A Deal With God

Schulz Creek Road and Peak (c) 2015 Holly Troy

I looked up while riding Schulz Creek Road and saw the peaks. I’ve been living out here for almost eight years and I am still in awe of the beauty of this place. To either side of me was single track which I normally ride — I chose the road so I could still get a ride in while nursing an injured leg. The way down though was all swoopy fun on the AZ Trail and Moto before crossing over to Schulz Creek Trail.

To my left I saw Tom riding single track just above me. He is a graceful rider, he makes climbing look effortless. He did not see me. He was focused on the climb. Watching Tom glide and disappear into the forest and the view of the mountains inspired me to pedal faster up that hill.

If there is a God for me, it is Nature.

I started singing this song as I rolled up the hill . . .

Running up that Hill (Deal With God)

From Wikipedia – The song itself has often been misinterpreted. Bush herself has said,

I was trying to say that, really, a man and a woman, can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised! [Laughs] And I think it would lead to a greater understanding. And really the only way I could think it could be done was either… you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, ‘well, no, why not a deal with God!’ You know, because in a way it’s so much more powerful the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you. You see, for me it is still called “Deal With God”, that was its title. But we were told that if we kept this title that it would not be played in any of the religious countries, Italy wouldn’t play it, France wouldn’t play it, and Australia wouldn’t play it! Ireland wouldn’t play it, and that generally we might get it blacked purely because it had God in the title.[4]

It doesn’t hurt me
Do you want to feel how it feels?
Do you want to know, know that it doesn’t hurt me?
Do you want to hear about the deal that I’m making?
It’s you and me

And if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
Be running up that road
Be running up that hill
Be running up that building
Say, if I only could, oh

You don’t want to hurt me
But see how deep the bullet lies
Unaware I’m tearing you asunder
Ooh, there is thunder in our hearts
Is there so much hate for the ones we love?
Tell me, we both matter, don’t we?
It’s you and me
It’s you and me, you won’t be unhappy

And if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
Be running up that road
Be running up that hill
Be running up that building
Say, if I only could, oh

It’s you and me
It’s you and me, you won’t be unhappy

Oh come on, baby
Oh come on, darling
Let me steal this moment from you now
Oh come on, angel
Come on, come on, darling
Let’s exchange the experience, oh

And if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
I’d be running up that road
Be running up that hill
With no problems

Say, if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
I’d be running up that road
Be running up that hill
With no problems

Say, if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
And be running up that road
Be running up that hill
With no problems

Say, if I only could
I’d be running up that hill
With no problems

If I only could
I’d be running up that hill
If I only could
I’d be running up that hill

It was . . . so real

Dreaming of my old neighborhood(s) in New York City. Rolling over the past in my sleep, unconsciously in(ter)jecting new thoughts and experiences. In my dreams there is less concrete and more wood. The decay is still abundant.

After all the haze and horror of the 80s, the 90s was a time of hope, even among the rubble. Music, art, creativity, yoga and spirituality merged and emerged from the grayness and dust of the city, of the darkest places. It was like swimming, like falling, in a deep pool of inspiration, so many ageless children diving down and willingly sharing, exchanging, the pearls we’d found at the murky bottom.

It was a time.

I remember Jeff Buckley surfacing.

Born on a Thursday #58 – Fire, Rain, Bicycles

So much smoke.

I almost cried when we went back for one more thing. Mountainaire was eerily still with low-lying smoke. I said, “It is strangely beautiful.” Tom replied, “It would be beautiful if it weren’t so devastating.”

I am tired today.

My friend Anthony says, “This is a good song for today.” I agree, so I am sharing it.

Bjork is beautiful.

Plumes of smoke from the Slide Fire viewed from Bell Rock in Sedona. May 26, 2014.
Plumes of smoke from the Slide Fire viewed from Bell Rock in Sedona. May 26, 2014.

Summer energy is here. Lately I am a bit sporadic with Born on a Thursday posts. I am expecting that trend may continue into autumn. I have been out, enjoying the days, riding, riding, and more riding! I have been learning so much about mountain biking these last couple of months – it’s exhilarating!

I choose to be active right now and explore where my body will take me. Latest and upcoming explorations: cycling, beauty, love, yoga, writing, painting, cooking, friends, music.

Life is good!

Born on a Thursday #53 ~ love sickness, love joy

While walking the dog, I am thinking about all the things I am never going to do again. Every evening, as the the clouds are turning orange, tears:  This is so beautiful and I’m not ever going to watch a sunset with J— again. I’m never going to wake up in the wilderness as the sun is rising and say “good morning”. We will never lie on our backs and look at stars and the moon. No more sweet silence. We will never go as far out as possible together and see things most people won’t. 

pine glow (c) 2014 Holly TroyI do not, cannot stop myself. Grief. My body trembles for weeks. My hands shake and I cannot eat without effort. Who am I? I have to keep walking, that is all I know.

One day I look up and the sky is deep cornflower blue, chalky, like a fresco, and to the west it is pink and orange. The grasses on the mesa, slowly, almost timelessly shifting from gold-pink to pale luminescent violet, finally bleaching out to soft blue-white and then, dark. The air is cool and clean, so pure and fresh that to breathe is soothing. I’m OK. I love this. I love my life this minute. While I’d like to be sharing this moment marveling at the beauty of the world—this is pretty damn good. This is pretty damn good. 

So much beauty in this world. Even in the sadness.

Astro-Love: Stepping through fear

I love Chris Hadfield. I wish he was my uncle or father — I think I will adopt him. I can pretend I was brought up with his beautiful, common-sense approach to fear, to life.

There’s an astronaut saying: In space, “there is no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse.” So how do you deal with the complexity, the sheer pressure, of dealing with dangerous and scary situations? Retired colonel Chris Hadfield paints a vivid portrait of how to be prepared for the worst in space (and life) — and it starts with walking into a spider’s web. Watch for a special space-y performance.

Walking through my own fears, I got to see this the other day.

sun shining in the pines (c) 2014 Holly Troy

Born on a Thursday #46 – Why the Body? II

The idea for Writing the Energetic Body came to me while practicing yoga. At that time, I knew it was imperative that I slow down, pay attention to, and take care of my body. I was healing from a very serious illness that stemmed from continuous stress that was exacerbated by a disastrous marriage and a job that put food on the table but went completely against the grain of who I am. While coming up with rent can sometimes be a challenge; I am still trying to find my way in the world doing what I love – because I don’t have choice.

Movement (yoga, hiking, dancing, walking, biking), meditation, and pranayama (yogic breathing techniques) bring me into the moment and out of my default patterns of thinking. Many ideas come through while I am moving (or in stillness after movement). It is as if a channel opens, as if some of the filters of my mind have been removed and ideas and/or observations are more clear.

I’m continuing to look at the question of movement and art (or movement and writing). My friend and folk artist/musician, TJK Haywood, aka Wooden Thomas (and one of the first participants of Writing the Energetic Body), turned me on to artist Heather Hansen. She literally uses her body to make art. Her work is inspiring and exquisite.

Fluid intuitive movement.

Hypothesis: Moving into the body to write may facilitate fluid, intuitive writing.

Moving the body is enjoyable, and we notice subtle yet powerful details in our experience.

Why not use everything you’ve got available to you?

painting by Heather Hansen

painting by Heather Hansen

What is the movement and texture in and of your life?

Artwork by Heather Hansen.
Film of Heather Hansen by Bryan Tarnowski.

My next Writing the Energetic Body online session begins on March 1, 2014.

Born on a Thursday #45 – Brother Can You Spare a Song?

So long Pete Seeger! Thank you for your voice and your heart! I never had much, but I did have music, and music is what kept me going when the world was a cold cold place. I remember freezing and starving on the Lower East Side, but the spirit of music kept me going.

You believed music could save the world – and it saved mine.

I am grateful for your life, Mr. Seeger, bodhisattva, and all those you’ve inspired.

I don’t know whether to smile or cry.

Peter Seeger's Banjo

and – The Weavers!


and – Peter, Paul, and Mary


and – Bob Dylan


and – Woodie Guthrie

Woody Guthrie canvas print by Obey
* Forgive me for not posting photography sources – I could not find them. Please message me if you know any of the photographers who created these images.

Born on a Thursday #43 – I Wasn’t Born Yesterday (or, Yoga for the Rest of Us)

Thoughts on Danielle Prohom Olson’s article, Yoga Body: The Backlash.

Yoga Body:The Backlash is a piece about yoga, western yoga culture, the corporatization of the “ideal yoga body” and what happened when one woman wrote her opinion about it.

Olson’s article begins:

Two years ago I wrote a popular post titled Yoga Body: The Conspiracy. At the time it was very warmly received, generating thousands of hits, hundreds of shares and loads of positive comments. But lately the commentary hasn’t been very affirmative. In fact, its been making people pretty angry. One yoga teacher was enraged enough to call me an ignorant, lazy, pissed off “fat chick”.

and continues . . .

This is why the questions I asked in Yoga Body: The Conspiracy, still need answering. Does the yoga body (and it’s shadow) take root in a backlash against a female body that has become increasingly liberated from patriarchal authority? Why, as yoga helped women develop a new sense of positive embodiment, did the yoga body ( and all that it implies) become enshrined as an ideal of feminine virtue? Why do so many western women of privilege, women who enjoy the first world ‘rights’ denied to so many, spend so much free time, energy and money simply keeping their bodies under control?

So to my posts detractors I say this. No matter our opinions on what the yoga body is or should be, lets drop the judgement, of ourselves and each other. As Harvey reminds us, ‘the body beautiful will get us nowhere’… ‘thin-shaming and fat-shaming are not separate, opposing issues—they are stratification’s of the same issue: Patriarchal culture’s need to demoralize, distract, and pit women against one another.’

Holly Troy and the Halfbreeds
Performing with my band The Halfbreeds – I was hardly overweight.

For my whole life I’ve had body issues. As a performer I thought I was too fat – I kept thinking I needed to look like Patti Smith, I hated my curvy hips and slightly rounded belly, and I felt under constant pressure to be petite. Not only that, but, being on stage, people felt like they had the right to tell me how I should look. “Remember, if the camera adds ten pounds, video adds fifteen . . . ”

Growing up, I had the misfortune of being the chubby bookworm in a competitive household that valued athletic ability and a slender, broad-shouldered build over all else. I was picked on daily by family members, and my body and its “imperfections” were often the topic of conversation. By the time I was seven years-old, I was on my first diet! At eleven, when I began puberty, my grandmother angrily admonished my mother for not putting me on hormone therapy to keep me from “becoming a freak, a giant.”

Sharon Gannon
Sharon Gannon of Jivamukti Yoga (photographer unknown)

When I began practicing yoga over twenty years ago, it was such a relief to not focus on what I looked like or how well I was performing in comparison to everyone else in the room. I feel very fortunate that my earliest teachers, Nancy LaNasa and Sharon Gannon, helped me experience my body in a new way by showing me how to work with the breath and the spirit. Both Nancy and Sharon are beautiful women with stunning physiques, but honestly, if the focus of their classes was to achieve a “yoga body”, I would not have continued practicing yoga.

I learned how to teach yoga at an ashram in a room with no mirrors. The teachings focused on feeling our bodies, not obsessively looking at ourselves during asana. We yoga teachers in training had steady practices but different body types. Some of us were thin, some round, some stocky, some old, some very young. Our teachers were as diverse in body type as the students – and they practiced asana for four hours a day every day for years.

In Yoga Body:The Conspiracy, Olson writes:

The taut and toned ‘yoga body’ on display in the media marketplace is a lie. It is NOT obtained from a regular yoga routine (as many would have you believe) – no , its obtained at the price of constant work, a Herculean effort to burn calories, and a saintly denial of carbs.

Many of the teachers I have had with “the taut and toned ‘yoga body'” were dancers before they became teachers. Of course, some teachers do naturally have a “yoga body”. No matter what, all of my favorite teachers have possessed a(n inner) grace that comes from practicing yoga, no matter what size or shape they happen(ed) to be.

Relaxing with my friend Eric who I met at Yoga Teacher's Training - we are wearing the standard YTT uniform
Relaxing with my friend Eric who I met at Yoga Teacher’s Training – we are wearing the standard YTT uniform

I ride my bicycle and/or walk everywhere I go as well as practice yoga. I will always have big legs, it is part of my genetic make up. I actually like having powerful thighs now. I also have a round belly, and, at the same time, a really strong core. I will not spend more time in my day working out, or eating less. I have other things to do. At almost 5’7″ and weighing in the range of 130 to 136 pounds, I am fit and healthy. It has taken a few decades to come to the conclusion that I am fine just the way that I am, despite what mainstream media and/or my family would have me believe.

The real questions no one is asking are these – why do so few yoga teachers admit that they work hard to maintain their fat-free physiques?Why does the yoga world, from the cover of Yoga Journal to the glossy advertising of main stream studios, continue to display the “yoga body “ as a norm? Where are the images of average woman with rounded thighs and obvious bellies, women who practice yoga with regularity and passion?

. . . Women have mistakenly conflated power and control in the world, with power and control over our bodies. And without a doubt, it is an assumption that the corporate world works to exploit and ever aggrandize.

I am grateful that yoga helped me to have a healthier view of my own body, and as a teacher, I hope I have been able to help others have a healthier and more compassionate view of themselves. It blows my mind that a yoga teacher called Olson “an ignorant, lazy, pissed off ‘fat chick'” because of her article Yoga Body: The Conspiracy. Olson’s article fairly asks the question – “Why do we have no other visual language to communicate what yoga is or means – than just the yoga body?”

Rather than setting goals for the achievement of the mainstream idealized “yoga body”, why not allow yoga practice to be a foundation for building inner-strength and self-empowerment?  As we become more empowered, why not allow our strengths to enhance our personal lives as well as our local and global communities? Whether we practice yoga or not, what if we began everyday knowing we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got?

Om shanti.

Check out Olson’s articles:

Yoga Body:The Conspiracy and Yoga Body:The Backlash

Tell me everything you know for sure about your life.

I don’t know where I got this writing prompt from. Maybe it was from the amazing poet, teacher, and adventuress, Maya Stein. (Even if it wasn’t, check out her site and see what she is up to. Her undertakings are inspiring, surprising and fun).

The prompt is this:

Free-write on – Tell me everything you know for sure about your life.

Blue in Red (c) Holly Troy 2014

I know for sure that I have to move my body in order to keep from getting lost in my mind.

I know that there is something special about living in this small mountain town.

I get that I can’t go back in time and experience New York in the 90s over again. I realize now that I can’t even imagine living in the city again – although for a few moments a few months ago, I did imagine it with ardor.

I know I need beauty and fresh air and birds singing and to stop looking at the fucking internet.

I want to remember life before the internet, life before wifi. I want old school – I want pay phones, I want paper letters that arrive in the mail. Wait, I don’t miss pay phones – I am forever repulsed by the surprise of picking up a handset covered in an unidentified, thick, sticky substance.

Fuck public phones – but I do love public transportation when it is not rush hour.

What I love more is riding my bicycle where I need to go. I know for sure I love my bicycle. It keeps me moving.

I know I need the earth, to experience my physicality as much as possible everyday. I know that after 20 years of looking hard for beauty, and sometimes only finding it in the smallest cracks in the sidewalk – I don’t want to look that hard anymore.

I know for sure that I want to have fun, but I don’t want to play games – unless they are volleyball or hockey or scrabble.

I know for sure that I love sex, really good sex, and that I will not put up with bad sex – or be in a relationship with scarce sex or no sex. Fuck that.

I know for sure that I can see bullshit coming from miles away but that I don’t always dodge it very well.

I know I like to put my tongue on smooth stones, to taste their chalkiness and feel the moisture being sucked from my tongue.

I know that I say I want to be near the beach but I keep staying in the high desert because I like to choose when I am around lots of people.

I know I need to visit the ocean soon.

I know that I like to see softness in things that are hard.

I know that I am glad to be a woman, that I love having the body that I have even though I am not always satisfied with it.

What do I know for sure?

I know for sure that I could not have said no to save my life.