The withering quadrant

I teach students who come to see me to dig deep, to inquire, to delve into the murk. Some students hunger for this while others fidget and don’t come back to my class. It takes courage to do this work.

We have a quadrinity of selves inside of us that make up our unified Self. When we feel off our game, out of sorts, it’s because we are not addressing something in one of our quadrants. Before we wake up to svadhyaya, self inquiry, most of us are habituated to hang out in one of our quadrants. For years I hung out in my physical quadrant and completely identified my sense of “Me” with my outermost layer, in yogic terms, the annamaya kosha. We see this running rampant in our culture today, but that is a writing topic for another day.

On any given day one of our quadrants will be slightly out of whack.  It’s part and parcel of this human shindig. The work is to begin to understand self/Self and become aware, honestly, truthfully, practicing Satya (yesterday’s post). Think of an equalizer on a stereo system trying to harmonize, balance and sync up.

How are you feeling today? Not just the cursory “I’m fine” bullshit, which we all know the meaning of “fine” anyway, right?  Fucked up-Insecure-Neurotic-Emotional.  I mean, how ARE you? How’s the body feeling? Are you mindfucking and over-analyzing? Are you bleeding-out emotionally? Do you feel a sense of tether to anything bigger than you?

I’ll start, to help get us going. As I look within I for sure know I’ve been mindfucking and bleeding out. Moving and leaving everything I know is a huge adjustment. I’ve felt tremendously hurt by others in my life recently and confused by their actions.  In addition to that, the time frame of August through October is the anniversary of my mother and brother’s deaths. In general, I have processed, but I certainly can feel the over-arching vulnerability.

My sense of tether? My spiritual connect? Let’s just say it’s been sporadic like a sputtering ignition. In relationship lingo “It’s me, not you, God”. I so very much want and need a soft place to land right now. I’m trying to find it.

I know the work I need to do. Do you?

 

Ghandi and Me, experimenting in Truth

Ghandi refers to his life quest and pursuits as experiments in Truth, and by Truth he meant God. Everything Ghandi did was in reverence and supplication to God. Now, lest anyone get the wrong idea here, I am by no means comparing nor relating myself to Ghandi. I am, however, partaking in my own experiments in truth. Even with a capital T.

I have been seeking something beyond words for years. I’ve tried to find it in churches, addictions, people, jobs, perfections, achievements.  The closest I’ve come to a satisfying relief is yoga. It makes sense to me. It hits the spot. Ghandi’s love for God was as tender as new growth on an evergreen. That is how I can feel about yoga when I remove all the bullshit of The Business of Yoga (TBOY). Over the last five years I have deeply struggled with my passion for yoga and TBOY. They do not jive. We try and try to get jiggy with it though, don’t we?

The truths I am experimenting with, especially right now as I left my life up north, are the quintessential questions of Who Am I? Who am I if I don’t teach? Who am I if my kids flew the nest? Who am I if my ex thinks I’m a failure as a mother?  Who am I if I once was hetero and then I was lesbian and now I’m in a transgendered relationship? Who am I without my facebook page of interaction, adoration and confirmation? Who am I if I write all these words and expose myself and you don’t like them????

You know, just light, easy questions like those.

Am I an idea to people? A holder of concepts and presence wrapped in tattoos? What the actual fuck am I doing in my life right now?

I study people, their mannerisms and dances in behavior. I feel incongruity viscerally (remember my post from yesterday?), and it eats my lunch. I observe the practice of Satya, truthfulness, in myself and others. When I speak MY truth, people don’t always like it. They apparently want the “stay inside the lines and don’t rock the boat” version of Satya. But I refuse to modify my truth for acceptance, though of course I want it. I guess what I’m saying is, I will not sacrifice my quest for Truth in order for others to love and approve of me, and with that, I identify with Ghandi’s pursuits.

Onward, Ho.10393901_844275048946319_6637278588838853896_n

IV drip of love

Leave me alone but don’t leave me. Does this ring a bell with any of my fellow addicts in the house?

“This would be a good topic for you to write about Leslie”. I hear this fairly regularly, especially when it’s been months between words. Last time I heard it, it was from my Shaman mentor as I was processing the transition of my partner from female to male.  Many words needed then, and probably still now.

This recent notice to write was given to me just yesterday from my new therapist Michael.  Personally, I love therapy, which is a good thing I suppose, considering it’s been a touchstone in my life to help with all the various crazy and addictions since I was 11.

I am an HSP if ya’ll know what that is. It’s often misdiagnosed as many things and people have fun labeling those of us who have this trait. “Oh she’s such a drama queen” “She’s neurotic” “She’s so emotional” “She’s such a bitch”. Actually, there may be some truth in those things as there is truth in many things, but the biggest truth is that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. My emotions have always felt bigger than my body.  My family sure as shit didn’t understand it. This is a bitter-sweet gift that manifests in many of us artistic types. Being this psychic, intuitive and sensitive helps me greatly in my work as a Shaman and yoga teacher, but it sucks ass because I still feel the rest of the world, too. I’m forever finding tricks to meter the sensate. Enter stage left: anorexia, bulimia, cutting, drinking, drugging, fucking strangers, stealing, burglary, getting married, having babies, running away, treatment centers, jail, therapy, recovery, writing. Quiet. LOTS of quiet required.

Michael said I have a narrow band-width to receive love. Wow. Spot on. I laughed and agreed and said that yes, it would probably be best if I could have an53b392dabf6ff21b593ed94c6bdddf61 IV drip of love: measured, controlled, slightly distant yet still there.

As a teacher, students have wanted to adore me, lavish me, love me. This has always taken me by surprise because I’m just showing up and layin’ my thang down. I have been unaware of my influence in my students lives. Their love confused me and made me want to run. It’s typical of addicts to allow connection with strangers but not with loved ones. I find this fascinating, and certainly familiar.

I think the only people I would really allow to drench me in their love is my children. Yes, I could do that. I would love it from my family of origin but more than half of them are gone now.

As of now, I’m working on widening the port. But don’t push it.

 

The rings on her fingers

This week 3 years ago I saw my mother alive for the last time. I knew as I sat at the table with her and touched her hands, this would be it. The Last Time. It was a moment of nauseating, surreal and calm clarity. I think she knew it too, and I wish so very much that we could have really talked. I would have loved to have one of those cherished death-bed conversations I hear about. I tried. I said what I needed to say, that I was angry with her. She said she knew, but I don’t think she really understood why I was angry. Yes, I was angry because of all the smoking, drinking, abandoning and denial, but mostly I was angry that she broke my heart. That we were HERE, doing this death thing, and she was leaving me once again. One last time, slipping through my fingers, when all I had ever wanted was to feel her close. To have comfort.

I have always loved hands. From an early age I began to study them and notice the art. My mother had beautiful hands, with rings on almost every finger. Rings and nicotine land-marked my childhood. Clinking rings on the wine glass. Her naturally long nails.

She still wore the rings at the end, though her hands were so very different. She couldn’t light her own cigarette. I will never, ever, ever forget lighting my dying mother’s cigarettes. It felt like some massive, cosmic, cruel joke.

Going through her jewelry was and still is so exquisitely tender. Mom loved jewelry.  Cool, artistic, unique, and she rotated them around. She had her main-stays though and I kept the malachite ring she wore on her left index finger. I have to wear it on my right though.  My daughter kept the onyx ring Mom wore on her right index finger, and to this day when I see her wearing it I do a double take. Mom!!!

I feel her when I see the rings.

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Postaday, eh?

Someone challenged me to write a post a day for a week. I love writing. I’m not here for anyone’s approval. I’ve got the time, so, hey, why not?

We’ve all seen the copious amounts self-help things about accepting ourselves as we are. We all want to embrace it to our core. Yet we don’t. We watch our words and are careful what we post. We make sure to click all the appropriate likes and follow all the appropriate people. We follow the social media rules to be included, loved and accepted. To what end though? I’ve given this MUCH thought over the last several years. I’ve been frustrated and angry with myself for playing the game yet not leaving it. Social media can feel like this addictive delight, delicious and toxic. Being an addict, I understand this fully.  It causes me damage yet I can’t stop myself. Just like the drug or the alcohol, social media in and of itself is benign. It’s how we play it. I KNOW I am not alone with this, as I’ve spoken to countless friends, students, fellow yoga teachers….and therapists. Did you know there actually is a recovery group for social media? It’s fucking true, dude. I believe it. People stashed cellphones in treatment centers the way I stashed the alcohol. Crazy!! But I get it, all the same.

I believe hard-wired inside of us is a deep, deep desire to be loved. To be seen. To be valued as we are. So we contort, we smile, we post and we hunger for the recognition. We take note of just how much response we get and base our value on that.

I believe we are an achingly lonely culture, seeking connection. I seek it, too. However I am finally facing the feelings head on. Can I find connection without social media? For now, I’ve deactivated my facebook page and I can honestly say I feel better. I really do. I don’t want to lose touch with people, but there are more ways to stay connected than just to “like” a post through a screen and call that love.

I’ve lived decades feeling the need to apologize for who I am, for a variety of different reasons. What a waste of time, holy shit. But when you know better you try to do better. And this is me, doing just that.

 

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Abhinivesha, the fear of death.

It was about this time last year that my marbles started to wander off in a rather muddled, wobbly trajectory. In an efficiently cruel twist of fate the month of May brings both my brother’s birthday and Mother’s day, two days apart.

Last year I wasn’t prepared for the bombardment of grief, how could I be?  The only thing I could do was breathe in and breathe out and see where that took me. I learned alot about the process of grief. I learned alot about death. Little did I know at the time, but even after the death of  Mom and Brad there would be two more deaths in a short period of time. I learned alot about the expectations that some people had of me as well of the constant, quiet support from others.

In yogic philosophy, the Kleshas are the main obstacles on The Path. Abhinivesha, the fear of  death is the final Klesha.  Patanjali states that we must eradicate the Kleshas in order to experience true yoga, true Union with the Divine.

I do not so much fear my own death anymore. I used to. It’s kind of funny that I did considering how hell-bent on self destruction I was. I can remember being very young and having deep, aching fear of death, which I now understand comes from fearing abandonment. As my mother was dying I was filled with a tumult of misbehaving emotions that wouldn’t stay contained, like herding cats. I was filled with intense anger that masked the terrified little girl screaming “Don’t leave me”!!!! So my fear was not so much of my mother dying, it was of me feeling left alone, again. Anger almost always is the gatekeeper of pain.

As often happens with death, there can be a sudden recognition of Life. A wake up call to mortality. Am I really living or am I just existing? I love what Benjamin Franklin said: Many people die at 25 but aren’t buried until they are 75. Boy, isn’t that the truth?  I tell my kids all the time to notice the moments, for this is their life, happening now. It’s so easy to get caught up in the goals that we forget to notice the day we are in. When I took my sabbatical last summer I “purposely engaged” in my life: I began my Seva for the pigs, I learned to play the mountain dulcimer, I took tap dancing classes. I tried many things to defrost me back to the land of the living. It was a pretty slow defrost.

I’m feeling the ache approaching. I’m crying alot again. I’m crying as I write this. But what I know is that this will pass. I choose not to stuff it and plaster a fake smile over my gaping wound of pain for the comfort of others or socially acceptable “Just say positive” posts. This fucking hurts and I’m allowing myself to feel it so as to not be swallowed by it. I’m reaching out to some incredible people who simply hold space for me as I walk this path of pain. And, I will get through it, and I will do it in classic Leslie ways. (Think Marilyn Manson and NIN)  🙂

I’m an ordinary person and I still have my fair share of fears. I’m pretty cool with death at this point, but I’m still not a huge fan of suffering and loss. As I cry and feel this tremendous need for nurturing, a mother figure, something, anything, to comfort me,  I am aware of the warmth of the sun, the chitchat singing of the birds, the blossoms and flowers.  The ache and joy exist simultaneously. I do not fear it.

Spring is my very favorite.

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I remember when I consciously arrived in my body.

I was about 9 years old. Up until then I didn’t really have any sort of idea that I was “me”. It was a rather abrupt shock to my system because up until that point I just did regular “kid” stuff.

My best friend was dying, my parents were getting divorced, and I was getting high for the first time. I hated myself instantaneously. It was a vicious thing, this hate. I’ve always been a seeker, from a very young age, so even then I was wondering where this was coming from. I saw friends having fun, smiling. I saw other families doing fun things together, being happy, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I could do to get that.  My best friend and her family were very religious and me and my family were….so very not. I went to church camp with Lorie and had my first taste of some sort of peace, but it didn’t stick.

Fast forward to my teens, when the self hatred was becoming an art form; what other ways could I harm myself and self destruct? Hmm, lets try this. And then that. How bout this mixture together?  The ever elusive feeling that I just didn’t fit in, anywhere, persisted. I observed human behavior of my peers and siblings and tried to be like them, thinking that might solve the issue. I wore the right clothes, bought the right shoes, curled my hair in just that way, tried not to be as smart, intuitive and psychic as I am. Still, I wasn’t ok.

You really don’t need to hear all the details.   Just use your imagination. Add lots of drugs and alcohol, mayhem, bars, lying, cheating, deceiving, pretending, despair, moments of clarity, jail, CPS, pain, regret, sobriety.  Oops. Then back out again. Then back in. Then out. Then in. Then finally, a sobriety that took hold. Recovery is not about stopping the drug. It’s about addressing the “ism” that makes you run in the first place. That is why I totally stand behind my belief that yoga can be used addictively, it just looks prettier and can be called things like “ultra dedicated and disciplined”. I stand behind my claim that running to my mat can be just the same as running to a drug, if I am seeking to escape. This is where my yoga practice gets reallllllllly good, because I can’t bullshit myself anymore. Or rather, I choose not to.

I’ve observed and felt alot of competition in the yoga world.  I never thought I would teach the practice.  There are lots of opinions of what is “right” to teach and what is “pure” to teach. Many definitely have had opinion with how I teach. But the thing is, if I try to teach in any other way than who I authentically am, then I am just being a trained parrot. I would be reverting back to that person who would do anything to make you like me more.  Happily, that ain’t me anymore, mofo. I’m pretty cool with who I am now, most days.

Here is the thing:  I would rather be disliked for being who I authentically am than to be liked for being someone who I am not.

I watch a few of my friends and students feel captured in the net of fearing what others will think of them. I want to say to them: “What is the worst thing that could happen”?

Walk right into that space. There is freedom on the other side of it.

Peace out,

L.