Embracing half, whole-heartedly

Embracing half, whole-heartedly

First bike ride in months. Achy discomfort. Losing steam. Speed. Freedom. Headwind. Nature. Self care. Alone. Whole.

The power
In the belly and legs.
Loud calls from the geese and ducks.
Elegant, focused silence from the heron.

I used to say that I was split in 2-
That there was a part of me hidden from view.
She cannot speak, her desires do not matter.
Girly girls are shameful and weak, the mind would chatter.

Achievement and doing.
Laziness, unacceptable.
Disease and discomfort,
I need to break free.

Music and dance,
Swimming in my body.
To play with ease,
get a little naughty.

Forgiving and healing,
Coaxing and soothing,
Laughing and crying,
Loving and beloved.

Our flesh is speaking,
Grunting its Tug of war.
Create equanimity,
Draw yourself back to the core.

A Work of integration,
A dynamic teeter totter.
Embrace your 2 sides, now,
Be a good little daughter.

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Phoenix from the Ashes

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This is my first blog post since completing teacher training.  I have been reeling and unclear about what is happening to me – I have been using the phrase “I feel like I’m spinning”, quite frequently.  It’s as if there is this upheaval happening and I’m just along for the ride.

Recently, I met with Keleigh to have an astrology reading performed.  I went into the reading blind, hoping for some new insights into this personality I am currently wearing.  The reading was more detailed that I could have ever imagined.  Keleigh was speaking of things that I had never consciously acknowledged about myself and my “story”.  

When I was a very young child, I encountered a truth about my parents’, which would forever alter my way of living.  The truth that was discovered by myself and my brother was put in our vaults, never to be acknowledged.  My parents didn’t know that we knew.  Life continued in its manic patterns until one day, when we were old enough to consume alcohol, the emotions and the truth exploded in our faces.  It was as if this beast was dormant, lying in wait for the moment to burst forth.

Despite the ultimate revelation, there were years of suppression and habits developed around the suppression of emotions, which have been slowly rising into my consciousness during the past 5 years.  Coincidentally, the past 5 years have been spent mourning the loss of my father.  This grieving process has allowed me to cry A LOT, to feel anger and uncertainty in harsh acuity.  However, lately I have felt an acceptance and a closure around my father’s death, which has brought relief around that emotional hurdle.  So this latest “spinning” must have to do with a deeper unearthing.

In the past year, I have dug deeper into uncoveringmy truth  The digging has opened me to the realization that there is more of my story that needs to be “let go.”  Talking with Michelle several months ago she said something that really struck a chord – I am versed in the art of accepting those things of which I have to let go involuntarily.  But those elements of my life story, where I have to exercise a voluntary letting go, are the areas where I freeze and back-pedal.  Falling back on old habits and coping mechanisms, so that the beast can remain asleep.  I have been terrified to face what I never faced as a child.

I also found out that, much to my dismay, I have Mommy & Daddy issues.  I have been living under this delusion that I had the best parents ever, which is mostly true.  I was never for want – food, clothes, home, sports, academics.  Check, check, check.  My life was dependent on them loving me.  So, as long as I didn’t rock the boat, I would have all of the things I needed to survive in the life that had been created for me.  But what has evaded me all of these years is that my parents were also just human – capable of self-hatred and acting based on that self-hatred.   This has been my work thus far – un-doing self-hatred.

Another aspect of my recent upheaval, is the unconditional self-love for all of my “characters”.  My dark sides have been shoved aside and unacknowledged, because they don’t meet the expectations of society.  My road rage, capacity to cuss people out, use of alcohol and marijuana to quiet my thoughts and feelings.  I am slowly owning these parts of me and seeing them for what they are – part of the big puzzle, some of which are truth and others are conditioning.  Herein lies the next challenge of awareness – discerning truth from the story.

There is a big change happening in my inner world – an overwhelming feeling of heat building, ready to burn the old city into ruins.  The emotions associated with this old city include shame, control, sadness, anger, uncertainty and fear – let’s start the ignition.

Breathing Re-Learned

There once lived a man without breath
It lodged in the chest, without depth

His constant demeanor was gruff and hasty
The color of his skin….pasty

Something was amiss, his ails unknown
he had heard about yoga, it was near his home

When his first teacher told the class to breathe
He felt threatened, his frustration seethed

His first Savasana arrived
Thoughts of fear, in his mind contrived

Despite this first impression,
The man arrived home, not stressin’

He slept like a baby, his skin looked rosy
In his chest it felt more cozy

The man soon learned about his anatomy,
The magic of the diaphragm, like a canopy

Part muscle, part tendon
It massages organs in the abdomen

It’s affect on his body was so far-reaching
He arrived each week to hear more teaching.

Steadily the man became more at-ease
He had woken up and remembered to breathe.

Inside the cage it slithers, holding firm
His awareness heightened, breathing re-learned

Yoga Asana & your Diet…don’t you hate that word?

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Let’s instead use Ayurvedic Medicine, since it sounds more exotic.  More than just sounding exotic, it has much more depth than our Western notions of “dieting”.  Dieting implies willful starvation, a punishment for bad behavior, which only promotes more suffering.  Ayurvedic Medicine is a holistic approach to being aware of how our body reacts to the things we put in our mouth.  While our lesson on this enormous tradition was brief, it affirmed some pre-existing suspicions about Yoga and it’s far-reaching implications on life as we know it.  I was left wanting to know more.

How could the practice of nourishment have been separated from the Asana practice?? It seems to me that you can’t have one without the other. If you are trying to find a deeper sense of well-being, how can a person continue to eat the “American” way?  This is where the major cultural challenges arise.  There is an increasing level of literature on the subject of shifting the American idea of Food, including one of my favorite Real Food advocates, Michael Pollan, who said: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  However, this common-sense, vital information has been, for the most part, out of the mainstream media.  So, it is up to each individual to empower themselves with information from trusted sources, but more importantly, information from one’s own body.

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When I began practicing yoga, I was suffering from terrible acid reflux, gas and lots of foods made my stomach hurt. Over a period of time, incorporating a conscious practice of eating and noting the foods that caused my dis-ease, I have finally found peace. I no longer suffer the same crippling stomach pains. Although there is still some gas, it’s on a healthier level 😉  And, I can still indulge and have coffee, alcohol and Mexican food. Just not all in the same day.

I plan to continue learning about this ancient medicine and see how an enhanced awareness of food will affect the spiritual journey. Intelligent consumption of nutrition is one of my favorite hobbies, so this should be fun.

Surrendering the Intellect in order to Surrender to the Divine

Our latest niyama for study is Ishvara Pranidhana, loosely translated as Surrender or “offering the fruits of one’s actions to the Divine.” This is one of those esoteric terms in spiritual philosophy like “Truth”, where it can appear to be fairly straight-forward. However, this one is likely to marinate for a lifetime, since it runs contrary to our Western traditions. Our culture has tended toward a concept in which surrender implies weakness; results must be achieved and glorified. So, relinquishing control to a “higher power” may seem as if one is unwilling to accept responsibility. To recognize, embrace and worship our Higher Self, as if it were a Deity, may appear narcissistic. But, If we broaden our definition and exposure to the concept of Surrender, we may find a welcome respite from the never-ending list of To-Dos.

Over the course of my Yoga study, I have read and heard a lot of information about the Ego – “I” “Me” “Mine” – and how it controls the mind and self-view. I am one of those people who intellectualizes subjects and conclude that I “know it all.” While I have acquired knowledge and information about Yoga philosophy, until recently, I had not truly absorbed it into my heart and soul. My very capable brain was storing it all, at-the-ready, in the event that I am quizzed.

This week I plan to Surrender to my Inner Divinity, shed all the conclusions and “knowledge” that my Ego has accumulated about Yogic Spirituality. In doing so, I will practice making contact with that part of my Soul that already “knows” and does not require an academic understanding. I am charting unknown territory, which is a bit daunting and directionless, but I’m just going to give it up to the Light.

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Mrs. Fix-It

During our Anatomy Class last YTT weekend, we focused primarily on the Shoulders.  Unlike the hip socket, the head of the humerus does not “lock” into place inside the bones of the shoulder joint.

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Rather, the shoulder joint is primarily stabilized by a multitude of connective tissues.

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Due to these unique characteristics, we have the potential for incredible range of motion with our arms.  However, this also leaves the shoulder vulnerable to injury, since the joints’ stability depends on equal strength and flexibility of the surrounding connective tissues.

While I had some understanding of these anatomical facts, nonetheless, it helped to understand why shoulder injuries are so common and difficult to remedy.  If the connective tissues are over-stretched, torn or severely damaged, they take time to heal.  Most people have a difficult time allowing the shoulder to heal completely, because the use of the arm is so necessary to daily life.

From this anatomical baseline, we traveled into the realm of movement, posture and chronic issues faced by many people in society today, who are beholden to computers and cars.  Our shoulders are perpetually rolling forward, shortening our Pectoralis Minor in the front, outer-edge of our chest.  This piece of information triggered the desire to “fix” my shortened Pectoralis Minor – as if the mere lengthening of this muscle would cure all of the imbalances of my shoulder musculature.

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Lisa’s presentations were more along the lines of Kinesiology, as opposed to Anatomy, since they were focused on the Anatomy of the human body and how that relates to movement.  In all of her classes, I left with this urge to fix my body – fix my posture, fix my flexibility, fix my range of motion, fix all imbalances.  As if it could happen overnight.  My trainer told me that my Pec Minor can be fixed – I would just have to stop working at a computer and stop driving (!).  Clearly, my expectations and desires of my body are unrealistic.  More than anything else, I have realized that the Kinesiology education triggered some old habits – picking an aim of physical perfection, and feeling let-down when the result cannot be attained immediately.  Just some more fodder for observation.

Surfing the Crimson Tide

We were asked to imagine that our menstrual cycle is debilitating and it happens to coincide with an important upcoming class. What to do?

I would imagine that I would be a bit brazen in this circumstance and make a general statement indicating that I am feeling less than great – unless the class was all women, I would avoid speaking the P word.

Putting on a game face is a strong suit of mine, but when I am hormonal, or if I had a debilitating period, there is no way to put on the game face. I think acknowledging weakness, discomfort and normalcy is a great way for students to relate to the teacher. As in Donna Farhi’s experience on a retreat where she fell ill, revealing humility and vulnerability to a student population can create a new and deeper bond. It may also force the teacher to let down the desire to please and make everyone feel good, and just be in the present, accepting the reality and limitations as they are. It can be tempting to “overpower” the emotional and physical limitations present during the female cycle, but to learn to go with the flow is, in itself, a practice of letting go of expectations. This practice will, in turn, bleed into the students’ experience, giving them permission to drop their expectations and just be where they are in the moment.

*the puns were gratuitous but unavoidable 😉

Mo’ money, Mo’ problems

What could you let go of in life that would feel like “freedom,” one of Christina’s definitions of renunciation?

Fearful, obsessed, frustrated and angry. Money makes me feel these things. Money makes me worry about not having money. Money is more fun, more exciting, more new and more better. Money is the root of evil.

I would love to let go of my obsession about money. It creates a lot of unnecessary suffering in my life. In a world with such disparate and seemingly separate socio-economic demographics, we all seem to have this in common. I have never been without money and wouldn’t know what it is like to be without – without my shoes, clothes, jewelry, fancy face cream, sporting equipment, travel. By nature, I am not a spoiled, high-maintenance person, so I likely would adapt. But the fear of not having financial security can be so overwhelming it’s crippling.

Like many of my engrained tendencies, this obsession was inherited from my mother. She was always talking about not having enough money, or vocalizing her concern that we may lose the house or have to stop playing competitive sports. As a child this instilled such a huge fear, I prayed everyday that we would be without money problems.

Until this past couple of weeks, I had not been conscious of this obsessive tendency. I have begun questioning my motivations for achieving higher education and working for our family business. Were these choices made out of passion for the cause and love of family? Or were they made for the financial security? Or, as Christina Feldman said, I may be perpetuating my self view – the “I have, I am, I do”.

Watching my cravings and aversions and seeking the freedom from the obsession, may crack my world wide open into a whole new reality. At this point I am just noticing my relationship with money – impulsive spending, wanting more & better – and assessing what I truly need.

Recreating the Story

Creating awareness around the back of my heart, to the neglected vertebrae of my thoracic spine, to the sinking of my front chest, has made me feel scared, worried, panicky, sad and insecure. I have had flashbacks to my horrifying days in junior high, when I was ridiculed for not having any boobs. When my chest puffed up in my exercises, I remembered having to hide my chest (or lack thereof) – never a low cut top or sticking my chest out; dressing like and playing like a boy to fit the body I was given.  I will never forget the time in high school, when a boy I liked, who was also a friend, called me a lesbian. He had thought this was a funny joke, because I was an athlete.  I absolutely broke down crying – I am feminine and I like boys!! – I wanted to scream.

Eventually, I hit puberty and, until Sunday, thought I had moved on from these tumultuous teen emotions.   Yet, 15 minutes of laying on a double-tennis ball, allowing my heart to lift, cracked me open a bit, and let out some darkness.

I am postulating, that the block in my heart chakra stopped the energetic flow of my my third chakra (solar plexus), which has created the dis-ease in this region: acid reflux, burps, caffeine and sugar addiction.  If I can open my heart chakra, allow the free flow up and out of this area, not only will my third chakra simmer down, but my 5th chakra (throat chakra) can connect downward more freely, thereby, finding the Truth in my voice.

Sometimes it feels like there are so many things to work with that I don’t know where to begin. However, I am realizing that these deep seeded memories, patterns and habits that have created the story of Me, need to be seen and left in their place. They don’t need to be manipulated and obsessed over – recognize that story, cry with compassion for that young, scared, insecure girl. But, then, look in the mirror and see the Me of the present.

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Go to Your Womb

After the weekend’s workshop with Mary Paffard, studying the female fluidity as it relates to an octopus, I realized that I have a limited connection with my intuitive, prehistoric self. I became easily frustrated because I could not muscle my way through movement as I have been taught. In fact, we were specifically told NOT to use the muscle to move the limbs. The process did become a bit easier as the class progressed, but I was left feeling uncertain of the sufficiency of my fluidity.

After the asana class, we discussed our experiment and, naturally, I had to speak up. I told of my initial desire to “get it” and “feel it”, and feeling aggressively disappointed that it wasn’t coming to me very easily….or fluidly. Mary spoke of the 20th century yoga that has created many of the asanas we practice regularly and diligently; of the Yoga Journal (and the like) and its tendency to create an aesthetic of yoga as fit, beautiful and luxurious; of our consumer driven culture that has fed us stories, telling of our brokenness and how their product will fix everything. Whether it is related to physical appearance, mastery of subjects and information, professional achievements, there is a constant, unavoidable barrage of cultural influence. This workshop and discussion triggered something for me as it relates to my cyclical processes.

For the past 7 years I have been working to break a mental pattern of wanting more, most and best. Much of my work was spent in an attempt to eliminate the deep-seeded hatred I harbored for my physical body. It has been several years since I have had a real nasty thought about myself, but the mean-Jean still chirps up now and again. However, by believing I had stifled the mean-Jean, I discontinued my acute awareness of this pattern, choosing to focus on the other “issues”. For example, more recently, there is this tendency to notice the superficial, obvious defaults of character and lifestyle. Mary’s class and words have caused me to pause and revisit this old nemesis – Why do I have an asana practice and what is my true intention? Is it an insidious perpetuation of the old mean-Jean? Am I honoring my body and loving it unconditionally in my practice, or am I bullying my way through?

I do not yet have an answer to these deep inquiries, but it has created an awareness, that an aim to eliminate a harmful mental pattern is not an effective method. Enter, Samtosha.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not) Mary focused a lot on the deep belly and it’s crucial role in keeping us connected to our intuitive selves. By relating the anatomical and physiological aspects of this region, with the spiritual significance, it has become more clear than ever, that this is our “Magic Spot”. My favorite take-away one-liner: Go to your Womb.

I have a lot of meditating and intuiting yet, but I am so grateful for these inspirational moments that continue to arise on our brilliant journey.