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Banished From Facebook Live

If I’m completely honest, I’m relieved that Facebook blocked me from my live 4:30pm Self Reflection Sunday chat today. Up until 4:27pm, I was prepping dinner, cutting vegetables thinking to myself What the hell am I going to say? I didn’t want to ignore the pink elephant in the room – my recent piece on depression and suicide that I posted yesterday. Some of you may have read it, others maybe not. Regardless, I felt a responsibility to talk about it and quite frankly, I didn’t want to. I didn’t know where the self reflection topic came in. Should we self reflect about depression? That seemed morbid. Self reflect on vulnerability? Brene Brown has cornered that market and done it so, SO well I’d only be regurgitating her wisdom. I’m done reflecting for the time being. I spent days, weeks, months reflecting and I’m tired. I just wanted to BE for a while.

Yet, I took a deep breath and bucked up, grabbed myself a diet cream soda (my version of a glass of wine), put on some pink hued lip balm and sat down, figuring something would come to me. Maybe I’d discuss my not wanting to discuss and that would be okay. Lo and behold, access denied. Relief granted.

Here’s the thing. Clearly, I don’t have a problem being on camera. I enjoy it and seem to be good enough at it. But when it comes to the very personal, vulnerable details of my life, I draw a line where the pen hits the paper. I feel called to use personal story to inspire others and hopefully ignite them to make positive changes for themselves. I love to write. I know that because I can sit here all night, forget to eat and write, write and write. Words pour through my fingertips on to the page whether I’m typing or writing longhand. While it’s not without its challenges, much of the time, writing is effortless for me.

Effortless would not be the word I use to describe my Facebook Live segments. I’ve struggled over what to say, what the right words are. What people might want to hear. I feel somewhat uneasy talking about more serious topics on camera. I did it because someone I respect suggested it, convincing me it’s a great tool to build my audience and I know he’s right. I know video is the way to go to market yourself or your product on social media. And it got me out of my comfort zone. By the third or fourth video, I wasn’t so stressed about it and I did begin to feel more at ease. I’m glad I tried it and grateful for my friend’s direction.

But here’s the thing. I like to write. Not bullet lists, not top ten stories, not how to succeed at something in so many easy steps. No, I get off on detailed, insightful and sometimes lengthy stories and musings. I love the written word. I realize this will not make me the most popular person on Facebook. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. While I may utilize live video if compelled to do so, from here on out, I’ll be divulging whatever wisdom and truth bombs I have via script. It’s my thing. So if you like to read, I’m your gal. (Or maybe listen – I’m strongly considering launching my book via audio files.)

But I understand if it’s not. No hard feelings. It’s why they make chocolate and vanilla ice cream. (Personally, I’m a vanilla ice cream with hot fudge girl. See? Never easy with me.) We all communicate and learn differently. And that’s a beautiful thing.

By the way,  I’m still not sure what the self – reflection question is. How about we self reflect on why we need to self reflect? Or maybe we just give it a break.

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Dying To Live

Sitting on the cold, hard, sterile floor, back against the wall of the psychiatric emergency room of Brackenridge Hospital in downtown Austin, I had only one question. How did I get here? I mean, I know how I physically arrived despite being half comatose from a few too many sleeping pills. From what I can remember, paramedics bust into my apartment completely uninvited, entered my bedroom, shook me awake and demanded I answer a few questions. Apparently they didn’t like my answers. From what I can recall, I was lifted from my bed, placed in a wheelchair, awkwardly carried down the stairs of my apartment and transported into a medical vehicle. The next thing I remember, I was in a hospital bed. I should’ve known better to be more specific when I asked the Universe for a man to carry me out of bed in my camisole. Note to self – I would like to be fully conscious when a man sweeps me in his arms and leads me out of, or into, my bed.

They had no right to barge in. No right to dictate I live. It was my life. I should be allowed to decide whether or not it continued. I was pissed. I was hurt. I was sad. And I was still slightly drugged. How had it gotten this far?

Before I could answer that question, I realized I had a more pressing concern. How the hell was I going to get out of this antiseptic, dispassionate, sterile room with fluorescent lights and cold air blowing above me? In my version of hell there are no burning flames and hot searing pitchforks. In my version of hell, I am sitting on a block of ice, naked, forced to drink ice water. I hate the cold. And I most definitely am not a fan of bad lighting. I felt like screaming. I felt like I was, indeed, crazy. At the same time I knew I didn’t belong there.

Truth was, all I wanted was a hug, a warm safe space and someone to tell me I was okay. In one of my most vulnerable moments, I wanted to be assured that my brokenness only meant I was human.

Unfortunately, the psych ward of a hospital is not the place you go for warm and fuzzy or compassion. To those nurses and psychiatric evaluators I was a box to be checked – something to be figured out, a monkey in a cage to be ogled and studied.

So I did what I’ve been doing my whole life – I lied. Have you thought about harming yourself before? No. Do you feel like you want to harm yourself now? No. They danced around the word suicide like a stripper around a pole. There is nothing I despise worse than bullshit and they were full of it.

With the help of a friend who assured them I would spend the night at his home, I convinced those doctors I was not an immediate danger to myself or others and they sent me on my way with an inappropriate dosage of Prozac, unguided as a rudderless ship. I wasn’t so convinced myself, but there was no way I was spending another moment in that joint. It took me about a week to regain any enthusiasm for life or desire to understand what had happened. Once I did, there was no doubt in my mind that this was my proverbial wake up call. I could no longer lie to myself. Despite my best efforts I could no longer ignore depression or continue to ride its turbulent wave. It was difficult to acknowledge that I suffered from depression, especially when many times I couldn’t quite pinpoint why it appeared. I never wanted to use ‘depressed’ as an identifying characteristic like female, or blonde or green eyes. These are obvious traits. Depression is often anything but obvious and not something I was keen to add to my CV. Admitting I was ‘depressed’ made me feel like a victim. I seemed to be able to find solutions to every challenge in my life. Why not this? Yet if I couldn’t call it out or name it, how in the hell would I understand it, much less heal it?

Besides, who was I to bitch and moan? By all outward appearances and societal standards, I lived a successful, happy life. And to a large extent, this was true. My adult years have been full of adventure, traveling when I pleased, seeing places that most only dream of. I’ve toured temples and shrines in India, hiked the highest peaks in Colorado and swam in the seas hugging Africa and Bali. I built a name for myself in the fitness and yoga industries and have appeared on DVDs covers  and in some of the most popular health and wellness magazines. I seemed to have my shit together. I smiled in all my pictures. By all accounts, my life resembled a greatest hits album on Facebook. Thus, I dismissed years of underlying malaise, rationalizing that I simply tolerated and fought through more sadness than the average person. Or that I was sensitive – more susceptible to emotion – mine and other’s.  It seemed even in my happiest moments, depression was always there, lurking just beneath the surface, ready to rear its ugly head and make a mockery of my picture perfect life.

In my earlier years, my demons arose from the conflict between my outer and inner worlds. Despite my successes, I longed to know a world beyond what I could see and measure with my eyes; and one in which my happiness was not predicated on the size of my bank account or my waist. I wrestled between the life I thought I should have and the one I so desperately wanted for the longest time, and there was no resolution. I simply vacillated between the two, doing my best to navigate the murky waters of both, praying for a map to guide me in the right direction.

My prayers were answered when I found my teacher in the Fall of 2011. It seemed I would find exactly what I was seeking under his direction studying yoga, Tantra and meditation. I was a diligent student for the next five years. I attended every training and workshop. I learned techniques that helped me fulfill my deepest spiritual longings while simultaneously teaching me how to navigate the everyday challenges of the material world. I committed myself to yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry practices. I wrote in my journals non-stop. I actually became a seeker of darkness, looking for it in the hidden nooks and crannies of my consciousness so that I could understand it and extricate it from my life. Despite the ebbs and flows of life, I began to feel more stable, more confident. I began to recognize how my habitual thoughts of fear and negativity created a life of discontent and I was committed to changing them. I also began to develop and nurture deep meaningful friendships that would support me in my times of sorrow. All of these things helped me take ownership of my life. I no longer felt like a slave to my emotions and sensed I was moving in a positive direction.

Yet toward the end of 2015, I began to feel a large swell of discontent. My job as the Wellness Director of a resort and spa in Austin, TX was unfulfilling and I was living in a city where I never did quite find my groove. In February of 2016, I quit my job and boarded a one-way flight to India for a sadhana immersion with my teachers, unsure where exactly I would go after that or when I would return. I had no idea what was next and, like anyone with a pulse, I felt fear over leaping into the unknown. But I did know without a shadow of a doubt that I was making the right decision. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I was running away from something, but running towards something.

During my travels throughout Asia, I learned more about myself with every stamp of my passport. I began to get clearer on what I wanted, the woman I wanted to be, and the life I envisioned for myself. I knew I had to write the book that had been brewing inside of me for years. After I returned to the States, I retreated to the mountains of Colorado to do just that. My summer was filled with meaningful work, time in nature, fresh food and visits with family. I was finding balance. I was content and at peace. And I almost convinced myself I had seen the last of sadness sans reason. I felt joy – a deep internal joy that was present regardless of what I did for a living, what I looked like, or whether or not I would ever press into handstand in the middle of the room.

Despite all of my strides forward, depression had been patiently waiting in the wings, ready to make its grand entry and take down the house. One evening I was exhausted from one too many hikes and quite possibly, a lack of adequate oxygen. I had gone for a particularly long stretch staring into a computer screen, isolated from much contact with the outside world. My defenses were down and feelings of anxiety and restlessness began to overshadow the peace I had found in the mountains. I was blowing through much of my savings and worries about what I would do for work and how I would support myself became overwhelming. I feared the risk of switching careers and expressing my truth. All the courage and confidence I seemed to have cultivated during my solo travels disappeared in an instant. It felt safer to crawl back into the shadows then make any attempt to forge ahead into the light….

To read the rest of the essay, please visit YogaPoetica.

I Have Questions

I recently reached out to one of my teachers about a session I had completed with him a couple of weeks prior. I explained that while I was still bathing in the afterglow of the healing time together, I continued to feel unclear about a few things.  He said the very best answers are the ones that bring us to better questions. Yup, I had questions. I always have questions. I always want to know more. I’m like the four year old. Why is the sky blue? Why does the ball bounce? How does the car start? How did I get here? What is that all about? What does it mean? Where is it going? And of course, the biggest one of all Why am I here?
I suppose it’s good to be a curious soul. But there are times when I wish I weren’t so, well, inquisitive. Honestly, it often makes it difficult to simply sit back and enjoy the fucking ride.
I know all of my questioning is prompting me in a very particular direction. I know my curiosity propels me to my dharma – or role I play in the world order – something I wouldn’t be able to uncover without asking some very tough questions.
I do wish however, that more often, I could lay down and let shit go. That’s what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. Trust. Faith. As simple as those concepts sound, they are challenging ideals to develop. At least for me. I grew up in an environment that for all intents and purposes, was very black and white. There is right and there is wrong. There is work and there is play. And ne’er the two shall intertwine. We live in a society that increasingly needs an explanation or proof in order to make things so. Trust? There are so many reasons not to. Sit back and wait for things to happen? Not an option. GO GET IT. Do, Do, DO.
I see the inherent beauty of my life. I FEEL it. I have a clear picture of what’s on its way. But to trust it’s coming? And believe in what I’ve ‘seen’ yet not be able to explain it? Or know exactly the next step I need to take to get there and trust She will show me the way? Well, that’s a tough one. As is patience. So here I sit, writing. Waiting for what’s to come.

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.

Now What?

For the most part, I’ve been quite silent, not only on social media, but also in conversations, regarding our political and cultural climate over the past six months. These days, it seems anything you say leaves you vulnerable to a slew of attacks and judgment from either or both sides. You’re either praised by those who agree with you or condemned by those who don’t. It’s a cantankerous environment and I refuse to add any energy to the vitriol and persistent back and forth. I am doing my best to stand firmly in my truth and power the best way I know how. Thus, I’ve limited my conversations to a very select few about the landscape in which our country, and the world, currently finds itself.

But I’m struggling. Not with what our new president is or isn’t doing or the appointments he’s making or the policies he’s shifting with a mere movement of the pen. For the most part, as atrocious as some of it may be, he seems to be acting out of free will and there’s little I can do to immediately affect those decisions. What I’m struggling with is my part in our current situation. Both the problem and the solution.

I am trying to take the most enlightened approach I possibly can and find what course of action feels right for me. This meant not gathering and protesting because everyone else did. For some reason, I did not feel called to march last weekend. This is not to say I’m above standing with my fellow sisters (and brothers) or participating in other activist endeavors. Nor do I disagree with what they stand for. I applaud the intention and the will to make it happen. I’m processing injustice and possible devastation to our rights and freedoms in my own time. But do not mistake my silence for acceptance. What felt right for me was to join a satsang and kirtan session to chant and pray.

I can feel disapproval already. That’s nice Jennifer. You sit and pray for things to shift while others are taking a stand and making their voice heard to activate the tides of change. But for me, praying is not passive resignation to what is. I don’t pray aimlessly hoping it will have some effect on the world. I know, and science proves, that when I shift my vibration, especially in a group of people that are doing the same, with a collective intention, we move the needle in a significant way. Cultivating change in this way felt much less reactionary. No matter how just and right you think your acts are, if they are born of anger and hatred for another human being or idea, that contempt, whether transparent or underlying, is felt and will only add fuel to an already blazing fire.

When Marianne Williamson quoted the Dalai Lama in her recent A Course In Miracles talk, every fiber of my being resonated with her words. “In order to change the world we must have a plan. But no plan will work unless we meditate.” As she later said it is not an either/or proposition. For real change it must be an and/also scenario. After listening to her inspiring and moving talk, my nightly bath was fraught with questions and contemplation.

How do I want to show up in all of this? What does my work look like as a result?

Much like our nation, I myself am going through a big transition. I’ve moved back to Los Angeles without full time work and my savings are dwindling. While I’ve contemplated and even taken preliminary steps to just “find a job,” at the end of the day, I am never very motivated by simply making money. Now more than ever, I feel like every job I consider, every word out of my mouth needs to be examined. Over and over again – What is my part?

And thus, in the tub, I arrived at my current struggle. Is my playlist for a new class really that important? Or the size of my ass? Or yours for that matter? Can I really get up and pretend that a 45 minute cardio session for people that are fortunate enough to be able to shell out up to $40 for a boutique studio class is really imperative to the betterment of our community? Or conversely, pretend that yoga is simply another means for physical enhancement and flexibility when the main reason I practice is to find communion with the deepest and truest part of myself and a universal consciousness? Again and again – HOW DO I SHOW UP in a time that is most crucial? Not just for a protest or a kirtan or a special event – but every damn day?

Can I still do what I’m doing and just shift my perspective? Like Ghandi said, can I simply be the change? Change the conversation. And make every interaction an act of peace and justice by treating others with the respect and kindness that we all deserve? Even, as impossible as it may seem, our President and those he has appointed to support him?

Can the fitness class become the realm for spiritual work and can my mat become a place where I play? Is this even a time for play? Over the weekend of the inauguration and march, I felt guilty for feeling happy and light and free. Is that wrong? Or is my lightness and joy something that is needed? Is it okay to provide a distraction for a while with some kickin’ tunes and a jab – hook combo to a punching bag? What kind of classes are really important right now? I don’t know the answers and as the week went on, my light mood of the weekend turned more melancholy and heavy. Like I said, I’m struggling.

We are all being challenged right now in some way. To grow. To learn. To shift. To expand our capacity for tolerance, love, and spaciousness. For many of us, this is unchartered territory. If we haven’t already, we will all make missteps and likely say and do things we know aren’t helpful or kind. The biggest mistake, however, is simply to point a finger and ignore the deep personal work we are all being called to do. Now more than ever, all of us – not just the yogi and the philosopher and the thought leader – need to be spiritual beings. For true change and resurrection to occur, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: We must have a quantitative shift in our circumstances as well as a qualitative shift in our souls. How well are we doing both?

 

2016 – Another Refelection

2017. Almost here. 2016 was pretty fucking good. Until it wasn’t. It was a juxtaposition of emotions, events and experiences. The highest of highs and the lowest lows. It was mobile, almost turbulent at times. It was learning and huge growth and expansion, cultivating understanding and compassion for myself. For others. Culminating in a freedom unlike any I have ever known. I got my ass handed to me on more than one occasion. Yet I also had grace and beauty placed at my feet and in my heart. Many times. And while music lost some of my greatest idols – those who provided soundtracks for my life – I simultaneously grieved the many versions of me that died. Pieces or all of: the Victim, the Damsel In Distress, the Princess, the Achiever, the People Pleaser, the Teacher, the Little Girl, the Wounded Woman, the Seeker, the Warrior, the Fighter. All fell away to make room for who I truly am. And created space for new roles, goals and purpose. In places that once were so crowded and bound with anger, shame, fear and need I now feel space. In my body. In my mind. And in my heart. I have been relieved of a heavy heavy weight and i am ready to soar effortlessly into 2017.

2016 – A Reflection

There is so much I could say about 2016. Yet when I try to encapsulate my adventures of the past year into words, I fail. The closest I’ve come to describing my sentiments is “Whoa.” Since February, I have not slept in the same bed for more than three weeks and sadly, not for reasons some people traditionally use beds. I’ve prayed and meditated in India, surfed in Sri Lanka, hiked amazing mountains in Colorado, and made connections all over the world with friends old and new. I completed a good portion of my book yet also come to find that as poignant and insightful as my tale may be, without the clout of millions of followers on social media, it likely will not get published and reach those I so hoped it would. Unfortunate for me as right now, the last thing I want to do is play this social media game. It’s been weeks since I’ve been active on Facebook and I can’t say that I miss it. Ironically, however, I’m sure I’ll make a post or two about this blog. Otherwise, how else will anyone know I even wrote it?
This year has forced me to question who I am and who I want to be. Likely, given the current events of the past month, I am not the only one. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt the most expansive and light I’ve ever felt yet weeks later, shrunk into a contraction until only a shell of the woman I used to know remained. It’s been a study in contrasts to say the least.
2016 delivered so many answers yet even more questions. And lessons too many to recount here. Just when I thought I was content and safe and had shit figured out – WHOP! Right upside the head. Not once have I been allowed to forget that I have shadows and darkness that require my attention, care, and love. Pieces of me that I have been ashamed of and condemned are demanding to be tended to  with kindness and acceptance. To be integrated into my whole being as opposed to being pushed away and neglected. I can no longer beat them back and command they go away. I must lay down my arms and surrender. One day, feeling particularly defeated, I wrote – I’m tired of trying. And seamlessly the next words flowed from my fingers through my pen and onto the page – Then stop trying. 
I am making yet another move to find a place that feels like home. A place that will honor where I’ve been and nurture where I want to go. In my clearest moments, I am certain Los Angeles is this place. Yet, I watch doubt creep in when others fire questions my way. Where are you going to live? Do you have a job? What are you going to do when you get there? Do you have savings? I sense my blood pressure shoot up simply writing them down. When I feel strong and stable my reply is a definitive I don’t know, full of trust and calm. But repeating these questions in my head (a scary place to be) and overthinking (one of my greatest gifts) instantaneously triggers at times a debilitating fear that convinces me I’m destined for a lackluster life plagued by depression. Where I want to be seems so very far far away from where I am. And no Google map will get me there. I’m not even sure where ‘there’ is.
I’ve taken to wearing a ring lately that I picked up some years ago. On it, unbeknownst to me at the time, is an Alcoholics Anonymous anthem: I promise to take it one day at a time. I’ve never had a dependency issue with drink or drugs aside from caffeine, yet something in those words resonate deep inside. Lately, it’s what prevents me from feeling completely overwhelmed and helpless. I don’t know what will happen next week, next month, and sure as shit not in 2017. Thinking about a master plan feels too daunting and riddles me with anxiety. I am not sure what’s right. I can only be certain of the next right thing. A day at a time. And I know if I continue to do the ‘next right thing’ life will continue as 2016 ensued – a grand adventure. No matter where I am. #adventureon

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

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