Learning to stay

One of the practices in yoga and Buddhism is learning to stay. Stay with the sensation, stay with the discomfort, stay through the overwhelming desire to bolt. This can pertain to asana or emotion, on or off the mat.

Over my lifetime I perfected the art of bolting, either physically or just curling inside of myself, becoming unreachable, nurturing my self harm, agonizing in the luxuriating belief that I am inherently broken and unlovable.

There have been many studies lately on the idea that the root of all addiction stems from a lack of connection to other humans. Yes, there is a genetic component, of which I am well aware and embody. However, I very much agree with the concept that there is more going on.

When we don’t behave like the status quo, when the emotions feel bigger than our body yet we aren’t taught what that means or how to cope, we start our practice of “moving away from”. There is a prolific amount of “emotion shaming” in our culture. Stoicism is considered brave, graceful, courageous. The ideal objective. Yet what people are slow to realize is that by stuffing the natural human emotions of fear, sadness and anger we are literally polluting our interior which inevitably physically manifests later. Trust me.

I am someone who has always had emotions bigger than my body. I feel things in oceanic overdrive. I have been labeled, ridiculed, diagnosed and categorized. In my younger years I coped with just about every numbing technique out there, giving me an authentic pass into almost12992123_10209090134239401_2061443707_n any 12 step recovery group. As I’ve matured and had life experiences I’ve come to understand that feelings won’t kill me, even when that feels plausible. Other people feel fucked up too even when they act superior (which stems from lack of connection, too), and people will judge when they don’t understand.

Teaching my children that there is nothing wrong with them for feeling emotions is a huge priority for me. My son is very much like me, bless his heart.  He feels in technicolor, as I do. He was bullied in school and seeds were planted in him early on as they were planted in me.  As he begins to navigate the world as a young adult I constantly remind him there is nothing wrong with him, yet having the sensitivity that we do requires we learn how to navigate the world in specific ways. I sure as shit wish someone could have been a guide for me when I was younger, if for no other reason than just not to feel so fucking alone with everything. Who knows how much of what I try to teach him will land. I know I am planting new seeds for him, and I hope that he chooses, as I must, to water this new growth.

I am a teacher. I am a guide. I have been intensely fucked up and addicted and I am now thriving.

I have learned to stay.

Look Ma No Hands!

Often in class I teach my students a sequence to strengthen their core and build balance. I call it  “Look Ma, No Hands!” because we squat and roll back to the tip of our heads and use only our core to roll right back up to standing without the use of our hands. As serious as I am with teaching yoga I also like to have fun, and this is always a good time.

What I woke up pondering today was, when was the last time I really felt proud of myself? Not because others are proud of me, but that deep, rich, satisfaction of knowing *I* did well. If you have been reading my words for any length of time you understand that I come from a life of no Atta Girls.  Distorted perception is the familiar. This is why so many addicts can duel function as hard-core perfectionists. I know I have a few of you reading this right now.

I am proud of myself for completing one of the most challenging Super Spartan’s in the history of the race this past April. This fucker almost did me in, but I completed it!! I have never considered myself an athlete, I turn 50 in 2 months, and I loath to run. So yes, I feel really good about this achievement. Holy shit!!

May brought the amazing opportunity to be hired as a professional yoga model for an international magazine. Now, if you know me personally, you know how incredibly shy I can be. Yes, I have a gorgeous, strong practice (which I am proud of), but I don’t feel the need to force it down anyone’s throat. I believe there is quite enough of that on social media right now.

In June I successfully completed leading 13 groovy people through a Yoga Teacher Training. This was an enormous amount of work on every level. Labor pains for six months, draining as shit and overflowing with love.

I write about this today not seeking Atta Girls from anyone. I’m writing to encourage myself to see ME in a more balanced way. There is a difference between arrogance and confidence. Perfectionism continually raises the bar higher so there is never any place to rest. There is never a time to see clearly through the distortion. Even taking the challenge to write every day stirs up the Samskaras (habituated patterns).

“Wow you really put yourself out there”, my partner says to me, about my writing. And to that I say “Why not? What is there to hide?” I certainly am aware of which posts my students stay away from, vs. the general WordPress audience at large. To each his own yes? Right now it feels healing, soothing, productive and slightly scary to write, thus, a sutra to pursue and unravel. This is for me, and if others resonate and vibe then all the better, just as I feel when teaching yoga.

I’ll be honest, which I always am, and admit that I yearn deeply for my parents to see my achievements, to see just how very fucking far I have come. I wish others who have low opinion of me and my life choices would now see just how successful I am. I hold space for that truth while simultaneously being aware that seeking external validation is an exhausting, losing battle.

So I pose this question to you: When was the last time you felt really proud of yourself, just for you?

 

18448008_10154584904118339_201567458_n20707483_10154844762998339_219148309_n18035701_10154541047778339_285839915_n

I rarely paid for the drinks. I walked in ready to manipulate, control and feel beautiful.

Casual conversation biding the time, creating personas, being other than me. Beer stained breath paving the way. Casual eye contact so much safer than home, until it wasn’t, until it became out of control and something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Addicted fairy tales sweeping and gliding, denying and sick. The Four Horsemen graduating from casual acquaintances to more permanent fixtures.

Sixteen years since my last waltz. Five treatment centers, jail, destroyed relationships. I’m one of the lucky ones.

The word casual will always bring me here.beer-friend

 

Daily Prompt: Casual

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.

_MG_6346

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.

 

20517770_10154825377818339_1491238590_o