Thursday, July 26, 2012

Let's Stay Together

‎"Find the blessings in the people around you because they're the ones that support your life."
— Dr. Oz

My husband Stephen and I just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary, 18 years of magnificent, and yes, oftentimes messy marriage.

As I considered writing this post I realized that there is enough material here for a book, but this is a blog, so I will hit the highlights and if you want to know more just ask, and I will answer, within reason of course, not up to a tell all. Don't worry Stephen.

First of all, my husband is truly incredible. He supports my dreams and ideas even when they are not things that he enjoys or even understands. He is a great dad who genuinely attends to his family. He makes pancakes on Saturday mornings, waffles on Sundays. When he looks at our kids he beams with pride and adoration. He is not afraid to show emotion, a man who can cry, what a gift. He is devoted, loyal and loving. He is my greatest blessing.

Our relationship began when we were just entering our twenties, so young. We were in college, trying to figure it out, who we were, what we would be, what we wanted in life. We were both lost, on the wild side, rebellious, angry, wounded. We partied more than we studied, we were reckless thrill seekers rejecting social norms, intelligent but self destructive. We both had murky, thick pools of pain to slog through and found it better to do so holding onto a hand that understood. We came together in our falling apart.

Together we got through troubled times, addressed our addictions and started our emotional healing.  Our marriage has been a journey of mutual healing. It has been amazing and difficult, heart wrenching at times. I believe that our closest relationships are forged in soul connection, we come together because our souls are drawn to their teachers and sometimes the lessons are tough.

Stephen and I have struggled through some great challenges in these 18 years together. Our like experiences that brought us together also meant we shared some powerful shadow qualities. Anger, shame, guilt, trauma, anxiety and depression have all made appearances. In our relationship we have brought out the best in each other, and the worst, like holding up a mirror to show the other everything that needs to be seen, everything that needs to be explored, everything that needs to be healed and held, finally, in the arms of acceptance and love.

I think this is where many marriages go wrong, and we almost went this way as well. When the struggle gets deep and intense that is where the seeds of great growth and healing might be planted, that is when it is vital to stay together, at least long enough to dig in, to feel, to find out. Some relationships do run their course, or can't be healed and must end, but I think this is a culture of reactivity, looking for either quick fixes, or quick escapes. Instead of first pausing to breathe, feel, communicate, there is a fear based impulse to cut and run. I have had my share of moments of wanting to run away and not look back, growth has its pains. Love must sometimes be endured as well as cherished.

Forgiveness is the cornerstone of love.

We have come a long way together, we have weathered many storms and have enjoyed even more days of sun. We are blessed beyond measure to have each other, our beautiful children and a love that has been steadfast, patient and strong. We have learned about forgiveness many times over, in so many ways, and continue on that path. We have also learned that we can make all the room we each need to be different from each other. We don't have to agree on everything, or anything even, we can march to different drummers and still dance together. We are perfectly imperfect together and have blossomed into more than we ever dreamed possible, holding the hand of someone who understands, not with their head, but with their heart.

"Let's stay together, loving you whether, whether, times are good or bad happy or sad."
 ~Al  Green

 I dedicate this song to you Stephen. Let's keep staying together.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dancing With Dirt

  I recently went to my home state of Wisconsin to hang with my family (mom, dad, siblings, and nephews) and run in an extreme trail marathon called "Dances With Dirt".  Many of my friends would tell me this race had my name on it. I am an earth worshipper and I love to dance, my inspiration and expression respectively. I knew the course would be challenging and beautiful, a promise of steep bluff climbs and descents, rocks, roots and rugged terrain. Stunning and dangerous, the juxtaposition of nature.  I love this because it is so intense and intimate, all my senses buzzing and heightened, the pure state of being alive.

  Waiting for the race to begin my heart was beating quickly, I felt a potent surge of adrenaline and anticipation mingled with fear. The back of the race shirt quoted the first line of the waiver I had signed, " ...I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death...".  Alright, clearly this was done to make us participants feel sufficiently bad ass, and now we even have a shirt to prove it, but unlike any other event I have done this one put it's money where it's mouth is. Hot weather, rugged terrain, at one point running quite close to cliffs with no fence, not even a rope barrier. The element of danger was not overwhelming but not fictitious either. I was dancing with fear, dancing with my mind and emotions. Toward the end of the race I was so tired I resorted to singing a medley of LMFAO songs just to give my mind something to chew on, but quickly stopped as the momentary distraction resulted in a couple near falls. Mind over matter, focus on the what is, let go of the story, let go of resistance and embrace tired, embrace pain, find strength in spirit. Powerful. I am powerful.      

 Upon reflection I can say I discovered that trail running really is a dance with dirt. It has rhythm and pulse, every step crucial and expressive. It requires deep feeling and intuition in order to sense and respond in each moment to my dance partner, earth. At times we would be moving fluid and at other times staccato steps or small leaps and bounds, often having to surrender to earth's superiority and we would walk . A complex melody of movement, sometimes climbing, sometimes descending, perhaps falling. I had to be vigilant and focused to anticipate the next step while entrained simultaneously in this one, the feeling of speeding on the razors edge, but also each moment so vast in experience; endless, infinite. Dances of inner and outer worlds conjoined, harmonious, exhilarating. I felt dazzled and yet comfortably at home, content, just as I do on a dance floor.

 I find trail running to be a deep meditation as well. To run the trail requires ultimate focus and presence, each footfall and each breath are critical and precise. Distraction is dangerous on the trail.  Death no longer a distant and denied presence, but striding right there alongside the pumping thrill of life. There is nowhere else to be, nothing to do but take a next step, the next breath, no one to be. Here on the trail there is no identity, no responsibility, no status.  I find myself in awe, humbled, in a deep reconnection to earth and sky, animals and plants, water and wind. I feel deeply that I am not separate from these things, none of us are. To imagine that we stand apart from this sacred temple of the earth is a grand delusion. If meditation is a path to self realization that strips away illusion and shines the light of consciousness on truth then trail running serves that purpose for me (this is a personal statement and most certainly is not every one's experience).

 I finished that day empty and yet full, blistered and raw physically and energetically but also empowered and bursting with deep joy and gratitude for all that dance with dirt had gifted me. Courage and humility, endurance and presence, seeing beauty in all, in everything, and to feel connected to people and land, one with the trees and the very dirt, a harmony and wholeness only possible when one learns to relish all experience and to savor even the moments of struggle and exhaustion. I came away with a greater respect, appreciation and understanding of myself. Dancing with dirt I unearthed yet another layer of me, and the dance goes on.

I intend to dance with dirt many more times.            

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anticipation Is Interesting

  I am getting ready to leave on a weekend trip to see my family and run a crazy trail marathon with my brother. My brain is almost living in two dimensions. One is of the here and now making the necessary preparations, but another part is already living in tomorrow and especially Saturday, race day. My mind is already trying to experience camping, waking early, getting to the start, and blast off (ok just to pump me up we will call it blast off ). I can almost feel the run, the sweat, the waves of exhilaration and fatigue, my body pre-sensing, it is palpable. Anticipation. Funny how the anticipation of the event can be like an alternate reality of future leaking into present, intense and sensual. I don't understand quantum physics but maybe this is an experience of the fluidity or illusion of time.

 In exciting life experiences I really love this rush of anticipation and I am cognizant of wanting to savor it, to soak in it because I also know that in a mere instant it will have come and gone and I will be back here writing my post race blog. Time is an enigma to me. So much of what I do as a yoga teacher and meditator is about presence, to live in the now, and yet here I am living with only one foot in it, and clinging to that in a certain sense.

 I wonder if this is unique to humans. I know my dog is right on queue in the evening when it is treat time, but I wonder if he experiences this kind of full sensory anticipation. Just a curiosity moving through my presently humming mind, probably brought on by the adrenaline I can sense readying itself to do it's job.

My body and mind are on board ready to rock, but now I think, "Hey wait minute!" Slow down and savor because this moment is about writing, communicating and being interested in this experience that is happening in that "now".

Anticipation is interesting.          

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Honoring Independence

 The Fourth of July is this country's celebration of the rising up of the people against oppressive forces in order to claim a birthright of freedom. Freedom to have representation of the people in the government, freedom to make a life and a living, freedom to worship or not, freedom to be fully expressed as individuals. Sacrifices have been made by many through the years to protect freedom and to see it evolve and grow. We celebrate and honor all who have fought and debated, those who have marched and moved mountains of resistance in the name of justice and equality.

 I think the best way to honor the spirit of this holiday and this country is to make our own individual declarations of independence. We can all take stock of the areas in our life that are longing for expression which we hold back or suppress. It is time to widen our vision, to be creators and innovators, to collectively renew our individual spirit and drive so the whole can thrive. We all have gifts to offer and perspectives and insights to share. Say what you think, express what you feel but do it in the spirit of forward movement and mutual respect. This country is about allowing for differences of all kinds and the evolution and progress that happens when we challenge each other and inspire each other to be better people, to thrive in community as well as individuals. Don't try to fit in, break out, be bold, rock the boat and question the status quo both around you and in you.

That is the spirit of independence that has made this country great. Honor it and make your declaration loud and proud!!