Monday, January 30, 2017

The Revolution is in Your Mind

Okay, there's stuff to say. I'm laying in bed, ill, for the 5th day in a row. I've been on facebook in the past few days more than I have in the past few months combined. I've definitely been trying to distract myself from physical discomfort. But instead, it's just all emotional.

To say that what is happening in the U.S. right now is terrifying is an understatement. To see the solidarity of people standing up for each other's rights is what I believe humanity is all about. But in the midst of both the terror and the love, there's something to be said.

1. Let's not forget that getting rid of Trump does not get rid of hate, violence, bigotry, oppression, or extremism. Our nation, and actually, our world has a history of swinging from the right to the left- from conservatism to liberalism again and again. And never in there has hate, racism, sexism, violence, aggression, or any of humanity's other similar expressions been halted. There have always been folks advocating for hate. And unfortunately, there probably always will be. So while it's obviously and always important to stand up against hate, let's not confuse one man with a common human manifestation. We get rid of Trump, we still have all of this hate. I mean, I definitely don't want him in power anymore, but it doesn't solve everything. #biggerpicture

2. Blaming other people isn't actually helping. We can look at everyone who is Republican, or who voted for Trump, or who still supports him and say, "Hey, this is your fault! What do you have to say for yourself?" But guess what? We all did it. We all participated in the system that made this possible. And yes we know it's corrupt and we know about the popular vote, and still. None of us is free from blame. And guess what, we all have something in common. Fear. So maybe what we are afraid of is different, and what we do with that fear is different, but it's fear nonetheless. Some of us are afraid of basic human rights being taken away. Some of us are afraid for our lives. Some of us are afraid someone will take away our money, or that a terrorist will kill our child. Some of us are afraid of the fate of our Earth. It's all fear. Fear rules our actions and judgements. Sometimes when people are afraid, they vote for someone who claims they know who's to blame and can protect them from just those people. Sometimes when people are afraid they blame others. Sometimes when people are afraid they create divisiveness and hate. Hey, guess what? It's okay to be afraid. Fear holds within it a lot of wisdom. But it's not okay to let your fear cause harm to others, in thought, deed, or action. What's needed now more than ever is for us to come together with basic human respect and understanding. To listen to each other, and talk to each other, and care about each other's well being. I mean every person's well being. Even the people who don't care about yours. Or who don't care about most other people's. Even people we disagree with. Even people actively promoting the harm of other people. If you can discriminate who you care for, then how are you not just perpetuating aggression? The real resistance is to resist divisiveness, which only makes us weaker. #realresistence

3. Activism is good. Duh. Stand up, march, write to your representatives. Better, call them. Protect each other. Protest. But here's what's not helping- becoming so consumed with activism that you stop taking care of yourself and stop being there for those who need you. Because guess what, at the root of the incredibly radical good human society is two people caring about each other. I've seen my friends stop relating to every day life, stop parenting, stop even being available in conversation because they are so consumed with what petitions to sign next and whether or not I've called this many reps today. YOU HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OR YOU ARE NOT HELPING ANYONE. This shouldn't be so surprising. But our children need us to be available and present with them ALL the time. But NOW is especially important. Guess what, our friends and family need us too! And we need us. Genuine human connection is nourishing and sane. It grounds us. Quiet time, meditation, journaling, reflection, self-care- whatever that means for you- a bath, a yoga class, a walk outside, a good meal, a good night's sleep- these should be your PRIORITIES. It's like on the airplane- if you put on your oxygen mask first, only then can you help someone else with theirs. So if we really want to be warriors, if we really want to stand up and be strong and have the capacity for change, then we have to take care of ourselves. You know, why aren't you hosting a protest in your own heart against all the acts of aggression you commit toward yourself every single day? #protestisinside

4. Sometimes you can't change other people's minds. Even when their belief systems seem to be harming other people. Believe me, I've tried. I've pleaded, argued, provided evidence based articles, introduced them to people they were judging, etc, etc. I've had a lot of people in my life who supported views or systems that I felt to be detrimental to basic human dignity, and I've tried to convince them to change their minds. But guess what? It's not only not possible, it's often a black hole of energy and resources. And sometimes the more you get in someone's face, the more solid they become in defense. I've found that actually just allowing space to care about them and see where their beliefs come from is helpful. You see that they are mostly just afraid or angry about something. And while I'm not suggesting that that makes it okay to harm others, it is something we all have in common. Can we not hate people who hate? Maybe I'm just repeating myself. But this one is important. #carevolution

5. Okay now this is me being totally radical. Let it be known that I stand behind all human beings- all abilities, colors, races, countries of origin, genders, ages, sexual identities, sexual orientations, economic classes, cultures, and more. And I think the real revolution and the only way to actually wake up the world is not with phone calls to our reps and marches in the streets. While those things are important, look at the trend. They always happen. It's always still the same dance in the same pendulum swing. If we want real change in the way humanity relates to itself, we have to dig a little deeper. These resistances are like taking cough medicine to suppress your cough- you don't actually treat the root of the illness. So the cough goes away for the time being and you go on with life, until boom, it hits you again. Over and over. Rights won, rights revoked. Liberal doctrine on the rise. Boom. Dictatorship. So this is my humble opinion: true revolution starts in the mind and heart of EACH AND EVERY HUMAN BEING. You cannot be a true revolutionary if you are not taking a look inside yourself. Do you see how your own mind works? Do you see all the places where fear and aggression move you? Close you down? Do you see your own biases? Do you understand the nuances of your own emotional landscape? Do you trust yourself? Do you recognize your own worthiness? Where are your own belief systems hindering you? How do they affect how you relate with others? Are you present in your life? Are you manifesting genuinenely? How do you show up with others? Do you have an agenda? Can you let go of it? Can you just be? Or is it too uncomfortable? Do you trust in humanity? Do you see the goodness in others? Can you reside in open accommodation of all that is?  Or do you need to wage war to feel okay? Can you sit with the pain and heartbreak and truth of suffering? Can you hold to the vision of knowing there's something more than that? Do you know what it is? Do you feel it inside you? Have you ever had a moment of just being right there, right in the moment, trusting everything? Have you had a flash of seeing the goodness and brilliance of things just as they are? Can you accept the pain and the beauty equally? This path of looking inside is a deep and endless one. But it's the only way we as humans will ever understand the suffering of this world, or the way out of it. You cannot change what you don't understand. And guess what created all this mess? The human mind and heart! So let's educate ourselves about ourselves. You'd be surprised what might happen. I actually think this is more radical than taking to the streets (which I still support). The face of the revolution is your own face. #faceyourself

6. So maybe you think I'm crazy. And I see all over facebook when people ask others to join them in aspirations or other collective energetic concentrations that folks are like "sure, but also sign this and call this and do this." It's like I was saying before- we think the only action is doing all of this stuff. And alot of this stuff is important to do. But don't forget the power of your heart and mind. You might think aspirations and prayers and intentions are weak in comparison. And I'm not suggesting that that's enough- you can't just sit around and think about how you wish it would get better. But sometimes the most difficult and radical work is done while sitting still. The mind is epically powerful. So pay attention where you place it. Are you mindfully calling your reps, or frantically doing it? Are you subscribing to fear and hate along the way? Maybe it's time to take a break and just breathe for a few minutes. #dontjustdosomethingsitthere

So all you #peacefulwarriors, rise up. This is what we train for. It's now. It's the heart mind revolution.

I'll leave you with this quote from Trungpa Rinpoche:
"...You do not regard the situation outside as separate from you because you are so involved with the dance and play of life. Then you become even more open.... You experience no warfare of any kind, neither trying to defeat an enemy nor trying to achieve a goal. There is no involvement with collecting or giving. No hope or fear at all....To be completely open, to have that kind of absolute trust in yourself is the real meaning of compassion and love. There have been so many speeches about love and peace and tranquillity in the world. But how do we really bring love into being? Christ said, 'Love thy neighbor,' but how do we love? How do we do it? How are we going to radiate our love to the whole of humanity, to the whole world? 'Because we must, and that's the truth!' 'If you don't love, you are condemned, evil; you are doing a disservice to humanity.' 'If you love, you are on the path, you are on the right track.' But how? Many people get very romantic about love, in fact get high on it at the very word. But then there will be a gap, a period when we are not high on love. Something else takes place which is embarrassing, a private matter. We tend to seal it off; it is 'private parts,' shameful, not part of our divinity. Let's not think about that. Let's simply ignite another love explosion and on and on we go, trying to ignore those parts of our being we reject, trying to be virtuous, loving, kind. Perhaps this will put off a lot of people, but i am afraid love is not really the experience of beauty and romantic joy alone. Love is associated with ugliness and pain and aggression, as well as with the beauty of the world; it is not the recreation of heaven. Love or compassion, the open path, is associated with 'what is.' In order to develop love- universal love, cosmic love, whatever you would like to call it- one must accept the whole situation of life as it is, both the light and the dark, the good and the bad. One must open oneself to life, communicate with it. Perhaps you are fighting to develop love and peace, struggling to achieve them: 'We are going to make it, we are going to spend thousands of dollars in order to broadcast the doctrine of love everywhere, we are going to proclaim love.' Okay, proclaim it, do it, spend your money, but what about the speed and aggression behind what you are doing/ Why do you have to push us into the acceptance of your love? Why is there such speed and force involved? If your love is moving with the same speed and drive as other people's hatred, then something appears to be wrong. It would seem to the the same as calling darkness light. There is so much ambition involved, taking the form of proselytizing. It is not an open situations of communication with things as they are. The ultimate implication of the words 'peace on earth' is to remove altogether the ideas of peace and war and to open yourself equally and completely to the positive and negative aspects of the world. It is like seeing the world from an aerial point of view; there is light, there is dark; both are accepted. You are not trying to defend the light against the dark."

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Birth Day Post

It's weird to think that this body has been on this earth for 33 years now. In so many ways, a number seems so unrelatable. This body has known pain, illness, and suffering like some people think only much older bodies know. This body has known joy, delight, play, and awe like some people think only much younger bodies know. The kids all call me Shapeshifter because they recognize the truth- age is not solid. It is not a number. It is perhaps a marker of time, but it does not reveal much about our experience of that time. One can live a hundred years and never allow oneself to feel true joy. One can live eight years and possess the wisdom of a sage.

Today I reflect on what I have discovered in this life, which I am more grateful for in this moment than I have ever been. I am more myself than ever before, and less concerned with being any other way than how I am. I like to call this, the "not giving a fuck". But it's not heartless. It's not giving a fuck with compassion. Because it's rooted in space. It's rooted in wanting to wake up myself and everyone else. If I stop manipulating my own existence to try to please others or meet arbitrary expectations, then maybe others will notice and they'll stop too. It comes from deep care.

I truly feel that I am on this earth to be of benefit to others, especially to children and families. My heart is ablaze with this passion and this calling, and I have dedicated my life to create spaces for families and children to relax and be themselves, and touch in with their inherent wisdom and brilliance. This brings me no end of delight. I truly am deeply and unfathomably fortunate.

This year, things feel more aligned. I feel still and whole and like I have taken my seat in life. I have relaxed with myself. I have space in my mind and heart. I have a strong community. I have a deep and incredibly nourishing spiritual practice. I am so so so loved, and I feel that. And I love so so so so much, and I feel that too.

Having been born is awe-inspiring. To be me is incredible and ever changing, never permanent. I am so grateful for another year. If I live another, may it be to benefit you all, to bring love and wisdom and light to this world, and to help all beings know their inherent goodness.

Thank you all for all the ways you love, support, and nourish me. I love you deeply.

I leave you with this poem which I came across quite by accident this morning, but which rings so true for me:

Christmas at Midlife
by Mary Anne Perrone
I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.
I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.
I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task
I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.
I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.
I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.
I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.
I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.
I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.
I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.
I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.
I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Risk the Mess

Sometimes, we like things tidy. Nice and neat. They can fit in little packages, so we can keep track- measure them, count them, organize them. And sometimes, that's fine. Like in your closet or your filing cabinet.

But how often do we apply this need for tidiness to our human experience? To our own heart? Or to other people?

Epic Valentine Making
As many of you know, I work with children. So let's just start with literal messes. I find myself sometimes shying away from certain activities because of the cleanup they involve. I catch myself doing this and I wonder why I care so much. Is an extra 5 minutes of sweeping glitter actually a problem? Ultimately, no. But there's fear and laziness. There's also subtle conditioning of a culture and a society which condemns such uncontained expressions of shimmering brilliance, and thinks time would be better spent on more linear endeavors.

Glitter project!
When I notice my impulse to say no in the face of a mess, I check myself. And I say yes. I documented all the messes the kids and I made in one day. It was the best day. It was a day when creative impulses arose and had the space to be expressed. It was a day when relationships were deepened. When books were read with wild abandon. When every day items expressed their true magic. It was a day for dirty feet, dirty hands, and glitter everywhere. It was a day with lots of happy children (and at least one happy grown-up). And maybe you're wondering about the clean-up? It was totally fine! A little extra time, but a lot of helping hands. And the goodness of the whole situation made it easy.

What if we could make messes like this in every day life? What if we could accept the mess of love? What if we could love another person outside of nice, neat little boundaries and expectations? What if we couldn't measure or count or even explain our feelings but we let ourselves feel them anyway? What if we approached every relationship without the fear of cleaning up? I suspect things would sparkle a whole lot more. It's like coating your entire life with glitter. Some people might moan upon contemplating that, as if glitter is a nuisance. But it also makes everything more beautiful. It shines. It sparkles. It doesn't apologize!

How much of our lives do we spend apologizing for who we are, for how we feel, for not being this way or that way, good enough, skinny enough, eating healthy enough, ad nauseum.

It rained gnomey stones!
To me, the mess is a metaphor for genuine human experience. If we are willing to look at the nature of things as they are, we do not find that they can all be filed into neat little categories. The human experience is all over the spectrum. Who we are is ever changing. How we feel is ever changing. Who others are is ever changing, and thus how we relate to other people is ever changing. When we can approach situations or other people, or even ourselves, with curiosity, then we finally taste genuineness. Yes, it might be uncomfortable not to place expectations on others (or on yourself). It is likely difficult at times as well. You may even have to face the reality of things as they are, which could be unpleasant or not what you expected. You might even see your own habitual patterns, assumptions, and fears. But if you go there, then you can also find what's underneath: space.

Teepee fort
It's the space to feel how you feel, be who you are, dance when you want, and really connect with the magic of being. Children have an easier time of this. You want to build a teepee? Just do it. No hesitation. Who cares that sheets are supposed to go on beds, or that we have to leave the house in 15 minutes, or that we'll have to clean up later. We just want to sit in a teepee. It's not that big of a deal. And it's true to the moment. Or we want glitter on our shoes. Great. No internal voice starts to think what other people will think of you for wearing sparkly shoes. No voice nags at you about how there will be glitter all over the house for a month, or how you shouldn't waste it like that, or how you paid so much money for those shoes and blah blah blah. Just go for it. Risk the mess.

Risk loving. Risk feeling. Risk looking. Risk listening. Risk being yourself.

You might just find that your inner nature is actually a pegasus unicorn with rainbow sparkles. Or a purple lightning breathing dragon. Or maybe, just maybe, you find that you can love yourself for exactly who you are. It's radical. But it's so worth it.

This was the third time the jewels were all over the dirt.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sukha of Being

Yoga means yoke. I tell this to my students, as I show them a picture of an ox and a cart, with the yoke between. Though I’ve read many an article explaining that this isn’t at all what the word meant in its original context, it’s still a good way to teach kids about yoga. About joining the mind and body and learning to be present in our experience.

My journey into my own mind and body has been long, has worn many faces, and is still evolving and growing- as I hope it always will. The most recent iteration of this continuum for me has been especially important.

Having become a devoted student of a Tibetan Buddhist Lineage in the past five years, and delving incredibly deeply into the teachings and practices of this path, I was struggling to find the intersection of these teachings with my devotion and practice of yoga. I had also become a yoga teacher in those same five years, and had found my way into the eight limbs with equal fervor as the eightfold path.

Perhaps because I wasn’t practicing in a specific yogic lineage, perhaps because I had only found a few teachers who really seemed to embody the teachings yoga had offered me in my life, or perhaps simply because I was not ready, I couldn’t reconcile the two paths in my life. It’s not that they were conflicting. In fact, so much about them was overlapping. I didn’t only meditate in my Buddhist practice, but also in yoga. In fact my meditation practice highly influenced my asana practice. And my asana practice allowed me to deepen into incredibly long meditation practices, even being able to sit on silent retreat for a month.

My craving was more subtle. I kept thinking perhaps I should go to yet another teacher training, find a lineage, etc. etc. I was seeking someone or something outside myself to plug me into a certain depth of yoga that I had felt in my Buddhist practice. I wanted the two practices to dance my life into a seamless devotion. I didn’t want to have to choose between waking up at 5:30 am to go to class, or to sit my butt on the cushion.

Meanwhile, I showed up to class on New Year’s Day and the studio was offering unlimited yoga for the month of January for $99. They were doing a 30 Day Challenge- class every day, meditation every day, listing your gratitudes, and noticing your acts of kindness. The whole community was in on it. There was a pose of the day each day- teachers incorporated it into class, we heard stories about it, quotes about it. I signed up- although I have notable aversion to things like 30 day challenges. I find that too often in this fast paced society, it’s really easy to use things like this to not take care of ourselves, not listen to our bodies, and not find space in our lives. I find I can do things for all the wrong reasons. If I’m kind just so I can get points to win prizes, is that true kindness? If I practice every single day, even at the expense of my own well being- is that really practice?

I signed up, thinking that at least I could go to some of my favorite classes for much less money than usual, not intending to actually do the challenges. Then the first email came. And I was thinking- actually I already did all of these things today- I meditated, I was kind, I was grateful- why not just send them in? So I did. These are things that I do every day. This is part of my life practice. I sit regularly. I practice kindness and compassion. I touch in with gratitude. These are neither new to me, or a struggle at this point in my life.

I haven't gone to class every day. Nor have I sent in my challenges every day. But something has happened over the course of this month. Maybe it was being part of this community and seeing other people’s journeys into yoga, hearing their stories. Maybe it was going to classes I never would have otherwise attended- the new teachers I discovered I loved, and the ones I definitely didn’t. Maybe it was realizing I didn’t have to choose between dhyana or asana- that there was actually space in my life for both and that in fact they were inseparable. Maybe it was just the container created by this challenge- the space held by the teachers, and by ourselves to go deeper into our practice- whatever that meant.

What I discovered was an intimacy with myself that I had been out of touch with. I discovered the dance between intimacy and authenticity in my body. Intimacy is defined as close familiarity, or friendship. We are all craving intimacy- longing for it. It’s that connection that drives the human heart. It’s looking another being in the eyes. It’s wanting to be yourself without having to hide anything from another person or yourself. It’s longing to share the beautiful moments, or to have someone else understand your experience. It’s sitting in silence with someone else. It’s holding the hands of your children. It’s letting the grass tickle your bare feet, or feeling the caress of the wind. It’s being moved to tears on the drive to work because the sunrise is so beautiful. 

In meditation, we get to know our minds- know the ins and outs, the favorite habitual thoughts, the go-to reactions, and we befriend those things. We learn to hold them tenderly so they do not overpower us. And while I had experienced this with my mind and heart during meditation, I had not been in touch with my body in the same way. 

Two years ago, I suffered a stroke, only to discover I have a hole in my heart. This dance with death, impermanence, and the fragility of the human body left me with much insight but also a mistrust of my own physical body. Accepting that I could die at any moment was profound for me, but I think it allowed me to disconnect a bit from my physical experience. It wasn’t tuning out. In fact, I was so tuned in to every sensation, it became fear-based. At the slightest quiver of something unusual I was convinced the time was now (Awareness of its ins and outs can be mastered without the slightest bit of friendship.) I would die. And this was not okay. But I knew I had to trust my body while I was in it. And trust that its certain decay was good and whole too. And trust that its end would be exactly what I needed when I needed it. There was nothing to mistrust. Nothing to fear.  Through many healing modalities I had slowly begun to regain trust in my own human body. I began to make friends. With the patience and adoration of a lover, I wanted to appreciate all the pieces. I could even build a trusting relationship with my body and its physical experience. Over the past month, my yoga practice has become an even more deeply attuned way to cultivate and nourish this relationship. I have seen and felt my own bodily wisdom manifest itself time and time again- knowing how to move, when to stop, and where to breathe.

In asana practice, we learn the intricacies of our bodies. The way our toes curl as we move from plank back to down dog. The particular sensation in chair when we have managed to move our weight enough into our heels that we can bend the knees more deeply. Where our edge rests each moment- when to push and when not. We learn the ebbs and flows of each day- the myriad ways our bodies manifest on the mat, never the same. We have to let go of our agendas and our projections of how we are, how we should be, and how we are supposed to be. In fact, when we are truly there, nothing is left but for us to show up exactly as we are. In true surrender to the asana, we lose even our capacity for exploiting our lower backs because we are so honest with ourselves we recognize it immediately. The more I know the subtleties of my body, my movement, my sensations, the more I can’t pretend. The more all the facades fall away. Yoga loses its ability to be about doing really cool arm balances (sorry, ego!), about achieving some goal, or about escaping death and becomes the ability to be so intimate with my own experience, my own body, heart, and mind, that I can actually show up genuinely. I can love my experience- whatever it is. I can trust it- trust my bones, my muscles, my five senses- trust their impermanence too. Trust my own bravery to look even at the things that are difficult to see. Trust my strength to be there whether I’m standing strong or falling down. And I think it’s this trust that is the yoking. Trust in things as they are gives us liberation from being attached to them. Trust in the world allows us to know that this perceived reality isn’t the ultimate truth. The yoking allows for the letting go. This is the reconciliation of all that feels separate in us- our paths, our practices, our perceptions. We just have to trust, and be exactly who we are, and automatically, that is union. That is true yoga.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Training and generosity

I spent just over two weeks this summer in retreat in Colorado. I wish I had the words to express what it's like, why I go back again and again. This practice has become my life. Through relating to my own mind and heart, I have realized something very important: my life is not mine. I am not here to acquire things, make statements, achieve this or that success. Rather, my entire existence is to be of benefit to all beings. To help others experience their innate qualities of wisdom, goodness, kindness, and strength. To help wake others up to their own minds and hearts. This I know. Thus, I have dedicated my life to this purpose.

I can't help others if I'm not relating to myself. Thus, this path of practice and training is choiceless. It is beautiful and profound. I continue to learn and to deepen, touching in to what this ancient lineage has to offer. How fortunate we are to have these realized teachers who have also dedicated their lives so that I could wake up and touch my own mind and heart.

I am currently raising funds to support the continuation of my training. If you feel inspired to give, I would greatly appreciate your generosity. You can read more about my path here.

Thank you.

Red Feather Peak, Shambhala Mountain Center

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Broken Heart Blossoms

It's been a while.

I've been engaged in so many ways- healing, creating, and following my inspiration.

I wanted you to know that I now have a book of poetry out.

All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to pay for meditation retreat.

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You can check it out here
Broken Heart Blossoms

Monday, January 6, 2014

Blink of the Moon

There's something simple
in the twilight of coming
just this.

 The way the moon blinks
long and slow
just above the horizon.

Or the mirror the tide makes
pulling out and in
the stretch of reflection
that blurs the shore.

Dancing with the blur,
my mind licks the shore
of things as they are

Perception recedes
leaving the luminous
bare and open

Tentatively, I touch
one finger to the
raw nature of
my mind

And find that
having a finger
makes no sense