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Jennifer Galardi

Head Vs. Heart

I had one of those “Ah-HA!” moments in my morning meditation last week. At one point I could physically sense the difference between ‘being in my head’ and ‘being in my heart.’ The transition was palpable. Something that had been a high concept esoteric principle became very real for me. It’s always difficult to accurately portray a subtle body experience. After all, the most sublime sensations and experiences can rarely be encapsulated into words. At least that has been my reality.

It seems there are two very different ways of seeing and experiencing this world, each with their benefits, each with their drawback. We can perceive the world through the lens of the heart or the head. We also have a choice in the matter.

What I’ve come to realize however, is the heart is not limited, where the head is. The heart has unlimited capacity for love – for forgiveness and compassion. Our heads will try to rationalize all of the reasons these things should be withheld. Our heads will say things like:

It’s not fair.

They don’t deserve it.

What about me?

He/She/ can’t get away with that.

It’s not right.

The heart has no need for right and wrong because from the heart’s point of view, there is no difference. Only in the head do we separate the two. And only in the head does separateness exist at all.

I believe some of us are more inclined to operate in a certain mode over another. You either love working on a MacBook or a PC. One feels inherently intuitive, the other, rather clumsy. Some cannot fathom life without rationality, pro and con lists, and a careful scrutiny of all the options. Others find it painful to ignore the loud whispers from the heart.

Like many, I was trained to lead from my head and I’ve become quite adept operating in the world this way. However, I believe I was born to lead from the heart.

It feels so damn good to be out of my head and in my heart. When I get there in meditation or even in the daily activity of life, I don’t want to leave. It doesn’t feel as good to operate in my head anymore – all the figuring out and thinking and analyzing and trying to make sense of it all – but old habits die hard. It’s a consistent practice for me right now to drop down from top to center.

At one point, I needed all the head skills. But my mind keeps me small and limited. Thus the term small – minded. Not that a particular way of thinking is small, but primarily using the mind as a source of guidance can trap us in a box. It’s restrictive. We are so much more than our heads. There is so much more we are capable of beyond the space of the mind.

I would, however, like to say thank you to my head. Thank you for keeping me safe. For helping me grasp concepts and knowledge. For teaching me how to remember so I don’t have to re-learn things every day like how to talk, write, walk, etc. You have your purpose. But you will no longer guide my ship. I trust my heart more than my head. More and more every day. And the more I practice it, the more tangible it becomes. I can feel a difference in my body as opposed to having it be some out there woo-hoo spiritual teaching. I literally feel more expansive, supported and just, well – GOOD. It’s me. There I am. The person I was meant to be.

#TBT

Wednesday, Christmas Day, 2002

Could I be any more blessed? I say that truly meaning it and not just writing the words to pretend that all is wonderful and perfect. But seriously, I am sitting on a sandy beach on a warm sunny windy day able to marvel at the wonder of the vast Atlantic Ocean in front of me, listening to the waves crash against the shore. I realize I have been somewhat taking my week here for granter. When I think about the minutes, hours, time wasted on bickering with my mother, being angry, etc. This time may not come again but so often I lose recognition of that fact in the moments where I find myself annoyed, bothered, angry, etc. I don’t beat myself up for it because I am a highly reactive, emotional and feeling individual. however, the better I am at replacing those negative feelings with ones of compassion and love, the happier I will be. Sure, I don’t doubt that I will continue to be an opinionated person, but that’s why I have the stage, Jennifer. Use those where they will be most appreciated. And try to come to terms with your family, that they aren’t going to change. I know I write this all the time, but realize that the more you try, the more you set yourself up for disappointment and hurt. Turn to other relationships for support in yourcraft and day to day struggles. Cultivate those realtionships that will make you grow – stronger, better. You just re-connected with Laura to find you have so much in common. Doug is another. YiaYia, too. She is most supportive. I think you know, in your heart though, moving to NYC is not for you right now. Right now you need to embark on your own path – whatever it may be, with the confidence that you and only you know what is right for you. Talking it over with your friends, family, lovers (?), teddy bears (!), whatever, may help you discover these things for yourself by verbalizing what is in your heart – but only you know ad only you can make your decisions based on what is in your heart.

And please don’t berate or belittle yourself if things aren’t going as you think they should or as fast as you think they should. You are where you are meant to be. Remember that. This next year’s endeavors may be tough, but your rewards will be great. And you will be happy. Continue not to lose the love and light in your heart and treat every single person you meet as an opportunity to share your light and bright personality. And your gifts. Sure, there will be some dog days when you’d like to say “Fuck You” to the world. So go ahead. Do it. And then let it go and be done with it.

Monitor your ambition. Keep it focused and don’t allow it to run you ragged. Go after the things you are most fearful of – a successful relationship, career whatever. Just do it.

Connect, Jennifer. That is your strength. No matter how you do it, whatever your medium, connect with people. You are so good at it. As you were walking down the beach just now, something Patty said to you resonated in your head . . . “Look up. Don’t look down or at the floor when you dance.” that is a good metaphor for life, Jennifer. Don’t look down or avoid that opportunity for a connection with people. That’s how you affect people, Jennifer. Communicate with them. Don’t be afraid to reveal or show yourself. Who you are. What’s inside of you. Believe that what you have to express will better people’s lives. Either make them happy or force them to explore parts of themselves and emotions they never knew were there. That is your purpose. Your charge, your calling. That is what I am challenging you to do, to accomplish.

Don’t fear. I will be here – there – in all ways to guide you if you move ahead with courage, conviction and fortitude.

Lost

Nature has always been my go to for when I’m feeling lost with no direction. Or bored and aimless. It gives me someplace to go. Something to do. I have a hard time sticking to well marked trails. I want to prolong my hike, see parts of the land others haven’t seen. I’ll venture off just to the left or right or to some unmarked territory.

I like to get lost. My head empties seemingly making space for ideas and inspiration. I have so many random ideas and musings in the notes section of my phone I should compile a book. I would title it Random Thoughts Inspired By Hikes That Have Nothing To Do With Each Other. Often times, some great lesson will reveal itself to me. As if She has been trying to tell me something all along and all I needed to do was come to Her to receive the message.

I hear Her when I’m wandering around Her land. Her voice filling my head. This is what happened the other day when I got lost in Malibu. On my way into the trail, I took note of a creek. So when I lost reception and access to my trail map and came upon the creek, I figured I’d simply follow it and it would lead me back home. It was at this moment I heard Her. You go above and beyond the path laid out by others. You wind and twist and take routes unestablished. It may take you longer to get home , but just think of everything you got to see that others didn’t.

I was happy to be lost until I came to a part in the creek where I wasn’t able to pass. My only option was to go back up the hill in hopes of finding a trail again. I literally clawed my way up the mountain where I would slide back down about every tenth step. The fires had left little vegetation for anything to hold onto – including my feet. One second a burned branch would be my lifeline as I would grab it with my hands to pull myself up. The next moment it would taunt me as it’s charred pointed end would catch my shirt, insisting I stay right where I was if not fall back. What began so beautifully ended up somewhat treacherous. Eventually, I made my way up and stumbled upon a ranch with some lovely horses. I pet the horses muzzle and immediately felt relieved knowing I’d be okay. I was on private property but no one saw me as I crept through the ranch eventually finding a gate with a passable door that led to a paved road. I was exhausted and dirty and ready to follow the well established route home.

I learned so much from Mother Nature that day. She can destroy as easily as she regenerates but destruction happens so quickly and regeneration takes much more time. Things can turn on a dime. You never know what may be just around the bend. So keep walking. Keep falling. Keep showing up.

You were never lost. You were always on the path. It just didn’t look like everyone else’s. You likely got a bit dirtier, tripped and stumbled more than the others. But all of this is preparation for a sweet reward that awaits you at the end. The reward may look the same as anyone else’s, but to you it will taste so much sweeter and what you’ve gained along the way is rare. Like heaven right here on Earth. Indulge in the reward. Savor it. It is yours.

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.

Intimacy

Usually, when something in my life needs to be healed or resolved, it hits me from all angles. Everything around me becomes a reflection of living life under the influence of the particular wound or deficiency. The people in my life, the conversations, the shows or movies or books I’m drawn to – even what pops up in my web browser from the black hole of Google searches. Eventually I see it. Someone is not so gently nudging me. Hey you. Yeah, you. You need to look at this. If I don’t get the picture, then a little bit of pain, a tad of heartache will usually be invoked.

Recently, everything in my field of awareness is leading me to one of my most challenging obstacles – Intimacy.

I’m not sure whether intimacy is an innate or learned skill. Are we born with this ability to connect to another sentient being in the most vulnerable way? Or is intimacy something taught to us (or not) by our parents and our environment? I imagine in utero, we get our first taste of intimacy. We rely on another human for our very life. We have no choice. It’s either stay connected or die. I think the fact that women have the ability to physically tether themselves to another life may explain why we seem to crave intimacy more than men.

I also believe that if this inherent quality isn’t nurtured and reinforced through behaviors and surroundings from the day we are born, then we easily forget how to use it. Life sweeps in and hurts us. People break our hearts. We begin to erect barriers that thwart intimacy.

I can not speak definitively on this topic because it is an area in which I am blaringly flawed, especially when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. Sex is not the equivalent of intimacy. Just because you’re naked it does not mean you’re vulnerable. I should know. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced sex and intimacy at the same time. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve cried after having sex with a man. Something gets touched, busted open – but I quickly shut it down. While I’m comfortable with men seeing my body, I’m not comfortable with men seeing ME.

The three most intimate words in the English language are not “I love you.” They are “I see you.”

I see you. You with your flaws and your fuck ups and your haven’t-quite-nailed-it yet. You with your wounds and your scars and your dis-ease that may never go away or be healed. You with your insecurities and your ugliness and your beauty and your light. All of it. I see you. AND I love you.

That scares the shit out of me. Intimacy doesn’t have room for judgment or blame. It doesn’t tolerate guilt or shame. It looks these in the eye and says “PFFFFT!” Swats them away like a fly.

I think when I’m able to look at myself without judgment or guilt or shame, then I’ll find someone who will do the same. And I’ll know what true intimacy is.

Until then, I practice. I practice with friends I trust. I practice with my kitty. (This one is easy!) I practice with dance. I practice with strangers now and again.

This is the good stuff. This is where it’s at. It scares me, but only because, like anything else scary, it’s unknown. Once I know it I imagine it will be sublime. And I’ll wonder why I waited so long to be anything but intimate.

 

 

My Staycation

As of Friday December 21st, I gave myself permission to take a two week stay-cation. I decided due to the expense of travel during the holiday coupled with a deep desire to go nowhere and do no-thing, to stay put in Los Angeles. I was looking forward to sticking around while everyone else left. L.A. is best when half the town leaves. You can get from the west side to the middle of Hollywood in less than 40 minutes. That’s unheard of on even the best of days here in the City Of Angels. I actually enjoy driving as long as I can move unobstructed by other cars. I love driving fast even more. (It’s particularly satisfying driving north on PCH with a stick shift.) I roll the windows down, crank the music, sing loud and feel free. Other times, I just listen to the wind in complete silence. Either way, it’s a meditative experience for me.

I told myself I wasn’t going to work for two weeks. That I would take time for personal projects and self care. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the last two weeks of 2018. The two weeks prior had been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I had been feeling tired, lost and sad. I assumed my heavy mood would extend into the holidays and maybe even intensify given the particular amount of loneliness one can tend to feel this time of year.

I experienced just the opposite. The past two weeks has been fulfilling and inspiring in ways I couldn’t imagine. I binge watched my now favorite episodic – Californication. And while for many the show may have confirmed that L.A. is nothing but a cesspool of vapid wanna be artists, it made me fall in love with my town all over again – its landscapes, its debauchery and its ability to continually inspire (and simultaneously ass kick) any who have aspirations for a creative life.

I began writing again. Not in the long form ways (like this blog) that I feel compelled to share with the world, but just musings and short poems and random thoughts – streams of consciousness that may or may not have a public life somewhere down the road. I wrote in ways that were personally satisfying.

I began dreaming again – allowing my imagination to open avenues of creativity for me. Thinking of all the possibilities this town holds, excited for what’s to come and the ride that 2019 will take me on.

And while I told myself I wasn’t going to work – I did here and there. Which proved to me, that no matter what, I know I will always be motivated to move ahead. I suppose I needed that confirmation.

Somewhere in the past two weeks, I began to trust myself more. Trust what I’m feeling called to do. Where I’m guided to go. I let go of the should’s and shouldn’t’s and gleaned what I was doing out of necessity and what I was doing from sheer love.

I drank (quite) a bit, I moved a bit, and I expressed a lot in all forms. By golly, I had FUN. I found pleasure in life in so many ways. I found what has been missing for so many years.

Given how not busy my life was, I had plenty of time for social media and other distractions. However, I had no desire to post much of anything. I had nothing to say. I was too busy LIVING my life rather than pontificating about it. A whole day would go by and somehow, I just couldn’t find the time for Instagram.

While I know my life will ramp up as the New Year moves forward and that I am never completely free of the darkness that sometimes distinguishes my light, I am going to try my darndest to carry these past two weeks with me. The ease. The joy. The disinterest for what I thought my life was supposed to be or look like. Because I’m too busy enjoying what it is.

Insignificant

Sometimes the level of insignificance I feel is staggering.
Like it wouldn’t matter if I drove my car
Straight through this red light into the ocean
Instead of south on PCH.
I dream of it often.
Instead, I turn left, like I’m supposed to.
Like I’m always supposed to.
And just drive really fast.
As fast as I can without hurting someone else.
Driving really fucking fast makes me feel better.
I get an inch closer to knowing death.
It’s nights like these
I’m glad a drive a manual.

 

 

Homecoming

I am back in my home earlier than some of my neighbors after being evacuated due to the Woolsey fires this past week. By the grace of whoever watches and protects us all, the officer at the roadblock allowed me to pass into the canyon where I live.

I hit a breaking point. I just had to go home and for some strange reason felt the Gods were on my side. However, I wasn’t sure what obstacles I would encounter on my way home or how I would talk myself into passing through. Maybe I’d lie and say I had to get more medication or some other bullshit. I needed a break from it all. I was drooling at the thought of sleeping through the night in complete silence in the woods.

I don’t like to lie nor am I any good at it but sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures. When I approached the officer blocking the street I needed to enter, I asked if I could get in. He asked where I lived. I paused just a bit too long before I answered. My reply was less than a mile from the truth and I sensed he knew it. He let me pass anyway. I felt terrible for a bit and then utterly relieved. I thanked whatever angels were with me.

As soon as I stepped on my property my shoulders relaxed. My rib cage dropped. And I took a huge exhale. I expressed my gratitude out loud for the officer that let me pass. Gratitude for my home, with all its quirks and little noises and imperfections. For my friend who so graciously took me in with Zeus, my handsome kitty, when many were not as feline friendly.

Now I am somewhat sequestered in my home as I don’t know if I’ll have the same luck getting in and out freely. I’ve spent the day tending to things that haven’t been tended to. Cleaning. Home assignments I had been putting off. Emails that should have been sent days if not weeks ago. I’m nesting. It’s so peaceful here with over half our town gone.

Without little Zeusy around (I left him at my friend’s apartment truly believing the evacuation would be lifted today and I could return to get him), my home is so much cleaner. I am relishing in its lack of paw prints, cat food and litter littering my floor. I needed this. Even for just 24 hours.

But I had some important realizations today as I washed clothes, cleaned floors, emptied closets, and rearranged furniture.

While my house may be a bit dirtier with Zeus traipsing in and out from the great outdoors, my heart is fuller.

No matter how sparkling your floor is or isn’t, however big or small, a home is to be cherished. Honored. Loved. Respected. And nurtured. We all have different ways to do that. It felt good for me to clean, burn sandalwood, organize and rest.

As I unpacked and re-nested I realized, like I do when I move, that I didn’t need much of what I have been harboring in my closet. I started pulling items off their hangers and putting them in a ‘To Donate’ pile. All ready to go to any organization collecting items for victims of the Woolsey fire.

I don’t have a lot. Everything I own fits in a studio apartment and my office and practice studio. I have one closet. One dresser drawers. Yet, as I unpacked I still felt too cluttered. I began emptying. With every shirt or pair of shoes I dumped into the donation pile, I created a little more space for other non- material things to enter my life. Things I’ve been hoping, wishing, and praying for.

We’ve all heard that people are more important than things. But how many of us are truly living by that philosophy? Do we ever stop to think when we buy that fifth pair of shoes (in my case boots) that we are cluttering our life, preventing the things we truly desire from entering? We weigh ourselves down with so much – food, shoes, lip glosses, purses, t-shirts.

When is enough enough? I wondered if our culture’s obsession with consumption – having more in every area of our life – may be contributing to the devastation of our planet. That our singular home – Earth – is suffering as a result of our insistence on overstuffing our individual homes.

The “S” Word

 

“Nobody speaks to God these days. Nobody speaks to God these days. I’d like to think he’s looking down and laughing at our ways. Nobody speaks to God these days.”

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

 

“ . . . not to get all spiritual on you or anything . . .” I find myself using this disclaimer in many of my day to day conversations. And lately I’m asking myself why? Why am I afraid to elevate a conversation from commonplace to thought provoking? Am I afraid people won’t understand what I am saying? Or am I afraid I’ll lose friends as they’ll start to find me ‘too much’? Or am I simply afraid people will find me strange and run the other direction every time they see me coming? I’ll be that girl.

Maybe I’m afraid I’ll offend someone. Although, I don’t see how tinting discussions with a dose of spirituality can be more offensive than guns.

Frankly, I think this world could use a little more spirituality. A little more reverence for the beauty that surrounds us everywhere, every day. A dash of humility in the face of the grand force that created the Universe, the reason why we are here. A good old slice of humble pie as we say. The acknowledgement that our small ego mind is no match for the great mind of the creator. Call that force of creation whatever the heck you want. God, Allah, Buddha, Source, Shiva, Shakti. Use whatever pronoun you want – He, She, It. But make no mistake, you and I are really not in control. No matter how much we’d like to think we are. So, just a little bit, give it up. Let it go. Stop thinking you know what’s best for everyone, including yourself.

Maybe, if we invited a little more spirit into our daily conversations we could listen to each other no matter our race, religion, sexual preference or gender, with a little more tolerance, knowing at the end of the day we are all intimately connected and inexorably linked to one divine source. That despite our differences, deep down, we truly are the same. Maybe, if we invited spirit into all of our conversations, whether silently or outright, we could all find a little more kindness.

Truly, I see no other way. I can’t imagine we’re going to get out of the mess we’re in – politically, socially, environmentally – if we don’t bring a little more spirit into our daily lives. The only true and lasting solution I see to the hatred, the catastrophes and the fear of this world is spirituality and its close-knit cousin, an equally dirty word – the “F” word – FAITH.

Please don’t confuse spirit with religion. I don’t preach and I don’t ask anyone to convert to my way of prayer or that they pray at all. Speaking from a place of spirit is simply a recognition that with whomever I am speaking, as a child of God (again, replace that word with whatever you wish), is special, as I am special. And at the same time, because we are all God’s children, none of us is. Having more money than someone else doesn’t make you special, nor does your job or your position or stature in society, and certainly not your Instagram account.

Nor am I saying every conversation should be candy coated with the speech of rainbows, unicorns, crystals and chakras. Carrying a consciousness of spirituality as we move through daily life simply means that as we interact and converse with others, as well as ourselves, we are aware of a presence of love in our own hearts and others, no matter how different we may think and live.

I don’t care how you practice your faith. All I can ask, that I can pray for, is that we all find a deep source of love and wisdom to connect to. A knowing that beneath our skin, bones, muscles and tendons, there is a part of us that lives untainted by sorrow, hurt, and fear. That despite the errors and abuses our egos perpetrate, we are loved. When you come know that part of you and take time to connect to it every day, there is no need to defend yourself – with words or with guns.

I suppose that is why more and more, I will not shy away from inviting spirit into my everyday life. My spiritual practice is the very thing that helps me open up and listen more, despite the easy rush to judge and criticize. And it is the only thing in this mad, crazy world that helps me continue to find joy, peace and a reason for being here.

 

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