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.