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heart

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

Perfect in This Moment

As a woman living in such an image conscious media it’s not that easy to grow older.

Just when we get a glimpse of acceptance, things change. In the blink of a crow’s-feet-wrinkled-eye, we are another year older {or so it seems to happen that way for me}.

Life keeps going.

I’ll be celebrating my 40th birthday in just a couple months and with every day that goes by in my life I’m learning to embrace myself, my wrinkles, my grey hair, my looser skin, my age.

I’ll choose to go with the flow of life {I?ll flip on my back, open my heart and gaze dreamily at the stars as I float along}.

I’ll keep posting imperfect selfies, I?ll keep feeding the callings of my heart. I?ll keep wearing skinny jeans and red lipstick. I?ll love what I am already becoming.

Right now I am
#perfectinthismoment

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.

I Am Woman

I Am Woman and I am Imperfect

For months I knew I had a photo shoot scheduled with Robert Sturman ~ Artist/Photografía and as a single mother, small business owner, yoga teacher life was full. The months and weeks leading up to the shoot I was tired, overworked and I rarely had the time or desire to unroll my mat. When I had down time the last thing I needed was MORE effort, and striving. I just needed to CHILL. As the date of the shoot drew closer I knew I had a choice to make. I could starve myself of sustenance or I could show up imperfect, soft and accepting.

I am woman and I am imperfect.

I am learning that my appearance doesn’t define my worth. I sometimes carry extra pounds draped upon my yoga body like a second skin. Sometimes I embrace that weighty suit, an old friend with a lingering hug to keep me humbled. Sometimes I don’t.

I am learning to show up in my skin, with stretch marks like a trusty map of a long life lived. The faded patterns of love and miracle traverse across my once taut and trim belly.

Robert Sturman photographyI am learning to show up in life and be courageous. Mostly I want to climb in bed and pull the covers over my head, a frightened child still as a mouse, barely breathing for fear that I’ll be seen. Be still, don’t make a move and you can’t fail.

I am learning that failures and imperfections are inevitable when you are truly living. Stumbles and missteps disguised as an invitation to help you up, dust you off and send you back into the arena to keep fighting. (Perfection is the heavy shroud to keep people from truly seeing you there under the covers, still as a mouse).

I am learning to embrace my vulnerability. Living with an open heart is exhilarating, beautiful and joyful, yet it is also guaranteed to be painful and at times heart wrenching.

I am learning that being the best version of myself has nothing to do with perfecting a pose or even unrolling my mat. Instead it has to do with giving myself permission to fuck up, to fall down and to still show up day after day with my head held high.

When I boldly show up with my imperfections I allow you to do the same. Together, hand in hand we thrive; imperfect, messy and beautiful.

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.

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings and Endings

My heart is heavy with change, as it has been so often these past few years. While I know that change is the foundation of growth it has not gotten easier.

Beginnings and endings will likely always be hard but with my ear to my soul I will reach for life.

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” ~ Paulo Coelho