What's Up With the Name?

As a girl with a boy's name, I get this a lot. The story is, my parents thought I was going to be a boy and called me by their first choice for a dude name. "Aaron this, Aaron that, yada yada." Then when I popped out I was not, in fact, a boy at all. But by that point they were attached to the name. They had been saying it for months and they decided it was for me.

Frankly I've always liked having a controversial, masculine name. And a recent article suggest that it has made me more successful in bizness!

But this post is about the name of my new website. Focus, people!



For years my website was diasyoga.com. (And that site will stay active for a while until this one is more populated.) But with this new project I wanted to offer something more true to what I currently practice and teach. By taking "yoga" out of the title of my project I do not intend to discount the vitality of yoga's maps to health and truth, but simply to be less exclusive. I want to acknowledge that there are other important ones as well, some of which have been pivotal to my journey and, mostly likely, yours too.

The more time I spend as a human, the more I realize that we are complicated. So if we want to honor ourselves fully, we'll require a spiritual practice that allows for complication. We have lots of different parts to which we must attend if we are to guild a meaningful, content and authentic life. On this site I will include exercises for honoring all our parts, not just the most obvious. And not just the parts that get positive feedback from the "authorities" out there.

I intend this site to support your SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. Here's what I mean.

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE > A set of commitments intended to help the practitioner:

1. Build her/his relationship with Whatever is Most Valuable (Note: (a) Whatever is Most Valuable shows up differently for different people. IT might show up for someone as a deity, a quality, an energy or a teacher, for example. (b) It is of the utmost importance that the practitioner be given the space to discover IT on her own without some outer "authority" defining or prescribing it for her.
2. Honor IT
3. Align with IT.

Before I had ever heard of yoga at age 19, I was engaging in activities that helped me do this: RELATE TO what is most valuable, HONOR what is most valuable + ALIGN WITH what is most valuable. 

So, in the name of a spiritual practice that speaks to my whole life story, not just the past 16 years, I will mention here some of the other wild lineages into which I've been initiated.

As a child I spent a great deal of time in nature, where I discovered adventure and freedom and beauty and a sense of healthy solitude.

I performed in several plays every year until my early 20's, which taught me how to be fully present in the moment and how a combination of focus and release could make way for transcendence. It taught me the value of ritual, collaboration and discipline.

I always loved school. It taught me the value of structure and study. It taught me the sacredness of relating to teachers and colleagues in an environment where learning and evolving was paramount.

I played competitive field sports throughout middle and high school, which seemed to get me in touch with my instinctive, wild animal self. It taught teamwork and the sheer joy of moving in the body, the wonder of discovering myself (sometimes!) quick, graceful, refined and electric.

I was close with my family and I helped raise my little brothers, teaching me how truly not separate I am. This was really important, as it initiated me into the holy league of caretakers, healers, sisters, mothers.

And when I wasn't doing any of those things I was writing short stories or poems or songs, growing my love of language, learning the necessity of creative play. Magic is possible when we take the time to express our inner workings to the outer world.

I marvel that I grew up immersed in such magic. I marvel that I have access to it still. I believe that all those experiences led me to yoga and I don't want to step all over them as I do my work.

Before I was born, I was someone too. So I want to honor my own ethnic background--one quarter Sephardic Jew, one quarter Scottish, one quarter English, one eighth Hawaiian, one eighth Filipino. There is much to be explored in the various spiritual traditions that live in my DNA. 

I want to honor the wisdom of the atheist-scientists and the animist-artists who raised me up. I want to honor all of the poets and playwrights and philosophers and novelists and musicians and dancers who have powerfully formed my thinking and my craft.

Neither of my primary spiritual teachers right now are technically yogis. Adyashanti practiced Zen Buddhism for many years before his teacher asked him to succeed her. She told him to take on the teacher's role, but only to teach from "his own experiences." Meanwhile, the Buddha himself was, of course, a practicing sadhu (a yogi!) before he cast off the status quo and forged a new path. He wasn't always a Buddhist, it turns out.

And my dear mentor, Liz Seidel was initiated by the Andean Q'ero lineage of Shamans but has also studied with other Shamanic traditions throughout the Americas. Her story of discovering healing and purpose and power is highly personal and her teaching method anything but cookie-cutter. These two have consistently pushed me to break the mold and find my own way. I marvel that I have had such wise and loving guides.

But most of all I want to honor my own realization--that the source of all wisdom and love does not belong to a particular region, a particular time, a particular tradition, a particular type or class of person. The miracle of life is not contained by borders or pinned down by labels. It lives within all things--including the most unlikely one. YOU. 

Thus, let's our circle here and include anyone who has ever marveled. Anything that has ever inspired marveling. 



This is all very profound, etc. But, um, I also wanted to take my last name out of the mix because (a) I still may take my partner's last name when we marry next year and (b) my last name doesn't have a lot of zing and is kind of awkward when uttered aloud. (If you're curious, it's DEE-us)


photo by Sarah Wilmer

photo by Sarah Wilmer


This phrase is taken from a Rilke poem which I love and will include in full at the bottom of this post. He says,

"The trees I forever marvel at, these/ palpable distances, the deep-felt meadows/ And an entire life's astonishments."

When I think of this passage it inspires the sense of wonder and interconnection and love that I have felt in my deepest states of meditation.

It simultaneously relaxes me and motivates me. It tells me, "Hey, take your head out of your own ass and look around! Everything is already so awesomely made that you don't have to invent anything new, so relax and enjoy yourself."

It also says, "Look closer. Study deeper. MARVEL at yourself and at this place where you live. There is so much wonder to discover here, so don't stop learning and growing. There's so much beauty to participate in, sister. Don't fall asleep!"

The phrase reminds me that the power to marvel is an ever-available route back to truth, presence, wisdom and gratitude. This is a power I always possess, even when I'm not in yoga class or a quiet or peaceful setting. Even when I am unsuccessful in some endeavor, or I say something stupid or I feel shitty. And, frankly, it's been a much more powerful way to return to truth than "will" or "discipline" ever have been for me.

To forever marvel means to always have an escape hatch out of delusion. It can be triggered by engaging your curiosity, by saying, "Hmmm..." and wondering at the deeper truths of whatever is arising within or before you. By engaging your awe, by saying, "Wow!" and reveling in whatever might be extraordinary in this moment. From the "Hmmm..." and the "Wow!" gratitude will inevitably arise. And gratitude is always a sign of authentic connection.

When we marvel it creates a big energetic opening. Marveling says "YES!" to the big adventure of life, making us available to freshness and newness. But for us to be able to truly open and surrender, we must first feel safe and secure. And that's in large part what the regularity of a spiritual practice will do for you. So that's a lot of what this site will support--daily meditation, regular energy work, devoted time for contemplation, creativity and ceremony.

But even the "regular" should not become so rote that you're doing it without curiosity, presence and zeal. (When that happens you will likely end up marveling at the fact that your daily practice fell off.) As you use this site to develop your personal practice, make sure that it includes those things that genuinely interest you. 

Do you, like Rilke, forever marvel at trees? Then maybe what your spiritual practice needs is a walk in the park every week or a camping trip this summer. 

Do you marvel at great music? Maybe you should make time to lie on the floor and soak up a song each night before bed. Or maybe you buy a guitar and begin taking lessons off of YouTube.

Are you amazed by the astronomy? Or history? Or earth sciences? Then maybe you need to set aside a couple hours each week to study something fascinating.

We have lots of resources at our disposal for encouraging our curious parts--reach out and find the right ones for you. If those parts aren't honored, our life force will be depleted, our desires will feel frustrated, some part of us will stay stunted.

We'll keep working with all these themes as we go. If you want to begin now, here are some prompts, the namesake poem and a brief blessing.



STORYTELL: What experiences of your childhood led you to where you are now? What sacred leagues were you initiated into?

CONTEMPLATE: What inspires you to marvel? Let the contemplation take you where it does. If you get stuck here are two different directions: (1) Why do you think it does that? (2) How can you loop whatever that is into your life with more consistency? 

MEDITATE: In your next meditation, visualize yourself in the presence of something that makes you marvel. Soften your expectations and let it inspire whatever it does. Notice the effect it has on your mind, your body, your energy. 

MOVE: Bring this work into your yoga practice or your next jog. Find something to marvel at in the moment and use that as a portal into a deeper, more connected and ecstatic experience.

CHALLENGE: Next time you're in a challenging experience, pause, take a deep breath in and a slow breath out, then ask: Is there something valuable here? Or fascinating? Or beautiful? Can I learn something or admire something in this moment?



by Ranier Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow

And almost a girl it was and came forth
from this glad unity of song and lyre
and shone brightly through her springtime veils
and made herself a bed within my ear.

And slept in me. And all things were her sleep.
The trees I forever marvel at, these
palpable distances, the deep-felt meadows,
and an entire life's astonishments.

She slept the world. Singing god, how did you
so perfect her that she never once
had need to be awake? Look, she arose and slept.

Where is her death? Ah, will you introduce
that theme before your song expires?--
I can feel her drifting off...to where?...A girl almost...



My friend, I thank you for stopping in and spending a bit of time with me. May you Forever Marvel. May you use this site for inspiration and elucidation. May you use its name like a mantra and incantation. May you return to the source of all wonder and beauty all day long.

Aaron Dias