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 thousand times, but it's different. Each day brings her somewhere new, some place she's never been before, each day is a new day asking 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, 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 feeling of judgement, fear, doubt, guilt, shame all lifting as she crumbles to the floor, not being able to hold herself up she feels herself releasing, surrendering, screaming, 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, back leg 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, October 9, 2014

Currently Loving:

What I'm loving now... this room, this quotes and these shoes. 
What are you loving this fall? 

shoes via Free People

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Feeling of Tired

"I'm tired." Do you hear this a lot? I know I say it a lot. Probably more than I should. I throw this phrase around like confetti. Why? If we're not tired in this day and age, then clearly we're not doing enough. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I feel so tired I think I can barely make it through the day and I'm actually tired. At the end of the day, most of the time, I crawl into bed thankful for it because it feels so good to rest my head on a pillow. But, on the days when I'm not as "tired," it often feels like, "oh no," did I do enough?

My teacher says this all the time. We live in the society where being stressed out, depressed and tired is normal. As he points this out, I begin to notice this concept more and more. Why is it so normal to be tired? Why is it so normal to not feel good? Why is it normal to not be happy?

Perhaps it's because we are comfortable with being tired. It actually keeps us from doing enjoyable, nourishing activities. Then, if we find ourselves doing nourishing activity we might feel like we should be working, or doing something else. Sometimes we're tired from having "too much fun." So where is the balance?

The truth is at some point or another we are all tired. The perspective is in how we look at it. When we're tired from work, we can balance it with something like eating nourishing food, playing with the dog, taking a yoga class, going for a run and being grateful for the moments when we work, and grateful for the moments when we're not working and get to unwind. When we have a lot of social activities, travel, people to see, etc., sometimes that in itself can be so exhausting I would rather be working, however I think maybe being grateful for the moments when our hearts are full and we're tired because we feel needed, loved and supported is something to be grateful for. Tired can be the best feeling in the world, or it can be a feeling that plagues us day in and day out.

The thing is we need to save the "I'm tired" for when we're really good and tired. Whether it's after those long runs, a good day with your kids, a productive day at work, being tired when you're really good and tired is a wonderful thing. So when we're tired, we say thank you. When we are constantly tired we need to look at how we live our lives and if it's healthful and helpful. I'm guilty as anyone to throw in the "I'm tired." But maybe we can shift our perspective, into a new way of viewing the feeling of tired.

When you're good and tired: rest.
When you're feeling constantly tired: rest, but give yourself some extra love and care. Take a bath! Eat some nourishing food. Watch a movie and give yourself permission to relax.
When you're feeling restored, energized and replenished: be grateful, put it to good use but don't feel like you have to go make yourself exhausted all over again.

Take care of yourself and enjoy! 

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," going smoothly and everything flows then we are a nice, 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" self so I wouldn't actually have to take responsibility for anything. Once I moved out of NYC, and 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 go back 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. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bowing to... Myself

"One who knows crying knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer. Crying includes all of the principles of yoga." ~Kripalvanandji

On my knees, palms together, forehead touching my mat, the tears fell one by one hitting the dark blue surface beneath me. I couldn't stop the tears from flooding out of me. I sat there, with my hips sinking down towards my heels wanting to get up, to move, I wanted to leave the room. Why is this so hard, I thought? "This morning's practice will be in honor of your soul, your light," he said. "It's you, burning bright, a bowing to yourself and the light within." 

Here I was folded over on my knees bowing and bawling. With every sweep of my arms with every breath upward, the hot tears streamed down my face. As we exhaled and bowed, we said, "AUM JYOTI ATMAN," which means I bow to the light within my soul... I bow to the sacredness that lives within. As we kept moving, the tears kept falling, snot now running down my nose, my teacher made us laugh and there was even more snot, as a smile came through with laughter. I felt as if I was in some ways being torn open. In that moment, I simply didn't care what other people thought... what I looked like, or even what my teacher thought. There were things that I held in me for far too long, things that separated me from knowing myself that had to come up and out of me. I cried. I grieved, for what was lost, but now I cried even harder for the realization that I could no longer hold myself back. I pressed down through my left foot, lifting my right, my arms stretched out in front of me, "eight breaths," he said. "Hold here for eight breaths." My leg stretched behind me. I felt the shaking subside, and all the sudden I felt as if I could hold the pose forever. I pressed down through my standing leg, belly pulled in, I breathed. I pressed through my lifted leg, flexing my heel. I could feel every part of my body engage. I breathed into my chest, into my belly, then folding over my standing left leg, I bowed to myself. As one more tear rolled down my cheek, I began to get comfortable. "Aum Jyoti Atman," I said loudly feeling the vibration pulsate from my throat into my entire body. I felt myself relax. The tears subsided. I did, what I came here to do. I honored myself. I bowed to my light, in all its beauty, in all its glory, in all its splendor, I bowed. I bowed again, over and over, each one with more steadiness and ease. I felt my body surrender in all the places I had held on so tightly, my breath became more and more steady, I held the pose. In that moment, I knew, I was back. I have been back. I am whole, and now it's time to embark on the journey of being who I am. It isn't to suggest that I haven't always been myself, but it is to note that I haven't given myself permission to fully exist-- recognizing the light within my soul, acknowledging it and bowing to it, I finally allowed myself to see it and feel it. It felt for the first few times, like I was in some way betraying a pact I had made with... perhaps myself. That I would keep myself safe from harm if I stayed invisible. However, God, time, yoga, my teachers, my parents, my friends have simply made being invisible to much to bear. Each time I have stepped onto my mat, has been a breaking open and now my heart, my soul feels what it's like to be free. It feels tremendously scary at first but with a little time, I think... I could get used to it. 

So, my dear friends, even if you never step onto a yoga mat, I still think we owe it to ourselves to bow, honoring the sacredness within. Acknowledging the light and the dark, the pain and the joy, embracing it all while we dance with freedom to be who we are and who we've always been.

This I say, as I bow to my own light, I bow to yours. :namaste:

"True detachment isn't separation from life but the absolute freedom within your mind to explore living." -Rathbun

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?