The thing about plants

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There are so many days that I look to my plants in my sun-room to prove that I am actually growing beautiful things.

Some days, I look at myself – my thought processes, emotional state, ease with which I can re-center myself – and feel like I’ve made zero progress. I still worry to the point of obsessiveness. I equate living with heart to living with loss, which spins me out into the stratosphere. Want to make me freak out and panic? Throw a little dash of “you’re going to lose this” or “you’re not doing the right thing” into my mental state and I’m there.

Hannah Brencher wrote a beautiful post recently about growing into “hell yes.” For me, I know that this applies to almost all areas of my life.

For a year now I’ve been craving a feeling of deep rooted-ness in my life. I was the wanderlust girl, the gypsy soul… but so much of it was just running away from myself, and I knew it. Last year I got hit with the worst depression I’ve ever experienced, and I didn’t even want to move off my couch. I stopped running and that was what barreled into me.

But along with that depression was a craving to feel the soil of my life, to really know my life by tending to it as I would a plant.

That was when the plants started showing up.

First, I bought an English ivy and a pretty little succulent. My kitten murdered the succulent right off after tasting the delicious leaves. But the ivy thrived. Then a friend gave me a creeping Charlie that I kept out on the porch all last summer until I realized it was dying out there. I brought it inside and put it on my altar and started watering it every day. I put my ivy next to it so it had a friend.

Somewhere in there I bought a basil plant so I could have my own basil. As a artisan chef of caprese salad (I could bathe in caprese, haha) I needed my own basil. So I got a basil plant, too.

Then I got a philodendron for my kitchen. I felt my little kitchen needed a spot of green, so I hung it from the roof there. But I kept forgetting to water it, so I finally transferred her to a spot in my sunroom, where she’s blissfully wrapped her vines around my reading chair.

My boyfriend gave me an orchid as one of his first gifts to me. It had a few beautiful blossoms, but part of the stem broke off because I was a little rough. I felt remorseful for my ways and so I patiently fed it water and watched in amazement as I saw it sprout a new leaf. I thought I’d killed it by breaking that part of the stem. Not so. Turns out it just needed some TLC.

Soon into my yoga teacher training (quite aptly named RootEd – obviously) I brought that same orchid to the communal altar. That weekend when I left, my teacher gifted me an amaryllis plant that she had that looked like it needed love.

I kept care of little Missy ‘Rillis and on the Spring Equinox, a green shoot popped up gloriously. I love synchronicity like that.

At this point I was catching the planting bug. I added in an African violet, a plant that I’ve had notorious issues with growing in the past. I almost killed her by putting her in direct sunlight. Now she’s slowly coming back from the grave after I set her a bit further away and stopped watering her so much. I’ll get her yet.

There’s a tender consistency that comes from growing things. You have to be patient. You’re training a new way of being, you’re coaxing a seed or a plant out of its shell. You need to give them just the right amount of water, just the right amount of sunlight. And when they burst up out of the ground, there’s a profound sense of satisfaction that you kept something alive.

Sometimes things die, too, but I’m mostly finding it’s for lack of care rather than from some mistake I made. I had a thyme plant that I killed 2 months ago because I didn’t water it enough. Poor baby. I just didn’t care enough to keep her watered.

My petunia right now is laying dormant after blooming all winter. She looks dead, but I know she just needs a rest. She had her growing season and now she’s a bit quiet. She’s an annual, so she’ll come back. I’m not worried.

I was sitting during my morning quiet a few weeks ago, asking myself what I really wanted (a question that haunts me, and that I’ve recently let go of to make more space). What came was that I wanted rootedness. And tomato plants on my balcony.

I am now the proud owner of 2 tomato plants that are lapping up sun on my porch. One has produced a few tomatoes already – it’s a yellow cherry tomato plant that’s more like a vine. Not surprising, I have an affinity for vines, there’s something about the way they twine around things like they just want to stay forever. The other plant I’m carefully tending to – water, fish fertilizer, sunshine – and hope-fully waiting for a harvest come August or September.

I’m learning a lot from my plants. About how to be consistent. To water gently every day, to pay attention to what they need, to care lovingly on a regular basis. It’s amazing how much grows in that environment.

It’s teaching me to be the same way to myself.

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Violence Doesn’t Solve Fear

Today in the news we again have violence against black people, in McKinney TX at a teenage pool party, of all places. I have held my peace on my blog about this but today is the last straw for me. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m passionate about social justice, and in my offline life I’m a board member for the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission. So honestly it’s really high time I use my blog as a platform for what I want to say about this.

First of all, I am a gun violence survivor. I watched my sisters get murdered in front of me. And because of that, I went through an entire personal evolution of how I approached gun safety in this country. At first I was fully supportive of the lack of regulation on the right to bear arms. I even went through the entire class to get a conceal carry permit. And then I thought about it.

I could not, EVER, inflict upon ANY person irregardless of how “evil” they were, the same thing that I saw kill my sisters. I couldn’t. It would break me. And I knew that if I conceal carried a weapon, that would be the responsibility on my shoulders.

So at that moment I decided that for myself, I would never conceal carry. Not ever.

Let me be clear. I am not anti conceal carry. I am not about taking away anyone’s 2nd amendment rights. But what I do think is that they should be regulated, and I have several reasons why. Today was one of them.

Why do I bring this up in conjunction with McKinney?

Because we have a country that promotes systemic violence across all platforms, to the war in Iraq to police brutality on the streets of our cities. If there is a problem, welp, we swagger on in and solve it. How? Stark Industries style: “I’ve got a bigger weapon than you.” Our entire mindset on how to feel in control (when we feel out of control) is to use violence.

And in McKinney, the police officer pulled a gun in a situation which did not warrant violence.

My dad taught me to NEVER EVER point a gun at someone I didn’t intend to shoot. My dad only ever used shotguns for pheasant hunting, but he had been given a thorough lesson in gun safety and passed that on to us. I can imagine the kind of training that officer was given, and I am 100% sure that officer was told the same thing.

Pulling a gun and pointing it at someone in a situation, because you are afraid, is never okay. Pulling a gun as a policeman, who is an officer meant to sustain peace, is even less okay.

I watched the video. I don’t normally watch these kinds of videos because they are highly triggering for me. But I watched this one. And what I saw was a man who was terrified and out of control. Cursing constantly, running back and forth, and pulling a gun on kids who had never even made out as if they were going to hurt him. The kids all just wanted answers. The cop was freaking out and trying to gain control.

I know this reaction intimately because this is exactly how my dad used to react when he was afraid. He would yell and scream and act erratic. It’s familiar to me. It’s also how I react when I’m afraid.

Furthermore, I know fear. Intimately. I would say that fear and anxiety is the number one thing I’ve been working with for the past year. And here are some things that I know. When I become aggressive, either against myself or other, this doesn’t solve my fear or make me feel more in control. It actually stirs it up further. The more I try to be “in control”, the less in control I am. I am reacting to the feeling of fear within me by trying to gain control.

On the basic, most simple level, when I am reacting to fear within myself by trying to regulate, self-police, and control myself, I am acting with aggression towards myself, and my body responds accordingly. It tenses up, becomes rigid, and my mind runs around trying frantically to generate solutions to stave off what it is I fear.

On a macro level, I see it in the United States. What we do in this country is react. Fear comes up, and we strike out. It may not even be clear what we are afraid of, but perhaps it’s the simplest and most common thing – death. We don’t want to die, so we react by trying to be in control. And in the United States (as in myself), it seems that control equals aggression.

Today in McKinney, a man meant to bring peace instead lost control and became an instigator of aggression. He wrestled a 14 year old teenage girl to the ground, then pulled a gun on teenagers who were just trying to figure out what was going on. In my mind, pulling a gun marks his intention, which sickens me. And as a gun violence survivor I need to tell you. This has got to stop.

The ways in which we approach our fear has got to change.

It is so very very easy to approach fear with the mindset of wiping it off the face of the map, whether it be with drone strikes or with pointing a gun at innocent teenagers. It’s so very very easy for me to approach fear with self-policing, obsessive thinking, and trying to eradicate it from my mind. Do they seem disconnected to you? They are very related. Outer change never comes without inner change, first.

We react to fear as a country with aggression, because we react to our own inner fear with aggression, either against ourselves or by lashing out at those closest to us. Until we begin to learn on a personal level how to respond to fear instead of react, the problem will never be solved. The problem of violence. The problem of systemic injustice – whether that be race, gender, class, or anything else.

Why? Because fear is blinding. You and I both have had the experience of fear blinding us to what the reality is. And until we can learn to respond, we will never see the truth: Black lives matter. What is more, we will never see an even deeper, more profound truth:

I matter.

So I will not self aggress, nor will I aggress against those I love or anyone else. I will not treat my shadow as though it is the enemy.

Until we can stop reacting to our shadows instead of responding in love, this issue will never be solved. So this is what I am challenging you. Are you wondering what you can do as a white person to change the systemic violence in the United States? Are you wondering how to show the public at large that black lives indeed DO matter?

Start with yourself.

Address the shadow within yourself. Stop running from it. Stop trying to fight, fade, or fix it – which are all acts of self aggression. Listen deeply to yourself. Stop reacting to your shadow by yelling at or otherwise hurting the person who triggered it. As you stop inflicting violence on yourself, you’ll naturally stop inflicting violence on others. As you start listening deeply to yourself, you’ll naturally start listening to others. You’ll naturally be moved to get involved with movements for peace and justice.

The buck starts with you. It starts with me. No one said this is easy work. But are you willing to pay the cost for change?

If so – join me.

Footnote:
First, I address this solution to white people as I am a white person and can’t pretend to know how black people need to work to solve this systemic violence. I will not speak on their behalf. But I will give other white people like myself a mode of true, heart led action.
Second, I point out black lives because of the systemic violence so obviously inflicted against them. Life in general matters, certainly, but the egregious violence against black people in our country needs to be addressed head on.

Just Keep Following (the heartlines on your hands)

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/zionfiction/
Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/zionfiction/

Oh the river, oh the river, it’s running free.
And oh the joy, oh the joy it brings to me.
But I know it’ll have to drown me,
Before I can breathe easy.
And I’ve seen it in the flights of birds,
I’ve seen it in you.
The entrails of the animals,
The blood running through.
But in order to get to the heart,
I think sometimes you’ll have to cut through.
But you can’t…

We will carry…
We will carry you there…

Just keep following!
The heartlines on your hand!
-Florence and the Machine

I’m now down to the last couple of weeks of my yoga teacher training (say it isn’t so!). We’ve just moved into learning through the lens of the heart chakra. Each time we move to a new chakra, I’m surprised to learn the deep ways in which it is applying to me right now.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been seeking more silence to let my heart arise, as I spoke about in my last post. My mind has this little habit of getting in the way. A lot. It chatters all day long, just nonsense. Or whatever I happen to be worrying about at the time, it chews on over and over. It reminds me of how they talk about the locusts in the Little House series, the constant chewing that Laura heard all day every day, eating up all the plants. It gives me a crawly feeling.

There’s a sutra by Patanjali that is translated by Nischala Joy Devi to mean “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness at the heart.” It is elsewhere known as “Yoga is the state of cessation of the whirling of the mind.” I like Nischala Devi’s version. Instead of focusing on what Yoga ceases to do (what I need to cease doing), it focuses on the outcome – uniting of consciousness in the heart.

This focus is helpful for me, too. I can focus on ceasing the constant chewing fluctuations of my mind, OR, I can focus on uniting my consciousness at my heart.

To those not in the Yoga world, that language is high falutin and heavy. I’m not one to want to always use the language of the group I find myself in at the time; I think it’s limiting to other’s understanding. Instead, here’s what I’d like to tell you about uniting consciousness in the heart, based on my own experience.

I have struggled with anxiety for years. It came to the forefront when I stopped drinking, but it was there beforehand. I just had no awareness of it. When I stopped drinking, I got to see my anxiety front and center. I’ve had the chance to observe it the past almost 3 years. And as I do I realize it’s plagued me since I was a small child. I grew up in an atmosphere where I was only allowed to do things if they followed “the family rules” which were inconsistent and hard to determine. As a result I developed a ridiculously sensitive conscience and what I think is the origin of my anxiety.

Doing things in a self-empowered, heart-centered way is extremely foreign to me. Beginning last year in May/June, I started switching to this mode of life. It’s the reason I stopped going to 12 step recovery, stopped my love addiction recovery, started my yoga teacher training. I selected this teacher training mainly due to the empowerment aspect of it. I’m not seeking another person to tell me what to do. I’m seeking an empowered life.

It’s not easy. Because it requires finding the “still point in the turning world” (as e.e. cummings says) and rising out of the dark of that silence to quietly pursue what my heart prompts of me.

I have a different view of the heart, also. There’s millions of life coaches on the internet right now preaching following your desires, finding work you love, that kind of thing. While this has its merit, I think it can get a little skewed. Because in many ways I think you first have to reveal the heart. Which is another reason I took up Yoga. Yoga is all about learning to reveal the heart that lies beneath.

So yes, follow your bliss. But first – clear the mirror so you know what your bliss IS. That’s the message for me. Follow the bliss, from the True Self and the true heart center. Easy? Not necessarily

(maybe it is for you, each person is different in their journey). But worth it… most likely. I don’t know yet, honestly. I’m still learning. I just know that I’m really tired of living by the dictates of other people and I want to empower myself.

Maybe that means walking in the dark for awhile before I find myself, but maybe the unknown, silent, dark is where it’s at. As one of my favorite poems says,

 There is in God (some say)
A deep, but dazzling darkness; As men here   50
Say it is late and dusky, because they
        See not all clear;
    O for that night! where I in him
    Might live invisible and dim.

– Henry Vaughan

Sometimes God/the Divine/my Higher Self is found in the dark. So I’ll just keep following these heartlines on my hands.

How I Use Tarot In My Spiritual Practice

Since I’ve started offering tarot readings here on the blog, I thought I’d write about how I use tarot in my daily life.

For me, tarot is a way that I supplement my current spiritual practice. My current spiritual practice includes daily meditation and yoga asana. I use both of those as a way to remember my true Self. I am sure some of you will be confused by that terminology so let me explain how I see it.

There’s the ego self – the one that craves, desires, wants the wrong things for the wrong reasons, gets neurotic, gets grasping, or I suppose in Christian terminology you could say it is the “sinning” side of me. I’m okay with that definition, if we are defining sin as “something that separates us from the Divine.

I see the Divine as a couple of things. My perception of the Divine is that it is an entity – one that I cannot describe but I feel like it appears in many aspects. I have seen it portrayed as woman, man, wind, animal, energy. It’s mainly for that reason that I don’t ascribe to a religion. I also see the Divine as my higher Self. A way that I think of this is, it’s my future self, whether my older self in this life, or if reincarnation is a thing, my future self in many lives ahead of me. It’s a higher aspect of me that grants wisdom to this current iteration of who I am.

Now that that is explained… tarot does what for me, now?

Okay, if we are defining “sin” or “ego” or the “small self” as that which separates us from the Divine or from Oneness (which is also me), then I would say I use Yoga to reunite with the Divine/my higher Self. Yoga in itself means “union” or “to yoke”, so this makes sense. By the way, I mean Yoga in the grander sense – not just the physical form but the entire philosophy and way of life.

Tarot reading for me, is an extension of Yoga in the grander sense, a way that I remember and reunite with my Self and the Divine. It’s a reminder to me of which path will be the most nourishing and sustaining for me.

For instance.

This morning, I did a daily draw, partially for me and partially for my Instagram account (@bornsirius – follow me!). The draw turned out to be very significant:

tarotabundance

After I drew this, I knew instinctively that I have blocks to abundance in my life. Abundance? It is not showing up much for me at the present. I’ve got bills galore, for one thing. So I drew clarifying cards, asking, “how do I remove the blocks to my abundance?” The deck didn’t answer me straight. Instead it gave me Laziness, Conditioning, and Exhaustion.

I only knew this related because I’ve been noticing a tendency of mine. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down and I act like I’m tired. I’m really not tired; I’m really just avoiding something that’s hard for me. To me, the deck was saying that the way I’ve been doing things, the shutting down and pretending it away and working really hard until I collapse into the ground, was not working.

Well, what would work, then?

I knew I had to relax. To rest. I had just gotten a massage this morning. My muscles were so tightly wound that even I was surprised. I was a massive ball of knots, especially in my shoulders. Hilariously, also, my massage therapist (also a lovely friend – Hi, Beth!) kept telling me, “Stop helping me!” I kept tensing up; she was telling me to stop helping her and just relax.

All these things flashed through my mind as I looked at the card I’d pulled. Then something occurred to me. I had been thinking about even my massage in the light of “Oh my gosh. I’m so tight, my body has all these problems, I wonder what it means, blah blah blah.” In other words, I’d been seeing myself as broken. In an instant I understood what the Abundance card was asking of me – “Stop seeing yourself as broken and remember that you are whole, holy, divine, and ENOUGH right now in this moment. You don’t have to be fixed to be good enough.

This shifted my outlook for the rest of the day. It shifted my energy even. Previously, I’d been stuck in a dark hole of thinking that I’m not good enough, I’m unworthy, I should be better, etc etc. I’d been focusing on things that made me feel small, constricted, and dark. This reading shifted it to, “I am good enough, I have more than enough, and what if I were to live from that perspective?” My body instantly felt lighter, more expansive, more fertile, able to grow and take in beauty.

That’s what tarot does for me. I have experienced profound reminders of the truth from tarot, profound moments that bring me healing. It’s a way for me to extrovert what I am processing through my Yoga practice. Through the cards, I can tangibly see the things I’m emotionally processing.

Today, it just happened to bring a whole mental shift. And I’m left feeling lighter because of it.

The Year in Review – A Positive Reflection on 2014

My bestie Carly and I decided to do a little “round up” of our own on all the positive things that have happened or benefitted us this past year. We have a renewed interest in positivity heading forward into the New Year, so we decided we should end our last year on a good note. You can find Carly’s post here.

2014 has been one of the most challenging and transformational of my life. Mindsets and ways of being have shifted and continue to shift. Beginning with my quarter life crisis in March, and lasting all the way until December, my life has been in utter upheaval this year. It’s as if the Universe decided I needed an overhaul.

Or perhaps I decided it… I was the one to take one small step to be more powerful in my life, to embrace it with an open heart. Considering that my word for the year was audacity… Yeah.

There were a few things that kept me going this year that I want to share here, as an offering of gratitude to them and how they moved me through.

Andrea Gibson – The Nutritionist
This poem saved my LIFE in April/May/June. There was a period of time where I literally listened to it daily just to have the strength to go to work. I would put it on in the morning before work, shed a few tears, buck up, and leave. I have no idea what I would have done without it.

Sayulita Trip
This trip that I took alone was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If I could afford it, I’d take a trip alone every year. This one was a massive reset button on my life. It was also gloriously beautiful and I had the chance to just take it all in and enjoy. That, despite getting sunburned so bad on my chest that I blistered. Yikes! Haha. The little things just didn’t seem to matter anymore; I was the most myself I’ve ever been on this trip, and it was glorious. It’s been a hallmark of my year.

RootEd Yoga Teacher Training
I have no idea what I would have done this year without this amazing, vibrant, vulnerable community around me. I have learned so much about what it means to be rooted in myself, and what it means to relate to others. I have never plugged into a community so much in my life, in a true way, in a consistent way. It’s weird, but good. Plus, I am finding that I truly love Yoga in all aspects. It’s always drawn me, but there’s a greater draw now.

My first date with Kevin.
We ran around town looking for hammocks. We ordered the same meal at Ivywild. We ended the night with The Fountain and some kissing and stuff. 😉 It was one of the most glorious, synchronous nights of my year.

Kevin, in general
To be truthful, Kevin has been far more gracious to me than I feel like I deserve (he disagrees). He has been an absolute rock to me. I have been a stormy ocean of a girl at times and he has been the levy that I come up against but it holds me in, in the sweetest of ways. I’m so grateful for who he has been in my life thus far.

Visiting my bestie, Carly.
It wasn’t for the greatest reasons, but getting to see my best friend FO LYFE Carly (the one I linked up with on this post!) in July was a huge highlight of my year. Much singing of Chandelier, conversations until all hours of the morning… it was fantastic.

Spoken Word Poetry
This was the year I’ve really gotten into spoken word. And holy mother of pearl guys. That stuff has changed my life. I walked into an event and immediately felt at home, like these were my people. Their vulnerability encouraged me to become a more vulnerable person.

 

These are just a few things that have influenced me this year. I know there are many, many others that I am forgetting. But in the wake of all the transformation I have experienced, these things have kept me going. These have been the core things that have provided the inspiration I’ve needed to keep going this year, and I’m so grateful that they appeared in my life as they did.

Here’s to you, 2014! I can’t say I’m sad to leave you, but I do leave with a deep bow to all you have brought me.

As for 2015… I have a new word for this coming year.

I don’t make resolutions, I think that’s silly. I have some ideals. But this word is one I want to be a guiding light.

Savor.

I want to take in all the moments. I want to see the holiness. I want to never, ever forget the purity of the present. And I want to CHOOSE to enjoy it. Enjoy it all. This word for me is about truly enjoying. I feel that up to this point in my life I have enjoy, full body enjoyed, very little. So for this year, that’s what I’m setting as my intention.

To full-body savor the experience.

Welcome, 2015.

Practice

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It’s been awhile since I wrote. Some of this is due to the places my mind has wandered lately, down dark and lonely roads. But some of this is also due to being out of practice.

My honesty has felt terrifying even to me, so I stopped practicing writing it out publicly and went underground. Found other ways to let it out – primarily the aforementioned dark places that my mind has wandered. Anxiety creeps out of the cracks of the mind-box I’ve tried to shove it in, and since I won’t create, my body trembles with the force of holding it in.

Previously, I would have bled out on paper. But I haven’t been able to. And then I got too tired. Writing felt exhausting. I didn’t lift a pen for a couple weeks. Then I started thinking about the practice of writing.

Writing doesn’t just happen when inspiration strikes.

but, you see, this is when I have usually written. And when inspiration doesn’t strike, I don’t speak, so I let it lie. Leave the ground barren and fallow, and all my blog readers drift away, tiring of waiting for me.

These are not excuses. These are lessons learned. Writing is not magic. Writing can be born of tired, bored moments, too. Not just the electric ones I wait for. In fact, maybe better writing comes from the mundane. The tedious, tenacious task of doing the same thing every day, slowly growing your skill from persistent practice.

My yoga teacher training lately has been talking about this very subject. Devoted practice. I’m finding out that I’m… well, not bad at it per se, but very undisciplined. I like to follow the shine and glimmer of newness. In yoga teacher training, I’m finding that it’s wearing off. Now I get to dig in even deeper (and with great love) to do the work. To stay consistent, even and especially when, I do not want to.

I’m finding that a big key to all of this is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.14: “Abhyasa, the practice, is the effort to remain firmly established in one’s own true Self; it is cultivated over a long time, through earnest and reverent energy, and with great love.”

So inspiration is still slow to strike. and I must admit that is again why I am here tonight, although now it’s 10:13pm and the inspiration that made me a lightning rod earlier is now wearing off. It’s taking a bit more effort to hammer out these words.

But it was my sister’s practice that inspired me.

See, she’s been taking a drawing class this semester. From the beginning of the semester until now, she’s worked hard and stuck with it, and her improvement is marked. Today, I felt a huge rush of gratitude when she told me how she was now using her talent to also process some personal things.

Besides the gratitude though, it reminded me of my own work. My sister… my lovely sister Grace who turned 18 on the 30th (holy crap! I remember when she was born!) pointed me back to my own work. And she reminded me that I can use even my darkest, most painful, most shameful feelings in a brave act of creation.

I’ve been scared to be vulnerable because

GOD. DAMN.

I’ve got some ugly shit going on in there and I don’t even want to see it. Me. The one who holds it in me. Yikes. That crap is too scary. My teacher talks about how yoga opens up the door to the basement where we’ve been stuffing crap forever. Well, the basement door got opened up for me and, really I’d rather just keep slamming the door and pretending it doesn’t exist.

Oh. And the other thing is, all that stuff in the basement reminds me that I have choices. Lots of them. All of them in fact, and all mine. For the first time in my life that I can remember, I am basing my entire life off of my own choices.

That thought in itself makes me want to hide forever. As awesome as that sounds, choice is dizzying. Decisions can make or break my whole life (I overdramatize sometimes). I’ve never picked up the pen and become an autobiography, instead of just a simple biography. I’m unused to the feel of my own fingers penning words I choose to ink down. Something about this, something about the idea of authoring my own story, scares the shit out of me. Something about the idea of choice is terrifying.

(I’m trying to be gentle with myself right now, because… sweetheart, so much new. and it’s okay, and I know this is different and hard, and like you’ve lived underground and you’re seeing the light for the first time. It’s going to be okay, I promise)

So, you can see why I’d like to stop practicing, frankly. Yawn yawn, nothing shiny and fun here, nope, just a basement full of crap I’d rather not deal with. I’d rather stay in boredom and allow that to lead me to something shinier, more electrifying. I’d rather chase the high. (As my teacher would say – isn’t that interesting? When the practice is finding your true Self, you’re… bored?)  Fear is… chilling, ghastly, panic-inducing. Give me something fun so I can keep pretending it’s not there.

This is where the going gets tough. I was warned this would happen. I’ve never before noticed how this happens for me, though. It’s not by just running away… boredom is the name of the game. Procrastination is another name it goes by. So, it’s time to practice with it. Keep showing up even though I really don’t want to. Even though it doesn’t seem important (BO-RING). Even if it seems to be too much effort. It’s time for me to make my bones.

Patanjali’s first yoga sutra: “Now, this is yoga.

Yep, now, in the fear, in the boredom avoiding the fear, in all the things I feel that I am afraid to become… now. this. is. yoga.

The night I wrote this, I practiced by expressing some things I’ve been afraid to. In an effort to continue that practice, I’m sharing it with you:

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That great love part in Patanjali’s I.14 sutra is very central, for me. I can muster up plenty of earnest and reverent energy. But I have found in the past that this results in performance. It’s only when I’m approaching my practice out of great love for myself, and for those around me, that I am able to continually remain firmly established in my true Self. Without that love, I am much too apt to stop showing up, because fear takes over.

So here I am… committing again to practice. With earnest and reverent energy. And great, great love.

Dust to Dust

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Last weekend, I started a yoga teacher training program.

A friend had told me about this program just about a month and a half ago. When she emailed me about it, I instantly KNEW. I needed to do this. I had no idea why. I had no idea where I’d get the money from. But, I needed to do this training.

It’s a unique training, to be sure. It’s not just about asana, or physical, practice. So we’re not getting together and just doing yoga all day. It’s holistic yoga – yoga in life, as a whole. Yoga as a spiritual practice. As my teacher says, capital “Y” Yoga.

Class format is 1 intensive weekend a month, and one Sunday. Last weekend was our first intensive weekend. When I saw an Andrea Gibson poem among the handouts for the class, I felt even more intensely that this was just where I was meant to be.

The weekend proved this out. My class quickly became a family. We did asana together once a day, and the rest of the time talked about life. About being your true Self. About SHOWING UP. How to show up. How Yoga helps you show up for your life. How spirituality is not about getting out of your life, but about showing up to it.

From Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

I felt a sense of connection that I have deeply missed. I got my heart broken open in the best way. I deeply crave connection, and yet so often I feel like it’s out of my reach. I have a deep achey loneliness that lives in my center like an icy core. I get paralyzed by it. I get suffocated by it. If you’ve ever had the experience where you’ve contacted me, and I’ve not texted, emailed, or Facebooked you back, that’s what this is about. I crave your presence. But I feel overwhelmed when I think about letting it in. I literally get tired and it feels exhausting to return communication. (and you wonder why I haven’t been writing as much lately…)

For a moment last Sunday, I let tears wash my soul and clear out a space for people to come in. It felt like I could breathe again after being underwater for a long, long time.

I am realizing that my hardship in connecting with others is really my hardship in connecting with myself and with Life at large. I was asked to write about one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for class. Last night, one was almost hand-delivered to me; I stumbled on it through a blog post. Ishvara Pranidhana Dva – the surrender/offer of self to a higher Source as a path to samadhi, enlightenment. Or, basically, surrendering to the flow of life. Um. Yikes. That’s terrifying. What if life screws me over?

And this is where my history comes in.

Really, the more I walk this path, the more I feel I was meant to walk this path at this time, specifically. I read this sutra last night, which encourages offering yourself to Source. I went to bed shortly after. When I laid down to sleep, I laid on my stomach with my arms above my head, setting an intention to offer myself to Source.

I fell into the deepest sleep I’ve had in weeks and promptly had a nightmare about a shooting, perpetrated by someone who, in my dream, was in a close friend group (he was not someone I know or recognize from real life).

Funny enough I take it as a sign that it was exactly the Yoga sutra I needed to read and write about, because this is just where my Yoga lies right now. The lack of safety and trust I feel in Life, generally.

How strange then, that today I discover further information about trauma and yoga and the body. Krista Tippett’s latest podcast featured Bessel Van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who is discovering how Yoga can heal trauma. The episode is here and I highly encourage that you listen.

During the program, Mr. Van der Kolk addressed how trauma victims disconnect themselves from their bodies. Trauma impairs the imagining of how your physical body feels, as well as impairing the self-observational parts of your brain that are aware of what is happening inside. Trauma activates the primitive brain (limbic system) and at times, so overactivates this system that the rational mind (prefrontal cortex) doesn’t kick in. In other words – full scale freakout, and rationality is nowhere to be found. Because of this, trauma victims can be “hijacked” by previous experiences at almost any time. When triggered, the limbic system is activated and then control is lost. Because of the constant state of “heartache and gutwrench” that trauma victims go through, they shut down their body so as not to feel it. At times this is through alcohol or drugs, at others it’s shutting down emotional awareness in the body.

*takes a deep breath* You got all that? I know it’s all science-y speak… but mostly it just says, trauma victims are disconnected from their bodies, or even try to disconnect from them because traumatic situations affect the physical body and cause pain.

From personal experience I can tell you that this is the truth. A few months ago, I wrote a spoken word piece about my sisters, in which I penned “my DNA still trembles from the paralyzing shock” and other similar phrases. Many times I do get the sense that I can literally feel it in my body.

And in yoga, sometimes it’s emotionally excruciating for me. Deeply cleansing, but wow. Coming back to your body is deeply painful after having disconnected from it. I think to begin with, I was using alcohol to disconnect from my body. After I stopped drinking, I shut off emotional awareness of my body. It’s funny, because I actually have quite high body awareness of what emotion is stored in what area. But I know it, so I can silence it. NOT so I can connect with it.

The connection actually feels so excruciating that I had a really rough meditation experience back in June, one that kept me from meditating for about 2 months. I was doing a meditation day, and we started with meditating through a full body scan. I thought to myself, “Oh, cool, this will be good.” Nope. It was at that point that I realized just HOW MUCH trauma was residing in my body. Wave upon wave of emotional pain washed over me. I had no resources with which to deal with it, and the situation it occurred in was very unsupportive for me. In many ways my body felt it had been re-traumatized.

Mr. Van der Kolk says that the feeling of being safe in the body is not there, for a trauma victim. He talks about how it is hard for a traumatized person to relax fully during savasana (corpse pose). When he spoke of this, tears jumped to my eyes. Savasana is hard for me. I cannot relax most of the time. When I do, it’s a beautiful, healing, cleansing experience and many times I cry. But it’s hard for me to fully wind down most of the time. There’s a sense of itchiness and discomfort, groundlessness, in the pit of my stomach.

Certain poses, too, trigger things in me. Twice last week, I did a pose (Supta Padangustasana, in case you were wondering) in which my outer hips were stretched. It’s probably the tightest part of my body, first off, and I can barely move into the stretch. Each time I do it, I have flashbacks that make me tear up. They’re not horrible flashbacks, but that stretch really touches into the lack of safety I feel in my body. (Yogi friends – root chakra, anyone?)

But… this is actually a good thing because I can feel like I’m in my body again. And another good thing about yoga is that it actually changes something called heart rate variability. This is where the heartbeat and the breath sync up and create a more mindful and calm experience. Yoga is a way to feel the life inside yourself, to connect again to the body. It’s not just effective on a verbal level, it deals with the whole body where things get stored physically.

Bessel Van der Kolk says at the end of his broadcast that the feeling of safety and at the same time interconnectivity to others and life is really the essence of trauma healing.

It seems that I have landed in a program that will promote both. My Yoga training is my satsang – spiritual community. And it’s through the practice of Yoga as a whole that I am reconnecting with my body. It follows then that I’ll be able to reconnect with others.

I feel it’s summed up in a beautiful song that brought tears streaming down my cheeks on Monday. It’s called Dust to Dust, which I have to say I find really profound; in the creation myth in Genesis, our bodies are made of dust and to dust we return. Again, the return to the body and the return to connection.