Expand your presence

“An old zen master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, he sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it.
“How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter,” spit the apprentice.
The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.
The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”
“Much fresher,” remarked the apprentice. ”Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man.
At this, the master sat beside the young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering,
“The pain of life is pure salt, no more, no less.
The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same.
But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.
So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things…Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

I read this a few weeks ago and it stayed with me and so I thought I would share it with you.  For me, this is the reason I practice yoga.  Yoga expands my presence, it’s the way inside so that I can stay awake.  Otherwise, I am the apprentice, only drinking from my salty cup, thinking the world a bitter place.  

I will always recommend yoga (remember the physical practice is just one of the eight limbs of yoga so there is a lot of yoga out there to study) but if yoga doesn’t call out to you, then find something…a cooking class, dance lessons, learning a new language, saying yes to something that you’re afraid of…anything that can keep you anchored to the present moment and expand it.  I find that the more conscious I am, the more the world isn’t defined by the past or the future, the more I can be the lake.

Happy swimming

xoxo

“Inside the River” Query Letter

Thank you readers (and Ang Lee, even though he doesn’t know it yet) from 45 different countries for sharing this journey with me.

My novel, “Inside the River,” bridges Magical Realism with Contemporary Women’s Fiction, and totals 94,000 words.

No life comes without some share of struggles-the toughest trick in life is how to heal ourselves and love.  “Inside the River” follows the poignant stories of two women, separated by centuries, but connected by their shared history of having suffered from sexual abuse as girls and then struggling to learn how to heal themselves and love years later in their lives.

In an ancient time when magic was still real Ana, a blue haired girl, hears fish singing, and jumps inside the river beside her small village to get away from her suffering.  In modern day New York City, Emma mysteriously hears the same song and responds, also to get away from her own suffering.  But are these two stories intertwined beyond a song from inside the river?

After crossing the river, Ana becomes a fortune teller and meets Eloisa, a red haired gypsy, who has been searching for the blue haired girl who made the fish forget their pact of silence.  Emma, on her way to a Starbucks in NYC, meets Antonio, an old man who tells Emma how the tinges of blue in her hair remind him of Ana, whose story was passed down through his family for centuries.  Indeed, Ana and Emma’s stories are eventually revealed to not only parallel, but also mysteriously interact and, in the unfolding of their lives, the reader learns how both women are able to heal and break the cycle of suffering.

This is my debut novel.  I hold a BA in English Lit. and a Masters in English and Writing Education. The manuscript is complete and available at your request.

Thanks for your consideration.  I look forward to the possibility of working together.

Sincerely,

Mindy Levine


					

Ang Lee: The synopsis is almost done!

Has anyone felt the lightness of accomplishment only to be weighed down by that one last thing to do?

It took me twenty years of “I wish I could write this book” to get to the messy and beautiful task of actually doing it.  “Inside the River” is done.

I am not alone in finding the synopsis, that needed summary of the book, difficult and procrastination worthy.  I have procrastinated and fought it with eyes wide open. I think I’ve done it because I fought against the fact that the summary of my work is not my work.  It’s the tastiest flavor of my book, but it’s not all the flavors.  Just like when we meet someone, start a new venture, say hello to a blind date — we cannot expect that first impression to be the full sphere of a person, idea, finished product.  But what if this glance is the only glance you get? What would  you put inside it, what would be expendable, what would stand under the spotlight?

What if you had to write the summary of your life, in about 3,000 words (double-spaced or single-spaced I am still figuring that out).  Would the joy or the sadness or the healed pain be the thread?  Would other people overpower your own story?  Would the silence and lonely times knot the thread?  Would the past inform or keep you stuck?  Would your words scream of fear or sing about love?  What flavor would you want to savor? What flavor would you surprisingly realize was not all that flavorful?  What regret could you let go of because it doesn’t move your story forward and your word count is almost full?  What happens when you edit out all the drama?  What is left?  Who is left?

After reading this summary, would an agent, and an audience,  want to read your whole story?

 

 

 

 

 

House of Jai 30 day Yoga Challenge

Originally posted on insidetheriver:

mindypicI work and practice at House of Jai yoga studio in New York City.  As many of you have read, my yoga practice, my action of self-study, has unleashed the courage needed to finish my novel, “Inside the River.”

The studio has started a fun and non-competitive 30 day yoga challenge.  The challenge is to get on your mat every day for a month.  It doesn’t have to be at House of Jai so there is a wonderful component of Satya or truth to the challenge.

Today is Day 1 and so I thought I would write about it and perhaps give updates every few days as to how being aware of a daily choice can shift old habits of mind and body.  For years, I’ve been getting on my mat almost every day, and each time the practice teaches me something as I hold onto my beginner’s mind.

Day…

View original 200 more words

House of Jai 30 day Yoga Challenge

mindypicI work and practice at House of Jai yoga studio in New York City.  As many of you have read, my yoga practice, my action of self-study, has unleashed the courage needed to finish my novel, “Inside the River.”

The studio has started a fun and non-competitive 30 day yoga challenge.  The challenge is to get on your mat every day for a month.  It doesn’t have to be at House of Jai so there is a wonderful component of Satya or truth to the challenge.

Today is Day 1 and so I thought I would write about it and perhaps give updates every few days as to how being aware of a daily choice can shift old habits of mind and body.  For years, I’ve been getting on my mat almost every day, and each time the practice teaches me something as I hold onto my beginner’s mind.

Day 1 is a seated meditation pose.  I chose to sit on my mat at home, and on a bolster so my hips are higher than my thighs, making it easier to align and balance myself.  It also helps drain some of the fluid in those hips, and we tend to hold a lot of our unconscious in that area…all those push under the rug emotions often get stuck in the hips.

My photo is in my pj’s or my version of sleepwear…no make up, my hair tussled.  It was my time to meditate, to drop my ego, to bolster my journey inward.  Yoga is a journey inward and my action of stillness is a path to my center.  So I offer up the challenge to all those out there, beginners all of us, to get on your mat in some way, for some amount of time, and take notice of the effects.  Take notice of the shift and the space and what comes your way.  After ten minutes on my bolster, I felt open and grateful.

Happy challenge…and please let me know! Check out House of Jai on all the social media sites for other fun photos and insights.

xoxo

Yoga beyond the physical asanas…what does that mean?

Fourteen years ago, I went to physical therapy for a non-threatening but persistent stomach condition that had painfully nagged at me since I was a teenager.  The therapist, basically, taught me yoga…how to breathe, link breath and movement with cat/cow, some stabilizing abdomen work.  It was a pretty immediate reaction of feeling more present and relaxed,  and more connected to my core, (an area I’d avoided in fear for many years).  She said I needed yoga in my life.

So I looked at a nearby yoga studio’s schedule and picked “power yoga,” because I didn’t want to sit still and chant.  I was lost, sweating, holding my breath, and self-conscious.  Fortunately, there was a teacher trainee who was assisting the class.  He stayed near me, gently informing me about the poses and breath, and then went over the schedule for me.  New yogis–beginner flow, vinyasa 1,  slow flow, gentle….take those classes!

I stuck with it and within a few months I started to begin to understand the language of yoga.  My stomach felt relief, and the “episodes” lessened.  I felt myself learning how to be awake in the present moment on the mat.  Breath, where my foot goes, shoulders aligned over wrist, tuck tailbone slightly, knee over ankle, etc.  My mind began to quiet as I realized that most of what my monkey mind was thinking was either about the past or the future, both fear inducing.  As my core became stronger, so did my confidence and my will.  By year two, inversions, arm balances, a lot of the party tricks were tried and conquered.  By year seven, I even went deeper and did a 200 teacher training and taught a little.

And yet I was still on my mat, studying my physical practice, and reading about the philosophy of yoga like a college subject that was going to be tested.

Only through confronting painfully needed life choices and injury did I finally begin to do yoga.  Only when I acted on my present condition was I able to get beyond the physical poses. Suddenly the other limbs of yoga (asana is only one of eight limbs) opened up to me.  Headstand was a path inside, but headstand alone won’t bring transformation, freedom, and truth.  And you don’t need a headstand to find the bliss.  Let me say it again, as we are bombarded by beautiful and artistic photos of incredible yoga teachers in their incredible poses…you don’t need to do that to be invited to your own enlightenment.  Samadhi can happen in sparks throughout your day and off the mat.

The benefits of asana practice are astounding and the research is abundant.  But when I overdid my SI joint and had to modify with blocks and realized how heart opening blocks can be…that’s the yoga.  As years went by and my body changed, I let go of many of the party tricks and realized the incredible depth of refinement Warrior 1 asks of us…that’s the yoga.  Deciding to become a vegetarian, deciding to use my voice as an action of my will, deciding to write “Inside the River,” is all about the yoga.

I guess this blog is about gratitude for the practice that is new for me each day, that is still unfolding, that is “unsheathing” the mist.  And if someone reads this, who is intimidated by the onslaught of yoga olympics, please know that as long as you have breath, you have yoga.  Find a class that speaks to you in some way and try it…try it at least twice a week for 3 months.  If a teacher asks something of you that doesn’t feel good for your body, listen to your body. If a teacher comes and assists you and it hurts, tell them. If a class didn’t work for you, then pick another class.

Then take notice of the benefits…there is no separation between the practice on the mat and off of the mat, just as there’s no separation between our mind and body and spirit.  We’ve called them different words and created that separation.  And to every reader, and beyond, I wish you peace…

Om Shanti

 

Every movie I make. That’s my hideout, the place I don’t quite understand, but feel most at home. –Ang Lee

So often I have sat inside my comfort zone, because I understood it.  It was important that it all made sense, that it wasn’t, with obvious intention, anything too risky.   My days flowed with a routine, a drowsy, seamless state of mind.

There is a creative fire inside me (as there is in all of us) and somehow not exercising it was keeping me in what I can label as my low grade fever days.  I wasn’t sick and my life was full of joy and laughter but there was a tiredness to my efforts.

“Inside the River,” has been the house guest I’d ignored for a long time, the light dazzling outside wanting to play, the risk of conscious action.  Writing those words, wrapped around a story brewing inside me for over twenty years, starting a blog, joining twitter yesterday (not sure I quite get that concept yet) and allowing myself this voice (read in 37 countries…would love to know who you are), has taken me to a place I don’t quite understand.

But it’s home….

xoxo