Transformation

I recently listened to Dan Harris interview Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s main English translator, on Harris’ podcast 10% happier. Jinpa also wrote the book A Fearless Heart (how the courage to be compassionate can transform our lives)”.

Dan asked Jinpa what he thought about the most recent studies concluding that meditation does not make you a better person. Eyes wide, gasp! Forbes, Newsweek, Psychology Today all picked up the headlines. Jinpa said that because mindfulness is all the rage these days he actually believes that the conclusion of the study was very timely and for very good reasons. Remember, this is a Buddhist monk agreeing that meditation alone won’t make you happier.

“This is one thing about western consumerist society, when something works, people then latch onto it, and then everybody sort of jumps the bandwagon and they start believing it almost like, well, we call it miracle of mindful meditation, people close their eyes and expect some miracle to happen”. In the Buddhist tradition their understanding of transformation is not only a function of meditation, Jinpa said “it’s a function of combining a few things”.

  1. Knowledge. The changing mindset. We have to learn to see the world and ourselves in a different way.

  2. Intention. Prime your behavior in a way that you would want it to be on a daily basis.

  3. Meditation. Not just calming the mind, although that is one aspect, but learning to internalize this new way of seeing things.

According to Jinpa, the conclusion of their study, that meditation alone does not alter behavior, “is a fair point”.

What I find so compelling about this information is that it is being said in all realms of my practice. Years ago during a teacher training with Aadil Palkhivala he said “you can have the absolute perfect triangle pose and still be an asshole”. I don’t remember his elaborating the way Jinpa did (probably because I was too consumed with having the perfect triangle at the time). I’ve long been a student of Mike Dooley’s. Dooley is a metaphysical teacher and bases his work on the Law of Attraction “thoughts becoming things”. He works very hard to make it clear that thinking positive thoughts will in fact change your life but it’s not the only thing. You can imagine and vision board and create the perfect job in your mind but if you don’t ever hand anyone your resume you’re probably not going to manifest that dream. There’s more to it. And our thinking that we are just one perfect yoga pose or meditation away from happiness is why most people give up the practice. “I closed my eyes and nothing happened, it clearly doesn’t work”.

But combined these practices can be truly transformational. I’m seeing it in action.

  1. Knowledge, the desire to want to see things differently. Challenging our assumptions about the world. For me it’s also knowing it’s ok to soften the tight grip I tend to hold onto life with.

  2. Intention, who and how is it that I want to be in the world, in this relationship, in this conversation, in this moment. I’ve been working with intention setting for a while now and hands down it has truly changed the way I approach almost everything. A whole workshop can be done around this and I believe that’s coming soon.

  3. Meditation, the actual practice. Because we are human the mind will wander, we will forget, we will become distracted, bored, fall back into old habits. The practice of meditation is the remembering and beginning again. Dan Harris calls this the bicep curl for the brain. “I lost track of my intention, I forgot that I could see this situation differently and I simply “remember and begin again”. Thank you Rolf Gates for those incredibly powerful four words.

In theory this is simple, we can read this and it makes perfect sense. In practice it is incredibly challenging and profound.

 

In the flow (part two)

Are you allowing our resisting the river? Because of the challenges we face in our humanness it sometimes feels like resisting the river is our only choice. When something horrible or horrendous or unexplained happens we can’t possibly feel sane choosing to be in flow. The pain of being human or (our disconnect from the flow) is where negativity and resistance makes sense. The limitations of this time/space reality become more obvious in our stuckness. This is how we usually show up to the yoga mat, stuck in the resistant state of fighting against the river.

Because of when I started questioning my limiting beliefs I’ve probably given them more airtime in this lifetime. The beliefs that hold us back from the flow of the river are seemingly harmless phrases like “life is hard”, “everyone has it easier than me” or beliefs that give our power away to unexplained forces. Feeling powerless we try desperately to find security in the external world.

I’m beginning to notice when my world seems small and limited, to question the truth of my fear based thoughts. I hear the words of Mike Dooley saying something to remind me of the magnitude of life such as:

The sun rises and sets everyday without question

7 billion people are living together on some level of sophistication

There’s an estimated of 8.7 million different species on the planet co-existing

The planets move in perfect proximity to one another and we’ve done nothing to make this happen but something has

In this reminder I feel the truth that there is something bigger going on here than the stuck place I find myself in. On the yoga mat we are given the opportunity to experience this truth first hand by flowing with the rhythm of the breath. In yogic philosophy it’s said the breath is the bridge between this world and the next. It is controlled by the body’s autonomic nervous system like our digestion and heartbeat but we can also regulate it. You can hold your breath right now, speed it up, slow it down. It’s controllable and yet it sustains our life without us ever having to think about it.

The breath connects me to my internal rhythm, a pulse, a beat that guides me if I allow it. Moving dynamically through a sequence of poses, the breath as our guide, we get the sensation of being in the river, in the flow of the force that spins planets. But this isn’t my habit yet. Because we have been trained to be exclusively externally focused we see the world around us and try our hardest to match or at least keep up the external rhythm. In doing so we have lost touch with our internal rhythm. The mat becomes the place we practice being in the flow, becoming familiar with this new rhythm and eventually trusting in it, having faith that it will guide us. Coming home to the breath is the realization that not only will the river carry us but the river is a part of us. Allowing the body to move under the instruction of the breath we feel we are a part of the flow of the life, it is within us. We let this rhythm guide us and we are no longer swayed so dramatically by external forces. Instead, we become conscious creators, learning our role in using our inner flow to direct the world around us.

In the flow (part one)

When we ask the questions of transformation the answers often come in the form of a new idea that may challenge the very structure on which we’ve built our life. For example when I read, “My happiness is a direct reflection of my level of faith in the Universe” ~Gabby Bernstein, two things simultaneously happened. First, I felt it in my body, I had a visceral reaction to the words, for a moment I softened the tight grip I often have on life. Second, my ego challenged it. The new information was in direct conflict with a story I tell that says “I’m not supported”. A story that constantly screams, “work harder, do more, you haven’t done enough to enjoy happiness”.

But it felt like truth so I sat with it to give my ego some time to catch up with this new information.

“My happiness is a direct reflection of my level of faith in the Universe” translates to me as, “I trust when I set an intention for; wealth, abundance, love, or the root of all intentions, happiness, and actively go after my dreams from a place of alignment (which means I believe I am worthy of the intention) the universe will support me, guide me”.

Esther Hicks says “there’s a stream of well being and it’s the only stream, you can allow it or you can resist it but it flows just the same”. I often think about my pushing against life with this analogy. Wherever you are right now close your eyes and imagine you are in a boat floating down a beautiful river. You trust the boat and the flow of the river so fiercely that you put away the oars and lie down to enjoy the scenery. Envision the landscape, trees, flowers, the blue sky, a floating cloud. Feel the rhythm and sway of the river, let it carry you, guide you.

How does it feel to let go like that? To let go of the need to control? To give yourself over to something bigger than you? Does it feel different? Scary? Unfamiliar? Or does it feel like the weight of the world was lifted off your shoulders? Allowing the river to guide us is the same as setting an intention, believing it, taking one small step toward it, and trusting that Universe will guide us in the direction of our dreams.

Trusting the river has not always been familiar to me. Habit is more like; set an intention, imagine the intention being made manifest, start to take a step in its direction then suddenly remember I’m human, incomplete and limited and have no idea how to get there and think “I can’t trust this boat or this river or sit back and enjoy this day”, then I grab the oars, turn the boat around and paddle upstream as hard as I can. Struggling against the river I say “I so desperately want this intention and look how hard I’m paddling to get it”. Not realizing that allowing it would be so much more powerful than fighting for it.

Feel yourself getting tired from paddling. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching the river going by and you battling to move upstream. As that frustration sinks in these limiting thoughts harden into beliefs that an easy life is for someone else but not for you. This is the state of resistance. The river is still flowing, our pushing against doesn’t stop beautiful things from happening, babies from being born or from two people falling in love, doesn’t stop laughter and fun and wellbeing but in our fight against we’ve temporarily cut ourselves off from this joy.

“A leaf does not resist the breeze. A goose does not resist the urge to fly down south. Is this not happiness? Is this not freedom? To access this incredible state, we need only one thing: Trust. Trust that, when you are not holding yourself together so tightly, you will not fall apart. Trust that it is more important to fulfill your authentic desires than listen to your fears. Trust that your intuition is leading you somewhere. Trust that the flow of life contains you, is bigger than you, and will take care of you - if you let it.” ~ Vironika Tugaleva

Do you have the courage?

This past week’s full moon posed the transformation questions; “do you have the courage to pursue your dreams? Do you have the courage to pursue the urgings of your soul so that your outer life and inner life are in complete alignment?”

I simultaneously shout “YES” to these questions and get panicky. I say “of course” because there is nothing more delicious sounding that alignment; knowing and trusting that I’m completely worthy of happiness and making choices every day from this knowing. But I’ve often confused alignment with some standard of perfection or thinking that there’s a divine plan or purpose that I’ve been put here to realize and follow through. I hear these questions and as much as they inspire me to know the depths of my capabilities they seem so big and I suddenly feel small, inadequate in my little life.

It may be easy to confuse alignment with a standard of perfection because when aligned there’s a richness to life that we often don’t feel. Colors are more vivid, a sunset more magical, food tastes better, our conversations more engaged, life’s beauty becomes obvious.

But in reality an idealized vision of perfection is nearer to the definition of misalignment because we are looking outside of ourselves for what can only be found within. Looking at other’s lives and thinking “I should do that”, “I wish I had what they had”, or worse, we become dependent on others suggestions and demands and our own intuition dims. With a little practice we see we are never that far from alignment. As our own intuitive muscle grows and we become grounded in our own truth we realize that the imperfect world around us is still as chaotic as ever but we’ve become more anchored and can maintain center.

Life becomes more fun, we take more chances because we trust in the lessons we will receive, we find a softness that had gotten covered by the armor of protection we no longer need. We become kinder, mostly to our own dear selves. We have faith in who we are, exactly as we are. We learn to trust in our own intuition and we feel more connected, to ourselves, to others and to world around us. Alignment doesn’t necessarily mean we perform some outrageously incredible feat, although it can. It will mean what you want and need it to mean. Your alignment will look drastically different than my alignment and we can’t forget that this life is our game, these are our rules, it’s whatever we want to make of it. Take more naps, go for more walks, send more letters to those you love. Do something grand, start something new, but know it’s completely up to you.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so far from this way of living. We’ve learned to rely on the suggestions and demands of the outside world and have gotten caught up in the should and shouldn’ts and supposed to's that we have lost our own vision. Our souls calling barely audible in the bombardment of stimulation from the external. But slowly we are remembering what we’ve always intuitively known to be true. And as we remember the truth we become responsible to ourselves for creating our own happiness. Mike Dooley says, “If you’re  breathing, you’re now filling that one sacred, special niche that no one else could ever fill. Your eyes see what no others will ever see, your ears hear what no others will ever hear, and your perspective an feelings will never, ever be duplicated. Without you, the Universe would be less. This is your offering. Being “you” is a sacred role that no one else could ever fill. As long as you’re here, you’re filling that niche -- being who no one else has ever been.”

So, “do you have the courage to pursue your dreams”? Of course you do.

The one we've been waiting for

There are times I get completely caught up in the illusion. Overly aware that my body is limited and aging with each passing day. The sense of powerlessness or lack of control over the seemingly auto-piloted mind. The demands of world around me “do this”, “don’t do that”, “be here not there”, “buy this”, “eat that” and it all being summed up with “you’re not enough”. I feel pulled into a million directions, scattered and fragmented.

This combined fear, powerlessness and inadequacy to measure up is often what compels me to the mat. Not so much the discomfort, but the sense that there’s gotta be something more. An intuitive pull that there is something bigger, an orchestrator holding this all together, a piece that I am clearly missing in my dismal state.

Our stuckness becomes a way, our judgment a way, our tightness, skepticism, fear, self doubt, all becomes ways of being until something hints that maybe there’s another way. If I’m stuck, can’t I become unstuck? If I judge couldn’t I release the criticism? If I’m limited, chaotic and fragmented couldn’t I become whole? Even the mere questioning sends shivers down my spine. The limitations of this time, space reality seem obvious but I can hear Hicks and Dooley both responding with some variation of; of course there is something bigger going on than this limited physical existence. The sun rises and sets every day without question, 7 billion people are living together on some level of sophistication, there’s an estimation of 8.7 million different species on the planet that are coexisting. The planets move at perfect proximity to one another and we’ve done nothing to make this happen but something has. How easy it is to forget the magnitude while walking around with blinders on.

I may begin my journey to the mat or meditation cushion out of the stuck place I happen to find myself in but it’s a matter of minutes before I’m moving in a synchronized flow, my breath breathing me. A sequence that opens up my body in a way that makes me feel vibrant and alive and I instantly question what took me so long. The same question our spirit lovelingly asks when we finally return home.

This is alignment. Street-level you beautifully co-creating with higher-level you. We know these moments by the ease we feel, the lightness in our body accompanied with complete confidence. This happens because we are perceiving life through spirit rather than our limitations. Our body no longer becomes a hindrance but a tool, we gain control to focus the mind in a way that is empowering and our alignment becomes obvious by how the external world is responding to us. Our experience of the moment becomes heightened, life becomes more fun, our intuition tuned in and we hear what we’ve always suspected to be true; we are one we’ve been waiting for.  

"It's time"

Last week we looked honestly our judgment, at the armor we’ve built around our wounds or as Gabby says, “where we are resisting love”.

This week was about discovering what exists when we develop acceptance and compassion around our judgment.

To look at our judgement is to change the relationship with it, not to delete it completely from our lives. However hard I work there are still going to be moments when I categorize things into good and bad, right and wrong. There will still be stresses in my life that will cause a habitual reaction of being guarded. I will never not give the side eye to someone leaving their grocery cart in the middle of the parking lot. But I will, as I’ve already seen, soften around all of my outward projections. Yesterday, I took the long way home from work. For someone who insists (mostly to myself) that I have the shortest, fastest way anywhere, this was huge for me. Leaving the studio a student said to me “my yoga mat was crooked the whole class, I hope you weren’t going crazy”. I laughed and was so shocked that I didn’t notice I shrieked “OMG, it’s working!” Then I turned away wide eyed and thought “Jesus, I needed this cleanse”.

Our judgment isn’t going away but we can develop the skill of softening around it. We can lesson our outward projections by moving through rather than around. This means that last week was crucial, feeling what we don’t often allow ourselves to feel, Gabby calls this “honoring the wound”. Rather than looking at this like a torture tactic I think it speaks to the incredible amount of hope that we have in a better way. Despite our judgment, critique of others, life’s stresses and our fear we still get out of bed every day. We still show up on the yoga mat. There’s hope that freedom, happiness and love are ours to have. Deep down we know that internal alignment is far more desirable than outward projection.

And alignment with our truest self is what we find in the space we give to our resistance. Next week we will talk about this alignment but for now have faith that there is beauty to found beneath the walls of protection we’ve built.  A friend sent me this from Brene Brown last week.

“Imagine the Universe gently placing her hands on your shoulders and saying “it’s time”. All these coping mechanisms you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt --- they have to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand you needed these protections when you were small. You believed your armor could help you secure all the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging but this is a lie we’ve been told. And time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people will think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are cursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time.”

Sugar-flu

Last week we began our “judgement detox” based on the book of the same name and my trusty astrological sight mysticmamma.com who suggested that we can come into “right relations with all of our relationships” once we turn the focus inward. Recognizing where we’ve become out of balance is a huge step toward our ability to heal despite how horrifying it may seem to lift a rug that you know has years of dust, dirt, cobwebs and food crumbs underneath.

If you’ve ever taken sugar or caffeine out of your diet you probably experienced some discomfort, a low grade headache or even full blown flu-like symptoms. It can be so intense we often reason the cleanse is simply not worth the side effects. I prefaced my classes this week by saying “this is our sugar-flu, expect to feel uncomfortable because you are peeking into areas your ego doesn’t want to go”. No one got up and left but the looks on the faces back to me were saying “why? If I don’t have to lift that rug why would I?” I recently heard Dan Harris say “It’s having an affect on you whether you chose to look at it or not”. You can’t see the dirt but it’s seeping into your home. I can ignore it and let it compound or I can grab a swiffer. If we sweep through our judgment and are willing to see where we’ve misaligned there’s a chance we can clear the air.

I don’t believe that in order to begin I need to contemplate how the dirt got under the rug. But understanding the problem can save us from what Gabby calls the “judgment cycle”. If I lift the rug the fact it’s messy is embarrassing. We are ashamed of our misalignment so we beat ourselves up for not being more skillful. Unraveling the past isn’t necessary for finding alignment but this information lessons my tendency to shame my judgment.

This is for sure the most challenging part of the detox but it’s ironically what will keep me committed. I’ve summarized what I’ve found so helpful. “My definition of judgment is pretty straightforward: separation from love. The moment we see ourselves separate from anyone else, or not good enough in some way, we detour into a false belief system that is out of alignment with our true nature, which is love. Our life’s hang-ups stem from this moment of separation. This can be the result of a deeply traumatic experience or a seemingly insignificant event. While we all have different stories that caused us to separate from love, we all have the same response to feeling alone in the world: fear. Separating from love is a traumatic event, and when we’re traumatized, we feel unsafe. One way we respond to feeling fear is to fight back through attacking and judging others. At our core we are loving, kind, whole, healthy, compassionate people but we’ve become fragmented pieces with dark, scary parts. We shut down the power of our love in an attempt to protect ourselves from feeling our deepest most shameful wounds. We’ve done the best we can do to survive. We fear if we let our guard down and act compassionately and lovingly toward one another we will be taken advantage of and will no longer be safe. This is totally understandable given the traumas of this world. To release our judgements of one another would be to take our armour off and end the fight. Traumatized people we cannot let their guard down. But what would happen if everyone raging on every side took a moment to witness their judgement? They’d realize that at its core, their judgement is no different from anyone else’s. Their fear is the same. Their wound is the same.”

It’s the universal #metoo moment and judgement, criticism and blame don’t know what to do with it. They slowly melt to the warmth that can be felt in your heart. This is truly a radical act. To look in the mirror at our own sweet self with compassion.

Spring Cleanse

I spent last weekend in my childhood home, the place that is simultaneously exactly as I left it and completely different than I remember. Surrounded by those I love the most I struggle to find myself, to not revert into a 13yr old girl and to exude the balance in life that I feel I have successfully found in my new home.

Two things were happening while I wrestled with finding inner alignment. The second full moon in March and while in route I was devouring Gabby Bernstein’s new book “The Judgement Detox”. I didn’t catch the irony until I was sitting on the plane to return to the West coast staring at the beauty of the blue moon out of the airplane window and crying at the section of the book that suggested we learn to forgive.

“When we become willing to invest in love, spirit can step in. Spirit won’t take from us what we’re not willing to give away. But when we’re willing to forgive, spirit can take away our shame, guilt, and sin and help us see love instead.”

I quickly looked up the astrological energy of the full moon and just as I suspected my trusty sight mysticmamma.com said “at this particular time we are being asked to bring the focus inward and gaze deeply into the mirror of self so we can truly come into right relationship with all our relations.”

Mystic Mamma went on to suggest that the dynamics of our relationships will shift when we ourselves shift. But how do we approach this shift? Because it sure sounds a lot safer to aimlessly scroll through Instagram than it does to “gaze deeply into the mirror of self”. I connected these two amazing resources to help us begin our cleansing.

  • Gabby explains our need for self inquiry but she doesn’t point fingers. She actually suggests that we are all in this together. “We must recognize that we all have the same problem and the same solution. Our problem is that we have separated from love and the solution is to return to love.” As we’ve seen from current events and the droves of women who have stepped up in solidarity to share their stories of hurt and shame there is nothing more connecting than the statement #metoo.
  • Investigating our separation (resistance, guilt, shame, judgement) can easily beget more of the same. I will often get angry over my anger or feel extremely stuck in my resistance and the cycle continues. Growth occurs when let our guard down. “We must honor ourselves for having the willingness to look with love at whatever has caused our separation.” Game changer.

  • We’ve got some momentum now but Gabby warns that the ego will try to thwart your efforts. It will not soften without you questioning if this shift or right relations are something you even want. Before you ask the answer is YES, yes you do because you are worthy of happiness! And your happiness will spread to those you love the most. When the ego pitches a fit we have to remember what compelled us to look within in the first place. At our very core we all want to be free. We all want to be happy. And we all want to feel connected. This is possible for you and it is possible for me.

I’ve made a commitment to the cleanse and I have to say that minus the slight craving to place some blame I’m feeling really good.

A new year of hope

Our yoga retreat ends with our intentions. Mine took no time to write and in theory is obvious and simple. “I deserve happiness” I declared. In practice, however, I knew it would not be so easy. As we sat under the beauty of a fading Chacala sunset I knew what I was ready to do. Some relationships, mainly the one with myself, had to change in order for me to truly step into alignment with my happiness. I could no longer keep telling the stories that fueled my fear. The ones that say “you’re not good enough or should be better at this by now”. I had plenty of stories that nurtured my growth but those always seem to whisper softly while the fear based stories run on a consistent 24 hour fake news cycle.

The philosophy of yoga says that our sense of separation is the cause of all of our suffering. We have forgotten who we are and where we have come from. Simply put we disconnected from the love that is our truest nature. You might also call this love “spirit or source or consciousness or God”. It goes on to say that if separation is the problem than naturally we alleviate our suffering through connection. When I stated my intention that night in Chacala I knew that I needed to first understand where I was resisting my happiness and in turn how to realign with this love that i had separated from. 

I’ve come to realize that our misalignment is actually a place that can birth a lot of what we want. It’s the moment when we begin to ask the questions, the place we begin to open to new possibility and potential. My own misalignment with love caused a beautiful unfolding and has become an exciting new adventure. But the beauty cannot be seen in the dark. Something compels us to turn on the light.

Prior to the retreat I laid in bed one day much longer than normal. I had felt stuck for a while and this morning maybe was drearier than most, maybe I feeling a little sick, I can’t remember but I know all I wanted was to go back to sleep (and by sleep I mean I wanted watch Bravo tv for the rest of my days and pretend everything was fine. I wanted to bypass the pain but tucking it away). A friend texted me to ask if I was OK and I replied “I feel like I’m failing in every area of my life” .

I let myself lie there for a good portion of the morning. What eventually got me up was the voice of compassion that grew bigger than the voice of fear and it repeated itself over and over again “you got this” it said repeatedly. I often say in class that we have an innate ability to “self soothe”. Once we trust in the quiet voice that is present just beyond the loud cry of the ego we can self soothe our way to the next step. Let me be clear this by no means propelled me into joy and happiness. I did not bounce out of bed with a smile on my face but it led me to the next step. I used to think the action steps needed to move toward alignment needed to be giant leaps or that I could “namaste” everything right again by pretending it didn’t exist. But I’ve learned that the next right action is often not a huge leap. More often than not they are very tiny baby steps. I knew that morning that the only place I could go was to my meditation cushion. I got out of bed and baby stepped my way to a seat.

I feel these baby steps are the inner workings of the Universe and it’s very similar to losing my car keys: They are somewhere but I can’t find my keys because I’m focused on NOT HAVING THEM and when the focus is on not having them I can’t be a vibrational match to having them. But I can be a match to “it’s cold I think I’ll grab a sweater,” and sure enough while getting my sweater there are my keys. Because in that moment my focus wasn’t on not having them. I could no way get to happiness but I could get enough energy to move to the meditation cushion.

A few moments into my sit I opened my eyes wide as I was hit over the head with what was really going on.

The yoga sutras have a word for this sense of separation that causes our suffering; Avidya (spiritual ignorance). The belief I had that morning, paralyzed in bed by my sense of failure, is the very definition of Avidya. There is a Universal Law that makes sense of this. It says; “Fear is sure sign that we are trusting in our own strength.”

Lying in bed saying “I feel like i’m failing in every area of my life” was me perceiving my life through the self imposed rules that I had made up and at the time (in my mind) was not measuring up to. I was trusting solely in my own strength and leaving out my inner strength, the strength of the Universe. I had separated completely from the Love that is my true nature.

Fortunately, the philosophy tells us that once we realize that we are problem we also find the solution. You can’t have Avidya without Vidya (clear seeing). Something brings us back (a sunset, a sunrise, a walk with a friend, a yoga practice). Something reminds us that it’s going to be OK. Something allows us to feel more than we are in these limited physical bodies, with chaotic minds and sporadic highs and lows of emotions. That something for me was the voice that I’ve come to trust. The voice of Love.

My misalignment propelled me into a deeper appreciation for my practice, I dug out old notebooks and dusted off a workshop on alignment I had been working on but had been telling myself I wasn't ready to teach. I committed to a new intention. I was compelled to let some things go and inspired to try again for some things I wanted. I grew a tiny bit appreciative for the stuck place I found myself in and I hope that my continuous journey though the resistance shines a light to lead you to the next step forward. 

With Love, Cindy

 

Potential for a better way

I was fortunate to have teachers who stressed that progress in your yoga practice is not about perfection of poses but how skillful you become in your everyday actions and interactions. I now gauge how well my practice is working by how I am being in my relationships, duties and responsibilities. Am I becoming the person I want to be?

I can say with some confidence that I've developed some skill. I can also safely say I've got a long way to go. The ultimate test of my progress is spending a week at home with family for the holidays. This is the place where I most want to be, the place I long for when I'm far away and the place that most challenges me because it feels as if simultaneously nothing and everything has changed. It never fails I leave and spend two days replaying scenarios and conversation where I wish I would have had more skill. "Could I have said that differently? This is what I meant, was there a better way to convey it? Was there a more skillful way to react? Will I ever go home and not instantly revert to my 16 year old self?”

Whenever we are faced with a situation we wished had gone differently there’s a lot of room for condemnation, critique and judgement. There is also an opportunity to practice forgiveness. This too requires some skill; allowing ourselves to be learners in this lifetime, forgiving ourselves for the human experience. What I happily realized this time around was that the falling off can be a launching pad to dive deeper into our practice with more enthusiasm. The first day back I got to attend a meditation class I have been taking. Our teacher Banni Bunting shared this quote by Sharon Salzberg.

“If we can stand inside our pain awhile and wait, over time we may come to also see it as a way into the deepest part of ourselves and then back into the world, a vehicle for new insight into who we are and how much we need care for ourselves and each other. The transformation I was seeking wasn’t to be found in what happened to this pain, it would be found in what happened within me in relationship to it. It would be found in opening rather than closing down, in compassion for myself rather than contempt.”

How beautiful and idea to stand inside our our pain, to tolerate our own discomfort for a moment and use it as a vehicle for new insight into who we are. As we understand ourselves we understand each other. As we love ourselves we begin to love each other. We start to trust that these moments are where the greatest opportunity for growth live.

Where All Things Are Possible

Put yourself in the center of all things

There’s no denying the chaos of life. All around us choices, opportunity, upheaval, discord, a booming social calendar, the kids crazy schedules, the realization that status quo is no longer enough and we are ready for change, feeling good one moment then we get smacked with an unexpected life event. Chaos is everywhere. Sometimes completely unexpected and life altering. Other times it’s chosen, it’s the fullness of the life we crave. Either way, amidst this uncertainty of everyday I’ve found that if I’m not grounded, tapped into my intuition or open and receptive to the fluid movement of change then I too become scattered and get caught in a windstorm of confusion and anxiety.

I personally have been feeling this unpredictable energy for the past two months (read groundlessness part 1 & 2) as have students and friends who’ve shared similar stories. I was having sleepless nights where I’d felt I made a wrong decision, I was distracted and feeling scattered, searching outside of myself for answers. My meditation practice was my anchor and one particularly unruly day I sat and imagined myself in the center of all the things going on around me. I sat still in the center as my body, mind, emotions, events, friends, family, situations, formed a circle around me. What I found was what I had been looking for all along. In that moment I became clear and focused. I was calm as I observed the whirlwind of life. I was no longer attached or reactive, I simply was able to observe. I sat with what felt like unshakable strength for 20 minutes, my foot had fallen asleep and I hadn’t even realized. When I emerged I was no longer frazzled, arguing with someone that wasn’t there, justifying my rightness to no one but in my head. None of the circumstances had changed but all of my resistance was gone. In a matter of minutes problems shifted and solutions became known. It was if I had I had prepared the atmosphere for all that was possible.  

You can do it right now.

Close your eyes for a few moments and imagine yourself sitting in the center of a circle. Get grounded in the center, feel the floor under you, the breath breathing you. Around the circumference of the circle begin to place all things in your life. Begin with something as close to you as your physical condition, you remain sitting but separate your body. Next, your mental condition, allow your thoughts to move to the edge of the circle. Then your emotions, send all your emotions to the outer circle. You remain in the center. Now, all the situations happening in your life. All of your duties and responsibilities. You relationships. And all of your future plans. Remain in the center of it all, calm, watching, observing without reaction or response. Just watch. Observe it all. Notice when you want to intervene, when something tries to pull you away. Sense without thought how you feel as an unmovable force as all things swirl around you. Take a minute or two to experience this, when you have time, sit longer. You can’t do this wrong, simply see all that arises.

The beauty of this experiment is that whatever you see or feel is the teacher, is what you need to experience to move forward from a place of objective awareness rather than from a place of stressful reaction.

  • Maybe you able to put yourself in a still place where you see all that is around you swirling, chaotic, always in flux but you are steady, unmoved, you are one unchanging, unwavering constant in your life.

Esther Hicks calls this “the receptive mode”. When you become the unwavering center of your life you become open to possibility, to inspiration, to solutions and answers rather than stuck pushing against the problem.

This is the experience we receive when we spend time in nature or lie in savasana at the end of a yoga practice. It’s really any time we become so immersed in what we are doing that we lose track of time and participate fully in the moment. We become receptive to information, answers, solutions. We become open to the flow of life. We become open to our truest source of inner knowing.

  • No, you did not do it wrong! Observing like this can be so unfamiliar that it’s uncomfortable, it can even seem scary or way too intense. Know that it’s OK and totally normal. It’s actually a powerful tool to be aware of what we resist. If you can, try it again. But this time give gratitude because here lies an opportunity to forgive an old way of being, to soften, to be kinder to yourself, to see what may be holding you back from true happiness.

It’s important to remember that our human condition will quickly pull us out of the receptive mode. Our mind wanders, we get bored, distracted, we chase a thought, we let fear creep in. Again, this is completely natural and normal. Over time sitting in the space will provide a sense of ease, contentment, we might eventually even crave sitting to give our mind the much needed rest it deserves. But at the beginning, because we are very much conditioned to respond, to be ahead of the moment, thinking, processing, striving, pushing, arguing, justifying our position, doing more, being more. Our mind will quickly jump in and scream “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how to meditate” or “it doesn’t work for me”.

It’s at this moment that I hear the calming voice of Rolf Gates “we remember and begin again”. We have an incredible ability to pull ourselves back into alignment, to self soothe, to soften, to sit in the middle where all things are possible and watch. It’s easy to beat myself up for the forgetting, “I should be better at this by now”. But I also have watched the remembering so many times that I’ve realized it’s in those times when I forget, remember and begin again, that I will move back into the receptive mode with more focus, with more direction, where I actually find myself more powerful than I was before.

Put yourself in the receptive mode and when you find those old habits of reaction, your conditioned patterns creeping in, pause. Over time you might even find yourself able to laugh and say “oh, there’s that old familiar thing”. Then the shame and guilt and fear dissipates. These times when we check out and can step back and see the habit are actually incredibly valuable lessons.

  • Eventually we will find in this space exists the possibility of all things. In the middle you are no longer caught up in even your thoughts or emotions. You become objective, clear, strong, confident, all knowing.

Our time on the mat is really merely practice for everyday life. Get into the receptive mode then tiptoe into situations that challenge it. This is the practice. See how long you can hold alignment. Recognize when it’s gone. There is no right or wrong, it’s all part of the fullness of life. But it’s important that we carve out opportunities to practice. Otherwise we end up reacting to conditions, blaming others, playing victim and letting the chaos of life drag us around. Our practice becomes our pause, a return to center in order to tap into the true inner power that we possess. Take one last moment, hold your hands to your heart and give radical gratitude for all that was around your circle. 
 

You can dance in a hurricane

But only if you're standing in the eye ~ Brandi Carlile

Groundlessness Part 2

"Dream in spite of darkness. Hope in spite of odds. Prevail in spite of fear." ~Mike Dooley

Think of one thing in your life that you’ve realized in the last day, week, month or year is unstable/not fixed/prone to change/unpredictable/wobbly/shaky/maybe even not as dependable as you once knew it to be.

Your body. A relationship. Your career. An event didn’t go the way you had planned. You feel disconnected from the people around you, separate, alone. 

 Once you’ve got the thing (because we all have a thing, some area of our life that we thought was constant but has shown us otherwise). Now, give gratitude for it. Radical gratitude. Because in its groundlessness it has shown you that nothing outside of yourself is truly fixed. Everything changes. Everything is in flux. There is nothing outside of ourselves that we can truly hold on to for a secure sense of security. In seeing this, in accepting this, we find two things:

  1. our ability to go with the flow, to become fluid and open, curious, to reach for solutions that we may not have ever reached for.

  2. That the only thing that we can truly depend on is our own power, our internal alignment, the fact that we are the living energy that permeates all things. That within lies the solutions to all of our problems, the answers to all of our questions and ultimately our happiness because we realize our reactions are the only things we can control. We give up the notion that “if you would change, then I would be happy” or the “i’ll be happy when..”.

 For me “you are the answer” is a little hard to digest. I want to buy to the solution, I want to eat, drink, read the book, take the course, chaturanga my way to the solution. Tell me what’s in the secret sauce that will make my life complete. I literally asked Rolf Gates for it one day during my training with him. I said “give me the secret, how do you hit the mark every time?” He looked right at me and said “if you don’t trust in yourself then you shouldn't be doing it.” There it is. That’s how you hit the mark, trust in your own power.  Even our yoga practice is not solution, it’s a means to the solution. The things that we do or acquire can be a temporary means to happiness but ultimately won’t provide the lasting contentment we crave. This is always found within. 

We use the practice in this way. We begin with the body because it’s the most tangible, the most easily accessed. Through building strength and opening the tight spots we access the energy flow that has become stuck and stagnant. As the energy becomes unstuck we find a new level of awareness, of curiosity, we step into the flow. As the body opens so does the mind. With this open awareness we start to direct this flow of energy to the places that need it most. To the areas where we have become hardened and stuck mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  In the flow of life we may find ourselves saying, “I want to see this another way”. As we let go of our rigid beliefs of how it's all supposed to be (better said, as we let go of the fear that created the rigid beliefs in the first place) we step into the quiet of the mind. In the space in between the thoughts lies an inspiration, an idea, an answer, a solution. We begin to shift, to see clearly, to move into the flow, the stream of well being, the abundant living energy that is always available to us.

"The instability in your life has created the atmosphere for you to know your true power."
 

Groundlessness Part 1

“Do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come.”  Rumi

Last week I looked around my house in the midst of some home improvements. Outside, huge stumps with what looked like mile long roots were being uprooted, the flooring in our family room torn out, the kitchen walls had been demolished. The furniture was pushed to a corner, some turned upside down, covered with sheets to protect the fabric from the dust. I sat in the midst of what seemed like total destruction and thought “this is a metaphor for my whole life right now”. Total chaos, instability, a complete uprooting. There was nothing to cling to, there was no steady ground to stand on and I remember hearing Pema Chodron say “in the midst of groundlessness you need two things; acceptance and unconditional kindness towards yourself”.

Last night I taught a beautiful yoga nidra class with my long time and beloved partner Carin Cundey. Carin is moving to Texas in the fall and I’ve been too excited for her new life to even contemplate that we won’t be working together any longer. She read the above Rumi quote and I pushed back tears as I thought about how we are all live each day in the midst of uncertainty and change. I will miss her so but will take her words to heart as I know her energy and love and support will be with me (as will mine with be with her) as we move on separate but always together.

Today, I woke up and looked around, the yard has been leveled with beautiful new grass taking root. Untrodden flooring has been installed and late last night I cleaned and put the kitchen back together again. I smiled as I remembered all I have learned from my dear sweet friend Carin. I sat in the same spot I had a week ago but this time I thought “I needed total destruction in order to rebuild from a stronger place”.

Chodron says “there’s nothing to hold onto and no escape from the groundlessness of being”. Sometimes groundlessness is something we chose other times it’s circumstances beyond our control. But if there’s nothing to hold onto the question then becomes how can I find strength and clarity in the midst of the instability? Can I accept that there will never be a time when it all fits together just perfect? And would I really want it to? Most importantly, can I find unconditional kindness towards the sweet self I see in the mirror every day? This is my practice, why I meditate, why I do yoga, why I show up every day. I don’t yet know what’s on the other side but I can no longer say that I know the side I’ve been on is better.

“Anything can happen my friend, intend for it to be fabulous”.

Freedom, it's closer than you think

Freedom Part I

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” ~ Tina Fey

20 years ago I was watching an interview with Madonna and heard her say she did yoga. Fresh out of the nest, testing my wings for the first time, I had just began questioning religion, the way I ate, the beliefs I’d had up to that point, my perspective of the world around me.

“Hmmm, yoga” I thought. It sounded intriguing, different, cultish. I liked it. I went right out and signed up for a ten week course. “Thank you Madge….for it is this practice that has had the most significant influence on my growth and transformation. Yoga helped to answer the questions I had about the world and my place in it. It gave me a understanding of personal responsibility, self worth and the power that exists in the present moment. Yoga has taught me when I’m stuck, tight, or feel helpless, when my mind seems to be spinning beyond my control, when I’m anxious or ungrounded; there’s another way to see the world.

Here I am at the beginning of 2017, 20 years later, and I found myself listening to Madonna again. She was honored with the award of Billboard Women in Music, Woman of the Year 2016. She gave a bold acceptance speech that began when she moved to NYC as a teenager and the horrifying and unexpected events that occurred in those first few years. She said these events not only shaped the women she is today but taught her  in life there is no real safety except self-belief. As I listened I thought, “there it is again”.

In a time when we are confused and found questioning the world around us we are awakening to another way.

We are being reminded that we already possess the answers we are seeking and it begins by believing in ourselves. We look out at an ego-driven world that is beyond our control and it’s a big scary place where if I win, you lose. On the mat we look within and we are reminded of truth of who we are. A truth that we all know but possibly have lost touch with along the way.

The beginning of the year provides us with the notion of a blank slate, a fresh start where we often create the space to envision who it is we want to be, how it is we want to show up in the world. These visions for the future are exciting and hold a tremendous amount of momentum because they have lived in our hearts for years and we are awakening to them. We are accepting the possibility that there is indeed another way.

Freedom Part II

“Everyone has a yearning for something bigger than them. There’s an awe, a wonder. We are drawn, curious, have an innate natural wisdom about doing something different.” ~Pema Chodron

There is no getting around it, as humans we are creatures of change. And the moment we set our sights on the possibility of another way to think, to speak, to act, we instantly have a desire to create change; as scary as that can be, or as unsure about how to proceed we may feel. Think about how simply and frequently you ask for change in our everyday life. If you are hungry, you want to eat, if you are full you want to stop eating. If you are cold you want to be warm and when you are hot you would like a cool breeze. There’s no getting around it, change and desire are everywhere. Stepping on the yoga mat is no exception. Just like the first days of the new year, the first minutes of class the question is posed; why are you here? What is that you want to embody in this life? What is your intention?

For the longest time this was confusing to me. I couldn’t actually articulate why I was there or what exactly I wanted to embody in this life, it seemed like a lot of pressure to come up with this one magical phrase, even if we were simply stating it to ourselves silently. So I never really stated anything at all. Until, that is, I began to understand the power of thought and intention.

Mike Dooley explains that “we want change because there are either things you dislike about the present (cons) or things you want about the future (pros)”. Let’s imagine we have just stepped onto the mat. I’ve decided to come to yoga because there are things I dislike about the present (cons); my body feels tight or weak, my mind imbalanced, scattered, my emotions are angry, sad, alone or spiritually I feel disconnected, ungrounded. And there are things I want for the future (pros); I want my body to be open, flexible, strong, my mind to be focused, clear, I want to be happy, energetic, to feel alive, I want to be connected and grounded.

Once we see that the pros and cons exist all the time we see how easy it is to set an intention. Ask yourself, “what do you want to focus on? The pros or the cons?” It’s simple. If I’m mad I want to be happy, if I’m anxious I want to be calm, sick I want to be well. What you focus on becomes your story, becomes your perspective of the world around you. But we know, there is always another way. Focus on what it is you want for the future, what does strength look like? What does fluidity feel like? What does equality or justice or abundance or success or love and happiness? Go ahead, imagine it! Know that this is where your power to create lies, in this moment you are creating, making your intentions manifest. Now state it silently to yourself. When an intention is stated it is said as a short positive statement as if it already exists in present time. “I am..” “I have…” “I create…”

Freedom Part III

“To be free we must acknowledge our resistance.” ~Gabby Bernstein

Now that you have your intention the next step in allowing it to become manifest is to believe it. We have to make room in our consciousness for this thing that supposedly doesn’t exist. We have to believe that we worthy of the very thing that we want. This is where we get stuck and refuse to believe that we are capable of manifesting the life that we want. This is also where we start to take our power back by seeing how we keep ourselves stuck. Our logical and practical mind first says, “well it isn’t true. How am I supposed to believe something that isn’t true.” We don’t allow our imaginations to wander to the future that we want. Or we say “I could have my dream if all you clowns would just be different.” Or, “yes, I really want happiness, success, a strong body, an open heart, but let me tell all the reasons I why I’ll never have it.” We then empower our limitations as we justify this list of reasons that stand in our way. Then there is the saddest of all the walls we’ve built, because it leaves us victim of circumstance, if only. “if only this were different, I would be happy.”

The beauty is that once we acknowledge our resistance it doesn’t have quite the same hold on us. We can actually begin to see that our resistance was put there to protect us and as the powerful creators of change that we are we know that there is another way. Your resistance is an opportunity to acknowledge injustice and fight for fairness. To see hate and do all that you can to create love. To know fully what anxiety and fear feel like but commit to powerful, present moment awareness and action. Acknowledging our resistance is to finally set ourselves free.

Freedom Part IV

“You are not your body. You are not the wild parade of thoughts that march through your mind. You are not the highs and lows of your emotions. You are not the sense of separation you so often feel. You are the witness, the one that is capable of observing the body, the mind, the emotions.” ~cl

The place that I found it the easiest to understand self-belief, intention, resistance and freedom is the space of the yoga mat. We show up in all of our humanness but eventually find who it is we are and where it is we’ve come from. That we are indeed the the witness, the one who observes without judgement or expectation. Unfortunately somewhere along the way of everyday life we have completely distanced ourselves from the higher part of us. We have been taught to rely more on logic and practicality (not that these things are bad) than our intuition or our heart. But just because we have been led away from the truth doesn’t mean that it hasn’t always been there and it doesn’t mean we can’t go back to it right this very moment.

Gabby Bernstein says “The presence of fear is a sure sign you are trusting in your own strength.” We separate from the love and peace and power and creativity that is available to us in every moment and we begin to rely on the walls that we have built. The list of justifications for the unfulfilled life become more powerful than our ability to manifest the life we want. But the moment we realize, the moment we surrender to the knowing that we are more than these limited human bodies, that we of God, all knowing, unlimited, free, then we can finally forgive ourselves for trusting in fear, we can finally take the weight of the world off our shoulders, we can finally give up our useless attempts at trying to control the world around us and realize that all of our safety and power lies in self-belief. Believe that you are worthy of your intention, know what that looks like to you, go out into the world and create the change that you so desperately desire by being the who it is you want to be, by owning what it is you want embody, by accepting and loving who you already are.

 

Look at what love can do

"I needed to love on them a little bit." J-hey

I left the country two days after the Cubs won the World Series. On the way to airport I was watching the parade where 5 million people showed up to cry, cheer, wave their W flag and show their gratitude for their beloved team. As I was boarding the plane I was trying to catch up on text messages from people who were sending their congrats and frantically scrolling my news feed trying not to miss one interview or news article.

Ten days later I returned to the states with a much different tone to the 380 text messages I had. Again frantically scrolling my news feed trying not to miss one interview or news article. I had been basically disconnected from the internet while I was away so I’m processing all that is happening in the world about a week later than everyone.

As I process, and still sway a bit from being on a boat for seven days, I’d like to reflect on a time which now seems like so very long ago, a time when all was right in the world. . . the night the Cubs won the World Series.

Game seven took place in Cleveland so the the Cubs were at bat first. Dexter Fowler, Cubs leadoff man, hits a solo home run. I’m still “preparing to watch the game” running around my house, lighting candles on my altar and I stop and say “all right, they came to play.” It’s a long game but I can’t help but have a huge smile face.

We get a few runs here and there, Cleveland gets a couple but the Cubs lead the whole game. We have a pitching change that we are all like. . . mmmmmmm. . . but we trust you Joe, you got us here. It’s 5-3 in the fourth. In the 5th, Grandpa Ross, playing his last professional game ever, just a few innings away from retiring, comes to bat and hits a homerun. 6-3 Cubs! I’m contemplating where I’ll be popping the champagne. My phone is going crazy.

Fast forward 8th inning. The Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman comes in with two outs. We now have four outs left to win the game. So much excitement!

Cleveland ties it up. Silence.

Now we are Cubs fans. In the past when something like this happens it’s like the air has been let out of the room. I can’t speak for anyone else, I have yet to ask how others how they felt, but for me, I didn’t sense it was over. I had faith.

What happened next was the most interesting turn of events. Some would say it started raining. I say, the heavens opened. The tarp comes out and they call a rain delay. What happened in those 17 minutes is what I always want to remember this team for and what has actually gotten me through the processing of the events in our country since that night.

Jason Heyward (J-hey) calls the guys into the weight room. Joe Maddon is quoted saying “I’m not a meeting guy, but I love when the guys meet.” The room is somber, guys are crying, and Jey-hey says “You know what, whatever’s happened up to this point. . . it’s over. We are still the best team. We need to pull together and chip away. We are going to win this game.”

When Heyward was asked about this pep talk he said, “I just needed to remind these guys how good they are, how special they are and that everybody in that room can get the job done. I sensed that they needed to hear it from somebody. They needed to be reminded how good they are. I need to love on them a little bit.”

“I needed to love on them a little bit.” I remember thinking when I first read this, “wow, look at what the power of love can do.”

I know that right now in America some people are optimistic, some joyful, others content, a lot confused, angry, saddened or absolutely fearful. Personally, I sway back and forth, both literally and emotionally, I’m not sure when I’ll feel again like I’m solid ground. What I have heard repeatedly from my community in the short time I’ve been back is, “I need yoga”. And the simple reason for this is because yoga is a tool that we’ve been given that allows us to remember. To remember the truth of who we are. To open and strengthen the body, to clear the mind, to balance our emotional state and to eventually connect with the part of us that is bigger than us. The presence that holds us upright that is beyond muscle, tissue, skin and bone. Some call it God, consciousness, the light, spirit, Universe. I believe it’s the thread, the unifying force that reminds us that we are all connected, all the same.

I truly have faith that I am exactly where I need to be and that what is happening in the world around me is exactly what needs to be happening. That this is an awakening. We are being reminded that the shadow exists. It’s alive and has come to the surface affecting the lives of people that have forgotten it’s still there. My practice reminds me that I can see the shadow and hold steady the vision of what I want to embody in this life. Hold steady the vision for what I want for future generations.

I look at my nieces and nephews and pray that they will live in a world where we are all equal, where they will not be judged by their gender, race or who they chose to love. And that they will not be able to fathom judging others for such things. That they will have freedom over their bodies, that they will not be harassed because they are deemed “lesser than”. I pray that they will be able to use their voices equally. That they will embrace the power of who they are so completely that they will be so connected to the truth that they will only know how to spread love.

What happened in that 17 minute rain delay was the power of love. It won a World Series and can be equally applied in the confusion of current events today.

“You know what [America; women, men, black, white, immigrants, lesbian, gay, transgender, PEOPLE], whatever’s happened up to this point. . . it’s over. We are still the best team. We need to pull together and chip away. We are going to win this game.”

Maybe we all need to be reminded how good life really is, how special we ALL are and to look at the people around you standing in truth and love and say “we got this”.

“I sensed that they needed to hear it from somebody. They needed to be reminded how good they are. I needed to love on them a little bit.”

It often feels like we can do so little. But we can all love on someone a little bit. And that always begins with the sweet self that you see in the mirror every day. Look at who you are. Look at those around you. Look at what love can do.

Have you forgotten?

“Is it Rizzo?” ~ Carson Latimer (age 3)

If you were to ask my nephew what he wants to be when he grows up he will tell you without hesitation that he wants to to a player on the Chicago Cubs so that he can sit in the dugout with (Anthony) Rizzo; his favorite player.

One night Caron’s grandpa was reading to him before bed. Unbeknownst to Carson, his uncle home from college for the weekend, had come upstairs and was standing in the doorway of the bedroom to surprise him. Carson’s back was to the door listening intently to the bedtime story. His grandpa, seeing his uncle, said, “Carson, guess who’s here?” Carson’s eyes got wide and he asked, “is it Rizzo?”.

I remembered this story one day while I was meditating. I had forced myself to sit because the alternative was to continue to spin out about some injustice that the prosecutor, defendant, judge and jury of my mind was never going to come to agreement on. I was stuck, holding tightly to my convictions, unable to see any possibility that existed beyond my current situation. In meditation I heard the question; “when did we lose the wonder, the magic?”. At age three there is no limiting logic, there is no rationale that says the most exciting thing that you can imagine can’t be. If someone’s at your door in the middle of the night it’s not necessarily another person that lives there, it’s the first baseman for the Cubs.

When did we lose that optimistic potential in what can be? When did we stop trusting that we will be provided for? When did we trade in our faith for fear? Start to grip so tightly around the limited self defeating thoughts that say, “you’re not enough to have that”? When did we lose the magic?

The stillness of our meditation practice serves as reminder that the magic is still there. When we still the body and quiet the mind we see who it is we are beyond all that is temporary. We learn that we are not just these limited bodies and chaotic minds but we are also the Intelligence that lies in wait in the still place behind the chattering, the rationale and processing. We sense that we are indeed the Presence that holds us upright that is beyond muscle, tissue, skin and bone. The magic exists, it’s the pulse of our heartbeat, the rhythm of our breath, the sun, moon, planets and stars. And just because we’ve forgotten that it exists doesn’t mean it hasn’t been there all along.

“There’s a part of us that we can connect to that is an ever-present source of inspiration, strength, light and guidance….ALWAYS. This is why we meditate.” ~Rod Stryker

 

Try Not To Suck

“Try not to suck” ~Joe Maddon
I was recently driving to Wrigley Field with my cousin when she said she needed a “try not to suck t-shirt”. Having seen them only briefly when watching a game the news that this was the 2016 Cubs motto hadn’t really made it’s way to Bend, OR. I let it pass but was thinking, “I don’t want to wear that”. Try not to suck? Can’t we do better than that? What about visioning the best you possible and being that person? Getting up every day from where you are with what you have doing your best from that place? Know you are awesome and act accordingly? These were the cheerleading slogans I wanted to don.
Once we got to Wrigleyville I saw the seemingly low standard advice everywhere. Every shop we went into, every third person you saw was wearing it. My brother and his wife showed up wearing matching t-shirts so excited to be sporting the statement and I finally asked, “what was the context of this, when did he (Joe Maddon) say it?” I learned that when Javier Baez was brought up from the minors he was sent to Maddon’s office and the advice that Joe gave to this very young and assumingly very nervous kid was just to go out there and “try not to suck”. This soon became the slogan for the team who was first in the league to clinch their division and recently won their 100th game.
I instantly realized the power of the statement and thought “wow”. To take the pressure off a young player like that who was about to perform on the biggest stage of his life. And then I thought, “what if we all took the pressure off ourselves a bit? This isn’t just a slogan for baseball, this is a slogan for life”.
What if we all softened just a bit?
Were a little less critical? Judgmental?
Worried less about perfection and more about happiness?
What if we all had more compassion? Acceptance?
Were quicker to forgive?
Gave each other the benefit of the doubt?
Relaxed?
To me what Joe Maddon was saying was, “listen, you are going to go out there and make some mistakes. You will go out there and probably not be the best, you might fall down, you might even fail. But if you are trying not to suck it means you are showing up every day from where you are with what you have and essentially are doing your best, working hard and taking personal responsibility all without the pressure of needing to be perfect. Because you already are. So go be human and have fun.”
The philosophy of our spiritual practice begins with the premise that we “of God”. We are spiritual beings (perfect, unlimited) in human form (flawed, impermanent). A teacher of mine says so often students come to the yoga mat wanting to become more spiritual but that is impossible. If our heritage is Divine then we can’t possibly become more spiritual, but what we can do, is work on embracing our humanness.
My need to be perfect was what pushed me against the slogan in the first place. I believe that this is one of my  biggest assets because it ensures that I’m going to show up prepared, organized, clear, ready. And it is one of worst flaws stopping me dead in my tracks and holding me back from the most exciting things in life because I believe I won’t be good enough. Trying not to suck (my new mantra) may sound ridiculous but it takes the weight of the world off my shoulders (as I’m sure it did Baez’s that day in Maddon’s office). In just a few days it has stopped me from spinning out about things I can’t control or from responding from a place of judgement or criticism. This is a reminder that I’ve gotten before in my life and here it is again because I’m human and I forget and remember, forget and remember. You’re already perfect, now go be human and HAVE FUN! I recently read that Maddon put a disco ball in the clubhouse because he believes in celebrating. Hmmmmm….wonder how that would look in my living room?
"You are already perfect, let's learn to embrace our humanness"

 

The doing is the thing.

“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking about it is not the thing.” ~Amy Poehler

How often do we allow our fear to stand in the way of our showing up? How often do we find ourselves saying “but I don’t know how”? or “I’m too old, young, short, tall, overqualified, underqualified.” Somewhere along the way we have bought into the story that says we can’t. And the justification for buying the story is “I don’t know how”. So, in our supposed need to know how every puzzle piece fits before we even open the box we decide it’s better to never even start the puzzle in the first place. We set it aside with all the other puzzles that have cobwebs and mold gathered on them from years of sitting stagnant in the corner of our hearts. Oh, sure, every now and again we glance at them over there collecting dust. There are probably some we’ve forgotten ever existed, but every once in awhile we think “I’ll dust that one off today” and as we are about to walk in the direction of our dreams the voice that keeps us small says “but what will you do? How will it look? What if you don’t know which direction to go? What if you do it wrong or fail?” And we become paralyzed with the fear that we allow to hold us back from anything that will take us out of our comfort zone. What we have forgotten is that there is always another player. The Universe knows where every puzzle piece fits and if we would just take the puzzle out of the box and enjoy the game the Universe would get right in there with us and divinely guide us. We don’t need to know, can’t possibly know with our limited human mind how it’s all going to fit together. But the Universe knows and is guiding us. All we need to do is to keep looking at the picture on the box cover (holding steady the vision of what we want) and then show up to the game.

At first this seems like efforting, striving, climbing the ladder. The need to be better, more than the limited version of ourselves that we see in the mirror each day. But this idea that we could possibly be better or more than we are now keeps us in the mindset of “not enough”. Back to the cycle of one step forward toward our dreams and one step back because fear says we aren’t worthy of them.

One day we stop, there are a number of ways that make us pause and recognize who we really are, my experience with this remembering has occurred on the yoga mat. This is where I heard over and over again that all I need and want exists within and I realized after many years of practice that the desire to be more isn’t because I’m broke or need to be fixed but because I am already whole. Because I’m the perfection of the Universe manifested as a tiny speck in this beautiful world. And that by simply showing up, regardless if i know how or what it’s supposed to look like, I’m right in there playing along with the Universe. Holding steady the vision of that perfectly captured photograph on the box cover I show up, from where I am, with what I have in the moment, I show up, because the doing is the thing.  

Poehler goes on to say; “Every day we just get out of bed and show up. However unprepared or not ready our spinning mind tells us we are, we just show up. We put our feet on the floor, we hug our children or set a boundary with them, we say yes and figure it out later, we apologize or wish someone well, we pick up the phone and make a call (yes a call), we look in the mirror and say ‘I’m doing this today because I love myself’.”

“The doing of it is the thing”

 

You Are Here

“What you are looking for is already in you...You already are everything you are seeking.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

You are here. Wherever you are right now reading this, feel your feet on the earth, or if you can, place your hand on the ground, touch the floor, feel the texture of the grass or rug, wood or tile, under you. You are here. In this moment. Taking this breath. In this life. At this time. In this place. Where all your strength lies. Where all your openness, clarity, equanimity, contentment and peace exits. Where all the magic is and where you will ultimately find freedom.

I teach yoga because every time I’m on the mat I’m reminded of my body and it’s abilities, and even sometimes lack of, but I’m still reminded. Every time I step on the mat I get to feel the breath breathing me. It’s a place where there’s opportunity to see beyond the chaos of my mind. It's the place where I remember to align, to find center, to experience the magic. It might sound funny or simply obvious but on the mat I am reminded that I’m alive. Honestly, how often do we forget this? I know that unless I’m injured or my muscles are sore I don’t really spend much time thinking about my body while I’m in my every day. Unless I am holding it or have a cold I rarely think of my breath. If I’m not careful my mind can spin on autopilot and I will be drudging up something I’m mad about from 1988. Without reminding myself I can walk through this world of 7 billion people and feel completely separate and alone. For me, the mat is where I connect. But the mat is simply practice for the every day. What I've learned is that no matter where I am I can find center, peace, happiness, love.

Again, feel an area of your body connected to the earth. Look at something, anything from where you are right this minute and see it’s beauty. Feel one breath and with the mind’s eye watch it run along your spine. YOU ARE ALIVE. There’s blood pumping through your veins, there’s oxygen flowing into your muscles, there’s a spirit that animates your body that compels you to get out of bed every day and show up in the world as YOU.

I believe we can no longer take this granted. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, right now, you have the privilege of designing something else. Empower the present. You are here. In this moment. Taking this breath. In this life. At this time. In this place.

“Don’t wait to start living. Live now! Your life should be real in this very moment.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

"If you can imagine it, you can have it"

“If you can imagine it you can have it. Reality is not what your eyes show your mind, but what your mind creates for your eyes to see. You are not limited by logic, the past, or the world around you. You are pure spirit.” ~Mike Dooley

I find that all too often we are coming to the mat in the midst of some horrific tragedy, difficult situation or heartbreaking circumstance of this human life.

But, at the same time, these terribly challenging events are not stopping baby’s being born, two people falling in love, marriages, birthdays, celebrations, acts of kindness, parties, growth, transformation or spiritual connection.

Anne Frank wrote, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up at the heavens, I think that it will all come out right, that this cruelty too will end and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

We can not, in any way, neglect the sadness, anger, confusion or pain that we feel. The idea is that we feel these emotions fully. But, at the same time, we hold steady the vision of our highest intentions which are happiness and love. I believe a lot of different things bring students to the yoga mat, be it physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, it doesn’t matter. If any of these intentions were to be broken down to their root we would find that all we really want is happiness and love.

What I have learned is that it has to start within. Each time I come to the mat I get this incredible opportunity to know who I am at my core, which is pure spirit, which is happiness and love (you see we are the very thing we so desperately want). I also get to explore the areas where I’m blocking source, inspiration, divinity, happiness and love within. I get to see fully where and when I’m choosing fear, anger, hate, negativity. And when I find these areas of tension, tightness and restriction the practice has given me the tools to pause, breathe, hold the illusion of fear, anger, hate and negativity up to the luminous light of spirit and see if it can withstand the power of my beating heart, of my natural born inclination for happiness and love.

It took me a long time to challenge the beliefs that I held and start asking the questions like: “What if I’m meant to be happy? What if life is meant to be fun? What if the Universe or God isn’t judging me at all but loving me every minute?”

I love this explanation from Mike Dooley on why we have become so seemingly evil: “The reason we see a very small portion of the world’s people behaving, at times, so horribly, as if possessed by evil, is not the result of us following our passions but of our wholesale neglect of them and the tensions, resentment, and fear this has created.”

What does happiness look like to you? Sound like? Feel like? The Universe says “if you can imagine it, you can have it”. But how often do we believe this? That’s the catch. In order for the intention to be made manifest we have to believe that it’s possible. We can’t say “I want to be happy but I won’t be until this is different” or “if only this would change, you’d be different, if only I had this or that, then I’ll be happy”. We can’t focus on lack and gain abundance. We can’t hold our attention on hate and receive love. We can’t be unhappy and expect happiness to come. We have to believe that it is available to us. We have to hold steady the vision of happiness and love regardless of what is happening around us.

So what does love look like to you? Sound like? Feel like? If you can imagine it you can have it. "Reality is what your mind creates for your eyes to see." Process your feelings of anger and sadness, know too where they live within you. But hold steady the vision of happiness and love. When you are watching a beautiful sunrise say “thank you”. When you are listening to the sound of a baby laughing or crying at a wedding ceremony, note the beauty. When you are laughing so hard you cry stop and relish in those feelings. When someone gives you a compliment, you help a stranger on the street, you smell a flower or pick something out of your garden, when you sit on your mat and hear your breath or the beating of your heart, know that in those moments you are aligned with your truth, you are aligned with happiness and love. You are remembering as Anne Frank did when she looked up at the heavens, that it is all going to come out all right.

“If you can imagine it you can have it. Reality is not what your eyes show your mind, but what your mind creates for your eyes to see. You are not limited by logic, the past, or the world around you. You are pure spirit.” ~Mike Dooley