Sunday, June 18, 2017

How I Handle Father's Day

I have two fathers. My original father and my mother divorced when I was three. When I was six, my mother remarried, and a year later my second father adopted me. My mother and second father divorced when I was 14. I am not in contact with my original father and barely in contact with my second one. It's complicated because I have tried to reconnect with both of them over the years, and it just brings a cascade of pain, guilt, and regret to me and to them. Both of them have tried, and so have I. It's just not meant to be.

On Father's Day, I struggle to celebrate in a way that honors my experience with my fathers. I can't lie about the well of pain from these experiences, and it's hard to know what to do with it on days like this. Because of this well of pain, I moved toward independence and the commitment to healthy relating. I can take care of myself and find my footing in the world from what I have experienced with my fathers. But mine is far from a sweet picture of my dad being my pal who helps me get ready for the world and lets me dance on his feet or teaches me to fish. And this is okay.

So, what can I truly celebrate on Father's Day?

I can celebrate every time I witness the men who hold their children because they need that loving connection to their children. I can celebrate every time I witness men who do things with their children because it brings them joy. I can celebrate every time my husband comes home from work and quietly goes about taking care of our family in ways that I cannot. I can celebrate every time I witness the love that I hear in my husband's voice when he speaks to our children.

My children are still young, and through them, my celebration of Father's Day is evolving. I am thankful for that and am curious to see how I will celebrate Father's Day in years to come because of them.

For those of you who cannot be with your father(s), I hope you can find in yourself a sense of peace, strength and wholeness. And I hope you can find joy in the fathers who are around you now. To everyone, have a Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

My Summer Schedule

This summer I am teaching at Holy Trinity Episcopal Parish and at the Clemson University Student Organic Farm. Here's the schedule and information. I look forward to it!

Mindful Yoga at Holy Trinity
Saturday mornings 8:30-9:45 June 17 and 24, July 8 and 22, August dates TBD
Let's move in peace. Class sequences are designed for everyone to find more ease in body, mind, and spirit.

Sunset Yoga Sundays
Sundays 7:00pm-8:00pm June 11-August 13
An all levels series focused on restorative breathing and mindful movement that will help you sleep better, let go, and be ready for Monday mornings.

Sunrise Yoga Two mornings a week!
Mondays and Thursdays 6:00-7:00 June 12-August 3
Come explore mindful movement and breathing at dawn this summer. Sessions will help you get your day started with clarity and ease in mind, body, and spirit.

Family Yoga at Sunset
Thursdays 7:00-7:45pm June 15-August 3
Come have fun as we explore basic postures, breathing, and mindfulness techniques for people of all ages. Sessions will be 45 minutes, but we all know that some of us may not be able to stay the whole time. So, hey, we’re with family. We all know that's okay. All families welcome.

Fee Schedule
$10 per session
Holy Trinity Pass: $30
Sunrise Pass: $85
Sunset Pass: $40
Family Pass: $40
All sessions Pass: $165

All bodies and all experiences are welcome. Bring a mat, bolster, and block if you have them. Equipment is available to borrow. 

Email Renee at or call/text 864-723-0827
Other ways to connect:
Facebook: Renee Gahan Yoga

Instagram: rengahan

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why I Lead a Parade

Collectively, in my town and in this country, we need more music and dancing in the streets. We need more outlets to publicly express the joy in our bodies. Adults, especially parents, relegate this to children, but we all need this our entire lives. It used to be that town square was where you went to dance and celebrate for the sake of celebrating. But this went missing in most of the country a few generations ago. It's time we bring it back. For now, we need to do it for the sake of the health of our communities. We need to seek ways to collectively and publicly express joy until feeding joy for its own sake comes naturally again for people of all ages. Not just children. It happens in social media, but we all know that it is a surrogate despite how much it connects us. We need time dedicated to collective joy in everyday time rather than virtual time; we need this time to be unencumbered by commentators, marketing schemes, and the floodlights of national television. So, on May 20th I will be leading the 2nd Annual Clemson Festival of Arts Parade, and you are invited.

From 2016: Me with The Green Crescent Trail E.T. Group Costume

What: Clemson Festival of Arts Parade
Who: Anyone who can be there in person, including you
When: Saturday, May 20th at 10 am, lineup at 9:00
Where: If you want to dress up and dance with us, come to the Clemson First Baptist Church parking lot in the back. We will walk just a short block and a half or so to the festival and parade right through it. If you want to watch, the festival is at Catherine Smith Plaza in Downtown Clemson.
What else: Dress up in a costume you put together yourself. If you are there just to dance, dress in a primary color. You can also decorate your bike, your golf cart, and/or your hat.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

An Algorithm for Joy

I have been working on an algorithm lately. Let me know what you think.

1. Mindfulness is the result of bare attention on one thing. It's kinda a like putting a stake in the ground in order to see where to put the house in the context of the landscape.
2. Mindfulness is love. Hm. My teacher Michael Stone suggested that recently. If you think about it, when you love something or someone, all of your attention is right there, and as a result, your awareness of the world opens.
3. Happiness is at the intersection of Love and Joy.
4. Happiness is at the intersection of Joy and Mindfulness.
5. Love is an effort and an energy.
6. Joy comes and goes. Or does it?

So how do we create the conditions for joy to arise? How do we invite joy to come for a visit?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Yoga Postures, Picking Locks, and Remembering Your Birthright

Most of the time when someone says they are practicing yoga, they are practicing asana, which is commonly translated as "comfortable seat." As beginners to the practice we think we need to break ourselves into poses like breaking in new shoes, to force comfort. But asana is about finding ease in the body no matter what posture we are doing and consequently, no matter the posture we take in our lives. Asana practice is about starting with ease, being in the middle of ease, and ending with ease as much and as often as possible with nothing forced about it. I knew a bank manager who once told me that yoga was like putting herself into a tight bind and finding her way out of it. In the first handful of years for me, I also saw asana practice as the ways we put ourselves into tight binds and was sure that Harry Houdini had practiced yoga.

But this approach only continues the tenuous relationship that we have with peace and generates an attitude that it can only be had if you give up just the right parts of the body for a moment in order to make the escape. In this way peace is something fleeting rather than inherent. There is surrender involved with every posture and for a time it may feel like you are picking locks and untying ropes, but there's more once you untie enough knots. Asana means comfortable seat, not problem solving, and the peace we find is actually part of our birthright that we forgot somewhere in childhood.

The next time you practice yoga, notice how you are holding your body. Are you performing, conquering, teetering on collapse? How we hold the body in asana reveals the way we deal with conflict. We deflect, fight, disappear, and abandon in order to escape the truth of a situation. But we can learn how to face our lives and befriend what is weak, undeveloped, stuck. Yoga moves us to a place that is complete so that we can hold what is incomplete with care. Practice yoga as a way to listen to the voiceless within and to give it the attention and care it needs to evolve.

Asana practice teaches us what it is to inhabit the body, as it is, and in all its landscapes of sensation and churnings that we cannot find words to describe. It softens our self expectations so that we can finally meet ourselves where we are in our own feet and hands and everything in between.  In this space being pleasing to the eye or making the cut doesn't matter. Nor does it matter how competent, intelligent, or strong we are. When you crave communing with yourself, it's about being in the dynamic of movement and stillness of body and breath. And when the rain patters on the roof, you see that your life, like all of life, is a gift.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Promise of Transformation

When I search Google images using the word transformation, a lot of business logos show up along with images of body builders. With meditation transformation, I get more unidentifiable businesses along with some life coaching sites that incorporate meditation techniques of some kind. And then there's yoga transformation.  With that one, there are before and after pictures of bodies that start obese and end shredded and shiny.

Transformation holds a promise of freedom, of complete change, of realizing a dream. And there is freedom in transformation and complete change. Realizing a dream, however, may or may not happen the way we imagine. Making something real means that it comes into the world of conditions and the dream has to be altered somehow. That's the condition of making something so. The body sheds weight but the heart is still tight and now the gut is clenched too. You moved into a new house, leaving some old problems behind only to meet new problems. This is how it goes.

It's not realistic to expect problems to fall away with the fulfillment of a desire or the shedding of something we cannot accept in ourselves. But transformation still happens. The process of meditation and yoga is a process of the mind reflecting awareness, which is always clear and free from doubts, confusion, fear, sadness, and all the rest. Yoga postures teach us how to live in embodied awareness, yoga breathing teaches us how to ride waves of change that are always swelling and cresting, meditation teaches us that awareness is something inherent within us that is somehow untouched by all the comings and going of the mind and the world.

We cannot expect transformation to be immediate, easy, and full of relief.  A caterpillar when it goes into the pupae stage liquefies. All but the very basic physiology that pulses life melts inside the pupae. From this gel, the butterfly body forms. Transformation is like this. You know that things will be different on the other side, and you have desires that draw you like a beacon through the transformation. But the process itself, changes everything and is fraught with chaos and uncertainty.

As we dedicate ourselves to finding peace in a practice, the mind changes from reflecting on itself like a hall of mirrors to reflecting the awareness, the mindfulness, that is in the backdrop at all times in everything. The mind transforms from being highly reactive and reflective of its own thoughts and everything else to becoming still like a pool of water that reflects the sky. Even as this happens, new conditions arise. Compassion is no longer some obligatory maxim to follow, it's embodied. And the call to action for the sake of compassion cannot be denied.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Little Bit on the Self and the Conditions of the World

As you develop a meditation practice, you can't help but run into it.

The idea of the self is discussed in the world of psychology, philosophy, as well as the Yoga and Buddhist traditions. In early adulthood, we are trying to find ourselves; we are trying to understand the self that is independent of family and society. Sometimes self is written with a capital S. Regardless of whether or not you capitalize, this Self is the eternal within us and the ineffable that we hold. People can get very technical about what the Self is, how to understand it, and how to live from this Self completely rather than from the static of expectations, beliefs, and thoughts that we and others have about our Self. It's great to read about it. I find it very heady, and it stokes my curiosity; it inspires expansive thought. But it's also an easy way to again be once removed from direct experience.

Here is how I see it these days.

No matter how much or how little we come to know ourselves, there is always something invisible to us, and it is big. For our entire lives, we hold this invisible self, and it is something that is very malleable. It is shaped by the conditions of our lives and the world. We have some control over how the self is shaped, but like the conditions of the world, we really have very little control over any of it.

However, when we have a stillness practice, we reach a place where we can see how we shape ourselves. It is in this field of awareness where we can engage consciously in the process of shaping the self. Awareness of this process could be called living from the self. Through this we find more freedom in expressing the self/ourselves in the world.

As for the world, it is also a set of conditions that are in a state of continuous change. Again, we have very little control over the conditions of the world, but we can contribute to its conditions through a conscious process of shaping the self. We can be part of what we want to see in the world. We can be part of creating what needs to be brought forth into to the world.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you in the comments section.