Recapitulation

Hello sweet souls, it’s been a good long week. I hope you all had an absolutely brilliant holiday. I certainly did. Blessed home space, small town quiet, quality time with the family, playing on the farm, doggy love, good book reading, yoga, hiking, cycling, hot tubbing, plant-based cooking, gift giving and receiving, picture taking, abundant laughing, tons of hugging, warm snuggling, good films, loads of tea and seriously nourishing, “slept like a rock” sleep. What more could I ask for?!

As we shift from the busy holiday into the turning over of a new leaf, may I propose a simultaneously uplifting and deeply grounding practice? Recapitulation. I wrote about it last year and practiced it myself. The definition of recapitulation is “an act or instance of summarizing and restating the main points of something.” It’s a practice I read about two years ago in a beautiful article by Sally Kempton in Yoga Journal.  The suggestion is that, rather than focusing on resolutions, we focus on summarizing the highlights of the past year and what we wish to take into the new year from that reservoir. At least that’s my interpretation.

Instead of harping on what I did wrong all year and how I will “fix” it in the coming year, I instead choose to meditate on the past year as a whole. Good, bad, glorious, ugly, successes, failures…all of it. I find it to be a much more holistic approach to the start of a new year.

I worked at a health club for five years, so I’ve seen the best of new year’s resolutions come and go. Our sales and membership always skyrocketed in January, and then fell completely off come April. Instead of setting myself up for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual failure, I prefer a gentler approach. I’m not suggesting that all new year’s resolutions fail, or are a bad idea; not at all. What I am saying is that I personally find the “cold turkey,” knee-jerk approach to life changes to be so drastic and jarring that we oftentimes revisit the other side just for a bit of comfort.

I won’t say to myself that I won’t be negative in the new year. Firstly, that might be a lie. Secondly, it isn’t productive. Instead, I’ll look back on 2013. With gentle eyes and a respectful observation, I will replay my year…all the times I was negative, positive, patient, kind, difficult, angry. All of the many lenses through which I saw the world, all of the many forms in which I was me. I will try, sincerely, to complete this practice without judgment. Also without ego. No excessive pride or self-deprication. Simply seeing. Compiling a list of the main events of the past year and how I feel they helped me evolve.

I’ll focus on experiences, emotions, accomplishments, mistakes…everything that chipped in, that guided me, that crafted me into the person I am today…the person I was not yet, I could not yet be, one year ago. Isn’t there something magical to that? How much change can occur in just one year? A year can be so filled with sadness, beauty, bliss…it can be so exquisitely shocking and mind-blowing, astonishingly ordinary, earth-shatteringly colorful. Some years can fly by while others tiptoe, slowly, taking their precious time so as not to wake the Universe.

Paying attention to these little details is part of my recapitulation practice. Giving equal attention to the big events like trips, milestones, losses and life-altering decisions, as we do to the minute (but oh-s0-important) events like discovering a new favorite food, seeing the most brilliant autumn sunset, that awkward blind date, the achingly awful romantic comedy we paid $10.50 (and the frightful fact that it’s now over ten bucks to see a movie in theatre).

Ideally, to practice recapitulation, one should take to a quiet space – both physically and spiritually – and sit with every little bit of the past year. Just notice every piece of it that jumps out at us. We needn’t rake through every single moment, but rather let the moments of grander importance come to us, without setting parameters or judgements. I’m talking everything from college graduation to mastering a yoga pose. Losing a loved one to seeing a meteor shower. It’s all important. It’s all part of the puzzle. It’s all part of us.

This life is a journey. While setting intentions for the future is important, so is a deep reverence for the thread from which our tapestry is woven. The practice is not to suggest we focus or harp on the past, nor that we attach to it. But simply that we give it due acknowledgement. Only in the expression of gratitude for what has come before can we truly set our gaze straight on what we wish to manifest up ahead. So see it. Remember it. Feel it in our bones. Live it over again, in our mind’s eye. Invite the past year into our consciousness and sit with it a while. Note whatever comes up during the process.

Then what, you ask? That’s up to us. Ideally we write out the practice. Either in a journal or on an independent sheet of paper that we can dispose of afterwards, like in a roaring fire or something equally dramatic. Recapitulation allows me to better get to know myself. It brings my attention to the present moment, upon completion, and gives me clearer eyes through which to see my intentions.

I prefer to use that word, intention, instead of resolution. While I’ve always made resolutions, and have nothing against them, my personality resonates far more with the idea of intention setting. Gently releasing intentions into the cool, wintry air of the Universe, watching them float away on a breeze as powerfully fragile as a butterfly’s wings. This is an anchoring practice. Not a practice to say this is who I’m going to be this coming year, but rather this is who I am right now, and this is what I’m taking with me into the coming year. Paving solid ground for the journey to continue. Making the choice to see ourselves as we truly are; beautifully flawed. Accepting that this gorgeously flawed state is a blessing, it’s human nature, and it’s what we will always be. Making the decision to embrace that fact. Resisting the rat race of New Year’s Resolutions that leave us feeling weakened, inferior and as though we are failures. As though we are not already good enough. We are good enough, already. Intrinsically.

Resisting that rat race and, instead, taking the best and worst of the previous 365 days considerately in our grasp and welcoming the perfectly imperfect 365 that are up ahead.

So, my lovebursts, let us practice as we will…and if anything gorgeous or exquisite, haunting or illuminating comes up, please feel free to share in the comments. More than anything, may we be gentle with ourselves. May we welcome the New Year with open arms, open minds and open hearts. May we release the urge to perfect our already perfect selves and simply be…flowing into the New Year with the inherent grace that pulses beneath our surface.

Namaste, and Happy New Year. x x

 

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Exactly Where We Need to Be

Tonight I sat for meditation and a heavy sadness sat with me. It washed over me a few minutes into my practice, my eyes closed, my face unsuspectingly soft. The sadness came creeping in like fog through the gnarly branches of winter trees, naked and shivering in the barren cold. All of a sudden my breathing shifted. The inhalation quickly deteriorated, its quick, jostling nature the familiar precursor to heaving sobs. An increasingly ragged exhalation signaled the arrival of raw, undiluted emotion.

Sadness. We so often run from it, don’t we? We cower under our eyelashes, refusing to look it in its solemn face, we refuse to look up and notice that it, in fact, has a soft face. A forgiving face. A face that says please just see me, acknowledge me. It takes a moment of bravery, in between jostling inhale and ragged exhale, to look up and say okay, I see you.

Tonight I chose not to run. I chose to make eye contact with the melancholy gaze of Sadness. The olive branch of acknowledgment. I chose to sit with the emotion. I chose to feel it, sit with it, invite it into my being and really understand it. I had the meditative equivalent of tea and crumpets with dear ‘ol Sadness.

It felt heavy. Dripping. Like cloth, saturated, drooping from the weight of its contents. The fibers threatening to tear, the fluid sneaking through, the bulging burden of it straining at the fabric. It felt wet like tears, thick like paint, warm like blood. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, but rather familiar. Familiar not in a depressing way, in the oh I’ve felt so sad in my life way, but in a human way. In a natural, nourishing way.

I let the sobs come. I felt the tears stream. I felt the serenity of my expression melt into the ugliness of crying. I observed as every sad experience I’ve ever had washed over me, through me, under and around me. I spun in the whirlwind of my truth, my journey, the steps I’ve taken and the path I’ve walked. I embraced my many moments of sadness, loss, doubt, fear. I felt each one not as an individual experience but as a brief flash, each one adding a little weight to the emotion, tossing its two cents into the bursting, dripping weight of sadness. 

And then it passed.

As quietly as the sadness arrived, it left me. Tears still wet on my cheeks, the heaving just stopped. The heaviness lifted. The ache throbbed less with each pulse of my heart. The thickness diluted by acceptance, I noticed my mind’s instant reflex to fill this void of vulnerability with thoughts. I flickered between thinking and non-thinking, mildly overwhelmed by the crash of emotion I’d just encountered in a matter of minutes.

How powerful it is to just sit with an emotion.

We are so adept at doing everything but sitting with our emotions. We’re stellar at justifying, questioning, explaining, analyzing, denying and rationalize our emotions. But just sitting with them? Just looking them dead on and inviting them in? It’s as if we don’t trust that the emotion will leave. If we let it in it will make a home, it will tear us apart, it will fill every crevice of our being and drown us in its enormity. 

I’m challenging us to release this fear, and to welcome emotion with the faith that it will be nourishing experience. A blesson – my new favorite word – a blessing and lesson bundled into one. 

While tonight’s meditation had a visit from Sadness, the other evening I sat with anxiety. I felt it, fully. I turned it over in the stillness of my open palms, tasted it under my unmoving tongue, lifted it and felt its weight with my beating heart. It felt like cracking, flaking plaster; linoleum peeling away from the floor, old wallpaper curling up at the edges. It felt like a surface that couldn’t bear to touch its interior.

After coming out of each meditation, respectively, I noticed the feathery layers of my reaction. I felt intensely alive. Deeply flawed. Perfectly myself. Cleansed. Validated. Accepted. Honest.

I didn’t feel happy, per say, but I didn’t feel blue either. I didn’t feel proud or disappointed, satisfied or discontent. I just felt…like me. Deeply, holistically myself. Pure and simple. And what better way could one possibly feel?

Tonight in yoga my teacher closed class with the affirmation, “I am exactly where I need to be.” What a blessed mantra to accompany the fostering of companionship with one’s emotions. No darkness could be too dark, no rockiness too rocky, no newness too unfamiliar, if one truly believes this.

I am exactly where I need to be. We all are. Once we grant ourselves permission to not just think the words but feel them, believe them to our very marrow…only then can we begin to deeply acquaint ourselves with the harsh beauty of what lives within us; the exquisiteness of our own true nature. Only then can we see, really see, that we are exactly where we need to be.

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Journey Inward

Winter will be upon us in just over a week. Sure, the temperatures of the past week have tried to persuade us that our next season was upon us ahead of schedule – highs have been the low 40’s in the San Francisco Bay Area…positively unheard of – but the beautiful sun is still burning strong, struggling to transcend the frost with her sizzling rays.

I’m the first to admit I’m not a cold weather girl. Californian born and bred, the cold does a real number on me. I’m already one of those people who “runs cold,” wearing socks to bed as a child and becoming a layering master as an adult. Some folks love the hunkering down aspect and are thrilled for an excuse to cozy up and stay inside for a matter of months. For wellness warriors and the active, the shorter days and colder temperatures can prove a sincere hindrance to outdoor activities and perhaps cause frustration. Some go nuts for the holidays while others find traveling in unknown weather conditions and celebration after celebration to be overwhelming. Many people, women especially, even suffer from seasonal affective disorder; depression during the winter months.

But wintertime has more to offer than the holidays and high PG&E bills. It doesn’t have to leave us feeling drained, overweight, grumpy or like a popsicle. Winter is a time of reflection. A time to go inward. We are leaving fall behind and turning over a new leaf, pun intended. Bears hibernate in the winter, birds fly south, even some human beings retreat to warmer climates to pass the cold months. Historically the winter months were a time to add a layer of body fat so as to keep warm; fortunately our society has advanced and we no longer need to rely on this mechanism to fortify our bodies for the cold months. We can maintain our healthy, active, holistically balanced lifestyles throughout the darker, colder portion of the year, but only so far as feels natural. To live in tune with the earth and the seasons means being comfortable with a shift.

During winter, most of us are better off having warmer, nourishing meals and less raw, crisp, cold food. Unlike summertime when green smoothies and salads are the daily staple, we’re well advised to integrate more hot soups, rich porridges and warming spices into our diet. During winter we can benefit from consuming more high quality protein and fats. We can even enjoy dishes usually served cold, like my maca chocolate sauce over porridge, warmed on the stove. We can take advantage of the shorter days and get more sleep. We can have a hibernation of our own, one that doesn’t require being unconscious or sedentary for three months, but one that still nourishes us on a cellular level.

Making space for deep reflection can be doing any time of year, and is a practice I keep regularly. Being an emotional, sensitive, Cancerian crab, and a homebody nonetheless, a reflective state is one very familiar to me. Deep reflection, though, the kind that is longstanding, cavernous, affecting…that’s the space in which we find ourselves. As snow falls and covers the ground, as the cold comes and the trees go barren, past seasons are buried under layers of winter. The promise of spring is ever on the horizon, but the icy, prickly, infertile nature of the earth for these few months is almost like one suspended in time. Nothing seems to evolve, rather everything seems to pause. While the earth still spins and the sun still rises, the ground grows cold, freezes, vegetation dies and the leaves and blossoms are lain to rest until March is upon us once again.

May we ever live in tune with nature and not fight this shift. May we deeply nurture our souls by taking Mother Nature’s cue and turning attention inward. Still moving but resting more, retiring earlier. Respecting the earthly rhythms and slowing our evenings, reconnecting a bit with our circadian rhythm. May we not curse the cold but see it as an opportunity to freeze (I realize I’m a Californian writing this, so please don’t fling snowballs at your computer screen in frustration knowing my version of winter is 50 degree weather). Freeze quite literally, but also freeze our energy.

In spring there’s a build-up of energy, gathering momentum and moving into summer, where energy is at it’s peak. Days are long, the sun is hot, physically active hobbies are common and the nights are like a warm bath. We eat less, move more and are in naturally high spirits, generally speaking. Fall is meant to be a gentle period of transition, acknowledging the coming of winter and moving gracefully into a period of quiet reflection. We sometimes don’t take this opportunity, though, because fall is so gorgeous and often we’re blessed with an “Indian Summer.” The luscious, sensuous time of harvest is so overwhelmingly divine that it’s easy to forget what the falling leaves are signaling.

So when winter comes, we often tend to still be rather high energy. Crashing into the cold weather and dark evenings, we can find ourselves drained by the holidays and lack of daylight because we didn’t properly prepare our bodies, minds and spirits for this energetic and seasonal shift. What sort of deep reflection will occur if we’re busy peeling ourselves off the ice cold floor after such a nosedive?

This is precisely why we must take advantage of this last week of autumn. Slow the mind, stabilize the body, maybe even stock up on some essentials for a warm, winter crockpot soup. Take note of some nourishing hibernation practices you like. For me, sitting here cozy and warm writing this is certainly one. As is reading a book with a big mug of herbal tea. Warm baths with essential oil and candles are another. Journaling by the dim, bedside light and laying my head to the pillow earlier rather than later also nourishes me. First step is finding what nourishes you.

Next comes the reflection. It doesn’t have to be pointed, there’s no “aha” moment waiting to arise – or is there? – it’s more a matter of contemplation. Observation. Rumination.

It’s harder to take attention inward for an extended period of time when the world around us is hustling, bustling and brilliantly sunlit till 9pm. During winter, it’s quiet and cold. Our side of the world gets dark at 5pm, like the earth is offering our bodies a longer period of time reset overnight. Rather than fighting this natural, seasonal progression and trying to cling to one’s summertime lifestyle, sink into winter. Sink into her with ease, with grace, letting her arrive in all her wintry wonder. Letting her lay a blanket of quiet over a previously noisy and busy mind.

May we flow harmoniously into the cold, dark nights, adding blankets to our beds and more boiled water to our cups. May we journal about what we discover during this inward journey, allowing our the reflections to surface as they will, in their own time. May we anchor in stillness and pass the cold months with patience, relishing in the naturally given opportunity for self-study. May the bedazzled canopy of the wintry night sky ever light our introspective journey.

Peace, love and light. Namaste.

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Choosing Kindness

You know those irritating people and situations in life? The ones that pop up probably on a daily basis and instantaneously make our hair stand on end, that immediately slither under our skin? Those scenarios and acquaintances that, in a moment’s notice, have the power to disrupt our sense of calm? The ones that never get old in their annoying-ness and can always, somehow, just make us so damn irritable?!

You know what I’m talking about. Well, I’m calling for us to take our power back.

Because, you know what? Those people are never going to go away. Those situations are never going to stop manifesting. We are the ones that have to change. Not ourselves, but our perspectives.

It took me some time to figure this little one out – I know, I know, it seems like common sense, right? – I kept running into the same glass walls. A person at work would be doing something technically against the rules, day in and day out, and I’d think, maybe I should complain to management and they’ll set them straight. I began to take their minor, insignificant rule-breaking personally (because that’s going to help!) and found myself seething every time I’d witness their misconduct. In reality, said misconduct really has no effect on me. I sleep no better or worse for them milking the clock a little or misusing their work time. Sure, I’m working hard for less money per hour, so that’s annoying, but is it worth my cortisol levels rising with alarming rate over another person’s chosen acts? No. Not even remotely. 

Then someone at work, who has always irritated the daylights out of me, began to get really irritating. Like, significantly more irritating than before (or so I thought). Again, I found myself thinking of asking a superior to somehow lessen this person’s annoying-ness. Ha. See the pattern here? It began to grow. I was watering this evil little seed with my thoughts. Oh yeah, I’ll just say something, maybe even anonymously, and they’ll make that person stop…they’ll fix the situation…they’ll take away what’s annoying me.

Then one day I just realized – it’s me. I’m the annoying situation! 

These people have always been the same, these situations relatively unchanging. I just began to take it personally. I made the choice to let this stuff irritate me! The people and the situations remained untouched, completely obvious (save for my stupid, menacing stare) to my annoyance. The only person I was hurting was me.

So, what did I do? I took a page straight out of Byron Katie’s The Work and began to love what is.

I began to realize we will always be faced with these scenarios of utter frustration. It is the way of life. So I choose to take a reasonable approach, to think of this situation in terms of rectifying it, rather than just stewing in the filth that is my own grumbling.

I find myself wondering, what is it about me lately that is conjuring up this irritation? Surely it’s not them. It’s not those people and what they’re doing, it’s not the situations themselves or the fact that I’m in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” I’m the one allowing myself to be ill affected by all of these triggers.

So what are we mere mortals to do in a world where annoying experience run rampant, where people goad us and traffic happens no matter how many curse words we sputter? We must choose not to bite. We must look at that tempting, ooey-gooey cookie of complaining and mental disturbance and say no thanks. As delicious as it can be to surrender, to give in to our subconscious, our lower mind, and just babble on like an angry lunatic over things that, in reality, are really just not that big of a deal…it’s not worth it.

What I realized in my fruitless attempts to mentally change so many people and situations around me, people and situations completely outside my realm of control (as if I even have a realm of control in the first place), is that I was causing myself all sorts of angst and discomfort. I was making my own life miserable by willingly getting into the taxicab to ticked-off-land and paying the driver double!

I realized that this behavior of mine was having no effect on the outside situations or people and was having every effect on me. Negative effects. I was taxing my own nervous system, my adrenals, my precious endocrine system, the sacred space that is my MIND. I was littering my holy temple with CRAP!

So I said ENOUGH.

And I chose kindness. Well, first I had a little taxicab confessional. I found the light and love in each one of those precious, divine, annoying-as-hell little people I’d been so bugged by for so many months. I recognized our humanity, the special space we share, the space all human beings share. We all want to avoid suffering. If nothing else, we can all relate on that level. I began to extend more love and kindness to these people, in increasing dosages. I gradually shifted my behavior towards them, so not to come off as a Jekyll and Hyde looney tune, going from sheer indifference to pure, unadulterated loving acceptance. What I found was, not only did the shift seem to make them feel more appreciated and valued, but it made me feel better. Imagine that!

Sure they still do the irritating things, but I find that it no longer irritates me. I can’t even classify it as “irritating” because it only ever was irritating in the first place due to the lens through which I was perceiving everything. Once I changed the lens, the definition became altogether different. Naturally I’m human and the triggers still tug at my coattails sometimes, but I just smile demurely and repeat the mantra my darling Mumma so often says. Stupid and cheerful. When all else is failing and my irritation is fighting to get the best of me, just be stupid and cheerful. Because what matters more, being right or being kind?

I’m still working on expanding this intention to encapsulate annoying situations too, like horrendous traffic and the dishwasher breaking. It’s more difficult when “the other” is an inanimate object, I’ll admit. But it’s worth trying. It’s worth trying regularly, even religiously. Because it’s a practice, this extension of loving kindness, this observation of compassion. It’s a practice and it is one that I keep not just for the other drivers or the dishwasher or my brilliantly, beautifully, perfectly flawed co-workers…but for myself. I practice for my brilliantly, beautifully, perfectly flawed Self.

 

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Why Changing Means You’re Living A Radically Authentic Life

I’ve had the honor of being a MindBodyGreen contributing author for a year and a half now. I adore this community, and being published here truly was the catalyst for my realizing I CAN anchor my passion in purpose. The notion that I could share this passion for wellness and authentic living with the world was intoxicating.

It’s interesting for me to look back on my journey as an MBG writer thus far. I see much growth, and much change. I can map my own personal journey over the past 15 months! I’ve done a lot of evolving. I’ve become even more dedicated to my own wellness. I shifted into an entirely plant-based diet and even chuckle rereading my “anti-labels” article where I call veganism “narrow-minded” or something like that. Hey kettle, you’re black! I’m now totally vegan.

There’s certainly nothing I’ve written that I would look at now and say, “That’s bologna.” But there are definitely shifts, little bits of growth, pockets where I’ve fostered more understanding, or a different perspective altogether. I’m sure many of you have experienced the same thing, perhaps even felt anxiety about it? Well you know what? That’s OKIn fact, it’s normal!

Authentic living involves change. If we stayed the exact same the whole time we were here on earth, wouldn’t life be so terribly dull? It’s in change that we grow, in discovery that inspiration is fueled. Life is an exploration! I suppose that’s why we write in the first place. Consciously we write so that we can share with others. But deep down we write because we have emotions, thoughts and beliefs to process and digest. We may remain relatively unchanged in terms of what we think and believe, but the potential for growth within that stable framework is exponential. It’s through better understanding of ourselves and this universe that we make space for abundance to come rushing in.

Change goes beyond the mental and physical. There’s also behavioral change to consider, which is essentially a hybrid of the mental and physical change. Mindfully choosing to alter one’s behavior; this type of change can have a huge effect on one’s life, well-being and body.

For a spell in my late teens, I morphed into this diet soda-drinking, sugar and calorie free crazed, “I’d rather eat less and not have to exercise” girl. The thought alone makes me cringe.

I have always been very active and athletic, but this little spell of food fear and gym punishment are part of what most fuel my wellness dedication today.

I now wouldn’t touch diet soda with a 10-foot pole. Instead, I opt for pure water, sometimes even mineral water, with a slice of lemon, cucumber or lime. I pass on the ice cream, which was loaded with sugar, calories and fat, and never agreed with my digestion anyway. Instead, I toss frozen bananas, cherries and cacao into my Vitamix. I used to consider staying up until 2 a.m. normal and sleeping until 11 a.m. appropriate. Now I rise early and retire early. I used to binge drink and binge eat. Now I don’t even drink alcohol (a personal choice on my spiritual path) and I never overeat, out of kindness to the temple that is my body. I used to dread the gym and loathe the time I spent there. Now I unroll my yoga mat and, when leaving drenched in sweat, I sometimes feel baffled by the fact that I even just “worked out,” because that’s so not why I practice.

The byproduct of these changes? Living my most authentic life. Stepping into my authenticity. Feeling happier, and moremyself, than I ever could have imagined.

Authentic living involves change. It’s reality, and it’s beautiful. Look back over your old journals, if you’ve kept them (which I highly recommend everyone do), and see how steadfast you’ve been in the past. Relationships, jobs, opinions, fears … we often become staunchly reliant on these titles, these attachments.

But they are not us. They’re simply experiences we are having, lessons we’re learning, research we are doing, if you will. It’s OK for them not to change, but it’s also OK if they do change. The mere fact that we live in bodies made up of cells changing with each passing second serves as a reminder that our subtle body is vibrating with as much energy as is our physical body. Where there is vibrational energy, there is unlimited potential for growth.

Change is good; change doesn’t mean you’re inauthentic. It means you’re living the most on-the-pulse, radically authentic life you could possibly imagine.

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*As seen on MindBodyGreen.
**Image courtesy of MindBodyGreen via Stocksy.com.

Loving What Is

What is it about human nature that so deftly fights what is, so nimbly spars with the starkness of reality?

We fight our own nature day in and day out. At least most of us do. We build up so much resistance around what simply is. Aging, emotions, death, growth, weather, traffic, unexpected events, plans changing, bodies changing, minds changing…we fight our own reality.

I study the teachings of some of the worlds greatest spiritual teachers. Byron Katie, Pema Chadron, the Buddha. All of the teachings, though woven through words unique in their luminosity, are the same at their root. These teachers would be the first to point this out, I’m sure. At the core, all of them are saying the same thing… Love. What. Is.

The notion is so simple, really. If we can fall in love with the way things really are, rather than our safe, fabricated story, we can live in ease. We can flow.

But we don’t, do we? Do you? I don’t. I practice every single day; I sit for meditation, I live in my yoga, and still…the practice goes on. It’s the practice of a lifetime.

People fall out of love. Bodies age. People die. It rains when it was supposed to be sunny. There’s traffic when you didn’t expect it. Tomorrow doesn’t go as yesterday did. Our expectations aren’t met.

I don’t know about you, but just compiling that list sparked a familiar tightening sensation in my chest. Resistance…

How are we to live lives of ease and peacefulness when we carefully constructed stories, fortresses built up high around our little selves, in hopes of protecting and preserving what is, by nature, bound to change?

It’s an ugly predicament. One from which we can only free ourselves. There’s no magic pill, no magic book and no magic teacher to pull us along with this one. It all happens inside. Perhaps that’s the scariest part of all. The introspection. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Learning to see our stories as merely that – stories.

I am guilty of wanting every day to be the same, on the surface. Ideally I would have the same routine everyday, carefully controlled so as to check off all the boxes and accomplish all I wish to accomplish with plenty of time to revel in the satisfaction of a job well done. A day well lived. But is that reality?

HELL NO!

That’s rubbish, if anything. Sure, the idea of having control over one’s life is lovely, but the truth is we just don’t. Believing we are able to direct the flow of the Universe only builds inflexible, angst-ridden human beings. I know because I was one of them. I spend each day moving away from that form of myself.

What else is rubbish is the idea of an unchanging life. There’s security in it, sure, but is there excitement? Joy? If you planted some seeds in your backyard and they just stayed that way, never grew into flowers, how satisfying would that be? Now, in order to enjoy the flowers growing, one must accept that, inevitably, the flowers will die. It’s a hard pill to swallow, I know. Accepting the yin with the yang.

But we like to grind against the grain. It’s human nature. We want what we can’t have. We make lists. We plan. We scheme. We pray and pray for things to go our way. The truth of the matter is…change is inevitable. You are different than you were when you began reading this. I am different than I was when I began writing it. On a cellular, and spiritual, level we are constantly in flux. Change, in fact, is the only constant.

We will age. Our skin will sag and wrinkle, one day. We are mortal. We will not live forever, neither will the people we love and admire. We will change our minds. Sometimes it will be painful and other times completely liberating. Other people will change their minds and we won’t be able to control it. Sometimes it will feel for the better and sometimes it will feel for the worse.We’ll get stuck in the rain, and in traffic, and in pants that once fit but we’ve now grown out of. Babies will grow up and learn to fend for themselves and eventually leave home. Jobs, relationships, homes and identifications will reach a point where they no longer serve us. We will be better caring for ourselves by manifesting a state in which we can recognize this, and free them to the beckoning winds.

Wouldn’t life be dull if everything looked the same? If the whole world were covered with forest, or desert? If it were always summer, or winter, or spring? Wouldn’t it get old at some point? There would never be any surprise, any deep sigh of acceptance as we embrace the newness of what has come to be.

Death is the hardest part of all this, for me. I’ve written before about how my yoga practice has, in a sense, lifted my fear of death. What lies beneath that, though, is the harrowing realization that the death of those I love is a haunting notion. One I can’t even bring myself to entertain because it’s just too painful.

In the past month I’ve known of three souls who’ve passed away. There’s a distance by which I “knew” each of them, in varying degrees. The first is an elderly woman, a regular shopper at my store, who passed away suddenly. Her husband has been roaming the store in the weeks following her passing, as though searching for her shadow. She must be there, in the aisles, someplace… They came in together daily, sometimes twice daily, and he was always so jovial, even when his wife was petulant. He just always seemed happy to be with her. Well, when I saw him last week his blue eyes were wet with what seemed to be permanent tears. He clutched me in an embrace. They’d been hit when driving and, unbeknownst to them, she’d suffered head trauma that led to bleeding on the brain. Four days after the accident she was gone. In the blink of an eye. His whole world, swept out from beneath him. “I just don’t want to leave,” he said, choked with unshed tears. “So stay,” I told him steadily, “you have family here.” He took me in another hold-on-for-dear-life embrace and I transferred all of the healing energy I could into his dear, aching heart, then I released him.

Just a few days ago I learned of a girl from my hometown, several years older than me, an old volleyball teammate, who passed away unexpectedly the day after Thanksgiving. At 28 she fell into a diabetic coma and passed away. The day after Thanksgiving. I’ve been haunted by this event, this tragedy. The entire town is, in fact. We’re from a very small town where everyone knows each other. For a stunning, physically gorgeous, popular, wonderful girl to pass away so suddenly, and the day after a holiday no less, has proven shocking and the grief in my little town is palpable, even from all these miles away.

Then yesterday I learned of the famous actor Paul Walker’s sudden and tragic death. I made the mistake of reading about it online just before bed. I couldn’t help but reel in my deeply human reaction to the details. How can someone be there one instant, and gone the next?

It’s just haunting. The whole notion. I mean, by definition it’s natural, it’s what happens. With life there is death. That is just the truth, that’s what is. What’s haunting is the pain for those left behind. Those asking, why? The sadness is for us, not them.

Their souls are perfectly preserved, moved on to their next journey. No doubt they are whispering to us, fret not, this is how it’s supposed to be, your life is going exactly where it’s meant to for having loved and lost me…and I am going where I’m meant to for having left earth in the way I did!

Okay, there’s no way for me to know what exactly a departed spirit would whisper to those left behind, but I believe to my very marrow that it’s something just like that. My mom has said to me, while I weep at the bone-chilling sadness of tragedies (as I so often do, this sensitive little soul experiencing outside events as though they were happening to me), honey you have to trust that there is a bigger picture here, a bigger story. It’s so true. My mother, as I’ve said before, is my greatest spiritual teacher. It’s so hard to believe that, when a parent has to bury their child, that it’s all happening as it’s meant to. That the loss is serving a purpose, for the departed soul as well as everyone left behind.

Our lives change course for a reason, and they’re almost never sent in a different direction without some life-altering, often horrific, sometimes just deeply intense circumstance. Nothing is happenstance. The Universe has a plan. It’s often through death that laws are made, and future lives are saved. It’s through death that change is instigated. It’s through death that certain morals and messages are suspended in time, untouchable, like Martin Luther King’s dream, before being undertaken by the supporters, the mourners, the ones left behind.

There is a purpose. Love is at the core. Love is always at the core. We wouldn’t weep for those we’ve lost if we hadn’t loved them, and we wouldn’t weep with joy for new beginnings if they too weren’t laced with love.

We must learn to love change. There’s no other way about it. We must see the love in change, the love in what is, and embrace it. Become one with it. Or else we will spend our entire lives fighting a losing battle. Pushing up against resistance that has the whole world at its back. We will be trampled, and we will miss out on the precious moments of our own valuable lives.

We never know how long we have. Here on earth, with one another, in these bodies we call “ours.” We never know for certain. So why should we waste so much time pinching our middles, wishing away traffic, complaining about people, pretending that tomorrow will be the same as today and pretending we’d really want it to be.

It’s a practice, and a thick potion to drink, I realize. But it’s a practice. We are all working on it, separately but together. It may never be second nature to just love what is. But making a lifetime of the practice, fully dedicating oneself to loving…what…is… sure sounds a heck of a lot better than spending a lifetime draped in the veil of ignorance, believer of one’s own stories, never fully embracing what’s all around…never fully embracing what is.

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