Browsing Tag

empower

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.

Going Within

As the world turns and the seasons change nature is showing us how to let go. Autumn leaves start to turn colors, preparing for the cyclical process of shedding that which we no longer need. The colors of the dying leaves enrich us with their brilliant display of beauty before being released back to the earth. The catalyst for this grand display of change is the journey towards darkness. As we head towards the end of our year we turn further away from the sun, the days get shorter and the nights grow longer, symbolically we are moving into the season of darkness. During this time we are reminded to take our own journey within, exploring and bravely traversing all that lies below the surface.

The myth of the ancient Sumerian Goddess Inanna holds the power of the cycles of death and rebirth. This is the heroine’s journey into the descent of darkness, the underworld. We may only enter this place in humility. Here everything we identify with is challenged, uprooted and stripped away. Our identity is obliterated and all false masks and pretenses are annihilated upon entering.

Inanna and Ereshkigal are the two faces of the wholeness, the sister halves of our own self. Together these goddess sisters are light and dark, heavenly and horrible, enticing and repulsive, acceptance and rejection. They are symbolically poised at the gateway of love and the unloved as we undergo the initiatory stages of our descent into ourselves.

Upon the death of her husband Ereshkigal, the ruling goddess of the underworld, calls her sister Inanna to join her below the surface of the earth to attend the funeral. Though Inanna is the Queen of Heaven the rules of the underworld and The Queen of Death, must be obeyed. Inanna mindfully and vulnerably enters the underworld. She enters humbly on her knees, exposed, naked, and stripped of all her clothing and adornments, stripped of all her worldly possessions and everything that she has identified with. When she reaches her sister Inanna is met with the “eye of death”, this look from Ereshkigal instantly annihilates her. Her corpse is hung on meat hooks and left to rot in the underworld.

From our friend Chani Nicholas…”The only beings that come to her aid are two magical helpers who appease Ereshkigal by witnessing her pain, acknowledging it and mirroring her struggle back to her. These beings echo Ereshkigal’s cries and wails. For the first time Ereshkigal is relieved of her pain because she is related to. Accepted. Given some compassion for her struggle. In return for this kindness she gifts them Inanna’s body and the goddess is reborn. Ascending to the Great Above, Inanna is renewed, but is never the same. Now fully awakened by coming into contact with the pain of her other half, Innana is, for the first time, a Queen truly worthy of her crown.

Ereshkigal is the deep reservoirs of power that lay within the unconscious. We cannot come into contact with our full potential until we are willing to descend into our underworlds, reckoning with the truth of what has happened to us. The struggle of marrying the unconscious and the conscious, the Queen of the Great Above, and the Queen of the Great Below, is a process of transformation so intense and painful we can only do it in the underworld. We need deep caverns, incubators, and safe places to grieve and reunite with ourselves.”

In the darkness is where all life begins. It’s where seeds sprout, it’s the fertile grounds in which to truly explore and nourish ourselves. It’s the place of death, transformation and beautifully enough, of all rebirth and growth. It’s the place where all healing and integration to wholeness takes place. When we turn within to forage through our past experiences and identities, humbly stripping ourselves bare, we find endless opportunity for release and unification. Creating time to be quiet with ourselves, to sit, to breathe, to examine, invites endless opportunity to bring all these aspects of ourselves together. Here we can move closed to the acceptance of wholeness and release that which no longer serves us.

Try This:
Find a comfortable place to sit, or lay down to find comfort. Close your eyes and breathe. Tune in to your body, sense the places where your body is rooted to the earth. Keep breathing mindfully. Now imagine all the places where your body meets the earth. Imagine that through your skin roots start to sprout. Each breath in and each breath out nurtures these roots to grow deeper and deeper, spreading out just below the surface of the earth and eventually finding their way deeper down. Imagine as you breathe in you pull energy up from the earth and as you breathe out you are releasing old stories, old pain, and old trauma. Continue this process until you feel a sense of deep ease, release and relaxation. When you are ready to come back let your roots be released. Take a moment to honor all aspects of yourself, those that are light and dark, accepted and rejected, loved and unloved.

Interested to learn more about these healing practices? Our Ritual, Healing & Sacred Waters Yoga & Self Discovery Beach Retreat in Tulum, Mexico is coming up March 30-April 3, 2019. Together we will explore healing power of Pachamama (Mother Earth) with ritual, movement, mediations, soul work and so much more. Learn more here.

Photo by Thu Tran of 2TPHOTO

All In

When scrolling through our latest images from a photo shoot I saw this photo of myself and it stopped me in my tracks. I thought to myself “Hey, I think I know her!”. It took my brain a moment to realize this was actually me. I look so vulnerable and real, like who I really am.

I have a love/hate relationship with the camera. Over the past few years of photoshoots (and after living with my ex husband who is a videographer) I learned how to take a pretty “good” photo. I learned how to elicit joy and play and how to create a mood to give off a certain vibe. I learned how to tuck away my vulnerable parts to stay safe, I learned how to keep those parts of me hidden unless I invited them out to play. Deep down I am secretly terrified of being fully known and seen. I’m afraid of rejection.

But vulnerability is life asking, Are you all in?

The easy answer for me these days is a resounding “YES!” but it wasn’t always this way. Sometimes I still catch myself holding back to protect myself and sometimes I jump into the deep end head first, heart-bared-wide with no strategy for the swim home. Saying YES and holding back are both risky moves.

Vulnerability is unarmored, it’s courage. It’s real.

Brene Brown asks what experience makes us feel most vulnerable. For many of us, it’s moments of extreme joy: Standing over my children while they’re asleep. Going in to remission. Having a baby. Falling in love. I would like to add sharing a photo and bearing your heart to social media as a vulnerably viable option. 😉

We often mistake vulnerability for weakness, but in fact it’s a great strength. Vulnerability is showing up in our fullness without the need to rely on some overprotective ego pattern to shield us from life. We often greatly value vulnerability in others, but shut down our heart when it’s our turn to be vulnerable (pssst…that is fear running the show, the heart likes to feel safe). My work is in recognizing when fear is holding me back, and this isn’t always an easy inquiry. Fear will keep us stuck in a pattern or from going after something we really want in life and sometimes fear feels safer and more comfortable.

While I have gotten better at sitting with these parts of me I know that these parts (even the parts I don’t want to fully embrace) make up my wholeness. I know that recognizing where I get stuck is the first step towards liberation and this is a life practice. I value seeing my patterns through the many mirrors I am offered so that I may consciously choose how to live my life instead of armoring my heart to keep it safe. I am learning over and over again to let go of the past, my ego stories and fears that are holding me back from living my very best life. And you can too.
Our upcoming Women’s Weekend Retreat: The Sacred Art of Letting Go is happening September 28-30 in north Georgia. We will be exploring these attachments to our stories and old ways of being through yoga, the enneagram, mediation and so much more. Post or message me if you are interested in learning more or head to our website to get more details.

Photo by 2TPhoto

Running Towards Your Dreams

Take a moment with me here.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself the following question.

Are you running towards what you want in life?

This can be a tough question. I know I spent many, many, many years afraid of going after what I wanted. Looking back I see I was afraid of failure, I was afraid of rejection, and to be frank I was secretly afraid of success too. I was afraid, very afraid. One day I realized that I was the only one that could change my life, I was the only one who could reach for my dreams. No one can do that for me.

How liberating and truly terrifying that realization was.

When was the last time you got quiet enough to ask yourself what does your heart want? When was the last time you listened to that quiet (or not so quiet) heart song? When was the last time you ran toward what you wanted with arms open wide, heart pounding with excitement and possibility? When was the last time you said YES to your dreams?

Join me and my Soul Sister from another mister, Shari L Fox, on July 21 at the Dirty South Yoga Fest to explore how to live your life to the fullest.

Magic

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

Magic. This is the word I often use to describe the feeling of being on a Soul Nourish retreat. But really it’s not magic at all, it’s what happens when we show up with pure presence. When we soften our edges and relax into our body the world becomes a bit more magical. Our mind starts to clear and our hearts become tenderized. Magic happens when we are seen and loved for exactly who we are.

This isn’t just a space we create on retreat, with practice this is a space we learn to access over and over. We create this space with permission. The permission to relax. The permission to open your heart enough to let someone else (or many someones) in. The permission to dive deep into what yoga truly means. The permission to explore moving your beautiful body in a compassionate and powerful way. The permission to speak your truth. The permission to share your dorky (or badass) dance moves. The permission to look deeply at what holds you back in life (and CHANGE it). The permission to safely explore your patterns and try on new ways of being. The permission to sing off key. The permission to lose your balance (or even lose your shit – thanks for that one Michelle Teel) and to be loved BECAUSE of it not in spite of it.

Are you ready for magic? I am. Head here to see where we are going next.

Photo on our El Salvador Retreat by 2TPHOTO

Made Up

When I was younger I was in a relationship for a while where I was shamed for looking nice, wearing make-up, jewelry or a flattering clothes for my body. I was accused of drawing attention to myself or being untrustworthy because I desired to put some effort into my appearance. With my adult eyes I now see that these actions were harmful and damaging and not at all about me. As an adolescent I felt guilty for making an effort on my appearance.

Was I doing something wrong?

Was it bad to want to look pretty?

Was I purposefully drawing attention to myself?

To this day I still struggle to get dressed up, to apply makeup (sadly, I don’t really know how to put it on) and wear jewelry.

A part of me still worries that I will draw too much attention to myself. It still feels “wrong” and I still feel doubt and insecurity when I do. Each day my yoga practice helps me to release these deeply held beliefs. I learn that I am worthy of loving myself.

Thank you Drea James Designs for these beautiful earrings, today I will wear these earrings with confidence and strength (and maybe even a little make-up).

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.

 

 

Selfie Roberts

“Selfie Roberts”

Did you know some of my closest friends call me “Selfie Roberts?” I really love the nickname I see it as loving and endearing but I never really figured out why, especially since the term “selfie” in society is often attached to the idea of an oversized ego. A dear friend of mine who recently became single wrote not too long ago “I never knew that a byproduct of being single is a phone full of selfies and landscapes?” Lately I can really relate to that idea. These thoughts led me down the path of my intention when I post pics of myself, whether in yoga, with my son, being “Mandy” (ie, ridiculous and goofy) or having a great time with friends. While I don’t know a lot about life, I have learned all too well that life is too short. That we must cherish each moment life gifts us with. I have learned to celebrate life and love and to SHARE it (likers gonna like). I have learned that if you want to take a pic of yourself eating a banana upside down in a tree then do it! (Note: put taking a pic eating a banana upside down in a tree on my selfie list). This leads me to one of my favorite quotes of all time and the quote I often allude to after every class I teach.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won?t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
– Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

As I give myself permission to shine, to mess up, to land a bad-ass pose (or not land that bad-ass pose), I give you that permission as well.

Thank you to my tribe for my selfie-stick on my birthday, I love you. And get ready selfie friends, we are gonna have fun with this!

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.

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.

Screen shot 2013-02-22 at 5.21.11 PM

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.