Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve- Magic, Grapes, and Goals!

 With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, I can’t resist doing a little goal setting and reflecting on what this year has brought.  Ever since I was little, I have greeted the New Year with open arms and a sense of excitement of what could be just around the corner and the anticipation of doing each season, each holiday, each of the “big days” (first /last day of school, birthdays, etc) just a little bit better. As I kid, my sister and I used to spend New Year’s Eve with my grandparents, who had a long standing tradition of eating and serving us black eyed peas for good luck on that night, as well as, directly after midnight, serving us twelve grapes, one for each month of the year. As we ate each grape, we were to carefully think of a wish that we wanted to happen in the New Year. You think it would be easy to make twelve wishes, but I can tell you, it can get hard, especially when you grow out of Barbies and other numerous toys. And for as long as I have been able to write, I have always made a list of my goals for the upcoming year.

Now, I believe that you can start over at any time; no need to say, “Well, I blew that one! Guess I gotta wait another 10 months to get it right!” But there is something magical about this season and New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day. Even if it just a manmade, societal construct, I think there is something beautiful about friends and family gathering together and celebrating the lives they have, the people in it, and the promise of what is to come.  And really, is there anything wrong with making wishes and setting goals? I think not.

But for me, the wishes and goals I have for the upcoming year are always created out of the reflection of what has happened over the last year. And when I think back to what last year was like a year ago today, it is exactly the same and totally different.  See, last December 29th, I was on my way to NYC for the first time ever. And as I write this, it is December 29th and I am on a flight to NYC. Kind of ironic. But outside of that, so much has changed. A year ago, there was a boy I was emailing with but had never met (we met exchanging raw food recipes/tips on a website).  We met for the first time on New Year’s Eve day (see, I told you that day is magic).  A year later and after much trial and error (and many happy visits in between), I am flying to ring in the New Year with Mike and can’t imagine what this year would have been like had I NOT met him and had I NOT been a bit spontaneous and met up with friends in NYC, as it was not in my original holiday plans. A year ago, I was in a on again, off again, completely unhealthy involvement with a guy I had been seeing for over a year. I can remember having some heart-wrenching conversations right before I went to NYC about his relationship phobias. Little did I know I would meet someone so special and fall in love with a city I had only dreamt of visiting. And had someone told me a year ago that I would be flying back a year later to be with this man and this city, I would’ve never believed. Life is really magical!


So, in honor of the magic that is New Year’s Eve, of careful reflection, and my lovely NaNa and NaNo, who taught me that grapes could be transformative if you had enough gusto to put your wishes our there, I am going to make my 12 wishes for 2010. Not sure if I will be able to get my hands on some grapes on NYE, but I’m still going to set my intentions, cross my fingers, and believe that anything is possible

 1.Complete health- mind, body, soul, spirit.

 2. For my family/friends to be healthy as well.

 3. To always have enough of what I need.

4.    4. And for my family/friends to have enough as well.

5     5.For this to be my happiest year yet. Annoyingly happy!

6.    6.To travel lots and lots- ideally with someone I adore.

7.     7. To make a little more money to do that and to see my family more.

8.     8. To love where I live and have the guts to change my surroundings if it isn’t working (that might be 2 wishes!).

    .  9.To finally, finally get my yoga certification and pass on the love of yoga to others.

10. 10.To have the opportunity to start making strides toward my alternate career goals in health and nutrition.

11. 11.To continue to be in a happy, healthy relationship that just keeps blooming.

12. 12.To have enough sense of worth to walk away from anyone or anything that isn’t a reflection of what I really want/deserve….so I will never have to write another blog about settling for less than my heart’s desire.

Now go grab your twelve red, organic grapes and start wishing! Lots of love and hope to all of you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend Detox: Clearing the body, home, and spirit...and the act of giving.

May you be inspired to take some time out for your most valuable! Doing so might just give you more get-up-and-go to serve and be present for the people and things you value most! 

It is Sunday, and I am nearing the end of my weekend detox. I had planned for this weekend a few weeks ago. Life has been a little too busy for my liking lately and with my upcoming Kinder-Garden planting and Mike's visit (yey!), I knew I needed a little time alone to really declutter, collect my thoughts, unplug, and simply take care of myself.  I have been feeling lately that I have been giving so much time and energy to others, and although I love the projects and people involved, it was time to spend  some time alone and refuel the tank. Add in another Master Cleanse and all systems were a-go for me to really detox my body and life in general. What has unfolded this weekend has been a unique opportunity to really take stock of all that is currently present in my life, revisit the past, and give, not only to myself but to others. 
Friday, Day 5 of my cleanse, greeted me with a headache and a quiet nudge that things were a little off. I did not feel like myself all day and simply felt irritable. The headache continued throughout the day and I did not have the get up and go to even teach my kiddies yoga that day. I was more than ready to call it a day and head home. Classic example of what happens to me when I push myself too hard and don't get enough sleep. I came home and napped for a good 3 hours and then decided it was time to finish clearing out the closet...tomorrow would be the day I would drop of my donations to charity, something I do about once a year. Going through my closet and bedroom, I came face to face with a lot of my own waste and a lot of my on emotional ties to objects. Each of the items I would be giving away represented a piece of my past ( I went through this a bit last weekend when I was cleaning out my car...who knew how much of my past could be sitting in my trunk!). I had to ask myself why I was holding on to it. With some things, it was very easy to let go. But with others, there were definitely strong memories and ties to them. Repeatedly, I had to keep asking myself, "What are trying to make room for in your life? What would you like to invite in?"  This helped tremendously, as I kept seeing how it is not only the emotional and mental things we hold on to that blocks us, but also the actual physical stuff that disallows new, more aligned experiences and people to enter in. After several hours of this, I turned in to read a book I never have time to read, wrote in my journal, and slept like a baby.
Saturday greeted me with no headache and this initial thought: "Instead of being a consumer (which really means consume-more), try being a consume-less!" This became my FB status update and mantra of the day, definitely brought on by last night's closet cleaning and seeing my own waste pile up. I was ready to have a productive day of releasing old stuff but also giving to others who could really use it. It really was my day of karmic yoga. I have to admit that I was greatly inspired by Mike and all the donations he has been making, as well as a post he had on Facebook about a guy who decided to give out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless. Taking all these things into account, I started my day by loading the car with books to donate to the library just down my street (why had I never visited it in the past two years?!), clothes and other goods to donate to Salvation Army, and 5 almond butter and agave sandwiches to give to the homeless on my way to yoga. (I had five really awesome buns that a parent brought me, but I don't eat bread. I decided I could do something good with them, though, by giving it to someone who needed it).  
At the library, I not only donated the books but finally became a member, checking out Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which my friend Dawn has been suggesting to me for weeks now, and I checked out two movies for my quiet night at home. That felt amazing, knowing my books would be put to good use. Second stop was the Salvation Army; they gladly took my clothes, old stuffed animals, dog bag, old printer, and other random items, including a bag full of unused lotions that people gave to me as gifts (please don't buy me lotions...but Dawn, yours is the exception..that one is amazing! And organic and all natural! I am trying to clear out as many unnatural products as possible and Victoria's Secret Lotions just ain't cutting it!). Next I was off to Santa Monica for a little Farmer's Market and afternoon yoga at Yogis Anonymous, but on my way I was on the lookout for some homeless people who would want my sandwiches. Unfortunately in Santa Monica, this is not hard to find. I found a small group of homeless people off of 5th and asked if anyone would want some sandwiches. I walked up to one lady who refused them, but quickly a man asked if he could have them; I gladly gave them to him and he thanked me. I had missed the Farmer's Market by about 20 minutes but it was a small price to pay. By the time I got to class, I already felt like I had done days worth of yoga, the kind you do off the mat. Taking Chani's class and taking the time to recenter, pay gratitude, and continually ask the question "What can I give?" left me feeling even lighter than before.  All in all, it was a beautiful way to spend my morning and afternoon.
Saturday evening was all about more decluttering and cleaning. I washed clothes, cleaned out the frig, and sorted through a pile of mail.  It may not have been a wild Saturday night out, but it was much needed. I am realizing that the more organized my space is and the less clutter I have, the more organized I feel and the more I open to something new and better. I took a nice hot shower and fell asleep to one of my rentals.
I woke up early today but ready to be productive. After laying around for a bit, I began my Sunday with dusting my entire house. This was great because it forced me to get rid of old magazines, go through more mail, and take stock of any pictures or other memorabilia that I have up. I made a conscious decision to make sure that I only had pictures up of people that make me smile and fill me up...a lot can change in two years! 

At this point, my home was looking almost how I wanted to. And since I am on a cleanse, I have not only being cleaning out the physical space of my home and decluttering any emotional baggage, I have also been decluttering my body by giving it a much needed break from excess food, alcohol, and tuning into what my body really needs. Just like the cleaning of my home and the sorting of the closet, I have given myself the space to see what I really need nutritionally, what is just an emotional tie (in this case, to food and why??), and what I want to invite in to my body once the cleanse is over.  (This is partly why it was great to go through the fridge and see what old food I was holding onto...want to have space for nice, yummy produce!). No good machine can keep going without a tune up and the body is no different. Plus, by not concentrating on food, I was able to devote my energies elsewhere.
The afternoon found me napping and then up to work on a sample project that I am having my students complete for Thanksgiving. Basically it is a paper Cornucopia, and on it they are to draw or cut out pictures of at least three things they are thankful for and then write a sentence about it. For any project, I show them a sample, so I decided to one of my own. I couldn't have decided to do it at a better time, as my mom and I had just got in a little tiff on the phone it brought my energy down. Time to do something positive. My simple sentence was, "I am thankful for my friends, family, students, and yoga practice." I found myself immediately charged again as I had trouble picking pictures out...there are just too many good people in my life and not enough room! (See pic at the top of this entry). What a gift! Can't wait for my students to do this.
Now that my home (and body) is so much cleaner and decluttered and I have had ample time alone to reflect and even give back to others a bit, I had one more bit of symbolic cleansing to do...a sage cleansing. Sage cleansing is an ancient ritual done by Native American and shamanic cultures to remove negative energy from a space. I have been really wanting to do this for awhile and bought the sage months ago. There seemed like no better time than now to go ahead and do it.  I looked around on the internet for some ideas on how to do it, and one idea involved creating a personal mantra for the cleansing. I meditated on it and came up with this, " May this space be cleared of any past negative energy and past hurts and may space be provided to bring in love, possibilities, and pure joy. May my heart be open to manifest all that I deserve and desire and may those who enter my home fill it with love and bring me closer to my life's purpose."  I walked through my entire apartment saying this mantra, feeling the old energy leave, and feeling completely open to what might come. To end the cleansing, I saged myself and the outside of my door frame, sealing in the good energy and symbolically closing the door on any negative  energy.  Even if it was just a symbolic gesture and the validity of it is in the eye of the beholder, I did feel lighter once it was done and, even to my surprise, had a total surge of energy. I truly believe that not all things can be explained logically and we as Westerners can stand to learn a lot from the Native Americans and other indigenous cultures. Moments after the cleanse, my mom called and we had a wonderful, long, heart-to-heart. Part of what we discussed was food and cleansing; she has agreed to let me help her develop a plan to get her body back on track and switch to a less processed, whole food diet.  Let the love come on in!!
I am ending my weekend of cleansing now by going to a friend's birthday (love you, Rupa!). I have spent the last 24 hours alone and am now ready to share my space and energy with others again; it's amazing what good can come out of a much needed detox, internally and externally. I can't think of a better way to end this weekend than to now celebrate the life of a good friend and to surround myself in good company and energy.
As my much needed weekend detox comes to a close, I have these parting words for you should you decide to your own weekend detox:
1) Give yourself time to reflect on what you want to manifest in your life and what is stealing your energy. This will help you to decide what items you would like to let go of and possibly what people and/or projects are no longer serving you.
2) As you let go of things you no longer need, send them off with the good intention that they will be of great value to the next person who possesses them. Do not pack away any bad memories or grudges with them. Be grateful that those items served you and then release with love.
3) Do something nice and nurturing for yourself during this time as well. Take a class, get a massage, sleep in, take a long bath, etc. Remember, the idea is to not only clear your space but your energy as well.
4) Do something giving...whether it is donating clothes or food, this will open your heart in a whole new way. I promise you that you will float all will get back way more than what you gave away!
5) If possible, do something nurturing for your body. Even if you don't do the Master Cleanse, try to eat as clean as possible. Remember you body is your temple, your home that you take with you all day, everyday. What sense is it to have a sparkling clean home if your internal home is full of junk and toxins? Take this time to clean your internal home, reflect on your current diet, and make some new intentions as to how you will now nourish it. Likewise, go through your sundries/cleaning supplies and try to switch to products and cleaning agents that are as natural as possible.
6) Declutter the mind and refill it with something motivating and enlightening. Take this time to let go of old thought patterns that are no longer serving you and invite in new thoughts and vibrations that will add to your life. Read a good book, listen to audio programming, or watch a documentary that will inspire you and take you to new heights. You now have the time to do it, so make the most of it.
7) Find your own "ritual" that will allow you to feel a sense of completion. It could be a sage cleaning, but perhaps for you it could be prayer, mediation, or simply journaling what you learned through your weekend detox. We are all different and have unique ways of accessing our higher self. I am just sharing with you my experience, which in a year might unfold in a totally different way. Find what works for you.
8) Finally, give thanks and reflect on what you are thankful for. Nothing nurtures the spirit like gratitude and you will close your weekend with a new sense of just how full your life really is.  I find that the more I give thanks, the more goodness keeps coming to me.

Which reminds me....
     I am thankful that I have a wonderful place to live in that I can nurture my soul, have friends and family over to fill it with love and laughter, and to rest in.
     I am so thankful to have so many people in my life who love me and inspire me daily.
     I am so thankful to work with such wonderful students who make me laugh and teach me more and more about myself.
      I am thankful that my favorite person will be here with me in a just a matter of days and that he inspires me daily with his own contributions to his community. You were my inspiration for this blog in so many ways. Much love and gratitude to you, Mike.
    I am thankful to have the knowledge as to how to care for my body, access to quality food and water, and the common sense to know when to take a time out.
    I am thankful for yoga and my beloved studio, fellow yogis, and beautiful teacher, Ally Hamilton. I love all that these individuals represent.
    Lastly, I am thankful that I have such abundance that I have the luxury to even sort through items and decide what I am going to give away, when there are so many who don't even have enough food or clean water or clothing to survive, not to mention lack of shelter. I do not take for granted what a blessed life I have.

In the season of giving and giving thanks, I am thankful for my life that is so full, for the trials I have experienced and learned from, and  for how simply awesome things are for me right now. And I am thankful for you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To Own Me is to Love Me?: Redefining Love and Creating a New Vision

Today I attended the Global Mala in Los Angeles to do 108 sun salutations as a symbolic gesture to bring peace around the world and to raise money to bring yoga to schools around the country. This event coincides with the U.N. International Day of Peace...such an awesome and inspiring event. While I was at the event and wandering around the different vendor booths, I was introduced to the teachings of Paramahamsa Nithyananda. Here is my cliff notes version of some of his thoughts on love...what it is and how to love.... 
"Love is an expansion. It destroys boundaries, internal and external. When you deeply experience deep love with someone, it is like you have merged with that person. The boundaries have melted. When you touch someone with a deep love, you expand. You are no longer suffocated, it is like you are living within two bodies. The deep love takes you to that place of no boundaries. But love is dependent on how you see something/someone. Always when you look at something you are calculating what you can get out of it, what you can have from it..then your thoughts come from fear and greed. Your attention is to the object. If your attention goes to the inner space and if you start to look at things or people and ask yourself, "What can I add to this? What can I contribute?," then that is the process of love. No words can really verbalize love. It is an intense experience. "  
Wow!! I am still sitting with this. So beautiful. I can only say that this is my deepest hope, of finding someone that literally makes all my boundaries melt and vice versa. It so interesting to hear his thoughts on love because so many people have a deep fear of commitment because they are afraid that they will be suffocated and have no movement, no sense of independence. I am understanding more and more that that fear only exists because we have not been taught that love is really about contributing to each other's lives, about adding to each other's lives. Instead, we are taught that 1, finding someone (i.e. spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend) will make us complete AND then 2, somehow, we "own" the person to a certain degree. That IS scary!! 
I think that deep down that mentality has scared me...maybe this why I have dated some less than desirable candidates. I mean, it has been said that every behavior has a payoff; we do things, even destructive things, because they serve some purpose. So maybe I was afraid that he real thing would equal suffocation. Maybe I had not really internalized that I could experience a love that would expand me as a person, maybe I could not have even imagined a love so pure that it would give me wings, contribute to my vision of my life and purpose, and could open me up to new possibilities. No..instead, sadly, I have wasted so much time in relationships that were not love. The lack of respect and integrity suffocated me and because the person was not really invested in contributing to my life in a real way, I would go to a place of fear and in turn be consumed with the thought of losing that person, therefore trying to "own" them. And ironically, I have always been fearful of someone trying to "own" me, take me to suburbia, and never allowing my true essence to shine! A sad circle of events...I am having an "Aha!" moment, folks!! 
Thinking of Paramahamsa Nithyananda's words, I realize that now is the time to build a new vision of love. This means thinking of love in the most mature and truest sense, of unraveling years of false storytelling, and redesigning all relationships I currently have..friendships, family, and romantic. Taking apart old beliefs will be hard work. But this vision is so liberating!! Imagine not worrying about "losing" someone, "keeping" someone...instead, turning your desires to making this person's life as beautiful and fulfilling as possible and vice versa. A true partnership. By holding on to this ideal, I think it will be easier to see false "love", to see who is truly invested in me as I am in them..all that is false will fall away as long as I don't hold on in fear. Those who are open and loving and looking for a reciprocal relationship of giving and contributing will not fall away. I think this has also been my trouble in the past (and not so distant past!); many times I have been more than eager to give, to contribute, and failed to realize that love, real love, will also give back and not just take or take you for granted. I think that when I have given and given and little has been given back to me, the dynamics change from love to fear; then slowly, it falls apart. I think that is what he means when he says that real love melts boundaries; because you no longer have to fear that someone will not honor you or will disrespect you, you are able to let your boundaries melt..there is no heart to protect because with real love, your partner wants nothing more than the best for your heart and spirit! Sign me up!! Furthermore, when I hear his words, it makes me understand more and more how and why sex can be such an exhilarating experience with someone you love..the melting of all boundaries, the ultimate expression of merging two souls, and if done with a pure heart , the intense passion that can only come from really giving and sharing your body and soul. Although sex can always feel good, the intensity, passion, and AMAZING feeling that comes from sharing the experience with someone who you are really invested in and is invested in you is unlike anything else. 
I have read that the blessing in experiencing what you don't want is that you receive clarity as to what you really do want and desire. It is becoming more and more clear to me in the last 2 months than ever before. I am so ready to experience all my relationships in a new way, based on real love. So I have a little mantra for all of us...May you be blessed with lots of love and may you turn away from fear and allow yourself to experience the true melting of boundaries in the loving hands of someone who really loves you back. May our new vision of love be one of contributing to another's ultimate happiness, of supporting their dreams and desires, and not of trying to possess them. Happy International Day of Peace!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You've Come A Long Way, Baby!

Think you haven't come very far? Sometimes all you need is a little time to reflect and some reminding from your nearest and dearest to set you straight. At times it seems like nothing changes, like you are still plagued by your old habits, worries, etc. But you are always unfolding. I once read a quote that said water changes the shape of rocks over time, with a constant, slow and steady flow; heavy rains do not have the same effect. Thought of this today as I was biking. Hope you enjoy!

I used  to be a woman who put cute little clothes on dogs.

I used to use Equal and Splenda like it was going outta style because I was afraid I would get didn't matter that those chemicals were probably slowly killing me!(P.S. I was still fat!)

I used to be addicted to Diet Coke. (Again, I was still fat!)

90% of my food used to come in a box that was frozen and had the words "Lean" or "Light" somewhere on the cover.  I couldn't name half the ingredients. (..and was still fat!)

I spent a good part of my childhood not being allowed to play freely because I had a weak leg. No running allowed.

I thought I had to drink lots of milk to get stronger, even though my stomach was always
turning because of it. 

I used to think of exercise as "no pain, no gain".

I used to think my nose was too big and wanted a nose job for my 16th birthday; I also thought my breasts were too big and wore baggy shirts.

I used to force myself to go out on Friday night, even if I was exhausted, because I was afraid I would "miss out" on something.

At one point, I worked 3 jobs to get from Point A to Point B.

I used to resent that I could cry so easily and love so deeply.

I used to look at pretty girls and think, "Wow..I will never be that put together." And I used to want to be one of them.

I used to set my sights on a guy and think, "please pick me."

I used to not know what to do with my own company and was afraid to live on my own.

I used to not ask for what I wanted and took what I was given.

I used to think that breathing deeply was only useful when you were really angry.

I cried when I turned 30.

Between the ages of 10-30, I was afraid to ride my bike for fear of falling.

I used to think that I had no athletic ability.

I used to spend a lot of time dating the wrong kind of men, then a lot of time grieving, and then a lot of timing being mad/disappointed/ sad.

I used to think that there was only one way to get to God.

I used to think that seeing a therapist was the only way to sort through my issues and let go.

I used to believe in the fairy tale and happily everafter. 

But now....

I am a woman who thinks dogs should not be decorated like dolls and should run free :-)

I get sweet on Stevia and Agave and would rather be chubby than poisoned.

I'm addicted to water with lemon and mint.

99% of my food comes from the Earth, 1% comes from the sea. I can name and identify every ingredient. I do not eat boxed food except for the occasional rice burger, quinoa, and brown rice pasta.  (And I have successfully kept 30 lbs. off my body for 3+ years now!)

My bones are strong...I run, jump, play.

I get calcium from Almond and Hemp Milk and lovely leafy greens.

I don't call it exercise. I call it a daily opportunity to move my body freely, and think pain is not gain. It should feel GOOD!

I never got a nose job (thank goodness), I think my nose is a perfect fit for my face, and think my large breasts are pretty damn fantastic...why hide them? People pay for these!

I only go out if I really want to and am content with yoga or a book on a Friday night if the mood strikes me. I'm not missing out on anything; the moment I am waiting for is happening right NOW!

I finally got from Point A to Point B and realized there were Points C-Z that I wanted to explore.

I love that I have a big heart and have the ability to love fully and deeply. I realize that many people lose that ability along the way. I see my tears as signposts that I have been deeply moved....fantastic!

I may never be a girl with perfectly manicured nails or be able to walk effortlessly in heels. I may never be a supermodel or have the perfect body, but I have my own beauty and I can carry on one hell of a conversation. And I'm not afraid to be silly...being perfectly put together is overrated.

I think the right guy and I will be lucky for picking each other.

I relish in my own company and living alone has been one of the most liberating experiences ever! I get to dance in my underwear, play my music loudly, and know who will be at my house when I get home. This practice will allow me to share my space in a better way later.

I am still learning to ask for what I want, but am doing it more and more..and sometimes I even get it!

I now know that breathing deeply is not only key for releasing anger, but staying in the present moment and is a gift..with each and every breath.

I would cry if I had to be 20 again. 

Today, I rode my bike for 16 miles!!

I use my athletic ability to run 5k's, walk, play, practice yoga, dance. I can say that I did a Marathon.

I let guys show me who they really are, not who I would like them to be. I know that spending time with someone who doesn't treat you well will only delay you from creating space for someone worthy. I believe that the mark of a good man is if he leaves you feeling inspired, seen, and smiling. A man who constantly drains me and disappoints me is soo not worth it.

I now believe that there are many paths to enlightenment and if you strip away religious rules, you will find that most people just want to get closer to love.  Anything that promotes hate or pain is not for me.

I believe that making it means that you are filling your life with experiences and people that make you happy and make you grow.  I would still like to get married and have kids one day, but that is not the endpoint anymore or my indicator that I have succeeded. Neither is a mortgage.

Although I learned a lot through therapy, the best therapy I have ever had has been on my sticky yoga mat. I never imagined this practice would have toned down my fears, insecurities, and doubts the same way it toned down my backside. 

I don't think there is one right way for the story to go or a prince who will come and save me. My life has not turned out how I thought it would or should and I wouldn't change it for the world!  I now know that life is full of happiness and pain and that will never change. You just have to learn to embrace all the moments and emotions and realize that there is no endpoint, just constant unfolding . I am loving the adventure, even when I get a little scared.

And I believe in love with all my heart.

( I would like to dedicate this to my beautiful friend, Marina Gonzalez, who last night brought me vegan ice cream and lots of love and took the time to remind me how far I have come.  Thanks for lifting my spirits and reminding me that some fear is normal and that sometimes letting go is difficult. I heart you forever!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Art of Tuning In

Well, it's been awhile since I've written here. Truth is,  I think it got a bit much for me, documenting what was by far one of the most challenging times of my life a few months ago. Let's just say that March of 2009 was not very kind and the beginning of April, well, not too much better. But the mantra that has been running through my mind and the conversation that I seem to keep having with those around me has to do with tuning in to your inner wisdom and following the inner compass that we all have.
I have a confession to make. I am a recovering advice-aholic. Yes, it's true. From what to order at a restaurant, to how to fix my hair, to whom to date, it seems that I have not been able to make many decisions without asking the advice of others. It's not that I don't know what I like; in the end, I choose what I want. But much too often I have fallen prey to the desire to please, the desire to achieve some kind of perfection, the desire to not be wrong. In other words, I have not trusted my own gut instincts, afraid that they would be wrong. And man, has that lead me down some not so great paths. I would always find myself midway thinking, "damn, why didn't I follow my first instinct?"
So why do so many of us not follow our instincts and instead seek advice constantly? Let me preface this by saying that advice isn't always bad. For example, if there is something I need to gain knowledge about, like where is a good yoga studio while I'm visiting a new city or if I need a recipe or more information on which school to attend for a course of study, etc., then yes, advice is great and needed. There are tons of example of advice being key and necessary. What I'm talking about is that constant need for others' input about things that uniquely YOU, and who knows YOU better than YOU?
Great example was a guy I once dated for a few months. When we met, I knew deep down that my heart was somewhere else. But he was sweet and charming, attractive, well-educated, etc.  Still, after our first date, I knew instinctively that there really wasn't much there in terms of chemistry and common interests. Actually, I think I knew that the night we met. But instead of following my inner compass, really tuning in, and reflecting on what was important to me, I fell into a familiar pattern of seeking advice outside myself. Most of my friends and family encouraged me to keep seeing him. They pointed out all his positive qualities, encouraged me to forget about the person I cared about because he wasn't a practical choice, and even tried to convince me that maybe I didn't like this new guy because he was SO emotionally available and I wasn't used to it. As I continued to keep asking for advice from more and more people and as date one led to dates 2 and 3, my inner voice slowly got drowned out by all the loud noise of everyone else's voices. Those voices became the ones I heard the loudest, and I started to second guess myself. I'm not blaming my friends and family; their hearts were in the right place and I did ask for their input.  But I know that if I had just stayed true to myself and trusted my own process and gut feelings, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. Eventually, he and I parted ways. Not because he was a bad person, but he was soooo not right for me. Looking back on the whole thing, I think I didn't feel chemistry and connection with him from the get go because he wasn't really in a place to give in a way that allowed himself to be really open and passionate. He liked the title of girlfriend, but really didn't want to make space for me in his life. I sensed his emotional distance day one. We also had almost nothing in common and very different personalities. And I tried, I tried really hard, even though my inner self was saying "this isn't working!" ( Another addiction I am working on....I have "no quit" mentality. Great for eduction, job searching, etc, but not always the best things when it comes to relationships!) But I wanted it to (afterall, I had put in time and energy and neatly tucked my feelings for the other guy away) and thought it had to because everyone told me this was a good guy to invest in. And I had developed strong feelings for him, which also made it hard to just bail. It's impossible for me to spend time with someone and not become invested in their life and well being. The problem was that they were feelings invested in the wrong person for me; he was more often than not very cold and distant, and if you know me at all, you know that I am all about affection and I am full of energy. I thank him now for doing me the great favor of exiting my life before I became more unhappy, allowing my heart to expand and explore, and teaching me the lesson I really needed to get....TUNE IN!! 
So now I'm trying this great new thing. It's pretty awesome. Instead of going to my friends and family for advice for things that are uniquely me, I seek my inner counsel. This is one of the greatest lessons and objectives of yoga, and even though I have been practicing yoga for almost 4 years now, I think I am just starting to really get this aspect of it. I am realizing that whenever I look outside myself for advice about things that I know the answers to within the deepest realms of my heart and spirit, it is because I am not trusting myself. And what I am seeing by my looking over the big and little decisions of my life that I have already made, the truth is and has been that I knew what was best for me. It may not have been what would been best for another or what my friends and family would have thought was the best choice, but I have always known.
I tell you this little story of romance gone sour because it is a perfect example of what happens when we don't tune in, and there are hundreds more examples we can find in our lives that range from romance to jobs to where we choose to lay our heads and call home that show the importance of diligently practicing the art of tuning in. Following the promptings of our hearts requires great courage because it doesn't mean we will always be well received or liked or that those around us will agree with our decisions. But I think there is no sadder life to live than one that is not innately yours. Your life will be full of beauty and passion if it is the one you choose for yourself. This is not to say that hard work, pain, sadness, doubt, and roadblocks won't happen when you choose to tune in and follow your path. But what I have noticed that when I can get still and quiet and tune in, I can hear my inner voice saying to press on when it is really right despite those temporary valleys.  And it just feels right when you are your path. When I think about the other guy I was digging, I just know it felt like things clicked immediately. I didn't need advice on whether or not to hang out with him a second time; it was a no brainer!
The art of tuning in is a practice. And as a recovering advice-aholic, it is a struggle. I want to be well liked and  for my decisions to be respected and applauded. But I know that is just ego. And I know that I have 31 years of practice under my belt to show me that I CAN trust myself to make great decisions. My new favorite phrase to say is, "This is what I have decided to do.."  It is slowly but surely replacing the question, "What do you think I should do?? I don't know what to do!!" You always know. Listen and trust that you will be guided and that you are on an amazing self-guided tour as we speak. 

(Note: I want to give a special thank you to some brave friends of mine who have made some huge shifts in their lives recently and are amazing examples of the power of tuning in and self-trust. You inspire me to keep on tuning in!!)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Look and...LEAP!!

What a week!! Last Monday night I decided to do my backside some good and so I inspired myself to go for a lovely night...alone. Yeah, not exactly safe. But I have always loved running at night. I like the quiet, the stars, moon, cool breeze, and lights. I like that somehow with all of that I can hide under the radar and see the world without it seeing me. I have done some of my best thinking during those runs.
However, this time, I fell and fell bad. I couldn't get up. I could not save myself. I sprained my ankle something awful. How I got my car is a whole other story. I'll just say it was with the help of a nice valet guy who got a bit creepy. But I got home.  And things got slow enough for me to really leap.

Sometimes it seems that you have to either metaphorically or, as in my case, quite literally, trip and fall to get really open. I mean, I could not feel more helpless than I did  when I was lying on the cement with no phone and no idea how I was going to even get up.  I had none of my usual crutches to get me out of that one and then literally was on crutches just a day later. In that moment, I was raw and open, stripped of any and all comforts. And my ego just kept thinking how silly I must have looked. In short, I was completely  vulnerable.

I think it is human nature to resist feeling vulnerable. It is downright frightening to be fully exposed. Without even the thinnest layer of protection to hide the ugly little parts of ourselves that we so cleverly try to deny or at least not bring attention to, it is natural to feel the instinct to run and hide. The truth is that when we fall- apart, in love, down- we are exposing our insides to the outside world in a most honest fashion. And more often than not, that kind of exposure sets into motion a whole lot of inner dialogue that is usually not the most loving or compassionate to ourselves. We worry how we look to the other person, to our family, our friends, etc. We call ourselves stupid and silly. We can move right from panic to all out fear that they won't love us anymore. We cling to yesterday because it is better than nothing. We wish we hadn't made a move because now look what has happened. 

In yoga, we actually practice the possibility of falling through balancing poses. My lovely teacher Ally always reminds us that when entering any balancing pose, one of three things can happen- you balance, you wobble, or you fall. The real practice isn't in the "pose"- it is in how you react to the pose and how you react to the outcome. And as humans, we are all about outcomes. We want to know how it is all going to turn out and if it doesn't turn out how we thought it should, we are so disappointed and feel foolish.

 Sometimes the real beauty is in the fall. Sometimes the pot needs to get stirred up a bit. So let's take a real look at what happened when you fell...

What happened just took a leap towards the real deal. Now the healing can begin and you can grow.

You are just as lovable. You are even more lovable. Your life is moving forward. You hit bottom and now you can only go up from there. 

More likely than not, you start to gain the wisdom that those "ugly" parts of yourself are actually beautiful. They got there from something you hold in the deepest part of yourself. So when you show those parts, you are showing your deepest self. How beautiful!
You take a chance because there is no going back. Everything is different. You get to start over. How beautiful!

When we  fall, we need to train the mind to see things differently. We can not let it have its way with us. Ally calls it training the monkey mind and filling our home, our body and mind, with beautiful things and taking care of it. She always reminds us that if we fall in a pose, be mindful of how you speak to yourself. Instead of telling yourself negative thoughts, you must train your mind to see the beauty in falling.

One of my favorite songs is "Let Go".  The chorus reminds us that there is "beauty in the breakdown". It is one of the truest things I know. As much as I hate falling, as much as I hate pain, as much hard work goes into healing, I know from experience that I am all the much stronger and happier because of those experiences.  And I know that you must go through the pain to get whole again.  The same is true for falling in love. Inevitably, things will get messy when two people are getting vulnerable, when insecurities arise. But you must train the mind to see it as beautiful. Beauty unfolding. You can't predict if he/she is the perfect one, the right one.  There is no way to know if it will lead of love or heartache, but one thing is certain; you will get nowhere fast unless you take a leap!

I can't lie. I like feeling secure. I like feeling like I have pretty good idea of what is coming next. And I would much rather succeed than fail. Like last Monday night- it would have been much nicer to have had a good run and come home and gone to bed. But that fall had its benefits. I wound up having a heart-to-heart with one of my closest friends that night. I got all kinds of love from my kiddies- they were kind to their injured teacher. I realized that I needed to take a risk and actually go back to NYC for this teaching job fair. I owed it to myself to explore things more fully. I got the chance to slow down enough to really think, try to process all this change. I got a chance to see where I was putting up walls in other parts of life, where I was afraid to metaphorically "stand on one leg"  because I was afraid of maybe falling. (I love yoga!! Such practice for life!!) Lastly, it did me some good to be reminded that it is ok to ask for help- I don't always have to be big and strong. Sometimes the strength lies in knowing when to reach out, vulnerabilities and all.

The ankle is healing. All things can heal in time. Will I lace up again? Will I stand on that left foot again in yoga? It is going to take a couple of weeks more of healing, but you bet cha! Just next time, I will make sure to bring my phone on my run. Nothing is a mistake if you learn something from it. What are you afraid to try? Are you afraid of falling? If so, here's a thought to ponder..if you do fall, you might land somewhere quite lovely. And you might have never gotten there if you just stayed seated.