Friday, March 30, 2012

Inspiration: Leymah Gbowee — 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner

"All we did was create the space.
When you create commitment, you unlock intelligence,
passion, commitment, focus, great leaders."
-Leymah Gbowee

(Photo: James Duncan Davidson)

If you're looking to be inspired by a person with purpose, look to Leymah Gbowee. In just the first few minutes of her TED talk, she shares heartbreaking stories of young girls in Africa who, severely abused in numerous ways, simply want to go to school to escape the devastating fates that lie ahead for them.

As a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Gbowee speaks of the hope she aims to foster through the Young Girls Transformative Project. How can each of us, from wherever we currently stand in our lives and in the world, make a difference to unlock everyone's greatest potential? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reflections & Musings: What I do when I don't feel good about myself.

"The Church says: The body is a sin.
Science says: The body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The body says: I am a fiesta."
-Eduardo Galeano

I came across a Huffington Post article a couple of days ago about self-criticism that I really liked for these reasons:

  • Shift from perfectionistic thinking to "possible thinking"
  • "Give your inner critic a name (preferably a silly one)"
  • "Pick up the phone"
  • "Embrace your imperfections"
I learned a long time ago that comparative thinking, like perfectionistic tendencies, never leave me feeling good. Whenever I think about what someone else has/does/is versus what I have/do/am, I always come out short and self-criticism wins the day. With this observation in hand — like so many others I have developed along the way — the hiccup is always what to do next. 

When people say, "Knowing is half the battle," I think that's bullshit. It could be because I usually tend to be very self-aware, but the challenge in my life is to take what I know in my head and in my heart and then apply it in ways that are healthy. A more fitting adage would be, "Doing the knowing is an uphill battle that's worth the fight."

I'm often so focused on what's ahead that I don't turn back very frequently to see how far I've come. And, the distance I've traveled has been leagues from the depths of where I began. How did this happen? With a lot of baby, infant-like steps. So, the idea of "possible thinking," where we learn to take self-critical thoughts and shift them to a neutral place that simply states the facts is definitely a mini-trot that I can handle. A couple of years ago, I worked briefly with a life coach, who taught me an exercise to challenge negative thoughts that's worthy of repeating: 

Ask yourself, "Is this real? Can I taste it? Can I touch it? Can I hold it?" and usually, the answer will be "no." For example, "I am a failure." I can't taste that or touch it or hold it. It's not tangible. But, when I say something like, "I am beautiful." Can I touch that? Yes, I can. I can give myself a hug or look in the mirror and see eyes that smile.

Today, as I began to beat myself up during yoga for the fact that I don't have six-pack abs, I remembered the silly name that I gave my inner critic. I call it, "Stinky Pants." The "you're-not-good-enough" thoughts popped up in poses where I was twisting beyond my normal practice, and I recognized that Stinky Pants was showing its mean-spiritedness, so I immediately scoffed at its presence, then looked away. Stinky Pants did not belong in my head space.

Which is why I'm writing about it here — this is one version of "picking up the phone." It's my way to share what is going on with me on a very real and human level, because this takes the shame out of what I'm feeling. I know I'm not the only one who struggles with feeling good about my physical self each and every moment of the day, so rather than be inauthentic when I show up on the mat to teach, I'm remaining honest. And from that openness, I can move forward with more clarity about what I need, like an extra hug or a little treat for myself. 

Now, instead of focusing on what "isn't right," I'm combating it with all the things that are working. Like I taught in class yesterday, "We're so often focused on what's not working, that we forget the bounty of blessings we have for all the things that are." And, because I've learned that cultivating gratitude is one of the quickest ways towards happiness — truly, it can happen instantaneously — I am now going to express gratitude for how good my body is to me and I believe this will inevitably lead to a better day of loving exactly who I am: 
  • I love that my body can get jiggy with it.
  • I love that my body is flexible.
  • I love that I have strong and sculpted arms that look amazing in sleeveless tops.
  • I love my buxom boobs.
  • I love that my legs are muscular and sexy. 
  • I love that my body can pop up on a surfboard and (most often) catch waves!
  • I love that my heart beats loud and clear.
  • I love that my lungs breathe in the sunny San Diego air around me.
  • I love that my hands can share Reiki love with everyone I touch.
  • I love that I have a button nose.
  • I love that my lips are juicy.
  • I love that the blood courses smoothly throughout my body.
  • I love that my feet will push me up towards that next climbing hold.
  • I love that all of my organs are working in sync with my body systems.
  • I love that my tastebuds delight at good food.
  • I love that every morning I wake up, I poop.
  • I love that my voice can become super sultry.
  • I love that my smile lights up the room and the reflects the joy I feel when I am sharing space with the people who make my heart bright.
  • I love that ears can take in wonderful music, which then inspires the rest of my soul to dance to the rhythm of life.
  • I love that my eyes can see beyond the physical matter at hand to a deeper intuitive and emotional knowing of what's happening in and around me.
  • I love that my brain is smart to help take my passion for writing in so many incredibly exciting directions.
  • I love that my belly is filled with creativity.
  • I love that my throat enables me to laugh so fully.
  • I love that my ribs protect me. 
  • I love that I'm starting to get more and more of a plump derriere. 
  • I love my soft skin.
And, just by doing that, I feel so much better than just five minutes ago. That is the power of positive thinking. That is the gift we all hold within us — the amazing ability to give ourselves exactly what we need to embrace exactly who we are right here and now. 

I love myself more and more each day. And, I wish the same for each and every one of you! 


What do you do when you start feeling not-so-hot about yourself or your life? How do you turn the tides and coast along in a different direction? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Writing, as a tool for healing.

"Let's face it, writing is hell."
-William Styron

I'm not sure how it began, whether it was because of a school assignment I brought home in second grade or because my mother had heard it from one of her emigrant friends as a way to ensure her children would excel in school, but when I was eight years old, I was required to keep a journal. At the time, I hated it. What more could a little girl write about except what she ate for lunch and how she went to the store with her parents? It was a tedious task we were forced to complete every day before bed. Now, I could not be more grateful for these diaries as they offer glimpses into the reality of my childhood. 

For a long time during my eating disorder therapy, I thought I had made up much of the abusive environment I grew up in — perhaps I was playing the martyr or the victim? Perhaps the truth of the matter was that I truly was a bad seed, and I just didn't want to admit it to myself? Maybe everyone else around me was right and I was wrong? 

One day in in my late 20s while I was still seeing my therapist Jill, I was searching for something in my studio apartment. I stood on a chair reaching into the cabinets above my fridge, and came across the shoulder bag in which I placed these dozens of diaries. I pulled them down distractedly and placed them on the Formica countertop of my kitchen table. 

Sitting down, I began to flip through them and watched how my handwriting shifted over the years from childlike bubble letters towards more sophisticated and stylized cursive. It was as though the handwriting itself revealed more than what I was actively saying on the page. I was amused at how I would unfailingly write what the weather was like in the top margin of the page, beside the date and the day. 

Yet, the more I perused the pages, the more I slowed down as my adult self began to realize what what I was reading. At ten years age, I began to hate myself and shared in my diaries precisely the same feelings I was going through almost two decades later. 

It would take me by surprise and I would repeatedly have to close the journals, look away. Sobs began to fill the quiet in my apartment. My writings revealed how my parents began fighting, how finances became such a burden for everyone, how my cousins and aunts would come over to bully me and threaten my life. 

All of what I remembered was real. Reading the facts from my adolescent and teenage self was worse than the stories I had made up in my head, because what I conjured up always gave the adults in my life the benefit of the doubt. What I made up in my mind moved the blame from them onto myself, as though if I could have been better, I would have been more loved. What I made up in my mind was that it couldn't have been true that I was so undesirable as a member of my immediate and extended family. 

These journals not only offered evidence of what I had gone through, but they also taught my adult self something else — a little girl at the age of eight could not possibly have believed she was bad unless the people in her life were telling her this was the case, which they were emphatically doing day after day. Because at eight years of age, you are reliant upon your guardians for what is real, for how to understand oneself in the context of her surroundings, how to feel safe and how to be protected. 

At about 13 years of age, my journal entries show that I was coming up with quotes to encourage myself to keep on keeping on. "Time is wasted without love," "Be yourself," and "Have fun now and the depression later or vice versa" were just a few of the sign-offs I would write nightly. I had just entered junior high and these were the things I needed to wake up in the morning.

It's bittersweet that I find in my adult life, now, I'm doing the same optimistic things... writing positive quotes to encourage myself and others to live in the light rather than the darkness, that there is possibility to be in a place of contentment and approach experiences with a sense of courage rather than disappointment and fear. Apparently, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help others see that there was another way of being that circled joy rather than pain and kept searching for ways to embolden myself with words to survive.

Many researchers show that writing things down is therapeutic, cathartic, and leads to all sorts of healing. As I weave the content of these pages into my memoir, I can only go through a few pages of these journals at a time. I hope that they in the end, they were recorded for a reason, so that others who are forced to tread the same dirt path will believe that a fork in the road will inevitably come up, a point at which the vistas will look so different than the dismal viewpoints they had been taking in all this time.

Recently, I listened to This American Life broadcast the controversy of how one man's retelling of fact became fiction as a way to make a point. Truth is what we perceive things to be; how we determine reality is through a shared acceptance of the same story. 

My book will be my truth. And I hope that it will become a shared reality for those who are looking to do more than survive, but that it will also become a story for those who are aiming to thrive. May it be just one example of how all of us can be strong, wild and joyful. (And that's what Hawk + Lily is all about, too.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Inspiration: We've all felt shame. Now, how to move through it.

"It is not the critic who counts; 
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; 
who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat."

The first time that I watched Brene Brown speak at TED Talks was via her speech on vulnerability, a beautiful presentation about her research into what leads to a full experience of living. But, what caught me even more was her recent talk about shame and how the emotions behind those five letters can be utterly debilitating, causing us to live in a solitary environment where no light shines through.

In general, I find TED Talks to be so invigoratingly inspiring, because they demonstrate how one human being can truly change the world. It stirs a belief in my soul that I too can strive to be amazing and that just by living my life as genuinely as possible, in many ways, I already am.

"Everyone who speaks at TED has a failure complex," Brene begins. "They are actually not afraid to fail. Yet, everyone who speaks at TED has indeed failed." And, it is through through their willingness to dare to enter the arena that Roosevelt speaks of above that ultimately leads to their success. They are not the naysayers, they are the doers marred by dust and sweat and blood.

"Shame is highly highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders," Brene asserts. The good news is that our ability to hold onto something we've done or something we want to do in contrast to who we want to be is adaptive, albeit uncomfortable. The lessons in life we grow from the most are the times when we've been pushed to move past our comfort zones, beyond the boundaries within which we believe that we can hold it all together.

Shame drives two big tapes, repeating on a circular loop, one feeding into the other. It's as though we inhale the belief, "You're not good enough," and attempt to exhale the question, "Who do you think you are?" Yet, if we turned down the volume and looked at who recorded these messages in the first place? 99% of the time, it's us.

Shame needs secrecysilence, and judgement to survive, which means that the way to walk out of this darkness is through empathy. The two most powerful words to counteract shame are: "Me, too."

One of the greatest challenges I've experienced in my latest relationship is the feeling of not being fully connected in vulnerability. While I share various concerns, insecurities, wounds still raw with everyone in my life, he does not do the same with me. I've learned that because I have allowed myself to be open, honest, and real — albeit not always vulnerable — I've been able to connect in such indelible ways with people of all backgrounds around the world. 

By showing them my humanity, they in turn have felt safe to do the same. 

With my beau, however, that's not the case. I rarely hear him say, "Me, too," which is why I found it surprisingly accurate when Brene brought up the role of gender in shame. While shame feels the same for both women and men, it's defined differently:

For women, we believe we need to do it all, do it perfectly, and never let you see us sweat. 
For men, they believe that shame is being perceived as weak. 

In fact, Brene shares how a gentleman came up to her after her talk on vulnerability and noted how convenient it was that she hadn't studied it in men: "The women in my life would rather see me die on my white horse than watch me fall down. When we reach out and be vulnerable, we get the shit beat out of us. The women in my life are harder on me than anyone else."

By sharing with another soul that you know how hard things can be, since you've been there too, or that you know what heartbreak feels like, because yours has been shattered as well, or that you know what it's like to make mistakes, because you've also misstepped along the way? Well, it levels the playing field, so we can all start from a higher level of being with ourselves and around one another.

What I loved the most is the palpable feeling in her talk that everyone has been there, everyone got it in a very visceral way. And, that we all have this misconception we need to be bulletproof and perfect to go into that arena and kick some ass, but being like that never happens. And, even if it did, what connects us all as human beings is wanting to know that everyone else feels the same things we do and that despite — or even because of it — we go ahead and try anyway.

I'll see you in the arena.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Inspiration: Yvon Chouinard, a pioneer in every way.

"Some people approach Zen Buddhism by meditating. 
I kind of approach it through action, and 
I've applied it through all of my sports and applied it in business."
-Yvon Chouinard

In NPR's From Scratch, Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) shares his life experiences and how he began his business based on what he loved to do. When he first started climbing, for example, he was passionate about falconry — in order to be around the birds, he had to learn how to scale cliffs to get to their nests. And, in studying them in complete stillness for hours upon end, he personally experienced the ideals in Zen Buddhism philosophy and touches upon the idea that the purpose of climbing is for spiritual or physical growth. 

From there, he realized that climbing in Converse shoes wasn't cutting it, so he helped develop quality gear for himself and friends to use, which eventually helped spearhead the sport of traditional and ice climbing in the U.S. "I'm focused on the process," he says, "and if you focus on the process of business, the profits come."

Having read articles interviewing him before or hearing his philosophies on life, he's very much a person who lives what he believes, especially exemplifying the idea of social and environmental responsibility. Raised with the philosophies of American naturists like John MuirHenry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, he became a proponent of the idea of "leave no trace behind" in nature and infused this idea in all the products he created so that we can simultaneously respect and appreciate the elements around us.

I love hearing about individuals who simply took one step at a time in the direction of their dreams and continue to trust their own ideas about what works for them even if society says otherwise. Chouinard shares that he's not an inventor, but an innovator and by being true to himself, he built Patagonia to where it is now. 

Let's all take one step today in what's right for us, and see where we go from there!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reflections & Musings: What would I tell my daughter?

"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which
you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them
like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows
are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and
He bends you with His might that His arrows may go
swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the
bow that is stable."
-Khalil Gibran

On the bookshelf in my studio apartment, scattered across the floor, on the chair by my bed are an assortment of books with titles like Overcoming Perfectionism, A Guide to Personal Happiness, Radical Honesty, BodyMind and Nourishing Destiny among many others. Coupled with the podcasts I subscribe to and the videos I watch, I could likely create a whole self-help library just by myself!

What's up with this quest for betterment? Why have I always coveted the company of those who are more intelligent than I am, more creative, more successful, more learned, more practice, more polished? Because I think there's somewhere to get to, a secret promised land not yet revealed to me, that if I could just be more perfect, then I would find everything I had ever wanted. 

Ironically, I feel that I'm already living the life many people would love to have. Every time I meet anyone and they ask what I do, I tell them: "I'm a part-time travel writer, a marketing consultant, a yoga teacher, and a Reiki practitioner who's building a Karma Yoga program and writing a memoir."

Then, the customary response is: "O wow! That's a lot! And you get to go wherever you want, whenever you want? You can work from anywhere? That's amazing that you get to do what you love! How do I get into something like that?"

I feel that part of the reason that I seek external opinions about things, why I'm on this quest for perfection, is because I've been waiting for someone to give me permission to enjoy my life. It's as though, based on the way I grew up, I've been holding my breath this whole time — my life has become exponentially better each year that I'm alive, and yet, I feel that I haven't let myself exhale. I haven't run far enough away from my past. I haven't felt safe enough to let myself enjoy the here and now without anticipating when the other shoe will drop, when the bottom will fall out, when I'll start to trip up and fall backwards.

It's happened before, it can happen again. Or, can it?

Recently, I put up baby pictures of myself on my desk to remind myself why I'm writing my memoir. I'm doing this for all the little girls who were seeking help and protection, yet couldn't find it within their homes; it's for all the beautiful souls with suffering hearts who simply want to be loved unconditionally; it's for all the women who put their lives together in piecemeal bits and smiled courageously on the outside while barely holding it together on the inside.

If I had a daughter, if the Universe chooses to have me become a mother in this way, I would love her until my heart fills the galaxy with joy. I would tell her of why she is beautiful, regardless of what she looks like on the outside. I would celebrate her creativity in ideas and thoughts and dialogues. I would encourage her to believe that she can be everything and anything, and to remember to be mindful of everyone else in pursuit of these goals, so that the choices she makes are not just for her benefit, but for the greater good of all. I would teach her to see the space around her as full of possibility, full of goodness, full of support, and even in the midst of the challenges, to see these as learning opportunities to define her character, to test her moxie, to let her shine. I would tell her to respect and honor herself fully and that by doing so, she can become a beacon of inspiration for other women (and men) to do the same. I would tell her that in love, it's okay to be vulnerable and to give in sometimes and to compromise for the other person, but that it's important her partner also does the same with her. I would tell her that even if her heart gets broken, that I would be there to hold her and soothe her and then wipe her tears and put on a bright face and we would go for a walk and sit by the ocean with cups of hot cocoa and a blanket wrapping us closer together. I would tell her to never let anything externally or internally dim her light, because she is a divine being as we all are, and that this life is temporary, so let's make the most of it while we can. I would do my best not to always assert my opinion for the choices she made that I didn't agree with, but I would ensure she knows she could always come to me with anything. I would teach her how to give back, how to be genuinely grateful, because these are the qualities that make life richer, when we remember that we are all human, that we all want to feel safe, strong, content, that we all want to live with ease, that we all want to love and be loved in turn. I would show her how creating and sharing sacred space with someone is a uniquely beautiful gift, to be selective and discerning and protective and open in the moments that matter. I would remind her to love all the little moments, that these are often the best times in life, and that it doesn't take surmounting a mountain to make someone smile or to stir someone's soul. I would teach her that romance and reality go hand-in-hand, that money may not make the world go round, but that it is how our world operates, so to be smart about finances and have enough in the bank to develop a solid launching pad for rocket ship dreams. I would help her understand the meaning of independence and hard work, as well as to learn how to lean on friends and relax completely. I would tell her that sometimes, it's as though we are looking at a large black velvet cloth with ragged holes cut in in random places to let light shine through, and that even if we can't see the whole picture all at once in order to know how life is going to turn out, we can at least catch glimpses of the unfolding mystery. Spirituality is that fabric of believing, and I would encourage her to explore with all her senses what it means for her. I would encourage her to learn that the art of playing is as important as perseverance. And I would encourage her to dance with grace in nature, to embrace her own nature, so that she can feel connected to the wondrous workings of gaia, where intuition and all of life are intertwined. I would make sure she knows that she is safe and sacred.

I have so much love for a daughter I don't even know if I'll ever have that if I can feel this way about an unborn soul, I can learn how to feel this way for myself. By becoming a parent to the little girl within who I once was, perhaps one day, I can become a parent to another being in my full presence and potential and become the mother I wish I always had.

So, to start, I'll begin with a new understanding that I can give myself permission to live fully, to be happy, to be me. I give myself permission to exhale the past and inhale the present, to exhale worry about the future and inhale standing in my power now. I give myself permission to be fully engaged in my beautiful life. I give myself permission to believe that everything is better than okay and ever will be. 

I give myself permission to breathe.



What would you tell your daughter or son? What life lessons have you experienced that you would like to share? How would you parent the little one within? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Inspirations: The woman who became a king.

"When I said this, they all stood up — a woman is speaking like this? And I said, 'Yes. I'm serious. Treat me like a man, because — I'm a man. I'm a man. Don't look at me as a woman ... If you really understand me as a man, then we can go onward. But if you think I'm a woman, we're not going to work.'"
-King Peggy

I was listening to this story on NPR this morning and thought it was absolutely wonderful. The call of destiny for a woman across the world to return to Ghana and become her village's king — not a queen, but the king!

May we all answer the call to live up to our fullest potential and live a life unimagined in incredible ways.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reflections & Musings: It's not all about me.

"They say that time changes things,
but you actually have to change them yourself."
-Andy Warhol

I could not have picked a better partner — someone who shows me that it's not all about me. For so much of my life, I've been obsessed with making myself "whole" again, as though I've been this broken and fragmented individual who needs to fix inherent traits about myself in order to receive love. It's just now settling in that I'm not dysfunctional or irreparable, but that I'm innately human. And perhaps, that's the hardest realization to come to, because being human means being vulnerable to pain, to change, to circumstances beyond my control. It's all the things I tried to escape throughout most of my childhood into young adulthood, and here again, I'm faced with the reality of what it means to live and be in relationships with other human beings.

In the end, we're all in our own spheres of consciousness that happen to merge with one another like soapy bubbles in the sky. Sometimes we pop when we meet one another, sometimes we become attached and float on together and other times, we soar into the ether completely on our own. Each of us is a world of wonder in and of itself. Yet, I've been so cooped up in the iridescent sheen of the viewpoint I hold about our relationship — and what I need him to give to me — that I haven't seen what it really is that he also needs in turn. Because my entire life has centered around tender emotions or introspective interpretations of outside events, and because I feel I've been unjustly wronged before, whether caused by him or by others in my life, then I began to react in heart-jerk ways rather than respond with real consideration for him as a person or as a partner.

Lately, I've shared with a select few people the thoughts in my head, the feelings in my heart, the dialogues I've had with my partner. And, the input that I've been receiving is: "You should thank him for being the soul who volunteered to come help you grow," and "It's amazing the types of dialogue you have with one another — your communication is incredible," and "You've got to love yourself first before you can truly know how to love anyone else. Both of you just want the other person to be happy, but it starts first and foremost with knowing what it is that you want."

Then why doesn't it feel like the best of all things is happening? Why does it feel so incredibly uncomfortable and annoying? After an argument he and I got into yesterday, I confessed that I feel as though I've been pulling away, shutting down, and looking for a way out.

"I can tell," he told me, "it's as though you placed your heart in an origami envelope and now we need to peel away the pieces of paper away, one at a time."

One of the challenges that we've broached before is that I live in a world where I'm slightly removed, one where I can process things in an almost narrative fashion, that helps me write my book. Rather than being fully present, I'm just present enough to observe and interpret rather than be in the moment. While I've thought that most of what I've been working on is to better our relationship (i.e., being tolerant of another person's anger and opinions), what I believe I've been doing is simply picking and choosing on working on the things that are seemingly most challenging, yet would ultimately benefit mostly me and my memoir. It really hasn't been about him or us.

"What does an apology mean to you?" he asked yesterday, after we sat in the car in intense frustration at one another. "What does forgiveness mean?"

Though initially I thought he was asking this as a way to catch me being wrong so that he could be right, what he was really bringing to light is the fact that I have never, ever truly forgiven anyone. "I feel like you make apologies just to get past the moment," he observed, "but instead of letting it go, you just try to bring it back around in another way at another time, so that you can still make your point."

A long time ago, I read that forgiveness involves an element of forgetting. My memory is so selective that this amnesia works in a way where I simply cut and splice previous experiences in a way that puts me as the heroine, the victim, the one who's not at fault. I cannot yet own my mistakes, because I've felt that the message I received loud and clear while growing up is that it wasn't purely my actions and behaviors that were wrong, it was my entire soul and spirit. So, with that enormous wound still on the mend deep beneath the surface, why would I ever choose to be in any adult situation where something I did was construed as unfair, unkind, or inconsiderate?

"I think that in the end, you'd really just like a relationship with yourself. You want someone who you can control, who will say and do just the right things as you would like them to do. And that's not how our dynamic works. We're two alphas here, and that could work, if we just learn how to yield now and again."

Yielding, to me, is submission and not being honored. I've learned that fighting to be right is what I know how to do best and compromising is a concept worthy of consideration, but one I both don't know how and don't necessarily want to grasp. Instead, I want to be in control, I want it all or nothing, just like my eating disorder used to demand. It's either become a perfect size 0 or binge until my stomach is so distended that I can no longer breathe.

Everything that annoys me about him are so clearly things that I'm annoyed with about myself and it's the same exact case with how he sees me as a mirror, too. The difference lies in the fact that he chooses to accept the "not-so-great," because he tells me that the good far outweighs it. He says that our relationship is real. And I? I still want — and am demanding — perfection. It's not fitting into my idea of how things should be, and because of that, then I want to jump on the next plane out of town to the next adventure, the next distraction, the next illusory promise of getting everything I have ever wanted — until it's not anymore.

We got into an argument at his friend's baby shower yesterday, quietly making our own little "scene." Again, I wanted things on my terms, to be resolved right then, to be more important than the whole world around us and the very event and people we were there to celebrate. Am I proud of this? No. And yes, it takes two, but the whole entire play could have featured different dialogues and character exits and stage spotlights. Or, both of us simply could have chosen not to audition. But, we did and then did a bit of tit for tat.

All of this is to say that I am still learning how to be mature, how to be in a relationship that's not a replay of everything unjust that has ever transpired in my life, which I would now like to rectify with this ONE person, right here and now. I don't know what will happen between us, but I do know that at the end of an hours-long assertion of how each of us sees things, we went to get a drink and agreed:

"If we can get past this, then we have a pretty damn good shot. And, if we don't, then we both know we love each other a lot, and that we'll let the other person go to find what makes them most happy."

It might sound textbook, but it's anything but. We are two smart individuals who (maybe think too much and) are absolutely adapting to the dynamic of a relationship neither of us has experienced through before. While it's distinctly grown-up in many ways, it's also still an adolescent process of learning who we are, who we'd like to be, and who we'd like to be with.

I'm going to do my best to stop searching for someone else to tell me how to do it right, and trust that I have a partner with whom we're figuring it out as we go. It's not going to be easy and we're certain there are more arguments to come, but I certainly have found the person who will help me become a greater version of myself. And the same goes for him. That's a tit-for-tat worth fighting for.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Meditation: The philosophy of disequilibrium.

-St. John of the Cross

Once I said to God, "How do you teach us?"

And He replied,

you were 
playing chess with someone who
had infinite power and infinite knowledge
and wanted to make you a
master of the 

where would all the chess pieces be at every moment?

Indeed, not only where he wanted them,
but where all were best for your

and that is every situation of one's life."

Recently, I met a photographer named Roon at a business-building event, and asked her to go to a happy hour so we could chat about the right camera for my travel writing adventures. We sipped on sangrias and shared about our lives. I mentioned that in my personal relationship with my partner, I could see that we've reached a crossroads where I'm ready to move forward with significant amounts of change and he's having a harder time with the unknown coming into play.

Roon told me how she used to be a school teacher and that one of the teaching philosophies she learned was that of disequilibrium. "The idea behind it," she explained, "is that in order to keep your students engaged and learning, you create situations and environments that cause them to feel slightly on-edge or uncomfortable, so that they have to reevaluate what's happening and learn how to adapt."

I like the idea that good can come from feeling unsettled, especially because that's where I've felt my life has been for the last six months or so. My meditations lately have centered on understanding that we're all doing the best we can at this given level of awareness, and learning how to be okay with lessons unfolding in ways and on levels perhaps we're not yet conscious of.

Being around Dwayne, as he's struggling through what's most uncomfortable for him, is teaching me compassion and forgiveness. We all handle stressors and situations in different ways, but I feel that a sign of maturity is learning how to process our experiences with as much kindness, honor and respect for everyone involve as possible.

It's nice to be reminded that as we pursue our life's purpose, that we're not only doing this for our highest good, but for the greater good of all concerned.

For today's Hawk+Lily meditation offering:
Breathe into your life greater awareness, then exhale fear or blockages from your heart. Begin to have a conversation with your highest self...

What areas of your life are causing you disequilibrium? What are you learning about yourself and others from feeling unsettled and being uncertain? How have the challenges in your life brought you blessings of all sorts? 

Be okay in the discomfort as you feel yourself surrounded by a bounty of love. Understand that nothing lasts forever and breathe through the change. The more we melt into what is, the more we can embrace the idea that everything is unfolding just as it should for your greatest development. 

Trust in yourself and in the Universe that you are exactly where you are meant to be here right here and now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meditation: Mindful eating the Buddhist way.

"Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul."
-Dorothy Day

"Food should be fun."

I never thought I could find spirituality in food. Instead, I felt that most of my adult life was plagued by an eating disorder that repeatedly bowled me over with guilt and shame. It seemed such a simple daily task of nourishment, one that (on the surface) many other people didn't think about twice, was one that left me perpetually frazzled and always fretting.

That is, until I realized that eating is a societal obsession and few people in our culture can go without a bad body image day or thirty or three hundred of these in a year. Around the world, food is our common language, because we all need to eat to survive. And, ever more so in a Chinese household, where dishes replace the dialogue of affection. 

Food is how my parents, grandmother, and relatives expressed care. Rather than a "Hello, how are doing? I've missed you!"— words that would have been much too difficult to formulate on their tongues — my family members instead chewed around the question and command, "Have you eaten? Come! Eat!" 

It's a primal thing, wanting to feed ourselves. We suckle our mother's breast before we can even see clearly. As toddlers, we crave pacifiers for comfort. And, we experiment with the world by placing objects in our mouths before learning that there are certain things that we can't digest. As we get older, sweetness on our tongues may sometimes replace the bitterness at home, the crunchiness of certain foods helps us swallow anger when we do not know how to express this emotion otherwise, and the creamy denseness of luscious desserts temporarily fills our hearts when the vacuum of loneliness becomes too  empty to bear.

After a lot of therapy in my mid-to-late twenties, I got to the point where I was very cognizant about my behaviors and thought patterns. Even so, I quickly learned that being aware of the "what" and "why" was not quite the same as changing those patterns. In fact, it often became even more infuriating to realize that even though my brain knew better, my heart couldn't help myself from choosing "wrong." Or, on days I managed to be a bit nicer to myself, choosing a path that was infinitely more familiar than the road less taken. Now, I see how it always returned to one simple question that, unlike my straight-A performance in school, I could not answer at the time: How much do I value my heart, my body, my soul? 

It's taken me just as long as the fifteen years of my eating disorder to finally get to a point where I choose to honor my well-being more than my illusory security blanket. And, it's not a clean cut once-and-for-all-wipe-my-hands-clean kind of decision. It's a choice I have to make multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times a minute, to pick that higher part of myself that wants to thrive and soar. But, I'm not alone in this. We all have something, a human part of our existence, that challenges us to have to pick the harder and more noble path. For some of us, it's anger. For others, it's jealousy. For all of us, it could be beating ourselves up or succumbing to an outside pressure of what we're told we "should" be, rather than giving ourselves permission to shine so beautifully with the brilliance of our Spirit.

I remember hearing, "The farthest distance we ever travel is often between our head and our heart," and over the past year, I have worked diligently to reduce the space between these two internal places, transforming the journey from miles to millimeters. It has not been easy and, for at least six months, has felt almost unbearably uncomfortable. However, over the past two days, I've experienced huge results that have made it absolutely worthwhile!

I have, perhaps for the first time in my adult life, let in love. Pure, genuine, true love. I've opened up to it after taking a stand for what I believe in, for honoring my truth, and for respecting my needs above anyone else's. After doing so, I was greeted by such unexpected openness of affection and boundless care from so many different sources — both from people who know me well and those who only know me virtually. What's more, I genuinely believed the sweet sentiments they were sharing with me. There was no deflection, no excuses to make that they were simply "being nice." Instead, when they told me how I'm making a positive impact in their lives, how I'm finally coming into my own power, how I'm absolutely worthy of every good thing just by being me, I let their sentiments slowly sink in. It's taken me about a day to process everything (my emotional processing speed is still a little slow to start) and become fully aware of this new ground level on which I stand. 

I bow my heart in big gratitude for myself and for every blessing in my life, because I still vividly remember what it was like to fall to my knees again and again in hopeless sadness and a blurry charcoal depression. What I consume now in my life takes a more mindful approach. Again, it's not every moment or every meal that I digest like this. It's a practice, just like yoga is designed to be. There is no perfection. There's just the practice of being in the moment as best as I can in a space where my heads, heart, and spirit are aligned in pure presence and infinite joy. It's basically touching that place within ourselves where we believe — and know — that anything is possible. 

Absolutely anything.

Especially love.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Meditation: Rain, rain, come again...

"And when it rains on your parade,
look up rather than down.
Without the rain,
there would be no rainbow."
-Gilbert K. Chesterton

While staying at the Four Seasons Wailea in Maui for a recent travel article, I was in the midst of writing when I began to hear a constant loudness outside my lanai. I looked up, and noticed that a torrential downpour was falling from the sky in the middle of all the sunshine. The sound was absolutely brilliant, so for those of you who like the rainfall, here's a brief meditation of pure natural sounds.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Slow down to see the sights.

"The years teach much which the days never knew."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Throughout the week, I’ve been hosted by the Four Seasons in Maui for a travel article about their Unforgettable Events series. They invited me to participate in a yoga retreat with the wonderful Kathryn Budig, whose lighthearted teaching style makes the extremely challenging very attainable and simple, where students walk away feeling stronger and more confident than ever. At the end of it, I began to believe that I could genuinely do any asana and that my body knows how, it’s just a matter of remembering and retraining my brain to believe it, too.

Kathryn mentioned that she’s going to New Zealand next week to teach a retreat and asked if I could come — both Australia and New Zealand have been on my list of places to visit forever. Luckily, I have friends in that part of the world who I met during my year as an editor in Shanghai, and my mind began to create possibility into reality. Yet, because of a few lingering commitments and time constraints, I wasn’t sure if this would be the right thing to do.

I also didn’t know if I was falling back into old habits of running away from things rather than reaching towards something, so I decided to take a break from researching flights and coordinating logistics abroad to ask the Universe for a bit of guidance.

I walked down to the little snack shack on the stone pathway between the hotel and the public beach to borrow a snorkel set. Carrying my gear in hand, I kicked off my flip-flops on the amber-colored sand and made my way towards the breathtakingly clear cerulean water. The waves were a bit cold at first dip, but I soon felt warmed by the midday sun. I put my fins on, rinsed out the mask, blew out any lingering water in the hose, and then started swimming out into open water where whales were surfacing in the near distance.

The feeling of streaming through the water, of moving arms and limbs in a synchronous dance, of experiencing weightlessness and being enveloped all at once made my heart leap with joy. I love that when swimming, the outside world — the one that my brain inhabits to the max until its brimming over my consciousness — is no longer relevant, because I’m now submerged in a carefree blue bubble that focuses all my energy on the simple notion of sink or swim.

After what I thought was just a few minutes, I found that I was much farther out than I thought, the fins propelling me ahead in simple support. The coral beneath me ranged in color from neutral to neon and housed curious marine creatures that would either ignore me or dart and hide upon the shadow of light that my body created in the gently rocking waves.

As I swam, I listened to my own breath pulling in and drawing out. Just the day prior, we had taken an outrigger canoe where whales were breaching before us, leaping out of the sky, playfully flipping their fins, then diving down with a wondrous wave of their tales. The guides encouraged us to plop into the water to cool down and I did just as they suggested — the water was a warm blue too inviting not to. They reminded me that if I stayed underwater, I could hear the whales calling to each other. I held onto the edge of the outrigger and pushed myself down. At first, there was nothing, so I resurfaced.

“I don’t hear anything,” I told them.

“Just give it a moment. At first, you usually don’t hear anything, but if you wait a little bit, you’ll hear it — and then you’ll always be able to.”

I immersed myself again. I waited. And then suddenly, there it was, all around me! The sound of moaning, of clicks and calls, a whole sea symphony playing in a natural orchestration. I let go of the outrigger and popped back up, excitedly.

“I heard it!” I exclaimed. I looked at my yoga retreat companions and told them they needed to dunk their heads in to hear it, too.

This time, while snorkeling, my breath took over as the loudest sound around. I paused and remembered why I had decided to take a swim, so I asked the Universe for guidance about whether or not I should take this trip to New Zealand or wait. After all, when Kathryn was asked if she’s ever been to India before, she said that it was definitely on her list, but that her heart wasn’t yet being called there. It was the same as how I felt about going to Oz & NZ — I want to, but it wasn’t at the forefront of something I needed to do right now. Rather, it was more the opportunity to train more with such a great teacher that I was craving.

I waited. Floated facedown. And there it was, my answer. A white-tipped shark weaved close to the sand to my right, moving in a stealthy motion away from my gaze. I paused, letting it sink in exactly what I was seeing. Then, a bit of fear set in.

“White tips, white tips,” I was thinking to myself, recalling what I had been told about which sharks are safe and which are more aggressive. And, after quickly deducing this shark fell into the latter category, I slowly kicked away, both mesmerized by the sight of a shark and slightly alarmed at the same time. I was all alone this afternoon, there wasn’t another soul in the water around me when I popped my head above the surface to see if anyone else was seeing what I was.

Almost immediately, I had my answer: “Slow down, stop moving around, and look what amazing things you’ll see.”

Just to be sure, after I put a hearty distance between the shark and myself, remembering my yogic breathing so as to reduce the smell of fear I was sure I was emitting, I stopped swimming and once again, paused. Sure enough, right below me, I caught sight of an eel, and then a long narrow green fish with a trumpet nose that I had never seen before. The less motion I made, the more Mother Nature revealed herself to me.

I began to paddle my way back towards shore, feeling calmer and clearer. I would pause now and again, and each time, express gratitude for all that I was seeing. We were scheduled for a 2.30pm yoga chat, and when I got out of the water, I picked up my watch — 2.30 on the dot. Turns out, I was right on time, even without wearing a watch, without knowing where I was going, and without knowing what the answer to my question would be when I first paddled out.