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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Welcoming 2015...reflections from The Pit.

I haven't written much this last year. I think because my father's words are still ringing in my ears ~ "If you don't have something positive to say maybe you shouldn't say anything." It's been a year of tremendous challenge for me. And often it felt as though there really wasn't much positivity to speak of.

Yet here I sit. The first day of a brand New Year. The winds, wild outside my window right now, seem so appropriate. Stirring things up. Blowing away the old. Making room for change. I am filled with an unmistakable feeling of victory. Somehow I'm still here. Somehow life keeps moving forward. Most of 2014 felt like I was continually bracing myself for the blow after blow that just kept coming. It started last November really, when the building that is home to my (brand new) yoga studio was signed over to a "new landlord". The supportive and uber-professional man that I spent almost a year negotiating my 5 year lease with decided (without warning or notice) to sign the building over to his ex wife. A woman who would prove to be one of the most negative humans I've ever encountered. A woman who seemingly finds joy in trying to continually shame, intimidate and attempt to destroy others as if it were some kind of sport. Then, December marked the passing of one of my closest friends and greatest supporters as my Dad died very suddenly. The subsequent months that followed are a blur as we went through the (incredibly painful) motions of  clearing, organizing and dealing with all the unfinished business, and my grief stricken mother, that he left behind. Shortly after that my (brand new) business sustained a devastating flood. The first of three (THREE!) in fact that started the horrible process of dealing with the aforementioned landlord who then made me a target for her own rage instead of a tenant, paying good money, that she could be supporting (and working cooperatively and professionally with) to face the issues that continuously seem to arise at one of this town's older buildings.You'd think as a landlord happy tenants would mean an easier happier life. Not for this woman.

Like fireworks that just keep exploding the waves of challenges have continued. All. Year. Long.

The most difficult part of this year was the fact that I was never afforded a chance to just stop. To rest. To take time off to process all that was happening. With the challenge of building a new business, and the 2 part-time jobs I work outside of the studio, there simply wasn't time to slow down. So I just kept pushing through. And as someone who has difficulty with 'vulnerability' the challenge of this was absolutely monumental. Teaching yoga is not as "easy" as it looks. Especially when you are in the midst of your own series of crisis. Not only must you keep moving forward, but you're going through all of this in front of other people, all day every day. By February/March I had developed an ulcer and extreme digestive problems that caused me to vomit, uncontrollably, about 70% of the time I attempted to eat. I also started experiencing heart problems which caused fainting spells, a series of injuries (including a cracked rib) intense bouts of debilitating anxiety and somehow managed to accumulate an additional 30 pounds on my (normally) lean frame. My body became riddled with inflammation as my need for rest was never fully met and my cortisol levels never given a chance to effectively diminish. Several of my classes at times had to be cancelled as I would spend many sleepless nights writhing in pain on my bathroom floor, too exhausted to even move the next morning. Horrible...yes. But through all of this I am still here.

I'm sharing this because none of us are immune. Everyone loves to pretend that their lives are perfect and unscathed. But we will ALL, at some point, experience what I call these 'testing phases' of life. Some of us more than others as we have lots to learn so that we can be of greater service to humanity. And this is how Life teaches us. Like a compassionate divine mother we are ALL given exactly what is needed to grow. We are all served exactly the perfect portion(s) of challenges so that we can learn to overcome and thrive. Like the lotus, growing up through the muck and darkness toward the light to blossom and bloom, we are all meant to just keep growing.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just. Keep. Going.

I experienced a couple of my closest friends retreating from me because they either didn't know what to say or do, or were totally intolerant to my process as I tried to navigate through the various levels of my grief while attempting to keep a business running and continuously recover from the unending 'episodes' of craziness. And yet, despite everything, I feel nothing but gratitude right now. Deep humility and absolute graciousness. I'm still here! To those "friends" who refused to support me - Thank you. You gave me the gift of learning to support myself. To my landlord who tries to make my life as difficult as she can - Thank you. I am so very grateful that I am not like you. You teach me constantly how to be a better person by never becoming like you. In fact to every single difficult person, every judgement and every challenge that came this year I majestically bow to you, to all of it. Thank you, each and every one of you, for serving my highest good and assisting me in becoming a better, stronger and more resilient ME. To my (slightly curvier) body - Thank you for slowing me down when I needed it and building a little extra cushion to help soften some of the blows. To my man, and my closest friends ~ Thank you, so much, for being by my side through all of this. I am forever grateful for your patience and your ability to see the real me even when I can't. There is nothing more powerful than your unconditional love and I am fueled by it every single day.

Nothing is ever just shit. There is a seed of light within every dark moment. Sometimes it's just a wee tiny seed, but it is always there....waiting for us to notice it so that it can grow.There is a gift inside every tear that is shed in frustration or fear.

There's a couple of things I know for sure:
Yoga is medicine. It will heal your broken heart and help you to recreate yourself at each and every stage of life. Food is medicine. It, too, can heal and mend you on every level. And Love is also medicine. The most potent medicine of them all. I will continue to love despite everything. I will continue to grow and I WILL flourish. This day marks the starting of my rebuilding. Some of you will get to witness this. But regardless - I WILL succeed. Because I am still here.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Letting Go.

The practices of yoga and meditation help us to become more aware; more clear.
Awareness acts like a light flicking on to illuminate a dark room. That dark room could be your anger, your insecurity, your jealousy, your addiction(s), your avoidance, or the fear that you are allowing to run amuck in your life. Once illuminated we have the opportunity to Let Go.

Letting go requires some practice.
Like being the still, silent observer in Savasana at the end of your yoga class.
Again and again we come back to Savasana. To stillness. To learning to let go.

When our fears are left unchecked they become very real. Soon they infiltrate our every relationship, every perception, and may even begin to manifest as physical symptoms of illness or dis-ease within our bodies and minds. Soon we are reacting out of fear and insecurity  - closing our hearts, closing ourselves off from friends, from lovers, from life. When we close and tighten around the vulnerable areas within us we actually begin to defend and protect the very things we want/need to let go of.

When you start to notice you no longer like the people in your life, or that life seems mundane and you no longer feel the joy of a new day; when things start to feel negative, everywhere, this is a sign that it's time to Let Go. In fact, as soon as you start to feel that internal stress, or the fire rising within you, something is being triggered. It's time to Let Go.

Doing this, I'm finding, is simpler than it sounds. Just like Life,  in your yoga practice ...things will come up - a fearful thought, a judgement, a negative projection...and you simply notice these things as they present themselves. You let them rise to meet your consciousness. Then - instead of following that thought or that imaginary scenario down into the rabbit hole and tightening and closing your heart - you Let. It. Go.
Let it rise.... Notice it.... Feel it.... Let it go.

Life will help you. When you remain centered and aware everywhere you go you will notice triggers. Triggers are the things that stir up all the blocked energy within you. If you are committed to your own happiness, your own peace, you can begin to welcome these triggers. Instead of running away, smoking more cigarettes, eating more food, drinking more alcohol or doing whatever it is you continually do when discomfort presents in your life - you let yourself stay present. In the words of the Dalai Lama: "Every person we meet is an opportunity to practice..."

For example ~ I was recently told by a young 22 year old kid (who incidentally has never left the small town where he was raised and still lives with his parents) that I don't have a "real job"...among other things. This person is familiar with the struggles I have had this year and the enormous amount of energy it has taken to launch my business. Anyone who's ever attempted to be an entrepreneur, or to operate a yoga studio in this economy, knows just how much work is involved. In that moment I felt his disrespect like a punch in the gut. I let the energy rise within me. I felt the heat rush to my cheeks. I watched all the clever retorts and insults I wanted to say pour into my mind. but instead of entering into a banter of egos (I'm sure what he was hoping for) I simply let it go. Then I politely excused myself. Respectfully declining his high-five on my way out.

No explanation is needed. The Work is all done in the privacy of your own heart and mind.
It's easy to close your heart and shut down. It's easy to take other people's disrespect and ignorance personally. But the consequence of doing so is not optimal - bitterness, resentment, self doubt, more fear, isolation. Getting involved in the darkness does not dispel it. It feeds it.

When presented with darkness, no matter the source, look up and allow yourself to rise above it. Relax your heart. And let it fall behind you. Do not push against it, try to enter into dialog with it, or allow yourself to close and tighten because of it.

A great place to practice this is on your yoga mat or the meditation cushion, as there are plenty of things that will always arise. Especially when we begin to slow ourselves down and get really present. Your awareness keeps you centered and connected to your true nature. Call it Spirit, Shakti, Prana, Soul, whatever.....being aware allows you to stay in your center while the melodrama of life parades before you. Practice observing and letting go. Practice keeping your heart soft and open. Then, when you step off the mat and out into the world...keep noticing, keep returning to your breath, keep practicing.