Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Truth Telling

I've never gone this amount of time without writing. Today, for whatever reason, I couldn't wait to get to this moment. Sitting here with a cup of tea, just waiting to talk. It's been what feels like forever since I have felt this urgency to write. It's like there's something that I have to get out of me or I might just explode. I think now, the words, feelings and thoughts have taken so long to brew that they are spilling over, so excuse me while I sit here and soak in this moment of having the time to breathe, write and rest my heart on the spaces between the letters and words that are typed right here.

I have a yoga studio and I write a newsletter every month with a theme. It was what my home studio in Houston had always done, so now it's what I always do. This month the theme, freedom came to me and it just happened to coincide with the symbolism of the fourth of July. Freedom is something I value. As I sat down this morning for my school lectures, I'm getting my licensing from The Integrative Institute of Nutrition to be a holistic health and wellness coach, I opened my computer to find the lecture to be about exactly this, freedom. I couldn't listen and absorb quickly enough, so I watched the lecture twice. Every word of it hit me hard. One point after another, I kept writing, listening and realizing that this was exactly what I needed to hear, so I thought I would share it with you. Seven Steps to Freedom:

1. Release your story. We all have stories. We do. We like to carry them around. Some of us have backpacks, some us have purses or really full pockets, others of us like to pile all of our stories on so high we actually fall backwards so often that the idea of putting one foot in front of the other seems impossible. I have carried some version of a story my entire life. I am writing this publicly for what feels like the first time in my life. A truth: my dad is an addict. A story: It's all my fault. Even as I write the sentence, I want to erase it. The word addict seemed so far from my world growing up that I didn't imagine writing that sentence at the age of 29. Addicts were people I envisioned who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, not my dad, who had everything together. The thing is, I'm not that much different you see. Addicts are simply people who carry around their stories. Those stories that take us back to the same place over and over again. That place that tricks us into thinking that we are less than we are. The word addict does not mean bad or broken. I would even venture to say that in life, everyone has a story that they either choose to identify with and are controlled by, or they wake up every day and choose to let it go.

2. Finding your voice. I guess this doesn't just mean speaking it. I'm pretty sure this refers to all forms of having voice. I think part of the reason why it's so hard for me to write is the terrifying fear of being seen. Finding our voices is really this call to be present, to be all here and we can only do this once we have released our stories. Finding our voice is showing up authentically.

3. Mind-Body Connection. Yeah, there's a connection there, which is why I found yoga to be a benefit from the very first time I ever stepped on my mat. It helped me to release things I didn't even know I was holding onto. Mental health is encoded in the way we think. The way we think directly impacts the way we feel. My dad refers to negative thinking as "stinky thinking." It always makes me laugh. My whole family has been in recovery and in therapy for about four years now. Yay, Dad! One of the things we've connected over is yoga. My dad doesn't necessarily do a ton of asana, but he lives it every day, and I know he understands what I do through sharing yoga almost better than anyone, because we've both been "there." We've both been at the point you get to when your body gives you no choice, but to listen, pay attention and begin the process of healing.

4. Surrendering Secrets. Secrets are the source of shame. In the lecture I listened to earlier today she said, "shame is a way of dishonoring ourselves." There is no place we have ever been that takes away our right to joy, love, compassion, kindness and happiness. Just by being here, breathing you have a right to all of those things.

5. Forgiveness. This is a biggie. It might be easy to forgive others, however, we often forget to forgive the one person we really need to and that is ourselves. When I was in high school, I was in a serious relationship. Although we cared for each other and loved each other, as you can imagine at that age it wasn't the healthiest relationship in the world. It took me a long time to heal from it. There were parts of myself that I gave away, parts of myself that I shoved down, lost, feared, disliked and the minute I started doing yoga, was the first time I caught a glimpse of what I needed to forgive. I have shed more tears on my mat than I would like to admit. I have bawled in class. I have sat there shaking while the teacher spoke. I have fallen a part on my mat and I am so thankful, because through that mess, I started to forgive myself. It was only through seeing my fears, vulnerabilities and viewed weaknesses that I could come to know them, love them and accept them. We have to forgive ourselves for the times we didn't know better, we have to forgive ourselves for the times when we've rejected our hearts, our own light and our own humanness. We have to forgive ourselves for not having the proper tools to cope with something, we have to forgive ourselves so that we can have ourselves. There isn't a piece missing. Everything is there. We just have to see ourselves through the lens that isn't skewed by what we think we should be for someone or something else.

6. Reclaim yourself. When I say we have to forgive ourselves in order to have ourselves, I mean that sometimes we forget that we are whole. We have everything we need in this moment. There's nothing wrong with you, nothing you need to fix or change. There's nothing that can take your power away. There's no one thing that can take you away from who you came here to be. BAM. Say that to yourself, soak it in, because it's everything.

7. You are whole, you are powerful, you are loved. Freedom is a choice.

Everything is moving us back to wholeness.

Go live. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Decision of a Lifetime

The sunshine streams into the windows and she can already feel the warmth of the room on her skin. She's been in this room over a hundred times. It reminds her every day to be who she is, to step out of the familiar and into the unknown. She presses her feet into her dark blue mat. She's been here too over a hundred times, but it's different. Each day brings her somewhere new, some place she's never been before. Each new day asks her how far she will go. How deeply will she dig and does she have the courage? Each time, she answers. The answer is always the same, but comes in different forms. As she steps her right foot forward, she stretches her left leg back. She reaches her hands to the ceiling and feels her chest lift and her heart expand. She closes her eyes and breathes. The breath is steady, strong and controlled. She draws her palms to her heart, creating even more space as she inhales. She takes her elbow across her knee and holds. Steady, steady. She feels her face heat up. She exhales digging more deeply. There's more space than there was the day before, week before, month before, year before. She twists. Holding steady, feeling the twist, she softens. She remembers. Being in the corner of a similar room, in a different city doing the exact same thing. It was the first time she slowed down long enough to feel the breath moving inside of her. As she twisted many years ago it was like extracting a huge boulder out of her belly. It was something that felt enormous. Now all she feels is space; raw, empty, vulnerable space. Releasing the pose, she drops both hands down placing them to the inside of the ankle. She begins to slowly come down onto her forearms. She can feel herself shake. The sweat now dripping from her forehead, she feels a hot tear streaming down her face. Her breath is no longer steady. This is the place, the place she fears. She softens further into the pose with an exhale and drops her hips lower as she slowly brings her knee to the floor to stop the shaking. This is the place she decides how deeply she will let go. She's been here before. She remembers it from the first class she ever took. The feelings of judgement, fear, doubt, guilt, shame all lifting as she lets drops to the floor, not being able to hold herself up. The sweat pools off her forehead and down her cheeks, she feels herself releasing, surrendering, crying, grieving. As the tears now pool onto her mat, she presses her palms down and lifts her chest. She feels her heart expand again on an inhale, more space. Tears continue to roll down her cheeks. She closes her eyes and can feel the sunlight penetrating her skin as it floods in through the window. She holds there, breathing. Her breath begins to slow down as she continues to pick herself up off the floor. Now standing, eyes closed, heart open, she spreads her fingers, arms are down by her side. With an inhale she sweeps her arms up and on an exhale she folds, with another exhale she folds even deeper. She continues to move to the sound of her breath, each one getting stronger and stronger. She feels her past melting off of her. The burden of perfectionism slides down her spine and into the mat as she folds further breath by breath. Sweeping her arms up she feels herself enlivened, moving from pose to pose, she pauses. With her arms stretched out she feels the world around her fade, the only thing she can feel, see, touch, taste is her own strength. Pressing down through her legs, she slows down taking her palms back to her heart, she inhales and draws her elbow over her thigh. She feels the strength in her back leg, with her legs steady, she moves in. The breath circulates through her body, and she feels it. Holding steady, she twists further on the exhale. Space. She feels more space as she twists. Releasing the pose she moves both hands to the inside of her ankle and begins to drop down onto the floor, even though she's alone she can hear the echoes of her teachers. "Let go, let go, let go, surrender, step into your light." Once again she feels herself soften, this time she embraces the floor. The tears coming from the depth of her soul, she begins to feel herself smile through the tears. It's a smile from the core of her. It's the smile of victory. Not the kind of victory we think of when we've won something, rather it's the smile of knowing, knowing that in the deepest, darkest moments we are given a choice. As she lifts her forehead from the floor, she presses her palms back into her mat. Lifting her chest, her heart now exposed, she chooses.... To love herself over and over, to forgive herself over and over and to embrace the light and the dark over and over, laughter and tears, surrender and freedom, the known and the unknown all for the decision of a lifetime... to live, not just be alive but to live. Embracing herself she chooses to step into her light, her tears, her laughter, her sorrows, her joys, her darkness, her pain, her empathy and the beautiful heart she knows is hers. Tomorrow, she will meet herself again, and the choice will be hers. Every day is a day we have the decision of a lifetime, to simply be alive or to truly live.

Let's choose... to LIVE! :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Seasons and chapters of life are a funny thing to conceptualize. Just like the actual seasons, it's not something we might see, but something we can feel. They come disguised as beginnings and endings. They come as painful growth or tears of healing. It could be designed in a letter, but mostly it's not how it looks, it's how it feels. There will be a moment when there is a feeling that something has shifted. Maybe the people closest to you will even recognize it as a brighter sparkle in the eyes. Whatever heaviness may have existed has been lifted and in that moment the possibilities of life begin to feel endless when before we may have felt stuck, trapped, misunderstood or even unworthy. There is a feeling of freedom, the sense that nothing can hold us back. This feeling is one of surrender. The deepest amount of letting go. It comes once we have mustered the strength and courage to do what we need to do, regardless of the outcome. We say what we need to say, we follow our hearts, we make the choices necessary to move on to the next chapter, next season, next lesson to live the life we are meant to live. We create room in our hearts for the unimaginable and we let go while reminding ourselves to trust life. The moment we let go is the moment we have the courage to move forward. It may not be easy. It may take three minutes, three years or three lifetimes. We have to remember that everything has a place, everything has a season, everything has a beginning and ending and everything happens right on time. We just have to have the courage to embrace every season, every chapter and know that all things happen for the gift of becoming more of who we already are...
The gift is in the lesson. When the lesson is done we turn our hearts to gratitude and know the timing is right to move forward with more light and love in our hearts than ever before. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A soft place to land

It has been a little while since the last time I wrote here. I hope you all are doing well and your summer has been sweet. I have missed sharing with all of you on this blog! As always, time flies so quickly and it never ceases to remind us of how moments pass by and how fleeting everything really is. Lately, life has been feeling like a bit of what I would like to call a transition. Things shifting, things changing, things spinning, but what actually feels more apparent is that during these times is when it often feels that the biggest truths about our reality are revealed, or at least that is what it feels like right now in my own life. Shifts and changes are merely there to show us what is needed in our lives and what is no longer working. Perhaps transitions are there to remind us that when we are feeling a little unsteady we tend to engage ourselves the most in self care, self love and listening. They also reveal glimpses of our reality. Since times of change are often challenging in many ways, they tend to point out what is actually real, versus what only seemed real. For instance, when life is "good," everything is going smoothly and things flow nicely, then we are often a wonderful version of ourselves. However, when the boat is rocked and things happen we can get into our egos, try to cling onto something of our "former" life, or become angry and resentful. We often try to hold on while our world is turning, shifting and changing. The move here to Fayetteville was the hardest change/transition I have ever made in my life. It forced me to show up for myself in a way I never had before. I could be invisible in a city, work with my head down and in turn be comfortable with a "too busy" life so I wouldn't actually have to take responsibility for anything. Once I moved out of NYC, I moved again to Houston, and began the practice of yoga. Things changed in a way that set me on a path back home to myself and there was no turning back. From the first breath I took on my mat there was a shift and there was no way I could return to my old way of living and being in the world.

When things are changing we often find a little struggle. There is a push and pull, but what the shifts and changes remind us of is our strength, and it helps us to develop even more strength. Things become very clear when we take time out for ourselves and find calm in the midst of what might look or feel like chaos. Perhaps the quote from Marilyn Monroe which states, "Maybe good things fall apart so better things can come together," just means that our perception of what we thought/felt and saw is simply different. God simply uses change to place a magnifying glass on things to show us what needs our attention. Change is often the magnifying glass revealing to us the very essence of what we need to know to move forward.

We always have a soft place to land within ourselves. I am learning right now that no matter what, I have a soft place to land. I don't have to run, hide, move, become distracted with being too busy to notice things. I have a soft place to land... on my mat, within my heart and core, to simply breathe, watch and pay attention to what is being magnified through the gift of change. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bird by Bird

The more I write, think about writing, talk about writing and write some more, the more I realize how writing, yoga and life are all so tied together. Like yoga, writing is a form of connecting, relating. It is more often than not messy. In yoga, you are falling out of poses, breathing, trying to steady your breath, you fall over, you get mad, you talk to yourself-- maybe you even berate yourself a little bit, but at the end, when it's over, you let go. You don't care if it's imperfect what matters is that you simply showed up. Either you stepped on the yoga mat, or you sit at the computer, and you in some way, create an expression of yourself. Like writing, yoga is real, raw, vulnerable. It takes you places, it shows you things, you cry, you laugh, you smile, you sweat, you surrender. In the process of writing, I have found it to be very much the same. I write. Sometimes it's so shitty I can barely read it, other times, I wonder if I actually wrote it. I have written about this, before, yes? Yes. Why am I writing about this again? Because it is a reminder to allow ourselves to make messes-- to be messy and unclear. To make mistakes, to hate what we're doing at times, and yet knowing that it's the only way to actually find our way... it's the only way to identify what we want, what lights us up-- to be messy is to allow ourselves to live a little more bravely.

Right now, I am reading Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamott. Have you all read it? I am enjoying every word of it. I really can't get enough, which is why I am reading it at a snails pace. At night, when I'm home... I make my hot tea, climb in bed and I read and I laugh because her writing is so poignant. The book itself has the title Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, because they are one in the same. We can't separate them. Writing is bringing to life a connection of being human. What it means to have your heart broken, what it means to feel like a complete failure. When I speak, I have this fear of saying too much. I have carried it over to the page. The advice that Anne has which has so far has been a blaring horn in my mind is to, "Tell the truth." Perhaps, at some point we all contract this fear of telling the truth. Especially when it comes to the things that are not so pretty in life. Disappointment, the feeling of betrayal, the language of defeat, the feeling that you've messed up, and for me the hardest truth, is to say or admit when I feel hurt. I think for the longest time I pretended like nothing bothered me-- no one could ever hurt me, but that simply isn't true. And I know I have hurt people. That is much easier to admit than the truth about my own heartbreaks and disappointments. However, there comes a point when we have to share what we have held onto, if only for the fact that once we do it no longer has power over us. This is probably what brought me so close to yoga, in a way, I can share without saying anything at all. I step onto my mat, with a sweep of my arms, I can be taken to a place inside myself I didn't know existed. It is both weak and strong, both light and dark and there it is-- the combination of both. Love and fear. This is what yoga has taught me about writing and what life has taught me about each... you can not have one without the other. If you do, you will wind up with a flat story, characters you can't relate to, and a boring sense of plot development. In yoga, the practice, simply would not be real. In yesterdays class, I talked about how the practice of yoga asks us to bring our "whole" self to the mat. Not our happy self, nice self, put together self, perfect self, work self, family self-- no, it asks for the whole self. Which, if we're honest is probably pretty messy and very imperfect. However, the beauty is that... it's real.

So when we come to the mat, come to the page, or just wake up in the morning, it is our greatest bravery to be who we are, to say what we feel and to have compassion for all the parts of ourselves that make us so very human.

What life, writing and yoga all beg us to ask ourselves, is how alive are we willing to be?
How much are we willing to feel? And will we say yes, to it all?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thank you.

Hi everyone! Back again with two posts in one week.

Lately, I have been asked a lot about yoga teachers... finding a yoga teacher, finding a yoga training, how to find a good one, etc. When I went to Sedona a couple weekends ago, I went with Maria, who is my teacher. I did my training with her, and even though I don't live close to her anymore, nor do I see her all the time, she is and always will be my teacher. For a long time, I wasn't aware of this. I would go take her classes every Monday and Wednesday evening. I did this consistently for about a year. Why did I like going there so much? What was it about her classes that seemed different from all the other wonderful teachers I had taken from? I was thinking about this yesterday... Maria never held onto me. Even though I am her student, she never claimed me. She never made me feel like I had to be anything. I would come on my mat every Monday/Wednesday night and I, for the first time in my life felt free. There were no demands on me, no expectations. I didn't have to go. She didn't get upset with me when I went a month without going, she allowed me to move freely and this was something that perhaps I had never experienced before. In a relationship and in my life, I for whatever reason, always felt like I was trapped-- with people, work, every aspect of my life, there were times when I felt like I simply couldn't move. But, every night, I would go to my mat. I would move, I would give her a smile at the end of class, say thank you and leave. She never took praise. You could feel it from her. She wasn't asking us to approve of her in any way. She was there for us, truly, for us. I think other teachers I took from I felt like I needed to give something to them as well, but with Maria, I could just be. Never asking anything from me, she allowed me breathing room. Space to let go, to connect to my own self, my own heart, my own voice... Every class I dug deeper. I could feel the practice working on me, as if it was shedding all the things I had placed on myself over the years. It was like I was handing things back. The wooden floor held me up and my mat became a safe place, with a voice that guided me, not only through a series of poses, but back to myself. As we would go into savasana (the lying down pose at the end), she would remind us that there is nothing left to do. I would close my eyes, feeling my body become heavy, sinking into the floor, I let my thoughts go as my mind became quiet, and in those moments, I touched complete freedom. Rolling over to my side, "starting fresh," she would say, we would then chant OM and have oranges after class. There is nothing like a slice of orange after a hot, sweaty yoga class. With my face red, hair a mess, I would smile, say thank you and leave. 

Months would roll by, and I started to linger around the studio. It began to feel like home for me. My apartment certainly didn't feel like home and I was living in Houston where I knew about two people. The studio, without me even knowing it slowly became the place where I spent most of my time. When I applied to Maria's teacher training, I am not sure what came over me. I had never thought about becoming a yoga teacher before, but all of the sudden I didn't wait two seconds after I glanced at the application to start filling it out. We were asked a lot of questions...  questions about our life. 

The training was more than anything I ever could have hoped for or would have even dreamed it to be. When I came to Maria and began talking to her about moving and starting my own studio, this is a moment I never expected. She didn't talk me out of it. She didn't say I should wait, that I needed more experience as a teacher. She simply held space for me to feel my way through it. She was with me through the entire process. When I left, she wrote to me, she told me this is not the end, but only the beginning. Holding me with open hands, I felt endlessly supported by her and still do. She didn't try to take anything away from me, instead she gave me the greatest gift. The ability to believe in myself, to dig deep and know that I have everything I need, she gave me permission to go. She didn't slap my hand or become angry at me for leaving. She let me go, and she let me stay, all at the same time. I was free. I am free. 

So when asked about finding a yoga teacher, a teacher training, even being in a relationship... I will say this... find the one that sets you free. 

To Maria, thank you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thoughts on Forgiveness

Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon. - Nelson Mandela

Hi all! It feels like forever since I have written here. I have missed it and although I think about writing all the time, it just hasn't been happening very much. I hope all of of you are doing well. Life has been good. :) Since the last time we spoke I turned another year older, I caught up with my college friends in the mountains, I went on a retreat in Sedona, (which was beautiful), and I spent Easter with my family. Everything is blooming here in Arkansas and it is gorgeous! The dogwoods are out, and the flowers are planted. Every day, I have been so thankful for the arrival of spring.

This morning I went on a little walk/run and was thinking about a lot of different things. Lately I have been having very vivid dreams. All of them seem to have a running theme when looking closely. Thinking about it, the dreams seem to signify that I have a fear of losing the things I love. I'm pretty sure this fear started when I was young. I lost one of my best friends around the age of 12 or 13. When it happened I was very confused. There was something I didn't understand. Why did I have to lose her? I have no idea. Really to this day, I suppose there are things I will never know. I think there's a part of me that has always blamed myself for this loss. I blamed myself not knowing why or how this could happen. Only looking back do I realize how sad I felt. To lose a best friend, it's a grief and grieving over the first time you recognize yourself in someone else other than your family. She was my first friend. We wore matching t-shirts. We would spend the night with each other the night before Christmas Eve. We would read to each other and talk about God. We played outside. We built forts. We rode horses together and as we grew up, perhaps we slowly grew apart.

The reason why I am sharing this is because at some point in our lives we all experience loss. It can occur in so many different ways and appear in so many different forms. We can often blame ourselves for the loss and try to think of all the things we could have done to prevent it. There are so many things I wish I would have known, but looking back, I know I was too young to see it. That's the thing about forgiveness, it is permission to  recognize that we/he/she/it/whatever it is... did their best. We're all doing our best.

We will all experience in our lives something that we have to forgive within ourselves and within someone else. It is then we recognize our humanness within each other, then we have compassion, then we recognize that we are all "just walking each other home." The more we can forgive ourselves and each other, the more freedom we have to live our lives, to not let it keep us from experiencing all the beautiful things that will be. So, forgive yourself. Forgive others. Love and let go.