All posts by yogahs

The Illusion of Movement

IMG_5147I am constantly hard on myself and I’m getting tired of it.

It’s one thing I’m remarkably good at – those thought forms flowing as if they’re designed to hit me as their target.

Since they are coming from me, they rarely miss. It’s quite well-designed, if I think about it. A constant barrage designed to… designed to what?

On one side, it seems as though this stream of relentless hardness is trying to beat me down. Perhaps designed to keep me in place? Keep me small?

On the other side, I am reminded that this is my way of assuming control. I turn all energy inward because I can control just how angry or upset or disappointed I feel with myself. I can control how hard I am on myself. It feels safer than to express it to or towards somewhere else.

It lets me believe I’m taking it all on at the same time as it feels like I become pinned down.

The more it starts to zero in on the target, pinning me down, the more I typically have let the thoughts win, escalating often into a more manic energy or a depressed one, depending on the thoughts coming. Until now… now something is different.

It’s interesting because right now is the most free I’ve ever been in my life in many ways. I’m constantly moving with my nomadic lifestyle (I’ve been lucky enough to stay in 44 places in five countries in nearly 7 months). I’m always meeting new people and deepening relationships with people I’ve known for a long time. I’m accepting support more than I ever have before and, a lot of the time, I’m feeling quite full and happy (something not all that long ago I didn’t believe was possible).

In this constant movement, I’m also seeing some of my dreams come true. For years and years, I said I didn’t have any dreams. I didn’t believe in them. When people asked me what they were, my mind was blank. Empty – nothing came up except for a deep feeling of a knot tied from my throat to my root. I felt like I needed to defend myself and created the lack of belief in having dreams.

Now, I see that my dreams have always been of becoming a healer, and living a nomadic life. I just never thought they were possible or things one “could” be or do. People who are constantly on the move are never really valued in history. I see now how many of my decisions come down to feeling valued by others. I never felt secure enough internally to live that life even though I yearned for it (until, one day, I felt rooted within myself and off I went).

So, imagine my surprise as I laid down in shavasana to listen to a yoga nidra a couple of days ago that happened to do with the theme of feeling stuck. I immediately understood all this inner chaos as surfacing areas where I feel stuck in my life (and have been for what feels like ages).

Huh… I didn’t see that coming at all!

With all of the physical moving I’m doing right now, all of the new experiences, all of the things I adore, I didn’t realize I have also been feeling incredibly stuck and that stuckness has been rising to the surface in a relentless barrage of thoughts about what I’m doing and not doing with my life. I give myself a hard time about choosing this path of being a healer. I give myself a hard time about not having a “job” and traveling so much without a steady income. I hear the voices of what I “should” be doing. These are the tip of the avalanche of thought that then cascades down zeroing in, repeating, expanding, growing stronger and (for the past week or so in particular) the thoughts have been constant, loud, and so frustrating to sit with.

In my Way of the Wise Healer training a few weeks ago we were asked to make a commitment. Mine came up in an earlier healing session and as I said the words, “I commit to loving my womb,” out loud I felt a swell of emotion spring up from the depths of my being.

This area for me has been a main point of storing weakness. Storing trauma. Storing stories that aren’t even mine – stories and beliefs I’ve inherited. Storing experiences and emotions.

My womb been treated as a storage unit.

In the yoga chakra tradition, this area of the physical and energetic bodies is associated with the element of water. It’s an area that needs to be constantly moving in order to stay healthy. Constantly in flow. In my past, this area has received massive blows physically and emotionally. It has retained and held on to so much. I’m used to it holding on to so much.

A few years ago, I received my first Mayan Abdominal massage and as I was nearly levitating off the table as the practitioner did her work, she said to me with a strong and caring voice at the end “you need to let go”. It took me a year and a half to have another treatment because so much was stirred up from that first one. I’ve been taught how to do it myself and have, intermittently.

With this commitment to love my womb, I started to treat myself to the abominal massages again. The physical attention to this area in a loving way is difficult for me. Even resting my hands over my womb and imagining love going to this area is challenging. It’s a huge block that has also softened. I’ve sensed this area as a weak spot energetically and also psychologically in the past. It makes so much of what has happened in my life make sense – to see the stories created around my womb. How I’ve treated it and not taken care of it well.  In a way, it’s a weakness that I’ve come to wear as a badge of identity and I’ve become attached the weakness. I’ve become attached to the story of that weakness because that means nothing needs to change. I can stay weak. I can keep holding onto a reason for that weakness and use the story as an excuse for so many things.

Only I no longer wish to remain in that story of weakness. It’s part of what I need to let go of.

I’m used to my womb contracting and holding onto so much. Perhaps that’s part of the weakness in this area too.

It’s been hard for me to even face this area of my physical body. It’s been a challenge to send love to that part of myself. For years I couldn’t have even considered that possibility. Now it’s more like a strong dissonance or disregard rather than a full on war of ignorance.

A few days ago, I stopped with the massage and I realized today that it’s what has stirred up all this energy and emotion and thoughts that are wildly working their way through. It can take a while for deeply held and stored patterns to shift and when they don’t want to, they start to scream out. No energy – not even the hard stuff – wants to give itself up. It doesn’t want to die.

And yet, I need that old energy to die so I can facilitate and give life to new energy here.

The block held here reaches into many parts of my life that I still have dreams of fulfilling. Finding a man to share my life with. Co-creating a family.

More dreams that I denied for a very long time. I used to say I never wanted to get married or to have children. I used to hold firm to beliefs about how I’d never find a guy. Now, I do want those things. In the past I would tell myself, painfully, all the reasons why that life wasn’t for me. All designed to keep me in the realm of impossibility. The belief of not being able to. Not having. Now, after all these years, I do believe they are possible. Now I see myself with love and being loved. Now… the energy that still feels stuck is the part that wraps me up in seeing what I don’t have or can’t have instead of all that I do.

I remind myself to see the abundance all around and that does often shift the thoughts. I’m constantly learning that when I get caught up in self-criticism and the vacuum of lack, I need to pause and see that nothing has been taken away from me. I need to pause and send those voices in my head love and compassion. I need to hear them and know that they are shifting. They’re screaming out for attention. They’re screaming out for love. They feel scared and are trying to find a way out of feeling that way. Even if it’s to remain stuck – that is at least something they know.

It’s almost as though part of myself gets to become the parent to these thoughts because I see them not as current thoughts or truths; they are old parts of me that were created for different purposes along the path of life. They aren’t right or wrong. They’re just no longer what I need. It’s time to thank them for serving their purpose and let them go too.

Now I can see that it’s from that stuck and stagnant energy that these thoughts start to form. Trying to keep it stuck, as it has been for years? Or trying to send me messages that it’s time to let go. Time to release?

The second chakra developmentally holds our likes and dislikes (which aren’t set – they can shift and something you’ve never liked can become liked). As those likes and dislikes are formed they start to inform a greater story and help create a system of beliefs or a lens through which to see the world. This area governs polarities of energy which for me have often been quite extreme. It’s one of the sources of creation and creativity (the other being the fifth chakra) and as it’s the element of water it is often associated with emotion, movement and how we move through life – with fluidity and ease or with rigidity and hardness?

The hard parts of me are maybe starting to erode and my go-to response and structure is to favour rigidity. My first tendency is to block flow, not allow it to move but to try to control it. I’ve had to find movement and continue to cultivate it. I’ve had to discover that I had a physical body and I’ve learned to be with the sensations and emotions that move through it instead of constantly trying to make them not move. I’ve learned that beliefs are just beliefs – they too can die and be reborn. With these new and evolving skills, there is still so much stored in the body yearning for release and there are dreams rising to the surface that I shoved aside for years (along with all the ways I discounted them).

It’s almost as if me being on the move so often distracted me from how stuck these parts of me really are. I can see now the illusion of movement. Even though parts of me are racing ahead and feeling great, other parts are now crying out and needing some time to be heard. It’s time to pay attention to this neglected part of myself. Time to heal.

Advertisements

Mistaking Connection

IMG_4347When I was a kid I often watched The Littlest Hobo on T.V. – it’s a series with a dog who moves from town to town, from home to home, helping to facilitate some sort of shift or healing or change. Growth. By the end of each episode he would move on and I would be left, sitting nearly frozen, and sobbing away. Sobbing my heart out at him leaving all by himself. Wandering off, most times without even saying goodbye. I felt so attached to the goodbye (extra hurt that there wasn’t a proper one) and I didn’t understand that he had to leave. Why? Why couldn’t he just stay there in that place where people loved him and needed him? He’d move on and I’d watch again with the same result. Happiness, joy, sadness. Over and over.

It is interesting now that I’m the one who is nomadic. I’m the one who decided to open to impermanence and sort of “hit the road”, coming into people’s homes and lives. I don’t know that I facilitate anything while I’m there and that’s okay. What I’m learning is how to receive more fully and how to allow gratitude to fill me up. In five months, I’ve stayed in 38 places in four countries.

Every time I arrive at a new place I feel at home almost instantly. The same things need to happen and yet new patterns emerge just as quickly. Simple things like finding food or a route to take to offer class. The different ways people go about their days. I like that emergence.

What I’m noticing lately is connection. I’ve been thinking of how much I would cry at those good-byes I witnessed through the T.V.  I’ve been thinking of how much my heart felt twisted up in knots and my stomach wailed. They weren’t even my own and yet I responded as if they were. As I move from place to place I’m noticing that saying goodbye isn’t difficult or devastating. I may or may not see the people I’m with again (some I’ve just met when I show up on their doorstep) and I notice that something has shifted.

I think that until now, I have confused connection for attachment. That confusion has caused me to grasp onto the attachments I’ve had, mistaking them for connection. When I think of the Yamas, aparigraha comes to mind as the virtue of non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-coveting, and non-grasping. The Yamas are a part of the key on the path of alleviating suffering.

That is what I was doing all those years ago – it was almost as if I watched the show in order to create and inflict suffering. Yes, there was joy also and I liked the show. Knowing myself now, I suspect I watched it to try to invoke some sort of suffering. As I take a look at myself through the lens of aparigraha I see that I have often clung to stuff, relationships, work, etc. and clung to the state of suffering itself because I was fearful of losing the attachments I had created. I was fearful that losing them would be painful. I think I was even afraid to lose my attachment to suffering.

I can see that I’ve sought attachments in relationships, not connection. I’ve created and spun many ways of becoming attached and, of course, feel that suffering when they become “taken away”. When a relationship ends, I wonder, how much of my grief is loss of the actual relationship and how much is the suffering because of all the attachments I’ve created are also being cut. I’m seeing how many times I’ve built something based purely on attachment. It’s kind of staggering to witness. Creating attachment comes so easily for me and, once lost, it can be disorienting, extremely painful and the attachments seek another place to stay alive or become, well, attached.

Except something new seems to be growing. Now there is an abundance of connection. I’ve created and strengthened the connection I have with and within myself. I’ve strengthened my connection with nature. As I continue to become more and more connected, I start to feel a true connection with other people. I listen more. I notice the play between being and feeling connected with others and what happens when there is a disconnection (particularly in being present when listening). What I’m starting to understand is that connection is limitless. Connection is a huge and powerful flow of abundance and connection has nothing to do with attachment. The more connected I feel and become, the less attachment I have or need. The foundation has started to shift.

When there is connection, there is no need for attachment.

As I leave one place for the next, I haven’t once felt a sense of suffering. I have felt so fully connected wherever I am that I haven’t needed to create attachments. I then haven’t needed to cling to those attachments or identify myself by them. I’m simply starting to flow and open to this huge channel of connection that is everywhere all the time. Moving on feels effortless.

The more I open to this abundant connection, the more full I become. The emptiness that my attachments helped create (or my own internal lack that helped me rely on attachments) and the fear of losing starts to give way too. The attachments are simply things I create, often to manipulate or find a false sense of security, belonging or being. The attachments have been a crutch. Maybe because I felt so very disconnected. Maybe I had to learn how to connect.

To learn the distinction between creating attachments and creating connection. What I’m starting to see is that you can’t covet connection. You simply are connection.

For whatever reason, this is part of my practice. Letting go of attachment and learning that my attachments aren’t real. Letting go of the expectation of suffering and seeing if I can let go of inflicting suffering. Shedding all of that energy spent seeking how to become attached and, instead, letting connection be boundless.

The Teachings of Number Thirty-Seven

IMG_4074When I was a kid I decided that thirty-seven was my favourite number. I can feel the memory of that moment, with resonance. Why thirty-seven? Simply because I felt like it was a neglected number. I felt that no one ever thought of thirty-seven or used it (to my knowledge) aside from counting in a linear fashion. Thirty-seven was just… sort of… there without anyone paying it much attention.

I remember writing that number over and over, sending it love.

I think I felt sorry for thirty-seven. I wanted it to be acknowledged more.

I remember having a garage sale and pricing everything accordingly: $0.37, $1.37, $2.37. This led to a discussion with my parents about the concept of pricing and making change, helping me understand why thirty-seven wasn’t used that often.

A few days before I (recently) turned thirty-seven I had a strong, healing shift of realization.

I realized that I have believed the world wants to throw me out of it.

I realized that I keep waiting for the mysterious “them” or “they” to toss me out – either because I don’t belong or I’m separate or not wanted.

I’ve written about this in different ways before, talking about beliefs I hold around persecution and being able to be seen, to be me, to be in my power. Somehow I now feel as though I have been cowering and not realizing my full unbound potential out of fear. Recently, I watched as I took responsibility for myself and for my own actions instead of blaming this invisible “them” who I kept waiting to hurt me for expressing myself.

All those times, I was resisting something and working away through to this realization.

I realized that I’ve believed the world wants to throw me out – only – it can’t.

It’s impossible.

I’m a part of this world. I come from it and out of it; not to it.

I’m not an alien that has arrived here, confused, even though I have often felt like that.

I am a part of it and so I can’t be thrown out. There’s nowhere for me to be “thrown out” to. It doesn’t exist – this other place to which I seem to be waiting to be cast out towards. Banished.

Even in death, it’s not possible.

I am a part of all that is.

I can’t be thrown out. I’m here. “They” can’t get rid of me.

As I sat with this realization through turning thirty-seven, it grew stronger and stronger. This being a part of, not separate from. Not concerned about people who don’t like me or don’t want me around (as I tend to chase after to I can feel unloved); focused instead on those people who do love me.

Abundance.

There may be times when I’m “difficult” for others to be around and that’s okay too. I still get to be here and that difficulty is also a part of all that is.

Everything. Every aspect of self and personality and transformation. Those aspects that might shift and change and those that don’t. Those aspects that all need acceptance. They are in me and they are in everyone else too.

From offering Heart Connection workshops repeatedly I have the opportunity to connect with others through the heart space in a deep way. I hear so many meaningful insights from the people who come explore and share and it often comes back to acceptance. Full acceptance for the other people in the room and for each individual to fully accept themselves. No matter what comes up. To be held and supported by one other person while making eye contact and connecting through the heart. To actually see and sense and feel through the heart while being present and witnessing another person.

To see yourself in another.

I see that more and more in myself. The more I start to connect to myself and to my heart, the more I see how others reflect what needs to be revealed for me. The bright and shining aspects and the more dark and murky ones. The parts of myself I have started to like or love and the parts that I might not like. I’m learning to sometimes simply accept that I don’t like them. That doesn’t mean anything is “wrong” or “needs to be fixed”. My tendency to like or dislike could shift at any time or not. Those beliefs are fluid.

I see now how this feeling of exclusion and strong belief that the world wanted to get rid of me meant I could treat myself in more destructive ways. It meant that I could treat others in more harmful ways. It meant that I sought more and more control and holding on because it felt as though the world was trying to spin me right out of it unless I did something. Held on. Forced my way and my will.

I see now some of the early light when I felt a glimmer of others bringing me into this secret mystery of life, helping me learn to practice a secret language. I see now how choosing to shift from using the word “but” to “and” helped me create a lens of abundance and to not always see everything through a lens of scarcity or lack (which is still my default and it’s also being broken down; deconstructed). Simple things that have led to an avalanche of a shift.

My old belief structures are falling apart. They have been for years now.

The more they fall apart the more of what is left is simply, me. All of me.

And I trust now that other people want me around. They may even like or love me. It’s up to me to not feed my ego with that energy and to remain humble while at the same time receiving what I need.

A friend asked me on my birthday about what I had learned this past year.

What came up for me was that I have learned how to be in relationship more. To not hide away or separate from others (or from myself) and to be more and more available. To live with other people. To enjoy company and let myself be enjoyed.

To allow myself to be supported by others. To allow myself to feel supported internally and externally.

To participate in this whole huge big fabric of life and, as I do, it reinforces my trust in myself and that, in fact, I’ve always been welcome here. Wanted here. Supported here. The love has always been all around me. I simply didn’t believe it. I could feel it and often tried to exclude myself from it. Instead of letting myself be held by all the support and energy that is constantly flowing. I did that – not anyone else.

Unconditionally. I’ve learned how to remove some conditions to loving.

To keep learning how to hold on less to this big spinning ball of earth – and learn that it’s not going to fling me out. I’m not here to be destroyed.

I started to feel the sensation of belonging here. I started to feel how, when I can’t be thrown out, I need to participate in the way I want to while I’m here. I don’t have a passive escape mechanism or others to blame. I need to choose how I want to be treated and how I want to treat others. For me, that choice keeps moving more and more into one of empowerment and encouragement. Love. To know that I can choose these things and let go of the outcome. To choose how to be, without expectations.

I feel more connected to all parts of myself and, as I become connected, I simply can’t treat myself or others in a destructive way. I can’t destroy myself and I don’t want to. If I can’t destroy myself, then I can’t destroy you either and I don’t want to. I may be “destroyed” or “persecuted” only if I allow that to be true. If I give responsibility away. If I give power away.

I notice that I now think constantly about how much I destroy the earth every day and that no longer feels like something I can ignore (even if I’m not sure how to shift those behaviours yet). I can’t ignore myself or my part in the fabric of life.

The more connected I feel, the more I realize how much everything is in relationship and whatever I’m a part of is also a part of me. As this new belief started to take hold, I caught a glimpse into the divine orchestration of all that is. That I’m responsible for organizing my own piece of the larger picture and while I’m doing that, so is every other living creature. We are all, consciously or not, working together all the time.

Union. Yoga means union.

As I continue to deepen my yoga practice, my teaching practice, and my living practice, my ability to become union strengthens. I notice more of what I want to feed in myself and in relationships.

I’m growing out of feeding my own death into breathing life.

I’m learning how to love where each and every person is in their process too and know that I can’t throw them out either. That is not the kind of power I’d want to have. I need to learn from each person who I find difficult and understand that they are bringing up for me the thing I need to work with in that moment. To try to not move away from what I find difficult or expect that others will abandon me in moments when I’m difficult for them. To see that we’re all a part of everything. All parts of us.

I didn’t know, all those years ago, that when I started giving love and support to the number thirty-seven it was also part of this process. Part of learning how to love myself.

I’m a part of everything. I’m a part of all that is.

And so are you.

Rewriting with Upside-down Joy

19875350_10155483730008377_7707596673036215116_nI went upside-down today!

The energy to do so has been building for a while now. The other week, when practicing outside at my childhood home, I had a sense of wanting to go upside-down. I moved into headstand prep a couple of times and lifted one leg and the other.

I visualized myself upside-down, standing with my heat above me in the yard.

Though I noticed that most past fear at going upside-down seemed to be absent, I hesitated at their vague whispers.

It wasn’t the right moment and I moved on in my practice.

Something in me sensed and commented internally, “you’ll do a headstand this summer”.

Going upside-down has been In my thoughts for at least the last couple of months. Not as a goal or a have-to or a must. Perhaps not even an aspiration. More of a curiosity. I could easily live my entire life without ever having gone upside-down on my own. It wasn’t something I was consciously striving towards.

Today something inside me said, “it’s today. It’s going to happen today”.

So, I listened. I took my mat to the wall in the hallway and found my foundation in my arms, head pointing down, stepping my feet in closer and feeling the backs of my legs clear and open. I lifted my hips up and felt as they stacked into place over my ribs and I floated into my first headstand.

There I was, upside-down without pressing against the wall. My breath was strong and easy, helping me stay active and sensing the posture.

It felt so effortless! It felt so easy to float up, rise up, stay up.

So effortless that I wanted to stay in the posture forever! Such a sense of ease and energy coursed through me. I couldn’t stop smiling and joy emanated around me, holding me there. All systems active. All chakras happily whirring around.

I could feel the strength of arms and the space in my shoulders (something newly created!). The back of my neck was long and open. I could feel my heart balanced, my back body strong. My lungs felt clear and able to circulate my breathe through my body. My solar plexus beaming and supporting my womb and sacrum. My legs floating overhead yet strong. My spine and entire physical body felt like it was in complete alignment.

Strong. Spacious. Effortless.

I felt light. Immense joy and light moving through me. My physical body felt light in its supported structure.

So much joy circulating and emanating.

Even then the thoughts that came up were fascinating to witness. Instantly the first thoughts surfaced trying to berate me, “I can’t believe this took you so long” and “what kind of a yoga teacher can’t do headstand?” and then the other side rushing ahead “do you think you can do this without the wall? When will that happen?”.

The thoughts subsided almost as quickly as they appeared. Only a few cycles through of each. The past and future both pulling away at the present.

I came down, rested, and kept repeating out loud soft whispers of “thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!” expressed with so much beaming that I was dancing back to my mat on the floor! Excitement. I was thanking myself and thanking the divine all around. The support and help that was here today and on the journey to get here.

As I lay in shavasana, I noticed the pull of the past and future trying to creep back in and steal away the joyful present and I looked at them and chose otherwise. I chose to stay in the joy of the moment. My heart filling, my smile bursting! It became easy to stay in the moment and to be here now. In this experience.

As the day progressed I did look back on the journey to get here.

I saw memories of the story along the way. They kept floating up to the surface.

Realizing that just a few nights ago I remembered how terrified I was at going into handstand in my teacher training. I knew I wasn’t ready and yet, up we went – with someone else helping but the flood of sensation and emotion and terror was only heightened by this pose. My arms not strong enough and my core nowhere near strong enough and it just felt painful and collapsing and weak and scary. My nervous system was haywire then and to throw a system in that state upside-down didn’t help it (at least in my case). I didn’t really make it up and quickly avoided the whole thing, hiding in fear to protect myself.

I remembered another teacher who had forced me to go upside down in her class even though I couldn’t and I came right back down in tears, trauma responses screaming.

I noticed that voice of self-judgment that rose in me a few weeks ago in a friend’s class when I chose to not go upside down into headstand, “what kind of a yoga teacher are you if you can’t do this?”. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t do it in front of another teacher. I also felt the pressure to be able to do it rising from within as I wondered what she might think of me. Fearful that meant I wasn’t good enough. Though I knew my limits and my edge.

Remembering the feeling of crunching in my shoulders and neck. So much emotion and stuck energy stored there that there was no space. I’d go into a headstand preparation and only feel the icky stuck crunchiness of my shoulders and let it turn to discomfort and pain and then come back out and be with it. There was no space. I only felt the hardness of life and carried a great deal of it on my shoulders.

Memories of the moment I learned in my restorative yoga training that that certain eye conditions were contraindications to going upside-down. I had posterior vitreous detachment so this knowledge gave me an out. “Oh, I can’t go upside-down,” I would tell people, “because of my eyes – too much pressure”. I found deep relief in having an excuse.

Last September I found out I was misdiagnosed. “Huh…. Well… there goes that excuse!”. Now I had no reason not to only I had no practice whatsoever of moving into headstand. Aside from those earlier incidents which didn’t feel safe and were full of trauma and fear.

I was a bit disappointed to not have an excuse any more. I thought I’d found a way out.

I touched on a memory in a breath workshop last October where I was receiving a treatment in front of a group to release trauma from my breath. When asked which postures I didn’t like, I said, quickly and matter-of-factly, “I don’t like to go up-side down”. This was also my way of telling the teacher “we aren’t going to do that today”. When asked why, I shied with my solar plexus caving in and my shoulders rounding and said, “it’s just too scary”. Going upside-down tipped too many emotions and sharp waves of sensations across the screen of my heart. My heart couldn’t process all that sensation then. It meant I didn’t feel safe. The feeling of not being safe was too much and my breath would match – unable to support my body.

After his kind work with me, I practiced ways of opening my heart and letting the breath come into my lungs.

Then my awareness shifted to remembering a about year ago on a dock with a fellow yoga teacher as she showed me some back-strengthening exercises. One was so difficult for me that tears released out at the unused muscles across the back of my heart and shoulders now moving into action. It was hard. It was helpful too. I cycle those practices onto my mat often, quietly building strength here and there.

I had a flash I had long forgotten: my whole right arm and right side of my back at one point felt all but gone. That was in my yoga teacher training five years ago when I was in a state of deep grief. My arm felt energetically amputated due to trauma and my body trying to shed what was “unnecessary” in order to stay alive. It was like a huge hollow void aside from one gigantic knot of energy and muscle right at the thoracic spine. The rest of my arm felt dead. Disconnected.

When my arm started reconnecting, for years, my right shoulder would fall out of place or be in intense pain. Another reason to not go upside-down. Keep my body safe. Keep my Self safe.

My shoulders and across the back of my heart and arms have been a weak spot.

As I moved through my practice in the past and noticed these different pain points, I would hear the criticisms raging up from within. I would hear my intolerance and impatience with myself. The anger at “not being able to” because my arm hurt yet again. Letting myself focus only on the suffering.

I also learned how to take care of these different pain points. I learned how to take care of myself. How to lovingly re-introduce my right arm to join the rest of me. How to notice the emotion of anger and rage stored in that shoulder. How, sometimes, when my arm separated, it was because those emotions were pouring out. They no longer needed to be stored in there. How painful and murky and dark that process often felt. How frustrated I would be with myself when my arm was in pain again. How to notice my breath and to reach out when I needed help and guidance to release more trauma from it.

Through this practice of taking care, somehow, the pain stopped being where I lived. The voices started to shift and allow the space to let myself be. To create the safety I needed internally.

The past few months and weeks I have been practicing balancing my shoulder girdle. Finding strength and space. Finding a strong foundation to balance my neck and head.

I smile again at simply knowing that today was the day.

I could easily have never gone upside-down and that wouldn’t mean I was less of a person or less of a teacher. Many people don’t have the ability to do so for whatever reason and that doesn’t make them any less. It never made me any less.

Yet there was this constant hum I can hear the memory of that was dragging me down. The constant self-criticism and judgment including “what kind of a teacher are you?”. I let my thoughts do the job of making me feel less than. It was never true.

The other week I sent a friend a note to let her know I was having strange thoughts. Crazy thoughts like “Hmmm… I’m actually pretty” and “I’m actually quite talented” and “kinda great”. These thoughts felt strange because they were contrary to the self-talk I’ve let run the show. I never believed these “strange” thoughts to be true and now… I can see the truth in them.

I can see the truth in myself.

Today was the day I went upside-down.

It felt so effortless. So much so that, in that moment, none of the effort or journey it took to get here came to mind. It also didn’t have to come to the surface, though it seemed to.

The looking back not as a measurement of where I’ve been or what I’ve been through. Not as an excuse for why I didn’t do this sooner. Or a way to make sense of it. Not out of judgment or anger with myself. This reflection and these moments that surfaced from the past have been met with understanding and love. After each recollection of struggle that appeared, I thought “I went upside-down” and immediately an infusion of joy surges through me. Every single time.

It’s as though today’s headstand is emanating healing energy and joy back in time and in this moment. Meeting those past memories and versions of myself to help them release. I no longer feel attached to the struggle or the pain in any of them. They are now infused with joy and care.

I went upside-down today and turned into a pillar of light.

Going upside-down today helped teach me that sometimes building the foundation takes time. Whether it’s taken “a long time” really isn’t possible to tell. Nor does it matter. Sometimes building the foundation doesn’t even feel like that’s what I’m doing. It’s “just” a practice.

I wasn’t ready all those times before. I wasn’t ready yesterday. No amount of pressure internally or externally would have shifted the timeline. No matter how much I pushed or tried to force myself or will it, I wasn’t ready and all those actions or thoughts of inaction only created more suffering. I had to learn to let myself not be ready yet. To learn how to create a safe space of loving care to grow into. I didn’t even know this was something I was building towards or could do. I simply kept practicing, noticing, and trusting.

The “advancement” of the practice isn’t that I went upside-down. The advancement of the practice for me is that I could learn how to live in myself and with myself. I allowed myself the time and space to heal. To learn how to get to a place where I can tolerate so much joy that it’s with me all day and doesn’t get shut down so I can return to the business of suffering. The story of suffering that I used to feel had to be the only way to live.

I can re-write my story.

Setting the foundation and opening to the joy of being.

Healing Power

IMG_3137What if power, like love, was limitless? I suspect that true power is.

A few weeks ago I started to explore my relationship with power. I found myself writing in a string-of-consciousness approach:

What do I do with my power?
Try to get people to do things? Try to get money? Take resources – share/not share.
Force my way through people who are obstacles. Yes, I’ve done that, I still catch myself sometimes.
I separate and bring together. (Within myself as much as outside of myself and with people).
Heal.
Not say what I want/need in case I don’t get it – store energy and keep power close so I don’t lose it or spend it all too soon – I might need it later and not have any left (lack).
Is expression power?
Or a way of controlling power (exertion or not).

Powerless? Do I ever feel powerless or is it really a fear of expressing empowerment? I don’t think I’m powerless. (Though this is new, I used to believe I was).

 Are power and control the same thing? Or have I confused them?

 What is the power of letting go? Loss of control not happening? More freedom.

In my current apprenticeship in Ireland, we’re exploring different enemies and their corresponding virtues. The enemies of Power, Fear, Old Age, Clarity and Death.

As I continued moving along the stream of my consciousness I started to see that I think my enemy of power is hiding it and hiding in it. Keeping it all for myself by not saying what I need for fear that moment of power seeking will cause others to leave me – or worse.

I continued to explore:

Keeping my power hidden to stay safe and because I haven’t know what to do with it. The system of education didn’t really help with this sort of true power. It was more about competing and having the smarts in order to obtain the most. Learning how to live in lack – as history tells us to.

Except that’s no longer working. Not for me.

Did it ever work? 

I’m learning I’m quite a powerful being. Not in a powerful take over the world kind of way. I’m still not really sure what this power is and I’m starting to sense it. I’m starting to sense that it’s always been there and it was forced underground.

The power itself hasn’t felt safe or steady because it’s actually so big and I’ve only really learned how to put a lid on it. Quash it. Keep it quiet.

I try to limit it, control it, which just leads to controlling everything around me when my will wants something to happen. At the same time fear expressing emotions or needs or what I can really do. Who I can really be. The labels here might be healer, witch, or other names you associate with that kind of energy. It’s always been there and yet… My stream of consciousness continued:

Is being what I am power?
Is that why they were so afraid?
And now I’m afraid of them –

 I’m afraid then only of their fears of me.

That realization struck a chord.

Is that why I seek acceptance? Wanting to know they don’t fear me?
If they don’t fear me then I can be who I am without limiting my power.

I give up my power to appease their fear.

Today I went to Prospect Park where they have placed hundreds of bright yellow pinwheels in what used to be the old Rose Garden. This place always felt sacred to me – ancient in some way. I was always drawn to it at least to wander through – and could often feel my solar plexus tense when I entered, my throat close. At the same time I loved the beauty of the area, despite the constriction I felt when entering it.

Almost a year ago today I had a deep experience where I realized the seeds of what is emerging now.  Last year I practiced in that isolated space, and let myself be witnessed even though I felt terrified. I stepped into my fear of persecution and explored what it felt like to breathe out fear.

To transform it.

Today, I happened upon this place, filled with golden wheels and instantly realized I was standing in a field of spinning third chakra wheels! Talk about a powerful force.

The third chakra in the yoga system relates to power, among other things. Stoking the fire. Building and sustaining. Keeping that fire of transformation burning.

Power to me isn’t about having things. It isn’t about making money or being “successful”. It isn’t about exerting will over others – though that is a trait that is hard-learned for me and continues to dissolve.

Power for me might mean living life without constant fear of judgment and what that will result in. Power for me might be to understand how to let my gifts or abilities be no matter what other people fear. No matter how much exclusion or the belief of persecution feels painful. Power for me might mean to feel that pain and recognize that it is only pain, not something that will truly harm me. To no longer deny that nature which simply is.

To let myself become as powerful as I already am so that I can help others realize they have power too.

To me, true empowerment is seeing what gifts another has and allowing them to fully step into their gifts, as they do for you. Sometimes by witnessing and sometimes through guiding. Without judgment or fear. Without taking over. Without exerting will over another.

In order to help allow others to be gifted, I need to ensure my own power flows without limit. Without holding on or hiding. I need to continue to heal my own distorted way of working with power and way of viewing myself.

To understand that we are all powerful beings. It’s not just me.

We are all powerful, no matter our size or shape or kind of being. True nature is unlimited and doesn’t my power doesn’t diminish and isn’t threatened by allowing others to be powerful too. Nothing is taken away. I’m not taken away.

To me, when that third chakra wheel is shiny and bright – when it’s spinning in all dimensions and is healthy and not tipped upside down or squashed or deflated, it beams. It beams out and across all other aspects of being. It beams and it feels so good!

That kind of power can feel fulfilling. Bright. Non-threatening. Fear-less.

Seeing this space in the park that used to bring a mix of fear and aspiration to me absolutely overflowing with third chakra energy let me reclaim something within myself. As though this part of the land needs to have more power generated. Through work many people have done there over the years without notice or knowing, this area has been quietly healing. It’s like the area is overflowing with power now. Becoming a stronger field of being. Brighter. Allowing more power to move through and sharing that power with everyone.

That power without fear can create so much beauty.

It’s infinite. Abundant. True power, like love, doesn’t need to be kept in a box for fear of using it or losing it. For feeling battered by it or exposed to the bullying behavior that limited power can create. Or for holding it over others to force will.

It flows, unlimited. When individual power flows, we all rise together.

I didn’t realize when I set out today to see the pinwheels that I had been there one year prior. A year ago my practice there helped me “start to not be trapped”. Now I can see it’s also about abundance, not fear of lack. Let’s put those powerful third chakra wheels ALL over the place! Let the power and energy flow. It’s not to be limited.

In tantra yoga philosophy there is an aim to allow all aspects of self to become fully realized. I see now that this includes power. This includes that third chakra that I tend to shy away from. The fire that needs to be there daily, not just when I feel like accomplishing something for some end purpose or goal and not to force power or will over others when that center is weakened. My power cannot remain hidden under lock and key. I cannot remain weak and hiding in false powerlessness. Certainly not for fear of what others may say or do.

Standing in that reclaimed place in the park today helped me understand that it’s time to reclaim my power.

FullSizeRender

Practice Makes Practice

13613123_1746536808927415_2817902978798463288_oI used to say that yoga saved my life – twice. Now, I wonder if it also killed me.

Years ago I was quite sick. The kind of sick that the doctors said was completely made up even though I was so lethargic, I couldn’t move off the couch, my intestines were in pain constantly and it eventually got to the point that my throat would close off and I had no voice. My digestive tract was shot and all the physical symptoms that you could imagine to go with it came.

I was shutting down and no one knew what was happening. None of the specialists could find anything on their scopes or tests and so I continued to fade away.

I called whatever was happening “the dyingness”.

Now, years later, I can see that I wasn’t really wrong in calling it that. In fact, I wonder what I intuitively knew on some level even if I didn’t know then how to work with it. Though I tried to take steps to end or ease the suffering, it also felt so complete and as though it would just win. It felt like this dyingness was me.

In a sense, I was dying.

From a healing perspective, I had trouble assimilating emotion and letting it move through me. I stuck it into my body, storing up bits and pieces to become the past that would continue to drag me down. Stagnation seeped through every part of me and I was drowning in it. I was so cut off from my body that I couldn’t listen to it. Couldn’t hear it screaming out (nor could I speak it or be heard without a voice) and so, it started to deteriorate. To die.

Through that process of dying yoga came to me, prescribed by my naturopathic doctor to help strengthen my digestion. So, I went to class. Once a week for years and years. I didn’t do more than that one class and I never practice at home – I was too afraid I would hurt myself because I didn’t know what I was doing.

Working with my naturopath, I started to feel better. The dyingness (a form of aggressive candida throughout my whole body – including my brain) started its slow process of healing. Seven years of vigilant effort and the candida came into balance.

Somehow it came into balance in the midst of the rest of me sliding completely off kilter. A massive trauma along the same timeline as moving to a new country and a new high-level corporate job and even though my physical body seemed to be technically healing, my emotional body remained stunted and my psychological and spiritual bodies shattered.

What I didn’t realize for several years was that, I believed I was dead. I had walked into a traumatic experience and believed I died in that room. I held that belief so strongly that it felt true and became confusing because it wasn’t. I was technically alive though felt as though walking dead. The disconnect felt irreconcilable many times. I was disconnected in every possible sense.

In the midst of the move to New York, I didn’t practice for three months. Then, one very cold snowy day, I knew I had to go to a class and so I wandered to the one studio that came up in my google search and arrived to the gracious and open arms of a tiny Brooklyn studio complete with boot sludge piled in the back of the room.

A year passed of going to class again once a week. Of crying on the mat more than I ever had. Of trying to remain invisible in the room. Trying to hide the emotions that wanted to burst forth. Then, through synchronicity, an email arrived from a woman I didn’t know offering a Healer and Yoga Teacher training. I tested the idea out with some others though my heart already knew the connection the moment I read the subject line. I had no intention of teaching at all, yet the healer aspect appealed to me.

So I went. Five years ago today I arrived in Puerto Rico, in the rain. I stood at the airport after collecting my suitcase and stared out at the downpour. Exhausted, and stuck in place unable to take another step forward. I knew that if I stepped into this there was no stepping back and, even though I was in such a place of perpetual pain, I knew that pain – it was comfortable. I wanted to heal and yet…. I remember lifting my legs and feet slowly. Heavily placing each one back down on the rain-covered pavement and I made my way.

Part of the requirement for the training was a daily practice. In the months prior, I had upped my practice to three times a week in anticipation. I didn’t think I could “do” yoga every day and yet, something in me desired it. Which is why, five years later, I can say that I’ve never missed a day of practice. Whether my leg was healing from surgery and I couldn’t walk, or I was in any number of small spaces while traveling (including the room of a barge), or sick with a cold or what have you. The commitment to my practice is stronger than any distraction.

In reaching this moment of five years, I’ve been thinking about my practice and why. Why I do it. What brings me back to the mat every day. Time and time again.

It’s not that it’s become a vice or something that I strive for. In fact (aside from noticing that it’s been five years) this practice keeps teaching me to let go of the outcome. To understand that practice doesn’t make perfect – practice makes practice. There’s always more. There’s always a new situation – some new thing to notice or be with. It’s endless and infinite and wondrous in it’s continuity.

Through this practice that girl who kept dying could both finally die and let go of those old modes of living and being that were creating her dis-ease and also build new, healthful, patterns. I’ve learned how to balance my energy, be with sensation, have and release emotion. How to be with and release trauma – to learn that even though the process may take seven years (or more!) it’s a process. And even if something is never wholly “healed” that’s okay too. The holding on and letting go. The ability to find ease in a challenging posture and stay there and be with it. To find ease in balancing (when it used to be what I avoided most). To understand that it’s safe and okay to move from my coveted spot in the room. To understand that it’s okay to stay there when I need to. To understand that all those other iterations of me weren’t “bad” or “worse” and that I’m not “better” or “good” now. To cultivate compassion for myself as I move through this practice. I’m a human in the state of learning how to be just that.

So is everyone else.

My process is different than yours. My practice is different than yours. My teaching will be different than yours and different than other teachers.

There is no one right way.

There is no one way to be.

Through this practice, teaching has become a necessary part of it for me. It’s a practice through which I learn so much. I learn how to be completely present and in the moment. To trust what comes through as what needs to be said or heard or done, even if the responses aren’t favourable. To let go of feeling like no one likes me if they don’t show up for class – to understand instead that they’re receiving what they need elsewhere and isn’t that great? The many gifts I’ve received through teaching and through my own practice could never be described, all I know is that I feel continuously grateful. Continuously renewed. Always trying something different. Always learning to not be attached to any outcome or desired result. To let go of expectations and that every time everything is completely different.

As I mentioned, I was afraid to practice at home by myself for a long time. I was afraid that I didn’t know what I was doing and would hurt myself. Until a teacher told me something very profound. She said, “Just get on the mat and move…. And every time you hear yourself say the world “should” – like “I should do this or that” – don’t do that thing”. It’s not as hard as I had made it out to be for all those years, living in fear. Get on the mat and move. Get out of my head and into my body. That is something that needs to be done. Needs to happen experientially. Understanding the principles in books is great, applying them works even better. For me, I had to learn how to move the energy down. I had to learn how to feel safe in my own body.

I had to learn that I wasn’t dead.

As my physical body grew to feel safe and secure to be in, my emotions could move through more and more and I became more comfortable with them (still an ongoing practice for me). Old memories could rise up and out (and continue to) through the physical releasing and then the practice of letting them just go. Not analyzing and replanting them into my being. Trusting the process. As the e-motions started to move more released in my thinking. New thoughts took place and took root. Old beliefs and structures fell apart. They died – layer upon layer – and there are always more. As more of them died, I could start to return. My spirit returned to me. I was no longer fragmented. I became part of myself again. More whole.

This hasn’t been a linear process by any means. All of it was happening on all levels at once. Being in cycles and flow is a part of the practice for me too. Learning how to not take things so seriously (most of all, myself). To let myself be alive and to thrive.

So yes, yoga in many ways has been helpful in saving my life. It also has been a tool of death. To help me learn how to die and be reborn. Not better or worse. Simply, a newer version of myself continuing to practice learning how to be me.

The Occurrence of Multiple Springs

pexels-photo-428062This year I experienced three Springs. One in Ireland, one in New York and one in Canada. Three seasons of unfolding – of rising up and out – of newness being created. Two things struck me most this year as I witnessed the season with more care than I have before. First, just how much change there was day-to-day (and how much of that change occurred in such a short period of time). Second, just how much “stuff” falls in the spring. The pollen, seeds, buds, all those cocoons of potency falling to the ground or floating through the air.

It isn’t newness entirely, the Spring. It’s another cycle that creation moves through. Many plants and trees knowing this pattern and executing seemingly without thought and with purpose. The earth and elements supporting or destroying in their own collective right.

I’ve never missed seeing the Spring. I’ve noticed it in passing. I’m not sure when I last experienced the Spring, however. This time I had the space to sit with the season. To witness it on repeat in different lands. The “same” things happening with nuanced differences. The whole process much larger than I could ever comprehend; a great unfolding and unfurling.

As I notice my relationship to many Springs this year it occurs to me that I’m also in that season of my life.

I have been in a very long cycle of death. A Winter of sorts. It has been very deep and long – decades at least, more likely lifetimes and most certainly repeated over generations of ancestry. Every time I thought the Winter might be over for me, it wasn’t – not fully. The cycle needed to play out. It needed me to turn deeply inward and rest. I needed to learn how to grieve fully and release. I needed the tools to allow myself to turn inward and simply “be”. To be with what is, even if it’s death. To be with myself and to find comfort in that season of death instead of trying to flee from it or ignore it. To learn how to take the restless energy that grew up around and through and in the grief. The feelings of hopelessness mixed with depression and anxiety that took root and to allow that to all have space.

Part of the process too was to be in that death cycle and plant new seeds in the compost of what was being transformed. To both allow the state of death to be there and surrender to it while not being swept away by its strong pull. To learn that it wasn’t all that there was to life. To understand that there’s always a brightness even in that murkiness. To appreciate the murk for what it is. To appreciate death for what it is.

The keys for me were to feel what I was feeling without a “right” way to feel (as one of my dear teachers always says) and to learn how to plant seeds, no matter how small or weak at first, of possibility. Hope. Newness.

I’ve been reminded lately that in the practice of yoga and from a neuroscience perspective, we can allow the old patterns and thoughts to be there and simultaneously plant new ones. As energy feeds energy, eventually those new seeds will start to grow. The new patterns develop in the brain, body, energy, fueled by the spirit. They may need constant reinforcement and practice (or not) and, in time, the old parts do let go and there is a death at the same time there is a birth. They aren’t in opposition to one another, birth and death. They’re cycles working with a third, sustaining force. There isn’t an either/or it’s more of an and/and with many aspects taking place at the same time.

I’m starting to understand that the seasons aren’t polarities, they each support one another, interweave, and exist in union. Multiple Springs can also occur simultaneously. In dropping the seeds that are going to cultivate through Summer, take root again through the coming Fall and be dormant or incubate through Winter. We do this too and it’s even more potent when we can work together with the cycles around us. The cycle of death and rebirth that happens along with the moon each month. The cycle that happens each day with the sun rising and falling. Each hour and minute. There are endless opportunities to shift energy while also allowing the current state to run its course and to be supported in that place.

I’m noticing this more as I move and change where I’m living every few days. In giving up a permanent address, I have the opportunity to notice even more closely what happens to my patterns. I’ve lived in six places over the past two weeks and love it. With each place I feel at home in about three seconds. I feel welcomed as though I’ve always lived there. I notice that the hardest part for me is to leave the previous company or the place because I immediately feel at home and love where I am. Only to realize the next place brings exactly the same feelings though the surroundings and company are different. It doesn’t mean one is more or less, just that I can find my feet and way each time again and again with nuanced differences.

New patterns form so easily.

One new pattern is that I find myself going to a yoga class every day at 12:30 this week, just because I currently live so close a yoga studio. I usually practice at home and go to class a couple of times a week. In this new pattern I’m going to classes I’ve never gone to, meeting people I’ve never met and, I’ve done something I’ve never done before in each class. At least one new thing.

The first day I heard myself say, “I could never do that” when the teacher showed us balancing and twisting and holding our leg out straight…. And then I tried and I could do it. Rather easily.

Another new seed floating down and planting. Shifting the energy of “I can’t” a little bit further. Noticing the old thought and belief as it floated up, then trying, and learning that it wasn’t true. I can do it. That new energy created in that moment could (and will) apply to so many other things. A new seed planted, cultivated and created to grow even more.

About a month ago I noticed a shift in my physical practice. I realized that when I stepped my foot forward into a lunge from a downward-facing-dog, I was moving my shoulder out of the way. This led to harming my shoulders and separating them too much through the back body. I’m not sure if I’ve always done this or if it was a new pattern. Either way, I noticed it now so when it developed was irrelevant. Once I became aware of it, I wanted to work with it. I started to focus on the health of my shoulders as I moved, paying close attention. I noticed that when I did that – when I worked with my shoulders differently, my foot didn’t come up to where it used to (the mat long worn out in grooves where my feet and hands have always landed).

I noticed myself realizing I wasn’t going “as far” as before, stepping a full footstep back from where I used to land. I noticed myself criticizing that I didn’t take care of my shoulders and trying to search for the times in the past when I could have done it differently. I noticed myself wanting to get that foot to where it used to be and at the same time allowing myself to not. To consciously find a new footing. I noticed the movement I was making and the strength I needed to develop to move differently. How to use my body differently than I have before to move in a way that I could protect my shoulders. I let myself notice the noticing of criticism and every time let myself choose to greet the thoughts with gentleness and kindness. I met myself with words that it was okay and now I could choose differently. Now that I was aware. I couldn’t have changed anything before – without the awareness. Now I could. That became my practice. It took a lot of focus and effort and then…. It all shifted. My stance physically shorter, my shoulders happier and healthier, my thoughts supportive and loving.

The new seeds planted and sustained.

All from noticing and making a minor shift from where I used to be to where I am now. To noticing what was no longer serving me and allowing something new to form.

As I move into this Spring cycle of my life I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to float from place to place. Like a dandelion seed, floating along, taking root, finding growth, then moving on again. Not sure of where I’ll land and replanting only to shift again. To embrace the patterns that keep me moving and keep me cycling through while also at the same time embracing that they shift and change. I’m loving the newness of creating each day and finding new ways to be, without attachment to what is or will come next (or what has already been).

At the same time as I love the newness and the growth taking place, I’m also aware to not become attached or addicted to only seeking newness (while also not limiting how much I love it and enjoy it!). Tricky. How to celebrate and fully enjoy and be immersed without limiting that joy and not let expectations to form. Or, as they do, to watch how they also dissolve and become replaced with new patterns again. I’m learning to not avoid the season of death or fear returning to its depth. I understand it well now and know it can’t keep me contained and I can’t avoid it. Nor do I have to stay living within that death cycle, as I have chosen to do before.

It’s time for me to move more fully into the Spring of my existence.

For everything does have a season and just as much falls away in the Spring as it does in Autumn. Just as much is planted and grows in the Summer as it is in the Winter. Honouring the energy and power of each season and the dominant cycles of birth, sustenance and death that are within and now I can see a constant weaving between them without absolutes or one winning out over the rest. Quietly knowing they each have an equal role and importance. These cycles and patterns are here to sustain us and they work together as a whole.

So the practice for me becomes being able to be where I am, allow growth to take place, enjoy and immerse myself in the newness and transformation without expectation that anything will continue to be the same or experiencing the emotions that come when I want something to stay the same. Noticing the constant birthing and dying and finding what sustains me through it all. Finding what serves me fully in each moment.