Asleep, Awake and Dreaming

One of the rituals I most enjoyed in childhood was waking up in the morning, shuffling to the kitchen, and after “good-mornings” were exchanged between my parents and brother and I, we would launch into a recall of our meandering through our individual dream lands. My brother, always a champion of the hilarious, nonsensical dreams, had stories that would make us laugh and shake our heads as if to say, “What the….?!”

I mention my brother for a reason. Not only is he one of the most important and loved people in my life, he is the person I remember most vividly as populating my dreams from the earliest age. My deep care, love and concern for my younger sibling was shown to my childhood self in strong images that I have never quite been able to kick. I wouldn’t call them nightmares, but for an older sister navigating growing up on her own terms, they could certainly be called as such… Whether it was dreaming of walking into a giant hotel elevator and finding my brother tangled in the wires snaking out from the electrical panel inside, or seeing him climb to the top of a high diving board at the local pool to jump into the water below and, as he was hurtling towards the ground, realizing it was pure concrete, these dreams would cause me to wake with a start…and eventually, upon stumbling into the kitchen, finding floods of relief in learning that these images were mere figments of my imagination.

Inevitably, there he would be, eating cereal like nothing had ever happened. All was well.

When I look back on those particular dreams, they so starkly contrasted what actually would be occurring in waking life. Little boys can be very daring, but my brother would never have so willingly thrown himself at a hard pool deck the way he did in my dream. They show me now how I have always had an almost motherly concern for his well-being, and I am grateful to learn that in hindsight. Dreams are one of my most cherished teachers.

Nowadays, when I wake up from my dreams in the morning, though the imagery and circumstances I have dreamed about may still cling to the hyper-real artistry that dreams so fascinatingly possess, I often am seeking to find the separation between what is dream, and what is real.

When I committed to getting to know myself more deeply through the path of yoga, meditation and self-inquiry, I wouldn’t have fathomed that I would begin to see so many parallels.

My work, while awake, is now seeping so densely into my work while asleep. It is becoming hard to distinguish which is which.

 

Cliff_Jumping_by_KatieMoyle
‘Cliff Jumping’ by Katie Moyle

 

Not even a week after Joel & I were married, we found ourselves in a scenario that has become a powerful symbol in our first year of marriage, but one that epitomizes much of what I consciously feel is the theme of most of the last decade of my life.

I call it, THE LEAP or to melt it down into one word, JUMPING.

There we were, each in turn standing at the top of a high rock in the middle of a lake, staring down at the water below and weighing the options: summon deep courage and Jump, or turn around to take an even more difficult journey over jagged rocks back down to where we came from. I climbed to the top of the rock first, felt the fear arise, and then pushed with all the strength of my legs to fly off the rock (screaming all the way, mind you) into the blue below. Joel, however, took more time. Always a more calculated soul, this particular challenge was unlike any other he had ever faced. With the sun beating down on us, I steadily treaded water for what turned into the next 40 minutes, calling out to the top of the rock where he was pacing nervously back and forth, encouraging him to take the leap, that it was ok, he would be fine, he could do it. The act of committing to the rest of our lives together had come with such certainty and ease, but this was a whole different beast. I watched him venture to the ledge, assess the height, turn around and check out the path from where he came… I knew he was trying to think his way through it, but this was one moment that couldn’t be rationalized or over-strategized. It required that instant of surrender where the outcome had to be released, the fear transformed into fuel.

A leap of faith. An unconditional acceptance of the unknown.

For a very long time, I played it pretty safe. I wasn’t a party animal.  I steered clear of high school dances, and in university, I chose my parties very carefully. I moved out of home a bit later than most. I’ve never been into high-adrenaline sports or behaviors. I’m the gal who gets an immense amount of thrill from a good conversation with a close friend, a day of exploring a new place, or spending time with a good book and a cup of tea (bonus points if this is in Summer, the tea is actually ice cream, and the ‘reading nook’ is under a canopy of trees). I will make a legend out of an incredible meal (even if it’s poutine on a rainy day!), or be jazzed for days after spending time with a baby. Heck, I actually encourage my friends to send photos of their little ones whenever they like.

You catch my drift…Simple pleasures = massive impact.

When I first began my exploration into the world of Yoga, getting past the awkward stage of figuring out ‘the moves’ aside, I began to love and appreciate its predictability, the consistency of the sequence it followed. There was steadiness and stability to it. In an uncertain time, it became a rock. The feeling of the free-fall of brokenheartedness had become so exhausting, and coming to Yoga, to my mat, felt certain. The movement in the physical practice kept me moving forward in my life, even if I felt as if I was going backwards on some days.

Then, I decided to give Yoga Nidra a try — my world, and who I am, began to change.

This practice wasn’t about movement. It was about stillness. It was about finding a place that was so still that you could access a depth inside of you that you barely knew existed. It was about working with a single, powerful intention to break down the barriers that you had so meticulously and purposefully built up over time. I wish I could remember at the time if I was willing to tackle those barriers, but clearly, I sure as hell was ready for something to shift because my whole world began to shapeshift. I grasped a hold of my intention like a life raft, and the more I worked with it, the more transformed, for the better. Even when things were messy, they became achingly beautiful and dripping with meaning and a deeper sense of purpose. I became stronger. I became brighter. I became more joyful. All the things that I held at the altar of my intention were breaking through dammed up spaces inside me that had been clogged with sadness, hurt, anger and grief. I felt it all. I never denied it. It all began to flood from me, and before my eyes, transform into a strength and resolve I never knew I could access.

THAT’s when I started to jump.

THAT’s when THE LEAP began to permeate everything.

I started JUMPING, and I feel like I’ve been doing it every day since.

The jumps I took, at that time, were in relationships. Even the jumps that appeared to draw me away ended up bringing me closer. Letting go, and finding a depth, a closeness, a realness, that I hadn’t felt until then. Appreciating what they were meant to be, how they were meant to serve and teach me, and how they could bring me closer to my heart, no matter the timeline, no matter the outcome. In recent years, the JUMPING has become more about my Purpose. It has become a practice of listening deeply to my gut, my heart, and not succumbing to the fear that wants to prevent me from moving forward. It’s about getting out of my own way, meeting the walls head on, facing the beliefs that keep me small, feeling the illusion of security melt away and resting in the uncertainty of presence, change and a steady increase of inner light.

My life IS the THE LEAP. My practice is JUMPING.

And in my dreams, I Jump too.

The dream I had 4 nights ago was so vivid and real, it makes me vibrate to recall it.

I was having a conversation with the teacher who brought Yoga Nidra into my life, the teacher who continues to guide and inspire me to infinite depths in this mysterious, potent practice. In this dream, Tanis told me that a small group of us was going to jump off a rock. With the ‘Honeymoon Jump’ fresh in my mind, I told her I was well equipped — how high could it be, really? If I could jump off that rock, I could jump off this one. “This one,” she said, “is much higher… Significantly higher. I’ve jumped from this rock before, and if you do, the healing you will experience is substantial.” If she’s done it, then why can’t I? Soon enough, we were wading through waist-high water towards what appeared to be the edge of an infinity pool. Water spilled from the pool over a smooth, stone ledge. The sound of a roaring waterfall echoed through my ears. How high is this rock? How far from the ground are we? I felt my insides begin to churn as I reached my hand out to touch the hard stone, the single wall of rock that was keeping us at this height. I peered over. The drop was massive, but I couldn’t see the water. All I could see was dense fog. The small group that was with us strode confidently through the water towards the ledge, and without any hesitation, began to hurl themselves into the abyss below. One by one they went…leaving me and Tanis to bring up the rear. I was terrified. More than that, I was scared that I would be the last one up there, the only one left in hesitation and paralytic fear with no seeming way back besides diving in. Tanis swung one leg over the wall. This is my moment. In a second, she’d be off. “Tanis, can we jump together?” She reached out to clasp my hand in hers. Both sets of our legs were over the wall, and before I had time to think, Tanis initiated our jump. I expected to feel the plummeting sensation of dropping like a stone, but the fog all around us instantly created this deep web of support. We were held. We had taken the leap, and we were falling, but we were held every step of the way. As we dropped through the layers of fog, a vortex of light appeared beneath us, and just as we brushed the edge, I woke with a start.

Shuffling my way into the kitchen that morning, I replayed this scene over and over in my mind.

I knew the Dream leap had ended, but the waking one was just beginning.

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We Need This Darkness

You know this feeling you have right now?

The feeling you feel you shouldn’t be rearing its ugly head because you’re a generally positive, loving person who strives to see the silver lining in every situation?

A person who:

– does their work, both inside and out

– tries their darndest to follow their heart and believe in more than what we can see, touch, taste, smell and hear

– puts themselves out there and takes risks for the sake of a more meaningful life

– takes care of themselves as best as they can with the time allotted amidst the demands of work, life, family, friendships, partnerships, and ‘extra-curriculars’

– is as kind as possible, as giving as possible, as grateful as possible…

What I’m trying to say is, you feel like you’re a good soul who adds value to the world and is doing everything they can to have a more meaningful, whole-hearted, love-and-joy-filled, abundant life.

BUT. (Yes, here’s the BUT.)

This week, it feels different.

It feels…hard. Deflating. It feels like everything you do is going nowhere, like you’re running up hill and just getting exhausted.

Like you have nothing to show for every ounce of positive energy and gratitude you feel you invest into every single day, for every net you cast out into the world…

As though you try your best to paint the day with rainbows and see everything through rose-coloured glasses, but this week, you’ve lost sight of the pot of gold, the view is a bit grey, and all you’re doing is getting soaked from the torrential downpour over your head.

You might be saying to yourself, ‘I know that everything really is all good… but why do I feel so damn scared/low/doubtful/confused? What on earth am I doing wrong?’

I FEEL YOU.  And I wish I knew the answer to instantly make you feel exactly how you want to feel — happier, full, with far less doubt and totally lacking in any kind of sticky-feeling fear. Maybe swimming in the murkiness that is arising is our task at hand, without willing it away, running from it, or wanting it to be different than what it is.

Maybe this feeling — this weird, icky, scary feeling RIGHT NOW — is the gateway to a new chapter in our life. Perhaps we need to know that it’s possible to be fully present in where we are, and see the horizon at the same time.

And in terms of doing anything wrong or right… I’m going to bet dollars to donuts you’re doing what you can. If you’re committed to a more meaningful existence, the steps you are taking to create that for yourself is part of your process. You’ve assembled a real tool-belt for yourself and you’re getting more adept at whipping out the tool you need in the time you need it. Or maybe you’re realizing that you need more tools, and the thought of how you’ll acquire them is daunting.

It’s all part of your journey of living fully in your humanity.  You WANT to make a change. You WANT to be BETTER.

But guess what?

That would translate as putting in an order for Transformation, and with change comes its own brand of unravelling. When you commit to transformation, the veils start to fall. As things start to shift, there it comes: the grand-scale revealing of every single fear you’ve ever had, trying without fail to convince you that you’re making the wrong choices, that maybe you were wrong in taking those risks, and maybe that pep talk you gave yourself about being able to handle everything that comes with the change was just a load of bull…and yes, when you said you were open to EVERYTHING what you actually meant was everything that is GOOD, EASY and PLEASANT.

So why the panic? Why the fear? Why the doubt?

The answer to your questions and how you feel lie completely within your own heart, but I am willing to share my heart with you in the hopes that we can all see that we are not alone.

The truth is, friends, that we need this darkness.

We need the doubt.

We need the fear.

If we didn’t have any of these things, we would never change, and we would never experience the moments of clarity and lightness in our life that we wish made up 99.9% of our existence. We would remain complacent, stale, stuck, and resign ourselves to the fact that we can absolutely be ‘happy’ with the status quo, even if it leaves something to be desired, even if it doesn’t fulfill what we think we are meant to contribute to this planet.

Every day, lately, has provided a lesson that vulnerability, paired with taking the courageous steps necessary to change your life, makes for one massive catch-up in the feelings department. Brene Brown calls it a ‘vulnerability hangover’ and it couldn’t be more aptly named.

I recently gave notice at my job — a decision I have been agonizing over for some time that is neither rooted in rational thought or financial responsibility; a decision that took herculean strength to formally acknowledge the need for change in, and to finally articulate those words, “I feel like I’m coming to a crossroads.” Over the last few months, I have been committed to strengthening myself both inside and out, and with that work has come a lot of change, and a healthy dose of backlash to make me doubt the emergence of a ‘better’ and more empowered version of Me. I’ve been working with beliefs that have kept me safe (and sometimes stuck) for most of my adult life to date, and am now seeing with true clarity how they are no longer serving my growth and development. I am also seeing how I have chosen to keep these beliefs alive, and how I can, in equal measure, choose to build a more positive belief system that benefits me.

What happens when you begin to stretch beyond your perceived limitations of yourself is that it’s harder to put up with your own BS. It becomes tiring to listen to your own excuses, your old ‘tapes.’ I would hear myself tell the same old story of how I feel doing this particular work, and how I have all these things I love doing on the side but barely have the time or energy to invest fully in them, or how I am stretched thin and don’t always have much to show for it. It was like being a security guard with a permanent placement near a TV monitor in a war exhibit and having to hear the same old monotonous story play over and over again. After a while, it got harder to tune myself out, and the stunning mirror I have in my husband would reflect back at me my discontent of how my precious energy was being inappropriately invested (if I had any), and yielding very little returns. Sure, I had an income, and I am grateful for that. But once rent and bills were paid, there was very little show for it. That, in itself, spoke volumes.

One day, as I was attempting once again to summon up every ounce of get-up-and-go I had to make my way to work, my defenses dropped completely and my partner-in-life staged an impromptu intervention. He looked me in the face with his big, blue eyes and said, “Did you ever think that maybe you weren’t meant to live an ordinary life? I know you feel that this is what you *should* do, but clearly, it isn’t making you very happy. How many people teach Yoga Nidra & write about Purpose?”

“TONS,” I believe was my answer that came through snot-laced tears.

“Sure,” he said, “but none of them are you.”

I’m pretty sure that little truth-smack made me cry harder.

This conversation became the impetus to sharing with my irreplaceably wonderful boss that I had decided the time to close this chapter was coming soon. Though I felt nervous to actually articulate my truth, my heart was leaping with validation. Telling each of my coworkers about this decision (women whom I have come to love and cherish) has felt like breaking off a piece of myself every time, but what has come back is genuine, unconditional support, and affirmative words that remind me I am making the choice that is unequivocally right for me.

I have been reminded that it takes courage to follow my heart and give permission for my soul to be stretched in the ways it is yearning to be expanded… On the same token, I have every reason to feel completely and utterly afraid of the unknown, of lack, of failure. Acknowledging my own truth and my own needs felt like a million bucks, and then Monday rolled around…

I went from feeling liberated by this decision, to doubting everything that had anything to do with me doing what I love and having any sort of future success with it.  By Wednesday, my ability to be positive and “Just Trust” was shot. Doubt and Fear instantly sat heavily on my shoulders. I filled with the panic of “what if,” of “not enough,” of possible judgement, or even questioning if there is a need for what I have to share with the world.

But before I felt I had to change all of my heart junk into something more positive, I had to take a walk with Doubt & Fear.

I had to validate them and thank them for stopping by…but I let them know quite firmly that I had no intention of them stopping ME.

It’s been a hard week for all of us. I know this because I have had a conversation for every day of this week with someone who is “feeling it.” But not a single person who is feeling this heaviness (whatever they feel it is attached to for them) has given it permission to knock them down completely. Brave souls.

Maybe it’s in the stars, but I’m starting to think that, really, it’s just US. It’s Spring. Something is changing. Our souls and the world are calling us into something more…something greater…something lighter. Who we are and what we believe about ourselves is being tested…and truth be told, it feels downright awkward, hard, painful or fearful. But don’t let yourself be paralyzed by the darkness. Feel it. Know it’s there to propel you forward, to take that step even closer to the edge of the nest…

Take a deep breath…It’s time to fly.

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Will this make you squirm? Or will you accept the challenge?

Today, I’m bringing you into what very well may be a realm of discomfort for you.

What I’m asking may mean you have to shift your perspective. Part of this is just as uncomfortable and as much of a stretch for me to accept as it may be for you, so before you even hear what I’m asking, I want you to know that I feel you. I acknowledge you having to swallow harder, your thoughts to race a little faster as you narrow your eyes, half-grimacing at me with skepticism and a touch of fear of the unknown. I know the feeling of having to choose the ‘harder’ path, to give your deeply engrained beliefs and your fist-bearing ego a run for its money. But life is pretty short to stay stuck in our patterns, so…

Are you with me? 

First, Weather (again, the local fave topic!). Today is beautiful, right? Spring-like, sunny, blue skies, birds chirping, above 0 degrees (hallelujah!)… It’s hard to be grumpy when the sun’s shining, isn’t it? It’s easy to feel all is well on a day like this one…

On the same token, it’s a day edging ever-so-closely to the end of a month where we are all poring over receipts, spreadsheets and slips of paper that sum up the last year in our financial lives.

Yup, Tax Time.

Last night, we did our due diligence of trading time frolicking in the evening sunshine for sticking our butts in a chair and gettin’r done.

It feels good to be finished, with all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. What doesn’t feel pleasant, however, is having that bomb dropped:

“Looks like you’re going to owe this year.”

It’s cause for celebration if we get a refund, but if we owe? It’s astounding how fast this can kill your mojo, overpower you with panic and fear, or make your heart feel as though it will stop altogether..

It was seconds into that sinking feeling of ‘Crap…well, there go some of my hard-earned dollars!’ where I caught myself.

How is my feeling defeated, ‘victimized,’ and seeing this from the standpoint of ‘lack’ going to change anything, make me feel ANY better, or furthermore, make my financial reality ANY brighter?

As I gave my not-so-mathematically inclined brain a break from numbers and receipts, I saw that the Weather page on my phone was showing ‘snowflakes’ for later on this week. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have long accepted that the weather is something I have ZERO control over. Despite my attempts to be as glass-half-full as possible on this subject, it doesn’t seem to stop anyone in our fair city from cursing Mother Nature like she was doing this to us on purpose.

I hate to break it to you, but it’s tax time, AND it may snow/[insert any other unpleasant weather phenomenon geographically appropriate to where you live] this week. Just FYI.

And therein lies my challenge.

It would be EASY to turn to your collective Facebooks, Twitters, friends, loved ones, pets, houseplants, the gods, or whatever you choose to vent or curse to, and say “F*** taxes. F*** snow in April. F*** my life.”

(For added emphasis, you could also add a single “F***” at the end of the previous rant. Some people really like that.)

Sure, F-bombs feel awesome to say sometimes, but here’s something HARDER:

Can you be grateful (yes, I said grateful) for taxes? Can you be grateful for blizzards (and I don’t mean the Dairy Queen kind) in April? I mean, ACTUALLY grateful. Not just glossing it over in an attempt to be Suzie Sunshine about it, but REALLY TRULY grateful? As in gratitude that comes from ALL of your HEART, even if it feels a bit outside of your norm?

So, who’s with me? If you’re still reading, yahoo, because that might just mean you’ll join me in doing the unthinkable: I am unabashedly choosing GRATITUDE.

I choose to feel grateful that I have had ONE WHOLE YEAR of being gainfully employed, and of learning and growing in the process. Even more to the point, the portion of income I owe tax on is one where I have spent time doing work that not only fills my cup but is, I feel, the highest form of service I have to offer.

 I have the luxury of paying taxes because I am working towards my own wild and crazy dream, no matter what that may look like. And after I pay those taxes, what do I do? I live in a house, where I woke up in a bed, with someone I love that I married out of my own free will (and who is currently eating toast that I can smell wafting up from our kitchen. Yes, even when I have to pay taxes, I will still eat, and so will he). And even if things got really sticky, I would still have people in my life who would catch me if I fell. That, in itself, is its own form of wealth.

And if/when those snowflakes start to fall as this week ends, I promise not to wish they were green grass and lilacs and see them for what they are. They’re snowflakes they are both beautiful and the epitome of impermanence, and they WILL make the grass greener in their own time. We live in the Northern Hemisphere. Snow and cold WILL happen here.

Even in a freak Spring snow storm, I will see, above all things, that we live in a country with more space than we can handle, with human rights and freedoms, where I can walk outside and share a smile and a simple hello with our neighbours. I say these things not to brag or boast, but because this is most of our realities. If you are reading these words, it means you own a piece of technology, and no matter how essential our smart phones, computers and tablets have become, your smart phone is no substitute for a winter coat. For many of us, we see those snowflakes on the bright screens of our weather pages from the comfort of our homes, with either food in our bellies or a knowledge of where our next meal will come from. Others will only know a cold front is settling in when they see the snowflakes start to swirl around their shivering bodies as they huddle under an overpass.

So… can you do it? Can you thank your lucky stars that you have taxes to do/pay, and that there may soon be Spring snowflakes to catch on the end of your tongue? Can you be deep-down-from-the-centre-of-your-heart grateful that the way you feel and react to these upsets are just another indicator of your humanity? Can you recognize them as a reminder that you are still being treated to the gift of being ALIVE? Can you see that these things are fleeting, and may offer their own form of blessing, even if, at first, they don’t appear to hold one?

When clouds cover the sun, and the wind starts to blow, and even that refund cheque has slowly dissolved into the ether…can you still be grateful?

Can you? Will you?

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Use [insert scary phrase here] today and find more love

Ah yes, Valentine’s Day.

It’s no secret that there isn’t just ONE day to celebrate Love. If we lived for one day of Love out of a whole year of days, chances are we’d all shrivel up, our hearts reduced to puny raisins in our chests. Love has the power to turn an ordinary day in the direction of extraordinary, a blue day into one of sunshine (even if it’s cloudy out). In fact, it has the strength to fuel a lifetime of days, and the infinite power to expand all of our horizons and hearts…if we let it.  

Maybe this is just me (though I’m pretty sure it isn’t), but I find there are 3 small-yet-scary phrases that sometimes require near-Herculean effort to say:

I’m sorry.

Thank you.

I love you.

Further to the point, they may fall out of our mouths effortlessly with some, and with others, they may stay in the holding bay of our hearts as yet another feeling left unexpressed.

Saying you’re sorry means you have to admit you were wrong, made a mistake, or maybe said (or did) something you didn’t mean that caused hurt. 

Saying Thank You means you fully accept someone else’s generosity of spirit or otherwise… (It’s easier to say thank you when a stranger holds open a door for me than when my mother-in-law decides to drop a bunch of groceries on our doorstep.) 

And then there’s one of our faves… I Love You. 

Three words with a myriad of different meanings depending on who you are and what life experience has shown you so far. I will fully admit that ‘I love you’ falls out more easily with my closest girlfriends than it does with my dear parents. (I love you guys more than I could ever say, by the way.)

Think of a time where you were just falling in love with someone. I bet you reached that semi-awkward point where, every time you parted ways, with wistful gazes, hearts pounding and violins cinematically underscoring the whole scene (naturally), the only words you felt expressed the beautiful butterfly-storm inside were “I love you”…

But you didn’t say them. It was too risky. It might ruin things. It might scare the person off. There was a time in the beginning of my relationship with my now-husband where that awkward silence, and the fear of risking saying ‘I love you’ too soon (is 1.5-weeks in too quick??), was filled with the next best thing I could think of:

“You’re my favourite.” 

Cute, but did it REALLY mean what I meant?!

Sorta. Kinda.

No, I guess not.

I have a lot of ‘Favourites’… things that I really love a whole lot, like Pho, Yoga, dark chocolate with sea salt… hugs, babies, peanut butter on a spoon, Downton Abbey, pancakes (ok, pretty much ALL food), the mountains, wearing Pjs as much as possible, and John Mayer (yes, despite his shortcomings, he is still one of my favourites)… 

I think Mary Beth Bonacci said it best:

“What am I saying when I say I love pizza? Am I saying that I care deeply about pizza? Am I saying that I have a relationship with pizza? Am I saying that if pizza had a problem, I would be there for the pizza? (What? Not enough pepperoni? I’ll be right there!) Of course not. When I say I love pizza, I’m just saying that I enjoy eating pizza until I don’t want any more pizza.” 

Yup, ‘You’re my favourite’ had a quickly-approaching expiry date, because what was hiding behind it wasn’t the ‘Pizza’ kind of Love. It was Big Love, the kind of love that I knew I would always want more of, even when I was full.

Naturally, it was terrifying. Sometimes, it still is. Knowing that it’s about ‘forever’ can feel like both the biggest safety net and one of the biggest assignments you’ve ever given yourself. Being your ever-changing, ever-growing, imperfectly perfect messy self and trusting that another person will love and accept you for all of it…that’s kinda scary shit.

I’m sure you’ve heard that much of the gold in our lives lies on the other side of Fear. I guess what I’m trying to say is that what exists on the other side of these ‘terrifying’ phrases is Love — a depth of Love we often yearn to experience, but that is held back by our own self-created fears of surrendering to what that might mean for us, and how it might change the status quo. A kind of love that requires us to put our own BS to the side or just wade through it, throw away our pride, put our ego in the kennel for a while and eat a heaping slice of vulnerability pie…together. It means that we admit that we were wrong, or sorry, or confused.  It means acknowledging that we are human. It means taking out the filter that keeps us from experiencing wholeness and letting it ALL in.

So if you’re a cynic who thinks Valentine’s Day is yet another commercial holiday to make people who don’t have a ‘special someone’ in their life feel like they should hole up in their apartment and eat take-out alone, try this on for size. If we’re all living in the same world, I’m pretty sure each 24-hour day gifts us with at least one opportunity to use one of those ‘scary’ phrases, right?

Maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t just about the chocolate (though we do love the chocolate). Maybe it’s a good excuse to use [insert most-feared phrase here] and see a beautiful unravelling of one, love-filled day that reminds you why Love isn’t just something you have for a spouse, or a friend, or your pet gerbil, or how Love isn’t always what you get from somebody else. It comes from inside.

One taste of that and you may just find yourself reaching for more. 

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What does your heart say?

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to remember the earliest whisperings of our heart?  All the things our hearts told our childhood selves that we had the boldness and bravery to follow through on IMMEDIATELY?

“Come on…you can walk! Do it! Or wait, Yes! RUN!”

“I really need you to eat this dirt so you can learn the meaning of ‘Yucky!’!”

“It’s ok. Just cry. And don’t worry if anyone tells you you shouldn’t.”

I’m certainly not saying that we all lack bravery and boldness now — in fact, I think it is the everyday acts of bravery, small or large, that are the most inspiring to us all.  But we have all seen it as we’ve ‘grown up’ — the ways in which, over time, we become conditioned to be more cautious in our approach, to listen to the voices around us rather than the quiet voice inside. Experience has shown me that choices with far less reason behind them than you would expect (and a healthy amount of buzzing excitement) are typically on the path you are meant to follow, to bring you closer to that elusive P word…Purpose.

I can think, off the top of my head, of 4 things that I have done that were called into question and ended up being undeniably the most powerful choice for my own growth and evolution as a human being:

To travel to Morocco (‘It’s so far! It could be dangerous and they harass women there! It’s expensive!’)

To take a yoga training in Bali (‘It’s even further away! And it’s even MORE expensive to get there!’)

To subsequently [I hear it happens a lot after people do yoga trainings in Bali 😉] leave a job surrounded by people I considered a ‘second family’ in pursuit of a change (‘So do you have another job lined up?’)

Then there was the 4th thing. A choice that, in order to explain the ways this moment changed all areas of my life — creating beautiful,  criss-crossing webs of connection — would take an entire novel. (Or at least a novella.)

11 years ago today, I had a life-altering talk with my now-husband who was, at that time, my not-yet-boyfriend. We were sitting in a field on campus eating falafel and iced tea. He had asked me out on a date and my 20-year-old heart (which was admittedly, at the time, a bit hung up on another fantastic fellow) clearly explained his viewpoint on my ‘heart mess.’

He spoke so calmly and warmly, looking straight into my eyes. Cliche or not, I could truly see the depths of his beautiful soul. I’m sure he didn’t know at that time how his words would change both of our lives, but they did.”I can’t tell you what to do…The only thing you need to do is follow your heart. Wherever you follow your heart to, I know that’s where you’ll be happy. And as long as you’re happy, then I will be happy too.”

In that moment, the fog completely cleared. My heart spoke more loudly, and with more certainty, than I think it ever has:

“Him. It’s Him.”

Even greater than that, his words highlighted for me a scattered trail of synchronistic breadcrumbs. I had been told in acting class that week that when I performed, it unmistakably came from my heart. I had received an e-mail from my high school boyfriend about how I had always made decisions with my heart…and here was this wonderful guy, telling me to follow my heart and to be happy in doing so. It was in this moment that it started to become evident to me that my life was meant to be lived from that place. All the years before that in school, I thought it was about filling your head with knowledge, and trying hard to get good grades. Suddenly, I was being shown my greatest asset. Since then, my heart has not let me forget that it’s there. I am telling you this story today because my heart literally yanked me off my yoga mat, drew me here and begged me to put words to my feelings.

This moment eleven years ago continues to remind me of what the path of Purpose should feel like — a stirring in your heart that cannot be ignored…a quiet nod of ‘Yes’… a gentle nudge…a summoning of courage to take the leap…

It may not always be the easiest path, or the most practical, or one that everyone will understand. As far as I have seen, though, it is the most meaningful, beautiful, exciting path of all.

What does your heart say? Where will it take you today?

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Why Me?

Stop. This isn’t the ‘Why Me’ you’re thinking of.

This question may conjure up images of a whiney teenager, bemoaning their  life circumstances or first world problems. Or it may be a reflection of that Facebook friend you have (you know the one) who airs out their ‘why my life sucks’ laundry online.

Not that ‘Why Me.’

The ‘Why Me’ question that has come up as of late is more about why we are, for lack of a better word, ‘called,’ or ‘inspired’ to do what we do, especially when we are paralyzed by that moment of doubt that makes us feel we can’t actually do it at all.  It may also come up when an opportunity knocks at our doorstep beyond what we feel  we are ‘qualified’ for, beyond our ‘expertise,’ or our comfort zone:

‘Why me? Why this? Why now? What on earth do I know or have to share?’

Can anyone see us and value us as being more than just our credentials, our current job title, or the fit-onto-one-page-please summary of our experience?

And for the ‘young’uns’ reading this, that question of ‘how many people see my youth as lack of experience; maybe not in education, but in life?’ I recall an ‘older’ friend of mine once lamenting the fact that so many young people were becoming ‘life coaches’ — ‘What person in their 50s and 60s wants to learn about how to live life from a 20 or 30-something year old who has barely lived yet?!’ That was his argument. There are, however, some exceptional men and women who attain incredible and admirable goals by the time they hit 25. Whether it’s starting a successful business or winning Olympic medals, heck, who wouldn’t be up to learning something (at any age!) about how to actively pursue your dreams and attain them? None of us is perfect, no matter how old or how young we are, and we all have something to  learn from each other.

I realized today that this, ‘Why Me’ — this questioning of our value, worth, expertise, skill, talent or gift — is a manifestation of what is often referred to as our Inner Critic.  We all have him, or her, or it. (My most current critic’s image is reminiscent of a snooty French waiter in a cartoon. I’ll call him Maurice.) When I give Maurice the chance, he turns up his nose at my ideas, or the irons I have in the fire, and whisper-spits into my ear:

There are millions of yoga teachers in this world. Everybody’s doing it. Who cares how long you’ve been making shapes on a mat, or that you took the trainings you took. (Hmm, now that I think of it, you might need more…) There are people who know way more than you, and will always know more than you, no matter how much you study, or read, or practice. Doesn’t teaching make you nervous? That’s a yicky feeling… maybe it’s best to leave it up to the others who approach it with confidence, ease and a brain full of sanskrit and anatomy.

But he doesn’t stop here. I have neglected my blog as of late, even though thoughts and stories have been plentiful…

Writing? Come on. Instead of taking creative writing classes in school to show people you have HARD SKILLS as a writer, you took a class about the Rolling Stones! And Art for Children! And Dance! Sure, they were options you needed to graduate, but you’re not a “writer.” Just liking to write whatever comes to you doesn’t make you so. Furthermore, does anyone really care what you think? Or what you’ve experienced? Everyone’s a blogger. Stick to your journal. No one needs to read that. 

Luckily, I’ve begun to see my history with Maurice more clearly. I think he had his hayday during most of my teens and 20s (bless those times).  As I continue to grow, I have made a commitment to not let him speak as often, or promptly cut him off  JUST BEFORE he gets the chance to talk me out of doing that thing that I am excitedly fearful of, or see big potential in.

Haha, sucker.

When we leave space for our critics (living or imaginary) to get more airtime, they can say things to us that, if we said them to our loved ones,  would sting hard. Wouldn’t we, instead, remind them of why they are perfect for the job/opportunity/challenge/dream? And not just because of the credentials they may have earned in that particular field, but because of the inherent gifts they were born with, and the fact that who they are holds more value than we could put a dollar amount on. 

Whenever I get asked to prove my “worth” or competence through my credentials, I am so reluctant to define who I am solely through what I’ve done. My university degree is a BFA in Drama — one that I am proud of and worked incredibly hard to get, not just by writing papers and reading textbooks, but through hard mental, physical, emotional, creative work. The ‘Drama Kids’ in my life are some of the most creative, hard-working, thoughtful, kind, passionate, incredible people I know. In fact, they are just as talented, hard-working, thoughtful, kind and amazing as the ‘NON-Drama Kids’ who followed more ‘straightforward’ paths. These paths certainly aren’t without their own challenges — whether you’re a musician, a doctor, an engineer, or a circus performer, everyone meets obstacles in their learning and growth. Everyone meets indecision of where to go and what to do with their lives. Everyone doubts whether they have what it takes to do what they do, and to do it well. I have had this conversation about ‘being qualified’ with people who have much more than the ‘minimum requirement’ of education one would expect to make an ‘expert.’

For all of our stressing out, I don’t know a single person who is ‘unqualified’ for doing what they do. In fact, because of that pairing of all the things they have studied with their natural gifts and talents, some are grossly overqualified.

In a perfect world, we do what we do — whether that’s for work, or for play, or both — because it lights us up. Who wants to be a miserable lump full-time? We’re not asking to be special, or famous — unless that’s what you really want. The Royal We (or maybe just the We I’ve had this conversation with) is asking to be recognized for what we have to offer to the world beyond all the learning we did in school, or the trainings we took, and all the letters that could follow our names.  We want to be seen for the passion in our hearts, the sparkle in our eyes, and the conviction in our words because we believe that we have a positive mark to make on our planet. We love when someone gets behind us fully because they believe in what we’ve got to share, and who we are. What makes us qualified to face the opportunities and challenges that are placed before us is the fact that we invest everything we have, and take big risks, to make those things a reality; that we build the bridges to get there, and that upon our arrival, though we may we hear  the muffled sounds of our critics in the background, we do something not everyone can muster the courage to do…

We follow our hearts anyway.

This isn’t to say that we should be cocky about what we DO know. Part of growing is acknowledging what we need to learn. If anything, my recent movement towards teaching has been more humbling (and uplifting and rewarding) than I could have imagined. But sometimes, we don’t get time to be ready. We get a few tips from the well-meaning coach before they throw us off the deep-end.

Spluttering and coughing, we find our bearings, get comfortable in the water, and learn to swim.

Is this the end of asking ‘Why Me?’ Probably not. All of us, young or young at heart, may continue to ask this question every day of our lives, with each new opportunity that arises, with each new dream that floats into our seeming realm of possibility. But more than that, we would be wise to recognize when to let the question “Why do this?” fade, and feel the depth of the quiet answer rising from our hearts:

“Because it’s what brings me to life.”

If you love singing, just sing - Mark Nepo.jpg

Fear + 7 Minutes

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This past Mother’s Day, I had the incredible privilege of teaching an hour-long Yoga/Yoga Nidra practice to a group of amazing Mums at the Kids Cancer Care Mother’s Day Brunch. The journey to get to this moment brought back a remembrance of what brought me here in the first place.

It inspired me to look back to the moment that sparked my being where I am now. 

In March 2011, I took part in an incredible advanced teacher training program through Gaiatri Yoga. When I received an e-mail about this training a few months prior, my heart nearly stopped. I wasn’t a yoga teacher and had adamantly said that I wouldn’t ever be. The reasons were 3-fold at the time:

1) I loved my yoga practice far too much (still do) and hated the idea of ‘giving it up’ to be in my head/teaching brain whenever I hit my mat.

2) My Dad is a teacher (not yoga, though he could now!) and whenever ‘teaching’ came up, I pictured Dad tearing his hair out over poorly-written papers and saying ‘Never become a teacher!’

3) At the time, I managed a yoga studio and cringed at the idea of being the one who was consistently relied upon to sub at the last minute. I wasn’t even a teacher and I occasionally got asked to lead a sun salutation or two to buy time if a teacher was late, and that just made me want to barf.

Ok, so an ‘advanced teacher training’ hardly seemed like my fit.
But it was in Bali.
And it was with a teacher I admire immensely — my time spent with her on retreat in Morocco saw my heart and practice grow, and I was ready for a boost.

No matter what anybody said to try and deter me (“It’s so expensive!” “It’s so far away!”),  no matter how healthily fearful I was of the unknowns I may face there or how big of a hole it would leave in my bank account, I knew I needed to be there. So I jumped in with both feet, figuring I would worry about the financial part later, and made it clear that I was attending this training solely to grow my personal practice, with no intention of teaching whatsoever.

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Flash forward to March 23, 2011 in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia.

A sweaty, quiet young woman sits on the front porch of her little ‘house’ she is sharing for a week with a hilarious young man who wears primarily sarongs and speedos. This good-hearted guy has ordered the young woman a large glass of red wine paired the most delicious coconut chocolate pudding you can imagine, and left her alone to write. Flicking away the occasional bug and listening to the crickets, birds and jungle-y animals perform their nightly serenade, she writes:

“I taught today. For the very first time. We were instructed to teach a 7-minute sequence — 3 mins dharma talk, 4 mins teaching postures or a simple posture, and interweaving the theme, based on something we had recently worked through or was working through us. I picked “Peace.” It is still coming up. And though I am not here to find peace here, per se, I am here to cultivate it to take into my own life back home.

I was terrified when I was told I would be amongst the first ten to teach a section of the group. I told  Ally [Bogard] flat out that I was scared. She acknowledged my feelings: “I know. And this is why it will be so great for you.” She was so great & supportive, gave me a temporary out if it scared me to the point of vomiting, and said she had confidence in me. So…scared as I was, I mustered my courage and did it this afternoon.

7 minutes went quickly & I just went with what I could dig up. I talked about this concept of Peace, how it applies to daily life, shared an anecdote… Ally was holding a steady presence beside me at the front of the room. I could tell she was there to support me the second I needed it. Not too far in, Ally moved from the front of the ‘classroom’ with me back to her place further back on the couch. “You’ve got it,” she said. 

So it wasn’t much — getting them to breathe and ruminate on Peace in a restorative posture of their choice, shift to child’s pose and continue breath and imagery, then I gently brought them to a forward fold, and roll up to standing. That was 7 minutes. Done. When I finished, Ally said “How did that feel?”
I cried.
“Alright,” I said.
“Please tell me it felt just more than alright,” she smiled.
“Better than I thought,” I replied.
One of the girls said, “Did you say you’ve never taught [yoga] before?”
I shook my head.
“Not in this lifetime,” Ally said, “but many lifetimes before that. So what does this bring up for you?”
“A lot.” I couldn’t put it into words.
She smiled. “I have nothing for you. That was perfect. Thank you.”

I couldn’t say then where this moment would lead me. I have a greater idea now. More often than not, the idea of teaching still makes me want to barf, but I’ve learned to ‘trust the practice,’ follow my gut, and know that each time, it will get easier…and that all I need to do is start.

I can’t exactly say now where teaching will take me, or how the bigger picture looks… 

But I can say this: I never thought that a bit of fear & 7 minutes could change my life.

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