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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

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.

Staying Steady In The Wind

I haven’t been posting here much because most of my writing energy has been directed toward my book these days. However, to satiate your unyielding curiosity as to how I’ve been since my return from abroad and my subsequent journey, I offer you this blog. Truly it’s a self serving endeavor to check-in with myself and assess where I am so I can make honest and thoughtful choices for the second half of my summer.

I’ve been feeling like I need a respite from my constant motion of the past few weeks. It’s been a while since I’ve felt the peace and quiet of my family’s lakeside retreat. My friend’s home here, despite being in the city, offers a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of appointments, social engagements, and sitting in traffic. It is homey yet, clean and spacious and I’m always comfortable here. The energy of her space is zen and her kitchen fully stocked with everything I need to get all homebody and cook, instantly making me feel easy. She has a lovely pool in the backyard, which doesn’t hurt. I feel like I could stay here for days and not have to go anywhere. My definition of a true home.

I had a very L.A. kind of day today. It’s Sunday and I woke up on the first day of my cycle, feeling very internal and a need to protect and honor my feminine energy. I allowed myself to slip back into bed for a bit after my practice to linger and breath deep with one hand on my forehead and the other on my belly. Once out of bed I made my coffee and a very weekend breakfast for me – protein pancakes. I wrote some. I social media-d a bit. I took my time moving about, cleaning up and decided while a full on workout was not the right choice today, walking and some nature would do me some good. Here in LA, we like to call that a hike. There are no less than 50 other people ‘hiking’ with you but it did the trick and it’s close by.

I made a conscious decision that if I were to listen to any music on my jaunt up the hill that it would have to be mellow and introspective. Krishna Das was already pulled up in Spotify so that’s what began playing. Yup. I’ve become that girl. The one that listens to and sings music that most people only hear in yoga class. All the time. Mantras, kirtan, harmoniums, chanting. You name it. I play it.

Just before I reached the summit of Fryman Canyon, I was particularly moved. I’m sure it was the perfect storm of my weariness, the music, and hormones, but I needed to pause and sit to reflect. It didn’t take long for gentle tears to stream down my face. I’d had this feeling many times before, so now I knew what it was. It was not a gush of pain needing to find escape. It was simply feeling wanting to be known. Uncertainty. A deep longing to land somewhere but not yet knowing where that somewhere should be. Sure I had a sense that I belonged back here in LA or maybe even outside the city on the east coast, but I know that sometimes, my hopes and wishes may be shoved aside for a grander plan. One of which I am happy to resign myself to knowing if I do, that is where I’ll be happiest.

I noticed this little flower blowing in the wind. It was the only one around. It seems everything else had dried out and died as a result of the drought. It was a beautiful, albeit small, burst of brightness amongst dry desert dust. Although it was being tossed to and fro by the breeze, it was sturdy in its position. It was firmly rooted in the earth and come hell or high water, this little flower would not only survive, but flourish. It was nature’s perfect reminder – a representation of myself. Although I may be blowing about from coast to coast, home to home right now, I am not without purpose. Unlike my wanderings of the past, I am firmly rooted in my faith and supported by Divine guidance. I know I will withstand the torments of shuffling and uncertainty to continue to grow, flourish, and succeed. I stood up reassured of my path despite not knowing exactly what it might look like.

Upon rising from my seat, I felt my butt being poked with little spikes. I reached back to find I had sat on some sort of cactus like brush. Don’t think Mother Nature doesn’t have a sense of humor. She does. I smiled and shook my head. A gentle reminder to not take this stuff too seriously. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and remember to laugh every now and then. With that I continued my journey, tears dried, a smile on my face and determination to do whatever pleases me today. Tomorrow, I will continue my adventure the same way – step by step with awareness of what’s best for the next moment – as I board my plane to Colorado.

 

Am I Fun?

As I made my way out of the coffee shop this morning, the brief encounter with the slightly mad looking man with crazy disheveled black hair went something like this:

Crazy Man: Hello.
Me: Good morning.
Crazy: You look like you’re a fun person.
Me: I don’t know how fun I am right now.
Crazy: I think you’re fun.
Me: Thank you? Have a good day.

For the record, I don’t really think this man is crazy. I believe him to be one of those rare birds who is unafraid to call it like he sees it and enjoys offering kind, audible comments that make people smile. I love these people and actually believe they, not us hiding behind furtive glances and beneath silent comments, too afraid to tell someone they’re pretty or handsome or we like their style, are the sane ones. I also do not believe our meeting to be an accident.

There was power behind this slightly unusual interaction. I could feel it by the sadness that sprung in me immediately, like an almost dead plant that comes alive after receiving a fresh pour of water. The trickle of tears I knew would fall if I repeated our conversation aloud. This small exchange struck at the heart of something I’ve been wrestling with since my return to Austin and there are two people in this world that I wanted to talk to about it. These gems were the type of friends that would do exactly what I needed them to in that moment to help me get to the crux of my emotions – listen. They also happened to be the numbers that responded with voicemail. More often than not, an unavailable friend is always someone up there nudging and encouraging me to figure it out on my own. Get your ass in your chair and write about it.

For the past ten days or so, I’ve battled with a feeling that isn’t foreign to me. I felt it before I left Austin and was hoping, with eyes fresh from travel abroad and a new perspective, something would shift. But it seems it hasn’t. There’s a sense of sadness that I can’t shake when I’m back in Austin. I’m hesitating, but if I’m honest, I would classify it as a mild depression. Before I left I was convinced an unfulfilling job and inauthentic life was the source. It’s one of the main reasons I flew the coop.

I learned a lot about myself in my three-month sojourn. I experienced a lot of healing and found forgiveness and peace like I have never known. I returned to the States excited to make a fresh start and my first week back, I felt energetic, alive with enthusiasm despite a pretty much non-existent jet lag. Elated by the comforts of home, I was filled with gratitude for all the gifts of my life. I was up early, practicing deeply and sharing time with loved ones. Inspired and motivated by opportunities in front of me, I anticipated my life guided by love and authenticity. You would’ve had to scrub the smile off my face with steel wool and bleach.

Within 48 hours of being home in Austin a switch flipped. While the gratitude I feel for being back in my space, a seemingly endless array of clothing to chose from, and long mornings to write has not been lost, there it is again – what I can only describe as a quiet malaise. A small veil of heaviness has steadily begun to lay over the light, enthusiastic woman I experienced merely weeks ago. She seems time zones and almost worlds away.

To my logical mind, this doesn’t make any sense. There’s a part of me that loves Austin – biking down to the trail, walking in nature so close to the city. The space I’ve cultivated. My friends. I have a list of reasons to enjoy this town. So why, aside from the occasional moments likely prompted by a cocktail, does the joy filled girl – the one the crazy man seemed to discern beneath a slightly sullen exterior – seem so elusive in Austin?

As I’ve discussed with many friends here, some of who feel the same, I can’t quite put my finger on why I lack the same joie de vivre being back in Austin. Together we’ve mulled over potential culprits. (One being the absence of Uber and Lyft. Seriously. I have no car and am thus relegated to areas I can walk, bike or bum a ride off all too generous friends.) I have no need to rattle off a list, as it is not my objective to defile this city. On the contrary, I spent many an hour trying to convince my overseas friends to come visit because the city is so wonderful! And I still believe that. But something is preventing me from experiencing it.

Was the ‘newness’ of my first week back in the States the culprit of my perma-grin in Los Angeles? Was avocado every morning after a three-month depression enough to make me giddy? Or did time with my teacher contribute to my love of life? Did I still consider Los Angeles as time off – an extension of my travel abroad? A week more of carefree living despite being within the borders of my homeland?

Or is something deeper at play here? Did my unconscious response to the kind sir on the patio of Café Medici signal a certain unwillingness to have fun and be lighthearted? What is the weight my heart bears that seems to effortlessly disappear when I am in Los Angeles? While Austin is a great city, is it like an ex-boyfriend? Someone I love deeply yet ultimately, not right for me? Did Austin, like any good relationship, serve its purpose? Is it simply time for me to move on?

I don’t have the answer and so I will continue to adventure on, asking myself questions along the way. My job is to be brutally honest with what I’m feeling and continue to live authentically. Maybe that will land me back in Austin. Maybe Los Angeles. Maybe somewhere that hasn’t crossed the limited capacity of what I allow my mind to imagine. Wherever it is, I know it will be the right place, at the right time. And in that place, there will be fun. Lots of it.

My New Normal

It’s funny. It seemed like yesterday I was counting down the days until my departure for India. One week out. 5 days out. TOMORROW. Now, it’s reverse. I find myself thinking It’s been 10 days since I’ve been home.

I knew coming back to ambiguity was going to be a bigger challenge than leaving or being away. I was beyond ready to change the status quo, leave my job. There was a certainty about my decision that I didn’t question. Every bone in my body knew embarking on my adventure was the right thing to do. Now, my favorite answer to any given question on any given day is I don’t know.

What are you going to do? I don’t know. Are you going to stay in Austin? I don’t know. Are you moving back to L.A.? I don’t know. I think what some people really want to know is how are you going to support yourself? Good question. You know the answer.

While anxiety over the unknown is not an unfamiliar feeling, the fact of the matter is I’ve grown to be okay with simply being. It seems other people have more difficulty grasping the concept. I sense their discomfort when they realize I’m not rushing to the next job or just hanging out doing yoga. Maybe it challenges their status quo and prompts them to question how they are living their lives. My favorite response to my experience of leaving everything I knew to travel is (with a huge sigh) Ohhhhh, I WISH I could do that. Sometimes I say it aloud, sometimes not, but the response in my head is always You can. You choose not to. We all have limitations, challenges and responsibilities. Granted some are bigger than others. I would put raising children on top. (Hats off to all the parents out there.) However, I have a friend – a Mom – that took off for India and Sri Lanka for 3 weeks. She doesn’t have a nanny and she runs a business. My cousin takes her family all over the world to experience other cultures together. Point is anything is possible if you want it bad enough.

I keep myself to a schedule to maintain a sense of purpose and routine to my day. I try to retire no later than 10pm and wake by 6am. I give myself plenty of time to rouse and ease into my hour, sometimes longer, meditations. I no longer have my car so errands take a bit longer. I rode my bike to the post office yesterday. I walked to the store. I took a Pilates class in the middle of the afternoon. (I can feel the unease already…) I took one work call. I wrote a few work emails. I fixed my bike. I made breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did some laundry. I made plans to see friends. I practiced and meditated again before dinner. I just went along and my day seemed quite full.

Before, I used to have to check 25 things off my list to feel accomplished. Now, I’m okay with a few things and I don’t mind that I no longer wear the I’m soooo busy badge of honor. It’s easy to see that we create our own activity. And we create or own stress.

Right now, I’m praying for guidance. Every day I have a new idea, a thought on what to pursue, a spark of something new on the horizon. I remain committed to being open to possibility – even ones I haven’t imagined for myself. (A family? Moving to Iowa? Nahhhhhh . . . ) It’s probably the main reason I am devoting so much time to my practice. My practice doesn’t have room for fear, anxiety and worry. It’s where I find peace, quiet, and freedom. Space to listen. I find myself doing some of the old things I used to here in Austin. But now, I have time to step back and ask myself does this feel right? This place. This person. This activity. This habit. Does it feel good? Is it authentic and does it honor the person I am today? Because, happily, the woman typing this is not the same woman who wrote that first blog back in February. And that, my friends, feels good.

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