Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My New Mantra

   I have decided to take on a mantra for this year and it is "Don't Try So Hard!". In a recent conversation with one of my wise teachers we examined my tendency to hold myself to a strict and high standard especially in my yoga teaching, and how I beat myself up when I feel I have not performed or shown up the way I want to. I try so very hard, and what it is really about is feeling I need to prove myself worthy. The problem is that that place that seeks to be filled is never satisfied, no matter how hard I might try or how good I might be. This method is madness.

   There is a saying, "When you know better, you do better.", I am finally identifying and owning this dysfunctional pattern and now with my mantra as my guide I can continue to make friends with this wounded space and give it what it needs to heal. I have already made some real progress and find myself being less reactive when I make a mistake or things don't come out exceptional in my mind.
I remember in the module on transformational teaching in my 500 hour yoga teacher training Vidya and Devarshi saying "Hear the truth. You are already perfect, complete, infinite and whole just as you are.".  I wanted to believe that concept and in truth the deepest part of me did, but this black hole wound kept it from shining through. It is faith in those words though which will fill the hole, nothing else will.

  Imagine what it would be like if we all took on this mantra and treated ourselves with less strictness and judgment. What if instead of "Do more, try harder." we could embrace "Do less, be softer."?  I don't think this is a call to apathy or laziness. I think it is a call to balance and respect of energy.  A good friend recently said to me in a conversation about this very topic of my insecurity in teaching, "Just be yourself, and it will be perfect.", and now I pass that on to you. Whatever you do in any moment, just be yourself, and know, really know, breathe it in, that that is enough.       

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Looking Back on the Thirties, Moving Forward Into the Forties

"Forty is a most beautiful age. In mystic thought forty symbolizes the ascent from one level to a higher one and spiritual awakening. When a baby is born it takes forty days for him to get ready to start life on earth. And when we are in love we need to wait forty days to be sure of our feelings. The Flood of Noah lasted forty days, and while the waters destroyed life, they also washed all impurity away. In Islamic mysticism there are forty degrees between man and God. Likewise there are four basic stages of consciousness and ten degrees in each making forty total levels. Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and nights. Muhammad was forty years old when he received the call to become a prophet. Buddha meditated under the linden tree for forty days. You receive a new mission at forty, a new lease on life! You have reached a most auspicious number. Congratulations! There are no wrinkles or gray hair strong enough to defy the power of forty!" ~ from "The Forty Rules of Love ~ A Novel of Rumi" by Elif Shafak

I turned forty today. I must say I am excited about entering this next decade. As opposed to my teens, twenties and even much of my thirties I feel grounded and secure. I know what moves me, I know what I love (and what I don't), I feel alive and vital and have a growing sense of my depth of spirit and with all the work and wonder, adventure and agony, fear and ferocity that has gotten me thus far I am tingling with anticipation of what lies ahead.

My teens and early twenties were very difficult and painful years for me. I struggled with low self -esteem , depression and anxiety. I made a lot of bad choices and by the grace of God got by without suffering the full consequences of those choices. I was very unhealthy. I drank, smoked and did everything to excess. Most of all I was a lost soul who had no sense of self or worthiness. No direction.

My twenties were about beginning to reclaim myself and to begin the difficult work of self inquiry and inspection. In my twenties I found love and got married, began to realize that I have value and ability, that I had more potential and courage than I had ever recognized before. By the end of my twenties I had done much soul searching, crying, battling, adventuring and questioning. I had two children by the age of twenty nine and despite my terror about being a mother I loved them intensely from the fist moment they each arrived.

My thirties have been a true decade of transformation, revolution and coming home. My thirties have been a WOW, never thought that would happen, amazing journey with a voice whispering to me along the way "Remember who you are." In this transformation have been struggles and mistakes and heartbreak but coupled with so much joy and awakening unlike ever before. So as I leave this marvelous and messy decade behind I want to acknowledge here, with gratitude, some of the wonderful things it has brought me.

~ Two more daughters.  Meg who came to us through foster care at the age of 12 and then we became her legal guardians, and the birth of Harper. Mason is our son and eldest turning 13 soon, and Avery our other daughter is 10.

~ I found yoga and knew immediately it would be my life calling. Yoga is my way of being and my spiritual path.

~ I explored art and photography and have shown in galleries.

~Became a yoga teacher. First earning my 200 hour and then my 500 hour certificates.

~ I have moved to the East Coast, with my amazing husband and kids and have been in New York and now Connecticut (close to my spiritual home Kripalu Center).

~ I met Jill Perry and with her help and guidance have become a marathon runner. NEVER thought I could or would ever achieve that!

~ Started Whole Running with Jill Perry. Starting and running a small business another never would have thought.

~ Found Yoga Dance and beloved teacher Megha who has been like my mother of dance. She showed me the way home to the dancer I have always been. Became a Let Your Yoga Dance teacher and now assist the trainings.

~ Found my spiritual teacher Vidya Ma who showed me that miracles do happen because we made one happen.

~ I am currently in a yearlong teacher training called The Acharya Intensive with Vidya Ma and Devarshi learning and exploring what it means to be a spiritual teacher. ME a SPIRITUAL TEACHER?  Yes, everything in me knows I am where I am supposed to be.

I feel so very blessed for all that I have and for the learning I have received thus far. I look forward to experiencing and celebrating all that is to come whether it be happiness or hardship. All experience arrives right on time and for good reason to further our growth and awakening. Everything calls us home to love, the true and endless nature of all of us.

To end here is a quote that showed up on Facebook today.

  an excerpt from Universal Birthday Messages
by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati
The first and last command of the inner Guru is this: not to have identity with the body and mind. You are not the body and mind, although you have a body and mind. Body and mind are your vehicles. They depend on you.
They are alive because of you; otherwise, they are already dead.

You are the ocean of awareness, and that awareness is the first and last religion, the first and last freedom. Awareness is your real home, which is called OM.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Marvelous Mess Ups in a Yoga Class Gone Right

 I spent this past week at my spiritual home in this life, Kripalu Center, in the beautiful Berkshires of Massachusetts. I was there doing one of the things I love most, assisting Let Your Yoga Dance teacher training. One of my jobs in the program is to lead morning yoga class for our group. My first time up came Tuesday morning and I was feeling quite nervous as there were several fabulous and experienced yoga teachers in the group, as well as some people with little yoga experience at all. I am a planner and bit of a control freak with my classes and I hold high expectations of myself. I spent Monday night writing my plan and feeling the sequencing, and then dreamt of it during my sparse sleep that night.

  I arrived in the room early to move, breathe, and find my courage as well as my center. At 6:30 a.m. everyone had arrived and class began. As I got the group moving in gentle warm ups, I found my rhythm and was feeling connected and at ease. We eventually made our way into a sequence of spinal movements and flow, a graceful dance of movement and breath. My planned transition came and then a voice from the front of the room asked, "Don't we need to do the other side?".  My heart skipped a beat and my breath caught in my throat. I waited to feel the crushing pain of my mistake, my heartbreak in the failure. Instead, to my own shock and surprise, it did not come, and instead I found myself smiling, with a light heart. I made a comment about being a little vata (airy) and saying that of course we will do the other side. That was that, a moment of experience, and then it was gone.

  I continued class, found my flow again, and in no time relaxation was upon us. I put on some dreamy music and gave the class guidance in letting go and finding stillness. I could feel the energy of the room become quiet and expansive and I felt quite happy and complete. That is when the fire alarm went off. Again, I paused to receive the panic and resistance, and again it did not come. Instead I found another inner smile and giggle, and I spoke into the microphone in a deep slow tone, "Your relaxation has come to an end. (and then a quick deadpan) Om shanti. Run for your lives." Everyone rose up with laughter fluttering through the room, and we made our way outside.  It was cool and rainy but I took deep breaths and just kept smiling.

  Afterward, I felt such a glowing pride and sense of victory.  I have a strong and sometimes brutal inner critic and tend to hold myself to strict standards from a fear of rejection. God forbid I would make a mistake or lose control, then everyone would see my flawed messy self and be done with me. Ridiculous and irrational? Yes, but who isn't, in these soft, tender, hidden regions? Chances are you might feel this way too and now you know you are not alone. Victory is possible. On this day, in this class, a miracle happened. The miracle of me finding compassion instead of criticism, for no one but myself. I found my natural sense of humor and lightness of being. I received experience without attachment or judgment. I encountered my witness consciousness in a place where it would usually succumb to the strong forces of my story of rejection. Wow, what a blessing, what a rush of freedom!

 I am sure that this is a part of myself that I will face again and again, but I now have a jumping off point to go to. I have a new storyline and a new way of being with this part of myself.  I know and I teach that the only way to heal fully is to embrace all parts of ourselves, the parts we love and the parts we disdain. Yoga means union, to welcome it all and find the marvelous miracle of who we are, even in the mess, the loss of control, the undoing of plans. Yoga is learning to love ourselves without exception or condition, a difficult practice, but one full of grace.

Om shanti.