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Head Vs. Heart

I had one of those “Ah-HA!” moments in my morning meditation last week. At one point I could physically sense the difference between ‘being in my head’ and ‘being in my heart.’ The transition was palpable. Something that had been a high concept esoteric principle became very real for me. It’s always difficult to accurately portray a subtle body experience. After all, the most sublime sensations and experiences can rarely be encapsulated into words. At least that has been my reality.

It seems there are two very different ways of seeing and experiencing this world, each with their benefits, each with their drawback. We can perceive the world through the lens of the heart or the head. We also have a choice in the matter.

What I’ve come to realize however, is the heart is not limited, where the head is. The heart has unlimited capacity for love – for forgiveness and compassion. Our heads will try to rationalize all of the reasons these things should be withheld. Our heads will say things like:

It’s not fair.

They don’t deserve it.

What about me?

He/She/ can’t get away with that.

It’s not right.

The heart has no need for right and wrong because from the heart’s point of view, there is no difference. Only in the head do we separate the two. And only in the head does separateness exist at all.

I believe some of us are more inclined to operate in a certain mode over another. You either love working on a MacBook or a PC. One feels inherently intuitive, the other, rather clumsy. Some cannot fathom life without rationality, pro and con lists, and a careful scrutiny of all the options. Others find it painful to ignore the loud whispers from the heart.

Like many, I was trained to lead from my head and I’ve become quite adept operating in the world this way. However, I believe I was born to lead from the heart.

It feels so damn good to be out of my head and in my heart. When I get there in meditation or even in the daily activity of life, I don’t want to leave. It doesn’t feel as good to operate in my head anymore – all the figuring out and thinking and analyzing and trying to make sense of it all – but old habits die hard. It’s a consistent practice for me right now to drop down from top to center.

At one point, I needed all the head skills. But my mind keeps me small and limited. Thus the term small – minded. Not that a particular way of thinking is small, but primarily using the mind as a source of guidance can trap us in a box. It’s restrictive. We are so much more than our heads. There is so much more we are capable of beyond the space of the mind.

I would, however, like to say thank you to my head. Thank you for keeping me safe. For helping me grasp concepts and knowledge. For teaching me how to remember so I don’t have to re-learn things every day like how to talk, write, walk, etc. You have your purpose. But you will no longer guide my ship. I trust my heart more than my head. More and more every day. And the more I practice it, the more tangible it becomes. I can feel a difference in my body as opposed to having it be some out there woo-hoo spiritual teaching. I literally feel more expansive, supported and just, well – GOOD. It’s me. There I am. The person I was meant to be.

Crash And Burn

Have you ever driven head first into a relationship you knew would ultimately hurt you?
Why do we do this?
Do we think somewhere along the way we’ll be able to alter the outcome?
Is the draw to certain people too intense to resist?
Maybe karma is so keen that she renders you helpless so you can work your shit through with some people.
It’s like a car wreck – you can’t seem to pull yourself away no matter how much you want to.

Maybe there’s something inside saying “NO” but you’re desire to feel good – to have companionship, joy, sex – that desire overrides any logic you may have left.

Or maybe it’s hope. Hope that this time – this guy – will be different. This guy won’t abandon you after sleeping with you. Not this guy. This guy had done his WORK. This guy is older. This guy is a MAN. This guy is honest. Upfront. Trustworthy.

Or at least he makes you believe he’s all those things.

So you give it over. Your body. Your heart. Your passion. Your care. Your vulnerability. Your trust.

And then you realize this guy is no different than most guys you’ve been with. This guy turns away. This guy leaves.

And you do your best to convince yourself it’s not you. You’re not broken. There’s not some faulty part. But out of all the guys, there’s only one common denominator – YOU.

You’re aware of your patterns and what you attract. But you really thought this guy was different and that you’d FINALLY started to change. To heal those old wounds.

But the wounds are still there. And nothing has changed. And you feel stuck. Hopeless. Like maybe it’s going to be this way forever.

Because this guy wasn’t different. You are left with your hope and your heart in your hand. And all you really want to do is share it with someone. Someone who will say “Here. Let me hold that and take care of that the way you take care of it.” Not drop it on the floor like a banana peel.

And you cry. Not so much for this guy. You barely knew this guy. You cry because you’re tired of doing the work. Tired of being lonely. Tired of waiting for THAT guy.

Listen for the NO. No matter how enchanting and persuasive and magnetic and amazing that YES feels. LISTEN TO THE NO.

Intuitive Eating

Recently, I touted an article on Facebook from a hot young author named Jessica Knoll (author of the best selling book “Luckiest Girl Alive“) who wrote about smart women falling for the pseudoscientific claims of the “wellness” industry. She wrapped up everything I’ve been feeling and saying for the past couple years in a wonderful op-ed piece in the New York Times. That all these trends – keto, Paleo, the Whole 30, you name it – are eating disorders in prettier boxes. All of them espouse a comparative model of eating, claiming certain foods are ‘bad’ for you while others are ‘good’. And while we could all use a kick start plan to eat healthier every once and a while as bad habits can be difficult to break without a good strong dose of discipline, the diet as lifestyle has been the norm since the 80s.

I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything Ms. Knoll wrote, but something keeps nagging at me: the idea that we still label what is women’s inherent nature (because, as Ms. Knoll points out, not many guys are sitting around the table talking about their thighs as they scarf down their burgers) as yet another methodology called “Intuitive Eating.”

Intuitive eating implies we need to learn a specific way to eat. We don’t need to learn anything else about food. We need to forget about everything that society has told us is right or wrong with our bodies. We need to un-learn all the ways we’ve dishonored, shamed and hurt our bodies whether that be through diets or abusive language or comparing ourselves to other women. We simply need to return to the inherent wisdom that was granted us at conception. The wisdom of our Divine Feminine. She knows why she eats. She knows what her body likes. She knows how to nurture and nourish herself whether that is with a kale salad or a chocolate chip cookie.

Women, we’ve been brainwashed. By advertising, magazines, celebrity culture and heaven help us, social media. And while it’s all around us, it’s been a covert operation, as Ms. Knoll points out, hiding under the alias of ‘wellness’ and ‘balance’. Slowly but surely, our patriarchal society has turned us against ourselves. Convinced us that we need products and expensive tonics and potions to live a fulfilling life and convinced men that we’re not worthy of praise, attention or love unless we look a certain way. Our capitalistic and consumer driven culture has made us question and distrust ourselves.

As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with being in the ‘wellness’ industry, as I promote and write about workouts and food and nutritional supplements. I’ve done the best I can to strike a chord of balance between what’s absolutely necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle and what could be considered indulgent luxuries. Before I put anything out to the public I try to assess why I am doing so and will it help someone more than it will harm them?

I’ll be the first to tell you I got into this industry because I didn’t feel ‘enough’. Pretty enough. Thin enough. Successful enough. I was able to hide my insecurities in the name of health. I learned a lot on this journey, but my biggest lessons have come from unlearning everything I thought I knew about who I was. It has come from tearing down the facade I built to make myself okay. It came from questioning and continuing to question everything I know to be ‘true’ or ‘good’ or ‘right’.

While the wellness industry has done an amazing job convincing us we can never eat gluten again and be happy, we must not abdicate personal responsibility. As women, we need to take back our power and stop being so willing to buy whatever anyone is selling us. We must do whatever we need to return to that inexhaustible well of confidence, grace, trust, compassion, tenderness and yes, strength, that we were endowed with when we were conceived as females. And we must continue to fill it over and over and over and over again. With food. With friendships. With intimacy. With laughter. With joy. With vulnerability. With whatever fills up not only our bellies but our hearts as well. We must feed our souls.

We can begin this process by asking ourselves one simple question not only with food, but with all of our decisions. Why? Why am I eating this donut or this piece of fish or this broccoli? Why am I buying this potion or supplement? Why am I getting botox? (A question, yes, I recently asked myself.) And then, be brutally honest in our answers. Sometimes we may like what we hear, sometimes not. Decide accordingly.

Your answers may lead you down a rabbit hole that may uncover a root unresolved issue for you. While not always pleasant, these moments can be transformative and healing. If you have the resources and feel you need to, seek outside help like a therapist. Counseling can be helpful, but so can writing, reading, talking with trusted friends and committing to our own happiness and well being.

I don’t need L’Oreal to tell me I’m worth it. And neither do you.

And Jessica Knoll, if you read this – I’d love to lunch with you and discuss how to take up more space.

#TBT

Wednesday, Christmas Day, 2002

Could I be any more blessed? I say that truly meaning it and not just writing the words to pretend that all is wonderful and perfect. But seriously, I am sitting on a sandy beach on a warm sunny windy day able to marvel at the wonder of the vast Atlantic Ocean in front of me, listening to the waves crash against the shore. I realize I have been somewhat taking my week here for granter. When I think about the minutes, hours, time wasted on bickering with my mother, being angry, etc. This time may not come again but so often I lose recognition of that fact in the moments where I find myself annoyed, bothered, angry, etc. I don’t beat myself up for it because I am a highly reactive, emotional and feeling individual. however, the better I am at replacing those negative feelings with ones of compassion and love, the happier I will be. Sure, I don’t doubt that I will continue to be an opinionated person, but that’s why I have the stage, Jennifer. Use those where they will be most appreciated. And try to come to terms with your family, that they aren’t going to change. I know I write this all the time, but realize that the more you try, the more you set yourself up for disappointment and hurt. Turn to other relationships for support in yourcraft and day to day struggles. Cultivate those realtionships that will make you grow – stronger, better. You just re-connected with Laura to find you have so much in common. Doug is another. YiaYia, too. She is most supportive. I think you know, in your heart though, moving to NYC is not for you right now. Right now you need to embark on your own path – whatever it may be, with the confidence that you and only you know what is right for you. Talking it over with your friends, family, lovers (?), teddy bears (!), whatever, may help you discover these things for yourself by verbalizing what is in your heart – but only you know ad only you can make your decisions based on what is in your heart.

And please don’t berate or belittle yourself if things aren’t going as you think they should or as fast as you think they should. You are where you are meant to be. Remember that. This next year’s endeavors may be tough, but your rewards will be great. And you will be happy. Continue not to lose the love and light in your heart and treat every single person you meet as an opportunity to share your light and bright personality. And your gifts. Sure, there will be some dog days when you’d like to say “Fuck You” to the world. So go ahead. Do it. And then let it go and be done with it.

Monitor your ambition. Keep it focused and don’t allow it to run you ragged. Go after the things you are most fearful of – a successful relationship, career whatever. Just do it.

Connect, Jennifer. That is your strength. No matter how you do it, whatever your medium, connect with people. You are so good at it. As you were walking down the beach just now, something Patty said to you resonated in your head . . . “Look up. Don’t look down or at the floor when you dance.” that is a good metaphor for life, Jennifer. Don’t look down or avoid that opportunity for a connection with people. That’s how you affect people, Jennifer. Communicate with them. Don’t be afraid to reveal or show yourself. Who you are. What’s inside of you. Believe that what you have to express will better people’s lives. Either make them happy or force them to explore parts of themselves and emotions they never knew were there. That is your purpose. Your charge, your calling. That is what I am challenging you to do, to accomplish.

Don’t fear. I will be here – there – in all ways to guide you if you move ahead with courage, conviction and fortitude.

Lost

Nature has always been my go to for when I’m feeling lost with no direction. Or bored and aimless. It gives me someplace to go. Something to do. I have a hard time sticking to well marked trails. I want to prolong my hike, see parts of the land others haven’t seen. I’ll venture off just to the left or right or to some unmarked territory.

I like to get lost. My head empties seemingly making space for ideas and inspiration. I have so many random ideas and musings in the notes section of my phone I should compile a book. I would title it Random Thoughts Inspired By Hikes That Have Nothing To Do With Each Other. Often times, some great lesson will reveal itself to me. As if She has been trying to tell me something all along and all I needed to do was come to Her to receive the message.

I hear Her when I’m wandering around Her land. Her voice filling my head. This is what happened the other day when I got lost in Malibu. On my way into the trail, I took note of a creek. So when I lost reception and access to my trail map and came upon the creek, I figured I’d simply follow it and it would lead me back home. It was at this moment I heard Her. You go above and beyond the path laid out by others. You wind and twist and take routes unestablished. It may take you longer to get home , but just think of everything you got to see that others didn’t.

I was happy to be lost until I came to a part in the creek where I wasn’t able to pass. My only option was to go back up the hill in hopes of finding a trail again. I literally clawed my way up the mountain where I would slide back down about every tenth step. The fires had left little vegetation for anything to hold onto – including my feet. One second a burned branch would be my lifeline as I would grab it with my hands to pull myself up. The next moment it would taunt me as it’s charred pointed end would catch my shirt, insisting I stay right where I was if not fall back. What began so beautifully ended up somewhat treacherous. Eventually, I made my way up and stumbled upon a ranch with some lovely horses. I pet the horses muzzle and immediately felt relieved knowing I’d be okay. I was on private property but no one saw me as I crept through the ranch eventually finding a gate with a passable door that led to a paved road. I was exhausted and dirty and ready to follow the well established route home.

I learned so much from Mother Nature that day. She can destroy as easily as she regenerates but destruction happens so quickly and regeneration takes much more time. Things can turn on a dime. You never know what may be just around the bend. So keep walking. Keep falling. Keep showing up.

You were never lost. You were always on the path. It just didn’t look like everyone else’s. You likely got a bit dirtier, tripped and stumbled more than the others. But all of this is preparation for a sweet reward that awaits you at the end. The reward may look the same as anyone else’s, but to you it will taste so much sweeter and what you’ve gained along the way is rare. Like heaven right here on Earth. Indulge in the reward. Savor it. It is yours.

EMPTY

Sometimes I do it on purpose. Play the sad song. Because I can feel it  sitting in my throat. The big old lump that just won’t seem to budge on its own.

So I open Spotify, search for Sarah McLachlan and hit play. Usually the first song that plays is Angel. Fool proof. The tears stream and energy seems to move, albeit slowly. But the lump is not gone by the end of the song. So I find another song. Gravity by Sara Bareilles. Another good choice. The tears run.

And I let them. With every waterworks, every big old messy fucking yawn, every stretch and crack and pop of my joints – I can breathe a little easier.

These are messy moments. The salt water mixed with mascara. My shorter hair doesn’t completely pull back into a ponytail so it falls alternately in my face and then gets pushed back, wet with tears. These are not the dainty Awwww, she’s sad kind of cries. These are ugly fucking cries.

Maybe I’m just tired. I know I’m tired of trying to figure this out. Who knows. It could be some deep ancestral trauma or an ex-boyfriend or a couple times of sex that I wished was a boyfriend or the last episode of Transparent I just watched.

If I close my eyes and let it continue to flow, eventually . . . eventually, I feel empty. Empty and exhausted. And that’s a good place to start.

And now, Rocket Man.

Fitness, Food, Faith.

For years, I tried to change the outside. I believed my happiness and my joy was contingent upon what my body looked liked. I worked out like a fiend. I starved myself. When the starvation thing became unsustainable, I turned to raw food only. When raw food had my digestive system in complete distress I decide to go to holistic nutrition school in NYC.

It was one of the happiest years of my life, not because I learned exactly what to eat, but because I was living in a new city with new friends, surrounded by a community of like-minded people I loved. I was thriving. But when school was over, my friends gone, I once again found myself sad, lonely, wishing life was different. I was still working out – and working – like a fiend.

When all of the coping mechanisms I had employed in the past broke down, I turned to yoga. But unlike the yoga I had been practicing to this point, I sensed there was something beneath the down dogs and chattarungas. While many people prefer to skip the spiritual nature of the yoga tradition altogether, I was starving for it. I had exhausted all other resources to heal myself. Faith was my new fix and something that continues to grow and blossom every day.

Eventually however, I realized the answer isn’t in any of these things and it’s in all of them at the same time. Sometimes a good sweat is the answer. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes a crazy cleanse is just what you need – sometimes it’s the last thing you need. Sometimes more meditation or 200 rounds of mala beads saves you. Other times not so much. Sometimes all you need is a cocktail. Other times, it’s poison.

However, I’ve never found a situation that a good hug and belly laugh can’t cure.

It’s not that I’ve stopped practicing everything I’ve learned along the way regarding self- care – body, mind and spirit. It’s just that I’ve stopped relying on these tools to make things different. All of the trainings and teachings are leading me (notice the use of the continuous tense) to a place of radical acceptance. Can I accept myself in this moment, just as I am? Can I accept my pain, hurt, failure, flab, sadness, grief, anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity knowing everything is temporal and, at some point, it will shift? To be replaced by joy, laughter, freedom, ease, liberation, success, confidence, and a stunning ass and abs you can count. (Maybe not six, but at least one or two.)

Life is flux. Life is change. Accepting it all – not trying to heal or change anything – has been the greatest lesson of all.

I have not stopped learning altogether, either. I’m still a sucker for a good self-help book and a weekend workshop or two. But I no longer take what I learn as gospel or a fix to heal whatever is broken within me. I now take it for what it is: learning. Expanding my mind and my toolbox.

All of this is why I have never been able to create a ‘system’ or program for anything – fitness, dance, yoga, etc. As soon as an idea would come and I’d get it down on paper, I’d change my mind. I’d think of a million and one reasons people shouldn’t be doing barre or  yoga or doing a cleanse or cutting carbs completely. I’d be on to lifting weights or self-massage or nothing at all. And I’d eat whatever the hell I wanted to. I never wanted to pigeon hole myself as the ‘barre gal’ or ‘dance gal’. Like many women, I am ‘all gals’ – and how I choose to express any one gal in particular changes from day to day.

I am attempting to embrace the fact that there are no answers. So I can stop looking. I can stop trying to figure out the un-figurable. My brain, which has been in overdrive for forty some years, can take a break. Quite frankly, the way mine runs, I was sure it would have quit by now. Wishful thinking.

This is a new practice for me, this radical acceptance. I’ve been conditioned to resist relaxation because you never know what catastrophe is lurking around the corner. Doing is easy for me. Being is harder. I’m now on high alert to bring awareness to those moments when I project into the future. When I find myself resisting the letting go, I breathe. I exhale. I dip into the wellspring of wisdom I’ve accumulated over my twenty years of study in the wellness space. After all what good is the thousands of dollars I threw into my studies if they couldn’t help me when I needed them most?

I confirm that there is nothing else but this moment and, in fact, I. AM. OKAY. I turn whatever tricks I need to change the tide of the momentum of my mind. And I do it over, and over, and over, and over again. Until it becomes my new normal.

Selling Shit

I don’t want to sell you anything. I don’t have a course or a program or a product or an image or a system to sell you. Wait. Yes, I do. I have workouts and videos and tutorials you can purchase and watch. However, I don’t do much to tell you that I have these things or spread the word. In this day and age, it requires too much time to wave you down, screaming “HEY LOOK AT ME!” And I don’t have the stamina for that.

I try every now and then – to post something on Instagram or Facebook that will direct you to my shit for sale. Or to amass a big enough following so that no matter what shit I sell, you buy it. From what I understand social media marketing requires constant, carefully crafted messages and images to be successful. That means ME ME ME all the time. I can do me a lot of the time, but eventually, I lose steam. Even if I think what ME is offering is valuable.

Truth be told, I have many fabulous friends on social media, but if they are selling something, I get sick of seeing their shit, too.

So I now find myself in conundrum. I could produce more content and pump out more information, but that would require me promoting that content and trying to make you look at ME in a sea of other yoga and nutrition and wellness people. I hesitate to use the word ‘expert’ because some of the shit that people are listening to, watching and following the most, are from those under 30 years old with a 200 hour training under their belt and few years lived. I’m not saying you have to be old to have something to offer this world, but when it comes to the category of personal growth, time, trials and tribulations are a pre-requisite for significant change. Sure there are exceptions to this rule, but I don’t see many.

It’s already so LOUD out there. I hesitate to add to the noise.

I don’t really want to manage you either. Although, I’ve done that, too. Managing a team or even one person always felt like adult babysitting. Maybe I’m just lazy. I don’t really want to be responsible for anyone else. Their successes or their failures. I think everyone has to do that on his or her own. Although I’m glad there are people that do enjoy managing others and people that like being managed. Or else everyone would be running around aimlessly with no direction. Kind of like me. Makes sense because I don’t particularly care for being managed either. This knocks out a whole other category of employment for me. Quite a large one at that.

I could continue to be a teacher. I enjoy it. I even love teaching on camera. I do from time to time feel like I have something to offer. But I’m too old and frankly tired to get on top of the mountain and shout about it. I don’t enjoy what it takes these days to tell people about what I teach or to earn a living at it. I get thrown back into the social media pickle. (However, if someone would like to hire me to tell people about your amazing product, I’d be happy to do so. If it really is an amazing product.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I should be doing what, in my heart, I’ve always wanted to do. Create and share stories. I have a wicked imagination. Before any of the dramas of my own life have concluded, I’ve already schemed up twenty different endings.

I can share stories via my body with dance. I can share stories via word – both spoken and written. I can act out other people’s stories via, well, acting. I am an artist. It took me 45 years to figure this out, but here I am.

Now I just have to figure out how to not be a starving one.

Involuntary Detox

You don’t believe in Mercury Retrograde you say? Ha.

A tree knocked down a power line by our house Friday. We were the only property without electricity. Or internet. Seriously. My neighbors all had power. Every. Single. One. Of them. Just us. Because of this, as you can imagine, the power company was in no particular rush to fix one power line providing power to one house in the middle of a canyon, CA . Luckily, for all my bitching and moaning, my landlord is the guy you want around in a situation like this. The same man that refused to evacuate during the Malibu fires this past Fall. He lived on a generator for almost a week. He’s pretty handy like that.

So electricity was not a concern. At least between the hours of 7am and 11pm or so at which time he’d turn off the generator. Luckily, I don’t keep meat in the fridge nor did I have any cheese in there. All other food would survive intermittent temperature drops. And on the off chance I’d happen to be awake after 11pm and wanted to read, it would be candle city for me. Just like the old days.

That leaves the internet, which even though my phone and computer both insist I have full connectivity, doesn’t seem to work. Which means I have no connection to the outer world. If you’ve ever tried to have a phone conversation with me while I’m at home, you know what a futile attempt that is. I have no reception here on the mountain. Without WiFi, I’m no better than that guy on a deserted island with Wilson the volleyball. At least I have Zeus.

Here’s the real punch line: Frontier, our cable provider, can’t come out to fix this mess until March 14th. That’s five days from now. (And I’ve already been without for this whole weekend.) No communication. Once my car makes that last curve around the bend up to my house, I’m cut off.

No trolling Facebook because I’m bored. No scrolling Instagram for the high of seeing who hearted my most recent photo. No posting the fabulous things I’m cooking up or drinking at home. No scenic sunsets from my deck in my stories (that one’s kind of a shame) or cute cat photos of Prince Zeus (how will you live?!?!?)  What’s a gal to do?

I’m considering the rest of this week as a forced vacation. A staycation if you will. I will read (please pass along to die for book recommendations). I will write – this being the first in what may turn out to be daily blogs. Maybe without so much fucking distraction my mind will find the space to offer some clarity around what the hell I should be doing with my life.

After turning down a pretty great job last week, I’ve already experienced extreme discomfort concerning the big gaps in my calendar. I’m talking DAYS of nothing in that little square box except a friend’s birthday. So. Much. Time. I’m squirming. Without my beloved internet – shit’s about to get real as the kids say. Not to mention QUIET. No internet for me means no Netflix. And virtually no MUSIC. If you don’t hear from me in the next 48 hours, send the authorities. I may have died from a broken heart. 

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