Unrestrained by Demons

It’s been quite a year. Can you relate? I’m not speaking of 2016 (although…my heavens, 2016 has been filled with revelations and reckoning), but rather the last 12, 13, 14 months themselves. The last…long while. So much self-reflection and quite painful investigation into the what’s and why’s of this life.

It can get heavy. Being an emotional being can at times be draining, can leave us feeling depleted and weepy. The lows can get as low as they get high. It can become incredibly daunting to process the ups and downs of life, to navigate one’s own emotional liberation, while still going out everyday and operating as a functioning member of society. That sounds dramatic, but do you ever feel as though the sheer weight of processing your own grievances feels like a full-time endeavor? One you want to just commit yourself to for a week (or five), in solitude, surrounded by healing, supportive space and silence? It’s so challenging to sort through our thoughts when we’re burdened by the need to simultaneously work, maintain relationships, construct the outward appearance of having it all together (not that we’re meant to pretend that our suffering doesn’t exist, but most days no matter how lost in our heads we want to get, we still have to be adults and live our lives). This is reality, despite the suffocating moments of fear and anxiety that visit us all, from time to time.

It can be really tempting to live a life shut off from that emotional processing. Because it’s just hard. The idea of avoiding all that mess can seem easier. Sometimes denial can look, from afar, like such a cozy alternative; not having to feel our feelings, not being blindsided and ambushed by the underbelly of what it means to be an emotional creature in this huge, undulating universe.

But I would never again choose that alternative. I’ve lived in it before; the stuffy, damp, darkly shrouded realm of denial. It’s isolated. It’s claustrophobic. It actually doesn’t feel safe at all. If you’ve ever been there, you probably know that it feels like laying in a dark room with a heavy box on your chest. Even though the box may be like Pandora’s, filled with a whole mess of stuff, it can be far more productive, albeit terrifying, to throw open the windows and start sorting through the aching feelings and thoughts that lay locked up and waiting for our attention.

This stuff – the wading through the suffering, I mean – is, as I view it, the price we pay for being alive.

I’m currently reading (slowly, savoring) my favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert’s, newest book Big Magic. Liz’s prose slay me. She is, as I say, one of those authors that “makes you feel so much more comfortable with being alive.” Because, let’s be honest, the human condition can feel really intense, lonely, daunting, and uncomfortable at times. Liz reminds us that fear (insert: trepidation, personal demons, struggles – all manifestations of fear) is always with us. She suggests that we be inclined to accept and embrace our fear. Invite it along on the journey we are taking with creativity (insert: love, joy, adventure, abundance – all manifestations of creative living). Her brilliant concept is that, on this road trip of life, we are driving, creativity gets the front seat, and fear gets the backseat. Fear is welcome to come along (because we don’t actually have any choice in the matter, do we?), and it is allowed to speak up, but it does not get to decide where we’re going. It does not get to lay its hands on the map, or even fiddle with the radio station (Liz, seriously, is my greatest inspiration as a writer – this stuff comes from the creative depths of her imagination – what a vision! – get thee to a bookstore and buy yourself Big Magic).

What a notion, right? I feel, and I’m speaking for myself here, that the overwhelming urge is to banish fear, and all its expressions, from my life. I have been standing outside the car, arms crossed, brow furrowed, tapping my toe impatiently waiting for fear to unbuckle, get out of my backseat, and let me get on with my journey.

I might as well turn my distressed gaze upward and start looking for pigs flying.

I’m not proposing, nor is my great hero Elizabeth Gilbert, that we should be super comfortable with the idea of carrying fear around in our back pockets. It’s uncomfortable; it’s supposed to be. But this is the non-negotioable byproduct of having been gifted the most exquisite opportunity of creative living (which we all have been gifted, by being born as human beings with opposable thumbs and incredible cognitive function and hearts so gloriously capable of being wrecked by love that they could just swallow up the whole world with their power for adoration).

We all have our “things” that hold us back. We all have our demons. But we are worthy of living lives unrestrained by demons. If we can, collectively, stop waiting for the demons to release us, for fear to get out of the car, and just realize this uncooperative passenger is going to endlessly serve as a beacon of where we don’t wish to go (because, at its root, fear is a mechanism of self-preservation, sounding off when danger might be present), we can see its purpose. We are high-functioning human beings with the discerning power to notice when we are being chased by a lion and fear should get to use its lung power with all its might, for good rather than evil…and when faith, love, intuition, and creativity are being drowned by the drunken, garbled hollering of our backseat fear (who somehow seems to have climbed onto the dashboard and got its sticky hands on a microphone).

We have the capacity to take a step back, look at our lives, and see where we’re being pinned (or, sometimes, glued) to a spot we no longer wish to be. We have the power to investigate why we’re immobilized. We have the capability to change that.

I have a tendency of getting stuck in a rut. I am fearful of change, and the unknown brings me great anxiety. A life of ritual and routine has brought me great comfort. My chest grows a bit tight at the image of jet-setting wanderlusts, living out of suitcases and going where the wind blows. No, no, I’ll wait patiently for my niiiiiiice, detailed itinerary please.  But that’s just me. And a huge part of this presses is in getting to know ourselves, and embracing our quirks and tendencies. Learning, through trial and error, where to push our boundaries and where to respect our needs. I went heaving and hyperventilating into a 3-month study abroad venture overseas back in 2009. I literally fought for breath and sucked on tears as I wrestled with the militant French operator and a dinky little calling card in a Parisian phone booth, begging my mom to come and visit because WHO DECIDED IT WAS OKAY TO PUT AN OCEAN BETWEEN US FOR A QUARTER OF A YEAR and I hadn’t slept in 36 hours and HOW DID I GET TO FRANCE?

By the end of my trip I was seriously devoted to finding a way (ANY way) to stay in Italy, cash in my plane ticket, and preserve the little world I had created with my friends in this foreign land where everything exotic had become familiar and reality was suspended in favor of 20 year old, wide-eyed, first-time independence.

…didn’t see that coming.

What made it so wonderful and tolerable was that, after the initial shock and severe discomfort of having no familiarity, no routine, and no way of predicting what was ahead…I reestablished all of those things that kept my needs met. I made routines. I settled into my Florentine flat, put my belongings in their new places, found a local market, carved new neural pathways in my brain, got to know my surroundings, created nourishing relationships, and set up a daily routine. All while testing my boundaries.

I did return home as planned, fortunately, but I do think back regularly and fondly on my time living Europe as an experience I’m so deeply grateful I had. It showed me I am capable of wrestling fear to the ground and making a run for it.

Letting go of control and powering through the impending horror such an act produces makes for a sweet, intoxicating exhale; like a flood of dopamine, or (on some much smaller level) the ecstatic amnesia a new mother experiences, forgetting the pain and agony of birth upon beholding their precious infant.

It is so tempting to stay on the shore where everything is safe and protected. But, the reality is that we only perceive this space to be safe and protected. It’s a deeply seductive act, for many of us, to try and preserve a sense of stability and safety by putting on our control freak panties and hyper-managing every aspect of our lives. This doesn’t make us safe. This sacrifices sanity for perceived safety. Not even real safety. Just our carefully constructed belief patter of “if I do this, and this, and this, everything will stay okay. I will be safe.” That is a very sad and disappointing way to live each day, I think.

I’m not saying we all need to turn our lives upside down, or go jump on a plane and live in Europe for 3 months in order to experience life from a place of love and creativity rather than fear (though maybe the thought makes your heart skip a beat and, actually, is just the type of experience you do need). For many of us, though, the healing medicine can be found on a much smaller scale. It can be accessed in our day-to-day lives. It might just mean doing things differently today than you did yesterday (that is often a big enough shake up for me, honestly, as a diligent creature of habit). It also doesn’t mean things have to be different every single day, because ritual and routine are beautiful and holy, just so long as they don’t come from a place of fear and seal every crack in the structure where love and creativity might try to seep in and stir things up.

Maybe it means starting a creative project or finishing a degree. Maybe it’s finding the courage to use some of that built up PTO and taking a trip. Maybe it’s climbing out of the unemployment shame and getting excited about a new career. Maybe it means going to a yoga class for the first time or revisiting a forgotten passion for hiking. Maybe it means going out to eat, or maybe it means staying in and preparing a favorite recipe. It could mean asking for help. It could be breaking a pattern of isolation and going out with friends, for an introvert. It could be a day or night of self-care and indulgent alone time at home, for an extrovert. Perhaps it’s looking at your body in the mirror and not breaking your gaze until you are able to see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you unconditionally. Maybe it’s a commitment to a new routine, or maybe it’s the courage to break out of a rut. Maybe it’s the act of daring greatly enough to build an avenue between the two.

Whatever it is, whatever your sweet, pulsing heart knows in its very depths is an act of great courage…that is the first step in your journey. We all have demons (not a one of us is immune, no matter how “perfect” someone else’s existence and “put together” life may seem…they too struggle, I promise).

We all experience loss, fatigue, sadness, anxiety, depression, negative self-talk, FEAR. We are all united in this human condition, no matter what ways our fear and creativity display themselves. We may look different, but we are not. We are all the same. We are all paddling our little boats furiously towards freedom and love. But perhaps, in a joint effort of all the eyes reading this, we together can start to see our fear as something new. Rather than a block of darkness, threatening to sink our boat, we can view our fear as something useful. As a necessary component on our journey, an irreplaceable cog in our wheel of healing. A threatening shadow of heaviness to keep the brilliant light from blinding our eyes; a little hunk of pressure providing just enough weight to slow our speed, so that we don’t race feverishly past all the opportunities to pause, and be shattered by the staggering beauty of how very far we’ve already come.

 

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Honey in the Heart ~ Gemini Full Moon

Full moon in Gemini tomorrow morning at 4:27am (for us in California…7:27am Eastern, 11:27am for my Aussies and 1:27pm in Europe). The sun is still in Sagittarius, which interestingly, the moon also was when we set intentions at the start of this cycle. This celestial positioning is really supportive of seeing visions to fruition. Finishing what we started (perfect timing for the end of a lap around the sun, yeah?). As the year closes, let’s harness this full moon potential more than any of the 11 before it. There’s mercurial energy abounding, beckoning clarity and truth, full disclosure with Self and other. I’ve been sensing a strong urge in the cosmos to incite the SEEKER within. Do you feel it? We are all seekers, by nature, but our external attachments and identifications can distract us and potentially even knock us off this path. It’s mean to be that way. That’s part of the seeking. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. It is VERY easy to leak all of our energy into the abyss, focusing on “action” and losing sight of VISION. The Gemini full moon begs both logic and intuition, a sultry yoking of yin and yang. Making sh*t happen whilst staying rooted in Grace and Divine Femininity. The energy building is like the trembling felt before a quake. You know? Pebbles rattling forth and back, cracks in the pavement bracing themselves to split wide open and let the mirth of Divinity erupt. This is a precipice. Not one of destruction; yes this quake will do some demolishing, it will leave a gaping hole, but it is just the surgically reconstructive measure you’ve been calling forth into your life this entire year. Think about it…this little calm before the storm, fully illuminated by Chandra Herself, is a sacred space in which to have a little dance, take a good look at what’s about to unfurl, and invite some lighthearted play into your realm. Make space for all that is to burst forth organically. There’s no work to be done but to be present and to foster the needle-fine thread of balance between inward devotion and outward expression. Don’t bottle up a thing; express everything you’re feeling, COMMUNICATE, whether it’s to the pages of your journal, your partner, your own spirit or the Goddess Herself. Remember how POTENT the full moon energy is. It amplifies everything. So be wise and meticulous about said communication. Be playful and easy but also rooted in vision. Let the magnified energy of abundance assist you in weaving a sturdy equilibrium between action and vision. Let the high energy FEEL GOOD. Let Chandra illuminate within you what is already organically there. Let the seeds you’ve planted be fertilized. Sit in the moonlight, lick the raindrops from your chin, set out your crystals to charge and your moonfusion elixir to steep. It’s time to let go. It’s time to release. Fortify yourself for the coming solstice and the return of the sun by gently laying fear down, a sweet and grateful release, as it’s led us to where we are right now. Lay fear down gently, my loves, and plunge honey heart first into the sweet, warm, pulsing energy of all you’ve manifested…into the sacred nectar of life that awaits. Happy full moon, earth angels. ❤

DarkMoon

Convergence

This is the time to be focused on setting intentions. I mean, really putting your entire being into it. The autumnal equinox is Tuesday, closely followed by Wednesday’s new moon. This latent energy is sooo powerful and it’s just WAITING for you to tap it. What do you seek in your life? What do you wish you could change? What, if anything, would you blink into existence if you could this very moment? YOU are in control of your actions, YOU make the rules. Use this power. Harness it. Turn your eyes to the sky, open your palms and unfasten the latch of your heart … let Divinity pour in. You have the power. What are you planting?

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It is no coincidence that mama earth’s new moon cycle begins right on the heels of the autumnal equinox. This convergence of energy is pooooootent. Don’t underestimate it. A space of deep release, renewal and utmost potential – as inherent beings of Divine light we are always poised on the precipice of our highest potential, but these celestial events magnify and heighten the intentions we are setting and the vibrations of manifestation we emit into the universal frequency on a daily basis. USE this time. Don’t underestimate your innate power to create your life, down to the sweetest little pockets that are hidden from the rest of the world. Find some space this evening to retreat inward…design an image of the life you desire. Envision the energy that naturally builds (that feeling in your belly or chest that bubbles up when you really melt into the details of a fantasy of joy and contentment) emanating from your very being. Like little cell messengers floating into the abyss to do the work of the Divine. Journal your intentions, or simply state them aloud. Acknowledge the things that no longer serve you, the things you wish to release, or even scrawl them onto paper and burn them at sunset. Whatever you decide to do, give yourself the gift of intention-setting and the gift of mindful release. Then let go. Palms upward, heart open, set free everything that you wish to cultivate as well as everything that is no longer serving you. Emptying the container so as to be filled. This life is a sacred gift. May we live it to our fullest potential in every breath. Namaste ❤

The equinox is just after midnight here in this realm, and the new moon is tomorrow. Join me for an #SMF (social media fast) and tap deeply into the current of energy, the conscious collective, by abstaining from all web distraction for the remainder of the equinox and new moon. Let the Divine infiltrate your cellular matrix. Be free.

Burning Karma

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 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 . . .

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Pay Attention

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…

INTEGRITY.

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…

 

Namaste

 

 

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Presence

How present are you, on a daily basis? It’s SO easy to get caught up in what I call the “windows.” The “5 minutes ago” and the “5 minutes from now” windows. Maybe even the “30 seconds ago” and “30 seconds from now” windows…it’s a part of my practice, trying to stay present. It’s a practice that requires diligence, constant maintenance. Because just when you think you’ve got it, just when you release your attention…boom, you’re back in the windows. So what to do?

I find it helps to have little rituals. Here are some of my go-to practices as examples…

•Food Blessing: Sitting down to a meal (sitting, not standing!) and committing to 3 deep breaths. A moment of gratitude for the food I’m blessed to have on my table, and a small prayer mantra of gratitude. Presence.
•Nature Connection: While it’s ideal to get out IN nature and immerse ourselves in it, some days just getting out into the neighborhood for a walk or standing in the sun can have an immeasurable effect. Even when I’m standing at the crosswalk waiting for the light to turn, I make a habit of closing my eyes and feeling the sun on my face…really noticing the sensation of the breeze on my skin, the way it makes little strands of hair tickle my face. Presence.
•Meditation: While ideal, meditation does not HAVE to be twice daily for 20 minutes a sitting, in a dedicated space, like clockwork. While these circumstances are supreme in allowing time and space for deep stillness and silence, it’s not accessible to every person every day. So make space wherever you can. Space to close your eyes, quiet (quiet, not clear! The clearing comes later, hopefully) your mind, and BREATHE. First thing in the morning or last thing at night, in that space before a meal, after yoga practice or exercise, for the last 5 minutes of your lunch break, every time you go pee during the day (NOW we’re getting Holy!!  Seriously though, that adds up! ANY time that is free of distraction and available for closed eyes and steady breathing…TAKE IT!), for a moment at a red light, when waiting for an appointment (when waiting for any reason, really…). Presence.

Those are just a few. I’m sure your brilliant Selves can come up with 100 more in just a breath. The point is, these tiny maneuvers in our daily lives can fortify our essence of presence tremendously. I am beginning to learn, in my practice, that I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. That’s the human condition…so how can we unravel the tightly wound way of life? How can we unspool the thread that is our moment-to-moment existence? How can we unwrite the “rules” that say we must do something a certain way for it to be “enough” or sufficient? By breathing. By moving into each moment with grace and ease. By continuing to remind ourselves to release what happened 5 minutes ago, it no longer belongs to us, but rather to the past. By continuing to remind ourselves that what will happen in 5 minutes does not yet belong to us. By continuing to remind ourselves, diligently, that our most prized possession is our very Self…in this very moment. Inhale. Exhale. Presence.

 

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A Good, Fierce Practice

The first of the 8 Limbs of Yoga are the Yamas, the conscious restraints of our behaviors, of which there are 5. I find myself, of late, balancing between the second and fifth yamas…satya, truthfulness, and aparigraha, non-possessiveness. The others are ahimsa, non-violence, asteya, non-stealing, and brahmacharya, moderation. In the practice of satya I find myself gravitating towards the element of non-judgement…holding space for those who don’t flow the way I flow, allowing their differences to teach me rather than unsettle me, staying grounded in opposition and finding an even deeper anchor in the steady practice of remaining compassionate.

It is a very human urge to judge. We make judgements all day long, every day, from simple (“I should drink more water right now because I’m thirsty,” to complex, “I should tell my husband he needs to pay more attention to me because I’m beginning to feel detached from the relationship,”). Just because a judgement comes up does not mean it’s fair, correct or appropriate, but it comes up nonetheless. In my practice of satya, which also encompasses being honest and forgiving, I aim to see clearly the thoughts I have and judgements I pass rather than trying to stifle them. I meet them with kindness and love. I examine, dispassionately, their truthfulness and concede that, inevitably, there is always an element of falsity to one’s own judgements.

It is also quite human to be possessive. Possessive of time, possessions, even other people (this is where it has been trickiest for me). It makes me think of the story of the traveling monk. A man meets a monk in an airport. The man is sitting with his humble suitcase, waiting for the plane to arrive. The monk is sitting across from him with nothing, hands folded peacefully in his lap. The man smiles at the monk, and asks him, “Where is all your luggage?” The monk smiles back, “You yourself only have one small suitcase, where is the rest of your luggage?” The man glances at his conservative suitcase, “Oh…I’m just passing through,” the man says with a shrug. A gentle pause, and the monk replies, “So am I.”

Point being…how does a suitcase full (or, let’s be honest, HOUSE full) of possessions really serve us? In many ways we are served by the things we own, we use them daily and are grateful for them. But in many other cases they simply weigh us down, like anchors around our ankles. Keeping us stagnant, keeping us stuck at home paying for the expensive things by which we are surrounded. What I find is worse, in my experience, is being possessive of another human being. We cannot own one another, we cannot even own our own selves. Our spirits, yes, but these bodies and minds are temporarily on lend from God.

The Divine has placed us for a certain amount of time on this planet to — what? To do what? My answer is to BE LOVE. Not to own the world’s finest things, not to own one’s partner or children or dearest friends, not to base one’s self-worth on the accumulation of material goods or even notions…but to be good and do good. To love oneself and one another. To leave a mark on this planet, a jet stream if you will, of truth and love. Of light. Of authenticity. To have lived fully, for one another, humbly and with utmost regard to the phenomenon of this opportunity at human life. To have all that we have, and to have it for the great lengths that we do. The blessing of cognitive reasoning to even have this conversation, to even digest this notion of living more simply so as to open oneself up to love and freedom. Because that is what the 8 Limbs of Yoga are about…leading one in a solo, spiritual, cosmic journey towards liberation. Freedom. I certainly don’t anticipate getting to the 8th limb, which is Samadhi (enlightenment) in this life, and frankly I wouldn’t want to. I have much work to do at the bottom rungs. I have been blessed with the lives preceding this one to know that I have done much work already, and now I am consciously aware of the ladder before me. I start at the very base rung, on the very first yama, and work my way upwards…with integrity, passion, awareness, purposefulness and, above all, gratitude.

This practice of yoga is one that is lifelong, if so we choose (and it’s quite obvious I’ve chosen). There are fierce practices that can last a lifetime embedded in each yama itself, not to mention the intricacies of the other 8 Limbs. This practice will not gift us with immediate relief from the suffering of life. In fact, quite the contrary. The practice will open us up to greater depths of feeling, which can at first cause suffering. But, by always coming back to the yamas, we can ground ourselves in the pulse of our own true nature and not get carried away with self-judgement.

My two chosen yamas for current practice come to mind yet again. Truthfulness – forgiving myself for the urge to judge myself, and embracing my imperfect human tendencies as simply the container for my beyond perfect spirit (all of our spirits are untouchably perfect). Non-possessiveness, being non-attached to the outcome of my practice (a huge challenge) and trusting the process. Practicing diligently, with Grace, and always asking for the guidance of the Divine in the endeavor to stay calm and non-possessive of the very relationship between the tangible self and the God within. I believe that, whether or not one is a yogi, the 8 Limbs are universal. Anyone can practice them. Anybody living out in the world, amongst other human beings, can find a fierce daily practice in these simple yet profound concepts. We are devastatingly beautiful in our humanity…and it is up to us to see and embrace that, as our souls traverse this journey. May we always vow to uplift one another and see our selves in one another, so as to proliferate the most healing energy that could exist…compassion. The work is done on the inside, the effects radiate outward, and the ripples undulate onward…

Namaste

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