Monday, January 30, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Experience the brilliance of love.


"But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tonight, I saw a shooting star. Sitting alone on the sands of Paia Bay, waves crashing on the beach before me, in the darkness of night and the slightly blurry sight through my glasses. This was after my beau and I found ourselves in a disagreement, where the resolution was to end the discussion, as daybreak would likely bring a better understanding of everything. 

He and I, we are two very independent and strong-willed souls. At times, it's like reading the same page out of a book we both love. At other times, it's as though we're playing tug-of-war, only we're both pulling on the same end of the rope, trying to go in opposite directions. Our differing temperaments and distinct personalities also mean that we can be amazingly insightful for one another, especially as we grow to understand and respect the other person's unique life path and spiritual journey. Altogether, we have a very balancing and real partnership. 

Often, I wish that our relationship could be a bit more like the romance of the movies where without saying anything, the perfectly happy ending simply appears amidst a soundtrack crescendo that inspires grandiose gestures from the heart. After all, wouldn't that be the easy way out of challenging situations? 

What I've come to realize again and again is that I'm now in a grown-up relationship. I'm no longer the kid looking for guidance from the parent; I'm not the mom trying to take care of everything; I'm not an inexperienced lovestruck girl with a crush; I'm not a damsel in distress calling out for a hero; and I'm definitely not a broken person searching for someone to put me back together again. Sure, remnants of these stories still pop up now and again, as if they were soap bubbles suddenly floating into my realm of awareness, and I do my best to dissolve them as quickly as they appear.

I am me. And, I'm lucky enough to be with someone who loves all of me. The hard part about that? Well, I just don't always believe it, because now and again, I myself have a hard time loving all of me. In yoga, there's a saying, "So within, as without," which can be interpreted that whatever we're feeling on the inside is what is being reflected on the outside. If I don't love myself unconditionally or whole-heartedly, then of course it'll be hard for me to believe that anyone else could!

How do I love myself more? I do the things that make me feel good to my core. We all know what this feeling is like, though for some of us, it can be a rarer experience. Luckily, practice makes perfect! It's that moment where we feel such a chord struck within us as though we're large orchestral cymbals and the reverberations move through our layers until the sensation finally dissipates into the ether.

  • Every morning and evening when I brush my teeth, my SonicAir toothbrush has a timer set for two minutes. This could either seem like a tedious task or it could be an opportunity for me to look in the mirror and repeat affirmations about myself! I choose the latter, and it makes the time go by so much more enjoyably and quicker.
  • The simple things make me happy. Writing in my journal while sitting outside with a hot cup of tea and maybe playing a little music in the background, this makes me feel at peace.
  • I fall into a quick meditation where everything tangible and outside of me melts away, so that I find myself letting my imagination expand to the far reaches of possibility in a way that when I come back into the "real world," everything seems to have re-set itself, just a lil' bit.
  • I create a gratitude list that immediately puts me in a much more humble, loving, and wondrous mood. 
  • I sit outside in the sunshine, which living by the beach in Southern California, is an easy thing to do. Nature and brightness are immediate mood-boosters for me.
  • I listen/watch a great TED Talk, because these are always inspiring to remember how great we really can be (and already are).
But, these are all "doing" things and one of my favorite sayings I learned when I first began this yogic journey is, "We're not human doings, we're human beings." Recently, I came upon a teaching that encouraged us to understand we don't need to "do" to be loved and that we really have to remove that notion from our minds. It's too much pressure, and has to do with factors and outcomes outside of ourselves.

How do I love myself more just by being? Well, I'm working on that. If y'all have suggestions, I'd love to hear them! What's worked for you? How have you grown more into the person you've always wanted to be? How have you fallen in love with yourself again and again?

Tonight, for greater peace within, I felt inspired to go outside. Sitting on a soft mound of sand beneath a blanket of shimmering warmth from the heavens above, I looked up to the half smiling moon and asked for clarity. As I came to realize that it's time to truly, really, finally, genuinely, sincerely let go of my past rather than continually bringing it into the present — this is when the shooting star danced across the sky.

May all of us experience greater love, compassion, courage, and kindness with one another in each moment of every day. Let fear be a thing of the past. And, most importantly, may we all love ourselves deeply, because as Carl Sagan said, we are all made of star stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reflections & Musings: The weight of the matter.


"We all have the extraordinary coded within us, waiting to be released."
-Jean Houston


I’ll be honest. Sometimes, I get caught in the trap of believing my beauty lies in the eyes of an extremely unkind beholder. This is an old story of mine, one that began in high school when I first developed anorexia, then bulimia, then compulsive overeating/exercising, followed by an intense body dysmorphia. (Whew, that was exhausting even to write!)

As a yoga teacher, I feel that there’s a certain expectation we should all look a certain way, the way that’s normally portrayed on the cover of Yoga Journal and touted in advertisements where practitioners are demonstrating almost incomprehensibly challenging asanas. Is this what yoga is really about?

Recently, I came across a posting on Facebook, where it showed four contemporary female celebrities with supremely thin figures, below which were four starlets from generations past who had fuller and more voluptuous bodies. It posed the question: When did we decide that it was much sexier to look emaciated than to look healthy?

I don’t have a traditional Asian figure — I’m not smaller than your average Taiwanese woman with a bone-thin frame and few curves. Instead, I’m 5’6” and weigh 140 pounds, most of which is muscle. I have breasts that women of all cultures have expressed to me they envy, and legs that have inspired people to stop me in the middle of a street to compliment. While the area on my body that I’ve always been most self-conscious is the roundness around my middle, my heart friend Lindsay recently reminded me that this is actually very ideal for a healthy second chakra, the place where we give birth to creativity!

When I was 26 and in my intensive eating disorder therapy program, we were told never to talk about our weight. They suggested we get on the scale backwards at doctors offices, because the number shouldn’t matter. I believe this is true, that whatever digits appear on the scale beneath our feet or on the labels of our clothing do not define who we are. However, I also believe that when we avoid talking about something, we give it even more oppressive power over our psyche. And, well, I don’t want that anymore.

Life is a process. It took going through all of those daily three-to-four hour therapies for a year, then individual psychotherapy for many years following, for me to reach a point where I could even open up to letting go of the security blanket I had clung to for so long. Only then did I make space in my life for what I actually wanted, rather than to avoid the things I so intensely feared. It was a gradual shift for me to welcome in spirituality, which in a way, was returning to a familiar truth I had known when I was very young, before becoming dramatically affected by the environment around me.

It took all of that to get me here, and only now, in a place where I am happier, healthier, and more fulfilled than I ever could have imagined, can I see the valuable lessons that I learned through those substantial emotional fractures. My struggles defined my character, they inspired a hearty amount of compassion for others, an intuitive understanding of emotions, an internal drive like no other, and a profound appreciation for the wonder of how amazing things can be — all because I’ve seen the flip-side of good.

This is the first time I’ve openly shared how much I weigh. It’s the first time I’ve been able to type sentences about how much I appreciate all the great attributes of my body without feeling that I should be behaving in a much more modest and self-effacing manner. After all, it’s not very Asian to be overly confident and tout oneself, as this does not in any way “save face.”

But, how does it serve anyone when we keep ourselves meek? I love that my body can surf! I love that my body can climb! I love that my body can yoga! Let’s be bold! Let’s celebrate our light! Let’s appreciate the fact that our bodies do what they do, that our hearts beat and our lungs breathe and our legs walk and our hands hug!

Sure, it’s not always on the up-and-up. Carolyn Myss says that there’s a false perception when we begin to pursue the spiritual path, that we won’t have troubles in our lives anymore. Instead, what we do come away with is a greater understanding of how to be in the mysteries with grace.

My mind still traps me now and again in a delusional and oppressive attempt to achieve perfection. When this happens, I never come out victorious. Given that I also have a competitive edge, I want to win! So, what do I do when I get into those spaces of self-bullying? As my friend John once shared with me, “If you’re hanging out in your head, you’re hanging out in a bad neighborhood. Get out!”

The more I’m diligent with these practices, then the quicker my brain can snap back into a healthy sense of where I truly am in the world:
  • I send an email to my angels...
    • A long while ago, I created an email account for my Higher Power. I don’t remember what the password is, so I never check it, partly because it’s not for me to answer. I’m on the computer all the time, and I figured this would be a convenient way for me to ask for help, similar to the idea of “God Boxes.” (You can substitute any word for “God” that evokes an idea of something grander than yourself, including Mother Nature.) With God Boxes, individuals place their concerns and woes and wishes in a box, trusting that Spirit will resolve everything for the higher good of everyone involved… same idea, just 21st century style.
  • I put great music on and DANCE.
  • I reach out to a heart friend.
  • I go for a walk beside the ocean at a very… slow… pace… so that it becomes a moving meditation. (Lots of great ideas come from these solitary strolls.)
  • I create.
    • A lot of times, we turn to addictions because our Soul wants to express itself, but feels vulnerable/scared/unsure in doing so. If we provide the opportunity for this to happen, our Souls have a way of showing up. I have watercolors by my desk and a hilarious coloring book with a bevy of markers/crayons/oil pastels ready to go.
  • I breathe and meditate. 
  • I take a very hot shower.
    • You might be amazed at how this can hit a “reset” button on your brain, where everything just melts away and you step out of the shower with a refreshed start. My craniosacral healer recommends letting hot water stream onto the base of the skull, right above one’s neck, as this occipital area is extremely significant when it comes to Divine energy entering our bodies.
  • I remember to laugh at myself, because this too shall pass, and it’s in these moments of need where we have an opportunity to see what we’re made of, to see what our faith is made of.
I’m very lucky that I have wonderful people in my life who are patient and compassionate and understanding. They show me how to approach myself this way, and nudge me in the right direction when I get a little lost. Recently, I told my friend Lindsay I was engaging in tendencies that weren’t enhancing my prana, so she sent this to me:

“My instinct is that you are not seeing extra physical weight in the mirror… you are feeling the weight of the pressure you put on yourself as you look in the mirror. You feel heavy and you see heavy. Notice yourself doing that and take a moment to lighten up! And then do it over and over, because it’s not going to go away with your first successful experience. You’ll need to repeat that technique over and over ‘til practice makes perfect. And, if all else fails, try to see yourself through my eyes… something you thinks you are an exquisite goddess, and has a deep love and admiration for you.”

May we all see the extraordinary in every one of us, and encourage one another to let those aspects of our selves shine! In doing so, we help illuminate the world for others who aren’t yet able to do this. Remember, we all have the extraordinary coded within us, just waiting to be released.

Now, it's time for a lomi lomi massage in Maui!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Thriving in the year of the dragon.


"I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days, 
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, 
more accessible,
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance; 
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit."
-Dawna Markova

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone... it's the Year of the Dragon! My familiarity with Chinese astrology lies in the ability to recite the 12 zodiac animals in order, in Mandarin — one of the takeaways from attending Chinese school every Saturday while growing up in Los Angeles. The other thing I'm familiar with, after growing up in a fairly superstitious culture, is that dragons are extremely auspicious!

What does the dragon symbolize for you? Perhaps fire, strength, and noble magnificence? When I think of a dragon, I imagine a majestic creature with an ability to incinerate anything that stands in its way. I also envision it as a mighty source of power that sometimes needs to be reined in through discretion and wise choices. Here's why the dragon is significant to me:

This morning, I woke up early and spent a bit of time in a little gym. Because most of my physical activity takes place outdoors these days (surfing and hiking) or in the company of others (yoga and climbing), I had forgotten how nice it is to read a book or listen to a podcast while getting in the zone. I used to spend endless hours in the gym in a fairly obsessive and unhealthy way, but nowadays, it's different. Instead, I practice moderation in movement and really connect with the joy of the way my body can move. When my physical self is engaged in monotonous motion, I find that my brain is freed to find deeper clarity and connect with a higher wisdom, to expand in a space where creativity flows through ideas that pop up like effervescent inspirations. 

I began to muse on the idea that in the not-too-distant-future, I'd like to be a visiting professor who lectures around the world. I reflected upon the ways in which I'm already a teacher: as a yoga instructor both in the studio and online; leading meditations in those same venues; speaking at info sessions about Reiki; and in the past, leading support meetings for those in eating disorder recovery. 

Most recently, I've been invited to give a guest lecture at Pasadena City College in April! I'll be speaking in a course about Asian American psychology, specifically to cover the themes of "Spirituality & Religion" and "Body Image." When the professor asked me to review the syllabus he had created so that I could pick the most opportune time to visit, those were the two topics he had already combined! These were also the same exact themes I had planned to speak about (once again, the Divine is working Her magic).

So, how does this all tie together to the Year of the Dragon? While bouncing up and down on the elliptical machine, I realized that the blockage I've been feeling about writing my book isn't that I'm afraid to let go of a part of my life (bulimia, compulsive overeating, body dysmorphia) I've attached an identity to for so long. Instead, it's been about the unknowing of what will fill that space once it opens up. If I want to be a teacher, then my book is a means to that goal, and if I think of it that way, the blockage to write eases up. 

Through my memoir, by sharing my experiences growing up as an Asian-American and developing an eating disorder that consumed my existence for upwards of fifteen years of my life, I may be able to share how I was able to move past it towards a life better than I could have imagined. I've already met an editor interested in my manuscript, and she's mentioned it to multiple esteemed agents, including Frank McCourt's. If the Universe believes in me and my project, then it'll reach the right people. And, if not, I move on to the next endeavor.

One of my favorite quotes, which many of you may have already heard before, is by Marianne Williamson: 

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of the universe. You were born to manifest the glory of the universe that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone."

Ever since I was little, I knew that I had a purpose on this planet. Regardless of what happened around me or how emotionally abusive my immediate and extended family were due to their own limited natures at the time, I believed to my core that there was a reason I came into existence. Over and over again, since I've decided to pursue the path of yoga (which encompasses more than just the asanas we practice on the mat), my life has been filled with wonder. Whatever may happen in the future, my intention is to make a positive impact on a substantial scale. This may not be in ways that are overachieving or readily apparent — I think that when you smile from your heart and it touches someone else's, and they go on to inspire more love in the relationships of their lives, well, I believe that is also action in a significant way.

That being said, it's scary! It's frightening when the rules aren't set for you, when the path that you're blazing is one that no one has tread in the same exact way before. It can be lonely and it can be daunting, but it can also be an amazing sort of contentment that is unlike anything else. For example, I've been asked to write my own job description three times thus far in my professional career, and have been granted all of my requests, not to mention the dream life lists I've created that have all come true.

The life stories I've gathered to date are simply superb and, in many ways, I feel as though my experiences have been brushed by the fingertips of angels. In fact, I'm about to head to Maui tomorrow for a vacation/travel article, where they believe we have four to five spirit guides around us at any time. More than a setting for beauty unparalleled, Hawaii exudes a heartfelt allure defined by its aloha spirit. Alo means "in the presence of" and Ha is "the breath of life/creation," so together, aloha is the spirit of oneness and the love that is the breath of the soul. Hawaiians believe that all was founded on this love — the sea, the sky, the land, and all of its inhabitants.

The other night, when having dinner with my beau, he said, "You are the only person in my life who has such freedom right now to pursue her dreams with no boundaries, except for the ones that you impose on yourself. I know a lot of people, and I know no one who is in a position like yours."

As I quoted Dawna Markova at the start of this blog entry, "I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire." I ask for the strength to be less afraid, to move forward in pursuit of my dreams with the ferocity of a dragon, and to loosen my heart until it becomes a beacon of guiding light. The last few lines of her words embody what I feel teaching is about, "to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which came to me as blossom goes on as fruit."

May we all be dragons in blazing through the obstacles that stand in the way of our greatest potential to love life and thrive! That is my wish to all of us for this year of 2012.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Reflections & Musings: It's the little things in life that make me so happy.


Wondrous

O wondrous creatures,
by what strange miracle do you
so often not
smile?

-Hafiz


It's the little things in life that bring such delight to my heart. Truly, it's what I tell my beau all the time — I believe that it's the small things that you do, the things that require little to no thought, that genuinely reveal your character, because these are the simplest ways in which you are "being." There's no effort involved, no watching, nothing but you being you.

That's why it makes me so happy when I encounter objects or experiences where I realize that someone put in quite a bit of thought from the big idea all the way down to the details. I feel as though their love shines all the way through, such as when the inside lining of a very nice coat is a brilliant fuchsia rather than a simple gray, how the inner sole of my shoe has polka dots just because, or the way in which the bottom of a handmade Tibetan singing bowl is emblazoned with a Sanskrit word.

Though it hardly ever rains in San Diego, this morning actually provided an excellent opportunity to evoke a happy squeal. My beau and I were driving towards Del Mar, and I had flipped the windshield wipers on a fairly moderate speed. In the early hours, our brains as foggy as the atmosphere around us, we chatted here and there until I arrived at a red light. Sitting in silence, I watched the rain fall around us. Just as I was about to nudge my foot on the gas and move forward, I realized something:

"Wait a minute, did you see that?" I turned to my beau, excitedly. "Did my windshield wipers just stop when the car was stopped?"

"No," he paused, ever the pragmatic one between the two of us, "no, probably not."

"I think it did!" I exclaimed. "Let's find another red light!"

Eager to test my theory, I drove forward a bit more until we met the next red light. Just as we came to a stop, the windshield wipers did the same. Then, they slowed the pace at which they moved left and right. I looked at him, he looked at me, and we both yelped.

"You love your car so much right now, don't you?" he asked, a grin on his face.

"I love her! I love Black Beauty!!"

Then, I proceeded to bounce in my seat all the way to our destination.

Yesterday, while listening to a TED Talk about how beauty feels, Richard Seymour shared an anecdote about a watchmaker who engraved the inside back of a balance wheel — a part of the watch that no one would ever see. When asked why he did this, the watchmaker replied, "Because God can see it."

And that's the thing... our intentions come across louder than our words, resonate longer than the echo of what we might say, and reverberate with a greater energy than what our actions might actually create. I also find that there's a flip-side to everything, to every attribute, to every experience.

Just as much as I love the little nuances and details, and I appreciate how readily these elements can inspire immediate joy within me, I also tend to get lost in the nitty gritty and lose sight of the big picture. The other day, during my afternoon stroll by the beach, I felt a calming energy envelop me when I became aware that as long as I bring healthy and truthful intention to the bigger areas of my life, then the little details will align with that greater purpose and eventually work themselves out.

It's a good reminder to tell ourselves that everything will work itself out one way or another and nothing lasts forever. After all, the Dalai Lama XIV said, "If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever."

So, as the practice of yogic living tells us, let's try to find balance in everything. Whether big or small, as long as our hearts are open and thoughts are true, then there are plenty of reasons we can find to smile each and every day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reflections & Musings: What it's like as a Reiki practitioner.


"Realize how good you already are."
-O.G. Mandino

Having been immersed in the yoga world for a little bit o' time now, I've heard plenty of stories of people seeing visions, experiencing miraculous events, and communing with the Divine. In fact, when the "Sh*#$!t New Age Girls" video recently came out, I was amused at how accurately it truly portrays a lot of the conversations I have with my friends nowadays — I even pick those angel cards regularly at the Soul of Yoga

"Were you surprised at how New Age-y you actually are?" my beau asked this morning. "Well, yeah!" I responded, in all seriousness.

Over the past year and a half, I've become a Reiki Master practitioner. What exactly does that mean? Reiki is a Japanese technique developed by a gentleman by the name of Mikao Usui to promote stress reduction, relaxation, and healing. Once a Reiki practitioner is attuned to the various levels of the practice, we can help cultivate life force energy within our clients by channeling the Universal energy around us through the palms of our hands. This is also often known as the "laying on hands" technique. 

A lot of Eastern philosophies believe in energy healing. In the practice of qigong for example, it's believed that we're born with an abundance of energy, which we're able to readily replenish when we're young. But, as we grow older, it becomes harder and harder to do so. Therefore, the series of movements in a qigong practice help to mitigate this loss of energy and replenish one's life force, or qi. In yoga, the breathing practice of pranayama also aims to enhance the life force flowing within us.When our life force is not at this fullest, we're more prone to illness, emotional dis-ease, or simply become unable to live to our greatest potential. 

While all this might seem a little woo-woo, think about when you have a stomach ache or when you stub your toe. What happens? You tend to place your hands on the parts that hurt to alleviate the pain, to foster healing, or just because it feels good — it's the same premise in energy healing. What's more, as you deepen your study of yoga, you might learn that there are different koshas, or levels, of human existence on the journey towards self-discovery. 

There are the annamayakosha (physical body), pranamayakosha (energy body), manomayakosha (psycho-emotional body), vijnyanamayakosha (wisdom body), and anandamayakosha (bliss body). We all have these layers within us, so focusing on solely the physical body is only one element of comprehensive wellness. Reiki is a wonderful way to work with the pranamayakosha and even inspire greater opening of the other koshas as well.

In the time that I've deepened my personal practice and delved into greater inner awareness, I've become a lot more intuitive, yet I'm still not seeing spirits or hearing voices. Sometimes, I wish that the signs were more apparent, but other times, I know that in the grand master plan for me, this is probably for my greatest good. At the moment, if I did start seeing and hearing those things, I might shut off to the spiritual path entirely due to the overpowering nature of my thinking mind. Instead, I find faith that I'm doing what I feel I've been meant to do since I was a little kid, when I hear the feedback from my clients after a Reiki session:

"I began to see a vision of myself in the future, of where I feel I'm meant to move my career towards."
"I started to remember things in the back of my brain that I haven't thought of in years and years."
"I felt flushed with loving energy."
"I began to see such incredibly vivid colors in my third eye the moment you placed your hands on me."
"I've never felt so revitalized and relaxed all at once."
"How are your hands so hot? They feel like they're on fire!"
"You truly have a gift, your energy is incredible."
"It felt like I got a massage, even though you barely placed your hands on me!"

I do get a sense of what's happening to my client on the table while I'm working on them, and after they share their experience with me, it's confirmed. Most importantly, I remember that I'm simply a vessel for Divine energy to flow through in exactly the way that my client needs. It's not about me — it's about their own unique individual journey that I just happen to help facilitate in that moment. When I hear about the visions and inner awareness that they come to, it reminds me of how it's truly an honor to be able to support them in any way. 

If you'd like to learn more about Reiki for yourself, here's a great book to look into: The Reiki Bible by Eleanor McKenzie. Or, if you'd like to schedule a demo with me to experience what Reiki is like for yourself, please feel free to contact me.

While we were driving to Yin yoga last night, my beau said, "Sometimes, I wake up and it still trips me out that what I do for a living is stick sharp pointy objects in people all day." (He's an acupuncturist.)

As we got out of the car and began to walk towards the studio, I told him, "Y'know what? Sometimes it still trips me out that part of my job these days is to show people how to lie down comfortably on a rubber mat!"

I love that as part of my daily life, I get to teach yoga classes, lead meditations, offer Reiki healing energy, build a Karma Yoga program that's bringing free yoga to under-served populations, go on fabulous trips as a travel writer, and simply learn how to be someone on this earth who hopefully brings a bit more good juju to every moment of every day.

That's what it's like for me as a Reiki Master practitioner. Yay for life!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reflections & Musings: We all need a lifeguard.


"The best day of your life
is the one on which you decide
your life is your own. 
No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. 
The gift of life is yours: 
it is an amazing journey; 
and you alone are responsible 
for the quality of it."
-Dan Zadra

Just a little bit ago, I went for a walk on the beautiful beach just a quick walk outside my apartment. I love the entire approach to "my beach," as I like to call it, because there are plenty of evenings that I am the solitary human soul strolling beneath the moonlight. From the slightly hilly perch where my studio sits, I can see the horizon of the water in the distance. She, the Ocean, welcomes me with a smile as I take one step and then another closer towards her.

Nearing the railroad track, I step on bits of bark and granite rocks in my flip flops and from this vantage point, the Ocean disappears for just a moment, but I know She's still there. As I cross the 101, I put a little hop in my step and walk through the campground entrance, where I'm quickly greeted by the delicious smell of Bull Taco's "inauthentic Mexican" food (as they like to call it) and it always puts a smile on my face to hear the al fresco diners exclaim with delight at how good the burrito they're biting into is. 

Moments later, I arrive at the top of a zig-zagging wooden stairway where I can see La Jolla all the way to the left and Swami's all the way to the right. I always take a moment to pause, to soak up the entire vista, before beginning my descent down to the sand.

Today, it was super low tide and the sand was firm beneath my bare footsteps. Bits of reef outlined the sandbar like charcoal etchings against a fading brown. I expressed gratitude to myself for granting a break to bask in the sunshine, because it's incredibly easy to get caught up sitting in front of my laptop, manifesting ideas into fruition, and becoming a recluse while sending e-mails into the ether (which Caroline Myss likes to call "energy-mail"). 

As I was walking, a lifeguard drove by slowly, patrolling the area to my left. When he pulled in front of me a little bit away, I caught sight of the lettering on the back of his white truck bed. In big block red/gold/black letters, it read: "L-I-F-E-G-U-A-R-D." My brain, as it sometimes does, started to dissect the etymology of the word — some musicians find reading music as logical as mathematics; I find the same happens for me with language. 

I began to wonder about the lifeguard whose job it is to save someone, a total stranger, if they're in distress, if they're in danger, if they simply can't save themselves. That, that very incredibly important thing, is his daily job! And I thought, 'If he can perform that very noble act for someone he doesn't know, what about us? Are we doing this for ourselves? Are we our own lifeguards?' 

I'd venture to say that the answer is, "not very often," because from personal experience, I have indulged in things and thoughts and behaviors that do not serve my prana (life force): I've been in relationships that have hurt me deeply, ones I should've exited a long time prior to the actual expiration date had I a healthy enough respect for my self-worth; I've eaten — and regurgitated — foods that make me feel horrible; I've told myself plenty of mean, mean stories (sometimes silently, sometimes aloud) on repeat.

It's so much easier to want someone else to save you. It takes the onus away from ourselves, and with that, goes personal responsibility. The blame moves from me to wherever our fingers can wag. After all, taking care of ourselves is a very grown-up thing to do. In fact, my friend Patty once told me, "As an adult, your job is not to take care of anyone else unless they're infirm or unable. You can care for someone else, but you don't take care of them." It takes a lot of maturity and wherewithal and introspection to be a grown-up. And, while the tasks may be simple, "simple" is not necessarily synonymous with "easy." 

I am happy to say that today, I am indeed my own lifeguard. I have placed myself in positions where I am surrounded by good energy and hearty abundance, where I can look in all directions and find loads of love and tons of support. When times become challenging, I save myself by looking first within, exploring the learning experience being offered to me, relying upon the right resources (which includes trusting my personal faith), and then moving through the emotions towards the Truth. I don't let fear hold me back from doing the hard thing, from making the healthy choice, though if I hesitate and if I make mistakes, I now approach myself my with compassion, forgiveness, and grace.

Truly, I am blessed beyond belief — so many of my wildest dreams have come true in the past couple of years that I sometimes shake my head in amazement. I know this was partly due to my will and perseverance (I'm pretty darn bull-headed when it comes to going after what I want), but it was also largely due to learning how to let go and love what is. 

That latter part? It's a doozy, especially for someone who grew up in a severely chaotic environment where control was the only thing that I thought would bring any semblance of sanity to my life. That sanity however, turned into insanity in high school and college and long afterward, when I developed an eating disorder that (ironically) nearly consumed all of me. Over time, and with an inordinate amount of dedication to wanting to be better, I found that little by little, the more I let go, the more I enabled goodness that had been trying to come into my life for so long to finally arrive. On every exhale, I continually made space to surrender, so that with every inhale, I began to welcome in exactly what I needed to thrive.

A dear Craniosacral friend of mine, Gary, sent me a text on New Year's Day: "May 2012 bring you what you need, rather than what you want. (It's a Scottish thing.)"

I replied: "Well, hopefully they're one and the same — that's what the Dalai Lama says brings true contentment."

Let's all of us aim to be our own lifeguards. We never know when the elements within and around us can suddenly become overwhelming, when we might get tired, or possibly lose our way. Sometimes, even if we're calling out for help, an obvious rescue may not be close enough. Instead, if we can rely on ourselves and find ways to be our very own heroes, then we're doing that very important thing again and again as though it were our daily job.

What have you done today to be your very own lifeguard?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reflections & Musings: "You have to show the muse you're serious."


"You have to show the muse you're serious."
-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Because I learn best through auditory means, I love listening to podcasts and interviews with prominent figures who are changing the world by expressing their thoughts and engaging in action. One of my favorite podcasts is On Being with Krista Tippet, where she explores the ideas of faith and human life by exploring everything from new science to ancient traditions. 

Recently, Krista interviewed singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, who shared a love of language and quantum mechanics as a means to uncover new sources of creativity and ways to think about the Divine. During their chat, Rosanne shares the above quote from her friend Steven Pressfield, who wrote The War of Art, in which he writes, "You have to show the muse you're serious." 

And suddenly, it hit me, that I am not showing my muse that I'm serious. In fact, I quit my job as a Director of Marketing a few months ago expressly to commit to writing my memoir. Shortly before that, I met a New York editor during a press trip. She had recently published a compilation of essays from notable female writers, was interviewed on The Today Show and more, and when I shared with her what my memoir would be able, she was intrigued. By the time she returned to New York, she had mentioned my idea to numerous renowned editors who were all ready to read my manuscript. It was an opportunity that I could not turn down. So, I quit.

Yet, what's happened in that time? I've moved towards all the other things I also love to do: teach yoga, practice Reiki, develop a Karma Yoga program, explore the world as a travel writer, be active outdoors, share delicious meals with heart friends, and the list grows. 

What have I not done in that time? Write, write, write my memoir. Interestingly, I've also developed a fairly hearty pain in my backside. It's a dull ache that sometimes calls even louder for my attention, to the point that I've sought bodywork and acupuncture in an attempt to heal it. Because I've been reading Ken Dychtwald's book, BodyMind, I'm aware of the psychosomatic element to pain and how our bodies store much more information that we often give it credit for.

Yesterday morning, I gave myself a bit of Reiki love before getting out of bed. I quieted my mind and began to brew wonderful "everythings" for the day ahead. As I began to think about my book and how I wasn't writing much of it, the pain in my backside began to intensify. The more I mused on the topic, the more the right side of my body began to hurt.

In yoga, we learn that the left sides of our bodies correspond to the feminine "Yin" energy, while the right sides of our bodies correlated to the masculine "Yang" energy. The Yin is the receptive, while the Yang is the action. Looking at it purely from that point of view, I could surmise that my pain could be coming from not taking action on what I know is a true purpose in my life. 

I've not been showing my literary muse that I'm serious. I've been dallying in so many other ventures — all of them good — but none of them are what I've told myself for most of my adult life that I wanted to do. In an effort to ease the pain in my backside and to gather more peace in my heart, I am moving past false starts towards a real one.

Rosanne notes that showing your muse you're serious is a process of being diligent, doing your best, being open, and... waiting. It could take one year, two years or more, but it's something you have to commit to. Then, as though you're catching a Divine idea — a beautiful thought floating in the ether — it comes to you. And, it's extremely important that you have your catcher's mitt ready.

I honor the Universal energies around us. Like most things that are near and dear to our hearts, I ask that the Universe support me with strength, love, and compassion as I embark on this journey to step into my fullest potential. With all of my heart and soul, I'm serious. 

I'm writing my book.

(Thank you.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Be free to be yourself.


"To be nobody but yourself in a world 
which is doing its best day and night
to make you like everybody else 
means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight
and never stop fighting."
-E.E. Cummings

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, feel the freedom to be completely you in every way! Beyond the tangible physical boundaries that can be imposed upon us by others, there are also those limitations we place upon ourselves and, usually, those are often the most harmful to our human spirit. What I love teaching in yoga classes is that the light within you will only exist in this lifetime in the ways that you encourage it to shine — the arcs, the rays, the shadows, the warmth, and the subtleties — all of that is uniquely yours to exude! Be all of you and feel blessed that you have expansive space to be brilliant, a whole universe of potential that is limited only by your own imagination. 

From there, once you embrace the belief that you can truly be yourself in any circumstance or situation, whatever the internal or external elements, then it's up to us to help inspire that spirit for others! To be the forerunners for those who haven't yet found their way, for those who are perhaps a little too shy or a little bit scared, or for those who do not yet have the means to fight for themselves.

I'm honored that the non-profit Rewrite Beautiful has nominated me to be one of their Beautiful Girls of the Week. Rewrite Beautiful is a revolution to redefine beauty as an action that has nothing to do with the way one looks, but rather with the way one acts. "Beauty is found in your actions of Creativity, Kindness, and Strength displayed in your community. You can either go along with what everyone else thinks is beautiful, or you can be revolutionary and Rewrite Beautiful." Through art shows, Beautiful Action Clubs and street art, Rewrite Beautiful is helping to redefine a nation of young women and girls who focus on their gifts and talents rather than on their bodies. Their vision is to see each and every young woman in this world say, "I'm beautiful, because I know I am creative, kind and strong. I don't care what you think of my body, because I know I am beautiful in a way that can never be changed." By beginning this dialogue, Rewrite Beautiful is helping to lead a next generation of young women who will have conversations about what it means to be beautiful in completely new and inspiring ways.

And, being true to ourselves is not a decision that we make once in our lives, then we're done with... it's a process that we continually refine throughout our days. I'm grateful to everyone who's enabled me to stand where I am in the freedom to be myself now and I hope that my actions will inspire others, as E.E. Cummings said, to "fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting"!



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Healing anger and pain.


"People hold onto the past, because they think 
in some way, it means 
they'll be able to predict the future." 
—from Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss

Protection. That's my first line of reasoning when I reflect upon why I harbor past sentiments, resentments, and emotions. "Remembering" helps me to feel safe that I will know better for next time, that I will be on guard, that I will not again be taken for a fool. Ultimately, it's a hope that I will not be hurt anymore.

The side effect to that rationale is that I become lost in the stories ruminating in my mind to the point where I can no longer discern between what is real and what I've projected from my past into the present. Today, because I could not get the wandering shadow thoughts to meander away from my center rather than towards it, I became irritated with most everything and everyone. For me, when I feel something, it shows on my face, exudes from my actions, permeates my thoughts, and creates the air around me.

Ironically, the day that actually transpired on a surface level was quite wonderful — just as soon as I awoke, I performed Reiki on myself; sat to meditate after a delicious breakfast of peanut butter and bananas on French toast; assisted a beautiful yoga class at the Soul of Yoga, where I offered Reiki, adjustments, and moments of gentle massage; had an incredible time surfing Beacons; then went to host an open session for Reiki at Mesa Rim Climbing & Fitness. Intermingled in all of that, I was able to spend time with my beau, interact with close friends, do good work, and even receive exciting news about my upcoming trip to Maui.

Yet, I was unrelenting in feeling that there were unresolved moments in my life, times where I was unjustly treated and did not stand up for myself as strongly as I could have. I wanted these situations to somehow be rectified in my favor and my manas (monkey) mind began to perpetuate the dark memories while the higher part of my soul was simultaneously striving for the light to shine on the lessons I actually did learn along the way.

In Anatomy of the Spirit, Myss asks the audience, "Where it is written that deepening one's spirituality means that there will no longer be pain? Rather," she asserts, "the moments of hurt don't go away. Instead, life just becomes more all-around awesome."

In an interesting aside, she notes that funeral rites are not something performed solely for the dead, they are a ritual intended to release what's already passed from continually seeping into the present.

When we hold on, we no longer live fully in the now and thereby relinquish out ability to embrace the complete power of the spirit within. In essence, we're not living as whole beings when we're not fully here, but rather living as fractional parts of a full portrait, devaluing the masterpiece we could be creating.

In the end, what I did was not turn to traditional means of avoidance or self-soothing. I did what Myss suggested: go into that which you fear the most... go deep into the mystery, because that is when you are closest to the Divine.

So, I acknowledged what I felt. I divulged to a close friend what angered me, what bothered me, what I truly feel that aren't always higher emotions. And then, I started to let it go. By admitting that I am human, I also acknowledge that it's only a part of my experience in this infinite life. And, by understanding that there's a possibility of becoming hurt again and again in the future, I also allow myself to open to more of the flip side of pain — genuine joy.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Words from the Wise...


"With That Moon Language"
-Hafiz

Admit something;

Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a 
full moon in each eye that is
always saying,

with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in
this world is
dying to 
hear?

About Hafiz

Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz (c. 1320-1389) is the most beloved poet of Persians and is considered to be one of history's greatest lyrical geniuses. Though he is still little known in the Western world, many notables including Emerson, Goethe, Garcia Lorca, the composer Brahms and even Nietzche were deeply affected by him. Emerson once remarked that "Hafiz is a poet for poets," and Goethe wrote that "Hafiz has no peer." The range of Hafiz's work is astounding, striking a chord of recognition in people from every stratum of mind.

Hafix was born Shams-ud-din Muhammad, the youngest of three sons, in the beautiful garden city of Shiraz in southern Persia, where he remained most of his life. Shiraz escaped the ravages of Tartar and Mongol invasions during this violent and chaotic time, and Persian life as Hafiz knew it as a child and young adult was for the most part wonderful and steeped in nature's poetry. And Hafiz's father undoubtedly recited the verse of Saadi, Farid-ud-din Attar, and Jalal-ud-din Rumi to his sons as well as the Quran. In fact, Shams-ud-din Muhammad later chose the pen name of Hafiz, which means "memorizer" and denotes a person who knows the entire Quran by heart.

When Hafiz was in his teens, his father, who had been a coal merchant, died. Hafiz began working as a baker's assistant to help support the family, and at night attended school, eventually obtaining a "classical" medieval education. A famous story about Hafiz, told many ways, says: When he was twenty-one he was delivering bread to a wealthy noble family and glimpsed a remarkably beautiful girl on a terrace of the home. He fell desperately in love with her, but she had already been promised to another. Still, he began writing and singing out poems for her that expressed his longing and adorations. The poems were so touching that many in Shiraz came to know of them, and they were sung to other's sweethearts. Out of desperation to win her, Hafiz undertook a forty-night vigil at the tomb of a famous saint, for legend had it that anyone who could accomplish this feat would win their heart's desire. Indeed, after a Herculean effort, upon completion of the fortieth night of vigil, it is said that the archangel Gabriel appeared before Hafiz and asked him what he desired. Gazing upon the radiant beauty of God's angel, Hafiz forgot his human love, and the thought rushed into his mind: "What must God's beauty be like—my soul needs to see that, I need to see God." Gabriel then revealed to him the whereabouts of a spiritual teacher in Shiraz whom, if served faithfully, would bring about the fulfillment of his wish. This teacher was Muhammad Attar, who lived a seemingly ordinary life to the world's eyes—that of a chemist or perfumer with a shop in Shiraz. Few knew of his secret status as a spiritual master.

Attar guided Hafiz in the development of his poetry and in the unfolding of his soul. It is said that Hafiz's poems contain and reveal all the stages of divine vision, experience, and love. He cloaked all these truths in vernacular garb, as was the tradition in Sufi schools at that time, since secrecy was often essential in the climate of life-threatening fundamentalism.

During the next decade of his life Hafiz gained much fame and influence as a poet, obtaining court patronage and a teaching position at a college that may have even been founded for him. In his early thirties an opposing sect rules Shiraz and Hafiz was dismissed from the college. It is thought tha the probably fell back upon his skill as a copyist as he had mastered the art of calligraphy during his educational training. Some years later he was reinstated. In his early forties he again fell out of favor with the ruling court as his poems were often very controversial and he even more so; eventually Hafiz had to flee Shiraz for his safety. After several years he was able to return.

When Hafiz was about sixty, it is believed that his beloved master, Muhammad Attar, granted Hafiz his deepest most constant desire—union with God. Hafiz's forty-year spiritual consecration bequeathed to history some of the most profound mystical verse in print. An estimated 5,000 poems were written by Hafiz throughout his life though it is a tremendous loss that not one poem remains in his own handwriting and the authenticity of anything tagged Hafiz will always be an issue that concerns scholars. Let the gauge of authenticity be courageous and true, like these words attributed to Hafiz: "No one could ever paint a too wonderful picture of my heart or God."

It is said of Hafiz that he wrote with a sweet, playful genius unparalleled in world literature. He is rightfully called "The Tongue of the Invisible," for through his works he continues to sing beautiful and wild love songs to this world from God.

-from the book, "Love Poems from God" by Daniel Ladinsky



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Words from the Wise...



"A Hundred Objects Close By"
-Mira

I know a cure for sadness:
Let your hands touch something that
makes your eyes
smile.

I bet there are a hundred objects close by
that can do that.

Look at
beauty's gift to us—
her power is so great she enlivens
the earth, the sky, our
soul.

About Mira

Mirabai (c. 1498-1550) is the most renowned woman poet-saint of India, her songs sung by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike. She was born a princess in the area of Rajasthan. her great-grandfather founded the city of Jodhpur.

It has been said that when Mira was a small child she brought a plate of food to a sadhu (a wandering ascetic) at the palace gate. He whispered a few words in her ear and bestowed a tiny statue of Krishna into her hand, which she forever treasured. There are no other accounts of her having had a teacher or formal religious instruction, so perhaps those few words held some key to a spiritual awakening. Some time later she questioned her mother about who would be her husband, as marriages were often arranged in the early years of a girl's life. her mother, perhaps not fathoming the seriousness of her daughter's inquiry, playfully pointed to the little statue of Krishna and answered that he would be Mira's groom. From that time onward Mira felt herself to be married to Krishna, and when the time came for her actual marriage, she refused to submit to being treated as a piece of property within the conventional marriage that had been arranged for her against her will.

Her husband died soon after their marriage, and this allowed Mira to begin leading a more religious life, toward which she had long felt inclined. She began seeking out the company of wandering sadhus and felt drawn to public temples that were usually only visited by low-caste devotees. Her presence at these temples, and her singing and dancing and embracing of untouchables enraged her in-laws to such an extreme that they tried to kill her. Mira, when in her early thirties, renounced her title and position and fled. She herself became a sadhu, traveling much of northwestern India on foot, sleeping often in the open, sometimes near temples and mosques. 

She was a fierce champion of human rights, especially women's rights, and with a shocking wit and penetrating insight would often expose the ridiculous aspects of politics, orthodox religion, the caste system, and chauvinistic oppression. Her songs often glorified the ascetic's life, and at times her poetry was very erotic. As a finely educated woman, she first composed her poems/songs in the ancient tradition of classical Indian poetry. In fact, Mira's love songs are said to have helped revitalize and evolve North Indian music. Even today her songs are very popular and sung by classical singers as well as heard throughout the streets of cities and in villages. Several thousand poems are attributed to her though perhaps only a few hundred are authentic. There is an account of a childhood handmaid of Mira, named Lalita, who may have followed her on her wanderings for a while, noting the songs down in a notebook. Records in the Ranchhorji temple at the coastal city of Dwarka, where Mira is last recorded as having lived, mention such a notebook.

Mira spent the last few years of her life attending the destitute near the Ranchhorji temple and writing poems until she joined her Lord.

-from the book, "Love Poems From God" by Daniel Ladinsky