Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reflections & Musings: How heavy is the weight of what you're carrying?

"The obstacles of your past
can become the gateways 
that lead to new beginnings."
-Ralph Blum

How heavy is the weight of what you carry? The past, the hurts, the shame, the guilt, the regret, the questioning? How much does it anchor you in a way that prevents you from soaring in the present? For me, it's become quite apparent, that the huge burden I hold over my back is breaking and I find myself at a crossroads, where I can either move forward towards the life I have always wanted, or wallow in wondering why the past wasn't the way I wished it could have been.

Over the past couple of weeks, my beau and I have had several meaningful discussions. Two nights ago, I pointed out that I feel I need to be with someone who needs me more than he does.

"I don't feel like you're asking that we should both be more vulnerable for the health of our relationship, but more like you're asking me to need you more than you need me, so that you can feel safer," he observed. "I do need you, I need you in ways that seem very substantial to me, but perhaps they don't look like the way you'd like them to."

We continued our dialogue, about the ways in which being with me has brought to light much of his past behavior in every type of relationship and how he'd like to shift things in a way that's healthier, more considerate, more mature. He's clear about the ways in which he could grow, what he would like for the both of us moving forward, and how he has been upfront with me from the start.

The more he talked, the more I could see once again how the Universe offers up just the right opportunity to become who we have the potential to be. 

"You are so much more than you ever see," he continued. "You think your past defines you, that the worries and the hurt are what make you who you are, and that is not who you are. You are this brilliant and amazing and fun person who you can't seem to see, because you are holding the weight of your past so tightly that it blocks everything else out. And, you keep bringing the past into the present, so that it continues to affect your every day — our everyday."

And he's right. I started to see it in the way that I teach, where I talk so much about healing and moving through old wounds and how to come into wholeness again — all of which I still think are absolutely important — but my teaching seemed to stop there. I wasn't bringing more joy into the situation, only more peace and acceptance. I wasn't infusing the practices with fun, with laughter, with all the reasons people in my life love me when I give myself permission to let go.

"I feel that I love not only all the good things about you, but am also learning how to love the things that are challenging. I believe that I can. Can you do that for me?"

One of the greatest mirrors that my beau has held up to me has been to see with extreme clarity the ways in which I treat myself with such biting criticism and pressure for perfection that it leaves no room for error. This inability to make a mistake means that guilt and shame are constant byproducts of the way in which I live my life, and it pervades everything inwardly and outwardly to the point that my business coach cautioned that such behavior taints not only the way I interact with the rest of the world, but also how others will interact with me. Part of this is a cultural trait, a fervent "must-get-it-right" attitude that my beau and I discuss quite frequently, but the other part of this reveals my lack of connection and trust in the Universe that things are, have always been (this part's the kicker), and will always continue to be okay.

Can I do that for my beau? Even more importantly, can I do it for myself? Can I let go of wishing that the past would have been different in order to make up a better future? As Robert Holden said, "Sometimes, in order to be happy in the present moment, you have to be willing to give up hope for a better past." Can I do that? 

Today, my friend took me to a suspension bridge where we played around and started swinging it side-to-side with our weight. She encouraged me to do a bit of yoga, so that she could take a picture and I thought it was a great idea. "Wait, let's wait for the people to walk past," she encouraged, before I began to move into asana. 

Several hours later, I realized that's exactly where I've been and what I'm doing in my life — standing directly in the middle, waiting for people to pass on through, so I can do what I want to do. 

To my left is where I came from, all of the experiences that have brought me to this moment. To my right is the potential for where I'm going, a place where I can enjoy the benefits of my svadhyaya (self-study). But what I do, day in and day out, is sway one way and then the other, yet never commit to getting off that bridge, to taking the steps to cross over. I bide my time with being afraid to truly move in either direction and accept what is. Instead, I watch as other people's lives continue to move forward while mine sways still. 

The recent experiences in my relationship have brought me to this ringing epiphany that I've been constantly waiting for that perfect shot, the one where no one else is in the frame but me, so that I can make it look as picture perfect pretty as I can. Without realizing it, the creative direction I've given to myself and to others around me for many years has been to give myself permission (subtly, quietly) to wallow in the middle of this bridge, where it looks amazing on the outside without having to make a decision on the inside. 

Now, I have to make a choice. Do I want to spend my life making everything look nice or do I actually want to get off being suspended in mid-air to put my feet on solid ground? It's not a question of whether I can or can't do it, it's a matter of whether I really want to, if I will finally make that very, very grown up decision to truly, finally, leave my past behind and dance my way into the future. 

Can I love me for all of who I am? Can I love my life for all of what it is? Can I love my beau for all of who he is? 

Yes, I can. 

And, I will.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Something broke in me — and that's a great thing.

"Liberty is the possibility of doubting, of making a mistake...
of searching and experimenting...
of saying 'No' to any authority — 
literary, artistic, philosophical, religious, social, and even political."
-Ignazio Silone, The God That Failed

Yesterday, I shared with my beau that I think it's fascinating how I'll come across an old magazine or newspaper and read through it to see all the predictions we make about the future, and given the gift of hindsight, reflect upon how things do or don't pan out the way we assumed — or hoped — they would. It's an interesting study on human behavior, on sentiments we share as a culture, and a good reminder that we truly are in control of so little except for our response to the situations that happen around and within us.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been looking inward and outward with many more questions than I have answers to. I wish that I had hindsight now, so that I could make the best choices in this moment to benefit my life in the future, but that's just not how life works. All of this has stemmed from the state of my relationship, and the two of us determining whether or not this is the best situation for either of us to continue. In the time that we've been together, we seem to have gotten a little lost in how to make ourselves and one another truly happy, forgetting a bit of why we fell in love with each other in the first place. Yet, at the same time, whether it's because we are devoted to making it work or because we're both stubborn and don't like to lose or because our higher selves recognize that there's something very worthwhile in the two of us being together, we are aiming to figure it out.

Relationships, as I've been told over and over again, go through a whole gamut of emotions — they're not the storybook tales we watch on the big screen in the darkness of pausing reality or even what we're interpreting based on what are often superficial status updates on Facebook. But, at what point do you realize that you can continue on this path to learn more lessons about yourself based on your interactions with another, or you can choose to take an easier road with someone who's more likeminded and pushes less buttons? Relationships, I've also been told, are super easy when they're right; whatever you think is what becomes your reality; you meet exactly who you're meant to be with to help move you forward in your spiritual journey; and onwards.

When I was in therapy in my mid-20s, my therapist said at one point that I need to stop asking others for advice. I get all of this input, because I'm trying to figure out how to "do it right," afraid to make a mistake, but what everyone is doing is simply sharing what's worked for them. She encouraged me to quiet the outside voices and learn to start trusting my own, because in the end, I would often do what I wanted to do anyway. This technique of asking everyone around me was helpful growing up, because my actual parents were not the role models I needed them to be. In asking other people, I was able to truly get a broad spectrum of life stories and pick and choose what worked, learn how to fit in and be accepted, but in the end, I had a hard time trusting myself, my heart, my thoughts, my body all on my own without external validation.

These past couple of weeks shook up an overpowering awareness that everything coming up was simply the Universe asking me to take a deep look at myself and see if I want to grow my consciousness or stay cooped up in habits, patterns, and fears that have served me until now. My life is ample, rich, and abundant on so many levels, yet there is this niggling hook in my heart that just won't seem to let go, something that holds me back from experiencing true love and genuine joy for myself and for others. 

After several calm discussions, my beau and I came to working solutions that will take time to implement and to see if indeed we are one good for one another. In being with him, I have learned how to root my emotions in a rationality that is new to me. And together, we practice patience and a broadening of understanding on levels that serve us both in various ways.

But, something else happened in the midst of our arguments and space. Rather than emitting rainbows and sunshine from my heart for the resolutions we came to, there was grief. Sorrow. Discontent. Frustration. Anger. And something (maybe several things) I can't quite put my finger on. Dispassion? Defeat? Resignation? Perhaps it's a grudge. Ultimately, something broke in me and I don't care anymore — and it's liberating. 

It's not that I don't care about the state of our relationship, that I don't care about him, that I don't care about what's going to happen in the future. It's that, at a fundamental level, I don't care about worrying anymore. I'm over it. I'm over being afraid of everything and acting like my super strong exterior has been enough to protect me from needing to open my heart to risk and reward. I'm over trying to do everything right to prevent anything from ever going wrong. I'm over pleasing people in hopes that they'll please me. It's exhausting. And, it doesn't work. My Spirit is tired. 

My Soul has finally gotten to the point where it's ready to stand still in the core of who I am rather than constantly fighting with my ego to go where Ego says I need to go. And truly, nothing, in the end, is that big of a deal. Life is long and if I believe all the things I have faith in, then everything really is perfect, just as it is, without my having to get into the middle of things.

My beau has told me from the beginning that I need to clearly and explicitly state what it is that I want, so that I can even have a chance of getting it. Sometimes, it's hard to figure out what that is, but when I have, he has indeed made an effort to help me make it happen. Sometimes, it's hard to admit to yourself what it is you really want, because it's a dream so big that even putting it out there is a huge risk to take.

What have I been afraid of all these years? What has been truly motoring me along in my life? Why do I feel compelled to do 1,001 things all at once, convinced that just doing one isn't enough? I've been afraid of people not liking me my entire life. What a cage this tendency has created for my entire consciousness. I'm afraid of calling people for referrals, as my business coach has told me I need to do. I'm afraid of saying what I want. I'm afraid of believing in my power and standing in my worth. I'm afraid of disagreeing with someone else. I'm afraid of making a mistake. I'm afraid of being loud. I'm afraid of being viewed upon frowningly. I'm afraid of indulging. I'm afraid of giving myself permission to be strong, wild and joyful.

And now, I could give a shit about worrying. I don't need anything new to freak out over. There's nothing wrong with me, nothing flawed, nothing I need to fix. I'm human, and it's as simple as that, a fact that I have fought my whole life to not accept. I didn't want to believe that I was just like everyone else, because that means I could hurt someone else like that and the pain I endured as a child was too unbearable. Somehow, if I could stand out from the crowd, then I would be averse to anything that could hurt me like that again. I thought that if I could be superhuman, then I could fly about the stratosphere and not get wounded. Turns out, the air is thinner up here, it's colder, and everyone else down below looks like they're having such a great time. 

Given that I'm always teaching that our bodies and our minds are so intimately interconnected, where what we believe is the reality we create, then I'm throwing away — sometimes violently, sometimes gently to the wind — all of the things that have held me back. I get angry. I get scared. I get spiteful. I get unhappy. I get moody. I don't say all of the right things. I can be self-centered or sometimes selfish. I get all of the things that I don't want to see in my partner, and if I can't be perfect, then why would I expect someone else to be? 

Being perfect is 1) unattainable, and 2) doesn't mean you won't get smacked in the heart by hurt. This is where Mother Teresa's "Anyway" poem comes in handy.

I have existed for 34 years trying to do the right thing, to make everyone else fit into the mold and the script of what I believe, so that I can feel safe and secure. And frankly, that's not how the world — or relationships — work. I asked myself today, whether I would want to be in a relationship with myself. While there are plenty of redeeming and stellar qualities, there are a few things that I would find are deal breakers. All these things I do to myself already. Things like changing my mind constantly, not being able to commit, telling someone else how or what to do, being almost severely punishing when I experience disappointment, aiming for an ideal state of undisturbed bliss where light beams from every nook and cranny into gold. There's a reason we have fairytales and fables. They give us something to believe in when the every day is filled with gradients of grays and blacks and blues rather than bright yellows and reds and oranges. Because we know how hard things can be, sometimes, escape is the most alluring option. Because we know how low things can go, we yearn for the highs that balance everything out.

These experiences, being honest with myself, are how I am finding my original voice in teaching. On the surface of my life, I am being triggered. On the inside of my being, I am embracing imperfection and making new adult choices and realizing that these nuances are what make me who I am. I feel that the group classes I teach are shifting, because I'm moving away from a template model of falsehoods to a real human being standing at the front of the class, honestly connected, in it like everyone else, and simply being who I am.

All any of us ever want is unconditional acceptance. This is what we have wanted since birth. This is the pain we struggle with in our lives when we feel that it's absent in any way. This is where grace kicks in. What I remember from my recent teacher training is when we watched this video, where Ram Dass shared his experience of meeting his guru. As skeptical as he was being a Harvard professor of neuroscience, he knew the moment of transformation happened when this man revealed he knew everything about Ram Dass and loved him anyway. "Because he knew everything about me, that was like being forgiven. Prior to that, I had a lot of things in my past, I didn't want anybody to know. And I always felt that if they knew, they wouldn't love me. He knew. And he loved me." 

This is where I want to be. Where everyone knows. And loves me anyway. Where I know. And I love me... anyway.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Learning to navigate the Universe through my relationship.

"I walked into the room, dripping in gold.
I walked into the room, dripping in gold.
A wave of heads did turn, or so I've been told.
Or so I've been told.
My heart broke when I saw you kept your gaze controlled.
Oh I cannot solve.
Let's just stop and think before I lose faith."
-Crave You lyrics

I have a few limiting beliefs. They tell me I don't know how to do relationships. I choose the wrong guys. I make things messy. I'm too vulnerable, yet not impenetrable enough. I have such high expectations. I make others feel like they're not good enough. Nothing they do, nothing they say, everything's just not perfect. I don't deserve someone who treats me like a queen. I don't deserve someone who gets me intuitively and who honors and celebrates me. I just don't know what the hell I'm doing when it comes to love, because I don't know how to give love to myself, and I don't know how to do anything but people-please, in hopes that they will eventually give me everything I need, rather than believing that I am whole, I am worthy, I can give myself everything and love from someone else is just icing on the cake.

I feel that every relationship I have is doomed from the start, because I can't seem to shift these ideas and then, because it's what I fear and what I hold true, that is, inevitably, what happens.

And here we go again. 

Over the past few days, I've been faced with a substantial decision: can I move past my habits and tendencies that part of me knows would be healthier to change — and can my partner do the same — or will we realize that we are now at an impasse and the only solution we can create is one where each of us begins to tread different paths in separate directions? 

We've taken a few days to think about it. The catalyst for all of this is when I left a journal entry open, and it looked like a letter to my beau, so that he glanced upon it and came across all of the anger I hold within that I have such a hard time expressing aloud in real-time. The injustices, the hurt feelings, the things that I feel I should not say, because I need to be the good girl. Meanwhile, he says what he feels with no filter, and therein lies one of the problems beween us.

How do you help one individual who can't get fully clear on what she feels and is too afraid to express those feelings when she eventually realizes that they are, as well as support another individual who in fits of frustration and anger just lets everything fly? How do you help two people who feel the same about most everything in slightly different ways, who approach life and problems in extremely similar yet absolutely distinct manners, who point out where the other person has gone wrong when each of them does it in their own way as well?

We've gone a far way from feeling like we are dipped in gold, seen as bright and shiny in the eyes of the other. We've actually arrived at a point where things feel rusted, dinged, dented, tarnished, dull and seemingly unsalvageable unless substantial things change. But, how do you alter an internal pattern that is ingrained so deeply, at times we're oblivious to it even happening? Or, perhaps more accurately, we're so angry and frustrated at not being heard, enveloped, understood and loved unconditionally, that we no longer hold the other person in high regard and on some primal and elementary level, just want the other person to feel as badly? 

Over the past few days, everything has slowed down. Time has evaporated into a mugginess that's thick and uncomfortable. The sadness of reality brings me to my faith again and again to understand there is a perfect order of the Universe, where I must genuinely allow the space for things to unfold as they're meant to in order for each of us to continue in the next step of our journeys, wherever they may lead. All of this means I'm not in control of everything, just what I can handle within myself. I can look upon everything with a brutal honesty, stand up for myself where I believe that a pattern cannot continue, open my heart and mind bigger to different possibilities, and just pray that we can each speak our truth in ways that come through for one another to enable greater revelations that benefit both of our healthiest growing. In all the spaces and gaps in between, I keep asking for help from a source wiser than the both of us put together.

I pray for love and light. I pray for peace. I pray that each of us can be conscious enough to move past the limitations we've created. In a meditation yesterday from the Chopra Center on forgiveness, I was told to understand that forgiveness happens when you realize that the person who has hurt you is doing the best with the consciousness that they have. People grow and move through things when they're ready. And every one of us is doing the exact same thing — our best attempts given what we have before us right now, given our current state of awareness, given how much fear and acceptance we hold in our hearts, given our willingness for change and development. 

I have learned so much over the past year and a half, about me and my role in the reality I create not just for myself, but also for others. I ask for forgiveness for all the ways that I was knowingly violent to myself, to the ones I love, to those I barely know and for all the ways I had no idea I was doing anything hurtful to another human being. My violence comes in a way that's passive, that's non-verbal, that's rooted in fear. It comes by not allowing for forgiveness, by wanting punishment for wrongs created way, way back. It comes through judgment and by not allowing space for anyone else to be any way other than the way that I would like for them to be, to want everyone and everything to follow the script that helps me feel as safe and secure as possible. 

I've been practicing a lot of Ho'oponoponopono, and asking my partner's higher self to meet with mine in my meditations, so that we can connect in ways that are more meaningful than our egos. When I do that, I see that there is great love between us, but that our daily selves can't seem to allow for that to come forth, that we're each getting in the way, when all we want to do is love one another and be happy.

All I can do is be in this moment is approach everything with the right intention. Everyone is their own Universe and we're just trying to figure out how to circumnavigate around one another's cycles and spins, pulls and pushes, black holes and explosions of light. I have not put my beau's happiness in the highest regard, so when he does things to substantially hurt my feelings, whether intentionally or not, I know that everything in some way starts with ourselves first. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that we went from seeing each other as shimmering planets and stars and moons and suns to keeping our gaze controlled, watching the darkness envelop us from within and without.

I have no doubt we have learned so much about ourselves and one another in the time we've spent together. I wish that it could have been infused with more kindness on both our parts. I believe heartily in romance, but I also believe in the reality of the work it takes for two adults to merge their lives together, to bring all of the past, present and future into the mix. Without expectation, all I can hope for is the best for the both of us. 

Life. It's so miraculous and heartbreaking and awe-inspiring all at the same time. That's what's keeping me afloat in this moment. The miracles. The heart. The awe. I am grateful I said "yes" a year and a half ago, when he came into my life, to the possibility and the pursuit of a relationship with one another. I hope that in every way we continue to say "yes" to the adventures that serves us and "no, thank you" to the experiences that don't. It's hard to think that this, right now, is where we're meant to be, that this is exactly what is moving us forward when everything feels like it's at a standstill and crumbling apart. But, if I have faith, then it's now when I practice. Not just when everything's going right, but also when everything's going awry, because even if I can't see the net, I believe that it's there to catch me when I'm soaring or when I'm falling. 

I just hope that the love we have for one another is what lasts, not the ego and experiences we've created around it. I sincerely hope we choose to move past our habitual tendencies towards love for ourselves and one another, so we can create a galaxy of constellations and wildly wonderful stories that go along with the stars and the light. 

All I can ask for is illumination for each of us. Please, let there be Light. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Taking the long view on life.

"When you are sorrowful
look again in your heart, and you shall see
that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
-Kahlil Gibran

Yesterday was my birthday. And, I wanted to have no plan whatsoever, a completely rare request on my part. My beau put in quite a bit of effort to gather a dinner together, a hotel room, the next day's happenings, and not everything turned out the way he or I had hoped, but I set an intention before it all began: today will be the best day of my life.

In general, my birthdays are not so great. My family never celebrated them, except to eat "long life noodles" for dinner followed by a Chinese-style fruit and light cream cake. There's always something that is a bit melancholy, bittersweet, imperfect about the day. Rather than fighting it, I chose to embrace the day for the lessons that would be offered, the perfection that exists just because I accept everything as is. It was something I spent the weekend being steeped in, learning from master teachers at San Diego's Yoga Journal Conference on how to be whole. So, I did my best.

My beau and I had gotten into a fight the day before and the way that our disagreements go, they tend to trail onwards (I am not one of those who easily forgets or forgives or lets go). The day before my birthday had arrived and we were on the precipice of deciding whether we should still follow-through with plans or ditch everything altogether. We're both stubborn, and perhaps that is why we chose the former, in hopes that things would be nice between us, because there was an expectation already set that things had to be so, by the mere fact that it was my day of birth 34 years ago.

I woke up with sadness in the hotel room and spent a nice long while on the cool granite-tiled bathroom floor playing soothing music, journaling, and simply praying for guidance or/and grace. After I took a shower, I made my way downstairs for a cup of coffee as my beau continued to sleep, and began to explore the modern hotel on my own. The lower floor led to locked conference rooms and comfortable seats in the dimly lit hallway, so I perched on one, hot black coffee in hand, and embraced the stillness.

I asked for a sign, what I should know on this day, reassurance that I am on the right path and things are okay, regardless of how they might appear on the surface. I closed my eyes, breathed. I indulged in the humble moment. Then, I opened my eyes and searched for the signs. All the master teachers throughout the weekend reminded me that miracles are everywhere, in every moment, and all we need to do is open our eyes to them. If we look, then we'll see.

So I began to look. I got up, walked slowly down the hallway back to the elevator, in preparation to go to our room, and as I made my way, there it was, underneath the glass stairway up to the lobby. A giant mural where, in the bottom right corner, was painted with a heart and the word "you" with an exclamation point. I smiled, and thanked the Universe. But, She wasn't done. As I stepped towards the elevator buttons, the rug beneath me revealed two hands, fingers touching in the shape of a heart, with the thumbs at the base and all the other fingers curled around for the left and right curves.

"Love you" and a symbol of a heart. Enveloping all my senses before I made my way back to the room. The elevator arrived and I stepped in, but quickly turned right back out. I wanted to savor the moment a bit more, believing that when you ask for help, the Universe reminds you that it's there.

The day turned out nicely, though I wouldn't say that it wasn't tinged with a bit of shadow. One of the parts of our argument is that we could benefit from being kinder to one another, especially in the heat of the moment, to move away from needing to be right and resolve the situation, to take the longview perspective rather than focusing on all that's wrong and not working.

I have no idea how things will turn out. I just know that I'll keep looking for help, opening up beyond my comfort zone, and hoping that as I move into my 34th year of existence, the wisdom of the world will continue to unfold before me, so that I can get lost in the beauty of what is, rather than constantly feeling like I'm falling short of how I'd like for things to be.