Do you know that yoga instructors are human too?
Stepping in front of a class I open myself up to the universe, allowing the energy to flow through me, for words to delicately escape my lips. They aren’t premeditated. Like asana, they flow through me and into the classroom. Sometimes they resonate with you, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they take you to places you need to journey to, allowing you to deepen into your self, slipping into the primordial being you are, the eternal soul self. Sometimes I’m garrulous, sometimes I let you sit with the voice of your vitality.
Do you know that we have bad days too?
I watch people flow, observing their chakras and recognizing where energy is blocked, where you are holding your tension and stress. I bring the connective energy into my hands and allow it to caress you, to soften you, to release you from what’s holding you back. I try to encourage you to dive to your depths, find your edge, physically, mentally, energetically. To be aware of where you are and what you are battling or enjoying at that moment.
Do you know that we cry too?
As I guide, I offer concepts, ideas, perspectives for you to ponder. An alternative reality in this multiverse we reside in. I offer juicy ways to nurture your self, and the idea that you can heal your wounds and step into the effulgent of the sacred. I encourage you to transform the bilious into the precious, or at least to breathe through it and watch what surfaces.
Do you know we aren’t perfect?
So many things happen in the yoga studio. The divine is touched, energy becomes palpable, we dance with existence. The gorgeous interactions and manifestations of the yoga practice are intense and at times emotional. The class is about you, not me. I step out of my self so I can be a conduit. I leave my issues, my drama, my shit out of the studio so we can focus on your issues, your drama and your shit. But please don’t forget that I am human, that I have issues, and I have bad days/weeks. I try to not bring that into the yoga studio, and often times I try not to bring it up at all. Maybe it’s an unfounded fear but I think you will think less of me because I am human. If I’m not always this enlightened individual and show my humanness I think what happens in the yoga studio will lessen. That you won’t want me to be your guide. So I try to hide it, try to silently deal with my humanness on my own. But I am human. And I make mistakes, and I get angry, dramatic and occasionally a bit bitchy. I get hurt quite easily. And sometimes I need a night with my beloved to just cry. I don’t want to show you any of this, but know that it is there. After all, I was born human. And I have human scars. And I cry human tears. And I have human emotions. Thought I would share that with you, in case you didn’t already know.
He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
The wonder of awareness. Everything we do is wonderful. Or at least at some time it was celebrated. Watching my nephews grow up, I realize that we celebrate each moment of growth. The milestones we reach are celebrated and those around us look upon us with smiles as we realize we have achieved the next step. Even the things that now to us seem banal but were such milestones growing up. Crawling, sitting up, walking, talking, gripping, clapping, and as we get older going to school, writing print, learning cursive, getting A’s…It’s crazy how once even getting A’s, even excelling in the classroom, becomes a regular thing. We stop appreciating and celebrating like we did before it was a standard. Our standards are being re-established with each achievement, with each moment as we journey through our experiences, perceiving the phenomenon around us and loving the experiences our friends engage us in. We celebrate the next big thing, the promotion, the finished painting, the newest family member.
Yoga is the same way. As we progress we may forget the wonder we brought with us that first time on our mat. How excited and curious were we as we first started flowing through the postures, balancing on one leg? The first time we lifted our legs in bakasana or reached for our heels in ustrasana. There are some days where it’s all about finding our edge, being curious and playful in the postures, advancing them and exploring the limits of our selves. Let’s make today about the wonder. The wonder you bring to life. Being in awe that you are here, the awe in each posture/moment, the awe of your energy and your mind/body connection.
I’m a bit of a work-a-holic. Not in the “I’m obsessed with my job and do it all the time” kind of work-a-holic. Mainly the kind that suddenly looks around and realizes she is an art director has more responsibilities at work and working more hours, teaches four yoga classes a week, has been kissed by the muse and craves the time to paint and draw, suddenly has a social life from out of nowhere and has some side projects that she’s working on. I even wrote a post about loving my fast-paced life a few weeks ago. Things kept coming up and I was moving along, moving, progressing, learning, breathing in a flurry of new experiences, diving into the unknown of that which I had not yet experienced. But as I was dancing along, I started to twirl, twirl and twirl, letting the blur of movement engulf me and when I tried to focus on one thing, I stumbled. The harder I tried to focus and get my balance, the more I fell. Ungraceful, a little crazy and loving it less as I started to tumble into the hole. That may be hyperbole. But I was stressed and not handling life the way I wanted to. <shrug> Shit Happens.
And then I went to Costa Rica for a yoga retreat.
And there, Shift Happened.
I was there in my element because I love and adore yoga and I was at a yoga retreat. And I was out of my element b/c I was literally out of my environmental element, and I was unplugged.
An entire week without a computer…without my email…without work…without an iPod…without my Nook (I turned pages, I didn’t tap them)…without my car…without Facebook….without Pinterest…without IM…without my phone…without my cats…without my bed…without my closet…without my stilettos…without my craziness…without my ‘my…’.
And in return for giving all of those up, I was able to watch the eagles soar. The way they dived, turned, breathed across their collarbones opening their hearts to ascend, and then, leading with their gaze dive to descend. I woke up in the mornings with the sun (and a rooster and his cockafuckingdoodle do) and walked down to the beach. I wandered. Ate clean, healthy food. Gazed upon the Lightening Bugs as they danced in the trees. I read and journaled. I went deeper inside and considered the essential over the superfluous. I looked. I listened. I listened to sounds of the ocean and the waves crashing and flowing on the beach. I laughed and had actual face-to-face conversations with friends. I hugged often. I paddle boarded in the middle of the ocean during a storm, drenched from the waves, the rain pattering my face and body, the thunder rumbling in my ears and the sun setting in this fiery red ball and me giggling with joy. I was able to do yoga twice a day, stretching my body, detoxing my muscles, discovering my strength. I meditated often…quieting my mind…observing without judgement, without thought. Experiencing the rawness of no-mind experiences. I walked around in flats and long dresses.
A shift happened. I let all the stress slip slowly down my shoulders and down my back with every Tadasana, down my hips and legs in every Uttanasana, and drip off my feet with every step I took. And I breathed in my connection to the universe with every Urdhva Mukha Svanasana and rooted deep into the earth with every Adho Mukha Svanasana. I felt and experienced harmony with nature.
It was bliss.
And for a week.
And at the end of the week, people didn’t want to leave, didn’t want to go back home. And totally me too! I mean, shit, it was pretty fucking awesome out there. It was Costa Rica. But ultimately, I was content to go home. I love my life. I just wasn’t loving the stress aspect. And I can change that. I can take the things I adored and felt amazing in while in Costa Rica, those things that helped me to shift and to be open to experiencing shift. I can make small micro-movements in my life and meld or wrap or fuse those shift-causing experiences into my daily, moment-to-moment experience.
There are so many things I came back with but my initial focus will be on enjoying and simplifying my life. Loving the people I surround myself with and enjoying how I live. Cutting back on the clutter that slows me down and creating space. Being aware of what I am eating/drinking and just making healthy decisions. I’ve been talking about meditating for a while now and finally just following through with that and sitting down for at little bit each day and quieting my mind. And trying things. Trying different yoga classes that lend themselves to my practice so I can have a practice. Trying anything (within reason, I’m not going to eat weird things and go skydiving or anything nuts like that) at least once. Even if I don’t like it, I’ve still experienced it.
Shit happens. And then allow Shift to Happen.
Enjoy and Simplify
Enjoy life. This looks different for everyone. Choose your version. Choose to do things that make you happy, that make you smile, that nurture you and things that you need to experience. Spend time with family and friends, invest time in your life plans. Find time to love being you. Bring awareness into your actions and intentions, and actually experience them. What’s the favorite part of your day?
Simplify life. Again, this changes from individual to individual. Maybe it’s simplifying your apartment. De-cluttering, organizing…what ever suits you. Maybe learning to say no to invitations that don’t suit you and simplifying your calendar. Maybe it’s simplifying your thoughts. Quieting the voices and their chatter. Or following one line of thinking at a time (AKA meditation, which is also on the list). How can you simplify your life?
Eat clean, for the most part. Maybe try cooking more, playing with different spices and how they complement the dish and trying new combinations. Perhaps buy fresh produce and limit the microwave. Creating a balance of foods and really just bringing awareness to what you bring into your body. Learning what you need and listening to your body. Learning what foods do what so you know their benefits and why you are eating them.
It’s difficult to start a practice for many reasons but in part because you don’t know just how fabulous it is to have a meditation practice until you’ve experienced one. It’s difficult to make it a priority without first feeling and experiencing the effects of meditation. Try to quiet the mind. A seated meditation practice is obviously recommended, but it could be easier to start in a different spot. Focus on one task at a time. Quiet the voices that are leading your mind astray to to do lists, people to text, distractions that are dividing your focus. This kind of focus, in its own way, is meditation. You can also focus on your breath whenever you need to take a moment from life. So many different ways to incorporate meditation that don’t involve sitting on a cushion “Om-ing” Discover what, if anything, works for you.
I love yoga. So I say try it, experience it, find a class and just try it. Try a few different types if you have time. If you don’t enjoy it, if you simply aren’t interested in it, then don’t do it. It’s okay if it’s not for you. It’s okay if any of this stuff I am offering up for consideration doesn’t work for you. I’m speaking from my experience.What have you tried? What works for you? You don’t know until you try right? So try everything, even just once, so you know whether you like it or not. Even if you don’t like something, at least you’ve experienced it.
Waves splashing, water rolling at my feet.
My soul begins to weep.
Darkness deepens, silence is feigned
My ego simply stains
Confidence is weak
I look to the night sky and scream
Lightening flashes, the horizon beams
As though I’m in a dream.
My soul grumbles so the world rumbles and whispers softly to me:
“You are worthy. Work on your energy and there you will find synergy.”
A smile caresses my face for I’ve had just enough taste
To trust in my Ajna and swim.
In the sea of intention
In the stream of consciousness
In the ocean of my life
Hands to heart I bow my head
In the deepest of respect and gratitude.
I turn around and walk back to the beach steeped in fortitude.
I sigh my thanks and walk the steps,
Glistening with the divine.
The practitioner that focuses on mindfulness
Advances like a fire,
Consuming the chains of bondage
Both great and small.
Remember to remember, when you remember.
We read all the time about how a fast-paced life is bad for us. How we need to be more mindful and move slowly through life. That if we feel stressed out there something wrong with our life and the decisions we have made.
But I’m calling bullshit on that.
I like my fast-paced life. I choose to live a fast-paced life every single day. I get stressed out. I feel like there’s not enough time in the day. I am running from one thing to another. And I love it. And yeah I talk shit and complain. I’m enjoying a human element of knowing what stress is, knowing that I have the power to change it, but knowing that I enjoy the little adrenaline rush I get from it. And ironically, knowing that I like this like stress and invite the stress, kind of stresses me out a little less.
Don’t get me wrong, things seem to be a little extra stressful right now, and a bit extra busy at work, but my routine is the same. I love waking up in the morning when I do. I love when I wake up and do the stair stepper while checking my email. I enjoy being an art director and all the responsibilities and stresses and things that come with that job. I love that I spend all day rushing to meet deadlines and working the nonprofit life because the results of my stress maybe, just maybe, are helping to save a life somewhere. And then I love rushing to shut down my computer and drive to the yoga studio where people trust me to guide their yoga practice.
I knowingly choose this.
Sometimes it’s that stress that makes me feel alive. Makes me feel connected. Helps me reach my goals and be more productive with my life. I do more and accomplish more when I have the most to do. And I’m not talking spreadsheets or data analysis…I paint more, I read more, I meditate more, I do more yoga. These things become crucial in a fast-paced life.
I run around all day. Having meetings, designing projects, ADDing on Pinterest, guiding yoga and my heart races wondering if I will survive. I IM my friend and tweak out b/c I have so many things to do on my to do list. Sometimes I cry to let that frustration and fear out. My head is a whirlwind of voices and demands.
But I love it.
I feel that pulsing energy rush through me as I teach my vinyasa flow, carefully paying attention to each student, striving to help them have the best experience possible. Their smiles and their sighs let me know that my stress is serviceable.
And when I finally walk through my door at night, I let out a deep sigh. All of that stress from the day is dropped at my doorstep, to be picked up on my way out. But in my home, I slow down, feeling and embodying the balance, the yin to my day’s yang. I get into my own element, into my own soul, and stretch my body free of the stress, artistically express what my soul still has to say, and I quiet into myself. Here, art is for me. Here, the yoga is for me. Here, I am for me.
But it’s knowing how much I do during the day, all of the stress and rushing around, that helps me truly appreciate when I slow down and take time for me.
It’s a fast-paced life, for me.
I’m free of other people’s limitations. I am me. My limitations mine. But I no longer hold the weight and burden of another’s limits.
I am choosing me. Choosing my life. Choosing my decisions and what’s healthy for me. I am meeting my soul and discovering her. Finally.
“This is your life. It already started.”
These words brushed across my ear as I was stretching my body into a forward fold.
I had just spent the last couple of hours painting. I was trying to stand and paint. I sit all day so I try to paint standing now. Counterbalance my day with my night.
I was changing my painting a bit, getting freer with it. I started this painting a while ago and I reached a point and simply stopped. It’s a habit I have. To start something, reach a point, stop, and walk away from it. I sometimes think I have a fear of completion. But I’ve been working on that idea. Finishing things. Do you have that problem? I love to start things, it’s all exciting and fresh and new and then I become critical and stop. I’ve really been trying to not do that with art.Not being afraid of what the outcome will be but simply trying it. What’s the worst that could happen? I’m releasing the fear…fear of, well, probably tons of shit. But it’s better to just try it and actually do the art, than have a ton of blank or canvases half-finished sitting around me. If I am going to buy the canvases, I need to fucking paint on them.
I’ve been working on discovering a safe place to paint from. I have so many critics in my head that I have had to learn to shut them up so I can just get shit done. I’ve started to do that with meditation on the breath. And more than that, awareness of the breath and meditation on my art. I am aware of my breath, that I am breathing, where I am sending that breath (when I paint it’s usually to my hand to help me make smoother strokes). It’s been creating more of a tranquil space. My mind kind of leaves for a while…takes a break from the day life, and I just flow. I just create. I just, paint. Most of the time it’s not any good, lol. But I’m less scared about that and more excited about the release I am experience and about the space I can visit for a while to relax.
So I was in this space when I had taken a moment to consider my painting. The voices suddenly decided to make an appearance again. “Name it Creative Energy” came into my mind. I looked at the painting, heard the name and liked it…saw how I could grow it and how that idea gave my painting life. Gave it a direction. Before I had just been painting, but now…now I knew where I had been painting from and what I was painting. I became excited about visualizing what that name meant and what I wanted to do with the painting now. “Make that area pulse more, add life here, why is this so dull, make it stand out…”And the voices started to grow, I was losing my breath. I was leaving the meditation state.
“Listening carefully to the tone, where or how does it move and in which direction? When you discover the answer, the tone itself will reveal many directions. do not try to control it yourself!” – Miyajima Sensei
I instantly focused on my breath, quieted my mind, went back to my easel and began painting again. I trusted in my connection to the universe and didn’t try to control my brush. I had been given a name for the painting, and I breathed that into my body and embraced that concept, and I breathed it out through my brush onto the canvas.
I continued painting for a while and came to a natural stopping point. And it was here that I was in that forward fold. I was doing some gentle yoga moves to release my muscles and my body. I was slowly releasing the intensity of painting and equally as slowly was allowing the mind back in.
And I started thinking…I wonder if people will like this new direction…I wonder what everyone is doing…I wonder if I have a text message…I wonder if so-and-so is angry at me because I needed to stay home and do art…I wonder if it’s stupid that I chose to stay home and do art instead of going out…I should have just gone out…I’m not going to have any friends…well, I do have so-and-so and so-and-so…I’m not completely alone…but I won’t have those friends…they should be okay I’m in this space…You can imagine this went on for a few more thoughts and it ultimately it ended with an, “as soon as I’m…” statement. I have this vision of who I should be and what my life should look like. And most of my thoughts end there. I think it’s one reason I don’t finish paintings…I have an idea of something, but I’m scared it won’t turn out. And so my thoughts turned to, As soon as I’m…
A new voice piqued in and shrugged, and said, “This IS your life. It already started. Don’t miss out on what’s happening now for what you are hoping for in the future. The future will come regardless, enjoy now so you can enjoy the future. Live now.”
I’m making the choices and the decisions right now that are not only making me happy, feeling healthy and right, but are also growing me for the future I think the universe has planned. But to get there, I have to live now.
This IS your life. It already started. Don’t miss out on today waiting for tomorrow.