Rooted Within Me

flower-dandelion-beautiful-hd-free-wallpapers-for-desktopLast year I kept seeing visions of the contents of my apartment all in boxes. Some of them were so strong that I nearly started packing simply because it felt right. I resisted that urge when it was strong because it didn’t make sense – even though part of me fully trusted that if I started to box things up the next step would appear.

A few months ago, I found stronger footing as I began to open to impermanence from a place of abundance. Even then, with a plan to give up this place – a plan to let go – I felt some fear creep in and up. I knew the timeline I needed to call my landlady by. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I was going to speak the words and as the time to do so approached I could feel the energy of momentum climbing up from my legs through my belly and heart and leaping into my throat.

The words kept pushing up from my heart to “just call her”. Just call her today and say it.

I was afraid to because speaking it into reality meant it would now be real. These plans and thoughts I’ve been sure of would become solid. The solidity kept bucking at the gate of my throat until I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I picked up the phone and spoke it into existence.

During the call, I was filled with so much emotion. This has been my home for a long time. The longest I’ve stayed anywhere. I do love it here.

Afterward a flood of grief and a mix of emotions swelled. I realized that the memories rising were all of letting go. Letting go of a romantic relationship here. Letting go of deep grief. Of trauma. Letting go of so many parts of myself has happened in this place. It’s held me.

This place found me when I was going through the most difficult time of my life. I feel as though Spirit reached down, lifted me up from where I was in Canada, and dropped me off here in Brooklyn – in this apartment. From here I met and was given everything I needed. Through work, through finding healers and healing, through training and yoga, through community – that’s the biggest piece for me – the community of friends and teachers and sisters and brothers. The family that grew up around me while I thought I was hidden in this place. It was here that I learned how to share with my family who was also afar. Here I learned how to be supported. .

For a long time it felt as though I was hiding. Hiding in this place below the ground and surrounded by boulders. Rocks that my landlady had brought here as they developed the area around. All these grandfathers – protectors – circle around me. They keep guard. They always have, without ever being asked.

I saw this apartment before I moved to this city. Online in an ad. There was only one picture – of the front room with a ladder in it. I knew it was the place. When I moved, I had only a couple days to find somewhere to live and the broker took me around to all these other places when I knew this was the one. I knew it in every part of me. When I finally convinced him that I didn’t want to see the other places, he brought me here.

I opened the door and felt a strong presence push me from behind. I walked about five steps in and said “yes”. This is the place.

It has been the place.

Now I can see that I was never hiding. I was picked up and dropped off and planted here. I was planted underground at a time when I was also feeling devastated and ripped apart. What I didn’t and couldn’t know then was that the ripping apart was necessary. A deconstruction. A massive realignment and re-membering that can only happen after such a complete dismemberment.

This was the place that held me. Nurtured me. Kept me safe.

I was planted here to find the others who are nearby. The people I would learn so much from and love so dearly. I came here to meet them all. I came here because we needed to meet. To exchange so much.

I needed to grow.

As I let go of this place now, the sadness that arises is of letting go of the letting go. The letting go that has led to me becoming who I am now.

Only, as I reach into those memories and find many of them faded, I know that so much has been witnessed here and that is what is hard to let go of. The grief is tied to letting go of what has already gone. It’s already happened so there’s nothing to let go of. I’m letting go of all of that letting go.

When I moved here I never dreamed it was possible to build anything at all. In fact, I told people I didn’t have dreams. I felt as though every teeny tiny bit of rebuilding I managed to cobble together was struck down easily by the next piece of hardship. I had no foundation. It felt as though I had nothing. It felt like I didn’t know what to do. Like I might not make it through.

Now, I can embrace that girl who felt those things. Now, I know that the foundation I have is strong within me. It’s so strong that it’s not contained to this place. The wonderful life and self I’ve been able to build has come from being planted here and given the nourishment and tools to flourish. I’ve been able to build this awesome life and it’s not attached to this place. The life comes with me wherever I go because it is me.

I get to come with me wherever I go. I want to come with me wherever I go.

How great is that?

I arrived here unable to stand myself, in a vicious cycle of self-recrimination and fierce destructive anger, trying to literally walk out of my body (without much luck), then moved to feeling stuck with myself and agitated by that, to now feeling happy that I get the chance to be with myself!

I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the first chakra these past few years. Safety and security. Fears around not surviving. These are rooted way back and were so strong I’m not sure I even noticed I was alive.

I was terrified of losing a job or of losing a place to live. So much fear guiding decisions. Fear without listening to what was within. I was running blind.

Now, I’ve willingly given up so much of what used to bring that safety and security. I “should” be scared or trying to figure things out, except I’m not. I feel the most safe, secure and supported I ever have.

I have instead a strong inner knowing. A knowing that these are the exact right next steps. Maybe my future self already knows how great these decisions will be. Maybe it doesn’t matter because everything will continue to add to my life, no matter what it feels like or if it’s hard or fun or serious or easy. My roots aren’t growing from false, uneasy, ground. They’re growing from so deeply within myself and the support that has graciously been cultivated all around me that I now know my way.

So much growth has happened from being planted in this place and now, instead of feeling uprooted by leaving, I’m ready for more growth. It stems from knowing I’ll always be planted in the exact right place. Faith. Trust.

For months, in all of this I’ve struggled with feeling like I need a sense of direction. I couldn’t figure it out and would only make myself feel smaller for not being able to. That has faded as I feel as though I have direction without knowing at all what it is or what it looks like or even where it will be.

I do know that there’s only one way to find out.

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Opening to Impermanence

night-of-joy-1Just over a year ago I told the place I worked that I was no longer engaged in my role. It was true. My interests had shifted and even though the structure and way I could work was quite free, I still felt limited. The work was no longer in line with what I wanted to do (even if I didn’t quite know what that was).

I had prepared for a while to have this conversation and fear was rearing up as the words “I’m no longer engaged in this work and I’d love it if you could help me find another role,” came out of my mouth. I still said the words.

After the conversation, which was received extremely well, I went to my office shaking and called a close friend and said “I just had a conversation with my boss that goes against pretty much everything I was ever taught”.

I’ve always sought security through work. I’ve had an income since I was about fifteen years old. Even before that, I’d be scheming up businesses and ways to make money. I’ve been oriented towards that way of thinking. There’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. There’s also nothing right about it. It’s neutral.

I know there are lots of people who work difficult jobs in many different ways and I am in no way denying their truth.

For me, I needed something else.

And so, this year, my job and I broke up. We parted ways after eleven years.

This was met with some deep trauma responses which fascinated me. I learned that something I wanted could also trigger trauma. It didn’t logically make sense. Shouldn’t something I want feel good? Turns out, it could feel traumatic for a period and then, with help, the trauma passed and healed.

In the weeks after I resisted the urge and thoughts to immediately jump into another job. Every time someone asked me what I was going to do I said, “I’m taking time and I don’t want to figure anything out – I’m going to allow it to unfold”.  I’m going to trust in the unfolding.

I’ve wanted time for a long time and here was this huge gift. I waited, and those impulses also passed in intensity and only flare up quietly from time to time.

For the past several months I’ve been moving in and out of feeling stressed about where to be. Where to live?

I start to calculate. Without an income for the first time in over twenty years I start to see ways to minimize. To downsize. I do try to figure it all out. I’ve never not had an income and that change feels significant.

I’ve always been good with money and with living within my means. I was brought up to know how to do that and it has served me well.

I automatically default to that way of thinking and as I spin out scenarios, the path becomes more and more narrow as I feel as though I have no choice but to give up my apartment, to move to somewhere that costs less or that I’ll have to live with other people. It feels out of my control and like I have no other choice.

I think about moving home to be closer to my family, which would be lovely, and then worry that there’s not a life there for me anymore.

I try to figure out where I want to live. Where I want to be. I start to play out a scenario and quickly it becomes fearful. I start to panic about everything I’ll lose. Everything that I won’t be near any more. Then I don’t want to leave here. I look at the stuff I’ve collected and how much I love my apartment. I start to freak out about what’s next and start to anticipate all the other changes that obviously won’t work out well. Everything starts to trap me and stick me in place.

Brief thoughts float up about finding another “job” just to maintain what I already have. They are quickly turned over though because that is not what I want right now.

I look at real-estate in places I don’t want to live just because I could technically afford it and could maybe then make money from renting it out. Strained because I don’t want to be in those places – or do I? Where do I want to be?

I let myself have fantasies about putting everything into storage and just traveling. Somehow becoming weightless and free. I then start to worry about the logistics of how that will work. My brain starts to believe that once things are in storage it’s somehow impossible to get them back out. Or if I’m going to do that then why not just get rid of everything? Where would my plants go?

I jump to extremes. Absolutes. I try to divine how everything will be.

It takes a toll and my stress and more manic energy escalates, trying to take control of the future and keeps me stuck in that place of stress.

These are not difficult problems to have on the surface, it happens to be what I’m working with right now. The commitment to accepting change and resisting falling back in to an old story that served me well and now no longer suits me.

There has got to be another way.

I noticed that I kept telling myself there’s nothing to figure out. I realized I was thinking a lot about stories I had written in the past about lack of abundance and change.

Then something hit me:

I’m coming at this decision and question from a place of lack and not a place of abundance. Seeing only lack is so engrained in me, I couldn’t even see it was calling the shots. To counteract the energy that was taking over, I kept reminding myself that change is always additive. Change isn’t about either/or, it’s about and/and. It’s not absolute. It’s about shifting the perspective from one of lack to one of abundance. I didn’t know what was next when deciding to leave work and that has turned out well. This will too.

How do I shift the story?

Within seconds, I realized that the one thing I want to change about how I live is to start to live with other people again. That is what I want and need. I always love traveling and staying with friends and family. When I return to my place, even though I love it, I’m often depressed and lonely.

For a long time, I didn’t want to live with anyone. I knew how to hide and isolate. I needed the space to heal and to do whatever I needed to do. I’ve enjoyed it very much.

That has now shifted and, with the shift, I no longer want to remain hidden away on my own.

Instead of coming at the question of where to be from a place of lacking an income, I came at it from a place of what will bring me more health and wellbeing? A place of abundance.

Once I found that place of abundance, I no longer felt stressed or constricted about the decisions. I no longer needed to figure anything out.

Once I felt abundance, more continued to open as I realized that in my thought patterns, I’m constantly looking for permanence. I keep trying to make decisions that are absolutely defined or will last forever and it doesn’t work. I seem to believe that whatever decision I make now will be what the rest of my life looks like – with no other changes ever. I keep believing that there’s some sort of security in permanence when there’s not. It doesn’t even make me feel good – it creates more stress.

I seem to have a belief that permanence exists. That is a belief that I need to let go of. Once it’s gone, there is so much more ability to move freely. Temporarily. To see everything as temporary in a way that is filling and not fearful. Temporary doesn’t need to mean loss or lack. It does mean change. I want to view the temporary nature of life through the lens of abundance. How exciting and uplifting it can be. To understand that the decision I make right now doesn’t need to be what governs the entire rest of my life. I can change and try something and then change and try again. I can expand and contract. I can grow without limits.

Without deciding what I’m going to do or how or where I’m going to live or be next, I’ve decided I want to live with others. I want to be in community more fully.

I can’t do that in this place and so, I’ve decided to leave this place that I love so much – this place that has served me well for so many years.

I’ve decided to leave this place – and not because I know where I’m going to move to or what’s next.

The decision feels full and clear. No matter what other chatter or fear arises as I move through the impending changes that will now come based on this decision, I know I can now listen to what comes from a place of abundance and not a place of lack. That shift allows me to trust more and to simultaneously be open to and help facilitate whatever step is next.

Letting Love In

loveleaf“I will not close off my heart”.

I found myself saying that after a recent romantic relationship ended. The relationship had been quite brief in terms of time and already my heart cared quite deeply.

This time I will not close off my heart. It will remain open.

That’s not what I have done in the past in similar situations. I’ve always tried to shut my heart down. To turn it off or close everything out. I’d become hurtful on top of the hurt I was feeling, berating myself for caring so much. Searching for a way out.

As it remained open, my heart actively felt more. Perhaps not more – it felt differently as it tried to stay present. I noticed. As my heart tried to stay open, I started spinning, driving myself crazy with thoughts of the future. Thoughts of the past. Thoughts of other similar dynamics and relationships that had ended. Thoughts of what to do. Where to live next year. What to be doing with my time. Thoughts that I’m not doing enough. I “should be” doing more.

“I will keep my heart open”.

My heart was trying to stay present and every other part of me was spinning away from this moment.

I drove myself so crazy trying to determine the entire future of my life all at once that I finally burst into tears. It took me two days of frustration and tears bursting out to realize that it had nothing to do with the future or the past.

I was, quite simply, sad.

After I caught on to what was happening I started to go into the sadness. The right now sadness. The primary emotion without the secondary or tertiary responses built up around it.

I went into it and felt sad. I let myself be. And … it passed. Relatively quickly. Afterward there was only deep, blissful, stillness.

Then came another wave of sadness. And another and another. All the same responses happened. Fearing about the future. About how I’m “doing nothing” about how I have “no direction”. Pulling up every related sad moment from the past. Feeling frustrated and angry that I had to be sad right now. I kept going in to experience the sadness. I shared my feelings with family and friends instead of hiding away. I went out into the world, feeling sad. I reached out and asked for help and support.

“I will not close off my heart. I will keep my heart open”.

Every time I acknowledged the sadness in the moment and let myself feel it, the sadness liked the attention and it found its way out. It liked the expression. I met the energy directly and no longer had the momentum and motion of trying to create so many internal restrictions so that it (or I) could build up enough friction to bring on a release. It wanted out and, even though I was afraid to let it move and go, I could no longer tolerate the unpredictability and lack of control that I could feel by keeping it locked inside. Letting it move and go felt good. Letting it go brought relief. Contrary to what I’ve always believed, experiencing the sadness and letting it go isn’t what feels uncontrollable – it’s keeping it in that does that.

It then felt like every moment of sadness I’d ever experienced wanted to come forward – rushing up in joy saying “she’s finally processing – hurry up – her heart’s open – get through here now while you’ve got a chance!”. It felt like the waves would continue to come up for the next thirty years if I started to let all of that come through.

Experiencing the emotion was helpful and even with that release, there was still a yearning for control. Control “over” the emotion or over how much to have or when or how. Do I release every piece of sadness that I’ve ever experienced?

That night I lay in bed, unable to get to sleep. The top of my head felt like it had sprung open and thoughts were racing through wildly. Stress. Emotion. Fear.

With my breath was caught in between my heart and my throat, the chatter felt strong, relentless and harsh.

I began to feel and realize that it always gets to the point that it feels like the thoughts are coming to attack me. One starts to pin me up against a wall and then the rest come in to foist their powers of resistance and aggression. They culminate in narrowing everything down to more acute, precise, infliction of pain. In the narrowing, there’s less room to move. There’s less to see. I begin to get locked into the pain and the patterns of trying to avoid a direct relationship with the emotion.

I start to feel sad and then angry at myself for feeling sad and then guilty at feeling either. I start to believe that “I don’t know what to do”.

If I can’t control the future or the past or the emotions coming up in the present moment, I can be in ultimate control of just how much suffering is inflicted. I at least know how to do that. I know how to do that quite well.

How much suffering is enough?

I’ve never paused to ask that question.

How much suffering is enough?

None.

The answer is none. No amount of suffering is necessary.

Without actively thinking about it, something new started to happen. I sent love to each thought that was coming up. I embraced each feeling and sensation and belief with kindness and compassion.

“I love your fear of the future”.

“I love that you have such an open heart and that you want it to remain open”.

“I love your resistance to feeling sad”.

Loving.

I sent love to the sadness. Love to not wanting to feel the sadness. Love to the way I constantly restrict myself. Love not only to the actions but also to my essence and being. Direct love.

The love started to move into beliefs and I heard myself saying “I love you for feeling like you don’t know what to do”. I felt what that feels like and loved that too.

I love that you feel like you have to know what to do. I love that you feel like you have to fix everything. I love that you do that sometimes by repressing emotions because you’re afraid that if you have them, people will leave. That if you control your emotions and keep everything inside, then that’s how to control life.

I love you for feeling.

I love that you don’t know what to do. It’s okay.

I love that you don’t know what to do. You don’t have to know.

I love that you want to be in control (and that you always forget that).
That one made me smile.

The more I loved the aspects of myself I was usually hard on, the hardness that has been used to keep pushing and creating pain and pressure, the more I began to soften.

The more love I gave, the more I could feel that I’ve had the belief that “I don’t know what to do” for a very long time. It has been there to try to keep people close. To try to ensure that I don’t do anything “wrong” that will mean they’ll leave (which just leads me to believe I do “everything” wrong). Another sword slicing through my being.

I started to love all of that too. To love that I want to keep people close. That I value relationships so much. Loving that self that emerges when it feels like I do everything wrong.

I continued to give myself love constantly. Consistently. The unconditional love of absolutely every aspect of myself that was arising – even the aspects I don’t like and usually try to attack or “fix”.

Out of nowhere, I found myself repeating the word “ahimsa”.

Ahimsa.

I perked up and smiled. In yoga, ahimsa is the yama of non-harming and non-violence. Including non-harming and non-violence to yourself.

Inflicting this suffering on myself is harm.

I can see now that so much of my belief system is designed to hurt myself. To beat myself down. To feel inadequate. Especially when I feel insecure.

Until this moment, I never viewed any of this as harmful. The pain felt normal. It was how I was used to coping and surviving. I never considered that I was inflicting violence upon myself in these ways.

When I love it: love the insecurity, the vulnerability, my “inadequacy” or “inability”, my heart softens. The corners of my lips turn up into a soft smile. My brain stops the relentless spinning.

Surprisingly, I found myself laughing. Not a laugh of judgment or ridicule – a laugh of understanding, loving, accepting. Sweet laughter of embracing all the younger versions of myself and myself right now. As the laughter softened to include me, it widened, laughing with love at how serious I’ve been and have felt about myself all these years. Laughing because it’s all made up. It doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been.

“I love that you try to determine the entire rest of your life all at once”. I smiled and then my heart widened more and I laughed again.

Laughing because of course I can’t do that. Laughing because of course I don’t know what to do and laughing because I do know – I’m doing it.

Loving the fear and insecurity and emotion.

The hurt. The pain. The friction. The suffering. All that I’ve created and inherited and absorbed begins to find acceptance. Love.

Instead of berating myself and trying to constrict myself more – to feel the pain more – and focus even more strongly on the internal attack (so I can feel more in control of something), I start to love myself for doing that and when I do that. For whatever reasons.

This love isn’t in hiding or denying any of what I think or feel or say or do. It’s not trying to stop or change or “fix” anything. It’s simply allowing an alternative to the action of my thoughts that are hurtful. The actions that cause harm. The actions that pin me in place to take on even more. It starts to heal the relationship I have within myself.

Energy feeds energy and I can choose to remain locked in that loop of striking myself down – that loop of punishing myself for not knowing what to do. Or I can accept that it’s there and send myself love.

I can feel myself widen. The desire to constrict fights back and I soften again, sending love to that constriction. It isn’t a change that happens overnight. It’s another way to start an internal shift. I know the more I can find compassion for these areas of myself, the less I will constrict against life and try to control the uncontrollable.

When I try to control the uncontrollable, I can love that too.

It’s time to write a new story. It’s time to treat myself differently. To send myself love every single moment, with every single feeling and thought, especially when I’m being hard on myself. To lift that energy and transform it to a different way of being than I’m used to.

There is no reason to keep myself in a place of suffering.

It’s a start and, the next time I forget all of this or become upset with myself that I forgot, I will start again.

With the lens of ahimsa, when that happens, I will send myself more love.

Through this shift, and introducing a tiny bit of new energy, the old energy starts to shift. I start to write a new story.

A new relationship begins.

Returning Fire

img_1854I could see myself standing on a mound of earth holding a gleaming red archer’s bow. I reached back to grasp onto an arrow and, one by one, I took aim and shot.

It occurred to me to look for a target and I couldn’t see one in sight.

As the arrows kept shooting away from me the ends started to ignite in flames.

There I stood. Grounded with a warrior stance. Shooting flame after flame out into nothing.

Where was the fire going? Was it landing anywhere?

I’m exploring my relationship to fire. The element of fire. That essential ingredient to being able to bring focus to anything. Transformation. The ability to have personal power. Will power. Drive.

In yoga fire is associated with the third chakra. The solar plexus. The sun. That great ball of fire that gives us heat; it gives us life as it simultaneously casts its light on everything.

In a kundalini yoga class yesterday we focused on building fire. Kriya after kriya focusing on the abdominals and the legs. With breath of fire thrown in there several times. Most of the sequences were two minutes long of repeating the same movement and breath. Some felt glorious. Others, painful.

Usually when a teacher says “we’re going to work with building fire today” my shoulders start to fall. I don’t want to do it. For the longest time I associated fire with anger and I didn’t want that most uncomfortable emotion to arise.

As anger and I become more comfortable with one another I realize that wasn’t it, really. At least not all of it.

I don’t want to build fire because for me it’s become quite hard. I’ve let it become weak in my system and so to try to light a fire exhausts me. Most of the time, I’d rather not even try (another sure sign that the fire needs more vitality).

Begrudgingly, I usually submit to the class, keeping an eye on just how much fire is built. I try my best to limit it. I’ve been afraid of the fire within. Afraid at how much it can be uncontrollable.

Yesterday though, it felt right. I was excited at the idea of building fire. At one point in the class I said to myself, as my body was shaking and I wanted to give up “you can do this”. “You can do this for two minutes. If you can’t do this for only two minutes, you can’t do anything else you want to do in life”.

And the thing is, I can do it. I can do all of it, even though it exhausts me. And, in class, I did. I have the strength and ability to do it. My energy was shifting so dramatically within that by the time I got home I was wiped out. I crawled into bed for about an hour. My body aching. All those areas I avoid engaging or using too much in my practice all necessarily sore. No wonder I avoid it; it’s hard.

I think the fire extinguishes in me it before it can even light.

More importantly, I think I do it to myself.

I used to have fire in spades. It was more wild. More forceful. It fed my will power which was so strong it carried me forward into anything.

And then one day it carried me forward and through something I really didn’t want to do. The sheer force of will is what led me. Because I thought I had to. I thought I had no choice.

And from that moment I gained a deep experience of pain and grief.

It was my own will that led me into those depths.

My own attempts at having power and control because I also felt completely powerless. My will stepped in to get me through the lack of power, as it always had before. Except I didn’t expect there to be such pain on the other side.

The fire that led me through got smacked right back as though the wind was knocked right out of it. As if it doubled back on itself in confusion and chaos.

From that experience I got to see the destructive side of fire. The side that rips through forests and kills everything in sight. At the same time that the fire was raging, turning and twisting destruction in every direction, I was also trying to put it out.

Extinguish it. Stop it.

In time, I became an expert at putting it out.

My will softened. This is not a bad thing. It softened and needed to stay soft. Not so forceful.

I needed the fire to be quiet for a while.

How was I supposed to trust the very same will power that led me down that path of destruction again? When I spark it up, how will I know it to be different?

A friend a few weeks ago mentioned that she saw a forest recovering after a fire. She saw the new growth on top of the ashes and decay. It struck her because she realized that not all the “old stuff” or the “destroyed” parts had to be gone before something new could take hold. The forest didn’t have to totally get rid of the “old” before there could be growth. The plants and life grew out of the ashes that were still present.

I kept enough fire within me to focus on surviving. To rebuild within all of those ashes. Discarding some of the former parts and keeping others. Blending them to become something new. It takes fire to transform. I have focused on transformation for these past several years, first and foremost. That takes a tremendous amount of effort and will power. It takes fire. It just didn’t feel like fire any more. Not in the way I used to feel it.

The element has gone flatter and wider in me. It takes more effort to get a spark to come.

Sustaining a concentrated amount of it will take even more effort. The thought of that effort then becomes exhausting. So I avoid it. I try to protect myself from aspects of something I also need.

Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it was okay to leave the fire burning quietly for these past few years.

After all, it is the nature of fire to change.

This moment is not any of those that came before.

As I saw myself standing on that mound, I wasn’t even giving the fire away to anything. It was lighting up and then being distributed out into the abyss so quickly it extinguished again.

It couldn’t collect. It couldn’t set anything else alight. It just fizzled out and disappeared.

At one point I realized what I was doing and the arrows flew only so far away from me and then started to turn back. They circled towards me, returning my fire. I wasn’t afraid. Instead I stood with ease and pulled the skin of my torso aside as if it were zipped closed in the front. I watched, with inviting comfort, as each flaming arrow entered. The fire blazed inside.

The Magic of Creatureness

img_0216I woke up one morning and felt organic.

I felt as though I was made up of nature in every single cell of my being. Organic from within. It made me feel satisfied and smiling with curiosity to move around. Feeling my inner realms anew.

Intellectually I understand that I’m nature. I often think about how much we as a species seem to have forgotten that we’re nature. How I regularly hear the words “I hate nature” from those around me and I start to wonder how that can be when we are nature.

I have also felt the disconnect without even realizing that’s what I was feeling. Until now.

A few years ago I had an experience while standing on a subway platform in midtown Manhattan. Suddenly everyone around me was transformed into creatures. I could see the creatureness in each person – in their movements and in their eyes. In the subtleties and essence of who they were.

Nothing more. Nothing less. Purely creatures moving.

What I saw in the creatureness was such elegance and beauty in everyone around me. It felt like magic. Like a curtain had been lifted and in a suspended state of peeking behind it, I got to see something different than usual. Or different than how I usually saw the world.

Through that lens and in that moment I felt no annoyance. No judgment. Simply awe.

Nature.

I’ve looked from time to time, trying to find that curtain again. I see glimpses and wonder if perhaps it was a temporary portal because it hasn’t happened since. I continue to be plagued with my lenses of perception, attaching judgment to all that I see. Constantly working to clear the lens and always finding more to clear away.

And there it was again when I awoke. My own organic creatureness.

I could feel it. Sense it. Experience it.

As I moved, I kept trying it on for size. Stretching into it. Coming more fully into the sensations. Smiling deeply.

Beauty.

When I think of nature, I see it as neutral. Neutral and symbiotic. Diverse and connected. It’s not always gentle or even seemingly kind and yet there’s room for it all to exist. Nature doesn’t seem to reject those parts of itself that feel prickly or “horrible”. Or judge and second guess those parts that destroy or grow anew. It doesn’t measure or count its actions. It simply is.

It feels as though even in devastation; nature is also able to be nurturing to itself.

With the Autumnal Equinox not long past and the days getting longer and darker here in the North, I’ve thought more about the balance of light and dark. The shadow and what’s stored in there and wants to emerge.

I’ve been thinking of archetypal energies – those emotions, beliefs, thoughts, and actions that become so deeply embedded in our sub and unconscious mind that they start to run us. While I might associate some sort of positive or negative quality to an archetype I’ve worked with like “the persecuted one” or “the brave one” I’m reminded that the energy itself is completely neutral.

It’s only once I’ve decided to suppress and submerge something I don’t like or don’t want to feel or am afraid of that it starts to take hold within me and begins to feel like it has a life of its own. It’s only my assigning qualities to it that allow this completely neutral energy to start to feel positive or negative when its neither.

Anything can be shoved down into the body, mind, spirit and suppressed – even happiness. Unexpressed, untrusted and supposedly hidden in the darkness. Perhaps it’s there to keep me “safe” but I can sense it. Lurking in the shadows. Waiting to pounce unpredictably and without warning.

Nothing can be contained forever. It will always surface.

I was in a workshop recently where we had two exercises to experience emotion. In one we worked with recapitulation and I had all sorts of old, stored memories and emotions come up and release. Anger, pain, resentment, isolation, sadness all rushing to the surface. The next was an exercise where I was sitting facing another person and as we stared into each other’s’ eyes, emotion again eventually flooded up. Love, painful joy, acceptance, hope, being held and nurtured all appearing. Different emotions in each case; both came seemingly out of nowhere and were strong.

Both times, I could stay present with the emotions. No matter how strong or difficult the sensations felt.

Totally surprised that from a place that felt completely calm prior to starting the exercises – with nothing threatening or worrying me or provoking me in this safe space these emotions still could spring up with such force.

I then realized that a part of me has been waiting for them to come to an end. Waiting for a time when I no longer have to struggle or argue or fight with the flood of emotions coming out of nowhere. I press them down so it can feel like they’ve ended. Like they might not come back. Never fully trusting how long that would hold and when I’d next be caught off guard.

I started to think back to when I was a teenager and flat our decided to not cry anymore and turn off all the valves. That’s when I started to separate out and split and it feels like pretty much everything got swallowed up by the shadow.

I was swallowed up by the shadow.

The shadow. That place that has a reputation of being scary or dark. Deep. Untrodden. That place where everything I don’t want to deal with goes to get locked up and kept hidden. Underground.

It’s difficult to see everything as neutral when you feel consumed by that darkness.

Did you ever play with your shadow as a kid?

I did. I would try to run with it sometimes, or try to outwit it. Mostly though, I remember gleefully happy moments of trying to jump right into it.

Jump right in and be with it.

To become part of it and to not be separate.

Yoga means union.

In tantra philosophy this also means allowing everything to flow. To expand and contract. To not deny any aspect or part of yourself.

To me, this is allowing true nature. Allowing every aspect to be in the light. Casting a light even on those shadowy parts which may be uncomfortable or unpleasant to be with. Being with them. Staying with them for a while as they arise. Not judging them. Letting them pass and not take me away with them.

To be nurturing to myself even when everything feels like it’s being completely destroyed.

Destruction is often a necessary aspect of growth. Destruction doesn’t need to be devastating.

Harmony also means “joining” or “union” and in a way I can now see the “harm” that can be implicit to harmony. Joining and union are inclusive ways of being. Not exclusive. To exclude is to cause harm.

I hadn’t played with my shadow for a long time. Truth be told, I hadn’t even looked for it on the ground or noticed it around me for ages. I had become so disconnected from it and simultaneously felt consumed by it.

Lately I see it with me in my practice. I smile as I watch it dance, changing shapes and forms beneath me. Expanding and contracting. Distorting. Evolving. Constantly shifting.

Elusive and not straightforward and always connected to me. The more we can become friends and play together, the more I can jump right into it and allow all that is there to be there, see it for what it is. I can begin to understand the neutrality of these energies and aspects of myself and release the judgments I’ve attached to that neutrality. Return it to its natural state and let it flow freely. No longer looking for the end.

The more I bring light into my shadow, the less darkness there is. I’m no longer taken away by the dark pulls of my shadow but in relationship with it. We’re in union together. Not separate. Not pushing and pulling. Not struggling to see who will win or trying to force anything to end. We’re in it together and there is so much light now.

I’m so much lighter now.

The more I can be nurturing to myself in this process of diving in, the more I can release what is weighing my shadow down and not serving anyone, the more flexibility and freedom I have. The less I have to carry.

Returning to neutral. Returning to nature.

That’s how the curtain gets lifted, the lens cleared. The judgment falls away.

I can be my natural true self.

That is the magic.

Truth in Wonderland

FullSizeRenderAs I walked into the park this morning I found myself surrounded by a group of volunteers sauntering together. Mixed in with the crowd, I heard in charge greet them and say, “we have a destruction project today. This path is starting to look too much like Alice in Wonderland”. I looked down and saw the ripped out plants piled by his feet.

I paused and then slowed my gait. Alice has actually been appearing to me regularly lately. She did this once before, perhaps a year ago, for a short while. Servers in coffee shops with her name, stores called Alice, spray painted scrawls on city bridges. Seeing her resurface again this week has made me smile.

What is she trying to tell me?

I wrote a story the other day. One of magic teacups, secret staircases leading to a gateway of light, climbing into a dragon’s eye, and hearing a prophecy shared in an actual dream that I had while traveling in Ireland. In the dream I was told by a wise woman dressed in blue, “you coming here helped heal a significant hole in the Western Hemisphere”. After a brief flutter of acknowledgment, I was flooded with fear. Flooded with fear at the realization that I’m important, needed; and scared because it feels like I’m hunted because of it.

We have a destruction project today.

I was reminded last week that left-handed people have always been thought to have magic. That’s part of why they were forced through so many means to become right-handed. Rational. A painful process in so many ways set to destroy something.

When I was little I used both hands evenly. Moving from one to the other with ease. My parents thought I might be ambidextrous. Once I started school, I favoured the right hand for writing. Was it the energy of centuries of conditioning I picked up on? Fear of being reprimanded? Or was that what just came most naturally?

When I was nine or ten I decided that I absolutely had to learn to use my left hand to write. The urge was so strong that I imagined my right arm had been broken. I felt it was a preventative measure – I mean – what if I actually did break my right arm? How would I survive? How would I get by? I obviously needed to strengthen and train my left hand. I spent hours writing out lines with my left hand, the wobbly writing getting more and more clear.

Was I trying to reconnect to my magic?

Nevertheless, the right hand persisted, the left brain growing stronger, leaving the intuitive side to languish and feel cut back. Cut off. Getting by as a rational person in a rational world. That has served me well in many ways, and all the while hiding something significant of myself.

All the while feeling like none of it made sense. The way the world works. Nonsense.

The fear that came over me in the dream was strong. Fear at being important. Significant. Even now, I struggle with the concept of the balance of self-importance and humility. Somewhere in that balance is power. True power. Not the kind that is used to take advantage of people or to control. The kind of power that flows and goes out into the world. The kind of power that it’s an honour to have. Only it must be blocked somewhere if it feels like I’ll be hunted because of it. I won’t let it be there. I won’t let myself be important.

I’ve been looking for the hunters coming at me throughout my life. I can see that now. Looking over my shoulder and around. Being on guard for the attack. Waiting for the hit. They’ve had different faces and worn different guises over the years. I’ve been hiding and concealing myself to try to not have to experience it. The pain, once hunted down. Trying to not be seen until a couple of months ago when I started to let myself open up to the possibility that it is safe to let myself be seen.

Not long after my jaw started to become tense. It became so tense that I couldn’t move it. Locked. In there, I sense a lifetime of stored, unexpressed, anger.

In part, it was stored anger at taking on too much for too long. Right now it’s the anger of having my voice taken away. Or feeling like it has been. My ability to express myself. Because so often when I did, so often when I shared what was real to me, it wasn’t met with acceptance. This is still the case. It happens all the time and I feel myself start to defend what I’m doing or to stop sharing it. To become silent. Cut off. Why does my reality have to take a second seat to others? If it’s real to me, then it’s real. Just like if something is real to you, it’s real.

Why is my reality worth less than yours? Sadness and depression underlay the anger at being diminished. I must be worthless then. If my reality isn’t accepted. If my voice isn’t heard. If I’m worthless, then I’m fearful at being important. One negates the other and yet the yearning to feel significant is strong.

I can no longer cut these parts of myself off to satisfy the disbelief and judgment of others. Or to satisfy my own disbelief and judgment of myself. My own limiting views.

The intuitive side of me went underground for a long time, and it was never lost. Perhaps it was waiting until I could meet the teachers I needed to help bring it along. To help allow it to be real and expressed.

Even now, with all that support I have, I sense a block. Something is still holding me back. I put too much weight and value on what other people believe, think, judge. Fear of not belonging, and of not having worth, still wrestling around within me. What is it I need to be accepted? Can I accept myself so fully none of the rest matters? Can I let myself be important? How do I heal that severing and cutting off that I’ve become so practiced at?

I keep coming back to the fifth chakra in all this. The energy and emotion stored in my jaw, letting myself be seen, after the first massive release in my jaw I no longer needed the earplugs I’ve used as a sleep aid for over sixteen years. Eyes. Ears. Mouth. Seeing. Hearing. Speaking.

The fifth chakra in some traditions is referred to as your center. My center. That feels important to understand. A key to the lock.

I’m being seen and being heard. Still with an immense amount of fear yet to be transformed.

I’m learning that I want to have a voice. That words hold immense power and because of that they need to be used well and with care. Towards myself and with others.

There’s another layer here to do with all that anger. I’ve got very adept at storing anger. I’ve finally started to understand the relationship between being hurt and anger. All those times I wasn’t believed or listened to, it hurt. When it felt like my voice was taken away, it hurt. It still does. And so I stopped speaking. I still do. It hurt and I became angry because I was hurting. What I just started to see is that I always took it all on. The anger and the hurt. I never gave it voice – not skillfully. (Sometimes while drunk the energy would come out. Now that I don’t drink, I need different avenues for it to be channeled).

The curious part for me is now starting to see that being hurt and angry often then leads me to resentment towards the person who said or did the thing that hurt me. Without me consciously realizing it, resentment then has turned to revenge. The way to punish those people has been to take all the anger for myself and then cut them off. To withdrawal. The taking myself away is meant to hurt them, I think. There’s some weak sense of importance in that exchange and it’s one I’d like to shift into a place of strength. It’s also painful to me to cut the person off, which leads to more anger and resentment.

The hunters aren’t outside of me, they’re within. It’s my own reactions and responses and way of managing the pain and internal distress that lets me feel exposed and hunted. I think I even seek it – so that I can keep the cycle of energy going. Keep quiet, get hurt, withdraw with anger. Remain unseen and unheard. Only to let the whole cycle keep playing out.

Resenting too that I take everything on. Yet, it’s been the only way to stay safe. To feel safe.

I need to walk into the eye of the dragon. To speak my truth, even if it’s pain and hurt. Before it turns into anger – or even after it does. To not be afraid of it or afraid that experiencing it means I have to leave or that I will be left. To place the anger where it belongs and not hold onto it all.  To not cut it back or off. To let it flow.

I’ve been afraid of letting myself have importance and worth because I want that magical side of me to be cherished and loved. In my own doubts that it will be, my own rational skeptic appears too. In those times, it’s the voice of others I hear coming through as my own, trying to knock me down from the inside. So much of my true nature is in that intuitive, sensitive side. I hold it dear and protect it at all costs, even by moving back to that more rational side, which limits the wonder and beauty of it all. Limits my ability and connection. Holding holds me back.

The definition of Alice is Truth.

Truth in Wonderland.

There is truth in wonderland. Truth in magic and all that nonsense that has always made complete sense to me. There is value in both of these worlds. The path to wonderland can be destroyed and it always grows back anew. Alice always resurfaces.

I hope we can let the world of magic that is all around and also experienced within us remain in tact. To accept and appreciate it. I hope I can do this for myself. To know the invisible world that is real too, even if the rational mind can’t quite allow it. It can be touched, seen, and heard if you let it. If you’re not afraid of it or try to deny it or cut it down. To believe and allow and make space for it and for those people who can travel within it. After all, if it didn’t exist, why would generations of people spend so much effort trying to cut down the path? Force the rational to take over. What power is in this magic? And how can we no longer be afraid of it? To heal the split and severance within each of us. To be grateful for both sides. All sides having worth and importance.

We can live in both; held in both hands.

It’s all one.

This path is starting to look too much like Alice in Wonderland.

So, what? Let it.

Breathing Out Fear

IMG_4722I remember when I first started going to yoga classes – the teacher would say when to inhale and exhale – and I simply couldn’t do it. I actually disregarded her words and thought “there’s no way that’s going to happen”.

I never dreamed it would be possible. It was such a struggle as it was to get into the various postures without that whole breath part getting in the way. As I think back, I remember the heaviness in my body, the inflexibility, the lack of movement – I was basically a big ball of stagnant and held energy. Trapped. Contained.

Even in my yoga teacher training (with no intention of ever becoming a teacher) moving on the breath baffled me. Do I inhale on that part of the sun salute? Or exhale? How would I ever remember which? How could I ever instruct a class on when to breathe? Especially if it was too confusing to figure out how to do myself.

At some point that year the movement and the breath started to come together. I could at least start to inhale and exhale when instructed. The start of the breath at least started the movement into the posture some of the time even though I needed to take some extra breaths before reaching the next part of a flow.

Time passed. Practice continued along those lines and then the extra breaths started to disappear. I only needed one breath per movement most of the time unless holding a pose, and then could breathe more deeply into it most of the time.

So that was it, right? I had arrived at this “syncing up” after all those years. Which is when, of course, the practice started to deepen again and reveal even more to me.

A few weeks ago I was in a class where we started lengthening the breath – for me that day it was to a count of 8. While seated, I could inhale for a count of 8, hold for 8 and exhale for 8. A slight sensation of fear rose up when holding the exhale – a sensation that was tolerable and familiar to me so I could stay with it and continue to hold and lengthen the breath. Even seated, this practice has evolved so much – I used to have a hard time even being with my breath in meditation let alone lengthening it to this extent.

Only this time we kept the breath work practice while moving throughout the entire class.

No longer contained to the safety of a seated posture, now the rise and fall of a sun breath to 8 counts on each movement.  I had done this before without counting and it actually felt great – everything in me moving at a slow, luxurious pace. The sensations of fear that were there while seated seemed to dissipate and my mind could drop out and in. My mind started to quiet.

Then we started to move into a sun salutation. This was new for me to practice in this way and as we stepped back into a plank for the first time I lost the 8 counts of breath. The breath came out of me as my right leg extended back and I gasped for air – fear started to rise up again. I was astonished at the force of it and found it so interesting that I couldn’t keep the full count of the breath while also stepping back. Or onto the move down to the mat and up into cobra. I needed extra breaths – and here I thought I had been “moving on the breath” for a while. When I actually paid attention there were all sorts of things going on to prevent this and I realized I had been moving on the start of each breath but not sustaining the breath throughout each movement all the time.

Without judgment and with curiosity I continued to watch what happened – and by the end of the class the witnessing quieted and I became more practiced in allowing the full 8 counts of breath to move me through. My breath did eventually lengthen and I no longer needed the extra breath to get from one pose to the next.

I loved the practice and continued it on my own at home and in classes. As I kept practicing it started to take less effort and I had fewer sensations of fear rise up. My mind could become still while moving – at least sometimes.

I decided a few days later to practice at the park. There’s an area I love that is a little secluded and I’m always a little worried to go there by myself. As I arrived, already in my head about if I should be practicing there or not because there weren’t many people around, I assessed the situation. There were two women with dogs sitting on the ground and a man sitting to the side on a bench. I felt a little unsettled but found a place near the women and started to practice – including moving on an 8 count breath.

It wasn’t long before the women left and I could already feel my fear of being on my own in this hidden part of the park rise up.

I tried to breath into it as my head was actively spinning in thought, my eyes open now instead of closed and I could see more men around. Some were watching. Some were walking through. Some were sitting over on the benches. Not a single woman in sight.

I kept trying to move on my breath by my senses were heightened and hyper-vigilance was switched on. My mind searching for an answer of whether I was safe or not. Thoughts that I was on my own and these men could attack me or carry me off into the woods competed with “you are safe” and “keep breathing”.

As the hyper-vigilant thoughts took over my breath shortened. As I returned to lengthening the breath I could stay in the belief that I was safe and start to let go of control and constriction. The fear also grew at times like waves, feeling like I was in a pool of threatening male energy. Ultimately I stayed in the vortex of thoughts as I continued practicing, keeping my eye on my surroundings from time to time. The sound of my thoughts was so loud it was like a vibration of screaming running through my head.

I finished my practice, completing the full hour, and was physically unharmed, left alone and able to even spend some time there before packing up.

My mind was racing.

Where was this fear coming from? Years of conditioning around staying safe – when and where and how to walk in order to do so? Or growing up in a time when men were driving around in panel vans stealing little girls off of the street? Watching Unsolved Mysteries as a kid (I was convinced I would be abducted by the age of 16)? Centuries of conditioning?

Is there truth to it? Perhaps. Is it also chatter in the mind? Yes. Do I want to keep myself safe and protected? Yes, I think so. Do I want to fear being somewhere just because there are men there and something “might” happen? No.

It brought a lot of questions for me to look at about my practice. How it can be so difficult to learn different techniques in a safe space – like a class (which don’t always feel safe) or at home (which may or may not feel safe to some)? How do I bring those practices more into how I am in the world? How do I match the movement to the breath and still the chatter of the mind in any situation – not just sitting? How do I start to feel safe and trust and stay open in any situation – no matter what the outcome may be?

I started to see more and more of how I could view any outcome as healing.

I started to think over and over about Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2. To translate and paraphrase he says, “yoga is the practice of stilling the fluctuations (or chatter) of the mind”.

The exact opposite of that was happening here. How on earth does someone cultivate a practice where all that happens in a place of safety can also happen in a place that feels unsafe? What is safety anyway?

The more I sat with it the more I realized that for much of my life I have believed people can’t actually see me. I mean – on some level I know they can – and I also tend to forget that aspect of life. I’m starting to wonder how much of that belief is also founded in the more spiritual aspects of myself that were shared (and not believed) as a child – mostly by boys.

I remember the first dream I had where every single detail came true the next day. I told some of the neighbourhood boys who told me that wasn’t possible and made so much fun of me I started to learn to not share those things any more. The ridicule and shame and fear of being judged were too strong.

If people didn’t want to see me, then I would start to not be seen.

In time I let those aspects of myself become buried – I hid them so that they wouldn’t be seen – so that I wouldn’t be seen. And there I was now, smack dab in the middle of a clearing surrounded by men and letting myself and my practice be seen fully.

Letting myself be witnessed – and not being dragged off or persecuted as a result. They let me do my thing. Some watched for a while and moved on.

I had a heightened awareness of my surroundings and of everything that could possible happen to hurt me and I also stayed. I stayed and stepped into the fear. I felt the chatter of the mind escalate, my breath short, and not only did none of those things I imagined happening happen, but a big piece of my spirit started to heal. No one (except my own inner voice) told me to stop. No one cut me off or said this was crazy or get out of there. No one hurt me.

It was fantasy (of what might happen) that took me out of the present moment.

I don’t want to intentionally put myself in danger just to see if I can practice – but what was “dangerous” about that situation? It was all created in my head through years of conditioning. What does that block out? Create? Not allow? Something stops flowing and becomes trapped.

I started to think more broadly as I know there are a lot of things going on in the world – right now and always – and a lot of people and places aren’t considered safe. I wonder too how much of how I move in the world contributes to that sense of safety or fear. Energy feeds energy and if I am filled with fear, those around me can feel it. How then does my energy impact those people around me and their belief systems and healing paths?

I can no longer be afraid to let myself be seen. I want to feel safe in the world – not because of my external surroundings (which I admit are privileged) but because of my internal world.

Being afraid isn’t the answer. Hiding isn’t the answer. Neither will prevent me from being harmed. Embracing the fear and transforming it into being seen: allowing the breath to flow (not constrict) and continuing to still the mind through these practices both on and off the mat give me more options.

It gives me more openness and freedom to move.

To start to not be trapped.