So long…

It's been awhile since my last post. To be honest—I'd forgotten I had this blog at all. No lie.

I was reminded of it the the other day, while listening to "We Made Up Your Mind For You Last Night" by Cloud Cult. I was touched by a moment of feeling awake and alive. I recalled the feeling in my chest just before I channeled this message, and was inspired to find the post and re-read it.

I'm beginning to feel alive again. I've started meditating for 10 minutes every few days. It's a start—more consistent meditation than I've ever committed to before. I can feel the benefits on so many levels.

I recently moved—away from where I lived for 5 years, mostly in isolation. There was very little to do outside my home, and I had few friends—none whom I would consider very close to my heart enough to be completely vulnerable around. There are less than a handful of those friends in the whole world.

Much of my time there was spent isolated. I got to know my self. Or, probably more accurately: I discovered how to look at myself and spent a whole lot of time trying not to be in denial of what I saw. I'm learning acceptance. I now have a son. Shit has gotten real. I need to step up.

I've had an obsession with the caterpillar, and Ram Dass's quote: "You can't rip away caterpillarness." True. Caterpillarness is something that falls away in its own time. When the time is right, the caterpillar is inspired to build a cocoon and hibernate there until the time is right to emerge. He may not even know what's happening or what's motivating his actions. I can relate to that not-knowing. Maybe there's a feeling of anticipation that occurs prior to emerging from the cocoon. I think I'm feeling that right now. Just as there was right before moving to that isolated place, I feel the anticipation of something grand about to unfold.

The isolated time at my old home has ended. I suspected while I was there that it was my cocoon. I feel that sense much stronger now that I've left and feel this anticipation. I don't know what it will be. But I have that feeling in my heart again. That sense of openness. I'm emerging, and I think I'm ready this time.

Teaching Yoga

Another yoga teacher training weekend has passed. They fly by. There are only 3 weekends (7 days) left, and we are teaching to the public for each of those days. It seems unbelievable that we've come so far in what seems like such a short amount of time. We've met for 5 weekends (11 days) since September, and it's amazing to see the progress each and every one of us has been making since the beginning.

I love the way this teacher training is set up. We began by teaching to (and learning from) 3 of the other students in the class, for 2 sets of 10 minutes at a time. It was a rocky start for all of us—we listened to Jacqui's (the YTT teacher) advice, read our manuals about the transitions in and out of each pose, and jumped into teaching. I know I'm not the only one who felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

Then we switched to another set of 3 students, and each time we taught and got more advice from Jacqui, we grew a little more and felt a little more confident. For the last 2 weekends we've been also teaching for five minutes at a time to half the class, which is about 16 students, while the other half of the class works on assisting the students who are following the vocal instruction.

Five minutes may not seem like a whole lot of time, but it's incredibly informative what can be learned during those 5 minutes. It's an amazing experience to vocally guide 16 people through physical movements—to see how each one of them moves differently. What's really amazing is that THEY GUIDE ME too. As I look around the room I see their feet, and their shoulders, and their hips. Because I can see where they are, the words are beginning to come naturally to encourage them toward better alignment. If someone's shoulders are all scrunched up by their ears, I'm reminded to guide everyone toward relaxing their shoulders. So, each student is there to help guide the other students as well… I love that.

Not only does my voice guide their body, but it can guide their mind as well. There are unseen cues that can be given to guide them within; to feel their breath; to focus their attention on the space on their forehead between their eyes; to think of someone they love and send the positive effects of their practice to that person… the cues are endless.

I'm slowly learning that there's a part deep inside of me that really knows the poses. I've done them (the ones I teach, anyway) and felt them all in my own body, so I have the body memory of what they feel like, and how a tiny adjustment can really feel amazing.

I'm also really starting to feel comfortable being myself around the group. It can sometimes take me a long time to really open up and show my heart and soul to a group of people. This Saturday was the first time I walked into the training weekend feeling open and receptive. Each of the weekends before I felt anxiety and self conscious. Perhaps this has to do with feeling more confident about the teaching of the poses. That meek feeling of "I don't know what I'm doing" is passing, and it seems as though the part of me that knows what to do is able to shine more.

The experience of yoga-teacher-training has been, and I'm sure will continue to be a transformative experience. Each of us has shared a moment in our lives when we have been touched by grace. This weekend was my turn to share, and like many others in the class I ended up in an emotional blubbering mess while trying to talk about it. It's incredibly humbling to be so vulnerable in front of 35 people, who just a few months ago had no idea who you were. I have so much respect for the lives and processes that each and every one of the other yogis in the training. They have all gone through so much, and overcome so many obstacles. It really is teaching me that we can't judge any other person. Everyone has a story that we don't know, and they're all beautiful—as hard as they are, we're making it through, and THAT is what's beautiful.

So, I invite you to join me and all these beautiful people in one (or more) of the community classes that we're offering over the next 3 weekends that we meet.

January 18, 19 and 20
February 1 and 2
March 8 and 9

Reflections in others - the shadow self

It's been coming to my attention much more often lately, that everything I experience is a reflection of my own inner life. Each time I run into a person who seems to ruffle my feathers, a little flag goes up for me. I ask myself what it is about that person that seems to irk me? I don't stay with this thought long, it's usually just the question… and it remains unanswered.

Instead of diving into seeking what I don't like about the person, I'll choose to shift my focus away from them and into myself. Each individual person has a bigger picture—something that I cannot see—and for me to judge them for being too needy, or overprotective, or egotistical really has nothing to do with them and their life.

How ever I am perceiving anything outside of myself is a reflection of how I'm feeling inside of myself. So rather than judging or blaming anything outside of myself as the reason for my discomfort, it's a much more healing exercise to recognize myself in what it is that I'm witnessing and investigate internally what beliefs I'm holding onto that cause me to see it in the way I'm seeing it. It brings my power back to me—changes my mentality from the role of victim to creator.

The people closest to us reflect to us our deepest hidden truths. They know us best, and in a way, we are attracted to them because they have something to show us that when we see it in ourselves it will allow us to heal on the deepest level. The things about everyone in our lives that bother us are there to teach us about ourselves. Of course, it's always a choice to look at it this way or not to. It's entirely possible to be so upset by them that you need to entirely walk away. But know that whatever is there for you to heal will continue to present itself until you see it with open eyes and are willing to heal through it. Walking away is a temporary band-aid. When we need to see something, the universe will continue to present us with a mirror to encourage the opening of our eyes. If we walk away from one mirror, another will appear.

We live in a vibrational reality—a world where energy creates everything, and vibrates along a range of frequencies. Whatever frequency we are vibrating at—because of our thoughts and feelings—is what we are capable of seeing in the world in that moment. Therefore, whenever we are feeling light and bubbly, the world shows us how light and bubbly it can be. Likewise, when we are feeling depressed or angry, the world seems to be a very depressing and angering place.

Whenever we are presented with something in our lives that makes us uncomfortable, it's an opportunity for us to witness a little bit of our unconscious programming, and bring it into consciousness. We can see what type of world we are manifesting for ourselves. Just the fact that that situation has been brought into our awareness is a sign that there's something there for us to look at inside. It's not outside, it's always inside. Whatever appears on the outside is all a reflection of what is inside. That's how this world works.

This is often referred to as the shadow self. The shadow can be shown to us through other people—they act in ways that we don't like or disapprove of, or don't want to see or be around. These things that they show us—just by being who they are—are the things that we are in denial of about ourselves, but are attracting to ourselves because it's a part of who we are, and we are unconsciously projecting this energy out into the universe asking for it to manifest.

What is there to do about it?
When we can acknowledge and take responsibility that everything we experience is brought into our lives because we asked for it, we begin to look at the world a little differently. We now see each interaction with another person as a gift—as a way of seeing something we might not have been able to see before. We can witness the interaction from an un-attached point of view and watch as our bodies retract and expand, and take note of the things in the interaction that caused the shift. When we can see what causes our bodies to retract and expand, it's possible to investigate into our beliefs about what triggered the shift.

For example, when someone walks by swiftly and starts banging things around in a nearby room I notice my body retract, and pull away from that person. Upon sitting with the feeling and investigating into the reasons why I pulled away I might learn that I believe the person to be angry, then taken it personally thinking they were angry at me for something I did or didn't do. Then… not knowing what it was that I did to cause this anger I might think that they had expectations of me that I did not live up to, causing them to become angry. I pull away from them and wish they would let go of their anger.

All that is a story I've made up. It's not real. When I can take a step back and investigate the feelings I have within myself I may recognize that my resistance to their noisy actions may be because I have seeds of anger within myself that I'm in denial of, and don't like to look at. The person being noisy in the other room is simply a mirror for me to reflect on the angry seeds within myself, and I'm resistant of it because it's not something I want to acknowledge. That resistance so often—when kept unconscious—can lead to us wanting the other person to change, and be different from how they are so that we don't have to look into the mirror anymore. If they change, and become not angry, then the mirror goes away and I'm comfortable again…

But we don't have control over that. The actions of another person are beyond our control. The only thing we can control is how we respond to each moment. When we can respond with mindfulness, and bring consciousness to the resistance we feel within, we can face the mirror and choose to summon bravery to look at what we don't want to see. Each and every instance of resistance can be an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Some of these things are not easy, but all of them are worth learning, and becoming conscious of. Bringing awareness to things we were once unconscious of is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, our family, friends, community and the world. It removes the unconscious programming that we've absorbed our entire lives, and helps us to wake up to what's real.

"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."‬ ~ Rumi

So, when the resistance arrives, before reacting (if possible), or as soon as you become aware, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Know that the actions of the other are a gift for you. You may not see what it is right away. Simply keep breathing, and try to accept the other person as they are without persuading them to change. Keep breathing. If you need to, walk away, but know that your walking away is only temporary relief in order for you to re-center. Keep your focus on your breath, and let your thoughts float past. They will likely be noisy and try to tell you all sorts of reasons for why the other is wrong and why your resistance is justified… simply breathe. Breathe really loud if you need to, letting your breath be louder than your thoughts.

Moving into and beyond discomfort.

I've written about acceptance many times on this blog. It's something I'm constantly ebbing and flowing in and out of. It seems appropriate to want to write about it whenever I notice that eb and flow.

As I witness myself experiencing my life I notice a lot of resistance lately. Whenever I'm resisting, I'm not allowing what IS to exist. Instead I wish for it to be different than it is, and I feel out of control. This out-of-control feeling sends me spiraling into my mind, where I try to figure out how to find something to grasp onto which might help me feel in control again. This leads me to destructive addictions and habits, such as arguing about stupid things just so I can feel right about something, or over eating foods that I know don't love me back because there's a hole in my belly that yearns to be filled.

The belly, or third chakra, is where our power lives—our will. When we're feeling out of control, it's because something is out of balance in our third chakra—our belly. We feel butterflies, or nauseous or like there's a never ending hole that needs someTHING to fill it. If we remain unaware of these feelings, and continue to feed them or deny them the attention they crave, then the cycle of ungrounded lack of control will remain cycling throughout our lives.

A chakra is a non-physical wheel of energy that directs energy into, out of and throughout the body. There are 7 major chakras. The third chakra is located in the belly—there are 2 below it (the root and the sacral) and 4 above it (the heart, throat, third eye and crown). Commonly, if we are noticing chronic reoccurring discomfort in any of these areas, when we readjust the energetic flow more toward balance in that area, then the discomfort will ease.

When we're aware that these uncomfortable feelings are a result of an unbalanced energy center, we can focus our attention there—shine some light where there was once darkness, unconsciousness—and begin to turn the ship around—begin to bring some balance into our lives that helps manifest… in the case of the third chakra: confidence.

One really simple way I go about doing this is by simply placing my hands on my body—as if to tell my body: "It's okay. I recognize that you're suffering. I'm here for you."

Our bodies are like small children. In our minds, we may feel all grown up and adult, but as we've grown our bodies have taken all the things that our minds can't handle at the time and hidden them away to resurface at a later time when our minds are more capable of handling them. The body is wise—it knows when the mind has the capability of being able to handle the feelings and make sense of them from a new, more adult, perspective than it possibly could have when we originally experienced the feeling.

For example—any abuse that a child endures. Each time a child is exposed to a certain type of abuse that child's body learns ways of hiding away the feelings of the abuse so the child can tolerate the moments while being abused. These hiding places keep the feelings hidden until the body can be reassured that it's safe now. It's okay to come out from the hiding place and be acknowledged.

I'm reminded of a beautiful story that I heard from Tara Brach, during one of her podcasts.
A number of years ago I was working with a client, who also had some exposure to meditation, and she shared a story that for her expressed her own experience.  I want to tell you the story:  It starts when she’s 7-years-old hiding in a closet, terrified after another unexpected attack from her drunken, enraged father.  The little girl is praying saying, “Help, I can’t take it anymore.”  And she opens her eyes to see a fairy in a haze of blue with a glittering wand.  She lets the fairy know how her father has been beating her and that her mother doesn’t help, and how she believes they both really wish she was dead.
The fairy listens with tears in her eyes.  She tells the little girl that while she can’t make all this pain disappear, she can help her get through this time.  She can help her forget, then help her remember later when she’s able to handle it.  With a wave of the wand, the good fairy says, “I’m going to send things into different parts of your body and they are going to hold them for you until you feel strong enough to let them move freely again.”  And she explained she would dull her pelvis and her belly to block the sexual energy from moving, and she would constrict her heart and her throat so she wouldn’t feel the raw intensity of her fear and the need to cry out.  The little girl wouldn’t have to feel the broken-heartedness.
“You’ll have trouble feeling and being close to people, but it will be your way of surviving.  At those times that the pain erupts, you will find your own ways to control it.  Ways that may not look good to the world, but will be of temporary comfort.  And you, my darling, will be fairly functional.  You will be a functional human being in spite of all this because you have a strong mind and you can hold all this in.  And I will be helping you.”
The child looked directly into the fairy’s eyes and asked, “How will you help?  Will you come back to see me?” 
The fairy replied, “You will not forget everything.  I will leave a voice inside that will urge you to reconnect with your whole self.  It may be a very long process, but in time, you will feel an urgent calling to step out of imprisoning beliefs, to unwind your body and release what is has been holding all these years.  You will learn the art of sacred presence.  There will be physical and emotional pain as you open, but you will have what you need:  the compassion and wisdom, the support of loving others to be a whole person, spiritually awake, but still the same.  It’s because your soul has always been there, just hidden by scars of this lifetime.”
The story ends as the fairy gently puts her arms around the little girl’s shoulders and leads her to bed.  As the little girl finally relaxed into deep sleep, the fairy gazed tenderly at the small, innocent face and then whispered her goodbye.
“When you wake up, you will forget I was here.  You will forget you asked for help.  You will forget the sharpness of your daily pain.  This is the only way I know to get you through this.  You are a beautiful child, and I love you.  In fact, your parents love you, although they are incapable of showing it to you.  You will have to love yourself enough to heal so that when you are older, your life will be powerful, full, and free.  One day you will know who you really are.  You will trust your goodness and know your belonging.  Until then, and for always, I love you.”

Placing our hand over the part of our body that is feeling uncomfortable is a way of saying to the body that it's safe now. You're present with the feeling, and it's okay for that feeling to be felt now, as there is nothing here that is directly harmful—nothing but a memory. Then, for as long as possible close your eyes and focus on your breath. With each inhale feel how your body expands beneath your hands allowing a little more space for the feeling to grow into.  With each exhale, feel a little more ease as some of the discomfort leaves your body. It's okay now.

The next step - Yoga Teacher Training

The first weekend of yoga teacher training has come and gone. Going into it, I felt nervous, and insecure—afraid that I wasn't where I thought I "should" be; concerned that everyone else there would be so further along in their practice than me, and that I would hold people back.

We began by rolling out our mats and practicing a flow to the sound of Jacqui's voice. Afterward I felt the room had calmed, and felt more unified than before. We were beginning to become more comfortable with being around each other. As Jacqui began, she quelled our fears and insecurities. I'm sure I wasn't the only one feeling the way I did. What she said spoke directly to my fears, and it really eased me to hear her address them. I'm not the only one. We're all in this together. I began to feel closer to each of the other people in the room. I had compassion for myself and for each of them, realizing that we're all possibly feeling the same sorts of insecurities about ourselves, and our practice.

We gathered in a circle and each of us spoke about where we're from and what brought us to Jacqui's yoga teacher training. It took us a couple hours to go all the way around the circle, holding space for each person as we opened up and shared a little bit about ourselves. Each one of us has a history—a story—that brings us to where we are now, and each one of these stories is beautiful. I shared the story of how I was introduced to Jacqui, at one of her Chakra Cleanse workshops, and how my life got flipped upside down afterwards; my journey with Reiki, and that in March I finally worked through a big emotional blockage that has allowed me to finally commit to the yoga teacher training that I've been wanting to do for years.

Jacqui spoke about yoga, and how she dissects the flow into 8 "threads" as she calls them. Each thread is worked for an equal amount of time throughout the whole practice, and each focuses on a different aspect of the physical/energetic body. Seeing that there is a really logical and structured way to design a vinyasa flow was comforting to me, and because they are worked in small segments, for about 10 minutes each helped me to feel more confident that it will be possible for me to learn it. I'm all about baby steps—learning things in little batches, before assembling the whole—and that seems to be what we'll be doing throughout this training.

We learned how important proper alignment is in Mountain Pose, and that it carries into so many (all?) of the other postures that we do. She helped re-train how we do chaturanga (high to low push-up), while maintaining the alignment of Mountain.

Sunday we began with another flow, but this time, as we completed each "thread" we would pause for a question and answer period. Jacqui would address questions about the specific poses that are worked in that thread, and help us to understand more about the alignment of each of the poses.

I did a lot of yoga this weekend, and my body handled it much better than I was anticipating. I feared that I would not be able to keep up, but Jacqui's flows always seem to allow enough time to breathe, and move, that even when my muscles feel like they're going to drop me at any time, I can still breathe and maintain the strength I need. My shoulders are more sore than I ever remember them being in the past—and that's awesome. I'm excited to feel more in shape and stronger than ever before, and I know that this training is going to help me get there—stronger physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I'm confident that this is going to be one of the most therapeutic things I've ever done.

My homework for the next month is to read Yogabody by Judith Hanson Lasater, read through the anatomy section of the workbook, read the intro to, and flip through The Trail Guide to the Body, practice every day (yoga, meditation, journaling, in some-way being with myself), and prepare to teach threads 2, 3, 5 and 6. The next time we meet there will be some intense anatomy lessons with David Vendetti and I'll be teaching those 4 threads to three of my fellow yogi classmates.
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