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Warrior Spirit

Moksh” the woman said to me, looking at my left forearm, just above my wrist. I didn’t even have to follow her gaze to know she was referring to my tattoo, the Sanskrit symbol for moksha – loosely translated as spiritual liberation or freedom. Many Hindi speaking people have commented on my inner arm marking. It’s led to some lovely conversations and connections I may not have had otherwise. This was no exception.

Yes. I knew she knew so I said nothing further.

She nodded.

Do you pray? She asked.

Every day. I replied.

Good.

There was what seemed like a long pause as I considered the black and white tile outdoor table next to me. It may have only been a couple of seconds.

You’re a warrior.

A little caught off guard, I looked at her with a look of surprise gauging by her response.

You have a warrior spirit.

So I’ve been told.

I thought she was going to drop a full on Vedic reading right there in Cost Plus on a random Thursday afternoon. Instead she stayed silent. I simply said Have a nice day and walked out.

I didn’t know what else to say. There was nothing else to say. I knew what I was.

Once outside, I paused a few feet out the door and felt a swell of emotion, a few tears rolling down my face. Ah, yes – the familiar tears of a warrior who doesn’t know how to drop the shield. The tears that came from being seen, by a total stranger no less.

This interaction has been sitting with me for the past few days and a theme that has been resurrecting itself for months.

As the Bhagavad Gita lays out so beautifully, life is not about floating around, jumping from one ecstatic spiritual experience to the next. Life takes place on a battlefield as we do our best to slay our karmic debts so that we may evolve towards liberation when we move into our next life. There is no doubt the battlefield is where I’m most comfortable. Running around, overcoming challenges, fighting for the next victory – both in the material and spiritual worlds. I’ve become quite adept at walking through the fire and in many cases, I even court and cajole it. But what to do when the fight is over or I’m just too tired to wield a weapon? Well, therein lie my most recent lessons.

I feel like there’s no time to rest. We as a species seem to be in such dire straits that it’s going to take every one of us who are called to do this work to do it 24-7. Humanity is at a tipping point and it’s all hands on deck if we don’t want this ship to sink. Yet, there are days, like today, when I’m just too tired. Sure, I want to go to kirtan. Sure I want to get out in nature and convene with Her. But on the first day of my moon cycle after teaching one class, running a few errands and some light household chores, all I can manage is a yoga nidra practice, and laying in my space with my eyes closed. Waves of cramps keep me fixed on the floor. Chanting even feels taxing. As I’ve become more attuned to my body and my cycles, I know I should rest and rest seduces me like a forlorn lover, and yet – yet. It’s so darn uncomfortable to lay down my sword and my shield and allow myself to be held.

I rub my swollen aching belly, wondering where my leaner, warrior like shape disappeared to. I feel soft. Squishy. I don’t necessarily like it.

So, like a child, I rest my head in my Mother’s lap. I let her stroke my hair and I hear her whisper It’s okay. I cry. Not working is, indeed, my work.

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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.

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.

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.

2016 – Another Refelection

2017. Almost here. 2016 was pretty fucking good. Until it wasn’t. It was a juxtaposition of emotions, events and experiences. The highest of highs and the lowest lows. It was mobile, almost turbulent at times. It was learning and huge growth and expansion, cultivating understanding and compassion for myself. For others. Culminating in a freedom unlike any I have ever known. I got my ass handed to me on more than one occasion. Yet I also had grace and beauty placed at my feet and in my heart. Many times. And while music lost some of my greatest idols – those who provided soundtracks for my life – I simultaneously grieved the many versions of me that died. Pieces or all of: the Victim, the Damsel In Distress, the Princess, the Achiever, the People Pleaser, the Teacher, the Little Girl, the Wounded Woman, the Seeker, the Warrior, the Fighter. All fell away to make room for who I truly am. And created space for new roles, goals and purpose. In places that once were so crowded and bound with anger, shame, fear and need I now feel space. In my body. In my mind. And in my heart. I have been relieved of a heavy heavy weight and i am ready to soar effortlessly into 2017.

2016 – A Reflection

There is so much I could say about 2016. Yet when I try to encapsulate my adventures of the past year into words, I fail. The closest I’ve come to describing my sentiments is “Whoa.” Since February, I have not slept in the same bed for more than three weeks and sadly, not for reasons some people traditionally use beds. I’ve prayed and meditated in India, surfed in Sri Lanka, hiked amazing mountains in Colorado, and made connections all over the world with friends old and new. I completed a good portion of my book yet also come to find that as poignant and insightful as my tale may be, without the clout of millions of followers on social media, it likely will not get published and reach those I so hoped it would. Unfortunate for me as right now, the last thing I want to do is play this social media game. It’s been weeks since I’ve been active on Facebook and I can’t say that I miss it. Ironically, however, I’m sure I’ll make a post or two about this blog. Otherwise, how else will anyone know I even wrote it?
This year has forced me to question who I am and who I want to be. Likely, given the current events of the past month, I am not the only one. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt the most expansive and light I’ve ever felt yet weeks later, shrunk into a contraction until only a shell of the woman I used to know remained. It’s been a study in contrasts to say the least.
2016 delivered so many answers yet even more questions. And lessons too many to recount here. Just when I thought I was content and safe and had shit figured out – WHOP! Right upside the head. Not once have I been allowed to forget that I have shadows and darkness that require my attention, care, and love. Pieces of me that I have been ashamed of and condemned are demanding to be tended to  with kindness and acceptance. To be integrated into my whole being as opposed to being pushed away and neglected. I can no longer beat them back and command they go away. I must lay down my arms and surrender. One day, feeling particularly defeated, I wrote – I’m tired of trying. And seamlessly the next words flowed from my fingers through my pen and onto the page – Then stop trying. 
I am making yet another move to find a place that feels like home. A place that will honor where I’ve been and nurture where I want to go. In my clearest moments, I am certain Los Angeles is this place. Yet, I watch doubt creep in when others fire questions my way. Where are you going to live? Do you have a job? What are you going to do when you get there? Do you have savings? I sense my blood pressure shoot up simply writing them down. When I feel strong and stable my reply is a definitive I don’t know, full of trust and calm. But repeating these questions in my head (a scary place to be) and overthinking (one of my greatest gifts) instantaneously triggers at times a debilitating fear that convinces me I’m destined for a lackluster life plagued by depression. Where I want to be seems so very far far away from where I am. And no Google map will get me there. I’m not even sure where ‘there’ is.
I’ve taken to wearing a ring lately that I picked up some years ago. On it, unbeknownst to me at the time, is an Alcoholics Anonymous anthem: I promise to take it one day at a time. I’ve never had a dependency issue with drink or drugs aside from caffeine, yet something in those words resonate deep inside. Lately, it’s what prevents me from feeling completely overwhelmed and helpless. I don’t know what will happen next week, next month, and sure as shit not in 2017. Thinking about a master plan feels too daunting and riddles me with anxiety. I am not sure what’s right. I can only be certain of the next right thing. A day at a time. And I know if I continue to do the ‘next right thing’ life will continue as 2016 ensued – a grand adventure. No matter where I am. #adventureon

In Defense Of Yoga

Oops, I did it again. I’m having flashbacks to a couple of years ago when I expressed my opinion of a popular fitness ‘method’ on Twitter. It roused fiery criticism similar to what I’ve seen regarding my recent Facebook post. I commented on one of the latest trends to hit the yoga world called ButiYoga. Based on a 30 second sizzle real that depicted little more than LuLu Lemon sporting, bare midriff exposing, young, fit and Caucasian ladies gyrating and bouncing their hips I concluded that, while cute, it bared little semblance to what I have come to know as yoga over the past 17 years of practice and teaching. Cue the onslaught of criticisms and condemnations from the Buti world. In no uncertain terms, I was tagged as judgmental, insecure and hypocritical (since I myself can be seen on many DVD covers baring my midriff and ‘Sweating Sexy.’) I was told my chakras needed aligning and that I’m not yogic. While I refuse to engage in quick to fire, insidious battles on Facebook, I am happy to write non-reactive, contemplative and judicious blogs to lend my voice to thoughtful debate and meaningful discourse away from social media. This is what follows.

Please do not confuse my opinion of ButiYoga with judgment. I judge none of you for your practice or what joy, peace and freedom you find from Buti. Nor did I write any disparaging remarks about you, or ButiYoga’s creator, Bizzie Gold, personally. I expressed my beliefs merely out of a frustration with the proliferation of fad throughout both the fitness and yoga industries and the commoditization of an ancient tradition that no one can patent or brand. Bikram tried. It didn’t work. So did John Friend. His ‘system’ collapsed as it depended on a leader whose ego overshadowed the teachings. From my point of view, yoga – as it is outlined in scriptures such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhaghavad Gita – is a systematic approach to personal and spiritual freedom and fulfillment. Out of 196 Sutras, only three discuss any physical practice as a means to achieve these.

I am not saying yoga defined by spiritual texts is the only way, or even the best way for people to find fulfillment and joy in their lives. My true fear is that as we slap the word ‘yoga’ on every new system, program, regime and concept developed by someone with some insight and creativity, we lose the ancient wisdom and teachings that only can be translated and transmitted from teacher to student. As these new ‘methods’ become more and more popular, less and less seem of us to be interested in a system that needs no improvement, but does demand a lifetime of study, dedication and commitment to personal practice. Proven methodologies and tools that can only be learned from masters of a tradition – not a book or a 200-hour teacher training. Ones that were not made up on some yoga mat or dance floor, but ‘seen’ by sages and swamis dedicated to the practice of spiritual enlightenment and freedom from the confines of the material world. By no means am I suggesting we need to hide out in caves and become renunciates to progress on our spiritual path. But we can – and should – learn from the wisdom of others who selflessly commit their lives to understanding the truth of Divinity and graciously share their understanding with others. Connection to a living lineage imbues one’s practice with grace and protection. There is a reason yoga, despite the Western’s worlds attempt to minimize and morph it to a physical workout or a new age spiritual tool, has lasted for thousands of years. Yes, the teachings may be ancient, but they are also timeless. Because Truth is timeless and needs no improving. Truth trumps trend. Always.

I’m curious to see if people will be practicing ButiYoga 1,000 years from now. Hell, I would like to see if people are still practicing 20 years from now. Tradition requires the test of time to be considered valid by a majority. If Buti lives on past the life of its creator, I will happily eat my words. I’m banking I’ll still be alive to see it fizzle.

I am also of the strong belief that a 200-hour training is simply not enough to send qualified yoga instructors out into the world. I’ll be the first to say, I shouldn’t have been teaching yoga as early as I was. I had no clue what I didn’t know. We don’t let lawyers or doctors loose after a few hundred hours of training. Maybe once we view yoga as the powerful and radical life-changing tool it is and not the exercise du jour, we’ll consider bumping up the requirements.

I do not believe yoga cannot evolve. With regards to the safety of asana, I am a firm believer that yoga should take some cues from the intelligent movement and physical therapy realm to create a more stable and strong practice. Namely because yoga was not created to help the physical body thrive. Thousands of years ago, the gentleman practicing asana were not really learned in the musculoskeletal system or how to stabilize joints. It’s one of the reasons we see a proliferation of students being hurt by current yoga classes. Yoga’s power and purpose reside in creating monumental shifts in the mind. Asana can be a tool, but those who created asana were not body masters – they were mind masters.

I’d also like to speak to the professed ‘kundalini awakenings’ women are claiming to have in class. This exemplifies the simplification of the spiritual teachings and the widespread misunderstanding of kundalini shakti that makes me cringe every time I see someone selling it. Rarely does a true kundalini awakening happen from some hip swivels, banging on the pelvic floor and contraction of the anus. That’s called aggrevation. True kundalini awakening requires a systematic and methodical approach – one best provided through the guidance of a learned and wise teacher who has dedicated his or her life to the teachings and can help their student properly channel awakened energy through the pathway of the spine. (Also known as sushumna.) While I will not deny many women may have likely had a sensual, profound and overwhelming energetic experience from ButiYoga, I would argue kundalini awakening is being confused with kundalini disturbance. My teacher once said something brilliant (he says a lot of brilliant things) – It’s not that She (kundalini shakti) is asleep – She’s already awake. She’s just waiting for you to become fit enough for her to reveal herself. And he didn’t mean physically fit.

On that note, many suggested that I am not supporting women or their empowerment and the rise of the Divine Feminine. Believe me, I hear you sisters. Loud and clear. Much of the turmoil and fear that currently exists in our country, and the world, is due to a blatant disregard of the Divine Feminine and her inherent beauty and power. Preach. However, let us not refuse our male counterparts in this awakening for She is not only found in women, but in men alike. She is the force and energy that gives and sustains all life. She is pervasive and all inclusive. We are adding fuel on a raging fire if we neglect to spread this message to a male audience. If you are interested in having a deep and meaningful understanding and connection to the Divine Feminine, I would guide you to someone like Sally Kempton or Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and their work. Both have dedicated their lives to the teachings of Yoga, Tantra and the brilliance and beauty of Her.

Moving on. When I asked what students of ButiYoga are doing #offthemat, I did not mean to insinuate that the women who attend and teach this class are shallow or only concerned with the shape of their bodies or appearance. Clearly many of you are empowered and thriving young women with a strong voice positively contributing to society. I was simply asking what kind of spiritual tools you possess and utilize outside of class? Meditation? Kriyas? Pranayama? Is there a dedicated personal practice outside of the group dynamic? Again, it is easy to fall into a disagreement based on differing ideas and definitions of yoga, so I’ll end it there.

I have studied and worked in the fitness, dance and yoga communities for twenty years. I’ve personally experienced how each discipline can enhance and support each other. There are principles of yoga I apply to fitness and dance, such as the breath, and vice versa. However, they all serve different functions. Fitness keeps my physical body strong and prepared for all life throws my way – whether that be a dance class or a hike or to sit comfortably in meditation for an extended period of time. Dance is my outlet for creative – and yes, at times, sexual, expression. Free movement and dance helps me communicate in a way I often find difficult with words. And yes, at times, it certainly connects me to a Divine experience. Yoga has made me a happier, stronger and more confident woman. Yoga has given me peace and clarity. Yoga has single handily changed my perspective of the world. Yoga guides every moment of every day of my life. But my fitness is fitness and my yoga is yoga. The two have very different aims. According to the Mundaka UpanishadBrahman is the target, Atma is the arrow and Aum is the bow. In other words, the sound of the all-pervading truth of creation (also known as pranava) is the means by which the self unites with the Divine. Not moving the body.

As for Bizzie – I’ve done as you all suggested and watched some of her videos. I really like her and love her message – especially the part about cultivating a coaching or teacher-student relationship sans co-dependence. The self help world needs more of that. I resonate with much of what she advocates. As a mother, an entrepreneur and woman, I respect the hell out of her. She’s beautiful and sassy. I bet I’d like her a lot. However, and I think this is the crux of where the misunderstanding lies, her message is directed at a very different audience than mine. I’ll estimate the median age of those who commented on my feed is 32. Her website states it loud and clear – she is the voice of a Millenial generation. Out of the many labels you can slap on me, Millenial is not one of them. Bizzie speaks to a population I don’t relate to. An age group that writes paragraphs and novels on Facebook and converses in emojis and acronyms. One that is used to the immediacy of texting and constant communication. A population that relies on the interaction social media offers and uses it as a huge platform to congregate and unite. For me, it’s just not that deep. While I use social media for marketing and creating a brand and a voice, I tend not to put a lot of stock in its activity. Even my own comments. I guess that makes me officially old.

All this being said, I’d be happy to take a Buti class. Hell, I may even enjoy it and have some sort of transcendent experience. But I’m pretty sure I will still walk out of the room reluctant to call it yoga.

I feel no need to respond to all the personal criticisms hurled at me. Fire away. I’ve had my own path, and just like Bizzie has said of her life, my own struggles and demons to overcome. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and have the utmost faith and trust in my work and what I teach. We all may be a little guilty of hurling karmic arrows.

I do not apologize for my opinion, but I do apologize if anyone feels personally offended by it. I still am hopeful that after the dust has settled we can all look at each other with love and a smile and agree to disagree. Even better, I’d welcome a public discussion with Bizzie and maybe we can help our individual generations understand each other with a little more compassion.

I hope some of what I have written addresses the reason for my FB comment and appropriately responds to some of your reactions. At the end of the day, I consent with one observation on that thread – it’s all yoga. Every disagreement, every opinion – every moment of every day. If we are willing to look at each and every circumstance in our life as an opportunity to grow and find more peace, joy and contentment in our own hearts, then we are living life on the path of yoga.

Hari Om.

Rocky Mountain High

My time here in the mountains has been nothing short of epic. Six weeks, twelve hikes, live music, dancing, friends new and old, and lessons that continued to come my way. I wish I could say I have mixed feelings about leaving. I don’t. As in – I don’t want to leave. While Austin has been wonderful for the past three years, I feel like its time has come. That I’ve gotten from it what I needed.

What I’ve found in the mountains is balance. Here, amongst friends, family, and the wisdom that Mother Nature has shared, I got a glimpse of what it’s like to not live under the spell of an eating disorder or neurotic body consciousness. Let me be clear, I’m not ‘managing’ my issues or learning how to tolerate them. For the first time, I actually believe I can overcome a mental struggle that has plagued me my entire adult life. Up until recently, I’ve honestly believed positive body image and true health – both inside and out – would be a life long karma I’d have to tolerate. But here, I have a glimmer of hope that it’s a seed I can burn for good. At least get it nice and charred.

Since being here, I’m not attached to going to a gym or working out. I hike my ass off (literally) on a weekly basis yet can’t help but feel like walking amidst the trees, hearing the sounds of nature, and breathing fresh air every day does my soul more good than my body. I’m active without having to think about it and days I’m not, while sometimes my agitation or neurosis doesn’t hesitate to make itself known, for the most part, I feel like I just need the rest. Here in CO I eat fruit and drink beer with abandon. Because savoring a juicy, local CO peach in the middle of August after a 3,000 foot climb to a lake a color blue like you’ve never seen before surrounded by 14,000 feet of pure earth and sometimes snow is just right. And a beer once you descend well – there’s nothing more right than that. Especially if it’s a local draft. Yet as alluring as the mountains are, the thought of starting over in a new place, yet again, is not appealing in the least.

Not an unfamiliar feeling, what’s surfacing more than anything as I approach my final days here in CO is fear. I have no idea what’s next. I would love for this book to become a New York Times bestseller and put me on a new trajectory for the career and life I desire. But there is the reality of that not happening. And there’s also the reality of unemployment and travel for the past six months. It’s been an absolute blessing but now I’m faced with a question that, whether we are aware of it or not, we answer in every moment of our lives, with every decision we make – NOW WHAT?

Big picture, I know the answer to this question. I have dreams and goals and ideas I want to realize. Big ones, at that. I want to shape my new reality instead of being at the mercy of what my bank account or someone else in my life demands. However, what to do in the meantime? The ‘little picture’ demands things get taken care of. Things like rent, car insurance, and grocery shopping. There’s a lot of praying going on right now. For guidance, for the right opportunities, and yes, for a fat check. I want to continue moving forward and not backward and in between there is space. Space to create, space to play, and space to worry. In this space, faith gets challenged. So I do the things I can to bolster that faith as much as possible. I am forced to let go of control and continue to listen. Hard.

For now, there is a big question mark at the end of my personal sentence. I have no clue what the next months will bring. I feel like I am living an Ani DeFranco song – I’m thirty-two flavors and then some. A mixed bag of happy, sad, fearful, anxious, excited, nervous, clear, confused. I’ve stopped placing judgment on or identifying with my moods and instead, committed to simply witnessing them. And not just witnessing them – but using discernment about what they communicate to me. Often times, I’ll take a look at my P Diary app (this is an app that tells a woman where she is on her cycle) to see if my mood could simply be a function of hormones. Or I ask myself, what did I eat – or drink? Often times, if I’ve had one too many cocktails (which, for me can be one cocktail), I may feel depressed the next day. To understand that there are several factors that affect my mood means I am not at the mercy of emotion as I used to be. Once I get a sense of what’s really going on with my roller coaster ride, I can then assess what action to take to best alleviate or manage what I’m feeling. If anything. Truth be told, sometimes I’ll just turn on some weepy music, allow myself to stew in my own sadness and throw myself the proverbial pity party. Because maybe I just need a good cry gosh darnit.

In all my uncertainty, here is what I do know. I am vulnerable. I am resilient. I am empowered. Three words I never would have used to describe myself even a year ago.

Vulnerable no longer means weak or insecure or powerless to me. It means open and soft and willing to listen. Resilient no longer means powering through life, trying to make things happen the way I want them to. It means staying steady in the face of change – an unmovable force for good and an unshakeable example of faith. And empowered simply means that I, and I alone, am responsible for my thoughts, my actions, and ultimately, my life. I feel confident I will weather the storms ahead with more grace, strength, and, purpose than ever before. Sitting here, on my last day in the mountains, I am certain, I will never end this journey of self-discovery and growth

Is The Shit Show Necessary?

I’ve been here in Ridgway, CO about two weeks now. I’ve spent most of that time adjusting – to the altitude, a slower pace of life, not having every convenience at my fingertip (except for Amazon Prime – thank you Amazon Prime), and a different way of life in general. I would say I’m acclimating quite nicely.

Now that I can somewhat breath again, I’ve been spending time hiking, writing, resting, exploring, and meeting new people. One random afternoon took me past a Pilates studio in town. I stared in the window salivating at barres, mirrors, wood floors, and Reformers. Somehow, I had to get in there. I could feel my hamstrings and core getting weaker by the day and knew I needed to get myself back into some sort of routine. While I certainly feel better when I look better, it’s also important for me to keep what tend to be my weaker muscles strong so I can do all the other activities I love without low back and knee pain. Such as hiking. In case you didn’t know, there’s a lot of hiking here in Colorado.

I looked up the studio on line and not five days later I was meeting with the studio’s owner. Somehow we completely skirted over any talk of Pilates and dove right in the deep end. We shared stories of body insecurities, negative self-talk, and guilt over feeling the way we did knowing we are blessed to have the bodies we do. I immediately felt connected to this woman. At one point in the conversation she questioned whether or not everything needed to fall apart for us to evolve and create anew. My answer? Yes. Absolutely.

It’s one of the first pieces of wisdom I learned from my teacher. We only change when it becomes too painful not to. Let’s face it. Change sucks. The human condition prefers to be comfortable. To live in the stable and the known as opposed to the nebulous and unfamiliar. With a handful of exceptions, humans are, by nature, risk averse. We don’t like to take chances unless we are confident our gamble will produce a successful outcome whether it’s in business, relationship, or life choices.

There are no shortage of quotes on the challenge of living outside your comfort zone and the great reward that can result. Life begins outside your comfort zone. Your life does not get better by chance – it gets better by change. If there is no struggle there is no progress. We know this. Our intellect understands that the only way to evolve is to change. Yet, most often, we prefer to stay the same even if it produces an undesirable outcome.

Most times, if we remain stagnant despite all signs pointing to a need to shake things up, something will come along to deliver a swift ass kicking. It can be anything from an emotionally painful break-up to a life threatening accident. Or it may simply be the persistent pain of living day in and day out under the same conditions of disappointment, abuse, or general malaise. One day we wake up and just can’t tolerate it anymore. We are done.

It’s a phrase I hear more and more. I’m done. What follows it varies – I’m done feeling badly about myself. I’m done with this relationship. I’m done playing small. And in its emphatic form such as I’m SOOOOO done with this job. The pain of staying the same MUST BE greater than the pain of change. Saying we’re DONE is our proclamation to the Universe that “what is” is no longer acceptable. Things must change.

It would be great if our lives didn’t need to fall to shit in order for us to shift. Usually, however, we need to be forced to alter our way of doing things or adjusting the lens through which we view the world. The good news is, like any other skill, navigating change can be developed. And the more adept we become at managing the discomfort of change, the more likely we are to take risks and, as one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown writes, dare greatly. Make no doubt about it – risk is a learned aptitude. The more you rehearse, the better you get.

Try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all the events in your life that seem devastating. I am a firm believer that God, Spirit, Allah, Universe – whatever you want to call it or believe in – does not hand out anything beyond our capacity to endure. You know, the whole what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger philosophy. Someone, somewhere, is trying to wake you up. Pay attention and use adversity as a path to growth, wisdom, and change. The more you accept change as inevitable and the more you work your capacity to handle adversity, turmoil, and discomfort, the easier and more fruitful your life will become. Shit show and all.

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