retreat

Five Untrue Stories I’m Ready to Ditch

IMG_1810 My identity has shifted so much in these past two years. I’ve gone from being in a sweet but stuck relationship to being freely and (mostly) contently single. I shifted from considering myself a yoga teacher making an hourly wage to running my own prosperous health coaching business. Emotionally, I’ve gone from seeing my inner life as slightly anxious and defensive to one that is as strong as it is vulnerable.

This last year in particular has taught me in no uncertain terms that change is possible. Change is available to us when we are willing to tell the truth, be open to possibility, and take big scary risks. The risk part is necessary. We will stay stuck in fanciful state of possibility forever unless we decide leverage our hope into tangible action. For whatever reason, this has never been too hard for me. I say “yes” all the time. This hurts me sometimes (overcommitment) but mostly it’s a good thing. It means that I value growth over comfort, especially when I am willing to learn from my mistakes.

Seeing this real change in myself and my clients has got me thinking about what else is ready to shift in my life. Here’s a list of what I think is ready to move (as long as I keep facing my fear and taking action):

1. Old, outdated belief: There isn’t enough success and prosperity to go around. Deep in the back of my mind, I still feel the kernel of threat when someone else gets something they want. This leads to weird jealous feelings and constriction in my chest. I’m ready to let go of that fear-based mentality and step into this truth: there is enough for everybody. I know  that the happier I get for someone else’s good fortune, the more good fortune will come my way. My heart has known this forever. Now it’s time for my head to get in on it too.

2. Old, outdated belief: I’m valuable because I help people. Working with my clients teaches me that so many women believe this! We equate our self worth with being of service to others. Although service is a beautiful thing, it’s not who we really are as people. When we continual put the needs of others above own self care it leads to angry, resentful feelings. Who does that serve? The truth is that I am valuable because I exist.  When I treat myself like I’m valuable (read: practice good self care) then serving others is a joy. It can’t work the other way around.

3. Old, outdated belief: My words aren’t important.  Wow, how untrue is that! Of course my words are important (you’re reading them right now, right?). Yet I’ve grown up with this story in my head that I’m not intelligent, cool, etc enough for my opinion to really matter. I think behind all of that is really just a fear of rejection. Starting this business has shown me that I can be rejected and survive (although it does sting sometimes) but when I let rejection run the show I shut down. When I shut down, I run the risk of not connecting with the folks out there who may need to hear my words. I need the inspiration and wisdom of many people’s words. If those people told themselves that their words weren’t valuable, then I wouldn’t have that needed inspiration. My new truth is that my words are pretty darn powerful, so I best use them well. I’m curious how many of you out there also share this belief. I think it keeps us from creating the work that is ours to create. What would you write/say/express if you knew for sure it was valuable? Write it, say it, make it and watch how it shifts your identity.

4. Old, outdated belief: If I let myself get too happy, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. One of the truest realizations I’ve had of late is that I am the ONLY person who really gets in my own way. From past experience, I’d say it’s true that my very happy moments can quickly crash down with disappointment. I used to think that this was just how the universe worked humbling me when I got too high on my horse. What feels truer to me right now is that I am the one taking myself down. I’m learning that I have a pattern of self-sabotage. When I’m getting too happy, I pick a fight or overeat or get down on myself. I have an “upper limit” of how much good stuff I think is allowed to happen to me. When I get too close to that limit, I take myself down. (Read Gay Hendricks book “The Big Leap if you want to know more about this). My new truth is that I can be as happy as I allow myself to be. Simplistic? Yes. Still true? Hell yes.

5. Old, outdated belief: I’m not supported by the people around me. Man, I’ve had such a story in my life around support. This story comes out when I am stressed and going through a hard time. During these hardest life moments the shitty voice in my head starts talking. It tells me that out of their sheer jerk-faced insensitivity, the people in my life are denying me the oddles of love that are rightfully mine. Ugh and ugh! This belief has caused me and my loved ones SO much suffering it hurts to even write about it here. From the grounded place I’m in right now, I could write you papers about how untrue it is. I have wonderful loved ones who support me all of the time. The problem is that when I go through a hard time, I stop supporting myself. I beat up on myself and default on my self care which makes me feel isolated and prickly. Then I take it out on the people that I love. Yikes! I’ve gotten way better at this and still am working on it. The great thing about practicing yoga and Ayurveda is that now I have an arsenal of self care techniques that allow me to support myself. My new truth is that I can take extra good care of myself during hard moments, ask for help when I need it, and appreciate all the love I have in my life. Amen.

Wow, it’s both super vulnerable and really powerful to share all of that with you. I have a sense that I am not alone in some of these beliefs. Also, saying it aloud to you all (the gracious, supportive community that you are) will keep me accountable to actually shifting these stories. Untrue beliefs cannot survive under the lens of consciousness. That’s why telling the truth is always the first and most important step to creating change.

And what are stories? They are just patterns of repetitive thoughts and beliefs. So many of our thoughts/beliefs are handed down to us from our families and imprinted in us by modern media. So often, we never think to question them. The truest work of yoga is teach us that we are so much more than the temporal matter of thoughts. It teaches that we are the connective tissue of deep wisdom that can use thoughts creatively and with discretion. Thus absolutely in the driver’s seat of how we experience life.

If you want to change your beliefs then the first step is to get conscious. If a thought makes you suffer then question it. Ask yourself if it’s really true. Is it true to your ego or true to your heart? Ask yourself if it’s adding more love or more suffering to your life. Is it making the people around you suffer? Ask yourself if there is a kinder, truer thought available to you. Yes, there always is!

Then practice those kinder, truer thoughts. This is yoga. Practicing this kind of yoga will empower you and your life will change. As your life changes, you will help the people around you in ways you can’t even imagine. It will help the world evolve into the kinder, more humane place we wish it could be. We are very much a part of that process. This is our work here as human beings.

Where Forgiveness Can Take You

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Last weekend, despite the slicks of freezing rain, I had the most magical getaway. Eighteen ladies who just graduated from my last course--Balanced & Beautiful--retreated to the fields of West Virginia to celebrate the completion of a powerful ten week journey. Our retreat center was simple--good heating in the bedrooms, a big practice space with shiny wood floors and lunches of stuffed peppers and guacamole.  (Also we got to hang out under a 400 year old grandma oak tree--see above photo)

So what do so many ladies do on retreat? Well, we meditated in the early morning, sweated during vinyasa flow yoga, and spent an afternoon making vision boards (a personal collage of cut-up magazine images to represent where we want to go in our lives).

And we spent a lot of time processing all the ways we’ve grown during our time together. We talked about these changes in the opening circle, kept it going on crunchy walks through the snow and went deeper while lingering over one more cup of tea after our dinner. A lot had changed for each of us which meant we needed a lot of conversation to process.

One theme that kept coming up was forgiveness.  Many of these ladies said that practicing better health habits in a supportive group had given them the awareness and strength to finally forgive themselves for all the achy wrongs of the pasts they been carrying deep inside.  These shadows were effecting their marriages, work, and mostly their self-esteem.  They knew something needed to change but they weren't sure what.  They took a risk, signed up for this course and their hearts opened up in a new way.  Armed with self forgiveness, life changed quickly. These ladies are repairing their marriages, restarting their PHDs, finally saying yes to motherhood, and experiencing deep bouts of gratitude after years of fogginess.

This forgiveness thing honestly was a surprise for me.  I teach a group of dynamic women how to improve their health based on yogic and ayurvedic principles. We use self awareness and habit change science to practice these habits in a highly-supportive environment. From my own experience, I know this process creates the space for authentic inner and outer change. I expected people to lose weight, sleep deeper, feel better about themselves and make some great new friends.

But forgiveness? That’s really big. With forgiveness everything changes.

So many people stay angry and blocked their entire lives because they can’t bear the pain of letting go that comes from forgiveness. It’s one of the most threatening things to our egos. We hold onto our stories that keep us small and trapped because it feels oddly safe. We yearn for things to change but won’t budge our deepest attitudes.  So many great spiritual leaders talk about forgiveness because they know if you want to change your life, you must start with forgiveness.

On the retreat I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how forgiveness arises out of going to bed earlier and meditating in the mornings. The answer that kept coming up was self awareness. I asked these ladies to start paying attention to how they actually felt. It turns out that the same self awareness we use to know where we are getting stuck in our body also shows us the sticky parts of our souls. Once we see it and have the tools to change it, I don’t think we can really stay stuck anymore.

One of the retreat participants said she realized that if she could forgive herself she could forgive anyone. Isn’t that so deeply profound? She was the same one who said she was finally ready to be a mother. Don’t you want someone like that to have kids?  I really really do.

Hearing their stories made me remember that forgiveness is a practice.  We forgive when we notice we are fighting with life and realize the futility of that battle because life is as it is.  We forgive when drop the battle to make ourselves or someone else perfect.  Forgiveness is a step back that says, I kinda really love you exactly as you are, warts and all.  We forgive when we think we know the best plan and then get humbled but a much richer, truer plan.  We lose our clever words, quick defenses, anything but the ability to say "thank you."

I don't know about you all but I have to practice this superpower of forgiveness on a daily basis.  If I think I have moved past having to practice forgiveness then I probably need it more than ever.

You see, that shitty voice in your head loves it when you stuff down your sadness, anger and regret.  It oddly makes us feel special.  But what I've learned is that many of us think our suffering is unique but it really isn't.  Our suffering, though necessary for growth, is the most boring part of any of us because it all looks the same.  "I was wronged," "My mother didn't help me," "He's selfish,"  blah blah blah.   Isn't it boring when someone goes into all that?  Sometimes I even bore myself with my victim mentality.

However, what is on the other side of suffering, what stays blocked when we can't forgive, is our brightest truest self.  It's our dreams, our possibility, our capacity for connection.  I believe this is the most interesting part of us all.  My view is that we all deeply yearn to live out what is on the other side of staying stuck but most of us don't let ourselves.  We put other people's needs, financial anxiety, and professional success at all costs in between us and our glory.  It would be one thing if we could make it go away by shutting the door but it doesn't work that way.  Our unlived, beautiful life will always beckon to us, shining light into all the cracks until the tension gets to be too much. We change or we crack deeper.

Perhaps the discontent we build while staying stuck actually becomes the energy we need to someday catapult ourselves forward.  In Chinese medicine, the energy of late winter into spring is the energy of anger.  Only with that jolt can the buds burst forth and sprouts shoot up.  I like this view because it means everything in good time.  We can even forgive ourselves for staying stuck, because we didn't have what we needed in that moment to move forward.

But when you are ready, oh my.  It's glorious and scary all in one to forgive, let go, and go flying into a new vision of reality.  I've done it myself quiet a few times and now I get to facilitate others through the process.   The process has taken me a long time and it's amazing that my lived knowledge makes it quicker and easier for others.  Hurray!  I carry that with me and despite all that is left undone in this world, I still feel like the luckiest of ducks most days.  This gives me a quiet kind of smile as I dramatically trudge through these last soppy days of winter.

Yoga Retreat May 9-11th

Hope you can make it to our retreat on May 9-11th in West Virginia!  It's going to be an deep, relaxing weekend of yoga, relaxation and play in nature.  Contact yoga@em-poweryoga.com to sign up!
Also, this is so necessary for me today...
Dear Brave Souls: LETTING GO
To let go.  Some have a hard time letting go of what is no longer, what cannot be, what is not, what has never been.
People say 'just let go, just let go, just let go' scattering the platitude like confetti immediately swept away by any wind.
What is it exactly, this letting go? No longer allowing the eye to be caught by the hook... No longer fastening the lock on the door, just letting the door swing as it will... No longer visiting the graves where there is no love and no blessing in both directions... No longer reviewing and reviewing the past, even the last moment, as though there will be a test. There will not be a test, dear soul.
What is it exactly, this letting go?
Not reading the same chapter over and over and over and over, futilely attempting to make the indelible facts be rewritten… Making new memories of quality to bathe old scars and new life... Moving into a larger world in which the past is but a dot on the landscape rather than the only continent in sight.
We all find our ways… letting go is shaking loose, letting go is turning in your great coat, into a new wind forward into new sky and open road leaving what cannot be, and taking all treasure from the wreck.
Each in her own way. Each in his own way.
This comes with love. Hang in there. No one deserves to be nailing the hem of their cloak to the crossroad that once was, but that is not now.
--Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Five Things I Think Are Just Great

Five Things I Think Are Just Great

1. Saturday afternoon Oaxacan lunch on a beautiful day with my sweet Liz and these nice folks at a communal table at the quasi-legal place that throws you down the keys and serves quesadillas with squash blossoms and tamarindo refresco.

 

2. This ted talk about the grapes of wrath and emotional resiliency and the immune system and healing cancer through compassion. It's helped me to really understand the Ayurvedic concept of ojas and how to bring more of this connective, flowing energy into my life when my tendency can so often be to over-plow (burn out) my energetic resources.

3. This quote from the book I'm reading for a yoga ladies book club called women who run with wolves. I really suggest checking it out if you feel at all like you've lost a sense of connection to your own depths. I'm two chapters in and it's rocking my world.

"I'll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door." 

4. These bands that are getting a lot of play on my Spotify favorites downloads as I drive around this city: Frankie Rose, Dum Dum Girls, Courtney Barnett,  Au Revoir Simone, Blood Orange, Agnes Obell, and Austra.

Five Things I Think Are Just Great
5. This Spring yoga retreat I'm leading with the stunning Julia Romano in West Virginia this May. Like the other goddess women I lead my retreats with, it's such a pleasure to co-create a theme, pick a space and know how many of us will be changed by a weekend of really getting to know ourselves better in the relaxed space of mother nature. Last Friday morning, my meditation teachers guided me through a deep exploration of how all each of us is open presence and that by abiding in this presence as often as we can (meditation), there is healing and truth and connectivity. That same day Julia sent me the write-up for the retreat with the title of "practicing presence." Of course it's divine and right and you should totally come. You can find information on signing up here. Much love!