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Intuitive Eating

Recently, I touted an article on Facebook from a hot young author named Jessica Knoll (author of the best selling book “Luckiest Girl Alive“) who wrote about smart women falling for the pseudoscientific claims of the “wellness” industry. She wrapped up everything I’ve been feeling and saying for the past couple years in a wonderful op-ed piece in the New York Times. That all these trends – keto, Paleo, the Whole 30, you name it – are eating disorders in prettier boxes. All of them espouse a comparative model of eating, claiming certain foods are ‘bad’ for you while others are ‘good’. And while we could all use a kick start plan to eat healthier every once and a while as bad habits can be difficult to break without a good strong dose of discipline, the diet as lifestyle has been the norm since the 80s.

I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything Ms. Knoll wrote, but something keeps nagging at me: the idea that we still label what is women’s inherent nature (because, as Ms. Knoll points out, not many guys are sitting around the table talking about their thighs as they scarf down their burgers) as yet another methodology called “Intuitive Eating.”

Intuitive eating implies we need to learn a specific way to eat. We don’t need to learn anything else about food. We need to forget about everything that society has told us is right or wrong with our bodies. We need to un-learn all the ways we’ve dishonored, shamed and hurt our bodies whether that be through diets or abusive language or comparing ourselves to other women. We simply need to return to the inherent wisdom that was granted us at conception. The wisdom of our Divine Feminine. She knows why she eats. She knows what her body likes. She knows how to nurture and nourish herself whether that is with a kale salad or a chocolate chip cookie.

Women, we’ve been brainwashed. By advertising, magazines, celebrity culture and heaven help us, social media. And while it’s all around us, it’s been a covert operation, as Ms. Knoll points out, hiding under the alias of ‘wellness’ and ‘balance’. Slowly but surely, our patriarchal society has turned us against ourselves. Convinced us that we need products and expensive tonics and potions to live a fulfilling life and convinced men that we’re not worthy of praise, attention or love unless we look a certain way. Our capitalistic and consumer driven culture has made us question and distrust ourselves.

As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with being in the ‘wellness’ industry, as I promote and write about workouts and food and nutritional supplements. I’ve done the best I can to strike a chord of balance between what’s absolutely necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle and what could be considered indulgent luxuries. Before I put anything out to the public I try to assess why I am doing so and will it help someone more than it will harm them?

I’ll be the first to tell you I got into this industry because I didn’t feel ‘enough’. Pretty enough. Thin enough. Successful enough. I was able to hide my insecurities in the name of health. I learned a lot on this journey, but my biggest lessons have come from unlearning everything I thought I knew about who I was. It has come from tearing down the facade I built to make myself okay. It came from questioning and continuing to question everything I know to be ‘true’ or ‘good’ or ‘right’.

While the wellness industry has done an amazing job convincing us we can never eat gluten again and be happy, we must not abdicate personal responsibility. As women, we need to take back our power and stop being so willing to buy whatever anyone is selling us. We must do whatever we need to return to that inexhaustible well of confidence, grace, trust, compassion, tenderness and yes, strength, that we were endowed with when we were conceived as females. And we must continue to fill it over and over and over and over again. With food. With friendships. With intimacy. With laughter. With joy. With vulnerability. With whatever fills up not only our bellies but our hearts as well. We must feed our souls.

We can begin this process by asking ourselves one simple question not only with food, but with all of our decisions. Why? Why am I eating this donut or this piece of fish or this broccoli? Why am I buying this potion or supplement? Why am I getting botox? (A question, yes, I recently asked myself.) And then, be brutally honest in our answers. Sometimes we may like what we hear, sometimes not. Decide accordingly.

Your answers may lead you down a rabbit hole that may uncover a root unresolved issue for you. While not always pleasant, these moments can be transformative and healing. If you have the resources and feel you need to, seek outside help like a therapist. Counseling can be helpful, but so can writing, reading, talking with trusted friends and committing to our own happiness and well being.

I don’t need L’Oreal to tell me I’m worth it. And neither do you.

And Jessica Knoll, if you read this – I’d love to lunch with you and discuss how to take up more space.

Fitness, Food, Faith.

For years, I tried to change the outside. I believed my happiness and my joy was contingent upon what my body looked liked. I worked out like a fiend. I starved myself. When the starvation thing became unsustainable, I turned to raw food only. When raw food had my digestive system in complete distress I decide to go to holistic nutrition school in NYC.

It was one of the happiest years of my life, not because I learned exactly what to eat, but because I was living in a new city with new friends, surrounded by a community of like-minded people I loved. I was thriving. But when school was over, my friends gone, I once again found myself sad, lonely, wishing life was different. I was still working out – and working – like a fiend.

When all of the coping mechanisms I had employed in the past broke down, I turned to yoga. But unlike the yoga I had been practicing to this point, I sensed there was something beneath the down dogs and chattarungas. While many people prefer to skip the spiritual nature of the yoga tradition altogether, I was starving for it. I had exhausted all other resources to heal myself. Faith was my new fix and something that continues to grow and blossom every day.

Eventually however, I realized the answer isn’t in any of these things and it’s in all of them at the same time. Sometimes a good sweat is the answer. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes a crazy cleanse is just what you need – sometimes it’s the last thing you need. Sometimes more meditation or 200 rounds of mala beads saves you. Other times not so much. Sometimes all you need is a cocktail. Other times, it’s poison.

However, I’ve never found a situation that a good hug and belly laugh can’t cure.

It’s not that I’ve stopped practicing everything I’ve learned along the way regarding self- care – body, mind and spirit. It’s just that I’ve stopped relying on these tools to make things different. All of the trainings and teachings are leading me (notice the use of the continuous tense) to a place of radical acceptance. Can I accept myself in this moment, just as I am? Can I accept my pain, hurt, failure, flab, sadness, grief, anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity knowing everything is temporal and, at some point, it will shift? To be replaced by joy, laughter, freedom, ease, liberation, success, confidence, and a stunning ass and abs you can count. (Maybe not six, but at least one or two.)

Life is flux. Life is change. Accepting it all – not trying to heal or change anything – has been the greatest lesson of all.

I have not stopped learning altogether, either. I’m still a sucker for a good self-help book and a weekend workshop or two. But I no longer take what I learn as gospel or a fix to heal whatever is broken within me. I now take it for what it is: learning. Expanding my mind and my toolbox.

All of this is why I have never been able to create a ‘system’ or program for anything – fitness, dance, yoga, etc. As soon as an idea would come and I’d get it down on paper, I’d change my mind. I’d think of a million and one reasons people shouldn’t be doing barre or  yoga or doing a cleanse or cutting carbs completely. I’d be on to lifting weights or self-massage or nothing at all. And I’d eat whatever the hell I wanted to. I never wanted to pigeon hole myself as the ‘barre gal’ or ‘dance gal’. Like many women, I am ‘all gals’ – and how I choose to express any one gal in particular changes from day to day.

I am attempting to embrace the fact that there are no answers. So I can stop looking. I can stop trying to figure out the un-figurable. My brain, which has been in overdrive for forty some years, can take a break. Quite frankly, the way mine runs, I was sure it would have quit by now. Wishful thinking.

This is a new practice for me, this radical acceptance. I’ve been conditioned to resist relaxation because you never know what catastrophe is lurking around the corner. Doing is easy for me. Being is harder. I’m now on high alert to bring awareness to those moments when I project into the future. When I find myself resisting the letting go, I breathe. I exhale. I dip into the wellspring of wisdom I’ve accumulated over my twenty years of study in the wellness space. After all what good is the thousands of dollars I threw into my studies if they couldn’t help me when I needed them most?

I confirm that there is nothing else but this moment and, in fact, I. AM. OKAY. I turn whatever tricks I need to change the tide of the momentum of my mind. And I do it over, and over, and over, and over again. Until it becomes my new normal.

On Being Bulletproof

There’s a first for everything. The first kiss. The first time you had sex. The first job. Your first (and hopefully last) wedding.

This week, I was fired for the first time. Likely, the last. I’m simply not cut out for the day-in-day-out of a nine to five. Wear this. Show up now. Go home then. Do that. Don’t do this. Don’t speak up. Don’t share your thoughts. Swallow it down down down like a bitter pill. I felt like a slave to someone else’s dream. Slowly, surely stifling every bit of my individuality and expression. It was a blessing. Not even in disguise. A flat out blessing.

For over two months, I’ve been working in a lab – a place that offers cutting edge technological advancements to improve your life. Whether you want to increase your physical prowess or it’s your brain you desire to upgrade, all of the equipment in Bulletproof Labs is designed to ‘biohack’ your biology. This petri dish of human improvement is the newest development in biohacking guru Dave Asprey’s cult like brand Bulletproof. I’m in awe of the genius behind the latest and greatest in performance advancements and have great respect for the mad scientists raising the bar on what it means to be healthy. But during the Bulletproof Conference a few weeks ago – a full on weekend dedicated to upgrading the human experience – it dawned on me – I don’t want to be Bulletproof.

I’ve worked my whole life building defenses, securing my fortress. I don’t need more armor. I don’t need more ways to be perfected. I don’t need more measurements – more tools to tell me how much body fat I do or don’t have or the phase angle of my cells.

What I need is more joy. I need more heart. I need more forgiveness. I need more ways to express myself. More yin for the yang in my life.

Bulletproof touts that it can make you “Superhuman”. Does the world need more superhumans? Or more human humans? Feeling humans. Caring humans. Kind humans. Forgiving humans.

The more we try to protect ourselves from the pitfalls of life, the harder the lessons will fall. It’s a futile battle. The challenges will still come. The hurt and the struggles – there is no way to become invincible against life’s pains. The danger is thinking you’re impervious to them. Your kryptonite will always find you.

Originally, I joined the team at Bulletproof in hopes of helping people connect to a deeper part of themselves. To remove the armor, shed the layers and get a glimpse of what was beneath all the muscle, tendons and bones of their human space suit. Ultimately, my purpose seemed to get lost in the attempt to gain control of my biology. In today’s Photoshopped, Instagramed, carefully curated social media culture, we attempt to shield ourselves against what it means to be imperfect, flawed humans.

I get it. In this day and age, it’s hard to feel. To be touched and moved. To be sensitive can be heartbreaking. But the more sensitive we become to each others’ pain, sorrow, disappointments, joy, and triumphs, the more we understand we are not alone in our own. I still believe the best biohack is a hug.

I enjoyed playing in the Lab, experimenting with my own body and psyche. There were some benefits that came with utilizing the technological hacks, notably the ones that have the ability to access the energy and causal bodies. (I’m now a big fan of cryotherapy, one perk of the job I will miss.)

But measuring and perfecting is my Achilles heel – it can send me into a spiral of criticism and negativity. I love the idea of Bulletproof and believe we should always be striving to evolve. (Full disclosure – I use a lot of the Bulletproof products myself! I trust they are of the highest quality.) But it’s the manner in which we do it – the message that shrouds the methodology. I know there is a place where science and spirit meet. I saw that at Bulletproof and I’m grateful to have seen the hard data that supports the path of science. Ultimately however, I find the softness of spirit feels more like home.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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