Monday, November 26, 2012

You are a masterpiece.

"To be nobody but yourself 
in a world which is doing its best, night and day,
to make you everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; 
and never stop fighting."
~e.e. cummings, 1955

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."
~Judy Garland

I occasionally quote the e.e. cummings quote above when I'm teaching yoga, as a reminder to everyone that never before in the history of time and never after this moment will there ever, ever be another you. You were made unique, and as Carl Sagan said, you are made of star stuff. 

A friend of mine recently encouraged me to listen to Joel Osteen and, while I'm not religious, I decided to give it a go, because I highly value her input. It used to be that I was really uncomfortable with the use of the word "God." When I was growing up, my parents and grandmother raised me to be vaguely Buddhist, which meant that I would go to temple a couple of times a year and then light incense during certain holidays, kowtowing on a cushion a certain number of times as a gesture of deference and humility. One of my favorite quotes has always been, "Religion is for people afraid to go to hell; Spirituality is for people who've already been there" and that's truly been my experience.

As I explored my own definition of spirituality, I was encouraged to replace the word "God" with something less charged, an idea of a greater force that I felt more comfortable with. Initially, the only thing I could relate to was Mother Nature, as she was absolutely a power much larger than me, but also one that seemed unconditionally loving and non-judgmentally nourishing. Eventually, as I became a yoga teacher, this idea morphed into "Source" or "The Higher Ones" or one I really like, my "Divine Guidance Team." Now, I feel much more comfortable with using the word "God" as it connotes to me one's connection to Spirit, which I believe can be non-denominational.

I like to listen to podcasts when I'm driving or when I'm running, as those are times when I feel like my physical self is being occupied in a slightly monotonous way, so that my brain has the freedom to focus on audio input. Today, while driving down to Pacific Beach, I listened to Joel talk about the power of I Am statements and how the descriptor that follows that phrase shapes our lives. We invite what we believe, so whether you say to yourself, "I am beautiful" or "I am unsuccessful," you invite more of that into your life. 

Joel relayed a cliche many of us have heard, "You are a masterpiece. When God made you, he threw away the mold." Yet, for some reason, it truly sunk in today for the first time. I never really got the "threw away the mold" part until today. 

Suddenly, I realized that I truly am an original one-of-a-kind and after God/Source/Spirit/Universe made me, He/She/It decided that I was perfect just as I am, and there's no need to make another Judy Tsuei. It affirmed once again that we really don't learn things until we're ready, and as much as we can "fake it til you make it" or practice by teaching it, only when our consciousness is ready to open up our hearts and our minds can we fully embrace anything.

"There's a reason God made you the shape that you are, the race that you are, with your personality the way that it is. You're not flawed. You're perfect. Be proud of the fact that you are made with God's purpose, not in a way that is boasting or that makes other people feel badly. Be strong in who you are, because that is how God made you," is a lot of the gist of what Joel was saying.

Why do we spend so much of our lives trying to fit into a convention that was set by who-knows-who? Why do we shun what makes us uniquely beautiful and divine? Why do we feel badly that we are different, when the people we celebrate the most are the innovators, the artists, the iconoclasts, those people who blaze the trails when there was no path before them? Why are we such hypocrites?

One of the things that happens when I listen to podcasts like Joel Osteen's is that I realize how many of us are in this place, one that Brene Brown describes as: 

"I think there's a growing silent majority of people who are really kind of thinking, at a very basic human level, I don't want to spend my days like this. I don't want to spend every ounce of energy I have ducking and weaving. I don't know where we'll go next, but I really believe with every fiber of my professional and personal self that we won't move forward without some honest conversations about who we are when we're in fear and what we're capable of doing to each other when we're afraid."

So, we're not alone. These thought-leaders and change-makers are sharing messages that are going viral for a reason. They're not just talking to air. They're talking to us. To the people who feel and live and breathe in ways that are searching for a freedom to be who we really are at our core. Vulnerable. Gorgeous. Imperfect. Human. Humane. Godly. Surrendering. Strong. Bewildering. Eccentric. Quirky. Fierce. Humorous. Beautiful. Humble. Innovative. Visionary. And any number of other attributes that speak to your soul, and maybe perhaps, to yours alone.

Just think of that idea — that you are a masterpiece. Every color, every stroke, every hue, every texture, everything is priceless.

I am an artist, creating. It used to be that I felt like I was always a work-in-progress. Now, I feel like I'm ready for my unveiling. And however the audience responds, I've found my place in a gallery with the spotlight ready to shine. No one can take that away from me. I've earned it. I've put in my work. And now, I'm ready to be seen.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

When was the last time you were really brave?

"There is a morning inside you
waiting to burst open into Light."
~Rumi

Lately, I've started writing status updates on my Facebook page that are more in depth, more honest, more reflective. Usually, I save these philosophical and personal explorations for my Hawk and Lily page, where I know the people who've subscribed to receive updates are aligned with what I believe, but somehow and someway, I decided to be more transparent on my personal page too, blending all of my worlds into one of authenticity.

This requires vulnerability. It requires courage and bravery in putting yourself out there and facing risk, because quite possibly, I may be met with opposing thoughts or beliefs. It means showing more of myself in a venue where many seem to reveal what they would like for you to believe. I have doubt, and wonder why I do this, whether it means anything at all, but I'll often receive thank-you's from people I would not expect, people who are grateful that I am sharing what I am, because they are experiencing similar events or interpretations in their own lives in their own ways. 

I don't really know any other way to be. Since I was young, I was very sensitive to all the elements around me, which proved immensely difficult when the environment was intensely abusive at times. Then, when I grew older, boyfriends and friends would tell me that I was being too sensitive and thinking too much. Essentially, they were discounting my feelings and I was letting them do so until I realized that there's a flip-side to everything. My sensitivity and introspection enables me to foster a deep intuitive sense about the world and the people in it to the point that others often ask if I happen to be in their heads. "How did you know?! I was just going to say that!" they often exclaim in surprise.

How I feel on the inside, while sometimes not congruent with what I speak aloud, is definitely noticeable in my demeanor. If I'm unhappy, you'll see it in my face. If I no longer want to be participating in the moment with you, I'll exude a silence that thickly wraps the air. Ultimately, I really can't hide what's happening on deeper levels, which is why in many ways, I've given up trying. This is where the transparency in my writing comes into play. I can't lie through the words that I write — I am not very good at writing fiction, because unless it's based on a real emotion or experience, this making-up-of-things is very challenging for me. My narrative has always been one of memoir, non-fiction, true.

When I saw Gary, my craniosacral healer recently, we engaged in a discussion as we often do about life in general. Through our conversations, we help one another come to life. I talked about how I recently read the qualities of a visionary and how so many elements seem to fit my persona. When I was young, I also knew that I was destined for a greater purpose on this planet. I would be shy to speak this aloud, especially growing up in an Asian-American household, where we were taught that humility and self-deprecation were number one qualities to being a good human being. There is nothing more important than "saving face." Now, having become a yoga teacher and pursuing what I believe is my path, again and again I am reminded internally and externally of this awareness that there is something I am destined to do, so the more I can work on removing my ego and doubt to forge ahead anyway, the more I am being of service to the greater good. 

Gary reminded me that often, people who are meant to play a bigger role in the world (if they choose to answer the call) usually go through experiences that are extremely challenging and painful, because by overcoming those events, they can speak from a place of connection that goes deeper than any studying of books could reveal. Here is where my sensitivity comes into play again, because I didn't just feel what happened. It informed my viewpoint of the world and transformed who I became. Again, this could be seen as both "good" and "bad," but Gary likes to come back to the philosophy of balance again and again. Walk the middle path. Be here now. Sway from one side to another, but always come back to your center.

I love Brene Brown and her words drop into my consciousness like melting gold. Her recent interview with Krista Tippett from On Being (one of my favorite podcasts about spirituality in our culture) offered this about bravery: 

"I always ask a very simple question to people. I just say think of the last time you did something you thought was really brave or the last time you saw someone do something really brave. You know, I think, without question and I can tell you as a researcher, 11,000 pieces of data, I cannot find a single example of courage — moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership courage, relationship courage — I cannot find a single example of courage in my research that was not born completely of vulnerability. And so I think we buy into some mythology about vulnerability being weakness and being gullibility and being frailty, because it gives us permission not to do it."

What she says about creativity is amazing as well. In the end, there are no guarantees. People who live "whole-heartedly" as Brown likes to say, embrace that understanding. Their worthiness and need to be loved is non-negotiable, but it doesn't mean everything is always coming up rainbows in their lives. Instead, they accept that "our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted."

When working with Gary this past weekend, he said that the awareness coming up again and again for me was that the Universe has been patiently waiting and now It's kind of annoyed. It has been waiting for me to live my truth in all of my power and do what I have been put on this world to do, to help much greater numbers of people, yet here I am dilly-dallying in my ego tripping of doubt and how I'm not good enough. He's not the first person to tell this to me, and I know it. I have been asking for kindnesses from the Universe and it has shown me opportunities again and again that I then kind of shirk with "I'm sorry, I'm not ready, never mind." 

"The Universe needs to learn to trust you again, Judy," Gary told me. "Give it a reason to trust you. Let it know that you're ready and willing to do what it takes to live your purpose."

I'm off to meditate now, because that's when I feel re-connected to everything that's real. It brings me to a deeper sense of spirituality, and lets me know how best to move forward. I know there are blessings unfolding all around me, but I've been so lost in myself that I haven't been able to see it clearly. That's why these moments of silence are so important, as it helps me hear what my soul is trying to share with me. 

I pray and ask the Universe for help. When I meditate, the Universe answers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude — even for the tough stuff.

"Remember, we all stumble, every one of us.
That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand."
~Emily Kimbrough

Thanksgiving is coming up tomorrow and I've chosen not to go home to spend it with family, but instead, relax nearby by enjoying the evening with friends. Lately, I'm too tired to do a lot of things, feeling that this mind-body program is requiring much more energy than I anticipated, and every time I chat with Barry, I'm made even more aware of where I am.

Again and again, I've been told that the time right now is all about me. It's about my healing, my thriving, my joy, and my learning how to put myself and my needs first. This is why, last night, I called a guy I started dating and told him that I'm not ready for this. The closer I become to someone else, the more I feel myself pushing away. The heart wants what the heart wants, and right now, my heart wants me to be focused on me. On receiving. On breaking old patterns, so that I'm not placed in compromising situations any longer. On speaking my mind and believing I will be honored and heard.

I practiced the conversation a bit in my head during the day to clarify what was in my heart, but when it came down to it, there was no perfect script for speaking my truth. Instead, there was a bit of sifting and sorting once we were talking in real-time to determine what I actually meant, what I actually need, and what I actually hope will happen.

Luckily for me, he was wonderful about it. He appreciated my honesty. He expressed how much he would like to stay friends and how I've played an important role in his recent life, helping him to move to a city where he's longed to be for awhile. He reminded me that I'm beautiful and that I have so many things going for me, and mostly, to try to be as gentle with myself as I possibly can in this process of healing, surrendering, and letting go.

"This all makes me sad," I said to him softly over the phone.

"But it's all good things that are happening," he encouraged me to see. "Everything is good. This'll get you to where you want to be and your head space is the most important thing. You should be happy, and I want to help support you in that in any way that I can. Really, call me anytime."

How is it that I am walking away with a newfound friend in tow — someone I feel like I connect with in great ways — and still feel like I'm grieving? My hypothesis is that the outcome of my decision is that it brings me back to me, back to where I am now, back to the work I know I need to do to heal my past, embrace my present, and feel emboldened about moving into my future.

While I usually don't mention names in this blog, I'll reveal for the sake of showing how the Universe has my back, that this guy's name is Sonny. After the first weekend we spent together, I was driving home from L.A. and questioning what I was doing. I knew that this period of my life was supposed to be me-time and yet, here was a potentially nice diversion. So, in my car, I asked the Universe for guidance. 

"Should I keep pursuing this thing with Sonny and be open to what happens, or should I refocus on myself?" I said aloud.

I waited and kept my eyes and ears open, thinking perhaps I'd get a text message from him right then and there, or that there'd be another obvious sign. Not less than two minutes later, I find myself driving behind a BMW with personalized plates that read — and I trailed behind this car to take photos as proof to myself — "1SUNYDA."

I leaned back in my seat, simultaneously in shock and not at all surprised. When you ask the Universe for guidance, it really does want to help you out, and being that I've been told I'm a powerful manifester, this wasn't the first time that something like this has happened to me, especially when it comes to driving and receiving messages from other cars.

So, with that reassurance in mind, I kept moving forward in our budding relationship until I found myself at this point with an opportunity to practice tapping into exactly what I need, by being bolder than I've been before about asking for it. Like all the cliches say, the only way to get what you need is to go after it, whether it be through intention or expression or opening up to receiving what you want. As I'm learning with Barry, in the end, the truth is as you see it and energy just flows, so once you're connected to the truth, everything around you begins to align with what's right for you. 

"I'm grateful for you," I told Sonny towards the end of our conversation. During the weekend intensives of hanging out together, our conversations organically inspired back-and-forths about all the things that we are grateful for.

"I'm grateful for you, too," he told me. 

I'm grateful, because I can talk to Sonny about anything — really. And he doesn't have judgment for me. He might have an opinion, one that differs from mine, but he listens and he's supportive. He also provided insight on the fact that what I say I want and how I demonstrate what I want are incongruent, which is also what Barry's been pointing out all along.

"You have a very strong presence," Sonny told me. "And you're really independent. Like, sometimes I'd want to offer to do something for you, but I wasn't sure if you actually wanted that or would get annoyed if I tried or maybe I'd do it wrong? And, when we went out to surf or climb, you always did your own thing, which is totally fine, but it didn't seem like you needed anyone or anything."

Those have been observations echoed by other men in my life. Even though I don't want to be the caretaker anymore and I want to be the one who's cared for, it seems that I keep creating this dynamic because being vulnerable in letting go of control has proven to be more difficult than I thought.

How I am in relationships are awarenesses I'll be soon moving through in this mind-body program with Barry. I've never gotten to be the one who's cared for throughout my life. As the eldest of four children in the family, the mediator between my parents' marriage, and often the slightly older counterpart in relationships, I've always been the alpha. Now, I'd like to experience what it's like to be cared for by a gentleman, because as a woman, I think I'd like it. Then, I can make my decision from there.

I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I know that it's time to meditate a bit more and tap into my greater faith that everything turns out just as it should in its own time. I would really like to know how things are going to end up, that I'll find my soul mate and life will be brilliant as part of a strong partnership, because as hard as it is for me to admit, one of the most important things I've ever cared about in my life is being loved and loving someone else who's deserving. 

"I'd like to end up being with to be my best friend," I told Sonny. Most importantly, I want to be able to say that the man I'm with is the best person I know and that he mutually feels the same about me. But first, it's about knowing who I am and loving myself as much as I expect love to be returned, because as a friend recently pointed out, "You get as good as you can handle." 

I know I can handle a lot of shit — now, it's about learning how to handle the good stuff in abundance. This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the love that's been shown to me from all the people in my life and from the Universe. I'm grateful I met a good man who I'll hopefully build a strong friendship with.

"I'll be in biking distance from your house," he reminded me, "so I'm available anytime you need it. I know you don't want to be in control, but really, this is up to you. I don't want to get in the way to make things more difficult for you." 

I'm grateful that I am putting myself first and persevering in changing my life to be bigger and more open to the greatness the Universe is ready to offer. I'm grateful to be here. As hard as it feels right now to be moving through the crap and to wish I were already over there, yet acknowledging I'm actually over here, I'm grateful to be steadily moving forward, because as Barry keeps telling me, "The only thing that'll stop you is stopping."

I often teach in yoga class that the quickest way to contentment is to count your blessings. Though I might feel sad right now, my heart believes I did the right thing for me and ultimately for anyone I'm with, because I'm making real room for the right situation or person or place. I'm making room for me, for me to be ready. I know I'm blessed and now it's a matter of letting myself feel it. 

For this Thanksgiving, I wish for all of you to feel blessed in your own ways, too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Doubt. The opposite of trust and faith.

"For peace of mind,
resign as general manager of the universe."
~Author Unknown

I met my friend at a cafe today, and while the two of us have forged a relationship where we may not see each other as frequently as we'd like, when we do, we realize we have more in common at deeper levels than initially thought. On the outside, our lives are different. Yet, on the inside, how we perceive the experiences around us is very similar. One thing she said to me today that struck a deeper awareness is that my mind-body mentor, Barry, is holding me extremely accountable for everything.

During my chat with Barry today, he asked why I didn't tell him that I felt I needed a break. This homework of releasing admonitions has actually caused a physiological response that had me slightly unnerved. Luckily, I have a lot of friends in different wellness modalities who were able to slightly alleviate my concerns and provide various remedies. 

I was perplexed by his question and furrowed my brows in silence.

"Did you feel like you couldn't challenge authority? Did you feel like you had to keep performing well?" he asked me. "Because there's a way to take a break that serves you, and then there's a way to take a break that doesn't. If you were running a marathon, taking a few moments to drink water or run a bit slower is allowing yourself a break that well help you in the long-run. Yet, if you decided to stop and grab a drink a bar, that's a totally different story. Why didn't you ask me for help?"

"I thought I did," I said with undertones of frustration.

"No, you sent me an email about what was happening. You didn't ask me for anything. You didn't ask for help, nor did you tell me what you needed."

"I didn't know I could ask you to take a break," I told him.

And here is where he pointed out that the stories playing in my head have meant that I truly don't have healthy limits and boundaries. I will go all out 'til the end of days (and this has happened in various relationships and situations that have substantially compromised my health), because I don't speak up for what I need since Barry brought to my awareness today, I don't even know what I need and therefore, have no clue how to ask for those needs to be met.

"This is all mother stuff," he told me, in a matter-of-fact way. "She teaches you how to be in harmony, how to get your needs met."

"Great," I responded sarcastically.

We talked a bit more, and I told him that I don't have doubt that this process we are in together will ultimately work. It's just that I seem to have doubt about everything else. What's going on in my life. Who's in my life. How to get from here to where I think I want to be. 

"Right, that's your admonition. That's what you can work on," he encouraged. "I'm here to help you be accountable, because that seems to be what's been lacking in your life. The adults around you when growing up were not held accountable for their actions, and your eating disorder did not hold you accountable. You set a goal at the beginning of this program for when you'd like to finish, and we've passed that date. That's another thing to look at... the goals that you set."

I felt overwhelmed. When I told my friend about the work Barry and I were doing, she remarked that he truly is keeping me accountable for everything. From the thoughts I don't even know I'm having to the actions I'm living, there is someone who is reflecting everything back to me.

"I know you feel overwhelmed," Barry said aloud. "That's what the admonitions want you to believe — this is too hard, this is too challenging, this is too much. But you're right where you're supposed to be in your process. Everything in your life right now is helping you to bring your shit to the surface, and you can either clean it out, or sit in the muck. Again, the only thing that will stop you is stopping."

"Doubt is the opposite of trust and fear," he continued. "In yoga, what are you taught to do?"

"Have faith," I told him.

"Right, and do you think that your pure heart doesn't know what it wants? Doesn't know what it needs?" 

"No," I said quietly. "My heart knows what it wants."

"This is yoga. Burning through your samskaras. That's what you're doing right now. You're doing yoga."

Yeah, this is yoga. This is me, living my yoga off-the-mat and in my daily world. This is me being a student of life, a believer in faith, and hopefully a better teacher, too. I am practicing alignment by bringing body, mind and spirit all into one and it's proving to be harder than I imagined. Yet, even though it took me awhile to be able to move into different asanas and incorporate pranayama techniques, I eventually learned how to cultivate these things into my practice and subsequently teach them to students in class. So tonight, I'll go back to the basics of Ujjayi — loud, victorious breath — and start from there.

Loud. Victorious. Breath.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Confessions. Admonitions. When a yoga teacher is a human being.

"In yoga, there's this saying. 
The world is as you see it."
~Barry Green

Barry keeps telling me to take the anger and the fury and the upset that I'm experiencing, and channel it into my homework, so that I can truly release these admonitions that have built up from childhood. After multiple days in a row of inwardly kicking my own ass, because I'm apparently in the thick of things now, I'm starting to funnel that angst into my writing. I figure that somehow and someway, all of this must have a reason; since I believe there's a perfect order to the Universe, then this muck must have a purpose. 

But I fucking hate this. I hate not feeling okay. I hate not experiencing everything as gorgeous. Ironically, this work is designed so that I can actually GENUINELY feel positive, rather than superficially acting as though everything's a-okay all the time. My brain keeps coming back to Barry telling me that I'm not being congruent, that shit happens in my life, and I put on a happy face. I pretend rather than being okay with feeling upset or irritated or angry, because I have learned (especially with the yoga training and spiritual learnings I have come across) that these "shadow" emotions are unacceptable.

I've gotten very good at pretending to the point that I often believe what I'm aiming for is real. The thing is, I already feel like where I stand now compared to where I used to be is such a huge paradigm shift that my life is definitely grand and spectacular and booming in broad rays of light. I don't believe I'm lying about that. But then, little itty bits of old thought patterns and behaviors pop up and while I try to avoid stepping on the cracks, I can tell there are parts of my foundation that are still shaky. This is what I'm remedying with the program that I've now undertaken, one which I told Barry I'd like to finish in eight weeks, but four into it and I find myself tripping over the beginning.

The program entails a light and breath technique that gets you to your subconscious to unravel a whole host of admonitions that a lot of us learned while growing up. If you happened to have parents who didn't do a lot of internal work before they decided to procreate, then you might fall into the majority of people who believe in admonitions like these below:
  1. Don't have fun
  2. Don't relax — always keep worrying
  3. Being a woman is what men want you to be
  4. Always obey authority
  5. Put on a good front
  6. Don't enjoy your husband
  7. Perform well to get approval
  8. Don't express any of your opinions
  9. Sex is dirty/taboo/disappointing/doesn't exist
  10. Don't play with yourself
  11. If you love someone, they won't respect my needs
  12. Settle for less than real love
  13. It's not ok to ask for what you want
  14. Everyone is out to get you
  15. Be ashamed if you arouse men
  16. Life is a struggle
  17. Repress your needs
  18. The world is a dangerous place
  19. Don't expect help if you screw up
  20. Be perfect / successful / good / do good job
This is just 20 of them. When I first review the list, I have to put check marks by hundreds of admonitions that may apply to me, whether they were said overtly or expressed silently. It is a bear, which Barry says is the case because I'm at the beginning of the process. Apparently, I will get to a point where releasing these are going to feel so friggin' awesome, since I will start to tap into my power and get a taste of what bliss is really like.

Every time I talk to Barry (which is almost daily), he points out all of these ways that I haven't yet caught about how such admonitions play into my life in such intertwining ways. He tells me that the good news is, when I unravel one, many start to come undone, until the fabric with which I've covered my eyes and used for faux warmth will completely disintegrate and all I'll be left with is my truth. Now. As me. In my entirety.

So, I have some confessions to make, because if I'm going to be in the shit (literally, the place Barry says I am in now), then I might as well just get all the crap out there to finally clear it up:

  1. I didn't finish the Asthanga month as I signed up for because aches and pains in my body started to speak loudly. My teacher went to India. And I made up excuses. I still wrote about it, but I didn't finish the way I had promised.
  2. I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing. People tell me all the time that if I never let them in about what was happening in my brain, they would have to clue about any struggles I'm going through. On the surface, everything looks amazing. This is why we are all in the same boat. I feel like everyone else's life looks just as awesome.

    When I'm teaching yoga, there are classes where I am absolutely channeling a force beyond myself and the flow and the words are seamless. Then, there are other times I'm trying to remember key points to the asanas of where your foot placement should be and how it should feel in your hips that my brain becomes befuddled with how much information could be shared, especially since the more I learn, the more I realize there is so much more to know and how little of it I feel I do. Plus, experts often conflict with one another, which means that in the end, it's about trusting myself and sharing what I know.

    By the time I bow my head in deference for the opportunity to teach after "Namaste," I look up and still have a hard time believing that people are looking at me the way that I have looked to teachers I have trained with. I am humbled to be a part of each individual's journey and want to do my best every time, which is why at the end of every class, all I can say is that I'm coming to the mat with the best of intentions. That's all I can do. Everything else, I really have no clue.
  3. I don't want to work on writing that isn't meaningful to me. This isn't to say that I don't want to work with clients who utilize both sides of my brain, because the rational part of me acknowledges that I need to pay my bills and I do my best when it comes to clients as well, but my heart is so absolutely resistant to doing anything but writing my book. Yet, every day goes by and I still not one sentence closer to completing my manuscript. Part of me is approaching this mind-body program as my research, but it's taking up more headspace and heartspace and energy than I am willing to admit. I have a friend who has told me to write an eBook and get started with a mini-writing project in that way, but my brain likes to aggrandize things so that everything become a monumental task in perfection, coupled with my unrelenting need to overachieve, I get stuck. I am scared to just take time out to do these things I know that I can do, which will hopefully ultimately matter in a big way one day.
  4. I'm worried that I'll never amount to anything. That my simply being on this planet and living my truth aren't enough somehow. More accurately, I'm afraid of not living up to my potential. Since I was young, I knew there was something big in store for me. I could feel it in a way that was beyond words. It helped me to exist in an environment that was so abusive, my family life felt like a cave where the air was constantly being trapped and sucked out and then recirculated before I had to chance to inhale. By the age of seven, I knew that where I was, was simply not right, but that in order to survive, I had to practice enormous amounts of patience and unfair treatment, which in the fibers of my being, I knew would all prove to have a purpose one day on a larger scale. And now, I'm facing up to what all of that was for — the potential that my life could be much grander than I have allowed for it to be, by doing EXACTLY what I just said sentences ago, "being on this planet and living my truth." I'm afraid that shining my light will make others feel badly (a falsehood I learned from growing up in a family that taught lack over than abundance). And, if I really get down to the truth of it, I'm afraid that I won't meet a partner who will encourage me to shine rather than tear me down, because of his inadequacies and insecurities. I'm afraid I have to be dimmed to be loved. And I do not want this to fucking be true, but because it is a fear I have fed, then that energy is still circulating around somewhere. If I dig a little deeper, then the real heart of the matter is that I'm afraid after getting to know myself, that even I won't love myself enough, that I'll find out things I'm not a fan of and rather than approaching it with compassion, I'll see myself with such disdain. I'm afraid I can't grow my heart bigger, because after being bruised and battered in so many ways, no matter how much goodness has always come, part of me is too afraid and wounded to believe.
  5. I'm afraid that I have too much hate in my heart that's been buried in places I have run so far and fast and hard from to be able to let go and be truly vulnerable. This is what I'm afraid is in my subconscious. Untapped fury. Ugly anger. Hurt so molten that it will burn through everything good I have created in my life for myself. I am afraid of myself.
This is where I am. This is what I've been hiding from. This is where I feel lost. This is real. This is me being imperfect. This is me being human. This is me teaching from what I know. This is my life right now. Barry keeps telling me that I am fighting the hardest battle any human being can ever fight, to triumph over my ego, that I am Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita

The one thing that I do know? I am a warrior. I always have been. I always will be. My only hope is that I don't have to fight for the rest of my life for what we all deserve — contentment

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hard. That's what this is.

"The bamboo that bends
is stronger than the oak that resists."
~Japanese Proverb

Barry, my mind-body mentor, says that what I'm currently going through is a deeply spiritual process. 

"I don't call it that for every one of my clients," Barry shared, "because even though I refer to it as releasing the past, what we're really doing is burning through your samskaras to achieve a deeper connection with your truth and who you are. Not everyone would call it a spiritual journey, but that is what we're doing, and because you're on the yogic path, I can talk more about these spiritual precepts, since you can better relate to these understandings."

During our call today, Barry imparted numerous insights about my behaviors and what I've been doing for the past few weeks. There were many silent pauses in our conversation, prompting him to ask, "What's going on right now? I know that when you're not laughing, when you're quiet, something's happening."

"I'm just digesting what you're saying," I told him, pensively.

"That's great," Barry replied, "But I don't want your logical mind to get in the way of this process. The more you intellectualize everything, the less your subconscious mind is participating and that's what we want to get to. We want to get to that place where all of these old admonitions are stored, so that we can really clear them. The moment you try to analyze and think your way through it, which is what you've always done and what your admonitions or ego want you to do, the more you're in your logical brain and moving further away from connecting to your truth. And isn't connecting to your truth what yoga is all about?"

Admittedly, I feel badly half the time I'm talking to Barry, as though I'm not doing enough or not doing it right, and when I tell him so, he points out that it's another admonition popping up. 

"Good!" he'll encourage. "Use that! Get angry! Direct that towards your homework of releasing."

I do as I'm told, even though he's also told me not to be my customary "good girl" response.

"I'm turning towards food again," I tell him with a hefty amount of disappointment.

"Of course you are," he acknowledges. "It's easy to turn towards old comforts, but the important question is to ask yourself what admonitions are coming up when you rely upon food."

I tell him my default answers. "That I don't value taking care of myself enough? That I'm feeling uncomfortable and overwhelmed?"

"Yes," he says. "But those emotions could be related to any number of effects. Why specifically do you go to food?"

My brain is confused. In our most recent work together, I've already demonstrated that I'm afraid to answer him incorrectly, which turns out to be another admonition I learned of believing that I always need to be spot on and perform perfectly. He's called me out that I know the answers to the questions he asks, but that I'm so petrified of saying the wrong things, that I'll just stall and avoid answering. "See?" he'll say. "Do you see how deeply these admonitions affect your life? I believe in you more than this. You're an intelligent woman, you know what's going on. You can answer me."

My friend went through this same program when he was training to become a holistic healthcare practitioner, and he mentioned that Barry seemed to pick on him incessantly over anyone else in the group. Others would take note of it too, and no one was sure why. I liken it to Tom Kelly sharing his experience in the ashram, where the Head Brother gave him love by not giving him love, because that is exactly what Tom wanted most — getting the attention. "You get it by not getting it," Tom would relay the Head Brother telling him.

"So, what is leading you to the food?" Barry prodded when I didn't initially respond.

"I don't know," I told him, becoming slightly agitated. "My parents never said 'I love you' to us, but rather 'Have you eaten?' so maybe that's how I feel like I receive love? Maybe I feel like food is the only way that I can get it?"

"There you go," Barry affirmed. "That's your admonition."

By the time I got off the phone with him, I was tired. All of this work is hard, and it's not just hard, because of what I have to reflect on, it's hard, because it's telling me to go against the grain of what I've been taught and live my life in a way that more accurately reflects all of me. 

Recently, I met someone who pointed out that it's obvious I'm a confident person, that I'm spunky, so he found it surprising when I told him that when it comes to being strong in expressing myself in intimate relationships, I'm at a loss. It's odd, because I have no problem being honest in my writing, and sharing that with the world, which is exactly why people have told me that my words are appealing. My heart is in it and it's obvious.

So then where does that honesty go when it comes to being all of me in every interaction I have? How do I continually default to being "the good girl," instead of just being Judy? All of this is especially challenging, because it's forcing me to accept — and even embrace — having negative emotions, something I've taught my heart to repel since I was a child. 

"Being positive all the time is a delusion," Barry reminds me. "We live in a dualistic world, so saying that you shouldn't feel badly about things or not get angry or upset is unrealistic. And, to feel guilty about these emotions? That's false, too. If you believe that one source created everything, then anything — positive or negative — is all part of Source. So, are you saying that feeling negative is bad or wrong? Because if you are, then are you going against Source and saying that Source is wrong?"

Barry taught me something hadn't really popped up in my study of the chakras before, that the three lower chakras are all associated with negative emotions and energies. In order to reach the higher chakras, we need to move through these "not nice" feelings first. These negative charges are balanced by the positive charges of the higher chakras, and it is this polarity that gives us our form and our physical world. If we lived in pure bliss, this physical world would cease to exist. 

What I learned growing up is that anger was very, very bad. I watched my parents go at it all the time, and constantly lived in fear that the other shoe would drop, that we would go from laughing together as a family to four kids cowering in witness to my parents screaming at one another in what seemed to be unprovoked and unpredictable moments that switched in less than a frightened heartbeat. I never knew that there could be another way to process negative emotions other than through rage and chaos, so I stuffed it all down until I starved and binged my way into oblivion. 

Now, here I am, 30-some years later learning that these shadow feelings are actually okay? That if I tell someone I'm upset with them, or if something happens that triggers a response that isn't happy-go-lucky sunshine, it doesn't mean I'm a bad person? It doesn't mean that I'm being any less yogic than the "ideal" that is preached to us in our teacher trainings and this spiritual society at large? If I have feelings that are not filled with inspiration and light, it doesn't mean I'm doing something wrong?

It was still early in the morning and I had much of the day to go with deliverables due to clients. But here I was, in this blur of feeling like taking good care of myself mentally-emotionally-physically is really what my job is right now. And, though I feel this mounting pressure to write my manuscript, somewhere within me, I believe that the work I'm doing right now is preparing me for just that. This is all part of the book. This is all part of the narrative of how I went from over there to arrive over here. And, it's hard. It's incredibly uneasy to be vulnerable, and dependent, and most importantly, to learn to trust myself whole-heartedly and have just as much faith in this process of unfolding into the real me that is happening. 

"You're doing great," Barry always ends our conversations. "You're exactly where you're supposed to be right now, totally in the shit. If you weren't there, this process wouldn't be working. Use it. You are full of love, and you always have been, and the more you can connect with your true essence, the more you will find that bliss, which is much more than being happy."

I believe him, because if I can do poses on the mat that I never thought were possible, and I understand that poses come to us when we are ready, then I will get to where I need to be right when the time is right. 

This is the practice of yoga. This is the practice of living.