I Might Be Ready To Get Real

I feel like I had a good run of a couple years where things started to click for me.  I was taking myself seriously in a whole new way, I felt like I was winning.  I was in my body, I was strong, I could understand that I was not only surviving but that there might be an upward trend.   

My kid was doing great, my husband got sober, I was feeling important and satisfied in my job.  I was concerned about the world but was living in the hope and change administration and could maintain optimism that wisdom, diplomacy, and a collective will to survive would prevail.

The last couple years feel like one continues long day and I can’t yet sleep. 

Two days ago, the downstairs of my house flooded and I ran around freaking out trying to save all my shit.  I was yelling at my kid to move faster, she was terrified.  My husband called and she told him “Dad, you have to get home now, things are really bad”. 

Pause.  Generally speaking, I am the person in my relationship that holds reality in place.  Except for that time, I threw a waffle iron at the wall in a fit of rage (not sorry about it either), I am almost always, the voice of calm. This is my greatest co-dependent super-power.

So, my husband said to me, “Stop freaking out.  It is just stuff.  Cecilia is scared.  Pop some popcorn, bring it to the couch, snuggle her under a blanket and watch a movie.  You can’t stop what is happening”.  In that moment, I saw myself perhaps for the first time.

I am so smart and so strong and so capable of everything except letting go and because of this the world has become overwhelming and my need to control everything around me (except myself) is breaking my life.

 I have had several moments of clarity in the last couple months.  I have seen myself frozen like a bug in amber waiting to see what everyone else is going to do before I decide for myself what is good for me.  I am letting everyone take the good stuff and making the best of the energetic left overs.  Nobody is asking me to do this, but this is consistent with my training.

I haven’t been able to write in a terribly long time.  Whenever I try, I just get worried and can’t think.  Meditation has been much harder for the same reason.  

Being in my body is nearly impossible and I cannot express in words how sad this makes me.  I fought so hard to make my way to my body, to get out of my head and appreciate how amazing my body is.  My yoga practice is slipping and I haven’t been under a barbell in months.  I find the idea of cardio terrifying.  I am very food addicted right now. 

I want my body back.  I want my mind back.  I want my energy back.

The problem is, I don’t think my patented strategy of just doing hard stuff and pretending it’s no big deal is going to work.  So, I need help.  I do not need advice.  I need constant reminders that I can show up for myself. I need to know that showing up is more important than looking good/capable.  I might need to practice gross incompetence.  I would like to be held in the highest esteem while doing this.  It will be hard to remember that my value as a human is not performance based.

I have been so tricked by patterned optimism, that being honest with myself has become very hard and there has never been anything more important to me.

I know that there are people in this world who really see me.  There are people who have been watching and want me to win.  It is one of the greatest blessings of my life that I have amassed a huge army of high-quality allies.  To all of you, I would ask this:  If you see me struggling, come be with me.  Remind me that you think I can win. 

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I Am A For Real Power Lifter Now

Y’all I love tribes.  I’ve got my family tribe(s), my St. Augustine tribe, my Covington tribe,  my yoga tribe, my work tribe, of course my Iron Tribe and many many more.

In 2018 I made some big moves.  I re-aligned myself with a new power-lifting tribe.

I haven’t yet said a proper good-bye to Iron Tribe.  I want to say that Iron Tribe was a total game changer for me.  I went there to lose weight, I left knowing that I didn’t need to lose weight to be an athlete.  That is not their mission, but it is a lesson that has been critical to my mission.  

I will say that another way.  I learned that I didn’t have to wait to have a different body to live my life fully.  More on that another day.

After squatting 300lbs in December at Iron Tribe, I thought maybe I will check out competitive power lifting.  I rallied my resources. I leveraged the community and my coaches past and present.  I consulted all the wise allies that I collected over the years.  I went to the coach at my gym, I got his advice and I got to work.  

Half way through my training I looked around and realized something about my gym community.  It was that however much in love I was with this awesome community of athletes and coaches and however much I felt I owed them for the gift of realizing my own power (in so many ways), they were just doing something different than what I was doing.   My mission was now very specific and not connected to the mission of the tribe.   They would have been happy to support me to the best of their ability, but it wasn’t a good fit anymore.

Just for the record.  I love that place, the owners, the coaches and the people every day.  For anyone that is not sure how to get started with a dynamic fitness program or wants to get super awesome in a cross-training environment – this place is amazing.

As I started down this path of training I had about 3 months before my first meet.  Half way through I began to crave more.  I needed to find a new peer group that could usher me into this sport.  I wanted to be around people that could practice and talk about 3 movements - endlessly. 

This is a post for another day also, but there is so much more to those 3 movements than people realize.

So, I opened my third eye and it saw a post on Instagram for a pod cast featuring Shawna Mendelson.  I listened to it and there was something about her words that clarified my sense what was missing from my training.  So, I looked her up and wrote to her and incredibly, she wrote me back immediately and we connected.

We got to work, she found my baselines, she corrected my form in some key areas and got me to my first meet, which I attended yesterday.

Here are 10 things I learned yesterday that I would love to share:

1.     I am an athlete. From now on, I cannot think of myself as a strongish fat girl that can pick up heavy things.  I am a person in possession of skills, strength, drive and discipline – all of which I will apply with integrity daily to compete with my best efforts to beat my best from the day before.

2.     Hanging out with the other women lifters is an awesome time. We all watched each other and marveled in one anthers efforts.   We shared space and baby powder, cheered each other on.  We talked about what we loved and what we were afraid of.  

3.     The women of power lifting are some of the toughest, kindest most badass humans I have ever met.  It is not surprising when I think of what it takes for a person to fight for themselves and their own strength.  It takes equal amounts of courage and compassion.   Everyone has known these women and everyone knows that when they are not lifting heavy weights, they are lifting all of us. Their strength is not just physical – it’ total complete emotional, psychological strength.  These are the people that make the world turn even if they must do it manually.

4.     The men in this sport are either helpful or oblivious.  This is great.  I have met nothing but awesome men in the powerlifting space.  They are encouraging, helpful and pretty much never talk down to me or other women around me.   Men who did not come to support women, are happily getting awesome on their own, which is also great. 

5.     Competing is so much fun.  I know where I belong in my sport and that feels great. 

6.     I have a sport!  I found an activity that my body loves.  I don’t have to participate in sports and activities that make my body feel bad.  I get to be comprehensive about my fitness, but I don’t have to fight myself. I am super strong.  I am excited to combine that with better technique and experience.

7.     A t-shirt and a singlet is hella comfy.  Sure, you look shitty, but not one single person gives a shit.  This was a great opportunity to stop thinking about how I should look or dress.  Before the meet, I had a horrible 6th grade nightmare that I would arrive in my singlet and t shirt and nobody else would be dressed that way.  It all worked out.  Also, my nails were so on point, I didn’t need a better outfit.

8.     Powerlifting is an individual sport that requires a team.  Each of my success and failures reveal a new truth to me, that is useful only to me.  I can’t access any of that without people to guide me. 

9.     Trust is everything.  It is necessary to trust my coaches, spotters, and organizers. The foundation of my success rests on my ability to trust my guides and everything that they have learned and the work that they have already done.   

10.  I deserved my award.  I got an award for being the best in my division.  There was nobody else in my category….so it might seem like an overly gratuitous recognition.    Not so.  I am a 41-year-old, 300-pound woman using not one piece of gear.  I used no belts, or wraps, or suits.  I didn’t even use lifters.  All those things are fine and I look forward to learning how to use those tools.  I just didn’t use them this time.  I arrived on that platform with nothing by my self.  It took me an entire lifetime to make my way to that platform.  The fact that nobody else that fits my specs was there with me, speaks volumes about how special it was that I made it.  I guess sometimes you get an award for showing up, but showing up is the actual work and it is worth recognizing.  There were a lot of awards, but there were also a lot of circumstances.  Not one single lifter there was the same.

This experience was so precious to me and it was just the beginning of all the work I get to do with Shawna and my new tribe.  Also, shout out to my dad who drove all the way from Bandera Texas to sit in a pretty uncomfortable chair for 9 hours and cheer me on.  I could feel all day how proud he was of me.   It was easy for me to branch out and be brave when I was so close to my roots.  Thanks Dad, I love you forever.

One other thing that happened yesterday, is that there was a woman in the bathroom who said to me "I wish I could do what y'all do"  I told her "you can".  Everyone of us has power.  We just need to reach out and grab it.

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01.21.18 I Really Want You As My Ally

Dear Men,

I see you.  I have noticed your awkwardness.  I hear your defensiveness in the way you construct your words or hide behind your best actions. It must be a little scary to not know how to act or what to say.  I can imagine that must feel very unfamiliar.  Especially since so many women have been trained (mostly by each other) to reassure you continually. I bet many of you didn’t know that. I can’t even tell if that is your fault, but I am mad about it and I don’t know who else to blame. 

That's the thing, I am tired of blaming myself.  I think we all are.  So we need you to let us be mad at you.  We need you to remember your goodness, on your own without our help even if you have made mistakes.  You have to love yourself enough to hang on to your integrity at all times.  You must do this even when and especially when you fuck up so big time you can’t stand to see yourself in the mirror. We need you to grow roots in these moments and stand tall and strong, so that we can rage in your face with the force of a hurricane until we are done.  

If you can do this, If you can stay, It is very possible that we will want to stand with you when its all over.  You will have walked through a fire with us and we won’t forget it.  We will all be changed.

You will loose some things.  It will make you sad.  You men will all need to learn how to love each other for real.  You will have to tend to each other as we women decide one at a time to give up that job and tend to ourselves.  That  might not sound fair.  Maybe it isn’t, but neither is sexism. To be perfectly honest, none of us (including you) can survive another moment of this hideous oppression.

I don’t know if you guys know this, but carrying out all of the jobs of maintaining sexism in the world has been very hard on you.  I need you to trust me, that you will feel better without it.

 All of us have witnessed the absurd devices that men have employed to suppress feminine power.  It looks exhausting.  It looks like there is a cost of self for  every tool you buy from the devil’s store to maintain this system.  You have had to rely on weapons of economics, sexuality, religion, physical strength, mental trickery, and many others.  Every time one of these weapons is used, men grow more confused.  Aren’t y'all tired of that? Men, don’t you want your mind back?  I truly want that for you.

I have noticed the altruistic ways that many men allowed their spiritual belief systems oblige them to participate in the systematic oppression of women.  I have seen you enjoy your free time and you extra cash while I agonized over working late nights after taking care of my family only to make $0.78 on the dollar (or worse). Many of us women have been beaten, raped, lied to, denied the rights to make decisions about our own fucking bodies and futures, we have been endangered by modern child birth, we are still sold into slavery and on and on and on.  

We have been kept busy scared and quiet. So maybe you didn’t notice? Or maybe you did but didn’t know how to extract your self from your position of privilege do anything about it.  

Have you ever asked what you personally would have to give up or endure to live in a world without sexism?   I am wondering (and I think you should know for yourself) what you are willing to let go of in order to have equality for me. 

Listen, stay with me here.  I see you and I still love you.  I am just pissed. I have not forgotten that men have been seduced and manipulated by privilege.  I can imagine (because I am white and have my own work to do here) how hard it is to want to extract yourself from it.  I am fully aware that you have been experiencing the world differently from me.  You see things differently.

Men, if we could trade places for a bit, it would be amazing!  I would miss the closeness I have with all the women around me.  You would get to know what it is like to be required to hold the wellness of other beings above your own. I could walk through the world without implicit obligation. I would know the horrors of war in a way I can now only imagine.  You would know the tortures and joys of the female body.  You would understand what it is to organize your thoughts around the possibility of assault at any moment.  You would wonder if you were too fat or too thin or too blonde or too female or not female enough or if men liked you or women liked or if you should do something to be more anything.  I imagine I would think of a ton of shit once my mind was done with all of that.

So listen, for what it’s worth, I still don’t blame you.  I don’t actually think you asked for this construct.  However, sexism is a problem that needs to be solved.

So, if you are a guy and you are wearing a “Time’s Up” pin or you support the #metoo movement or you are just trying to be a good dude, I am asking you to stay while we figure this out.  If you are a man and you hear a woman tell her story about any kind of sexism she has experienced, please stay and listen and hold space.  If you are a man and you get accused of being sexist, clumsy, pervy, aloof, complicit, quiet, handsy, abusive…etc., please stay and listen.  If you are a man and you hear a story that a woman tells about her experience and you don’t believe her or you think she is wrong  or you think she just wants attention, give her the fucking attention please.

We women as a group, historically, have not had much experience in telling our stories of sexual harassment, abuse and inequality.  Many of you thought you were doing right by us the whole time and nobody told you otherwise.  As you can imagine, we have not been trained to notice or speak of sexism.  So many varieties of abuse and oppression have just looked normal to us for so long, we need to bring our stories to life so we can study them and to try and understand them.  We can be expected to be in inelegant at times. Elegance is not a luxury we can afford in this moment.  Please stay and help us process it. I believe it will be good for us both.

XOXO,

JGC

PS -  Also,  can you please not tell us we are doing it wrong, or correct us.  We will work it out. We totally got this.

 

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01.14.18 Is Yoga a Tool of Liberation?

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Is yoga actually a tool of liberation? I mean, I think so.  So does Master Patanjali from what I have read, but let's not take it for granted.

A friend of mine sent me an article the other day suggesting otherwise.  Yoga was described as a kind of cute navel gazing activity that helps people feel more comfortable with their privilege.  If I am honest, that is not always wrong.  I still think it's not entirely fair.

I can get with the idea that  a person who's end goal in a yoga practice is perfecting their downward dog is not exactly leading the revolution.  But, it is probably fair to say that no matter how superficial the reasons are that deliver a person to a yoga practice, most get more than what they bargain for.

Once we begin to still the mind, connect with the body, allow the breath to lead us, align ourselves, disconnect from struggles, we become profoundly better prepared to perceive the world. Being able to perceive the world can feel like turning a light on.  When the world becomes illuminated for a person, things tend to change.  

We begin to notice our connection to each other.  It is unavoidably real.  People do lots of different things with that information.  Some seek more truth and justice.  Others observe the world and carry their observances to another lifetime.

Our practice teaches us to grow roots, dig deep into the earth, find strength and grow in every direction.  We take a look at what is in our way and patiently move it one breath at a time.  We learn persistence.

The thing that happens in yoga that i think is the most helpful is the way we develop courage on our mats to stay in a moment no matter how difficult.  We do things that are physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenging.  We learn how to rely on our breath and stay.  We learn how to fail.  We learn how to come back over and over again. We practice discomfort.  

Yoga is about dissolving illusion and living in union with oneself, with god, with each other (all the same thing in my opinion).   Each of us do this in our own time with actions that we have the capacity to execute.  Which reminds me of another thing that happens when we practice yoga.  We become increasingly prepared for honesty, struggle, peace, enlightenment.  We spend time experiencing the benign reality of various states of being.  We create capacity for power.  We also reduce our indifference to that which causes harm.

I practice and teach yoga.  When I practice I don't always think of the big picture of liberation. In fact, I try to engage with my thoughts a little as possible.  I focus on my breath, my energy, my alignment.  I suspend the drama of attachment and outcomes and exist on my mat.   When I teach, I offer instruction that I hope lead my students away from the turnings of thought and towards their breath.  I hope this allows them to experience their life force, reduce attachment, build capacity, work through struggle and gain strength. 

All of that is happening when I teach someone how to root down, balance, expand from the heart and stay with the breath.  When I teach those things, I am building and army of liberators.  The revolution must happen inside first.  We come to our mats and then we take it to the streets.

I believe yoga is a tool of liberation.  If you are skeptical, try it.

08.14.18 Strength and Fitness

I understand that people may not look at me and get that I am very much interested in physical fitness. Generally, we don’t see fat people and believe that they care about their bodies. However, it is true that I have dedicated pretty much my entire life to learning and thinking about my body. 

At first because I hated it and blamed myself for the shape my body.  This started at the age of 5.  I remember being in kindergarten and my friend Shannon and I were wearing the same dress.  I looked at her skinny legs and I looked at my big legs and felt ashamed.

Just 6 years later I was in my first weight watchers meeting. What I now understand is that an 11 year old girl has no control over the shape of her developing body.  Nor should she.  I wish someone had told me at the time that an 11 year old girl is hungry, growing, changing and needs nourishment and patience.  An 11 year old girl should be dreaming and playing and learning and testing her power in the world.  I should have been marveling at the magnificent changes happening to me.  Instead, I was trying to make people approve of my body while at the same time hating myself for not being able to control it make it submit to the expectations the world had for it.

I felt shame constantly.  Sometimes by many of the women I loved and trusted the most.  They loved me, but were afraid for me.  People were urgent with me about solving the problem of my fat body. 

Y’all, I wasn’t even that fat.  WTF ever that means.

Ironically, to solve for that I started doing things that actually were bad for me. I starved myself, I stayed up late at night running on a treadmill punishing myself for eating.  I was afraid to eat in public. I smoked.  I ate fake, chemically processed low sugar low fat food.  I deprived my body of nutrition.  I tried to not notice that I even had a body.  I tried to work harder and get approval from people by making them more important than me.  I drank.  I took drugs.  I didn’t sleep. 

I didn’t believe that my body, the very thing that carries me through his life, was valuable.

I lost sight of my own preciousness.

I lost a lot of weight once for a few months in my early 20s and it was terrifying.  People wouldn’t shut up about it.  Men, wouldn’t stop looking at me.  I had a teacher at the time that felt particularly dangerous and creepy when he looked at me or stood behind me.  I didn’t know what to do.  I had been desperate for people to approve of my body for so long, and now they did and I hated it.  No thanks.  I gained the weight back and with it more shame.

The majority of my life was a cycle of that, gain weight, feel ashamed, get scared that I am spiraling out of control, loose a little bit of weight, can’t sustain it, gain more weight feel more shame…..etc.

Over these years, I read all the books, I did all of the things.  I got a lot of information.  Through all of the good and bad info, trial and error, I came to know a LOT about nutrition.  I took it all in and listened to my body. I know so much about the body.

I know so much about my body.  There are still mysteries left, but not many.  I have built a feedback loop that I trust.

I will do almost anything to not go to a doctor.  Almost every doctor I see will identify fatness as the root of every illness. instead of a symptom of abuse of which I am blameless for.  Which means, they turn out to not be helpful identifying real problems and solutions.

Once a doctor told me that I was pre-pre-diabetic.  Meaning my blood sugar was almost on the high side of normal.  I think that is still called normal.  That is medical code for fat.

I have said a thousand times, that if given the option, i would have chosen thin-ness and complicity.  I tried  with all my heart and with excessive discipline to loose weight.  I am not like bravely IDGAF fat.  I actually don’t know if anyone is.

I  would have traded everything I loved for it.  I have made so many deals with the devil that compromised my actual health and also my integrity.  I have made decisions that were designed to devalue my very being.

Now I am in my forties and working hard to reclaim the time I lost trying to escape my body.  I am trying to reconcile the moments adding up to years where I was paralyzed by not being worthy.  I am collecting the debt of time where the world made me feel that I was too broken to accomplish anything.  I want back every minute of every gym class where I was too afraid of being embarrassed by being noticed to try to have fun or notice my own physical power.

I moved my life forward by toggling between two states of being.  I would ignore everything and bulldoze my way into spaces I was not welcome and pretending it was fine. Alternately, I would examine every little detail of myself, building a massive taxonomy of traits that were on a spectrum of acceptable and unacceptable.  I would re-write the criteria continuously.  I would build new categories between truth and fiction, human and inhumane, changeable or static.  I moved toward the light while everyone wanted me to stay with them in the dark. 

It is through that fire that I walked to arrive in this place.  And this is place where I fucking belong.

If I had lived with the privilege of unearned social acceptance, I would not have realized the glorious fruits of all that labor.

The truth is, I have moments now (long ones) where I forget that I am fat.  I am not in a constant state of terror with my internal voice screaming at me things like “Change! You are not ok! Nobody could love you! You are dying, stupid!”  You don’t deserve help!” “Don’t let them see you!”

Those recordings show up sometimes, but they don’t run me.

I have enjoyed lots of different types of movement and exercise.  Pretty consistently, it was humiliation around my body that stopped me from pursing any of them in the long term.  

Throughout the last 17 years, I hung on to yoga.  I would practice, get discouraged, get busy, stop practicing, come back, repeat. 

After having a baby, my body was so destroyed it took me about 2 years to return to my practice.  I had no choice and it was almost impossible to practice.

I was enormous, swollen, enflamed and immobile.  I just grit my teeth and did it anyway.  It was sometimes peaceful, but mostly it was physical and emotional torture.  In those days, my practice was all about showing up to the mat.  It is a noble practice.  In the end I didn’t have the strength to stay in my practice.  So, I took a break and went to the gym.

At the gym I pushed myself with cardio, which I hate but continue to engage in (in moderation - for balance).  I also learned about lifting weights.

For me lifting was the antidote to all of the inadequacy and discouragement I had been plagued with.  I was immediately good at it.  Before I knew what I was doing or how to properly move, I was unbelievably strong.  This was an absolute revelation.  I was unbelievably strong.    

Here is an example. I can remember the first time I did a bench press.  I slowly built up the bar with to maximum weight recommended for the women and tried to do the prescribed max reps.  I did this slowly, because I didn’t imagine that I could be as strong as the strongest in my group. The other women I was lifting with were fierce and I looked up to them. None of these women hit the weight that I did and they could at best accomplish 3-7 reps.  It was confusing to watch, I had never been physically the best at anything.  At the maximum weight, I got up to 10, 15, 20 and then just stopped, because I was wasting our time.  It was way to light.

I remember that day and think about how grateful I was to be with those supportive badass ladies in the gym.  It would have been so easy to make me feel shitty or lessen my accomplishment - but they didn’t.  That too was new.

I began to learn how to move smarter, find my alignment, work on my mobility, and get stronger and more confident.  Now that I had strength, I went back to yoga.

I went back to yoga so big time, I went to a teacher training and now I teach it.  The main thing that get out of yoga, and that I teach in yoga is listening to the body.  I want all of us to find the safety and presence of mind to stay in a moment and listen to our bodies enough to make good decisions about how to best serve our bodies.  Our bodies hold our consciousness we need them.

Now, I am so very in my body all the time.  I practice yoga even when I can’t stand it and my body gets in the way.  I stay there on my mat until I can dissolve the ideas I have about my body being unworthy of this kind of loving attention.  

I connect to my breath. 

I  notice it running trough my body. 

I close my eyes and explore every energetic pathway inside my skin.  

I travel these pathways in mind looking for places that feel unhealed or un-nourished.

I keep my attention and energy in those places as long as I can and go back as often as I need to.  Because that is yoga.  It is not turning away from yourself.

I lift.  I lift as much as possible as often as possible because I like being strong.  I lift smart because I am a yogi and because I am smart.

I like spending time noticing the strength that was given to me by god.  I think it would be a sin to not accept and enjoy that gift.  In many many ways, the gift of strength saved me.  My physical strength lends me emotional strength regularly.  My physical strength allows me to walk through the world less afraid.  My strength makes me large.  My largeness insists that others make space for me. This is space that I decide to be unashamed claiming as often as I can.

The very idea of women being as small as possible is a bullshit proposition created by sexism and maintained exquisitely by capitalism.  Fitness is important to me.  Health is important to me. Strength is important to me. Peace is important to me.

I will not force myself to be small.  This commitment is one that I make for myself.  I hope that this commitment serves others in reminding them that they have options in how they live their life.

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10.26 PechaKucha Talk "Without Darkness, There is no Light"

I was really trying hard with this topic to be super intellectual, but to be honest, I could not find a way to talk about darkness and light outside of the context of God.

Not religion, but God.  Creation.  Something from nothing type of stuff.  Something more satisfying than science or art.

I never used to consider myself a faithful or religious person.  In fact, I kind of avoided the whole messy topic.

I was raised Catholic and loved that has a child, and I loved the churches and the light and the sounds and the rules and the ceremony of the catholic church. 

but from the very beginning I was definitely a “wink wink” kind of Catholic.  

I felt like God and I understood each other and we were in direct communion with one another.  I didn’t’ want to tell the priests, but I really didn’t buy into their necessity.

My god was the kind of God that understood all of my jokes before I said them out loud. 

God was big and complex but we were way tight.

So, I was told as a young person that God made everything.

I think the story is typically told that

First there was darkness

Then

There was light.

I don’t think it is a given that light is born from darkness.

When imagining the nothingness of pre-light, It feels impossibly dark.

The pure saturation of darkness must have been too cold and heavy dense to give rise to any kind of entropy.  The whole thing must have been completely static and silent. 

There just HAD to be a profound spark and the spark is neither darkness or light. It is something else entirely.

When I was little, I had an audio book called “Creation” it was read by Burl Ives.  I listened to it all the time and I still vividly remember its images.

This is how it begins:

Before God created the Earth,

This was just an empty place. 

Without a trace of things that you and I know.

There was no land,

Not one grain of sand,

Where you and I stand.

There was no place to go.

 

There were no boys or girls or flowers or trees.

No fish no birds no chimpanzees,

No macaroni and Cheese, no summer breeze.

There were no puppies no guppies,

No pink lemonade,

It must have been lonely,

So, God formed a mighty plan and the creation of the world began.

 

He started by making light,

Then he separated light from what wasn’t bright… 

I sat on that thought for a long time.  Eventually I grew up and traded my assumption of God for facts.

I didn’t have time for considering God or darkness or light.  It didn’t seem to matter. I had tests to take and bills to pay.  Besides, all of that stuff seemed private and unrelated to what I was doing. 

Eventually things started to shift for me.

I became a mom. I made a person.  It was wild and magic and to be honest it was a miracle.

And one day I was in a yoga training and my teacher asked me to write down a word that described the thing that has served me in my darkest moments.  I summoned up a memory of a particularly dark moment, and to my extreme surprise, I wrote the word “God”.   I thought it was weird and I wanted to change my answer, and I looked around at all these yogis and figured it was probably what everyone wrote.  We later discussed our sanswers.

I learned 2 things that day:

1.     God is important to me
2.     That answer was not normal among my pears

I believe in the spark at the beginning.

I don’t think of God as a white guy in the sky with a white beard, but more often now, I imagine god as light.

I don’t think it has to be true that Light cannot exist without darkness.  Light, at least to my mind is not a response, or a cure to darkness.

I don’t really mean to split hairs about semantics, but light can definitely exist without darkness.  It just wouldn’t have a purpose.  It wouldn’t feel like anything.

It might be possible that light created darkness because it needed a mirror.  

There is another children’s story that I really love.  It’s called “The little soul and the sun”  It takes more than 6 minutes to read, so I will tell you my favorite parts.

In this story, the sun is made of bazillions of tiny flames each one is a little soul. 

One particular little soul or light wants to be the brightest possible light. 

God hears this and explains that she is as bright and lustrous and perfect as possible

AND

So is everyone else.

She wonders how can I possibly experience the scope of my own light if that is all I can see.

God recommends darkness and kind of walks away.

Another helpful little soul walks in and says, Imma do you solid and become darkness.  I love you so much that I want you to see your brilliance and I will extinguish my light and be darkness for you.  I just need you to remember who I really am and agree to not turn away from me if you don’t like what you see.

This is my how I currently think of God – as the light of a gajillion lights all traversing lifetimes together. 

All of us on a spectrum exuding different qualities of light - vibrating at different frequencies. 

The darkness and the light remain eternally in service of each other.

I imagine the broadest sense of the universe like 2 infinite fields one of light and one of darkness and where they crash into each other, that is the horizon and it is filled with spark and can’t stop creating.  That is where we live.

The little soul realizes that she is already at her fullest brightest potential but she cannot figure out a way to experience herself. 

And she so badly wants to experience her full brightness.

Another sweet little soul  - one of the bazillion candles -shows up and agrees to extinguish her light in order to allow her friend to to experience the power of her own light.

This sounds like a very “light-like” thing to do in my opinion

The new helpful little soul has conditions.  She explains the risks in this plan.   

Once her light is extinguished she will be hard to recognize.  She will be hard to recognize even to her own self. 

She will appear dull and less vibrant and dense.  She will not be able to reignite herself.  She warns her friend to not be confused by her no matter what she may do.  The price of this favor is to make sure the bright little soul is committed to remembering that the two are equals from the same place and the bright little soul must return the helpful little should back home to the light.

This is my new picture of God.  A million little souls.  A million little lights.  Some are dark and some are bright.  The darkness and the light remain eternally in service of each other.

I imagine the universe like 2 infinite fields one of light and one of darkness and where they crash into each other, that is the horizon and it is filled with spark and can’t stop creating.

 

 

10.26 My Friend Damien Told me something

The scale of darkness and light is a continuum whose edges extends beyond the horizon.  So long as we are anchored to a point, we will never see what extends beyond the horizon.  From here we can’t even know what might be available to us at another point.  In order to even grasp that we have to reposition ourselves to a new horizon.  We have to move away from the point where we are located to experience another point on this continuum.  We have to create relativity.  We don’t know if the new experience will be good or bad.  We just know it will be different.

My friend Damien once told me this story about Adam and Eve.  It weirdly upended my view of pretty much everything.  If I am to believe that everything happens for a reason, then I would have to believe that the entire reason for my friendship with Damien was for him to stop by my house one day for no apparent reason and tell me this story.

So Damien stops by and we start rapping about my impending wedding and I am struggling a little thinking about who should officiate this.  I mentioned to him that I am annoyed with sexism in Christianity which brings us off on a tangent about sexism in the bible.

Damien looks at me kind of incredulously and says, “like what?”

I look at Damien with matched incredulity and say “are you fucking kidding me?”

Damien says “no.”

So, I says “Oooook homie, what about Adam and Eve…I’d say that’s pretty much the beginning.”

Damien says “Ok, you tell me the story of Adam and Eve”

“Ok,” I say “Eve is created from Adams Rib (which somehow indebts her and all women after to him and all men after), then she eats the forbidden fruit, gets humans banned from the garden of Eden and is blamed for the pain and suffering.

At this point Damien looks genuinely befuddled and maybe just a little sad.

He says “you don’t get it at all”

For what its worth, this is not a phrase that gets said to me often.

He goes on:

“Adam was all alone. In paradise. He had no direction, he had nothing to do.  It was like a boundless solitary confinement.

So, God does him a solid and make Eve.

God tells them ‘listen, if you want to stay in this beautiful garden of grace and perfection forever, be my guest.  However, you cannot eat fruit from tree of knowledge, doing so will make it impossible for you to stay here and will experience mortality and suffering.’

So they avoid the tree of the forbidden fruit.  Until Eve doesn’t.  Eve is smart, she knows that this limited existence is not going to work.

Surely Adam is pissed about this, he is a GUY!  He has it made! This is awesome!

But Eve, is a woman.  She wants more.  Ignorance isn’t enough for her, so she convinces him to take the leap and bite the apple.  And thank god, she did!  What is the point of paradise if you don’t know struggle?  What is the value of immortality if you have no idea of mortality.”

My catholic mind was blown.

Throughout my entire life, this story represented shame and humiliation.  This story, as it was told to me was designed to make me believe that I as a descendant of Eve have a debt to pay for the reckless disobedience that was inherently my nature.

All it took to eliminate the constant thought bubble of original sin that plagued my existence as a female was to hear this story from a different perspective.   To find another point of reference.

 

The story didn’t really change, but I did and now the story has fully emerged from the shadows and is in fact quite bright.

It changed how I saw women, how I saw myself, how I saw suffering. 

My evaluation of Eve eating the apple changed drastically from a woman being seduced by a snake into committing a very dark and dangerous act that caused the suffering of all humans to a new view of the role of women as the people who are the bravest and most willing to seek out new perspectives and greater understanding.

It made me think that Eve and all women after her were embued with a special quality and tolerance for suffering uniquely qualified for leadership.

I had to see myself that way too. 

I don’t know if I believe that everything happens for a reason. 

I find it more likely that we direct our destiny more than we realize.

In any case, I think the entire reason for my relationship with Damien was for me to hear this story.

 

06.28 Showing Up White

I put my almost 7 yo in a summer camp at an African Cultural Center.  She is one of 2 white kids of about 50.

I don’t like the idea of her feeling like an only, but I made this decision anyway.  

I wanted her to witness the journey of young black people reclaiming their identity as Africans. 

To some extent, I wanted her to notice that as a white person, she is in the global minority.  This is a hard one since she experiences this from an inherent place of power and privilege, knowing I will pick her up every day.

I wanted her to have relationships with people that don’t look like her and have a different experience and perspective than her private school friends.  

I wanted her to get a picture of the wisdom and heart that come from Africa because I believe it contains many of the answers we seek to solve our global problems.

I wanted her to see black folks as leaders and learn how to follow.

I wanted these things because I love her and her future requires her to understand the world beyond whiteness.  The only place that this whiteness comes into question is around non-whiteness.

I have been asking her what it is like to be in this place.  I have been trying to counsel her about the experience.  She kind of shrugs and says its good.  She loves Mr. Woods.  I have met Mr. Woods, and I get it.  She doesn’t say much, but she has a few girl friends that she enjoys and she proudly sings me songs about Africa.  When she does this, my heart warms and I feel like I made the right choice.

I ask her what it is like to be the only white girl in the group.  She gets quiet and distant and tries to squirm away and avoid me.  She does not want to talk about it.  This is not great.  I continue to probe and she says it isn’t great.  She doesn’t really like it though she can’t say why.  I am not sure what to do with this and I don’t even know why I asked.

I tell her that being an only has its challenges, but in other ways she is not an only.  She is surrounded by a bunch of people that are from New Orleans, like her, that live in our neighborhood, and that are her age.  We take a minute to notice the kindness of the people at Kumba and I ask her if she feels safe.  She says “of course”.  I loosen up. 

I dropped her off at camp on Monday and I was informed that the group was going to the Whitney Plantation.  The Whitney Plantation is a museum dedicated to the experience of African American Slaves pre Civil War.  I have heard about it, wanted to go, but I had never been.

OH MY GOD!! SHE CANT GO LEARN ABOUT THE HORRORS OF SLAVERY AND BE THE ONLY WHITE PERSON!!!!!!! 

I cried for an entire day that it was time for her to learn about slavery.  I thought about not letting her go.  She is after all very small  still and maybe it isn’t time yet.

I wept that there was a need for a slavery museum.  It is so unbelievable and so real.

I decided that it would be wrong for our family to invite our child to learn about the African experience and opt out of the slavery part.  Black children do not get to opt out of the slavery part.  I don’t think white children should either.  This is our shared history.

So I went with her.

I was stiff and I smiled a lot.  I don’t think I looked relaxed or inviting.  I could not tell if it was appropriate for me to be taking up space on this bus or in this community.  I felt stupid to have assumed that my family was at all invited to be there.  Some people tried to take care of me.  I felt worse about that.  I didn’t want to need to be taken care of.  A couple smiles actually helped a lot.  That is really embarrassing.

The bus ride was great, the kids were fun.

We got to the museum and my daughter saw all of the statues of young slave children and she asked me who they were.  I explained that they were slave children.  She commented that they were all black.  I said “yep,  white people have never been enslaved in this country, this was only done to people from Africa.”

To be honest I can’t tell how much of that place she could take in.  I took in quite a bit.  About 5 times people asked me if I was ok.  I must have looked awful.  I said I was fine and smiled and nodded but I wish I would have fallen to my knees and wept.  I wish we all would have.  Because that is the appropriate response to learning about what my people were capable of doing to their people and what their people endured.  I wish we could have held each other and cried.  But that was never going to happen.

I noticed how annoyed and clingy CC was.  Now, I don’t want to over credit this to her whiteness, she was also very hot, tired and hungry and her mom was there so that she could express all of these things.  I witnessed several things about her interactions with the group.  They are personal to her, so I won’t say them.  I saw a picture of the work I have to do in my parenting.

My favorite part of the tour was at the end when our tour guide talked about the resilience of the African people.  She reminded the kids that slavery was not the beginning of the African story.  In other words, she reminded the children that they were not slaves, nor were African people slaves before this horrific period in time. 

My daughter and I talked a little on the bus on the way home about what she had seen and heard. She said it was scary and she didn’t like it.  We talked about what happened to white people to make them do this.  We talked about how dangerous and powerful fear can be if we don’t discharge it. We talked about how it was our work as white people to keep looking at the hurtful things our people have done while remembering that we are good.  We  must at all times work on cultivating forgiveness and love.  We have to learn how to be kind to ourselves so that we can be kind in the world.  She could take that in.  I don’t know if she believes me that everyone including her deserves kindness.  From my experience, most of us white people struggle with this.  This is especially true when we take notice of racism and of course slavery.

I still don’t know if inviting my family into this community is the “right” thing to do.  I don’t know if it is another way of asserting my white privilege to put my daughter in a space that was intended for others.  I don’t know if I should withdraw from this experiment.

My working hypothesis is that we white folks have to do whatever we can to keep moving towards having solid relationships with non-white people (and of course with each other too).  We need the perspective of others to help us understand the impact of racism on the world (outside of intellectualism).  We white people cannot eliminate racism without participating in its destruction through the creation of relationships.  We need relationships that we would will fight for and defend with all of out hearts (and at a cost to our privilege if necessary).  We can’t leave this work for people targeted by racism to do.  We have to do it for us.  We have to do it to preserve our hearts and our integrity.  

I think this means that we stumble around and look a little stupid, and make mistakes and show up when we aren’t invited and when we can’t tell if it is a good idea.  It might mean that we keep doing it and stop waiting until it looks comfortable or inviting.  

I don’t think there is any reason that racism should survive the fierce loving nature of the human spirit.  I like to believe that racism is not our whole story, it is just a thing that happened and it is almost over.

06.20 Living Fat

For me, Fatness is a thing I have been trying to escape for as long as i can remember.  To be fat is to be ashamed or week or stupid or selfish or just incorrect.  I have been told over and over again that it is within my control and it is my fault that I can not or will not conform to the standard of a "normal" body weight and shape.  I have been made to feel responsible for other people's discomfort with my size and shape.

Sometimes this makes me feel defeated. Other times, I feel obstinate and defiant. I experience phases of devout effort to change my body one molecule at a time.  I become certain that my body is an important project and I am powerful enough to defeat fatness.  I have ignored my body for long periods of time and taken up residence in my mind and just prayed that my body would continue to carry my head around the earth.

I have cried.

I went to my first weight watchers meeting at the age of 11.  I went to a very special program at the age of 15 that was supposed to be a super fun time for fat kids to tell us about diet and nutrition.  We occasionally met each others eyes with an understanding of one another's torment. The Mary Kay lady came to lift our self worth by telling us how to apply lotion and make-up. She was so very disappointed that we couldn't express our gratitude through our humiliation.  We were scolded for being rude. For us, being fat was the worst possible outcome and our families were trying out this desperate hail mary to save our young lives.

I dieted. I did point systems, veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, atkins, southbeach, master cleanser, and whole 30.  I did them all, weather they made sense or not.  I ran. I walked. I swam. I did aerobics. I did crossfit, tae-bo, zumba, yoga, hot yoga, px 190, and spinning.

I went to doctors.  I tried to have an honest conversation about this struggle.  I tracked my food in 5 different apps.  I took pictures of it.  I fasted. I overate. 

I said fuck it.  I tried to forget again.

I began to feel the world get smaller as I got larger.  That is a metaphor and a real thing.  Chairs and doorways began to shrink, the amount of retailers that could provide me with shoes and clothes began to dissipate.  The cars I wanted to ride in were fewer.  Airplanes became a hell scape.

I got scared. What if I can't stop it? I began to freak out. It got worse.

I wondered why? What can I do if none of that stuff works?  I felt misunderstood and judged.  I haven't walked in a McDonalds in 15 years. I don't drink soda. I eat kale for fucks sake.  (PS, I also eat cookies..sometimes..just sayin).  I felt like I was becoming a non-person.

What I do now is try to not get involved in the why am I fat question.  I instead try to understand my overall health, which seems to be pretty good.  I could use less stress and more sleep, but I am pleased with everything I have figured out to live a good comfortable life.

Now, fatness has the power I assign it.  I continue to practice giving it no power.

There is no way to be.  There is no promise of a body that looks any way.  I strive for function and a long life.  When I feel discouraged, I find things that I love about my body.

My body can squat 230lbs.
My body can stand on its hands and its head. 
My quads are a national treasure.
My eyes are mostly green with gold and brown flecks.
My body made a human being.  
My body can bench press 190lbs.  
My body supports a whole family.
My smile is magic.
My body will destroy every shred of injustice in her path.
My body has a resting heart rate of about 60.  
My body runs touchdowns.
My body is constantly revealing more ability.  
My body hosts my soul.
My body realizes my highest intentions.  
My body will not be punished.  
My body will not spend another day being held to someone else's standard.
My body will continually teach me and others.
My body is learning to rest.
My body is learning to bask in grace.

 

05.16 Heart Sounds

All I have ever wanted was to be able to sing music that sounded like my soul the way that the ocean tastes like salt.

People who can do this make it look easy - like breathing.  

Dancers are like this too.  I am in awe of dancers. I love the way they make poetic sense of their bodies and articulate  feelings with every movement.  They glide and leap and bow and move exposing every experience and tell their own stories, even when they are telling someone else.

It is so awesome to me how difficult it is to choreograph the individual out of a dance or arrange a person out of a song. It is almost impossible

I studied music. I practiced music. I imitated music. I ignored music. I consumed music. I loved music.  I wanted to be music.  I withdrew from music.

There are lots of uninteresting reasons why this struggle is so real for me.  I have counted them and filed them away, but i haven’t detached from them enough to make them disappear.

Currently, I feel like the inability to merge with song stems from an internalized oppression of the highest level.  This affliction is born from the harsh and unrelenting pattern of perfectionism at any cost no matter how futile the effort.

I have such huge disdain for perfectionism and yet here it is somehow keeping me from making soul sounds.  How is this a thing.

I think I am brave.  I know I am brave. However, I have never been quite brave enough to surrender to music.

Everyone who deals in the currency of energy and has evaluated my presence and has told me that i need to sing.  Whenever I hear someone say this, it sounds like when someone tells you to wear a seatbelt or floss.  Its like not singing is putting me at risk for not being able to enjoy my life. 

As a child I used to sing constantly.  I used to never run out of things to sing.  As an adult, I have to try hard to remember songs that are fun to sing.  As I write this, it sounds crazy, but this is what being an adult has done to me.  

…so, the other day I found myself in the car singing. Badly.  I kept trying to figure out how to fix it.  I thought about the key of the music, the speed, the articulation of words, the breath, the rhythm, my proximity to all of those things independently and together.  It was seriously not fun and it sounded horrible.  

Suddenly I realized I was singing with my head - not my heart.  It sounded like head music.  Which is basically, is audible garbage.  It did not sound like my soul or taste like the ocean.  It was made from all of the fear and insecurity in my head that won’t shut up.

Then I remembered this thing that Brigette Martin said to me once:  

 "You can’t let your mind take over your heart.”

I am grateful beyond measure that this lesson showed up when it did.  It stuck around like a waxy little seed through a cold season and bloomed right here at the end of spring.

It’s worth noting, I don’t know how to do this, but now I know my work.

Music is an instrument of liberation - I will practice and abandon the idea of perfection.

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05.03 Swim, Listen, Surender

Sometimes we get caught up in a current and the next thing you know we are swimming.  Sometimes this is awesome. Sometimes it is confusing or scary.  It is interesting to notice how we respond to these scenarios.

I used to live on the east coast and I had a house right across the street from the beach and it was amazing.   I claim the Gulf of Mexico as my home, but I am very fond of the Atlantic ocean too.  I like its considerable power and size and coolness and mystery.  The waves are just right.  It was the perfect body of water for me to relate to in my 20’s.

Once I stood at the edge of the ocean with a friend and we were admiring a boat that was prolly half a mile out.  He and I used to swim together weekly.  We looked at each other and looked at the boat, we smiled - we jumped in the water and swam out to the boat.  

Swimming out from the shore is awesome.  It is easy to feel powerful and brave.  There are big waves coming toward you and you just duck and swim and get out there.  I love scenarios that require courage, determination and force - that is pretty much my sweet spot.  Stillness and yielding is a whole different scenario.

Once we got to the boat, we shared an awkward moment with the boaters, said hello and turned around to go back to shore.

That was a different kind of swim.

I was doing what I do - fighting the ocean trying to get back- and that strategy was never going to work.  I mean…you can’t really fight the ocean.  Realizing how the current kept pulling me back I just swam harder and harder until I could no longer continue with that strategy.  After several moments of panic, I began to listen, to notice the ocean to see what it was doing, I began to notice my body in the ocean.  

I realized that I needed to let go.  I had to stop trying to control things.  I had to abandon my expectations and float.  The ocean would eventually deliver me to shore.

We never really know what were are going to find out about ourselves, our bodies, our environment until we take some time and listen.

When we practice yoga, remember that we can decide to participate in a flow, but always, we must be careful to not get lost in it.  We have to maintain and develop the ability to listen to our bodies and decide what it needs.

This is true for yoga as it is true for pretty much every other moment in our lives.

 

04.18 Beach Body

Everything in this photo is perfect...

The sand is perfect, the water is perfect, the sky is perfect, the setting sun is perfect, the child is perfect, and the mother is perfect.  All bodies are just as they should be.  Let's get honest.  It is more than a little scary to put a photo of myself in a bathing suit on the internet.  I see women who can show their non-conforming bodies with casual courage and they try and call others out and let us know that its ok.  I see you, I bow to you, I have deep gratitude to you and I am taking your leadership to heart.  Every shred of information that I have obtained about female bodies in my early life stated that a person basically has no right to enjoy their body at my size.  I shouldn't get to wear bathing suits, feel the sand and sun and water, I shouldn't move in a way that draws attention to my body.  I have found a lot of peace through my yoga practice and counseling, and finding new and cool ways to employ my body, notice my strength and participate in the world.  But I haven't found enough to not panic when I see a photo of myself.    I want to say this out loud, because I think that there can be a lot of pretense in the discussion around body positivity.  Yes our bodies are perfect and just right, but I have to assume that many many many of us fight hard to remember this on a daily basis.  Whenever I feel that my body is wrong or that big is wrong.  I think of elephants.  I love elephants.  The are huge, and sweet, and powerful and tender.  They are perfect and beautiful. They harbor no shame.  They traverse the earth with an unchallenged understanding that they belong.  An elephant would not be surprised by herself in a mirror.  She would have no expectations that she should be different.  The way I apply my yoga practice to my body is that I allow myself to observe.  I let the panic of imperfection arise.  I practice non-attachment.  I come back to my breath and stay there letting the panic dissipate in its own time.  When the panic is gone, I am still there, my breath is still there and body is still there. Rinse and repeat.   

The sand is perfect, the water is perfect, the sky is perfect, the setting sun is perfect, the child is perfect, and the mother is perfect.  All bodies are just as they should be.

Let's get honest.  It is more than a little scary to put a photo of myself in a bathing suit on the internet.  I see women who can show their non-conforming bodies with casual courage and they try and call others out and let us know that its ok.  I see you, I bow to you, I have deep gratitude to you and I am taking your leadership to heart.

Every shred of information that I have obtained about female bodies in my early life stated that a person basically has no right to enjoy their body at my size.  I shouldn't get to wear bathing suits, feel the sand and sun and water, I shouldn't move in a way that draws attention to my body.

I have found a lot of peace through my yoga practice and counseling, and finding new and cool ways to employ my body, notice my strength and participate in the world.  But I haven't found enough to not panic when I see a photo of myself.  

I want to say this out loud, because I think that there can be a lot of pretense in the discussion around body positivity.  Yes our bodies are perfect and just right, but I have to assume that many many many of us fight hard to remember this on a daily basis.

Whenever I feel that my body is wrong or that big is wrong.  I think of elephants.  I love elephants.  The are huge, and sweet, and powerful and tender.  They are perfect and beautiful. They harbor no shame.  They traverse the earth with an unchallenged understanding that they belong.  An elephant would not be surprised by herself in a mirror.  She would have no expectations that she should be different.

The way I apply my yoga practice to my body is that I allow myself to observe.  I let the panic of imperfection arise.  I practice non-attachment.  I come back to my breath and stay there letting the panic dissipate in its own time.  When the panic is gone, I am still there, my breath is still there and body is still there. Rinse and repeat.

 

04.13.17 Dharma Talk : Blaze

Do you know that Marion Williamson Quote about “…we don’t fear that we are inadequate but we are powerful beyond measure”?  Well, it’s true.

It can be hard to remember that the space that we take up in the world doesn’t necessarily belong to someone else.  Shining our light as bright as possible doesn’t diminish anyone.  It is uplifting and illuminating those around us.

For me, I could not tell for many many years that my mind or thoughts were worth sharing.  Being sure about one’s self was not really a thing that girls and women did in my family.  

Growing up I was a fat kid - not an athlete.  I began to believe that pretty quickly.  I never identified as someone with substantial physical ability.  I placed no value in my body.  I tried to be a singer.  It seemed like something that a girl with a fat body and a pretty face could do.  

That didn’t work.

When I was in my 20s I learned to swim.  I have never been fast, but I learned to swim really well for hours at a time.  I still didn’t feel like an athlete if my body didn’t look athletic.

I learned yoga, I loved it, it felt good.  I never felt like it was good enough because i didn’t look like a yogi. 

Weirdly, the place where I really found myself  standing the most confidently in my body was at a cross-fit  style gym when I learned how to lift.  My body was so strong and muscular and sturdy and capable that I couldn’t turn away from from its power.  I could never again not see myself as an athlete.

I mentioned earlier today while promoting the class on social media. That we only have one job and it is to blaze.  And we don’t have to leave our bodies behind to do this.  We get to construct and tend to our inner fire and make it as powerful and hot and lustrous as we can manage.  

In yoga one of the things we do with our bodies and minds is practice building capacity for tending to that fire.  Allowing it to fuel us but not devour us.

04.06 Dharma Talk : A Piece of Peace

Whatever way you have come to this place (room, mat, family, planet earth, pose) and however you are experiencing it is a just right way to experience it.  

I feel quite urgent at times about this class (Every Body class).  I see what it does to all of us individually and as a collective  when we are battered with judgements tell us we are too fat, to thin, to old, to young, too loud, to diminutive, we take up too much space, we don't advocate for ourselves adequately, we are too gay, too black, too other, to political, to complicit.  If any of this bullshit gets into our hearts, it makes a mess and it becomes hard to see ourselves.

These guidelines for our existence are very very narrow and make our lives impossibly small.  I find it heartbreaking to see anyone (including myself) buy into any of the above staements.

We cannot rely on our feelings to tell us how well things are going.  They are just not that reliable. They have been co-opted and manipulated by a great many outside forces.  There are times when it makes perfect sense to dive into those feelings and give them space to express.  But here, in our yoga class we are doing something else.  We are showing up, being here, breathing and existing.  We are doing this without the pressure of external or internal expectations.

We come here and peel off the layers of expectation, identity, shape, thoughts and just exist.  We do this because we deserve it.  

Have you ever seen a super relaxed baby?   A baby who hasn’t been told to be or do anything?  A young human who is just delighted to be exploring the world around them?  Think about watching a baby discover their body or their ability without disappointment or anxiety. I think that is the goal for this class - to reconnect with the feeling of being a happy baby - which we all were at some point.

I can say that personally, I find this difficult. I can’t remember myself as a contented and relaxed baby - instead I  feel certain that I was organizing people from the very beginning.   I just have to go on faith that I was a contented and relaxed baby for at least some period of time.

One day, I was in a humongous lake in North Carolina.  One of those lakes that are made by damming up a river, so it is crazy deep and still.  The surface of the lake was  near the peaks of the mountains. My family was riding around on a pontoon boat and I asked to be let off the boat.  I jumped off a boat, the boat sped away to do something fun and there I was in this lake at the top of the smokey mountains, all by myself. Floating.  Once the boat wake and engine hum left me, I could see the reflection of the mountain tops in the water.  

It. was. so. quiet.

It was a fantasy of stillness.  It was unbelievable.  It was beautiful. It was a moment I had wanted for most of my life.  It was terrifying. 

I was a total mess.  I couldn’t relax i couldn’t be quiet. I couldn’t decide if I should float or swim.

Sometimes the peace we seek is an experience we are not prepared for.  We need to build our ability to stay in these moments.  We need to become accustomed to leaving behind all of those judgements of ourselves and observe the naturally occurring peace within.

On your mat today, look for a space where you can withdraw the senses and go inward - find a piece of peace and stay there for as long as you can.  

04.07 Building Structure

Every Body Yoga has been happening for about a month now. And for the past month, I have been struggling with the format of the class.  It was really hard to say how to best serve my students until I saw who they were.

I think I figured it out and this is what we can expect at an Every Body class.

1.  A thoughtful dharma talk with direct and inclusive language pertaining to every body
2. Chanting and pranayama or meditation
2. Gentle warm ups
3. Foundational alignment focused asana
4. A solid chunk of restorative poses

I am hoping that people can show up as they are and practice acceptance with every breath.  

See you there.

 

04.02.16 Launch

Today I made thoughts public.  I spent 60 stollen minutes figuring out how to make a website then 60 more populating it with words (sorry bout it picture people).  The time with which to do this was stollen from my family.  I think they ate hot dogs and I can hear right now 30 minutes passed bedtime that things are not going exactly just right.  

But this is what it is.  This is what all moments are - a little trade off between what we need to do and what we want to do.  Sometimes what we want and what we need crash together like chocolate and peanut butter and those are the best moments.

Sometimes I write things.  Well...that isn't very honest.  I am constantly writing things. All day long I am writing things.  Sometimes, they are shareable thoughts.  Today I am went through a bunch of (unedited) work and published it.  It is a little out of order but then what is order amiright?  I found some journal entries and dharma talks from past classes and stuck them up here.  These are all thoughts that inspired me and it is my hope that they inspire someone else.


 

 

03.19.17 Dharma Talk : Essential Life force

It is incredibly difficult to protect our life force in modern western society.  This is probably extra true for the US.  For myself, I can say that one of the reasons I teach yoga, is because I know that my commitment to doing that with any amount of integrity requires me to practice yoga and in doing so continually taking stock of my life force.

I am a wife, mother, daughter - I work full time and I am the primary provider of wealth in my family and quite frankly, there are no external queues in my life  encouraging me to evaluate and tend to my essential life force.  TBH, the people I love and serve are not the slightest bit concerned with it until it is visibly diminished.

I think the best we can do here in service to our Ojas, is to come to our mats and take stock of our breath.  Take stock of our quality of thought.  Take stock of our bodies.  Move with intent and continue to observe what we are like.

In the context of this class, I have great intention to serve everyone who has suffered from judgements directed at their bodies by either by themselves or from others.  The amount of energy it takes to avoid judgements, feelings of inadequacy, disappointment is not small and it takes a toll.  I can personally tell you that I have avoided my mat for months or years at a time in order to avoid feeling any of those feelings.

I would like to hold out the absolute truth that everything is perfect.  You need not do anything on your mat today but take a look at your perfection.  Take some time and move slowly in asana and develop gratitude for all that is good.  I promise that however your individual distresses manifest themselves, creating nourishment for what is just right in the world is the perfect contradiction to dissolve them.  fear and the like beget fear and the like.  love and nourishment beget love and nourishment.  It is easy. everything can be easy.  It is possible to give up hard forever.

12.28.16 Dharma Talk: Joyful Rebellion

Yoga is a deeply liberating activity.  I personally practice yoga because I plan to realize my goal of seeing the liberation of all beings in my lifetime and the elimination of oppression.  I teach yoga, for the same reason.

Here in the west, we have a few dominant patterned tendencies that I have noticed and they are:

  1. sedentariness
  2. excessive stimulation
  3. rushing

All of these behaviors keep our whole selves pretty bound up in activity that has not much to do with our real selves.  It is easy to become bound to the pace and requirement of society.  

Our yoga practice always aims to put us back into homeostasis - balance.  The first thing that we do in yoga is “Chitta Vritti Narodha” - the sessation of the turnings of thought.

Really, to paraphrase, the first point of yoga practice is - still your mind and the rest will follow

Never underestimate the powerful and radical nature of this instruction.  By stilling our minds, we are basically saying, not today oppressive forces, this is my mind, and it is not working for you.

Then we focus on our breath.  That is our second act of rebellion.  That is when we say this is MY OWN life force, it is not serving anyone else’s purpose.

Next we take notice of our bodies and move them in a way that honors their strength and their struggles.  Again, this is not for the agenda of “the man”…whatever that is to you.  This is for us.

If we want to we can take all of these efforts and just take note and bask in our own joy.  OR we can offer them up to God, offer them to each other, and amplify our liberation.

Bonus liberation tip, we also get to let go of the outcomes of our liberation.  We can simply enjoy our acts of Joyful rebellion.

12.05.16 Dharma Talk : Focus and Steadiness 

Today is a big day for all of the baby swans.  We have been on this pretty incredible path here at the Mandir learning how to become yoga teachers.

During our training we read the book Journey Home by Radanath Swami, which is - to give a most basic summary a story of a spiritual journey.  Pretty much right away in this narrative Radnath Swami get very pointed that he is trying to connect with God. Personally I was struck by the many moments when Radanath Swami had to choose between what was known and comfortable and something difficult that moved him closer to God.  Basically, time and again he would choose God over easy.  I am not suggesting that choosing God or Grace or what ever your end goal is  - is always hard, but it can be.  In order to decide well, we need to have Focus and steadiness .  By consistantly practicing these things, we ready ourselves to make good choices.

These decisions or forks in the road where one way is towards your goal and the other is just easier, these happen in our lives all the time.  I have a very real goal to realize global liberation of all beings and peace on earth in my lifetime.  But I also want to sit on my sofa with my husband and watch The last man on earth.  One of these things is far easier to do and feels good for a minute and the other is rewarding beyond any measure and is totally necessary. 

As crazy at it sounds, when this moment comes for me to decide to chill on the couch with my boo or to use my time to work on liberation, if I can’t remember my focus, and have no steadiness of mind, I choose the couch.  What a rip off really.

As it turns out, our yoga practice is an excellent place to develop our focus and steadiness.  We do this by accepting the circumstance of our pose, being present, maintaining focus on whatever you have dedicated you practice to, and doing this consistently over and over again to cultivate steadiness.  Eventually that focus and steadiness that we build in our practice, creates a focused and steady mind.  Then we take that focused and steady mind and go out into the world and get awesome with the radical yogi stuff of our choosing.

I say this because it is important.  There is a lot of good to be done and it starts here on your mat.