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The “S” Word

 

“Nobody speaks to God these days. Nobody speaks to God these days. I’d like to think he’s looking down and laughing at our ways. Nobody speaks to God these days.”

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

 

“ . . . not to get all spiritual on you or anything . . .” I find myself using this disclaimer in many of my day to day conversations. And lately I’m asking myself why? Why am I afraid to elevate a conversation from commonplace to thought provoking? Am I afraid people won’t understand what I am saying? Or am I afraid I’ll lose friends as they’ll start to find me ‘too much’? Or am I simply afraid people will find me strange and run the other direction every time they see me coming? I’ll be that girl.

Maybe I’m afraid I’ll offend someone. Although, I don’t see how tinting discussions with a dose of spirituality can be more offensive than guns.

Frankly, I think this world could use a little more spirituality. A little more reverence for the beauty that surrounds us everywhere, every day. A dash of humility in the face of the grand force that created the Universe, the reason why we are here. A good old slice of humble pie as we say. The acknowledgement that our small ego mind is no match for the great mind of the creator. Call that force of creation whatever the heck you want. God, Allah, Buddha, Source, Shiva, Shakti. Use whatever pronoun you want – He, She, It. But make no mistake, you and I are really not in control. No matter how much we’d like to think we are. So, just a little bit, give it up. Let it go. Stop thinking you know what’s best for everyone, including yourself.

Maybe, if we invited a little more spirit into our daily conversations we could listen to each other no matter our race, religion, sexual preference or gender, with a little more tolerance, knowing at the end of the day we are all intimately connected and inexorably linked to one divine source. That despite our differences, deep down, we truly are the same. Maybe, if we invited spirit into all of our conversations, whether silently or outright, we could all find a little more kindness.

Truly, I see no other way. I can’t imagine we’re going to get out of the mess we’re in – politically, socially, environmentally – if we don’t bring a little more spirit into our daily lives. The only true and lasting solution I see to the hatred, the catastrophes and the fear of this world is spirituality and its close-knit cousin, an equally dirty word – the “F” word – FAITH.

Please don’t confuse spirit with religion. I don’t preach and I don’t ask anyone to convert to my way of prayer or that they pray at all. Speaking from a place of spirit is simply a recognition that with whomever I am speaking, as a child of God (again, replace that word with whatever you wish), is special, as I am special. And at the same time, because we are all God’s children, none of us is. Having more money than someone else doesn’t make you special, nor does your job or your position or stature in society, and certainly not your Instagram account.

Nor am I saying every conversation should be candy coated with the speech of rainbows, unicorns, crystals and chakras. Carrying a consciousness of spirituality as we move through daily life simply means that as we interact and converse with others, as well as ourselves, we are aware of a presence of love in our own hearts and others, no matter how different we may think and live.

I don’t care how you practice your faith. All I can ask, that I can pray for, is that we all find a deep source of love and wisdom to connect to. A knowing that beneath our skin, bones, muscles and tendons, there is a part of us that lives untainted by sorrow, hurt, and fear. That despite the errors and abuses our egos perpetrate, we are loved. When you come know that part of you and take time to connect to it every day, there is no need to defend yourself – with words or with guns.

I suppose that is why more and more, I will not shy away from inviting spirit into my everyday life. My spiritual practice is the very thing that helps me open up and listen more, despite the easy rush to judge and criticize. And it is the only thing in this mad, crazy world that helps me continue to find joy, peace and a reason for being here.

 

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I Didn’t Love the Food In Paris.

This may come to a shock to most people, but I did not love the food in Paris. I know it would seem appalling to not indulge in the copious amounts of cheese and bread that have made French fare so famous. To the extent that I could, I did. But damn, I missed vegetables. I tried to eat at all the places recommended to me by friends and those who have wisely tread the Parisian path before me in search of the best falafel, gelato, and avocado toast – but the amount of carbs were overwhelming. Even the healthy recommendations (Fragments and Wild and the Moon) while lovely, were laden with carbs. Croissants, banana bread and baguettes made their way into most every meal. Most of Paris’s health options involved a lot of grains and beans, which do me no favors either. I thought I found salvation at a restaurant in the Gare duNord on my way back to London where I saw ‘seasonal roasted vegetables’ on the menu. I had high hopes for some artichokes (these seem to be a popular vegetable in Paris), maybe some carrots and onions and green beans or broccoli. Imagine my disappointment when I received white potatoes, a few carrots, of course, artichokes, and white beans steamed hidden beneath a rich butter sauce. My heart sank. My belly ached. I desperately craved a big ass salad.

I did have my very first macron (salted caramel for the record) and while it was pretty divine, my life would be complete without having another. The croissants I had for breakfast each day, 3 in total, and an additional piece of bread at dinner each day was enough to put me in a coma. I slept more than I have in weeks in Paris. At least eight hours a night – maybe nine.

Maybe this is because, for the most part, I’ve been off sugar and carbs since six weeks prior to my trip and I’ve felt quite amazing. My energy didn’t slump late afternoon as it used to and the consistent belly bloat I used to experience disappeared. After my week in Europe, the bloat was back. With a vengeance. It’s weird but for once, I didn’t care so much about food. I just cared about feeling good.

I gave myself ‘permission’ to eat whatever I wanted in Paris. By the second day all I wanted was some steamed broccoli and avocado and olive oil. I met a lovely man – an Italian jewelry designer – who was in town for fashion week and from whom I bought the most beautiful ring. We agreed Italian food would be much more agreeable for me. We very well may be the only two in the city or in the world who don’t love to eat in Paris.

What I do love in Paris is everything else. I love the lights. The sounds. The smells. The sights. The architecture. The Seine. The people. The sky. The beauty. Everywhere. Beauty. I love walking in Paris. I love the pace of Paris. I love the energy. I love the way Paris seems to enjoy life. The food was last on my list when it came to the most delectable gifts of this city. It is hard to encapsulate in words what Paris is. She is there in Her most resplendent way. Shiny. Bright. Joyful.

I don’t know why people say Parisians are rude. Maybe it is because the people with those opinions are assholes who expect everyone else to speak their language. I try to visit other cultures with as much reverence as possible, understanding I am the visitor. I don’t expect people to speak English and feel humbled and grateful they do and are willing to assist. And the Parisians were always willing to help when I lost my way or didn’t know North from South from East from West – which was often.

Traveling solo, per usual, I met the most interesting people I may not have otherwise, namely a couple of Americans. One, a best selling novelist who has written a book based on her love affair with Paris and Peter Jenning’s ex-wife, a truly fascinating woman. Another, a man from Brentwood, twenty minutes from my home in Los Angeles. It was nice to connect with people who understood my language implicitly. Mostly we discussed what a mess America seems to be in right now and how pleased we were not to be there.

As liberating as it may be to travel solo, I’ve been there done that. By day two in Paris, I was wishing I had someone to share those croissants and rose in the middle of the day with. As I wandered the cobblestone streets of the Marais grateful for my latest adventure, I felt the familiar tinge of loneliness. I walked it away, traveling 11 miles by foot to take in all the sights and sounds of the city of light, convincing myself it was better to have the freedom to go where I pleased without the consult of another. But I couldn’t walk away the thoughts of what it would be like to take in the gifts of this city with someone special.

While I was glad to be distanced from the political debacles of the States, I missed home. I missed Zeus and his early morning kisses and snuggles. I missed routine. I missed sweet potatoes and soft boiled eggs and avocado for breakfast. I missed spinach and broccoli. For the first time in the longest time – maybe ever – I feel content and settled where I am. I love my life. Not anymore for the many exciting adventures I am fortunate enough to take – but for the beauty in its daily messy and mundane.

(WO) Man

After a morning meditation the other day I was inspired by the idea of a woman’s circle. As I often do around new ideas, I created a mind map (see photo) to get a sense of what its purpose would be and what it might look like. Instinctually I wrote down the word ‘woman’ as (WO) Man. This said a lot to me about the very nature of what it means to be a woman.

Essentially, as a human race, we are all man. The Shiva energy or the supreme consciousness resides in all of us. But check out the difference between woman and man. Two letters. WO. Immediately I thought WOMB. The thing that makes women unique is literally our reproductive organs. I know some of you are reading this and saying ‘duh.’ But think about it. Your vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries – all of the pieces and parts and energies that involve a female reproductive system – are just that. An intricate miraculous system that reproduces. A container that houses all the forces of creation. Holy shit.

This is our Shakti energy and women, this is the true source of our power. Our ability to create. Our ability to nurture. Our ability to give birth. Whether to another human being (I’m always blown away by that quite frankly), an idea or a movement. Our power does not come from shaming others – male or female. Our power does not come from executing a witch hunt or crucifying perpetrators. Our power comes from our ability to heal – ourselves and others – in the kindest most loving way possible. Which, by the way, may include a bitch slap every now and then if the nice approach doesn’t work. In fighting for our right to feel safe and free, let’s not lose what makes us so powerful. Our softness. Our nectar – the very source of our divinity.

My next question was Can men be included in this process? Yes. Should men be included in this process? Absofuckinglutely. They NEED to be included. But unfortunately, we’ve created a culture such that when either a man or a woman wants to explore, heal, and/or share their sacred feminine, they feel unsafe. Because that which has made women absolutely beautiful and unique and sexy and oh so powerful has been objectified. The very essence of our divinity has been scrutinized, disregarded and disrespected. We have all contributed. Men and women. We have allowed it. We have participated in its growth and dominance. We all must take responsibility for our part and we all must do our own work to heal it. Women cannot simply point our well-manicured fingers at men and vilify them.

Until we re-create a culture where it is safe for all of us to fully express and celebrate Her, it is necessary in some instances to hold separate containers for the work that all of us need to do. Thus, for now, my offerings will be limited to females so that they feel safe to be naked, vulnerable, and soft. I wish we could all dance with Her in the same room. To proudly express to the world all incarnations of Her and join and unite with Him in unabashed joy and pride. We are not there yet. But it is my prayer and hope that one day, sooner than later, we will be.

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.

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?

Old Friends

There’s something about connecting with old friends with whom you share common history – like high school, or college – no matter how close you were or weren’t at the time. There is a familiar backdrop or shared experience that others who weren’t a part of will be hard pressed to relate.

Recently, I’ve had the good fortune to spend some time with girlfriends from both high school and college. As I’ve processed some traumatic events of my past over the last month, these connections and friendships have supported me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

These women knew me before I even knew what yoga was. Before the challenges of adulthood and the big decisions that have shaped who I am since the day I turned 22. Before the turmoil of depression and the highs and lows of my career. They may not know every detail of the past 20 plus years, and somehow it hasn’t mattered. There is an openness that has been automatic. A vulnerability that is easy with women you don’t have to explain yourself to. Those who know exactly what it was like to fumble through life against the same backdrop you did.

While I love my ‘new’ friends, no one will ever quite understand what it was like to grow up in Clarks Summit, PA like my three best friends from high school. We spent an entire weekend in NYC, reminiscing about inappropriate songs we sang (if you don’t know it, Google Rodeo Song and you’ll see exactly what I mean) and boys and getting caught sneaking out of the house. But we spent more time sharing our feelings about our parents getting older, our individual losses – some bigger than others – and what has broken, and mended, our hearts. We also discussed buying a big piece of land somewhere while two of them finish raising their kids and the other two of us sans children tend to things such as gardening, composting, cooking and teaching yoga. Somehow, the 25 years since graduation has changed us, but in other ways – the ones that count – not so much.

No one who hasn’t gone to the small liberal arts University in the middle of nowhere Virginia will ever understand what it was like for a woman at an institution that upheld male superiority and preference at all costs. The damage that was done. How much emotional and somatic trauma that was incurred. How utterly fucked up it was. My friend and I tried to describe it in a way that wasn’t so primitive. Neither of us could. Odd for an institution that prides itself on high education, tradition and exceptional moral values.

I hadn’t seen my friend from college in over 20 years, yet somehow I was completely comfortable sharing some of my darkest secrets with her. There was no hesitation. I knew she would understand. I knew I wouldn’t have to explain things that I couldn’t quite put in words. I knew she would empathize. She did. With one conversation, I was relieved of a heavy burden of the past.

Yes, I truly love the friends I’ve made since I’ve committed to walking a spiritual path. We share a common language. It’s easy to talk about how hard it is to pursue a conscious and awake life. But the cool thing is, my friends from way back when support and love me, unconditionally, even if they don’t understand the language I speak. Turns out, they’re on their own quest of evolvement and growth even if the dialect is different. Turns out – we’re all spirits just doing the best we can being as humans.

To those of you (you know who you are and just in case you don’t I’ve tagged you on social media) who have supported and loved me as I heal from some life changing events, this one’s for you:

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.

A circle is round,
it has no end.
That’s how long,
I will be your friend.

A fire burns bright,
it warms the heart.
We’ve been friends,
from the very start.

You have one hand,
I have the other.
Put them together,
We have each other.

Silver is precious,
Gold is too.
I am precious,
and so are you.

You help me,
and I’ll help you
and together
we will see it through.

The sky is blue
The Earth is green
I can help
to keep it clean

Across the land
Across the sea
Friends forever
We will always be

I am forever grateful for you.

Thoughts On Love.

What is love? Love is an action not a thing to be had, owned or possessed. It certainly can be given but must also be received. (One of my greatest challenges.) You can’t need love because you are it. As Rumi says “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Love never says Yes, but . . . only And, also. It is all inclusive and yes, blind in that it is indiscriminate. It is available to everyone who would like to participate. Anyone can be a participant in love. Love is timeless, ageless.

More and more I am learning it requires my active engagement and not just idle daydreaming. It requires a choice to act in a way that express it in every moment regardless of circumstance.

Thank you to my teachers who continue to usher me along this path of love. I know I can be stubborn and very often forget the truths which you so graciously share. But I do understand and I am learning to play in a new sandbox. I don’t know all the rules (are there any in love?) or playmates, but I hope and trust, as I continue my practice of deep unconditional love, I’ll find more playmates to build castles with me in the same sandbox. And my sandbox will be open to anyone who wants to join.

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