A life well lived: moving through grief and loss

suffering  I have thought a lot lately about grief, sadness, loss. These are emotions that are so terrifying to most of us that we do anything and everything in our power to avoid them. We are very good at throwing up emotional blockers to try to side step and navigate around them. I am the master of that. I had no idea that this was even occurring until recently I was in a situation that really at the heart of it was, and is: grief, sadness, loss. There I found myself in that space- and no matter how hard I tried to dodge and weave- grief, sadness and loss were sitting squarely on and waiting patiently for me on my door step.

I tried all the normal things I had always tried to get them to leave- denial: “Really IM FINE.” (that by the way is one of my all time favorites), drama:”I cant believe this is happening!” externalizing: “You are really sad about this, I can tell, don’t worry, I can help keep you safe- because  (remember?) I’m FINE.”  Implosion and trust issues : “I can handle all of this on my own, I’m FINE (see? told you it was a favorite), I don’t need you OR anyone, because let’s be real here at the end of the day, you really can’t count on anyone, so I’ll just act like im ok and deal quietly on my own.” The thing was this time there was no budging – no over intellectualizing  – no denying- no externalizing that made these feelings retreat,  morph into something that was less scary, more recognizable and more in line with “MY STORY OF MYSELF” (if you haven’t figured it out, in times of crisis, I go straight into denial, implosion, trust issue mode- yeah shocker, I know). At the end of the day there they were: grief, sadness, loss, sitting squarely on and waiting patiently for me on my doorstep.

So i decided to do something  I had never done before, I decided to let these feelings in…. actually not let them in- invite them in. Oh and they came in and set up camp. They were there when I woke up in the morning and there when  I went to sleep at night. They came with me to work and sat with me when I was with my friends and family. I noticed however, that it wasn’t so awful. Since I didn’t fight these feelings and I acknowledged them as part of myself and honored them, they honored me. They didnt bully me and beat me up the way I feared. Instead, they became an organic part of my day…washing over me like waves. When I needed to feel sad and grieve, I did. Soon enough the feelings would pass, and without fear I moved forward knowing that perhaps another wave would wash over me, but trusting that it would be a moment (or several moments) and then it would roll away. I started to look at these feelings in the way I looked at joy, excitement, contentment accepting and in many ways not dreading their arrival and releasing them when they needed to leave. With every wave I tried to stay present and not white knuckle the experience and to not tell myself- “just get through it- it will be over soon and then you will be fine.” I realized that though the grief and loss I was feeling from the experience that created the feelings would not live with me every moment of every day, the feelings would always be a part of me….and I honor that. It is now part of me- part of the story of me.

Of course, old habits die-hard and I still have many moments when I throw up blockers because fear sets in. It is hard to change the story of how I deal with the scary bits of life, as I  up to then had dealt with them in a different way. I try to remain present and aware and make the choice to change my process, every time my process presents itself. I try to remember that pain, grief and loss are far less difficult to navigate than fear, denial and anger. Our hearts naturally want to hold us with love, keep us safe- it will make sure that it is only takes in what it can handle. Making the choice to ride the waves of these emotions in many ways brought me great comfort, for I realized that as I have gotten older It feels much easier and natural to surrender. Surrender brings a softness and a resilience that has allowed me to have faith in myself. This hard-earned faith has made me realize that the storms of life, no matter how violent they may seem, will pass. Pain will diminish, scars are not really scars (more like rings on a tree, marking the passing of time of a life lived), loss will stop seeming like a darkness and will take on a more sunbleached hue and sadness will still wash over me, but in time will lift me up again. A life lived is a series of moments- if we only spend time being present in the ones that feel easy – and fighting off, fighting through, ignoring,white knuckling the ones that are hard, we are missing a life well lived. We are denying who we are. We are saying no to what we create. I am making the choice to stop saying no to myself, to have faith in my deep strength and the process of all things- and to wake up every day knowing that I am present in a life well lived.

Where has the balance gone?

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Somewhere we stopped listening. We stopped listening to that voice inside of us that told us the answers to things that we can not see, rather we feel, we (used to) know.  We stopped honoring this voice and knowing and started looking at it as something that maybe just maybe, only women posses. Women retreated deep into themselves, into this knowing, into this intuition and further into our isolation “Red Tents, Kitchen Witchery,Womanly Arts,The Vapors, Hysteria,Like a Girl,Stand Behind Your Man.” Women retreated further and further until that voice of knowing was diminished, forgotten, scoffed at. When that voice started to fall silent in women, it started to fall silent for everyone in the world. That voice, that knowing ,was and is the divine feminine in all of us. Women and men too have this voice, as we are all part of this dance thats is movement of all energy and the divine balance of the universe. Just as the divine feminine is present (albeit dormant in most of us), the divine masculine is present as well. The divine masculine allows us to address the knowable world: it is a space of action and when in balance, protection.

When women allowed their voices to fall silent and realized that they wanted to find their way back into the world, they forged ahead, holding on firmly to the masculine spaces inside of them…they convinced themselves that the only way to be powerful, to be heard, to be seen, was to embrace the masculine. The masculine which because it is out of balance, has lost its divinity. It has spilled over into violence, fear and oppression. Instead of being a protector, it has become a great destroyer. It’s time that we stop. Its time that for just a moment we become quiet, we listen….we find that small spark of knowing that is inside of us, and we nurture it, we tend to it, we flame it with the fans of faith, acceptance and reverence. Until the divine feminine is honored in all of us, we will continue to forget that at one time masculine was not only divine, but it stood side by side with the divine feminine in the dance of the energy of the universe.

So how do we connect with this space in ourselves if it is something that seems to be born from mystery and fostered by faith alone? We take the first step forward by using what is tangible in our world and move from there. We look at the cycles of the moon, and notice how the moon affects our sleep, our behavior. We honor the “pulling inwards” we all experience when the days are shorter and there is snow on the ground. We feel and acknowledge the energy and joy we feel when the earth is reborn in spring. We look to our farmers and gardeners and watch how they plant their seeds and look to the cycles of the earth to guide their hands. We look at the tides and how they are affected by the cycles of the moon. We then take a small leap of faith and look at sentient beings and recognize that they have consciousness, and resist the urge to anthropomorphize what we do not not understand, but extend them respect and kindness, understanding that they are inhabitants of this earth in the same way we are. We then look at anything with any kind of life force (plant and trees) and understand that there is energy there and that they play as much of an important part of the existence of everything as we do.  Finally we take the biggest leap of faith of all….we listen to ourselves, deeply, clearly, with love and compassion. We honor the voice deep inside ourselves that speaks to us all the time. We dont excuse it, diminish it, or bully ourselves for listening. We exalt, feel, accept, embrace and honor that voice. It is not “women’s intuition”, it’s deep knowing that is present in all of us. It is our connection with the universal consciousness (we are all made of the same energy after all). We stop looking at femininity as weak, and instead (as we have embraced masculinity as strong) we embrace femininity as powerful.We as women stop trying to take back our divine power by acting more like men. We instead encourage men to embrace their divinity  (both male and female) by saying “no” to the exclusive male power paradigm (and I speak to us women as well as we are so guilty of  trying to overly exert our masculinity in order to keep up in a long-standing patriarchy). We listen, we honor, we exalt the shiva and shakti of the cosmos- recognizing that the universe will always find balance,and in embracing the divine masculine and feminine in us all, we are living in harmony with the earth and all energy. With this balance comes ease, grace, knowing, joy, ferocity, strength and most of all a deep abiding love and recognition of our place in this great existence.

Somewhere I think I stopped playing by the rules

So the other day, a dear friend of mine stopped by the local wine store to pick up a bottle of wine for me and walked in and told one of the owners of the store who she was buying the wine for. My friend got the wine and came to my house (we have a standing knitting and drinking session at least once a week, where perhaps we sometimes we devolve into listening to John Denver songs on Spotify- or maybe I force her to listen to my favorite old Prince songs while I dance and she giggles at me and knits…that’s a different post) she put the wine down and laughed. I asked her why she was already laughing (that’s usually a glass or so in) and she said “When I told him who I was buying the wine for, he asked me how you were feeling today….and when I asked him if he meant physically or in here (and she pointed to her heart, and head) he said in here. I told him that you felt a little sad yesterday, but today you were feeling better, and he said, okay- then give her this wine. It will work for her today.” When my friend told me this my heart smiled and it really struck me that somewhere I think I stopped playing by the rules. I live in a small town and own a small yoga studio and have the honor of working with, witnessing, facilitating the healing of many wonderful people. I have the rare privilege of routinely seeing people stripped down to their rawest states, trusting me to hold this space where they can do their work and feel safe. People trust me with what they feel are the darkest, ugliest, parts of themselves and I have the honor to be able to watch them confront these parts and realize that though it may feel dark, none of it is ugly…it is part of who they are. I have the amazing honor of watching people learn to love all parts of themselves, understanding that there must always be dark in the midst of light to find the universal balance that we all seek at a primal level. I watch people connect with each other, support each other, release judgment. This morning I watched a woman make the profound connection that her mind and body are the same, while watching another woman start to realize that she even has a body that works together to support itself instead of as a jumble of parts working separately. I watched a man who is on hard, brave,long, journey continue to work through a lifetime of emotional and spiritual pain that he has held in his body. I worked with and witnessed a couple who are about to have a baby affirm their already instinctual ability to breathe, move, connect with each other in preparation for labor and the crazy, awesome journey ahead of them as parents. That was just this morning. Somewhere in this caccooned life of small town and safe space, I stopped playing by the rules- but didn’t even realize it. I stopped censoring myself when I wanted to tell someone I loved them (and I realized I love a lot of people), I stopped really worrying about what other people thought about me, so when people asked me how I was- I started to actually tell them. If I didn’t go out, I told people why, I stopped apologizing as much for what I thought my failings were. I wore my heart on my sleeve. I listened to my deepest inner voice, I trusted my gut, I stopped judging myself for feeling very clearly that the universe is made up of energy and profound mystery that we can only begin to tap into. I became spiritual. I spoke about tangible and intangible things with the same conviction. I allowed myself to see beauty. I allowed myself to feel happy. I allowed myself to go deep into my pain and fear without trying to fix them instead seeing them, honoring them, and allowing the parts of myself to unfold the ways they needed to.I accepted the dark parts as real parts of myself, and started to have a dialogue with it. I started to understand faith. I talked unabashedly,I said the irreverent things no one wanted to say and people really felt. I complimented people without hesitation. I fell completely head over heels in love with myself….at the same time in some ways fell completely head over heels in love with everyone I met. It was their light, their honesty, their bravery that I saw reflected in myself. Does that mean I LIKE everyone I meet- shit, no! A lot of people make me crazy, are annoying, needy,selfish, a pain in my ass….but somewhere in there I realized that if I stopped loving them, i would have to stop loving myself, for am I not all of these things too? (just ask the people closest to me).  When I leave this safe haven of my studio and my hometown, where people have now gotten used to the way I move through the world (and like the owner of the wine shop honor that), I have moments of doubt and fear. I have noticed though, that if I allow myself to smile at people, look people in the eyes, hug someone, tell someone I love them, (if that’s how Im feeling) acknowledge the kick assedness that is them (cause holy shit people are sooooo kick ass), no one gives a shit that I just stopped playing by the rules (and we all know what the rules are), and as a matter of fact very often I can tell through the softness, lightness, smiles and EASE people feel in those moments, they are dying to stop playing by the rules. At the end of the day we all just want to be SEEN. We all just want someone to realize that we are amazing, and perfect, and flawed, and scared. We all want to be safe. So what if we all stop playing by the rules? What would happen if we all wrote a new set of rules?  (I know Id still be dancing my ass off and laughing so hard I pee my pants a little- but hey, each to her own <3)

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Why we spiral, why it sucks and why we have to do it anyway…

So lately I have really been struggling with a capital S. I have felt like everywhere I look there is heartbreak and sadness. All of the collective vitriol on all sides about Ferguson, Bill Cosby, the intense dialogues about feminism has really taken its toll on me and a lot of us. I have to admit, I am right there leading the charge in a lot of these discussions, asking people to feel their own power and use their voices. I feel very clearly that it is important that we all work together to make voices heard. With all of this intense feeling and emotion comes intense backlash…..that energy we throw out into the world does not exist in a vacuum…we throw it out and we must take it back in some way to stay energetically balanced. When we hurl that much feeling (this is the energy in this case) outside ourselves we are quickly hit with that much back. It is a powerful, intense exchange that leaves us feeling very much alive, exhilarated (both in positive and negative ways) and plugged into the larger sense of our reality. (Though we all struggle with that continuously, for as yoga and many other mindfulness practices teach us, we are not our mind, and certainly not our reality.)  This practice, as present as it may seem, is not sustainable. When we ping-pong energetically in this way for too long, our true selves, that deep connection with the great energetic truth, becomes so muddied and clouded that we begin to spiral.

So what do I call spiraling? In order to understand it, first think of what a spiral looks like…..(in this case we are thinking of an inward spiral) it starts off large and moves in concentric circles until it reaches a fixed point. When we become too pulled into the cycle of intense external energy  exchange, our circles start to become larger than ourselves- growing until we have very little  remembrance of us and our true energy. This is of course not sustainable, and we begin to spiral inwards back towards our origins and our connections internally. This spiraling back is always terrifying to me, as usually I have circled the edge engaging in this intense external back and forth  and have completely lost sight of the fact that well, I have lost my rootedness. So in that amazing profound energetic dance that is the universe, I start moving inwards….and like water circling the drain I begin to move faster and faster back to my origin point. No matter how many times this happens I feel myself grabbing onto anything I can and very often it manifests as lashing out, or a bit too much to drink, or maybe just too many words having to be said to a usually very loving and patient friend. Eventually I finish the spiral back to myself, I breathe very deeply and I look at what I learned from the experience. It’s always humbling, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes sad, but part of the journey of it all. When i land back into myself, I have a truer sense of how to give and receive energy in an easier way,a softer way, a more sustainable way.

None of this means that I or anyone else will stop this spiral dance- this is part of what it means to be human, and in a much smaller sense part of a much greater universal reality known as Spanda.  We all spiral in different ways, some of us are much less verbal, some of us internalize our spirals more (for those people who know and love me, they know that I tend to kick and scream very outwardly for most of the journey), but at the end of the day a spiral moves us outside of our true selves, so we can move back into our true selves with more awareness of what that means. So here’s to the pulsation of the universe, the beating of our hearts, the inhalations and exhalations of our breath.

Range of Motion- Slow Flow

This is for all of my students who have been loving and asking for a video of the slow flow range of motion sequence I have been teaching in class…. Please note that the last part of the sequence is backwards (meaning I did it on the same side) so you can see the movements. Just make sure to do the same thing on both sides! This flow is about having fun and feeling sensuous and fluid in your body. Even if you cant follow the flow or the flexibility is out of your range of motion- don’t worry….keep moving your body, following  your breath and above all, honoring, respecting and loving what your amazing body allows you to do!