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.

What’s worth doing even if I fail?

I love this question. It’s a type of question that stops me in my tracks. It’s a twist on the classic question “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail”, which I quite like, too.

But the initial question above asks even if I DO completely face plant in my endeavor was it still worth it? For me, the answer is a resounding YES! The reason? Because I had the courage to attempt something. The courage to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. The courage to risk vulnerability, judgment, ridicule, and also love, appreciation and respect.

Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech once titled “The Man in the Arena”. In this speech (and I’ll paraphrase) he talks about the man who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings. [He] who at best knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

I dared greatly this year. I said yes to experiences that scared the shit out of me and ignited the samskaras of old. I have wanted to hide my achievements out of a codependent desire to not make anyone feel bad. I have dimmed my light because I felt it was arrogant to be proud of myself.

There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance.

I notice the people who celebrate with me and who stay quiet when I succeed and achieve. I have spent what feels like a couple lifetimes basing my worth on the reactions of others. “Oh they like this? I must be ok. Oh they didn’t ‘like’ it, I must suck”. Sound familiar? Then comes what Brene Brown refers to as the Shame Gremlins. Guilt is about what we’ve done, and shame is about who we feel we are. What I’ve learned is that shame is the fear of disconnection and that try as we might to deny it, we are hardwired to seek connection, love and belonging.

Brene states “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”. BAM!!!

How do we break out of the fear of being vulnerable? By that awareness I spoke of in my last blog. Awareness of the cognitive dissonance, or as I often say, the incongruity of how we feel and how we want to feel. That is what can spark change within us.

And, being vulnerable requires courage. There is no other way.

Of course I want to connect. I want to love and be loved. But that alone can’t determine nor define my actions. You will love me and connect with me or you won’t. But I walk away with my own courage either way.

**The pic is from a photo shoot for REI that just came online, and I am proud of it.

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The serpent who was a hose

Avidyā is a Sanskrit word whose literal meaning is ignorance, misconceptions, misunderstandings, incorrect knowledge, and it is the opposite of Vidya.

My physical vision is changing and I notice myself seeing things that aren’t really there. This got me thinking about the more esoteric concepts of incorrect knowledge and misconceptions.

My experience of myself and observing others is that Avidya is often running the show, orchestrating events and interactions, encouraging assumptions. Our egos eat this up like chips and dip. You can’t eat just one!  The false knowledge then gains momentum and before we know it we are in a house of mirrors. Where is the truth? What do I believe? How do I know for certain??? Crazy making.

Truth is subjective to each individual’s perspective. The ant perched in front of an elephant sees the trunk and has difficulty seeing anything else. The other ant hanging out behind the elephant sees the rear legs and tail and has no awareness of the trunk. Both of these ants have their own perspective and truth, and it most likely would be very difficult to convince them of anything else without willingness on their part.

I was sure I saw a bear the other day on my walk in the woods. I heard snuffling, too (snuffling is the tell-tale sign of bears of course). I slowed my pace and held my breath, feeling my fight or flight (Flight. Duh). I slowly proceeded on the path,  getting closer to the bear when greater awareness revealed that it was a decaying tree stump. Initially, my senses perfunctorily responded with my “truth” that I was confronting a bear.  Closer inspection changed my “truth” to confronting a decaying tree stump. All that changed was my awareness.

Often in yoga there is a common parable when teaching students about Avidya.  The story involves a serpent that greater awareness reveals as a coiled hose.  Being open to see beyond our initial reactions requires willingness to see what’s on the other side of what we feel is truth. This feels risky as shit sometimes but my experience has shown me it’s well worth the effort.

Our world is bombarded with closed minds and fixed ideas and most of us have our own if we’re honest with ourselves.

How willing are you to see something different? How willing am I?

I wonder what would happen if we allowed a bit more space into what we think we know and feel as truth.9b027337c244a1d92edd101fe59b9d96

The premeditated resentment

Otherwise known as The Expectation. One definition of expectation is “a thing looked forward to”,which to me ultimately comes down to control. We expect our partners, our children, our parents, our friends, our coworkers, social media, to behave a certain way in order for us to feel okay. If everyone plays their prescribed roles then we’re good to go. However, if someone goes off-script we become resentful. Rather than owning our expectations we very often blame and try to manipulate towards our desired outcome.

I’ve experienced several situations where people clearly had expectations of how I should behave. “This is what friends should do”, “this is how girlfriends act”, “you don’t make eye contact with me”. Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t conform nor am I burdened with being a people-pleaser. This doesn’t mean I don’t care nor value connection. It means I won’t be forced into it by obligatory social mores.

Eye contact is a vulnerable expression. It’s an opening. An invitation.  A gift, really.

We can’t control the behavior of others, though we try don’t we? Have you ever looked honestly at your means of interaction with people? It is honest or coercive? Allowing or manipulative? The degree and frequency to which we feel disappointed by others gives us a clue as to how much expectation we harbor.

Not having expectations doesn’t equate to not having any boundaries or common decency.  This is where communication comes in.

Recovery taught me that expectations are premeditated resentments. This is one of the best, most useful and honest tools I have learned.

Perhaps you’ll find it useful, too.e46f951c8dd6afaca6a1de5b18bdc337

 

The Hysterical Historical

We’ve all had times in our lives where we’ve reacted rather than responded. Boomerang emotionalism rather than calm exchange. When our reaction to something is larger than the situation itself it’s largely due to unfinished history.  Thus, I teach my students when things feel hysterical it’s historical.

I’ve been writing frequently about this because, to me, this deep inner work is revelatory, rich and ultimately freedom-giving.

When people close to us die it churns up the mangle of history. Feelings and memories fly around like askew missiles; unpredictable and volatile. There also is no prescribed time-line as to how long this will continue. It’s like that meme that says “I walk around like everything is fine, but deep down inside my shoe my sock is falling off”.  We can present the facade over the gaping wound, which I dare to say is how most people walk around in the world. We are all a bunch of unfinished historicals reacting and ricocheting around each other.

It’s easy to blame, point fingers and wear the” V” of perpetual victim-hood. It’s painless to don the cloak of self-righteousness. The real work and sustained relief is as a result of correct view of self.

Recent experiences in my life, interactions with people, have helped me to further see myself more clearly. Of course I want them to see their part, but I have no control over that, nor any control over their opinion of me. I invariably wish we all could play a version of Doctor: “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” in terms of our wounds. Without fail, every single time someone lets down their guard with me and speaks from the heart the relationship matures. We find we aren’t so very different after all. The exhaustive posturing is the peacock of the ego, without which there is just the softness of who we really are.

I prefer that.10665661_839738816066609_5618273675718509749_n

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