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)
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.
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!
So today I was looking around for a quote or a picture to post on facebook regarding the theme of my class tonight, and I was astounded at what I saw, or rather I didn’t see. I started feeling like a person you see in the movies who breaks their head above water after almost drowning and starts to frantically look for their friend, pushing water and weeds aside screaming their friends name. In this case I wasn’t looking for a friend, I was looking for an idea- and so desperate at first and then heartbroken that I couldn’t find it. The theme of my class tonight is “Strength”. It seems so easy- this idea of strength. Indeed, strength is just the opposite of weakness- bigger, tougher,full of stamina, unable to be defeated, “I will never let them (or life) defeat me”, strength. This is certainly what we as a world at large perceive strength as- and there are millions of quotes that echo that. We are being fed the message of what being a strong person in this world is from the time we are born- so that by the time we are young adults we are so mired down in the idea of what strength is, and how to be strong, we have forgotten what it means to be alive. We are so scared to let ourselves or anyone else see our potential weaknesses we let that fear dictate our lives and we become comfortable in that fear, and call it strength.
This has been a hard year for many people I love. I have watched people struggle with more pain and loss than seems bearable. I would watch them move forward with a brave smile on their face, talking about how what they were dealing with was not so bad, catching themselves and apologizing when they had a moment that broke through and they sat in their pain, they held their fear, they mourned and softened. In those moments I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see what real strength was: authenticity, softness, fear, questioning, anger and above all compassion. In those moments when people sat with all of these spaces, allowed them to be and move through them freely felt as strong as anything I have ever seen. In the moments when someone would ask me to hold them in my arms and they would weep and scream and acknowledge that life didnt feel fair, and that it sucked and they were terrified, I saw fierce soul warriors, that made me catch my breath in awe. These amazing people have such compassion for themselves that they honor the moments when they need to fall on their knees and weep- they are so strong that they invited me in to be with them in that warrior state. They always would rise up and get onto their feet and be okay. Strength is not about never breaking down, not backing down, or never admitting defeat. It is compassion and a deep acceptance of what it means to be human. Diamonds are hard, but they are not strong….in order to be strong, something must be pliable and supple. Our definition of strong is often very much like the idea of a diamond and with enough downward pressure it will be crushed. It takes a strong warrior to know when to kneel down, rather than to scream with anger and puff out their chest with pride. In the moments I have watched the people I love move through spaces when they thought they were at their weakest, I have been moved beyond belief by their strength. Indeed, I know that I am feeling very brave, strong and compassionate when I allow myself and others to see my soft underbelly.
It has been in my asana practice that I have been able to work through my fear, my “pseudo strength”. I have had countless injuries that came from being a “strong yogini”- holding postures for too long, pushing my body into unsafe spaces. I have lacked the compassion and strength and been too paralyzed by the fear of judgement to take a step back, push into child’s pose, or take the less advanced variation. I would never let my body or a posture defeat me. Only with injury after injury did I start to understand that I feel at my strongest when I am compassionate with myself. Sometimes that means crazy vinyasa sequences and over the top postures, but more often than not it means pushing into child’s pose, finding beauty in the simplest of asana, sitting and listening to my breath. I have learned compassion in watching people who think they are at their weakest and not knowing that in these moments they seemed stronger than anything I have ever seen. So lets allow our idea of strength to shift and soften. Let’s have enough compassion for ourselves and strength to weep in someone’s arms. “In separation lies the world’s greatest misery, in compassion the world’s true strength” -Buddha
So I was looking at some old writing and I came upon this and thought I would share again…. It always helps to be reminded that no act of love is ever too small. Any act of love is the greatest act in the world.
SEVA- why can’t can’t live without it, and can never give too much of it
What is SEVA? Super Enthusiastic Vegetarian Aviators? Stop Endless Verbiage Altogether? Sunrise Encounters Visiting Australia? Though those do seem like wonderful and completely fun possibilities SEVA is nothing so complicated…
Seva is… love in action.
Seva is…. the spiritual practice of selfless service.
To assign a dictionary definition here it is:
“Seva, a Sanskrit word, springs from two forms of yoga, Karma Yoga which is yoga of action and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of worship inspired by divine love. Seva is one of the simplest and yet most profound and life changing ways that we can put our spiritual knowledge into action. Seva is asking “How may I serve you?” Or ask “Can I help you?” Another way of doing service is to roll up your sleeves and help where you notice that you are needed.”
Service- love that word…. used to seem so powerless to me when I was younger (to get a little bit better picture of what younger me was- think pissed off, black wearing, Bikini Kill listenen’ to WOMAN…cause girl is so pejorative, thank you very much). But now with a few more miles under the hood- the word Service seems so powerful. To be able to serve people, to give of myself just because I love….woah that is some radical stuff. We have been given the gift of being able to serve, help, reach out.
SEVA doesn’t have to be these crazy, grandiose acts of love and devotion…”Did you hear about Angela? She sold everything she owns to pay for 12 orphans to have shoes for their entire life and is now living in Mozambique, digging wells for villagers with her bare hands because she used all of her money to buy orphans shoes and doesn’t even have enough money to buy a shovel.” Seva can be small acts…Picking up someone’s child from school when they can’t, paying that extra dollar for the person in front in line of you who doesn’t quite have enough to cover their bill, helping someone with a heavy load of bags at the grocery store. Those bigger acts are great too….starting a non for profit, volunteering on a weekly basis at a soup kitchen, taking a hot meal to your elderly neighbor every day…but all these acts are all the same in that they come from LOVE. They come from a place of devotion to the world you live in. So SEVA doesn’t ask to be huge….as a matter of fact we all practice SEVA every day in small powerful ways. Ultimately we will all arrive to the same place as we are all on the path of love. Some people just choose to take a thousand small steps on their way there…and some people just two or three big ones. All just as important, all acts of devotion, all humble moments of service.