Got Shakti? (Off the mat & on to literary asana).

Via Islena Faircrest
on Mar 31, 2012
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A yoga teacher steps off the mothership mat to try her hand at literary asana.

Since last year, I’ve been hobby-writing about a year. My family lived in the coastal rain-forest of Costa Rica, where my kids attended a bilingual school and I taught yoga at beach jungle studios.

Attending a Writers Critique Group for my first time last week made me realize how sheltered I’d been in the yoga world’s kula of nice. Submitting three of my creative writing pieces for review, little did I realize they had entered a literary gladiator ring.

What a bloodbath.

I discovered that writing critique folks are brilliantly unapologetic. In editor speak, that would be mad skills for a competitive, no-nonsense world. It simultaneously impressed and intimidated me.

I, of the garden variety, open arms to all mindset, had some lyrical sharpening to do if I was gonna roll with these ruffnecks and be relevant. Support group sanctuary this wasn’t.

“Who’s your audience? If it’s lay people you wanna reach, you lost me because what is Tantra and Source?”

“You fluctuate between 1st & 3rd person, but your style seems personal essay or memoir, so where’s your story arc?”

“Save your character justifications and spread them out instead of lumping them in the beginning. Your plot is as surreptitious as your introduction.”

Ouch. Story arc, kiss my ass-ignment, I thought.

Call it pen envy, but I wilted when I began fearing my heartfelt metaphysical scribbles might not be more than kinder-fluff; destined as litter box liner for my Jack Russell Terrier to wipe her asana on. The phf-f-ft sound of my pen deflating could barely be heard above the din of chattering critique and slurps of decaf. Of which I spilled mine under my chair. Amateur.

Yoga had taught me equanimity amidst the fluctuating emotional landscapes of day to day life. It had helped me accept and not covet pleasant encounters, and
accept and not run away from unpleasant encounters. The oft used Yogash chitta vritti nirodha (Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind) reminded me of this.

So as I silently observed my internal ping-pong defense mechanisms kick in, I laughed. Internally. Because adverbs (and emotion) were frowned upon in this group. Someone next to me in the critique circle had used the dreaded “ly” ending describing her protagonist as skipping “happily” and was forewarned.

My ego was having a knee-jerk shadow reaction to constructive criticism and the insight was amusing. I remembered what the spiritual author Esther Hicks had said about following your bliss:

There is a big mix of different things going on out there, and there is not one way that was intended to be the right way. Just like there’s not one color or one flower or one vegetable or one fingerprint. The variety is what fosters the creativity. 

And so you say, ‘Okay, I accept that there’s variety, but I don’t like cucumbers.’ Then don’t eat cucumbers. But don’t ask them to be eliminated and don’t condemn those who eat them. Don’t stand on corners waving signs trying to outlaw them. Don’t ruin your life by pushing against. Instead, say, ‘I choose this instead. This does please me.'”

My personal truth was that writing clever-ly was becoming tiring. Writing from my place of bliss, even if very few were listening or agreeing, came out a lot easier.

As a Yoga teacher, I’d made efforts to not come off preachy (failing often) when I was teaching, designing curriculum or writing. But the healer brat in me always returned to a nurturing archetype hell-bent on cosmic resolution.

I’ve accepted I’m no Erma Bombeck. Or Shiva Rea. Can you visualize her trance dancing through the daily laundry I fold? A sacred retreat of washing kid spit-up on the shores of Baja’s Sea of Cortez?

I may one day cough out the get-real mother’s version of Eat, Pray, Love that I aspire towards, because unborn manuscript masterpieces surround me.

My teenage son detests reading and writing. But he lives to surf the cold waters near the world famous Mavericks. How he came out of me, the only womb in Northern California with a library in it, is baffling. He gifted me with a delicious quote recently that inspired me to write. Peeling off his wetsuit and boots after a surf session, he held one of his boots upside down and drained its murky run-off.

“Mm-m, check out that booty juice.”

Our whole family laughed.

I might call that piece Buddha Juice. Beware the 80 proof brew that pours out an adolescent boy’s wetsuit after five hours of surfing (and peeing) in it. Not FDA approved; almost as toxic as splenda & aspartame. For cold water surfers only, not for the faint of heart.

And my new kindred friends at my writers group will be the first to review it. You bet your bandha I’ll be back. In black, like a ninja attack on bad alignment. I thank them for helping me refine the direction of my heart’s desire.

Yoga of yes, meet your paradigm.



Editor: Andrea B.


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About Islena Faircrest

Islena Faircrest is a word junkie, yoga teacher, educator, and therapeutic bodyworker since 2001. The only female in the house save the terrier, she sprinkles Shakti dust on her unsuspecting offspring while they sleep. She brought StandUp Paddleboard Yoga to Half Moon Bay, and teaches Yoga Teacher Trainings in the San Francisco East Bay. Her website is


33 Responses to “Got Shakti? (Off the mat & on to literary asana).”

  1. Andréa Balt says:

    Thanks Islena,

    I really enjoyed this piece. Beautiful-ly written. 🙂

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on elephant culture.

    Andréa Balt, editor elephant culture.
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  2. Ariel Pavic says:

    Islena, I love your writings. Being a mom and a yoga teacher myself, I can always relate. Nice piece…..wonderful-ly written…lol

  3. Koz Nouripour says:

    Loved it! funny, entertaining and true to the heart, craving some more so keep up the good work!

  4. Ayns M says:

    Love your observations. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Cindy says:

    very punny, thanks for the smiles!

  6. Valerie says:

    Good job! Loved reading it!

  7. John Locke says:

    Funny and loved reading it.

  8. Alissa says:

    Have always loved your writing Islena! Keep it up!

  9. Bernard says:

    Like the beauty of a painting becomes captivating
    Like the sweet sound of music all stress defuses
    Your words are graceful artistry and leave me aching
    To read much more of the same …. so stay close to your muses!

  10. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  11. Siew Chin says:

    Brilliantly honest, cleverly written and delightfully witty. Well said, Islena. Loved your style.

    Thank you for sharing. Very insightful piece.

    Keep on writing! The world needs more writers like you.

  12. The Teuton says:

    Islena, you have an enviable gift to coax beautiful words out of just a few drops of ink.
    And you are entitled to replace the phf-f-ft sound of your deflating pen with a little huff-
    puff of shameless ego inflating.
    A little chest thumping goes a long way to keep everything in the self-esteem department
    running smoothly.
    You are good! You earned it !

  13. Marcia says:

    Fantastic Islena! Thanks for sharing. Always leaves me waiting for your next piece.

  14. Isabel says:

    Thanks for your fresh and lively voice, Islena. Writing from your place of bliss is where it’s at! Theories, critiques, 1st person or 3rd or or or….the unhindered flow of emotions, insight, and whatever else are just as valid!

  15. Janice Moberly says:

    Islena, wonderful piece from my favorite yoga teacher.

  16. Anita says:

    Your way with words is always inspirational and I love hearing when you write about your kids – you have the best stories!

  17. Islena says:

    Isabel, loved your "Zee French complain, n'est-ce pas?" article on your blog Isabel. Yoga teacher trainings might do well to include a chapter on how a little cultural self-indulgence in the modern world can be a tool for integration of the shadow. 😉

  18. Kathryn says:

    What I like best is that you're able to find humor in so many things. I love your spirit!

  19. Thank you for the kind words all. Humbly grateful.

    Had a yucky-turned-lovely evening last night with the kids. I was in the middle of lecturing the older son about his lack of commitment & follow-through on a particular project, when my nattering began to feel like a borderline Simon Cowell channeling. Which left me feeling sub-par icky. The next moment we were goofing off and watching “Castaway on the Moon”; a brilliant Korean romantic comedy which said older son discovered on netflix. I highly recommend it for some back-to-the-basics inspiration. One of the up sides of kids; hidden among the angst & sleep deprivation are moments of lucid exposure to things of great beauty, much of which the non-kid parallel universe might’ve held sight-unseen.

    Was dually inspired to see Darryl "Flea" Virostko yesterday at a surf event with the kids in Half Moon Bay. A world renowned professional big wave surfer, he hit rock bottom with meth addition. Sober four years now after having a kid, he founded a program teaching recovering drug addicts how to surf. So stoked for his “sight-unseen” becoming his moksha; release.

  20. Josephine says:

    I am motivated to start yoga!

  21. Woon-Kam says:

    Your pen is mightier than any other mood lifting means.
    The smile on one's face when reading your words
    proves that beyond a doubt !

  22. Sofia Orozco says:

    I enjoyed reading it, was fun. Love it.

  23. Tina Grant says:

    I always enjoy reading your stories on what it looks like to hold together the 2 aspects of your life, the mom and wife and the yogini. Your outlook puts into perspective the daily struggle of trying to balance life. Your sense of homour allows me to laugh with you and at myself. As I follow you and your family I learn and grow along with you.
    Keep them coming!

  24. Maria Fabiano says:

    Your stories often ring so true to me, perhaps it is the mother/yoga teacher connection. Or perhaps it is that you combine the spiritual/yoga world with the realistic day to day happenings of motherhood and everydaylife. Either way, Love it! Keep them coming!

  25. Yvonne says:

    …."booty juice"…still chuckling! Great job Islena..loved the piece!

  26. Stacy Ingram says:

    I Loved it Islena! It made me laugh out loud more than once and to me that equates to good writing whether the story arc is apparent or not…what does that even mean? I am anxiously awaiting the release of your get-real mother’s version of Eat, Pray, Love and the sure to be a best seller Buddha Juice! Please keep me advised as to where I can go to read your amazing, intelligent and funny stories. You are by far my favorite yoga teacher and I can see you becoming one of my favorite writers as well!

  27. I love to read your blogs and articles Islena. Not only is your pen mighty, so are you ! And so witty and so Right. So keep writing !

  28. Maxi S. Moon says:

    You are not only a great yoga teacher but also a gifted and talented writer ! "I’ve accepted I’m no Erma Bombeck. Or Shiva Rea. Can you visualize her trance dancing through the daily laundry I fold? A sacred retreat of washing kid spit-up on the shores of Baja’s Sea of Cortez?"……hi,hi…of course now I visualize…:-)

  29. Jackie says:

    I love the way you have with words, insights and humor, enjoy your article a great deal.

  30. Carmen says:

    I loved your writing! But then I have always enjoyed reading your blogs and pieces!! Keep it up…..xoxo

  31. Todd says:

    i'm neither a mother nor a yoga teacher (dad of 3 and not so flexible!) but your article kept me smiling throughout, made me think of my own challenges and how I will overcome them, question my resilience to try new things and of course reminisce on the beauty and the hilarity of the small things that arise with my own children every day. Keep writing, you're a joy to read and i'm sure your stories and life experience will continue to infect us with smile and thought.

  32. Islena says:

    Muchas gracias Andréa!

  33. Islena says:

    Thank you Tanya.