After the Fall

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A few weeks ago, I headed out for a weekend run.  It was a damp, spring day that was slow to warm up. I was tired, but I knew how important it was to spend time by myself in the quiet solitude of the outdoors after a long week of mothering. Okay, I guess it wasn’t that quiet because I was running in the city.  And I wasn’t quite by myself as Luna was with me.  Alas, running is the time where I can reconnect with myself after I spend most of my week caring for my infant daughter. The line between self, mother, and other, child, often gets blurred in these early months of infancy.

I was shuffling down the street giving myself a pep talk that the first mile is always the hardest. I was heading to the large park across the river where I can let Luna run free. It is where I pretend we are running on a trail, in the woods, far away from the bustling Chicago streets and airplanes lining up to land at O’Hare. I was deciding where my route would take me that afternoon, when the sidewalk did a funny thing. It jumped up and grabbed me. Okay, maybe not, but that is what it felt like when I went skidding across the cement. In yoga class, I will make the cheesy metaphor that falling out of yoga poses and trying again is something that can translate into everyday life: work situations, personal goals, and relationships. Personally, I am always falling out of poses and trying again so I feel like this can ring true with my students on and off the mat. However, that afternoon, it just so happened that I was also literally falling in my everyday life.

I quickly assessed my damage. Road rash on my right leg. Right hand and elbow bleeding. Left hand fine, thanks to Luna’s leash. My ribs hurt and the wind was knocked out of me. I did the obligatory joint check. Ankles: check. Knees: check. Hips: Check. Elbow and wrists: Check. Breathing: . . . My eyes were brimming with tears, so I closed them and struggled to take a few deep yoga breaths. The yoga mat is much softer than the pavement. I was shaken and embarrassed, but luckily no one had seen me. I asked myself: Do I drag my tired body back home and nurse my wounds? Do I continue running and nurse my ego?

I looked over to Luna, who was sitting anxiously awaiting a rebuke. However, this time it was not her fault. People sometimes ask how I trained a such high energy dog to behave in an urban environment. I reply: it is the running, the walking, and the fetching. A tired dog is a good dog. Luna needed this run to be a good dog just as much I needed this run to be a good mother. So, I stood up. I kept running. I was hurting, but nothing that needed immediate attention. I slowly ran a shorter route. I quieted my ego that always wants me to run faster and further.

What I really want more than anything is to be a good mother to my daughter. I want to show her that it is okay to fall but you need to be able to stand up after you are down. It is okay to be tired, hurting, and sad, but you can also keep moving forward while feeling all those things. Resiliency is something I want her to embody and learn young. It is a skill I want her to hold close as she grows up in a world that will inevitably jump up like the sidewalk and knock her down. She is going to face more hardships than just falling during a regular weekend run. It is in the little moments that I want to teach by example.

I owe it to my mother and all the strong women who came before her. Thank you for picking me up when I was hurting, kissing my skinned knees, then putting me back on my bike. Thank you for falling off your skis, your horse, or just your own two feet and getting back up again. Thank you for teaching by example. Thank you for allowing me to join the long lineage of mothers and resilient daughters. I hope I won’t let you down.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there who are tired and falling, but are getting up again and never stop loving, loving, loving.

Love and light,

Kristin (and the good dog, Luna)

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Spring Yoga Practice // Grounded & Light

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Spring has finally sprung in Chicago! After a long and particularly harsh winter, it is such a sigh of relief to see the crocuses, daffodils, and irises poking their little heads out of the dirt. It feels good on my skin to feel the warm morning sun rising earlier each day. In the world there is a general energy of moving out of the earth and rising up towards the sky. Being grounded is important, but too much earth or too much lightness can throw my body and my mind out of balance. Spring is all about finding that balance of being grounded and light. Being strong and soft. Being open and safe. I have made a simple springtime practice that is suitable for any yogi—beginner or advanced, young or old, morning person or night person. The focus is to bring the elements of springtime into the physical body, and thus allowing the mind and spirit to also find more balanced and at ease with the season.

I have included a written script for the reading/writing learners and my typical, albeit silly, stick figures for the visual learners. I am not tech savvy enough for a video or recording for the kinesthetic or auditory learners, but maybe in the future! I recommend reading the script first, then looking at the stick figures as you move through your practice. Remember what resonated with you from the script, and simply let go of what did not. Most importantly, throughout this practice stay tethered to your breath.


“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh 

  • Seated Earth Meditation 

Sit on the earth crossed legged or kneeling with one hand on your heart and the other touching the eart. Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your body and your breath. Allow your breath to be a bridge. A connection to your mind and your body. Your body and the earth. As you inhale imagine your breath coming up from the earth. As you exhale settle this breath into your heart. Take 10 breaths on your own noticing how it feels to focus on your physical body’s connection to the physical earth. 

  • Cat, Cow, & Child’s Pose with balanced breathing

Gently move forward onto hands and knees. Inhale into cow pose, allowing your heart to move forward between your shoulders and lifting your tail bone. Exhale into cat pose, allowing your back to round. Look back at your thighs and lift your navel towards your spine. Allow this curling action to bring you into child’s pose and rest your tail back towards your heel. Rest your forehead on the ground. Continue this movement with your breath. Move fluidly, seeing if you can cultivate an even breath allowing your inhale and exhale to be of equal length. Repeat for several minutes until you feel a sense of balance. Rhen rest in child’s pose for 3 breaths.

  • Downward Facing Dog

From all fours, tuck your toes under, straighten your legs, and lift your hips up to the sky. Spread your fingers wide and ground down through your first finger and thumb. Firmly press into your hands, straighten your arms, and lengthen your spine. Reach your heels down towards the ground, but they do not have to touch. Legs are strong, but keep a soft bend in your knees. Find a sense of balance between lifting your hips and grounding through your arms and legs.

  • Ragdoll

Inhal,  look at your hands. Exhale, gently walk your feet up to your hands into ragdoll pose. Bend your knees generously, let your belly be soft and rest on your thighs. Grab opposite elbows. Let your head and shoulders feel heavy reaching towards the earth but keep your feet softly rooted. Take several moments here feeling stress and tension melt from your shoulders and neck into the ground. Keeping your knees bent, slowly come up to standing taking as many breaths as you need. 

  • Tree Pose 

Stand on your right foot, turn out your left leg, and bring your left foot to your inner ankle, calf, or thigh. Reach your arms skyward. Feel two opposing actions: your foot pressing down towards the ground feeling strong and stable. Your arms reaching up to the sky feeling light and tall. Take 10 breaths in tree pose. Repeat standing on the left foot.

  • 1/2 Sun Salutes feeling the earth 

Stand tall with your feet rooted into the earth. Chose a stance that feels supported and strong. Line your feet up under your hips. Inhale, reach both arms up to the sky. Exhale, fold forward over your legs bending your knees as much as you need to touch the ground. Inhale, bring your hands to your shins and flatten your spine. Exhale, fold forward again. Inhale, press into your feet and come up to standing with a flat back reaching your arms skyward. Exhale, bring your hands to your heart. Repeat 3x. Transition: Repeat another 1/2 Sun Salutation but only halfway through. Step back to a plank when you are touching the ground the second time. Gently lower to your belly. 

  • Dynamic Locust (A)

Lay down on your belly with your arms stretch out above your head like superman. Exhale your air. Inhale lift up your right arm and left leg. Exhale lower. Inhale lift up your left arm and right leg. Exhale lower. Repeat 8x. 

  • Locust (B)

Reach your arms by your side, fingers pointing back towards toes. Exhale into the ground, inhale lift up head, neck shoulders, arms, and legs. Focus on lengthening fingers back towards toes and toes back to space behind you. Breath into your belly for 5 breaths. Lower on an exhale. Repeat 2x. 

  • Child’s pose. 

Push your hips backs to your heels. Rest your forehead on the floor and feel your hands connected to the ground. Allow your belly to be soft. Feel supported by the earth. Take 5 breaths softening and settling.

  • Seated Earth Meditation 

Return to the position you began in seated on the earth crossed leg or kneeling with one hand on your heart and the other touching the earth. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body and your breath. As you inhale imagine your breath coming up from the earth. As you exhale settle this breath into your heart, your body. Notice what has shifted since you were here earlier. What has changed during your practice? What has not changed? What do you still wish to change? Feel a deeper connection between your body and the earth. Your body and your mind. Your mind and your spirit. Take as many moments here noticing a deeper awareness and more balance. My wish is you can take these sensations with you as you move into the rest of your day feeling more rooted, rested, and rejuvenated. Namaste. 

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Love & Light,

Kristin

 

Home Practice Always Counts

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Back in 2017, I wrote a post about home practice and growth. Two yoga trainings, a pregnancy, and baby later, I can honestly say my home practice has helped me more mentally than physically. My body ached from carrying a child in my womb for nine months and from my long and strenuous labor. Delivering a baby is truly one of humanity’s most amazing physical feats. I listened to the advice of my midwife and rested when we got home, but my body was craving movement. I did not know what exactly to do for it. I did know that I could start simple. I could start by listening. I could start by breathing. After a few days, I went for a short, slow walk with my daughter in a carrier and my husband walking the dog. My mood elevated as I breathed the crisp, late fall air with my new family. I later attempted a downward facing dog. I could almost hear my muscles sigh with relief as I started to gently move again. One week after having my daughter, I rolled out my mat.

Needless to say, my home practice these last few months has been in transition. My life has been in transition.  What used to be a peaceful practice between me, my mat, and usually my coffee has changed to a patient practice between me, my mat, my dog, and my baby—who if awake is wiggling, cooing, and getting very close to rolling over. But if I time it right and she is napping, I will sometimes get fifteen, forty, even sixty minutes of solo yoga. Some days I creep out of bed in the wee hours of the morning while she is still sleeping and practice until she starts to stir. I never know how much time I will have to practice. However long it is, I am grateful to have a practice. I used to be upset if I couldn’t get “enough” yoga in. If it wasn’t a “full practice” it didn’t count. I had to do so many chaturangas. So many minutes of meditation. Now, I wonder what that even meant. Any practice is enough. Any yoga is fulfilling if done with the right intention.

Motherhood is a meditation, but it also is the highest form of yoga I have yet to experience. I really have learned to turn in, let go of my ego, and surrender to something greater than myself. In yoga it is called ishvara pranidhana or surrender to the divine. It was amazing to feel my body heal and return to its non-pregnancy state. It was as if my body and soul  knew what to do. I just needed to stepped aside and let it happen. At the beginning of my postpartum journey, I wanted it to change quicker. My ego wanted my early 20s dancer body and clothes to fit again. Wanted my mind to understand the whole new task of taking care of a helpless baby who did not come with a user manual.  Other days, I moved in awe as this temple not only created a full fledged human, but also nourishes the tiny human everyday through breastfeeding. What is more divine than that? Why rush the process? Patiently, my body shifted back to its center and relearned to be a house for just one soul. Slowly, my muscles reawakened. In some ways I feel stronger. In other ways I am softer, gentler. Eventually, my yoga started to resemble the practice I had grown to rely on, but more balanced and full.

I rely on my practice physically and even more so mentally. Those five  or forty minutes a day make me a better mother. I am able to find gratitude for the moments with an infant that seem to span a lifetime. When it is  only just the morning and my child has been crying for what seems like forever. It has turned into an embodied prayer. My favorite part of my yoga practice are the sun salutations. I try to practice 12 Sun Salutation A when I have time and energy. Each salutation I either say a prayer of gratitude “I am grateful for my family” or an affirmation “I am patient and positive.” Sometimes I jump with vigor. Other days I move slowly with tenderness. And on particularly trying days, I go through my prayers in whatever position I can manage following my breath as my only movement. Ella Wheeler Wilcox sums it up nicely in her poem The Things That Count.

Now, dear, it isn’t the bold things,

Great deeds of valour and might,

That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.

But it is the doing of old things,

Small acts that are just and right;

And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;

In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when

you want to play—

Dear, those are the things that count.

 

And, dear, it isn’t the new ways

Where the wonder-seekers crowd

That lead us into the land of content, or help us to find our own.

But it is keeping to true ways,

Though the music is not so loud,

And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along

alone;

In flinging a prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a

groan—

Dear, these are the things that count.

 

My dear, it isn’t the loud part

Of creeds that are pleasing to God,

Not the chant of a prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or

song.

But it is the beautiful proud part

Of walking with feet faith-shod;

And in loving, loving, loving through all, no matter how things go

wrong;

In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when

the way seems long—

Dear, these are the things that count.

 

Yoga practice isn’t about the flashy moves, the amount of time spent, or how it looks. It isn’t about conquering that handstand or fitting back into my flashy red pants. It is about rolling out my mat or just laying down on the floor. Taking a moment to simply lean in. To listen. To breathe. To be alive in my body. To show up day after day. It is about loving, loving through it all. Through the late nights. The fussy infant stages. The ever fluctuating mother’s body. Finding ways to love myself. All my light parts. All my shadows. To love others. To love the world. It is not always easy. It is always worth it. Whatever the practice looks like, it always counts.

Love and light,

Kristin

The Courage to Teach

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When I cannot find the words to say what I am feeling, I often can find that someone else has already said them. I found what I was looking for after several days of digging around in poetry books, newsletters, and yoga teacher training readings. In his book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life Parker Palmer says,

“The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than its able, so that teacher and students and subjects can be woven into the fabric of community that learning and living, require.”

As any mother can attest, my experience with my first child has changed my perspective on many things. From how many hours of sleep a human needs to effectively function (less than you think).  How success is not determined by productivity (slow down). How leaning in to the littlest moments of life that bring the richest contentment (her first smile, the sound of her breath as she sleeps, her tiny hand clasped around my finger). My heart has never been so full. It feels like it can not possibly hold anymore. I know that this is exactly where I am meant to be: caring for and watching my daughter grow each and everyday. I will be honest, there were several times this winter I was not sure I wanted to return to teach, but I know that my heart is calling me to do more. 

The warm, sunny studio at Coconut Yoga will be my home base this year. You can catch me on Tuesdays at 9:30am for a Sunrise Flow starting March 19th. We will move through a full body practice that is centered on the seasonal, lunar, and daily shifts in the world around us. All levels welcome! The first class is near the Spring Equinox. It is perfect time to start new routines as it is a time of new growth and increasing light. We will be focusing on balance and equilibrium. Light and dark. Softening and strengthening. Holding on and letting go. Yin and yang. Chocolate and vanilla (Ok, maybe not the last one…). 

After living and experiencing the prenatal and postnatal body this past year, I think that this population of women need some extra love and care. I will be turning my attention to creating workshops, events, and courses that will focus specifically on journey into motherhood. It is a new passion of mine, as yoga has empowered me to feel embodied, balanced, and nourished during my pregnancy, birth, and postnatal journey.  I will also be available for perinatal individual sessions, as I can attest, this journey is very personal and each woman’s experience is unique. More on this, embodiment, and the art of paying attention in future blog posts (and baby yoga pictures).

Mark your calendars for my first prenatal workshop on April 27th at Coconut Yoga with the brilliant Rachelle Malik, The Food Therapist. We will focus on cultivating a balanced, healthy body and mind throughout pregnancy with yoga and nutrition. 

I am still on the sub list all over town, so keep an eye on my IG and FB for cameo appearances at other times and at other studios.

Love & light, 

Kristin 

Meditation of Motherhood

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I woke

and crept

like a cat

 

on silent feet

about my own house–

to look

 

at you

while you were sleeping,

your hair

 

sprayed on the pillow,

your eyes

closed,

 

your body

safe and solitary,

and my doors

 

shut for your safety

and your comfort.

I did this

 

thinking I was intruding,

yet wanting to see

the most beautiful thing

 

that has ever been in my house.

 

~Mary Oliver, “I Woke” from Blue Horses


During a lecture, Lorin Roche described mediation as the “practice of paying loving attention to life” or “falling in love with life.” The meditation teacher and author then went on to describe how mothers are constantly meditating.  I thought it was a beautiful sentiment. I hoped I would one day experience this magical  practice. Until recently I have not truly known what this full-bodied, full-time mediation really entailed.

I am by no means as expert as I have just survived these past six weeks with one child. However, becoming a mother has given me a new perspective on meditation. I am now paying attention to each moment, facial expression, small coo, gurgle and cry with a constant, loving awareness. I did not know I could become so singular in mind and purpose before I met my daughter. Even when I am doing something totally unrelated–taking a shower, doing yoga, reading etc –there is an undercurrent in my mind that is still focused on her.

Every single person on this earth had a mother. Whether or not the relationship with the mother is one of nourishing and care, I believe that most mothers (adoptive mothers included) are part of this constant meditation. It is a tether that is forged in the most delicate moments with a new child but is unbreakable. A bond that starts in the womb but strengthen through the sleepless night and first smiles. A connection that will continue to deepen in a way I have still yet to experience as a child grows into an adult. I think of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and the whole lineage of women who came before me. All strong and capable but probably found themselves in the middle of the night exhausted, overwhelmed, and likely at the verge of tears because of  a tiny human being who will not settle down. They probably also found themselves staring at their child in more peaceful moments and wondering if there is anything in the world so perfect, so beautiful , and so overflowing with love.

Motherhood has proven to me that I know even less than thought, but with love I am capable of more than I ever imagined. Like meditation, motherhood is not easy but it is magical. It is not glamorous but it is filled with unimaginable joy. It really is falling in love with life.

My husband and I were delighted to invite Cora Marie into the world on November 18, 2018. I will be on maternity leave from teaching yoga for the remainder of the winter as I continue to fall in love with Cora. Stay tuned as spring emerges. Until then, I am looking forward to beginning 2019 with this new meditation of motherhood.

Love and Light,

Kristin (& Luna, Cora’s full-time protector)

Yoga & Pregnancy

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I finally announced on social media several weeks ago that we are expecting our first baby in late November. We are over the moon excited and impatiently counting down the days while slightly terrified in the way that all first time parents are when bombarded with horror stories of  labor and delivery, screaming banshee infants, and not sleeping for the rest of our lives.

Horror stories aside, I have to admit that I have been enjoying this pregnancy as a curious observer. Just as I encourage my students to simply observe their breathing or sensations during yoga without judgement or control, I have been trying to do the same with my ever changing pregnant body. I try to greet each day as a new adventure. In my experience, adventures are not always comfortable or easy. A year ago I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea and for a time did not even think I would be able to get pregnant naturally. After a long winter of learning how to eat, rest, and take back control of my long term health, we were blessed in the spring when this little bean started to grow in my womb. My emotions fluctuated between constantly worrying if I am gaining too much or not enough weight on a daily basis to being overjoyed when telling the good news to our families. My body has experienced wonder as the fluttering kick of baby has now turned into full fledged karate in my ribcage. My body has also experienced pain when my shifting bones caused an imbalance in my back and I could barely walk around the block for several weeks. I feel like this past year was a rollercoaster that I was tricked to getting on and now never want to get off.

To say the past 9 months pregnancy has been easy would be false. If the picture at the beginning of this blog is what you imagine my whole pregnancy to be, I apologize for misleading you.  Pregnancy is beautiful and magical while also physically challenging and mentally exhausting. I have had my fair share of discomfort, sleepless nights, trips to the physical therapist, long waits in the hospital to get tested and retested to confirm baby’s health, and many self-conscious moments in front of the mirror. Imagine: splayed across the floor, in my husband’s oversized shirt,  hair amok, exhausted and crying for no specific reason while Luna tries to lick my face which ultimately makes me cry more. That would be another accurate picture of pregnancy.

More often, I am lucky to say I have  moments of great joy and sheer amazement when I experience the changes my body is going through to accommodate this tiny human. I have learned to lean into the innate female wisdom of my body that was dormant during my early 20s when I got absorbed in the culture of “busy” and “never enough”. Now, I am learning to honor the needs of my body. It changes moment to moment and day to day, not unlike my yoga practice. Some days I like doing many sun salutations, warrior poses and moving with strength. Some days I embrace the earthiness of moon salutations, restorative poses and moving with sweetness. Other days I do not practice at all.  For a while I still ran, ever so slowly, but those days are becoming much fewer and far between. Instead, I take Luna for long walks absorbing the sun and changing seasons. I miss some poses, like cobra and sphinx but not others like deep twists or inversions. The most important thing I have learned in this pregnancy is to listen to my body and always keep moving, even if it is gentle. I know my body is up to something greater, something more important. All those deep, complicated poses and long distance races will still be there after baby is born.

All these little adjustments have added up to a great realignment in my body, mind and spirit as it journeys through pregnancy and ultimately to motherhood. David Whyte, in his poem “Santiago”, talks of the great El Camino pilgrimage across Spain but it also speaks to some of the pilgrimages of life.

“the sense of having walked from far inside yourself

out into the revelation, to have risked yourself

for something that seemed to stand both inside you

and far beyond you, that called you back

to the only road in the end you could follow, walking

as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice

that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,”

After the pilgrimage of  pregnancy, I will embark the adventure of motherhood but perhaps I have actually already begun. I do not know when or how or where I am exactly going. I pray, in my rags of love and compassion, that I will safely meet this little person when they are ready to arrive.

My schedule is updated here. I plan on teaching my weekly classes through November 16. I will then take some time off through the winter as I learn about things such as diaper blowouts, late night feedings, and how to put on those cool but complicated baby wearing wraps. That being said, things often do not go as planned especially during the final weeks of pregnancy. Stay tuned on my FB and IG, as I have some lovely yogis standing in the wings ready to cover my classes if something changes.

*Updated 11/13: As stated above, things change. I will be taking the rest of this week off as we await this little one’s arrival. I need to respect and honor my body during this homestretch, and am so grateful I was able to teach as long as I did!

Love and light,

Kristin (& Luna & Baby)

Advanced Yoga Teacher Training // Home

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Last week I completed the final module for my 300hr Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Tracy and Mitchell Bleier to become a 500hr Registered Yoga Teacher. It was an endeavor I dove into, rather boldly yet blindly, a year ago when we moved to Chicago. I was craving more education. More motivation.

As I sit here on this grey October morning, I can confidently say that this training provided me with more tools to better understand the human body and inspire my mind. It encouraged me to teach what I already know, whether that be an asana and alignment heavy class filled with props and anatomy or a fluid and flowing class filled with imagery and connecting to the senses. There is still more I am craving to understand. More I want to learn. However, I think this is my path as a teacher: to always be a student. The phrase “the more you learn, the less you know” speaks truth in my heart.

I wanted to share with you a sample of my writing from our final module during our writing workshop day with Tracy. I began this training with a writing prompt so I think it would be fitting to end with sharing my final writing prompt.


Home 

Sitting on my sofa, the late afternoon light

is filtering through the green curtains 

that have followed me into every house

of my adulthood.

Not every house a home

but every place brimming with the potential of 

finally coming home. 

 

The many houses I have drifted among 

have been built with brick and concrete. 

I want my home built on something stronger.

Something I can fit into my pockets and take with me.

Like the flowers I used to collect outside

as a little girl to bring to my mother.

Crumpled upon arrival but always accepted, 

graciously, lovingly. 

 

What I mean is a home is not a place at all

rather it is a sensation beyond knowing.

A feeling in my bones 

this is exactly where I am meant to be. 

Cultivating gratitude as a farmer hoes the ground 

before planting seeds each spring. 

Tenderly caring for each budding plant 

so it can flourish, grow and belong. 

 

I can feel the warm fur of my dog curled up next to me

and the gentle rise and fall of her breathing. 

A position she can find almost anywhere

but today has chosen join me in the sunlight.

Then she rests her soft little head in my lap

looks up at me with her trusting brown eyes saying:

Thank you

and 

I love you.


 

Love and Light,

Kristin (& Luna)

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