from the moon — only it did this eclipsing dance for a full 72 minutes.

It seemed a clear directive from the universe to turn inwards, and dive deeply, which I complied with by upping my meditation, Reiki, yoga and writing game.

In fact, I even got to teach a yoga class on Monday night, hours before the big event. We did moon salutations (surprise!) and I invited students to use the energy of this particular eclipse to envision what they wanted for themselves, their loved ones, and the world —  anything from a new perspective on an ongoing relationship to an end to these wars that keep bringing young men and women back home in pieces.

It was a good class. I’m often unsure of how spiritual —  or political for that matter — I can take my students, who come from all walks of life and belief systems. But every so often, I’m just more connected than usual, and I stop considering and simply say what’s coming to me. It’s what happens with writing sometimes too; what DC’s Poet Laureate once referred to in conversation as “channeled.”

It’s frustrating that I can’t find a formula for getting in this flow with teaching or writing every time I come to it.  Monday, for example, I was furiously editing minutes from my housing cooperative Board meeting almost until the moment I had to race out to the studio. And still brilliance emerged. Thursday on the other hand, I showed up to the studio an hour and a half early, mapped out what I’d lead them through as I did my own practice. I felt great, and the class went perfectly well, my fabulous students appreciative afterward as they always are. But not the notch above as it had been earlier in the week.

I’m left believing that — at least much of the time — such sparks of genius can’t be organized or planned. Aristotle, who studied and contributed to virtually every field of philosophy and science known in his era, and continues to influence our way of thinking 2,300 years after his death, put it  like this:  “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

This time of year, many people create resolutions to leave behind certain habits.

I want to sort out which habits of excellence I need to do over and over and over again.

I’m not entirely certain of where my own excellence lies, but I do know that I want to continue to balance doing and non-doing.  Gaining discernment around when to push for things to happen, and when to coast.  Working smarter, not harder, more efficiently and elegantly, as I coach clients.  Managerially, this is the famous Pareto Principle.  Pharmacologically, we can liken this to the Minimally Effective Dose.

I’ve lived out much of this unbalance in my body.  Most of my pains come on my left side — so when my hip or knee hurts, it’s inevitably the left one. When I get a migraine, it’s behind the left temple.  My left leg is longer, my left eye vastly more astigmatic. I use and perhaps overuse my right side — what yogis and Taoists think of as the more yang side, the principle of getting out there and getting it done — and my left, yin, receptive, magnetizing, accepting side keeps getting re-injured trying to keep up.

The past few months, I’ve started practicing a more balanced approach, especially with my book. (Well, perhaps I’ve gone completely over to the other side.) I’ve largely ignored the advice to do as many readings as humanly possible, to show up to as many open mics as I can, to get out there quickly before the book starts developing crow’s feet.  I’ve gotten some copies out there to the “right” people, but knowing that a magazine with a positive article on my work is slated to hit the proverbial streets soon has made me take a breather on even thinking “what next.”  I’ve spoken with other authors who worked themselves into a marketing frenzy, not infrequently with self-reported limited results.

The morning after the eclipse, I was having breakfast with a wonderful local author and artist, and I found myself being crystal clear that my bottom line isn’t a numbers game, but about quality of life. I want to enjoy having a book, and getting to do readings and workshops in interesting places with interesting people. I remembered that this had even come up during my meditation the day before.

So there was a déjà vu quality to coming home to a message from a famous author from warmer climes who I know but am not in regular contact with, saying she’d like to co-host a reading for me and some other folks. Would I be willing to help her make some connections with the Jewish community in her town?

I take synchronicities like this as signs that I am on the right path, that my yin and yang are on good speaking terms.

I wish I had a formula I could give you to make everything you want in 2011 come to pass, from world peace to a piece of the American Dream. A good place to start is to figure out your strengths (I often use this with organizational clients) and then sort out ways to incorporate them into your life at home, work, with creative pursuits and in relationships. Keep doing the work — and know when its best to lay low, such as when it’s cold and the nights invite you undercover.

To those of you celebrating Christmas: may it peaceful and may you become the Christ energy embodied which chooses love over fear at every step.  To the rest of you: enjoy the Chinese food!

Love, Yael

This entry was posted in: Coaching, Solstice, Strengths and Gifts, Teaching, Yoga


I'm a yoga therapist and coach who is fascinated by the ways in which scientific inquiry has converged with wisdom traditions in concluding that our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being are intrinsically connected. I try to use this knowledge to help people feel more resilient, courageous and alive.


  1. Leslie Neustadt says

    Dear Yael, You continue to blow me away. I am happy to work on organizing a book reading and a yoga workshop if you let me know what your requirements are to justify traveling. Last spring I organized the first “Community of Jewish Writers” event in our area. I don’t know which, if any, of the Jewish organizations would stand behind it. I am happy to reach out to the Schenectady JCC which has the facilities for a reading, an art and/or photography show and a yoga workshop. Other Jewish organizations might be interested. We have the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and there is a Jewish professor/poet who might have some ideas. I was recently approached by a man who is a big wig in our local poetry scene to help an English speaking Israel poet get a reading here. When I explore things for him, I can do some advance work for you. Marilyn Day certainly has connections in the women’s world, and my massage therapist was the mentor for all the Kripalu yoga teachers in the area. She has a blog which reaches a lot of people. We also have a little retreat center, Still Point, near Saratoga Lake, which is a great location for a workshop. It is a bit far in bad weather, but a lovely location. It costs $250 for the day for a decent size room with a lovely round window that overlooks a field. We have had yoga classes, writing and art workshops and lots of spiritual pursuits. There are tables and a kitchen in the same building, as well as five little cottages on the grounds. It is between $65-75 per night.

    Let me know if the Capital District interests you. You are welcome to stay at my house and I will be at your disposal. We are also developing a group of women writers and artists with Dorothy Randall Gray and Amejo in Saratoga Springs. We are gathering four times a year. Our next gathering is in February. May your visions come to fruition. As always, you have inspired me to re-envision myself and find new ways to be embodied. Somehow there may be something in the Capital Region that would fit into your life’s mission of living an integrated life. Love, L

    • Leslie, you blow me away! Let’s definitely have a scheming session off line? You around this week? I can call you. Love your beautiful and always-creating spirit!

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