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

 

The life-changing magic of tidying (Part One/Two/Three)

Part One

“Yoga doesn’t want to change you. It wants to free you.” Bryan Kest

How often do we believe this? If you were to examine your physical body right now, just as you are, how many parts do you believe could be improved upon? I didn’t step onto the yoga mat for the first time thinking I needed to change but once I was there I certainly thought yoga was the “cure”. It was the magic pill that would heal and strengthen my weak and tense body. The remedy for a scattered and unfocused mind, the quick fix that would rid me of all my pains and suffering, make my broken self whole again.

I recently spent a weekend back home with my family which was simultaneously amazing, comforting, beautiful, fun and incredibly challenging, sad and painful. The joke is “if you think you are enlightened go back home for a weekend”. As hard as I try to maintain my evolution I rarely go back to Chicago as a 41 year old yoga instructor who has her shit together. I go back as a 12 year old older sister with two younger brothers and annoying parents. Convinced I have all the answers and yet vulnerable enough to allow all the old wounds to open backup, the things I wish I could have said, the things I wish I hadn’t of said, the pain of separation, the fear of losing touch. The three day vacation filled with laughter and comfort food that I long for when I’m in 2000 miles away becomes 72 hours of high intensity emotions and reactions.

While I was home Soul Cycling, eating, shopping, loving the Windy City, discussing books, movies and YouTube videos to watch with my most favorite people in the world, “The life-changing magic of tidying up” was mentioned. It was toted as a “must do” so I put it in my notes and went back to loving my family. As the weekend neared its end the all around pain of leaving set in and the goodbyes were tearful. There’s never enough time and too much has gone unsaid. On the way to the airport I remembered the suggestion of tidying. “Yes”, I thought. Give it to me, I wanted to cleanse, purge, get rid of, go to the core and scrape it all out, unearth all the issues that surrounded my past and put them out on the curb for Friday’s garbage pick-up never to be seen again. Tidying suddenly was the new “magic pill, the remedy, the quick fix I believed yoga had once been and I needed it yesterday. I scoured two airports for the book and finally found it in the last terminal that I could look. I opened the book immediately. I read the testimonials of how it had changed so many lives and with great anticipation thought of all the ways in which it would surely change mine. “What would I purge? How many bags of junk could I get rid of, who would I become once I was done?”

On the plane to my new destiny I read about how we have been taught to organize backwards. Marie Kondo explained that we have been instructed to get rid of, purge, throw out what no longer serves us. “Yeah, exactly why I bought the book, how do I start?”. I stopped and closed the book when I read the sentence “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” O.M.G. I learned this on the mat, I talk about it in class, I meditate to it, but yet, there is still a part of me that believes I need to be fixed, that I am broken and there is a cure out there. I realized all the ways in which I show up to life like this. I recently went to my naturopath and asked for a food allergy panel, 'tell me what foods I need to get rid of'. I do juice cleanses to purge my body of toxins. Twists on the mat to release old junk in my intestines. Energetic clearings, meditate away the unwanted thoughts, clear out my email in-box of junk mail, purge, purge, purge. And once the magic pill is taken I will be renewed, fixed, my broken self will be made whole again.

“Yoga doesn’t want to change you. It wants to free you.” Bryan Kest

Part Two

“Freedom is not about the size of your cage or power of your wings or non-attachment to a person or thing. Freedom is about being so truly, madly and deeply attached to your own soul that you can not bear ----- if only for one moment ----- a life that does not honor it.” ~ Andrea Balt

The premise of yoga begins with the notion that we are “of God”, a spark of the divine, complete, whole, loved, free. And the practice of yoga and meditation are tools we have been given to remember this, to connect to this part of ourselves, to live from this place. Our imperfections (our human bodies) are, as Brene Brown said “not inadequacies, but reminders that we are all in this together”. When practicing yoga, not just the physical asana, but when living our yoga, we are thinking and acting from this place of wholeness. And any belief otherwise goes against the aims of yoga. Years ago I criticized myself in front of dear friend and mentor of mine and he snapped at me “you are a child of God, how dare you question or chastise her work”.

The work we do on the mat, as I mentioned, is a reflection of life off the mat. We get challenged on the mat as we do in life. We struggle on the mat as we do every day. We fatigue and get bored and distracted. We also find our power, become inspired, and eventually discover the truth of who we are. As I continued reading Kondo’s book she said that if we were to examine our intention behind wanting to tidy up we would realize at the root that we want to be happy. “Therefore, the best criterion for choosing what to keep and what to discard is whether keeping it will make you happy, whether it will bring you joy.”

We begin our yoga practice with an intention. “Why are you here? What got you out of bed and onto the mat today? What do you want to embody in your life?” I believe too that if we were to examine the root of any intention, be it tidying or showing up on the mat, we would realize that we all simply want to be happy. So the challenge on the mat or the meditation cushion is to uncover or awaken to all the ways in which we’ve built up walls, kept ourselves small, told ourselves stories that limit us. Once realized we can make a decision from a place of present moment awareness whether these thoughts, habits, patterns or tendencies are making us happy, bringing us joy. Then we can act from a place of present moment awareness. If they are, then tend to them, love them, nurture them and watch them grow. And if they aren’t, give gratitude for what  it was they once gave you and Let. Them. Go.

She could never go back and make some of the details pretty, all she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful. ~Terri St. Cloud

Part Three

“When you room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” ~Marie Kondo

The process of tidying is done by using your intuition rather than logic. You feel the item, touch it, sense it, hold it close to your heart and either happily keep it or let it go. This becomes easier with time. I found myself in a tidying rhythm, moving right along, it was fun, uncovering what I truly loved to possess. On the mat the idea is the same. As Rolf Gates says “we are moving from thinking to feeling”. Rather than “what should I be doing? Is this right? Perfect?” Using intuition it becomes “Is this moving me closer to my intention or farther away? Am on on auto pilot with my body pulling the breath or have I surrendered to the breath, to my inner knowing?”

This process allows us to go deeper into who we are and what we truly cherish. But as you dig deeper the more you find. Both on the mat and with tidying. Rather than go room by room to tidy your home Kondo’s system is to go category by category. Clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous then sentimental items. Just like on the mat, it’s easier to work with the body first then move to the more subtle aspects of our being that will inevitably be more challenging like our ego and emotions. Sure enough, as I went deeper, tidying got hard. There was a lot of stuff. The piles kept coming, the drawers I had forgotten possessions even lived in. The amount of papers, neatly stacked in desks, drawers, closets and bags tucked in the guest room. Tidying papers was quite a day. I jammed the paper shredder and my husband nearly divorced me. It was emotionally exhausting. Ever had one of the moments on the mat? You tell yourself an old story, and you realize the moment you think it, it’s a story that limits you. Or you set an intention and instantly list off all the reasons you will never have it? That’s what all that stuff represented to me. A dream left unattended to under a pile of crap, something that I procrastinated on maybe because I didn’t believe I was worthy of it or I scared of what might happen if I truly stepped into my power. I ate ice cream for dinner that night as I sat faced with a full recycling bin and the knowing that there was a part of me that still believed the “the story” that I wasn’t worthy. The sheer amount of clutter in my home was testament to the all the ways in which I keep myself small.

A few days of wallowing and a lot of apologies to my husband for dragging him into this and then the beauty hit me. The things that I loved, the dreams that I had, the project I procrastinated on were all still there. Not one thing ever got up and left my home because I didn’t use it or had forgotten about it. And herein lies the beauty of the practice. The beauty of who we are. Our true self never leaves us. Our intuition, our source, our power, our love, our light. It’s always there. Sure there might 700 unused sticky notes or hotel shampoo bottles sitting on top of it but it’s not going anywhere.

Our bodies hurt then they heal

Our minds distract than they become clear

Our emotions dip and twist and turn

Our ability to remember our worth waxes and wanes.

But the truth of who we are remains. It is there for us whenever we are ready. It’s not even going to ask any questions about where we’ve been or who we’ve been moonlighting with. It’s there, waiting. Kondo says “everything you own wants to be of use to you”. Your spirit, your creativity, your intuition wants to be of use to you.

“Believe what your heart tells you when you ask, ‘does this spark joy’” ~Marie Kondo

Self-Love

“The greatest tool of self-love is self-awareness. Once you truly know yourself, love is the only option.” ~ Vironika Tugaleva

When we sit in meditation we often experience physical discomfort, mental chaos, emotional highs and lows and the illusion that we are alone, separate from one another. The idea is to feel all these things fully and recognize that you have the ability to stay with something uncomfortable and not get up to grab a bag of chips, that you can experience anxiety and not have to have a drink, or be sad and not go shopping or glorify your busyness. You have the ability to sit in the moment and feel the sensation and stay, without reaction, until you move through it. But this takes practice and that is why we sit or go to a yoga class. To practice for the hardest yoga class we will ever take; our everyday life. What we eventually experience is not perfection in mediation, not the perfect yoga pose or the perfect yoga body, but self awareness. Self-awareness without judgement, expectation or criticism. Self-awareness without the negative commentary we normally live by. Self-awareness as the objective observer in the moment. Self-awareness as the silent witness who responds rather than reacts. Self-awareness that will, one day, lead us to radical self-acceptance. And we will bask in this self-acceptance until we experience complete self-love for the sweet person we see in the mirror every day.

What would a world look like where we all put our happiness at the top of our “to-do” list? Where we all followed our heart and stopped judging and criticising ourselves? What if we allowed ourselves to fall without condemning the learning process? What if we trusted that we are supported and that we were all meant to succeed and that there is enough to go around? I watch students try so hard in yoga to perfect the pose, to do it right. I first took a private yoga class because I wanted to make sure my triangle was on point. But the world around us is not perfect, our limited human bodies and minds can never be without imperfections. All we can do is hold steady the vision of our happiness, our truth, the notion that is the premise of yoga philosophy, that we are of God, that our heritage is divine. Not part of a man-made religion but of GOD, we are all made of the exact same material and that is infinite intelligence. So what if we started seeing, first ourselves, as that? What if we started treating ourselves as divine? Talking to ourselves like we were part of the unconditional love that created us? If we truly believed in the notion that we are not God, but of God, we couldn’t help but begin to see each and every person and each and every thing in this world as just that.

These two quotes are so beautifully matched because self-awareness will lead us to self-love. But first we have to observe without judgement, criticism or expectation the ways in which we have blocked this love. We have to observe the noise, our habits, our patterns, our tendencies before we can make a present moment choice as to whether they are drawing us closer to our spirit or father away. We have to observe our humanness with radical acceptance before we can know our truth. We have to allow our tree poses and are meditation to be messy and awkward and uncomfortable, just like life is, before we can see that is all truly magical.

The yoga pose is not the goal. Becoming flexible is not the goal. Standing on your hands is not the goal.
The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are.
The goal is to love, well… You. ~ Rachel Brathen

 

Nobody

“Nobody loves me, nobody cares,
Nobody picks me peaches and pears.
Nobody offers me candy and Cokes,
Nobody listens and laughs at me jokes.
Nobody helps when I get into a fight,
Nobody does all my homework at night.
Nobody misses me,
Nobody cries,
Nobody thinks I'm a wonderful guy.
So, if you ask me who's my best friend, in a whiz,
I'll stand up and tell you NOBODY is!
But yesterday night I got quite a scare
I woke up and Nobody just WASN'T there!
I called out and reached for Nobody's hand,
In the darkness where Nobody usually stands,
Then I poked through the house, in each cranny and nook,
But I found SOMEBODY each place that I looked.
I seached till I'm tired, and now with the dawn,
There's no doubt about it-
NOBODY'S GONE!!” ~Shel Silverstein

In order for our dreams to become reality we have to have a healthy level of trust in ourselves. More to the point we actually have to become the thing that we want. If my intention is clarity then I meditate on that word, I picture what clarity looks like, I invoke feelings of clarity, I show up for clarity...even if my current state is confusion. I sit with clarity until I can feel clarity within. We will eventually find what it is we are looking for if we trust that it is ours to have.

Shel Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends was one of my most favorite books as a child. I read it front to back many times and this was one of my favorite poems. I’m reminded of this poem from time to time, it has always stayed with me and I’m not even sure why. But I was recently inspired to pull it out of the archives and dissect it. Interestingly it came at a time when TRUST, inparticular self-trust, was the main theme of my classes. This is my take on the poem and why I think it has had a place in my heart all these years…..

“Nobody love me, Nobody cares”. “Nobody” is somebody within this child that believes in him. “Nobody” is him. His inner being, his spirit, his soul, God. We all have this, this is who we are. We are of God. Human bodies housing a spirit and our spirit loves us, cares for us, laughs at our jokes, buys us candy and cokes. Our inner being (our truest self) is available to us when we trust that it is indeed who we are. We can manifest clarity even in the midst of confusion when we trust that we are a spark of the divine.

This sweet boy is sitting in total confidence of himself. “Nobody thinks I’m a wonderful guy!” He is owning it.

But because we are human we also have the small self voice and the noise of the external influences. One day someone tells us we aren’t all that or fear and self doubt creep in and we hear “Who do you think you are to have that dream? What do you have to say? How dare you shine like that?” And our trust starts to wane. “I woke up and Nobody just wasn’t there”.

The key, I believe, is to hold steady the vision of our dream. A simple reminder that I want clarity. A few conscious breaths to bring me back to the knowing that it is available if I stay grounded in the truth. Trust that the Universe is cheering me on from the sidelines, wants me to succeed and is never judging or condemning me. We are human. We are going to get tired, fatigue, fear and self-doubt will at some point sneakily try to creep in. But knowing, believing, trusting in our innermost self will allow us to see the magic and beauty all around. If I put myself in this trusting vibration then stop and look outside at a tree, a body of water, a single white floating cloud, or sit quietly and take ten breaths I can’t help but see and feel the magic all around. I didn’t create the beautiful world around me but I do believe the sun rises and sets in all it’s glory each and every day for us. The beauty is a part of who we are, we are not separate from it but completely connected.

The boy didn’t let fear creep in, he held on to the knowing that his inner being loves and cares for him so he looks around and can’t help but see the magic because it’s everywhere; ”I found somebody each place that I looked.”

Then the moment hits him.

“Nobody’s gone!”

He had it within all along. We all do. Freedom, the ability to love the sweet self we see in the mirror each day, clarity, peace, wisdom, power and the confidence to make our dreams a reality.

 

You Yourself, Exactly As You Are, Deserve LOVE

“To offer our hearts in faith means recognizing that our hearts are worth something, that we ourselves, in our deepest and truest nature, are of value."          ~ Sharon Salzberg

It’s common at the beginning of a yoga class for the teacher to ask the student to set an intention. “Why are you here? What is it that you want to embody in your life?” As students we set our intention on something physical; strength in the body or openness. Or something mental; clarity, focus, wisdom. Sometimes emotional; balance, peace. Spiritual; such as connection, oneness, or the desire to know who we are at our core. Even if you have never before stepped onto a yoga mat you may have a dream for your life or a desire for how you want to show up everyday in the world.

I have come to know for myself that if I were to dissect any of my current intentions what I would find underneath is LOVE. The desire to know love, be love, act from a place of love and to remember that I am loved; always. Even if in that moment I’m coming to the mat to heal my damaged knee what is at the root of wanting to be healthy and free and strong and capable is love. Love for my body, for the life I’ve been given and quality of how I want to live it.

I was recently inspired by an article that a friend shared with me titled “Toward a Worldwide Culture of Love”. It’s so interesting to me that in the year 2016 we seem farther away from love than ever. The author Bell Hooks said “Fundamentally, the practice of love begins with acceptance—the recognition that wherever we are is the appropriate place to practice, that the present moment is the appropriate time. But for so many of us our longing to love and be loved has always been about a time to come, a space in the future when it will just happen, when our hungry hearts will finally be fed, when we will find love.”

I realized as I read those words, that if we are not thoughtful in our habits, each time we embark on a new way of eating, join a gym, begin a yoga class, change our hair color or pick up a self help book the intention that we set for these for these seemingly wonderful additions to our life can be a subtle form of aggression against who we are now. The tendency is to think that as we sit now is imperfect. That we could possibly be better than we are now, fixed, made whole. We think that we are only one yoga class/juice cleanse/silent retreat away from being worthy.

In essence we are at war with ourselves.

This internal dilemma is the dormant volcano we sit on as we experience the world around us. With our insides bubbling with displeasure we frame the world around us with the perspective of annoyance, frustration, not good enough, imperfection and my personal favorite…..they should know better.

The article went on to quote Dr. Martin Luther King who said: “Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace.… If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Bell Hooks continued “In cultivating love, we remember one of the most powerful truths the Buddha taught … that the forces in the mind that bring suffering are able to temporarily hold down the positive forces such as love or wisdom, but they can never destroy them.… Love can uproot fear or anger or guilt, because it is a greater power. Love can go anywhere. Nothing can obstruct it.”

Our meditation practice speaks to this. It’s only in the stillness of the present moment that we can know who we are at our core. That we can experience the love that is our truest nature. Once we are able to let the anger burn through, the frustration to unravel in our brains, the anxiety to well up to the point of shaking, we can move through it all. We will see what exists on the other side. We have to stop thinking that because we have have anger we are angry, because we have frustration that we are confusion. NO, we are love.

It has to begin with the sweet self that we see in the mirror every day. And if you can’t possibly believe that you are worthy or deserving or if you are spending your days blaming someone else, like I did for far too long, then I offer you a tool.

Try meditation. There are apps you can download that will play chimes to bring you back when you get distracted. Take a walk without any electronics. My favorite is to sit first thing in the morning, cup of tea or coffee in hand, set the timer and enjoy. I just sit. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Just sit, take a sip, watch the breath. I often repeat my intention over and over, sometimes I allow the the negativity to boil because if it doesn’t I’ll spread it out into the world and I’m trying really hard to spread love instead of hate. It really never matters how I show up to my meditation, the practice meets me right where I am every time. Eventually I’m reminded of how good things really are. Over time I'm able to hear that "you, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire Universe, deserve your love and affection." ~Buddha

Here are two of my mantras I repeat:

“I am……” (because whatever follows this phrase will find you. Make it fabulous.)

And a loving kindness meditation:

May I be happy

May I be well

May I be safe

May I be peaceful and walk on this earth with ease

May you be happy

May you be well

May you be safe

May you be peaceful and walk on this earth with ease.

 

 

 

"I Choose"

“There are only 3 things that can make your dreams come true: your thoughts, your words, and your actions.” ~Mike Dooley

There are so many things in life that we can not choose. The weather; rain, sun, a destructive tornado. The words, actions or reactions of someone else. When a loved one will leave this earth. The gender of our babies. How we will fall in love or with who. We don’t even get to choose when our own personal transformation will take place. Our work is really to simply show up each day, despite the conditions around us that we are not in charge of, and make small steps toward our goals. But being in control makes us feel safe so we mistakenly go about our day trying to take charge of a bunch of things that we can’t ever make different. And then, when they don’t go our way or if something does change in our favor all we do is crow about it.

Every day we are making hundreds of choices most of which we don’t realize we are making. The thoughts we think, the words we speak, the way that we feel, YES, the way we feel. Now let me say that this took me quite a while to wrap my head around and it has taken me some months of practice. Because before this awareness If I was angry, so I thought, it was someone else’s fault. They should know better, have said or done it different. If I was sad it was because they hurt me. If I was anxious it was because too much had been put on my plate.

This is the world happening to me.

For so long I’ve thought about it backwards. I tried to control the things I couldn't possibly and had forgotten the only things that I do have complete power over. The thoughts I think, the words I say, the beliefs I hold and the actions I take, when chosen consciously, allow me to step into a power that for so long seemed to be in someone else's hands.

Stop for a moment, close your eyes and repeat to yourself; “I have to” and feel into those words.

Do the same thing with; “I don’t want to” and notice what happens in your body. The tops of my shoulders and my neck instinctively tense. I feel a tightness across the front of my heart. Sadly, this is the reaction we have to so many things throughout the course of a day. “I don’t want to but I have to”. I even find myself saying “I have to about things that I want to do”. “I have to go to this party”; sounds rough, huh?

Take a moment and think of something that you want. Mine is often clarity, love, freedom, abundance etc. Any intention for anything you would like. Now, place the most powerful statement that you can possibly declare, in front of your intention; “I choose” and give it a little time.

Now do it with a thought; “I choose to think that I am not good enough”. Whoa, that's a big one.

Now do it with a feeling; I choose to be tired, angry, happy, joyful.

How bout, I choose to trust in my ability to move me closer to my dreams. Feel that for a moment.

This is good stuff. What I’ve realized is that if it’s something minor; a car cuts me off in traffic and I start to spin out about how rude people are. I stop and say “I choose” to be angry. The sheer insignificance of the incident will then make me laugh. “Really, I want to ruin my day by choosing that?? I don’t think so.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. What if it’s something not insignificant? Death, war, disease, destruction...remember, there are so many things we can’t choose. Then maybe we absolutely want/need/have to choose sadness, anger or fear. There are times we have to acknowledge that we, as the Dixie Chicks said, “aren’t ready to make nice” and know that is OK. All feelings are meant to be felt for the appropriate amount of time until we can move through them and know what exists on the other side. (I invite you read last month’s blog post for more on this).

Once we sit with the feeling we can know who it is we are beyond them, know what it is we truly want to embody in this lifetime. If I’m going to choose fear and sit with it and feel it fully and know it deeply, what I will find on the other side, is that my deepest longing is trust, safety, intimacy. So I will sit for as long as I need and say “I choose fear”. I will watch it, as uncomfortable as it is feel it, then, although it doesn’t seem like it could possibly happen, my light begins to shine through it. When I feel I’ve moved through it (which could take days or months), I can then say “I choose to trust” and begin to let go of the thoughts and habits that have been blocking me from allowing this intention. If I’m going to let anger well up to the point where my whole body feels like it’s on fire what I will surely find on the other side is the love that resides at my core and that all I truly want is forgiveness and freedom and humor in my life. “I choose. I choose. I choose.”

Say it. For every physical action, every thought, every feeling that comes up today, say it. And watch who you become.

“The only way to get what you really want, is to know what you really want. And the only way to know what you really want, is to know yourself. And the only way to know yourself, is to be yourself. And the only way to be yourself is to listen to your heart.”  ~Mike Dooley

This blog post was inspired by the daily emails I receive from the Universe. You can get them too. www.tut.com

“In this time space reality we can not lose ----- but we can think that we have and that loss will seem intolerable. We cannot fail ----- but we can think we have and that pain will seem unbearable. And we cannot ever be less than we truly are powerful, eternal, loved ----- but we can think we are and all hope will seem lost. And therein lies our work. To see beyond appearances. To know the true as intimately as we know the false. A test of perceptions: of what to focus on, of what to believe in. How about, no matter the temptation, you no longer think or say, “I’m tired”, “I’m hurt”, “I’m angry”. Don’t even say or think “I’m happy”. Instead, whenever the urge arises, think or say, “I choose to be tired”, hurt, angry or happy” and give it a little time. Because this is how you become anything. Feelings are based on perceptions, which are based on beliefs, which at all times are chosen.” ~ The Universe
 

Feel all of you beyond the pain

“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”
~Kahlil Gibran
I sat in meditation today and simply felt. I probably shouldn’t use the word “simply”, there is nothing simple about feeling what I am used to pushing away. I felt heartache/disconnect/abandonment from just below my belly to my heart; the pain running along my center line. I felt a situation where I believed I’d made a mistake, wished something had gone different; right in my throat like I was being choked. I felt the sense of insecurity from my heart along my arms, the worst tingling sensation where I thought I might actually have to feel this for a lifetime. I felt sadness through one tear streaming down my face, then my eyes began to swell and my head throbbed.
This might sound crazy and for a moment I thought I was crazy. Wouldn’t taking a drink of my warm coffee sitting in front of me soothe me out of this pain? What if I picked up the phone that was playing chimes on the floor next to me and texted my grievances to a friend? Why wouldn’t I just stop and chose to sit at a time when I wasn’t so reactive or had forgotten about all my woes? Of course I thought of all these reactions but I knew what I had to do. I had to feel. I had to sit with the pain, the discomfort, in order to remember that I am not these things. I had to take my power back over them.
I felt into each area, into the horrible discomfort and took a breath. I soothed myself with the knowing of the beliefs that years of practice have assured me of. That we are indeed a spark of the divine. That the Universe wants us to succeed. That there is an invisible intelligence that pervades all of life. That without fail the sun will rise in just a few short moments and set at the end of the day. That I am powerful beyond measure and I have choices in each moment to change my damning circumstances. I felt my breath even out, as if it was rubbing my back saying; “it will be OK”. I was able to remember and begin again. This remembering felt like a warmth of a summer day or the coziness of a fire as you snuggle on the couch. I will admit it was tiny, very small right in the center of my chest. But it didn’t actually have to be big, it was powerful enough to center me, pull me out of chaos of the perceived reality of my imagination and drop me right back into to present time where something bigger than me was in charge. Something beyond my ego was taking over. It felt empowering and yet compassionate and forgiving and easy and light and courageous.
All too often I run from the feelings that I don't want to experience because I believe that the pain will be too much to bear. So in those brief moments of meditation, rather than the heaviness that can sometimes accompany being human weighing me down, I allowed my soul to lighten it. Feeling the pain fully actually moved me through it and smack into who I am beyond it. And that.... is simply radiant. 
“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.”  
~ Kahlil Gibran

Remember and begin again

“I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke
The astrological theme for January 2016 is RESET. Now, let’s be clear, I don’t know a thing about astrology. But I do really enjoy reading from the website mysticmamma.com who posts the theme for each month. The fascinating aspect about my love for this knowledge, is that before I even knew that a “theme” for the month was a thing, I had been feeling, pretty intensely, strong pulls in certain directions (decisions intuitively I knew I had to make), big time energy shifts, old past hurts coming to the surface or tremendous amounts of energy toward a new career move or a hyperactive intense demand to clean and organize every closet and drawer in my house. I started noticing it in my classes  as well. If I spoke to what I was feeling the whole class responded positively. Students would come up after class and ask me to send them the quotes I read or would say; “that sequence was exactly what I needed”.  
Perusing mysticmamma.com one day I read that the theme for September was trust/faith. Sure enough that month I had been struggling with an aspect of my life that I didn’t think should be the way it was. I wasn’t trusting that I was being guided. I didn’t have faith that these were the lessons I needed to grow. I had also lost my voice that month, in yogic philosophy the throat chakra (subtle body energy center) is where our “faith” resides. According to thelivingroom.com; “the fifth chakra is connected to listening to our inner wisdom and making sense of it. The battle that takes place in the energy centre of the fifth chakra is one of fear versus faith. It is fear that keeps us making choices that are “reasonable”, based on “good judgement”, but not necessarily true to our inner wisdom.” Liz Gilbert said; “Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first & full speed into the dark.”
I continued on...in October the theme was finding the balance between doing and being. Knowing who we are,  who it is we want to become, what our strongest values are and our biggest intentions. And taking this information into account in our every thought, conversation and action; allowing it to permeate our entire life in order to make clear decisions according to our innermost alignment with our highest self. Right there, I believe it was the very day I read that, in my notes for class, was Rolf Gates quote; “The pose is what you are doing, yoga is who you are being”. Whaaaaaat? This was not coincidence.
I wrote a blog post in November about a day that I sat on my floor thinking; “there is something more. I’m ready for what comes next”. I looked at the theme for November, it was “pressure”. They went on to explain that we feel like we are in a container that has gotten too tight. The container has served us but we’ve grown out of it and this month will be the labor that will birth our transformation. Interestingly; Kristin Tone and I led a yoga retreat in Mexico this month. I mentioned to group a feeling that I had based on the energy of the classes. I told them how last years retreat the theme of the group was very much “I’m enough”, but that this year’s was obviously; “I’m ready”.
December: Transition. As mystic mamma said: “Definition of TRANSITION: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. It is a move, a passage, a transformation, a leap and an evolution. “The TRANSITION this month is the ‘being in mid air’. Don’t look down, keep your eye on the new ground.”  On the final days of the month I listened to Mike Dooley speak about “keeping my eye on the end result and taking action toward that”. I sat, I prayed “show me” and asked for the courage to move toward my goals. I said yes to some things that scared me and said no to some things that were holding me back. I reminded my students (and in turn myself)  “Getting there is not about being better, more deserving, or smarter, it’s about realizing that you already are, and acting as if.” And I leap into 2016.
“Yoga is the movement from one point to the next -- a higher one.” ~Desikachar
January: RESET.
The beginning of the year is very similar to the beginning of a yoga class. Two things I have been working on and encourage students to bring along with them; “gratitude” for where they have been and “courage” for where they are going. The pages are blank at this point, it’s totally up to you what goes on them. As Mary Schmich said: (this is a time) “when you can believe that the past doesn't count against you, that the future is yours to make.” This is true for the beginning of anything and we forget how often we get this opportunity, with every sunrise, with every first step we take toward a goal, with every breath.
Two prayers (that I particularly love because they are so simple yet incredibly profound) for this starting point are “Thank You” (for where I’ve been, what I have and who I am). And “Show Me” (the courage, the bravery, the boldness to be open and receptive so the Universe can work through me. May I open and allow my highest self to emerge so I may step into my biggest dreams knowing that I am worthy and deserving).
The beginning of this year seems pretty quiet to me. Same with the beginning of class. It’s a time we commit to letting go of the past, where it is we have been, to set aside all our duties and responsibilities and relationships and show up for the present. When we “reset” we need to get quiet enough, still enough to watch our thoughts and become the ‘objective observer’ so we know when our fear, rather than our faith is driving the bus. Still enough, quiet enough to trust so completely in ourselves, to believe that our intentions are ours to have and allow the sweet whisper of our intuition to be heard. Sill enough, quiet enough to feel into the sensations, especially when the pressure builds, and not run and hide or check out. Still enough, quiet enough to take a leap even when it’s the most awkward thing we can image. And still enough, quite enough to be present for each and every beautiful moment where we can remember and begin again.

 

 

Become who you already are.

“Right below the surface of life is an ocean of spirit”.
Rolf Gates
It is naturally very easy to connect to what is around us. All of our senses at work connecting with the external world. Think for a moment where you have been, the past few days or the week that has just come and gone. The people in your life, the things that own. Take a few seconds to see where you are going, all of your duties, responsibilities, what comes next? Now, draw your attention a little nearer. Feel into the areas of the body connected to the earth, resist the urge to straighten your posture, simply observe... Your feet... Legs... Belly and low back... Heart center... Shoulders and arms... Each side of your neck and into your jaw... Skin around the eyes... Crown of the head... Let’s go more subtle still. After you read this sentence, close your eyes and imagine, feel into, experience, the ocean of spirit that exists under the surface of all the externals, can you sense a presence that holds you up that is beyond, skin, tissue, muscles and bones?
It can be profound to feel the pulse of all of life that is within us. What you may have noticed is that you felt bigger in a sense, lighter, more vibrant, as if, you were no longer the doer and something was breathing you.
Maybe you felt nothing at all? Don’t worry about that, this is the work of our meditation and yoga practice. Each and every time we step on the mat or sit on the meditation cushion we are giving space for this presence to expand and move to the forefront of our life. We sit committing to stillness and eventually our smaller mind gives way to our higher mind, the ocean of spirit within us connects with the vast ocean of the Universe. On the mat we move the body, sometimes holding postures for several minutes, sometimes moving slow and steady, other days we chose to be more rigorous about our practice, it doesn’t matter, the idea is the same. We use the body to connect to what lies beyond the body. To allow this presence, which lies right below the surface of this physical realm, to have a more profound effect in our everyday life.
Over time we become familiar with this presence and our attention shifts. Where once we were solely influenced by what is around us, by our physical condition, our scattered chaotic mind. Now we are guided by our intuition, spirit, our Intelligence. Moved by the vast ocean of spirit that is who we are under the surface of it all.

 

“In the heart of every person burns the spark of luminous goodness; in no heart is there total darkness”

Edward Hays

Once we understand and begin to trust in the knowing that, as Gates said; “under the surface of life there is an ocean of spirit”. Then we begin to believe in our worthiness. We begin to believe that we are deserving. We believe that we are loved; just as we are. There are no preconditions to be met, there are no tests to take or rules to follow in order to become more. We become more, we evolve, when we trust in what underlies the surface and we surrender to that. We come to know that WHO WE ALREADY ARE is perfect.

It is from this place that we may resolve to eat less sugar, to move our bodies more, to pick up a hobby, take a class to exercise the mind, meditate, speak kinder, form more boundaries, work more or work less, organize our life. When we tap into this ocean of spirit our future is bright. We see into the limitless potential of who we can become. But, is no longer from a place of needing to be fixed or different in any way. We are no longer trying to improve ourselves or say that we can be better than we are right now. Instead, we see our worthiness, our wholeness, we know that we are supported and loved and we begin to meet the Universe halfway. We say, I’m ready! And we show up every day, committed to simply becoming who we already are... A spark of the divine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life does not look back.

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” Paulo Coelho

Last month I had to take a hard look at the things in my life that were holding me back from where it is that I want to go, who it is I want to become. I was inspired by Liz Gilbert’s post and I wrote “I love you, but I’m letting go”  and explained, as she did, how these were not necessarily situations or activities that I didn’t want to engage in. Quite the opposite, these are things that I love and when my ego gets a hold of them wants more and more and more. Just as Coelho explains, “life had set me a challenge to test my courage”. I saw clearly that I was being asked to listen to my heart, which is often a sweet, soft whisper, rather than ego, that is loud and boisterous and demanding. I knew that I had to say YES to the challenge. So, I amped up the time that I meditate each morning and I took out a few things that were preoccupying a ton of my time and energy. In the process I became aware of a belief I have that is no longer serving me, one I’ve had for much too long, and I am working really hard to practice thoughts and actions to reverse it. I needed to get clear and I tell you what, the fog is lifting and what I’m finding is both surprising and encouraging.

Mystic mamma says the “definition of TRANSITION is: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. It is a move, a passage, a transformation, a leap and an evolution.”

She goes on to explain that “transition” is the astrological theme for the month of December. Which is perfect being that we just came off a November who’s theme was pressure (of course it’s perfect, it’s the Universe we are talking about here).

We’ve gotten to a point where we’ve grown into all of our thoughts/beliefs/habits/relationships/goals, so much so, that they’ve actually become overly comfortable and even a little too tight. There was a day in November when I sat on the floor in my yoga room, totally surrounded by the most amazing things in my life, and yet, I had this nagging feeling that something was missing. Now, I could have shrugged it off because my life IS wonderful, full, abundant and beautiful or because at times I’m really busy and just too tired…...but I knew it was my soul whispering, my heart calling and I knew something amazing was asking me to pay attention to it. I didn’t know what, I still am not entirely sure, but what I do know is that all I can do is; SIT….. and wait….. and watch…..and become still enough to hear.  

In the book The Alchemist, which speaks so beautifully to the whispers of the heart, Coelho says;

“What is wrong with the world, is that people stopped listening to their hearts...

Not everybody stopped listening but enough people did to make a difference. We've got so much in this life that all we know how to do is want more. So we concentrate on the wrong things--things we can see--as being the measure of a person. We think if we can win something big or buy something snazzy it'll make us more than we are. Our hearts know that's not true, but the eyes are powerful. It's easier to fix on what we can see than listen to the still, small voice of a whispering heart.

A heart will say amazing things if it's given half a chance.” 

It’s not always easy to listen to the heart, what it’s often being asked of us is to move beyond what is comfortable and familiar. This process of transformation is very similar to what happens each and every time we show up to a yoga class. First we commit, we have to roll out our mat and put our feet upon just like we have to show up to our life each and every day if we want any change to occur. Then, we see the potential of where it is we are going, we set an intention and visualize the outcome with optimism. Once we see where we are going, despite knowing how we will get there, we fuel the fire in our belly to keep us motivated and to believe we are worthy of our dreams. This fire, this self confidence, illuminates the beauty in our heart, all of our courage, strength, bravery and compassion for our self when the process becomes challenging or difficult. On the mat, similar to everyday life, distractions build, we get bored, tired, frustrated, feel stuck or tight and it is here we need to have faith that we are being guided, held, supported along the way. Faith brings us back to the moment, we remember our breath and the mind quiets. In that still place we begin to hear. We slowly recognize this sound as our own, the sweet, soft whisper our intuition. Slowly, this sound becomes the only one we hear and everything else falls away. Finally, we surrender to the truth. In those final few moments of practice, when we lie back in savasana, we become aware of the most subtle aspect of ourselves. We see that what it is we were looking for was within us all along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love you, but I'm letting go.

“I love you, but I’m letting go” Elizabeth Gilbert

See her full post here

A mentor of mine asked me the other day; “what do think you will gain by staying small?” I looked at her and said; “a lifetime of mediocrity, unhappiness, nothing ever changing”. She smiled and said “I’m glad you understood the question”. I think I grunted something back like “ugh, I know”. Then she asked “well what do you think you will lose by stepping into your power?” and I just cried.

Around the same time I read this quote by Liz Gilbert (I want to call her Liz because I feel like she’s one of my besties) and her explanation of how it’s not just having a hard time saying “no” or even saying “no” to the things we don’t want to do, it’s saying; “I love you and I want to, but no”, to the things that are potentially holding us back from who and where we want to be. From our truest potential.

Do I love scrolling through dog & kitty videos? (don’t tell the neighborhood cats that i actually like them despite the fact they chase my quails) YES, I love to mindlessly scroll, Instagram too. But I’ve have to set parameters.

Do I love to drink a big cup of coffee practically before I open my eyes in the morning? YES. Would a hot cup of lemon water be better for my body? YEP.

Do I love binge watching Netfix? Sleeping in? Traveling anywhere anyone will invite me? Excessive shopping? One more glass of wine? YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. All day long, yes.

Now I’m not saying there is no place in the world for these things but this is the beginning of MY personal list, and I plan to go day by day. I see where it is I’m going, who I want my future self to be. And some days things that I love, that are of no importance at that time, preoccupy my time and my energy and then I find myself using excuses like “I was just too busy today” or “I need coffee to wake up, I only had time to meditate for ten minutes” blah, blah, blah.

Will stepping into my power be scary, hard, awkward, feel alone? I’m not sure but I’ll let you know.

“I love you, but I’m letting go”

 

Appreciate YOU!

Joseph Campbell said; “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

When I close my eyes and think of this quote, a movie reel of my life flashes on the big screen of my mind. My family, the sweet memories from childhood, old clothes and cars, neighborhoods we ran around in, who I was then, my accolades, what got me to where I am today, all that I have and am in this moment and the fabulous people that share their lives with me, how my family has grown with so many beautiful new souls and I smile as I think of the angels above looking down on me. Indeed, what a privilege.

If I’m not careful, the moment I open my eyes the devil’s advocate of my mind says; “Yeah but; remember that time? That thing? The way you acted? The mean words you spoke? You could be doing more. Have you really worked that hard? Remember what they said to you? How they treated you? Imagine if you had more? Think of so-and-so, they are ones who are really privileged.”

Why is it so hard for us to be kind to ourselves? To appreciate all that we have in the moment, both the shadow and the light? Why do we celebrate some and condemn others? Why do we fall victim to believing that we are unworthy of love, not deserving of happiness? Why don’t we always, without doubt or question, value ourselves, love ourselves, have respect for ourselves, speak kindly and sweetly to the person we see in the mirror each day?

In yogic philosophy the answer is Avidya. Defined as “spiritual ignorance”. Rolf Gates says “we have forgotten where we come from and who we are”. To put it simply, we seek answers outside of ourselves, when in fact the answers lie within. We look into the material world and define ourselves with it. Identified with a world that is that is completely beyond our control, we are consumed with fear.” But, somewhere deep within “we have a hunch that there must be a better way. We have grown tired of our perfectionism, our unhappy relationships with our bodies, our inability to love completely or be loved completely, our endless resentments and sorrows.”

When I look at my life, and who I am, with love and respect and kindness I am fueled, energized, optimistic, ready for the world. When I remember that I am of God/Spirit/Source/Consciousness/Mother Earth, connected to all beings as a leaf is to a tree, then I am humbled, I give gratitude and share openly what I have learned, I allow myself to be vulnerable, am present, wise, giving and I love BIG.

In avidya, I am afraid. Scared of my success, closed off to love, defensive, hardened, I block inspiration, gossip, am unable to forgive my past mistakes and therefore will judge and condemn and hold myself to expectations without allowing for the learning curve. In this space, I am exhausted, tired, defeated, unworthy.

Rooted in avidya is where I found the yoga mat. Not looking to change my life in any way or realizing how tired I was, how angry I had become or how unworthy I believed myself to be. The mat is where all of this bubbled to the surface. But, the beauty of the practice, is that it accepted me that way, it did not say; “you are broken”. It simply said “you have forgotten”. With the assistance of several wonderful teachers, mentors, role models and students it was as if I wiped off a window that had been covered in dust and dirt for years. The light poured in and, for however brief, I knew that there was indeed a better way.

This life is strange and beautiful, difficult and fun, magical and painful. All I know to do is show up, stay inspired, watch every sunrise and set that I can, stare at the full moon in awe, meditate and pray. The time spent forgetting is slowly lessening but it is a daily practice. For you, I have compiled some of my favorite reminders. This month; appreciate YOU!

“Whoever told you weren’t good enough, LIED.” And; “If you listen closely you’ll hear a small voice hidden in the dim shade of all your fears that whispers. ‘This isn’t real.’ ‘You are not broken.’ ‘You don’t need to be fixed.’” What we often don’t realize is; “most of the shadows of this life are caused by us standing in our own sunshine.” And that; “only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” Because; “You were never created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, condemned, ashamed or unworthy. You were created to be fabulous.” So I invite you for this next month to; "Eat like you love yourself. Move like you love yourself. Speak like you love yourself. Act like you love yourself."

Thank you.

cl

 

When I loved myself enough

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Mary Pickford

When I loved myself enough…….

I let go of the need to be perfect.

I laughed at my own jokes.

I found myself charming.

I stopped settling.

I knew I was worth it regardless if they didn’t.

I dreamt bigger.

I let go of the attachment to things that didn’t serve me.

I practiced more.

I loved you more.

I laughed a lot.

I appreciated every day and everything in it.

I knew that I was being guided.

I am comfortable standing up in front of group of people and facilitating a yoga class or giving a talk, I know I am good at it. I’m comfortable around other people, I know I am smart and fun, sometimes even funny. I’m a great wife, auntie, sister, daughter, friend, cousin. My body is strong and open from many years of practicing yoga. I know I can get the job done, cook a good meal, write an essay, be a great travel partner, do a lot of things that scare me, throw a fabulous party.

But what happens when I’m not? When I don’t? When I fall flat on my face?

I’ve stood up in front of a group of people and bombed a class. I’ve met people that didn’t want to be friends, not known what to say in a conversation, tanked jokes or offended people with my humor. I’ve forgotten birthdays of those close to me, been too consumed with my own life to call a friend, screamed at my husband, drove my parents crazy. I have gone for weeks without stepping on a yoga mat and have arthritis in my knees. I haven’t gotten the job done, I’ve burnt a lot of diners, sat at my computer blankly (not a word coming to my mind), had a terrible time on vacation, stood frozen in fear, seen people leave the party early.

I could actually keep going with this paragraph for a long time. I will think long and hard about the ways in which I don’t measure up before I finally settle into the fact that I’m enough, take a long breath, get back up and begin again. My self-esteem vacillates between, “I’m on top of the world, to, I don’t deserve this world”, I think that is true of most of us until we surrender, until we stop looking for the answers outside of ourselves, until we begin to practice self-love. I read a quote the other day that said, “self esteem is thinking you look good in a pair of shorts. Self love is being kind to yourself even when you don’t.” Thank you Tracy McMillan. I set an intention to be kinder to myself a few weeks back and since then the Universe has so graciously given me innumerable opportunities to practice. Being kinder/softer/more loving to myself sounded so nurturing, like wrapping myself in a big cozy sweater on a cool fall day. I had no idea the incredible amount of courage it would take to actually practice it, to say to myself over and over again, “that was a really stupid thing you did, but sweet Cindy, I love you anyway.” I threw myself onto the mat in an attempt at self-surrender and my lovely friend and teacher Kristin Tone said “come into child’s pose with your knees together rather than wide so you are supporting yourself fully.” I took a long sigh and thought, “that is self-love”. Of course the cardamom sea salt latte I treated myself to after class was also nice;) but self-love will last longer. My self-esteem was low and I was looking for something, someone to tell me I was enough, the work I do is great, that I’m wonderful, but instead, it had to come from within. I had to get up for a fresh start. Scrolling through self-love quotes I came across the book; When I loved myself enough. I haven’t read the book but it was the perfect place for me to take a long deep breath and begin again rather than staying down and calling it “failure”. When I loved myself enough what happened? How has self love got me to where I am today? What happened when I didn’t beat myself up for the times that I failed or screwed up? How quickly can I forgive? So I ask you, what has happened when you loved yourself enough? How would it change what you are doing right now if you loved yourself more? If you forgave yourself? If you accepted your own sweet self, EXACTLY as you are?