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Sowing the Seeds Of Self Empowerment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Am I Bi-Polar?

Lately, I’ve been struggling with who I want to be – how I want to represent myself in this world. Sometimes I am the ethereal yogi who floats like a nymph through life. Effortlessly wearing flowers in her hair. Speaking of love and Goddesses as if they were my dear friends who I invite over for tea. Or am I the wild, strong, fuck all, sometimes crazy woman who dances on poles and takes shots of tequila? The woman who is perfectly happy being thrown up against a wall and possibly gagged. Can I be both? Somewhere in between? Is there a happy medium to be found? A fairy – slut sliding scale? Or do I swing from persona to persona like a monkey in the jungle? I suppose the point is to be comfortable inhabiting qualities of both extremes and embracing and celebrating it all. This is tantra. No good. No bad. Not even ugly. All Divine. Intellectually, I understand this. However, most times, it simply makes me feel bi-polar. Like a box of Cracker Jacks. You never know what sweet surprise awaits you at the bottom.

One day I feel demure, subdued and offer simple, quiet, knowing smiles to people. I nod Namaste. This woman wears flowy skirts and mala beads and loves lace and pink and is perfectly willing to let a man support her. After all, her greatest gift is simply to be, allowing her presence to light up everyone she meets. Her favorite word is love. And she floats instead of walks. She longs to live off the land, simply, communing with nature. She smells like essential oils and thrives off green juice and acai bowls.

The next day, I wake up with a different woman altogether. This woman wears red lipstick and eats burgers and dark chocolate and drinks wine and beer. She doesn’t give a shit how much she weighs. She has the urge to writhe and twist wildly and sway her hips in a way that would embarrass most people. She wants a man who will challenge her, be smarter than she is and not put up with her shit. She is strong, but he is stronger. She is fierce, unapologetic, and most times politically incorrect. This woman says fuck a lot and likes to scream and thrash about. She loves power and desires diamonds and a beautiful home. She is not satisfied simply being. She needs to do.

These are two examples. There are at least ten other women waiting in the wings. How easily I fluctuate between all of them scares me. It leads me to believe I’m more than just a little crazy. It also makes it very challenging to create a consistent marketing strategy and it’s why I’ve been struggling to create a new brand for myself. I have no idea who I am most days. Maybe my brand should be Bat Shit Bi-Polar. Or plain old Totally Fucked Up.

I suppose the perfect partner for me would be a man who really doesn’t know what he wants in a woman. With me, he can sample just about every type out there.

Quite frankly, it’s exhausting trying to respond to the needs of a different woman every day. Life would certainly be easier if I could pick just one. Play one role. I would likely have a more consistent career. I’d complete hundreds of projects I’ve conceived over the past fifteen years. It would even make grocery shopping easier. It’s hard when one woman wants mac and cheese and diet soda and the other craves more fiber and greens, sometimes at the same time. Thus, I make daily trips to the store depending on who shows up for meals.

I’m not sure what to do – if anything – to seal the fissures of my shattered personality. Maybe I’ll continue to vacillate until I settle somewhere along the continuum. I’ll delicately dance between each woman with as much grace, grit and authenticity as I can muster on any given day. It certainly keeps life interesting.

There are a few things all of my women have in common.

They want to love and be loved so bad it hurts.
They want to care too much.
They want to feel to the depths of their being.
And every single last one of them wants to be seen.

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.

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