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3 Habits to Withstand the Drama In Your Life

Diastole: Heart at rest

Guest Blog by Judy McClain

“You must be funny. You must be strong. You must become amenable to total relaxation in order to withstand the emotions you must withstand.”


What I love most about my father’s words, aside from his urgent and impartial delivery, is that he invites us to relax.

In the Yoga Sutra, master Patanjali outlines the ethical disciplines not as cautionary messages but as sound advice. There is nothing punitive or cautionary about Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas. Rather, living a disciplined life increases our awareness, vitality, and clarity.

• “In the presence of nonviolence all hostilities cease.” • “When one becomes saturated in Truth, everything that comes from the mouth is Truthful.” • “When one treasures the life force, vitality increases.”

And so when I entered my father’s hospital room and he delivered his message, I was aware of the ubiquitous force behind his words; even in the moment, I thought, My father is channeling Patanjali!

My father was giving his advice not to caution me but to help me cope with the inevitable waves of emotion that surface on the mind and in the body. If we are to withstand the drama this life offers, we must develop three habits.

You must be funny. My father was a jokester and he rarely took things personally. He had the vision to see himself in the larger context of humanity. He was raised primarily by his mother, in poor conditions during the Great Depression. Part of their house had a dirt floor. His dog had lost an eye and a leg by the time my father adopted him. Getting by was important, and everyone was trying to get by.

You must be strong. My father taught me to box, at an early age. He also taught me to swim, to hold a headstand, and to apologize. These were formal lessons in stamina and resiliency that added up to a person’s character. You can take it, he often said to me. Allow yourself to take the punch.

You must be amenable to total relaxation. And we arrive at Yoga. Yoga is nothing if not the art of relaxation. A relaxed body is a receptive body. A relaxed body will allow energy to flow through it and out of it. A relaxed body will move swiftly, when necessary, and sleep well, when necessary. A relaxed body allows the Life Force to pulse through with clarity and insight.

Aum Shanti,

Share how the three habits resonate within you and what other habits you would add.


About Judy McClain, Director of Grace Yoga (E-RYT, RYT 500)

Judy McClain founded Grace Yoga in 2009 to answer a call from the community for classical yoga studies. She has been teaching seven classes a week for five years at Grace, has precepted four groups of teacher trainees, and never has her life felt so fresh and unordinary. Judy teaches through the grace of her guru, Sri Dharma Mittra (, and continues her studies with Dharma in NYC. A devotional yogi, Judy lives in the Grace ashram. She wakes each morning to teach classes that are collusions of language and form, spirit and body, love and muscle.

The Great Eastern Sun

Guest Blog by Judy McClain


The day broke cold and windy.  We huddled in the truck as we drove to the beach.  Unloading the horses, we were all cast in silhouette against the breaking-day sky.  The moon was setting in the west.  In between the moon and the lightening sky over the ocean, a cascade of stars blanketed the sky.  i usually get out the door earliest by 6:30; here we were standing in the sand already, headed for the sunrise.

Cynthia’s birthday: an ordinary day.

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From the beginning, i was not surprised.  Cynthia had chosen me as one of five special beings in her life.  Ten years ago i would have reacted: surprise, glee, “Who, me?”  But the invitation summoned in me only gratitude and a big yes, of course.  Of course i would join the sunrise-with-horses-on-the-beach party.  Of course i would sit with my friends in the truck.  Of course we would walk from dawn through sunrise and back again with the waves of the Atlantic pulsing, welcoming Cynthia into the second half of her life, her second birth in this lifetime. We would all be present for her rebirth.

Of course.


Most of us have experienced a sunrise or two in our lives.  Some of us make a ritual of rising with the sun.  For me, sunrise takes a little more effort.  Plus, if you blink, you might miss the moment when colors coagulate into form – the peek of the sun itself.  We made our way over the dune to East Beach and just started walking.  We didn’t need to say much.  It felt ordinary, because we are all relaxed with each other, the horses included.  No unnecessary chatter or giggles or moodiness.  We were five friends with two equine companions simply walking into an ever-graphic sky.
 And how beautiful and magical the moment when darkness began to organize itself into color; and then color began to organize itself into shape.  i was tempted to photograph the appearance of the sun itself but then didn’t.  I wanted to feel the moment in my body, to feel the gift of the sun on my face, to watch Cynthia and Brenda Lee together materialize with the light, to move from silhouette to vivid detail.

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The horses were untethered for most of the walk; we were connected and trusted that we would stay together as a team.  And we did.  Our party stretched several hundred yards at times, and yet we remained connected.  I felt Maisie leaning down for her shells; i felt Katleen behind me with the camera; i felt Cynthia riding Brenda Lee way ahead; and when Kylian dropped and rolled in the sand like a puppy, i felt his pure and ordinary joy.  And giant Brian, the magician who had orchestrated this party: i felt him floating along the edge of the receding waves as he simply allowed his vision to manifest.

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My father asked me, “Have you ever occupied the space between dawn and sunrise?”  
He meant this figuratively, i believe.  i have thought a lot about his question in the months since he’s been gone (but not gone, too).  My father was articulating the vividness i found that morning watching my friend in the sun.  To lead a vivid life is to live an extraordinary life.  A life of heightened awareness – strong sensory perception, intuition, connectedness with others – is an extraordinary life.  And yet…..  And yet living in this way, where all of life becomes magical, is perfectly ordinary.  
If we relegate a life of feeling and heightened awareness to something we call extraordinary, it may remain outside our reach.  We may believe that it exists beyond the present moment, accessible only to people who we feel to be more beautiful, more wealthy, more fortunate than we believe ourselves to be.  What a shame that would be.

There is nothing more natural or accessible than happiness and joy; a mindful life is right now, waiting for us to wake up to it.

In walking the beach toward Cynthia’s rebirth, I was reminded that in Buddhist tradition, we choose to live with a joyful, natural approach to life, called the Great Eastern Rising Sun.

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As we led the horses off the beach, we saw a man in a wet suit diving again and again in the shallow waves.  He held a camera; he was photographing the curl of the wave from underwater. He had seen us but would not be drawn away from his work. He felt no need to wave, to speak, or to stare.

We were all experiencing, feeling the morning together.

Perfectly natural, perfectly ordinary.

Of course.


Judy McClain