For the Love of Yoga

Today was one of those bittersweet kind of days.  It was the final class with some of my most dedicated and adventurous yoga students, at a location that was one of my very first yoga employers.  I’ve been with this company longer than I was even married!  It was bittersweet because I recently decided to give up the financially unstable environment of teaching yoga as my main job, to working full time for someone else, and teaching yoga a lot less. I start tomorrow.

The thing that no one tells you about yoga is how much you will grow to love it, and how often the people that you see in your classes will become some of your best friends.  I’m not sure why yoga has this effect on us.  I think it has something to do with the fact that it takes you to a previously un-investigated place within yourself, and pulls that to the surface. The fears that used to rule your every thought, word and deed are replaced with confidence and acceptance within yourself.

In yoga, all of our credentials are removed.  If you are a doctor or a literary PhD, it does not matter one bit.  If you’ve never been married, or if you have been divorced four times, no-one will know that.  In a yoga class, you are just a person in workout clothes, probably no makeup, and you are at your most vulnerable.  I think that is it.  That is where the playing field gets leveled.  When you walk into a yoga class, you have the potential to become emotionally exposed.  It can be raw, and it can be life-changing.

A few students took me out to lunch after this class today, and although I promised myself I would not cry, and I even went out on a limb and wore non-waterproof mascara, it was inevitable.  One student brought her five year old little girl with her.  She came up to me with a little rose that she picked and thanked me for teaching her Mom yoga.  (Sniff) Another student told me how many times she had cried in class, and how much she had grown and learned about herself and her practice. She said, “even if you don’t realize it, you have changed a lot of people’s lives.”  That was it, I just sobbed.

I remember when I was a little girl, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.  Well that’s not true.  When I was really little, I wanted to collect all the animals that had been run over, and were dying on the side of the road, and try to save them.   When I grew up a little and realized how impossible that dream was, I expanded it to include people.  I just wanted to “help” people.   It was like that little mantra was planted into my head at birth.  So that is what I do.  It doesn’t matter if it is with words, poems, feng shui, yoga, gardening or some other action.  All of the things that light me up are the way that I try to help people light themselves up.  I just want to remind them in some way how truly Divine they are, and to help them go out and share that with the world.

So to all of my students, past, present and future, thank you for helping me to live my passion, and to share it with you. The Divine in Me Bows, to the Divine in You ~ Namaste!

“The fact is that there is nothing more beautiful, more worthy or more conscious than you.” ~ Yogi Bhajan

Can We Break Up with Facebook?

I just went through a big breakup. I ended a relationship that lasted just shy of four years, and actually, thanks to Facebook, seemed much happier and whole than it truly was. It was a relationship that was slowly bleeding out, dying from a thousand tiny cuts that couldn’t be patched. Ending that relationship was easier than I think it would be to breakup with the ever-charismatic Facebook, and it wasn’t truly easy.

My relationship with Facebook has been rocking steady since 2008. My “friends” total has climbed to 500+, although I’d guess that the real number of my true friends is barely a fraction of that. I’ve tried breaking up with Facebook in the past, but as with all addictions, the seduction of losing myself in its posts drags me back. There is something strangely hypnotic about scrolling and searching for some part of myself among the postings. When I see some meme or a quote that really resonates with me, I feel seen, known and understood all at once.

Getting back to relationships though,  I remember when my recently-ended relationship first began, and how important it was to me to be able to share it with my Facebook family of friends. It was after all, my first legit, and mutually monogamous relationship since my 2002 divorce, and my only one since joining the social networking giant in 2008. I wanted very much to be seen as whole and complete, and this included being publicly acknowledged on Facebook, by my new guy as his new girl.

The danger of Facebook is the temptation to gloss over all that is wrong or incomplete in our real-life relationships and focus only on the photo opportunities that are full of happy, smiling faces. There were no pictures of the moments where love and affection was withheld, and requests for time together were dismissed, ignored or suppressed with anger, hostility and passive aggression. I knew the end was near when a colleague recently hugged me and gushed about how happy I always look in the photos that I posted of me and my guy. It stopped me in my tracks because I realized that I wasn’t happy at all. I was wagging the dog by creating an illusion that was not accurate.

Yes, there had been moments of love, moments of tenderness and affection unlike any I’d ever experienced before, and that is why it took so long for me to realize that even though I loved him, I was not happy. My needs were not being met, and no amount of communication seemed to make a lasting difference. I finally admitted to myself and to him that I wanted more than he was willing to give. I wanted a life of togetherness, a life of blending our families and growing old together. I wanted someone to wake up to and grow old with. I wanted to heal the dysfunctional habits of my family of origin, and I wanted him to do the same.

If you’ve ever tried to “break-up” with Facebook, I can assure you, it isn’t easy. You will be asked more than once, “Are you sure you want to leave Facebook?” What they don’t tell you is that they are so sure that you will doubt yourself and have second thoughts, that they will make it very easy for you to re-activate your account whenever you are ready. It’s not uncommon at this point to start doubting yourself. Do I really want to leave? Do I want to end this? Do I have the strength to let go completely? It’s like Facebook is “gaslighting” us!

And so it went in my life, as I asked myself the same questions of my own fraudulent relationship. Do I have the strength to let him go? Do I trust my own mind, my own heart? As Facebook continues to ask if am I sure, I ask it myself, and just like with Facebook, I doubt myself. Somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting myself, and I also stopped valuing myself and my needs. I got lost in perpetuating the illusion of my perfect relationship. I convinced myself that things were okay with us because my audience believed it, so why didn’t I?

I know people who jump off of Facebook when they end a long-term relationship. It’s as if the shame of admitting to everyone that their relationship wasn’t as bullet-proof as they thought it was is just too much for them to bear. Some people are very subtle and just disappear for awhile. Other people are very public about it and announce it to everyone, as if we didn’t already notice. I fall somewhere in between these two extremes. I didn’t disappear, but I waited a few weeks before I told my close friends and family. I changed my relationship status privately, and then I let my friends see it. Then I started writing. That is where the healing truly began for me. I realized that I would have to expose myself and my failure in order to heal.

Ultimately, I was able to say goodbye to the illusion of my seemingly perfect relationship. It has been difficult, and sad mostly because I wanted so very much for it to succeed. I miss the way his hand felt in mine and the way it felt to lean into him when he was near. I wanted to believe the story of us, as much as everyone else did. I wanted the feelings that we started with to still be present, and the story that we were telling to be authentic. Once I knew that it wasn’t, I couldn’t keep pretending. I thought that if I refused to give up, things would magically change. I was half correct. Things in my life are magically changing, but its not because I refused to give up; it’s because I finally did.

I finally let go of something that wasn’t serving me any longer. I stopped expecting someone else to make me a priority and I started doing it myself. Some days, that means that I log off of Facebook and forget about keeping up with the world. And some days, I am a posting freak and loving every minute of it. I’m learning to put Facebook in its place, and I am rediscovering myself without spending hour after hour obsessing about it.

To answer my own question, I cannot break up with Facebook because I enjoy it too much. I can, however; set healthy boundaries with it. I can hide and unfollow the people and posts that irk me. My relationship with Facebook appears to be salvageable. I don’t have to cut it out of my life completely. I can limit the amount of time that I spend scrolling and staring, and I can enjoy it for the gifts that it gives. For me, that includes the hysterical videos and posts that make me cry from laughing, memes that inspire me and the ones that make me feel normal.

I have learned that I don’t have to have an “all or nothing” attitude with Facebook. Like it or not, if I made that choice, I would never see or hear from too many of my real-life and far-away friends. My relationship with my guy didn’t make it, but it taught me so much, and it gave me hope that I will recognize the right relationship when I am open to allowing another one. My relationship with Facebook is safe. I don’t have to break up with it. I am willing to do the work needed to keep its place in my life healthy, happy and fun, and the next relationship I am in will remain private.  I won’t require it to be validated by Facebook or my friends. I will let my heart do that instead.

Learning to Unsee the Imperfections

There is something that my Dad taught me, that just returned to my mind today. It was this ability to unsee. He knew that when I looked in the mirror, I would always see this slightly overweight person filled with other flaws that I judged ruthlessly. I don’t remember his exact words, but I do remember that he implied to me that what I was seeing in the mirror was not what he saw. It was a pretty earth-shattering concept to me that even though I saw something unworthy in the mirror, it was not the real me. That was the little bitty planting of a new seed thought.

The next time I looked in the mirror, I had a glimpse that maybe, just maybe, there was a flaw in the projection equipment, not in the image itself. I have had to learn to unsee the limitations that my mind continually tries to project into the images reflected back to me in the mirror. I have had to unlearn the habits of judgemBody Image Distortionent, criticizing and hatred that somehow became my addiction. I truly feel that my body hatred addiction was the precursor for my eventual alcohol addiction. It doesn’t matter if I was addicted to a substance or to a belief system, I was addicted and that is that.

Today, I am a yoga instructor, and one of the things that I noticed on my way to this path was how much my own yoga practice began to shift me out of this negative way of seeing myself. Because of my low self-esteem and body image as a child, I tried to control it away with exercise. I worked out every day, usually running at least 2 miles. I also controlled my eating, but no matter how much I tried, I was never happy with the results. While I teetered on the edge of an eating disorder, I gratefully did not jump all the way into the severity of anorexia or bulimia.

Learning to unsee the image that stares at me in the mirror, starts with the realization that the space between my eyes and the projection of me that reflects back is distorted by a defect in my mind. It is much like the distortion of being nearsighted or farsighted. It has a trigger in my mind, and therefore it has to be corrected in my mind as well. I can’t go to the doctor and get a pair of glasses that helps me to see myself the way I really am, but dammit that would be so much easier! I can unsee that old image, that old way of seeing myself, but like anything, I have to do it from the inside out. I have to mentally create a new “muscle” memory, a new channel to tune in to that allows my brain to adjust the focus so that I can see clearly and unsee the old way of seeing myself.

IMG_3516

Why Do Yoga?

Last night at dinner, a friend asked me to tell him in three minutes why he should do yoga.  Of course, 12 hours later, I have come up many other great reasons that I didn’t give when put on the spot, so I decided to share them here.  There are the obvious reasons that everyone tells you, but I want this list to be different.  I want this list to kick you in the guts with curiosity.

  • Yoga forces you to be still and get quiet.  It is one thing to stop talking, but it is quite another to learn to turn off the voice in your head. If we are going to fulfill our destinies on this planet, we have to learn to disconnect from the chaos that is all around and within us.  Yoga helps in a way that meditation alone does not.
  • You will learn to manipulate your breath and increase your lung’s capacity to hold that breath.    When I first came to yoga, it was as if my breath was afraid to fill me up, or better yet, I was afraid to let it.  This process of stretching your lungs so that they really sustain you is so beautiful.  It is symbolic to me of our capacity to really experience the fullness of life.
  • Everything that you do in yoga, in that safe space on your mat, can be accessed off your mat as well.  Think about tree pose.  On one hand, it is obviously about learning to balance on one leg.  Now let’s take it off the mat.  The thing that we know for sure is that living life fully, without over-doing one part, and under-doing another takes skills that most of us simply don’t come by naturally.  Learning to achieve balance in the body can translate into achieving balance in your relationships, your work, your passions and all other aspects of your life.
  • It will improve your self-confidence and self-image, but if that is already nicely inflated, then I promise it will humble you in a heartbeat.  There are things that you can learn to accomplish with your body that you never thought possible, but first, it will feel like you are completely disconnected from it.  With every personal yoga pose “failure”, you will learn to make it a success, and that will keep your Ego in balance, as well as your life.
  • Yoga teaches you about trust.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been hurt and broken by life.  Hearts get closed, hips get tight and shoulders get stiff with a too-busy life.  Yoga cracks you wide open.  It peels back the layers of pain and allows you to learn to live life on life’s terms.  It changes you in ways that you don’t even know are possible.  And truly, it is better that you don’t know too much before you embark on this journey.  If you did, you might be afraid to start because of all the things that you will be forced to let go of in order to move forward.
  • Yoga introduces you to a part of yourself that you have never known existed.  You will not be the same person once you truly start, and you’ll wish you had started sooner.  I was already in my upper 30’s when I started my teacher training.  I don’t even look the same as I did before I started all this.
  • And on that note, it really does make you look and feel younger.  The other day, I sat down criss- cross-applesauce to play with my boyfriend’s daughter, and she commented that she had never seen a grownup do that.  Yoga did that!
  • We are these amazing beings of Light and we are trapped in this heavy, dense physical existence.  Yoga reminds and teaches us how to fly in spite of that.

If you happen to be one of those particularly stubborn people who don’t believe a word you have read and are still not convinced, that’s ok.  Don’t do it for any of these reasons.  Do it to prove me wrong. : )

The Ups and Downs of Doing What You Love

Once upon a time, I had a typical job that paid the bills.  It was close to home, paid decent, and did I mention it was only 3 miles from my home?  Notice that I didn’t say it was inspiring or fulfilling in any way.  It was a place where I went for 8 hours of my day and tolerated things and people.  So when my son was born, the job itself just didn’t have enough pull to draw me away from the little bundle of joy that I helped create.  At the time, I had just started exploring Feng Shui and had taken my first week long intensive.    Feng Shui was the first glimpse I had of the possibility of doing something that inspires and supports me.  Ever since I was a little girl, the one thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to help people in some way. Little did I know that the journey I had decided to make using Feng Shui would turn my world upside down in ways that I could not know were coming.  As I learned more and made changes in my life, shift or Shit as it were, happened!

As is often the case, people can be jealous of our happiness and success, and I have always been very sensitive to the emotional temperature of the people I know and the new ones that I meet.  These same friends and family members who say they love us can be threatened by the changes that we make.  As they see us making changes that increase our freedom, creativity and passions, they can become uncomfortable.  They might even start to ask themselves if the work they are doing fulfills them or gives them the chance to make a difference in this crazy world.  And if not, is it possible for them to find work that does?  When I was younger, my Mom and I strongly disagreed about this.  She insisted that work is work and it is not something that is necessary for us to love.  She wasn’t trying to be negative.  That was her reality.  However, I was appalled and vowed then and there, albeit silently, that I would show her that it is possible.  I owe my stubbornness and persistence to my Mom.  Hey, I got it honestly at least!  But seriously, that is one of the many life-affirming gifts that she gave me, and I am so grateful!

Ever since my initial deep dive into finding my true calling, I have gotten divorced, moved 6 times (with one move being from the concrete, humid hell of Houston to the happy and hippy joyfulness that is Austin), experienced the death of my Father, become a Certified Yoga Instructor and had to learn to live on a much smaller budget than ever before.   One way that I have justified my career choice to others who look at my life with envy is that yes, I am doing what I love, but don’t be jealous because I really don’t make that much money ~  and this is the insight that I have had this week.  I have been afraid to make more money doing what I love because then people might really hate me or abandon me.  I may have time to take a nap in the middle of the day or take a 3 hour lunch with a friend, but on the days when I am working, I am WORKING!  I also don’t have health insurance, I am driving a car with over 209,000 miles on it and I pay the minimum on all of my credit cards because that is all I can afford.  I don’t get paid holidays or sick days, and the last time I took a vacation, I also gave up my income for the week.

My challenge now is to break through the financial glass ceiling that I created out of fear of losing my friends or creating envy, and continuously replace it with the faith that I am on the right path, that I am following my Divine Purpose and that my true friends are my true friends no matter what!  We hold ourselves back, until we don’t any more because once you know something about yourself, you can’t UN-know it.  You can ignore it or you can change it, and as usual,  I chose change!  If something I have shared helps even one other person in some way, then it is totally worth it to me!  I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes that fits perfectly here:

“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, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. 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.” –  Marianne WilliamsonReturn to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

 

Back Off, I’m A Goddess!

I actually have a bumper sticker on the back of my car that says this, “Back Off, I’m A Goddess”.  It makes me so happy to have it there.  It is a second generation sticker since the first one met an untimely death thanks to the elements of Texas heat and old age.  Most of the time, I forget it is even there, but every now and then someone will drive past me and give me that look of righteous disdain or a thumbs up, and I know that I have sort of given them something to talk about for that day.

I was doing a little research about the topics for blogs that currently exist, and while many are funny and tongue in cheek sarcastic, something that I can fully appreciate, there are many more that are promoting a lifestyle that is so idealistic that I have a hard time believing them.  I see all the positive affirmations that people, myself included, put on their Facebook Timeline.  Do you know why I post them?  I post positive thoughts and statements so that I don’t forget them!  I would love to say that I always nurture my own soul first, that I never, ever have expectations or get attached to outcomes.  Or that I don’t gossip, judge, get jealous or insecure.  Lies, lies, lies! Those would all be lies.  So, this blog is not about me sharing with you about how perfect I am at being human.  It is about me sharing my own little quirky perspective about myself and everyone who touches my life in some way.  I teach yoga, I am a feng shui consultant and I love to write.  I love to communicate and share and inspire.  I meet a lot of people, and while I rarely remember their names, I do remember their struggles.  I remember the pain that they shared or released though their work, and most of all,  I remember that I am only able to show them the way because I just came from there.

I was talking to a friend of mine for almost two hours the other day.  We hadn’t actually spoken since she visited me here in Austin before moving to Florida.  We were being bombarded with the evening tasks of single-parenting and trying to do three things at once, when she said that she always wonders why I don’t have a blog because she loves all the stuff that I post on my Facebook page.  I was like, “I do have a blog, for my Feng Shui business.”  And she was like, “Yeah, but I want to read a blog of you just being you.  I would read that every day!”  So, that is how this blog was born.  If you like it, you can thank my pal Carrie in Florida.  Or you can blame her, the choice is yours.  I have no idea what I am going to write about each time that I open up my screen.  I just know that I have been looking for my writing “voice” for most of life, and have tried to conform to what was expected of me.  I failed at that, but this voice sounds like me.  This is me being me.  If you like it great. If you don’t, then in the spirit of the folks from Big Bang Theory dealing repeatedly with the idiosyncrasies of Sheldon, feel free to “Go Away.” : )

18365_1316024658993_4251991_n