Giving Voice to the Heart

Heart Connection AlbumIt’s hilarious to me and I love that I can now, technically, say I’m a “recording artist”. It makes my heart smile and laugh a little bit.

Me.

The shy and quiet girl who got a C in public speaking in third grade. I still remember, my head bowed, speaking down to the tiny 3×5 cue card in my hands and shifting my weight back and forth from foot to foot. Unbeknownst to me, my legs moved further and further apart for the unbearable couple of minutes I was up there in front of the class until I was nearly in the splits.

Trying to gain ground and losing it at the same time. If I just make myself wider, more solid. More connected. Unconsciously of course.

I was terrified.

I think of the young adult who got so sick with a candida overgrowth that my throat actually closed up. I lost my voice. Over and over again.

On repeat.

I laugh at the memory of the first time I tried to lead or offer a friend in the simple chant of “Om”. We sat on the floor of my apartment facing one another.

“Okay, I’m ready,” I said. I took a deep breath in and then at the moment when the sound of Om was meant to escape from my lungs and throat and mouth. I quickly snapped my mouth shut. And we both laughed.

“I can’t,” I said.

Supportively and patiently, she waited until the sound emerged.

I think of these moments and a pattern of not giving voice to. Of not giving voice to emotion or experience. Of turning it all inward. I think of the moments of fear and now, I can send love to that former me.

Maybe I wasn’t ready.

When I started offering yoga and yoga nidra I wasn’t as afraid. Sometimes, yes. And yet, the words always seemed to flow. Even if my throat felt constricted.

A while ago I thought of the fifth chakra in relation to all the others. How whatever we give voice to – the vibration of voice – comes from so much more than the act of opening a mouth and emitting sound. That vibration and tone and quality of sound is moving through the entire physical body, energetic body, and spiritual body. What we say is as wrapped up in our psychology as how we act. For the communication channel to become more clear, the other centers need to heal too.

I can feel the reverberation of my own words through my body now. Right down into my legs (or up from them into my throat?). I notice it when I feel in resonance the most in my heart, my voice feels more soothing. Not constricted.

When I get worked up, my voice tightens. The pitch changes. Words might fly out that are more harmful than healing. That happened a lot as I was starting to learn how to not internalize so much. How to have a healthy outward expression.

About a year ago I worked up the confidence to start posting yoga nidra recordings to YouTube. I had hidden in fear for a couple years there too. Fear of having what I put out into the world not liked. That same old fear of persecution which I’m trying to let go of flaring up. Holding back any potential success or goodness because of the fear of being liked oar disliked. Dislike actually feeling tantamount to death. People with torches and pitchforks coming after me.

A tad dramatic?

Perhaps.

It was a strong enough fear to limit me and what I did. To limit my voice in the world.

When I started putting those recordings up I decided to put them up no matter what happened. They didn’t have to be “perfect”. I put them up as practice. I needed to speak and create even if I was afraid to. To share.

I needed to be okay with rejection. There has been some, yes. More often than not, people have said they find them helpful.

This Heart Connection album came through as a workshop at first and that workshop wanted to be repeated. So I started offering it over and over. In Brooklyn, New York, in Dublin, Ireland and at home in Georgetown, Ontario. Every time there was such deep transformation in the room. It was truly a privilege to witness. The heart is powerful.

I wanted to provide something to allow the people who came to the workshop the practices we worked with to do at home. That’s where the birth of this album appeared.

It came through my heart and body and soul and wanted to emerge. It needed it to emerge through my voice and so, after months of wondering how to produce a recording that would be better quality than my YouTube posts, I asked for help and guidance. A friend and my brother taught me how to build a sound booth.

I got to go back to my fort-building skills as a kid. I took all of the couch cushions and pillows from my parent’s house and built a for in the laundry room. I put my mic on the edge of a hat, downloaded some sound editing software and away I went.

I’ve never had so much focus as I did that day – recording the whole album. Some other energy took over and just kept me working until it was done. There was a passion and a drive fueled by a deep heart knowing.

So, here I am. The one who couldn’t speak up or out. The one who chose not to. The one who lost her voice completely because of dis-ease within now with an album out all over the world! And I haven’t had fear lead the charge. This Heart Connection album did come from the heart. It came from a place of resonance on so many levels and of breaking out into the world in a new, supported, way.

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Place Number Sixty-Six

13731718_10154361734793377_7532805467045561711_nIt’s been a year since I gave up my apartment in Brooklyn. A year of living a nomadic life which could be seen as a life “without”.

Homeless.

That was certainly a big fear of mine in the past. That I would lose everything. That any “wrong” move I made meant I’d be out on the street. Unsupported.

Maybe that was never true but I believed it to be true and so it was. That fear held me back. Limited me.

As I was working towards this nomadic existence, I started to say and believe that the places would appear when I needed them. Thanks to the generosity of spirit of so many people, it’s been true.

True and effortless.

Privileged, yes.

For me it was also a big step in letting go of a place that had kept me safe and insulated at a time when that was what I needed. Until I grew out of those needs. Shedding that past history. Moving past it. Incorporating and integrating it, yes and allowing the pieces of past destruction to become the deep rich fertilizer to catalyst into a new way of being.

A new way of living.

I’m living in my sixty-sixth place in a year.

In this past year I stayed with family and friends and complete strangers in five different countries. I’ve never been without a place. Offers of places to stay have appeared in abundance constantly and without any attempting to grasp or force them to happen. Each person or family within each place sharing a common thread of giving – like a huge flow of energy I’m tapping into.

I have had to learn how to receive.

How to receive and not limit so much generosity. That took some time to get used to. I still am.

It’s been overwhelming at times to show up to someone’s house who I had never met before and be taken into their homes and lives unconditionally. To be, sometimes, left in full trust of a house or a pet and feeling as though I’m this seemingly random person walking in off the street. Receiving that unlimited amount of blind faith and trust has been energizing and has left me awe-struck time and time again. I love it!

I am fortunate.

There seems to be a pattern with me and April. Two years ago, I left my corporate job and salary. Last year, my apartment. This year, my regular classes where I’ve taught for nearly five years. I’m constantly reducing the amount of “stuff” I have stored away.

It feels not like loss to me or even like a letting go any more. That practice has become so part of what I do now it almost needs no attention – it’s now simply a fluid way of being. Letting in and releasing. Constantly. What it’s starting to feel like instead is an opening. An opening up to something new.

The realization in letting go of so much has shown me that I already have everything I need. I never knew that or believed it until now. In looking back, I think I outright denied that concept as a possibility while at the same time starting to understand the seed of the healing view that “I am already whole”.

In past situations not having what others had – in particular family of my own – has inflicted, created, or bumped up against so much stored pain. The looking into other’s lives and comparing causing only despair. Seeing what was lacking in me and in what I had and didn’t have. The gap feeling so irreparably gigantic – like an impassible chasm. Fueled by loss, the sensations I felt created stories of longing, yearning and shedding of countless tears around that acute slicing through my heart. A reinforcing loop. Stuck.

So to arrive at a moment of feeling full. Heart-full. Feeling supported in what I’m doing and who I am becoming. Who I have been before. Understanding that I have everything.

I have absolutely everything and always have. It’s all right here within me. It always has been.

There’s nothing beyond to search for or seek.

It really actually is all here. Within me.

I have everything I need. I am everything I need.

It’s an incredibly empowering place to be.

It’s with me wherever I go. Wherever I am. Whether I’m staying in a mansion of a house with every modern comfort or sleeping on a deflating air mattress in a friend’s living room or at the foot of a Redwood tree. I am the same person no matter where I am. I am grateful for wherever I am.

There’s nothing more I need.

Starting to understand and see this fullness or whole-ness and accepting that I’ve always been whole at every point in my process and will continue to be so contributes to so much more opening.

Yes, I still find myself comparing my life to other’s only the internal response is different. When they have something that strikes a chord with what I don’t have, I’m not caught up in painful lacking. Instead it’s more of a noticing or a thought that I can cultivate or create that too (whatever it may be). At the same time, letting go of the expectation that  I need to have certain milestones in my life to feel better or be happy.

I see myself more in the people living on the street. Those who are homeless or “don’t have” and notice that I now see the similarities between us more than the differences. I’ve had a few really meaningful exchanges lately on the streets of New York actually seeing and listening to people living without homes. Some monetary, and also actually listening to their story. Seeing the person in front of me. Feeling safe enough in myself to hear them and noticing that the fear that used to grip me at being in a similar place, I’m sure helped me not connect with these people. Every time I didn’t acknowledge them I was really saying “I’m afraid I won’t have anything too”.

Thanks to each person or family I’ve stayed with, I’m continuing to move from a mindset of lack to that of abundance. The abundance in me is starting to flow over because I have enough.

I am enough.

It’s the duality of being okay either way. The and/or of non-absolutes seem to be what give me balance. To me, being okay means discovering the things that feed me and make me feel well and then actually doing those things. And doing them over and over, no matter where I am or what excuses I may have.

A teacher once told me that discipline sets you free.

Perhaps this is a part of that. Even in all the movement from one place to another, there is this deep new understanding of stability growing within me. My portable roots are strong within my body and soul. I’m exposing myself to more ways of living, being, and creating. To needs and wants and desires. In seeing so many different paths, I’m starting to trust that each person is on their own path and we are realizing our wholeness within unique conditions or limitations. It’s not about comparing or measuring. The scales are endless and not real; they reach out into infinity if we let them.

I looked up the meaning of number sixty-six after writing this post and smiled in my heart at the definition I found:

Number 66 is comprised of the vibrations and energies of the number 6 doubled and amplified. Number 6 carries the attributes of humanitarianism, community, service to others, home and family, domesticity and social responsibility, grace, gratitude and simplicity. Number 6 also relates to material issues and provision. Number 66 is a powerful number of unconditional love, healing and faith and trust in the Divine.

Number 66 is a message from your angels to put your faith and trust in the benevolence of the Universe as your daily needs are continually met.

Number 66 also asks you to balance your physical, material and spiritual lives. Focusing on your spirituality and living a conscientious and purposeful lifestyle will ensure that your material needs are met as you serve your Divine life mission.  Give any fears or anxieties about your monetary and material issues to the angels for healing and transmutation, and trust that as you live your spiritual truths all of your needs will be provided for. Be open to receiving and accepting help and assistance from your angels, the spiritual realm and other people in your life.

In reading this definition, I’m reminded at reading this of a phrase I heard repeated in my initial healer and yoga teacher training: “set the foundation and open to grace”.

We do this in the physical body in yoga – setting the posture from the ground up. Finding your feet. Finding your roots and then allowing the rest of the body to open. As the body starts to open, energy flows. Movement becomes more fluid, less rigid. It translates off the mat as well.

I’ve gone from believing that without certain structures in place, I would be homeless to now having multiple homes. To having a solid community of support that is one of give and take without measuring what that is. With this foundation, my own ability to give has grown and is continuing to flow out into the world and towards others in new ways. I’m becoming more of a conduit or channel for energy to move through instead of staying stuck or held, rigid and paralyzed by fear and longing.

Beliefs are flexible. Changeable. As the body and foundation of what we think is true shifts and moves it can feel scary. Once set, it’s not permanent unless it continues to serve the structure it supports. As I continue to find, release, and create foundation, I’m learning more about the adaptability of life and the ways in which we do all support one another. How we are connected and interconnected and already whole no matter where we are.

Generating Alignment

IMG_1854I remember learning a few years ago that we generate something like 10,000 new brain cells every day. That information struck me as pertinent knowledge – as though it changes everything I had been brought up to believe. If the very nature of our brain is changing then it’s a matter of where we put these new cells and how we get them to connect with others.

We have a choice – either to put them in all the same places and same ways of being or behaving as we have before or to start to discover and find new connections.

When I was growing up it was taught that there was no choice. You got what you were given and you continued down a path no matter what it was. Whether it was “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong” or if you were “trouble” or an “angel”. If you killed your brain cells, that was it – you were doomed. The brain wasn’t given a chance to shift.

Of course this is a huge simplification of the process.

What is striking me now is that there is always the possibility of new growth.

You can see it when a child is learning. It’s almost as if you can see the brain working to take in new information. To reject it or take it in. Is it something already known or not? Where does it get stuck and stored? What beliefs are formed because of the feelings that came up when learning this new information?

New generation.

I see a pattern in myself that I get focused on letting go. Focused on clearing out and releasing old energy. I tend to forget that this process also allows new energy to come in. New brain cells to be used in new ways.

Instead of seeing the world and myself as I always have, I can start to make new connections. I can start to see what serves this new version of myself and what doesn’t.

New doesn’t mean better or improved in this case. It would be totally fine if I never stepped onto this path of Self-awareness and healing. I simply chose at some point to start listening to different parts of myself. The parts that I had tucked away and ignored. The parts that were filled with the “I can’ts” or “I have tos”. The “shoulds”. The parts of pain that have been realized and surfaced. The emotions denied shifted through to repressed and (hopefully, one day soon) expressed.

It’s okay to be anywhere in this process and still be completely whole.

This is not a self-improvement exercise as there’s nothing to “fix”. For me, it’s a path of exploration, learning, and learning how to listen.

Learning how to hear what my dreams are. Learning how to put those dreams into action. Learning how to feel new energy coming in and know when I keep putting it in those same old places and knowing when there’s something new. Accepting both.

The thing is, that from this internal process, the external is starting to shift. I’ve been feeling quite stuck and as though “nothing is changing” for many years. And, in many ways, it isn’t – I’m still me and there’s no escaping that – merely accepting that. Turns out, the more I accept of myself, the more peaceful I am. The less stressed. The more I am able to make decisions based on me and what I want and envision instead of what I think others want of me.

The more secure I start to feel through this process of knowing more about myself, the more I’m able to take risks and step into the unknown because I “know” it feels right. My intuition and heart can start guiding me to make decisions. Instead of (in my case) being ignored.

Ignoring them didn’t mean they went away – it meant they screamed at me. They screamed and I spent huge amounts of energy and brain power to keep them locked down. The more safe I feel in being who I am, the less energy it takes to be someone else. That freed up energy can then be directed in new ways! Without as many limitations.

I feel as though I’m on a turning point and am starting to listen more quickly to what actions need to be taken. I know what I need to give up (and have taken action in giving up my regular classes at the studio I’ve always taught at) and what I’m not sure of yet is what new energy will come in or where it will take me. I do, however, trust in knowing when it’s time to change. Listening to myself to even start this yoga teacher and healer path was the first step, letting go of my corporate job and committing to an apprenticeship in Ireland was another, leaving my apartment, letting go again and again and every time – it’s been the exact right step for me. It’s taken me into the unknown and has kept me fully engaged along the way. Allowing new parts of my brain and Self to connect, rearrange and align.

It helps me to realize that when we step onto the mat and find alignment in the postures – alignment in the physical body allowing energy to flow more freely – we take that step towards aligning our lives. Aligning ourselves and a deep knowing of what is in alignment or not as old energy leaves and new energy arises.

In the Beginning

27654822_2014192405495186_7944996930931694026_nFor as long as I can remember, I’ve followed the mantra of “just start”.

Start and see what happens.

Begin and then begin again.

Lately the topic of beginnings and endings has come up quite often. Maybe it’s this moving from Winter into Spring. The up and down weather that reminds us that nothing is absolute. I always smile at how we cling to the day-before weather, “but it was so… warm yesterday… or it was just snowing two days ago… and now”. I smile at these conversations around me every single year.

For a long stretch of time it was a tremendous struggle for me to keep starting. It felt like every time I rebuilt a tiny bit of myself or a bit of direction or foundation, it was ripped away again. Taken away by things out of my control most of the time. It was a time of deep pain and teaching, really. I would become so hurt by the breaking down and open again and again until it felt as though there was nothing left. Like a grown up child whose blocks kept getting blown up and torn down by another, except with what felt like greater consequences. “I can’t do it any more”, I remember saying. “I just can’t”. When, really, it was all internal sensation and feelings that I just didn’t want to have any more.

I was a highly creative child. Always making. Writing. Painting. Putting on plays. Always building new things without any thought of the outcome. I was just in the process. In the joy and love of creation.

That creativity was shut down for a long time. Out of fear and out of other parts of life that seemed to be more important or were valued more. I kept shutting off my ways of accessing that realm. No more painting. No more drawing. The last piece to close off was writing. Story telling.

Several years ago, I was frightened and felt the weakest tiny bit of this energy that I had so tightly turned away from appearing. I sat down and wrote a short little piece. Trembling, I shared it. I fell in love with this energy again. It’s like the tiniest spark of it had reappeared and I wanted to keep it safe and sheltered.

I kept being with it in little ways. I started to draw again even though the first time I did, I was terrified. Imagine, being terrified of sitting down to draw. It was as if I didn’t know what to do. The trauma of having everything I created or had the potential to birth constantly taken away was stronger than my ability to create. Yet it kept calling. So, I let it open a little bit and then would retreat with a “that’s enough for now” feeling.

Recently I’ve realized just how much my creative centers of the womb and throat have been injured. Closed off. Wounded. It’s not a coincidence that these areas have been struggling just as I have been struggling with being able to create and allowing myself the freedom to do so as these chakras govern creativity and giving voice. I see now that I limit myself in these areas.

Writing, for example. I can trace the progression of shutting it down. Something I always loved to do became something I cut off, shoving it down and rationalizing and ignoring the pain of doing so. Only there has always been a voice with me about writing a book and that voice has been getting stronger and stronger. It’s a mixture of whatever it is wanting to come out pushing, pushing, pushing itself to come through me and the resistance I put in front of it.

Through the resistance that has grown, I seem to have had a concept appear along the way that I had to know what I was creating at the beginning. As though the entire end result needed to be known beforehand. If I didn’t know then there was no point in starting because what was I starting? Who knows? I had to figure it out because being in the thought pattern of “I don’t know what to do” or “I don’t know how” is enough to stir up moments where I was frozen in past traumas.

That’s not what happens though. If I can move through that fear and freezing, then when I sit down to draw on a blank page, I’m always surprised by what flows through and out. It wasn’t there beforehand. It wasn’t premeditated. It wasn’t created in advance. It is the process of creation that brings it into being. Not the figuring out in my head or the beating myself up for not doing it.

I seemed to have become stuck between fear of doing and fear of not doing. Waiting between both edges for something to shift.

Just start!

Now, the shift that was planted all those years ago with that glowing ember of a first story has taken on more energy. I’ve listened to the internal pushes and screaming from inside of me. In the past few weeks I’ve found a new practice. Every morning now I wake up, sit for a short meditation practices through the chakras, and then write. Stream of consciousness pours out. Sometimes from my dreams the night before sometimes channeled from who knows where. Pure creation. Often, I’m surprised by what appears – I never could have anticipated what was to come.

My stumbling block with starting was that I had to know all possible outcomes. Perhaps to protect myself from feeling hurt or having to know how something will turn out. That I will have an end product – possibly one that I could earn money from. Or, even worse – what if it comes to nothing? What if I do all of this and nothing comes? I don’t know how to write a book. I don’t know what it is. What am I going to write about? What if there’s nothing to share or it’s not good enough or people don’t like it? What if I don’t “have it”? I “shouldn’t” be spending time doing this. It’s not practical. What if, through this, I don’t know where I’ll land? Or if I’ll be able to do it? Or be safe enough to? Supported? Where do I put my feet? Will the ground get taken away again? The creation all falling apart? Crumbling to bits and being knocked down? The writing that I’ve always wanted to do – what if I can’t. That was part of my block too.

I let this dream of writing a book go – into the place where I didn’t believe I could have dreams. That safe compartment where it could be locked away, never tried. Only, it never died. If anything, turning away from creation only caused more chaos and destruction within me. I didn’t know how vital these aspects are to my well being.

I let that voice of “I can’t” run the show. To keep things closed off tightly. Until, only recently, I realized that none of those thoughts are true. They’re a soundtrack that plays out in loops long established to try to protect myself. Somewhere along the way I no longer understood that childhood ability to create for the sake of creation. To simply be creative. To explore those realms of imagination. The realms that haven’t died. They are very much alive, just neglected. How can I expect to access them unless I start?

In this beginning I have found an unexpected excitement. In only a few short weeks of committing to this daily practice, I’ve noticed that the voices trying to tear me down have stopped. There’s nothing for them to attack – because instead of “not doing” and letting them get to me, I’ve started. I’ve completed my practice at the start of the day and have the rest of the day to come back to it, should I choose to. Or not. The fact that it’s already done means those thoughts have nothing to cling to. No way to get in.

Today, in particular, I was struck with the deepest sense of wellness I have experienced. Something from a deep well within me akin to peace. I feel well all over. In every facet of my being. I’m not sure when I’ve felt that way before. I must have and it feels like it’s a new level of healing taking place. A new level of feeling well mentally in particular but also my physical body and energetic body are more clear. In no longer completely denying these crucial aspects of my creative self or clinging to the struggle that denial has fostered, something completely new can appear. Even if I don’t know what it is, I know how it feels. Already this practice has become a vital part of my being.

This writing and creativity is for me, not any of those other things my mind becomes clouded with. It’s part of my path and practice. It’s my medicine. It’s up to me to take my daily dose.

As we move into Spring it is a time of fertility and a time when this energy is ripe with new seeds being sown. It’s a time of new beginnings. A time to just start and not because I know how something will end. Or if it will be destroyed. Or won’t be “good”. Even if it’s all “taken away” by some unknown force, the process of it never can be. The end result will be what it is. The process, however, never has to end. Just like stepping onto my yoga mat every day – this practice is there for me too, no matter what.

Creativity as much as anything else is now seeming to me a process of letting go. Of giving myself over to whatever wants to come through and allowing myself to just start.

To honour those seeds of starting all those years ago and see how, eventually, the season does change. The energy does shift. It’s been up to me to begin over and over and over. Without knowing that I would ever get to this place and now, without knowing where it will take me next.

Letting Light In

26904400_2008464602734633_855714768363561149_nI remember walking home from teaching one night in Brooklyn and I saw two men working on a car in the dark. They were trying to replace the front tire and one man was holding a lamp so the other could see what he was doing. He looked up, saw me coming and said with a smile, “sometimes it’s hard to be the one who has to hold the light”. My spirit immediately lifted with this interaction.

What he said resonated with me. In my experience, I’ve had a hard time staying “bright” or full when it’s felt like others try to take or snuff out that light within me. It’s taken me until now to realize that it can’t be taken and that any dissonance I feel internally and in life, I create.

And, of course, it was funny because this guy was really just standing there while the other guy was working away at the “hard stuff”. Except both were equally needed in this moment.

I tend towards the “hard” or always have. Toward the “serious”. Even if that means negating the lightness of being that feels so good. When it has come up, I sometimes limit it. It’s uncontrollable and sometimes scary and sometimes I just feel amazingly full and emanating bright energy.

Teaching fills me up in this bright way. Offering Reiki does too.

When I was home recently I started to let some of that “serious” energy go. Not that I have to and not because it’s “bad” but because I’m so well practiced in it, I need more of the other – the “lighter side of life”. I laughed more. I defended less. In this light, I accepted more of who I am. I remembered a teacher who always says that “enlightenment is a process of lightening up – don’t take yourself so seriously”. I reflected on how I tend to get caught up in the “shoulds” of life (the ones I’ve been taught and the belief systems and energy I’ve lived in) and I started to move beyond them. That I don’t need to beat myself up for the path I’m choosing – wondering if it’s the “right” one – instead I can stop seeing it as this serious thing and simply commit. Open the door and see. From this incredible amount of commitment instantly came deep peace. Lightness. Ease.

On or around February 1st we celebrate Imbolc – the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The moment where we can see a return to the light. Moving from the darkness and starting to open up to the seeds of creativity and fertility. For me, this also means continuing to not take myself so seriously. To laugh more (even or especially at myself) and to see even those harder aspects of life with the welcoming embrace of light.

Living Beyond the Shoulds

It’s difficult for me to “just” let myself be. Those constant voices pushing me from inside feel as though they never cease. I’m not sure what measurement I expect to match up to because I know there isn’t one.

This past year I have traveled quite a bit which meant not seeing my family as much as I’d like. I really started to feel it and took six weeks to come home.

Home. Is where the heart is?

All I wanted to do was spend time with my family.

How quickly the internal voices came in when I arrived back home. Those voices asking me, “what are you doing with your life?” and pushing and prodding for an answer. Not that this is a bad thing.

The thoughts grew in power, feeding on guilt because I wasn’t “doing” much. I wasn’t working. I started looking for a job and questioning the path I’m on. I gave the idea of a job right now a sideways glance, knowing full well that it wouldn’t “solve” any of this spinning. If anything, it would just be another distraction away from what I want to be doing; how I want to be living right now.

I got distracted with thoughts about money. Housing. Mortgages. Working. Retirement. The energy around me felt quite strong. Not wrong; just not for me right now.

This energy started to make me turn on myself and attack. A theme I’m used to. In the spirit of self-study – I watched. I noticed what happened as I looked at job boards.

Then I finally realized I was doing exactly what I had wanted all along. All I wanted was to spend time with my family and I was. In abundance. And it was wonderful.

The more I realized that the more I let go of the lack (or the belief in what I was lacking and not doing). The more I focused on the moment and what was currently happening. The more I could start to connect even more deeply with love and light to myself and to my family. The more I could let go of that second-guessing worry and fear that I wasn’t doing something I “should” be doing. I felt a deep peace come over me and my heart expanded. I felt love bigger and more potent than any I have felt for a long time. Probably since I was a little kid, exuding love. Love that perhaps I’ve been limiting because it felt like too much to handle.

In my first training, my teacher explained to us the concept of a daily practice or sadhana. The best thing she said for me to hear was for us to get on the mat every day and move. Every time the word “should” came into our heads – “I should do x pose now or next” to not do that.

Years ago, I started incorporating that philosophy into my physical practice every day. Every day not knowing where I’d be going next and discounting the shoulds that came up and instead feeling or following what I needed or what happened spontaneously. What I realize now is that she was offering us a key to being able to work with all the myriad of “shoulds” that appear in a lifetime. To instead trust what is inside and to live authentically, not bound to what others think reality or life is or isn’t.

So, from the outside, taking six weeks to spend with my family may seem a luxury when faced with the modern way of working where family separation is often a key part of making a living. I’ve done that for many years and all the while I had a pulling feeling of sadness and missing. One that I ignored for some time or didn’t understand how to interpret when it would grow to a point where the separation was too hard. I didn’t know how to listen. I was caught up in the shoulds.

Now, I’m learning how to listen beyond the shoulds.

Now I know that home, for me, is where the heart is.

“Perfecting” Shavasana

crossIn the twelve or so years I’ve been practicing yoga I have noticed the shift in importance regarding shavasana. It used to be that a ninety-minute class would have space and time for at least a ten to fifteen-minute period at the end to lay on your back, arms and legs stretched out long on the ground. A time of stillness, rest, a time to absorb the effort and energy of the practice.

A time to practice death.

Corpse pose.

I remember the first time I learned that shavasana was corpse pose. My teacher at the time rarely explained that relationship because it often freaked people out. We humans tend to have a complicated relationship with death.

I’ve noticed how over the years, class length has shortened and, with that shortening, shavasana often becomes two minutes or three. Sometimes five minutes will be spared.

It’s a challenge – or at least it was for me when I first started practicing. To just lay there. My mind would always race around and I can actually remember the energy moving through my field and in my body. The energy prompting so much resistance to laying down. I never knew if I was “doing it right” and wanted to open my eyes and look around the room. What was everyone else doing? Really – I was just supposed to lay here? That’s all?

Later on, as the effort of the physical practice preceding was often difficult for me, I relished getting to that place of shavasana. It was met with an excitement.

Now, as a teacher and as a student, I notice how this important part of the practice is often relegated to the clock and getting the next class in on time. The few minutes that we all now seem to “fit in” really never enough to fully get into the posture.

At a retreat last year I overheard the teacher talking about how there is no perfection of a pose (which I liked). I heard him say to a student, “if you’re going to ‘perfect’ one pose – let it be shavasana”.

I smiled.

The teacher continued, “in the end, it’s the only pose that you’ll be able to do so why not do it well?”.

Death. A moment of dissolution. A moment where form no longer matters and we enter into the formless.

In yoga philosophy the cycle of life and death is often described by the Gods Brahma (as the creator), Vishnu (the sustaining force or preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). I’ve always imagined these three playing out like the image of a sine wave where the creation starts and then rises up into a pattern for a length of time or effort and then falls back down and finds a completion of some sort only to rise again. It’s not quite so linear as so many things are being born and dying constantly, and yet this is how I understand it.

What I start to notice is where within that cycle I’m most comfortable and where I’m not. I love the creating force. I enjoy the start of things. I can be in the sustaining force for a great length of time (sometimes to my benefit and sometimes to my detriment) whether it’s a project or relationship or an emotion or any aspect of life. The destruction phase is one that I’ve been learning to become more comfortable with. Be it a physical loss, death of a person or being, or the many other deaths we experience in a lifetime. The positive deaths of personal and psychological growth are some aspects of this destruction such as learning that a belief that served you when you were three may no longer be necessary as an adult. The dissolution of a relationship, marriage, a business or completion of a major project are other possibilities (to name a few).

In the past several weeks I’ve noticed myself moving through what has felt like a phase of dissolving. The yoga studio I have been a student at and have taught at for seven years announced that its closing. For me, this is one of the last pieces of a pattern of death that has been happening for some time.

I noticed when I received the news that I immediately thought of all the students I wouldn’t see and wouldn’t get to say goodbye to (I’m away for their last month of business). I felt the emotions of sadness and loss rise up and I actually let them be there. Not long after I had a workshop that was canceled because no one signed up. I immediately felt as though nobody wanted what I had to offer, even though so many people have said the opposite.

It was this dissolving force. For a few days it felt as though I was dissolving in it. This also brought up a significant moment of trauma for me from the past. A moment which led to a direct experience with death.

Yet, the deaths do happen. Constantly. The dissolution can feel (for me) as though there’s nothing to hold onto and so I start to grasp for what I know. Often, that is to look for old beliefs or old memories with similar charges of pain or emotion. The difference in this moment for me was that instead of having those beliefs beat me down or control me, I took a look at them. I sat with them. I felt the pain the thoughts inflicted.

As I noticed the thoughts rise up repeating in a way that felt as though they wanted to skewer my heart, it also felt as though a massive gateway opened in the bottom of my heart. It was wide and deep – like  a great void while also full of vibration. It was as if something in me had physically unlocked and opened. The first day it happened, I closed the door to the gateway. I simply said, “not right now”. The gateway closed and the pain dissipated, as did the thoughts. I found relief. Though I knew that they had only gone temporarily, I felt proud of myself for setting that boundary in the moment. It was too much for me right then.

In the days that followed I felt the sensations rise again and again only more subtly at first and I realized a connection to what I was feeling right now and a significant moment of trauma that was still charged with potent emotion and all of these belief that “nobody wants what I have to offer” which morphed into “I have nothing to offer”. The difference now was that I have so much evidence to the contrary. I could simultaneously hold with compassion the beliefs that were trying to hurt me, and at the same time reveal that they weren’t true.

The sensations rebuilt in intensity across my heart and I noticed that as I gave up my resistance and let myself step into what was happening, the gateway reopened and reappeared. I was afraid to go through it the first time. I didn’t know what would happen on the other side. I feared dissolving. Losing. Falling out of form or being. Only as I kept myself separate and distanced from this fear of going into the gateway, that was exactly what was happening – I was feeling myself dissolve and I was reacting to it instead of being in it. So, as the gateway reappeared I knew this time, I had to go through. And so… I did.

I walked into the dissolution. I walked into the sensations and feelings. And it released a huge energetic block from the past. My heart healed. The gateway closed. It gave way. I gave way. I accepted dissolution much more fully.

Not only could I witness how I managed and held myself through trauma in the past. I could allow this part of me to move through the gateway and into death now. I wasn’t ready before.

And now I’m free of that structure. Free of the form. I moved into formlessness and it was challenging. It felt challenging to be without an anchor and to notice when I searched for them.

To move into formlessness and know I was also safe. Know that I’m not moving into my actual death. While, at the same time, know that there is a major part of me dying and that death is one to celebrate and honour.

I can see now how I have often stayed in that sustaining force. I have often stayed there to avoid dissolving (even if where I am staying isn’t healthy or if I hold on to emotions or resentments simply because at least they are something I know). Now I know that I also need to dissolve. I need to embrace it and be able to move into it in order to live well. To not live in death or a fear of death and to be able to sit with it and beside it and know that it’s okay. That it’s a part of living.

It feels as though I’ve entered completely new ground. Only it’s not fully new. It’s built upon the foundation of all those times in shavasana. No matter what happened during them, the fact was that I am able to practice “perfecting” that pose. It’s far from perfect (and may never be, even in my actual death) and it’s not the “perfecting” that interests me. It’s the practice.