EMBRACE NAKED REALITY

I have just returned from SHINE Leadership Training and read Being of Power, by Baron Baptiste to complete my essay assignment.  Oh what timing this turned out to be........one of the laws of being powerful is Embrace Naked Reality.

In this present moment Embrace Naked Reality speaks to me the most. The naked reality in my life is what I do and don't do with the good and bad, the clean and messy, the comfortable and uncomfortable situations. It is what I do or don't do with my feeling of excitement when I found out I was pregnant the day I returned from training and the sadness and tears when I knew I lost my baby. 

The truth is, it was challenging for me to practice embracing the naked reality of what I was experiencing around my miscarriage.  I knew something was wrong and instead of embracing the naked reality of it I made it more challenging. I started to give meaning to everything, I went into reaction mode. I let anger and frustration take me over. 

I remember sitting in the stupid patient chair with my legs spread open while the ultrasound tech was so annoyingly quiet taking measurements. When she didn’t say anything I wanted to punch her but when she finally spoke I still wanted to punch her. You are going to laugh when I tell you what she said that made me so crazy. She said, “breathe”. Oh my goodness I was being such a bitchI wanted to say to her“I am a yoga teacher, I tell students every damn day to breath, I KNOW HOW TO BREATHE!” I want to punch her. My head chatter at that point was in a state of fear,  I knew something was wrong, I let the fear and anger take me over.

After she finished, she asked me to get dressed and go to the waiting room, she told me the doctor would come and get me. I was not leaving that room without seeing what was wrong so I took a few extra minutes and looked at the screen to find that the sac where my baby should have been happily growing...and the sac was empty. I waited for the doctor and waited and waited. Oh boy my thoughts were not nice at all while I waited. Everyone I saw was fucking pregnant in those next fifteen minutes that felt like eternity, even the fucking nurse! So when I finally saw the doctor to receive the confirmation that there was no baby, I had to take the ultra sound techs advise and focus on my breath to get through those painful couple of moments. I felt like a building just collapsed on me.  Right then, I was all alone, I was broken, it was like breathing through an opening the size of a coffee straw under a fallen building.

That place also where I had to find out how strong I was. I had to let the baby go I had to be alone and feel the hurt and I had to connect with my shallow breath one breath at a time.  I had to tell myself you can do this and you are going to be fine. I had to sit with the naked reality. I was able to maintain my breath and sustain a rhythm that was open and clear. I was able to love myself here in this place.  I needed to be vulnerable and raw. I made a decision to embrace this reality and not feel sorry for myself that I miscarried.  I made a decision to stop creating stories that cause more drama.

Embracing my Naked Reality with no filter is that I miscarried. I will create space to handle the situation in a nonreactive way.  I will process this with LOVE.  I will mindfully work at holding on to this space with love & compassion.

I Almost Did Not Go

I am extremely grateful for the experience I had on beautiful Daufuskie Island at the Shine Leadership Training 2016.  The entire experience exceeded my expectations.  One of the greatest gifts that I have given myself…..ever! 

I feel a deep respect & admiration for Wanda Gilhool, Sarah Esposito, Rachele Cipollone, and Daniel McCall.  The VALUE provided by this team was exceptional and the experience was extraordinary.

I ALMOST DID NOT GO.........

My wife Tracy is a passionate & committed Yogi for over 14 years.  She encouraged me sign up for the Leadership Boot camp in January.  This Bootcamp began to open my eyes to what is possible in this process and convinced me to do the entire program this April.

You see, I have not always been completely supportive of Tracy’s yoga path, her goals and her dreams related to Yoga.  Outwardly I was positive,  but inside a part of me was very negative.  I found myself resistant to her gentle suggestions about how good Yoga could be for me if I gave it a chance.  I practiced Yoga a little and liked how it felt, but never committed to it as a lifestyle.  I never fully listened to Tracy when she came back from Yoga Trainings feeling fully inspired.  Just not my thing.....

I found myself thinking, how could Yoga training compare to what I did?  I am an “EXECUTIVE” with a “REAL JOB” in charge of a Leadership Development Department for my company.  I have been to MANY executive and leadership trainings.  I have LED them.  What were the “YOGA PEOPLE” going to teach me about leadership?  I run marathons and also completed the Ironman in Lake Placid.  What was a little stretching going to do for me?  How could a bunch of touchy feely, dirt digging tree-hugging BS be good for me?  How real or good could it be really?

THAT thinking wasn’t even close to be what happened!

There was a point in the training where this really hit me hard.  I said to my group, “I came all the way to Daufuskie Island, SCto realize what a “DICK” I have been showing up as in multiple areas of my life!”   If I were married to me I am pretty sure I would have left.  Tracy stayed and has always been a stand for the best version of me always.   Her patience and strength inspire me. 

Some of my takeaways from the week….

I feel great to know I can be better at home with my family AND a bigger leader at work.  I was able to share, process and resolve some BIG obstacles that have been in my way through the process that was facilitated by Wanda.

I feel excited to have learned about concepts like living, thinking and behaving above the line.  I am excited to be more aware of responding vs. reacting in my daily life.

I feel grateful to have a deeper appreciation and respect for the art of teaching Yoga.

I feel inspired by the igolu leadership training provided. It actually hit me more effectively than trainings I spent thousands on in my past. I am confidant that with clear personal vision and goals that I will move forward in key areas of my life that are most important to me.

I am delighted to learn a great system of giving and getting feedback.  Keep, Stop, Start!

I am committed to be a positive member of the SHINE Community.

I am inspired by how much I still have to learn but confidant that I will and that I can!

I am humbled and in awe of the brave and beautiful people I spent the week with.  Ariella, Carla , Lisa, Brad, Melissa, Rachel and Raquel.   We arrived with different stories and reasons but left a cohesive community supporting each others greater vision.  (S.O.M.F)

I will leave you with this one question.  Why not you next year?

I AM NOTHING and it feels amazing!

I am nothing and it feels so damn good. You see, before leadership teacher training I had so many attachments they stuck to me like Post-it notes, and my body was covered.  You know those neon little sticky papers that you stick to things?  Yeah I'm talking about those.  Those post it notes felt like prodding reminders of what I had to be . I had a post it note that looked like “poor me I work too much.”   Another one said “Girl, you need layers of make up and You Tube videos of contouring to make yourself prettier.”   A Post-it note for “stay quiet, your afraid of being heard.” A Post-it that looked like a BIG stack of excuses,  another one that was always being late. Well, honestly all of those Post-it notes felt like a boulder of crap weighing me down.  I felt like I was a lost woman at the age of 32. I wanted to rip those Post-it's off and uncover who is Raquel?  I felt fear, real serious deep down fear.

The very first day of teacher training, we did an exercise that we listed all the things “I am”....  The leaders had us cross off everything that I Do, everything I Believe & everything I Have. THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT ON THE LIST!!!!  I had a breakthrough, if I am not those Post It notes, did they really exist? If the slate is clean and I am pure white nothing, can I create all I want from that?  HOLY SHIFT!

 I couldn't have experienced that shift if I didn't feel supported by the leaders of SHINE and my peers in the training. The breakthrough was simply ; I am nothing. NO THING!  When I am nothing there are no attachment roles, or characters I had to play.  I can just show up as Raquel every day as my authentic self!!!  I am not those post it notes. I am living a COMPLETE life.  WHOA!

Now, I am not saying I do not like a nice Louis Vuitton purse here and there but now I know they don't define me.  I feel FREE! The possibilities for me are endless. I can wear no make up and feel gorgeous.   I can speak from my True North Alignment and be heard.  I can show up on time and have time integrity. I can be a leader. All I have to do is show up as Raquel.  I know I AM ENOUGH.

Finding Purpose & Meaning in Practice

Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human -Victor E. Frankl

Two years after I separated from the Marine Corps, I was lost in practically every aspect of my life. My marriage had fallen apart, I despised my meaningless job in business and I was in debt up to my neck. Too frequently, I sought false refuge by drinking with Baltimore City cops who were also self-medicating PTSD and anxiety. Having seen death and destruction of war, nowhere felt quite safe anymore, except when I boozed, it took the edge off. Then a game changer, I found yoga and meditation, it found me. Being this big battle-tested tough guy Marine, I found myself a bit conflicted and confronted a series of lingering questions. Should I stick with the story that tough guys shouldn’t do things like yoga, and let others judge or criticize me unfavorably? More deeply, should I allow past traumas, fear of failure, rejection, uncertainty in life to keep me from connecting with myself and others, to keep me from fulfilling my potential?

Ultimately, could I have the courage to shift the course of my life from downward spirals of self- sabotaging, self-doubting beliefs toward an upward path of uncovering my true dharma, duty and place in the world?

starved for authentic experience

Each time I place my body on a mat or a cushion, I set a meaningful intention for my time on it. Importantly, this intention needs to be connected to my deeper values and beliefs, it is the initial spark which becomes a flame that when patiently fueled by breath becomes a strong and balanced fire. When I move and breathe with this fire in my mind and body, it takes root and grows. When I step off the mat and into the world, I carry it with me and extends to those I interact with and connect with.

Two years apart from the Marine tribe, I still polished my medals of valor with a pride-filled false ego and wore invisible armor that hid unseen scars. This only served to isolate me at a time

 

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when I was still stuck in the blood, mud and shit filled streets of Iraq. What happened for me over the last five years has been nothing short of a personal revolution. I can confidently look back and see two major lessons: one, that our experiences of pain and suffering hinge upon our chosen beliefs and destructive habits of mind. If we can gain insight into, then unlearn these maladaptive beliefs, we can alter the presence or severity of our suffering. Two, that with a purposeful, intention filled yoga and meditation practice, new meaning and understanding will unfold naturally in front of us. It falls into our lap almost effortlessly. Our path forward toward what is right and good for us becomes clear and obstacles along the way are navigated with ease. For all of us that have ever felt fractured and lost, this process of finding a new way to be that feels right is a miraculous and rich experience of revival and rebirth.

With the state of western values and culture increasingly dependent on external solutions to internal problems, it comes as no surprise that we are often left with a sense of emptiness and confusion. We’re conditioned to reactively buy, spend and hoard money, acquire material goods and pop pills to quench our thirst for comfort and calm our fears. While this might be functional temporarily, it’s short-sighted and we find ourselves needing another fix once that buzz wears off. All serve as false refuge. So where should we look for true refuge? Your yoga mat and meditation cushion (preferably with the beautiful teachers at SHINE Power Yoga), of course.

If you’re struggling with your purpose in life, job, relationships or just feel stressed all the time but aren't quite sure why, I invite you to share this post with your friends, then bring them along with you for this great practice. During our yoga classes, you will find golden opportunities to mindfully pick and choose all the ingredients you need to build a strong fire and re-connect with a deeper sense of purpose. You’ll not only inspire yourself and find new meaning all around you, but your energy will inspire others to do the same. Through this process our community and culture grow together and shine bright together.

Picasso said “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Last but not least - - I’m very excited to announce that starting Saturday March 26th, SHINE will begin offering another way to deepen and round out your yoga practice with a 60 minute Mindfulness Meditation class! Here, I will lead our weekly sangha (community) with a 20-30 minute sit followed by a guided dharma talk. I look forward to seeing you there.

Namaste. CJ

~ CJ is currently living in South Jersey as an occupational therapist, finishing his 500 hour yoga teacher training under the guidance of Rolf Gates, and serves as a program director for Veterans Yoga Project. You can contact him at captkeller@me.com, or take his weekly Vinyasa class every Saturday at 12p with meditation following at 1:30p at the Maple Shade studio ~ 

I Can’t Touch My Toes When I’m With You...........

If I can’t touch my toes am I a bad yogi? How about if I can’t put my leg behind my head? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one in the class who doesn’t like when the teacher speaks to Possibility. I usually can’t do Possibility very well. Holding Utkatasana for 20 breaths – yeah, I can do that... Tortoise pose? No fucking way can I do a straddle stretch and have my chest reach the floor. When the teacher cues a pose like this, I get so far inside my head it’s ridiculous. I go into judgment mode, I judge myself, and I judge the teacher. This happened today BIG TIME when I took class.

First, I judged myself – “I am a yoga teacher, so why can’t I do this pose? I’m probably not a good teacher because I can’t do it.” Then, I judge the teacher – “why does she cue poses like this? Can’t she see that I can’t do it?” Myself again - “Maybe if I had more time to practice yoga, I could do more advanced poses, but I can’t. I can’t even get to a yoga class during the workday.”All of this came up during a 60 minute practice. WOW!!! Major judgement huh? No wonder I left feeling completely unfulfilled.

Here is where at times I feel confusion. As yoga teachers, aren’t we are supposed to speak to Possibility. Allowing space for students to figure things out? Go deeper or further in an asana and find something new? We don’t’ want our yogis to feel bored or unchallenged. What’s the balance between giving Possibility but not making students feel like shit when they can’t do something the teacher can do? I wonder am I the only one feeling this way?

I know there are students in my classes that are working on Crow Pose (bakasana) – feeling frustrated because they can’t do it. Do I make them feel unfulfilled when I cue it in every practice I teach? I think it’s about me opening the door to Possibility, but just a peak – knowing when it is enough so if someone wants to go inside, they can reach out on their own – open the door and go inside. If they don’t want to, they can stay where they are (and the teacher acknowledges that it’s OK to stay where you are)... My style is to teach the practice in such a way to make everyone feel included. My goal is for every student to leave feeling amazing; satisfied, challenged and accomplished......which is filled with Possibility if you think about it. 

When Your Yoga Practice Has Your Yoga Head Up Your Well Toned Yoga Ass

I walk into the yoga room today ready for my practice. I feel good, my body is strong from all the wheel yoga, I've been eating clean, drinking less alcohol, feel bad ass. Becky calls the first pose Child's Pose, I breathe I feel present. We go through Rag Doll Pose, Sun Salutations, I feel good & begin to sweat quickly. I love hearing Becky's voice she is a strong leader. She calls Side angle pose! Hmmmm....what do I want to do with my arm? Do I want to bind my arm, is my front thigh ok? My back foot feels funny, wait, is that a cobweb on the ceiling?? OK that wasn't easy. Focus Wanda. Next Pose, Flip Dog, well I don't like Flip Dog today. I've been working hard lately so I am not doing that. Wait, did Becky just have us come out and then do it again? What do you mean Flip Dog more than one time, what is she fucking crazy? Oh now Flip Dog to Cheetah Pose? Oh GOD, How long have we been in this class now? Maybe I should take Child's Pose because my body's tired. Maybe I need more water. Boy am I getting on my own nerves, if I was my student, I say get your head out of your ass. Intention, Drishti, Breath!

Chair pose, wait a minute did she say for five breaths? I'm too weak today to hold it for five flippin breaths, I'll just do a different pose, or maybe just Child's Pose. Why am not selling those leg warmers in the retail area? Should I open an eBay store? Do I have time to open an eBay store? Maybe Rachele knows how to open an eBay store? If I open an eBay store can I be present with my kids? Do my kids love me? Ouch, why does my big toe have a cramp? Maybe I should just leave the yoga room right now and go sit at the desk and do work. This practice is worthless. What the hell!!! Your a yoga teacher, just get present breathe and BE! Stay! Drishti! Breathe!

Balancing series, YES, my favorite. Do I feel nauseous? Is my back fat hanging out of my shirt? Is my back fat smaller from all my wheel classes? Dancer pose sucks today! I feel stuck. She just said three dancer poses? But I only want to do two. It is an hour class so why are we doing three? Is the refrigerator door cracked open? The eye towels are going to be warm because the refrigerator doors open. I really want to do Savasana and get a cold eye towel. Oh my god there's 25 minutes left in class. I need coffee. I'm wasting my own time. Why is my head up my ass? You know better than this. Stop thinking! I heard Trader Joe's is selling Sriracha potato chips. If I don't practice I can't eat potato chips. Wait a minute yes I can, potatoes are good for you. Stop thinking! Did she just say Frog Pose? Yeah a Frog Pose, love this one. Oh crap! This doesn't feel good today either. Becky says be still, close your eyes, feel your breath. Shut up Becky. I want coffee & sriracha potato chips...that’s all, not this stupid yoga.

Why am I sharing my head up my ass yoga practice with you? Because I feel exhausted just writing down these thoughts. I gave away so much of my energy with my negative self-talk and I know better!!!!!! I feel it's important to share with my community that I struggle, even though I have practiced for 25 years, I lead teacher trainings and workshops. That this happens sometimes to EVERYONE! So where will I go from here? I go right into my next practice knowing that todays practice doesn't determine my future, it is already my past. I will choose to not look back and eagerly await the next time I roll my mat out and take that first pose Child's Pose. I shared with Becky right after class what was going on, she said, write that down....that is good....let us all in, let us learn Grace from your story. Thank you Becky, I stopped and got my Starbucks Coffee and my Trader Joes Sriracha chips to join me as I write this blog. Perfection is not what I ever desire, authenticity is way more fun!!!!!!!! 

The Scientific Reason why Meditation should be Integrated into your Practice

In case you missed it (ICYMI), we are currently in an exciting period of time known as “the age of the brain”. Maybe I am just biased towards this; I am a graduate student at Rutgers working in a neurobiology lab. Either way, with the advent of BRAIN initiative (costing an estimated $3 billion), I think it is important to educate ourselves about this topic. After all, some of our tax dollars are going to fund this research.

Before I get into the subject of this blog, let me quickly qualify myself and tell you how this blog dea came about. In 2011, I was forced to enter into recovery for the first time for a slew of self destructive behaviors ranging from addiction to extreme exercising. After deciding silver bracelets and anklets were not a good look for me, I entered a rehab facility where I was diagnosed with addiction, PTSD, anorexia, depression, ADD, GAD, and OCD (I think that’s it?).

I was pretty mentally f*cked up and was incapable of making sound decisions.
It was recommended in this facility that I start practicing yoga and meditation in order to be successful in the real world and a functioning human being. Of course I didn’t listen, at first. After a couple years of relapse and misery and trying things my way, I decided that I may actually be wrong (hard to believe, I know) and began to incorporate meditation into my “recovery tool box”.

Meditation turned out to be a game changer, so much so that I felt the need to buy a ridiculously priced meditation pillow. After one meditation session, I was able to find what I had been looking for this whole time. This lead to me yoga and then to this amazing/beautiful SHINE community.

Sometime during the summer, our fearless leader Wanda told all of us who work here to write a blog on the topic of their choosing. Being a type A perfectionist, I had to come up with an amazing topic. After a crazy first semester teaching demanding students while working on my thesis/publication that I began to realize the benefits that yoga and meditation provided for me. Of course being a scientist, I wanted to explore whether or not yoga and meditation have been researched by neuroscientists. After conducting a quick search, there are scores of articles about both topics. Rather than give you guys a headache and try to decipher the jargon that us egomaniac scientists love to use, I will KISS (another of my many challenges).

One of the first people to scientifically test the effects of meditation and mindfulness was Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar. In her first study, she compared long term meditation practioners and yogis to a control group who never meditated. What she found was that the long term meditators had increased gray matter in specific regions of the brain and they either had stronger or weaker neuronal connections between them.

That is the scientific reason as to why meditation works. Science also recently began conducting similar studies in regards to yoga practice and the results are quite similar.

Although science may have proposed a mechanism for how meditation and yoga are helpful, does it actually work? From my personal experience, the answer is a resounding yaaaasssssss!!! Here is how (in relation to the scientific findings):

*Meditation has placed my PTSD into remission (along with other methods) and I can definitely attribute my low dose of antidepressants to meditation. Thanks increased gray matter!

*I am no longer on anxiety medications, don’t overreact to situations (most of the time). This is especially true in my relationships with other people. Meditation has allowed me to become calm and therefore present to my reactions.The stronger connection between regions of my brain allows me to pause and think before I act and understand others in a way I was incapable of. I believe a big reason I am capable of getting along with difficult people at work and being non-reactive of others is because of my meditation and yoga practice.

*Meditation and finding breath in yoga allows me to think rationally through difficult situations where my brain tells me the only way out is something destructive. I can meditate on the problem and think of a solution rather than feel stuck.

*Meditation and yoga allow me to UNBECOME all of the things I told myself I have to be. This is life changing. The water pourer at the sweat lodge I go to as well as my yogi friend Capt CJ Keller always talk about how these practices allow us to unlearn behaviors that no longer serve us. Meditation breaks down my old beliefs in order to become my true self.

This past December. One of my students was literally freaking out that she was going to fail the class because she had a 71 average. I suggested to her to do a guided meditation every day before the final exam. After 7 days of meditation, my student was able to get a 96 on her final and end up with a B in the class.

If you don't know how to start your meditation journey, your next Savasana or YouTube are great places to start. YouTube offers a plethora of short guided meditations that I have found to be useful. To me it seems pretty obvi as to why meditation is so important; I say try it!!! The worst thing that happens is that you wasted 10 - 30 minutes of your life, which is NBD, right?! 

The Secret

This past month has been so much fun, knowing that the Leadership Team @ SHINE Power yoga has a secret they can not wait to share with our community. We love to have fun, we really love surprises and we mostly love to get people talking. I think that is evident, that we are a community willing to take risks, put it out there raw for everyone to see and we keep it REAL...... Like us or hate us, we have a Vision and it drives us.

This past summer while in Ocean City reading on the beach, I was preoccupied and constantly thinking of this quote from Baron Baptiste’s book Being of Power (my personal favorite). I underlined it, highlighted it, wrote it about 10 times, it meant something different to me all of a sudden.

“The path of transformation has no end. It’s a profound, lifelong commitment to moving up to something bigger.”

I began to meditate on this. Now you see when I meditate, many times it leads into my prayers. I hear God’s voice strongest when I am able to actually sit and listen. Sometimes he speaks to me and I actually hear His voice, other times I will feel sensations in my body (triggers) and my intuition becomes very strong, leading me where I am to go. During meditation I kept hearing this word VISIONARY. I began to research the word. The simple definition is “a person thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom, typically a leader”. WHAT? Shut the front door....... I wanna be that!

Sarah and I had been playing around for a bit on this Yoga Wheel that we bought online. We first heard of it when Becky Kain brought one to class, immediately thinking YES that thing is awesome! We began watching Instagram videos and bringing it to class with us, always striving for the next space in our pose or body. It was about taking our personal practice to another level, many times going with your INTUITION & being a VISIONARY for your yoga practice.

I noticed there was alot of excitement and interest in the wheel from other students too. NOW my brain gets all fired up and I am thinking, How can SHINE offer this to everyone? How can SHINE create its own wheel? How can SHINE have a Yoga Wheel Schedule? How can SHINE be a Visionary in this?

We had no luck with the first two companies we contacted to develop these SHINE Yoga Wheels (cost, time, manpower, etc). Then we saw Yoloha Yoga Company is launching a cork yoga wheel and Yoloha Yoga Company is a very strong supporter of our Vinyasa for Vets program. I met the owner, Chris and he is an outstanding innovative human.....I am thinking, this could work out! It only took one email and the wheel production was in place. He was able to put our SHINE Power Yoga Logo on each Wheel and get them to me in record time. I

I am so excited to be able to support his vision and his company at the same time we make our Vision for a SHINE Yoga Wheel Program happen.

January 18, 2016 our SHINE Yoga Wheel Program will launch! We begin with five trained teachers in our own SHINE Yoga Wheel Sequence and we know this is just the beginning of something BIG. To be the first feels good, to be a Visionary feels good, to bring excitement and growth to our South Jersey Yoga Community feels amazing.

I love how much we are learning in the process. I love the support our team has for each others vision. I remember a time in my life I lived inside a black box with walls and padded with my comfort zone. It feels vibrant and alive to create and bust out of the box, dive into the unknown and do what I am most passionate about! Namaste’ 

Enough

I asked Amy, a fellow yoga teacher and remarkable photographer to take pictures of me in yoga poses sans clothing for three reasons:

1.     I thought it would be liberating (it was)

2.     I’ve worked hard to come to terms with my body.

3.     I want to start a conversation.

 

The conversation? Inner dialogue.

Our inner dialogue is the sum total of our beliefs and thoughts. It’s the language we use with ourselves. Sometimes, it's the dialogue we don’t want anyone to find out about. Ever.

I’ve degraded, injured, starved, intoxicated, used and dishonored by body for years through the dialogue I had with myself.

“You don’t look like her,” said the voice in third grade when the skinny blonde ran across the playground. I was a chubby brunette. Shy. “You’re not cool like her.”

I grew up and fell in love with soccer. It made my body feel strong and purposeful. When many knee surgeries took me out of the game, the depreciative voices grew louder. “Your body is useless. You have nothing to offer anymore. No one likes you. You're not pretty enough. Oh, and you're not smart either.”

I kept feeding this dialogue and eventually had to shut it up, so I took charge by starving myself and binging/vomiting. The control and emotional release actually worked- for a second. I didn’t know these behaviors would flame the fire of my voices, and therefore, my actions.

More! Drinking and blacking out.

More!  Drugs and overdose.

More! I’ll do anything to escape until it kills me.

Thankfully, it didn’t kill me. It hurt me and everyone in my path, but the vicious voices were tamed. I attribute a legal detox and firm, loving parents throwing me back into a treatment center. I attribute a twelve-step organization. I attribute yoga and breath. I attribute divine intervention. I attribute that one voice I’d be hushing that said, “Enough.”

I’ve heard many psychologically and medically sound reasons as to what was wrong with me and many solutions and self-help phrases to get me well. Nothing stuck until I had one moment when I took a deep breath and the chatter died down just a little bit for me to hear, “Enough.”

So what’s this writing about? It’s about choosing the voice that we listen to. I tell my students that our words become our lives, so I work to choose my words wisely.

One of my most beloved mentors calls the destructive inner dialogue “Leroy.” She tells me to say, “Fuck off Leroy!” when that voice tunes up. Trust me friends, saying this is a very spiritual response.

I still have to re-choose my thoughts everyday. Thankfully, I have many tools. One monumental tool is yoga. On my mat, I am able to create space for choice through breath and asana.

My gratitude is for everyone and everything that’s helped quiet my dialogue. My gratitude is in being able to finally hear, “Enough.”

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.”

 

-Ghandi

 

 

 

The Art of Letting Go

Right behind my house is a small building. From the outside it may look like any garage, filled with old gardening tools, a lawn mower and miscellaneous do dads. But when you open the french doors you walk into an open room. There’s a high ceiling finished in wood slats. Two skylights that let the afternoon sun fill the room. The whitest white walls come down to beige tile floors. This is my shop.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m an artist. When my creative button is turned on, this is the place I am on my days off. My husband built this space for me as a my own art shop. It’s funny, that it’s here i’ve learned most of the lessons we speak so much of in a yoga class.

Imagine a lovely fall evening, we could be having one now so you may just have to look out the window to see it. I’ve been in my shop for the past 8 hours, working on a section of a collage. Now the thing about my collage work is that I use catalogs for my paper. Anthopologie & Free People to be specific. My Mom, friends and other family save their catalogs for me too. Even so, I usually only ave 2 -3 of each catalog. So when I find a few pages with a pattern or color that I like, I have a VERY limited amount to work with. Moreover, once a piece of paper is cut and glued down, that’s it. There’s no moving it. There’s no trying again.  There’s no using it someplace else.

For 3 of the past 8 hours I’ve been working on one section. Carefully cutting and glueing. Everything is in this 4 x 4 inch space. I make sure every piece is laid with precision and is in line with the image as a whole.   There was also the hours it took me the previous day of flipping though the mass of saved catalogs I have to FIND this color and pattern, which goes with all the OTHER colors and patterns I have found to make up this one image.  Not only do the colors and patterns have to go together, but there has to be ENOUGH of each one to fill a section. So if there isn’t enough I have to go BACK through the piles of catalogs and find SIMILAR colors & patterns to complete the section. 

I stop, take few steps back and a sip of beer. This is when the thought come into my head….

“Meh….” 

Fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck. It doesn’t work. Maybe I can MAKE it work. 

I spend another hour cutting and glueing. Step back, more beer. 

Nope.

I am now standing in a spot I have been in many times. I have put so much effort into this one thing. Wether that thing is a section of a collage, an assumption about a friend or a co-worker, a political statement, a religious belief.  Experience has now proven me wrong. What do I do? Do I hold on just because I’ve put so much effort in? And you know what, it HAS been a lot of effort. 

I feel fatter because I haven’t worked out. Nothing has has been put away in my house and I haven’t done any laundry. The “yoga” smell from my laundry basket has permeated everything in my bathroom. And at this moment there is nothing but condiments, liquids and artisanal pickles in my refrigerator. I mean they’re fuckin’ delicious, but do you have ANY idea how hard it is to make dinner out of that?!  Everything else Sacrificed because I was working on this one thing, all of this because I put all of my energy here. To make THIS one image whole.  And now, this one thing now has the AUDACITY to not hold true. Well FUCK that. Its gonna Work damn it. EVERYTHING else is just gonna have to shift. 

I’ve worked too hard.

I grab my beer bottle with a dramatic flourish, that’s really only for myself, and storm out of my shop. Slamming the lights off and the door shut.

I almost immediately stop and feel silly.  You know those inspirational memes people share on Facebook all the time?  Most of my friends on Facebook are yoga teachers so my feed is lousy with them. Every other post I see is something meant to spark your inner fire, but for me, they mostly fall into a cliché mush.  So when one pops into my head, sunset over the sea background image and all, I stop. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn” 

Damn it.  Yes, even I rolled my eyes at my brain for conjuring this image.  But even in my mini rage, the message can’t be denied. 

I turn my feet around on the short path between my house and my shop and walk back. I open the door, turn on the lights and sit down on the floor. All around me are my piles of catalogs. I open the nearest one to me and start flipping through. I gotta find a new truth for that section of me. A new pattern, a new color, a new thought. 

It’s not the thought of my whole image being better that stopped me before. Its the work that proceeds it. The thought of sitting right here, on the cold, beige tile floor for hours on end finding what works. The thing is, I DO always find what works, I just have to be willing to let go of what doesn’t.

CLICK THOUGH FOR PROGRESS

 

 

 

 

Life After The Hamster Ball

Picture a hamster in a ball, sprinting through the world, bumping into life, coloring the interior with vibrant colors, rolling off ledges and hysterically laughing as she glides on her back, paws up, squealing triumphantly: reckless, fearless and joyous. Safe to view the world through her opaque walls…

This hamsters name is Amy, safe in my ball to be the real me…

Once upon a time, I was a one year old that drove my mother crazy, climbing out of my crib to sit on top of my sisters tall dresser. A toddler who would ride sleeping bags as sled’s down the steps, and a child who'd pop wheelies on my bike and flips on my skateboard.  No one ever accused me of being boring. Yes, I kept everyone on their toes. 

As I grew up, I realized not everyone appreciated the REAL Amy. Not everyone could handle the spontaneity of unfiltered silliness and so I created a safe zone…my hamster ball.  But adult life with afamily and careers cant really be lived in a ball so I compensated. I expanded my ball, letting select people in, or stepping out and building a filter to fit in.  While Reckless in my safe zone, as my sister put it, I was a deer in headlights out of it. I’d find myself not breathing out of my comfort zone and retreat back to the safety of my ball when overwhelmed. 

Then yoga came into my life…

My first power yoga class was a fundraiser for Africa Yoga Project. One of my best friends offered the opportunity one night to try it, it must've been the wine that made me say YES. As I lay on my mat the next morning in class, with the room slightly spinning, sweaty immediately from the humidity and surrounded by strangers,  I honestly thought to myself I'd better say a prayer that I don't die.
I got through most of the class playing Monkey-See-Monkey-Do. Then the teacher cued to begin back bending, I planted my hands on the mat and pushed up into wheel and emphatically said to my girl "Ohhhh, I did it!" I didn’t realize how loud the words flowed out, then the entire class met me with an equally emphatic cheers. In that wheel I reminded myself of a 12 year old Amy in her hamster ball: reckless, fearless, joyous. Day One and I was hooked.

When I entered teacher training 2 years later, I did it for me. I wanted to expand my practice and set forth on the river of self inquiry. I had no expectations for fitting in but figured that I could compensate enough to be thrust from my comfort zone and survive.  However, through teacher training and mentorship, I was accused of hiding.  I thought that the "filter" I created (because I certainly wasn't born with one) was perfectly crafted... but that damn thing was as opaque as my hamster ball.  The people surrounding me wanted to meet the REAL Amy, and I was too afraid to show them.  I honestly believed that the REAL Amy was too silly, loud, artistic, probably inappropriate and definitely not good enough to be a yogi.  I considered running back to my ball more times then I care to share, but each time I knew my path would be blocked by the amazing women who wanted me to grow.  I am so thankful that, as she appeared, they never flinched at the real Amy, only loved, and gave me the kick in the ass I needed to just accept myself as I am, knots and all.  I was perfectly Amy and deserved to shine.  They showed me how we are ALL vulnerable, imperfect, unique and beautiful. 

What I am coming to accept on my yoga path of 2015 is that my hamster ball is not a safe zone.  Indeed it is a prison with walls made of fear.  I recognize that for too many years, I hid myself away; afraid of what the world would think of the real me.  For too many years, I feared not being good enough.  For too many years I turned my back on my authentic self.

Well...fuck that noise.  Life is to short to hide. 

Let me share the knowledge that FEAR SUCKS.  It has held me back from being my best and crushed my joyous spirit.  You, like me, have vibrant colors and the world deserves to see them.  So please, don't hide yourself away in a hamster ball.  Be brave.  Step out.  Look around.  Breathe.  Then speak with your inner joyous child and love her for who she is...because she's amazing. Be reckless, and find fearless again, because when you come from love, those that accept you will FAR out weigh the ones that don’t. 

At Cause for BIG things!

Everything is changing. I am a thirty four year old women with much ambition and thirsty for life. I love learning new things. Different but wonderful things are accruing in almost all aspects of my life. One big change happened when I found meditation three years ago. Meditation opened up a new world to me that previously was asleep. Its like I woke up from a long deep sleep. My meditation practice helped me change my perspective in a more positive way.   I allowed me to see a clear vision to where chaos shows up in my life. For example: I have two beautiful children, a girl who is 12 and a boy who is 7. They add to the cause of chaos but they also keep me grounded at the same time. School has started so all of there activities are in full swing (chaos). I love watching and cheering them on when I’m free (grounded). I work to cook a great home cooked meal (chaos) and we all sit together, talk together and find time for a nice bike ride (grounded). 

Another BIG change for me happened this past february,  I enrolled in my 200 hour Power Yoga Teacher Training, OOMG what a transformation of ME. I went from a shy, insecure woman with not much of a voice (chaos),  to being more strong, powerful and full of life (grounded). I also met some pretty awesome people along the way, (my fellow teacher trainees.) I committed to this whole process to live outside of my comfort zone and to challenge myself in places of chaos. Today, I feel proud of how much I have grown, I have not only learned how to teach yoga, but use the computer, pick out music, turn up the heat, and BE a part of a wonderful community. I learned to kick out the insecure woman with no voice.  Another BIG change was I became open to knowing EVERYTHING in life is a learning process, and it happens just as it should, even the chaotic and hard moments.  

Putting this to the test came sooner rather than later.  This past July one of our family dogs passed away suddenly from cancer, we didn’t know she had. I felt intense sadness to have to put her down. Her death forced me to realize just how precious life is, I once again felt reminded to not take my life for granted and get grounded. Recently during one of my yoga practices the song LIVE Like You Were Dying came on. It really landed deep within me. I loved that dog and so did my family. Her death had a huge impact on all of us.  Were we all LIVING fully right now, in the sadness of her loss?  So in august I started searching for a new dog, deciding to take a BIG step forward. I felt nervous but excited about this decision because its like opening up to a brand new baby, loving fully all over again. Well wefound her! An 11 week old pit bull that our family has fallen head over heels for and her name is Charlotte.

Just when you think you are all finished with BIG changes another one comes.  I have been married to Rich for 14 years.  For our entire marriage my husband has worked shift work as a police/K9 officer. Shift work is hard on families because its long hours, nights and weekends.  When he is off he needs to sleep odd hours. I had to take on most of the responsibility for family life with his schedule so erratic.  Last month we found out he made Detective and that everything is about to shift and change. His new schedule is Monday to Friday administrative schedule.  This will dramatically change how we show up as parents.   We will share responsibility for the kids schedule, a full on partnership.  This is also new for our marriage relationship as we will see each other more.  I feel Happiness and Love.

I am learning and feel open to CHANGE.  Some are difficult and some are so wonderful and make me smile. There is balance in this, there is purpose in this, there is freedom in this.  I have opened myself up to these changes through mediation and hard work.  This life is more then I imagined for myself and I am grateful to God for Grace and for providing me with so much.

 

Presence

It’s Monday morning 3:20AM and my alarm goes off. I roll out of bed, heat up some water with lemon and roll out my yoga mat, put on some rap music and I’m ready to start my day. “Tadasana” -  I look up and realize I need a manicure. “Forward fold” - Oh boy, my toes need to be done too. “Chaturanga” - Did I remember to order produce for work yesterday? My inner dialog is awake as soon as I get out of bed.

“Stay present” I tell myself. I’ve said and heard this statement hundreds of times. “Stay present & let go”.  Six months ago when a yoga teacher used to say those words to me I would actually respond in my head “I’m on my mat aren’t I? I’m here so I’m clearly present”. Doesn’t physically being in a space make me present? Yes it does. Does being present mean a mindset?  Yes it does.  This is where I feel the struggle.

Years ago my boss said to me, “Your biggest strength will become your biggest weakness”. At the time I had absolutely no idea how this could even be possible, but fast forward 8 years and now I get his point. My biggest strength is that I can get more done in a small time frame than most people. I have learned the art of preparing and strategically using time. I follow a strict schedule. I spend SO much time planning for tomorrow that I very rarely live in the NOW.  I’ve actually said a ton of times “once the day starts its over”. 

Why you ask? Because my day is already planned.  Because I’m good at scheduling.  Because I know everything on the list that needs to happen and very rarely do I stray from that. 

Keeping it Real.....six months ago I was so worried about living off the schedule, I asked myself“What will happen if I stop planning and just breathe?”  “What will happen if I stop making lists; will I stop succeeding?” 

I’ll never forget being at teacher training and I said to Daniel“I’m busy because I’m really good at it. It’s all I know and I just can’t help it”.  I remember his exact quote in response to that.  “But what if you could, Alissa?”. BOOM! My story, my bull shit, my legacy= gone with 5 words. 

Does being busy and being disconnected from the moment really work for me or is it just familiar and comfortable? There have been days that I actually forgot I practiced yoga or ran to the store because the whole time I was thinking of the next step. No, this doesn’t make me happy. But if I’m spending all day everyday planning what do I do if I don’t do that? How will I fill space or time?  Will this force me to connect to others differently?  What does that look like?  Feel like?  Taste like?  All I really knew was I wanted it.

My answer? I just made a choice to change it. This is not how I wanted to be any longer. I don’t want to be so caught up in having my perfectly scheduled day that I miss the day altogether. I DO want to hear my breathe and not my thoughts. I DO want to really listen to my friends and not think about what I’m going to say next.  I DO want a community and intense love.

Me being present brings up a lot good and bad; but the best thing for me has been a deeper connection. When I am present in the moment I am connected to my thoughts, I do not hide behind my wall of lists and put the guard of perfection in my way. I DO have a better understanding of who I am and what makes me happy.   I DO feel I am enough exactly as I am. 

I am strong & I am weak. 

I am a leader & I am a student. 

I give & I receive. 

I am powerful & sometimes broken. 

I am present & I am Me.

I am all of these things that make me who I am today. 

It took me 27 years to realize I am not who I was yesterday and that I have no idea who I’ll be tomorrow but right now in the moment I am okay not knowing.  

    

Confessions of a Drama Addict

Hi, my name is Rachele and I am a recovering drama addict.

I cannot seem to get enough drama and some days my life feels unmanageable. I have the voice in my head saying "Why do I get myself into the situations?" I'll even say to friends and family. "What is WRONG with me?"

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

I recently attended Baron Baptiste's Level 1 Yoga Training. Yes we did alot of yoga, but our experience was even more emotional excavation (whoa). What I learned is that I carry a story- something, somewhere, sometime ago, I collected an idea that I like to use as a source for my story of what is wrong with me. I use it to define, justify, manipulate and validate my fearful existence. If you say you are not scared of anything? That is a big, boldfaced LIE - you are human. I say this with love, because excavation & realization, is your turning point to freedom.

So back to my story: During excavation, I felt calm and not very emotional and I thought I wasn’t getting it. Then I realized “NOTHING IS WRONG WITH ME!” This hit me like a Mack truck... loaded to the top...with bricks. Of course I can identify with feeling "I’m not good enough," "I fear being abandoned," and "I'm a shitty person.” But saying nothing is wrong with me.....THIS made my toes curl, (and not in a good way). I need something to be wrong with me, so I can justify my need for drama.

“All right then...” I said to myself. I constantly stir up drama to justify the fact that something is wrong with me, AND if there's no drama I cannot validate my story. Frankly, I'm not comfortable any other way. Now what the hell am I suppose to do? Live in ease and be comfortable? Never thought that was an option.

You may be asking, “Is drama really comfortable?” I use the word “comfortable” loosely. It is simply what I’m used to, what I’m familiar with. A drug addict doesn't like to do drugs. It is habit, filling an inner void with anything other than authenticity. And drama has some big highs- the adrenaline from secrecy & playing with fire. I used to say, "My biggest fear is being ordinary, never seeing how extraordinary I am”.

So what does drama feel like in my body? Drama feels like anxiety, exhaustion, guilt and shame. I said to myself “Listen Rachele, you did not get clean and sober for this shit.” “Your on the same roller coaster, with a different more acceptable name”.

I had to dig deep and ask “What does loving myself unconditionally feel like?” “What does being confident in my own skin feel like?” So I brought myself to what else I do really well, which is teach Power Yoga. In Savasana Pose, I tell my students to unravel another layer of the onion. Your truth is at your core. We already have everything we need, and all of us are blessings even in messiness. WHOA! I need to live what I preach...every day, no excuses.

Am I cured? Oh honey... I'm in my twenties. I have a life left of lessons and obtaining wisdom. So now when I mess up, I say NOTHING wrong with me? When I stumble – NOTHING wrong with you? No. It's being human and choosing to take the NEXT right action. It’s called an amazing thing: Grace.

I'm not attracted to practicing Yoga because it's beautiful or to obtain spiritual enlightenment. I am attracted to yoga because I get angry, dramatic, stubborn and obsessively competitive. Yoga keeps me out of jail (just kidding... kind of). I'm attracted to yoga because it forces me to look at myself in all my grace, glory and ugliness. I cannot hide from myself. Yoga points me towards authenticity whether I like it or not. I do yoga to get FREE!!!! 

When Studios Divorce

At 35 I am going through the experience of having divorced parents. I know I’m an adult(ish) and I know it’s not my fault, but I still feel awful. 

My parents came together around the same time I came into the picture. Mom was new to town and Dad was already settled into the area. Dad knew he saw something special in Mom and immediately invited her in. After some time Mom started to feel caged. Not that Dads way was wrong, it’s just not what she wanted. They tried living separately. Hoping the space would give them each freedom to grow and still work as a team.  It wasn’t enough. Only a couple years into their marriage, it ended. In their short time together a lot of us kids popped up. I was part of the first dozen.

This family was found, as many of our families are as we get older, in my original home studio. It did feel much like that, home. My friends, family (Actual blood) and job was there. I took my first yoga class in that space. I did my teacher training in the dark, grungy basement. And I wept Openly, IN PUBLIC there. When Mom told me she was opening up a new branch and wanted me to be involved, i was pshyed to be a bigger part of the family.

It was good, until it wasn’t. And “wasn’t” came fast. Once the split was finalized I worked at both Mom’s and Dad’s house.  Careful not to mention one in front of the other or anything going on in the others house. But then Mom got a second house. A BIG firggin’ house. A house, that if I was going to attend to properly, I couldn’t live at Dad’s anymore. 

So I put on my Big Girl pants on and sat Dad down. I looked him in the eye and told him I was going to live with Mom. He wished me well, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Some of the their other children did the same, choosing to be at either Mom or Dad’s house. While others commute in between. 

I know it’s been rough on both Mom and Dad. But I can only speak the truth from my reality. 

It’s been really hard on us kids too.  

With our community being so small the split is more like a hairline fracture.  We’re walking the line and sometimes unknowingly step over it.  Feelings are hurt, lectures are professed and we’re left stumbling... “No, wait....I didn’t mean.....” 

The thing we kids left in the wake of a divorce want our parents to know is that we need to be free to love you both. We want both houses to be great and our parents to know that our love for Mom does not take away from our love for Dad. Please realize every time you make it harder on each other, you make it harder on us too.  And in the course of our lives more Moms and Dads will come into the picture. People that we will learn from and grow with, who aren’t you. But it doesn't take away from everything we gained because we were blessed enough to be with you for a part of our time here.

We need Dad to know... I need Dad to know... just because I’m not at your house anymore, doesn’t mean I think of you and smile or that  you don’t hold some of the fondest memories I’ll ever have. Just because I’m not at your house anymore doesn't mean I don’t still love you.

It’s the love that makes the difference. Its the love that make your actions hurt so much more. 

 

Balance

I am constantly trying to create balance in my life. I put so much work into maintaining equilibrium and I struggle when my life feels out of balance. Feeling out of balance makes fears of inadequacy and self doubt to sneak up on me and club me over the head.

I have been struggling with my own personal balancing act. I feel as if I’m constantly tipping to the right or to the left and leaving the other side little attention. I close my eyes and see an image of myself, on one hand I’m holding the weight of my family and on the other I’m holding the building where I work. I feel like there are even other hands, other roles with more balancing acts to be performed (daughter, friend, yoga teacher). All requiring time and attention, all falling apart if I pay too much attention to one unequally.

My work weight is constantly tugging to my right. I have a lot of work responsibility and take it very seriously - I’ve always been driven to be successful and a hard worker (thanks to my Dad tugging away on my right side since I can remember). This weight has only gotten heavier as I’ve taken jobs with more and more responsibility as I’ve gotten older. Some of this weight is real - I have to perform at work so I can provide for the family, but I create additional weight by setting my own expectations. I’ve always been an overachiever, dare I say perfectionist (anyone who knows me can attest to this)... this adds even more weight, making balancing more difficult for me.

My family is on the other side to my balancing act. My husband and two amazing children pull me to the left. The perfectionist in me is constantly striving to be the best - the best wife I can be, best mother I can imagine- this expectation has added a lot of additional weight - to be clear, this is my personal expectation, not the expectation of my husband and kids. I am constantly working to be sure that I give them proper attention and love. Making healthy dinners, sending kids off to school in the morning with hugs and kisses, watching a 4th grade music concert on FaceTime sitting in a rental car in Cincinnati. When I lean too much to the left, I start to move out of balance, guilty feelings creeping up at work, the perfectionist in me starts to ask questions...do people think I’m a slacker because I leave at 5PM to hit my son’s baseball practice? Missing an important meeting to attend a teacher conference...I adjust, overcompensating at work, shifting back to the right to maintain balance. As I shift to the right, feelings of inadequacy and guilt arise from my left side - am I working too much? With the biggest question continually popping up in my head...Should I work at all? My own expectations of what a perfect mother should be cause feelings of inadequacy, fear and GUILT to flow like waves...there I go leaning back and forth, left then right then left. I feel like I’m going to topple over any second.

As I am writing about my balancing act, it is becoming apparent that my own expectations of perfection lie at the heart of my imbalance. I am creating additional weight on each side of my act by layering in expectations of how I should act at work at at home - expectations of what the perfect mother is and expectations of the perfect employee. My husband and kids think I’m a damn good mother. I have never heard my children complain that I work - all of the additional weight pulling me out of balance is of my own doing. Holding myself up to a higher standard, a standard that doesn’t fit who I am. Same goes on the other side - I have consistently gotten positive feedback at work. I have never heard negative feedback from a boss because I had to stay home and take care of a sick child. Guilty feelings I have are all in my head causing me to

feel imbalanced, when in reality, I’m perfectly balanced. As I contemplate this, as I’m typing this blog, I can almost feel the weight lifting, the load lightening. The realization that the am the perfect mother, just the way I am. 

So You Went to Yoga Teacher Training: Now What? (A Battle between the Truth and my ego)

On the magical island of Daufuskie, I had the pleasure of being completely cracked open. I was undone. I busted through blocks and bumps and bruises and past hurts and doubts and fears, and in the end, I might has well have screamed, from a mountaintop, covered in war paint (or maybe flash tattoos?), “VICTORY IS MINE!” I was whole! I was healed! I was on FIRE and ready to take the world by storm! But then I came home.

Honestly, I maintained my high vibrational state for a good 2 to 3 weeks. You know the high after a super amazing sweaty practice? Yeah, it was like that, but it lasted close to 20 days. Longest yoga high ever!

I was alive, free, and completely inspired. I felt that all things were possible. I knew abundance was mine. I rediscovered my childlike state; I allowed my heart to lead me. I was centered, connected, and calm. I was in the freaking flow. I felt the magic that is NOW. 

But that space that had been cracked open and filled with what I’ll call Spirit was having a difficult time keeping it up. Life crept in. My ego was back- with a vengeance. And she was PISSED.

Who are you to be loved? Who are you to be seen? Who are you to be so…happy? You better reel this shit in. You better control it all. Don’t you care what you look like to others? It’s probably time to isolate yourself. Go run and hide. Criticize others. Don’t you feel threatened? You know they probably do. You’re too weird. You’re too different. You’re gonna finally be found out. You’re not enough. You’ll never be accepted. And you better not shine as bright as you can- that’s gonna make people hate you even more. 

And then my ego did some other crazy stuff. She started making up stories about other people. She is really, really creative and can come up with some stellar plotlines. But then, the real voice, the Truth, told me something else. It said: Stop projecting. You know those feelings that keep coming up, year after year? It’s time to face them. Your deepest insecurities, the gritty and ugly underbelly of your darkest parts has to be confronted. Otherwise, you will constantly live in this battle. You will always project the things you’d rather not deal with within yourself onto others. And this will keep you separate. And that is not the Truth. And I am damn sure that’s not what you want for your life. Don’t you want to be a part of it all? To shine your heart for the world to see? You want to empower others. You want to lead by example. And you have tasted this! Remember what you learned on the island? That is what is real! (Gloria Steinem said, “The Truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. I mean, right?)

And then I learned something big: my quest for being the best version of myself that I can be is not always linear. It’s not always another step forward. Sometimes it’s 4 steps back. It’s not always another step up the ladder. Sometimes I miss the rung and I fall flat on my face! And really, how could that not have happened upon returning home from Daufuskie? Being there, with likeminded people who were also on a quest to be their best, in that utopian environment, being supported and encouraged not only day-to-day but also minute to freaking minute? I was riding so high; it was inevitable that I would come back down to Earth. And that’s okay! 

But you know what? When I start to judge myself for not constantly living as the person I became on the island, it doesn’t serve anyone. I know what I am capable of. And because I was gifted this beautiful experience of Leadership Training, I have seen, if only just a glimpse, my best self. And she’s freaking awesome. And so are you. And that’s the Truth.

Eff you Dogma

Damn Dogma……you don’t belong here.

Definition of DOGMA: prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group; a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.

Lately I have noticed new yoga teachers and experienced yoga teachers too, leading from a place of “what you can’t do” instead of taking a stand or speaking from a place of “what you can do”. You see, that is a little tricky to pick up on. Especially if your teacher training or the yoga studio you have been steeped in gives a lot of focus on all the things you “shouldn’t do”, “shouldn’t say”, “shouldn’t teach”, “shouldn’t practice” “what a particular yogi acts like". You don’t even realize when you stand in front of your students and say “What is possible right now? Don’t lose your power and don’t doubt yourself”….. your actually bringing to the surface all those exact things. You are asking your student to focus on what they don’t want instead of what they do want. Hence, they will get what they focus on. You will be a yoga teacher afraid of expressing who you are to your core, because all your “DON’TS” stand in the way. You create a false sense of Yogi’s in yourcommunity.

When I am leading a class of students and I want them to lift their leg higher, I say “Lift your leg higher”. When I take a class and a teacher says “don’t drop your leg”, I only focus on not dropping it, not the possibility of how much higher it can go. When I am mentoring a yoga teacher to teach in the SHINE Power Yoga Studios, I ask them a lot of questions, a lot of self inquiry as to why they aren’t doing certain things….like looking their students in the eye when assisting them. Consistently I hear the words “I was told not to make a student uncomfortable, I was told not to be creepy, I was told not to use soft lingering fingers that are creepy”. So I always say “what do you WANT TO DO?” I don’t care about what you think you shouldn’t do, because that is leading your teaching right now and taking you out. It gets in the middle of you and your students. What do you WANT?!?!?!?!?! They always say, “I want to connect, I want to be helpful, I want to see the student rock a pose”. Then you have to assist and teach from THAT PLACE and that place only. Look at their body, look at their face & smile, say what you want them to do.

I wrote the vision for SHINE Power Yoga two months ago. The most powerful part of the vision when I read it to my teachers and staff is “SHINE will never operate from Dogma and Fear”. How can we hold true to that if we as teachers are worried about every single thing we say, feel, do, practice? Recently one of my Mentees was really stuck in the process. I had to dive deep to the root of it. She told me her new way of being, it didn’t fit. I asked her what her mask was (teacher training term), that also didn’t fit. Finally I said “What is in the way …. why are you hiding”. She went home and read her teacher training journal, again it didn’t fit.

FINALLY she called her best friend and told her what was going on. The best friend said “you just aren’t being you, you are more focused on what you shouldn’t be doing and being wrong and getting in trouble. Someone, somewhere expected yogis to be a certain way, act a certain way, teach a certain way”. AH-HA!!!! DOGMA at its finest rearing it’s ugly head. Here was her focus: Don’t use inessential language, don’t give too many cues, don’t use creepy fingers, don’t look at the student, don’t pace, don’t speak soft, don’t don’t don’t. You get what you focus on….period, end of story. You manifest whatever is at the top of your thoughts. If you focus on what not to do instead of tools of success, you will fail. Just the way Dogma works.

I had her re-write from what she CAN and WILL do from now on. It looked amazing and powerful and can I say we all ended up giving our middle finger to the sky (in triangle pose) in honor or her fear and self-doubt. I also got a “Rock Star, Bad Ass, Authentic” yoga teacher out of the process.

So now let’s take this off the mat….. Where is Dogma ruling you? Last week I asked my husband if he could do a few of things around the house. He immediately told me three things he didn’t have time to do. I laughed and said “Honey, so tell me what you can do and let’s go from there”. A shift into something positive instead of a big argument and me calling him an ass. The shift was immediate and really good. I have challenged myself in 2015 (my year of turning fabulously 50) to operate from Power and Possibility and the only way to do that is to leave behind Dogma & Fear. I don’t care what I CAN'T teach a student, I focus on what I CAN teach them right now today every time I step into the yoga studio. SHINE Power Yoga is vibrant, alive, growing and fun. I only focus on that…..no room for whether the rest of the yoga community approves or not. You see, I make the rules and I say you CAN have it all.

Where is this showing up for you today? Yoga studio, Work, Family, Church? God says “You Shall not Lie” meaning in his eyes he sees you through grace and love and not the lie. It isn’t a command on what not to do…..it is a declaration on who you are not. When you let go of the Dogma around all the “rules and regulations” to live by and just show up as you are…..I bet happiness follows very quickly.

Keeping it Real

I am Wanda, You are……

 

Who AM I?

I am Wanda, a Mother, who loves to be with her children more than anything

I am Wanda, an Introvert who isn’t shy…...

I am Wanda, a Faithful servant of God.

I am Wanda, a woman worthy of unconditional love

I am Wanda, a Leader….a Powerful Leader of Change, Authenticity & Joy.

I am Wanda, a woman who loves to feel pretty & treated with love and kindness.

I am Wanda, I love to be hugged more than kissed.

I am Wanda, authentic, she can not hide from truth

I am Wanda, with clear boundaries, they keep her whole and on her true path.

Who would have thought that the exercise “I AM, You ARE” would bring me back to my place of power and focus. You see I had been struggling with my “place”. My place as a business owner, my place where I live, my place in my home, my place with my peers, my place in my marriage. I find that my thought process is one of “why” instead of “how”. I am really good at saying what I “do not” want instead of saying what “I do” want. I feel misunderstood instead of feel embraced, for all I am. I let others messes intertwine with me, there just isn’t enough room inside my circle for all that. It zaps my Joy, Focus, ability to Love and is draining.

During Leadership Training last month, I knew I had a vision. The vision was clear, what the outcome needed to look like was clear…..the path on how to get there, not so clear. Thank goodness, I am a person with vision and a person who knows how to put the right people together to make magic happen. Hence, I surrounded myself with amazing people who without judgement said “Wanda, what do YOU want? We aren’t clear, because you aren’t clear…but we are a YES anyway.” WHAT?! Now that is powerful people right there. Having those in your corner who are a YES to your vision, seriously???!!!! WHOA!

When sharing with Daniel and Sarah why I wasn’t showing up my biggest, boldest, baddest self. Daniel asked me how many people I put inside my circle, who is it that blurs the lines of who I AM. As soon as I heard this, it was clear….yes, this is it!. It was clear who these people were, just by the way I react to them. How their feelings, actions and thoughts effect the decisions I make. I felt excitement and joy to recognize this and I know how to reset it!

As I sit on the beach soaking in the last few hours of Leadership Training & 15 days on beautiful Daufuskie Island, I know who I AM. I feel Joy & Love for those who support me on my journey and I have ZERO regrets. Yes, I follow my heart a lot and it has led to some not so great decisions, but following my heart has always led me to the exact place I am meant to be. I begin to wonder, how many of us lose power, lose hope, lose our vision because those we put in that inner circle don’t belong there…..there is only room for one YOU inside the circle. Surround yourself with these people, love them, share with them, invite them to participate but not do not let them run the show!!! They will love you deeper because YOU ARE YOU!

I am Wanda ….. You are Sarah.

 

 

I am Sarah.... You are Wanda

 When Wanda asked me to be a Leader of our first SHINE Teacher Training I said yes, because that is my job at SHINE.  I did the marketing and posted to Facebook, Instagram.  I promoted the training in my classes and had many conversations with many students.

 This part of my job felt a lot like sitting around with my friends, having a couple of beers and talking about going skydiving.  “This is going to be so awesome, it’ll change how you look at everything!” One would say. “There’s no way to describe the feelings you’ll have, you just have to experience it!”  Someone else would chime in.  We’d all look at each other and agree, YES! We are DOING THIS! And sign up that night.

The problem is signing up to go skydiving online is a completely different feeling than when the plane is about to take off.  It’s at this point you really start to question your decision making skills.  You see, I know the power these trainings have, the impact they have on lives.  But I'm thinking  “Am I the best person to lead someone through this kind of shift?”

Here I am standing in the plane door looking down at the earth below.  I didn’t feel connected to what was happening around me. The ground seemed to far away and noise around my head was too loud, drowning out any encouragement being thrown my way. I felt stuck.

The great thing about being stuck in a strong community is that your friends recognize what’s happening. Wanda and Daniel saw me white knuckling it. They came up behind me and, WITH LOVE, kicked me out the door.

realize this is how I’ve always learned best, by just doing it. I say to my students when I lead a yoga class,  “No fuss, just do it.”  I needed someone to tell me, and it worked.  Right now I get to watch my teacher trainees jump out the door one by one. And when I see that death grip I know all too well, I dust off the bottom of my boot and get ready for a good kick in the ass…with LOVE, of corse. 

I am Sarah, You are......