Browsing Tag

hardships

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

Letting Go

“Our journey is one of movement and continual change. Each threshold different, each letting go with its own character-every set of experiences bearing their own teachings. If transformation were as simple as weeding through your accumulated possessions, it would not be daunting. But meeting life is daunting. It is the letting go, not of books and outgrown clothing, but of a conditioned way of being that has grown immeasurably comfortable. At this threshold you ask yourself, do I really want this? Am I finally ready not to waste anymore time?”
Paula D’Arcy, Stars at Night

Yoga was my formal introduction into understanding myself better, little did I know at the time it would be the thing that saved my life.

For years and years I was showing up on my mat. Day after day I was stretching and exercising myself into a sweaty heap of emotional and physical exhaustion. In my head I thought I was a “good yogi”, I was getting stronger and becoming more flexible. I was able to make all the shapes in class but I had no idea that I was not really practicing true yoga. I would judge my own practice, getting upset if I lost my balance or needed to take a break. I would compare myself to those around me celebrating if I was “the best” in the class, feeling bad if I wasn’t. I would show up 25 minutes early to claim my spot in the room and get irritated if someone was in my spot. I was hard on myself and hard on those around me, both on and off the mat. On the outside I thought I looked like what a good yogi should look like, on the inside I was deeply struggling.

One day, when my life was falling in pieces all around me, I realized that none of the stories, criticism or judgements I was harboring was serving me, none of it was helpful. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be liberated from reacting to the world around me. I wanted to be free from all those things that were weighing me down. At that moment I wondered what would happen if I chose a new way of being? It was at that moment that I consciously decided to make a choice to let it all go.

I wish I could say it was easy to let go of those parts that were weighing me down. I wish I could say that once you make the choice to let go then you magically achieve some sort of enlightened state. For me the choice to let go was the first step toward happiness, I immediately began to see some changes but I still had a long journey ahead of me. It took time to reprogram my habits and patterns, it took time to explore new ways of responding to the world around me without falling back into patterns. And as I grow and change I am challenged in new ways, I take on new habits and patterns (some healthy and some not-so-much). I have new challenges that I must navigate in my personal life, in business and in all my relationships. To stay on the path of growth I must be compassionately aware of my tendencies and my messy and imperfect humanness, and at the same time I must keep a keen eye and steady focus on my inner world (and not be afraid of asking myself tough questions and calling myself out on my bullshit and stories). This is my sadhana, my most meaningful daily practice.

Photo on retreat by 2TPhoto

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

Meditation on Twin Hearts

Find a comfortable seat. Close and relax your eyes, breathing deeply. Take a moment to bring your hands to your heart and invoke Divine Blessings from the Supreme God, the Divine God and Goddess, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, All Guardians and Gate Keepers. The Angels and all spiritual teachers. Ask for the Divine light and love to move freely through you to bless all beings and to bless our precious Mother Earth.

Bring relaxation from the top of your head down through your entire body focusing for a moment on each body part. Inhale good health, exhale pain. Inhale happiness, exhale sadness. Inhale kindness, exhale anger. Inhale lightness, exhale darkness.

Bring to your mind the concept of harmlessness and compassion. Bring to mind anyone that you have caused pain to or towards with your actions, your speech, or your reactions. Ask forgiveness from all those who you have hurt or are still hurting. Resolve to practice kindness towards other people and your actions, your speech, or your reactions.

Now visualize yourself forgiving those that may have hurt you. Send blessings to them in their life. Visualize yourself being forgiven by those whom you may have hurt. Experience the feeling of being forgiven. Resolve on this day to forgive and be forgiven.

Bring your hands at your heart and bring all of your awareness to your heart energy center. Recall the most pleasant feeling you have ever experienced in your entire life. Explore joy, love, kindness or compassion. You may be able to recall this feeling through many different ways. Allow this energy to grow as you breathe.

We will now share this energy with the entire planet earth. Visualize in front of your chest a tiny planet earth. Imagine a rich pinkish or green light from your heart center going to the earth and enveloping it with love. From the heart center bless the earth with the divine peace. Bless all the people on earth with forgiveness. Bless all the people struggling on earth with a new hope for a better world. Bless the earth with light and great joy. Visualize all the people you will meet every day smiling and being filled with joy and love.

Bring your hands to your crown energy center at the top of your head. Invoke the desire to share your life and service, to be of help to those in need and to see us all connected on earth. Now visualize a brilliant white light from the top of your head going to the earth and enveloping it with divine love and kindness. Bless the earth with peace, abundance and harmony.

Stay here and the space as long as is comforting for you.

Photo taken on retreat by Thu Tran of 2TPHOTO

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.

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).

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