Forget Your Perfect Offering

There they are, glaring at me as if to rub in my face that the self-deprecating thoughts around my ‘2015 Writing Dought’ are well-founded.

Little graphics of calendar pages…”May…June…July…August…September…” all blank.

As far as this little statistics widget on my blog is concerned, I’ve done nothing, created nothing, experienced nothing, captured nothing, and shared nothing, when in fact, my silence speaks louder than any words I could articulate. There are stories to share, and despite my own resistance, I know full-well that our “Truth-Stories” need to be given wings, not tethers, if they are to serve their purpose. When they land in the right ears and hearts, they can build bridges, create bonds, and remind us that, though we may seem worlds and experiences apart from each other, there is a very vulnerable, human part of us that is longing to be seen for the beautiful, complex and fascinating creatures that we are.

One such example came across my path yesterday.

I spent the day teaching Yoga in a high school — four classes of grades 10-12 who take this particular course to enhance their athletic performance. The thought of me being the person to teach them (let alone challenge!) these highly physical teenagers was almost laughable, in my mind. (You may understand my hesitation a bit better by reading this post here…)

The early morning hours before the alarm went off found me wide awake, thoughts racing. My fear of not being able to give them what I would assume they were expecting (a workout) was high, but my knowing of what they most likely needed (relaxation) was deep. Even so, I succumbed to doubt, to the useless dialogue of “who am I to do this,” put my pajama-clad self in child’s pose on our bed and cried, all nerves as to how I could serve this group to the best of my ability.

When my tears subsided, I reached for a book on my nightstand that my Mum recently gave me, opened it to a page — any page — to see if any wisdom would surface to reassure me.

There they were — four lines from Leonard Cohen‘s song “Anthem” that reminded me what, all this time, I had been forgetting:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

The part about the crack in everything letting the light in always gets the fanfare, but all I saw was that second line:

Forget your perfect offering.

Four hours later, nearly thirty Grade 10 boys who, upon arrival in the room, had been whacking each other with yoga mats, were now sitting in peaceful stillness so deep I was trying to figure out how to make it clearer that the class was over and the time had come for them to pack up, get changed, and move along to their next class. As they began to filter out of the gym, a quiet boy approached me.

“I just wanted to say thank you for the class…I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 12 Steps at all…anyway, whatever we just did made me feel really centered. I haven’t felt this centered in a long time, actually. I really needed that.”

In daring to give me a truthful micro-glimpse of his own imperfectness, what this young man unknowingly offered me in exchange for some simple, strong poses and a quiet relaxation were deeper lessons than he probably realized.

Perfection — in who we are, what we do and how we do it — is overrated. Offer whatever it is you have to share, from whatever experience it is you have to share it from, no matter how deeply you doubt or fear your inadequacy, or the likelihood that you may meet rejection or failure. Turn to your truth; offer it, if you can. Silence and inaction, though safe for a while, only keep us stuck and alone.

photo(10)

Advertisements

What seems impossible…isn’t.

Isn’t it funny how when we’re in the midst of difficulty, we never know how we’ll reach the other side? We doubt that we’ll ever feel less pain/sadness/frustration/grief/anger/disappointment/… than we do in that moment, or in the days that follow that time as we process what we’ve been through, or what we’re grappling with. In the temporary narrowness of our vision, we fail to see how on earth we will ever get by, how anything could be any different than it is right now, how we could ever stop hurting, or at the very least, hurt less.

If we look really closely, really attentively at our lives, it is possible to see the inevitably of change — how the world changes, how we change, how life is changing us; how the strength of the emotions that weigh on us the most can, and will, somehow diminish. How they do, in fact, get to be less of a burden on our hearts…when we’re ready.

It doesn’t mean we forget, but it does mean that we can attempt to move forward.

There have been times where I’ve flat-out declared that I am completely uncertain as to how I’ll make it through the pain of something — a heartbreak, a loss, a significant change. It feels truthful because it is the truth of the moment, the daunting sight of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The ‘blow’ typically feels like the tip of the iceberg, the lowest ebb, or maybe it just takes some perspective to see it that way — the tiniest shaft of light in the darkness to guide us back into a brighter place.

They say time has its own way of healing. It’s true. But we need to, at the very least, give ourselves that, and to recognize that we may not be the same on the other side, but we will be a much richer soul for having navigated that tempest.

When we feel like we’re making baby steps in the world, let’s keep in mind those mammoth trials that cracked us open, but we somehow still managed to emerge from stronger, greater lessons we’ve learned for having been taught, and higher mountains we’ve climbed that have shown us a perspective on the world that we wouldn’t seen have otherwise.

We may have scars, bruises and bumps as a result, but they serve as a reminder to celebrate our victories, no matter how small. Even the littlest triumphs are a benchmark for hope that deeper peace and healing will find us in due time, and our rejoicing will be profoundly steeped in gratitude.

There is nothing like the jungle gym/obstacle course/playground of the human heart to show us that what seems absolutely impossible…isn’t.

What Seems Impossible ALLIG 2015

How the mall taught me about what doesn’t matter (and what does) at Christmas.

Despite my efforts to re-capture my childhood effervescence around the approaching of the holiday season, I’ve found, with each passing year, an increasing sense of pre-Christmas dread. No matter what change or hardship may come, I have begun to cultivate a more profound awareness of how my circumstances are not permanent, and how, oftentimes, the discomfort and resistance I may feel in any given situation is one of two things: an indicator of something new burning its way into my world, or a lesson to be learned before I can proceed to the next chapter in my “Life workbook.”

Even optimists have their down days. Most days, the mess reveals itself to be beautiful design work in disguise. Other days, it’s just…mess.

It pains me to say it, but the approach of the Christmas season this year has brought the pessimist out of me. These last couple of weeks have been marked by unfortunate global and local events that cause my burning faith in the basic goodness of human kind to wane, and my despair over the injustices of the world to grow. I have found myself grappling with a dizzying lack of understanding around why bad things continue to happen, why unhappy, fearful people are giving us all greater reason to be terrified, why souls of all ages go missing and families are left to worry themselves sick…and why oh why has it become acceptable to go out to dinner with your child and have them sit in neglected silence while you give your undivided attention to your phone!?

I thought that was enough of the world’s problems to feel through, but apparently I hadn’t come face-to-face with the tip of the iceberg yet — the place that has, somehow, become as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus:

The Mall.

It was a regular Friday night and I was feeling pretty good about life in general as Joel & I walked hand-in-hand, laughing at our usual weirdo banter. I wasn’t dressed up — jeans, winter boots, a blue long-sleeved t-shirt and a scarf. I very rarely wear make-up, so I certainly wasn’t made up for the occasion. This was meant to be a quick mission — in, out, done.

As we walked in the doors, I felt that familiar feeling of overwhelm ooze over me. Typically, the sheer amount of stimulation from walking into a mall (heck, even the grocery store!) makes me spacey and unfocused, but this was different. Christmastime at the mall is basically the mall on steroids. All I could see were strollers and arms laden with bags. There was a line-up into the jewelry store that snaked around far outside the paned glass entrance into the shop. Men & women alike were crowded over pamphlets, presumably selecting what charms or pieces of jewelry they would be purchasing once the security guard let them past the door. We wandered into a clothing store and I saw a pair of soft, knit leggings that I thought were pretty scrumptious. I checked the price tag, and they were $108. For leggings. A woman nearby stared blankly at the display table, quietly rubbing an over-priced scarf between her fingers. I wondered whether this was, in fact, the kind of gift that would make someone realize how much this person truly loved them.

Maybe my fault was in projecting how valuable these physical items might actually be to a person, or maybe it was letting the tissue paper-stuffed Armani shopping bags and the price of wooly leggings get my goat, but it didn’t take much to spiral from there. I felt a weakening in my spirit as I began to fight back tears and attempted to reign in an increasing feeling of helplessness. We were surrounded by STUFF, all around us, but yet we couldn’t find the small, simple item we were looking for. As we walked the halls from store to store, I reached for Joel’s hand. In one hand, I felt his steady presence, and in the other, any previous shred of appreciation and joy I had for everything about myself and my life when I came in the door began to dissolve.

Nothing felt like enough. I wasn’t well-dressed enough, pretty enough, successful enough, good enough… I even got as far as wondering whether I was completely deluding myself in even trying to make a go of creating a fulfilling, meaningful career for myself… Maybe it was time to banish any insecurity around what I feel other people might think about what I do, jump into the stream of corporate conformity and shelf my quest to bring greater peace, wholeness and wellness to humankind. From this vantage point in commercial mayhem, it was easy to believe that there was more value being placed on finding material things to shower upon family and friends than anything that enriches the grist of who they are. If anyone had cared to count, there were probably more people in the mall at that moment than at every Yoga studio in the city.

As I held the hand of the man I love, I knew that these negative thoughts were the true delusion, but something about this vortex made it harder to see that my thoughts were as false and impermanent as the gussied-up brick & mortar around me.

I truly believe that a Yoga practice is just that — a practice of honing our inner tools to put them into action when we experience challenge out in the world. I am also all for deep breaths and allowing emotions to be felt and honoured as they are coming up, but at this point, Joel knew that the best place for me to re-group and do those things more fully would be at a table in the food court, sharing a Blizzard. (And for the record, the seasonal flavour right now is delicious.)

As I spooned in mouthfuls of ice cream, my tears of sadness and frustration spilled out. I heavy-heartedly laid my mind’s turmoil out on the table while Joel listened and responded with deep compassion and understanding. The mall was near to closing, the crowds growing thin. If the mall had a sanctuary in that moment, it was the breathing space of the food court, at the small table in front of the DQ where there was Love, and a connection that not even wireless technology can emulate. I thought about a lovely compliment that my future sister-in-law paid me in a text message this Fall — that she admired my ability to keep perspective and see the positive in a given situation. Her words have fueled me to keep my eyes on the big picture as much I can, even if I feel my heart raising its protection level up a notch. Amidst my tears, I knew it was the feeling I had going into the mall, simply holding a hand and knowing I was ok in the world, that was more truthful than any single fear-based thought or doubt that my mind had created in that palace of excess.

As down as I felt, I knew that I hadn’t lost my ability to see the silver linings, or to know in my heart what was really true.

Cliché as it is, I don’t know if we always remember that all the shiny baubles, new technology, or overpriced items of clothing don’t really take us to the heart of what matters, not only at this time of year, but all year-long.

photo(21)Maybe what appeared to me to be disenchantment over the Christmas season (and thus my entire existence and purpose in life, apparently!) was actually a re-framing of what we need to hold onto as truth in a culture that thrives on our fear of not having or being enough; that we need more of something — anything! — just to be happier.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my loved ones to stress out over giving me stuff, just as much as I don’t want to feel that putting something in their hands on December 25th is the only way they’ll know how much I value their presence in my life. That text my future sister-in-law sent me was a gift that keeps on giving. The way my husband looks at me and listens with his eyes wide and soft is something I never ask for, but receive without condition time and time again, even when my gaze drops from the horizon of greater knowing and possibility. The feeling I had as a kid on Christmas morning is now contained in the joyful embrace I share with my brother and his fiancée every time they come home, and in seeing my whole family share laughter and stories around the dinner table. My parents may worry about me more than I know, and love me more than it is comfortable for them to say at times, but I know that they will always see me for who I am. And no matter how much in-laws get a bad rap, I am blessed with a mother-in-law generous to the point that I don’t even know how to say thank you anymore, and a father-in-law who seems perfectly content just to hug & kiss me every time I walk in their front door; a sister-&-brother-in-law who, from a distance, teach me how a passion for the great outdoors is a direct line to what actually matters in life.

All this, without even scratching the surface of the friendships — old & new — that enrich my life beyond measure, the teachers and mentors who nourish my soul, the practitioners who inspire me to give simply by showing up, and all the strangers who, when I’ve smiled at them, have chosen to smile back.

Everything that has allowed me to grow wiser, stronger, more compassionate, joyful and peaceful this year cannot be gift-wrapped. It exists within a moment, a lesson, a touch, a word, a laugh, a story, a meal shared, a silence, a gesture of kindness, a breath, a sunrise, a knowing look or a starry sky.

The true joy and sparkle of Christmas lies in the hearts of those whose hands we hold, of those who give us the truest versions of themselves all year round, and in doing so, aspire us to greater light in our lives, knowing all the while that we always have, and always will be, enough. Just as we are.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m perfectly content to give Love this Christmas, and always.

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.

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.

Image

 

Why Shiny People Should Lose Their #@*%

Dear Jeff Brown,

You are the hero of the day. Did you write this (below) knowing that SO many people would feel like it was written specifically for them?

“I know we often want it all happy and positive, but that’s just not where much of humanity is. Many of us are overwhelmed with pain, undigested sadness, unexpressed anger, unseen truths. This is where we are at, as a collective. So we have two choices. We can continue to pretend it’s not there, shame and shun it in ourselves and others, distract and detach whenever possible. Or we can face it heart-on, own it within ourselves, look for it in others with compassion, create a culture that is focused on authenticity and healthy emotional release. If we continue to push it all down, we are both creating illness and delaying our collective expansion. But if we can just own the shadow, express it, release it, love each other through it, we can finally graduate from the School of Heart Knocks and begin to enjoy this magnificent life as we were intended. Pretending the pain isn’t there just embeds it further. Let’s illuminate it instead.”

~ JEFF BROWN 

When I read these words on Jeff Brown’s Facebook page today, they hit me hard. Everything in me wanted to share it.

Maybe it sounds geeky and hippity-dippity, but I have ‘rules’ for my Facebook ‘shares.’ I ask myself:

– Will this somehow make the world/someone’s life better?

– Will this help to forge deeper connections within the self and/or with others?

– Will this make people laugh (for all the right reasons)?

– Will this inspire people to be more honestly connected to their own humanity and the humanity of others?

If the answer is ‘YES’ to any of those questions, I’ll share the nugget.

When I witness what I did today — an instant surge of online connectivity simply through identifying with a powerfully worded & universally shared sentiment, an outpouring of honesty that says ‘I GET this’ — I know that “The General We” have touched on something huge and human.

Moments like that just can’t be swept under the rug and traded in for the newest funny cat video (oooh, I love those too…)

Let’s be honest: we’re not ones to share much less than our ‘best selves’ on social media. We have all done this, and we will continue to do it because, if you think about it, it has a really stunning way of showing us the overarching highlights of our life — the things that we’ll remember (and will want to remember) at the end of the day. Plus, it makes us look like we have perma-happy lives or are full of really unique ideas, which, for some reason, is really important to us. 😉

We do this in real life too. How many of you have been asked that all too common question “How are you?” and have answered with, “I’m a lost, god-forsaken, blubbering piece of mess and I have no clue how to get untangled.”

Yeeeeeah, probably not many, and if you did, the person who expected you to reply with sunshine and rainbows oozing out of your pores was most likely flabbergasted.

How many of you have said you’re “good!” “fine!” “great!” and the perennial favourite, “really busy!”??

(Remember, I say this, because I am guilty of ALL of this.)

In a recent friendship-as-mutual-therapy conversation with a dear friend, I saw how those of us who strive to show our ‘shiniest selves’ as much as possible have a very hard time when we fall short of our own expectations of being, well, shiny. Even worse, when we fail to show anything less than that shiny side to others, we feel like we’ve let everyone down.

What happens when the ‘shiny, happy, steady people’ feel tarnished? Worn out? Confused?

 

Image

‘WAIT’ by Vancouver artist Kelly Clarke.

In sharing our less-than-perfect moments, opening up our own vulnerabilities and truly hearing the vulnerabilities of others, something amazing happens:

BOOM. Connection.

The inspiring Brené Brown has devoted years of her life studying vulnerability, but it never ceases to amaze me how real this idea is until I see it come to life right in front of me.

When we share our imperfections, what we perceive as our ‘failures’ or ‘shortcomings,’ we create the space for the most honest form of human connection.

Now, I’ll admit I’m pretty new to the process of living compared to, say, a centenarian who went through world wars. At the end of the day, my life could be touted as being fairly uncomplicated and not nearly as riddled with past deviance as the guy smoking the joint at the bus stop admitted to me today. (Such a nice guy! That’s another story for another time.)

The thing is, I’ve felt old since I was a kid. My 8 or 9 year old self was VERY much looking forward to being in the vicinity of my current age one day, and in this particular phase of life.

Case in point, my childhood best friend and I (we are still friends to this day, which is a true gift) didn’t play ‘House…’

We played ‘Mothers.’

Yup, two 10 year old girls pretending to be happily married to our respective ‘husbands,’ then spontaneously pregnant and contentedly rubbing our bellies, then giving birth to our plastic dolls, and once that was done, having ‘coffee’ together as we rocked our respective babies in our hand-me-down Snuglis (once inhabited by us as infants) or child-sized doll carriages.

At age 8 or 9, with our childhood games of being a wife and a potential mother aside, I wouldn’t have anticipated that my vulnerable, ’emotional’ moments at age 31 would feel not too far off from that of, oh, a 9-year old.

This weekend, my husband and I went over to my in-laws’ place for dinner. On the way over, I acknowledged that I was feeling a healthy combination of tired, borderline anti-social, mellow and just not quite up to snuff. (I love people to bits but I’ve gotta start owning my Introversion!) We had barely been in the front door not more than 60 seconds when I broke down, and let’s face it, there’s no graceful way of breaking down…

Why the insta-tears?

Well, it was because my mother-in-law eagerly suggested that we should pop across the cul-de-sac to meet the sweet little 3-year old girls that live across the way.

In the most polite way I could muster, I lost it. The way I dissolved was as if I had been asked to take care of newborn sextuplets with explosive diarreah on the eve of the apocalypse. And you know what I said? (Here’s the kicker.)

“Sometimes, I just need to not meet new people.”

Great, I thought, so now on top of coming a bit unglued, I am being unfriendly AND unwilling to meet new people…who are 3 YEARS OLD. We used to play MOTHERS!! I LOVE KIDS!

I may have felt for a split-second that I was showing ‘weakness,’ but I knew in my heart that I was 100% being true to EXACTLY where I was in THAT particular moment. Not everyone is comfortable with breaking down in front of their family — this wasn’t a cushy moment, and this wasn’t even the first time I’d ever cried in front of my in-laws! I took myself for a long walk and reminded myself to detach from the mental process of why I was feeling the way I felt. Instead, I shifted my focus to all the messy, vivid sensations of how utterly uncomfortable and undeniably right it had felt to ‘come apart’ the way I had — not the story of “Why” 20 minutes ago or 5 years in the future, but the realness of what was running through me NOW. In reality, I knew that I hadn’t come apart. I was claiming my honest feelings in order to become more whole. Who I was in that moment may have looked less than shiny, but I had been, and was being, totally and utterly true to myself, tears and all.

What I am grateful for now, 3 days later, is that instead of being flabbergasted at this unexpected unravelling, my mother-in-law hugged me, followed by my father-in-law… then my husband hugged me and kissed me on the forehead. They all met my feelings with compassion and promptly scooted me out the door for nature therapy.

No one made me go meet the 3 year olds that day, even though I am sure they are adorable beyond measure. Instead, I sat and stared at the subtle shifts of the clouds that hovered in the bright, blue Sunday sky, and felt the sun wash over me.

They say ‘in every life a little rain must fall.’ Sometimes, it’s a deluge, and not even a sunny day is immune to a downpour.

Where I live, we like to talk about the weather. So in meteorological terms, here it is:

Even the shiniest of people need these clouds. We need these clouds to break wide open to even begin the process of getting a piece of our sunshine back. No cloud ever withholds the rain. And if those you love can see YOU clearly through all forms of weather, then, by golly, it’s your lucky day.

Shine on.

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. 

                     Image