Spiderwebs, Fashion and Being Undefined

As I held plank in the serene, gently sunlit studio this morning, fingers fanned wide, my yoga teacher read my mind. She did something that caused me to approach her after practice and tell her I believe she’s clairvoyant. It didn’t stop there. Throughout class, my mind continued to act as an open book to my wise, heart-opening yoga master. What she said, as she skillfully instructed us to take plank either with knees down or knees lifted, was profound. I don’t know how many fellow students lifted their knees from the mat. I know I did; that’s all that matters. I lifted my knees, my body engaging energetically, sipping in breath and lengthening from crown of head to tailbone; it felt good. I didn’t expect what came next. My teacher said, “is what you’re doing right now in any way punishment? Harmful? Are you in any way punishing yourself? If so, please take your knees to the mat.”

I stayed in plank, but immediately a far corner of my brain awoke. A place deep in the dark corner of my being let the question resonate, let it echo around inside my skeleton, inside my spirit. Is anything about what you are doing right now harmful or punishing? 

I settled on a firm no. I wavered a little, to be quite frank. I want to say I didn’t waver. I want to say I knew for certain that my answer was no. I want to say I lowered my knees in contemplation, airing on the side of caution. I didn’t. But I know why I didn’t. I gain a sense of strength and power in plank pose. I remember when plank was incredibly challenging for me to hold. Now I feel all the parts of my body engage and, on some days, I even can feel like I’m floating there. Other days are harder and by ten seconds in I’m struggling. Those days are few and far between, and today was not one of those days. I suppose the lesson I took from that ominous question was that on the days when it’s a struggle, when my body simply isn’t up for a challenge, I usually push through. That is punishment, that is harmful. How is it that I find words like “listen to the body, nurture and respect the body” to be music to my ears, and yet I struggle when it comes to the physical manifestation of those words? Why am I compelled to satisfy some unconscious urge to be as good as I was yesterday? Why do I expect to hold plank for just as long, to be as energetic, as alert, as positive, as whatever day after day? When is it time to rest?

The other lesson I took away from that question is that I doubt myself. I doubt whether I am smart enough. I doubt whether I am pretty enough. I doubt whether I am a good enough writer to make it as a writer. I doubt myself in making decisions. I doubt myself when I take Tadasana pose…are my feet front hipbone distance apart? Are my feet turned in or out, or are they parallel? I lose sight of my own front hip points and what parallel means trying to get it so damn perfect. 

Perfectionism is blinding.

Which leads me to my next point. I’m blinded by my perfectionist need to feel, look, be and act a certain way. I’m often blinded to the present moment by distracting, perfectionist, frequently body-related thoughts. I want to call them superficial thoughts. Is my belly poking out over my waistband? Is the girl next to me thinner than I am? Or is she softer and more womanly and do I admire that about her? Or do I just admire her string of mala? Why am I paying attention to anything off of my own mat, outside of my own being? 

I question myself. I judge myself. I punish myself.

I’ve said it before that I’m always questioning my body. I’ve hardly ever had a time in my life where I’ve just been, just been me. I have spent years being obsessed. I’ve been obsessed over being too thin or too “heavy” or too healthy or too unhealthy. I’ve lost sight as to what is “normal” for me, and I don’t trust my own body.

I want desperately to trust my own body.

I recently had my lady doctor tell me that, while my BMI is healthy, it is on the lower end. She said I could stand five extra pounds on me. I felt like I’d been scolded, even though she smiled and told me I’m in great shape and she admires my path of health and wellness. Instead of nodding and saying, “Good to know Doc, thanks and I’ll make sure I’m matching my level of activity with the right amount of nourishing food,” I walked out of the office with that heavy, weighty I’m not good enough feeling. I punished myself, emotionally. I should be supportive of and loving towards my body, my heart, my spirit. I should be grateful I’m not being told to lose weight. I should be grateful I have a healthy BMI. Instead I slipped right into the worn-in, comfortable suit of self-deprication. I began to question myself across the board. Here I am not getting it right again.

I feel like the picture of health, for the most part, for the first time in as long as I can remember. I have constant energy, I don’t doom myself with gym time that I loathe (and I don’t belong to a gym), I don’t run, I nurture my sensitive knees, I practice yoga daily, I eat a plant-based diet, I drink copious amounts of water, I limit caffeine and alcohol. I’m not preaching the aforementioned slew of behaviors to anyone, I’m simply documenting the steps that have led me to feel my most awakened, energized Self.

But I think there’s a hidden issue someplace in there. I question myself and want to see things in black and white. I either drink alcohol or I don’t. I either wear make-up or I don’t. I’m either a serene, quiet soul or a neurotic hot mess. I either drink coffee or I don’t. Either I’m a runner or I’m not. Either I’m fashionable or I’m low-maitenence. Who makes up all these rules? And why am I first in line, eagerly waiting on tip-toes, ready to follow them??

Where is the flexibility?

I want to be flexible, more than anything in the world, and have that flexibility prove to me that I can still be happy in my heart. I can be still and peaceful in my mind. I can be alive and radiant in my body.

While I lead a healthy lifestyle and there’s nothing in it that needs changing, I do want to be more flexible in terms of the future. I want to do things because it’s where my heart is leading me, not because it “fits” into my perceived “lifestyle.” I’m constantly questioning myself. I’m constantly doubting myself. I’m ready to get fearless. 

Who’s to say I can’t be me, live this beautiful life I’ve built, and still step outside the box? Who’s to say I can’t redefine aspects of my being on a daily basis? Why can’t I step in and out of the box as I wish?
I know what I am at my core: loving, kind, compassionate, emotional, intense, deep, spiritual, dedicated, sincere. I also know that the veil covering my core contains shreds of apprehension, fear, obsession, guilt, shame, regret. I know that, like stretching sore, tight muscles, I must stretch out of my boundaries to break free of those spider webs. I know what I am at my core, and I know I must break out from beneath the spider webs of doubt and anxiety.

I made the sad realization today that my self-esteem still relies heavily on what my body looks like. It’s still not a fully compassionate, level-headed relationship that I have with body image. I understand it all, and I extend it out to others, but I don’t have it for myself. Not completely. Not yet. I’m so busy embracing other women for their beautiful hearts and unique bodies and unwavering confidence, that sometimes I turn back in towards myself with nothing but doubt. I think, “why can’t you be like them?” It’s as though I’m afraid to accept and embrace myself incase I might change. Well guess what…we all change. Our bodies are transient vehicles for our souls, for the marrow of our being. I get that. I believe that. I hold true to that with every ounce of me.

But then why can’t I extend it towards myself? Why can’t I stop caring whether I’m thin? Why can’t I stop caring what other people think? Why can’t I just be happy and healthy and balanced, and let the thin body be a byproduct to which I pay very little attention? 

I’ve gotten better with all of that. I care less what other people think. I’m happy in my own body. But am I happy because I am slim? Is that what my happiness is riding on? If I put on 20lbs would I no longer feel happy? I honestly don’t know.

It’s not that I’m going to put on 20lbs as an experiment, but more that I intend to someday have babies. I know my body will change. I know it will give life and it will feel different, look different, be different. I want to always be healthy. I want to provide a soft and warm body to hold my children against; I want to be fit and lean and energetically able to chase my bliss till my last day on earth. I’m making confessions that are hard to make right now, baring my soul and admitting to caring this much about my soul’s transient vessel, but I know it’s what must be done. I must acknowledge it in order to stop fearing it so much. I envision myself as a happy, healthy mother, wife, daughter, friend, yogi, student of the Universe, who exists within a healthy, thriving body and whose self-worth is based on a sound mind, and the love of those children, that spouse, my parents, those friends, my fellow yogis, my fellow human beings…

I know that this journey of learning to believe my yoga teacher’s words, “you are already perfect, just as you are right now,” is going to be lifelong. I was born with the gene that keeps me a little more attached to body image than the average person; I survived an eating disorder, my brain chemistry was altered for life, and my relationship with my body will be in a constant reparative state. It’s not to say I focus on this everyday, I lose sight of it for days at a time, but I always come back to it.

I know we are in this together, and that it’s not just me. I am simply hyper-aware of bodies, my own and others, and perhaps first to feel inferior given my history. This horrible barrage of judgement, loathing and unattainable perfection from the media doesn’t help. Sometimes I’m convinced that if we could just hide out, all of us who get it, who get what true, positive body image is about and who value the inner essence of a being rather than the transient body, that we could all make a very happy world. We could be happy and free together, hidden away from the big screens and magazines and judgement. Sometimes I wish we could just erase all of the self-loathing there has ever been and live in the bright, colorful world of you are perfect just as you are.

I believe that world exists, but it must exist within each of us. I understand now why people, particularly yogis, shave their heads and wear simple clothing. The emphasis is on what is within, and it’s accented by a body that isn’t distracted by fancy clothing, make-up and accessories. It’s accentuated by deep, soulful eyes, laughter, a crinkling smile, the rosy flush of warmth, soft and gentle hands.

But I like wearing cute clothes and accessorizing! I like having long hair! I like my bracelets and my toe rings and my collection of shoes and my colorful scarves! I like dressing for the mood I’m in that day, oftentimes yogini, sometimes European fashionista (at least what consider “fashionista”), sometimes hipster, sometimes hippie, sometimes fancy, often rhymeless and reasonless…I like having a “morphing style” and the effect my garb has on my inner being.

I suppose there’s a fine line between enjoying the decoration of our transient vessels, and mistaking that decoration as being our identity. We are so much more than anything we could possibly put onto our bodies.

So let it be. Be undefined by a “bad hair day” or an outfit you regret the moment you get to work. Be undefined by a day of your belly poking out over the waistband of your yoga pants. Be undefined by the blemish that has arrived to vacation in the middle of your right cheek for the holiday weekend.

I know it’s easier said than done, but all accomplishments worth accomplishing take effort. Nothing truly worthwhile is ever easy. 

Perhaps there’s a blissful freedom in being undefined. To Be Undefined. We’re always so busy defining ourselves (at least I am) as though people are really keeping a tally, as though anyone outside of ourselves really care. Writer, yogi, vegetarian, traveller, student, mother, wife, raw foodist, democrat, republican, teacher, pacifist…we are always working so hard to fit under our own umbrellas that I fear we lose sight of how easy, how natural it is to just let those definitions, those titles, embody us. We are those things whether we harp on the definitions or not, whether we drive around bearing the bumper stickers or not. Owning who we are without the need to broadcast and advertise it is empowering, and challenging. We are what we do, we are what we eat, we are what we say, we are what we think…we simply ARE! No one can take that from us. We have nothing to prove. We manifest and define ourselves and our futures on a moment-to-moment basis.

The spiderwebs that gather and entrap us are all created by the mind. Our minds. Society, media, whatever, they are all contributions, they may weave the web, but we have the broom. We have the limbs to stretch and break these webs apart, yawn and stretch and step up into the light and melt away the labels, the pressures, the definitions, the fear, the doubt. Shatter the webs of perfectionism. Bask in the transience of the body, of what it means to feel good, to feel alive. Extend endless love and warmth because, with true understanding of life’s impermanence, there simply isn’t time to do anything but.

So break off the spider webs. Take a stand. Exalt. Be Undefined. Love. Exist. Radiate. 

Gratitude.

 

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Stress Balls, Vindicating Rain, and “Just Say No.”

In the span of an approximately 4.5 minute car ride from driveway to yoga studio the other morning, I managed to hitch myself to two completely separate but equally frustrating “stress balls.” I’m going to refer to these instances as “stress balls” because the analogy that comes to mind the coughing and hacking that follows choking on a hairball (not that I have experience, ha, just go with it…).

The lodging of a stress ball in the brain literally blocks the rationality to my mind like a hairball would block oxygen to the lungs. I become entangled in the stress ball. I honestly can’t even divulge what my two stress balls were that morning because they, one especially, were so absurdly foolishThey were sent to me as signs, this I realize; signs that my zen, the zen I spend every day on my mat and tinkering away in my own mind cultivating, ought not be so easily disrupted! Seriously, what the funk?

I told myself to let it go as I put things in my locker and headed into the cool studio to unfurl my mat. I mostly let it go, save for the one or two times it popped into my head during class. Luckily, my incredible teacher offered up the opportunity to set a particular intention (it seemed a more profound invitation than the average “set your intention” theme one might encounter in yoga, as though she were reading my mind…). So I did. I chose the purposeful stress ball, shed some rational and kind light on it, and made it my intention. It was the other, embarrassingly ridiculous stress ball that I wanted to laugh away like, “What? THAT? HA! As if I would be bothered by something so frivolous! Get real. I have bigger fish to fry.” 

I know, I know, it’s just cruel not to divulge what the other stress ball was. I promise I will. GAH! I don’t want to, but I will.

So I practiced for that hour and a half, shedding warm, loving light on my intention. I successfully molded it into a compassionate Self intention, rather than a sticky, choking-hazard stress ball, and left yoga feeling all the more balanced around it. It wasn’t until I saw the rain scattering the pavement outside the studio, as I traipsed across the street in my red toms for a green tea, that I felt vindicated. YES! It rained!

You don’t yet get why that is important, so I suppose it’s time to unleash the second stress ball.

Ah heck, I’ll just get it out now. I’d been planning to bike to yoga as I usually do, my typical “green commute” to yoga, and oftentimes work. Well, today my phone forecast said rain…but not until 30 minutes after I was due to return from yoga. What to do? Chance it, like I had a couple weeks ago for an appointment downtown? Meh, last week I had chanced it and when I came out of my appointment I found an utterly rain-doused bicycle and sopping wet pavement, with a threatening sprinkle still leaking from the fluffy, dark grey sky. COOL. So, needless to say, I figured today I’d listen to that lesson and drive. It makes me feel guilty to drive when I am only going a short way. I know, pick your battles right? Guilt is a choice, right? These are all mantras of mine, and yet I was fighting the guilt tooth and nail, sitting at a red light waiting to turn when, low and behold, a bicycle pulls up behind me in the turn lane. I can see half the body. I knew almost immediately it was a fellow yogi, even from a peek of ponytail and ensemble. I could tell. Some section of my brain labeled “UNSTABLE: DO NOT ENTER” smartly decided, “If it’s her, I’m going to feel like a terrible eco-conscious yogi for taking my car and being afraid of a little rain.” Really awesome and rational decision, right? 

It was her.

Of course it was her. The Universe would have it no other way after I’d made such a deft deal with the devil, as far as guilt and loathing and common freaking sense are concerned. She’s one of my friends, and we were only a few mats apart, so every time I saw her curling out of child’s pose beside me or from between my own legs in Prasarita Padottanasana, I felt a pang of guilt. 

That was so mortifying to admit, but now it’s out. 

So, what was the lesson in all this, you ask? Well, for one, I’ve coined the term “stress ball” which is rather entertaining and a little brilliant (this coming from the “to bike or not to bike” hot mess, ha). I’ve also learned that, rain or no rain, I choose when to feel guilty. I attach to thoughts. If the thought is negative then I inevitably, like a captain with his ship, sink hard and fast with it. Another mind-reading moment during yoga was when my teacher said we often are distracted without even realizing we’ve become distracted! We attach so quickly to thoughts, and it takes us away from the present moment, the feeling of what it is to exist, to be aware and present.

I heard that and was like, holy cow she’s doing it again! She’s peering into my brain and seeing my freak-fest of obsession and saying, stop that right now! While it’s unlikely that my incredible yoga teacher is clairvoyant, she is certainly the most expert yoga master I’ve ever encountered and I value every word that comes out of her mouth as thought it’s minted in gold. I don’t even know if “minted in gold” is a phrase, but if it’s not, I’ve coined two tonight.

So, consider this: what if we take that advice and simply “say no to thoughts.” Say no to distraction. Say no to stress. What if we did that? What if I had said, Sara don’t be ridiculous, you drove your car and it’s fine and you are causing yourself more damage by worrying over it when you could be enjoying the music or the sunshine or the speed with which you’ll arrive. I could have just enjoyed the foggy day outside and tuned in to the feeling of being in the warm car, the fabric of my yoga pants on my skin, the cool of the filtered water as it slid down my throat. That would have been me being gently and quietly aware of what it felt like to be me, and to be present, that morning. It would have been me saying no to distracting thoughts. Just say no. It’s very hard, I’m sure. But, like all beautiful practices (yoga, pranayama, mediation, patience, forgiveness…), I’m also sure it’s so worth it. I’m going to commit myself to the practice of “Just Say No” when it comes to distraction, guilt, self-loathing and all other self-depricating and harmful thought tendencies. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Won’t you join me in this new “Just Say No” campaign? This “War on Stress,” if you will. Let’s do it. Naturally, we’re not referring to all thoughts here, just the ones that would be detrimentally distracting. Let’s practice not attaching to thoughts that threaten to distract us from the bliss of the present moment. Are you ever enjoying a wonderful person’s company, watching a great film, eating a delicious meal or even practicing a satisfying yoga sequence – but you’re so distracted by a nagging thought that you can hardly enjoy what it is that you’re doing? How frustrating that is!!! It’s so wrong! To let the deliciousness of the present moment be bled out like that, by a nagging, stress ball thought! No more. No more I say!

“Just Say No” to harmful, distracting thoughts. “Just Say No” to stress balls. “Just Say No” and bathe in the vindicating rain of a mind not clogged by distracting tension. The only stress balls we should have in our life are those little squishy things to squeeze on and relieve anxiety. We’ll do it together. Hack up those stress balls and say no to distraction. I promise there’s no voting involved, just some gentle nudges of the mind.

The last shred of wisdom I’ll leave you with tonight is another remarkable line from my yoga teacher that class. Chew on this as you fall asleep tonight.
If treated and used properly, and with skill, she said, the mind and body are the tools necessary to live a very happy and fulfilling life.
I trust that means learning how hit stress balls out of the park like you’re Barry Bonds, and treating the body like a temple.
I’ll bet we can do it. I’ll bet we can break the habit of surrendering to distraction and harming thoughts. I’ll bet all my stress balls on it.

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Is it Bad to Admit that I Just Want to Be Selfish Right Now?

That sounds bad. It feels bad to admit. But who defines “bad,” again? Oh yeah…me. 

I mean what I said, but I don’t mean it in a bad way. “Bad,” by my own definition, is something that is devoid of love. “Bad” is lacking in passion, truth, heart, selflessness. I realize I just defined “bad” as lacking in selflessness, and the title of this essay contains the word “selfish.”

Bear with me.

Selflessness must be extended to the Self, as well as to others. It’s the same as when someone says, “If one cannot love oneself, how could one love another?” That’s also how selflessness works…as well as compassion, generosity, understanding, so on and so forth…therein lies the rub for many, we must extend goodness to ourselves before we can become truly adept at extending goodness to others.

So, if I may have the honor of answering my own question…No, Sara, it’s not bad. Perhaps selecting the word “selfish” was “bad,” in a way, because you don’t actually mean “selfish.” You mean “selfless.” What you meant to say was, “I just want to focus all of my energy on directing Selflessness towards my own divine, precious Self.”

So how’s that for a new title? I like it much better.

The gist of what emotions are being bounced around between the improper word “selfish” and proper word “selfless” are complicated, and yet so very simple. I’m 24 years old. I’m at the glorious beginning of an all-ecompassing yoga teacher training with some of the most incredibly wise and learned yogis in the world. I’m making big life decisions as to where my next move will be within the coming year. I’m focusing very intently on my own health and the harmony of my body, mind and spirit. That last one, my yoga practice and my teacher training take up about 99% of my energy…just saying…I’m incredibly dedicated to my own self-exploration, expansion of my awareness, and I frankly don’t have the capacity to stretch my attention past that. Nor do I want to. That sounds selfish, to me, but I am trying to practice ahimsa and refrain from harming thoughts. What’s so wrong with being intently focused on the self, on self-development and truly getting to know every little fibre of one’s own being? I’m getting to know myself with the curiosity, passion and deep interest that, in the past, I have offered a partner, or a new friend, or even an academic subject. Now, at this poignant time in my life, I am casting that energetic study upon myself, and the practice of yoga. And I’m full. I’m all filled up. My capacity for any more is null. 

That being said, this is the first time in my life that I’ve had no interest in dating. I’ve officially outgrown the typical late-teens/early-twenties female yearning for “completion” via significant other. I’m interested in getting to know me. That’s not to say I wouldn’t get dinner or tea with an interesting guy, but I’d be just as eager to get tea or dinner with an interesting girl who I might forge a friendship with! I’m not looking for romance. I am romancing myself, these days! Taking myself out for dinner, for tea, shopping, exploring, adventuring…and it’s spectacular. I wouldn’t give it up for anything, right now. I have a lot to work on, here in my own body, in my own mind, and it seems simply impossible to open myself up to something new when I am still arranging the pieces of my puzzle…I’m still cleaning the lenses, so to say, figuring out exactly how I see the world. I have a lot of girlfriends getting married, or who are already married, and I’m thrilled for them. But I can’t imagine being in their shoes right now. I have an idea of what I want in a partner, but I’m only about 60% of the way there, I feel like, so how could I possibly dedicate myself to another person at this point in my life? 

This essay is not about being single or in a relationship, though. I just went off on that tangent because I’ve been listening to Tristan Prettyman’s new (break-up) album on repeat. I digress…

There are some priorities I’ve set, in my journal, and they are all revolving 100% around me. They’re important. They’re “right this very second” priorities. They have zero room for procrastination. So, the cruel, “bitchy” slice of my psyche (who lurks somewhere in the dark, starving herself, smoking cigarettes and calling me mean names) piped up and let me know that she thinks it’s an awfully selfish list of priorities that I just wrote out.

Boom. Done. I believed her. I fall hook line and sinker for her toxic monologues every time. But, just perhaps, instead of slapping an insecure, “Does this sound bad because I think it sounds bad and I feel bad bad bad am I a bad person?” title on my essay, wouldn’t it be more productive to investigate why I’m listening to this little devil on one shoulder? This little black leather clad, anorexic, chain-smoking satanic incarnation of myself? I’m resisting the urge to answer with, “DUH.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m being productive. I’m not removing the title of my essay, as a reminder to myself, but I’m going to do the constructive, healthy investigation. I’m changing the word in my mind to selfless. I’m being understanding, compassionate, loving to myself. I’m inviting the serene, rosy-cheeked, spirit warrior incarnation of myself from her bright corner, where her incense burns and her soft music plays, to help me sort out this nonsense. 

We figure out, together, that my list of priorities are my manifestations waiting at the gates to be let out, to be manifested

One of my favorite words since I was a teenager has been “manifest.” I suppose it’s the verb “to manifest.” Ever since I saw and read The Secret, this powerful word has been my favorite. I also collected the words “passion” and “bliss.” We all have defining words. Think of yours. Don’t they resonate with you on a special level? When you see them places you are stopped still for a moment, filled with the sensation, “I’m meant to be here right now…”

I’m reminded of my beautiful friend Jennifer Pastiloff’s quote, “Manifesting = Making Sh*t Happen.” She’s the creator of Manifestation Yoga. She’s also one of my soul sisters. Coincidence? I think not. We share a defining word, as well as many passions, past experiences, and future dreams. Not a coincidence. It’s the process, gently unraveling itself before us, invitingly, offering soul sisters and brothers along the way to make the process all the more digestible. 

A lot of the time my essays resemble a journal entry. I begin in one corner and end up in another area code altogether. It’s a cyclical process, writing. That’s why I do it. That’s why I share it. I can’t tell you how many times Jen Pasiloff, Katie Canes, Ashley Turner, Kathryn Budig, these exquisite women have taken me on a journey with one of their essays and articles. We take one another on these little soulful journeys and everyone emerges with a different epiphany. Or no epiphany at all, but a little more learned. Or perhaps even grateful, thinking, “Good God I’m glad I’m not 24 anymore and trying to figure where I’m going with my life,” or perhaps thinking, “ME FREAKING TOO! ME TOO! THIS IS MY STORY!” There’s no right way or wrong way to do anything. Because the definitions of “right and wrong” are made up by human beings. Life is nothing but energy. The mind is nothing but energy. It’s up to us to regulate it. Everything can feel terrifyingly out of our control, or profoundly within our control. It’s up to us. 

So I’m making the choice. It’s not bad. It’s not selfish. It’s good. It’s selfless. I am peace, I am harmony, I am health. I am not perfect, but nothing is perfect. I am neither good nor bad, I am energy. I am energy. I am energy.

Energy is magnetic, elastic, buoyant. Energy has all the potential in the world, all the potential to grow and expand and encompass all of the beautiful things the Universe has to offer. 

Define yourself. Regulate your own energy. Rein in fear, because fear is nothing more than a word described by a human being. We manifest the energy within our own bodies and label it fear, selfishness, bad…redefine. Manifest. Manifest goodness, selflessness, profound love. 

Start with yourself. Shower yourself with goodness. Cleanse the soul with selflessness. Extend profound love within. Then turn outward, and let all of that goodness, all of that selfless energy spill out. We’ll all be waiting to bathe in the flood.

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Wherever You Are

This morning I practiced with the divine Melanie Salvatore-August, as I am so blessed to do every weekend now that teacher training has begun. She ignited in my soul a message:

BE THE LIGHT. Be a sister to every human being, every neighbor, every other beautiful soul that shares this sacred space, this intricate Universe. Extend love and light to one another. WHEREVER you are, be this. Do this. Extend this. There’s no waiting for the perfect time, the perfect setting, the perfect version of yourself; it IS the perfect time, it IS the perfect setting, you ARE perfect. The time is now. Our neighbors and our own Selves need healing NOW. We need love, compassion, understanding, open hearts. It’s cyclical. It’s contagious. It’s ever-present if we simply awaken and tap in.

Melanie has a way of making me feel grateful and happy to be alive. I’ve not yet put my finger (as my introduction to her Tribe was rather recent) on what it is about this woman that has the capacity to make me feel overjoyed to be on this planet. I leave her presence feeling like no matter WHAT happens, no matter what might occur in my life, I will always have the power to be happy. To be okay. To heal. To be unafraid. To love myself. To think kind thoughts towards myself (the part I’ve struggled most with in my short time here on earth). I tried to explain this to my mom on the phone today. She seemed to understand what I was blabbering, as she’s my mom and could understand my entire point from my facial expression alone. I told her how I feel pretty okay most of the time, apart from the prospect of ever having to live without my parents, without her (as she’s my sounding board for literally everything, all of the time). She understood, naturally. Neither of us can bear the thought of not speaking for a day much less ever having to walk this earth without the other. I continued on to say some jumbled business about how I leave Melanie’s classes feeling fearless.

This did not correlate in any way to the horrific concept of losing and having to live without a loved one, nor did I say I feel okay with the idea after these yoga classes. What I suppose I was conveying with that soliloquy was this:

I have been leaving Melanie’s classes so radically enlivened that the polar opposite of those emotions could only be described as the deepest possible agony.

In as many words: I’m experiencing my highest possible bliss after her influence.

What a gift that is, am I right? Can you even imagine? I trust Melanie will teach me her magic, the magic of how to cultivate that feeling all by myself, within loneliness, within joy, outside of the yoga studio, within my own heart every single day. I also trust I’ll eventually be able to pinpoint just what it is about her that stimulates such a sense of strength, empowerment and unconditional love within me.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit “trapped” in my job. I had typed “profession” but have trouble considering it a “profession” since it’s a grocery store. I have nothing against working for a grocery store, in fact it’s quite the opposite; it’s a wonderful and positive place and I’m blessed to have a job. I’m blessed to have my job (I just needed to say that again). The thing is this: I was hired while I was still in college, and I was part-time. I’m now graduated and working there full-time. Perhaps it’s a combination of being asked 800 times if I’m going to go get a “real job” now (by customers, especially!), if I’m still there because I’m going to pursue grad school, what I’m going to “do next,” and the societal pressures to rush out and use my degree, (for crying out loud!). Yeah, it could be a combination of those things. It’s also just me. Me being a perfectionist. Me thinking, “You’re not doing it right. You’re not doing it well enough. You need to do better.” Me not practicing Ahimsa.

Well, you know what? I walked out of class today thinking, “Wow…I’m not having the sinking feeling in my heart that I had last weekend. As I was leaving my first round of yoga teacher training courses, I had a pit in my stomach just thinking of having to spend the whole week at work, away from the studio and all the positivity that lifts me up so high. I would have to go work in customer service all week, busy and drained, arriving home too late to take any yoga classes and too exhausted to dedicate energy to my small mountain of teacher training homework.

Complain, complain, complain.

Self-fulfilling prophecy. The week was pretty rough. I worked long days. I was very sleepy. I was pretty anxious. I developed some mantras, but I stressed. I craved more downtime, I craved the yoga studio, I craved the feeling of peaceful relaxation, I craved the blessed practice of simply taking my time.

Then today happened. I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized (out of something that Melanie said, though in my blissed out state I didn’t pinpoint just what the sentence or phrase was) that the emotions that were spilling out of my every pore, filling my heart so full it was threatening to burst, pulling the edges of my mouth up into a goofy, sweaty grin…I take that feeling with me everywhere I go. It is mine. It is wherever I am. You know the kind of feeling I’m talking about? The kind you get after spending time in the presence of someone who truly uplifts you? The kind you get when someone practices a soul-stirring, random act of kindness? The kind you get when you are so filled with love you think you might float away? That feeling goes with you, stays with you, wherever you are.

Profound, right? Simple. True. Perhaps even obvious. But profound.

I proceeded to enjoy one of the most uplifting days of my life. I trust this feeling will spill over into the coming week, and work will feel like a whole different world.

Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Be blissful. Be the light. BE gentle, kind, loving and compassionate with yourself, with everyone around you. I realized today that, while I’m not in my dream career yet, I am blessed with a job in which I’m able to support myself financially, pursue the endeavors that are the building blocks of my dream career (my BA in English; Creative Writing, the YogaWorks Teacher Training, Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition). I am blessed with the opportunity to reach out to hundreds of people every single day. I am blessed with the capability of lifting the hearts and spirits of each and every person who comes through my line, of each and every sister and brother that I encounter. That’s my choice. What a beautiful gift, am I right? How exquisite that I’m able to interact with that many people every single day! Just imagine the ripple effect I can create now that I’m aware of this possibility…

I can be the light, wherever I am. Be the light, wherever you are. Bottle up that joy and take it with you. Then uncap it and let it out, spill out all of your light and love…wherever you are.

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Just the Way You Are

You are perfect. 

Just. The. Way. You. Are.

You heard me right. And yes, I’m listening too. I’m telling myself too.

In light of my last essay, this is a necessary mantra for me to adopt, and it’s necessary for you to adopt it too. How frustrating, beautiful and unnerving it must be for a parent to watch their child grow into an adult and turn into a person all their own. How could they not mourn the “loss” of the little person that they raised? The one that was so innocent, agreeable, protectable, uncomplicated. It’s natural for this to happen, it’s not bad (which is what my sweet mom tried to tell me today as I crumbled beneath guilt for making her sad in any way). What’s the silver lining… because there always is one…? Well, I’m simply grateful that it’s my slightly compulsive nature and my commitment to a healthy lifestyle that causes the only friction that exists between my family and I. Ha. How could I be complaining about something so petty? They have a right to be protective, given my history, and they understand, accept and are proud of my intention, my discipline, lifestyle and my accomplishments in this career I’m building. I’m fortunate! Was I really crying earlier about not feeling understood? Silly me, I was blinded to my blessings.

There are children who grow up and come out and are not accepted by their family. Family, who exist to love one another unconditionally, turn their backs on children due to things like sexual preference…the race, religion or background of the partner their offspring chooses to marry…the job their child takes as an adult…the decisions a person makes that might not line up with the parents’…situations of discord exist in families that are intensely challenging emotionally. I am fortunate to not be living this. My family simply loves me so much they don’t want me to miss out on a single moment of enjoyment. 
What do I have to say to my family? Thank you. I love you. I am enjoying every moment of my life so deeply that sometimes I’m afraid I’m hogging all the joy that life has to offer.

What do I have to say to those kids who grow up into adults who are misunderstood by their families for their sexual orientation, marriage, religion, career, dreams, decisions, what-have-you? I love you. If they don’t accept you, know that I do. SO many of us do. Those who accept you and love you despite their views are who matter and those people are your true family. Unconditionally loving and accepting you JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

We are born perfect. We are born pure. We are born innocent.

Life threatens to harden us, make us fearful, make us owners of that “I’m Not Good Enough” heaviness that likes to hang on and never let go.

Let us soften together. Let us become fearless. Let us throw away the “I’m Not Good Enough” heaviness and replace it with light and airy “I’m perfect just the way I am.” Let us remind each other of it everyday, with our eyes, with our smiles, with our kindness, with our polite gestures, our holding the door open for one another, our courteous driving, our random acts of kindness…let us use every outlet available to us to remind ourselves, our families, and every member of this beautiful human family of which we are all a part…that we are perfect. We are all perfect. You are perfect. 

Just the way you are.

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