I Hate Chaturanga – or – Joy in Repetition, Part I



photo credit: dailycupofyoga.com


I recently had the opportunity to assist in teaching a Yoga Mala – 108 Sun Salutations. I have never done a yoga mala. I hate chaturanga. Really. It’s just never been one of my favorite poses. Once I learned that I actually had to the strength to do this pose, I enjoyed doing two or three of them. But 108? Bah!

There is, however, joy in repetition. I use this philosophy in my paintings, often working from a template that gets repeated and re-created through size and palette. I use this philosophy in yoga classes that I teach when students are holding a challenging or difficult pose, reminding them that repetition works as well as a long hold, and that releasing the pose and then moving back into it is perfectly legit.

Now, I’ve decided to use this philosophy in a personal challenge of completing a yoga mala. 12 Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A), for 9 days equals 108 (mala).

A mala is a string of prayer beads often used by Hindus and Buddhists to count prayers. The number 108 is said to represent the number of mortal desires of (hu)man(s). 108 to dissolve that which is holding you back. 108 for creating tapas (austerity, discipline, fiery passion).

The first day, it was interesting to note that my body definitely did not want to do 12 chaturangas. I listened to my body and substituted Ashtanga Namaskara (knees, chin, chest pose). I’m inspired by the notion of developing more upper body strength and core power.

I recently met a beautiful young soul who I will call Rose. She is the seven year old daughter of a dear friend. Rose has mastered the monkey bars. During a family visit to the park, I watched as she moved with ease from bar to bar, sometimes skipping one in between swings. Back and forth she went: joyful, countless times. She made me want to try it. I managed to make it across, but with much effort. I told her that she was my hero, that I wanted to be strong like her. This nine day mala is the volition of my intention to be strong like Rose.

Today was day four…

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That Quality of Light (for Nana)


Nana Shineflug (photo credit Erika DuFour)

On one particular, yet ordinary day, I am moving about from item to item on my to-do list. On this day, I am allowing myself to feel what it is I want to be doing in that particular moment instead of approaching my work in a linear fashion. It is near sunset, almost time for my evening meditation. I pass through the living room and notice the way the reflected sunlight is shining on the south wall. I pause.

What is the quality of that light? It wasn’t that golden light that appears in summer at dusk and dawn. It had more of a violet, illuminated crown chakra glow. A quiet light.

It faded as I watched it, but the impression of that light lingers on in my mind. Radiant light. Shining light. Glowing light… Soft, yet powerful. Subtle, yet captivating.

I am glad that I allowed myself to move in the moment and take in the simple magic that was happening as the sun was setting on an ordinary day. Life is full of simple magic. Catch the light where you find it.

Thank you, Nana Shineflug, for the powerful, radiant, shining light that you sent out into the world. Thank you for all you taught me.

“Sing it! If you can’t sing it, you can’t dance it…” Dance on, Nana. xox


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Changing Lanes – or – Driving for a Non-Driver

The route north 2

I don’t take the expressway. I don’t mind going slow. I don’t care if it takes me twice as long to get to my destination. I appreciate courtesy. It’s so simple to just use your turn signal when you intend to change lanes. It shows intention. It creates safety. It is simple accessible information. Almost no one does it.

So I take streets.

I like the scenic route. I will choose Ashland over Western. I take the boulevards when I can. However, there is something that I’ve noticed about myself that I’d like to change – I seldom switch lanes.

There is something comforting in staying on a straight path. Though that is also a myth, as meandering around potholes is a necessity in Chicago. However, there is now that utility truck in front of me. Hmmm. I cannot see around it. I cannot see over it. And yet somehow I choose to follow it. Why?

I can move over to the next lane, certainly drive faster than its ambling speed, avoid the diesel fuel, and or garbage smell… but I stay in my lane until the truck turns out of my path. Why?

It makes me late sometimes. Once, for an appointment with a friend who when I told her that I was late because I kept ended up behind “the truck” she subtly (yet sarcastically) replied, “yeah, you can’t switch lanes because you are behind that truck.” It struck. Yes, why can I not switch lanes? Why?

The comfort level of not moving more than necessary is the antithesis of growth. It’s not easy, sometimes, to move. But if you can see around and ahead better… just switch lanes, already. Use your signal. Go.

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At the Lighthouse




The latex cast of a lighthouse from Borden-Carleton, Canada by Kim Morgan is now on display at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. If you find yourself in Sheboygan, WI before January 5, 2015, I would highly recommend seeing this installation. This work, created in 2010, has also been exhibited in Canada, the artist’s home province of Nova Scotia and at Mass MoCA.

Range Light Borden-Carleton, when first encountered, overwhelms with the sheer immensity of it taking over the room in which it is displayed. It is like a discarded reptilian skin perfectly replicating the peeling surface of its source. The lighthouse from which it was cast is no longer needed for the purpose for which it was designed and is now still standing, but slowing crumbling – an antiquated remnant from the past.

The dimly lit room allows for this piece, lit from within, to glow warmly like a candle at a vigil. There is so much beauty in this skeletal skin, evidence of peeling paint and cracking surface – the light which softly illuminates these flaws gives proof of the past life of this guiding post, now sagging a bit and tethered by rope and beam. The way it is hung speaks to the fragility in the passage of time. Range Light does not stand upright, but is suspended sideways by pulleys on the walls and ceiling. The insides of it have also been cast in latex and connect to the cast of the outside, so it becomes an inverted image of itself from end to end. This overwhelming structure is made accessible in the vulnerability of its posture.

photo credit Steve Farmer

photo credit Steve Farmer

I was moved viscerally upon the sight of it. It gave me pause, and made me take it in from a distance before approaching it to inspect it further. In this piece I found beauty and grace in deterioration and the slow erosion of time.

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Asana, (Heart)beats & Breath…

Monica suspension bridge


Often we spend our time reaching for more or better, or thinking about the next moment or a past moment. Finding stillness in the moment, on or off the yoga mat, can be a challenge. One of my “on the mat insights” came today while teaching: finding that pause at the end of the breath – and really setting an intention to be mindful of “that moment” before moving to the next inhale.

Pause: A breath, a half a breath, a second. And in that moment:


Realizing that wherever you are at the end of that exhale is indeed enough. There is really no place to get to. You are already HERE.

Realizing that what you are already doing is enough. Regardless of where you think you are on your journey to your best self, where you are right now is enough. Whatever lack you may imagine in your life, having faith that what you have right now is, yes, enough.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Repeat…

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Sisters, acrylic and mixed-media on wood, 6"X4", 2014

“Sisters” acrylic & mixed-media on wood, 6″X4″, 2014


Recent work has been added to my website: monicajbrown.net

Follow the link above. Check it out. Let me know what you think.

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SPRING (is coming)

It’s that time of year again — that time when faith in Spring’s arrival is called into action. Here in the midwest, there is fresh snow on the ground, and the temps are still below freezing, but please believe…

Spring is coming.

I posted several weeks ago (around the first polar vortex) about the tolls of  Winter and the fortitude needed to “keep it moving.” Now, after we’ve gone through about three of those mettle testing encounters, and evidence seems to be to the contrary…you’ve got to believe!

Spring IS coming.

Keep the faith. Think warm thoughts. Envision the unfurling, uncurling, stretching, and growing that is eminent.

“Spring is coming, spring is coming, spring is coming…”

Chant this mantra once a day for the next 2½ weeks, and you will begin to see buds appear on trees, days growing longer, and flowers sprouting!

yogimoni Nataranja

You can join me for the unfurling, uncurling, stretching, and growing—on the yoga mat at Tula Yoga Studio, 2827 W. Belden: Mondays at 10:30am, Wednesdays at 7am, and Saturdays at 12:15pm.

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