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yoga teacher

Wild and Precious

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

The Summer Day — Mary Oliver

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”. 

This can be a terrifying question. I spent many years afraid of truly going after what I wanted in life. Looking back I see I was afraid. Afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, and in hindsight I see I was secretly afraid of success too. That fear had kept me “safe” for years, yet was I really living my most inspired and aligned life? It took years of digging deep, uncovering all sorts of old stories to explore what my fear was about and where it came from ( and I’m not sure I’ll ever be done digging). Through this process I realized that I was the only one that could change my life. I was the only one who could live my most wild and precious life. It was up to me. No one can do that for me.

Shit. How liberating, yet truly terrifying, that realization was.

In June 2017 I found myself co-leading retreat in the wild and beautiful Todos Santos, Mexico. Our desert retreat center was filled with dozens of dream catchers. One of the women that worked on the retreat kitchen crew, along with her daughter and husband, created these dream catchers to supplement their meager income. Most of the dream catchers were bought by our women on retreat to take back home to the US as mementos. As our retreat came to a close we asked if she would be willing to teach those of us who were staying an extra night to make our own dream catchers. We had no idea the adventure we were about to embark on.

The woman and her pre-teen daughter arrived right after dinner. With great care each of us picked out our colors of yarn, string, ribbon and the lovely beads, trinkets and feathers that we wished to weave into our creations. That evening the woman and her daughter sat with us for hours and hours as we each worked with diligence. Though we spoke different languages we shared, we laughed and connected the best we could. There were moments where each of us had to overcome boundaries in communication or where we had to ask for help because we were stuck, didn’t know what to do, or because we messed up. The woman and her daughter patiently offered their knowledge and wisdom with kindness and compassion. As midnight neared we still sat working together, determined to see the dream catcher creations through till the end. At the end of the night we were exhausted, amazed, and proud of the individual creations we each so lovingly created. Each dream catcher was a unique, yet beautiful reflection of the woman who created it. None of them were perfect creations in a traditional sense, yet each was a perfect reflection of the journey we had just completed.

I’m pretty sure making a dream catcher is a metaphor for living our best life.

Though the evening was a fun little art project, I learned a few things that have imbedded deeply within my soul. I learned that catching our dreams takes great determination yet is always worth the effort. And that messing up, especially when we embark on something new, is just part of the process. I learned that the patterns we weave with intention and mindfulness will always be beautiful, even if they don’t look like we envisioned they would. I learned that surrounding yourself with a community of others who are on this path is essential. And asking for help from those who have walked this path before us reminds us we are not alone.

So, I ask again, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Join us on retreat or in our Soul Nourish + FORM yoga 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training with Mandy Roberts and Shari L Fox. Head to Soul Nourish Retreats to learn more about our programs and we can support you in living your most inspired life. 

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.

My Name is Mandy and I Love Food

Those of you who know me know I love food. When I say love I mean LOVE. I get excited about dinner, I mean really excited.

In my younger years and as one of 4 children I was an army brat on subsidized government vouchers. This meant lots of frozen, canned and boxed groceries with preservatives and a long shelf life to feed everyone for the month.

When I got close to my teens, my parents divorced money was even tighter. I was the only child left at home at that point. My mother and I were on food stamps and for a time I received free lunch at school. I recall many of my days were spent skipping breakfast or even lunch and eating dinner at friends houses. I was often so hungry and deprived I would eat a couple of plates of food, a trait that followed me well into adulthood even though I had plenty of food at this point. I felt like there was never enough and I had to keep filling myself in case I didn’t get anything at the next meal. Some of my better food memories then were when my older sisters and mother worked at restaurants, I was usually able to eat for free while they were at work. My favorite meal was beef flavored instant ramen noodles (still nostalgic for me) and the best meal was if one of my friends parents ordered pizza for delivery (HEAVEN for this little girl!).

I remember being a younger girl at my grandmother’s house in the summer and being amazed that I could eat the pecans that fell from the tree or pick the muscadines from the vine and eat them. This is also where I learned to find the honey in the honeysuckle on warm days and where I had the realization that chicken was a CHICKEN. (Ummm, WTF, was beef then?!). Some of my favorite memories were going to my aunts house, snapping peas in her trailer. The smell of the tomatoes on the vine and freshly shucked corn still brings me back.

As I ventured into adulthood I had a very unhealthy relationship with food. I struggled with a few bouts of anorexia, severely limiting my food intake and counting every calorie and ounce of fat. I would bounce between binging and purging, rewarding and punishing. I was always searching for a healthy balance. I would limit my food intake as a form of punishment if I missed a day at the gym or if I messed up and ate a whole bag of Oreos in the middle of the night which was not uncommon for me in those days. I used to write everything I ate down in my food journal and sometimes I would write not-so-nice things to myself to “encourage” me to do better. In my head I thought this is what healthy eating looked like.

These days I understand that my relationship with food starts first and foremost with a healthy mental state. It starts with understanding I am not broken or missing anything, there is no need to fill myself with food to make myself whole. It is based on listening to my body. It is based on breaking through unhealthy patterns and learning to see where I am self-sabotaging, numbing or simply being mindless. This doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally sit on the couch after a long day and enjoy a glass or two of wine and chips and cheese, it means that when I do so it is because I am aware and honoring my desires in that moment (and not to numb or stuff myself to fill a hole). I choose to honor my desires that come from a choice to nourish myself in every way that I can, body, mind and spirit.

If you struggle with with food I would love to share the tools that I learned to guide you into a more healthy and honest relationship with your nutritional choices. Join me and my friend, and fellow FORM yoga teacher and health coach Jessica Calderon for our Level 1: Beginners 12 Day Online Cleanse. This is a journey of self-discovery and nourishment for the mind, body and soul including daily meditations, journaling, learning and support. Our next cleanse begins on September 25 and you are invited to join the ride. Go here to learn more.