DISCLAIMER: Initially not inspirational in the slightest - but raw, genuine feelings despite my strong, tested and proven belief system that grounds me during hard times!
I think my spiritual self is pissed off…
I really want to mentally drop in to what everyone so lovingly says is my calm yoga teacher voice right now...and tell myself to be here and now - that I need to lean in to the breath - that I need to be aware of what my body needs and give that to my body….yet - that “Katie” voice has run away to a much needed vacation...and has been replaced by the vengeance thirsty, impatient, fist-shaking curmudgeon next door, and instead, can only manage to croak, “This spiritual shit is hard, and you don’t have it in you.”
Maybe you can relate?
I want all the answers. I want someone to tell me what is right for me and for a giant lightbulb to illuminate above my head. I want the peace that comes from doing all the work - without doing THE work. THE work is no joke.
Every tear I cry, every text message I send seeking support, every mala bead I meditate on, every pose I move in to, fall out of, or rush through, every moment of realization of just how much feeling emotions sucks….IS the work. Isn’t that amazing and depressing at the same time?
When we are at our lowest - when we feel emotions that cause us to question ourselves on such a deep level - we are working to understand our ever-changing needs - to process and accept the hard truths for OUR lives as individuals. We are slowly - sometimes so painfully slowly - gathering the courage to accept ourselves, our stories and our truths - the courage to live the life we need to live…even when it can be so different than the one we want to live.
Our authentic selves, are not always okay...and that is okay. That is why we have a practice, why we have ways to support ourselves on our journey, why we move, breathe and are part of networks, families and communities.
I want you to know - that when I say this is a practice….I mean it.
I’ll see you on the proverbial mat!
As a thinker and a writer, I have been fascinated by the idea of the space between things - but what about the notions that have no need for space - the constants in our lives?
The most important emotion we can ever experience - that of love - is absent of space. Time, location, death may physically separate us from those we love, but truly, it is the abundance of our love, that leaves no room for doubt, anxiety, loss or anything else, to permeate the fullness of what and who speaks to our soul.
Love is the most complicated and paradoxically simple miracle of life. Love leads us to accept imperfection, to own a story, perhaps, so drastically different, than we ever could have created for ourselves and to realize that although there is no space or void in our love itself, there is boundless universal space for that same love to expand and shift in to as we grow.
Simply - we are love and we expand into the fullness of all life has to offer when we accept all of the ways love shows up in our lives.
And that, is beautiful.
Now that the holiday events, cooking, outfit planning and resolution setting are behind us - have you taken time to set an intention for 2020?
Personally, the idea of Resolutions has always frustrated me. I love the idea of a fresh start - but the first “fail” of a New Years Resolution is so deflating - you know what I mean - that first ‘cheat meal’, that first time you skip your daily self-care - when you lose those 10lbs and then gain it back…..
I’ve come to understand, that what causes this mindset shift from motivated to frustrated -at that first sign of struggle - is that Resolutions are a limiting idea. In this idea, struggle signifies the end. Therefore, the space between success and “failure” can be a very small one because of our human nature. Ideas that you resolve to uphold tend to either be short-term, impossible to upkeep or somehow limiting to your continued growth. The options for failure involve full abandonment of the original idea, self criticism and run the risk of regressing our evolution.
Intentions - on the other hand - I am a big fan of. They are not limiting. In fact - they shift and evolve with us.
Why aren’t they limiting you may ask?
Because they take US (control) out of the equation and instead support our humanity!
For example: When we RESOLVE to adhere to a plant based diet - and find ourselves elbow deep in a plate of bourbon BBQ wings, (nope...definitely never been there!) we have broken our resolve to see the value in the idea that was once so important to us (the plant based diet). We then are subconsciously processing the fact that we have a ‘weak’ resolve...we messed up….we didn’t have the willpower…...all of these things based on our strength - or lack thereof - as a human being.
IF, on the flip side, we set an intention - things would sound a little different.
This year - I have set the intention to cultivate calm. It’s no secret that my life pulls me in many directions - 95% of them...of my own doing. It’s just how I am! Instead of resolving to remove anxiety - to always meal plan - to stick to a structured home routine, to always wake up earlier than I have to (all things that YES, would be helpful in my quest for calm) - I am, instead, manifesting calm. This means that I work (yes - it’s hard work!) to create room in my life for calm. I will do the things that help to lead to calm (see the list above) - in that moment/ for that circumstance; they may always look different - but I am not seeking to fulfill one resolution - I am seeking an overall feeling.
That feeling is calm.
As my needs change - so do my methods.
It is impossible to fail at this intention unless you are decidedly sabotaging yourself and working against it. Otherwise - in the longing for calm, in the attention you give to disliking the feeling of the opposite of calm, in the one little tiny decision that brings a sliver of calm to your day - you are practicing your intention.
This TAKES us through life’s challenges instead of allowing the resolution to become the challenge.
Have a tough day? Feeling the absence of calm? Everyone does - call it back in - seek it...and suddenly it’s there. To cultivate - you must be aware - and make choices for your life that keep space open for what you are seeking.
Remember - what you plant - you will harvest! Be patient, kind and loving to yourself - nothing is too late - you have not ruined any goal - it’s all simply part of your/our evolution in this world.
In 2020 - May you be filled with loving kindness - Safe from inner and outer danger - Healthy in body and mind - And may you find peace, and be truly happy.
See you on the mat,
P.S. Need a place to start the Intention Setting practice? Take a peak at this pdf!
This past week, my preschooler's schooled me.
This is not a rare occurrence, just think of how simply they can still see the world! We have started a unit entitled, “The Rainbow in Me” as we work through the kid friendly version of the chakras. Since this was the first week of this new unit, we were talking all about red (which represents the Root Chakra). We started with our mantra for red, which is “I am safe”. We moved our bodies and then it was time to sit down and talk (exactly when things always get interesting).
I posed the prompt, “Think of something, that makes you feel happy, that is the color red” to start us off and to hook them in. As they all sat and waited their turns to share, I heard about everything from strawberries, to their favorite bathing suit and even their dogs collar. The one that ended up tying my entire class together, and removing the need for me to say much of anything at all however, was The Flash and Marshall from Paw Patrol. Immediately I envisioned a whole new chakra superhero unit…(more on that later!), but this kid, could not be more correct! He continued that they were his favorite red things and that they ALSO keep everyone safe just like the red in yoga does...and that being safe makes him feel happy and loved.
Yes, this three-year-old just about summed it all up. Why do we feel good when we practice yoga? There are many reasons, but the biggest one, is that we feel rooted to the earth, connected to ourselves and therefore SAFE. It is really, really hard to feel safe in a world that requires such forethought, a slew of rapid-fire actions to always be taking, categorizing, prioritizing and the constant holding of space for those around us, even if it’s mostly through our phones. We feel a need to respond, to be productive, to make money, spend money, and to do all the thousands of tasks each day (that were never required of our ancestors by the way); yet we lament over the origin of our exhaustion or why there seems to be more anxiety in the world than ever before.
For those who are willing, yoga can be part of the answer to a problem which seemingly calls for a Superhero Intervention. Through our practice of yoga (not JUST the physical asana/poses) we learn that our sense of security and ability to feel safe and like we belong, is already within us, but it needs to be unearthed; it requires a dusting off, a polishing and everyday maintenance. Yoga allows the space, inspiration and sense of community that it can take to ‘work-in’.
This simplified explanation of yoga brings us back to our study of the Root Chakra. This base energy system is activated when we SIT and breathe. No fancy poses, bat-mobiles or even yoga mats required. When we stop and take regular pauses, we are able to be stronger than fear and life seems simpler and more manageable than it did when we were moving.
In closing, I leave you with this advice:
Allow yoga to be the Batman to your Robin in a world full of potential kryptonite...and for goodness sake, think more like a preschooler.
See you on the mat,
My college experience granted me the opportunity to earn two degrees, one in Education, and the other in English. My intense study of literature is truly where I developed a real connection to the self, and all of the opportunities that come with an open mind and critical thinking skills. Perhaps some of my favorite, and most pivotal work, came along as a result of a 400 level Master Author course, studying the writings of both Jane Austen and Louise Erdrich. Erdrich, a present-day master of story-telling, usually crafts stories which highlight a cause and effect trickle from a multi-generational perspective; traditionally, Erdrich’s stories are inspired by her Native American roots. One story, stood out from all the rest, highlighting instead, her father’s German ancestry. Master Butchers Singing Club is where I first heard the German word ‘zwischenraum’. As the story explains, the term, indirectly translates to a concept, rather than a single word...and this fascinated me. Zwischenraum means ‘the space between’. Did your mind jump immediately to a Dave Matthews song….because mine did!
Now, don’t worry, this IS connected to yoga, I promise! Zwischenraum became the inspiration behind my entire paper, and would go on to reveal itself in a variety of ways in my personal life. ‘The space between’ is what connects our past to our future, it is the Present. Within this space, there is physical space, mental space, emotional space...the list goes on and on. And what I realized was that constantly, throughout every second of every day, we are manipulating our space. We are designing it, initiating boundaries, making decisions about our space that affects our future self and all of our relationships.
Yoga is quite literally, the practice of manipulation. Using the asanas, we manipulate our bodies into poses, each with their own benefits, with pranayama, we manipulate the breath, recognizing that it is the most powerful part of our practice, with meditation, we manipulate our minds with the goal of working towards clarity and peace. In yoga, we create space. The space between who we were, (what happened to us that both was out of our control and the decisions we made) and who we will be, is the Present. Accepting the story of our life (our past) is what enables us to actively shape our current space, to recognize our ability to choose what enters that space and how it will affect our future selves.
Putting all of this motivational talk aside for a second, let’s look at where the difficulties exist. Although it does sound romantic, this idea that we manipulate our space does not mean that we have complete control over our life or it’s outcomes. This is where Faith comes in. Faith, in a completely non denominational way, is the absence of fear. Faith is the decision to believe that you will find yourself where you need to be. Faith is acceptance of your former story. Faith is trust that you have every ability that you need to fulfill your life’s potential. Faith is the ability to practice non attachment to the outcomes we seek because of natural human desire.
Faith is a practice, and it is not easy. Faith is a decision...an active decision that requires constant work and effort. But faith, brings peace to our present moment. The relationship between loving ourselves and accepting our stories, and living a life rooted in peace, depends upon how we craft our space. Do you craft your space with an emphasis on faith?
Think about all of the variations of space that you hold for others, the physical space within your home, the space of the head and of the heart. What is it that you allow in? What is it that you most hope to manifest within your life...and what changes can you make to your space to accommodate those desires?
As you continue your practice in space and faith, I invite you, to join me for a practice on the mat. My wish for you in this present space, is that you are filled with loving kindness, that you are safe, from inner and outer danger, healthy of body and mind and that you find peace and are truly happy.
See you on the mat,
For part of a Christmas gift this year, a student gave me an adorable little succulent ornament for my desk that reads, “Do More of What You Love”.
This of course, got me thinking.
If someone was to ask me what I truly love to do, I would be able to provide them with a nice little list. It would go something like this....
I love to have date nights with my husband and snuggle with my dogs. I love delicious food and happy hour. I love reading, yoga, holding babies, Joanna Gaines and especially vacations. (In no particular order)
Looking over the list, I realized that I am lucky enough to do a lot of these things on a pretty regular basis. Not only do I practice yoga, I teach it. There is a book in my hand (historical fiction please!) at every possible opportunity and I snuggle with my dogs every single day. So all of this begs the question, if these experiences cause a feeling of happiness, and I am exposed to them regularly, why aren’t I happier?
I can say with all honesty, that I know many people struggle with this same notion. The answer, I think, lies in the fact that we are always waiting, counting down the moments, until we can reach a high point in our day or week. (“I can’t wait until......” or “I’ll feel better when it’s *Friday *Summer *time for vacation *insert answer here....” sound familiar???)
We are waiting for an ‘ideal’ situation to bring us happiness. For as slowly as that moment arrives.... a long awaited happy hour date on Friday or that highly anticipated getaway once or twice a year, it is gone in a flash.
So where is the problem? Time.... or rather our perception of it and Expectations.
We unconsciously place an unrealistic value on small pieces of time in our life. Because of this, we allow everyday routines or seemingly inconsequential moments, which make up the majority of our existence, to pass without realizing what we are missing. Very often, we even unintentionally allow the moment to steal value from our day by failing to see it’s worth.
Our expectations or vision of how our life will play out, can lead us to feelings of sadness and negativity when our ‘plan’ does not come to fruition. I have been there more times than I care to count.
Everyone (whether they realize it or not) has experienced the effects of the absence of aparigraha. This Sanskrit term translates to non-greed and non-possessiveness. During my yoga teacher training, we were taught that through yoga, we are to practice this principal. I think understanding this concept alone was the hardest part of the training for me. As someone who is extremely goal oriented, I struggled to see how feeling attached or invested to an outcome, could be perceived as greed.
It took time, and more life practice than I would have preferred, but now I see this clearly. What it means is this: It is only human nature to desire an outcome. Working toward new accomplishments and wanting success is not the problem. The need for Aparigraha practice occurs when an unintended result or undesired outcome steals away our joy. When we allow something out of our control, to control our happiness - to make it impossible to seek joy in the present moment. That holding on to a single notion, is greed. It is closing yourself off to the path that the universe has readied for you; it is missed growth, relationships and opportunities.
Now for the main event! What’s the remedy....and is it easy. The remedy is to love more of your life story, what is both in and out of your control, and it’s as easy as you decide to make it.
The very fact that you practice living with an awareness of your present moment is the perfect place to begin. That’s not to say that because I am writing this post, that I have mastered this strategy.... far from it, as my husband will enthusiastically point out.
But this is the beautiful perspective that yoga offers: everything is a practice. It is not a failure, a missed opportunity or a deserted resolution. It is a, ‘today didn’t go so well, let me practice approaching this a different way’ type of ideal. You don’t have to wait until New Years Day 2020, or even until the start of a new week, you can begin this practice right now.
When you step away from your phone or computer or wherever you are reading this article, observe your current surroundings. If you aren’t immediately in a place that would have made your top 10 list of things you love to do, decide to find something that you can love about your current state. In those few seconds, and with really minimal effort, you have met success.
The next time you find something to be disappointing or upsetting, seek the silver lining. Decide to immerse yourself in the uncomfortable feelings that arise, just for a moment or two, and then bring your attention back to your joys.
Right now, rejoice in the fact that YOU create your own happiness. If you are unhappy, you are allowing yourself to be negatively affected by a situation (as harsh as that may sound!). If instead, we seek the beauty in the sadness, we make complicated life situations simple and focus on the love and joy to be found in them. Through this practice, things suddenly aren’t so bleak.
See you on the mat,
Wine and Unwind with a Yoga Ladies Night!
Join us on Friday, February 8th @ 7:00pm for a night filled with meditation, a slow flow yoga class and relaxation! Cheese and crackers will be provided! BYOB!
Rate: $20.00 for non-members
*Special monthly member pricing available! E-mail Katie @ firstname.lastname@example.org for a promo code that will allow you to register for $15.00!
**Gift cards are available for this event!