In Spirit Action

I remember when I first heard inspiration broken down into the phrase “in spirit action,” it struck a chord in my heart that reverberated into the marrow of my bones. For myself the feeling of being inspired is to feel a lightning strike of awareness that echo’s beyond the essence of myself and into the unknown, a feeling of magic in action, or as it was so sweetly stated to me the feeling of being “in spirit action.”
In my human desire to create a mold of the life I want, and like some malleable material form myself to fit that mold I find myself rather surprisingly organically winding up where I am. The journey itself feels as I imagine a river feels as it makes its way to the ocean. Sometimes rough waters move fast and create waves of great turbulence, other times the current moves more slowly and the stillness of the waters surface appears as if nothing is moving at all. Even though I hold fast to a mantra that came to me in a blast of inspiration many years ago guiding my life always in perpetual positive progression, I sometimes like the river, find myself stagnant and in an eddy as I try unsuccessfully to move back upstream, afraid and anxious of what lies in the current ahead. I find this is when spirit shows up and with a rumble the lightning strike of inspiration crackles across my inner landscape, turning me back in the direction of the current, to continue downstream into the mystical landscape of the unknown.
Inspiration moves us beyond the veils of what we perceive to be the truth and into more expansive states of knowing. Inspiration comes, sometimes when we are prepared for it holding our pen and our paper, and other times like a shock to our hearts. Inspiration leads us into the crags of our fears and invites us to become stronger more beautiful people while we explore our mortality there. Inspiration whispers to us from our hearts when it is time to let down the walls we have built to protect ourselves from our vulnerability. Inspiration is our invitation to step forward in spirit action, no matter what anxious, doubtful, fearful thoughts may be trying to maintain a stronghold on our experience of life.
Taking a leap of faith is heeding the call of inspiration, and no matter the result on the other side of the leap, spirit is always there to catch us. To uncondition ourselves of the hardened walls we have built to protect our hearts from preconceived ideas of hurt and maintain stories of self-defeat and insecurity, we must learn to listen to the whisper and thunder of spirit when it invites, or demands, us to leap and to soar on its wings.
Living our lives in this kind of freedom, in spirit action, fulfills not only our hearts in every moment of unconditioned love we allow ourselves to give and receive, but also, like a child on a treasure hunt, leads us to the most surprising unexpected and brilliant of places on this mystical journey of life.
May we all become more courageous in heeding the call of spirit, rowing confidently while we laugh all the way downstream, rolling on spirits invitation to action no matter if the mold holds or breaks.
With Love, All Ways, For Giving,
Genevieve

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Light on Unicorns

Last week the grandfather to yoga in the western world, B.K.S. Iyengar transitioned from embodiment to whatever comes next. Had it not been for the many health ailments he suffered as a young person, which resulted in his pursuit of a life-long dedicated practice of yoga, the world of yoga as we in the western hemisphere now know it, would likely be as much a mystery to us as Unicorns.

Looking through his quintessential book Light on Yoga, it is clear to see that Mr. Iyengar was a masterful practitioner, however, before he was an adept in the physical asana, he was already a great yogi for not giving in to giving up on the possibility of a long life of radiant health. In his seeing an invitation given to him by health ailments so severe it would be easy to label them only misfortune, not only did he realize the possibility of a long and flexible life, his optimistic choice by proxy has enabled me, as well as millions, if not billions of others to live radiant healthy meaningful lives too.

The opposite of his choice, seeing the detours of our lives, the ailments, and the challenges as misfortunes and direct assaults to our personal happiness, is not taking the invitation to expand and grow in the face of the hardship. When a wider perspective is taken, one of optimism and confidence in ones capacity to traverse the sidesteps of the extreme ranges of being human while maintaining inner peace, we come to know not only our innate strength and grit, but also the value of being open to enjoying life however it appears in front of us. This openness is the spacious place where steady inner peace can always be maintained.
Successfully dancing the complicated steps of this waltz while sometimes tripping over our own feet and maintaining inner peace, first and foremost, requires the desire to do so. Starting with clear focused intentions, and a heart full of passion enables our capacity to pursue wellbeing and resonant harmony within and without no matter the shape of the adversity we are experiencing. When we only perceive love, joy, and health as being available to us in one way then we limit ourselves to the myriad of other ways contentment and harmony can walk through our doors, for in the only one-way perspective, there is only one door. It’s like playing that game as children where you put the correct shaped pegs into the holes of their corresponding shape. Some holes will never correspond with some pegs no matter how much we batter them with our little plastic hammers. Allowing the circumstances of our lives the opportunity to manifest into their most full form of serenity and joyfulness without forcing the world around us to be as we think it should be, is living with an unconditioned heart, practicing really good yoga, and leaving room to shine some light onto Unicorns.

If you have not thumbed through the pictures of Light On Yoga, I recommend it. I offer that there is no need to feel like you are less of a person if the asana demonstrated in the book appears to never seem attainable to you, truth is, one never knows what the future has in store, and as far as I understand being able to put your feet behind your head does not necessarily make you a better person. For myself, looking at his photos and remembering that his journey to that amazing expression of his being was a long and patient walk, reminds me that no matter the foundation we may start with, through passionate focused intention and dedicated practice, many, if not all obstacles can be surmounted.

In the wake of Mr. Iyengars departure I find myself in deep gratitude for the so-called misfortunes of the human experience. Reflecting on my own personal journey as well, I know, that were it not for my hardships, my illnesses, my personal dance through discontent to content, the contentment I experience in the spaciousness of this knowing perspective would not exist. Something would be there, but it would be less evolved in empathetic understanding, less capable of compassion, and less knowing of my resilience.

Truly, it’s just more fun to think it may be a Unicorn not a monster that shows up in that deep blue of the mysterious unknown.

In Love, Joy, and a never ending search for Unicorns,
Genevieve

Falling Into Grace

In the last year my life has changed remarkably, surprisingly, and mostly against my will. At the beginning of last July I unfortunately fell down a flight of six stairs. I had never fallen down stairs before and I only imagined how painful it would be. Being a kind of clumsy girl I found it fortunate for me that there aren’t’ a whole bunch of stairs to fall down in Taos as most buildings are one story and the front entryway is even with the earth. Though before last July I had yet to fall down stairs in my life, I wasn’t new to falling. I had more than once slipped on the ice, stumbled over after one to many beverages of the saucy kind, or just being my clumsy self tripped over something outside my range of vision. As a tall person, falling in general, isn’t’ much fun. I lament my height as I watch children fall and bounce right back up without much more than a whimper. Over my many years as an avid snowboarder I became more accustomed to falling. However, when playing in the snow one does their falling in the snow, which has a generosity in it’s reception of a body no matter it’s size. Falling into snow that has freshly fallen is as delightful as falling into bed when you’re exhausted, it’s a welcome surrender. Falling down stairs, not so inviting, and falling down stairs when you have placed your foot where you see the step to be, and you step with the confidence of someone who has managed to stand upright for more than three decades, is a far cry from a welcome surrender. After I tumbled down to the bottom of the flight of stairs, body facing up the direction I had come, in acute and shocking pain, feeling like something beyond the veil of my perception had pushed me I questioned, “How did I miss that step I was so obviously taking?”

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Stand Still Like The Hummingbird, For Ed

Late last month another friend left this Earth. He was a man of many talents, much wisdom, and deep generosity. More than anything he was a man who truly lived his life fully, present in every moment.

Ed Morgan was husband to my dear friend Virginia Morgan, who I spend a great deal of time with at Shree Yoga Taos. Virginia and I began our yoga journey right around the same time nearly a decade ago with our dear teacher Suki. Over these past many years much in all of our lives has changed and we have, through our shared love of the practice, had a shared space of understanding through which we together have journeyed through these many changes in each of our lives. Suki and I joke that Virginia spends more time at Shree than either she or I, and in fact this may be true, as Virginia takes multiple classes a day, multiple days a week. Her devotion to her practice is inspiring in it’s depth and the reflection of its power in her life off the mat as well. Virginia is the spryest and youngest woman over 70 you may ever meet! She and Ed had been married for the last 30 plus years and their love was the kind of love that feels contagious. Being that Virginia loves yoga, over the past many years she has introduced most of her family to it, bringing sisters, children, and grand children to class with her. The one person who never came along to class was Ed. In all reality and truth, I cannot say I know Ed well because I didn’t, I know Virginia. However, I always felt I knew Ed through knowing my husband.

Oswald is also a man of many talents, much wisdom, deep generosity, and fully truly living his own beautiful life. He and I have such a wonderful time together, and though it may not always be easy between us, there is always love. Like Virginia and Ed, Oswald and I do not have the same interests or the same life pursuits. What we really share is our love for each other. Oswald is an outdoorsman, I like to go outside but for rest I prefer to be in a hot bath, or a cozy bed watching TV. Oswald loves to enjoy beer and his idea of a great breakfast is chicken fried steak, I prefer water these days and my ideal breakfast is a smoothie, or salad with an egg on top. Oswald likes to sleep till noon and I like to get up with, or before the sun. I not only like to do yoga, I have made it my lifestyle, and Oswald like Ed, prefers to stay home. Every once in a while though, Oswald does come to class, maybe it’s to humor me. After his last class, he told me he spent three quarters of it trying not to hate me. I shared with him that in my opinion that effort was good yoga, and I didn’t take it to heart. Oswald could care less about my spiritual practices and what makes good yoga on or off the mat. It’s not a conversation we have regularly, and we don’t have to because I know that just because Oswald doesn’t do spiritual like I do, does not mean that he does not do spiritual. I always imagined Ed and Virginia’s relationship to be similar. I imagined Ed saying, “Sure honey you go to yoga, Hell No I don’t want to go, I’m happy here making my art.”

Virginia asked me to share some words at the celebration of her husband Ed’s life over the weekend and being that I did not know him that well I was very honored by this request. Ed was, as I said a man of many talents, and in his last many decades he was an artist who used a dying medium. He engraved his pieces in metal plates and ran those plates through a gigantic press, pressing the art into a three dimensional image onto paper, he then embossed that art with silks and paint. His work was intricate, beautiful, detailed, and inspiring. Over the last couple years Ed became very sick, multiple forms of cancer moved into the domain of his body and eventually took from him the strength to engrave, slowing his art production to a very bear minimum. The last piece he was able to make was a hummingbird. He made many of these hummingbirds, and in his generous spirit gave these pieces to those who were a part of this hard chapter in his life.

Many moons ago, way back at the beginning of my relationship with Virginia, Suki, and Yoga, a book was put into my hands titled, “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird” by Henry Miller. It is a book of essays, which with similarity to yoga, my relationship with Oswald, Suki, Virginia and Ed, the World Cup Cafe, being ejected through a windshield at 15, and more, has made a marked impact on my life. It seemed to me the most valuable words I could share for Ed were from the final essay of the same title, Copyright 1962. I share Henry Millers paraphrased words with you here.

“It was on the jet from New York to San Francisco, at an altitude of thirty to forty thousand feet and never so much as a tremor, that all unwittingly I moved a few centimeters into the future. It was the comfort, the motionless motion, the unaccustomed perspective which doubtless threw me. We [man] were of the airs now, and they were filled with secret vibrations, with rays invisible and of power unimaginable. Yes, though only a few inched from the ground, so to speak, we were already verging on the carrefours of uncharted lanes of force, mysterious, magical force destined to alter not only our concepts of life but our very being. Out of our limitless universe and into the blue–the blue of the poet and dreamer, the blue of the mystics. Perhaps into the “upper partials” of some divine musical space.
We speak so glibly of the speed of light. What reality has if for us, this speed of light? Man’s struggle, ever since he ceased to grovel like the worm, has been to equate imagination with deed.
The universe has no armature, no weight, no substance. No purpose even. Neither is it dream and illusion. It is. The highest thought can neither add to it nor subtract from it. It grows, changes, responds to every need, every demand. It can exist with God or without. It is like a Mind which asks and answers its own questions.
Our needs…What is it that we need”? Certainly the more liberated one feels the less one needs. The sage demonstrates it daily, and the idiot too. Just to breathe, to know that you are alive, isn’t it marvelous?
[Man] has come to perceive that life is everywhere, in all things, at the edges of the universe as well as the center, and that nowhere is it absent, even in death. Why cling to it then with such stubbornness? What can be gained that is not already lost? Surrender! whispers the still small voice. Overboard with the baggage!
Grappling with the problem of speed–or is it the riddle of light?–it becomes more and more evident that there is no such thing as motion, or gravity, or heat, or light. Any more than there are atoms, molecules, protons, electrons. Only gods and devils, birth and death, ignorance and bliss. Nothing out there can possible be more mysterious, more enigmatic, than here within our own breasts. The corporeal is the phantasmal, the shadow realm. Mind is all, and its realm is reality. What is, defies knowing. With regard to the tiniest, the most insignificant morsel of this unsubstantial universe, thought wears itself out.
We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of death. Yet death promises nothing, solves nothing. Life does not begin in some remote, ideal world, some paradisiacal hereafter; it begins and ends here, wherever we are, in whatever circumstances. That is the meaning of life, that is it infinitely variable, inexhaustible, inextinguishable.
There is one comforting truth which is inescapable. Each time we run away from ourselves we are driven home again with greater force. Every effort to break out only pushes us further back into ourselves. It may be possible for man to reach the outer edges of the universe, but the importance of it will lie not in the getting there but in knowing more about ourselves. If we could pick up a stone in the field and truly grasp its nature, its essence, its being, so to speak, we would understand and know and appreciate the whole outer universe. We would not need to fling our bodies around like comets gone wild. Being fully here and of the moment, we would also be there, anywhere, and of all moments.
Thus I mused as we lumbered along at five hundred miles an hour. Tomorrow, a thousand an hour; the day after, five thousand. Multiply it by a zillion…what difference? Are we getting somewhere? Where? Is the body and mind of twentieth-century man geared to cope with all this abstract jazz? Ought we not first learn to fly backward too, or stand still in the air like a hummingbird?
Buddha gave us the eight-fold path. Jesus showed us the perfect life. Lao-Tzu rode off on a water buffalo, having condensed his vast and joyous wisdom into a few imperishable words. What they tried to convey to us, these luminaries, was that there is no need for all these laws of ours, these codes and conventions, these books of learning, these armies and navies, these rockets and spaceships, these thousand and one impedimenta which weigh us down, keep us apart, and bring us sickness and death. We need only to behave as brothers and sisters, follow our heart not our minds, play not work, create and not add invention upon invention.
I could not help thinking what this continent of ours was like before the white man took it over. It seemed to me that silence was a great factor in the world of the Indian, that he made no unnecessary stir, that he took the long way about rather than the short cut. Perhaps his mind was at rest. Certainly he had no need of stock exchanges, iron foundries, sheet and roller mills, Krupp works, laboratories, newspapers, mints, ammunition dumps. He had need of nothing it would seem, which to us is so indispensable. Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth, great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.
From the clouds all that appeared to be left of this ancient world was the great barren stretch which begins with the Far West. The most beautiful, the most exciting part of the five-hour spectacle. Deserted though it was, an air of peace pervaded it.
For a brief moment I had the impression that I was riding our of it, leaving it all behind, permanently.”

Ed Morgan was a brave man who lived the last year of his life in the honesty of the reality of death. He did not need to practice yoga, or claim a dharma to live a spiritual life. Looking at his art, his home, his family, his circle of friends, anyone can see the attentiveness and mindful awareness he gave to detail. I feel that the passage of Miller’s “Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.” Paraphrases Ed’s life so very sweetly. His life was a spiritual life, and the presence of that knowing is apparent in the feeling of the vibration he left behind. It was an honor to know, even if very little, such a beautiful human being.

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose my beloved, my best friend, as Virginia has. Yet, daily I witness her in this great transition and I am humbled by the power of surrender in her practice. I am inspired as I admire the courage she faces each day with. I continue to learn from her as I appreciate the example of deep spiritual practice she displays for me and all else in our community, on and off the yoga mat.

In witnessing Virginia through this journey of Ed’s I am reminded, to truly love someone for a lifetime is to prepare for the greatest surrender and heartbreak of all, as all we love will change, and each of these mortal bodies will meet their demise.

In this knowing I offer that while we are living, we live true to ourselves no matter the rules and regulations, codes and conventions. We love one another like brother and sister, sharing in generosity and appreciating the gifts of others, as we are each a unique piece the divine’s creation. May we live mindful lives, aware of the details of all we create, thoughts, relationships, and deeds.

May the vibration of an unconditioned heart be each of our spiritual legacy.

With deep admiration of a life well lived,
For Ed.

With love,
Genevieve

The Great Classroom Of Relationship; and Learning To Communicate In It

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,
Genevieve

Pain

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,
Genevieve

Perseverance

It’s fathers day.  I have to admit I am not one for the rituals of these sorts of holidays yet this morning I did find myself pondering what it means to me to have a dad and what it is that I find value in celebrating with relationship to what I have learned from him.  To truly share the whole story would fill a book as the story of my life is not only intrinsically connected to the story of my father but to his father and his fathers father and so forth until the beginning of time.  When I think of my father I cannot help but to think of his father whom I was very close to, and all day my thoughts have been with both of these men who added great value to my life.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon in the cool and dark walls of the Metta Theatre where I have been taking a once monthly acting workshop with some lovely and talented actors as well as a fantastic teacher who is doing as all good teachers do, and is asking great questions that push me beyond my comfort zone and into an opportunity to find more skillfulness in my actions as well as know my weaknesses and strengths as an actor acting for film. Acting, like yoga, is a spiritual practice, a request to be in the flow with present moment awareness and what is happening in the now. Like yoga, there are places that are comfortable and easy, and places where all the voices of my inner world scream stop, leave, run while you can. Over the course of my life I have done a reasonable amount of acting and mostly I have felt good about it. I have for much of my life held onto the dream of one day doing it for a living. The thing about that dream is that it’s a scary one, one that holds a lot of contention in my mind as being unsafe and unstable, as well as bringing up much fear around am I good enough?
Am I good enough has been a question I have asked myself too many times in my life. I like to think I am not alone in the experience of self-doubt and that the feeling of insecurity is something that I share with all other beautiful seeking people of this world. Thinking of the experience as a shared one brings me comfort and helps me to walk through this life with less feelings of shame.
Within the framework of my self-doubt rather than continue to treat myself like a failure as I have for the last ten years and never try, I have felt the room in my courageous heart and have made a choice of confident curious willingness in my mind to jump the hurdle of fear and go to this class. In class I have been working on a role that is not within my comfort zones as an actor and I am being invited to do more than what comes easy to me. There is a funny catch 22 to what I am learning about film acting. The work is in not working. The gem, the gold, is in the expression of the real experience, not a state of just acting it out. My efforts yesterday were good, however, afterward I felt like a failure and in the wake of feeling like a failure I felt devastated. The devastation I felt I had not experienced in many years.
Again the question of the dream and the value of the dream and the quality of my ability to successfully accomplish the dream came to the forefront of my awareness, and not only left me wondering, but left me flattened in a state of self-pity and self-doubt. Despite my desires to see the experience objectively I could not help but spend a period of time in tears. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful marriage to a wonderful man, Mr. Oswald, who is rational and steady and he provided a listening ear for me to tell my tails of woe to. As I talked it out, which is great medicine for feeling bad about yourself because you hear how silly and mean you may sound, what I found to be more upsetting that the self-doubt, was the challenge I was having with the stage most people call learning. In the wake of my silly childlike self-pity was a realization that I had just fallen down and I had an opportunity to pick myself up, dust myself off, and tell myself to get back on the bike.
When I was five my dad got me my first bicycle. At the time we were living with my grandparents in Minnesota and I clearly remember the day that he and G-pa assembled its pieces. It wasn’t long before my sister and I insisted the training wheels come off. Within minutes of my training wheels coming off I was out of control headed down hill and lacking the required knowledge of the use of the skills to stop. I hit a curb, went over the handlebars and tore up my face. I left the bike at the end of the cul-de-sac and ran home crying and crying in terrible shock and pain. Dad cleaned up my face, and hugged and loved me up. I said I would never ride my bike again. Dad insisted I would before putting the training wheels back onto the bike. It was over a year before I was ready to take them off again. I remember the spring day in Taos when they did, finally, at long last, come off for good. The lilacs were blooming and dad, Angelica, and I went and got donuts at Micheal’s Kitchen, it was a good ride. That was my first lesson in perseverance.
Then when I was fourteen, I decided that playing on the first ever Taos High School Girls Soccer Team was the best idea ever. About three weeks into practice I was having a miserable time, though in theory the idea was good, in reality I didn’t have the necessary skills to play like the bad ass I thought I was. Not only did I not have the skills, I perceived the coach as not very nice to me, and I was having a hard time learning the dexterity it took to play the sport well. One night I came home from practice and cried and cried to my dad, “I want to quit!” I remember telling him within a cloud of self-pity. He calmly responded “Don’t quit, you won’t get anything out of it if you quit. Besides it will feel really good to get really good and then if you still don’t like your coach, and you don’t want to play, quit.” That night we started an evening ritual of passing the ball in the street. By the end of my second season on the team, I had actually become a descent player. The team went to state that year and I scored the only two goals of that adventure, one of which was a header, that one I am still really proud of. Within months I was thrown through the windshield of a truck at sixty miles per hour and the first thing I asked when I came to on the side of the road in excruciating pain because of my severely broken back was “Will I ever play soccer again?” No one answered.
Perseverance is continuing no matter what adversity you face, and as I layed in that hospital bed with the wordless prognosis I refused to believe I would not walk again. Ten days later I was released from the hospital and demanded they let me out of my wheelchair so I could walk out the front door. I did walk through that door with my dad supporting me, and I walked all the way to the car about forty paces away with perseverance, willfulness, and pride. That first season of soccer after the accident was a definite no as it took three months for dad and I to walk the few short blocks up to the plaza. Dad walked with me every day, and by the next season I was much better. The doctors told me I could play that season though they did not recommend such an activity as there was a potential to re-injure or injure above my spinal fusion. Being the willful and persistent girl I am, no wasn’t an answer I was excited to hear, so I went to practice one beautiful fall afternoon. I kicked the ball farther that afternoon than I ever had kicked it before, I’ll never forget it. I kicked the ball so far the coach was nicer than he had ever been. As I walked away from practice that night in the sunset in discomfort and pain from the running as well as the knowing my soccer career was over, I also knew my dad was right when he said it would feel better to quit when I had gotten something out of it for myself than it would have way back before, when I was just in a state of self-pity.
This morning, after what I like to call “having a big girl talk with myself” last night, I felt over my self-doubt and self-pity, and was back in alignment with my attitude of a willingness to persevere no matter the outcome, I thought of my dad and the valuable things I have learned from him that I wanted to celebrate today. Weather its getting back on the bike, sticking with the soccer team, getting up and walking again, or perusing life-long scary dreams, perseverance is getting up, dusting yourself off, and taking another crack at it, especially when all odds are against you. Because that’s when you gain, that’s when you get to know what you are made of, and as far as I have experienced in this life, that’s where the satisfaction in the feeling of success and accomplishment resides.
Thanks dad, dad’s dad, dad’s dad’s dad, Mr. Oswald, Mr. Oswald’s dad, and all the men who persevered so I could “stand up on my own two feet” as dad likes to say, with “my shoulders back” as G-pa used to say, proud of who I am, persevering with my courageous heart, willing mind, tenacious spirit, and capable body, free to be me.
Happy Sunday, Happy Fathers Day, May you always persevere in the face of adversity and continue to follow you hearts desire.
With Love, All Ways, For Giving,
Genevieve

What I learned In Preschool, an Ode to Leaping Lizards

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,
Genevieve

I, YOU, WE

More often than not when seeing ourselves in the world and forming our individual identities we overlook that which connects us and see only that which separates us. Perceiving our lives apart from the world in which we live, rather than as a-part of the whole connected to the people, animals, and other living things that share this world with us is perhaps rooted in our intrinsic desire to be unique, or to represent the personal and authentic expression of the divine which we are in a world where so much is similar. When looking at our lives and the world from this perspective, that which separates us, it becomes clear that there are many aspects to living that are authentic to each and every person. We each have our own unique stories of life, the ways we experience love and the stamps of trauma that have imprinted in our memories specific warnings of safety and danger. Along side the stories of our personal emotional experiences are the triumphs of success and the pitfalls of failures we perceive as part of our self concept, our personal skills and talents, or lack there of. No matter these stories, the truth with which they stand, and the way they have shaped the ever unfolding days of our lives, unique and personal as they are, there is an underlying reality of inalienable truths we all share, without which none of us would be here at all to have any experience of living whatsoever.

Without water and oxygen there would be no life on this planet. All living things on planet earth play a role in the continued cycle of the use and replenishment of both of these life giving resources. Without the sun and it’s ever-giving generosity to which our planets gravitational pull clings, and under which life on this Earth thrives, we would never know the concept of self. Without the incredible power of the creative energetic force that enables plants to grow in the earth, and babies to grow in the bellies of their mammalian mothers, or the eggs of their reptilian progenitors, there would be no experience of what we call separate. Without the nutrients that are given to the earth in the death and decay of plant life, or the digestion in our human bodies of the nutrients we take in as a source of energy, be it from plant or animal based food, there would be no transference that inevitably becomes the creative force of innovation, cooperation, and exploration. Without each other there would be no reflection of what hurts and what feels good, what words mean, where to cultivate our energy to fill a needed gap, where to hold boundaries when energy is excessive and overflowing flooding out the cultivation of new life. Together we make up the world we live in, the reality that holds the space for us to experience the perception of our authentic and unique I as well as what delineates us from other humans who truly are more like us than different. Without this planet, this solar system, this galaxy, this universe, our mothers and fathers, their mothers and fathers, our obnoxious or loved neighbors, our hated or respected foes, there would be no you or me or we at all.

No matter your personal story, it is and will always be true that you, me, and all of life are eternally bound. As you continue to write your story, as I continue to write mine, we write a bigger story together. Every detail, every breath, every drink of water connects us to one another. If and when you feel alone or separate from this world in which you live and the other living beings sharing it with you, take a moment to remember that if nothing else you share water and you share breath with all life, past, present, and future.

With love, all ways, for giving, in joy,
Genevieve

What’s Most Important

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,
Genevieve