Browsing Tag

lessons

Balance

Ahhhh, balance.

I recall years ago one of my very first yoga teachers stating (adamantly) in class how our ability to balance on our mat is symbolic of how balanced we are in our life in general. When he said that I likely rolled my eyes so hard I lost my balance. I’m pretty sure this was proof enough that he was on to something, no?

Balance is a state of presence, it’s a relationship that we enter into in each moment. Balance is fleeting. It’s not something you find once and keep, it’s a perpetual dance of noticing and responding, noticing and responding, and noticing and responding ( and on and on).

On the mat and in the greater scheme of things, this comes from our ability to move from our center and to stay connected to this place as we transition and respond to all the moving parts around us, ie L I F E. You may notice in your practice that when we are standing on one leg or balancing on our hands that we must be actively engaged with each little movement or we will likely fall on our face.

Balance is a practice of wholeness, it’s one of noticing that when we enter into a relationship with life and all she has to offer we have opportunity to remember ( literally re-member or rejoin) all the disjointed or disowned parts of ourself. Connecting to our wholeness invites us to the divine flow of life.

And while balance may be a fleeting force, our ability to keep showing up and exploring is not, it’s a practice. This is yoga.

Ahimsa

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, I was incredibly hard on myself and those around me. And while I am far from perfect I keep choosing {over and over} to come back to kindness, for myself and others.

Non-violence, ahimsa, is at the center of yogic ideals. When we think of non-violence we often think of violence in our external environment. We may picture the extremes of hurting or injuring something outside of us, however the foundations of ahimsa always start within and how we treat ourselves.

Our ability to be non-violent with others is in direct relationship to how kindly and compasionately we approach ourselves and our own struggles in life. Through this compassionate process we are invited to examine ourselves deeply. When we hold this mirror up it’s easy to judge and criticize our actions from the past, it’s easy to punish, blame and beat ourselves up. Instead of deepening these patterns we can choose a new way of being.

When we choose to reflect and observe ourselves and our actions with tenderness and kindness we are making peace with ourselves, stepping towards a relationship of wholeness instead of deepening separation. This is not easy work. It takes constant examination, reflection and the choice to try on a new way of being, it’s a practice.

Photo by Kelly T Marie & Dirty South Yoga Fest

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

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?

IMG_0687
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.

IMG_0708
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.

IMG_0780

 

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).

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