We all have goals we would like to reach, fulfillments we would like to attain, and changes we would like to make in our lives. And just as we all can share in this very human aspect of our nature … Continue reading
Some say, people don’t change. Perhaps they are right. I believe that people do change. Given the right circumstances, support, information, and an ability to surrender the old, change will occur. I don’t claim to know much about science however, … Continue reading
Relationship is not without complication, challenge, and difficulty, even in the most well attended to and mindful of our interactions. Being in relationship requires communicating, which can lead to misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and sometimes even the end of a relationship all together. As humans we communicate in more ways than just with our words, we use our bodies, our actions, our non-actions, the reputations of our past actions, the way we dress, the work we do, these things and more relate who we are to the world as well as what we intend to do while living, and where we place the value and meaning in our lives. Relationship is the place where who we perceive ourselves to be interacts with the world around us. We have relationship with people, animals, insects, and with inanimate objects like our favorite pair of shoes or our beds. Relationship is taking place when we touch a stone, enjoy the freshness of the air when it rains, and pump gas into our cars. The varying layers of relationship all share the commonality of the way each of us singularly participates in the animate world we live in.
Our participation stems from our perception of who we believe we are and what we believe we are doing here in this world we live in. The beliefs of our experience formulate over the course of our lifetime and the varying relationships we have during it. Beliefs are created in the simplest observations of the people around us as children and the relationship those adults have to their perceived concept of the world, to the complicated study and discernment of heavy and weighted discussions on the cosmology of life and the universe, the presence of a power greater than one’s own, and the unlimited nature of energy in its limited forms of existence in the manifest world.
In Sanskrit there is the word Shraddha which does not translate directly into English. This word roughly refers to the actions we take that are founded in sincerity and faith; the ways in which we relate to the world based on the beliefs we have about the world that rarely, if ever come into question. The practice of yoga asks the student to question their Shraddha, as does life and being in relationship, which all of us are until we lock ourselves into a cave not to be bothered.
Though I give my best effort to being a human of integrity who gives thought to a deed before action, and mindfulness to intention before participation, I have traversed the rough seas of conflict in relationship more times than I can count. It is not uncommon for my sister and I to come into misunderstandings as we rub up against the boundaries of our own beliefs of who we think the other should be and how we perceive ourselves to be in relationship to the other. Currently I am in a dispute with my brother that has us in a stalemate of no communication because the communication we were working with was unsuccessfully efficient enough to clear the misunderstanding and hurt between us. I have no shame in sharing my digressions as well as the truth that I have been known to be aggressive in my desire to be right in these personal conflicts as well as being the stubborn headed contrarian, sometimes even self righteous brat, who generated the misunderstandings to begin with. These truths about my behavior I have learned while in relationship with all of my closest people from my parents to my husband, sister, brother, business partner, and dearest friends who, having been on the receiving end of my sharp and angry tongue, have cumulatively reflected this more clear picture back to me.
Diving ever more deeply into the teachings of yoga and the desire to be a person who lives a life of peace and harmony in all of my relationships, I am required to be honest with myself about who I am, the role I play in these conflicts, (my Shraddha) the beliefs I have that allow the conflicts to persist, what I can surrender to bring more harmony into the relationship experiencing conflict, and most importantly how to do it all with love. In theory this all makes great sense and seems very straight forward however in practice, when the need arises for this quality of beingness, the circumstances surrounding the need are generally immersed in emotions that create heat as they are passionately tied to perceived beliefs of myself upon which my whole world rotates. Learning to communicate in the midst of my passionate emotions without unleashing the sharpness of my tongue which is only a defense mechanism of my ego afraid to let go of a belief that has allowed it to hold up its wall of an illusion of separateness, is one of the most challenging things I have done in this life to date. It truly does not come with ease for me. For this reason, I am impressed and enthralled when I have the opportunity to witness others communicate their perceptions of the circumstances of relationship that did not leave them feeling safe, honored, or respected without becoming defensive, angry, hurtful, and cold.
This week I had the great good fortune to be on the receiving end of a person I am in relationship with clearing the air of their perceived experience of a less than enjoyable experience with me in a way that was beautifully straight forward, without baggage, respectful, honest, clear, and then done. It was a wonderful example of the use of the four pillars of communication which I attempt to skillfully use myself when I need to communicate my perceived experience in relationship with someone who I feel has not treated me in a way that is safe, respectful, or honoring of my beingness.
The four pillars of communication are:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it timely?
4. Is it kind?
When using language as the means of communication to smooth out any roughness in relationship with other humans that are important to you, it is proposed that you ask yourself these four questions before initiating the conversation. If the subject matter that you wish to speak on is true to you, and it is necessary to speak about to create more harmony in a relationship, and you time the conversation in a way that the receiving participant will not feel ambushed and will be able to listen and hear you, and you then approach your truth with kindness, there is a higher likelihood that the air will be cleared, harmony will return to the relationship, and both parties will feel better for having participated in relationship with such excellent skillfulness in communication.
There are of course exceptions to this wonderful way of resolving conflict. Sometimes the other party is not ready to transition into a resolution of conflict, other times the conflict itself is rooted in deep betrayal that first must be forgiven by the offended party or the words received are merely hollow and carry no weight. In these cases, should the offended party in the relationship find the spaciousness to forgive the trespass and move into a shared space of conflict resolution, then not only are the words that are communicated by the offender attempting to relay a resolution to make room for a new state of being having a great need for honesty, the offended party will generally also look to other means of communication like the offenders current and past actions as well as their body language to validate the truthfulness of what is being offered. At times the digressions between people in relationship can be so painful to one, or the other, or both, that the relationship may perhaps never go back to the freely trusting state it was once in, however with willingness on both sides in congruence with focused attention to personal behaviors and beliefs, the relationship has the potential to evolve into one of even better boundaries, more respect, more love, and true harmony, more so than even seemed possible before.
On either side of a conversation seeking conflict resolution is an individual with their own perceived concept of the conflict and their own ideas of which direction they wish to see the relationship go. In the best of cases, like the incident in which I was confronted last week, the offender, this time being me, listens and responds with honesty and a offering to remedy the relationship, often an apology is the perfect ingredient. Other times the receiving party wishes only to be left alone, in which case patience, and the continuing pursuit of impeccable behavior in all other relationships may be the only remedy available in that moment. In any case, returning to the offering of love for self and the person(s) on the other side of the line of conflict generally generates the best feelings overall.
Having the courage to clear the air of a conflicted relationship in a quality manner can be very hard to do, even though, as it is with most things of value in this life, it is the hard jobs and the challenges that require the most of us that are most satisfying. In the face of adversity and conflict in our relationships with others, and most importantly in relationship with ourselves, may we utilize the tools that were given to us and continue to dare to be brave enough with our communication skills to try to smooth out the rough edges, willing enough with our spacious hearts to surrender the strong hold of our egos, and open enough in our incredible minds to expand into new boundaries of being, which may be better than anything we could have ever imagined.
Being in relationship with this animate and inanimate world is a wild ride, up, down, and every which way between. It is my wish to teach by example, to rise to the occasion and the invitation offered by the classroom of life with patience and loving kindness for myself and others, as I work my way toward owning the title of human being.
I’ll continue to do my best.
In deep gratitude to those who have been patient, forgiving, loving, and beautiful teachers while in relationship with me.
With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,
Our bodies are miraculous and beautiful transformative vessels that house all of the wondrous aspects of our being, all of which enable us to perceive and experience this magnificent thing we call life. When our bodies are healthy and experiencing comfort and ease it is common for one to take the vitality of their radiance for granted. It is when the body becomes injured or suffers in ill health that one may for the first time in their life begin to think of what it might feel like to be healthy, vital, and radiant under their skin. Many people spend their lives in discomfort and chronic pain.
I know from personal experience that chronic pain in the body can lead to a degradation of life on every level. Serious injury many years ago continues to be the source of chronic pain in my every day experience. In the beginning, after the initial injury I focused so determinately on living a normal life that I compartmentalized my pain. I told myself that if I gave it no power, it would have no power over me. This worked for many years until it didn’t work anymore. Over the last three years I have experienced more pain than I ever imagined possible, which when I think of my life experiences and the pain I have endured surprises me, especially in contrast to the original pain of the injury which was so excruciating I find it impossible to describe in words. The memory of that initial pain is almost nothing in contrast to the sensation of sustained chronic pain which brings with it many other variants of pain, and it is the compounded pain that becomes almost unbearable for me sometimes and truly unbearable for others leading to many unwanted outcomes of a life that could have been otherwise. The degradation of ones life can vary from the way one perceives oneself and the rolls one plays in all relationships they are having in their life, to intense emotional discomforts of releasing old identities of self and embracing or trying to embrace new concepts of self that are easily perceived by oneself as forever impaired, unhealthy, and different, disabled, or a burden. For myself, as the chronic pain steadily increased, my identity with strength dissolved, my perception of my ability to be a contributing member of society with ease dissolved, as well as my perception of my ability to be a contributing member of my family and an example of steadfast positivity and strength to those who were in the throws of life changing events. All of these perceptions of myself I had previously held to with an unwavering confidence and honor. Despite my belief that if I did not let the pain have power over me it would have no power, the truth was that I had not processed the pain in a healthy way, and by ignoring it I was refusing to give the source of the pain a respect which in turn would enable me to create a lifestyle that could embrace my authentic nature rather than run from it. The ignorance and lack of respect for the source of my pain precluded a course of decisions that inevitably led to an acute experience of chronic pain.
Through my journey of the last three years I have been demanded of my body to deal with my pain from a new vantage point. Responding to this demand I have allowed myself to perceive the source of my pain from a perspective that permits me to be free from who I think I should be, liberating me to be who I am. For me to experience less pain less of the time I have to actively pursue more rest, less physically taxing work, more yoga, more bodywork, more rest, good food, more rest, less cold weather, and of course, more rest. Truth is, I have in my life sustained a very real and very severe injury, and I walk around in this world every day with titanium reinforcing my spine. I am fortunate to have a very mobile and strong body even though I experience pain most of the time. The mobility and strength of my body can easily fool anyone, including myself, into thinking it is in perfect health, and it is, in fact, in perfect health, for a body which has been severely compromised and is now reinforced.
As I stated earlier, many people in this world walk around in chronic pain. Some of us know the source of our pain and choose to ignore it and others have ignored so much of themselves for so long that they are not even sure what the source of their pain is. The body, miraculous vessel that it is, is incredibly linked to all aspects of our being, from our mind and our emotions to our sensate body and our soul or light body. Sometimes the only way for any aspect of our being to communicate with our oftentimes stubborn and conditioned minds that something is out of alignment with our authentic nature is through pain and illness. The more we get to know ourselves, the more permission we give ourselves to be who we are in the presence of all else that is, the more opportunity we have to feel better more often.
It has been through the continued dedicated practice of yoga that I have had the great opportunity to unwrap the layers I call myself and daily get to know myself better. Through the dedicated practice on my mat as well as my devotion to the continued remembrance of the spaciousness of my spirit and the unconditional love that is ever-present in all things, I sometimes sweetly, and sometimes with great frustration, tears, and pain, discover the truth of who I am. A common thought in the practice of yoga is that it is necessary to eliminate ones ego. However, it is in aligning to the true self that enables integration of ones ego to support authentic behavior in ones life. When the ego is demanding we live up to the standards that others set for us, standards that lead us to ignore our truths, it is then that the ego needs to be addressed.
Pain, not only physical, but mental, and emotional as well, when seen as our higher-self communicating with us is a beautiful gift. Especially, if we choose to unwrap it in such a way that it enables us to embrace our own truths and authentic luminescent unique ways of being. As humans we have much in common yet we are all unique. It is our unique diversity that demands we each uncondition the beliefs we have of who we are supposed to be and embrace who we are, this is true acceptance and unconditional love.
Perhaps, like me, you too may experience a type of pain that may never truly dissipate. I hope this is not the case, if it is however, it is my wish that you may continue to discover many satisfying ways to manage it. In my experience I find that the most profound and beautiful way to manage my pain is with tender love and gentle acceptance of what it is and where it is sourced.
From a foundation of loving kindness it becomes far more easy to manage ones pain, to facilitate a lifestyle that enhances the quality of ones life, and to make choices that continue to value and accept oneself no matter the appearance of and feeling of ones outer package, which is in essence the miraculous body that houses ones beautiful heart and soul. Truly, fundamentally, to be alive is the greatest gift, and even some of the most tortured and ill bodies have housed the most happy and joyful human spirits of all time to set an example for those of us who might get caught up on the surface of things.
If you are breathing today you are loved and you are blessed.
If you are in great pain I encourage you to remember, this experience like all things will change, and you have the opportunity to perceive it however you choose. I encourage you to model your choice after Peter Pan, thinking happy thoughts, and asking for help finding your shadow if you need it.
With Love, In All Ways, Always For Giving, In Joy,
In the end of May 1999 I graduated from High School with intentions to set out and conquer the world. It was a typical adolescent understanding of the world as conquerable, coupled with an ignorant belief that the world would arrange itself to fit into me. Despite my delusions of grandeur I enrolled in University in Southern New Mexico where I lasted one semester before deciding Las Cruces, higher education, spending my days in classrooms that hummed under the heat of florescent lights, and the concept of academia, just wasn’t for me. Again, my adolescent hubris in alignment with my ignorance was calling the shots.
As I perceive that choice now, I can say it was a thoughtless step that took me from my dorm room back into my mother’s home where I found myself suffering from the only bout of insomnia I have ever had in my life. To fight off the insomnia I read voraciously, filling the sleepless nights with books, most memorably, the Dalai Lama’s Ethics For The New Millennium. I knew at the time, as I read Ethics For The New Millennium, it would be pivotal to the rest of my life. I also knew my life was definitely changing, I wasn’t sure how, but I was sure I would never be the same.
Weeks went by and I spun my wheels wondering how I was now going to conquer the world. News traveled to my best friends mom who owned a Preschool that I was back in town. She called me and told me that she needed a substitute teacher and I should come to the school and give it a shot. I remember being resistant, telling her I didn’t like kids and I wasn’t sure if I was the right person. Lucky for me Jill would not take no for an answer. She rejected my resistance with an intelligent and insightful response. “It’s not that you don’t like kids,” she said, “It’s just that you haven’t spent any time with them and you’re afraid of them. You can stop being afraid and get to know some. Besides, you might actually like it.” By this time Jill had been in the business of kids for more years than I had been alive and she knew what she was talking about. In the end I had nothing better to do and I knew that spinning my wheels wasn’t getting me anywhere, least of all, on top of the world.
Once I got over the initial fear, I found myself, as Jill said I would, really enjoying the company of children. In alignment with the teachings and wisdom I had gathered in the Dalai Lama’s Ethics For The New Millennium, it was obvious that these children understood all anyone really wanted was to be happy. From the onset I could see that the children had excellent parameters for what was fair in the context of relationship in the relationships they were having with each other. The question of were they allowed to be happy while others were seeking their own happiness seemed to be the biggest problem to solve, aside from the usual Preschool dilemmas of nap time, wet pants, and sitting in a chair while eating lunch. It became apparent to me that I had traded in higher education for what in my perspective, became an even higher education, an education in being nice, or in yogic terms, being mindful and acting from a place of nonviolence.
This May, many of those fabulous little teachers of mine graduated from High School, and Jill closed the doors to Leaping Lizards after 35 years of educating children big and small. It blows my mind to think how much time has passed and now those children are the age I was when I was so curiously learning from them. Over the last fifteen years I have continued to study the value of mindfulness in relationship, with self as well as the world around me. I hold to the knowing that being kind and treating others and ourselves well while not squashing anyone’s happiness is the most important thing any of us can do, no matter the size and age of our bodies. As the years have rolled on I have gained new tools that enable me to be present with my skillfulness in thoughts and actions of kindness, balance, and the obfuscated qualities of fairness. The practice of yoga adds tools to the toolbox as well as enhances the quality and respond-ability of these skills daily. I still like to play with toys, swing, slide, and play hide and seek. Story time is my favorite time of day and recently I am convinced everything anyone ever really needs to know can be learned from Peter Pan, hang onto your shadow and think happy thoughts.
Teaching at Leaping Lizards as well as reading Ethics For The New Millennium definitely changed the way I perceive the world around me, especially the way I perceive the people living in it, and my life has been better for the choice of dropping out of college every day since. Though Preschool may be many decades behind me, I continue daily to open the notebook to my deeper and higher learning through wonderful childlike play, and I continue to refine the greatest lesson I learned there, being kind. Through play I am often surprised and delighted to find myself enjoying the pleasure of killing dragons with my kindness and sometimes even turning them into my best friends. Rolling around on the floor in Cobra and other animal poses opens my heart and enables me to charm the venomous snakes and dangerous beasts within. Sinking into the seat of my inner warrior and exhaling helps me to steadfastly be more determined to breathe kindness, love, and humility into all of my actions through the shining and strong armor of my happy heart.
The thing about being kind and loving is that it is always rewarding. Being kind sometimes takes a little courage like going to the first day of school or making friends with someone new in the playground, and being kind especially takes courage in the face of adversity and fear. However, like Jill so elegantly said to me, “you might actually like it.” I believe being kind always beats the alternative.
If I could pass on any words of wisdom to those children now they would be to not loose your playful spirit, remember hitting hurts, it’s good to take naps, and hugs always feel good. Higher education is always important and being open to learning can be more valuable than the environment you learn in. You are still young and it is always valuable to make well informed decisions, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I happily graduated from Preschool in May of 2001 at the ripe old age of twenty, knowing then that my desires to conquer the world were never really going to fulfill me. Rather, than and now, I graduated to just wanting to love the world, all of it, like a soft kitty cat, a great story, my dearest invisible childhood friend, or a day of absolute play.
My deepest gratitude continues to go to Jill Sanger for the giving me the opportunity to assimilate the teachings of the Dalai Lama in the classrooms of Leaping Lizards, incorporating the values of mindfulness, kindness, fairness, creative problem solving, and the positive vibrant love of play. It was my first peek into a life of an unconditioned heart.
With Love All Ways For Giving,
This week a friend very close to my heart passed, a person without whom I would not be who I am today. It’s not the first time I have been in the well of loss and grief, as a matter of fact I feel I am becoming quite good at it. Seven years ago in the middle of March a dear friend who I loved very much and his girlfriend were run over by a truck here in Taos, and killed. Loosing Stephan was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, I was new to loss then, new to the waves and phases of grief, and I lacked the tools to respond to my loss in a healthy way. Though I moved through my grief by drowning my sorrow in drugs and alcohol, one thing I did not experience when Stephan passed was regret. I loved Stephan and he knew that because I had told him.
Over the past seven years I have lost six childhood friends, parents of close friends who I considered parents, elders whom I considered grandparents, acquaintances who I considered fundamental parts of my community and the web I called life. To think of it now, I cannot even begin to add the numbers up because so many beloveds of my heart who are now gone flood into my mind. Every seven years all of the cells of ones body change, and over the last seven years I have not only cried many tears in the well of the grief of each of these losses, I have learned how to grieve without numbing myself with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
The loss of this week has been the closest to my heart I have yet experienced. Uncle Fred was not my blood relative however, he was my family. He was a life long face of comfort and understanding as well as a true visceral expression of unconditional love in the shape of warm hugs and the sounds of our laughter. Uncle Fred was always a teacher of spirit in my life and in his death he has given me the most amazing opportunity to continue to grow while I sit with my pain in sobriety, this is a first. At the beginning of 2014 I was experiencing an aspect of my own death, the death of my old self, and I choose to walk through my transformation sober so that I could be present with all of the feelings of the many losses of my past that had yet to be integrated into a healthy present relationship between my physical, mental, and emotional body. As the days pass, the loss becomes more real, the shock begins to ware off and the reality of never seeing Fred again begins to set in, and in my sober state I cannot avoid the truth of it. I have been dreaming of Fred nightly and we are having the most wonderful adventures, he continues to teach me in my dreams, “Never be afraid, it is a waste of your time” he told me the other night. This truth was so straight forward it surprised me, as in body he spoke in riddles which was one of my favorite parts of our time spent together.
Over the past seven years I have also been cultivating the most valuable relationship of my life besides the one with myself, my relationship to my now husband Nathan Oswald, who has been with me through this journey of loss, loss, and again loss. Through tears, tears, and again tears. Through the stories of memories of people he knew and people he did not know. He is an incredible man whose character and integrity continue to daily remind me why I love him and have committed to being the best person I can in relationship with him for the rest of my life.
I am an emotional person, perhaps more emotional than most, I cry at commercials. I am deeply connected to feeling my heart and allowing those feelings to have shape and form in my physical experience. Oswald has been a rock for me through the emotional undulations of this past seven years and has always supported me and held me through my grief, I am ever grateful. This morning, as I was deep in sorrow and in his loving arms, one of the biggest feelings of joy I have ever experienced flowed through my body. I became aware of just how fortunate I am. I have a relationship with spirit and my spiritual self, I love myself deeply and accept who I am, I have a relationship with a man whom I love and respect and do my best to treat as well as I know how and get better at it every day and he love’s me back. I have a family who have knowingly or unknowingly taught me to be more courageous with my love, taught me to believe in myself, taught me to stand on my own two feet and not expect others to make me happy. I have this breath, this body, this life, this animate playground of a world to dance in, feel in, create in and continue to explore, unearth, learn and grow in.
Years ago when one of my dear childhood friends Sal died, I was deep in the well of the grief when I realized it did not matter that I was sad, for I was just lucky to have the experience.
Now, as I sit with these memories and this joy in the midst of the grief, I again return to this truth. The pain we feel when someone who we love has died, is a direct reflection of how much we love. Every person we love will die, it may even be yourself before them, so every moment matters. It does not matter how much money you make, how much work you get done, what your status in society is, if you can touch the floor in a forward bend, or even if you can walk for that matter. What is most important is how you spend the moments with the ones you love, how you choose to express your love, how willing you are to surrender you hurts and angers to have relationships that embody love, and if you can do it right now.
One thing we can absolutely count on in this life is that it will end. What you do between your birth and your death is filling time, and is up to you. You can choose at any moment to be more expanded in your mind and let the already unconditional love of your heart flow through you in any moment of this fleeting experience should you choose to. What’s most important is up to you.
The Buddhist Heart Sutra states it simply,
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhisvaha!
Gone, Gone, gone over, gone fully over.
Awakened! So be it!
Love always, in all ways, for giving,
In January of 2014 I suddenly fell into a space of deep pain and personal crises. In response to this I took a hiatus from my regularly scheduled life and journeyed deep into the core of my being and healing. This is a short telling of what I have found, without going to deeply into the personal details. I hope that you will find it informative and perhaps helpful. Genevieve
Perspective, Integration, Intelligence and Unconditioning the Heart.
In pursuit of unconditioning my own heart to experience a life of more happiness, I have recently found myself in an opportunity to examine my beliefs. As I explore them, I recognize that the fundamental ones are not mine alone, rather they are beliefs most humans commonly share. Humans generally believe that the earth will continue to rotate and that the sun will come up tomorrow, in conjunction with that, we also generally believe that the Earth will continue to shift north to south and back again on its axis bringing winter and eventually bringing summer and vice versa, over and over and over. Humans generally believe that they will die. These beliefs exist because the earth continues to rotate and the sun continues to come up tomorrow. Twice a year the Earth alternates on it's axis bringing with it the turn into, or away from, the light. And, with the exception of a few mystical characters in stories of old, everyone dies. I individually, and we as a collective, generally all choose to believe these things as truths no matter what our religious, social, economic, racial, educational, and superimposed beliefs may be. These fundamental beliefs allow us to have a foundation of steadiness upon which to build our dreams, hopes, new beliefs and ultimately our happy lives.
Looking at life from the perspective of the natural world, or, the way I perceive the natural world to perceive life, helps me to feel more at ease with the nature of being human, with the ever changing circumstances of living, and the inevitability of the death of this mortal body. In the ever changing natural world is evidence that the natural world has a built in intelligence which learns from the experiences of the past, and integrates those experiences into an evolved future. Seeds evolve, animals evolve, DNA evolves, nature evolves.
The ultimate question that nature asks is, How can life thrive? I ask, Why does life thrive? The answer that comes back to me every time I ask this question is, because it can. Why do we ask questions and seek answers? Because we can. Why do we align ourselves to beliefs and dogmas? Because we can. Why do we flux in the rhythms of nature, like nature? Because that is the nature, of nature. Be it energy or something more, intelligence exists in the fabric of all life, and in that intelligence, all life is interconnected. In the interconnection, is the ever evolving tapestry of life thriving in the presence of natures love, unconditional and omnipresent.
In the process of living, I have experienced hard times, challenges, difficulties, hurts, or as the Buddha so liked to call it "suffering". In these experiences it has sometimes been hard for me to identify the omnipresence of love. Not romantic love, rather the love that is at the essence of natures ability to adapt and thrive. These hard times, experiences, challenging circumstances of life are the places where my mind becomes consumed in the story of the hardship. I have found, it is in this place that, great work can be done on the front of belief structures being made or demolished. In the classroom of life, I have learned that it is the belief structures we carry, that become the launchpads of our evolutions and dreams, or our dis-eases and hardships.
Over the past three months I personally have had to face my old stories, my old beliefs and my old hurts. Inevitably this journey has been a process of finding new tools to heal my body, mind and spirit, as well as create pathways that integrate my past and present into a route that allows me to adapt like nature and thrive in the future, rather than just survive. On this personal journey I have had to make choices that were new, that took me out of the places and belief structures that were comfortable and easy, and into places of deep hurt and fear. And, with this was the devising of new belief structures of great courage and love. Discovering along the way that through the integration of my past experiences and stories into new belief structures and experiences that wholeheartedly, without condition, benefit my greater self love, I not only benefit myself, I inevitably benefit the whole interconnected fabric of life that I am constantly in relationship with. This is a direct reflection of natures intelligence and natural course of adaptability and evolution. As time passes I now see these so called challenging experiences as life's greatest opportunities to know love and natures built in love of learning and evolving in love with love, unconditionally. The fundamental beauty of natures love, is that it is unbound, always spacious, always allowing, always present and always available and always intelligent. Just as our shared beliefs of the laws of this natural world; sun rising, seasons continuing and bodies dying, create the foundation that is the stepping off place from which we create our happy lives; it is our own true unconditional self love and evolving relationship with ourselves, coupled with wise discernment, through which, the weaving of honor, respect, and love for others, including our relationships to others, that we can emulate and co-create with nature the beautiful and loving tapestry in which all life is held.
Why does life thrive? Because it can.
How does life thrive? With love, and a natural intelligence which recalls and integrates past details of life experiences into what will work better now, and in the future.
It is a very interesting time to be alive on planet earth. So very much is changing, plenty of which could be seen as limiting or a challenge or even suffering. In this time is an incredible opportunity to look back and to look forward, with awareness and prudence and foresight, individually as well as collectively and with greater vision to make choices that integrate what has and has not worked, with a desire for deep self love and the thriving of the greater good of all life, we will all evolve. Evolution is what nature does after all.
With all this said, I am happy to announce that I will be returning to teach at Shree Yoga beginning Monday March 24 at 9:30 am. I am eager to share the evolved knowledge I have gained being a student of life as well as a devoted yogi on life's path, from my new and integrated perspective. I look forward to seeing you there with your bright eyes, loving hearts and curious minds.
From the wide spaciousness of my heart,
Blessings and love,
Surrender. Let go. Release. Easier said than done.
Unless, you are on a long car journey and you really have to go…then when it is time, oh that sensation…it is one of my favorite releases of all. And like a full bladder that must be relieved, all things must be surrendered in time.
In time, this wild ride of a life has absolutely one thing in store for us, that it will end. In the face of the truth of our someday demise, is another truth; It is probable and practically inevitable that we, each and everyone of us, will have attachments that we will never want to say good-bye too. These attachments may be people, things, money, thoughts and most likely the beliefs that we have built our lives on. It is in this loving, coveting, knowing, holding onto, that we become limited and bound to the experience of what is, and feel challenged or even afraid to move into that which may become or will be. I often find myself in a state of wonder as I ponder the fact that nothing remains forever the same, that all things will change, all humans will die, and in the face of this truth I question how it is we as a collective have not found a way to be more at peace in the process of surrender, in the face of loss, in the transitions of change. Perhaps there is a fear in the collective conscious that if we (the entire human race) found this way, surrendering always with ease, we would become quite bored? Perhaps we would find that everything from going to sleep, waking up, using the toilet, loosing a job, loosing a finger or even more, a leg, and loosing the ones we love to be all too easy? I do not know. What I do know is that energy is eternal, love is existent in everything, and it is a limited belief of the mind that says “just because something is no longer in form it no longer exits”. I have also come to understand through the passing days of my own life that the facing of that which we do not know, mostly in the question of what lies beyond living, is the foundation upon which most practices of spirituality and religion or non-religion are based.
To know the unconditional boundaries of love, time, energy, and the universe we must first uncondition our minds of the belief that the boundaries exist. It is the ultimate surrender, the ultimate letting go.
What would happen if we could perceive love in all things without condition?
What would happen if we could perceive the divine in all things without condition?
I propose we would know a state of peace John Lennon invited us to Imagine. Or even more tangible, we may hug each other more often, and say I love you more often with deep tenderness and conviction, rather than suspicion or fear.
The fundamental tenant of the spiritual practice of yoga is Ahimsa, the practice of Non-Violence, or as I like to see it, the action/s of Loving Kindness. If we wish to truly honor the beauty of Ahimsa, surrendering our preconceived notions of good/bad, right/wrong, this/that, black/white, and letting in the all encompassing power of love without condition, by feeling, or even more profound, thinking with the heart, is where we must begin. This does not mean that the value of active intelligence has no place in love, rather it means the heart guides the active intelligence to choices of thinking that encompass unconditional love.
One can actively give more power to the practice of loving unconditionally and letting go of belief structures that do not serve, with a practice with mantra and meditation. I find in my own practice the following mantra to be a powerful vehicle into the spaciousness of my heart through the softening of my mind.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Samastah: All beings living in this location
Sukhino: In happiness, joy and free from all suffering
Bhav: The divine mood or state of union
Antu: May it be so –
The practice of praying for the liberation from suffering for all things existent at this moment, as well as the prayer for happiness and peace, most importantly, includes yourself, as you are, right now, today, faults or no, good or bad, black or white, animal eating or vegan. If you truly wish to know peace and unconditional love, you must endeavor to liberate yourself from the binds of suffering chained to the limiting, nonsupporting, hurtful, painful beliefs of your mind. By offering yourself the same love and compassion you would offer another, you come to know the depth and value of your ability to love without condition and be a conduit of love without condition.
If it is inevitable that we will have attachments throughout the duration of our lives, may we attach ourselves to the ever expanding unconditional love of our hearts and spaciousness of our spirits. May we be disciplined in our practices of self liberation and walking with honor and integrity in relationship to all life. May we know when to let go, and surrender like the grace of a lowering tide, an exhale of full breath and a caterpillar going into its cocoon.
It is always truly my wish that all beings may be happy, healthy, free from suffering and know peace. May we share that love and freedom with courage and joy. May we all reap the rewards of peace from the surrender of the boundaries of our fearful minds together.
I’m doing my best, and admittedly still learning. However, in the face of surrendering all that I have known to be true before, and making room for all that exists now, I do feel more peace…most especially when I let the energy move, as I do my bladder empty, when it is full…
With love always, in all ways, for giving,
- Build a strong foundation. (Ahimsa) Cultivate beginners mind, go somewhere new, study with new teachers and new classmates, practice nonviolence with your self.
- Open your heart to our shared potential. (Satya) The truth is, that truth is always changing. Honor your truth, take time for your self, know what is important to you, serve the highest.
- Be generous with your Self and others. (Asteya) Learn ways to integrate your yoga practice with the world around you. Cultivate more skillfulness and mindfulness in the balanced use and renewal of energy.
- Reinforce your Integrity. (Brahmacharya) Nature does not know right or wrong, nature only knows balance and imbalance. Explore and relish in the nature of all aspects of yourself, and over the course of the retreat, integrate your being into a more cohesive whole.
- Giving it all away. (Aparigraha) Cultivate a well of generosity from which your motivations arise. Allow yourself freedom from an attachment to the results of your work. Learn to do, and do well, for the joy of doing.
- Clear pathways. (Saucha) Detox physically with Asana, and mentally with meditation, to provide for yourself purity of mind, body and spirit.
- Be With What Is. (Santosa) Relax and de-stress during the day, and enjoy peaceful tranquility and ease at night while sleeping on the sacred grounds of the Mabel Dodge Lujan house, tucked sweetly beneath Taos Mountain.
- Know your capacity to be more, do more, get out, collaborate and create! (Tapas) Deepen your yoga practice, and replace old habits. Through intentionally placing yourself in the position to learn, you will adopt new ways of being: on the mat, in relationship, and in the world.
- Self-study leads to self-love. (Svadyaya) Return home feeling capable and self empowered to meet life willingly, openly, as yourself, no matter how it appears in front of you.
- Freedom from the stress. (Ishvara Pranidhana) Show up, experience the delight of embodiment, the spaciousness of spirit, the acrobatic skillfulness of the mind…leave renewed, refreshed, and reinforced using a system that has worked for thousands of years.
Join experienced and registered yoga teachers Suki Dalury and Genevieve Oswald for a beautiful journey into the Yamas (precepts for being with community) and the Niyamas (precepts for being with self. Apply the ancient secrets of yoga and invite the future with internal power and open arms. Lecture, creative workshoping with visual art and written word combine with the sacred practices of asana, pranayama, and meditation to align with your most alive and vibrant self. Awaken awareness and lay the groundwork for a lifetime of well-being in your body, and in the world. Yoga Alliance CEU’s available.
Walk Softly: Yoga and Our Future Yoga Retreat at Mabel Dodge Lujan House in Taos New Mexico Nov. 14-19, 2013. Check out www.shreeyogataos.com for more details, and http://mabeldodgeluhan.com for information regarding the beautiful grounds and accommodations. The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is one of the most quintessential Taos places. Rooms must be booked on or before October 7, 2013. Board includes breakfast and lunch. Single and Double room occupancy available. $1425.00-$1725.00 For those wishing to attend the retreat and not lodge at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, the cost is $800.00.
Please call or email Shree Yoga Taos to register.
“We cannot simply think of our survival; each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation. The prophecy given to us, tells us that what we do today will affect the seventh generation and because of this we must bear in mind our responsibility to them today and always.”-indigenous proverb
Last weeks bombing in Boston touched me deeply. I spent the following day crying many tears for those who suffer in such atrocious experiences, as well as those who suffer so deeply they would act with such disregard toward life. The week was spent with many hours of contemplation on the subject and the conclusion I have made is that like so many things, this is a symptom of something bigger, a symptom of a need for something more than the lives young people face today.
My friend Ned teaches at the Vista Grande High School here in Taos. Ned is not only a teacher, he is an excellent writer, he writes poetry and prose, and has been recently posting blogs that relate his experience as a teacher at V.G.H.S. (Check it out at teachpoet.com) They too, have touched me deeply this week. He writes about the problems facing students and teachers today in the United States in the atmosphere of standardized testing, a failing job market, an ecosystem in dismay, ever present violence, the false glamor of gang culture and the cult of celebrity, in a world of ever increasing access to information. He speaks of students who, from various backgrounds are apathetic and obstinate, to say the least. He questions their sense of purpose, and a system that is leaving something wanting.
It spurs me to rethink my own experience, which is not too different from the ones he describes in his posts. I too was labeled a statistic, from a broken home. I was more interested in getting high than doing the homework, and I couldn’t see the correlation of what I was being taught, to how it would relate to me in the world out there. I went into high school as an honor student, I graduated with a C average, somewhere along the way it wasn’t cool to care about school anymore.
While in high school, I had no interest in reading. I would rarely read the books assigned to me, and I became adept in garnering information from my more disciplined class mates. Every once in a while, one of my parents would have a reason to look over my homework routine, resulting from poor grades, punishments, or teachers concerns. Under the watchful eye, I would drudge my way through my reading assignments, as well as my other homework, that I had no interest in. Truthfully, as I think of it now, I rarely ever did homework, and it is a wonder that I even passed my final two years of math classes, much less school. Senior year math class is my biggest quandary. I never took the tests on time, and always claimed I did not know the answers because I was intimidated by math and therefore had “test block”. It is amazing this worked.
April, senior year of high school, I was living up to the label I had been given, ditching school for 4:20, annual pot smoking day, and the Columbine massacre occurred. That night, I couldn’t help thinking that, the smart kids at that school, had been ditching that day like me. That incident opened a conversation about guns and mental health and the safety of our children and the efficacy of our schools to foster an environment of learning and co creating that is positive for all who attend, this conversation continues, we don’t have answers yet. For me the incident also echoed something I already knew, public high school in America was no where near an environment that fostered anything other than confusion, misunderstanding, crushed spirit, and hate.
What was I going to do with my life after high school? I like many others my age, had grandiose ideas of the reality awaiting me. I was going to be an actress. I wanted to go to an acting school, and get famous. I was accepted to an acting school in New York. I went to New Mexico State University instead…Someone convinced me it would be better to get a degree, that the real world required me to have a real job…I stayed for one semester, the experience left something wanting. Everyone around me was on drugs. Everyone around me was playing mental games with each other. No one was honest, no one was vulnerable. My acting professor was sleeping with another student, and telling me it was a really big sea, and I was a little fish…Was this as good as it was going to get? I missed home.
Despite the ugliness of the violence and drug culture I grew up in, the poverty and the ignorance, there was at least honesty about it, vulnerability in it. I longed for connection on a level deeper than surface. My best friends mother insisted that I start substitute teaching at her preschool. What a gift that was. I returned to the hopefulness of youth. I returned to the openness and the vulnerability. I saw so clearly how capable we all are, and I wished there was more I could do for these children as they grew older in a world that would tell them to become hard and afraid and careless. It was important to me to never be the cause of a lifelong hurt for any of them, and from the effort I gave in the preschool, I saw reward in all of my relationships.
It wasn’t until after graduating from high school that I began to learn about the world, and my role in it. All the standardized testing, did not educate me in mindful awareness, social sensitivity and caring, or values to build a life of meaning on. My public education was just a way to keep me and all the other children, off the streets, and in the mind factory of brainwashed automatons. Intertwined in my story of factory brainwashing, were teachers who impacted me, I still hear their voices today. One of them called me an asshole for wasting my talents, she was right. I’ll never forget how she, in her caring, surprised me. First that she cared, second that she flung profanities at me, and third, she was right. I never wanted to be the asshole who wasted her talents again. By this time it was the end of my senior year, I couldn’t go back, I could only go forward. I bet Ned is like that teacher, a breath of fresh air in a world of people who want you to just sit there, be quiet, don’t question, and do the homework, it’s on the test.
As I reflect on my apathy, my laziness, and my cop-outs, I am grateful I found a way to turn my perspective on learning around. How did I do it? Sometimes I still ponder the answer to that question. One of the answers is my love of reading. Through reading, I found my way into the delight of wordplay, via the wisdom of my mother. After some incident where I probably claimed boredom (she did not have T.V.), she handed me a copy of Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. I had read before, even finished To Kill a Mockingbird as well as Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies, however I had never really enjoyed reading. Jitterbug Perfume was just, so good. Perhaps it was the elements of sex and mischievousness, so nicely timed with my adolescent experiences. Or it could have been the long and epic story, or the tales of scent and it’s profound power. Whatever it was, after reading that book, I was hooked on books. These days, I wouldn’t call myself a voracious reader, however I do read regularly, and I do not limit my reading to one style or era, or just to books. I love classics, and science fiction, I love spiritual books and memoirs, I read poetry and plays, I read magazines and blogs, I read the boxes on the table, if I am curious about something I will look it up on the internet and read as much as I can stand. Somehow that adventure into the world of Pan and Tom Robbins’ imagination unearthed a true and beautiful understanding, words can open worlds.
In my early twenties I heard that the modern American, with a high school diploma or equivalent, had a vocabulary of five thousand words. This statistic was followed by another. The average street person in the sixteenth century, beggar, vendor, defiantly not educated, had a vocabulary in the range of twenty five thousand words. I was astonished. It then became known to me that our national media conglomerates feed to us, the public, their materials, at an eighth grade reading level. I became insulted, and then my shame turned into defiance. It became my personal task, to learn as many words as possible, for the rest of my life. If I didn’t know a word, I would look it up. As I write this, I recall that the only classes I enjoyed by the end of high school were Drama, French, Art, and surprisingly Etymology. Words became the key to my undying love of learning.
The thing about words is this. Humans have the capacity to express the way they feel about the animate world they are relating with, for centuries we have been refining this ability. Humans have yet to master this skill, bombings, wars, shootings, and walls being built between countries, continue to reveal our inefficiencies in communicating with one another. Why would we demean the work of our ancestors and all of humanity because its easier to say it sucked, than to say I did not enjoy the experience for this, that, and the other reason, it made me feel…? I feel that speaking in slang, as my generation and younger generations do, demeans the power with which we can express ourselves, demeans our intelligence, and demeans humanity as a whole. Hip Hop language, new words, simple words, stupid words like “sucked” to describe our feelings, inhibits our ability to communicate clearly, effectively, and with love.
The conversation that Ned opened in his blog, is intrinsically connected to the conversation about terror and school shootings and spirituality and our personal and collective stories, as well as the history of our past and the blessings of our futures.
The education system and standardized testing, the insufficient resources and exhausted complacent staff. Apathetic students from marginalized backgrounds as well as good students who have no sense of security awaiting them in the real world to come. Drop out rates and gun violence in schools at an increasing rate, across all social and economic backgrounds. These are all symptoms of a larger dysfunction at the center of our collective social agreement. Something is left wanting in the process of educating our youths. Something is left wanting in the fulfillment of the adults carrying the weight of society and commerce. Something is left wanting in regard to our needs being met socially as well as our needs being met economically. Something is left wanting in the media we are fed, that is trite and base and without value, yet fed to us in excessive quantity. Something is left wanting as we become so easily connected through the internet, and yet distanced through it’s online socializing. Something is left wanting as the list goes on….What is it we are yearning for? We as a collective, lack a sense of purpose. The only collective purpose that seems to be gathering momentum, is action for the sake of doing it, no matter the action or its consequences. We want to participate, we want to connect, we want to feel like our actions have importance, like each of us, singularly, matters. Yet, the confines of the society almost every American grows up in (or immigrates to) says, conform, conform, conform.
April marks Spring Challenge time at Shree Yoga Taos, twenty classes in thirty days. This is a hard commitment to fulfill, and I am diligently working my way to the goal. Yoga has been the most spectacular tool in my personal growth, and has also, in its beautiful way, supported my desire to never stop learning. Class yesterday, as often can be the case, was themed very appropriately. Liz began the class with a very nicely posed question. “Do any of you ever experience doubt?” I had to laugh as I felt she offered us such kindness and respect, when the question assumed that we were doubtless, and confident. Liz then shared a teaching of Carlos Pomeda on the positive qualities of doubt.
“The best student is the one with doubt. There are three types of students, those with ignorance, those with knowledge, and those with doubt. The students who are with only ignorance or only knowledge will get nothing from the texts and study of yoga, for they are already full. It is with doubt that the conflict between knowledge and ignorance can take place, and in this conflict, or friction, learning takes place. One does not need to be afraid of uncertainty, for from uncertainty is the exploration of what is true.”
To ask the question, is this as good as it gets? To ask, am I nothing more than a statistic? To ask, can I live a life of value and meaning? These questions reflect doubt. Doubt is defined as uncertainty, to consider questionable or unlikely, to hesitate to believe. Doubt begins the process of self awareness. Doubt is the opposite of what children are taught in the machine of our social grooming. Doubt can lead to curious exploration.
Ned teaches exploration based curriculum, I commend him. He expressed in his writings, his discontent that in this explorational curriculum he may be getting his students engaged and excited about learning, however on some level it does not truly prepare them for the world ahead. A world of unhappy, unsatisfied adults, held in the social arms of dishonesty, greed, low moral standards, and mediocrity. Will there be true satisfaction in the lives they go on to make, those of them who can break the legacy of the histories of their mothers and fathers?
As long as we as a society and individuals continue to participate in the “do what your told paradigm”, with out real knowledge of values and morals that are not warped and embedded in dogma and religion, we will continue to perpetuate our forward moving momentum that aims to meet the needs of the past. Until we as a race of humans, can collectively agree to act in the spirit of good will toward all human kind, toward all things mindful of the needs of our future, we will continue this circumincessent missing of the needs, of those who will be the future. This is a large order to fill, is it possible? The ideas and questions most definitely pose doubt…If anything, it is a hard task to undertake, for it requires each and every living person to mind their manners, listen to their hearts, be more loving and courageous and open and vulnerable, to be in community without discriminating, to communicate and compromise, to think for themselves and know their own authentic truths, to hold good boundaries, and love with wisdom.
In school, I told myself math was hard. Math is still hard, however now I have the conviction and the willingness to try when it is necessary. I’m not signing up for any math classes yet, but who knows, someday I might. One thing I do know, the rebellious kids, the ones who want to do it their way, the ones who doubt, have something to be encouraged and not feared. If they get the right attention, the potential they have to see something differently, to creatively approach an old problem, to recreate the world they live in, is unlimited. This rebelliousness, the act of thinking for yourself, is truly what each of us can foster, in the youth, in one another, and in ourselves. As we pursue our own voices, our own beliefs, the answers to our questions of doubt, we can find our way deeply into the well of our authentic nature, our Atman (true self), and into the heart of Brahman (the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world; conscious eternal energy), where nothing is left wanting.
Like Ned, I too am a teacher, and I too hope that what I teach has value for the lives of my students outside the environment of the classroom. I often hope that the opportunities for growth do not get missed in the guise of the yoga, the inherent ideas of dogma, the suspicious nature of humans, and the conflict of religious/non-religious thought, can all be an impediment to the most fundamental of the teachings….We can each of us be liberated from the confines of the limitations we place on the unconditional nature of our hearts capacity to love and be loved…the confines are the barriers of fear, shame, guilt, anger, resentment, insecurity, doubt, and excessive ego that our magnificent brains label our life experience to be…without curiosity, without a desire to know and be free, we will continue to be confined to these limitations…as the questions lead to answers, we live with more purpose, our thoughts and actions have more value, our hearts are opened to the bounty of beauty in all things, and even in the face of loss, nothing will be left wanting, for all will be full.
As for those who live on the edge of society, whose ideas of good and bad are loose, whose mental abilities are ill, whose lives are desperate, every ounce of love we share without suspicion, can truly save lives.
“The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” -Steve Biko
Love Always, in all ways, for giving,