Browsing Tag

divorce

Just Say Yes

Working on business stuff at my desk looking out at this cool, rainy Georgia afternoon makes me want to teleport back to the beautiful and wild Pacific coast of Mexico.

Though my life may look like one giant Soul Nourish Retreats trip, I actually spend much of my life working quietly at home. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see those uneventful images all the time though.

While I’m pretty much always most at home, well…at home, at one point in my life I was even more of a homebody. I was constantly seeking stability and structure. I said “no” as a natural response to anything that threatened my predictable life. I said no to parties, dinner dates, concerts, fill in the ________, you name it, I usually said no. Those choices allowed me to feel safe when so much of my life was swirling and unpredictable.

When my world imploded during my divorce I let go ( begrudgingly after life came knocking, then knocking me on my ass). I let go of the structure and stability I had cultivated through much of my adult life. During those challenging times I swung quickly into a life that was completely unstable and unpredictable, it was rather terrifying for someone who craved warmth and safety. Through this shift I realized I missed out on so much of life because I was afraid. Once I had that awareness no longer could I shield myself from the possibilities of life. I forced myself to try saying “yes” even when I was scared. In saying yes to life my whole world changed. I owe the life I have now to that great ( terrible/beautiful) shift. Through this I experienced a taste of liberation that I had never really known. And yes I am still scared to say yes sometimes yet I know that the unknown is where great growth happens.

Much of my life now consists of riding the waves of all these energies. I try my best to explore what balance looks like in each moment, the known and the unknown. I’ve learned to relish the mundane and to appreciate those moments of steadiness for the grounding that it provides. I’ve learned to embrace the wildness and unpredictable nature of life ( well, mostly). For sure, I know one thing I’m enjoying this ride.

1 Year Ago Today

I’ve been in hiding, so it’s only appropriate that this interview with Voyage ATL come out now (thanks Universe).

Yes, I have been full with the studio move, retreats and my already full everyday life but I have also been hiding. To give 100% disclosure I have been struggling for a while.

On a personal level my heart is heavy, I am going through a breakup that has been complicated and emotionally draining. I have been spending a great deal of time watching my shadow, shifting, subtly moving and studying what my next move should be.

Our brand new studio has my physical body. I have given this move so much dreaming, planning, energy and attention. We will be opening for classes this Sunday and I am mostly terrified and anxious.

What if I am making the wrong move?
What if our students don’t show up?
What if…
What if..
What if…

FORM yoga was built out of my darkest days. My entire life had just fallen apart. Everything that I thought was real was revealed warped like a fun house mirror. I was starting over. I was alone and I was terrified.

This was how I was cracked open.

From tragedy beauty was born, as it often happens (or so I have learned). This community healed me and continues to do so on days (or weeks) like this when I struggle. Like the ouroboros, a symbol of creation through destruction, FORM built me right back. It was written in the stars.
Thank you.

1/16/17

Photo by 2TPHOTO on retreat in Maui 10/25/17

Retreat Rumination

Last night I dreamt I was back in Big Sur.

Arriving in San Francisco on an unusually warm August day I was feeling unsettled, nervous yet excited. I had knots in my stomach over my ex-husband’s latest alcohol induced antics that left me scrambling last minute to find care for my son. I felt the old familiar tug of anxiety and self criticism for asking my friends to help with my son while I was away. I packed plenty of guilt and shame for going on retreat to such a seemingly peaceful place and leaving the turmoil, loose ends, chaos (and my son) in Atlanta.

Driving our rented Dodge Charger along down the Pacific coast I swapped stories and shared truths with my dear friend and Soul Nourish retreat partner Shari Fox. We approached the iconic winding roads of Big Sur with the raging ocean far below us on our right and immense cliffs at the roads edge on our left. “Watch for Falling Rock” the caution signs warned every few miles.

We rolled down the windows to test for smoke from the raging wildfire just 15 miles away that would soon close the very roads we drove in on.
Are we there yet?

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Arriving in Big Sur my fingers were cramped from gripping the wheel to steer the car should there have been falling rock as the signs warned. Surely we would have been crushed or pushed far off the cliff into the cold swell below had I not. The damp foggy air smelled mostly of earth and flowers with a hint of campfire smoke. The rugged terrain and relentless surge of the ocean along the jagged boulders far below cliffs at Esalen Institute both intrigued and terrified me. Gazing from the fierce crash of the waves against the cliff to the seemingly still ocean in the distance there was a moment of pure clarity, of belonging. I felt comfortable and at home.

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I came to Esalen to study the Enneagram?mostly because Shari asked if I wanted to go (I would probably jump off that 100 foot cliff at Esalen if Shari asked, we have that kind of trust). I had a deep longing to journey away from home and into myself, to take some time away from the everyday to live in the extraordinary beauty of Big Sur, if only for a week. The romanticism of possibilities swirled in my mind and electrified my body alive, keenly attuned and awake. Then abruptly the tingling-swirl-jolt of excitement stopped and a dullness settled in as I thought of a thousand reasons why I couldn’t go.

“It’s…_______”, fill in the blank. “It’s irresponsible. It’s too expensive. It’s too long to be away.” Then the “shoulds” start…”You should spend that money on a vacation for you and Ansel. You should save that money in case the studio has a bad year. You should stay home, that wild fire is really close and it’s dangerous to travel there.”
If these protests don’t stop me in my tracks the ego usually turns into a nasty little fucker, and this is where it gets real personal. “What makes you think you deserve a retreat? You are just a yoga teacher, is life really that hard? Oh, a retreat huh, you think you are so special. You are selfish to even think of taking a vacation on your own. Your son just decided to not see his alcoholic father anymore and you want to fly to the other side of the country and go on retreat? You are a terrible/selfish/horrible (insert your favorite below the gut adjective here) mother.”

Sound familiar?

I could have easily believed to this rumination to be true, in fact much of my life I did. What I have learned is that these thoughts are limiting boundaries that keep me small. When I have listened to them they only kept me doing, thinking, and behaving in the same dull old ways, they simply don’t allow me to grow. Enneagram expert and the teacher of our retreat at Esalen, Russ Hudson reminded us in class that another definition for rumination is the process that cows use to chew cud. They chew, swallow and regurgitate the same material to chew on once again. What we think are thoughts are generally just patterned ways of thinking, habitual rumination of the same story over and over.

My week on retreat was one of the most satisfying and valuable experiences of my life. Each day was a micro-journey into a deeper experience of wholeness. It was filled with opportunities to deeply connect with myself, with nature and with the people I met along the path (both literally and figuratively). This experience was a gift that I gave to myself not because everything in my life perfectly lined up for it to happen, because it certainly did not. This retreat was truly an amazing experience because of the chaos and turmoil that I had to face to get there.

Chew on that.

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Interested in going on your own retreat??Learn more here.

Keep Out

I don’t recall much happiness in my childhood and I don’t recall much sadness either. I recall some fun times with friends, but my home life not so much. I hear great stories of happy times from my siblings, but those times aren’t mine.

As I approached adolescence the looming divorce of my parents lead to the destruction of the life I once knew. As the youngest of four siblings and only child left at home at the time, I struggled with this change alone. As my parents and siblings struggled to put their own lives back together, abandonment, poverty and neglect slowly started to chip away at my pillars of childhood. As the dust settled the landscape of my life was quite desolate.

In turn I withdrew into my young self. To ensure my own survival I replaced those crumbled pillars with huge solid, sturdy walls. Finally I was safe again, no one or nothing could penetrate these walls. From the outside these walls looked stable and secure, standing guard to keep out anything painful from hurting me ever again. ?What took me 20 something years to figure out is that the walls I built created a house that was dark, dreary and lonely. As?Brené Brown would say, “Numb the dark and you numb the light.” From the dim light inside of the house you could barely make out the slew of claw marks and graffiti from a trapped young girl who wanted out.

It was the shroud of grief during my own divorce in 2012 that began to crack the once impenetrable fortress. Over the past few years those cracks had become larger, and not too long ago the whole house crumbled into a heap (Only when the walls came down did I see that the little girl I had hidden away for safekeeping 20 something years prior was still there.) The years of numbing myself from pain, failure, judgement and sadness had given way to exposing myself to being vulnerable once more. The funny thing was until I tore down the walls I really had no idea I was stuck.

In these past few years I’ve spent time examining and sorting through the debris. And through the destruction I’m learning how to build my own pillars, sturdy, strong and secure. I’m learning to lovingly embrace my darkness and my past and I’m learning to sort them both from my stories. Through my yoga practice I have learned just to show up each day and do my work to be the best version of myself. Some days I can show up with my game strong and other days it’s a real struggle to be seen. What I have certainly learned is this too shall pass. Nothing stays the same, all is evolving (and all is there for examination and interpretation). Most importantly my practice teaches me that only I can radically transform my life, and I can do so by examining and embracing my own darkness. And I can do so only by being open to learning.

So today I’m learning to set boundaries, with myself and with others so that I can create more of what I want in my life (and release that which I don’t want). I’m learning that self love is the indestructible material of which my pillars must be built (I’ve heard there is a hidden quarry of it somewhere nearby…). I’m learning that in order to grow I must be pushed through myself into a larger, more loving and complex version of myself over and over. And each time I am pushed through myself I’m learning that it’s not at all about me and my stories, but it’s all about loving with all I’ve got.

 

 

Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

This weekend my ex-husband is getting married.

Damn him.

I tell myself “That’s mine!”. Not my ex-husband, but the life he has.

Commitment. Family. Marriage.

Those things I am really good at. Those things that I had for so long. Those things that I desire so fiercely and fully that in writing this sentence my heart aches.

It’s happened over and over these past 3 years since my divorce. I am lying in my big, empty bed lonely and exhausted from the day thinking, planning, dreaming. And then it happens. I feel that thick multi-colored blanket of fear, doubt, and uncertainty descending. Getting heavier and heavier upon my chest until I can barely breathe.

You will never be good enough, no one will love and commit to you.

You had a great life and you ruined it.

You expect too much from people. No one will ever satisfy you, don’t even try.

What makes you think you can be successful at owning a business?

Why do you think you have the authority to teach anything valuable to your yoga students?

You want too much in life, you should just be happy with what you have.

In my 36 years I have told myself many bedtime stories about what I am and what I am worthy of. And though I am a yoga teacher and I should know better, I still struggle with turning the page of these stories. The truth is I am afraid I’ll grow old and die alone. I am afraid that I don’t have all my shit together with owning and managing FORM {yoga}. I am afraid of being some fake-ass yoga teacher that only spews love and light. And the truth is I AM happy with what I have, I just want more.

“Your darkness is shining. My darkness is shining. Have faith in myself. Truth.” Alexander

I am learning the beauty of these struggles allow me to connect to my truth. These stories teach me that my darkness, my struggles make me beautiful. I am learning that unraveling all these thoughts and examining them will allow me to see them fully for what they are: beautiful bedtime stories.

Life Moves On

For the past few years have been living in a state of struggle. A few years ago when I began to experience these difficulties I assumed these specific challenging events of my life would pass and I could move on with my life. Surely the struggle would end when my house sold or when I finally hired an attorney to help with my divorce. Surely things will calm down when I find a new home for the kids and I or when my love life settles in to a comfortable ease. Maybe life will be better once my daughter changes schools and I teach less classes. I certainly didn’t think years later the struggles would still be lingering about clouding my vision like a thick fog.

Not too long ago I had a lunch date with a few girlfriends with whom I didn’t get to see very often. We spent almost the entire lunch discussing the changes I was experiencing and how I felt stuck within these struggles. I was catching them up on the current drama in my life that had occurred over the past couple months ( I like to joke that I was their living breathing version of a soap opera). We talked about my beautifully messy divorce and my continuing struggles with my ex husband. We talked about my two children and their current hardships having two very different homes and a new baby brother. We talked about my on again/off again boyfriend(with whom I was deeply and madly in love) and our inability to move forward. We talked about the future of FORM {yoga} and the soul searching I faced deciding whether or not to look for a new space and keep it open. We talked about a sudden (and pretty scary) attraction that a secret admirer had taken sending me strange notes and flowers. We talked about my desperate search for a new home for my kids and I.

Basically we talked about life.

I remember sitting with my girlfriends and feeling the slight shifting of perspective that allowed the vision to see once again the absolute truth and beauty of these situations. These struggles ARE life. Life doesn’t halt like a frightened deer in headlights and wait for your struggles to lift before moving onward.

Life moves on.

Life insists that we make choices. Life begs us to dive in and go deep. Life demands that no matter how uncomfortable the situation we simply keep moving forward.

Life is what happens within the struggle, the fear, the discomfort, the uncertainty, the pain, the sadness, the frustration, the heartache. And maybe as our eyes adjust to this new vision of struggle we have more opportunity to experience life in all it’s beautiful mess.

“It’s not about getting over things, it’s about making room for them. It’s about painting the picture with contrast.”
Brianna Wiest

Yoga and the F-Word

Disclaimer; I know what all you yogis are thinking out there, that with a post titled Yoga and the F-Word this has to be a blog post about Bryan Kest. Wrong. Read on.

Three years ago my life was over…or so I thought.

The world I had known and built and loved was pulled out from underneath my feet leaving me stumbling, shrieking, clawing. I was standing at the edge of darkness and staring in the face of fear. I was experiencing the terrible reality of divorce.

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At this time I was 32 years old and I had never been alone. Yes, you read that right, I had never been alone. I was with my husband from the tender age of 15, and we were married three years later after learning that we were going to be parents. My husband and I both came from impoverished homes with our parents always struggling to make ends meet and to get food on the table. We were determined to have a future for ourselves and for our children. We both worked diligently from the beginning of our relationship and made many sacrifices to overcome the struggles we both knew growing up. Over the years we succeeded. We built a booming business together through hard work and dedication. For the last 8 years of our marriage our business had grown successful enough that I had the privilege of staying at home with our children. I spent my days running our household, working behind the scenes in our business, and volunteering in our children’s school and in our neighborhood. Being a strong-willed woman who liked to be in control (to put it nicely, but that is a whole other blog post), I found certainty in my marriage. We were going to grow old together and find ourselves at age 70 on a front porch swing sipping on a glass of sweet tea in the pre-dusk warmth of sticky southern summer days while our grandchildren played in the yard. My husband was my best friend, confidant and the only person in the world that I could depend on and trust.

As the reality of our divorce set in the many faces of grief and loss were swirling within my body and bubbling to the surface. Anger. Fear. Denial. Desperation. I was utterly TERRIFIED. I struggled to get out of bed. I struggled to eat. I struggled to sleep. When I was out of sight of my children I spent most of my day crying, locked inside my house. When I did go out in public I put on my warrior suit and held my head high, but inside I was screaming. I lost faith that I would ever be okay again. I was not even striving for happy, I was merely just wanting to be okay. Needless to say, it was bad.

There it is, the f word...FAITH.

Researcher and storyteller Brené Brown defines faith as “a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” Faith. Much scarier than the other f-word right?

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Over the past couple of years I have found faith again (that journey will come in another blog, another time). In fact faith and I are very dear friends now. And just like with any other relationship, at times we struggle. Sometimes I push faith away because she is just too damn hard to have in my life. She constantly requires me to be present. She demands that I be vulnerable and open. She insists that I lead from my heart and not to make decisions based on fear. Sounds exhausting, right?

As a yoga teacher I strive to teach my students the concept of faith as I understand it. Through a yoga practice faith can be found when we let go of our limiting beliefs. For many of us this is not easy. As we breathe and move through postures on the mat we find ourselves challenged physically and emotionally. Just like in life, it is easy to give up when we are faced with discomfort. But when we are struggling( on the mat or out in the world) we have an amazing opportunity to explore ourselves, our patterns, our reactions. It is EASY to pull out of that utkatasana 10 breaths in when the mind yells “Abort mission!”. The hard part is learning to sit within the storm and to have faith that the discomfort shall pass.

Resolving to accept uncertainty and to choose faith not an easy place to live from, in fact it is very challenging at times. But I know now that no matter how hard it is to live within faith, it is much harder to live without it.

Within the depths of my sorrows and in the gloom of my divorce my yoga teacher Mitchel Bleier passed along this poem to me. Over time these words have carried me toward the shores of uncertainty while holding the hands of my long forgotten friends; courage and fearlessness.

THE TRUE LOVE
by David Whyte

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of the baying seals,

who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,

so that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t

because finally
after all the struggle
and all the years,
you don’t want to any more,
you’ve simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

 

You can find Mandy at FORM yoga in Decatur, Georgia and out in the world leading retreat with Soul Nourish Retreats. Connect with her worldwide on Facebook here and on Instagram here.