I awakened this morning to a message of love, grounding and gratitude, from the heart of one of my dearest friends. It was the perfect inspiration to help give words to what I am feeling this day. In remembering the tragic and resounding loss that occurred on this day all those years ago, we are not only anchored to one another, but also to our own mortality. Masked honestly as pure sympathy and emotion, the most gut-wrenching part is truly the aching we feel for those who suffered such unfathomable loss at the hands of 9/11. It is a visceral reminder of our own mortality. The, “that could have been me,” feeling that slithers through one’s veins, silent but deadly. All too real. It is not a reaction of selfishness but one of raw, unadulterated humanity. I was reminded of a favorite quote this morning, “It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply.” It is so hard not to be a sponge for others’ pain, inadvertently absorbing their suffering in an involuntary act of unification, solidarity. It is not wrong, it is beautiful. But, as beautiful as this instinctual response is, I pose us this one pivotal question – how can we love more TODAY? The Beings of Light who returned home this day 13 years ago, the heroes who selflessly perished in acts of service, the beautiful loved ones left behind on this earth to grapple with the horror of life without them, it’s a haunting and painful truth…we shower them with love and tears, honor and remembrance. But, these sweet souls, would we have just walked past them before, on the street? Would we have felt our oneness with them if not for this tragedy, offering us a direct channel to their pain and humanness? Would we have prayed for them and held them in our arms? Would we have wept for their sorrows and held the door open for them? Would we have volunteered our seat on the train or offered a smile with our eyes and faces in passing? That’s what I hope we can take from tragedy. All tragedy. We cannot undo the horrors that have been done. But we can commit to the simple act of loving more TODAY. Loving EVERYONE more, this day and everyday. Because we never know where someone has been, or where their journey will take them. As an act of peace and living prayer, as an act of HEALING, may we commit to saturating our every day in LOVE. May we vow to love one another more NOW. Without any reason other than it is all there is really time for in this life. May we send love outward in waves. And today, may we wrap the suffering in our warm veil of support, and may we do our part to focus our intense love towards those around us. The ones we pass by everyday. Our greatest power… May we look up. May we SEE one another. May we start now. And may we never forget.
Why do we create such high expectations for ourselves? Why do we set ourselves up for stress? We are biologically wired to thrive at a steady pace, with bursts of speed and regulating bouts of slowness. We are designed to constantly find harmony holistically, and yet we override these instincts based on standards of the intellect. Our MINDS create these bars, and raise them so high, that our poor bodies have to struggle to keep up. Think: perfectionism, overachieving, overworking, overexercising, extreme dieting, attempting to be the perfect partner, self-deprication, envy…
These unrealistic expectations manifest on a physical level, and our health declines as a result. Mental, emotional AND physical health. There is no separation. It’s all connected.
So take a moment to look at your daily life. Where can you make space? Can you recognize the patterns your own mind has created, the bars you have raised abnormally high in the pursuit of perfection? Perfection is an illusion. What you ARE is perfect.
You have the power to identify the chattering mind as well-intentioned but not the best captain of your ship. You have the capacity to let your soul take the wheel…to softly shut your eyes, let intuition begin to guide you, easing gracefully into the slow bouts and fluidly through the fast bursts. Present and patient with every turn, but welcoming the stumbles and face plants that are an inevitable part of the human condition, the human journey.
We do not have to live till death do us part with these high expectations, these “rules” and regulations that don’t serve our Highest potential. We can rewrite our unique commandments at any time, on any given day. We can set ourselves up for pleasure and harmony by thwacking our stress factors off at the knees. Toying with our own perfect equation as a chef would a recipe. A little more pepper, a little less salt, a few bay leaves…a little more laughter, a little less stress, a few deep breaths…
We are the master chefs and grand captains of this thing we call life. Happiness is an inside job. Nobody can set us on a steady pace but ourselves. No one understands our inner rhythms and our intimate response to the outside world but us. WE must be the ones to instigate change.
Give yourself permission to be human, and then get to rewriting your perfect formula…
I had such an interesting moment in asana today. In one of my favorite classes, led by a brilliant and powerful yogini I’m honored to call a friend, I was geeking out (as per usual) over the layer cake sequence. As I transitioned into plank from vasisthasana, I felt my mind trying to unwind the sequence from the other side and anticipate the next transition. This is, as they say, an excellent illustration of how an asana class is never the same once you’re a teacher. You never just “take class” completely unattached from the teacher’s mind (it can be done, but not without sincere and authentic concentration), going with the flow (pun intended). It’s just natural to marvel at the sequence, try and guess the peak pose, file away awesome ideas in your mind to borrow in your own teaching, luxuriating over certain transitions and variations long after they’ve passed. It can be a whole mental process, if you don’t harness your focus! But that’s what asana is about, harnessing one’s focus. Stilling the mind. Getting into the body and the breath and scattering all the thoughts with ujjayi like a leaf blower in autumn.
As I purposefully deepened my breath in order to quiet my brain, one last thing popped up. Something of merit, though, so I let it manifest before turning up my ujjayi. It was this thought, we are spiritual chess players, always attempting to guess life’s next move.
But what of it? How are we truly benefited if we know what’s coming next? Sure, we could prepare ourselves for what’s coming. But will it be less enjoyable for having known ahead of time, for having guessed right, for having prepared? Or life, as it does, could totally throw a curve ball. What was apposed to come doesn’t come. And what’s left? Disappointment? Or maybe we anticipate life’s next move and we’re totally wrong. What then? Disappointment again? Desire for having just sat comfortably with the not knowing, wishing we’d let the current just take us where it would?
The truth is, knowing or not knowing, guessing or not guessing what comes next has no effect whatsoever on what is actually going to happen. Life is completely unmoved by our rat race minds, by our trying to figure out its next move. The grand Universe spins and swirls onward, regardless of whether or not we “guessed right.” So, I ask myself and you all simultaneously, why do we insist on the mental chess game?
It’s really mental, spiritual chess, and it’s really a game. It frankly serves no purpose. What would serve more of a purpose is to move on from chess entirely and pick up the “either/or game.” That way, if one must analyze and obsess over the possible outcomes and equations of life (as many of us do, and as all of us feel compelled towards at some point or another), at least the positive and the negative (all a matter of interpretation…) are played out in the imagination with imaginary reactions and then – here’s the catch – let go. That’s the only way the “either/or” can benefit us, is if we vow to let it go afterwards. It could be this way, or it could be that way, and I am at peace knowing that whichever way it turns out I have no control over anything but my present mind state. I am okay with that. I accept that. I embrace that.
The point is that spiritual chess is exhausting and depleting. Constantly trying to anticipate your partner (which is, ultimately, the cosmos)’s next move is useless. It’s useless and it’s draining. It’ll siphon your pranic energy reservoir faster than you can say, “Check!”
What is life worth if we’re running on fumes, wearing thin our fragile fibers, fraying our patience and fretting tirelessly over hypothetical outcomes? Life is about filling and maintaing our prana, our life-force, and being mindful about how and where we doll it out. In attempting to prepare for what’s ahead, we lose out on the now. We miss the precious moment, the very Self we embody and will never know intimately again. We are changing with every heartbeat and breath, and if we’re constantly wondering what our future Self will be up to, how are we able to cultivate a sound, secure Self in this current moment? Exactly. We can’t. We’re straddling present and future, with our fingers in both cookie jars, attempting to manipulate the two energies into one stream. How can we have purpose and passion in our futures if we haven’t ever taken the time to just be? How will we be able to react patiently, peacefully and confidently to life’s twists and turns if we haven’t spent intimate time with our thoughts, feelings and physiological state moment-to-moment?
I am guilty of spiritual chess on a regular basis. Fortunately, my yoga practice has helped me really anchor in the now and, more importantly, why the now is so sacred. So vital. My parents and yoga teachers are who brought it to the forefront of my attention, this habitual tendency to anticipate, plan, guess, manipulate…in terms of what’s to come. I’ve spent sleepless nights replaying scenes over and over in my mind. Planning every moment of the day to come when, in reality, my fear revolved around the unknown. And my staying up all night fretting not only had zero effect on how everything played out, it just sent me into the experience a complete hot mess. As a child my parents would remind me to be present, as we’d be waltzing out of Disneyland and I’d be squealing, “Where are we going next?!” My yoga teachers remind me regularly in practice, as though reading my mind sometimes, “Notice if you’re waiting for something to happen,” they say, “notice how it takes you out of the pose. Be in the pose. Be with your breath.”
When you’re called out like that it’s hard not to think, wow, I really was waiting. I wasn’t here, I couldn’t be, because I was already 10 steps ahead, analyzing the game and attempting to peek into the future. I was almost holding my breath. How often do you do this in your life? How often are you already 10 steps ahead? How often are you dulling your senses to the present moment because you’re toying with the anticipation of what’s to come?
It’s not that this is a bad thing or that it’s done maliciously, ridden with nervousness or as a coping mechanism. Sure, it can be. But it can also be executed simply by habit. One must only do something “negative” (again, up to interpretation) a handful of times (or even once!) to form a habit (trust me, I’m speaking from experience). Whereas it takes much longer to break a habit or form a new, more beneficial habit…on the upwards of two months, according to Huffington Post. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned and at this point on my personal path, I’m okay with the chess game. I intend to pack away my players, fold up my board and donate my game at some point, making a permanent residence in the present moment…yes, that’s my intention. But, in the meantime, I’m satisfied to be hyper-aware. The veils lifted. Ignorance burned away. I’m content to notice when I’m looking around, projecting and strategizing, rather than just breathing. A living, vibrating organism whose dharma is unfolding as naturally as the tides pulling in and rushing out. A spirit whose true nature is so unconfined by the limits of this realm that the details of reality and what’s happened/will happen/won’t happen is quite meaningless. I’m completely at peace with the understanding that this tendency resides in me, in us all, and is nothing but a detriment to our wellbeing. It’s tempting, yes, very tempting and amusing and entertaining to engage in the scandalous role play of “what if,” but it’s really like running full speed ahead with your gaze fixed to the cracks in the pavement. It’s out of control, dangerous and exhilarating, and will likely end up with you flat on your face.
As Jim Elliot says, “Wherever you are, be all there.” I couldn’t have said it better. So, my lovebursts, let’s take advantage of this cusp. Shifting into a new month, almost a new season, with abundance at our fingertips. Let us challenge ourselves to be present, vividly present for our lives. Let us show up each day and notice when we try to jump ahead. May we simply observe our tendencies, and may we be kind to ourselves in the process. Our minds mean well. They’re trying to best prepare us for whatever outcome we’ll be served. But our spirits know better. They know the Universe can’t be tamed and that our sweet, albeit rat racer, minds beg to differ. Our spirits just give a grandmotherly nod as our minds spiral in circles, unraveling moments to inspect, seek out patterns and place bets, oh that’s just how they are, those silly little minds… May we harness the vaster power of our minds, our higher minds, and let the habits of the lower mind burn off. Like fog lifting as the sun wakes and stretches his rays. May we meet our behaviors with understanding, and inquire within. May we turn down the noise and tune into our breath, bolstering our life-force, and sinking easily into the trust that all will unfold exactly as it’s meant. Then, the tallest and most worthwhile order of all…may we lean back and enjoy the ride.
What is this life for if not to love one another fiercely? What is this life for if not to tap into the inner workings of our souls, the very essence of our passion?
It can be daunting to look out on the devastation in our world; poverty; the destruction of our environment; unacceptable cruelty towards human beings and animals; massacre-like depletion of resources…it’s hard not to think, “How could I, just one small person, make any significant difference at all?” But you do. I do. We do. Our thoughts and intentions are like tiny drops of dew on a sinewy spiders web…just one will cause the entire web to vibrate. The more drops that fall, the more the threads shake, the more the vibration is transferred to every fiber of the web. Small dewdrops, steady and consistent, could quench our parched earth. Don’t give up. Persist.
Make an effort, make many small efforts, every single day. Know that, while the reservoir may not fill with one thought or the efforts of one day, that the thread is shaking. You are making a vibration with your very thought and action, your commitment to collective healing. We are energetic beings and we learn from one another. No thing is too great to conquer if we all make many small efforts, every single day. Your vibration matters. More so, it is imperative to the whole. We need you. Stand up, spread love, alter the frequency of our time with your fierce love, passion and intention. It matters. I feel the threads quivering already…
Today in yoga we focused on the muladhara chakra. Moving energy from the base of the throat all the way down to the base of the pelvic floor. I presume everyone in the room was as in need of the grounding, meditative thread that was woven into the practice as I was, after the scary 6.1 earthquake that shook our little world at 3:30 this morning.
The dog had been barking before the quake hit. She must’ve intuitively sensed what was to come. As I moved to sit up in bed the force of the rumbling flung me upright and to the edge. I was certain someone was pouncing on my bed. I clambered for my bedside lamp, light ripping through the darkness. As my eyes adjusted, my body moved with the undulating room, the very floor rippling beneath my feet. The shaking world lasted so long I very nearly dropped to my knees at my altar and began to pray. I thought it would never end. And just when I was certain it wouldn’t stop, it did.
I woke this morning to a world more quiet and still than I had seen before. Naturally, it wasn’t that; the breeze swept gently through the trees, sunlight bounced in its many directions, birds sailed through the sky and bugs crawled across the earth. But something felt so supremely still, after a night of such earth-shattering magnitude. I sat in the sun in my backyard, quiet and unmoving, sipping a smoothie and contemplating events of natural force. Reveling at the power and prowess of Mother Nature; holding lightly the Truth that no human could stop the force that She is, while cultivating trust and peace in Her despite the unknown.
There was some sincere damage done, including homes burned down by power lines falling, and a deep chasm tearing through the street in one town. My own parents’ house had things knocked off the shelves, a massive mirror fall and shatter, spraying glass across the living room, pottery and plants falling and smashing on the hardwood (fortunately they were away on holiday and not there to be even more frightened by the deafening blows of shattering glass). But no harm was done to anyone I know and love, for which I am abundantly grateful. Of the 70 who were counted as injured, I have heard of no serious injuries (and pray that is still the case). We are spectacularly blessed that the quake was not stronger. I hold space for faith that this was the main event and no stronger shake is coming. I thank the Divine Mother for keeping us safe and steady while she shook our foundation, keeping us ever aware and mindful of where and how we place our feet. My friend Dave said it perfectly, “Woken up by Mother Earth, reminding us that she still runs things around here, we’re all just visiting…”
If that 6.1 didn’t shake loose whatever we were stubbornly holding onto, I don’t know what will…a timely new moon release, I say. Shaking furiously from our grip what we obstinately clung to, making space, bringing us to our knees. Emptying us and readying our containers to be filled. The new moon is tomorrow morning. Such an apropos rattling; like the shake of a snow globe. Everything is more clear and silent once the flurry has settled…
Gratitude for stillness today in the wake of midnight forces of Nature. Muladhara focus. Rooting down. Anchoring. Establishing the security that only we can offer ourselves…that not even our homes or the earth can offer us. Only this, our True Nature, is unshakeable, unbreakable. Only this…
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Wake up, pay attention…turn eyes toward the blackened sky, palms up, releasing our intentions upwards into the inky canopy overhead. On the last day of the lunar month, we have been shaken free. Shaken violently and irrevocably free by our Mother, a reminder that we cannot move forward if we are weighted by our pasts…we cannot receive if our hands are full of what no longer serves us. In the earth’s tremor we drop what we’re carrying and grip onto ourselves and one another for dear life. In the emptying of our hands, we find they are now holding more than ever before…
Do you feel this fierce new moon energy? Holy cow! Rich and ripe…wafting all around, ours for the taking. The three days leading to and following the new moon are the most potent for access. A time for self-inquiry, visualization, meditation, affirmation, intention setting and, ultimately, RELEASE. Release what no longer serves you, make space for what you seek and desire; release positive intentions with palms open to the heavens and harness Her energy of potential. Shedding old skin, shimmying out of the outermost layer which has fulfilled its purpose, spreading our wings and fearlessly accepting this Divine offering of the Mother…the same one She bestows upon us every single month. What a gift! A night of darkness, holding for us the sweet space of renewal. We are being reborn with every breath, each cell bathing in new life faster than we can comprehend. We are miracles, and we are offered this natural, rhythmic, celestial miracle every single cycle; this opportunity to purge, to be vulnerable, to empty completely….so that we may stand in our strength, and let ourselves be filled up again, drop by sacred drop. Vessels of the Divine.
What a complete whirlwind of change the last couple weeks in my world have been, I tell you. So much release, so much shifting, I almost can’t keep up. We took up something on social media, within our little Tribe, called the Gratitude Challenge. For five days we posted three things for which we were grateful for or felt positive about. It. Was. Incredible. It bled into so many different realms within the inter webs that the effect was resounding. It spread to other nations, and it diluted the otherwise mundane and meaningless bombardment of social media with something truly pure and beneficial.
It led me to create a branch of The R3 Movement called the Radical Self-Care Pledge. Simply a pledge to be as diligent to one’s self-care as one is to one’s job or hobbies, fitness routine or social life. A promise to be radical, radiant and revolutionary in the act of self-care, as it is one of self-preservation, not selfish but rather a fortification to preserve the energy one needs to be a force of nature in this world. I’ve been loving the pledge, needless to say. A reason to find even the tiniest pocket of space every single day for me, just me.
On the heels of this, and totally in relation to its creation, I also launched my Social Media Fast (#SMF on instagram). It was completely inspired by Jessica Sepel’s JS Health “switch-off” where she goes media-free for a day each week. I was enamored by the idea and have taken to this practice myself. For one day each week, no social media. No Facebook, instagram, twitter, email, internet. It. Is. Brilliant. The effects are palpable. A quietness…a solitude. I’ll admit even a loneliness, at times, has risen to the surface. So interesting to observe how I fill space with these devices, get lost in a world that is, in essence, not a world at all. It’s clear that we so often use social media as an escape, a social life perhaps at times, and as a black hole when we are exhausted or craving distraction. I think that social media is brilliant for entrepreneurs (thank Goodness I have been able to promote my writing on Facebook, it’s connected me to so many incredible souls I can’t even begin to fathom how difficult it would be to network without these platforms!), expanding social circles (I have become friends with many unfamiliar faces from the yoga studio now just because of the wonderful Gratitude Challenge) and for sharing beautiful, uplifting thoughts. The latter, though, is so often not what we see when we make our way into the two-way mirror that is social media. With one day weekly completely fasting, and the other days spent checking only minimally and, mostly, to participate in the uplifting challenges my teacher has shared, I have found a huge release around the obligatory “checking and posting” rut in which so many of my generation get stuck. A freedom. A carelessness over what’s happening anywhere but right in front of me. Like one swift exhale.
Next came a brilliant creation of my teacher Mynx’s; the Month of Magic (#MOM on instagram). This one is geared towards collectively raising the vibration, with the understanding that the power of many is greater than the power of one. It’s been really quite phenomenal. If I thought the gratitude challenge had made waves, this baby is blowing it out of the water. It’s spread far and wide, it fills my heart to the point of bursting. If this is what we have the power to transform social media into…what power! This is what it should be about. Magic, gratitude, community. Not a platform to parade one’s greatest achievements and expressions of seeming perfection. We all know there is no such thing. We all know that, while positivity is a necessary wind in our sails, realistically we all have our ups and downs.
As if this shift towards literally unplugging and disconnecting so as to figuratively engage and tap in wasn’t enough, I also purchased Jessica Sepel’s The Clean Life. What a GEM of a wellness manual! I am devouring this wellness bible and it’s resonating on such deep levels it’s almost unnerving. Something Jess goes into great detail about in her book is REST.
I know, you might be thinking rest? What about fitness and the best exercises to stay toned, lean and in shape? She shares some of that too, her own routine, but most importantly she harps again and again (and then some more) on rest. “A healthy body is a rested body,” I must have quoted her ten times already since starting the book. It’s neat because I am nearing the end of my nutrition schooling, and Jess’ compact, “nutshell” summaries of stuff that’s really quite dense, science-based and complicated gives a great refresher for me of what I’ve been learning and studying so intently. The book is interactive, with spaces to fill in one’s own experience and sort of journal one’s way through, so it’s been deeply healing. Therapeutic, even. It’s brought to light something I had been ignoring for many moons…
I had forgotten how to rest. I was on “go go go” mode for nearly a year straight. No time for down time. What sort of life is that? I was spending all of my time working, exercising, studying or running the hamster wheel of chores and tasks required to manage an adult life. I was exhausted. I had, personally, created standards of living and expectations so high I could no longer keep up. I had fallen into a rut of habitual tendencies, bolstered by my inherent OCD nature. I had begun to expect myself to do it all, every single day. If I did ten things one day, I expected to do ten, if not eleven, the next. I finally found myself run down, sleepless, anxious and frankly a nervous wreck. In the past couple of weeks, the minor shifts I’ve made – taking as much as was humanly possible off my plate, prioritizing rest, devoting myself to my weekly #SMF, trying hard not to plan everything out in advance and allowing my intuition to move into my world – have had resounding effects. I can’t even comprehend how I was going on day after day in such a numb and mindless rat race, especially when I know better!
That was the biggest part for me. This is my business. Wellness is my craft! How could I be “doing it wrong,” hmm? I laugh now at that phrase. I really felt, deep down, like I was “doing it wrong” but was powerless to stop myself. I knew damn well I would not tell a client to do what I was doing, expecting every single day to be as jam-packed as the last, failing to listen to my body because my mind was overriding my intuitive alarms, getting lost in the pit of planning rather than making space for the Divine to chart a new course. But, even as it was happening, I knew I just had to let it play itself out. I knew with every ounce of me that this was happening for a reason. I needed to experience the sensation “stuck-ness,” at this advanced step of my schooling and early stages of my career, in order to know what to say to my clients one day down the road when I, inevitably, encounter this with them in their own lives. I knew to trust, and now the reward is the sweet rush of release that I had been so deeply craving.
I spent the past week in my hometown visiting my parents. A day at the coast with my mumma Tuesday, climbing a mountain into the clouds with my dad Wednesday; long, therapeutic massages and family relaxing Thursday, then a brisk morning bike ride with my mom and tea in the sunny backyard with my dad on Friday. The week was indescribably healing, grounding and sustaining. It nursed and nurtured me in ways I can’t even fathom. It was just what the doctor ordered. I was tapping into what I needed to do, the role I play in this journey of healing…
Carried away by the high of intuitive exploration and acknowledging my Truth, I finally tapped into something else I’d been smothering as well. A dietary concept. Pescetarianism. I’d been feeling intuitively drawn towards fish for several weeks, even having symbolic dreams and being bombarded with nutrition literature to support the cause. Now, let me say, in my heart of hearts I desperately want to be vegan and thrive. I do. I believe it’s the best way to live, it’s cruelty-free and feel so very clean. I thrive on the concept and the lifestyle makes my heart sing. But (you knew there was a but coming), what I’ve learned in nutrition school has led me down a different path. It was very – and I emphasize very – difficult to learn what I learned as a strict vegan, finding out day by day that I likely, despite my best efforts, was not getting quite enough of what I needed.
It was a huge challenge to tune into my intuition in this way. I mean, I’m a yoga teacher, a yogini, a spiritualist, I desperately don’t want to take a sentient being’s life for my own benefit! The concept still riddles me with angst. But I slowly incorporated our neighbor’s pet hen eggs into my diet and felt the positive effects in my body and mind. Now, after having reintroduced some fish, I am still battling the guilt. Physically, I feel incredibly well. Spiritually, I feel nourished. I have prayed fiercely before every meal, thanking the sweet fish as well as the Divine Mother, offering up my gratitude for this medicine and treating it as just that. This dietary shift for me is medicinal. It is not for pleasure or preference, it is truly an act of healing. In an effort to not take a pill, I am turning to food as medicine more than ever. What baffles me, though, is I never expected to need to supplement my richly nutritious vegan diet with animal products in order to finally heal and find balance. What a concept!
Through studies of the blood type diet, our intricate endocrine and nervous systems, as well as a deeply meditative look at my own heritage and physical needs, I have found my way to pescetarianism. But I am trying actively to lay down the labels. I promote a plant-based diet; by that I don’t mean vegan, as Divine as it would be for us all to thrive on that diet. I mean a diet based in plants. That could be vegetarian, pescetarian, or omnivorous, so long as the foundation is plants, abundant in leafy greens. So that is what I have prescribed myself. A clean, organic, pranic-healing diet. A basis of organic veggies, unlimited greens, some low GI fruit, moderate gluten-free grains, no processed foods, no sugar, and the medicinal supplementation of pastured happy eggs and some wild, sustainable, low-mercury fish. Occasional grass-fed, organic dairy as tolerated, too. Foods my ancestors would recognize. Food that brings my family and I together around the table like it didn’t when I was vegan (funny how a shared meal of fish could foster such familial bonding…sharing food really is sharing love). While I do not eat meat, no land animal flesh passes my lips, I still feel guilt around eating anything that was ever alive. Despite my prayers, it aches my heart to take life for my own wellbeing. I have spoken to my teachers, prayed and journaled. I have come to a place of peaceful understanding that I do everything in my power to lessen my carbon footprint, and I am stretching my vegetarianism a bit in order to accommodate physical healing. I am trying to rise above any rules, any labels (Prakriti!). I am observing that much of the remaining guilt stems from comparison.
Ohhhh FUCKING comparison!
Pardon my french, but comparing has become the bane of my existence. It is literally driving me nuts. I have come to compare everything at every turn, and I don’t understand why. It only makes me crazy, it only confuses me, it does nothing to benefit me and, yet, I compare on.
I want to say it’s ironic, but as an intuitive I know it most definitely is not, that I sat in meditation this evening over my Zen tarot cards calling forth a collective reading. I pulled one card, asking the Mother to hold space for my girlfriends who are adjusting to some tough energy, as well as myself. Well, I can’t speak for my ladies, but the Universe definitely had Her eye on me because the card I pulled was, of all cards, COMPARISON. I was totally floored. I choked on my breath, and then laughed out loud. A deep, echoing belly laugh. What a comedy this life can be! Nothing is an accident. There are no mistakes. “Namaste. No mistake,” as Byron Katie would say.
So it all comes full circle, then. I’ll tell ya, old habits die hard (ha, as if I need to tell anyone that one). But they do. You know they do. They die harder than brick, harder than stone.
We cannot beat ourselves into submission, and we should never try. I did try, as I’m sure many of you have as well, and we can all agree it’s a terrible way to live. Guilt is poison and perfectionism is a death sentence. We are not perfect. We fall down. We fuck up. We are awesome on Tuesday and on Wednesday our shoes won’t stay tied and we lock our keys in the car. On Thursday we feel on top of the world with energy pouring out our ears and on Friday we just desperately desire a nap. The beauty in that? It’s all okay. It’s all perfect. We require something different every single day and, if we shut our troublesome brains off and get in tune with our inner rhythms, we are more apt to remember the value of the Self. We are more apt to care for ourselves as we would a loved one. We are more apt to rest, move our bodies, feed our souls, nourish ourselves with whole foods, get good sleep, rest, unplug, look up…we are liable to really enjoy life, free of worry and doubt. We are likely to find better health than we’ve ever before known…body, mind, and spirit.
My mom said something brilliant to me when I was home visiting this past week. She said, “when you have those comparing thoughts, when you have any thought that causes you stress, pause…ask yourself, ‘does this thought help or hinder my movement towards my goal?” So, I move into my every moment now holding space for that thought. Does this thought, behavior, image, experience support or undermine my goal? There’s no avoiding one’s Truth when one chooses to stare it straight in the face on a moment-to-moment basis…and I’d rather look a predator dead in the eye than stare at my feet while it eats me alive. I will never leave myself in the dark again. I mean too much to myself to turn off the lights. We are vessels of healing, completely equipped to give ourselves everything we need, in every moment. We are more than we think, and we are responsible for keeping the light burning. We must shine bright so that the Truth is always visible.
I believe in us. We are in this together.
In the words of my teacher and soul sister Lakshmi…Sad Gurunath Maharaj Ki Jay, Victory to the True Self!
May we carry this torch, burning fiercely, into the new moon this Monday morning. May we light our intentions on fire and release everything that is no longer serving us. Sad Gurunath Maharaj Ki Jay, Victory to the True Self . . .
I know it’s already Friday, but I’ve spent the week meticulously processing this recent Supermoon (’twas Sunday). The super moon is the full moon each year that is closest to the earth. As you may know, full moons amplify whatever energy is swirling around our little worlds. Whatever we are thinking, saying and doing is magnified by the full moon. So, needless to say, the super moon enhances what’s going on for us tenfold.
I happened to take part in my first ever JS Health “switch-off” this past Sunday, or what I called for myself a “social media fast.” It was DIVINE, and it was interesting given the status of the moon. I’d usually have been posting reminders to harness the energy, to ground down, anchor, use the powerful current for manifestation rather than getting swept up by it. But I was unable to. I was untethered to any device and totally disconnected from the world of media, the world that is usually bombarding us from every angle.
Basically what I have learned throughout the week is this: the Universe doesn’t eff around…so tap in. Listen. Pay attention.
I was driving home from yoga on Monday and chatting my mom on the phone. Towards the end of our conversation, as I arrived home, she said sadly, “Guess who died…Robin Williams.” I had just pulled up to my house. I was stunned. Positively stunned. When she continued to say it was suicide, I was floored. Absolutely without words. I didn’t cry, I was too paralyzed with disbelief. I must explain that this isn’t just “any celebrity” in my family, and the Bay Area in general (not to say losing any life is ever without reverence and deep sadness). Robin Williams had a ranch in my hometown, had bumped into my family at bike races, frequented local spots in Marin, not to mention spent countless hours in the intimacy of our living rooms for the last two decades bringing laughter and joy to us through our television sets.
I could go deeply into my feelings around this tragedy, but instead will direct you, if so you choose, to this spectacular and touching letter written by Peter Coyote in response to this great loss. You can find it here. In the letter Peter, a Zen Buddhist Priest, puts aside his own pain to address what he believes to be Robin Williams’ last gift. He urges us to “extract the wisdom from his choice, ponder it deeply” and to pay attention.
The day following this heartbreaking news, I discovered that one of my longtime neighbors had been killed in a freak boating accident. While this is devastating in and of itself, what proceeded was nothing short of mind-blowing.
I began chatting up a coworker, a guy I’ve had limited interaction with but who has a great energy so I’ve been making conversation with more lately. We struck up a random conversation and, by its own nature, it ended up veering to my hometown. I made a comment about where I’d gone to college and where I come from originally, and of all people in the world to mention from my hometown, my coworker mentions my neighbor. He’d been the wrestling coach for my high school, and evidently my coworker used to wrestle. I was frozen in my shoes. Of all people to know in my hometown, of all directions the conversation could have gone, of all people to even be talking to in that moment…I stammered over the horrific news I’d been delivered that morning, and watched my coworker’s face melt into shock and horror. We both stood there silent, gaping; both completely floored by the sadness of such a tragedy and completely stunned by the coincidence of such a conversation. Pay attention.
I’m still honestly marveling at what the mind would consider to be a bizarre fluke but which is most certainly a Divine occurrence. Nothing is an accident. Let me repeat, nothing is an accident. There are no mistakes. Everything is a lesson, everything is as it should be, no matter how beautiful or horrific it may appear to our very human eyes.
In the past week I’ve been experiencing a grand shift. A revision, if you will, of how I’ve been living certain aspects of my life. A magnificent cleansing, a slowing down, a tuning in. The results have been stunning. I feel I have a new lease on life, which is so amazing, considering the relationship between the relatively minor change and staggering effects. This turning inward and listening closely to my intuition and deep intrinsic rhythms has been profoundly eye and heart-opening. It has brought to the forefront of my attention, clean and true, just what it is that I have been skirting around for the past year…
What does integrity mean? Well it’s defined as, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” To me it goes even deeper. My personal integrity has been ever-evolving, and at an alarming rate these past few months. My dharma has risen to the surface in many regards, illuminating the pockets of space within and around me that I have let hide in the shadows. Shedding light on my fears and soothing their sharp edges with the soft golden glow.
I have been burning some serious karma, my loves. While it can be exhausting in the moment, in the aftermath the stillness is overwhelmingly serene. Beautiful. Intoxicating. I no longer look at struggle as something I fell into or as a mistake; rather it is the path to transformation, it’s exactly what needed to happen to me for my soul to transform.
Two totally different realms of consciousness; one of my own integrity and the evolution of my sadhana, the other a melancholy mourning of lives lost and a deep reverence for the immense palpability of the Universe’s current. There must be an overlap, right? Because, after all, there is no separation. Pay attention.
In my recognition of integrity and the many forms she takes, I have begun to observe my asana practice through a different lens. Asana practice mimics (off the mat) yoga practice in totality. I have come to marvel this past week at the fact that, one year ago, I couldn’t (or didn’t have the courage to) free stand in the center of the room in sirsasana, but just one year later, I can (or cultivated the courage to try). I’ve been enamored by the experience of breaking through behavioral patterns, burning karma, shattering parts of the psyche that have been clinging on for dear life…completely floored by how very similar this journey is to the evolution of the postures. Yoga asana, as a moving practice, is meant to facilitate spiritual growth, self-inquiry and stillness. Asana means “to take a seat,” meaning to find a seat within a pose, not to contort the body unnaturally into a perceived shape, but rather breathe and feel one’s way into an authentic representation of an energetic expression. What comes up in the pose mentally? Physically? Emotionally? Is the breath there? What do the thoughts have to say? Pay attention.
I have been using my yoga off the mat more than ever before, these days. I am finding that my surprise at the evolution is rather endearing. What did I expect to happen? I guess I am a little surprised by the growth, on all planes. I for some reason felt very stable in myself and very permanent several years ago when my deep practice truly began; looking around at other yogis who were deeply seated on their path, who had advanced asana practices, who knew more and were more capable than I could ever be (notice all those comparing thoughts?). I just felt like how I was then would be how I would stay. How very naive of me :) I suppose I had to have known I would grow stronger physically, be able to advance in my practice of asana, learn more about philosophy and apply yoga to my daily life. But I guess it feels like it all happened while I was sleeping, in a way. Like I floated along, numbed to some of the painful bits, focusing on the brighter aspects and shunning the shadowy parts. I didn’t fully shun them, but I admit I didn’t peer into the darkness fearlessly, either. But there comes a point when the darkness isn’t something scary, it’s just the opposite of light. There comes a point when you can’t help but tune in, when you can’t help but pay attention, pay attention, pay attention.
The second definition of integrity is, “the state of being whole and undivided.” Ahhhh yes…now we’ve come home. This is a yogi’s true practice. Returning to, and remembering, the natural state…true nature. That of being whole and undivided. No separation, no “other.” All as one. All is one. So Robin Williams’ sweet, agonizing last gift…the sudden jerking of a father off this earth, out of the lives of his children and wife…the Divine poetry of two near strangers, finding symmetry on a cosmic plane in everyday conversation…the drunken bliss of removing the veils and peering into one’s inherent perfection, medicinal application of “less is more” mentality, like soothing balm to a burn…the inner musings of a wild spirit, observation of routine becoming ritual, happenstance becoming holy…
Our integrity is our unity, our collective consciousness used for the greater good, solidarity and oneness, unhampered. We lose members and we gain members, on a moment-to-moment basis, this Tribe ever ebbing, ever flowing. I have to believe, with every bit of me, that there is a sanctified rhythm to it…no matter the story. I have to believe, to the depths of my being, that we all are each other’s teachers. The horror and the harmony, the blackness and the vibrancy, all are orchestrated so as to allow us to evolve and transform. To learn. To see. To understand. To remember.
May we take this super moon energy, our collective mourning, the vibration of healing, our integrity and our self-inquiry into tomorrow unbridled. Fully prepared to be 100% present in our lives. Fully prepared to be receptive to the Universe’s cues. Fully alert. Our presence here is not accidental and not without purpose. May we know this. May we please not let our brother’s gift go to waste. May we open our eyes. And may we please, please God, may we pay attention…