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?

 

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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

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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