Saturday, February 23, 2013

A surprising sense of sadness...

"Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace
that God gives us to control our fears, 
not to oust them."
~Vincent McNabb

As part of our Advanced Yoga Teacher Training Program, we usually get a check-in towards the end of the day. My 200-Hour Program absolutely changed my life and while the 300-Hour one has been a bit more heady that hearty, it's still an opportunity to be around like-minded souls who are are all endeavoring to enhance the world in one way other another, be it through themselves or through their teaching. It's a beautiful process and sangha (community) to behold and become a part of. This is also the last module before I graduate, and as such, by the end of it, I'll be offered a Sanskrit name that one of our Master Teachers who's been with us along this whole journey has chosen with the other master teachers at the Soul of Yoga

Yesterday, when we went around the room, upwards of 30 people shared one-word answers of "bliss," "opening," "excitement," as a marker for how they felt up until that point. 

When it came to me, I said, "Surprisingly sad."

There were mini-moans of sympathy in the room. Our teacher paused for a minute, asked another question, then said she'd come back to that. 

When I have emotions, I like to figure out why. I feel that knowing the impetus behind it will help me handle it somehow, rather than simply trusting in the process that emotions are going to come up for me, especially as a person who believes in Divine Feminine energy, because these are actually moments of deeper experience, information, and intuition. But, as my mind-body mentor likes to say, "Stop figuring it out. Just feel it. Be congruent with how you feel, what you say, what you're doing."

The past couple of days, we've been learning about bringing the soul into the body. From an energetic and metaphysical standpoint, we talked about how before we ever came into these beings, that we already made an agreement with the Universe to choose the families we did and the experiences that we'll have, because it's all part of our greater spiritual learning. That, when I first learned it, was a doozy. It was taking back my power from being the victim of an unhealthy familial environment and believing that there is a purpose to the pain. 

I have turned a lot of my past pain into purpose — it's given me empathy, compassion, and a drive to alleviate suffering for others in so many ways. But, it's not an easy process. It's exhausting. And sometimes, I just want to be held and loved so deeply that the wounds heal without scarring.

From there, we moved to prenatal yoga training and as part of it, we were asked to "get pregnant." We placed bolsters and pillows in front of us to emulate what it'd feel like to move through asanas with a belly. More importantly, we were reminded of how powerful it is to be pregnant, that this is the only experience in humankind where two hearts beat in the same body at once.

There were so many ideas that came up, about how our society has made it so that the year-long process in which a woman's body adapts to giving birth has become, "How quickly can you get your pre-baby body back?" We spoke of women who were frustrated about the process, which in turn, has been shown scientifically to affect the development of the baby's brain. If the mom is stressed, the baby develops a fight-or-flight response pattern; if the mom is accepting of the process, the baby develops with a greater sense of well-being. Makes sense. Again, two hearts and souls in the same body at once.

We've lost that connection with the tribal element of sensuality and beauty that comes with such a dramatic shift in consciousness and being, but it's something we as women can help bring back. Our teacher spoke to everyone in the room, "Men, if you create a sacred space for your woman to be all of who she is — with all of her feelings and emotions — you have a goddess on your hands, who will be good to you beyond belief. Women, you must honor yourself and in so doing, encourage the men in your life to do the same."

And suddenly, when I wrapped my hands around the fake baby bolster I was holding in front of me, I was hit with such a sadness at how much of my life I have pretended like I have not wanted for fear that I would never get it. I told myself I never wanted children, that I helped raise my three younger siblings at a young age and that was enough. I told myself that I would never have the kind of man that our teacher described seeing in her private prenatal classes, in which the man stands behind the woman and the couple move through the poses together with hands on belly and heart. It almost brought me to tears at how close of a connection one would have with their partner, of believing that you could be so honored and treated with such respect and admiration and care and love.

My friend texted me after I shared my sadness. She was only sitting a student away, "I'm here to listen if u want to talk, as u process what's coming up. Love u." And just that moment, I had wondered, "Who can I talk to about this? I feel like I need to open up to someone."

When we went for a walk on the beach a half hour later, she stopped me. "I want to tell you something before we go on," J said. 

"Okay," I looked at her, the sunset glimmering beside us. 

"You are amazing. You have talents beyond belief and are so beautiful from the inside and the outside, and I just feel like you keep struggling with embracing that understanding," she told me, softly.

I looked up towards the horizon, then back at her. "I know," I replied. "I'm working on it."

My heart right now is fighting. It's fighting against it's old beliefs that I'm not worthy of good love, that I won't have everything in every way that I've ever wanted. Even though I see it evident in the lives and relationships of plenty of women and men around me, somehow it's still felt like it was just outside of grasping distance for me. My fingertips could almost graze the surface of my dreams, so that part of me could curl my palm tightly around it, but always, it felt like the wispy tail of a kite blowing in the wind. Beautiful, and beyond my reach.

I know that I create my reality — no one else does that but me. I do it with my thoughts and my beliefs and my hopes and my fears. And my heart is battling so hard against my head and occasionally itself, to be this person that everyone else around me sees me to already be. What does it mean if I let go? What does it mean if I surrender? What does it mean if I give myself permission to be loved fully, wholly, amazingly well? 

I don't know. I don't have any answers to that. It's just one of those things where I have to live it to know it. And living it... that involves being vulnerable. Slipping up. Getting scraped. Getting tender. Getting sweetness. Getting up. Again, and again, and again.

I came across this quote from an author unknown: 

"When the world says, 'Give up,' 
Hope whispers, 'Try it one more time.'"

My life is filled with so much love and goodness that is trying to permeate my cells and I have been stalwart in not letting it pass through. Because each and every time that happens, it brings up a sense of melancholy that I never got this before. It reminds me of how deep the pit was that I had fallen into in the past, how far I have had to claw my way out of darkness to begin to feel the tendrils of the light. 

This is where I am. When I feel like the world gets to be too much, I shut down my phone, close my laptop, hole up. I'm actively aiming to do the opposite, because an old friend of mine had once said, "If you want things to change, do the opposite of what you would normally do."

So, I'm leaning into the discomfort, allowing the fear to come in but choosing love instead. We'll see where this goes. Either way, I'm thankful for the opportunity to develop myself into a greater version of me, even if the steps along the way are cracked, uneven, and quaking.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Finding that feeling of safety within my own two hands.

"Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so,
you apologize for the truth."
~Benjamin Disraeli

In Chinese culture, it's customary to tamp down your feelings, to press them so far back into your consciousness that you create a backlog of emotions you'll likely have to deal with later on. I was always very sensitive when I was younger, but I created a thick demeanor around it, so that I could handle what was happening in my household. 

Then, when I began dating, I would attract men who seemed to not feel much of anything at all except for what was practical and rational and predictable. It made me feel like I was crazy, that I was going up and down and all around, when in actuality, I was simply being a human being. And, a beautiful woman at that. 

Lately, I've been yearning to feel safe in the world, to be able to shed any presumptions or preconceived notions of how I need to be in order to receive love. Instead, I want to just be, and be loved for being me. While I've been seeking this feeling of security within and around others, like everything else in life, it always has to begin with ourselves first. 

That realization can be both a blessing and a curse.

Because there are indeed times when you need to open up and surrender your palms, so that someone else can hold it for you. To pull you up when you feel you've stumbled, to hold tight when you get scared and want to run away, to remind you that you're not alone in the world. Then, there are other occasions when the only person who can make any sort of change is yourself — from what you think to what you believe to how you act, the spark must be ignited within you and then the flame can illuminate the rest of the world. 

Every morning, before I get out of bed, I say a little mantra to protect my energy. I thank the Universe that I'm alive and gifted another day with my heart beating and my lungs breathing. And then, I place my hands on myself to offer Reiki healing energy. Today, after a night of odd dreams filled with fears, I awoke and did the same as I do every other morning. 

The difference is, I felt filled with a sense of safety. I felt that my hands were offering loving energy to myself in a way that conveyed how worthy I am. I was giving myself what I've been looking for outside of me for so long. It was so serene and, while it was brief, it was an awakening of potential for greater self-care and self-respect in this moment and every other in the world. 

It takes loads of work to change the patterns that exist in your brain. It takes effort and practice to overlay a new story on the one that was written before. It takes discipline to catch the approach you're using on yourself and others, to co-create a different type of experience, one that suits your soul much better. 

Sometimes, it happens in an instant. Sometimes, it happens over years or even decades. And sometimes, it happens so subtly that you may not even realize you've arrived where you've always wanted to be. For all those other times in between, that's where faith that things are happening just as they're meant to comes into play. 

Feel whatever you're feeling. Feelings are information and if you can be discerning and observing with the ones you choose to pursue, then you are growing wiser with every moment.

Today, I feel a bit safer. And that is lovely.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The hardest part about vulnerability is doing it.

"Fear is faith that it won't work out." 
~Sister Mary Tricky

The thing about vulnerability, about letting go, is that the hardest part about it is actually doing it. It's feeling exposed, feeling in need, feeling like you can't control everything within you and around you. 

Lately, I've been blessed to have someone in my life who allows me to be fully me. At least, that's what he says. My heart believes him. But then my mind gets in the way with old interpretations of past experiences, causing me to have doubt. 

I have doubt that people will do what they promise, that what they say is what they mean, and that there won't somehow be a bait and switch, where suddenly I find myself feeling the fool. There's a sign for my Hawk and Lily workshops that reads, "Fun happening here!" If I were to swap out my logo with an emblem of myself, the sign I'd be holding is, "Scared is happening here!" 

I want to believe that everything is going to be okay. I want to believe that if I surrender whole-heartedly, circumstances will unfold beyond my imagination. I want to believe that there's someone I can count on, that as I start to open up my heart in ways beyond what I normally feel comfortable with, I won't be met with devastating disappointment. Basically, I want to believe in true love and not the kind of make-do love I've been involved in for so long.

I have high expectations for myself, so this is something I'm actively working on shifting in order to have no expectations at all. To put my best self forward and let everything else unfold just as the Universe believes it's meant to. Since everyone else is a reflection of me, the more I can work on being kind and giving to myself, the more I'll see that in those around me. I won't have to silently beat myself or anyone else up when things don't seem to meet the lofty goals I've arbitrarily set. 

I know that I put these faraway markers in place as barriers to entry — if you can't get past them, then I won't get hurt. But, what ends up happening is that I stand in this lonely no-man's land. Literally, no man. 

So, I'm working on it. 

But, I'm never, ever going to stop dreaming big. My life has proven that it's got a purpose and that the wildest of experiences is more than probable. I want the romance, the grand gestures, the sweet thoughts, the life of my dreams with the partner I've always hoped I could share it with. The travel, the creativity, the family dynamic that we define, not society. The pursuit of our ideals, of sharing in our spirituality, of making one another smile from our hearts to our lips and then back again. 

I want it, because I would gladly do the same for the man I fall in love with. My heart is over-flowing with how much I want to give and how much I'd like to receive. I've just learned to hold back, as I haven't been quite discerning before with who deserves my attention and intention. I haven't felt safe enough to be genuinely vulnerable, to let go and trust that I'll be caught, that my head will touch the pillow at night with a hand behind it and the small of my back, guiding me into sweet slumber with cuddles and kisses.

I will never ever compromise again in asking for these three qualities from whoever is the man I've had to slobber multiple toads to eventually find: 

1) He's my best friend. We can absolutely be ourselves with one another and know that no matter what, we're home.
2) I can say with my whole heart that he is the best person I know and he feels the same about me. 
3) Our love for one another inspires others to love more. It shows the next generation of young women and young men what a healthy love can be. By simply being in love with one another, we embody honor and respect, and remind everyone to have faith that goodness is possible.

When I pause, when I sit quietly in reflection, I can see how the hurt I've experienced in the past is still so raw. From family to friends to boyfriends, it hasn't been an easy road. It's no wonder why it's been tough for me to believe that a genuine, healthy and fulfilling partnership filled with romance, intimacy and affection is not only possible — it's possible for me. 

I don't want to keep asking, "Where am I going wrong here? What am I doing, Universe?" Because, of course, I already know the answer, which is why I'm actively working a mind-body program to change this. I don't have the heart to let it get broken again or, more accurately, stomped on and kicked, then chucked into the sea, where it drowns in pervasive salt stinging its wounds. I want to show up as my best self for the man of my dreams. He deserves that as much as I do.

I want to love. I very, very much want to love. But man oh man, is it hard to let yourself be in that place where you are fully seen. I feel like I've never tread so slowly and quite so carefully before. It truly is like inching forward, but even at times, inches are a distance too great to risk, so it's more like centimetering or, at times, milimetering ahead. The turtle pace is because it's good right now and what if more than this changes things? The turtle pace is hesitation and fear. The turtle pace is rationalization. But, didn't the turtle win the race in the end?

Today, my friend Q said, "You're a planner. You want to know what the next step is going to be. I'd highly encourage you to enjoy this moment and just be in it as it organically unfolds." 

Q is a doctor. I've helped her with Reiki to calm her nerves and she has loved me from the moment she met me. When I shared with her recent events in my life, she surprised me by saying, "Yeah, I thought so. I thought he would be more your style. But R told me not to butt in." R, being her boyfriend, who also has been my champion since we first went surfing together. The two of them together not only show me what a sweet relationship can be, they also watch out for me that I'm finally cared for in ways I haven't been before, in ways they both believe I deserve.

"You're a nice person, Judy," Q affirmed. "You deserve a nice person who's good to you." 

"My friend J says the same thing," I responded. "When that other guy was being a jerk to me, J called him out on it. He later told his girlfriend, 'Judy's a really nice person. I felt like I had to stand up for her.'"

"Exactly," Q told me. "You deserve a really great guy and I believe you'll find him."

In the past few weeks, just as I suspected would happen with the more work I do on myself, my approach to relationships has shifted. I no longer want to choose the person who's unavailable or who my intuition tells me from the get-go isn't the right one. 

And, of course, the Universe tests this theory.

Because before, when I knew I wasn't ready, I'd see someone else my eyes would fancy and the good guy would fall away. Today, I not only chatted with that hey-good-lookin'-what's-cookin' dude, but ended up at a cafe bumping into two other guys who'd approached me before as well, and got a phone call from a third who complimented me throughout our conversation in numerous ways. 

None of them mattered anymore, because the person I've been thinking about wasn't any of them. The person I want to call, the person I want to see, makes me feel good in ways I believe I've only just begun to explore. And, interestingly, I can't seem to find the words to express this to him, because I'm afraid that doing so may make everything evaporate, that maybe he won't feel the same way, and all of this simply shows how fragile I am towards what's lovely when it comes to love. 

My other dear friend Ro told me the other day that it's important, like in yoga, to keep your prana in tact. Talking about something too much, creating stories around it, is the same as letting your life force escape. Instead, the point is to enjoy it for what it is in this moment.

This is what vulnerability is. Real vulnerability is taking the risk. As much as people say I demonstrate this trait in my writing, real vulnerability to me is picking up the phone. Giving him — or anyone in my life — a call. Asking him for something I'd like, maybe even something I need, or simply just to hear his voice and let him know my truth. Then, it's about trusting that if he's able and willing, he'll show up for me with arms and heart wide open.

I don't know where things will flow towards. But, as he told me yesterday, there are pretty much two answers I could get when I ask for what I need.

Yes or No.

I believe sometimes there's a third, Maybe.

Like maybe I'll be able to do this. Maybe I'll find what I've been looking for one day soon. Maybe everything is unfolding just as it should in perfect order and Divine Timing.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Life, as it's been happening lately.

"Just living is not enough... 
one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
~Hans Christian Andersen

It's important to check in. I do it periodically throughout the day, especially when I'm meditating or am driving around town with one hand on my heart, but sometimes, it's helpful to take a bigger step back and fully see everything that's happening... all the magic that's unfolding.

The other night, I had dinner with a beautiful friend who I hadn't seen in months. During our conversation, she reminded me of the things that I had spoken about the last time I saw her — about the types of relationships I'd like to have in my life, about the experiences I was hoping for with career and writing and teaching. She also encouraged me to take pause.

"It's like you're glossing over these really great things that are happening in your life!" she enthused. "Do you see yourself doing that? It's almost like you're not hearing what you're saying and embracing what's happening?"

And it was true. I wasn't. Life has almost been too good to be true (although it is true), so it's hard for me to pause and reflect and bow my head in gratitude. 

In my life now, I get to write. Constantly. I get to pen for different outlets and receive feedback from people around the world about how I'm positively impacting their lives and inspiring hope. 

In my life right now, I am surrounded by amazingly beautiful souls. They are the most amazing and incredible human beings I could ever be blessed with, these friends of mine who send me text messages throughout the day reminding me that I am a rock star, that they love me, that they are thinking of me in bright ways. And, I get to reciprocate that love in return with hugs and meals and sweet conversations. 

In my life now, I get to teach! I get to teach yoga and use my voice and share the knowledge that I've acquired through my life experiences and learnings. I get to be all of me, the person who stumbles and falters, the person who's unsure, the person who acts from a place of great potential. I get to do this in class settings, workshops, corporate environments, and even online.

In my life right now, I am meeting incredible men. These are men who offer me their time and attention and affection in ways that I don't feel pressured to have to reciprocate with physical means. These men are restoring my faith in yang (masculine) energy and letting me be all of my yin (feminine)! And, it's not that these men are asking me out on dates. It's that they're encouraging me to feel safe to be who I am in their company, that they celebrate what is lovely on the inside and outside, and they are reflecting back to me the lessons that I am working on in order to find that everlasting kind of love. These men are taking care of me, and most importantly, I am open to receiving it, which is something absolutely new. It is, quite possibly, the best I've ever felt around the opposite sex.

In my life, I am healthy. I am learning how to be well physically, mentally, and emotionally. I slip sometimes and then catch my balance. Other times, I fall completely to the floor. And then, there are times when I feel like I'm levitating in buoyant gratitude and humility for how miraculous every moment can be.

In my life right now, I am learning how to get out of my own way and let the grace of the Universe guide me to where I'm meant to be go and be.

In my life, I am living my truth with radiant intention and this is the most golden and sparkly I have ever felt. 

May my days continue to be auroral, to twinkle, to shoot across the sky in ways that cause wishes to come true.

Thank you, Universe.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Let others lighten your load.

"We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... 
and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life
and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another 
that creates something."
~Sandra Day O'Connor

I'm currently reading a book, Things Will Get As Good As You Can Stand* (*when you learn that it is better to receive than to give), gifted to me by a dear friend. There are so many highlights and underlines for me to remember the parts that "ping!" in my brain as truth. 

Here's an excerpt from the chapter "Let Others Lighten Your Load" that is a good reminder for me of why it's not just okay to ask for help, but why it's also good for my soul: 

Receiving help can be hard. When someone assists us, we are, by our very actions, admitting that we need something — whether it's a ride, coaching, aid with a child, or simply placing a heavy bag into an overhead compartment. And needing help can make us feel weak or force us to confront our insecurities and imperfections. But receiving help is also the best way to give yourself more free time. 
Getting help may make you feel inadequate because it brings into question whether you are capable of doing everything yourself. But since no one can do everything herself/himself, that's not a reasonable question. The more important question is, How much are you willing to let others lighten your load? 
Claire didn't understand the value of receiving help until she broke her arm when she was forty-two. "Strangers would offer to put my groceries in the car for me, and I would refuse because I still had one good arm and could do it myself," she told me. "Of course, it took me longer, but I didn't want to feel helpless. Then one day I was trying to put my luggage in the overhead compartment by myself and a man offered to do it for me. I told him I could do it, and I probably could have, but a woman nearly said, 'You have only one good arm. Let him help you for goodness's sakes!' That's when I realized I must have seemed ridiculous with one arm in a cast, saying 'I can do it myself.' That's what two-year-olds say. What was I trying to prove?" 
Claire told herself she didn't want to feel helpless and have others see her as helpless — or worse, needy — so she tried to stay in control by doing everything herself. That made her appear ungracious and slightly ridiculous.  
"Now I realize that part of the reason I didn't want to accept any help is because I wanted to be able to feel superior to people who need help, but feeling superior is a lonely state," Claire admitted. "I'd prefer to take a little help now and then so I can be part of the community, even if it means I'm not better than other people." 
As with rejecting gifts, rejecting help will also deny the helper the please of knowing she's/he's lightened your load."
Since listening to Seth Godin's interview with Krista Tippett, the word "tribe" has stuck in my head. I want to find my tribe and stop chasing after the masses. Right now, I'm already surrounding myself by people who are offering to give of their attention and hearts, which to me, is a new experience in learning how to receive. But, just like how trees around us didn't sprout to their current height right out of the seedling, this act of surrendering and receiving takes nourishing growth, and the more I water it with mindful attention and care, the more I'll learn how to become majestic in this way.