Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How I'm already making a big difference.

"Ideals are like stars: 
you will not succeed in touching them with your hands,
but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters,
you choose them as your guides,
and following them you reach your destiny." 
~Carl Shurz

Yesterday evening, I had a conversation with a soul mate about shifting the status of our relationship back to one of friendship more than anything else. This morning, I woke up filled with sadness at the grief and loss, even though I know that the Universe will continue to intertwine our paths in serendipitous ways if it's meant to be. As I tend to do, I wanted to "figure out" what and why I was feeling what I did, eventually arriving at the conclusion that it was simply acknowledgement of where I currently am in my life — how my relationship with myself is the most important thing and I'm not quite ready for anything more than slowly cultivating meaningful interactions with others — and accepting that as much as I would've liked for this to work out, right now, it's just not the right fit for me. Am I fully convinced that this is the right decision? No, but I do believe I'm acting mostly out of truth, likely with a bit of fear, and hopefully not out of self-sabotage. But then again, I don't know if anything in life is a guarantee except for death, and even then, if you believe in reincarnation, that's only part of the cycle of greater evolution. 

Maybe it's okay just not to know about anything. Maybe that's what keeps us hungry for living. 

I meditated before I left the house and felt a warmth of surrender flow through me, where this is again an opportunity to practice faith that all will be well in the end. Any sort of transition, even if it's for good, involves change of some sort and that change means a loss of what is to transform into what will be. 

During our conversation on the sand, where I expressed gratitude for the healing lessons he's inspired within me, he said to me, "I'm so grateful that you are in this world, doing what you're doing. Just by being you, being candid and honest with your writing, sharing what most people would never dare to, you're helping so many others."

I've always thought about entering a life coaching program, to both better understand myself and have the credentials to help someone else. When I mention this to the people in my life who've known me in multiple capacities, whether as a fellow yoga teacher, a student, a colleague, or a friend, they all say, "You don't need it. You're already a life coach. You're already teaching so many people just by being who you are. You already know everything."

What is it then? What is this driving force to want to perpetually learn more? To ask the right questions, so I can get to those aha answers? Part of it is still about control — I think the more I know, the less likely I'll be smacked upside the head by life, the I used to be treated by my parents. But, the other part is that I believe life is meant to be lived up to the fullest, so what better way to do that than expanding my consciousness to encompass everything this existence has to offer?

I want to make a big impact. I want to inspire a feel good existence for so many people, because I know exactly what it feels like to live in misery and suffering. Yet, I'm reminded that many of the most successful people soared because they were simply doing what they loved, regardless of whether anyone else took note. There's just this pressure I've imposed upon myself that time is limited and I want to make sure this life counts! Again, the idea that I only get this one-go-around is an old paradigm, because the new consciousness I'm surrounded by says that linear way of living doesn't allow for exponential and simultaneous possibilities to occur.

I know that I'm already making a difference in people's lives. I can see it on the faces of my students when they step off their mats, through their actual feedback of telling me that coming to my classes is like going to a spa or a different kind of therapy, through hearsay, and even from staff members who say, "Everyone loves you Judy" or "People look so happy when they walk out of your classes." I hear it when my friends tell me how they enjoy being around me because by the time they leave my company, they feel invigorated about life and much better about themselves. And, I know it because readers of my writing send me notes about how much my words are enhancing their lives.

Maybe that feeling from when I was little can go away now. Maybe rather than feeling like I'm not enough, can I feel like I'm more than awesome? Just as I am, right here, right now. Just the way I teach my students. Just the way that quiet, still voice in my heart believes, but that louder ego bully keeps shutting down.

"To be honest," my friend just told me over the phone. "The world isn't going to end with you. If you fuck up, the world will go on and right itself. You're allowed to change your mind. You're allowed to make mistakes. And you know. You just need to trust yourself more."

In the end, all I get is this moment. This one. I can't bank on anything else, but this present unfolding. For this moment, I can see that I am all I need to be and making a substantial impact just by shining my essence as part of this wonderful Universe — human, divine, or a blend between the two.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do I love having problems?

"Man is almost mad — mad because he is seeking something which he has already got; 
mad because he's not aware of who he is; 
mad because he hopes, desires and then ultimately,feels frustrated. 
Frustration is bound to be there because you cannot find yourself by seeking; 
you are already there. The seeking has to stop, the search has to drop..."

I'm addicted to a few specific problems that I can't seem to get over: bingeing as a response to certain emotional experiences or because of the power of habit; beating myself up; getting in my own way towards living the life of my dreams.

The usual culprits to the idea of attachment are a sense of familiarity, the fact that whatever you're doing/thinking/being/behaving is serving you in someway (however dysfunctional that might be), and a need for control. I would say yes, these elements exist in the problems I stated above.

Mostly, I think it's a way of my relating to the world that's outdated. When I was young, my mom used to berate me every morning before she dropped me off in high school. I'd show up at the base of the enormous front lawn that led to the main doors to campus, on the verge of tears with a fiery ball burning through my throat filled with things I could not say back to her, and make my way to my locker. Often, I'd run into a friend, and the moment I saw them, my entire demeanor would change as I created a facade of strength to belie the devastating vulnerability I felt within.

My parents were inept in their roles of caretaking, lost in their own battles within themselves and towards one another. This meant that a lot of my life was spent figuring things out on my own, be it how to study, having a crush on a boy, getting my first part-time job, putting on make-up, applications for college — there are levels to this list that border on primal, because I did not learn what affection was through them, the primacy of touch, how to go to bed at night without fearing the foundation of our home would shake with their warring.

As I aimed to navigate growing up on my own with three younger siblings in tow, I did a lot of asking of the people in my life as to whether something was "normal" or "okay." I just wanted to fit in. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to know that somewhere in the world, I was not so absolutely wrong for simply existing. Parts of me were able to figure out my truths while other segments of self played along with however I felt would enable me to gain entry into the elusive world of acceptance rather than authenticity.

Eventually, I found my way towards honesty. With myself. With others in my life. But that old habit of asking others what they thought still needs some shaking off, because what happened in the process of this questioning is that I received affirmations from outside sources. I got validation. I was reminded of why I'm a worthy being. And even if the effects of the compliment were temporary, I became addicted.

After years of therapy and self-study, I know that I have an addictive element to my personality, which is partially why I developed an eating disorder, why I bordered on having OCD, why binge eating behavior is still so hard to overcome as a default reaction to certain aspects of my life. It's no wonder why I became so attracted to asking external sources if what was happening on the inside was out of the ordinary. Those reassurances that often came in the form of compliments filled a void I had developed since childhood, but nothing anyone said could ever come close to any truth I discovered on my own. Even more so, there was no way anyone else in my life could replace the role of my parents and what I yearned to hear them say for years.

What was odd though, is that once my parents shifted their perceptions of self and aimed to make amends for falling short as our guardians, they actually would say — almost verbatim — the things I had longed for them to acknowledge. Yet, it wasn't enough. There was nothing they could do or say that would take back the impact of their actions. So, somehow, something got lost along the way. The root cause of the problem had shifted from my parents to me. I carried the legacy of their pain with me. I was the one who was asking the world to love me for my problems, rather than who I have become.

It's no wonder then, why sometimes, I find it extremely hard to let go of habits I know no longer serve the me I am now. They still do, indeed, serve the me I was then. A fight ensues, just like the ones I witnessed as a young adult, but this time, it's me versus me. In that argument, no one ever wins. Sometimes, the old me triumphs. Sometimes, the me-now throws up my arms in victory. But the truth is, I'm so exhausted from the rounds and rounds that it really doesn't matter in the end, because the casualties from such savage feuding are lasting and breaking.

What will change? The framework from which I believe love comes. The more I persevere towards higher pursuits, the more comfortable I become in my own skin as it is now rather than the elusive just-lose-15-pounds-from-now, the more I can see that people want to be around me because they believe to their core I am a good human being. They love me not only because of my problems, but also in spite of them. I am reminded of my worthiness by simply being in their presence without having to seek confirmation that my being is valued. And, the best part about it, is they constantly remind me that they are simply reflecting back what already exists within me.

That part is truly amazing, because the amount of love I have for them and the depths of affection they share with me must mean that I am more than my perceived flaws.

One day, I'll be able to detach from holding onto my imperfections with a vicelike grip around a suitcase that is becoming emptier each time I arrive at a new destination in my life.

And eventually, I'll even be able to air out my dirty laundry, wash my unmentionables, and put on a beautiful change of clothes.

An Asana Practice from the Experts...

I've been aiming to learn more about the physicality of the practice of yoga from a therapeutic standpoint, so when I come across different experts sharing info about asanas, I'll share! This is especially important, because during group classes, it's tough to get around to everyone for alignments and adjustments. This way, the more knowledge that you have, the more you can care for yourself during your own practice — and in the end, it's about you learning more about YOU in the first place. That's svadhyaya

This is from Bo Forbes' website

Asana Lab: Scapula Hang

Time: 2–3 minutes

•        2 blocks
•        1 blanket (optional)

Scapula Hang is one of our favorite therapeutic poses. It opens our gateway to prana (life-force): the pectoral muscles, upper thoracic spine, shoulders, and neck. In addition, it “speaks” to the subscapulae, the muscles just below our shoulder blades, which support heart-opening and better posture. This pose is ideal to practice during the winter months, when we are particularly vulnerable to Closed Heart Syndrome, in which the chest, shoulders, and upper thoracic spine round much more, and make deep breathing and heart-opening more difficult.

If your chest, shoulders, and pecs are strong and tight, please see the “Guidelines for Additional Support” section for modifications. 
From a sitting position, with your legs stretched out, place a foam block behind you on your mat. Make sure the block is on its lowest end, with the long side parallel to the back edge of your mat. Have a second block nearby.
Lie over the block. The farthest edge of the block will just catch the subscaps (the muscles at the bottom of your shoulder blades). Your shoulders should be hanging off the block.
Take a moment to feel what’s happening with your head and neck. If the top of your head is tilting toward the floor, your neck may be hyperextending. If this is the case, place a folded blanket underneath your head so that your neck expresses a gentle curve.
Take the second block between your hands so it is oriented the same as the first one. You’ll be holding the small, or side edges, of the block with your palms facing each other. Drawing your shoulder blades toward the mat, raise your arms straight up, so you are looking at the block. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, slowly take your arms overhead, keeping the block between your hands. If you feel any resistance or “tweaking” in your shoulder joints, take the arms back to just before the point of discomfort.

If you have no discomfort, you can bring the block between your hands all the way overhead and to the floor.
Breathe deeply through your nose for 2-3 minutes or however long is comfortable. With every exhale, lightly engage your bandhas to support your spine.
You can, if you wish, slowly rock from side to side to stimulate one side of the subscaps, and then the other.

Coming Out of the Asana:

Slowly draw your arms up and forward, and place the block you’ve been holding to the side of your mat. Gently tuck your chin. Inhale, then on the exhale, lift your spine up and off the block. Take the block to the side of your mat and lie back down. Bend your knees. Take a minute or two of deep nasal breaths, feeling the connection of your spine to the mat. This allows your spine and your subscaps to assimilate the therapeutic work you’ve done in this pose.

Guidelines for Additional Support:

Protecting Your Shoulders. If your shoulders feel overstretched when your arms start to draw overhead, you can leave the arms directly over your shoulders. You can also let go of the block, hold your elbows, and rest your forearms on your forehead.

Scapula Hang (variation)

Protecting Your Upper Back. If the backbend created in this pose feels too intense on your upper thoracic spine, you can create the same heart-opening effect with a blanket. Fold a blanket three times the long way, so that you have a long and thin folded blanket. Lay over that fold so your shoulder blades are just off the fold. The blanket is then used just as the block would be. For additional height or heart-opening, you can layer a second blanket on top of the first one.
Protecting Your Lower Back. If your lower back feels too arched and vulnerable in Scapula Hang, use the blanket variation above rather than the block. Lightly engage your abdominal muscles (uddiyana bandha) to support your spine.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Breathing into all of me, now.

"Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark."
~George Iles

When I don't write, I feel like I can't breathe. Lately, I haven't been writing. So many thoughts in my head, not sure where to process, making things harder on myself than they need to be. Rather than going for round two of overeating tonight, I'm choosing to create a different neural pathway, a healthier habit. Here it is. 

I posted a caption to this photo above on Instagram earlier today, "I cannot wait until the day when I spend part of my year living in #Hawaii, part in#SanDiego, and the rest touring around the world teaching, speaking, #writing, and living my #dreams come true!#manifest #fun#realityiswhatyoucocreate#unlimitedpotential #thankyouUniverse."

In between now and then, I have a few things to figure out. First, I've asked for a mentor and coach who can elevate my finances and business to levels beyond my imagination. I have the capability to earn greatly, but my limiting beliefs are holding me back from earning what I'm worth by doing the things that I love. I put an email out to the Universe, and now, it's time to be patient, show up by doing my best, and receive fully.

Next, I'm creating a game plan for all the things I'd like to do — in due time. I've been warned by coaches and colleagues in the past that I have so many ideas, it gets packed like the 405 freeway in my brain, which prevents me from either executing my brainstorming or moving beyond an initial hard push. I'm learning to actually follow through for the long-haul, and to get out of my own way while doing so. It's a problem I've heard echoed by others when they're at a crossroads in their careers, or simply when they're pursuing their passions... with so many possibilities ahead, I become stuck in not knowing which step to take next or how to be okay with it not being perfect once it's out in there in the world. Slowly, but surely, I'm figuring out how to move through the maze and even iron out the boundaries from L-shapes and dead-ends to the straight and narrow (or it it "arrow?").

As part of this entire process, I'm practicing faith. I'm holding hope, creating sacred space for my greatest potential and wildest ambitions to come true, co-creating to my best efforts, and then relinquishing any attachment I have to the results, because I am trusting that the Universe knows even better. Always, this or something better.

I'm learning how to live in authenticity, to care for others, but not take care of them. To express my needs as a priority, as much as I place importance on the well-being of those in my life. As such, I'm acknowledging that perhaps an experience/relationship that's been close to my heart isn't exactly the best fit right now and that's okay. I'm seeing where I could use help in growing my career through collaboration. I'm letting in the support, even when it comes in ways that I wasn't quite expecting, but are still answers to prayers I've put out there into the Universe.

Ultimately, I'm learning how to be honest in my imperfections and embrace myself where I stand right now. Even if it doesn't look the way that I'd like it to, my life is still moving on the up-and-up. Having been held to high standards all my life in the traditional Chinese household I grew up in, it's really hard to let go of expectations, but every time I practice being present rather than perfect, I feel like I can breathe. My creativity comes alive. I am more joyful.

This is the new habit I hope to form. One where I am lighter in the world and not so heavy in the heart, no longer weighed down by perceived failures, but instead, immersed in the glow of triumphs (baby-steps or big bounds) and truly choosing wisely for me. This is me, becoming the amazing woman who's been longing to gracefully and powerfully come into this world.

This is me, now.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Making room for better.

"Nothing is really work 
unless you would rather be doing something else."
~James Matthew Barrie

When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, where I was lost in a spiral of bingeing and purging, my full-time job was working at Herbalife, where day in and day out, I would write about the wonders of weight loss. 

Needless to say, this helped contribute to a breakdown/breakthrough in my therapy process. 

But, here I am again. My expertise for the past eight years or so has been in health, wellness and beauty. What I do for a profession as a copywriter is work with clients who sell products that aim to "reduce wrinkles!" and "maintain your youthful appearance!' and "lose weight and keep it off!" 

I've been told by several mentors not to do things for the money. They encourage me to pursue my passions and embolden my talents. By doing so, they say, the money will come. 

Here is where faith comes in.

I believe them. Part of me does. And there's even a large rational part of me that understands from a practical standpoint how to pitch the articles I write, which I do care about, to numerous publications. After all, I'm a published travel writer. I know how the process works. 

Yet, what do I do? I keep going back to the default, of finding clients — or even clients finding me — to do the work that I know how to do, but that I approach with such a heavy resistance, it must show through in the delivery and quality of work I produce. 

Yes, I love using my strategic brain. I absolutely enjoy coming up with creative and smart marketing campaigns, of collaborating with other intelligent people in exciting ways. But, I often do step back and wonder how I'm contributing to this consumer world of feeling like you're not good enough just as you are. 

When I was given my Sanskrit name upon graduating from my Advanced 300-Hour Teacher Training Program, the Director told me that she chose this name, because of my many talents and capabilities. And I started thinking about the things I've done: built a Karma Yoga program, created a jewelry line, published a Chakra Journal, become a travel writer, become a Reiki Master practitioner, led yoga workshops, and the list goes onward. 

Maybe what people say is true. Maybe I am talented beyond my comprehension, and that I simply need to focus on what it is that I want to do. But man oh man, is it hard to let go of the things that you know to leap into the things that you don't, even if the latter stirs your heart and delights your soul and creates smile that last for eternity.

When expressing my stress over the quality of my freelance work lately, I was greeted with two responses (one serendipitous, and the other a nice reminder): 

"You know another thing I'm grateful for?" T asked me last night. "I'm grateful that we're both successful entrepreneurs."

I looked at him, shook my head, and leaned into his arms for a hug. 

"It's funny that you say that, because I've been feeling like I'm screwing myself over with a client right now. Maybe it's self-sabotage, but I appreciate your reminder that everything is okay."

Then, this morning, in texting with my friend M, "Maybe look at it as though if this doesn't work out, it's just making room for something better."

And it's true, because does it really serve me to continue working on clients where all I write about is weight loss, when for so long, this has been a trigger for me? I know I'm doing it to help pay the bills, so it goes back to the idea that I'm doing this for the money. Perhaps this is the Universe's way of asking me to explore my truth, to lean into the discomfort of putting my writing out there in ways that are meaningful to me so that I can live my life's purpose, and to finally take a stand that I am worth so much more than I have given myself credit for.

From career to health to relationships, maybe this is the time for me to make room for infinitely better in every way and the first step towards that is being honest with myself and then believing in my worth and what I can do and then taking a stand to do it. 

Every moment is an opportunity for learning and a chance to practice faith. For today, I'm asking the Universe to teach me through love rather than fear, to motivate me to grow by encouraging me to make choices based on the belief in abundance rather than lack. 

Here I go...