Sunday, June 30, 2013

How a random phone call profoundly & subtly shifted everything — again.

"We all have spiritual DNA; 
wisdom and truth are part of our genetic structure even if we don't always access it."
~Lama Suyra Das

Just a few days ago, I got a random phone call. 

"Hi, I'm wondering if I could talk to you about renting space from your studio?" a gentleman with a British accent inquires. 

I'm used to this by now, because of my Hawk and Lily listing on Yelp I receive phone calls from people looking for certain things in Del Mar, where I'm no longer renting space. 

"Did you find me on Yelp?" I ask. 

"Yes," he responds.

"I'm no longer renting space from that spot in Del Mar. Are you only looking there? Because I can refer you to other areas in North County, as well."

He sounds shocked. "Really? I mean, that would be so kind of you!"

"Of course," I tell him, "just send me an email and I'll respond back with different studio spaces and contact information."

"Wow," he says again. "That's amazing. I'm sending you an email right now."

As we chat more, I ask him what type of workshops he'll be hosting. "I do healing," he says, "of any sort — as long as the person wants to be healed." 

"We do get attached to our disorders, don't we?" I observe.

He pauses, "Yes, I suppose we do." 

"I was just curious, because I do Reiki, and I like to learn about other healing modalities."

"Right before you said that," he remarks excitedly, "I thought, 'She has a gift!'"

At this point, my skeptical side starts to kick in and I think that in this line of work, I meet occasional looneytoons, so I don't give them much weight.  

We talk a little more. 

"I have to tell you," he says, "you are subtly powerful. I guess that's the best way I can put it, and the best compliment I can give you." 

I laugh, tell him I hear that quite a bit in my interactions with clients and students, and thank him, still not thinking much about what he's told me. We hang up. A few hours later, in the middle of moving into my new space, I decide to take a break and reply to his email with different options of spaces he can look into. As tends to be my way, I'm pretty thorough and funny in my writing, closing the email by telling him I'm curious to learn more about his work.

An hour or so later, I receive a text message from him, "Do you have a moment to chat?"

I text back, "Sure." 

At this point, I'm still maintaining arm's length in engaging with a perfect stranger. He calls a few minutes later. "First off, I want to thank you so much for your email. That was really helpful!" 

"No problem," I respond, curious as to what he wants to chat about. 

"Well, I haven't stopped thinking about you or our interaction since we got off the phone last." 

'Uh oh,' I think to myself. 

"There's something telling me that I should meet you," he says to me.

And, there we have it. "Okay..." I say, somewhat quizzically. "Sure, let's meet up. I'm open to seeing where the dots will connect." 

"Well, you said that you wanted to learn more about what I do, so would you like to meet for coffee?" I can tell he's a little bit shy about asking. 

I agree to meet up with him. Our conversation goes on for a little bit more and the more we talk, the more he keeps responding with, "Wow, you are so eloquent." 

"I'm a writer," I tell him. "It's part of my job. 

We make plans for Saturday (it's Thursday at this point). 

"Shall I text you on Friday to confirm?" he asks. 

I furrow my brows and he can't see that on this end of the line. "You'll text me tomorrow to confirm about Saturday?" I ask, pushing back a bit.

"Um, yes." 

"Okay," I respond, shrugging. 

We hang up shortly afterward.

One of my pet peeves is when people don't do what they say they'll do. Really, it's a big one for me. I like to know that I can depend upon people, which stems from my upbringing when I couldn't rely upon anyone. He doesn't text me the next day, and already I'm slightly irked. 

Because my plans for that evening get changed around, I end up having to text him about meeting earlier on Saturday. "That's perfect," he responds. "Sorry I didn't text earlier — the day got away from me."

I'm confused again, because I think that his text response was only 30 minutes after my message to him, not that long to wait, until I realized that he was referencing how he said he was going to do something and didn't follow through. 'Okay,' I think, 'I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.' Meanwhile, I'm still thinking this person is... eccentric, to say the least. We had planned to meet at my favorite coffee shop and I get there a few minutes early, chatting with the baristas who've now become my friends. 

"Are you working here today?" they ask, alluding to how I usually set up shop in the corner to do my writing.

"No, actually, I'm here to meet a guy." 

Both their eyes pop open brighter. 

"Wait, is this a date?" they want to know. 

"Um... no." And I proceed to explain who I'm meeting and why. "I'm anticipating that he's a short, older guy, who's likely very quirky." 

"Don't say that!" one of the baristas encourages. "Don't put that out there to the Universe." 

I shrug. "I'd rather be surprised than disappointed," I tell them. 

"Do you want me to pretend I'm you, so you can get a good look at him before you meet with him?" the female in the barista duo asks. I laugh. 

"That could work, except that I already told him I'm probably the only Asian person he'll see here."

"Ah!" she exclaims. 

I get a call from him a short while later. 

"I'm so sorry, but I'm running late!" he apologizes. "That's really bad form, isn't it?"

Yes, actually. That's my pet peeve number two. People being late when making a first impression. 

"It's okay," I tell him, already anticipating that the next hour or so will be a downward spiral. 

I fill the baristas in on what just happened, then go sit outside on the porch. Meanwhile, they're both keeping an eye out for me. I decide to go get my laptop and be productive, so I'm searching things online, when all of a sudden, I hear one of the baristas direct someone to me and I look up. 

Inwardly, I am shocked. Outwardly, I smile and stand up. 

We hug. 

This guy — he's tall, about my same age, fashionable, fit, and good-looking. We spend the next hour chatting together. Perhaps even more shocking than the fact he's not who I assumed him to be, is everything he showed me during our conversation. 

He asks about me, and I tell him a bit about me, what I do, where I've been in my life. For some reason, the entire time I'm talking to him, I'm thinking, 'These are old stories. I don't need these anymore.' Truly, they felt OLD. Outdated. Done.

"You know those experiences you've had, with the eating disorder and your family? Well, they happened for a reason, right?" he asks. 

"Yes, I know my soul chose them," I agree. 

I realized later that something about him makes me want to live in the now and step into my power. All of a sudden, I didn't want to keep carrying my baggage with me anymore. I truly felt to my core that they were done. Enough.

After I spend a good portion of time talking, he looks at me and asks, "Can I show you something?" 

"Yes," I say, with a little bit of hesitation.

He begins to get up from the chair, then sits back down. "Okay, the things I do are paradigm shifting kind of things, so are you ready for that?" He said the magic words — "paradigm shifting" — because I live for this kind of stuff. 

"Absolutely!" I remark. He goes inside the cafe to ask for a cup of ice, then comes back. 

"Okay, so you call it energy, but I call it consciousness. I can infuse any organic material with consciousness, like this ice right here. What I'm going to show you are the options for your life path, and then your gift." 

He places four pieces of ice in a row. He brings out a fifth, then pauses, as though he's checking in with a voice I can't hear. "Mmm, most people have 2-3 life path choices. You have 4. And, is there a fifth?" he asks aloud, but not to me. He puts the ice back into the small glass.

"So," he explains, "I'm infusing each piece of ice with a potential life path." He places his forefinger on the first piece of ice and chuckles. "Hrm, that's interesting." Then goes on and does the same physical action with every other piece. "Now, you have to choose one. Ah wait, there is a fifth." He takes ice out of the glass and places it in front of me. "That's you. Now, you have to choose one of these four paths."

"Can I place my hand over them and use Reiki to figure it out?" I ask. 

"Sure, you can do whatever you'd like."

I hover my right hand over the first piece of ice and immediately feel things. "This piece feels safe, comfortable," I tell him. I move my hand over the second, "This piece feels uncomfortable." I place my hand over the third and smile, "This one's making my heart flutter!" And then I place it over the fourth, "This one is pulling my hand to the table with so much heaviness, like I can't resist letting my hand just fall over it."

"Okay," he looks at me. "But you have to choose one."

"Shoot!" I tell him. I take a moment. "Okay! I'll choose the one that makes my heart flutter! Usually, I would choose the first one, the one that feels safe, but I'm choosing this one!"

He then tells me what each of them represent. 

"The first one is relationships and connection. Your whole life would be involved with that," and at his saying this, I get a little sad, because I assume that he's referring to love as well, and I think that since I chose the third one, then that won't be a part of my life. 

"The second one is challenge. Dramatic relationships and all that." 

He then takes another piece of ice out of the glass and places it in front of him. "Look, all of these paths will get you to here — it's just a matter of how long it'll take and what your experience will be like." 

I nod my head. "This third one, the one you chose, this one is about letting life work for you. Letting life help you out. It's realizing that you show up at the right place at the right time, while you let life do all the heavy lifting for you. It's the wise choice." 

And then he moves to the last one. "This one, this isn't for the faint of heart. This one is where you veer wildly off your path and back on it then off again, then back on again. It'll get you to where you want to go a lot faster, but with a lot of..." and I understood what he meant. "You have a little bit of this in you, which is good. You don't want to go into this last one with blind faith. So, the path you chose? That has a combination of the first and second options." 

I breathed relief that I wasn't sacrificing one of the things my heart most wants in this lifetime — love and real partnership. He then moved the first two pieces out of the way, along with the fourth, and lined up my choice with the ice in front of me and the piece he had placed in front of him. One direct vertical line. 

"Now, hover your hands over the ice and see what you feel."

I did as he suggested. The first piece felt fine, balanced. The piece in the middle also felt okay. Nothing too crazy. But the piece that was placed in front of him? The one that he referenced as where I would ultimately get to? When I hovered my hand over that piece, my hand felt like it was being pulled towards him. Towards his chest or solar plexus. 

"Wow, this one... my hand just feels like it's getting pulled towards you." 

"I know," he says, consciously. "I kept getting a lot of messages that I'm supposed to meet you." 

He then proceeds to tell me what my gift is, that it's through the power of touch. "Your touch not only has the ability to heal, but it has the power to change consciousness, to change the way people look at things."

By now, he wasn't telling me anything I hadn't heard before, anything that intuitive people haven't told me in bits and pieces over the past few years. But, this man I had never met, infused pieces of ice, with things about me? When we were through, he cleared all the ice off the table in the palm of his hand, then placed it to the side above a planter, and said, "I don't want to just throw these out. I have to clear their energy." He paused for a few moments, then nodded his head when they were ready, and tossed them into the potted dirt. 

Perhaps one of the even more amazing things that happened after the Universe timed it perfectly for us to part ways for the day, was the fact that I was heading into my craniosacral session next, the appointment that had to get rescheduled from the day before. The entire time I was driving, I felt both bewildered and excited. 

I walk into the office where my craniosacral guy is patiently waiting for me behind a desk, laptop in front of him, and I sit on the couch in the waiting room. I just start telling him what happened, as most of our sessions involve this kind of sharing. Then, I want to show him the experience I just had with the ice, so I get up and sit in the chair facing him. The desk lies between us.

"Whoa girl," he says to me, and pushes away from the table. "The minute you sat in that chair, I broke out into a full-body sweat." 

I could see it on his body the moment he said it, wet marks appearing on his shirt. "Look!" 

He gets up to turn the A/C higher. When he sits back down, he says, "Damn girl, whatever just happened, your energy is through the roof right now!"

We go through my session, and my cranio guy continues to remark, "Yeah, it's obvious. Like I said from the first time I met you, I have no doubt you are going to make a huge impact in this world."

Of course, the Universe times it perfectly that I meet with this random guy at the cafe, followed by a rescheduled craniosacral session, and then straight into the last training for my Reiki Master certification, so that I can attune others who are drawn to the work I can offer. 

When I was getting attuned on Saturday, I saw a hummingbird stop on the feeder in my Reiki Master practitioner's backyard. I don't believe I've ever seen a hummingbird stop like that and if I have, it's been an absolute rare sighting. 

Just now, as I'm writing this story, a hummingbird comes and hovers directly above me to my right, watches me for many moments, then flies around me in my yard then zips off. 

I immediately take note. Hummingbirds are supposed to represent infinity I was once told, because of the shape they make with their wings when they fly. And I had just heard a podcast about the exchange between musician and audience this morning, how it moves like an infinity sign in this giving and receiving. Later, when I arrive at my practitioner's house for the final part of my Reiki attunement training, we look up what a hummingbird means in one of her books: "Renewal: Dreams anew joy are within reach — opportunity for accomplishment, along with promising success and renewed health."

I believe that everything has a purpose and even if I don't know what that is, I'm loving the sweetness of synchronicity, serendipity, and surprise that continues to unfold. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Beautiful poetry.

"The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then"
~Roger McGough

I didn't used to understand poetry, until I realized there is great vulnerability in it, that one must be fully present in order to truly comprehend what is unfolding. I believe it takes courage to read poetry. I came across the book, Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Daniel Ladinsky, which is perhaps one of the most favorite things I own for it reveals to me... Spirit. 

Part of this is the fact that these ancient voices from almost the beginning of time have shared the same struggles, questions, and exploits as I've increasingly become familiar with, well, it gives me a sense of reassurance. I'm not alone, nor am I strange or unwell. It also encourages me to feel like God (whatever one's concept of this might be) is closer than ever when reading through these lovely poems from such diverse, authentic and unified voices. Just having this book with me gives me comfort, as it also does when I read through it before bed. 

A friend of mine asked about a poem I had posted awhile back and in looking for it, I realized once again how much these wise words offer solace. So, I thought I'd share a few of them here with you just in case you're seeking a bit of soothing for your soul as well.

From St. Catherine of Siena...
Said to have been profoundly interested in every human being that ever came before her, she devoted herself to relieving the mental and emotional suffering of the hundreds who sought her out; her words and her touch bestowed a soothing grace. "Strange," she once said, "that so much suffering is caused because of the misunderstanding of God's true nature. God's heart is more gentle than the Virgin's first kiss upon the Christ. And God's forgiveness to all, to any thought or act, is more certain than our own being." She lived from 1347-1380 in Italy.

Give The Heart More Strength

Herbs can help the body and give
the heart more strength
to love.

When my sight became clearer,
I could see auras around different foods,

and I now know—should I say this?—
that everything can sing.

The songs of fruits and grains will calm,
why not put them into yourself,
a new language you
will learn.

And just touching life's requirements 
close to their source
will add grace to your movements.

More generous eyes we need.
The songs of light
will help

Your Hair, Your Face

What is it
you want to change?
Your hair, your face, your body?

For God is 
in love with all those things
and He might weep
when they are

This Place of Abundance

We know nothing until we know everything.

I have no object to defend
for all is of equal value
to me.

I cannot lose anything in this 
place of abundance
I found.

If something my heart cherishes
is taken away,

I just say, "Lord, what

And a hundred more appear.

From Tukaram...
The most influential figure in developing Marathi literature in India, Tukaram attained the same spiritual heights as Rumi, Hafix, and Kabir. 

Becoming Whole

The woman 
whose speech and actions are the same—
her feet become worthy of 

Keeping our word is the alchemy to become free
and whole.

Try and make amends for any broken hearts
or broken promises;

if you cannot do so in form
than prayer can heal a debt with the light you
can send,

and even a man can become
this precious

My Lucky Rock

I said to a squirrel, "What is that you are carrying?"
and he said,

"It is my lucky rock; isn't it pretty?"
I held it and said, "Indeed."

I said to God,

"What is this earth?'

And He said, "It is my lucky rock;
isn't it wondrous?"

Yes, indeed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 21 Letting LOose Challenge: Money isn't everything.

"After a visit to the beach, 
it's hard to believe that we live in a material world."
~Pam Shaw

There are so many amazing quotes about money, wise words about how to save, budget, and spend. The ones I gravitate towards are those that remind us of what money can't buy. 

In working with my coach, he tells me to stand up for the value of what I'm offering with my work. If I don't respect myself, the Universe will act in kind. And, it's up to us to stand up for the belief that the healing work we do is just as valuable as what doctors and investment bankers do. Our schooling? The university of experience. And frankly, in the end, everything is a theory until it's put to the test, and then it becomes meaningful to us.
Money was such an intensely fraught subject in my family growing up. Part of Chinese culture is to always talk about the value of things, but the bigger part was the my family had always been in debt — and sometimes, severely. We didn't learn how to handle money, because my parents were struggling with that themselves, but we damn well knew what it felt like to worry about it, to not have enough of it, to constantly judge ourselves against those who had more. 

So, when I grew up, I did everything I could to ensure that I wouldn't end up in the same circumstances my parents were in — from the age of 15 and a half, I got an after school job. Then two at once. This wasn't just to pay for things I wanted, like clothes. This was to pay for the SAT prep course that my parents couldn't afford, to pay for college applications, to pay for a future far far away from what my parents had set up for us. I could never fall back on them for anything (financially, mentally, emotionally, even physical affection), so I didn't. 

But that just meant that money became the focus of everything. I never didn't work two jobs to pay my own way all the way through college and even afterwards, when I was able to score an amazing first full-time job as a copywriter. I let salary dictate where I would go next, not whether it was a good opportunity or a smart career move. As long as the next job was a substantial bump up in pay, then that's where I'd go. 

Until I realized that this was the wrong way to be. This quest to add zeros into my bank account was stressful, not at all fulfilling, and never enough. I recently spoke with a client who repeated the same truth, "If you're just looking to add more to your savings, it's never going to be enough. You're going to need to ask yourself what you want this money for. That's where you'll find value in what you're doing."

I used to also go out with people for free food. This was rooted in my eating disorder haze, and when food was combined with free, you could expect to see me there. I don't know if it's that I felt like I would starve, but I do know that this wasn't something I was proud of. A kid in my internship program in New York when I was 20 was making the same low wages we all were, yet his parents were supporting him by offering a credit card upon which he could charge as much food as he wanted. Just food, that was it. That arrangement sounded like a dream come true for me. Some people want endless shopping sprees... I wanted a limitless food account. 

Recently, I've been very lucky that a friend of mine offered to let me stay at her condo without paying rent. In exchange and to maintain balance, I'd help watch her dog while she was out of town, because she travels consistently for work. It was a wonderfully working arrangement until the busy-ness of both our schedules was making it more challenging for me to support her. I've always hated feeling indebted, which is why I paid off every credit card balance in full from the time I got my first credit card as a freshman in college. I've prided myself on these impeccable credit scores and again, simply did not want to echo any of the patterns my parents created so long ago. So, if a friend lent me money or in any way offered anything, I endeavored to pay it back in full. This is why, while my gratitude is large for my friend's support, it's time for me to go. 

What a lot of recent experiences have taught me is the value of serenity, of finding a peace and solace within myself that has nothing to do with the material world. These learnings have shown me that there are many vital things money cannot buy, and many more substantial things I'm not willing to compromise on. I now understand that we will all pay a premium for what we really want, especially if it's in regards to removing some sort of pain and suffering. 

I've always thought it interesting that despite how much money a person can have, there is no amount of cash in the world that can save someone's life if there isn't a cure. Health is everything. The fact that I didn't die the other day, potentially tumbling down multiple stories to a concrete end, is a testament to the fact that the most valuable things in my life start with my well-being. To not be able to move means not being able to do the things I love to do. To have pain in my body restricts even the simplest of things, like the clothes I can wear and the way I get into my bed at night. To have open wounds means to not be able to get into the ocean, to slow down my pace in order to do the same things I would normally like to do. It means being vulnerable, honoring limits, and letting in help — this last thing which I could pay for and do when it comes to different treatment modalities, but the thing money could never buy is the love and affection offered by the people in my life. 

This final Letting LOose Challenge is about relinquishing my old fears about money, living in abundance, and learning how to honor myself by living within my means... and then to my fullest potential.

Day 20 Letting LOose Challenge: Admitting I like mainstream stuff.

"Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; 
serenity, that nothing is."
~Thomas Szasz

Growing up, we weren't allowed to be bored. My mom was a multi-tasking fiend and if we were idle for any reason, she'd whip us into the next to-do before we had a moment's reprieve. Therefore, at a young age, it was imprinted upon me that doing nothing wasn't okay, much less learning how to play. 

My mind, as a writer, is also constantly going on. I'm always making notes on my phone about something to write, something to look into. As a lifelong learner, I'm curious about virtually everything, asking questions to people I encounter at any chance I get. I've always felt that this lifetime is too short for us to absorb and experience everything this world has to offer, so that's one of the reasons I do my best to make every moment count. 

What's hard about that tendency to be frequently "on" and "going" is the fact that rest is a vital part of thriving, a lesson I've only really begun to appreciate and assimilate over the past few months, even though it's been in my sphere of understanding since becoming a yoga teacher years ago. We need to engage our parasympathetic nervous system to help digest all of our experiences, to replenish and rejuvenate our energies so that we can move forward with greater presence, awareness, and wherewithal. But the slowing down bit? The doing nothing bit? The playing bit? 

All of that, those ideas, are hard to practice.

So, one of the only ways up until now that I've been able to do so is to put on a mini-series show and watch it until it's done. Back to back episodes. No break, no gap, just on-and-on. I'll lie on the couch or in my bed and just zone out, feeling guilty and shameful for this method of "relaxing," because in the end, it really isn't that restorative. I'll crash out, wake up, crash out, get up in the wee hours and quickly wash my face and brush my teeth before going to bed. What would be more restorative is walking to the ocean, sitting on a bench at sunset, doing a gentle practice on my mat, but all of those feel like they'd take up more energy. 

And frankly, I've always been a little fascinated by Hollywood. That idea of "being a star." I love the story lines, the behind-the-scenes, the fantasy of playing pretend. So, when I find a show I like, the most recent being Nashville, I'm a lil' mini-obsessed. I love music, I love the south, and while I haven't liked country, now I do. I get lost in imagining finding my own Deacon who loves me to the moon and back, that southern gentleman who'll open the doors and respect my heart. I get lost in thinking about being on stage with a mic in front of my mouth, reading/talking/singing/sharing. I get lost in imagining what it'd be like to have a little drama, and then a little resolution, and the play that comes up from being around a crew of people who are all pursuing their passions. The opportunities for living beyond my wildest dreams. That's what happens when I put on a show. It transports me elsewhere.

This Letting LOose Challenge is about accepting that I'm just like everyone else. That I can like mainstream things and not have to judge anything as good, bad, or indifferent. That I also need to check out and that sometimes, the ways that I check out may not be the most healthy in the long-term, but for now, it's a teaser and a preview of learning how to play in other ways that do indeed serve me. 

I'm learning there's really nothing wrong with sometimes letting go and being lazy. I had been told for so long that I was a lazy good-for-nothin' girl that I went to the opposite extreme to rectify this false belief. Before, all I was being was being a kid and that wasn't good enough for my parents. 

Now, it's about relaxing into the middle. And learning that a better word for "lazy" is "relaxing," however that might look.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Life comes full circle.

"Health of body and mind is a great blessing,
if we can bear it."
~John Henry Cardinal Newman

I recently started leading yoga therapy groups at an intensive eating disorder recovery center in North County San Diego. This morning, while doing my practice on the sand by the ocean, the sun shining upon me, I realized that things have come full circle.

When I was in my Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for eating disorder therapy, the woman who led our process and yoga groups was my absolute favorite. Alison emanated loving nurturing energy and spoke from experience for she had also recovered from her own battle with an eating disorder. As the youngest of our therapy leaders and a woman, she was the most relatable to me and everyone loved her most. We each yearned for any one-on-one time possible. 

One evening during treatment, I waited for everyone else to file out of the room. I felt I needed and wanted just a few extra minutes with Alison. During our brief chat, Alison reached her hand out to touch my arm and said, "Judy, you're one of the special ones." 

I carried that statement with me throughout the rest of my therapy program. Her observation was what the little overachieving girl within me wanted, but she was seeing more than the "A+" for effort I was putting forth. Alison was looking to the light that I still held within, though at this point, it had dimmed into darkness throughout years of battling with bingeing, purging, and pain. 

The first time I heard Marianne Williamson's quote about Our Greatest Fear, it sent shivers throughout my entire body. I felt like her words encapsulated everything I had believed about me from birth, but which my home environment tried it's best to disprove.

Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Now, through my own efforts and that of the Universe, I've been invited to become the yoga teacher and group leader for various groups in an IOP eating disorder therapy program that closely resembles the one I attended in Los Angeles. Suddenly, I've stepped into Alison's role.

I never thought, while struggling through many days and nights of shame, guilt and suffering, that I would ever get to a point where this would no longer be my reality. There was no way I could've envisioned one day becoming the type of person I so looked up to, resembling the woman who gave me faith and lifted my chin to see a star that my heart could hook hope onto, hopes that I would one day stop hurting myself the way I was compulsively doing relentlessly, day in and day out. 

But here I am, sharing from my experiences and learnings, working with everyone from teenage girls to adults who are in a similar place to where I've been. I have an opportunity to inspire the belief that everything can indeed get better and that it will continue to do so. 

My path has come full circle or, what I'd like to believe, a complete spiral that continues to evolve onwards and upwards. Thank you, Universe. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 19 Letting LOose Challenge: I'm not going to get it right the first time.

"As long as you keep getting born, 
it's alright to die some times."
~Orson Scott Card

Opening up by breaking down. This is how I'm feeling right now. If ever I wanted to define "Letting LOose," then here it is. 

See that photo above? That's one from a photo shoot this weekend with my dear friends at First Comes Love Photography. It was prior to my falling down a flight of concrete stairs, which happened to be on the other side of the railing I was reclined upon, a miracle of an accident, because what should likely have happened is that I tumbled in the gap between the two sets of stairs to my death or serious injury.

My friends were screaming. One of them ran down the stairs to see how I was. I rebounded quickly. "Don't worry, I'm fine, I'm fine!" I reassured them. It was more significant to me that they be okay than me, something I later learned was playing upon old beliefs that I have to care for everyone else before myself. 

Later, when I got home, I began shaking. Fear of what had happened began to settle into my being, and I was still too terrified to take off my jeans to see the damage. I had a sense that the next day, I'd understand why the accident happened, but for now, all I wanted was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to ground me. 

A couple of days later, I saw my friends who witnessed the entire accident and we tried to recall precisely what happened. I somehow managed to flip myself over from going down headfirst to land on my hands and knee on my frontside. But, while at their house, I had a couple of glasses of wine and then ended up kicking a surfboard on the ground, only to fall again on my hands and knees before them. This time, I could've revealed how much pain I was in, but once again, I brushed it off as being totally fine.

I felt horrible. Began to beat myself up. The Universe had saved me once from my own mistake, and here I was, tempting fate again? It offered me one big lesson, then a follow-up one, and both times I reacted in the ways that I have before, caring first for someone else before my own needs.

Over the past few days, I've been completely discombobulated, especially because my first realization upon standing up after falling was, "I am SO APPRECIATIVE of my body!" Yet, I've turned to my old habits for comfort, overeating and choosing foods that aren't healthy, spending the whole day wasting away watching shows on my laptop rather than what my heart really wants to do, which is read a book and relax. 

I don't know how to relax. And, up until now, I've never seemed to comprehend the lesson the first go-around. How much more could the Universe shake me up to learn the lessons I need to? How am I still not listening and paying attention? How am I still taking everything for granted or falling into my ego again and again? 

And then, here we go, beating myself up. See? Old habits die hard.

Perhaps this is the push that I need to fall down so deeply into feeling loathsome about this familiar self-induced pain that it will, in fact, be what spurns the change. Instead of just focusing on what's not working, I can take this feeling of being sick and tired of being sick and tired in order to grow beyond. 

I interviewed Sharon Salzberg today, a leader in the Vipassana movement for meditation, compassion, and lovingkindness and asked her about why it's so hard to practice compassion for ourselves, and she told me that it's part cultural, that we believe it's a sign of weakness. 

"The good news is that we can practice our ability to be more compassionate."

And so here I am, practicing the ability to understand that I may not get it right the first time. Since I was young, I always wanted to learn how to do it right from the get-go. I didn't want any of the trial and error, any of the stage of being a novice. I just wanted to do it perfectly and expertly every time. 

So, I'll let loose and understand that hey, I'm not going to get it right the first time. Maybe not even the five hundredth time, but that if I continue to try my best, then slowly and surely, I'll make progress. This process of healing and living empowered, stepping into my fullest being isn't going to happen overnight, even when it's shocked into my system. 

I find that also, I keep stumbling and tripping and doing little things here and there, that continue to call my awareness back to the present moment. Even moving my attention to the side for just a second causes me to fumble and wonder, "WHAT is going on?" 

What's going on is the Universe is bringing my attention back to center again and again, as though an invisible force has its fingers gently on my chin and cheeks and saying, "Look. Right here. Here, now. This is where we are. This is where we're focusing. This. Here. Now."

I'm usually an incredible multitasker, but right now, even holding something in my hand while walking or looking away while filling my cup with water is proving challenging. The other lesson I seem to have come away with from the photo shoot is, "Slow the eff down." 

Okay, I'll make mistakes. And, I'll slow down. And the rest? Well, I'm learning that it really isn't up to me at all anymore. I was saved from my own demise, and still learning what all means.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Becoming the steward of my own vessel.

"Make the most of yourself, 
for that is all there is of you."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This morning, I paused in my rush of things to do in order to meditate. As I learned in yoga teacher training, meditation is something we make time for, rather than find time for, because if doing the latter, it may never happen. By truly creating time for meditation, it actually cultivates more space to do everything we'd like to, as the ripple effects of mindfulness and centering tend to flow onwards and outwards throughout the day.

Once I pulled my chair aside and quieted everything down, I immediately felt the need to practice metta (loving kindness) and Ho'oponopono, both of which are methods I've learned for cultivating compassion and forgiveness. With the latter, an ancient Hawaiian technique, one repeats the phrases: "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you." The way I learned it is actually just slightly different than the way it was originally evoked: "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you." (It's a subtle shift, but I find that the first one works better for me.)

Whenever I've done these practices, especially when something or someone is hurting my heart, the results of repeating these mantras have been profound. I called into mind various people who I wanted to send this energy to until finally, those visuals gave way to reveal only myself.

In the work I do as a yoga teacher, a Reiki Master practitioner, and a writer, many people have frequently called me a "healer." Yet, I adhere to the belief that many of my mentors do, where we are simply serving as a vessel for our client's inner teacher to come forth, so that in the end, the process becomes an empowering one for the person we're helping. It was a wonder then, that up until now, it's been so hard to give myself the same kind of love, affection, and care I heartily offer to others and it's been a perpetual practice in living my truth.

Slowly and gently, I placed my hands on my heart, then on my low belly where I've learned one's inner child lives, then on my hips where I've felt quite a lot of pain for many months now. I repeated the Ho'oponopono chant in each of these places and started to feel a tenderness swell as my palms became hotter with healing energy emanating from myself for myself. I began to conjure the feeling of a mother doting on her baby, that nurturing ability to love a being with an infinite sense of care swimming through her blood and circulating throughout her soul. 

But, I didn't have that kind of mother myself. So, in order to get here, it's required moving through a lot of rage, self-loathing, and doubt.

Yoga brings us to the brink of understanding of what is, then nudges us slightly over the edge to float in the mystery of life and its universal truths. In the past, it's been incredibly hard to flow through physical asanas that put me in poses where I felt all of my bodily insecurities. And, it's been even more challenging to look back upon all the times that I binged and purged and hurt my physical body to cellular depths or witnessed how damaging thoughts have shoveled harmful grooves in my brain and ripped at my soul.

I've felt torn in so many ways that it seemed impossible to piece me back together.

But, that's what's happened, where I now see how I've become a stained glass masterpiece hanging in a divine chapel. I like the idea of creating altars within my life for the ways I have triumphed, for the times that I still grieve, for the beauty and magnificence of a force much greater than myself that has propelled me forward in growth year after year, day after minute, moment after now.

I feel as though I'm becoming a steward of my sacredness. This vessel that is intricate and brilliant and sultry and boldly original.

By placing my healing hands on myself, and wanting the same peace and vibrancy for me as for everyone else I encounter, I am learning how to love every detail of myself, seeing that I am not only worthy, but also looking through the perspective of an ultimate loving force in the Universe.

May we all become our own healers in time.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Day 18 Letting LOose Challenge: Not having to prove a single thing to myself — or anyone else.

"Always act like you're wearing an invisible crown."
~Author Unknown

Sometimes, when I walk down the street, I have this sly smile on my face. In my head, I'm thinking, "Do you know who I am? Oh, you just wait. I'm gonna rock it." Those are the days when I feel like I have Divine support behind me, beneath me, above me, and within me, so that I can face forward in ways that allow the mysteries to unfold beyond what I could've planned. (It also happens when I'm listening to a really good song, music being the catalyst for many a transformation.)

My master teachers have offered me two pieces of feedback about my yoga teaching that are interrelated: "Your messages are so powerful, that if you chose just one as a theme throughout your entire class, it'd be even more impactful." Just this morning, I was listening to a podcast that touted the spaces in between, the silence, the Swiss cheese effect as where the most magnificent ideas can come to light.

The other observation is, "It seems you feel like you have to prove yourself constantly." This was offered more as what I do in my daily life off the mat where, and I like to say this in class, the real yoga happens. When I was healing from my eating disorder, my therapist would often say, "The real therapy is what happens when you leave this room." 

It's easier to remove distractions and obstacles when you're in a safe and sacred space, but that's not where we live life. For most of us, we have to-do's and obligations and goals we're looking to achieve that cannot solely be done from the four corners of a therapist's office or within the perimeter of a mat. 

In one sense, it seems that because I'm aiming to prove that I know what I'm talking about or that I'm worthy of love and respect, that's why I offer so much when I teach. In another respect, it's simply because there's so much knowledge I'd like to share. And finally, sometimes, I'm just inspired by something that happens, a little of that magical Divine intervention using me as a vessel for a meaningful message to come through. 

Ultimately, I get what they're saying. That, in the silence, my students can discover more of their own journey and in so doing, connect the dots for themselves. So, how do I do less? How do I trust that by actually taking a step back, focusing on pulling in my energy and attracting rather than outwardly and occasionally aggressively seeking, that I'll not only get what I've always wanted, but even better? How do I embrace the belief that by not doing a simple thing except for breathing and being, that that's enough? 

Well, through practice. I have a lot of love in my life. I have even more blessings. And every challenge or concern can actually be flipped around into the most wonderful learning and growth opportunities. Despite existing in a culture that thinks more money in the bank, prettier clothes, and a higher echelon of status means that I am better somehow, I am reminded again and again that the most important thing is that I am happy with me. That's all. 

Because our standards are different everywhere; they change depending on situation or circumstance. After all, meeting a well-known yoga personality may be very meaningful to me, but could be absolutely nothing to someone who's a NASCAR fanatic. But what doesn't change is being a good person. Love. Those things prevail. They are translated into every language, and can be interpreted when simply being around that energy. 

During stand up paddling with a friend yesterday, she was relaying a line in the recent HBO Liberace movie: "Too much of a good thing is wooooonderful."

And, y'know, just for today, I'm going to practice believing that I'm exactly that. Wonderful. Just as I am. No need to do or say anything special. No need to climb a personal Everest. I'm just going to act like I'm wearing an invisible crown all day long... and see how that feels.