I have been thinking about joy this week. Even the word "joy" brings about a shift in energy, doesn't it? I instinctively begin reaching, as if I could grasp that beautiful feeling, holding it close. I taught a few yoga classes today, and I read this quote throughout my classes.
"Difficult times are your greatest opportunity to practice yourself into joy."
~The Secret Scrolls by Rhonda Byrne
Does that mean you choose joy or happiness? No, not all of the time, or at least I don't think so...
I disagree with telling people that they can choose to be happy. It isn't a light switch that you can turn on and off, and no one would choose depression. Like anything you are striving for in life, it is a practice. Especially when I am in the depths of winter, and the shadows lengthen over me, I pursue those experiences and people that bring me joy. Close your eyes, and breathe joy; Taste joy, smell, joy, touch and remember those times of complete surrender. Anything you are passionate about takes practice. We may have an innate gift or talent, but it still takes refinement to excel in anything. Writing brings me joy. I can lose myself in the process, and is as healing and necessary to me as breathing. I often struggle to stay present. I am a worrier by nature, but the process of observation draws me into the present moment. All five senses are activated, and I feel with the entirety of who I am. I not only see who I am, but everything around me becomes crystal clear as well. It is magical, and I don't take it for granted. I also forget...I fall into the darkness. My breath becomes shallow, I hide in dusty corners, and I forget the light, which is all of the joy I have ever known. It is a practice, this joy I speak of...
When you forget, make a "joy list." Pull it out in times of darkness. Close your eyes, and breathe. Remember joy, cultivate joy, and practice. Difficult times are a wake up call.
"For hours, we lay in it, wanting for nothing, turning blades of grass into butterflies with just the touch of our fingers, whatever we imagined made real by our will and desire."
I remember standing in line with the heat of the Texas sun flooding down, as I held my brothers small, sweaty hand. We were waiting to see "Grease," and the buttery smell of popcorn rushing out of the air conditioned theater each time someone opened or closed the door made me feel sick to my stomach. I was eleven, and I didn't understand the word "rape." I didn't have the vocabulary at the time for what had happened to me. The timeline in my head is confused, but it must have happened not long before this memory. We stood in the heat, and I remember feeling lost and numb. As soon as we stepped inside the lobby, I vomited all over the ticket takers shoes. My brother began to cry. I took him into the bathroom, wiped his tears, and scrubbed the splattered bile from my tennis shoes with a useless paper towel. We weren't with an adult, but they let us in without question to see the movie. That probably wouldn't happen in 2016. I dropped into that film as if my life depended on it. I was every song, every line, and every laugh. It was then that I must have decided I no longer wanted to be me. I don't think of that time in my life very often anymore, but I still live with certain fears. A preview for that movie was on the television the other evening, which brought back that particular memory. I was also triggered at the yoga studio because I now teach a 7:00-8:15 p.m. class on Monday nights. I'm nervous to walk to my car in the dark when I close alone. We are located near a Pizza Hut, and often there are a couple of guys out there taking their smoke breaks. I fear groups of men even more than I fear a man who is alone because I was raped by two, and I'm almost certain that while I was being raped, there were other people who knew it was going on. I'm trying, but it causes a lot of anxiety for me. It also brings out some anger, because I'm tired of being afraid. I even thought about giving up that class because of it, and that is ridiculous. I do not want to allow fear to get in the way of living my life. I am not a little girl anymore. Wish me luck tonight as I walk through my fear.
"Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." ~Sarah Williams
I'm here to write, and I have no idea what will unfold. Sometimes when I come here, I have an idea in my mind, but not this evening. I think I want to actually write about writing. I have read many of my poems in the yoga classes that I teach, and someone usually approaches me after class either asking me if I have a book, or encouraging me to publish a book. It isn't quite that simple. I want to. I even have a somewhat finished manuscript of my poetry and observations, but I have never been brave enough to send it anywhere. Poetry books aren't in high demand in the publishing world. I'm thinking of self publishing, but it costs money that I don't feel like I can spend on something so frivolous. I have had a few of my poems published either in book or magazine form, but it is certainly a shot in the dark to think someone would publish an entire book of my poems. I've always been one to dream big though, and when I want something badly enough, I go for it because that is the only way dreams become reality. My goal for 2016 is to move in the direction of publishing a book, either on my own, or sending my work out into the world. I will probably end up doing both of those things, and although it may not come to fruition this year, I'm moving in that direction. I have talked about it long enough, and there is no time like the present to begin manifesting that intention. I encourage you all to reach for your dreams this year. Life is too tremulous and uncertain not to send your dreams and desires out into the universe. Yesterday I wrote a post about contentment, and the truth is that I am always reaching for more. Dreams make me feel alive, and striving towards a goal keeps me engaged and motivated. I never want to lose that feeling because I wasted many years barely living my life. I gave up on my dreams, and I gave up on myself. I never want to go back to that desolate and empty existence.
"Dream Your Dream, 2016!"
"Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air.
For the past few years I have spent my New Years Eve at Darling Yoga. My teacher has all of us draw angel cards from a bowl, and these cards have a single word on them. I try to focus on that word throughout the year. Last year, my angel card was "Light." I wrote this post "Light" about how that card felt so perfect. This year the card that I drew was "Contentment", and it too was ideal. It is something that I have been working a great deal with because contentment feels elusive. It probably has something to do with my perfectionism, and never feeling as if I am "good enough." As soon as I reach a goal, I pick it apart...I wonder if I am a fraud, or if everyone will see that I truly don't have a clue as to what I am doing. I struggle with finding contentment with exactly where I am, or comfort with what I have. I find that gratitude comes more easily than contentment. I am most certainly grateful for everything that I have, and the opportunities offered, but I'm not sure that I deserve them. Should I have had to work harder, and am I capable? Those questions make it difficult for me to settle into that warm and content feeling. I also love the action of working toward something, and then once I have it, I seem to want more. I tend to label myself with negative adjectives, because wanting more is selfish and greedy, or at least that is what I have always believed. You can see how I need to work through these falsehoods. I have ideas and patterns that have shaped my beliefs, but I can change them. We all can change when we put our hearts and minds to it. I am changing and growing everyday, but it takes determination and insight. I am learning to be content. Right now it is fleeting, but I notice the feeling. Eventually I'm planning on settling into it completely!
It is the first day of winter break, and I had planned on sleeping in, but my mind didn't allow that to happen. I am amazed at not only the amount, but the quick pace of single thoughts that run through my head. They come so rapidly that I can't even keep up, and I recognize that quite often these racing thoughts eventually lead to a panic attack. It is like my brain can only take so much before it short circuits and I figuratively explode. My therapist suspects that my panic attacks are triggered by bottled up anger. I'm not sure, or maybe I don't like to admit that I get angry. I don't feel angry at the moment, but these incessant thoughts cause anxiety.
Writing helps, and so here I am...
I try to distract myself. I have painted my nails, called my brother, dyed my hair. I will go to yoga, I'm having dinner with friends later, and hopefully the thoughts will slow down. I'm happy to have some time away from work, and although I will still be teaching yoga, having space during the day will be good, or at least I think it will be good!
*It has been good~
I am proud of how I am using the tools I have learned throughout the years. I haven't had any panic attacks. Down time can be dangerous for me, but I haven't had much free time. I still taught yoga, and so even when I wasn't actually teaching, I was planning my classes. I taught a Christmas Eve Yin class, and I wanted so much for it to feel special. The best part was that all of my teachers were there to take class, and that meant the world to me. It was a full house. I counted forty eight students, and my husband was counted among them. He is also one of my teachers and greatest supports. I left the studio that morning walking on air, completely filled with joy that I am blessed to be able to share what I love. My boys were all home for Christmas. I baked biscotti with Roman, who helped me roll them into balls, and ice them. I double my Nonni's recipe, so it is a gigantic amount of cookies! We spent Christmas day with Dave's family, and then came home. Dave and I watched Elf, and napped under the electric blanket until bed time. It was perfect! I don't usually teach at all on Saturday's, but my sweet teacher/friend Emily, who also owns the studio, was not feeling well, so I subbed her class this morning. After class, I met one of my dearest friends who was only in town for the day for lunch, and now I'm home again, planning tomorrow's classes. How is this my life? My friend, Jackie reminded me of a couple of years ago when I told her my dream of teaching yoga. She also reminded me that I didn't think it would actually happen. It happened, and dreams really do come true!
My next dream is to figure out how to publish my writing in book form. I have many ideas, but I'm not sure of the direction it will take.
I have worked with kiddos with autism for over fifteen years, as well as having my own son with autism. I'm used to waiting a longer amount of time for a response than what is considered average. People with developmental disabilities, as well as individuals with brain injuries have a longer processing time, so I wait...
I'm just now realizing that I have a longer than average processing time when it comes to my emotions.
Feelings are unlabeled because I have no idea in the moment what is happening.
I store my emotions like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter, and then they explode before I even have a chance to make much sense of them.
This is why I have a therapist to help me sort through the mess of feelings that confound and confuse me on an almost daily basis.
Laughter, and joy are easier to accept, but sadness and anger I have labeled as bad, and off limits, so I do all kinds of inappropriate things with those emotions in particular.
It is where my eating disorder came from, as well as self harm and dissociation.
I turn my anger and sadness in the only direction I know, which is at myself.
I have been taught some great skills from my treatment team, as well as from my yoga teachers, but they don't always work, and that is frustrating.
Nothing is full proof, and when my tools fail me, I feel like a failure.
My therapist tells me,"feeling is not being," and so feeling like a failure does not mean that I am a failure.
Tonight I worked all day, went to therapy, and taught two yoga classes.
I didn't have time to check in or acknowledge my feelings, but they still caught up with me.
I came home, sat down, took a few deep breaths, and gahhhh...
Damn, I'm sad, happy, tired, and fucking confused...
Delayed emotional reaction in progress!
I can't even get comfort when I need it most of the time, because when it hits me that I need it, there is no one around.
I do not understand life, or why things happen the way they do. I do believe that the people and events in our lives are put in our path to guide us and to teach us if we can allow that to happen. Life is also random, and no one deserves tragedy, pain, or suffering to befall them. We do not always get what we deserve. Sometimes we get more, and sometimes we get less, and here is where I used to tell my kids, "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." We blame ourselves in order to make sense of trauma, to give ourselves a false sense of control, thinking that if we are "good" we can prevent further suffering. My grown up mind understands this, but the wounded little girl inside is still working on figuring it out. I wasn't raped because of anything I did or didn't do, and even now, if someone hurts me, it isn't because I am flawed. It also isn't always because they are flawed, but simply because we are all human beings, and most of us are trying to do the best we can at the time with whatever resources are available. Note that I used the word always, because yes, my rapists were flawed in a big way, but what happened was that I carried that trauma into every other interaction I had in my life, blaming myself, hating myself, and feeling unworthy and unlovable. I'm not ruined because of the people who abused me. Sadly, for much of my life, I thought I was irreparably damaged, and because I hid what happened, I spent years terrified, and hiding in shame. It takes work to undo the stories we tell ourselves, but we can write new stories. I easily take the blame when something goes wrong because it is a deeply ingrained groove in my record, and sometimes the record skips, and I get stuck. I have also learned to create new grooves. Nothing complicated. "I am good, I am good, I am good..." I invite good things, because I deserve good things. If bad things happen though, that does not mean I deserve them! This is a difficult concept for me because I get stuck in the brain of a child who was traumatized, and that is how I made sense of it all. Even now, when someone hurts me, I automatically try to figure out what I did wrong, and how to prevent it in the future. It is a knee jerk reaction, but then I step back, and rewrite the story. I'm guessing that eventually, I will not jump to conclusions, but at least I'm learning to separate my child self from my adult self. I'm also learning to love that child-like self. She is good...
The main reason that I started writing this blog was to sort out my thoughts and emotions throughout my recovery process. The reasons that I continue are not only for those same reasons, but also because I have learned that it is important to myself and others, to be vulnerable. I am as honest as I can be here, because we all share some of the same hopes, fears, and basic human tendencies. When I realized I wasn't alone, the world was not nearly as frightening. I'm recovered from anorexia, but that certainly doesn't mean that I don't still struggle with my body image. I do. I'm in the public eye every day as a yoga teacher, and I'm not the hard bodied, lean yoga teacher. I'm the short, curvy yoga teacher, with extra bits here and there, and most days, that is okay. It never matters once I step my feet on my yoga mat because for fuck's sake, it doesn't matter! The days that it does matter, I need to take a few steps back, and ask myself why. It is never about my weight. It is usually about avoiding a feeling, or a myriad of feelings, which brings me to this...
My sweet friend Monica, www.illuminatespirit.com is someone I met at Darling Yoga. She is a massage therapist, yogi, and amazing photographer. She asked if she could take some yoga photographs of me, and I froze! I admire her work, the photographs she has taken of our friends are beautiful, but I wasn't sure about the idea for me personally. It is not that I think I'm ugly. I take a selfie here and there, but I'm the one in control. I can delete, and I never take body shots. That is sad, isn't it?! I avoid the mirror at all costs in the studio. When I'm moving through my practice, I feel beautiful. Flowing with the rhythm of my breath is like dancing with the most graceful partner who anticipates your every move. It is never wrong. It is yoga...union...
Monica is such a sweet, and gentle soul, but I was nervous. I barely remember the ride to our location, and still don't know where we went. It was a beautiful fall day, with a touch of crispness to the air. I was giddy and flighty, but as soon as I would settle into a posture and breathe, it was yoga; my home, where I am safe. We laughed together, and I do remember that the location had huge houses that looked like English mansions. It was more fun than I thought it would be, but then the fear of actually seeing the finished product was terrifying! I know only too well how critical I am of every perceived flaw. I am strong in my recovery, but I still remember...
I am fearful of anything shaking my foundation, and what if I was disgusted by my extra bits? What if it sent me into starvation mode? What if I disappointed Monica by not being happy with her photographs? Every time she would see me, she would reassure me.
"You need to see what we all see when you practice. You are beautiful."
Last weekend, she texted me to let me know she had sent me the link to her website to look at the photographs. A half hour later she texted me back, wondering, but I hadn't looked. I was scared! I went to the studio to practice, and she was there after class with her laptop. Beaming, she said, "This one is my favorite!" It also happened to be my favorite pose. Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana~Mermaid pose. I remember the light, the trees, and how the breeze felt on my skin. It was beautiful because I felt beautiful. Again, it had nothing to do with what I looked like, but how I felt. It was exactly like what I'm always telling my students. "Feel the pose from the inside out, because that is when you know." When you allow yourself to feel, you know everything! Thank you Monica, for the gift of knowing, and for making it comfortable, sweet, and painless. I love you.
I was chatting with a dear friend, and she was asking me if I thought her yoga practice was not strong enough to join in a mixed level class.
It brought me back to all of the times in my life I have felt less than...
often not enough,
and then again,
the devastating feeling that I'm too much.
I feel strongly that yoga is not at all about the poses,
but about the feeling.
It is about filling the empty spaces with your entire being.
It is about expansion,
It is about touching the pain with tenderness,
bowing to the hurt,
and honoring those spaces with grace.
Yoga is union with your inner self.
The self you doubt is the self that needs your light.
"Grace flows only where there is an opening. It pools at obstacles, waits with infinite patience, it never trespasses where it is not free to go. Yet, a single sorrow healed, and Grace floods through in an instant." ~Linda Kavelin Popov
"Hurt people hurt people." I don't know where that quote originated, but isn't it the sad truth? It is an endless cycle that continues out of anger and unspoken needs. We throw around the word "forgiveness" as if that will solve everything, but it doesn't erase the pain. The more compassion I have for myself, the easier it is to let go of the anger. The pain is a different beast. You have to befriend the pain, acknowledge it, and keep it company for awhile. This I am learning...I can't starve it away, or drink it away. I can't check out anymore. No...I have to be present with the pain, and that kind of makes me mad, and so I return to the anger. I reach for compassion and forgiveness toward myself, again so that I can soften the anger, soften my heart, and it is a process of coming back again and again to loving myself. I'm a novice at this, so I make mistakes. I lashed out in anger at someone that I love because they couldn't love me in exactly the way that I wanted. I offered them my heart, which is soft, and easily bruised, and out of love and trying to protect me, they did the opposite of what they were trying to help me learn. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The love you withhold is the pain you carry." When someone withholds their love after you have tentatively offered yours, the pain is twofold. Withholding has only two goals that I can see; either to punish the other person, or to maintain the balance of power, and no matter what the situation or context of the relationship, neither one of those reasons is right in my mind, and never will be. For now, I'm babysitting my pain with tender care, hoping for resolution and understanding, with the heartbreaking knowledge that I may have to walk away from someone who was pivotal in helping me to change my life for the better. If that has to happen I will most possibly be the strongest bitch walking the face of the earth.
"Sometimes you search so hard for words. You look for a way to interpret the language of this heart and the unspoken bond you feel. But in the end you are left with nothing but silence. And deep down you hope it's understood."
I am thinking tonight about the Yin yoga class that I teach at Darling Yoga. I teach it twice a week, and I love planning the postures, and choosing the right music. Yin yoga has taught me a great deal about riding the waves of emotion, and maybe that is why I am drawn to the practice. Yin is a passive type of yoga, with supported and long held postures. The poses are held for anywhere from three to ten minutes, with little to no muscular engagement. The idea is to allow gravity and time to delve below the muscles of the body, and deep within the connective tissues and fascia. When I started teaching this class, the plan was to teach a class incorporating both yin and yang. I mainly practice a more yang type of yoga, which is faster paced, using more muscular energy and balance. I love that type of practice, but am actually more challenged by the slower and less energetic yoga. The students seem to have embraced this practice as well, and complain when I try to flow with a quicker pace, so I have dropped the yang. On Monday, I had a student tell me that the practice on Sunday that I taught seemed to have released some stored up emotions, and they had been crying off and on throughout the day. I store my emotions like a pro, mainly because I'm afraid. I'm afraid that my sadness, grief, pain, etc...will last for all of eternity, and so hell no, I'm not going to go there! Being in a deep shoulder or hip opener for five or more minutes, breathing through the discomfort(never pain), allowing the body to release and let go, is an amazing lesson. Discomfort doesn't last forever. It ebbs and flows, and you are in charge of how deep you go. You learn that you can back out at anytime. You learn that you are stronger and have more stamina than you think. If I could sit down for a good cry, and have a teacher call out, "Five more breaths, you are doing great!," I would possibly be all for that shit! I still have so much to learn. I fear my emotions. I work hard on accepting and embracing them, but I get tired, and I get disappointed. My navigational system is quite often faulty, and I stumble around without direction. I have no idea how to read a map, and I don't always trust myself to make it through. I tell my students not to worry so much about the destination...
I'm trying to take my own advice.
"The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace.
Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace.