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(WO) Man

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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