Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Omily Tarot: A Tarot Deck By Any Other Name...

How were your holidays? Mine were way too much of a whirlwind to write blogposts. I managed to get in two aerial workouts, a tarot reading, a reiki healing, and some deep breathing, and frankly, I am just thrilled with that. I'm prepared to give myself a medal for getting that much of a practice in.

I had kind of a reach gift on my Christmas list this year...The Tarot deck designed by Salvadore Dali. I wasn't too surprised not to get it...though I did get a tarot deck. I wasn't sure what to think when I opened it: it was a little kit with a deck, a mini book, and a mat you could use to lay the cards out in a particular spread. It seemed...beginner-minded at best, and kitschy at worst...but as soon as I opened the deck, I was intrigued. I'd never worked with a deck with a black background before, and the images, highly simplified, and whimsically arbitrary, were fascinating. It just goes to show you that you never know where you'll find a good deck. Maybe I'll use it for my 2014 Card of the Year pick!

It's definitely time to schedule your New Year's Reading! Get an overview of the challenges and situations to focus your energies on, and prepare to be the best you you can be with a tarot reading! Here are some pictures of the new deck. If you're as intrigued by it as I am, let's break this baby in with your New Year's Reading!
Here is the design on the back of the cards. Isn't it striking? I love how detailed and beautiful it is!
These animals with human faces pop up throughout the deck. I wonder why the rabbit was selected as the magician. It's interesting that the rabbit is holding the planet Mercury. Mercury has to do with communication, intuition, travel, and...I believe, magic.
I love the idea of the hermit being depicted with a snail shell. There are so many ways to think about that: a shy snail retreating into its shell at the slightest provocation...a person on a long journey of discovery carrying their sense of home with them...the invulnerability that comes along with avoiding relationships with other people...
This is a pretty traditional depiction of this card. We have the animals with human faces again. I love the kitty with wings at the top of the wheel! The monkey barely holding on on the upswing is pretty fitting, too.
I love this depiction of the devil! Doesn't it give you the shivers in the best possible way? I know this is the devil I'd fall for: not trying to trick me regarding who he is, but so dapper he doesn't have to!
I was at first shocked, and then intrigued by the simplicity of these major arcana cards. It seemed like there wouldn't be enough symbolism to draw from for a thorough reading. This one is such perfect moon imagery, though: the owl is a symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom, the hunt, Athens, and of course, the moon!
I'm so fascinated by this card. It feels like a total departure from traditional imagery. What does a butterfly have to do with judgement? I can make an easy connection with the keys because of my Catholic background: St. Peter holding the keys to Heaven. Maybe the butterfly is about how delicate, and seemingly arbitrary judgement can be. We just don't know how things will turn out and in whose favor they'll go...
 This is a detail shot of the back of the cards. The little matches around the sun are such an interesting touch. The closest thing to a household object like that elsewhere in this image would be the cups or cards the two people are juggling. Maybe they aren't matches at all. They look similar to the pistils coming out of the blue flowers on either side of the moon.
Here are all the cards I took close-ups of, laid out with the rest of the deck above. I should have put something in for scale. These cards are a nice size: fairly small, but not miniature by any means: just easier to shuffle if you don't have huge hands...or aren't that good at shuffling. A big spread wouldn't take up too much space with these, which is always nice. Nothing like having to readjust everything just to make more room for a few more cards.

What do you think? Would you enjoy working with this deck? I'm still having trouble reconciling how fascinating it is with the fact that it came in a little box that says, Tarot: The Complete Kit on the front. The deck itself doesn't seem to have a name at all! What a silly idea! I don't feel like my tarot kit will ever be complete. There's so much to learn, and so many different decks to play with.

Did you get any new decks for Christmas? Tell me about them! Maybe I'll take the time to review more tarot decks in 2014...

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Blogpost is a Bit of a Stretch

I'm going a little crazy training for two aerial performances tomorrow, and our flight home on Monday, so instead of dragging a mediocre post out of my brain, I'm just going to share with you an article I stumbled upon in an old issue of Yoga Journal about Flexibility. I learned so much about the anatomy of stretching, and what prevents us from getting into those beautiful, contortionist shapes, and how I can maximize the effectiveness of the time I spend stretching. Enjoy!


Live Omily!

P.S. If you're in the NYC area, don't miss my performance at the 4:00 showing of Big Sky Works' Holiday Circus Cabaret!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eating Omily: To Bake or Not to Bake? Get to Your Farmers' Market Either Way!

I know I get excited about things I find at the Farmers' Market at least once a month, but seriously, you'll want to sit down. This is big. At the Farmers' Market, on Fridays, at the Hot Bread Kitchen stall, I found...Marzipan Stolen!!!!

Are you not squealing with delight? You should be! Stolen is a German Christmas sweet, a yeasty bread filled with candied and/or soaked in brandy fruits, sometimes nuts, and a core of sweet, sticky marzipan! Sometimes it's topped with a glaze or icing, and sometimes it's just given a generous coating of powdered sugar. Either way, it's rich, moist, and perfect with coffee in the morning. Or, you know, anytime...
These stolens are the real deal: the marzipan was made from scratch, starting with raw shelled almonds, the fruits were soaked in brandy in small batches, and careful research went into making sure the recipe was authentic to the German tradition. This is some delicious pastry, and you do not want to miss it! At $15 a pop, it may seem like a lot for a fairly small loaf, but stolen is rich. I'm crazy about it, but I still can't eat more than three or four slender slices at one go. It'll easily last you till Christmas if you get one the day after tomorrow, and if you know what's good for you, you'll buy two and freeze one for the New Year!

Maybe you're not the type to buy a pre-made treat. Maybe you'd rather make your own Christmas cookies and sweets. Don't forget that you can get flour, butter, eggs, milk, cream, honey, and maple syrup all in your Farmers' Market! If you're making cookies, or another treat that doesn't rise much, whole wheat flour will provide your family with fiber to help stabilize your blood sugar, and extra nutrients without changing the taste or texture of your favorite recipes. Whole wheat flour also has less gluten per cup than all purpose, because the other parts of the grain are left in, and dilute it. Just sub it in wherever all purpose flour is called for! Farmers' Market eggs will give you whites that beat up stiffer faster, and rich, golden yolks with better flavor and color than anything you'll find at the grocery store, and the butter? Once you try it, you'll never go back.

What else is going on at the Farmers' Market these days? Heads-up! Next week might be your last chance for fresh fish...I bought half a pound of smoked blue fish today for a quick, easy, delicious dinner: the fish is hot smoked, so it's already cooked! All I need is toast, and perhaps something creamy to serve it with, and a vegetable! There may be a fish monger willing to stay out to brave the colder months, but catches will be slim, and attendance tends to drop in the Winter. I have yet to have a fish monger tell me they'll be around to get us through the lean months. Enjoy it while you can!

While you're out, you can do some Christmas shopping at the Holiday Market right next door to the Farmers' Market in Union Square, take the train uptown to enjoy some holiday windows, the Rockefeller Christmas tree, and baby snow leopards at the Central Park Zoo! I love this city...

AND, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, come see me perform on silks as part of Big Sky's Holiday Circus Cabaret! I'll be performing in the 4:00pm show this Saturday at Big Sky Works, on Wythe by N14th Street in Williamsburg, $15 at the door. You can go from there straight out to Galapagos Art Space to see the Nutcracker Circus Suite! I won't be performing in that one, but I absolutely won't be missing it!
Light and Love and Happy Holidays! Spread Christmas cheer by buying what you need from those who need your business!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Festive Time is Tarot Time!

Christmas is coming! We just bought our Christmas tree yesterday, and I'm dreaming sweet day dreams of seeing it decorated with beautiful tarot cards, swaying in the ceiling fan breeze, and glowing in the candlelight...does anyone know if there's a Christmas tarot deck? Because I want it! (Why, yes! Yes there is...)
Christmas may not be the holiday you celebrate, but whatever festive occasion is brightening your home in the early days of Winter, know that this is a perfect time to tarot! Odds are, you're surrounded by family and friends in a contemplative frame of mind, there's a good chance at least some of those people are too stuffed to move, and are desperate for an excuse not to hear Grandma's upteenth telling of the Christmas she lost all the rest of her teeth at once to an aggressive toffee pudding...ok, I made that part up, but every family has at least ONE story no one wants to hear again!  Assuming your family is tarot-friendly, or at least tarot-tolerant (and if they're not, this is the post for you), break out your cards!
You'll get some solid practice in, AND you'll have a golden opportunity to explore objectivity: how does knowing the person you're reading for, perhaps very well, influence how you interpret the cards? To some degree this is inevitable, for better or worse, but objectivity is an important skill to work toward as a reader. You don't want to use the cards to deliver a thinly veiled lecture on the evils of a client's behavior. That's not your place. If what he or she doing is unhelpful for her or him, the tarot will be sure to point that out, assuming it's the most important concern that person has right then.

If you suspect something you're about to hear in a reading, or just the person you'll be reading for is a potential judgement-trigger for you, try to take a time-out before the reading.  Breathe deeply, release your preconceived notions, and remember that you are a conduit for the collective wisdom of the universe. Relying on your own lenses through which you view that wisdom will only distort the view for your client.

There's a good chance this skill is a work in progress for you, and as such, you may bump into potential readings where staying clear and objective is just not realistic for you. If that's the case, don't hesitate for a moment: tell this person, kindly and respectfully, that you are not the right tarot reader for them at this time. If you know another reader who you think can help them out, make that referral and gain some karma points. You don't have to tell them why. Many people are so in awe of tarot cards and tarot readers that they'll just assume you read their aura or something and will leave it at that. If the person does press you for a reason, say that this particular area of introspection is outside of your area of expertise right now.

This is also a great time to practice your tarot readings because we're getting into the home stretch of the year, and it's time to start contemplating the energies that will be in play next year. Doing a tarot reading on a whole year may sound daunting, but remember: a more complex reading does NOT necessarily mean a more complex spread. My favorite New Year tarot readings are the ones when the client and I choose just one card to represent the new year for them, and we mine it for all its worth. New insights will continue to spring up as the year progresses, the chosen card serving as a focal point for meditation, contemplation, and regeneration. If gleaning a whole year out of one card seems daunting in its own way, go ahead and throw a few more! Your unique choices regarding reading the cards is what makes your offerings as a tarot reader so useful for the rest of us!

In closing, here is a cute picture of my cat in a bag. Happy taroting!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pure Yoga is Probably a Myth Anyway

I've never been much of a yoga purist. My first yoga experience was pretty traditional vinyasa, but I didn't know that at the time, and quickly enough I had segued into something more new-age, and well-suited to people moving their bodies for the first time in a long time. I knew I liked the first kind better. And then I wound up at Yoga to the People, where there is no seated pose, no oming, and no post-savasana closing of class. The first few weeks I kept saying I wouldn't come back...but I was wrong. They had me hooked. And I did my teacher training with them after two more years.

So then I knew was Vinyasa was, and that I liked it, and that I taught it, and I knew a very little bit about what Kundalini and Bikram yoga was, because we had taken one class of each as part of our training. And I knew there was some other stuff out there: Iyengar, Ashtanga...

I started teaching at a Hatha-Vinyasa yoga studio, so then I knew what Hatha yoga was, and Restorative yoga, too, though I didn't really know where all these different systems fit on the spreading Yoga Family Tree. I spent quite a while learning and growing with that studio, and I started to pick up on bits and pieces of Ashtanga before finally being shoved out of the nest.

It was after that that I stumbled upon the Candy Shop for Non-Yoga-Purists: Om Factory. I learned about Ashtanga, acro yoga, aerial yoga, some stuff called shadow yoga that I still don't actually know much about, and of course, yoga fight club. People were doing this stuff? Just willy-nilly combining yoga with other things that they loved? You could do that??

I also started teaching at a brand new studio, right from when it opened, and without even realizing it, took advantage of the unformed studio culture to play the music I wanted to play, and teach the yoga I wanted to teach: dumb jokes, super-challenging poses, and a firm focus on where this was all going philosophically speaking.

It felt good, like I was meeting myself as a yoga teacher for the first time, instead of just teaching other people's yoga.

It took a while longer, but I finally started teaching aerial yoga. And of course, it fit perfectly with the teaching style I had already cultivated.

And then the director of Bella Vita, the new studio I started at over the summer, wanted to talk about changing my schedule: she was canceling a Monday Yogalates class, and wanted to know if I could fill in the slot. With something similar. I've only ever taken one pilates class. I really liked it, but I'm supremely under qualified to teach such a thing. What about yoga with more toning, more core work? What should we call it? It'll be forty-five minutes long...

Suddenly I was staring the parameters I had always put around yoga in the face: how could I fit a complete practice in only forty-five minutes? What did toning–working hard to achieve a change in physical appearance–have to do with yoga? But I wasn't about to turn down a teaching opportunity over some qualms about how best to make this new hybrid work. I pulled together yoga poses, aerial conditioning moves, and some creative transitions, and started class with grounding and meditation, and ended with Savasana. We had fun...and my thighs were sore the next morning.

I do think there are compatibility issues with doing yoga when your goals are about changing how you look. It's hard to reconcile that with the goal of yoga: to quiet the ego, and find your true, good-enough self on the inside. On the other hand, there are so many roads for getting to that place...and teaching a class that will attract people who aren't already on that path to self-acceptance, and then introducing those ideas to them in a familiar atmosphere can only be a good thing. And there's nothing wrong with working your muscles, after all.  Exercise is really good for you, regardless of how it does or doesn't change your body on the outside.

I'm looking forward to seeing how my students change my ideas about what is and isn't yoga, again, through this new class. Come share your yoga with us at Bella Vita: Yogi Toning is every Monday from 3:15-4:00pm. Sign up at www.bellavitaworld.com.

What do you think about hybrid yogas? Which traditional school of yoga do you think is the most purely passed down through the ages? Does it matter?
Live Omily,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eating Omily: Getting into the Holiday Eating Spirit

Oh, the morning after Thanksgiving! Glorious because of the left-overs, distressing because of the dishes.  We started our day off right with an amazing breakfast: sausage and eggs (of course) with left-over mashed potatoes formed into patties and fried in butter, left-over crescent rolls smeared with whipped cream, and cranberry relish.

We got most of the dishes done around midnight, which is pretty good, I think!

So...do you know what the next thing we did was?  If you've been reading along for a while, you can probably hazard a good guess!  What was left of our beautiful pheasant had to go in the stock pot with cold water, salt, pepper, a bay leaf, carrots, onions, and garlic to get turned into golden, fragrant stock.

Now I've got two icecube trays full of stock, and a big mixing bowl-full in the fridge, waiting its turn to be frozen.  In another day or two, we'll have a couple-month supply for soups, and other yummies.  You can add stock to anything you would add water to, and aside from coming with more flavor of course, it also comes with vitamins, minerals, and gelatin, which aids in digestion.  You can also use it in place of dairy if you don't always digest dairy well, or are concerned with the quanity of saturated fat in a dish.

Though you should know that if your dairy is coming from animals that eat grass when there's grass outside and hay (dried grass) when there's not, the saturated fat in dairy is actually healthy and full of superfood compounds that nurture your heart and your brain: the exact same stuff in coconut oil that everyone's suddenly going so nuts over! You don't have to have coconut oil shipped to you from across the planet (though full discloser: I keep a jar around for when I run out of butter/need something that can handle a higher heat point than butter) to get all those joint lubricating, heart healthy, metabolism speeding benefits.  You can just get butter from the Farmers' Market, and eat it, guilt free!

Well, there you have it. An early Christmas present from me to you: butter's a health food.

In other really good news, did I tell you I found chestnuts at the Farmers' Market?? I was super excited about this because buying chestnuts from a street vendor and using them to keep my hands warm while looking at store windows is something the holidays wouldn't be complete without...and now I can make them myself!
They're easy to make at home, too: cut an X into the flat side of each chestnut, all the way through the skin, then roast at about 425 degrees for about half an hour. Partially because of the roasting, their texture isn't like other nuts. You'll probably get a few burned ones in your batch that are too crunchy to eat, but the perfectly done ones are soft, almost like an underripe banana, but sweeter, and tasting just a bit like that, too. They have a really rich flavor that I love. We ate ours with butternut squash soup, and sautéed brussels sprouts for a warm, comforting, and nutrient-packed holiday dinner.
If you make more than you want to eat right away, peel all of them as soon as they're cool enough to handle! The cooler they get, the harder it is to peel them.  The side you cut the X into will have peeled up a bit, and if you press that side hard enough, the shell will usually crack into a couple easy-to-remove pieces, but the shell can be sharp, and it gets harder as it cools, so if you wait too long you'll want to use a tool to help you instead of your tender thumbs!

Think you'll make roasted chestnuts this Christmas? Or perhaps you have your own traditional treats you can't do without? Have fun awakening your Holiday appetite!