Excavation of a Soul~The magic of Yoga


There are still those countless people who believe that practicing yoga is an “exercise”. They believe that it’s only the movement of limbs and core to tone and tighten their body to appeal to someone else, who honestly, probably isn’t worth that effort. They tell themselves it’s an “easy” way to give physical effort it’s due and carry on with their regularly scheduled program. They think yoga is about the clothes, and the malas, and the Om, and the Zen, and the whatever bullshit they have floating around in that brain so full of misconceptions.

I was one of them, until it brought me back from the dead, opened my heart, and uncovered the Goddess buried inside of me under endless layers of pretense and shitty perceptions.

I taught myself with a DVD at home, craning my neck awkwardly towards the TV screen while I assumed the next asana. I felt ridiculous and incapable at first, but I kept going. In a few weeks I no longer needed to see every move, I knew what to do when I heard her speak. I began to flow from one asana to the next and my heart began to release, and my spirit to glow.

****Silence is not an absence but a presence. Not an emptiness but repletion; A filling up.”
― Anne D. LeClaire

I felt like every morning began with a moving prayer to the Universe; one of gratitude. I was answered by the filling of my heart with peace, and my mind with power over myself. I became alive in a quiet, joyful way that began to clear my vision of all things ridiculous and  unimportant. The frenzy of my world began to calm a little, smooth out here and there, my heart began to recognize moments of peace.

**The practice of yoga itself transforms. Yoga has a magical quality.”

― Ravi Ravindra

There is a magic to the practicing of yoga that defies anything but the word magic. It is miraculous in that it can release something beautiful and rare from a generic societal state of being. It is powerful in that it’s quietness brings a still heart screaming to life in living color. It is the equivalent of the calming of the storm in biblical times, or Lazarus rising from the dead.

It’s truth, I can say that, because it happened to me.

**“When you catch yourself slipping into a pool of negativity, notice how it derives from nothing other than resistance to the current situation.” ― Donna Quesada

Practicing yoga brought me back to life by bringing me into the present.  I learned to be and show gratitude now, for my blessings now. I began to regulate the past where it belonged, and look at the future as a present to be unwrapped when it arrived. I began to look at myself more gently, and with a sense of forgiveness, which allowed me to do the same towards others.

**“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. ~Michelangelo

I didn’t so much reinvent myself, as I began to excavate who I was from beneath a lifetime of expectations, criticisms, and societal rules. Not just those imposed on me by others all the way back to childhood, but those I imposed upon myself. I would uncover some unknown part of me and sit with myself in awe, learning to love it, or at least understand and accept what was. I began to see the beauty and purpose in even the flawed parts of me I would have normally hidden away from view. I had inadvertently fallen into a state of grace via 30 minutes of morning yoga.

**“Courage is often associated with aggression, but instead should be seen as a willingness to act from the heart.”
― Donna Quesada

I began living from my new heart, my new state of being, and it gave me joy and countless challenges. Apparently nobody likes the status quo messed with in any way. But no matter the discomfort suffered by those around me, I had to act and live in the knowledge of my newly awakened state, and although I rocked a few boats, I stayed on course. It’s frightening to step outside of all that you’re accustomed to and expand into more, but I am determined. The magic of all I’ve uncovered so far has made me more alive than ever before, given me the courage to speak and write and be as I feel I must, and to hell with the consequences.

I think of this every time I do a heart opening asana and feel the bands of bullshit release and set my heart and spirit free of fear.

**”Oh, that’s fear. Try the pose again.” Fear. I hadn’t even known it was there.”

― Claire Dederer

Welcome to the magic, to the miracle, to your heart, to the truth of who you are.

Welcome to Yoga.

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The Suffocation of Spirit


Take a Breath

and accept your gifts

are as unique

as You are,

Your words, song, dance~

are Treasures

not always recognized

for their Grace

and Divine content.

Thus,

when your are spurned,

rejected,

or unappreciated~

you must tell your Spirit

it is time

to Dance for another

with a more open

heart for Love,

a more discerning

eye for Beauty,

a soul starving

for Truth.

It is not that you

are not good enough~

it is only that some

cannot See

as clearly as others will,

the gift you have

for Magic.

Your only choice

is to take a Breath…

to remain in the Dance…

speak Life…

Love.

Lessons In Discrimination


I consider myself a regular, middle-class, average white woman in America (although this is the first time I’ve actually stopped and tried to “classify” myself). I’m nice to people, they’re nice to me~I live in the mid-west where I think sometimes that everything is “overly” normal to boring. I have all kinds of friends, of different everything: old/young, rich/poor, church-going/not, and it is hard for me to think “different skin colors” because I just don’t think that way. I have friends from different countries and different religions and it really has never mattered to me.

I’ve seen horrible movies about racism and discrimination, and some of them I will never watch~because it makes me sick to my stomach and my heart. I always feel so sad and angry for the people who are punished or ostracized by the “regular” folks of the moment~BUT I really never had a stinking clue what even the smallest slice of that would feel like directed at me.

That is my intro~this is my life-lesson.

I was raised Lutheran, went to a parochial school until 8th grade, and quit going to church as soon as I got away from home on my own (as most of us do for a while). As time progressed, I became a student/seeker of all spiritual paths that I happened to come across because it interested me how similar the heart’s of these religions or churches were underneath the different rituals or practices.  Our Creator is at the center of it all. God is God no matter what name you call him.

I noticed that the people here and there who truly lived their lives as they believed God wanted them to operated from the same tuned in heart to others, kindness, compassion, lack of judgement etc…what they wore, or how they did their hair, or their rituals, or their days of worship were all vastly different at times, but if I shut my eyes and listened, their hearts were all tuned to the same frequency.

My story up to now has led to my interest in Buddhism. As I have with every other branch of worship or whatever you want to call it, I began studying on the internet, bought a few books, read a few magazines and asked questions of those more educated on the subject than I.

I went to check out a beautiful temple and it’s grounds several months back,  and decided to visit during one of their classes or teachings to see what it was like. The first time was interesting and made me a little nervous, but it was a professor instead of the regular teacher so we went back again Sunday to get the real experience so to speak.

It was so peaceful. The teaching was on a couple of verses from The Wheel of Sharp Weapons. I heard about compassion for others. Compassion so great and true that you are willing to go to the gates of hell to save just one. Even, only one. I heard about growing myself into the kind of person that has so much love and compassion that the very charisma of being such a person can disarm the cruelty and negativity in another simply with the true intention of attitude, expression, word, and heart. I heard about how hate is instilled artificially by the words or belief of another who also holds artificially installed hatred in their hearts. How can we hate people we don’t even know? A whole people? I don’t know the answer to that. I heard about programming myself with prayer and meditation to remove the power from the seeds in me I didn’t want to grow, and pour my attention on the seeds that needed to grow bigger, stronger, and more vibrant. I heard about stepping away from these prayers and meditations daily with a heart and mind of higher quality.

Seriously. Do you hear what I’m saying? I just re-read that last paragraph and I have to ask~who in God’s name would not want to be that person? At least strive to become more of that within themselves? Who would not want to learn how to love and accept themselves with all their bad seeds of anger, jealousy, judgement, flat-out meanness~and learn how to transform them into the compost of creating and growing the most beautiful person they could possibly be inside?

Thich Nhat Hanh says that if every single religion had one person who truly lived the heart of their religion, they would be practicing Buddhism. It is a practice of living in such a way that every religion of every name would be proud to claim and many do~under a different label. To me, Buddhism in practice is actually living the way you say you do when you go to church on Sunday. There’s not a person out there who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t have to choose or label myself a Buddhist. I don’t need a label at all. But it is nice to learn and practice a better way of living and loving where the rubber meets the road. In such a short time it has revived my faith and belief in God and what it means to have this awesome gift of living that we have for such a short time. It speaks to me and has helped me shed my disillusionment with “religion” and the trappings thereof, and the players of such.

After attending my second teaching (the Wheel teaching), someone close to me saw a book I had bought ~”Buddhism for Beginners”. I was asked if I was becoming a f*****g Buddhist or what? I was told I was obviously a seeker and severely confused. There was serious anger, aggression, a condescending and demeaning tone and attitude. My answers were “no”, “what’s the big deal here”, and “do you even know what Buddhism is?”.  The explanation of living as a more loving, kind, and compassionate person was ridiculed as me basically being a poser trying something new. (is that what learning is?). Then I was told to never f*****g talk about it again. (did I mention that I didn’t bring this topic up? I was asked.) So I was astounded and astonished by this whole scenario. I was so much struggling with this EPISODE that I had experienced that it wasn’t until I was driving to work this morning that I realized the entire event had been a tiny slice of full-blown discrimination and persecution. It was freaking awful. And I was so…overwhelmed by the meanness, judgement, and belittling that I did not know how to respond.

This kind of behavior has never been my reality. How can I actually know someone who would treat me like that? Even knowing me well? I have no idea what it must be like for ANYONE to put up with more than 60 seconds of this from anyone. I will not soon forget that feeling, or that knowledge.

Six months ago, my response to that kind of behavior towards me would have been so catastrophic that there would have been no healing from it. It would have been ugly, cold, and permanent. It would have been fire with fire. But I have learned a lot lately about dealing with anger in myself from the f*****g Buddhist studies I’ve been doing which brought back a verse I memorized in school from the Bible

Luke 6:45

A good man produces good out of the storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.

That enables me to feel compassion for both of us. It’s all a lesson.

Pandora’s Box


Lately, I have moments when I scare myself.

Like that feeling you get when you give something a little push, and it starts a chain reaction that shifts everything in sight, or you open the closet door and everything falls out on you. Yeah, it causes a chaotic mess, but what’s left is clean and open.

When Pandora opened her box, she released all the evils into the world, and realizing what she had done~she slammed that lid down as fast as she could, but it was too late~there was no more containing the bad.

The worst part of the story to me, is the part no one ever tells. When she slammed the lid back on the jar (yes, it was really a jar, not a box) it was too late to keep the evils from the world, but still trapped in the bottom of the jar~the only thing left inside~was the Spirit of Hope.

Seriously, now, that is a bad BAD situation. That is where Pandora and I part company. When I opened my jar, and all the negative, evil, wicked, mean, bad and nasty stuff flew out I was RELIEVED. My whole jar was made of Hope, and I carry it with me everywhere.

The scary part is this~I know things now that I didn’t before. I know what I want. I know who and what I am. I know what I’m supposed to do. The OTHER regular old do the duty and quit your whining and be a Stepford Human  me is like “OMG DON’T YOU EVEN MAKE ONE MOVE. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT”. Me and myself are kind of eyeballing each other right now. You know~nobody move, nobody gets hurt. =)

So I compromise with me. I take a step at a time. I enroll in school, and send in my writing, and meditate. I tell myself the truth every day~I am becoming who I am meant to be. It’s the journey that’s important and exciting. The journey that is the adventure.  There will always be a new destination, because it’s all in the journey. I am JUST now figuring that out.

It is this new knowledge that keeps me sane, and holding on tightly to my jar of Hope. I tell myself that I can take being where I am and doing what I do because it is refining me for what’s next~it is setting me up for flat-out tears of joy gratitude when it’s time to step out. I do understand that who I am goes with me everywhere, so I have to work it out and grow. If I don’t, I’m just carrying the ugly with me in the jar.

Nope. No thank you. I’m collecting only good dreams and schemes for my jar of Hope. No uglies. Done with that.

So here’s to Pandora, and letting out the ugly, and holding onto Hope.

 

The Point of No Return


You are not alone. We are in this life together, you and I, although the loneliness that fills our hearts at the crossroads makes us feel very much on our own. It’s a tough place to be; too far along to return to blindness, and too new to being awake to feel very much confidence in our new selves. The point of no return.

More often than not these days, it feels like we are even strangers to ourselves, even though our new self-awareness gives us a feeling of freedom and power that overjoys us. Some of our friends find us a little too different, and don’t really know how to handle themselves around us. Others seem to soak up all of our excitement and discoveries, and run along with us as we go. Sad and happy, fear and courage, doubt and faith. We are so familiar with one side of the teeter totter, and not so much with the other side. It can be a lonely place, even though we stand at the crossroads with many others.

What do we keep in our lives? What do we lay aside? What and who is worth the effort to learn and blend and mend into this new way of being we have found? How do we speak our truths, hold on to our integrity, and keep our hearts open for the miracles? We are brand new and we are raw nerve. We are the butterfly fresh out of the cocoon, wings damp and fragile, colors blinding even to ourselves, and we’re thinking, “Holy Shit!! Are these wings?? I can fly now? WTF??? This totally rocks, and I’m terrified with happiness!”.

Have you EVER heard a butterfly say, “I’m just going to sit here and blend okay? I mean, nobody else is flying right now, right? So I really don’t want to call attention to myself~I AM just a souped up caterpillar after all”?

Hell no.

Hell. No. We don’t pick a road, up we go.

Let’s spread our wings, leap of faith…fly!

FLY.

Shadow Heart


This is a shadow day. A day of dark reflection reminding me that nothing remains the same, so  I must evolve into my light, or sink back into my shadow. There is no middle ground. I accept that every day may be a gift, but not all will be easy. I will always wish, in those moments when life is at its brightest and so am I, that I can hold onto the magic. During days like today, I know it really is up to me to either stay in the shadows, or bring myself into the light again, but I have to remind myself. It isn’t so easily rendered on a day like today.

I know that I determine my attitude, yet today I struggle with misery. There is a strong part of me that wants to force things to be, instead of let them unfold. I have to trust that my perfect opportunities are being brought to me, and will arrive at just the right time. I don’t want to carelessly damage the plans for me that are greater than any I can conceive of for myself. I trust  the Creator of all things, just as I trust in my next breath, my next heartbeat,  and my body  working to heal itself. The seasons change without effort, the sun rises, flowers bloom and the earth rotates without any help from me, who am I not to trust in the flawless creation of my life?

So I am telling myself tonight that the shadow I am today is merely a sign of the brilliant light I’m standing in, because without the light I long to flood the world with, I would never see the shadow.

Shadows are proof of Light. Proof of Life, and Hope, and Love.

And so it is.

Heart of Stone


This last year or so has been an epic quest for me to find my heart. My adventure started in a dull and dimly lit place, where no one could hurt my feelings or ego, because I didn’t care enough to be hurt. No one could ever stomp on my dreams, because I packed them away, and rendered them unimportant . It was a safe, colorless, monotonous place of emotional paralysis. For a lot of years, I preferred it that way.

On the flip side of that, when I wasn’t busy not caring about life, I was borderline rage/confrontational. I wasn’t going to take any crap off of anyone.

I’m not sure exactly when I realized that I couldn’t feel anything wonderful either. I couldn’t turn off the painful stuff if I wanted to feel the good, and I couldn’t feel any quality of emotion when I was shut down to protect myself.

What a dilemma, and how exhausting it was. I finally became fed up with being unhappy about my little diatribes, and my attitudes, so I began to give myself instruction toward peaceful living.

Please understand that when I first stepped out of my dimly lit and lifeless room of monotony, I had no clue how to move toward peace. I only knew I had to find it. Somewhere out in the great unknown.

I began by acting peaceful. This first step was awesome for the rest of the world, but for me, not so much. There were many times I was certain that I would implode from the pressure of my self-control holding in my anger, or explode from my failure to do so. I read, studied, read, studied, meditated, yoga, read.

I became my own patchwork guru of survival and thrival (I know, I did just make up a word). I didn’t want to LOOK peaceful, or ACT peaceful. I realized at some point I needed to BE  peace, and it was buried beneath all this ridiculous garbage of life I carry with me every day. I mean, it IS my garbage, so why would I just dump it?

I found a yoga teacher, who became a sister/friend to me. I was able to say to another human being how hard and locked up I felt inside, that I felt I needed to bust my heart open. The constriction of it was no longer acceptable to me. I wanted to be the me I vaguely remembered who was unafraid of joy, or risk, or honesty of emotion. The fearless girl. Mendy was amazing. I really don’t know how she came to be my gift at that time, because I didn’t have anyone I felt safe enough to be honest with about what I dreamed or wanted. I felt and heard her genuine acceptance and belief in me and what I would achieve, and it has given me confidence to continue on.

I have learned to decide, when I become angry, whether to address the cause at the time~or accept it’s not worth my attention and let it go. I’ve learned to expect to be treated differently, that I get to decide who I am and what I do. Absolutely no one else has that power or authority over me. I’ve learned people are the most important thing, and that I am one of them. I’ve learned to be kind to me, to listen to my intuition, to hug my inner brat for wanting to lop off heads and just let it go. Let it go.

I am learning that my excitement doesn’t need to be contained or watered down so people are comfortable with it. Isn’t that what led me to my locked up sad place? Yes it is. I can be brave and try things other people won’t. I can be fearless and give up things that no longer serve me. I can dream as big as I want and know that what the Universe has for me is even bigger than what I can imagine for myself. I don’t have to stay where I am and be who I’ve been. I can keep changing every day until I run out of days, and I’m excited to see what version of me I’ll become next.

I am softening my heart, doing the work to open up to life so I may actually live it. I will open my heart, unafraid, so I have the ability and the desire to love my family and friends, and be involved in a community of like-minded individuals because we’re really all a part of each other anyway.

I will be strong enough within me, to accept you as you, and not the potential clone of  me that I want to turn you into. I won’t change myself, I’ll just uncover me by dumping my garbage where it belongs, and admiring you for doing the same when you’re ready.

Let’s crack it wide open, let the Light in.