Meet the New Co-Directors: Michelle Kurcera-Jewell Wants You To Shine As Brightly As Possible

About a month ago someone complimented me by saying that I was "a good worker". This was a well-intentioned comment. However, the feeling it left me with was not positive. I was not being recognized for my work ethic, instead, for my role as a high-functioning cog in the wheel that is capitalism. This compliment and recognition has played a significant role in the recent excavating I have been doing to find (under all the layers of expectations and identities that others have of me and for me) the self that is supposed to be shining in this world. And I wonder, what would it be like to be complimented for being "a good relaxer", "a creator”, "a lover"? It has become very clear that the hustle continues. My hustle for worthiness. My hustle for love. My hustle for acceptance. I say in class often, "we are worthy of love not because of our doing but because of our being". What if I knew this to be true for myself?

As I look at my calendar for the rest of the year and into 2018 I realize that the hustle has become a part of my identity. A layer that is preventing me from getting to the shining self-laying beneath the expectations and identities that are not my own. An identity that I want to release. A layer I want to shed. I do not want to be known for being a, "good worker" or a "busy" person. I don't want a full calendar. I want to be a person who prioritizes my relationship with spirit, with my sweet l’il family of Michael and Mallory, and my relationship with my self as a creator. So, I WILL BE a person who priorities my relationship with spirit, my family and creating. To ensure I am as present as possible, for this part of my journey, and for being open to the transformative power of this time, I am saying no to adding more to my calendar, if it doesn't fall into one of my 3 priorities (or going through serious processing prior to saying yes). I trust that this will allow me to show up more beautifully for myself and others!

I write this as an introduction into my new role as Co-Director at SKY with nervousness. After leaving an incredible job in Business Development at Apple, where I was recognized for my skill in Drive for Results, Action Orientation, and Command Skills I wonder, how can I bring that to the table, to my colleagues, to you, our community in a way that is aligned with my personal goal and one of our goals as an organization of finding and living in my purpose, my dharma and supporting others as they live in theirs. I see this as a challenge, an opportunity. What is possible if we at SKY, the leaders of, the folks who enter our doors every day and those that are impacted by this work, were able to live in the knowing that we no longer have to hustle for worthiness? To practice day in and day out, so that we know in the core of our beings, that we no longer need to hustle for love? So, I invite you to join me in considering, what are your unique gifts, talents, and passions? What is your purpose? Your dharma? What layers do you need to shed to allow the bright shining light that is your beautiful self to shine as brightly as possible?

Thank you for journeying with me. Thank you for helping me learn it's ok to say no, to disappoint people, to not meet other’s expectations and... to give up the hustle. Thank you for helping SKY be a model of what it looks like and to create space to experience love, connection and mutual healing. We are worthy. Not because of our doing… simply because of our being.

If you or someone you know has an offering, a way of shining a unique, bright light into this world and are interested sharing with our community please submit a workshop proposal here. We are planning 2018 and look forward to experiencing the creative, innovative and healing ways our community will show up through programming!

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Meet the New Co-Directors: Tawni Bell wants to capital W-work in dismantling power structures

I went to New York this summer to work at a summer camp that is housed in the ultra progressive independent school where I spent some years on staff. This school was my boot camp for education and introduction to the social justice work I am still learning to do. It felt grounding to be in my old classroom and exciting to reconnect with the folks in my NYC community. As it has been about 5 years since I left New York, there was a lot catching up about my west coast life and what I’m into these days. This means, of course, that I had to repeatedly talk about my decision to become a full time yoga teacher. The response to telling people that I am now a full time yoga teacher is varied but there are some common themes. There is of the smirk of disbelief that accompanies curious eyebrows and the multi-intentioned, “Really?” Or the wide eyed, head shaking, “uh-huh” -- not quite bored but certainly not interested. These responses I can handle. With a little explanation, folks understand how and where I would have made this transition. Other times, however, after telling someone that I am a yoga teacher, the response is to immediately survey my body, as if to check the validity of my story, and find the physical evidence of my chosen career. I can see the investigation for “reward” as it is unfolding. Where are my chiseled features and expensive flowy clothes? Where is the definite enlightenment shining forth from my third eye? This response is quietly offensive and certainly calls my practice into practice. Regardless of whether I choose to respond in turn to this response, it is necessary to name here that the general misunderstanding of yoga in this country pertains to the belief that yoga’s purpose is rooted in weight loss, personal enlightenment, and other forms of ass toning activities.

My transition to being a full time yoga instructor came ten years into my career in progressive education and non-profit pot stirring; daring to challenge patriarchal mismanagement and demanding to know why all voices were not equal. My side work has always been physical activity: dance, roller derby, biking, hiking, yoga, and half marathons. I need the heavy work to balance the emotional and mental exhaustion of education and equity training. And I will be transparent about having a loud (very loud) voice in my head about body image. This voice, however, was not the catalyst for my transition to teaching yoga. The catalyst was working in an industry - industries - and seeing clearly that healing is always last on the list.

There is so much healing that needs to happen. That is evident in how the planet and its people are revolting and coming undone. I am not so naive that I believe my white lady, yoga teacher (and, yes, toned) ass is going to om the world upside down. But, this misunderstanding of the practice of yoga that leads folks to elevator eye me without regard is indicative of how our social services and foundational systems came to be so and to stay so broken for so long. To practice yoga is to begin to notice; to notice what works, to notice what hurts, what is hurtful, to notice where you are and who is around you. The practice of yoga is to heal and then support others to heal as well. If, in ancient tradition, the intention of yoga is to end suffering, then yoga is the work of social justice, as white supremacy is suffering. The patriarchy is suffering. Dehumanizing is suffering.

From what I have learned (so far) in my short time on this planet is that healing comes from community, from support, and from the willingness to change. When I think about that look that I get when I say I am a yoga teacher - the one where I am a spokesperson for whether or not they too should have a new life long commitment to chiseling their attributes through sweat and tears - I am reminded how easy it is to convince someone to change their habits with the promise of changing the shape of their body. If only we were so willing to change our habits with the promise of changing the shape of our society. Shit, we’d already be there.

So, this is what brings me here, to SKY: to continue my capital-W-work in dismantling power structures through community, healing, and support and help others notice how their strengths can contribute to this Work too.

 

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Meet the New Co-Directors: Erika Davis wants to make yoga accessible for everyBODY

Over the remainder of September and into the first weeks of October each of our new Co-directors will be penning a blog post. We hope these posts will give you, our community, a bit more insight into these four individuals who have joined the leadership team of the SKY Community.

In my life I wear a lot of hats. I’m on the Board of a national Jewish diversity non-profit called the Jewish Multiracial Network. I’m a birth worker; birth and postpartum doula and childbirth educator. I write Jewish commentary on Torah for a website called My Jewish Learning and sometimes write about the intersections of race, sexual orientation and religion for various Jewish outlets and my long-neglected blog. In my home life I’m an amateur urban farmer with a plot of 6 raised beds, a healthy obsession with poppy flowers and a flock of 6 beautiful chickens. And, apparently, I’m the co-director of a yoga studio. If you would’ve told me a year ago today that this would be my life I would’ve called you a liar.

Yoga had always been something that I did to feel better, to connect to my body, to move. The desire to certify as a yoga instructor came from a place of wanting to have a deeper understanding of yoga and from a desire to make yoga spaces accessible for people of color and large-bodied people. Despite the trailblazing work of body-positive yoga instructors like Jessamyn Stanley and Dana Falsetti far too many black folks, queer folks and folks who live in “large” bodies feel anxiety walking into a yoga studio. I felt that anxiety when I signed up for 200-hour training last fall! Thankfully, there were 7 other black folks in my 200-hour yoga teacher training at 8 Limbs Yoga Centers in Seattle. Seeing those 7 other black faces in our opening circle, and every month for close to a year helped to solidify the fact that I, a size 14, lesbian black woman is what a yoga instructor looks like. But how could I be an instructor?

As woo-woo as it sounds I found the answer during our mandatory (and life-altering) day of silence during a 7-day yoga retreat that was part of my teacher training. In the silence that I was dreading since reading it on the syllabus I found my inner voice, a voice that I had been ignoring or too afraid to hear for quite some time. I left the retreat with a new-found dedication to live an authentic version of my life that allowed me to be my full self. Turns out that full self is a full-time birth worker and co-director of an amazing yoga community.

I was drawn to practice at SKY because of its non-profit model and mission of making yoga accessible for all incomes and abilities. Coming on as a member of the SKY Leadership team is a dream come true and the possibilities of making yoga truly accessible for all are endless. I want us to dream big as a community. I want us to think of ways that we can bring more folks to yoga. I want our individual members to come up with ways of living SKY's mission in day-to day life outside of the walls of the studio. And it is my personal goal to take this level of inclusivity and diversity farther by creating safe yoga spaces for LGBTQ people and People of Color.

This month we’re helping to push that mission through our Partners in Healing Drive. Partners in Healing brings affordable yoga to the Partner by providing unlimited yoga for $50/month and it brings affordable yoga for all by providing scholarships and free yoga to folks who need it. If you are currently a Partner in Healing I would personally ask that you re-commit to another year of membership and if you’re not a Partner in Healing and have the ability to make a one year commitment of $50/month to help us live our mission, please sign up here.

So that’s me. My name is Erika Davis and I’m one of the new co-directors at SKY.

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So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye (from Vania)

We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
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I am experiencing a lot of wordlessness as I sit down to pen a fond farewell to this community.  Words are insufficient to express my joy and gratitude for having been here, the intense heartache in leaving, and my excitement for what is to come for this ever-transforming space.

The four women who’ve stepped into this radical model of leadership are dynamic, strong, brilliant, compassionate, and kind.  They are also committed to bringing their full selves- in all their brokenness and beauty – into this space and this work.  It is this commitment to wholeness that fills me with confidence for the future of SKY.

It’s a bit disorienting when I am thanked for my role in SKY’s creation because, although I know and acknowledge all that I have given, the truth is that I have received so much more. I came to yoga completely broken – irretrievably so, I thought. Through years of practice I’ve come to know that I had indeed been broken, only the breaking was not into pieces but into openness. And into this opening has flowed all of you, this place, and the love we co-create here.

I want to thank each and every one of you for helping me in ways you’ve known about and in ways you couldn’t possibly know. You all have loved me into being who I am today; a kinder and more generous mother, friend, teacher, and partner than I could have ever hoped to be without your example and your bearing witness.

From the depths of my being: thank you.

I may not be here physically after Thursday, but know that my love (and tears and sweat and laughter) are deeply infused in this space. I will be loving you from a distance, holding you close in my prayers and meditations, and watching with curiosity and joy the continuous unfolding of this community.

With the fiercest of love and the deepest of gratitude,

V

 

 

 

Give Big and Yoga in the Park Wrap-up, Summer Rest, and Big News

Dear SKY Community:

WOW! We have been simply blown away by what we've done together for this year's fund drive. As of today, the total we've raised is $38,300, exceeding our goal of $35,000! THANK YOU to all who gave of time, talent, and resources. We are humbled, grateful, and overwhelmed (in the good way). 

And now, beginning Sunday, we rest. We'll be taking our annual summer week of recharging and renewing from Sunday July 30th - Saturday August 5th. We'll be back in the studio Sunday August 6th (with special guest Michaela Cooley on cello for the 11am All Levels class). You may or may not know that most yoga teachers work multiple jobs, do a lot of running around to get to those jobs, and very rarely get paid time off. One of the things that we are very proud of here at SKY is our ability (due to your generosity) to give everyone some time off with pay. Thank you, for supporting our efforts to nurture ourselves so we can hold space for others from a place of fullness.

And now, some big news: I (Vania) will be leaving my position here at SKY at the end of August because my family is moving to Germany. This has unfolded in a very surprising and unexpected way (as surprises do). As I'm sure you can all imagine the feelings swirling through me are intense, conflicting, and complicated. Underneath the anxiety and heartache of which I am most aware, I'm feeling grateful for the opportunity to rest deeply, to engage with my calling in a new way, and to be curious about what's next. But mostly, right now,  I feel sad. To say that I love you all doesn't even come close to expressing the depths of my feelings for this community.  

Beyond my sadness for me, I am excited for this community and confident that SKY will continue to thrive under new leadership. Our new Board President, Alisa O'Hanlon, has hit the ground running, connecting with our community partners and imagining new ways to bring what we do beyond these walls. Our former Board President, Michelle Kucera-Jewell, has taken one of the open co-director positions, and brings with her an incredible wealth of knowledge, skill, compassion, and leadership experience as well as a broad understanding of this organism we call SKY,  a unique perspective given by serving as Board President for a few years. Current teacher, Tawni Bell, will be filling my position. She brings her passionate, open, grounded heart (and qualifications upon qualifications). And, as you may have seen, we're hiring! Our plan is to fill the third co-director position by September 1st, and the fourth position by January 1st, as budget allows.  

For now, I'll be spending the next month handing off duties, bringing everyone up to speed, and pausing for ample tears of gratitude/sadness breaks. When Pamela and I opened SKY we were very intentional about wanting to create something that existed beyond each of us. We've had several conversations in the last few weeks about how satisfying it is to see that happening. 

So, to sum up: Wow. Thank you. All is well. The best is yet to come. 

Endless love,

V

Job Announcement

TITLE: Co-Director (part-time)

COMPANY: Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Nonprofit Healing Arts Center

MONTHLY SALARY: $1800

ANNUAL SALARY:  $21,600

START DATE: 1 SEPT 2017

HOURS: 10 hours of management/administrative work + 3-5 hours of teaching weekly or equivalent additional management/administration work (will vary with teaching schedule and co-director agreement)

BENEFITS: none

LEAVE: paid at employee’s discretion and in coordination with other co-directors

Overview:

The co-director position will be one of four. Each co-director will assume equal responsibility for the day-to-day operations of Samdhana-Karana Yoga (SKY) as well as long-term planning, budgeting, staff management, organizational vision, marketing and fundraising. It is the intent that each co-director will be capable of managing all aspects of studio management, but that the co-directors will decide by consensus how to divide particular duties.

Minimum Qualifications:

•200 hr CYT or RYT or commensurate experience

•Trauma-informed training or commensurate experience

•Previous experience in business management

•Ability to demonstrate good interpersonal and communication skills

•Ability to pass a background check that may be done by partnering organizations

The ideal candidate:

We are a social profit 501c3 with a vision to empower people of all incomes and abilities towards lives of peace, purpose, and joy through the connection, love, and mutual healing that yoga inspires. The ideal co-director will be passionate about this vision, have a commitment to and understanding of SKY’s beneficiaries, and will recognize that, rather than being separate from, we are one and the same with the people we serve.

We seek people whose own values align with our organizational core values:

•Community

•Commitment to Service

•Diversity

•Justice

•Empowerment

•Inclusion

•Competence/Excellence/Quality

• Trustworthiness

• Respect

• Compassion

• Fun/Joy/Laughter/Spaciousness of Being/Levity

• Collaboration/Partnership

• Reciprocity

Skills/Abilities/Strengths:

The ideal candidates will be expected to demonstrate skill in the following competencies:

Approachability

Managerial courage

Drive for results

Compassion

Integrity and trust

Ethics and values

Managing Vision and Purpose

Perseverance

Self Knowledge

Composure

Priority setting

Action Oriented

Command Skills

Conflict Management

Customer focus

As a nonprofit institution, we rely heavily on fundraising to support our work. As such, the ideal co-directors will have both the willingness and the necessary skills for fundraising. This may include building relationships within the community with individuals and organizations, representing the studio at events, sharing our mission and values whenever appropriate, event planning, and grant writing.

Interested folks should email cover letter and resume by 5pm on 15 August 2017 to info (at) samdhanakaranayoga (dot) org. 

*Folks with under-represented identities within the yoga industry are encouraged to apply.

 

Dreaming Big (Repairers of the Breach, Part 4)

This is part four of a multi-part series that is being written to share ALL the work that we’re up to, beyond the obvious affordable and accessible drop-in yoga classes. You can read part one herepart two here, and part three here

I’ll never forget the first conversations Pamela and I had with folks as we were opening the doors to SKY nearly seven years ago. They mostly went something like this (I’m paraphrasing): “Wow! What a great idea. Can it/will it work?.”  Since SKY has been around for nearly 7 years now, we feel confident that we (as a collective community) have indeed “made it work”.

When we first opened we had a sliding scale pricing structure and people paid for class according to their self-declared income. This system was complicated on the bookkeeping end but it made explicit our belief that everyone’s needs can be met when those who have more pay more so those that have little can benefit from the same services.

Of course, our big dream absolutely requires community buy-in. We need folks to buy-in to the idea that yoga should be affordable AND teachers should be paid well. And in the absence of the sliding-scale system, we need the folks who can afford to pay more than $10 per class, or $50/month for unlimited yoga, to answer the call when asked. Like right now.

We are an organization with a budget of just under $200,000. The $35,000 we are raising during Give Big Month and Yoga in the park bridges the gap between the income we generate through our yoga classes, workshops, and other events and what it costs to keep this place going. This includes not just the stuff you surely know about – our outreach programs, our trauma-aware programs, our free weekly classes – but also the stuff you may not realize we’re doing.

To name a few:

A Youth Empowerment Camp for girls aged 13-16 who are in the Pierce County Juvenile Court system. (happening in August)

An internship program for youth in the Pierce County Juvenile Court system. (currently happening)

A 3-hour workshop as part of the upcoming Tacoma Girls Rock camp.

A partnership with Love Your Brain for folks living with Traumatic Brain Injury.

Scholarships for folks of color to attend yoga teacher training as part of our race equity initiative, which I wrote about here.

And we’ve got more big dreams that answer a question we have had since we opened: How can we continue to evolve to best serve this community?

One of the dreams we are holding is that of an educational program for kids that provides a “radical education for future humanist leaders”. Tawni Bell, a passionate and wise educator, has been incubating this dream in her being for some time and is trusting us to hold it with her; a non-cohersive, student directed, democratic/free school style school with a special focus on social/emotional development, social justice and activism, community building, and leadership.

A radical school connected to a yoga space? Yes! Because we firmly believe that social change happens when we are engaging from every angle and at every age.

So, nearly seven years later, our dreams continue to grow and evolve just like this space. And what was true then is true now – we need community buy-in.  We are asking those of us who have more than we need, to share what we have, so everyone can benefit from what’s happening here, and these dreams we are holding can come to fruition. 

We’re about a week away from Yoga in the Park with a lot of room to go to reach our goal. I am inviting you to dream big with us! To buy-in! To believe! As my friend Felicia Parazaider (who will be here in September to help us celebrate our 7th anniversary) recently reminded me: It takes more courage and realism to believe than it does to lose in despair.

I believe. Do you?

Go here to Give Big. (Friday July 14th we have a donor who is matching ALL donations up to $2000!)

Go here to register for Yoga in the Park.

Big Love,

V