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Sowing the Seeds Of Self Empowerment

I was having a soulful conversation with a friend the other day about all the ‘self-work’ we do. It got me thinking about how much I’ve invested – both time and money – on personal growth. Learning, evolving, healing and changing. And on the flip side, sharing and teaching what I’ve learned. It’s been countless hours, thousands of dollars, a shit ton of books, quite a bit of counseling and a whole lot of tears. Like, a LOT of tears. It literally has been my life’s work. At least since the age of 24 or so.

I’m not sure why this has been my path. It surely has not been an easy one. It helps to believe that there is divine purpose in my life and to trust that no one else could walk this particular path other than me. That I am here for a reason although I may not know what that reason is.

Despite its difficulties and some lengthy battles with darkness, I don’t regret any of it. Lucky for me, I’ve been blessed to have the guidance of some of the most gifted teachers in the world. As far as I know, all of them have stood in the utmost of integrity with their work. Their goal has always been to foster my independence. To give me tools, tips, and techniques to restore my personal power. There are a great many teachers who do the very opposite. They steal personal power, albeit likely subconsciously. Their success is predicated on your need to keep returning to them time and time and time again.

It seems my teachers over the past 20 years or so have done their job well. I feel I am very well armed. So much so that I am going to cease any more advice seeking, healing sessions, wisdom offerings, trainings and deep dives into the cosmic realm for the next 30 days starting this weekend. I have an appointment with a Vedic Astrologer as well as a new moon ceremony to attend on Friday so my moratorium on all things seeking will have to begin after those. That’s over $300 in one day in the name of spiritual growth. See what I mean?

I know I will always be a seeker. I will never be content with the way things are. I will always strive to make myself a better person in service of making the world a better place. However, if I’m honest, a lot of my journey has been propelled by the thought that there was something wrong with me. That I somehow, some way, need to heal every broken and torn and tattered part of my body, mind and soul. Essentially the premise has been that I am broken.

What if I begin with another assumption? What if I assume there is absolutely nothing wrong with me? That I don’t need to ‘fix’ anything. That I don’t need to be healed. That everything simply is. What if I could rest in trust and acceptance?

I’ve sowed so many seeds in the past 20 years. Maybe it’s time to rest a bit and allow them to blossom. Let the knowledge and wisdom I’ve been blessed to receive stew in a soup of self empowerment. Trust that I have everything I need to move forward and thrive. I think my body and my bank account will thank me. Plus, it’s only 30 days or so.

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On Being Bulletproof

There’s a first for everything. The first kiss. The first time you had sex. The first job. Your first (and hopefully last) wedding.

This week, I was fired for the first time. Likely, the last. I’m simply not cut out for the day-in-day-out of a nine to five. Wear this. Show up now. Go home then. Do that. Don’t do this. Don’t speak up. Don’t share your thoughts. Swallow it down down down like a bitter pill. I felt like a slave to someone else’s dream. Slowly, surely stifling every bit of my individuality and expression. It was a blessing. Not even in disguise. A flat out blessing.

For over two months, I’ve been working in a lab – a place that offers cutting edge technological advancements to improve your life. Whether you want to increase your physical prowess or it’s your brain you desire to upgrade, all of the equipment in Bulletproof Labs is designed to ‘biohack’ your biology. This petri dish of human improvement is the newest development in biohacking guru Dave Asprey’s cult like brand Bulletproof. I’m in awe of the genius behind the latest and greatest in performance advancements and have great respect for the mad scientists raising the bar on what it means to be healthy. But during the Bulletproof Conference a few weeks ago – a full on weekend dedicated to upgrading the human experience – it dawned on me – I don’t want to be Bulletproof.

I’ve worked my whole life building defenses, securing my fortress. I don’t need more armor. I don’t need more ways to be perfected. I don’t need more measurements – more tools to tell me how much body fat I do or don’t have or the phase angle of my cells.

What I need is more joy. I need more heart. I need more forgiveness. I need more ways to express myself. More yin for the yang in my life.

Bulletproof touts that it can make you “Superhuman”. Does the world need more superhumans? Or more human humans? Feeling humans. Caring humans. Kind humans. Forgiving humans.

The more we try to protect ourselves from the pitfalls of life, the harder the lessons will fall. It’s a futile battle. The challenges will still come. The hurt and the struggles – there is no way to become invincible against life’s pains. The danger is thinking you’re impervious to them. Your kryptonite will always find you.

Originally, I joined the team at Bulletproof in hopes of helping people connect to a deeper part of themselves. To remove the armor, shed the layers and get a glimpse of what was beneath all the muscle, tendons and bones of their human space suit. Ultimately, my purpose seemed to get lost in the attempt to gain control of my biology. In today’s Photoshopped, Instagramed, carefully curated social media culture, we attempt to shield ourselves against what it means to be imperfect, flawed humans.

I get it. In this day and age, it’s hard to feel. To be touched and moved. To be sensitive can be heartbreaking. But the more sensitive we become to each others’ pain, sorrow, disappointments, joy, and triumphs, the more we understand we are not alone in our own. I still believe the best biohack is a hug.

I enjoyed playing in the Lab, experimenting with my own body and psyche. There were some benefits that came with utilizing the technological hacks, notably the ones that have the ability to access the energy and causal bodies. (I’m now a big fan of cryotherapy, one perk of the job I will miss.)

But measuring and perfecting is my Achilles heel – it can send me into a spiral of criticism and negativity. I love the idea of Bulletproof and believe we should always be striving to evolve. (Full disclosure – I use a lot of the Bulletproof products myself! I trust they are of the highest quality.) But it’s the manner in which we do it – the message that shrouds the methodology. I know there is a place where science and spirit meet. I saw that at Bulletproof and I’m grateful to have seen the hard data that supports the path of science. Ultimately however, I find the softness of spirit feels more like home.

Is Enough Enough?

Last night I got sucked into the social media abyss of Instagram. For a half hour, maybe more (but who’s counting?) I poured over other abnormally beautiful girls’ photos who seemed to glow with fairy dust and poop golden gumdrops. Every photo seemed carefully crafted to display how amazing their life is while simultaneously assuring us that arriving to this place of effortless effervescence required diligent effort and struggle. This life of rainbows and butterflies and God damn grace. And there I sat – greasy hair pulled up in an anything but beautiful bun bouncing on the top of my head. I resembled something more of a paleolithic cartoon character than a modern have-it-all woman of Instagram. I was pissed that I couldn’t get paid for simply striking a pretty yoga pose. Annoyed that I always seemed to work my ass off for peanuts relatively speaking. I astonished over one golden girl in particular. Videos of her seamlessly transitioning from a forward fold to a pose with one one foot extended BEHIND HER FUCKING HEAD and the other extending straight out in front of her. Like one of the shapes I used to create with silly putty when I was little. It’s taken me eight years to get my head anywhere near my shins and THIS is the new standard for yoga? Fuck. I’ll never win. I realized that’s always been my mantra. I will not deny my successes or that I’ve had some incredible experiences in life. But it’s not enough. I’m not enough. I’ve always come really darn close to enough. And Lord knows, I’ve fought and worked my ass off for close to enough. But I could never quite get to enough. I always seemed to land just short of enough. Just shy of top of my class. Just short of a 4.0. A few spots below #1. A few pounds short of thin enough. A couple highlights less than blonde enough. A zero or two away from wealthy enough. I’ve hovered more in the ‘above average’ range. Better than many – not quite the best. I notice, as much work as I’ve done to be above comparison, it’s not much different. I’m still trying to prove I’m smart enough. Pretty enough. Flexible enough. Enlightened enough.
I can’t do this anymore. Who am I trying to prove myself to? My boss? My colleagues? My family? Myself? God? Sometimes, I wish I were just a total fuck up. Then the bar would be set kind of low. But it seems like someone’s always inching my bar a little higher. Just when I think I’m almost there, there she is – Ms. Golden Yogini striking a handstand on the beach in a bikini drinking green juice and smiling – nudging the bar a little higher. And me struggling and straining to fulfill my potential. To get a bit ahead. One step forward. Three steps back. I’m exhausted chasing enough, trying to keep up with her. When will enough be enough?

In Defense Of Yoga

Oops, I did it again. I’m having flashbacks to a couple of years ago when I expressed my opinion of a popular fitness ‘method’ on Twitter. It roused fiery criticism similar to what I’ve seen regarding my recent Facebook post. I commented on one of the latest trends to hit the yoga world called ButiYoga. Based on a 30 second sizzle real that depicted little more than LuLu Lemon sporting, bare midriff exposing, young, fit and Caucasian ladies gyrating and bouncing their hips I concluded that, while cute, it bared little semblance to what I have come to know as yoga over the past 17 years of practice and teaching. Cue the onslaught of criticisms and condemnations from the Buti world. In no uncertain terms, I was tagged as judgmental, insecure and hypocritical (since I myself can be seen on many DVD covers baring my midriff and ‘Sweating Sexy.’) I was told my chakras needed aligning and that I’m not yogic. While I refuse to engage in quick to fire, insidious battles on Facebook, I am happy to write non-reactive, contemplative and judicious blogs to lend my voice to thoughtful debate and meaningful discourse away from social media. This is what follows.

Please do not confuse my opinion of ButiYoga with judgment. I judge none of you for your practice or what joy, peace and freedom you find from Buti. Nor did I write any disparaging remarks about you, or ButiYoga’s creator, Bizzie Gold, personally. I expressed my beliefs merely out of a frustration with the proliferation of fad throughout both the fitness and yoga industries and the commoditization of an ancient tradition that no one can patent or brand. Bikram tried. It didn’t work. So did John Friend. His ‘system’ collapsed as it depended on a leader whose ego overshadowed the teachings. From my point of view, yoga – as it is outlined in scriptures such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhaghavad Gita – is a systematic approach to personal and spiritual freedom and fulfillment. Out of 196 Sutras, only three discuss any physical practice as a means to achieve these.

I am not saying yoga defined by spiritual texts is the only way, or even the best way for people to find fulfillment and joy in their lives. My true fear is that as we slap the word ‘yoga’ on every new system, program, regime and concept developed by someone with some insight and creativity, we lose the ancient wisdom and teachings that only can be translated and transmitted from teacher to student. As these new ‘methods’ become more and more popular, less and less seem of us to be interested in a system that needs no improvement, but does demand a lifetime of study, dedication and commitment to personal practice. Proven methodologies and tools that can only be learned from masters of a tradition – not a book or a 200-hour teacher training. Ones that were not made up on some yoga mat or dance floor, but ‘seen’ by sages and swamis dedicated to the practice of spiritual enlightenment and freedom from the confines of the material world. By no means am I suggesting we need to hide out in caves and become renunciates to progress on our spiritual path. But we can – and should – learn from the wisdom of others who selflessly commit their lives to understanding the truth of Divinity and graciously share their understanding with others. Connection to a living lineage imbues one’s practice with grace and protection. There is a reason yoga, despite the Western’s worlds attempt to minimize and morph it to a physical workout or a new age spiritual tool, has lasted for thousands of years. Yes, the teachings may be ancient, but they are also timeless. Because Truth is timeless and needs no improving. Truth trumps trend. Always.

I’m curious to see if people will be practicing ButiYoga 1,000 years from now. Hell, I would like to see if people are still practicing 20 years from now. Tradition requires the test of time to be considered valid by a majority. If Buti lives on past the life of its creator, I will happily eat my words. I’m banking I’ll still be alive to see it fizzle.

I am also of the strong belief that a 200-hour training is simply not enough to send qualified yoga instructors out into the world. I’ll be the first to say, I shouldn’t have been teaching yoga as early as I was. I had no clue what I didn’t know. We don’t let lawyers or doctors loose after a few hundred hours of training. Maybe once we view yoga as the powerful and radical life-changing tool it is and not the exercise du jour, we’ll consider bumping up the requirements.

I do not believe yoga cannot evolve. With regards to the safety of asana, I am a firm believer that yoga should take some cues from the intelligent movement and physical therapy realm to create a more stable and strong practice. Namely because yoga was not created to help the physical body thrive. Thousands of years ago, the gentleman practicing asana were not really learned in the musculoskeletal system or how to stabilize joints. It’s one of the reasons we see a proliferation of students being hurt by current yoga classes. Yoga’s power and purpose reside in creating monumental shifts in the mind. Asana can be a tool, but those who created asana were not body masters – they were mind masters.

I’d also like to speak to the professed ‘kundalini awakenings’ women are claiming to have in class. This exemplifies the simplification of the spiritual teachings and the widespread misunderstanding of kundalini shakti that makes me cringe every time I see someone selling it. Rarely does a true kundalini awakening happen from some hip swivels, banging on the pelvic floor and contraction of the anus. That’s called aggrevation. True kundalini awakening requires a systematic and methodical approach – one best provided through the guidance of a learned and wise teacher who has dedicated his or her life to the teachings and can help their student properly channel awakened energy through the pathway of the spine. (Also known as sushumna.) While I will not deny many women may have likely had a sensual, profound and overwhelming energetic experience from ButiYoga, I would argue kundalini awakening is being confused with kundalini disturbance. My teacher once said something brilliant (he says a lot of brilliant things) – It’s not that She (kundalini shakti) is asleep – She’s already awake. She’s just waiting for you to become fit enough for her to reveal herself. And he didn’t mean physically fit.

On that note, many suggested that I am not supporting women or their empowerment and the rise of the Divine Feminine. Believe me, I hear you sisters. Loud and clear. Much of the turmoil and fear that currently exists in our country, and the world, is due to a blatant disregard of the Divine Feminine and her inherent beauty and power. Preach. However, let us not refuse our male counterparts in this awakening for She is not only found in women, but in men alike. She is the force and energy that gives and sustains all life. She is pervasive and all inclusive. We are adding fuel on a raging fire if we neglect to spread this message to a male audience. If you are interested in having a deep and meaningful understanding and connection to the Divine Feminine, I would guide you to someone like Sally Kempton or Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and their work. Both have dedicated their lives to the teachings of Yoga, Tantra and the brilliance and beauty of Her.

Moving on. When I asked what students of ButiYoga are doing #offthemat, I did not mean to insinuate that the women who attend and teach this class are shallow or only concerned with the shape of their bodies or appearance. Clearly many of you are empowered and thriving young women with a strong voice positively contributing to society. I was simply asking what kind of spiritual tools you possess and utilize outside of class? Meditation? Kriyas? Pranayama? Is there a dedicated personal practice outside of the group dynamic? Again, it is easy to fall into a disagreement based on differing ideas and definitions of yoga, so I’ll end it there.

I have studied and worked in the fitness, dance and yoga communities for twenty years. I’ve personally experienced how each discipline can enhance and support each other. There are principles of yoga I apply to fitness and dance, such as the breath, and vice versa. However, they all serve different functions. Fitness keeps my physical body strong and prepared for all life throws my way – whether that be a dance class or a hike or to sit comfortably in meditation for an extended period of time. Dance is my outlet for creative – and yes, at times, sexual, expression. Free movement and dance helps me communicate in a way I often find difficult with words. And yes, at times, it certainly connects me to a Divine experience. Yoga has made me a happier, stronger and more confident woman. Yoga has given me peace and clarity. Yoga has single handily changed my perspective of the world. Yoga guides every moment of every day of my life. But my fitness is fitness and my yoga is yoga. The two have very different aims. According to the Mundaka UpanishadBrahman is the target, Atma is the arrow and Aum is the bow. In other words, the sound of the all-pervading truth of creation (also known as pranava) is the means by which the self unites with the Divine. Not moving the body.

As for Bizzie – I’ve done as you all suggested and watched some of her videos. I really like her and love her message – especially the part about cultivating a coaching or teacher-student relationship sans co-dependence. The self help world needs more of that. I resonate with much of what she advocates. As a mother, an entrepreneur and woman, I respect the hell out of her. She’s beautiful and sassy. I bet I’d like her a lot. However, and I think this is the crux of where the misunderstanding lies, her message is directed at a very different audience than mine. I’ll estimate the median age of those who commented on my feed is 32. Her website states it loud and clear – she is the voice of a Millenial generation. Out of the many labels you can slap on me, Millenial is not one of them. Bizzie speaks to a population I don’t relate to. An age group that writes paragraphs and novels on Facebook and converses in emojis and acronyms. One that is used to the immediacy of texting and constant communication. A population that relies on the interaction social media offers and uses it as a huge platform to congregate and unite. For me, it’s just not that deep. While I use social media for marketing and creating a brand and a voice, I tend not to put a lot of stock in its activity. Even my own comments. I guess that makes me officially old.

All this being said, I’d be happy to take a Buti class. Hell, I may even enjoy it and have some sort of transcendent experience. But I’m pretty sure I will still walk out of the room reluctant to call it yoga.

I feel no need to respond to all the personal criticisms hurled at me. Fire away. I’ve had my own path, and just like Bizzie has said of her life, my own struggles and demons to overcome. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and have the utmost faith and trust in my work and what I teach. We all may be a little guilty of hurling karmic arrows.

I do not apologize for my opinion, but I do apologize if anyone feels personally offended by it. I still am hopeful that after the dust has settled we can all look at each other with love and a smile and agree to disagree. Even better, I’d welcome a public discussion with Bizzie and maybe we can help our individual generations understand each other with a little more compassion.

I hope some of what I have written addresses the reason for my FB comment and appropriately responds to some of your reactions. At the end of the day, I consent with one observation on that thread – it’s all yoga. Every disagreement, every opinion – every moment of every day. If we are willing to look at each and every circumstance in our life as an opportunity to grow and find more peace, joy and contentment in our own hearts, then we are living life on the path of yoga.

Hari Om.

Rocky Mountain High

My time here in the mountains has been nothing short of epic. Six weeks, twelve hikes, live music, dancing, friends new and old, and lessons that continued to come my way. I wish I could say I have mixed feelings about leaving. I don’t. As in – I don’t want to leave. While Austin has been wonderful for the past three years, I feel like its time has come. That I’ve gotten from it what I needed.

What I’ve found in the mountains is balance. Here, amongst friends, family, and the wisdom that Mother Nature has shared, I got a glimpse of what it’s like to not live under the spell of an eating disorder or neurotic body consciousness. Let me be clear, I’m not ‘managing’ my issues or learning how to tolerate them. For the first time, I actually believe I can overcome a mental struggle that has plagued me my entire adult life. Up until recently, I’ve honestly believed positive body image and true health – both inside and out – would be a life long karma I’d have to tolerate. But here, I have a glimmer of hope that it’s a seed I can burn for good. At least get it nice and charred.

Since being here, I’m not attached to going to a gym or working out. I hike my ass off (literally) on a weekly basis yet can’t help but feel like walking amidst the trees, hearing the sounds of nature, and breathing fresh air every day does my soul more good than my body. I’m active without having to think about it and days I’m not, while sometimes my agitation or neurosis doesn’t hesitate to make itself known, for the most part, I feel like I just need the rest. Here in CO I eat fruit and drink beer with abandon. Because savoring a juicy, local CO peach in the middle of August after a 3,000 foot climb to a lake a color blue like you’ve never seen before surrounded by 14,000 feet of pure earth and sometimes snow is just right. And a beer once you descend well – there’s nothing more right than that. Especially if it’s a local draft. Yet as alluring as the mountains are, the thought of starting over in a new place, yet again, is not appealing in the least.

Not an unfamiliar feeling, what’s surfacing more than anything as I approach my final days here in CO is fear. I have no idea what’s next. I would love for this book to become a New York Times bestseller and put me on a new trajectory for the career and life I desire. But there is the reality of that not happening. And there’s also the reality of unemployment and travel for the past six months. It’s been an absolute blessing but now I’m faced with a question that, whether we are aware of it or not, we answer in every moment of our lives, with every decision we make – NOW WHAT?

Big picture, I know the answer to this question. I have dreams and goals and ideas I want to realize. Big ones, at that. I want to shape my new reality instead of being at the mercy of what my bank account or someone else in my life demands. However, what to do in the meantime? The ‘little picture’ demands things get taken care of. Things like rent, car insurance, and grocery shopping. There’s a lot of praying going on right now. For guidance, for the right opportunities, and yes, for a fat check. I want to continue moving forward and not backward and in between there is space. Space to create, space to play, and space to worry. In this space, faith gets challenged. So I do the things I can to bolster that faith as much as possible. I am forced to let go of control and continue to listen. Hard.

For now, there is a big question mark at the end of my personal sentence. I have no clue what the next months will bring. I feel like I am living an Ani DeFranco song – I’m thirty-two flavors and then some. A mixed bag of happy, sad, fearful, anxious, excited, nervous, clear, confused. I’ve stopped placing judgment on or identifying with my moods and instead, committed to simply witnessing them. And not just witnessing them – but using discernment about what they communicate to me. Often times, I’ll take a look at my P Diary app (this is an app that tells a woman where she is on her cycle) to see if my mood could simply be a function of hormones. Or I ask myself, what did I eat – or drink? Often times, if I’ve had one too many cocktails (which, for me can be one cocktail), I may feel depressed the next day. To understand that there are several factors that affect my mood means I am not at the mercy of emotion as I used to be. Once I get a sense of what’s really going on with my roller coaster ride, I can then assess what action to take to best alleviate or manage what I’m feeling. If anything. Truth be told, sometimes I’ll just turn on some weepy music, allow myself to stew in my own sadness and throw myself the proverbial pity party. Because maybe I just need a good cry gosh darnit.

In all my uncertainty, here is what I do know. I am vulnerable. I am resilient. I am empowered. Three words I never would have used to describe myself even a year ago.

Vulnerable no longer means weak or insecure or powerless to me. It means open and soft and willing to listen. Resilient no longer means powering through life, trying to make things happen the way I want them to. It means staying steady in the face of change – an unmovable force for good and an unshakeable example of faith. And empowered simply means that I, and I alone, am responsible for my thoughts, my actions, and ultimately, my life. I feel confident I will weather the storms ahead with more grace, strength, and, purpose than ever before. Sitting here, on my last day in the mountains, I am certain, I will never end this journey of self-discovery and growth

Is The Shit Show Necessary?

I’ve been here in Ridgway, CO about two weeks now. I’ve spent most of that time adjusting – to the altitude, a slower pace of life, not having every convenience at my fingertip (except for Amazon Prime – thank you Amazon Prime), and a different way of life in general. I would say I’m acclimating quite nicely.

Now that I can somewhat breath again, I’ve been spending time hiking, writing, resting, exploring, and meeting new people. One random afternoon took me past a Pilates studio in town. I stared in the window salivating at barres, mirrors, wood floors, and Reformers. Somehow, I had to get in there. I could feel my hamstrings and core getting weaker by the day and knew I needed to get myself back into some sort of routine. While I certainly feel better when I look better, it’s also important for me to keep what tend to be my weaker muscles strong so I can do all the other activities I love without low back and knee pain. Such as hiking. In case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of hiking here in Colorado.

I looked up the studio on line and not five days later I was meeting with the studio’s owner. Somehow we completely skirted over any talk of Pilates and dove right in the deep end. We shared stories of body insecurities, negative self-talk, and guilt over feeling the way we did knowing we are blessed to have the bodies we do. I immediately felt connected to this woman. At one point in the conversation she questioned whether or not everything needed to fall apart for us to evolve and create anew. My answer? Yes. Absolutely.

It’s one of the first pieces of wisdom I learned from my teacher. We only change when it becomes too painful not to. Let’s face it. Change sucks. The human condition prefers to be comfortable. To live in the stable and the known as opposed to the nebulous and unfamiliar. With a handful of exceptions, humans are, by nature, risk averse. We don’t like to take chances unless we are confident our gamble will produce a successful outcome whether it’s in business, relationship, or life choices.

There are no shortage of quotes on the challenge of living outside your comfort zone and the great reward that can result. Life begins outside your comfort zone. Your life does not get better by chance – it gets better by change. If there is no struggle there is no progress. We know this. Our intellect understands that the only way to evolve is to change. Yet, most often, we prefer to stay the same even if it produces an undesirable outcome.

Most times, if we remain stagnant despite all signs pointing to a need to shake things up, something will come along to deliver a swift ass kicking. It can be anything from an emotionally painful break-up to a life threatening accident. Or it may simply be the persistent pain of living day in and day out under the same conditions of disappointment, abuse, or general malaise. One day we wake up and just can’t tolerate it anymore. We are done.

It’s a phrase I hear more and more. I’m done. What follows it varies – I’m done feeling badly about myself. I’m done with this relationship. I’m done playing small. And in its emphatic form such as I’m SOOOOO done with this job. The pain of staying the same MUST BE greater than the pain of change. Saying we’re DONE is our proclamation to the Universe that “what is” is no longer acceptable. Things must change.

It would be great if our lives didn’t need to fall to shit in order for us to shift. Usually, however, we need to be forced to alter our way of doing things or adjusting the lens through which we view the world. The good news is, like any other skill, navigating change can be developed. And the more adept we become at managing the discomfort of change, the more likely we are to take risks and, as one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown writes, dare greatly. Make no doubt about it – risk is a learned aptitude. The more you rehearse, the better you get.

Try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all the events in your life that seem devastating. I am a firm believer that God, Spirit, Allah, Universe – whatever you want to call it or believe in – does not hand out anything beyond our capacity to endure. You know, the whole what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger philosophy. Someone, somewhere, is trying to wake you up. Pay attention and use adversity as a path to growth, wisdom, and change. The more you accept change as inevitable and the more you work your capacity to handle adversity, turmoil, and discomfort, the easier and more fruitful your life will become. Shit show and all.

20/20

Often times we only appreciate things in hindsight. When I was practicing and learning from my teachers, or meditating in the Matrimandir, or cooling off under a waterfall, or taking a walk through an empty magical forest, or lapsing up a delicious green curry, or teaching in a foreign country, I couldn’t imagine the longing I’d have for those moments weeks later. As they were happening, I couldn’t know how much I would miss them. My trip seemed to be a strange mix of longing for the past and worrying of the future. The times when I was fully immersed in what I was doing right then and there were sprinkled in like bits of candy floating through an ice cream sundae. And like a child when I uncovered those rare morsels of present moment awareness, I devoured and savored them but may not have fully appreciated them until they were gone.

Are time and comparison a requisite for appreciation? How can we possibly comprehend the meaning or depth of something without the context of time? Can we truly recognize the preciousness of a moment, a person, a kiss, a meal without comparison to another person, kiss, or meal? Is it possible to understand the beauty of a moment in the very instant it’s happening?

I don’t have the answer to that. If I did I wouldn’t keep reminding myself to enjoy the present moment. Or reminiscing about my past adventures in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a garden oasis in the middle of Luang Prubang, enjoying the most random mix of music – first Billy Joel, then Bob Marley, Sublime and oooo – is that Steve Miller Band I hear?

Anyway, as I sang the first few lines of For the Longest Time, out of nowhere a few tears slid down my face. (In those days, it could have been sweat beads. There was all sorts of liquid coming out of my pores in that heat.) I can’t say for sure, but I believe singing the song aloud conjured up the innocence of my childhood and the carefree days of living without much responsibility for my life. As I continually contemplate, what’s next? I recalled times when I didn’t have to answer that question. Even though the drama and turmoil of my teens seemed important at the time, life didn’t have the weight it does now.

That moment in Laos emphasizes the very thing I’m writing about here. I knew my final week was upon me and that soon, my journey would be considered the past. And maybe I didn’t do all I could to honor my present.

Joni sang it best – you really don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

May we not wait for time to march on to savor every person, taste, and experience that life offers us or prove to us that the moment we have now is magical. May we truly seize the day and find appreciation without comparison and gratitude without prerequisite.

It is my hope that you and I know what we have while it’s here.

One Of Those Days (It’s a Good Thing)

There have been times on this trip, for any number of reasons, when I’ve wanted to run home. To return to the comforts and stability of my life back in the States. Today was not one of them. Today, I delighted in the new and the undiscovered. Today, I wished I wasn’t leaving this town in 36 hours. As I sit here writing, I wish for more time to sit in the cafes I’m just discovering to be my favorites. More days to learn and practice muy thai. More stimulating and engaging conversations with the man I met over lunch. Today, in all its simplicity, was magic.

We all experience these days. We move effortlessly from one task, one errand, one conversation to another. There seems to be little struggle during the activities and engagements of our day. Even stoplights seem to be conspiring in our favor as we float through a series of green lights. We don’t analyze every minutiae of our day and seem to know exactly what to do next, if anything. Our every motion seems to be at the hand of some benevolent force pushing us along. We are, as the saying goes, in flow. Effortless. Easeful. And content and happy to be just where we are.

I recognize these days by the amount of time I’m pulled to my iPhone and computer. In these days my desire to connect with human beings and be completely present overpowers any desire to be tethered to an electronic device. What’s right in front of me is more engaging than what’s out there in the Never-never Land of space.

Today, lessons and simple pleasures abound. It was as if I could’ve written an entire book about the past 14 hours. I wanted to capture every lesson and observation before they escaped from the weak entrapment of my mind. It was if the world was happening around me and I was simply a witness. Needless to say, memories are fleeting and now, I can only recall a few highlights. I trust the ones I need to remember will remain in my mental databanks, and my heart, for as long as I need them.

I’m seeing a pattern in all my travels. I realized I have a bit of resistance to a new place the first day or two. While experiencing new cultures is wonderful, it means a lot of adjusting and maneuvering to attain some semblance of a routine. You know what it feels like to move to a new town? Imagine doing that every week or even every four or five days. It can be a little unsettling to say the least.

In my first 24-48 hours I usually curse my new accommodations for something not being quite right. I have anxiety about everything I should see or do or buy or taste. (Do you know how many bloody temples there are in Asia? Please.) By day two or three, I relax a bit, find my groove, learn the habits of my new microcosm and settle into contentment. I begin to unearth the hidden gems of a new town or city – it’s people, or it’s food, or it’s culture. I forgive any shortcomings and begin to notice the beauty that surrounds me, no matter what it looks like to the naked eye. And just when I’m really feeling love and appreciation grow, I’m rolling up my clothes and packing to jet off to the next destination. If I had a dollar for every I wish I had another two days here. I may not be a rich woman, but I’d certainly have a nice stash of spare change. I vow that I will try to relax into flow from the get go, but usually find myself once again, pissed off about something or other within moments of touch down in a new town. A mere 48 hours later, I am again, in love with the very place I sent into damnation for the rest of time.

One of the observations my new friend and I made was how we seem to always turn towards writing or analyzing our thoughts when times are shitty. My journal is filled with scribbles of discomfort, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. What does this mean? What lesson can I learn? How do I grow from this? Hell, all you have to do is take a look at my blogs. Many of them originate from pain or suffering. It seems we only ask why when we wish to alter our current situation.

That’s not a bad thing. I always say pain, be it physical, mental or spiritual, is there for a reason. Pain, if we have a desire to end it, can force us to look at our habits and patterns and notice where we have become complacent in our lives. Pain can move us to change, learn, and evolve. Some of us choose to stay in it because it’s what we know. As agonizing as it may be, our pain is comfortable. And it’s preferable to the misery of change.

So it’s a good thing if we observe the times we are sad, angry, anxious, and fearful. It’s healthy to spend time questioning the source of those emotions – especially if they are consistent and pervasive.

But what about chronicling our moments of delight? How often do we write about the awesome day we had? The beautiful sunset we had the privilege to witness. The heartfelt conversation we shared with a dear, far away friend. The laughter shared with a nearby, new friend. The giddy, tummy-turning possibility of new love. The smile we share with a stranger. The five-minute time out dance session in our living room or office. (Nicole Taylor, I’m thinking of you here!) Or the one-hour exhilarating sweat fest at the gym. How about finding a cafe that serves dairy free, coconut ice cream in the middle of nowhere Thailand. WITH chocolate sauce? We may drift into a blissful slumber with a smile on our face. We most certainly will make sure it’s documented on social media. But rarely do we write about it.

I think it’s high time we investigate and honor when we’re happy because honestly, more and more of us seem to be less and less so. When we experience those rare moments of simple pleasure we should understand what brought us to that place of ease and joy. Revel in radiance, for it is temporary, as all things are. Hopefully we don’t have to dig too deep to see that when we change our internal landscape, the outer world begins to look very different. This is what I try to remember before I board my flight tomorrow and when the next stamp bears down on my passport.

Oil Meltdown

Lest you think it’s all fun and games here at Somatheeram Ayurvedic Spa in India, allow me to tell today’s tale.

My day started quite lovely. After three meals consisting of little more than rice gruel, I was able to eat enough veggies last night to feel somewhat nourished this morning. I awoke before 6am, got dressed and attempted to chant along with my morning prayers. While the words are still a mosh of jumbled Hindi, I found myself humming the tune throughout the day. I’m on the right track.

I practiced some self-massage with my Yoga Tune Up balls followed by some asana. It felt good to move my body after 24 hours of having barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other.

At 7am I attended a pranayama and meditation session. I was happy to join along with some of the chanting including Gayatri, one of my faves. (Yes, I’ve become one of those yogis who randomly hums mantras throughout the day. Annoying to some, I find it rather soothing. A reminder of my connection to something greater than myself.) If they ever create a mantra greatest hits album, Gayatri should be on it. While I prefer my melodic version over the teacher’s, the meaning and soul of the mantra remained in my heart as I floated back to my room for my personal meditation.

I emerged at about 8:45am for breakfast, one of my favorite times of the day. Mostly because I get some protein in the form of egg whites. Apparently it’s only the yolks that are potentially toxic on an Ayurvedic cleanse so, much to my dismay, I’ve made the concession to eliminate them. I even decided to back off of my coffee intake taking only a small cup of the resort’s brewed coffee, which tastes like water. Up until now I’ve relied on my one-a-day Starbucks Via which is more akin to rocket fuel. And then there’s daily papaya. That just makes me happy.

After an hour or so on the computer for necessary travel arrangements, blog posts and requisite social media posts to advertise posts, I notice myself getting sucked into the irretrievable void that is the Internet. I forcefully cut myself off and bounce myself to the beach. I’m finding improved habits at every turn as I slather SPF 35 all over my body and 50 on my face! Did I mention I think I’m getting wiser with age?

I took a walk on the beach and did some strengthening exercises for my hips and booty. While I’m fine with my decreased exercise regime here in India, what I’m not okay with is a bum knee and low back. When I don’t do squats, lunges and other exercises prescribed by my physical therapist, these areas pay the price. I tired easily and feel my body not as strong as when I left. I’m okay with that, truly. But I don’t want to be in pain.

I braved the pull of the tide and cut through shallow waves to eventually swim out to somewhat calmer waters. I enjoyed a few sets of strokes back and forth, but my intuition told me it was a little too rough to swim with abandon, so I heed caution and paddle into shore… with a suit full of sand thanks to my first failed ocean entry attempt .

I followed this with a little more exercise and yoga. I’ve become quite fond of doing Pilates on my beach chair in addition to yoga and pranayama. A short meditation and chanting brought me to lunch. I’m delighted by fresh veggies and fish and am accompanied by a wonderful book by my grand teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait called The Power Of Mantra and The Mystery Of Initiation.

After digesting a bit, I read a little more and rested for my 4 o’clock treatment, pleased by my day and just tired enough to thoroughly look forward to my daily oil rubdown and whatever else was in store for me. The “whatever else” abruptly put an end to my sweet, idyllic day.

The treatment started dreamy as not one, but two, therapists massaged me with what else? A liberal dose of oil. Unfortunately that was the last bit of bliss to be found in the next two hours. My main therapist, Sulu, who I’ve come to adore, directed me to sit up on the wood table as both women continuously poured hot thick oil all over my body. They repeated this process for what seemed like forever – on my back, on both sides. I sloshed around in large pools of oil. When Sulu would abruptly tell me to flip over, I would slip and slide like a fish flopping when pulled from its natural habitat. Keep in mind it is 95* outside so while I may have welcomed the treatment on a wintry day in NYC, in this heat and humidity, it felt suffocating.

The room felt so stifling I had to sit outside. The barely existent breeze dropped the temperature by a degree. I found little relief. Next thing I knew there was a large metal instrument against my ear blowing “medicated” smoke. Apparently to clean out my ear canal. Not convinced of this method. It seemed toxic to me, but I trust these Ayurvedic peeps know what they’re doing. The procedure itself was relatively harmless, however I was silently suffering from heat exhaustion.

Just when I thought it was safe to breathe, I was thrown back on the table for a traditional Shirodhara treatment. I usually love some hot oil poured over my forehead for 30 minutes but after the events of the past 40 minutes, I was certain I would spontaneously combust.

The remaining treatments ensured every other orifice in my body other than my mouth (we covered that one the other night) had something put in it. Yes, EVERY orifice. Except the one that men don’t have. But I hear there is a treatment for that too. It was a little unsettling to say the least.

I slid back to my room feeling woozy and slightly traumatized. Despite several attempts with different shampoos, I’m pretty sure I’ll never get all of this oil out of my hair. (Jamie Boone, you’ll have your work cut out for you when I return to Los Angeles!) I spent a restless night sweating and woke at 3am to take a cool-ish shower. I greeted the morning weary and dehydrated.

I suppose this takes some getting used to. I forget that I am purifying my body of toxins – physical, mental and emotional – on a deep level and that’s no joyride. I also had the thought that the rough ending to my day was possibly payback for my flat tummy pride from the previous post. Karma certainly can be a bitch. Rest assured, I had no ego left this morning.

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